Thursday, March 13, 2014

Isaiah 22: 1-5


The Valley of Vision

1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.
What is the matter with you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops?
You who were full of noise,
You boisterous town, you exultant city;
Your slain were not slain with the sword,
Nor did they die in battle.

3 All your rulers have fled together,
And have been captured without the bow;
All of you who were found were taken captive together,
Though they had fled far away.
Therefore I say, “Turn your eyes away from me,
Let me weep bitterly,
Do not try to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
5 For the Lord God of hosts has a day of panic, subjugation and confusion
In the valley of vision,
A breaking down of walls
And a crying to the mountain.

With the completion of Chapter 22, we will officially be one-third of the way through Isaiah. WOW! Thinking I have learned so much, and also thinking, gee, there's a LOT more left to learn! It's all good. Praising God for His enlightenment over this study! Have to celebrate those mileposts when you reach them. This is a significant one on the journey.

Chapter 22 is called "The Valley of Vision" in my study Bible. Not a real place. But, after all the nations, towns and oases we have studied over these weeks, who's to say there wasn't a Valley of Vision? Bible scholars generally agree that this refers to Jerusalem--which received numerous visions, through prophets like Isaiah, as a chosen communication vehicle of God.

"Fitly enough is Jerusalem called a valley, for the mountains were round about it, and the land of Judah abounded with fruitful valleys. ...But most emphatically is it called a valley of vision because there God was known and his name was great, there the prophets were made acquainted with his mind by visions, and there the people saw the goings of their God and King in his sanctuary."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

This is not a note of encouragement to Jerusalem, however, as verse 1 begins (as so many other chapters we have read in Isaiah), "The oracle concerning...." The other nations have received their strong words. Jerusalem would now receive some of its own, through its home prophet. There is some question as to what time frame this prophecy references. The thwarted takeover (by God) by Sennacherib of Assyria is one possibility (II Kings 19). The destruction of the city by Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar is another. One can even make the case for an end-times double-fulfillment prophecy. What we can decide is that the actions of Jerusalem are not ignorable.

Finishing out verse 1, Isaiah asks the people why they are up on their rooftops. "What is the matter with you, now....?" If you are afraid of the enemy and you live in a valley, heading up to the roof would provide you with a better view of your surroundings. Judah had some looming enemies. Isaiah, in Chapter 15, makes reference to the people of Moab being on their housetops in a state of mourning:

"In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth; on their housetops and in their squares everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears."
--Isaiah 15:3

Another possibility, and, likely, Isaiah's point-of-view, is a popular choice even today--Party time! If this is post-Sennacherib's visit and the city was not destroyed, then it's time to celebrate. It's not that Isaiah doesn't understand the response of his people. Isaiah understands far too much more about the situation of his people to condone this response. "Your slain were not slain with the sword, nor did they die in battle," he says in verse 2. Jerusalem celebrated as if it contained a nation full of victorious soldiers who had endured a hard-fought battle. We know this isn't how the story went. [Do read II Kings 19 if you don't recall what we've looked at here over several chapters. King Hezekiah was on his knees in prayer for a reason!]

Isaiah's cry of "What is the matter with you?" might be on the same level as Jesus looking over Jerusalem centuries later. "When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.'" (Luke 19: 41 and 42) Isaiah's deep sorrow over Jerusalem's lack of response to their Lord for His work in saving their city leads him to express himself outwardly ("Let me weep bitterly. Do not try to comfort me...," verse 4), as well as to give a picture of how their lack of faithfulness and honor to God will play out in their future.

"Her adversaries have become her masters,
Her enemies prosper;
For the Lord has caused her grief
Because of the multitude of her transgressions;
Her little ones have gone away
As captives before the adversary."

--Lamentations 1:5

Verse 3 may well refer to Jerusalem's takeover by the Babylonians, not too much further down the road. King Nebuchadnezzar started with the outer layers of Judah before coming in to take over the city completely, burning it and pillaging the temple. "All your rulers have fled together...." (vs. 3) In reading the account of King Neb's closing campaign in II Kings 25, you will discover that a famine has left Jerusalem without food. This causes Neb's men to rush in to take the city in its weakness and Judah's King Zedekiah to make a last-ditch run for cover.

"Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls beside the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans [Babylonians] were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and he passed sentence on him."
--II Kings 25: 4-6 (my addition)

Interestingly, The Message paraphrase entitles Isaiah 22 "A Country of Cowards." Even under King Zedekiah, folks were being taken into Babylonian captivity. The literal loss of leadership in Jerusalem (Zedekiah's sons were killed before him, ending the family reign, and the Babylonians speared out his eyes before carting him away) led to the complete collapse of the city, except for the most poor and the unskilled to labor in the fields. "All of you who were found were taken captive together...." (vs. 3)

Isaiah reiterates that a ceasing to the celebrations is warranted as "the Lord God of hosts has a day of panic, subjugation and confusion" in His plans. (vs. 5) The Amplified Bible says, "a day of discomfiture and of tumult, of treading down, of confusion and perplexity...." Always illuminating to do a word study (with definitions from the Online Etymology Dictionary)

  • 'Subjugation' means, most literally "to bring under a yoke." No doubt for the captives of Judah, the stories told for generations of freedom from the yoke of slavery of Egypt arose once again. Why do all those leaders and prophets, the songs and psalms, use words of remembrance? Because we forget! And forgetting some things--the most important thing!--is costly. Not recognizing God's provision, not to mention His authority and sovereignty, led Judah to experience that from which it had already come. 
[How Jesus' words should have carried such weight with the Jews when He spoke: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:29 and 30) Do you not remember the days of Babylon?]

  • 'Panic' means "of Pan." Do you remember Pan? I only remember him for his flute, and we still have pan flutes today (a series of multiple-length tubes banded together). He was the Greek god of woods and fields. What I had forgotten was probably the more important part of his nature--"the source of mysterious sounds that caused contagious, groundless fear in herds and crowds, or in people in lonely spots." Now you see where we get 'panic' from! If Judah had trusted in God, they would not have experienced the contagious, groundless fear that kept them herded together in their blind following of sin and misguided decisions.

  • 'Confusion'--means to "overthrow, ruin," "to pour together," also "to confuse" (or confound--See this post for another picture of this.) There will not just be the sense of disorder; there will be perplexity--Why? Why us? Why this? Why God?! Why??!?....

Unfortunately for Jerusalem, Isaiah has only begun to tell of the city's future discomfiture.

The forces are gearing up against Jerusalem ...'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week:  Isaiah 22: 6-11
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

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