Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Oracle Concerning the Valley of Vision (Jerusalem) - Isa 22:1-14
The châzūth concerning Babylon, and the no less visionary prophecies concerning Edom and Arabia, are now followed by a massâ, the object of which is "the valley of vision" (gē' chizzâyōn) itself. Of course these four prophecies were not composed in the tetralogical form in which they are grouped together here, but were joined together at a later period in a group of this kind on account of their close affinity. The internal arrangement of the group was suggested, not by the date of their composition (they stand rather in the opposite relation to one another), but by the idea of a storm coming from a distance, and bursting at last over Jerusalem; for there can be no doubt that the "valley of vision" is a general name for Jerusalem as a whole, and not the name given to one particular valley of Jerusalem. It is true that the epithet applied to the position of Jerusalem does not seem to be in harmony with this; for, according to Josephus, "the city was built upon two hills, which are opposite to one another and have a valley to divide them asunder, at which valley the corresponding rows of houses on both hills end" (Wars of the Jews, v. 4, 1; Whiston). But the epithet is so far allowable, that there are mountains round Jerusalem (Psa 125:2); and the same city which is on an eminence in relation to the land generally, appears to stand on low ground when contrasted with the mountains in the immediate neighbourhood (πρὸς δὲ τὰ ἐχόμενα ταύθς γηόλοφα χθαμαλίζεται, as Phocas says). According to this twofold aspect, Jerusalem is called the "inhabitant of the valley" in Jer 21:13, and directly afterwards the "rock of the plain;" just as in Jer 17:3 it is called the mountain in the fields, whereas Zephaniah (Zep 1:11) applies the epithet mactēsh (the mortar or cauldron) not to all Jerusalem, but to one portion of it (probably the ravine of the Tyropaeum). And if we add to this the fact that Isaiah's house was situated in the lower town - and therefore the standpoint of the epithet is really there - it is appropriate in other respects still; for the prophet had there the temple-hill and the Mount of Olives, which is three hundred feet higher, on the east, and Mount Zion before him towards the south; so that Jerusalem appeared like a city in a valley in relation to the mountains inside, quite as much as to those outside. But the epithet is intended to be something more than geographical. A valley is a deep, still, solitary place, but off and shut in by mountains. And thus Jerusalem was an enclosed place, hidden and shut off from the world, which Jehovah had chosen as the place in which to show to His prophets the mysteries of His government of the world. And upon this sacred prophets' city the judgment of Jehovah was about to fall; and the announcement of the judgment upon it is placed among the oracles concerning the nations of the world! We may see from this, that at the time when this prophecy was uttered, the attitude of Jerusalem was so worldly and heathenish, that it called forth this dark, nocturnal threat, which is penetrated by not a single glimmer of promise. But neither the prophecies of the time of Ahaz relating to the Assyrian age of judgment, nor those which were uttered in the midst of the Assyrian calamities, are so destitute of promise and so peremptory as this. The massa therefore falls in the intermediate time, probably the time when the people were seized with the mania for liberty, and the way was prepared for their breaking away from Assyria by their hope of an alliance with Egypt (vid., Delitzsch-Caspari, Studien, ii. 173-4).
The prophet exposes the nature and worthlessness of their confidence in Isa 22:1-3 : "What aileth thee, then, that thou art wholly ascended upon the house-tops? O full of tumult, thou noisy city, shouting castle, thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor slaughtered in battle. All thy rulers departing together are fettered without bow; all thy captured ones are fettered together, fleeing far away." From the flat house-tops they all look out together at the approaching army of the foe, longing for battle, and sure of victory (cullâk is for cullēk, Isa 14:29, Isa 14:31). They have no suspicion of what is threatening them; therefore are they so sure, so contented, and so defiant. מלאה תּשׂאות is inverted, and stands for תּשׁאות מלאת, like מנדּח אפלה in Isa 8:22. עלּיזה is used to denote self-confident rejoicing, as in Zep 2:15. How terribly they deceive themselves! Not even the honour of falling upon the battle-field is allowed them. Their rulers (kâtzin, a judge, and then any person of rank) depart one and all out of the city, and are fettered outside "without bow" (mikkesheth), i.e., without there being any necessity for the bow to be drawn (min, as in Job 21:9; Sa2 1:22; cf., Ewald, 217, b). All, without exception, of those who are attacked in Jerusalem by the advancing foe (nimzâ'aik, thy captured ones, as in Isa 13:15), fall helplessly into captivity, as they are attempting to flee far away (see at Isa 17:13; the perf. de conatu answers to the classical praesens de conatu). Hence (what is here affirmed indirectly) the city is besieged, and in consequence of the long siege hunger and pestilence destroy the inhabitants, and every one who attempts to get away falls into the hands of the enemy, without venturing to defend himself, on account of his emaciation and exhaustion from hunger. Whilst the prophet thus pictures to himself the fate of Jerusalem and Judah, through their infatuation, he is seized with inconsolable anguish.
"Therefore I say, Look away from me, that I may weep bitterly; press me not with consolations for the destruction of the daughter of my people! For a day of noise, and of treading down, and of confusion, cometh from the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, in the valley of vision, breaking down walls; and a cry of woe echoes against the mountains." The note struck by Isaiah here is the note of the kinah that is continued in the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Jeremiah says sheber for shod (Lam 3:48), and bath-ammi (daughter of my people) is varied with batḣZion (daughter of Zion) and bath-yehudah (daughter of Judah). Mērēr babbeci (weep bitterly) is more than bâcâh mar (Isa 33:7): it signifies to give one's self thoroughly up to bitter weeping, to exhaust one's self with weeping. The two similar sounds which occur in Isa 22:5, in imitation of echoes, can hardly be translated. The day of divine judgment is called a day in which masses of men crowd together with great noise (mehūmâh), in which Jerusalem and its inhabitants are trodden down by foes (mebūsâh) and are thrown into wild confusion (mebūcâh). This is one play upon words. The other makes the crashing of the walls audible, as they are hurled down by the siege-artillery (mekarkar kir). Kirkēr is not a denom. of kı̄r, as Kimchi and Ewald suppose (unwalling walls), but is to be explained in accordance with Num 24:17, "he undermines," i.e., throws down by removing the supports, in other words, "to the very foundations" (kur, to dig, hence karkârâh, the bottom of a vessel, Kelim ii. 2; kurkoreth, the bottom of a net, ib. xxviii. 10, or of a cask, Ahaloth ix. 16). When this takes place, then a cry of woe echoes against the mountain (shōa‛, like shūa‛, sheva‛), i.e., strikes against the mountains that surround Jerusalem, and is echoed back again. Knobel understands it as signifying a cry for help addressed to the mountain where Jehovah dwells; but this feature is altogether unsuitable to the God - forgetting worldly state in which Jerusalem is found. It is also to be observed, in opposition to Knobel, that the description does not move on in the same natural and literal way as in a historical narrative. The prophet is not relating, but looking; and in Isa 22:5 he depicts the day of Jehovah according to both its ultimate intention and its ultimate result.
The advance of the besiegers, which leads to the destruction of the walls, is first described in Isa 22:6, Isa 22:7. "And Elam has taken the quiver, together with chariots with men, horsemen; and Kir has drawn out the shield. And then it comes to pass, that thy choicest valleys are filled with chariots, and the horsemen plant a firm foot towards the gate." Of the nations composing the Assyrian army, the two mentioned are Elam, the Semitic nation of Susiana (Chuzistan), whose original settlements were the row of valleys between the Zagros chain and the chain of advanced mountains bounding the Assyrian plains on the east, and who were greatly dreaded as bowmen (Eze 32:24; Jer 49:35), and Kir, the inhabitants of the country of the Cyrus river, which was an Assyrian province, according to Kg2 16:9 and Amo 1:5, and still retained its dependent position even in the time of the Achaemenides, when Armenia, at any rate, is expressly described in the arrowheaded writings as a Persian province, though a rebellious one. The readiness for battle of this people of Kur, who represent, in combination with Elam, the whole extent of the Assyrian empire from south to north,
(Note: The name Gurgistan (= Georgia) has nothing to do with the river Kur; and it is a suspicious fact that Kir has k at the commencement, and i in the middle, whereas the name of the river which joins the Araxes, and flows into the Caspian sea, is pronounced Kur, and is written in Persian with k (answering to the Armenian and old Persian, in which Kuru is equivalent to Κῦρος). Wetzstein considers Kir a portion of Mesopotamia.)
is attested by their "drawing out the shield" (‛ērâh mâgēn), which Caesar calls scutis tegimenta detrahere (bell. gall. ii. 21); for the Talmudic meaning applicare cannot be thought of for a moment (Buxtorf, lex. col. 1664). These nations that fought on foot were accompanied (Beth, as in Kg1 10:2) by chariots filled with men (receb 'âdâm), i.e., war-chariots (as distinguished from ‛agâloth), and, as is added ἀσυνδέτως, by pârâshim, riders (i.e., horsemen trained to arms). The historical tense is introduced with ויהי in Isa 22:7, but in a purely future sense. It is only for the sake of the favourite arrangement of the words that the passage does not proceed with Vav relat. וּמלאוּ. "Thy valleys" (‛amâkaik) are the valleys by which Jerusalem was encircled on the east, the west, and the south, viz., the valley of Kidron on the east; the valley of Gihon on the west; the valley of Rephaim, stretching away from the road to Bethlehem, on the south-west (Isa 17:5); the valley of Hinnom, which joins the Tyropaeum, and then runs on into a south-eastern angle; and possibly also the valley of Jehoshaphat, which ran on the north-east of the city above the valley of Kidron. These valleys, more especially the finest of them towards the south, are now cut up by the wheels and hoofs of the enemies' chariots and horses; and the enemies' horsemen have already taken a firm position gatewards, ready to ride full speed against the gates at a given signal, and force their way into the city (shı̄th with a shoth to strengthen it, as in Psa 3:7; also sı̄m in Kg1 20:12, compare Sa1 15:2).
When Judah, after being for a long time intoxicated with hope, shall become aware of the extreme danger in which it is standing, it will adopt prudent measures, but without God. "Then he takes away the covering of Judah, and thou lookest in that day to the store of arms of the forest-house; and ye see the breaches of the city of David, that there are many of them; and ye collect together the waters of the lower pool. And ye number the houses of Jerusalem, and pull down the houses, to fortify the wall. And ye make a basin between the two walls for the waters of the old pool; and ye do not look to Him who made it, neither do ye have regard to Him who fashioned it long ago." Mâsâk is the curtain or covering which made Judah blind to the threatening danger. Their looks are now directed first of all to the forest-house, built by Solomon upon Zion for the storing and display of valuable arms and utensils (nēshĕk, or rather, according to the Masora on Job 20:24, and the older editions, nĕshĕk), and so called because it rested upon four rows of cedar columns that ran all round (it was in the centre of the fore-court of the royal palace; see Thenius, das vorexil. Jerusalem, p. 13). They also noticed in the city of David, the southern and highest portion of the city of Jerusalem, the bad state of the walls, and began to think of repairing them. To this end they numbered the houses of the city, to obtain building materials for strengthening the walls and repairing the breaches, by pulling down such houses as were suitable for the purpose, and could be dispensed with (vattithtzu, from nâthatz, with the removal of the recompensative reduplication). The lower pool and the old pool, probably the upper, i.e., the lower and upper Gihon, were upon the western side of the city, the lower (Birket es-Sultan) to the west of Sion, the upper (Birket el-Mamilla) farther up to the west of Akra (Robinson, i. 483-486; V. Raumer, Pal. pp. 305-6). Kibbētz either means to collect in the pool by stopping up the outflow, or to gather together in the reservoirs and wells of the city by means of artificial canals. The latter, however, would most probably be expressed by אסף; so that the meaning that most naturally suggests itself is, that they concentrate the water, so as to be able before the siege to provide the city as rapidly as possible with a large supply. The word sâtham, which is used in the account of the actual measures adopted by Hezekiah when he was threatened with siege (Ch2 32:2-5), is a somewhat different one, and indicates the stopping up, not of the outflow but of the springs, and therefore of the influx. But in all essential points the measures adopted agree with those indicated here in the prophecy. The chronicler closes the account of Hezekiah's reign by still further observing that "Hezekiah also stopped the outflow of the upper Gihon, and carried the water westwards underground to the city of David" (Ch2 32:30, explanatory of Kg2 20:20). If the upper Gihon is the same as the upper pool, there was a conduit (teeâlâh), connected with the upper Gihon as early as the time of Ahaz, Isa 7:3. And Hezekiah's peculiar work consisted in carrying the water of the upper pool "into the city of David." The mikvâh between the two walls, which is here prospectively described by Isaiah, is connected with this water supply, which Hezekiah really carried out. There is still a pool of Hezekiah (also called Birket el-Batrak, pool of the patriarchs, the Amygdalon of Josephus) on the western side of the city, to the east of the Joppa gate. During the rainy season this pool is supplied by the small conduit which runs from the upper pool along the surface of the ground, and then under the wall against or near the Joppa gate. It also lies between two walls, viz., the wall to the north of Zion, and the one which runs to the north-east round the Akra (Robinson, i. 487-489). How it came to pass that Isaiah's words concerning "a basin between the two walls" were so exactly carried out, as though they had furnished a hydraulic plan, we do not know. But we will offer a conjecture at the close of the exposition. It stands here as one of those prudent measures which would be resorted to in Jerusalem in the anticipation of the coming siege; but it would be thought of too late, and in self-reliant alienation from God, with no look directed to Him who had wrought and fashioned that very calamity which they were now seeking to avert by all these precautions, and by whom it had been projected long, long before the actual realization. עשׂיה might be a plural, according to Isa 54:5; but the parallel יצרהּ favours the singular (on the form itself, from עשׂי = עשׂה, see Isa 42:5, and at Isa 5:12; Isa 1:30). We have here, and at Isa 37:26, i.e., within the first part of the book of Isaiah, the same doctrine of "ideas" that forms so universal a key-note of the second part, the authenticity of which has been denied. That which is realized in time has existed long before as a spiritual pattern, i.e., as an idea in God. God shows this to His prophets; and so far as prophecy foretells the future, whenever the event predicted is fulfilled, the prophecy becomes a proof that the event is the work of God, and was long ago the predetermined counsel of God. The whole of the Scripture presupposes this pre-existence of the divine idea before the historical realization, and Isaiah in Israel (like Plato in the heathen world) was the assiduous interpreter of this supposition. Thus, in the case before us, 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 decretum absolutum. If Jerusalem repented, the realization would be arrested.
And so far as it had proceeded already, it was a call from Jehovah to repentance. "The Lord, Jehovah of hosts, calls in that day to weeping, and to mourning, and to the pulling out of hair, and to girding with sackcloth; and behold joy and gladness, slaughtering of oxen and killing of sheep, eating of flesh and drinking of wine, eating and drinking, for 'tomorrow we die.' And Jehovah of hosts hath revealed in mine ears, Surely this iniquity shall not be expiated for you until ye die, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts." The first condition of repentance is a feeling of pain produced by the punishments of God. But upon Jerusalem they produce the opposite effect. The more threatening the future, the more insensibly and madly do they give themselves up to the rude, sensual enjoyment of the present. Shâthoth is interchanged with shâthō (which is only another form of שׁתה, as in Isa 6:9; Isa 30:19), to ring with shâchōt (compare Hos 10:4). There are other passages in which we meet with unusual forms introduced for the sake of the play upon the words (vid., Isa 4:6; Isa 8:6; Isa 16:9, and compare Eze 43:11, and the keri of Sa2 3:25). The words of the rioters themselves, whose conduct is sketched by the inf. abs., which are all governed by hinnēh, are simply "for tomorrow we shall die." This does not imply that they feel any pleasure in the thought of death, but indicates a love of life which scoffs at death. Then the unalterable will of the all-commanding God is audibly and distinctly revealed to the prophet. Such scoffing as this, which defies the chastisements of God, will not be expiated in any other way than by the death of the scoffer (cuppar, from câphar, tegere, means to be covered over, i.e., expiated). This is done in the case of sin either by the justice of God, as in the present instance, or by the mercy of God (Isa 6:7), or by both justice and mercy combined (as in Isa 27:9). In all three cases the expiation is demanded by the divine holiness, which requires a covering between itself and sin, by which sin becomes as though it were not. In this instance the expunging act consists in punishment. The sin of Jerusalem is expiated by the giving up of the sinners themselves to death. The verb temūthūn (ye shall die) is written absolutely, and therefore is all the more dreadful. The Targum renders it "till ye die the second (eternal) death" (mōthâh thinyânâh). So far as they prophecy threatened the destruction of Jerusalem by Assyria, it was never actually fulfilled; but the very opposite occurred. Asshur itself met with destruction in front of Jerusalem. But this was by no means opposed to the prophecy; and it was with this conviction that Isaiah, nevertheless, included the prophecy in the collection which he made at a time when the non-fulfilment was perfectly apparent. It stands here in a double capacity. In the first place, it is a memorial of the mercy of God, which withdraws, or at all events modifies, the threatened judgment as soon as repentance intervenes. The falling away from Assyria did take place; but on the part of Hezekiah and many others, who had taken to heart the prophet's announcement, it did so simply as an affair that was surrendered into the hands of the God of Israel, through distrust of either their own strength or Egyptian assistance. Hezekiah carried out the measures of defence described by the prophet; but he did this for the good of Jerusalem, and with totally different feelings from those which the prophet had condemned. These measures of defence probably included the reservoir between the two walls, which the chronicler does not mention till the close of the history of his reign, inasmuch as he follows the thread of the book of Kings, to which his book stands, as it were, in the relation of a commentary, like the midrash, from which extracts are made. The king regulated his actions carefully by the prophecy, inasmuch as after the threats had produced repentance, Isa 22:8-11 still remained as good and wise counsels. In the second place, the oracle stands here as the proclamation of a judgment deferred but not repealed. Even if the danger of destruction which threatened Jerusalem on the part of Assyria had been mercifully caused to pass away, the threatening word of Jehovah had not fallen to the ground. The counsel of God contained in the word of prophecy still remained; and as it was the counsel of the Omniscient, the time would surely come when it would pass out of the sphere of ideality into that of actual fact. It remained hovering over Jerusalem like an eagle, and Jerusalem would eventually become its carrion. We have only to compare the temūthūn of this passage with the ἀποθανείσθε of Joh 8:21, to see when the eventual fulfilment took place. Thus the "massa of the valley of vision" became a memorial of mercy to Israel when it looked back to its past history: but when it looked into the future, it was still a mirror of wrath.
"Thus spake the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, Go, get thee to that steward there, to Shebna the house-mayor. What has thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewn thyself out a sepulchre here, hewing out his sepulchre high up, digging himself a dwelling in rocks? Behold, Jehovah hurleth thee, hurling with a man's throw, and graspeth thee grasping. Coiling, He coileth thee a coil, a ball into a land far and wide; there shalt thou die, and thither the chariots of thy glory, thou shame of the house of thy lord! And I thrust thee from thy post, and from thy standing-place he pulleth thee down." לך־בּ, go, take thyself in - not into the house, however, but into the present halting-place. It is possible, at the same time, that the expression may simply mean "take thyself away," as in Gen 45:17 and Eze 3:4. The preposition אל is interchanged with על, which more commonly denotes the coming of a stronger man upon a weaker one (Sa1 12:12), and is here used to designate the overwhelming power of the prophet's word. "That steward there:" this expression points contemptuously to the position of the minister of the court as one which, however high, was a subordinate one after all. We feel at once, as we read this introduction to the divine address, that insatiable ambition was one of the leading traits in Shebna's character. What Isaiah is to say to Shebna follows somewhat abruptly. The words "and say to him," which are added in the Septuagint, naturally suggest themselves. The question, What hast thou to do here, and whom hast thou to bury here? is put with a glance at Shebna's approaching fate. This building of a sepulchre was quite unnecessary; Shebna himself would never lie there, nor would he be able to bury his relations there. The threefold repetition of the word "here" (poh) is of very incisive force: it is not here that he will stay - here, where he is even now placing himself on a bier, as if it were his home. The participles חצבי and חקקי (with chirek compaginis: see on Psa 113:1-9) are also part of the address. The third person which is introduced here is syntactically regular, although the second person is used as well (Isa 23:2-3; Hab 2:15). Rock-tombs, i.e., a collection of tombs in the form of chambers in the rocks, were indeed to be found to the east of Jerusalem, on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, and in the wall of rock to the west of Jerusalem; but the word mârom ("high up"), in connection with the threefold "here" (poh), and the contemptuous "that administrator there," warrants us in assuming that mârom refers to "the height of the sepulchres of the sons of David" (Ch2 32:33), i.e., the eastern slope of Zion, where the tombs of the kings were excavated in the rocks.
So high did Shebna stand, and so great did he think himself, that he helped after his death to rest among kings, and by no means down at the bottom. But how he deceived himself! Jehovah would hurl him far away (tūl, to be long; pilpel, to throw or stretch out to a distance),
(Note: In the later form of the language, this verbal stem signifies generally to move onward; hence tiyyūl, motion, or a walk, and metaltelı̄n, furniture, i.e., moveable goods.)
גּבר טלטלה. This is either equivalent to גּבר טלטלת טלטלה, with a man's throw (Rosenmller), or גּבר is in apposition to Jehovah (Gesenius and Knobel). As taltēlah stands too baldly if the latter be adopted, for which reason the vocative rendering "O man," which is found in the Syriac, does not commend itself, and as such an elliptical combination of the absolute with the genitive is by no means unusual (e.g., Pro 22:21; Jer 10:10), we give the preference to the former. Jerome's rendering, "as they carry off a cock," which he obtained from the mouth of his Hebraeus, cannot be taken into consideration at all; although it has been retained by Schegg (see Geiger, Lesestcke aus der Mischna, p. 106). The verb עטה does not give a suitable sense as used in Jer 43:12, where it merely signifies to cover one's self, not to wrap up; nor can we obtain one from Sa1 15:19; Sa1 25:14; Sa1 14:32, since the verbal forms which we find there, and which are to be traced to עיט (from which comes עיט, a bird of prey), and not to עטה, signify "to rush upon anything" (when construed with either בּ or אל). It is better, therefore, to take it, as Michaelis, Rosenmller, Knobel, and others do, in the sense of grasping or laying hold of. On the other hand, tzânaph, which is applied in other instances to the twisting of a turban, also signifies to wrap up, make up into a bundle, or coil up. And caddūr, like tzenēphâh, signifies that into which Shebna would be coiled up; for the Caph is not to be taken in a comparative sense, since the use of caddūr in the sense of globus or sphaera is established by the Talmud (see at Job 15:24), whereas the Arabic daur only means gyrus, periodus. Shebna is made into a round coil, or ball, which is hurled into a land stretching out on both sides, i.e., over the broad surface of Mesopotamia, where he flies on farther and farther, without meeting with any obstacle whatever.
(Note: Compare the old saying, "The heart of man is an apple driven by a tempest over an open plain.")
He comes thither to die - he who, by his exaggeration and abuse of his position, has not only dishonoured his office, but the Davidic court as well; and thither do his state carriages also come. There can be no doubt that it was by the positive command of Jehovah that Isaiah apostrophized the proud and wealthy Shebna with such boldness and freedom as this. And such freedom was tolerated too. The murder or incarceration of a prophet was a thing of rare occurrence in the kingdom of Judah before the time of Manasseh. In order to pave the way for the institution of another in Shebna's office, the punishment of deposition, which cannot be understood in any other way than as preceding the punishment of banishment, is placed at the close of the first half of the prophecy. The subject in Isa 22:19 is not the king, as Luzzatto supposes, but Jehovah, as in Isa 22:19 (compare Isa 10:12).
Jehovah first of all gives him the blow which makes him tremble in his post, and then pulls him completely down from this his lofty station,
(Note: וּממּעמדך has not only the metheg required by the kametz on account of the long vowel, and the metheg required by the patach on account of the following chateph patach (the latter of which also takes the place of the metheg, as the sign of a subordinate tone), but also a third metheg with the chirek, which only assists the emphatic pronunciation of the preposition, out which would not stand there at all unless the word had had a disjunctive accent (compare Isa 55:9; Psa 18:45; Hos 11:6).)
in order that another worthier man may take his place. "And it will come to pass in that day, that I call to my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and invest him with thy coat, and I throw thy sash firmly round him, and place they government in his hand; and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I place the key of David upon his shoulder: and when he opens, no man shuts; and when he shuts, no man opens. And I fasten him as a plug in a fast place, and he becomes the seat of honour to his father's house. And the whole mass of his father's house hangs upon him, the offshoots and side-shoots, every small vessel, from the vessel of the basins even to every vessel of the pitchers." Eliakim is called the "servant of Jehovah," as one who was already a servant of God in his heart and conduct; the official service is added for the first time here. This title of honour generally embraces both kinds of service (Isa 20:3). It is quite in accordance with oriental custom, that this transfer of the office is effected by means of investiture (compare Kg1 19:19): chizzēk, with a double accusative, viz., that of the person and that of the official girdle, is used here according to its radical signification, in the sense of girding tightly or girding round, putting the girdle round him so as to cause the whole dress to sit firmly, without hanging loose. The word memshaltekâ (thy government) shows how very closely the office forfeited by Shebna was connected with that of the king. This is also proved by the word "father," which is applied in other cases to the king as the father of the land (Isa 9:5). The "key" signifies the power of the keys; and for this reason it is not given into Eliakim's hand, but placed upon his shoulder (Isa 9:5). This key was properly handled by the king (Rev 3:7), and therefore by the "house-mayor" only in his stead. The power of the keys consisted not only in the supervision of the royal chambers, but also in the decision who was and who was not to be received into the king's service. There is a resemblance, therefore, to the giving of the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter under the New Testament. But there the "binding" and "loosing" introduce another figure, though one similar in sense; whereas here, in the "opening" and "shutting," the figure of the key is retained. The comparison of the institution of Eliakim in his office to the fastening of a tent-peg was all the more natural, that yâthēd was also used as a general designation for national rulers (Zac 10:4), who stand in the same relation to the commonwealth as a tent-peg to the tent which it holds firmly and keeps upright. As the tent-peg is rammed into the ground, so that a person could easily sit upon it, the figure is changed, and the tent-peg becomes a seat of honour. As a splendid chair is an ornament to a room, so Eliakim would be an honour to his hitherto undistinguished family. The thought that naturally suggests itself - namely, that the members of the family would sit upon this chair, for the purpose of raising themselves to honour - is expressed by a different figure. Eliakim is once more depicted as a yâthed, but it is as a still higher one this time - namely, as the rod of a wardrobe, or a peg driven high up into the wall. Upon this rod or peg they hang (thâlu, i.e., one hangs, or there hangs) all the câbōd of the house of Eliakim, i.e., not every one who wished to be honoured and attained to honour in this way (cf., Isa 5:13), but the whole weight of his family (as in Isa 8:7). This family is then subdivided into its separate parts, and, as we may infer from the juxtaposition of the masculine and feminine nouns, according to its male and female constituents. In צאצאים (offshoots) and צפעות ("side-shoots," from צפע, to push out; compare צפיע, dung, with צאה, mire) there is contained the idea of a widely ramifying and undistinguished family connection. The numerous rabble consisted of nothing but vessels of a small kind (hakkâtân), at the best of basons (aggânoth) like those used by the priests for the blood (Exo 24:6), or in the house for mixing wine (Sol 7:3; Aram. aggono, Ar. iggâne, ingân, a washing bason), but chiefly of nebâlim, i.e., leather bottles or earthenware pitchers (Isa 30:14). The whole of this large but hitherto ignoble family of relations would fasten upon Eliakim, and climb through him to honour. Thus all at once the prophecy, which seemed so full of promise of Eliakim, assumes a satirical tone. We get an impression of the favouring of nephews and cousins, and cannot help asking how this could be a suitable prophecy for Shebna to hear.
We will refer to this again. But in the meantime the impression is an irresistible one; and the Targum, Jerome, Hitzig, and others, are therefore right in assuming that Eliakim is the peg which, however glorious its beginning may have been, comes at last to the shameful end described in Isa 22:25 : "In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, will the peg that is fastened in a sure place be removed, and be cast down, and fall; and the burden that it bore falls to the ground: for Jehovah hath spoken." The prophet could not express in clearer terms the identity of the peg threatened here with Eliakim himself; for how is it conceivable that the prophet could turn all that he has predicated of Eliakim in Isa 22:23, Isa 22:24, into predicates of Shebna? What Umbreit says - namely, that common sense must refer Isa 22:25 to Shebna - is the very reverse of correct. Eliakim himself is also brought down at last by the greatness of his power, on account of the nepotism to which he has given way. His family makes a wrong use of him; and he is more yielding than he ought to be, and makes a wrong use of his office to favour them! He therefore falls, and brings down with him all that hung upon the peg, i.e., all his relations, who have brought him to ruin through the rapacity with which they have grasped at prosperity.
Hitzig maintains that Isa 22:24, Isa 22:25 form a later addition. But it is much better to assume that the prophet wrote down Isa 22:15-25 at one sitting, after the predicted fate of the two great ministers of state, which had been revealed to him at two different times, had been actually fulfilled. We know nothing more about them than this, that in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah it was not Shebna, but Eliakim, "who was over the house" (Isa 36:3, Isa 36:22; Isa 37:2). But Shebna also filled another office of importance, namely that of sōpher. Was he really taken prisoner and carried away (a thing which is perfectly conceivable even without an Assyrian captivity of the nation generally)? Or did he anticipate the threatened judgment, and avert it by a penitential self-abasement? To this and other questions we can give no reply. One thing alone is certain - namely, that the threefold prediction of Shebna's fall, of Eliakim's elevation, and of Eliakim's fall, would not stand where it does, if there were any reason whatever to be ashamed of comparing the prophecy with its fulfilment.