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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 20 gives us a final prophecy about Egypt and Ethiopia in this series. Isaiah 20:1 begins,
1 In the year that the commander [Tartan] came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it…
2 Kings 17:3 says that Shalmanezer laid siege to Samaria (in 723), but he did not live to see the completion of that conquest. Sargon ruled from 722-715 B.C. The city fell in 721 during the reign of Sargon. It appears that while Sennacherib was laying siege to Samaria, Sargon assassinated him, usurped the throne, and completed the conquest.
Prior to this, Hoshea, the last king of Israel, had been paying tribute payments to Assyria, but Israel then made an alliance with Egypt, hoping the Egyptian army could help Israel against the Assyrians. Hoshea and King So of Egypt both agreed to stop paying tribute to Assyria at the same time and to become allies against Assyria, their common enemy. This “conspiracy” is what motivated the Assyrians to destroy Samaria. 2 Kings 17:3-5 tells us the story,
3 Shalmanezer king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria as he had done year by year, so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. 5 Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years.
King So of Egypt was actually Sebacho II of Ethiopia, which was the ruling dynasty in that time of Egyptian history. After destroying Samaria, Sargon then moved against Phoenicia but sent his “Tartan” (i.e., commanding general) to begin the conquest of Egypt. His first project was to take the Philistine city of Ashdod, known to the Greeks as Azotus, on the Mediterranean coast. (This is where Philip found himself after being transported by the Spirit in Acts 8:40).
The Philistines were allied with Egypt at the time, and Ashdod lay on the route to Egypt. Hence, the Assyrians needed to take Ashdod before continuing on toward Egypt itself. During this time, Judah (under King Hezekiah) continued to pay tribute to Assyria and thus avoided war during the reign of Sargon. Only after Sargon’s death in 715 B.C. did Hezekiah stop paying the yearly tribute. Then Sargon’s successor, Sennacherib, sent the Assyrian army to conquer Judah (2 Kings 18:13).
But Hoshea tried to enlist the help of Egypt, thereby bringing about the destruction of Samaria. In Isaiah 30:1-3 and again in Isaiah 31:1 the prophet chided Israel for depending upon Egypt rather than God himself. God had raised up the Assyrians to bring judgment upon Israel. Treaties with Egypt could not solve the problem with Assyria.
Isaiah 20:2 says,
2 at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips and take your shoes off your feet.” And he did so, going naked [arowm, “uncovered”] and barefoot.
The prophet normally wore a loose outer garment made of coarse dark hair-cloth, worn also by mourners (2 Sam. 3:31). This seems to be the mark of prophets in those days, as they mourned continually for the sins of the people. At the word of the Lord, Isaiah removed it, exposing his legs and buttocks while still retaining his tunic.
The prophetic significance is seen in Isaiah 20:3, 4,
3 And the Lord said, “Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.”
This type of treatment was practiced by the Egyptians themselves and would now be done to them as well.
“Belzoni says that captives are found represented thus on Egyptians monuments.” (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown)
The captives probably had to remove their shoes in order to make walking much more difficult and thereby make it very difficult to escape.
Isaiah 20:5, 6 concludes,
5 “Then they will be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast. 6 So the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, such is our hope, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and we, how shall we escape?’”
The Israelites were to be “dismayed and ashamed” for thinking that Egypt and Ethiopia (“Cush”) could save them from the Assyrians.
Some wonder why God would tell the prophet to walk around for three years in such an indecent manner. We must, however, look at the deeper truth. The prophet was not merely illustrating what would happen to the Egyptians and Ethiopians. By identifying with them in their shame, he was interceding for them. An intercessor takes upon himself the condition or problem of others and then by overcoming it in the end, he is able to give them hope.
So the prophet’s intercession in Isaiah 20 gives us the legal basis for the salvation of Egypt and Ethiopia which is seen in Isaiah 18 and 19. Further, since Isaiah’s name means “salvation” and is just another form of yasha and the name Yeshua, we see the prophet acting as a prophetic type of Jesus Christ Himself, who bore the sin of the world as the great Intercessor. Perhaps, too, the three years of Isaiah’s intercession was meant to match Jesus’ three-year ministry.