|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
20:1-6 The invasion and conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia. - Isaiah was a sign to the people by his unusual dress, when he walked abroad. He commonly wore sackcloth as a prophet, to show himself mortified to the world. He was to loose this from his loins; to wear no upper garments, and to go barefooted. This sign was to signify, that the Egyptians and Ethiopians should be led away captives by the king of Assyria, thus stripped. The world will often deem believers foolish, when singular in obedience to God. But the Lord will support his servants under the most trying effects of their obedience; and what they are called upon to suffer for his sake, commonly is light, compared with what numbers groan under from year to year from sin. Those who make any creature their expectation and glory, and so put it in the place of God, will, sooner or later, be ashamed of it. But disappointment in creature-confidences, instead of driving us to despair, should drive us to God, and our expectation shall not be in vain. The same lesson is in force now; and where shall we look for aid in the hour of necessity, but to the Lord our Righteousness, throne of grace, and serving with each other in the same business of religion, should end all disputes, and unite the hearts of believers to each other in holy love.
Verse 3. - My servant Isaiah. Isaiah shares this honorable title, "my servant," with a select few among God's saints - with Abraham (Genesis 26:24), Moses (Numbers 12:7), Caleb (Numbers 14:24), Job (Job 1:8; Job 42:7, 8), Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20), and Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:23). It is a great acknowledgment for the Creator to make to the creature, that he really does him service. Three years. Probably from B.C. 713 to B.C. 711, or during the whole of the time that Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Judah were making representations to the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and endeavoring to obtain their aid (see G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 130). It has been proposed, by an arbitrary emendation, to cut down the time to "three days;" but a three days' sign of the kind could not have been expected to have any important effect. The supposed "impropriety" of Isaiah's having "gone naked and barefoot" for three years arises from a misconception of the word "naked." which is not to be taken literally (see the comment on ver. 2). The costume adopted would be extraordinary, especially in one of Isaiah's rank and position; but would not be in any degree "improper." It would be simply that of working men during the greater part of the day (see Exodus 22:26, 27).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord said,.... Here follows the explanation of the sign, and the accommodation of it to the thing signified by it:
like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot; not wholly naked, for that would have been very indecent and dangerous indeed; but without his upper garment, as Saul, 1 Samuel 19:24 and David, 2 Samuel 6:14 or with rent and ragged clothes, and old shoes, as Jarchi (k) interprets it, and which might be only when he appeared abroad; and how long he thus walked is not certain, whether only one day, as some, or three days, as others, or three years, which is not said, though our version inclines to it; but the three years next mentioned are not to be joined to Isaiah's walking, but to the thing signified by it; for the accent "athnach" is at the word which is rendered "barefoot", and distinguishes this clause from the following. The Septuagint indeed puts the phrase "three years" into both clauses, but it only belongs to the latter:
three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt, and upon Ethiopia; that is, the prophet's walking naked and barefoot was a sign that three years after this Egypt and Ethiopia should be subdued by the Assyrians; or, that so long he should be in subduing them, or their calamities should last such a term of time. This sign was only seen by the Jews, for whose sake chiefly this prophecy was, to take off their dependence on the above nations; though probably this might be made known to the Egyptians and Ethiopians.
(k) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 77. 1. & Sabbat, fol. 114. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. three years—Isaiah's symbolical action did not continue all this time, but at intervals, to keep it before the people's mind during that period [Rosenmuller]. Rather, join "three years" with "sign," a three years' sign, that is, a sign that a three years' calamity would come on Egypt and Ethiopia [Barnes], (Isa 8:18). This is the only instance of a strictly symbolical act performed by Isaiah. With later prophets, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, such acts were common. In some cases they were performed, not literally, but only in prophetic vision.
wonder—rather, "omen"; conveying a threat as to the future [G. V. Smith].
upon—in reference to, against.
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