Isaiah 20:1 Commentaries: In the year that the commander came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it,
Isaiah 20:1
In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;
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(1) In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod.—Better, the Tartan. The word was an official title borne by the generalissimo of the Assyrian armies, who was next in authority to the king. He may, or may not, have been the same with the officer of the same rank who appears in 2Kings 18:17 as sent by Sennacherib to Jerusalem.

When Sargon the king of Assyria sent him.—Much light has been thrown by the Assyrian inscriptions on the events connected with this king. Prior to that discovery, there was no trace of his name to be found elsewhere than in this passage, and his very existence had been called in question. As it is, he comes before us as one of the greatest of Assyrian monarchs. He succeeded Shalmaneser VI,, the conqueror of Israel, in B.C. 721, at first as guardian and co-regent of his son Samdan-Malik, and afterwards in his own name. His reign lasted till B.C. 704, when he was succeeded by Sennacherib. Long inscriptions, giving the annals of his reign, were found by M. Botta at Khorsabad, and have been interpreted by M. Oppert (Records of the Past, vii. 21, 9:1, 11:17, 27, 33) and others.

And fought against Ashdod.—The occasion of the campaign is related by Sargon in the annals just mentioned as happening in his eleventh year. Azuri, the king of Ashdod, refused to pay tribute, and revolted. Sargon deposed him, and placed his brother Akhismit, on the throne. The people, in their turn, rose against Akhismit, and chose Yaman as their king. Sargon then marched against the city, took it, and carried off its gods and its treasures as booty (Records of the Past, vii. 40). These events naturally excited the minds of Hezekiah and his counsellors, and led them to look to an alliance with Egypt as their best protection.

Isaiah 20:1. In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod — Namely, to besiege it. Tartan is mentioned (2 Kings 18:17) as one of the generals of Sennacherib, who is generally supposed to be here meant by Sargon, which was probably one of the seven names by which Jerome, on this place, says he was called. Ashdod, or Azotus, was an eminent and strong city, formerly belonging to the Philistines, in the utmost part of the land of Canaan toward Egypt. Afterward, according to Herodotus, it held out twenty-nine years against Psammitichus, king of Egypt. It is likely that at this time it belonged to Hezekiah’s dominions, and that its inhabitants expected to be relieved during the siege by the Egyptians and Cushites, or Ethiopians. The taking of it, Bishop Lowth thinks, must have happened before Sennacherib’s attempt on Jerusalem; when he boasted of his late conquests, Isaiah 37:25 : and the warning of the prophet had a principal respect to the Jews also, who were too much inclined to depend on the assistance of Egypt.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.In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod - Tartan was one of the generals of Sennacherib. Ashdod, called by the Greeks Azotus, was a seaport on the Mediterranean, between Askelon and Ekron, and not far from Gaza (Reland's "Palestine," iii.) It was one of the five cities of the Philistines, assigned to the tribe of Judah, but never conquered by them Joshua 13:8; Joshua 15:46-47. The temple of Dagon stood here; and here the ark of God was brought after the fatal battle of Eben-ezer (1 Samuel 5:1, following.) It sustained many sieges, and was regarded as an important place in respect to Palestine, and also to Egypt. It was taken by Tartan, and remained in the possession of the Assyrians until it was besieged by Psammetichus, the Egyptian king, who took it after a siege of twenty-nine years (Herod. ii. 157). It was about thirty miles from Gaza. It is now a small village, and is called "Esdud." It was besieged and taken by Tartan as preparatory to the conquest of Egypt; and if the king who is here called "Sargon" was Sennacherib, it probable that it was taken before he threatened Jerusalem.

Sargon the king of Assyria - Who this "Sargon" was is not certainly known. Some have supposed that it was Sennacherib; others that it was Shalmaneser the father of Sennacherib, and others that it was Esar-haddon the successor of Sennacherib - (Michaelis). Rosenmuller and Gesenius suppose that it was a king who reigned "between" Sbalmaneser and Sennacherib. Tartan is known to have been a general of Sennacherib 2 Kings 18:17, and it is natural to suppose that he is here intended. Jerome says that Senacherib had seven names, and Kimchi says that he had eight; and it is not improbable that "Sargon" was one of those names. Oriental princes often had several names; and hence, the difficulty of identifying them. See Vitringa on this place.


Isa 20:1-6. Continuation of the Subject of the Nineteenth Chapter, BUT AT A Later Date. Captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia.

In the reign of Sargon (722-715 B.C.), the successor of Shalmaneser, an Assyrian invasion of Egypt took place. Its success is here foretold, and hence a party among the Jews is warned of the folly of their "expectation" of aid from Egypt or Ethiopia. At a later period (Isa 18:1-7), when Tirhakah of Ethiopia was their ally, the Ethiopians are treated as friends, to whom God announces the overthrow of the common Assyrian foe, Sennacherib. Egypt and Ethiopia in this chapter (Isa 20:3, 4) are represented as allied together, the result no doubt of fear of the common foe; previously they had been at strife, and the Ethiopian king had, just before Sethos usurpation, withdrawn from occupation of part of Lower Egypt. Hence, "Egypt" is mentioned alone in Isa 19:1-25, which refers to a somewhat earlier stage of the same event: a delicate mark of truth. Sargon seems to have been the king who finished the capture of Samaria which Shalmaneser began; the alliance of Hoshea with So or Sabacho II of Ethiopia, and his refusal to pay the usual tribute, provoked Shalmaneser to the invasion. On clay cylindrical seals found in Sennacherib's palace at Koyunjik, the name of Sabacho is deciphered; the two seals are thought, from the inscriptions, to have been attached to the treaty of peace between Egypt and Assyria, which resulted from the invasion of Egypt by Sargon, described in this chapter; 2Ki 18:10 curiously confirms the view derived from Assyrian inscriptions, that though Shalmaneser began, Sargon finished the conquest of Samaria; "they took it" (compare 2Ki 17:4-6). In Sargon's palace at Khorsabad, inscriptions state that 27,280 Israelites were led captive by the founder of the palace. While Shalmaneser was engaged in the siege of Samaria, Sargon probably usurped the supreme power and destroyed him; the siege began in 723 B.C., and ended in 721 B.C., the first year of Sargon's reign. Hence arises the paucity of inscriptions of the two predecessors of Sargon, Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser; the usurper destroyed them, just as Tiglath-pileser destroyed those of Pul (Sardanapalus), the last of the old line of Ninus; the names of his father and grandfather, which have been deciphered in the palace of his son Sennacherib, do not appear in the list of Assyrian kings, which confirms the view that he was a satrap who usurped the throne. He was so able a general that Hezekiah made no attempt to shake off the tribute until the reign of Sennacherib; hence Judah was not invaded now as the lands of the Philistines and Egypt were. After conquering Israel he sent his general, Tartan, to attack the Philistine cities, "Ashdod," &c., preliminary to his invasion of Egypt and Ethiopia; for the line of march to Egypt lay along the southwest coast of Palestine. The inscriptions confirm the prophecy; they tell us he received tribute from a Pharaoh of "Egypt"; besides destroying in part the Ethiopian "No-ammon," or Thebes (Na 3:8); also that he warred with the kings of "Ashdod," Gaza, &c., in harmony with Isaiah here; a memorial tablet of him is found in Cyprus also, showing that he extended his arms to that island. His reign was six or seven years in duration, 722-715 B.C. [G. V. Smith].

1. Tartan—probably the same general as was sent by Sennacherib against Hezekiah (2Ki 18:17). Gesenius takes "Tartan" as a title.

Ashdod—called by the Greeks Azotus (Ac 8:40); on the Mediterranean, one of the "five" cities of the Philistines. The taking of it was a necessary preliminary to the invasion of Egypt, to which it was the key in that quarter, the Philistines being allies of Egypt. So strongly did the Assyrians fortify it that it stood a twenty-nine years' siege, when it was retaken by the Egyptian Psammetichus.

sent—Sargon himself remained behind engaged with the Phœnician cities, or else led the main force more directly into Egypt out of Judah [G. V. Smith].The captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia represented, to take off the Jews from seeking to them for help.

Tartan; a great commander in Sennacherib’s army, 2 Kings 18:17.

Ashdod; an eminent and strong city of the Philistines, Joshua 13:3 1 Samuel 5:1, in the utmost part of the land of Canaan, towards Egypt.

Sargon: what king of Assyria this was is much disputed. It is well known, and confessed, that one and the same person hath frequently several names, both in Scripture, as hath been observed again and again, and in other authors. And therefore this may be either,

1. Shalmaneser, who, when he took Samaria, might also by Tartan take this place. Or,

2. Sennacherib, who, before he came to Jerusalem, came up against and took all the fenced cities of Judah, 2 Kings 18:13, of which Ashdod might be reckoned one, as being in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 13:3 15:47, and taken by Hezekiah from the Philistines, as it seems very probable from that passage, 2 Kings 18:8, He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. Or,

3. Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s son, who, by cutting off the first letter, is called Sarchedon, /APC Tob 1:21, and thence possibly, by abbreviation, Sargon; who might do this thing in Hezekiah’s time, some years after his father’s death, and his coming to the empire, although it be not recorded in Scripture; for no man doubts that there were many great actions in those times which are wholly omitted in the sacred writings.

In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod,.... Or Azotus, as the Septuagint here call it; and which is its name in the New Testament; see Gill on Acts 8:40. This Tartan, or whom the Septuagint names Tanathan, and the Arabic version Tathan, was one of Sennacherib's generals, 2 Kings 18:17,

(when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him); to the above place to besiege it. This Sargon is generally thought to be the same with Sennacherib, since Tartan was one of his generals, who might have more names than one. Jerom says he had seven; the Jewish Rabbins (h) eight; though some think a predecessor of his is meant, Shalmaneser; and others his son Esarhaddon, who in the Apocrypha:

"And there passed not five and fifty days, before two of his sons killed him, and they fled into the mountains of Ararath; and Sarchedonus his son reigned in his stead; who appointed over his father's accounts, and over all his affairs, Achiacharus my brother Anael's son.'' (Tobit 1:21)

is called Sarchedon, which might easily pass by pronunciation into Sargon:

and fought against Ashdod, and took it; which was held by the Assyrians till the time of Psammiticus, and was so strong a city, and so well fortified, that it held out a siege of twenty nine years before he could be master of it (i); how long Tartan lay against it, before he took it, is not said; nor is it certain what year he came against it; those who take Sargon to be Shalmaneser place it in the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, who sent Tartan to Ashdod at the same time that he went against Samaria, 2 Kings 18:9 but others, who think Sennacherib is Sargon, fix it to the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, as Kimchi; who, hearing of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia and Egypt coming against him, went forth to meet him, and subdued him; and at the same time sent Tartan against Ashdod; or rather this was done when he took the fenced cities of Judah, of which this was one, having been taken a little before by Hezekiah from the Philistines; see 2 Kings 18:8 though, if Esarhaddon is Sargon, this must be in the times of Manasseh, perhaps about the twenty second year of his reign, by whom he was taken, and carried captive; but it is most likely to have been in Hezekiah's time.

(h) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 94. 1.((i) Herodot. l. 2. c. 157.

In the year that {a} Tartan came to {b} Ashdod, (when {c} Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;

(a) Who was captain of Sennacherib, 2Ki 18:17.

(b) A city of the Philistines.

(c) The Hebrews write that Sennacherib was so called.

1. Tartan] In Assyrian Turtanu, the official title of the “chief of the staff.” Cf. 2 Kings 18:17.

Sargon] (Assyr. Sarrukin) the only mention of this now familiar name in the O.T. For long it was supposed to be a second name of either Shalmaneser or Sennacherib (see Tob 1:15), but the conjecture of a few scholars that he would prove to be an intermediate king has been amply verified by the progress of Assyriology; and Sargon is now one of the best known, as he was one of the most vigorous, of Assyrian monarchs. He reigned from 722–705.

1, 2. A narrative introduction.Verses 1-6. - A PROPHECY AGAINST EGYPT AND ETHIOPIA. The Assyrian inscriptions enable us to date this prophecy with a near approach to exactness. Ashdod was besieged by an Assyrian army twice in the reign of Sargon - in his ninth year ( B.C. 713) and in his eleventh year ( B.C. 711). On the former occasion it is probable that the arms of a general (Tartan) were employed; on the latter it is nearly certain that Sargon made the expedition in person. The capture of Ashdod, here mentioned, is consequently the first capture. Egypt and Ethiopia were at the time united under one head, Shabak, or Shabatok; and the inhabitants of Ashdod looked to this quarter for deliverance from the Assyrian power. Shortly after the first capture, they revolted, deposed the king whom Sargon had set over them, appointed another, and then proceeded, in conjunction with Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab, to call in the aid of the Egyptians and Ethiopians. Isaiah's mission on this occasion was to discourage Judaea from joining Ashdod and her allies in this appeal. He was instructed to prophesy that Assyria would shortly inflict a severe defeat on the two African powers, and carry into captivity large numbers of both nations. The prophecy seems to have had its accomplishment about twelve years later, when Sennacherib defeated the combined forces of Egypt and Ethiopia at Eltekeh, near Ekron (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 133). Verse 1. - In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod; rather, a tartan. The word was not a proper name, but a title of office, equivalent to surena among the Parthians, and signifying "commander-in-chief." The tartan held the second position in the empire. Isaiah has been accused of having confounded together the two sieges of Ashdod (Cheyne); but if one was conducted by the tartan, and the other by Sargon in person, his words would distinguish as perfectly as possible which siege he meant. When Sargon the King of Assyria sent him. The present passage furnished almost the sole trace of the existence of this monarch - one of the greatest of Assyria's sovereigns - until about the middle of the present century, when the exploration of the Assyrian ruins, and the decipherment of the Assyrian inscriptions, presented him to us in the most distinct and vivid way, as king, conqueror, and builder. He was the founder of the last and greatest of the Assyrian dynasties, the successor of the biblical Shalmaneser, and the father of Sennacherib. He reigned from B.C. 722 to B.C. 705. He was the captor of Samaria; he defeated the forces of Egypt; he warred on Susiana, Media, Armenia, Asia Minor, Cyprus; and he conquered and held in subjection Babylon. He built the great city explored by M. Botta, near Khorsabad, which is sometimes called "the French Nineveh." It is now found that Ptolemy's 'Canon' contains his name under the form of Arkeanus, and that Yacut's 'Geography' mentions his great city under the form of Sarghun. But these facts were unsuspected until the recent explorations in Mesopotamia, and Isaiah's mention of him alone gave him a place in history. And fought against Ashdod, and took it. Ashdod was the strongest of the Philistine cities, and one of the most ancient (Joshua 15:47). Its name is probably derived from a root meaning "strength." We hear of its having stood on one occasion a siege of twenty-nine years (Herod., 2:157). It is now known as Esdud. When Ashdod is first mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions it is tributary to Sargon, having probably submitted to him in s c. 720, alter the battle of Raphia. It soon, however, revolts and reclaims its independence. In B.C. 713 the Assyrians proceed against it; and its capture is implied by the facts that the Assyrians depose its king, and install, one of his brothers as monarch in his room (comp. 2 Kings 23:34). The allusion to the sun-city, which had become the city of destruction, led to the mazzeboth or obelisks (see Jeremiah 43:13), which were standing there on the spot where Ra was worshipped. "In that day there stands an altar consecrated to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and an obelisk near the border of the land consecrated to Jehovah. And a sign and a witness for Jehovah of hosts is this in the land of Egypt: when they cry to Jehovah for oppressors, He will send them a helper and champion, and deliver them." This is the passage of Isaiah (not v. 18) to which Onias IV appealed, when he sought permission of Ptolemaeus Philometor to build a temple of Jehovah in Egypt. He built such a temple in the nomos of Heliopolis, 180 stadia (22 1/2 miles) to the north-east of Memphis (Josephus, Bell. vii. 10, 3), and on the foundation and soil of the ὀχύρωμα in Leontopolis, which was dedicated to Bubastis (Ant. xiii. 3, 1, 2).

(Note: We are acquainted with two cities called Leontopolis, viz., the capital of the nomos called by its name, which was situated between the Busiritic and the Tanitic nomoi; and a second between Herōōn-poils and Magdōlon (see Brugsch, Geogr. i. 262). The Leontopolis of Josephus, however, must have been another, or third. It may possibly have derived its name, as Lauth conjectures, from the fact that the goddess Bast (from which comes Boubastos, House of Bast) was called Pacht when regarded in her destructive character (Todtenbuch, 164, 12). The meaning of the name is "lioness," and, as her many statues show, she was represented with a lion's head. At the same time, the boundaries of the districts fluctuated, and the Heliopolitan Leontopolis of Josephus may have originally belonged to the Bubastic district.)

This temple, which was altogether unlike the temple of Jerusalem in its outward appearance, being built in the form of a castle, and which stood for more than two hundred years (from 160 b.c. to a.d. 71, when it was closed by command of Vespasian), was splendidly furnished and much frequented; but the recognition of it was strongly contested both in Palestine and Egypt. It was really situated "in the midst of the land of Egypt." But it is out of the question to seek in this temple for the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, from the simple fact that it was by Jews and for Jews that it was erected. And where, in that case, would the obelisk be, which, as Isaiah prophesies, was to stand on the border of Egypt, i.e., on the side towards the desert and Canaan? The altar was to be "a sign" ('oth) that there were worshippers of Jehovah in Egypt; and the obelisk a "witness" (‛ēd) that Jehovah had proved Himself, to Egypt's salvation, to be the God of the gods of Egypt. And now, if they who erected this place of worship and this monument cried to Jehovah, He would show Himself ready to help them; and they would no longer cry in vain, as they had formerly done to their own idols (Isaiah 19:3). Consequently it is the approaching conversion of the native Egyptians that is here spoken of. The fact that from the Grecian epoch Judaism became a power in Egypt, is certainly not unconnected with this. But we should be able to trace this connection more closely, if we had any information as to the extent to which Judaism had then spread among the natives, which we do know to have been by no means small. The therapeutae described by Philo, which were spread through all the nomoi of Egypt, were of a mixed Egypto-Jewish character (vid., Philo, Opp. ii. p. 474, ed. Mangey). It was a victory on the part of the religion of Jehovah, that Egypt was covered with Jewish synagogues and coenobia even in the age before Christ. And Alexandra was the place where the law of Jehovah was translated into Greek, and thus made accessible to the heathen world, and where the religion of Jehovah created for itself those forms of language and thought, under which it was to become, as Christianity, the religion of the world. And after the introduction of Christianity into the world, there were more than one mazzebah (obelisk) that were met with on the way from Palestine to Egypt, even by the end of the first century, and more than one mizbeach (altar) found in the heart of Egypt itself. The importance of Alexandria and of the monasticism and anachoretism of the peninsula of Sinai and also of Egypt, in connection with the history of the spread of Christianity, is very well known.

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