What does Isaiah 22 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
After oracles, or prophecies, against several other nations, Isaiah delivers an oracle about Jerusalem. This regards a specific moment in the city's history. Commentators are divided about which event Isaiah is describing in this chapter.

One of the possible events here is the siege of Jerusalem by King Sennacherib and the Assyrians in 701 BC. This interpretation of Isaiah's prophecy seems the most likely. Isaiah experienced that siege firsthand. Another option is the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC, in which Isaiah is prophesying about events yet to happen. Some scholars suggest Isaiah's oracle is intended to speak to both events.

Isaiah begins by calling attention to the loud shouts and exultation in Jerusalem and asks why the people have gone up on their rooftops. He may be writing this following the Lord's victory over the Assyrians. This took place when the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of the soldiers surrounding the city in a single night and those who survived fled (Isaiah 37:33–38). If this is the event Isaiah has in mind, he may be telling the citizens of Jerusalem to stop celebrating. Rather, they should think about what has happened to them. This was a time to be sober-minded, not partying (Isaiah 22:1–2).

The nation of Judah had been overrun and destroyed by Assyrian sieges of the towns. Everyone of any importance had fled to Jerusalem and been trapped inside the walls by the siege. Isaiah tells the people not to look at him while he is weeping for those who have died. He recalls how loud the noise became from outside the walls as the siege was being established. There was a great racket and loud shouting. Mass confusion fill the air, perhaps inside the city as well as outside. The valleys around Jerusalem were filled with war chariots. The enemy horsemen were right outside the city gates. Judah was uncovered and helpless (Isaiah 22:3–7).

What did the leaders do when they knew the siege was coming? They inventoried and distributed the weapons from the armory. They found breaches in the walls and repaired them. They diverted springs from outside the walls into the city for a water supply. They even tore down houses between the inner and outer walls and flooded that area as a reservoir. They did all they could except the one thing they should do: call out to their Lord God (Isaiah 22:8–11).

The prophet Isaiah does not condemn any of these strategic actions. What he does do is point out that the people did not look to the Lord for help. After all, God knew about the siege from the beginning. What the Lord wanted for His people when they were faced with certain destruction was to turn to Him for salvation. Instead, the people partied and feasted with the attitude that nothing mattered because they were going to die anyway. They did not believe their own God could save them. Therefore, they did not even bother to ask for deliverance. The Lord says their sin in this attitude will only be atoned for by their deaths (Isaiah 22:12–14).

The Lord sends Isaiah to confront the steward of the king's house. Instead of seeking the Lord, or serving the king or the people during this time, Shebna was preparing his elaborate tomb for his burial and legacy. He demonstrated his lack of confidence in the Lord to provide. Shebna also showed that his highest motivation was to seek his own glory (Isaiah 22:15–16).

The Lord declares that He will grab Shebna and throw him violently far away to another country to die without glory. Then the Lord will give Shebna's authority and position to a man named Eliakim. This new leader will become a great steward of the king's household and serve as a father figure to the people. He will be given the key to the city and will handle all the burdens that are placed upon him. Eventually, Eliakim will fall away, and all the honor of the king's household will go with him (Isaiah 22:17–25).
Verse Context:
Chapter 22:1–14 describes how the people of Jerusalem partied and feasted in the face of certain destruction during a siege. Isaiah condemns them, especially for failing to mourn and cry out to the Lord for help when all seemed lost. He weeps for those who have died. The prophet calls the people to soberly understand what has happened to them instead of partying on their rooftops. The Lord says that the sins of the people in this moment will not be atoned for until they die.
Chapter 22:15–25 concludes Isaiah's oracle against Jerusalem with a focus on two men. Shebna is the steward of the king's household. The Lord condemns him for carving his elaborate tomb, with the enemy at the gates, instead of seeking the Lord or serving the king. The Lord gives this steward's authority and position to Eliakim. Eliakim serves with such strength, faithfulness, and integrity that he becomes a father figure to the people. However, he also falls away eventually.
Chapter Summary:
Isaiah presents a prophecy against the city of Jerusalem: "the valley of vision." The prophet condemns the people for partying, perhaps following an astonishing deliverance from the Lord. Instead, they should remember all who died. They should be sobered to realize how helpless they had been. When destruction seemed certain, they should have mourned and cried out to the Lord to save them. Instead, they reveled like nothing mattered. The Lord condemns the steward of the king's house for carving out his tomb instead of trusting God. He puts a man named Eliakim in that position. Eliakim serves with great integrity, faithfulness, and excellence. Yet, he, too, falls away.
Chapter Context:
Isaiah has recorded several prophecies in preceding chapters. These spoke of nations such as Egypt as well as various tribes. Chapter 22 is an oracle against the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah condemns the people for celebrating instead of mourning and seeking the Lord's help. This could be either before or after a great siege of the city. The prophet weeps for the lost and calls the people to repent. The Lord condemns the king's steward for faithlessness. His replacement, Eliakim, serves with strength and integrity. The next oracles concern Tyre and Sydon, before addressing the entire world.
Book Summary:
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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