Thursday, March 20, 2014

Isaiah 22: 6-11

6 Elam took up the quiver
With the chariots, infantry and horsemen;
And Kir uncovered the shield.
Then your choicest valleys were full of chariots,
And the horsemen took up fixed positions at the gate.
And He removed the defense of Judah.
In that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest,
And you saw that the breaches
In the wall of the city of David were many;
And you collected the waters of the lower pool.
10 Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem
And tore down houses to fortify the wall.
11 And you made a reservoir between the two walls
For the waters of the old pool.
But you did not depend on Him who made it,
Nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago.

I suspect your questions as to a time period for Isaiah's latest prophecy to Judah continue with our passage today. Though we can see references to Assyrian King Sennacherib's invasion of the country and threat to Jerusalem, we can also see references to Jerusalem's demise at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Let's keep reminding ourselves that, sometimes, God has multiple fulfillment of His word in mind. What we do receive in reading these verses is a continued look into the mindset of Jerusalem at this time.

With verse 6, we are re-introduced to Elam and Kir. We just looked at Elam in the last chapter of Isaiah, with the nation called to take on Babylon. ("The treacherous one still deals treacherously, and the destroyer still destroys. Go up, Elam, lay siege, Media...." (Isaiah 21:2) Kir is another country east of Babylon which became home to the exiles of Damascus after Assyria invaded it and put its king (Rezin) to death. (II Kings 16:9; also, Amos 1:5) The countries have been called to gear up their armies and armament; "chariots" and "horsemen" (vs. 7) to take up position "at the gate."

Jerusalem was crafted with great care--under David's and Solomon's leadership--with multiple named gates marking entryway into the city, and high walls to keep out the enemies. But, with armies of horsemen with artillery literally at the gates, "in fixed positions," that was a huge threat to the city, on top of Assyria's already threatening reputation.

"The fenced cities of Judah were a covering to the country; but these, being taken by the army of the Assyrians, ceased to be a shelter, so that the whole country lay exposed to be plundered. The weakness of Judah, its nakedness, and inability to keep itself, now appeared more than ever; and thus the covering of Judah was discovered."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

In verse 8, Isaiah says, "And He removed the defense of Judah." 'Defense' is the same word Matthew Henry means when he says 'covering'. Whatever hedge of protection Jerusalem thought it had through its fortified city was about to be lifted. (Isaiah expounds on this in the next few verses.) Even though the prophet tells us who the enemy is at the door, note that the one who removes the hedge is God. In this, as Henry points out in quoting fellow Biblical commentator Dr. John Lightfoot, there is greater meaning to this verse:

"Dr. Lightfoot gives another sense of it, that by this distress into which Judah should be brought God would discover their covering (that is, uncloak their hypocrisy), would show all that was in their heart...."
--Matthew Henry 

Recall last week's post, the beginning of the chapter, in which the people were partying on their rooftops. The people of Jerusalem celebrated not being in harm's way while the rest of their country had fallen. There was a pervasive attitude of, "Hey, we're fine. We don't need help. We've got everything we need." This is what brought Isaiah to tears ("...Let me weep bitterly...," 21:4) and to a point of frustration, really: "But you did not depend on Him who made it, nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago." (vs. 11) This is the greater uncovering, to me.

The people of Jerusalem had it wrong even though their king at the time, Hezekiah--for a change--had it right. We don't see this example enough in modern times, do we, when the one in charge honors God, follows His way, yet still can't quite steer all of his leadership nor his people in the same? Hezekiah took the Assyrians seriously, and he attacked the problem with a two-pronged approach: Turn to God and do what you have to do with the resources that He has provided you. So, what did Jerusalem have?

Verse 8 says, "...You depended on the weapons of the house of the forest." It's not capitalized, but "house of the forest" was an important part of Solomon's palace that he built in the days of his kingdom.

"He built the house of the forest of Lebanon; its length was 100 cubits and its width 50 cubits and its height 30 cubits, on four rows of cedar pillars with cedar beams on the pillars. He made 300 shields of beaten gold, using three minas of gold on each shield, and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon."
--I Kings 7:2 and 10:17

The elaborately built cedar weapons storehouse remained in Hezekiah's day. Indeed, Hezekiah added to the supply: "...and made weapons and shields in great number." (II Chronicles 32: 5) Jerusalem rested in the knowledge of a well-stocked armament. But, was that enough?

In verse 9, we read that there were breaches--"many"--in the city walls. Certainly, that is a perilous situation for an otherwise fortified city. But, here, too, Hezekiah stepped forward. "And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened the Millo [rampart or mound, part of the physical defensive landscape of northern Jerusalem (Smith's Bible Names Dictionary)] in the city of David...." Verse 10 further says that houses were torn down to make these improvements. Hezekiah did what was proper and necessary in his physical realm to make sure the city was safe. Jerusalem rested in the knowledge of a secured city wall. But, was that enough?

The end of verse 9 and verse 11 talk about Jerusalem's water supply. So significant is this fact that II Kings 20:20 documents Hezekiah's work here as part of his legacy: "Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?" They are, and we will visit a verse from there momentarily. First, some background on Hezekiah's project from my study Bible. (To see where this is, look at the map of Jerusalem above and zoom in to the lower right-hand corner):

"A 1,700 foot long tunnel cut through solid rock (below Jerusalem) redirected water from the spring Gihon outside of Jerusalem (to the E) toward the S of Jerusalem into the pool of Siloam within the city to provide water in time of siege. The tunnel was a remarkable feat of engineering and boring skill, often 60 feet below the ground and large enough to walk through."

As part of his strategy, Hezekiah takes great pains to keep his people from thirsting while dehydrating the enemy.

"...He decided with his officers and his warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and the stream which flowed through the region, saying, 'Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?'"
--II Chronicles 32: 3 and 4

Jerusalem rested in the knowledge of a plentiful water supply. But, was that enough?

Hezekiah knew that even with all of the physical reinforcements, the preparations, the fortification of supplies, the strategic planning, that, no, all of this effort was not enough in and of itself. Was it necessary work? Absolutely! Time and time again in Scripture we read of how important it is to use that which God has given us, being material, time, talent, direction, gift. God expects us to use the investment He has made in us. (And if you need a reminder of the consequences of not doing so, read Jesus' "Parable of the Talents," Matthew 25: 14-28) He also expects, as the Steven Curtis Chapman song says, that "you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you...." (I Corinthians 10:31)

Hezekiah trusted God, sought His counsel and prayed in earnest--not for his own sake, but for the sake of the people of God. "With him [Sennacherib] is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.'" (II Chronicles 32:8a)

Though Jerusalem would be spared a raid by Sennacherib, the city will have forgotten the saving work of its king. (And even Hezekiah would have his moment of pride.) The city will have rested in the knowledge that its enough was enough.

"You looked and looked and looked, but you never looked to him who gave you this city, never once consulted the One who has long had plans for this city."
--the end of verse 11 from The Message

"They did not design his glory in what they did. They fortified Jerusalem because it was a rich city and their own houses were in it, not because it was the holy city and God’s house was in it. In all our cares for the defence of the church we must look more at God’s interest in it than at our own."
--Matthew Henry

You may party "like it's 1999," but there's more ahead, and it's not good. ...'Til next week!


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Next week:  Isaiah 22: 12-14
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).