A. Isaiah denounces the city of Jerusalem.
1. (1-4) Isaiah is grieved over a joyous city.
The burden against the Valley of Vision. What ails you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops, you who are full of noise, a tumultuous city, a joyous city? Your slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle. All your rulers have fled together; they are captured by the archers. All who are found in you are bound together; they have fled from afar. Therefore I said, "Look away from me, I will weep bitterly; do not labor to comfort me because of the plundering of the daughter of my people."
a. The burden against the Valley of Vision: This is Jerusalem, a city on a hill but surrounded by still higher hill, and in the midst of three valleys. Since Jerusalem was a center for the worship of God and some of the prophets of God (including Isaiah), it is called the Valley of Vision.
i. "It is strange to find a prophecy against Judah and Jerusalem in a section that deals with the nations. But since Judah had chosen to behave like her neighbors and to desert the Lord, she deserved to be judged." (Wolf)
b. What ails you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops: "As they used to do in times of great confusion and consternation, that they might mourn, and look, and cry to Heaven for help." (Poole)
c. A tumultuous city, a joyous city? In his prophecy, Isaiah sees the commotion all around Jerusalem, and asks, "Is it the result of an evil tumult, or is it an expression of joy?"
d. Your slain men are not slain with the sword: When Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians, the men of Judah did not bravely die in battle. They died either being starved to death in the siege of the city, or as they fled in cowardly retreat.
i. "Either by famine or pestilence in the siege, as many died, Jeremiah 14:18; 38:2, or in their flight, as others were; both which were inglorious kinds of death." (Poole)
e. I will weep bitterly; do not labor to comfort me: We usually think of Jeremiah as the "weeping prophet." But Isaiah also said "I will weep bitterly" when he saw God's judgment coming against God's people.
2. (5-7) Isaiah sees a coming army, and the LORD brings no deliverance.
For it is a day of trouble and treading down and perplexity By the Lord GOD of hosts In the Valley of Vision; breaking down the walls and of crying to the mountain. Elam bore the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield. It shall come to pass that your choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.
a. For it is a day of trouble: Isaiah sees an army full of arrows and chariots coming against Jerusalem. The prophesies the attack and overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
b. Elam bore the quiver: "Because Elam, Babylon's neighbor to the east, had strongly supported the Babylonians and the Chaldeans in the struggle against Assyria, the Elamites were probably allies of the Babylonians." (Wolf)
c. Your choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate: Attacking armies will once again surround Jerusalem, and in that day the LORD will not deliver them.
3. (8-14) Jerusalem makes all the wrong preparations for a coming battle.
He removed the protection of Judah. You looked in that day to the armor of the House of the Forest; you also saw the damage to the city of David, that it was great; and you gathered together the waters of the lower pool. You numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses you broke down to fortify the wall. You also made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to its Maker, nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it long ago. And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" Then it was revealed in my hearing by the LORD of hosts, "Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, even to your death," says the Lord GOD of hosts.
a. You gathered together the waters of the lower pool . . . to fortify the wall: When Jerusalem was faced with this subsequent attack, they prepared the city for battle and for siege, strengthening the wall of the city and making sure there was adequate water for a siege.
b. But none of this would matter, because He removed the protection of Judah. The best thing Jerusalem could do for her protection was turn her heart toward the LORD, But you did not look to its Maker, nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it long ago.
c. In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning: Instead of preparing Jerusalem for an attack, they should have turned their hearts in humble repentance to the LORD. Instead of humbly seeking the LORD, the people of Jerusalem had both a confidence in their own preparation (joy and gladness), and a fatalistic outlook toward the future ("Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!").
d. For this iniquity there will be no atonement for you: What is this sin that can't be forgiven? The sin of ignoring God, of refusing to humble yourself before the LORD and repent. Jerusalem was doing everything except the essential thing they had to do to prepare for the attack, and because they rejected the LORD, there would be no atonement for them.
i. "Our hearts are top-full of harlotry, ready to shift and shark in every by-corner for comfort; to hang their hopes on every hedge, rather than to roll themselves upon God, 'the hope of Israel.'" (Trapp)
B. Isaiah denounces Shebna, the king's chief steward.
1. (15-19) Shebna had a high and honorable office, yet he used it to glorify himself.
Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: "Go, proceed to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the house, and say: 'What have you here, and whom have you here, that you have hewn a sepulcher here, as he who hews himself a sepulcher on high, who carves a tomb for himself in a rock? Indeed, the LORD will throw you away violently, O mighty man, and will surely seize you. He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball into a large country; there you shall die, and there your glorious chariots shall be the shame of your master's house. So I will drive you out of your office, and from your position he will pull you down.'"
a. Shebna, who is over the house: Shebna was a servant of King Hezekiah, both a steward . . . over the house and a scribe (1 Kings 18:18, Isaiah 37:2). These were both positions of honor and responsibility. Shebna was one of King Hezekiah's chief assistants.
i. "The king of Judah at this time was Hezekiah - a good king - so the condemnatory judgment fell on the next person in line. Shebna and the populace in general did not share the godly principles of King Hezekiah." (Wolf)
b. What have you here, and whom have you here: The LORD speaks to Shebna, this proud man, and says, "Who do you think you are? What do you think you have? You really are nothing and you have nothing."
c. As he who hews himself a sepulcher on high: What did Shebna do with his position of honor and authority? He made himself a fancy and prestigious tomb! In that day, this was a display of significant power and wealth. In this, Shebna personifies all of Jerusalem with his obsessive self-interest.
i. Isaiah had prophesied that the people of Judah and Jerusalem would be carried away into exile, but Shebna didn't believe it. He built this elaborate tomb to himself in Jerusalem, as if to say, "I will never be carried away in exile. I am so certain that I will die here that I will build my tomb here."
d. He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball into a large country; there you shall die . . . so I will drive you out of your office: Shebna sought honor and glory, but would never find it. Instead, the LORD would make certain that he was never even buried in his prestigious, expensive tomb, but would die in exile instead.
i. Shebna is the same kind of man Jesus spoke about in Luke 12:16-21, in the parable of the rich fool. The man spent his time planning and his money building great things, but in the end he died without God and it all meant nothing. Now, all of Shebna's accomplishments - the beautiful tomb, the glorious chariots - mean worse than nothing, they are a shame to him instead.
2. (20-24) The LORD lifts up Eliakim instead of Shebna.
"Then it shall be in that day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father's house. They will hang on him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the posterity, all vessels of small quantity, from the cups to all the pitchers."
a. Eliakim the son of Hilkiah is mentioned in passages like 1 Kings 18:18 and Isaiah 36:3 as another assistant to King Hezekiah. He should be distinguished from Eliakim the son of Josiah, who was a puppet king established by Pharaoh (2 Kings 23:34).
b. My servant: What a glorious title for Eliakim! Both Shebna and Eliakim were servants of Hezekiah, but Shebna's heart was directed towards selfish ambition and glory, and Eliakim's heart was turned towards the LORD.
c. The place of Eliakim the son of Hilkiah before Hezekiah is somewhat obscure in the Scriptures; he is only mentioned in six passages, and the only description of him is that he was over the household (1 Kings 18:18, 37 and Isaiah 36:3, 22). But Eliakim was famous in heaven! He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.
d. The LORD would take the office and authority of the unfaithful Shebna, and give it to Eliakim instead (I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand). God will get His work done! If a Shebna is unfaithful, the LORD will remove him from his office, strip him of his authority, and give it to another.
e. Because Eliakim is the LORD's servant, the LORD will give him great authority: The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder. In that day, the chief royal steward would have the large master key of the palace fastened to the shoulder of his tunic. The key was a picture and demonstration of the authority of the chief steward. Here, the LORD gives Eliakim the authority to open and shut as the LORD's representative, which no man can oppose.
i. In this, Eliakim becomes a prophecy of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of Himself: These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens." (Revelation 3:7) Jesus is the one with the keys of Hades and of Death (Revelation 1:8), who has all authority both in heaven and on earth. Jesus delegates this authority as it pleases Him (Matthew 16:19).
f. He shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut and no one shall open: Eliakim would have this kind of authority from the LORD. Since he is a picture of Jesus, we know that Jesus has the authority to open and shut doors in our lives as He pleases. We need to accept both the open and the shut doors!
i. "Down a long corridor of closed doors we may sometimes have to pass. It seems heartbreaking to see doors labelled, Friendship, Love, Home shut against us; but beyond them there is the one unclosed door through which we shall enter into our true life. Oh do not lose heart and hope in useless weeping over the closed doors of the past. Follow Him, who has the keys." (Meyer)
g. Because the LORD established Eliakim's authority, it was secure: I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place. Shebna sought glory for himself, but would find shame. But Eliakim was the LORD's servant, and would become a glorious throne to his father's house.
i. In those days, houses didn't really have cupboards or storage closets as we think of them. Things were stored on pegs set up all around the room. If something was on its peg, it was safe and secure, stored properly and ready for use at the appropriate time.
h. They will hang on him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue: The godly Eliakim was a secure peg, and could spiritually support his father's house and his offspring. Since Eliakim is a picture of Jesus, we also see in this the believer's total dependence on Jesus.
i. Clarke on they will hang on him all the glory of his father's house: This "has been understood as the dependence of all souls, of all capacities, from the lowest in intellect to the most exalted, on the Lord Jesus, as the only Saviour of all lost human spirits."
ii. There are many different vessels in the Lord's house, with many different sizes and purposes. But they all must hang on the same peg! All are equally wrecked if they drop from the peg. The safety isn't in the size or the quality of the vessel, but in its attachment to the peg.
3. (25) The removal of Shebna.
"In that day," says the LORD of hosts, "the peg that is fastened in the secure place will be removed and be cut down and fall, and the burden that was on it will be cut off; for the LORD has spoken."
a. The peg that is fastened: If Eliakim is yet to be promoted to the place of honor and responsibility pictured by the peg (I will fasten him as a peg, Isaiah 22:23), then Shebna is the peg that is fastened at the moment. Therefore, before Eliakim can be put in his rightful place, Shebna must be removed and be cut down and fall.
i. The LORD gave Shebna a place of honor and authority, but he didn't hold it as a servant of the LORD. So, the LORD took the place of honor and authority away from Shebna. Even so, the great authority Jesus gave to His disciples was neither unlimited, nor unattached from Jesus' direction. Even though Jesus gave the promise of the keys to Peter (Matthew 16:19), Peter did not have unlimited authority. Instead, Peter was rightly challenged and rebuked by another apostle, Paul, when he was out of line (Galatians 2:11-21).
b. And the burden that was on it will be cut off: When Shebna was removed, all those who "hung" on him were also cut off. We have to make sure that we are "hung" on the right "peg"!