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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 4

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 22: The Valley of Vision

Chapter 4: Jerusalem Prepares for War

Isaiah 22:1, 2 begins,

1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision. What is the matter with you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops? 2 You who were full of noise, you boisterous town, you exultant city; your slain were not slain with the sword, nor did they die in battle.

Isaiah 22 is an oracle to Jerusalem, called figuratively, “the valley of vision” because it was surrounded by mountains and was “the nursery of prophets” (as Jerome later called it). In other words, God had sent many prophets to the city with many visions to warn them of judgment that was coming if they refused to repent.

The prophet was speaking of things he had seen in a vision of the future. The current danger was from Assyria, but the far-sighted prophet was looking a century later at the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon. Later (in verses 15-21) we see a prophecy of the overthrow of Shebna, the scribe, which dates the vision near the time that the Assyrians lay siege to Jerusalem. (See Isaiah 36:3, 11, 22.)

This dates the vision in Isaiah 22 to the time while Shebna was still functioning in his trusted position, because the prophet was prophesying that he would be replaced shortly. So we see that the prophecy was given a century before Jerusalem was actually destroyed.

No Repentance during Jerusalem’s Reprieve

Isaiah asks, “What is the matter with you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops?” In other words, what news did you hear that caused you to go up to the housetops? Obviously, he was seeing the panicked people run to the housetops to get a better view of the besieging army outside of the walls. Verse 2 is a reference to the people of Jerusalem previous to the siege.

You who were full of noise, you boisterous town, you exultant city” depicts people who had not taken the prophecies seriously. They had been partying when they should have been repenting. Perhaps the prophet was referring to the people’s joy in his own time after being delivered from the Assyrians. The people were joyful at God’s deliverance but had not solved the underlying sin and rebellion which was the spiritual cause of the siege.

Carnally-minded people do not hear the word of the Lord, and they do not see disaster coming ahead of time. During that time of peace (following their deliverance from Assyria), their dead had not been slain by the sword or in battle. The mercy of God had given the city another century in which to mend its ways, but the prophet saw that they would not do so. Hence, he saw a future siege in which the city would not be delivered.

Isaiah 22:3 describes this future judgment, saying,

3 All your rulers [qatsiyn, “military leaders, generals”] have fled together and have been captured without the bow; all of you who were found were taken captive together, though they had fled far away.

The Hebrew word qatsiyn can refer to judges, princes, or military commanders, but in the context of war it should probably be translated “generals.” The phrase, “all of you were taken captive together, though they had fled far away,” refers back to the generals who had fled the scene of battle. In other words, they will not escape.

The Prophet’s Response

Isaiah 22:4, 5 says,

4 Therefore I say, “Turn your eyes away from me, let me weep bitterly, do not try to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” 5 For the Lord God of hosts has a day of panic, subjugation and confusion in the valley of vision, a breaking down of walls and a crying to the mountain.

The vison of Jerusalem’s destruction had an emotional impact on the prophet himself, making him weep uncontrollably. He saw this judgment as inevitable in the divine plan, “for the Lord God of hosts has a day of panic, subjugation and confusion in the valley of vision.” The Septuagint translators rendered this “the valley of Zion,” for they understood that this was a reference to Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Siege

Isaiah 22:6 says,

6 Elam took up the quiver with the chariots, infantry and horsemen; and Kir uncovered the shield.

Elam was a province of Assyria during the failed siege of Jerusalem, and it was also a province of Babylon during its time of dominion. It then passed to the Persians just before the fall of Babylon, and Cyrus set up his throne in Shushan, a city in Elam (Jer. 49:38). Elam was known for its archers. Thus, we read in Jer. 49:35,

35 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, I am going to break the bow of Elam, the finest of their might.”

Kir was a northerly part of the Assyrian empire between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It was the area where the Assyrians settled the exiles of Damascus (2 Kings 16:9). It was not far from where the Assyrians later exiled the Israelites as well. A century later, the captives of Judah were exiled to Babylon and its surrounding area. There is no mention of any Judahite exiles being settled in Kir or any of the northern parts of the empire. In this way God kept the remnant of Judah separate from Israel in order to give them separate callings and destinies.

Isaiah 22:7, 8 continues,

7 Then your choicest valleys were full of chariots, and the horsemen took up fixed positions at the gate. 8 And He removed the defense of Judah, in that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest.

We know from the prophecies of Jeremiah that the king of Judah refused to submit to the army of Nebuchadnezzar in spite of the prophet’s advice in Jer. 27:17. They should have repented and made God their defense; but instead they chose to defend themselves against the nation that God had raised up to judge them (Jer. 27:5, 6).

The people of Judah put their trust in their armory instead of in God Himself. Isaiah says, “in that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest.” The house of the forest was the name given to Jerusalem’s armory, so named because it was built from the cedars of Lebanon. It was built by Solomon in 1 Kings 7:2, which says, “He built the house of the forest of Lebanon.”

Its dimensions were larger than the nearby temple, and it served as the main entrance to Solomon’s palace. The great hall led to Solomon’s throne at the far end (1 Kings 7:7, 8). Later, when his ships returned with much gold from Ophir, the king “made 300 shields of beaten gold… and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 10:17).

The house of the forest was the military headquarters in Jerusalem. In Isaiah’s time, the people put their trust in their military might, the arm of weak flesh, rather than in the strong arm of God.

Isaiah 22:9-11 says,

9 And you saw that the breaches in the wall of the city of David were many; and you collected the waters of the lower pool. 10 Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem and tore down houses to fortify the wall. 11 And you made a reservoir [Siloam] between the two walls for the waters of the old pool. But you did not depend on Him who made it, nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago.

Isaiah had seen how King Hezekiah was fortifying Jerusalem in preparation for the Assyrian siege. 2 Chron. 32:2-5 says,

2 Now when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, 3 he decided with his officers and his warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs which were outside the city, and they helped him. 4 So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and the stream which flowed through the region, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?” 5 And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened the Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in great number.

On the south side of Jerusalem the king made a reservoir to collect and reserve the water for the city, and he extended the wall of the city to enclose it. This was the pool of Siloam, or Siloah. This was a major defense project to ensure that Jerusalem had enough water and that those laying siege were deprived of water.

Some of the houses near the wall of the city were torn down in order to erect towers for archers to use in raining down arrows or rocks upon the enemy. Isaiah saw all of these defense measures and knew that none of this would matter as long as the people refused to repent and put their fate in the hands of the Lord God of hosts. God Himself had raised up the Assyrians to judge Jerusalem, just as He would later raise up the Babylonians to destroy the city. God had “planned it long ago,” the prophet asserts.

Isaiah 22:12, 13 continues,

12 Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, to shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth. 13 Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.”

God had called them to repentance, but instead the people were encouraged by their store of weapons and the strength of the city walls. Their attitude was according to the saying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.” In other words, let us enjoy life today, because one never knows what might happen to us tomorrow.

The conclusion is seen in Isaiah 22:14,

14 But the Lord of hosts revealed Himself to me, “Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you until you die,” says the Lord God of hosts.

In other words, the destruction of the city and the death of the nation was inevitable. We know, of course, that the Assyrian army was turned back because at the last minute, King Hezekiah appealed to God in Isaiah 37:1-3. But a century later, when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, King Zedekiah refused to listen to the word of God through Jeremiah. Instead, he put the prophet in prison (Jer. 37:15).

Some vindictive officials later put the prophet into a cistern (Jer. 38:6), but upon the appeal of an Ethiopian official, the king removed him from the muddy cistern and imprisoned him in the court of the guardhouse (Jer. 38:13), where he remained until the Babylonians took the city and, ironically, set him free (Jer. 39:14; 40:4).