Isaiah 22:1
The burden of the valley of vision. What ails you now, that you are wholly gone up to the housetops?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXII.

(1) The burden of the valley of vision.—The “valley of vision” is Jerusalem, lying as it did (Jeremiah 21:13) in a valley, as compared with the hills round about it (Psalm 125:2). If we think of the prophet’s dwelling as being in the lower city, in the valley of Tyropœon, the epithet becomes still more appropriate. That valley would be to him in very deed a “valley of vision,” where he saw things present and to come. Possibly the name became more characteristic from the impulse given to the prophetic dreams of all who claimed to be seers. The prophet looks out, and sees the people in a state of excitement, caused probably by the near approach of the Assyrian armies. They are “on the house-tops,” the flat roofs of which were a customary place of concourse (Judges 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16), keeping their revels, as those do who meet the approach of danger with a reckless despair (Isaiah 22:13). By some commentators (Birks, Kay,) the “valley of vision” has been identified with Samaria.

Isaiah 22:1-3. The burden of the valley of vision — Of Judah, and especially of Jerusalem, called a valley, because a great part of it stood in a valley between the opposite hills of Zion and Acra, and between Acra and Moriah; (see Josephus’s Jewish War, 5:13; and 6:6;) and the valley of vision, because it was the seat of divine revelation, the place where chiefly prophetic visions were given, and where God manifested himself visibly in the most holy place. The reader will observe this is the seventh discourse of the second part; and relates to the calamity brought on Jerusalem by the invasion of the Assyrians or Chaldeans, or both, and to the fall of Shebna.

What aileth thee now? — The prophet refers here to the commotion into which the city was, or, he foresaw, would be, thrown upon the report of the approach of the hostile army to besiege it, and to the perturbation of the people’s minds and the general confusion. That thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops — Either to reconnoitre the approaching enemy, or to consult for thine own safety. Thou that art — Or rather, wast, full of stirs — Of great trade, people hurrying to and fro about their business; a tumultuous city — Populous and noisy; a joyous city — Full of revelling and jollity. What ails thee now that the shops and mercantile houses are quitted, and there is no more walking in the streets, but thou art to be seen crowding the housetops? — “The houses in the East were, in ancient times, as they are still generally, built in one and the same uniform manner. The roof, or top of the house, is always flat, covered with broad stones, or a strong plaster of terrace, and guarded on every side with a low parapet wall. The terrace is frequented as much as any part of the house. On this, as the season favours, they walk, they eat, they sleep, they transact business, they perform their devotions. The house is built with a court within, into which chiefly the windows open; those that are open to the street are so obstructed with lattice-work that no one either without or within can see through them. Whenever, therefore, any thing is to be seen or heard in the streets, any public spectacle, any alarm of a public nature, every one immediately goes up to the housetops to satisfy his curiosity. In the same manner, when any one had occasion to make any thing public, the readiest and most effectual way of doing it was, to proclaim it from the house-tops to the people in the streets.” — Bishop Lowth.

Thy slain men are not slain with the sword — But either by famine or pestilence in the siege. Sennacherib’s army having laid the country waste, and destroyed the fruits of the earth, provisions must needs be very scarce and dear in the city, which would be the death of many of the poorer sort of people, who would be constrained to feed on what was unwholesome. But this prediction, with that contained in the next verse, was more eminently fulfilled when the city was besieged by the Chaldeans. See Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 38:2. And Vitringa is of opinion, that the prophet has that calamity in view, as well as the affliction suffered under the Assyrian invasion. All thy rulers are fled together — Zedekiah and his chief commanders, whose flight he foretels. See Jeremiah 39:3-4. They are bound by the archers — Bishop Lowth renders this clause, they are fled from the bow, that is, from the bows and arrows of the Assyrian archers: or, as others translate this former part of the verse, All thy captains are fled together with a wandering flight from the bow. That is, they are fled far and wide; they are bound — Namely, those who could not flee away fast enough to escape the Chaldeans. All that are found in thee — Namely, in the city, with Zedekiah, during the siege; for those who had fled to the Chaldeans saved their lives and liberties. Or, as the words, כל נמצאיךְ, may be rendered, All that are found of thee, or belonging to thee; which have fled from far — Or, have fled a great way off, namely, who fled from Jerusalem, but were pursued and overtaken by the enemy, 2 Kings 25:4-7, and Jeremiah 52:8-11.22:1-7 Why is Jerusalem in such terror? Her slain men are not slain with the sword, but with famine; or, slain with fear, disheartened. Their rulers fled, but were overtaken. The servants of God, who foresee and warn sinners of coming miseries, are affected by the prospect. But all the horrors of a city taken by storm, faintly shadow forth the terrors of the day of wrath.The burden - (see the note at Isaiah 13:1). "The valley" גיא gay'. Septuagint, Φάραγγος Pharangos - 'Valley.' Chaldee, 'The burden of the prophecy respecting the city which dwells (that is, is built) in the valley, which the prophets have prophesied concerning it.' There can be no doubt that Jerusalem is intended (see Isaiah 22:9-10). It is not usual to call it "a valley," but it may be so called, either

(1) because there were several valleys "within" the city and adjacent to it, as the vale between mount Zion and Moriah; the vale between mount Moriah and mount Ophel; between these and mount Bezetha; and the valley of Jehoshaphat, without the walls of the city; or

(2) more probably it was called "a valley" in reference to its being "encompassed with hills," rising to a considerable elevation above the city.

Thus mount Olivet was on the east, and overlooked the city. Jerusalem is also called a "valley," and a "plain," in Jeremiah 21:13 : 'Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the Lord.' Thus it is described in Reland's "Palestine:" - 'The city was in the mountain region of Judea, in an elevated place, yet so that in respect to the mountains by which it was surrounded, it seemed to be situated in a humble place, because mount Olivet, and other mountains surrounding it, were more elevated.' So Phocas says, 'The holy city is placed in the midst of various valleys and hills, and this is wonderful (Θαυμαστόν Thaumaston) in it, that at the same time the city seems to be elevated and depressed, for it is elevated in respect to the region of Judea, and depressed in respect to the hills around it.' (Reland's "Palestine," iii. 802, in Ugolini's "Thesaurus," vi.) It was common with Isaiah and the other prophets to designate Jerusalem and other places, not by their proper names, but by some appellation that would be descriptive (see Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 29:1).

Of vision - (see the note at Isaiah 1:1). The word here means that Jerusalem was eminently the place where God made known his will to the prophets, and manifested himself to his people by "visions."

What aileth thee now? - What is the cause of the commotion and tumult that exists in the city? The prophets throws himself at once into the midst of the excitement; sees the agitation and tumult, and the preparations for defense which were made, and asks the "cause" of all this confusion.

That thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops - That all classes of the people had fled to the house-tops, so much that it might be said that all the city had gone up. Houses in the East were built in a uniform manner in ancient times, and are so to this day. (See a description of the mode of building in the notes at Matthew 9:1 ff.) The roofs were always flat, and were made either of earth that was trodden hard, or with large flat stones. This roof was surrounded with a balustrade Deuteronomy 22:8, and furnished a convenient place for walking, or even for eating and sleeping. Whenever, therefore, anything was to be seen in the street, or at a distance; or when there was any cause of alarm, they would naturally resort to the roof of the house. When there was a tower in the city, the inhabitants fled to that, and took refuge on its top (see Judges 9:50-53). The image here is, therefore, one of consternation and alarm, as if on the sudden approach of an enemy.

CHAPTER 22

Isa 22:1-14. Prophecy as to an Attack on Jerusalem.

That by Sennacherib, in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah; Isa 22:8-11, the preparations for defense and securing of water exactly answer to those in 2Ch 32:4, 5, 30. "Shebna," too (Isa 22:15), was scribe at this time (Isa 36:3) [Maurer]. The language of Isa 22:12-14, as to the infidelity and consequent utter ruin of the Jews, seems rather to foreshadow the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in Zedekiah's reign, and cannot be restricted to Hezekiah's time [Lowth].

1. of … valley of vision—rather, "respecting the valley of visions"; namely, Jerusalem, the seat of divine revelations and visions, "the nursery of prophets" [Jerome], (Isa 2:3; 29:1; Eze 23:4, Margin; Lu 13:33). It lay in a "valley" surrounded by hills higher than Zion and Moriah (Ps 125:2; Jer 21:13).

thee—the people of Jerusalem personified.

housetops—Panic-struck, they went up on the flat balustraded roofs to look forth and see whether the enemy was near, and partly to defend themselves from the roofs (Jud 9:51, &c.).The anguish of Judah: the prophet much grieved, Isaiah 22:1-5, by the Persians, Medes, and Assyrians, Isaiah 22:6,7. He reproveth their human wisdom, Isaiah 22:8-11, and profane joy, Isaiah 22:12,13; which God would certainly punish, Isaiah 22:14. Shebnah’s deprivation for his pride, Isaiah 22:15-19. Eliakim put in his place: his glory, Isaiah 22:20-25.

Of the valley of vision; of Judah; and especially of the City of Jerusalem, as the next verse showeth; which is called a valley, because a great part of it stood in a valley, and comparatively to those higher mountains wherewith it was encompassed; of which see Psalm 121:1 125:2 Isaiah 52:7; and the valley of vision, because of the many and clear visions or revelations of God’s mind in that place, above all other parts of the world. As the prophets are called seers, 1 Samuel 9:9, so prophecy is frequently called vision, as 1 Samuel 3:1 Isaiah 1:1 Ezekiel 7:13,26.

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. Compare Isaiah 15:3 Jeremiah 48:38.

The burden of the valley of vision,.... A prophecy concerning Jerusalem, so called, because it lay in a valley, encompassed about with mountains, and which was the habitation of the prophets or seers, and the seat of vision and prophecy; and perhaps there is an allusion to its name, which signifies the vision of peace, or they shall see peace. The Septuagint version calls it, "the word of the valley of Sion"; and the Arabic version,

"a prophecy concerning the inhabitants of the valley of Sion, to wit, the fields which are about Jerusalem.''

The Targum is,

"the burden of the prophecy concerning the city which dwells in the valley, of which the prophets prophesied;''

by all which it appears, that not the whole land of Judea is thought to be meant, only the city of Jerusalem, so called, not from its low estate into which it would fall, through the wickedness of the people, and so rather to be called a valley than a mountain, as Kimchi; but from its situation, it being, as Josephus (h) says, fortified with three walls, except on that side at which it was encircled with inaccessible valleys; and hence it may be, that one of its gates is called the valley gate, Nehemiah 2:13 and besides, there was a valley in it, between the mountains of Zion and Acra, which divided the upper and lower city, as he also elsewhere says (i). The burden of it is a heavy prophecy of calamities that should come upon it, or at least of a fright it should be put into, not in the times of Nebuchadnezzar, when it was taken and destroyed, as Jarchi and Kimchi, and another Jew Jerom makes mention of; nor in the times of Titus Vespasian, according to Eusebius, as the said Jerom relates; but in the times of Hezekiah, when Judea was invaded, and Jerusalem besieged by Sennacherib:

what aileth thee now? or, "what to thee now?" (k) what is come to thee? what is the matter with thee now? how comes this strange and sudden change?

that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops? not to burn incense to the queen of heaven, which was sometimes done, and is the sense of some mentioned by Aben Ezra; but either for safety, to secure themselves from their enemies; or to take a view of them, and observe their motions, and cast from thence their arrows and darts at them; or to look out for help, or to mourn over their distresses, and implore help of the Lord; see Isaiah 15:2 and this was the case, not only of some, but of them all; so that there was scarce a man to be seen in the streets, or in the lower parts of their houses, but were all gone up to the tops of them, which were built with flat roofs and battlements about them, Deuteronomy 22:8.

(h) De Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 4. sect. 1.((i) Ib. l. 6. c. 6. (k) "quid tibi accidit?" Vatablus; "quid tibi nunc est?" Piscator.

The burden of the {a} valley of vision. What {b} aileth thee now, that thou hast wholly gone up to the housetops?

(a) Meaning, Judea, which was compassed about with mountains, and was called the valley of visions, because of the prophets, who were always there, whom they named Seers.

(b) He speaks to Jerusalem, whose inhabitants fled up to the housetops for fear of their enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The burden of the valley of vision] Or, The Oracle “Valley of Vision.” The heading (prefixed by an editor) is taken from a phrase in Isaiah 22:5 (see the note).

What aileth thee now] Better: What meanest thou, I wonder (cf. ch. Isaiah 3:15).

gone up to the housetops] cf. ch. Isaiah 15:3; Jdg 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16. The flat roofs of the houses are thronged by excited citizens keeping holiday, perhaps watching some public spectacle. The prophet, wandering disconsolate through the streets, ironically inquires the reason of this unseasonable demonstration.

1–4. The joy of the people and the sorrow of the prophet.

Ch. Isaiah 22:1-14. The inexpiable sin of Jerusalem

The key to this passage—the most lurid and minatory of all Isaiah’s prophecies—is the irreconcileable antagonism between the mood of the prophet and the state of public feeling around him. In a time of universal mirth and festivity he alone is overwhelmed with grief and refuses to be comforted. In the rejoicings of the populace he reads the evidence of their hopeless impenitence and insensibility, and he concludes his discourse by expressing the conviction that at last they have sinned beyond the possibility of pardon. The circumstances recall our Lord’s lamentation over Jerusalem on the day of His triumphal entry (Luke 19:41 ff.).

It may be regarded as certain that the prophecy belongs to the period of Sennacherib’s invasion (701), although it is difficult to select a moment when all the elements of the highly complex situation with which it deals might have been combined. There is just one incident that seems to meet the requirements of the case, viz., the raising of the blockade of Jerusalem, in consequence of Hezekiah’s ignominious submission to the terms of Sennacherib (see General Introd., pp. xxxviii f.) It must be noted that this was not the last episode in that memorable campaign. The real crisis came a little later when the Assyrian king endeavoured by threats to extort the entire surrender of the capital. It was only at that juncture that Hezekiah unreservedly accepted the policy of implicit trust in Jehovah which Isaiah had all along urged on him; and it was then that the prophet stepped to the front with an absolute and unconditional assurance that Jerusalem should not be violated. That the earlier deliverance should have caused an outbreak of popular joy is intelligible enough; as it is also intelligible that Isaiah should have kept his eye fixed on the dangers yet ahead. The allusions to the recent blockade are amply accounted for, and the prophet’s expectation of a terrible disaster yet in store is obviously based on his view of the continued and aggravated impenitence of his countrymen.

The following analysis of the prophecy is partly influenced by this reading of the historical setting, and it is right to say that at one or two points the view adopted is somewhat tentative.

i. Isaiah 22:1-4. While the city abandons itself to demonstrations of frantic gaiety, in spite of the disgrace that has overtaken the country, Isaiah shuts himself up in solitary and inconsolable anguish.

ii. Isaiah 22:5-7. He sees in vision a great day of calamity approaching, when the Assyrian shall again thunder at the gates of Jerusalem; and although the picture is not completed it leaves the impression that the city’s day of doom has arrived.

iii. Isaiah 22:8-11. At this point (although the transition is extremely abrupt) the prophet seems to go back to the past, in order to trace the evidence of the people’s unbelief. In the height of the danger they had paid minute attention to human measures of defence, but with never a thought of Him whose strange work then appealed so closely to their conscience.

iv. Isaiah 22:12-14. And this spirit of unbelief remains with them still. It has caused them to misread the providential lesson of their escape, and to find an occasion of thoughtless revelry and merriment in what was so obviously a call to serious reflection and penitence. For such a sin Isaiah has only a “fearful looking-for of judgment” to announce.Verses 1-14. - A PROPHECY AGAINST JERUSALEM. The prophet, present in Jerusalem, either actually, or at any rate in spirit, sees the inhabitants crowded together upon the housetops, in a state of boisterous merriment (vers. 1, 2). Outside the walls is a foreign army threatening the town (vers. 5-7). Preparations have been made for resistance, which are described (vers. 8-11); but there has been no turning to God. On the contrary, the danger has but made the bulk of the people reckless. Instead of humbling themselves and putting on sackcloth, and weeping, and appealing to God's mercy, they have determined to drown care in drink and sensual enjoyment (vers. 12, 13). Therefore the prophet is bidden to denounce woe upon them, and threaten that Jehovah will not forgive their recklessness until their death (ver. 14). There is nothing to mark very distinctly the nationality of the foreign army; but it is certainly represented as made up of contingents from many nations. Delitzsch holds that the Assyrian armies were never so made up, or, at any rate, that the nations here mentioned never served in its ranks ('Site of Paradise,' p. 237); but this is, perhaps, assuming that our knowledge on the subject is more complete and exact than is really the case. It is almost impossible to imagine any other army than the Assyrian besieging Jerusalem in Isaiah's time. Moreover, the particulars concerning the preparations made against the enemy (vers. 9-11) agree with those mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:3-5 and 30 as made by Hezekiah against Sennacherib. And the second section of the chapter has certainly reference to this period. It seems, therefore, reasonable to regard the siege intended as that conducted by Sennacherib in his fourth year ( B.C. 701), of which we have a brief account in his annals (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 135, 11. 15-18). Verse 1. - The burden of the valley of vision. "The valley of vision" is only mentioned here and in ver. 5. It must have been one of the deep depressions near Jerusalem troll which there is a good view of the town. The LXX. render, "the burden of the valley of Zion." What aileth thee now? Jerusalem is addressed by the prophet, who assumes the role of a spectator, surprised at what he sees, and asks an explanation. That thou art wholly gone up to the housetops. Partly, no doubt, they went to watch the enemy and his movements, as Rosenmüller says; but still more for feasting and revelry (Judges 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16). The flat roofs of Oriental houses are often used as places of recreation and entertainment, especially in the evening (Shaw, 'Travels,' p. 211; Chardin, 'Voyages en Perse,' vol. 4. p. 116; Layard, 'Nineveh,' vol. 1. p. 177, etc.). "Watchman says, Morning cometh, and also night. Will ye inquire, inquire! Turn, come!!" The answer is intentionally and pathetically expressed in an Aramaean form of Hebrew. אתא (written even with א at the end, cf., Deuteronomy 33:2) is the Aramaean word for בּוא; and בּעה בּעא) the Aramaean word for שׁאל, from the primary form of which (בּעי) the future tib‛âyūn is taken here (as in Isaiah 33:7), and the imperative be'ây (Ges. 75, Anm. 4). אתיוּ, which is here pointed in the Syriac style, אתיוּ, as in Isaiah 56:9, Isaiah 56:12, would be similarly traceable to אתי (cf., Ges. 75, Anm. 4, with 23, Anm. 2). But what is the meaning? Luther seems to me to have hit upon it: "When the morning comes, it will still be night." But v'gam (and also) is not equivalent to "and yet," as Schrring explains it, with a reference to Ewald, 354, a. With the simple connection in the clauses, the meaning cannot possibly be, that a morning is coming, and that it will nevertheless continue night, but that a morning is coming, and at the same time a night, i.e., that even if the morning dawns, it will be swallowed up again directly by night. And the history was quite in accordance with such an answer. The Assyrian period of judgment was followed by the Chaldean, and the Chaldean by the Persian, and the Persian by the Grecian, and the Grecian by the Roman. Again and again there was a glimmer of morning dawn for Edom (and what a glimmer in the Herodian age!), but it was swallowed up directly by another night, until Edom became an utter Dūmâh, and disappeared from the history of the nations. The prophet does not see to the utmost end of these Edomitish nights, but he has also no consolation for Edom. It is altogether different with Edom from what it is with Israel, the nocturnal portion of whose history has a morning dawn, according to promise, as its irrevocable close. The prophet therefore sends the inquirers home. Would they ask any further questions, they might do so, might turn and come. In shūbū (turn back) there lies a significant though ambiguous hint. It is only in the case of their turning, coming, i.e., coming back converted, that the prophet has any consolatory answer for them. So long as they are not so, there is suspended over their future an interminable night, to the prophet as much as to themselves. The way to salvation for every other people is just the same as for Israel - namely, the way of repentance.
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