Isaiah 20:2
At the same time spoke the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off your loins, and put off your shoe from your foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
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(2) Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins.—Against these schemes Isaiah was prompted to prophesy in act as well as words. Month by month, for three whole years, he was seen in the streets of Jerusalem as one who was already as a prisoner of war, ready to be led into an ignominious exile. The “sackcloth” was the “rough garment” which, like Elijah (2Kings 1:8) and John the Baptist, the prophets habitually wore (Zechariah 13:4), and the “nakednesswas confined to the laying aside this outer robe, and appearing in the short tunic worn near the body (1Samuel 19:24; 2Samuel 6:14-20; John 21:7). Like instances of prophetic symbolism are the horns of Zedekiah in 1Kings 22:11, the yokes worn by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:2), Ezekiel’s lying on his side (Ezekiel 4:4), and the girdle with which Agabus bound himself (Acts 21:11).

Isaiah 20:2. Go loose the sackcloth from off thy loins — By the sackcloth is meant either the hairy garment usually worn by the prophets, or a mournful habit, such as was commonly made of sackcloth which he wore in token of his grief for the great calamities that were already come upon Israel, and were coming on Judah. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot — Not wholly naked, but without his upper garment; as slaves and prisoners used to do, whose condition he was to represent. This action was both agreeable to the mode of instruction made use of in those times, and, as it was intended to excite the attention of the Israelites, was likewise very well adapted to promote that intention. — Vitringa.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.By Isaiah - Margin, 'By the hand of Isaiah.' So the Hebrew. That is, by the instrumentality of Isaiah. He sent him to make known the fate of the Egyptians, and the folly of trusting in them on this occasion.

Go, and loose the sackcloth - For the meaning of the word "sackcloth," see the note at Isaiah 3:24. It was commonly worn as an emblem of mourning. But there is reason to believe that it was worn also by the prophets, and was regarded, in some degree, as their appropriate dress. It was made usually of the coarse hair of the goat, and was worn as a zone or girdle around the loins. That this was the dress of Elijah is apparent from 2 Kings 1:8 : 'He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather;' that is, he was clothed in a garment made of hair. The same was true of John the Baptist Matthew 3:4. That the prophets wore 'a rough garment' is apparent also from Zechariah 13:4 : 'Neither shall they (the false prophets) wear a rough garment (Hebrew, A garment of hair) to deceive;' that is, the false prophets shall not assume the dress of the true prophets for the purpose of deluding the people, or to make them think that they are true prophets. It is evident, therefore, that this hairy garment was regarded as a dress that pertained particularly to the prophets. It is well known, also, that the ancient Greek philosophers had a special dress to distinguish them from the common people. Probably the custom of wearing "hair cloth" among the monks of later ages took its rise from this example of the prophets. His removing this garment was designed to be a sign or an emblem to show that the Egyptians should be stripped of all their possessions, and carried captive to Assyria.

Walking naked - That is, walking "without this special prophetic garment. It does not mean that he was in a state of entire nudity, for all that he was directed to do was to lay this garment - this emblem of his office - aside. The word "naked," moreover, is used in the Scriptures, not to denote an absolute destitution of clothing, but that the "outer" garment was laid aside (see the note at John 21:7). Thus it is said of Saul 1 Samuel 19:24 that he 'stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel, and lay down naked all that day;' that is, he stripped off his royal robes, and was "naked or unclothed" in that respect. He removed his "special" dress as a king, or military chieftain, and appeared in the ordinary dress. It cannot be supposed that the king of Israel would be seen literally without raiment. So David is said to have danced "naked" before the ark, that is, with his royal robes laid aside. How "long" Isaiah walked in this manner has been a matter of doubt (see the note at Isaiah 20:3). The prophets were accustomed to use symbolic actions to denote the events which they foretold (see the note at Isaiah 8:18). Thus the children of Isaiah, and the names given to them, were significant of important events (Isaiah 8:1-3; compare Jeremiah 18:1-6; Jeremiah 43:8-9); in both of which places he used emblematic actions to exhibit the events concerning which he prophesied in a striking manner. Thus also the prophets are expressly called 'signs and wonders' Zechariah 3:8; Ezekiel 12:6.

2. by—literally, "by the hand of" (compare Eze 3:14).

sackcloth—the loose outer garment of coarse dark hair-cloth worn by mourners (2Sa 3:31) and by prophets, fastened at the waist by a girdle (Mt 3:4; 2Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4).

naked—rather, "uncovered"; he merely put off the outer sackcloth, retaining still the tunic or inner vest (1Sa 19:24; Am 2:16; Joh 21:7); an emblem to show that Egypt should be stripped of its possessions; the very dress of Isaiah was a silent exhortation to repentance.

Loose the sackcloth; ungird it and put it off; the antecedent put for the consequent, which is very usual, as hath been often noted. God would sometimes have his prophets to add to their word a visible sign, to awaken people’s minds to a more serious consideration of the matters proposed to them.

The sackcloth; either,

1. His coarse and hairy garment, which the prophets used to wear, 2 Kings 1:8 Zechariah 13:4, as many understand it. But that is expressed by another word in the places quoted, and never, to my knowledge, by this word. Or,

2. His mournful habit, which was commonly made of sackcloth, and which he wore in token of his hearty grief for the great calamities which were already come upon Israel, and were either come or coming upon Judah.

From off thy loins; upon which the upper garments were commonly girt, 1 Kings 20:32 2Ki 9.


Walking naked; not wholly naked, which had been indecent and scandalous, and withal very dangerous, at least to do so for three years, as he did, Isaiah 20:3; but without his upper garment, as slaves and prisoners used to do, whose posture he was to represent, Isaiah 20:4. And so the word naked is used 1 Samuel 19:24 2 Samuel 6:20 John 21:7. Thus also men are said to be naked when they are ill clothed, as Job 22:6 Matthew 25:36 1 Corinthians 4:11 Jam 2:15.

Barefoot; after the manner of mourners, 2 Samuel 15:30, and captives, Jeremiah 2:25. At the same time spake the Lord by Isaiah the son of Amoz,.... Or, "by the hand of Isaiah", by his means; and it was to him likewise, as the following words show; and so the Septuagint version renders it; he spoke by him, by the sign he used, according to his order, and he spoke to him to use the sign:

saying; so the Arabic version, "with him"; and with these versions Noldius agrees:

go, and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins; a token of mourning, and which the prophet wore, as Kimchi thinks, because of the captivity of the ten tribes; and it may be also on account of the miseries that were coming upon the people of the Jews; though some think this was his common garb, and the same with the royal garment the prophets used to wear, Zechariah 13:4 but that he had put off, and had put on sackcloth in its room, which he is now bid to take off:

and put off thy shoe from thy foot; as a sign of distress and mourning also, 2 Samuel 15:30,

and he did so, walking naked and barefoot; Kimchi thinks this was only visionally, or in the vision of prophecy, as he calls it, and not in reality; but the latter seems most probable, and best to agree with what follows; for he was obedient to the divine command, not regarding the disgrace which might attend it, nor the danger of catching cold, to which he was exposed; and hence he has the character of a servant of the Lord, in the next words, and a faithful obedient one he was.

At the same time spoke the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the {d} sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

(d) Which signifies that the prophet lamented the misery that he saw prepared before the three years that he went naked and barefooted.

2. This verse is an explanatory parenthesis. The command here mentioned must have been given three years before the oracle of Isaiah 20:3 ff.; hence the expression “at that time” must be understood in a loose sense and for spake we must render “had spoken.”

sackcloth] the rough garment of hair or coarse linen worn by mourners in lieu of the customary upper garment; also by prophets (2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4). It is rather surprising to find that Isaiah wore this distinctive badge of his profession. He is directed to “ungird” (and lay aside) this and walk “naked,” i.e. in his under-garment (the kuttôneth), cf. 1 Samuel 19:24; John 21:7. The action was expressive of the deepest degradation, and involved no small sacrifice for a man of Isaiah’s position. But that he actually performed it cannot reasonably be questioned. Cf. Micah 1:8.

3, resuming Isaiah 20:1, gives the interpretation of the symbol.

my servant Isaiah] Isaiah is Jehovah’s “servant” as a prophet. Cf. Amos 3:7; Numbers 12:7.

sign and wonder] see ch. Isaiah 8:18. By the accents the words “three years” are attached to this clause in order to convey the sense “a three-years’ sign,” meaning “a sign of an event which is to happen after three years.” But this is very unnatural, and was evidently suggested by a desire to avoid the notion that the action was kept up for so long a time.

upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia] Ethiopia was at this time the paramount influence in the Nile-valley, Upper Egypt being completely under its sway, while Lower Egypt was divided amongst a number of petty princes. The Sab’é, or Sib‘i (? Sevé), whom Sargon defeated in 720 is usually identified with the Ethiopian Sabako. Winckler, however, doubts this, and takes Sab’é to have been one of the small kings of the Delta. (See also Cheyne’s Note in 2nd Ed. of Robertson Smith’s Prophets of Israel, p. 428.) “Upon” may be either against or concerning.Verse 2. - Loose the sackcloth from off thy loins. Dr. Kay supposes that Isaiah was wearing sackcloth exceptionally, as during a time of mourning. But it is more probable that the Hebrew sak represents the haircloth ("rough garment," Zechariah 13:4), which, as ascetics, the Hebrew prophets wore habitually (2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4). Walking naked. Probably not actually "naked," for captives were not stripped bare by the Assyrians, but with nothing on besides his short tunic, as the male captives are commonly represented in the Assyrian sculptures. When Egypt became the prey of Islam in the year 640, there was already to be seen, at all events in the form of a magnificent prelude, the fulfilment of what the prophet foretells in Isaiah 19:21, Isaiah 19:22 : "And Jehovah makes Himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians know Jehovah in that day; and they serve with slain-offerings and meat-offerings, and vow vows to Jehovah, and pay them. And Jehovah smites Egypt, smiting and healing; and if they return to Jehovah, He suffers Himself to be entreated, and heals them." From that small commencement of five cities, and a solitary altar, and one solitary obelisk, it has now come to this: Jehovah extends the knowledge of Himself to the whole of Egypt ענודע, reflective se cognoscendum dare, or neuter innotescere), and throughout all Egypt there arises the knowledge of God, which soon shows itself in acts of worship. This worship is represented by the prophet, just as we should expect according to the Old Testament view, as consisting in the offering of bleeding and bloodless, or legal and free-will offerings: ועבדוּ, viz., את־יהוה, so that עבד is construed with a double accusative, as in Exodus 10:26, cf., Genesis 30:29; or it may possibly be used directly in the sense of sacrificing, as in the Phoenician, and like עשׂה in the Thorah; and even if we took it in this sense, it would yield no evidence against Isaiah's authorship (compare Isaiah 28:21; Isaiah 32:17). Egypt, though converted, is still sinful; but Jehovah smites it, "smiting and healing" (nâgoph verâpho', compare 1 Kings 20:37), so that in the act of smiting the intention of healing prevails; and healing follows the smiting, since the chastisement of Jehovah leads it to repentance. Thus Egypt is now under the same plan of salvation as Israel (e.g., Leviticus 26:44; Deuteronomy 32:36).
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