A PROPHECY AGAINST JERUSALEM. The prophet, present in Jerusalem, either actually, or at any rate in spirit, sees the inhabitants crowded together upon the housetops, in a state of boisterous merriment (Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:2). Outside the walls is a foreign army threatening the town (Isaiah 22:5-7). Preparations have been made for resistance, which are described (Isaiah 22:8-11); but there has been no turning to God. On the contrary, the danger has but made the bulk of the people reckless. Instead of humbling themselves and putting on sackcloth, and weeping, and appealing to God's mercy, they have determined to drown care in drink and sensual enjoyment (Isaiah 22:12, Isaiah 22:13). Therefore the prophet is bidden to denounce woe upon them, and threaten that Jehovah will not forgive their recklessness until their death (Isaiah 22:14). There is nothing to mark very distinctly the nationality of the foreign army; but it is certainly represented as made up of contingents from many nations. Delitzsch holds that the Assyrian armies were never so made up, or, at any rate, that the nations here mentioned never served in its ranks; but this is, perhaps, assuming that our knowledge on the subject is more complete and exact than is really the case. It is almost impossible to imagine any other army than the Assyrian besieging Jerusalem in Isaiah's time. Moreover, the particulars concerning the preparations made against the enemy (verses 9-11) agree with those mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:3-5 and 2 Chronicles 32:30 as made by Hezekiah against Sennacherib. And the second section of the chapter has certainly reference to this period. It seems, therefore, reasonable to regard the siege intended as that conducted by Sennacherib in his fourth year, of which we have a brief account in his annals.
The burden of the valley of vision. "The valley of vision" is only mentioned here and in Isaiah 22:5. It must have been one of the deep depressions near Jerusalem troll which there is a good view of the town. The LXX. render, "the burden of the valley of Zion." What aileth thee now? Jerusalem is addressed by the prophet, who assumes the role of a spectator, surprised at what he sees, and asks an explanation. That thou art wholly gone up to the housetops. Partly, no doubt, they went to watch the enemy anti his movements, as Rosenmüller says; but still more for feasting and revelry ( 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16). The flat roofs of Oriental houses are often used as places of recreation and entertainment, especially in the evening.
A joyous city (comp. Isaiah 22:13). Thy slain men are not slain with the sword. It is a blockade rather than a siege. Men die, not of wounds, but of privations (Lamentations 4:9). Sennacherib himself says, "Hezekiah, like a caged bird, within Jerusalem, his royal city, I confined; towers round about him I raised; and the exit of the great gate of his city I shut".
All thy rulers are fled together; rather, all thy chief men. We must make allowance for Oriental hyperbole. The meaning is that numbers of the principal men, regarding resistance as vain, had endeavored to make their escape from the doomed town, but had been captured and bound by the enemies' archers. All that are found in thee; rather, belonging to thee. The reference is to those who had made their escape and were fleeing far away. The archers seize them, and bind them all together. We often see a number of captives bound together by a single rope in the Egyptian bas-reliefs. Which have fled from far; rather, which were flying far away.
Therefore said I. The prophet turns from the description of the scene before him to an account of his own feelings. Look away from me, he says; "leave me free to vent my sorrow without restraint; I wish for no consolation—only leave me to myself." Because of the spoiling. The word used sometimes means" destruction;" but" spoiling" is a better rendering here. Sennacherib describes his "spoiling" of Jerusalem on this occasion as follows: "Thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, precious carbuncles, great … stones, couches of ivory, lofty thrones of ivory, skins of buffaloes, horns of buffaloes, weapons, everything, a great treasure, and his daughters, the eunuchs of his palace, male musicians, and female musicians, to Nineveh, the city of my dominion, did Hezekiah send after me". To what straits Hezekiah was reduced in order to collect a sufficient amount of the precious metals we learn from 2 Kings 18:15, 2 Kings 18:16.
It is a day … By the Lord; rather, there is a day to the Lord; or, the Lord has a day. God has in reserve such a day; and it will assuredly arrive in due course. Hence the prophet's grief. In the valley of vision. We may suppose that Hezekiah, before he made the submission recorded in 2 Kings 18:14 and in the 'Cylinder of Sennacherib,' col. 4.11. 28, 29, tried the chances of battle against the Assyrians in this valley, and that Isaiah had a prophetic vision of the fight. Breaking down the walls; rather, undermining. The Assyrian sculptures show numerous examples of this practice. Sometimes swords or spears are used to dislodge the stones of the wall, sometimes crow-bars or axes. Crying. Some regard this word, and also that translated "the walls" in the preceding clause, as proper names, and render the passage, "Kir undermineth, and Shoa is at the mount" (Ewald, Cheyne, Luzzatto). But it seems unlikely that "Kit" would be mentioned twice.
Elam bare the quiver. Elam, the country extending from the Zagros range to the Lower Tigris, and watered by the Choaspes, Eulaeus, Pasitigris, and other rivers, was an independent kingdom from a very early date (Genesis 14:1, Genesis 14:9), and in Isaiah's time was generally hostile to Assyria. Sargon, however, relates that he conquered a portion of the country, planted colonies in it from the more western parts of his empire, and placed both colonists and natives under the governor of Babylon. It is thus quite possible that both Sargon and Sennacherib may have had a contingent of Elamites in their armies. With chariots of men and horsemen; rather, with troops of men (who were) horsemen (comp. Isaiah 21:7). Kir uncovered the shield. "Kir" is mentioned in 2 Kings as the place to which Tiglath-Pileser transported the inhabitants of Damascus (2 Kings 16:9), and by Amos (Amos 9:7) as the original country from which the Syrians were derived. It has been recently identified with Kirkhi, near Diarbekr, or with Kirruri, in the Urumiyah country (Cheyne); but neither identification is marc than possible. (On uncovering shields as a preliminary to engaging in battle, see Caesar, 'Do Bell. Gall.,' 2.21.)
And it shall come to pass, etc. This verse and the next are closely connected, and introduce the new subject of the preparations which the Jews made for their defense. Translate, And it came to pass, when thy choicest valleys were full of chariots (or, troops), and the horsemen had set themselves in array toward the gate, that then did he draw off the cavorting of Judah, etc.
The covering of Judah was that which hid their weakness either from themselves or from the enemy—probably the former. God drew this aside, and they suddenly saw their danger, and began to think how they could best defend themselves. Arms were the first things needed. The armor of the house of the forest. "The house of the forest" was probably that portion of the palace of Solomon which he had called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2-5). This was, it would seem, used as an armor (1 Kings 10:17; 1 Kings 14:27; Isaiah 39:2).
Ye have seen also …. are many; rather, ye saw also were many. The breaches of the city of David. "The city of David" may be here a name for Jerusalem generally, as "the city where David dwelt" (Isaiah 29:1), or it may designate the eastern hill, where David fixed his residence (2 Samuel 5:7; Nehemiah 3:15, Nehemiah 3:16, Nehemiah 3:25; Nehemiah 12:37). In 2 Chronicles 32:5 we read that Hezekiah at this time "built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Mille in the city of David," where a particular part of Jerusalem seems certainly to be meant. Ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. The arrangements made by Hezekiah with respect to the water-supply at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, seem to have been the following: He found on the north of the city, where the Assyrian attack was certain to be delivered, in the vicinity of the Damascus gate, a pool or reservoir (Isaiah 7:3), fed by a conduit from some natural source, which lay open and patent to view. The superfluous water ran off from it by a "brook" (2 Chronicles 32:4), which passed down the Tyropoeon valley, and joined the Kedron to the southeast of Ophel. His first step was to cover over and conceal the open reservoir, and also the" brook" which ran from it, at least as far as the northern city wall, to prevent their use by the Assyrians. He then further made a conduit underground (2 Chronicles 32:30) within the city, along the Tyropoeon depression, to a second reservoir, or "pool," also within the city, which could be freely used by the inhabitants (see 2 Chronicles 32:11; and comp. Ecclesiasticus 48:17). Further, it is probable that he carried a conduit from this second pool, under the temple area, to the" fount of the Virgin" on the eastern side of Ophel, and thence further conveyed the water by a tunnel through Ophel to the "pool of Siloam." The inscription recently discovered at this peel is probably of Hezekiah's time.
Ye have numbered … have broken down; rather, ye numbered … ye broke down. The "numbering" was probably in order to see how many could be spared for pulling down. The repair of the walls with materials thus furnished was a sign of extreme haste and urgency. It would seem from Isaiah 22:7, Isaiah 22:8 that the repairs were not begun until the town was invested.
Ye made also a ditch; rather, a lake, or reservoir (see the comment on Isaiah 22:9). But ye have not looked unto the maker thereof; i.e. you have not looked to God, who in his eternal counsels foreknew and decreed all the steps that you are taking for your defense (see below, Isaiah 37:26).
In that day. The day alluded to in Isaiah 22:7, when the choice valleys in the neighborhood of Jerusalem were first seen to be full of a hostile soldiery, and the Assyrian horsemen were observed drawing themselves up opposite the gates. Such a sight constituted an earnest call upon the people for immediate repentance. Baldness (comp. Isaiah 15:2; Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10). It has been said that "baldness" was forbidden by the Law (Cheyne); but this is not so, absolutely. Baldness was wholly forbidden to the priests (Le Isaiah 21:5; comp. Ezekiel 44:20); and certain peculiar modes of shaving the hair, the beard, and the eyebrows, practiced by idolatrous nations, were prohibited to all the people (Le 19:27; Deuteronomy 14:2). But such shaving of the head as was practiced by Job (Job 1:20) and other pious men, was not forbidden to laymen, any more than the wearing of sackcloth. It was regarded as a natural mode of exhibiting grief.
And behold joy and gladness (comp. Isaiah 22:2). "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," is a common sentiment, if not a common expression. It has been supposed to have given rise to the Egyptian practice of carrying round the model of a mummy to the guests at feasts. According to the Greeks, Sardanapalus had a phrase very like it engraved upon his tomb. Sailors have often acted upon it, when they found it impossible to save their ship. On seeing their city invested, a portion of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, despairing of safety, did as sailors have done so frequently.
It was revealed in mine cars by the Lord of hosts; rather, the Lord of hosts revealed himself in mine ears, saying. This iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die. The sin of turning a call to repentance into an excuse for rioting and drunkenness is one which God will not pardon. It implies a hardness of heart which cannot fail to issue in final impenitence.
PROPHECY ON THE DEPOSITION OF SHEBNA AND THE ELEVATION OF ELIAKIM. In its first and simplest application, this section predicts the fall of one state official and the advancement of an-other—matters, no doubt, of some importance in the court history of the time, but scarcely (with reverence be it said) of such moment as to be worthy either of prophetic announcement or of divinely inspired record. It has, therefore, been generally felt that there must be a secondary application of the passage. According to some, the two officials represent respectively the two cove-hunts, the old and the new; according to others, they stand for the two great parties in the Jewish slate of the time—that which put its trust in Jehovah, and that which leant upon heathen alliances.
The Lord God of hosts. This form, Adonay Jehovah Tsabaoth—rarely used by Isaiah, but occurring above in verses 5, 12, and 13—seems to show that this section is in its right place, being intended as a sequel to the description of Sennacherib's siege. This treasurer. The word "this" is contemptuous. That translated "treasurer" is of doubtful import. The key to it is probably to be found in the cognate noun, translated "storehouse" in 2 Chronicles 32:28, and "store" in 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4, 2 Chronicles 8:6; 2 Chronicles 16:4; 2 Chronicles 17:12. Translate, this storekeeper. Shebna. The name, which is not found elsewhere, is thought to be Syriac rather than Hebrew, and Shebna himself is conjectured to have been a foreign adventurer, perhaps "a refugee from Damascus" (Cheyne). (See the next verse.) Which is over the house. An office like the imperial praefectus palatio" at Rome, or the Frankish "mayor of the palace" (see Genesis 41:40; 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3). At this time it seems to have been the highest office that a subject could hold (2 Chronicles 26:21; 2 Kings 18:18, etc.).
What hast thou here? i.e. what business, or what right? It seems, certainly, to be implied that Shebna was wholly unconnected with Jerusalem. Whom hast thou here? i.e. what relations? what family? To be justified in hewing out a large tomb, Shebna should have had a numerous family for whom graves would be needed. Otherwise, his excavation of a grand sepulcher was merely selfish and ostentatious. As he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high. Jewish tombs of any pretension were generally excavations in the solid rock, on the side of some hill or mountain, and had often a very elevated position. Tombs exist on the slopes of all the hills about Jerusalem, but are most numerous on the eastern side of the temple mount, which slopes steeply to the Kedron valley. A square-topped doorway leads into a chamber, generally square, from which recesses, six or seven feet long, two broad, and three high, are carried into the rock horizontally, either on a level with the floor, or with a platform, or shelf, halfway up one of the walls. These recesses have been called loculi. After a body had been placed in one, it was commonly closed by a stone, which fitted into the end, and thus shut off the body from the chamber. Chambers had sometimes twelve such loculi. An habitation (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:5). We must not suppose, however, that the Jews, like the Egyptians and Etruscans, regarded the soul as inhabiting the tomb. The soul descended into sheol; the grave was the "habitation" of the body only.
The Lord win carry thee away with a mighty captivity; rather, the Lord will hurl thee away, O man, with a hurling; i.e. "will hurl thee away to a distance." It is not said that Shebna would be a captive. Will surely cover thee; literally, will cover thee with a covering; i.e. "will make thee obscure" (Rosenmüller)—a fitting punishment for one who aimed at attracting attention and making himself famous (Isaiah 22:16).
He will surely violently turn and toss thee, etc.; literally, rolling he will roll thee with rolling like a ball, etc. Into a large country. Assyria, or perhaps Egypt. If Shebna was disgraced on account of his recommending the Egyptian alliance, he may not improbably have taken refuge with Tirhakah. There the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house; rather, there shall be the chariots of thy glory, O thou shame of thy lord's house. His chariots, in which he gloried, should accompany him, either as spoil taken by the enemy, or as the instruments of his flight.
I will drive thee from thy station; rather, from thy post, or office. Shall he pull thee down. Jehovah scorns to be meant in both clauses (comp. Isaiah 34:16). The full accomplishment of this prophecy is nowhere declared to us. We merely find that, by the time of Rabshakeh's arrival at Jerusalem as Sennacherib's envoy (Isaiah 36:2-4), Shebna had lost his post as prefect of the palace, and filled the lower position of scribe or secretary. He may, however, have been subsequently further degraded, and thereupon he may have fled to Egypt, as Jeroboam did (1 Kings 11:40).
In that day. In the day of Shebna's deposition from his office of prefect of the palace. My servant Eliakim. On the dignity of this title, when given by God himself, see the comment on Isaiah 20:3.
With thy robe … with thy girdle. The dress of office worn by Shebna would be taken from him, and Eliakim would be invested therewith. The "robe" is the long-sleeved cloak or tunic worn commonly by persons of rank; the "girdle" is probably an ornamental one, like those of the priests (Exodus 28:39), worn over the inner tunic. He shall be a father; i.e. a protector, counselor, guide (comp. Job 29:16, "I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out"). It is, perhaps, implied that Shebna had not conducted himself as a "father."
The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder. A key would seem to have been the special badge of the prefect's office, which included the control of the stores (Isaiah 22:15), and the general management of the household. It was, perhaps, a part of the form of investiture, that the key should be first laid on the prefect's shoulder and then delivered into his hand. Among the Greeks the priests of Ceres are said to have borne a key on their shoulder, permanently, as a badge of office (Callimach; 'Hymn. ad Cererem,' 1. 45). The reference to this passage in Revelation 3:7 is sufficient to show that Eliakim, the "servant of Jehovah" (Revelation 3:20), is, to a certain extent, a type of Christ; perhaps also of his faithful ministers (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23).
I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place (comp. Ezra 9:8; Zechariah 10:4). The idea intended to be expressed is firmness and fixity of tenure. He shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house (compare the next verse). All his relations, even the most remote, shall derive honor from him, and bask in the sunshine of his prosperity. So shall all members of the family of God, made sons of God by adoption in Christ, participate in the final glory of Christ in his eternal kingdom.
All the glory. According to scriptural notions, the "glory" of a family consists very much in its size (Genesis 15:5; Psalms 127:5, etc.). And Christ's glory in his final kingdom will consist greatly in the number of the saved (Revelation 7:4-9). The offspring and the issue; i.e. the flourishing scions, and the despised seedlings alike. The word translated "issue" is a term of contempt (see Ezekiel 4:15). From the vessels of cups; rather, of bowls (comp. Exodus 24:6). To all the vessels of flagons; rather, of pitchers. "A numerous, undistinguished, family connection" seems to be intended (Delitzsch).
SEQUEL OF THE PROPHECY CONCERNING ELIAKIM. This verse has been truly called "an enigma" (Kay). It is impossible to understand it of Shebna. "The nail that was fastened in a sure place" can only refer to the nail said to have been so fastened in Isaiah 22:23. Are we, then, to understand that Eliakim too will experience a reverse of fortune? But then all the force of the contrast between him and Shebna would be gone. Is it not possible that the prophet, seeing in Eliakim a type of the Messiah, and becoming more and more Messianic in his utterances, has ended by forgetting the type altogether, and being absorbed in the thought of the antitype? He, the nail, so surely fixed in his eternal place, would nevertheless be "removed" for a time, and then "he cut down and fall" (comp. Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:8). At the same time would be "cut off" the burden which Messiah bore (Isaiah 53:12, "He bare the sin of many").
In that day. Not the day of Shebna's fall, certainly (Isaiah 22:20), but some ether. Is not the day that of Christ's earthly mission, when it seemed as if his people were about to acknowledge him, and his throne to be established, but suddenly Messiah was "cut off" (Daniel 9:26)—stricken for the transgression of his people (Isaiah 53:8)? The burden that was upon it shall be cut off. The great burden upon the Messiah was the load of human sin which he had to bear. "He himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). By his death this burden was "cut off" (1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14). For the Lord hath spoken it. The double attestation, at the beginning and at the end of the verse, is a mark of the vast importance of the announcement contained in it, which is, in fact, the germ of the great doctrine of the atonement.
Isaiah weeping for the daughter of his people a type of Christ lamenting over Jerusalem.
Isaiah was in many respects a type of Christ. His name, which sight ties "Salvation of Jehovah," is a near equivalent of "Jesus," which means "Jehovah is Savior." Tradition says that he was of royal lineage, like Jesus. The sphere of his teaching was in the main Jerusalem, where our Lord's principal discourses were delivered. He reproved sin, yet pitied the sinner, like Jesus (see Homiletics on Isaiah 15:5). He was, like Jesus, martyred at Jerusalem. We may, therefore, without impropriety, regard the "bitter weeping" of verse 4 as in some respect the counterpart of our Lord's lament on the day of his triumphal entry into the city, when he beheld it from the brow of Olivet. They were alike in several respects.
I. BOTH WERE CAUSED BY PROPHETIC VISION OF THE HORRORS OF A SIEGE. In Isaiah's time the siege had begun. The enemy was investing the place (verse 7). But his tears flowed on account of the future "spoiling" of his people on that "day of trouble and treading down and perplexity;" when there was to be "breaking down of walls and crying to the mountains" (verse 5), and Elam was to "bear the quiver," and Kir to "uncover the shield." Jesus wept because the days were coming upon Jerusalem, when "her enemies would cast a trench about her, and compass her round, and keep her in on every side, "and at last" lay her even with the ground, and her children within her" (Luke 19:43, Luke 19:44). In the one case Rome was the enemy, in the other Assyria, both equally truculent. In the one case final destruction impended; in the other a punishment far short of final destruction, but still a very severe punishment. In both cases grievous sins had provoked the catastrophe, yet the thought of these did not prevent the tears from being shed on account of it.
II. BOTH DERIVED THEIR BITTERNESS FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUFFERER WAS OF KIN TO THE MOURNER. "I will weep," said Isaiah, "because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people." The woes of other peoples shocked and distressed him to some extent (Isaiah 15:5; Isaiah 16:9-11; Isaiah 21:3, Isaiah 21:4); but not as those of his own nation, his "kinsmen according to the flesh." And so it was with Jesus. Patriotism moved the spirits of both mourners, and rendered their grief especially poignant.
III. BOTH WERE AGGRAVATED BY THE THOUGHT THAT THE SUFFERING WAS UNEXPECTED. Isaiah tells us that at Sennacherib's siege no preparations had been made to resist the foe, until the choice valleys were full of troops, and the horsemen set in array at the gates (verses 7-10). Our Lord gives it as the climax of the horrors at the siege by Titus, that Jerusalem had not "known the day of her visitation" (Luke 19:44). Jerusalem was at the time expecting the Messiah, who would enable them to cast off the Roman yoke. She did not know that her Messiah had come. Just when she was looking for a glorious deliverance, there came a crushing disaster. So Hezekiah was probably looking for victory by the help of Egypt, when he had to make the most abject submission—to strip the temple in order to satisfy the cravings of the conqueror for "spoil," and to see a large part of his people carried into captivity.
Shebna and Eliakim: a moral lesson.
It is a remark of Bishop Butler's, that the moral government of God, though it may be very imperfectly carried out, is at any rate begun, in this world. Many virtues have natural rewards, and many vices natural punishments, attached to them. Again, though undoubtedly the righteous do suffer a large share of affliction, and the ungodly are often seen in great prosperity, yet, on the other hand, very signal instances from time to time manifest themselves, of the punishment of the wicked in this life by a grievous downfall, and the reward of the righteous by an exaltation to worldly greatness and honor. The most signal instance presented to us in Scripture of the double Nemesis is that of Haman and Mordecai in the Book of Esther. In that most striking tale, the whole history of the two men is set before us, and the rise of the one and fall of the other are interconnected in a way that lends peculiar interest to the narrative. Here we have simply a moral contrast, leading to a contrast of result.
I. A MORAL CONTRAST.
1. Shebna, selfish, isolated, vain-glorious; noted for his display of chariots, like Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1); no "father" to the people under his charge; no good adviser of the king his master; chiefly desirous of handing his name down to posterity by a magnificent tomb; perhaps not even a worshipper of Jehovah.
2. Eliakim, God's "servant;" kind and thoughtful for others; regarded as "a father," not only by the people of Jerusalem, but by the entire "house" or tribe of Judah; looked up to by a large body of relations, of whom many were poor and of low rank, and willingly sharing his prosperity with them; an honest and prudent counselor to his king; a faithful worshipper of the One God, whose unity his name proclaimed. No two dwellers at the same court, no two servants of the same king, could well be more different in character, in circumstances, in moral desert.
II. A CONTRAST OF RESULT.
1. Shebna, degraded from his office, is forced for a time to serve in one of very inferior dignity. Then he is either further degraded or so dissatisfied with his position that he cannot bear to retain it. He becomes a refugee in a distant land, an exile, an outcast.
2. Eliakim, advanced into Shebna's place, has the key of the house of David placed upon his shoulder, becomes his king's most trusty counselor and representative, is a glory and a support to his father's house, and retains his position, if not till his death, at any rate for a long period. In estimating the extent to which God's moral government is carried on in this world, such instances as those of Haman and Mordecai, Shebna and Eliakim, should by no means be omitted from our calculation. History contains very many such cases.
Shebna and Eliakim: an allegory.
Shebna, set over the house of the king by the king himself, but unfaithful in his office, worldly, carnal, fond of grandeur and display, typifies the old covenant, and the priesthood to which it was committed—a priesthood which looked more to the enrichment of the treasury than to the pure service of God (Mark 7:11), and which was not above the weakness of raising up grand sepulchers for its members in a conspicuous place (1 Macc. 13:27-30). This priesthood, found wanting, had to be cast away, and a better priesthood, after a different order, to be instituted. Eliakim typifies this new priesthood—a priesthood "made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16). Primarily, he typifies Christ himself, the true "Servant of the Lord" (Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:13, etc.), the perpetual High Priest of his Church, the eternal Possessor of "the key of David, who openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Revelation 3:7), who "hath the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18). Eliakim was "a father" to Judah and Jerusalem; among Christ's names is that of "Everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6). Eliakim was "as a nail fastened in a sure place;" Christ is gone up where he "forever sitteth on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12). Eliakim had a "glorious throne;" Christ's throne is that "great white" one, which is set in heaven (Revelation 20:11), out of which "come lightnings, and thunderings, and voices" (Revelation 4:5). On Eliakim hung all the members of his father's house; on Christ depends, for pardon, for peace, for life, for glory, every true Christian. Secondarily, Eliakim may be regarded as typifying the faithful minister of Christ, to whom the power of the keys is communicated in a certain modified sense (Matthew 16:19), who, binding and loosing according to Christ's ordinance, binds and looses effectively, so that none can undo his work, and, as a faithful steward in the household of Christ, dispenses the good things committed to his charge by his King and Master. The faithful minister will not blench before the powers of evil, any more than Eliakim did before Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:11, Isaiah 36:21); he will be "a father" to the people of God, i.e. a protector, a guide, a friend; and with those who "hang upon him" he will always be ready to share both his material and his spiritual blessings.
Messiah's burden and Messiah's death.
How Christ's death atones for sin we know not, and need not too curiously inquire. But, if plain words have a plain meaning, it is impossible to doubt that this is the teaching of Scripture. "By his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5); "He is the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2); "One died for all" (2 Corinthians 5:14). It is quite possible that there is something in the nature of things, which we cannot fathom, that made it impossible for man's sins to be forgiven unless God died for them. Our wisdom is to avoid curious speculation, and to view the matter on its practical side. Thus viewed, it manifestly calls on us for three things.
I. INTENSE HATRED OF SIN, ON ACCOUNT OF ITS HAVING CAUSED MESSIAH'S DEATH. If an animate, or even an inanimate, thing has caused the death of one we loved, how bitterly we detest it! Often we cannot bear to look upon it, nay, even to see a thing of the same kind. How, then, should we hate sin—hateful in itself, hateful in its effects, hateful in its origin, most hateful in that it caused the death of the one Man who alone of all that have ever lived did not deserve to die! And he, moreover, One who dearly loved us, who came down from heaven for us, lived a life of privation and suffering for us, at last died for our sakes.
II. INTENSE LOVE OF CHRIST, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS HAVING DIED FOR US. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But Christ died for his enemies. Sin is an insuperable barrier between God and man, sets them at variance, makes them adversaries. And till Christ died man could not be forgiven. So he died for those with whom he was at enmity! And died by what a death!
1. More painful probably than any other.
2. Considered at the time more disgraceful.
3. Aggravated by the insults of lookers-on.
4. Regarded as bringing a man under a curse.
III. INTENSE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS GIVING HIS SON TO DIE FOR US. We cannot realize the love of the Father for the Son; but we cannot doubt that it transcends any love known on earth. Yet he gave him to suffer all that he suffered—and why? For us. Because he loved us. As our Lord himself says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). If the knowledge of this fact fail to stir up love towards the Father in our souls, we must be "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:19), utterly dead to any high motive, scarcely better than "brute beasts" (Jud Isaiah 1:10).
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Judgment upon Jerusalem.
I. THE PROPHET AS SPECTATOR. The valley of vision seems to mean Jerusalem as a whole, round about which are mountains (Psalms 125:2); the city is spoken of, when compared with the surrounding mountains, as the "inhabitant of the valley," otherwise as the "rock of the plain" (Jeremiah 21:13; comp. Jeremiah 17:3). If Isaiah is gazing from his house in the lower town, the city would appear as in a valley in relation to the mountains inside as much as those outside (Delitzsch). He sees the whole population crowded together on the house-tops, and the air is filled with the uproar of merriment. The house-tops were places of resort at festival-time ( 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16).
II. THE MIRTH OF DESPAIR. It was famine and pestilence which, forcing the people into despair, had brought about this mad rebound of hollow merriment. The slain of the city had not been slain upon the field; but the crowding in of fugitives from the country had occasioned the plague. The description reminds us of Zephaniah's picture of Nineveh: "This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me" (Zephaniah 2:15). And again we think of scenes in connection with the plagues in the Italian cities of the Middle Ages, when revelry and story-telling are said to have gone on amongst groups who had withdrawn themselves from the horrors around them. How terrible the contrast between the dark background of calamity and this hollow feverish exhibition of merriment in the foreground! "I said of laughter, What is it?" Let us thank God for the precious gift of humor. Its light, lambently playing upon the sternest and most awful scenes and imagery of the mind, was given to relieve the tragedy of life. In melancholy minds the source of humor is deeply seated. But how different the cheerfulness which springs from the sense that the scheme of things is sound and right, that "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," and that which confronts a hopeless future with mad defiance! There is something lurid, ominous, in the latter, full of foreboding; and the scene in Jerusalem may be dwelt upon as typical of the ill-timed mirth of the sinner when danger is impending, soon to be quenched in silence and night. The rulers have fled away from the devoted city; in the face of the enemy they have flung down their bows and yielded themselves prisoners. All is lost.
III. THE FORECAST OF DOOM.
1. The grief of type prophet. In warm patriotism he identifies himself with his city and his people, and gives way to bitter tears; a prototype of Jesus in later days, looking on the doomed city, perhaps, from some similar point of view. We are reminded also of Jeremiah, whose heart "fainted" under a similar sense of the miseries of the people, and who exclaims, "Oh that my head were full of waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might bewail the slain of my people!" (Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 9:1). These are living examples of compassion, and of true patriotic feeling, including a true Church feeling. "We are altogether unworthy of being reckoned in the number of the children of God, and added to the holy Church, if we do not dedicate ourselves and all that we have to the Church in such a manner that we are not separate from it in any respect. Especially the ministers of the Word ought to be moved by this feeling of grief, because, being appointed to keep watch and to look at a distance, they ought also to groan when they perceive the tokens of approaching ruin" (Calvin).
2. The siege and capture. "We seem to see and hear the last hurrying stages of the siege and capture" (Cheyne). In one of the valleys the hosts of the enemy are seen thickly trampling and spreading dismay and confusion all around. As the undermining of the walls by the siege artillery goes on, cries of woe beat against the surrounding hills, and are echoed back again. The terrible famed bowmen of Elam (comp. Jeremiah 49:35)and the people of Kir, together forming, as it would seem, the vanguard of Assyria, are seen advancing. The valleys about the city, all teeming with associations of the past—Kedron, Gihon, Rephaim, Hinnom—are ploughed by hoofs of horses and wheels of chariots; and the foe is drawn up in column, ready to enter the "great gate," so soon as it shall be broken down by the battering-rams.
3. The state of the inhabitants. Jehovah draws aside the curtain from Judah. This may mean
Probably the former. In either case the hand of an overruling Providence is recognized. The "forest house," or arsenal built by Solomon on Zion, is examined (1 Kings 7:2; 1 Kings 10:17; cf. Isaiah 39:2). The "city of David," i.e. the fortress on Mount Zion, is inspected by the leading men, and the numerous breaches in the walls are observed. They survey the houses, and take material from them to repair the wall. They concentrate the water-supply in one reservoir—the "lower pool," and form a basin between the two walls. These preparations may be compared with those of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:2-5).
IV. FATAL FORGETFULNESS. All these precautions would be too late! A dreadful word! And why?
1. The Divine counsel has been forgotten. "Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass" (Isaiah 37:26). These harpers, and violinists, and tabret-players, and feasters have not "regarded the work of Jehovah, nor considered the operation of his hands" (Isaiah 5:12). Self-reliance may be religious, or it may mean an attempt to be independent of God, and so end in alienation from God. How feeble and how foolish policy must become if from the first it ignores the Divine will, and at the last only comes to acknowledge a destiny above human might and human calculation! The idea of all that will be exists in the mind of God; we may know something of his meaning by constantly consulting the "living oracles," by truthful thinking, by loyal acting—in a word, by communion with the living God. What can attention to ramparts and ditches and reservoirs avail, if men have not found their defense in God? If he be trusted, what is there to fear? If he be denied, what can shield from calamity? "The fate of Jerusalem is said to have been fashioned long ago in God, But Jerusalem might have averted its realization, for it was no absolute decree. It Jerusalem repented, that realization would be averted" (Delitzsch).
2. Divine warnings have been neglected. God had called—in that day; at every critical time. By many ways he speaks—by the living and passionate tones of prophet and brother man, by the general course of events, by the touch of sorrow, by the hints of personal experience. There is a time for everything under the sun; to know our opportunity makes the wisdom of the world; to know the "time of our visitation" is the wisdom of heaven. But, alas! the Jews knew it not; "rushing to the banquet-table with despair in their hearts, and wasting the provisions which ought to have been husbanded for the siege." "Let us cat and drink; for tomorrow we die." The sensualism of despair (Cheyne). When the light of life, bright faith and hope toward God, dies out, what remains but to counterfeit its glow by some artificial illumination, kindled from the tow of physical excitement? A love of life which scoffs at death (Delitzsch). 'Tis dangerous to scoff; to scoff at the great scoffer Death, what is this but the last extreme of self-abandonment? And does not despair imply the last sin we can commit? And is not recklessness its evidence? And follows there not upon all this the shadow of a state unforgiven, a mind eternally unreconciled? Who can but tremble as he meditates on these things? "Probably if the real feeling of the great mass of worldly men were expressed, they could not be better expressed than in the language of Isaiah: 'We must soon die, at all events; we cannot avoid that—it is the common doom of all. And since we have been sent into a dying world; since we have had no agency in being placed here; since it is impossible to prevent this doom,—we may as well enjoy life while it lasts, and give ourselves to pleasure and revelry. While we can, we will take our comfort, and, when death comes, we will submit to it, because