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Isaiah 22:1–4 A Prophecy of Judgment against Jerusalem
Isaiah prophesies of the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem using feminine pronouns (evident only in the Hebrew) to refer to Jerusalem. Isaiah addresses Jerusalem directly in verses 1–3, as if it were a woman. Then in verses 5–14, he addresses Jerusalem’s inhabitants (but note the Lord’s direct words in verse 14). He uses the terms “city” (22:2, 9) and “town” (22:2), and “Jerusalem” is named explicitly in Isaiah 22:10. The timing of the fulfillment of this prophecy is unknown, but it may have been during the Babylonian conquest. Why would Jerusalem be destroyed? Because its inhabitants had committed various sins—they relied on their own preparations for war rather than on God’s power (22:8–11), and their lifestyle was riotous and unrestrained (22:13). This vision was so difficult for Isaiah, he wept bitterly (22:4).
valley of vision. Isaiah opens his prophecy by calling Jerusalem the “valley of vision.” Isaiah may be speaking ironically, because visions were typically received on mountaintops (which were like temple settings). So Isaiah may actually be referring to the lack of vision (spiritual awareness) by Jerusalem’s inhabitants.
gone up to the housetops. Jerusalem was a “city full of commotion” and “a jubilant town” (22:2); perhaps they were on their rooftops to party and carouse (see also v. 13).
let me weep bitterly. Isaiah loved the inhabitants of Jerusalem (which may have included his own close friends and neighbors); he wept “bitterly” because of the forthcoming destruction (see also Jeremiah 9:1). daughter of my people. “Daughter” is another name for Jerusalem (Lamentations 1:6–8; 2:8–11; 2 Nephi 8:25).
day of tumult/trampling, and confusion by the Lord. Because of the sins of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, the Lord permitted the city to be destroyed. battering down of walls. Jerusalem’s enemy utilized battering rams to break down Jerusalem’s walls. crying to the mountain. Perhaps the temple mount, seeking help from God.
quiver/chariots/shield. Elam and Kir, Judah’s enemies, prepare for battle, drawing arrows from their quivers and removing protective coverings from their shields. So plentiful were the enemy’s chariots (used as war vehicles) that Jerusalem’s “choicest valleys were filled” with them; also, the enemy’s “horsemen took their stand at [Jerusalem’s] gate,” ready to enter the city.
weapons of the House of the Forest. Judah stored its weapons in a structure named the “House of the Forest” (so named because it was constructed of cedar columns and beams). Jerusalem’s inhabitants had prepared for war by building up their supply of weapons, fortifying walls, securing the water supply, and more. But they relied on their own strength, and they failed to do the most important thing; as Isaiah states, “You did not look to the One who made it, nor did you see the One who fashioned it long ago.” That One, of course, was Jehovah. Isaiah presents an irony—the Jews had sought protection from their armories (the House of the Forest) but had ignored the other House that was located nearby, the Temple of the Lord.
the Lord . . . called for weeping, and mourning. Given the circumstances of war, the Lord required the people to weep, mourn, shave their heads, and gird themselves with sackcloth (all symbols of mourning). But instead, they spent their time “rejoicing . . . eating flesh, and drinking wine,” all the while saying, “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (see also 2 Nephi 28:8; 1 Corinthians 15:32). In other words, they were partying and frolicking rather than preparing for things that have eternal consequences.
Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you. (see 1 Samuel 3:14). “This iniquity” refers to the sins set forth in verse 13; Judah had apparently gone beyond the point of repentance.
Isaiah 22:15–25 Judgment upon Shebna and Blessings upon Eliakim
This prophecy pertains to the historical characters Shebna and Eliakim, who were contemporaries of Isaiah. The first portion of the prophecy (22:15–19) deals with Shebna, a government official or treasurer (22:15; 37:2) who served King Hezekiah. The Lord rebuked Shebna for his pride and for building a great tomb for himself (22:16). Therefore, the Lord will hurl him, like one throws a ball, away into captivity, and there Shebna will die in shame (22:17–18). Shebna symbolizes the proud and wicked of any generation.
The second portion of the prophecy (22:20–25) pertains to Eliakim, a priest and official in King Hezekiah’s house (36:3; 37:2). The life and ministry of Eliakim, a righteous man, is a type for Jesus Christ; like Jesus Christ, Eliakim will be clothed with sacred vestments (robe and sash), he will rule, he will “be a father . . . to the house of Judah,” he will possess the “key of the house of David” and a “throne of glory,” and he will be fastened “as a nail in a sure place” (22:21–23). There are other correspondences as well.
Thus says the Lord. The Lord is the source of Isaiah’s prophecy.
you have hewn a tomb here for yourself. Shebna’s “tomb on the height” was a sign of his great pride.
the Lord will assuredly hurl you away . . . like a ball; . . . there you will die. Because of pride, Shebna had tried to glorify himself by hewing out a “tomb on the height” (where everyone could see it!) for himself (22:16). But Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will “hurl” Shebna away “like a ball” to another country (in exile), and he will die there. Ironically, Shebna will not be buried in his “tomb on the height,” but he will die in exile, in ignominy.
I will call my servant Eliakim. The Lord calls His servant, Eliakim the priest, to replace Shebna. Eliakim’s name is prophetic (“may God raise”) and points to God’s power to lift us from sin and raise us from death.
your robe/your sash. This may refer to garments of authority and/or the temple’s sacred vestments. I will commit your rule into his hand. This statement refers to Eliakim; but the statement is also a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, who will receive “the throne . . . kingdom . . . and government” (9:6–7). he will be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This important title (“father,” meaning a man who gives protection and care to others, as a biological father cares for his own children) was given to Eliakim because of his faithfulness; in important ways, Jesus Christ is also denominated “Father.”
key of the house of David. The key symbolizes power and authority (see Matthew 16:19). In a contemporary fulfillment, Eliakim would possess this key in mortality; but in the distant future, Jesus Christ fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy, as John the Revelator explains (see Revelation 3:7). He possesses the key of David. he will open, and no one will shut. These words are repeated in Revelation 3:7, where they apply to Jesus Christ.
nail in a sure place. This expression has important symbolism that pertains to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:35). throne of glory. The throne symbolizes both kingship and power; Christ will sit on His Father’s throne (Revelation 3:21) and rule and reign with great glory.
they will hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house. Inasmuch as Jesus Christ hung on the cross for God’s sons and daughters, they will hang God’s glory on Him, meaning they will glorify Him forevermore. the offspring and the issue, all small vessels. Those who become part of Christ’s spiritual family through the Atonement will be His offspring (see 53:10; Mosiah 15:10–13; Moses 6:64–68). Vessels symbolize people (Alma 60:23; Moroni 7:31).
nail that is fastened in the sure place will be removed. This prophecy continues the theme of verse 23 and refers to the completion of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice, especially His Crucifixion.
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