Isaiah 22:16
What have you here? and whom have you here, that you have hewed you out a sepulcher here, as he that hews him out a sepulcher on high, and that engraves an habitation for himself in a rock?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) What hast thou here? . . .—The prophet’s indignation is roused by Shebna’s last act of arrogance. He had no “sepulchre of his fathers” to deck with fresh stateliness, and, like the kings and great ones of the earth (the kings of Sidon, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the kings of Assyria), had built one for himself, hollowed out of the wells (probably on one of the hills of Jerusalem), to be his own everlasting “habitation,” his domus œterna. So in Ecclesiastes 12:5, the grave is the “long home” of man. Rock-hewn sepulchres of this type are found on the slopes of all the hills in the neighbourhood of the holy city.

Isaiah 22:16-19. What hast thou here? — Or, What dost thou here? What right hast thou to this place and office? And whom hast thou here? — What relations or family? That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre — That thou art ambitious of raising a stately sepulchre for thyself and thine heirs? As he that heweth out a sepulchre on high — In a high and eminent place; a habitation for himself in a rock — A monument that shall preserve his memory to all succeeding times. The Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity — Will cause thee to be carried into captivity by a strong hand, or by the hand of a mighty man, from which, therefore, thou shalt not be able to escape. The Hebrew, משׂלשׂלן שׂלשׂלה גבר, is rendered by Dr. Waterland, will throw thee out hence with a mighty throw, and may also be rendered, will cast thee away with the casting of a mighty man, that is, with great force; and will surely cover thee — Namely, with confusion, as is here implied, and as this phrase is more fully expressed Psalm 109:29. Or, this may be an allusion to the condition of mourners in general, and particularly of condemned persons, whose faces were wont to be covered. He will violently turn and toss thee like a ball — Hebrew, צנוŠ יצנפן צנפה כדור, rolling he will roll thee with the rolling of a ball; into a large country — Like a ball which is cast into a large and plain spot of ground, where, being thrown with great force, it runs far and wide. Or, to a far country, meaning probably Assyria. There shalt thou die — After having lived in obscurity. And the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house — The honour thou didst arrive at, and the chariots in which thou didst ride with so much state at Jerusalem, shall turn to thy shame, and to the reproach of those who preferred so unworthy a person. Dr. Waterland translates the verse, He will toss and whirl thee, as he were whirling a ball, &c., and there shall be thy glorious chariots, O thou shame of thy lord’s house. And I will drive thee, &c. — These are the Lord’s words; and from thy state shall he pull thee down — Namely, the Lord shall; such sudden changes of persons being very usual in these writings.22:15-25 This message to Shebna is a reproof of his pride, vanity, and security; what vanity is all earthly grandeur, which death will so soon end! What will it avail, whether we are laid in a magnificent tomb, or covered with the green sod? Those who, when in power, turn and toss others, will be justly turned and tossed themselves. Eliakim should be put into Shebna's place. Those called to places of trust and power, should seek to God for grace to enable them to do their duty. Eliakim's advancement is described. Our Lord Jesus describes his own power as Mediator, Re 3:7, that he has the key of David. His power in the kingdom of heaven, and in ordering all the affairs of that kingdom, is absolute. Rulers should be fathers to those under their government; and the honour men bring unto their families, by their piety and usefulness, is more to be valued than what they derive from them by their names and titles. The glory of this world gives a man no real worth or excellence; it is but hung upon him, and it will soon drop from him. Eliakim was compared to a nail in a sure place; all his family are said to depend upon him. In eastern houses, rows of large spikes were built up in the walls. Upon these the moveables and utensils were hung. Our Lord Jesus is as a nail in a sure place. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground, which is by faith hung upon Christ. He will set before the believer an open door, which no man can shut, and bring both body and soul to eternal glory. But those who neglect so great salvation will find, that when he shutteth none can open, whether it be shutting out from heaven, or shutting up in hell for ever.What hast thou here? - This verse contains a severe repoof of the pride and ostentation of Shebna, and of his expectation that he would be buried where be had built his own tomb. It also contains an "implied" declaration that he would not be permitted to lie there, but would be removed to a distant land to be buried in some less honorable manner. It is probable that Isaiah met him when he was at the sepulchre which he had made, and addressed this language to him there: 'What hast thou here? What right to expect that thou wilt be buried here, or why do you erect this splendid sepulchre, as if you were a holy man, and God would allow you to lie here?' Probably his sepulchre had been erected among the sepulchres of holy people, and perhaps in some part of the royal burying place in Jerusalem.

And whom hast thou here? - Who among the dead that are entombed here are connected with you, that you should deem yourself entitled to lie with them? If this was the royal cemetery, these words might be designed to intimate that he had no connection with the royal family; and thus his building a tomb there was an evidence of vain glory, and of an attempt to occupy a place, even in death, to which he had no title.

That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here - Sepulchres were hewn or cut out of rocks (see the note at Isaiah 14:9). It was usual also for princes and rich people to have their sepulchres or tombs constructed while they were themselves alive (see Matthew 27:60). Shebna was doubtless a man of humble birth, none of whose ancestors or family had been honored with a burial in the royal cemetery, and hence, the prophet reproves his pride in expecting to repose with the royal dead.

He that heweth him out a sepulchre on high - On some elevated place, that it might be more conspicuous. Thus Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 32:33 was buried 'in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David.' Hebrew, במעלה bema‛ălēh - 'In the highest.' Septuagint, Ἐν ἀναβάσει en anabasei. Such sepulchres are still found in Persia. They consist of several tombs, each hewn in a high rock near the top, the front of the rock being adorned with figures in relievo. 'Sepulchres of this kind are remarkably exemplified in the very ancient tombs excavated in the cliffs of the mountain of sepulchres at Naksh-i-Roustan, a full description of which may be found in Sir Robert Ker Porter's "Travels." They are excavated in an almost perpendicular cliff of about 300 feet high. There are two rows, of which the uppermost are the most ancient and interesting, presenting highly sculptured fronts about fifty-three feet broad, crowned by a representation of an act of Sabean worship. To the lowest of them, which, however, he describes as not less than sixty feet from the ground, Sir Robert could gain access only by being drawn up by means of a rope fastened around his waist, by some active natives who had contrived to clamber up to the ledge in front of the tomb. These appear to be royal sepulchres, and probably not later than the time of the kings of Persia mentioned in Scripture.' ("Pict. Bible.") Two objects were probably contemplated by such sepulchres. One was security from desecration. The other was ostentation - sepulchres thus excavated furnishing an opportunity for the display of architectural taste in front, and being conspicuous objects. Such sepulchres are found at Petra (see the notes at Isaiah 16:1), and it is probable that Shebna sought this kind of immortality. - Many a man who has done nothing to deserve celebrity by his noble deeds while living, seeks it by the magnificence of his tomb.

16. What … whom—The prophet accosts Shebna at the very place where he was building a grand sepulcher for himself and his family (compare Isa 14:18; Ge 23:1-20; 49:29; 50:13). "What (business) hast thou here, and whom hast thou (of thy family, who is likely to be buried) here, that thou buildest," &c., seeing that thou art soon to be deposed from office and carried into captivity? [Maurer].

on high—Sepulchres were made in the highest rocks (2Ch 32:33, Margin).

habitation for himself—compare "his own house" (Isa 14:18).

What hast thou here? or, What dost thou here? what right hast thou to this place and office? Whom; either,

1. What friends, in whom thou canst confide? Thou hast so ill managed thyself and thy affairs, that thou art universally hated. Or,

2. What kindred or relations? For the Jews say he was a stranger by birth; which is the more probable, because his pedigree is not mentioned in any of those places of Scripture where he is named.

Hewed thee out a sepulchre, as great and ambitious men used to do. Here; not in thine own country, the proper place for such a monument; but in Jerusalem, which should not be defiled nor disparaged with it.

On high; in a high and eminent place, as Isaiah 57:7. An habitation; either,

1. A sepulchre, which is called a man’s house, Job 30:23; or,

2. A dwelling-house. He erected, or is compared to one that doth erect, a stately house to live in, and a stately sepulchre to receive him when he dies. And these two are fitly joined together, because their sepulchres were commonly built in or near their houses. See Isaiah 14:18 John 19:41. In a rock; a fit place both for strength and state. Thus we read of a sepulchre hewed out of a rock, Matthew 27:60. What hast thou here?.... In the king's house, or in Jerusalem; what business hast thou here? thou art unworthy of such an office, nor shalt thou long continue in it; what inheritance hast thou here? thou art an alien from the commonwealth of Israel and hast no estate or possession in the land:

and whom hast thou here? of thy family and kindred; what ancestors hast thou? where did they live or die, and were buried? what children hast thou to succeed thee in honour and estate? or what relations to be interred, when deceased, in thy grave, that thou hast made such a provision as follows? and it may be observed, that wherever he is spoken of, the name of his father is never mentioned. Aben Ezra's gloss is, who hast thou here of thy family that can help thee? his fall and ruin being at hand:

that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here; in the city of Jerusalem, or near it; the Jews say (x), among the sepulchres of the kings of the house of David; as if he thought to live and die here, and so had provided a sepulchre for himself and family, to lie in great pomp and splendour, like the kings and princes of the earth:

as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock; where sepulchres, as well as palaces, used to be built; see Matthew 27:60 and great men, especially the Egyptians, used to build sepulchres like to palaces; though it may be observed, that the word "as" is not in the text; and the words may be understood of Shebna's hewing out a sepulchre in some high place near Jerusalem, and building a fine house upon a rock there; and which may design either one and the same thing, a grave or sepulchre being called a house, Job 30:23 or two different things, a sepulchre to be buried in when dead, and a palace to dwell in while living; and so the words may be rendered thus (y), "O he that heweth himself", &c.; "O he that graveth an habitation", &c.; so the Syriac version, "O thou that hewest thy sepulchre on high", &c.

(x) T. Bab. Sanhedrin fol. 26. 2.((y) "O caedens, &c. O statuens", &c. Junius & Tremellius.

What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre {r} here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that cut out an habitation {s} for himself in a rock?

(r) Meaning, that he was a stranger, and came up of nothing.

(s) While he thought to make his name immortal by his famous sepulchre, he died most miserably among the Assyrians.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. We may imagine the meeting between Isaiah and the vizier to have taken place at the sepulchre which the latter, after the Eastern fashion, was having prepared in his lifetime. By this act the novus homo asserted his equality with the aristocracy of Jerusalem, a piece of presumption which evidently kindles the ire of the prophet.

What hast thou (to do) here? and whom (as kindred or descendants) hast thou here?] i.e. “Thou neither hast the rights of a citizen, nor canst claim to be the founder of a family.” Shebna’s grave was simply the monument of his own vulgar and ostentatious vanity.

that thou hast hewed … here] (see below)—in so conspicuous a position. That Shebna actually placed his tomb amongst those of the kings and princes of Judah is not to be assumed; but he had plainly chosen a pretentious situation.

as he that heweth …] Render: Hewing out his sepulchre on high! Graving in the rock an habitation for him! Ejaculations of unutterable scorn. The use of the third person suggests that there were bystanders.Verse 16. - What hast thou here? i.e. what business, or what right? It seems, certainly, to be implied that Shebna was wholly unconnected with Jerusalem. Whom hast thou here? i.e. what relations? what family? To be justified in hewing out a large tomb, Shebna should have had a numerous family for whom graves would be needed. Otherwise, his excavation of a grand sepulcher was merely selfish and ostentatious. As he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high. Jewish tombs of any pretension were generally excavations in the solid rock, on the side of some hill or mountain, and had often a very elevated position. Tombs exist on the slopes of all the hills about Jerusalem, but are most numerous on the eastern side of the temple mount, which slopes steeply to the Kedron valley. A square-topped doorway leads into a chamber, generally square, from which recesses, six or seven feet long, two broad, and three high, are carried into the rock horizontally, either on a level with the floor, or with a platform, or shelf, halfway up one of the walls. These recesses have been called loculi. After a body had been placed in one, it was commonly closed by a stone, which fitted into the end, and thus shut off the body from the chamber. Chambers had sometimes twelve such loculi. An habitation (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:5). We must not suppose, however, that the Jews, like the Egyptians and Etruscans, regarded the soul as inhabiting the tomb. The soul descended into sheol; the grave was the "habitation" of the body only. When Judah, after being for a long time intoxicated with hope, shall become aware of the extreme danger in which it is standing, it will adopt prudent measures, but without God. "Then he takes away the covering of Judah, and thou lookest in that day to the store of arms of the forest-house; and ye see the breaches of the city of David, that there are many of them; and ye collect together the waters of the lower pool. And ye number the houses of Jerusalem, and pull down the houses, to fortify the wall. And ye make a basin between the two walls for the waters of the old pool; and ye do not look to Him who made it, neither do ye have regard to Him who fashioned it long ago." Mâsâk is the curtain or covering which made Judah blind to the threatening danger. Their looks are now directed first of all to the forest-house, built by Solomon upon Zion for the storing and display of valuable arms and utensils (nēshĕk, or rather, according to the Masora on Job 20:24, and the older editions, nĕshĕk), and so called because it rested upon four rows of cedar columns that ran all round (it was in the centre of the fore-court of the royal palace; see Thenius, das vorexil. Jerusalem, p. 13). They also noticed in the city of David, the southern and highest portion of the city of Jerusalem, the bad state of the walls, and began to think of repairing them. To this end they numbered the houses of the city, to obtain building materials for strengthening the walls and repairing the breaches, by pulling down such houses as were suitable for the purpose, and could be dispensed with (vattithtzu, from nâthatz, with the removal of the recompensative reduplication). The lower pool and the old pool, probably the upper, i.e., the lower and upper Gihon, were upon the western side of the city, the lower (Birket es-Sultan) to the west of Sion, the upper (Birket el-Mamilla) farther up to the west of Akra (Robinson, i.-483-486; V. Raumer, Pal. pp. 305-6). Kibbētz either means to collect in the pool by stopping up the outflow, or to gather together in the reservoirs and wells of the city by means of artificial canals. The latter, however, would most probably be expressed by אסף; so that the meaning that most naturally suggests itself is, that they concentrate the water, so as to be able before the siege to provide the city as rapidly as possible with a large supply. The word sâtham, which is used in the account of the actual measures adopted by Hezekiah when he was threatened with siege (2 Chronicles 32:2-5), is a somewhat different one, and indicates the stopping up, not of the outflow but of the springs, and therefore of the influx. But in all essential points the measures adopted agree with those indicated here in the prophecy. The chronicler closes the account of Hezekiah's reign by still further observing that "Hezekiah also stopped the outflow of the upper Gihon, and carried the water westwards underground to the city of David" (2 Chronicles 32:30, explanatory of 2 Kings 20:20). If the upper Gihon is the same as the upper pool, there was a conduit (teeâlâh), connected with the upper Gihon as early as the time of Ahaz, Isaiah 7:3. And Hezekiah's peculiar work consisted in carrying the water of the upper pool "into the city of David." The mikvâh between the two walls, which is here prospectively described by Isaiah, is connected with this water supply, which Hezekiah really carried out. There is still a pool of Hezekiah (also called Birket el-Batrak, pool of the patriarchs, the Amygdalon of Josephus) on the western side of the city, to the east of the Joppa gate. During the rainy season this pool is supplied by the small conduit which runs from the upper pool along the surface of the ground, and then under the wall against or near the Joppa gate. It also lies between two walls, viz., the wall to the north of Zion, and the one which runs to the north-east round the Akra (Robinson, i.-487-489). How it came to pass that Isaiah's words concerning "a basin between the two walls" were so exactly carried out, as though they had furnished a hydraulic plan, we do not know. But we will offer a conjecture at the close of the exposition. It stands here as one of those prudent measures which would be resorted to in Jerusalem in the anticipation of the coming siege; but it would be thought of too late, and in self-reliant alienation from God, with no look directed to Him who had wrought and fashioned that very calamity which they were now seeking to avert by all these precautions, and by whom it had been projected long, long before the actual realization. עשׂיה might be a plural, according to Isaiah 54:5; but the parallel יצרהּ favours the singular (on the form itself, from עשׂי equals עשׂה, see Isaiah 42:5, and at Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 1:30). We have here, and at Isaiah 37:26, i.e., within the first part of the book of Isaiah, the same doctrine of "ideas" that forms so universal a key-note of the second part, the authenticity of which has been denied. That which is realized in time has existed long before as a spiritual pattern, i.e., as an idea in God. God shows this to His prophets; and so far as prophecy foretells the future, whenever the event predicted is fulfilled, the prophecy becomes a proof that the event is the work of God, and was long ago the predetermined counsel of God. The whole of the Scripture presupposes this pre-existence of the divine idea before the historical realization, and Isaiah in Israel (like Plato in the heathen world) was the assiduous interpreter of this supposition. Thus, in the case before us, the fate of Jerusalem is said to have been fashioned "long ago" in God. But Jerusalem might have averted its realization, for it was no decretum absolutum. If Jerusalem repented, the realization would be arrested.
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