Isaiah 20:6
And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, where we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?
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(6) The inhabitant of this isle . . .—Better, as elsewhere, coast-land. Here it probably refers to the whole coast of Philistia, which had been foremost in the revolt, and Phœnicia, Tyre also having joined in it (Annals of Sargon in Lenormant’s Anc. Hist., i. 396). Cyprus, the conquest of which Sargon records (Records of the Past, vii. 51), may also be included. The whole sea-board population would find out too late that they could not resist Assyria even with the help of Egypt and Ethiopia.

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.And the inhabitant - The dwellers generally.

Of this isle - The word אי 'iy "isle" is used here in the sense of "coast, or maritime" country, and is evidently applied to Palestine, or the land of Canaan, which is a narrow coast lying on the Mediterranean. That the word is often used in this sense, and may be applied to a maritime country, see the notes at Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 41:1. The connection here requires us to understand it of Palestine.

Shall say ... - Shall condemn their own folly in trusting in Egypt, and seeking deliverance there.

And how shall we escape? - They shall be alarmed for their own safety, for the very nation on which they had relied had been made captive. And when the "stronger" had been subdued, how could the feeble and dependent escape a similar overthrow and captivity? All this was designed to show them the folly of trusting in the aid of another nation, and to lead them to put confidence in the God of their fathers.

6. isle—that is, coast on the Mediterranean—Philistia, perhaps Phœnicia (compare Isa 23:2; 11:11; 13:22; Ps 72:10).

we—emphatical; if Egypt, in which we trusted, was overcome, how shall we, a small weak state, escape?

Of this isle; of this land, in which the prophet was, and to whose inhabitants these words were uttered. For the title of isles or islands in Scripture is frequently given not only to lands encompassed with the sea, but also to such countries as lay upon the sea-coasts, as Psalm 72:10 Ezekiel 26:15,18, as Palestine or Canaan did, yea, to such countries as are remote or separated from that place in or of which the words are spoken, as Esther 10:1 Isaiah 24:15 42:4,10, &c, as Canaan was from Egypt, or at least from Ethiopia. Add to this, that Canaan had some resemblance with an isle, either because it was almost encompassed with the Midland Sea on one side, and with the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Galilee or Tiberius and Jordan on the other side; or because, as isles are separated from other lands by the sea, so this land and people were seoarated from all the rest of the world by God’s special providence, and presence, and worship.

Such is our expectation; so vain is our hope placed upon such a people as are unable to deliver themselves, and much more to deliver us.

Whither we flee for help; to whom we now and usually trust; for this was the common disease of the people of Israel, although Hezekiah was in a good measure free from it, as we read, 2 Kings 18:5.

How shall we escape? either by their help, who cannot defend themselves; or by our own strength, seeing they who were much more potent than we are could not escape. And the inhabitants of this isle shall say, in that day,.... Not of Ashdod, Isaiah 20:1 or the isle of Caphtor, Jeremiah 47:4 but the land of Israel, as both Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; so called, because it bordered on the sea, as such countries are sometimes called isles; see Jeremiah 25:22. Ben Melech interprets it of Jerusalem, and observes that the word signifies a place or country, whether it has a river or sea encompassing it, or not; besides, the land of Canaan had the Mediterranean sea on one side of it, and the sea of Galilee and Tiberias on the other, and was moreover separated from all other countries by the power, providence, and presence of God:

behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help, to be delivered from the king of Assyria; signifying that it was vain and foolish, and they had acted a very weak, as well as a wicked part, in having recourse to the Egyptians and Ethiopians to help them against the Assyrians, as it plainly appeared by both nations now being conquered by them:

and how shall we escape? seeing they had not, who were more powerful than they were; and how could they think that they could save them, who could not save themselves? and so the Targum,

"if they have not delivered their souls (themselves), how shall we be delivered?''

And the inhabitant of this {g} isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

(g) Meaning Judea which was encompassed by their enemies as an isle with waters.

6. this isle] strictly: this coastland (as R.V.). The expression is most accurately descriptive of the Philistine country; but must include Judah. Isaiah did not go three years naked and barefoot for the sake of the Philistines. It no doubt embraces the territory of all the states concerned in the conspiracy—“this region.”

expectation here and Isaiah 20:5 is “object of expectation.” we has a position of great emphasis in the original.Verse 6. - The inhabitant of this isle; rather, of this coast (Knobel, Hitzig, Kay); i.e. of Palestine generally, which was a mere strip of coast compared with Egypt and Ethiopia. Sargon speaks of all the four powers who at this time "sought to Egypt," as "dwelling beside the sea" (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 130). Such is our expectation; rather, so hath it gone with our expectation; i.e., with Egypt and Ethiopia.

Thus is the way prepared for the highest point of all, which the prophet foretells in Isaiah 19:24, Isaiah 19:25 : "In that day will Israel be the third part to Egypt and Asshur, a blessing in the midst of the earth, since Jehovah of hosts blesseth them thus: Blessed be thou, my people Egypt; and thou Asshur, the work of my hands; and thou Israel, mine inheritance." Israel is added to the covenant between Egypt and Asshur, so that it becomes a tripartite covenant in which Israel forms the "third part" (sheilshiyyâh, tertia pars, like ‛ası̄ryyâh, decima pars, in Isaiah 6:13). Israel has now reached the great end of its calling - to be a blessing in "the midst of the earth" (b'kereb hâ'âretz, in the whole circuit of the earth), all nations being here represented by Egypt and Assyria. Hitherto it had been only to the disadvantage of Israel to be situated between Egypt and Assyria. The history of the Ephraimitish kingdom, as well as that of Judah, clearly proves this. If Israel relied upon Egypt, it deceived itself, and was deceived; and if it relied on Assyria, it only became the slave of Assyria, and had Egypt for a foe. Thus Israel was in a most painful vise between the two great powers of the earth, the western and the eastern powers. But how will all this be altered now! Egypt and Assyria become one in Jehovah, and Israel the third in the covenant. Israel is lo longer the only nation of God, the creation of God, the heir of God; but all this applies to Egypt and Assyria now, as well as to Israel. To give full expression to this, Israel's three titles of honour are mixed together, and each of the three nations receives one of the choice names - nachali, "my inheritance," being reserved for Israel, as pointing back to its earliest history. This essential equalization of the heathen nations and Israel is no degradation to the latter. For although from this time forward there is to be no essential difference between the nations in their relation to God, it is still the God of Israel who obtains this universal recognition, and the nation of Israel that has become, according to the promise, the medium of blessing to the world.

Thus has the second half of the prophecy ascended step by step from salvation to salvation, as the first descended step by step from judgment to judgment. The culminating point in Isaiah 19:25 answers to the lowest point in Isaiah 19:15. Every step in the ascending half is indicated by the expression "in that day." Six times do we find this sign-post to the future within the limits of Isaiah 19:16-25. This expression is almost as characteristic of Isaiah as the corresponding expression, "Behold, the days come" (hinneh yâm bâ'im), is of Jeremiah (compare, for example, Isaiah 7:18-25). And it is more particularly in the promising or Messianic portions of the prophecy that it is so favourite an introduction (Isaiah 11:10-11; Isaiah 12:1; compare Zech). Nevertheless, the genuineness of Isaiah 19:16-25 has recently been called in question, more especially by Hitzig. Sometimes this passage has not been found fanatical enough to have emanated from Isaiah, i.e., too free from hatred towards the heathen; whereas, on the other hand, Knobel adduces evidence that the prophet was no fanatic at all. Sometimes it is too fanatical; in reply to which we observe, that there never was a prophet of God in the world who did not appear to a "sound human understanding" to be beside himself, since, even assuming that this human understanding be sound, it is only within the four sides of its own peculiar province that it is so. Again, in Isaiah 19:18, Isaiah 19:19, a prophecy has been discovered which is too special to be Isaiah's, in opposition to which Knobel proves that it is not so special as is supposed. But it is quite special enough; and this can never astonish any one who can discern in the prophecy a revelation of the future communicated by God, whereas in itself it neither proves nor disproves the authorship of Isaiah. So far as the other arguments adduced against the genuineness are concerned, they have been answered exhaustively by Caspari, in a paper which he contributed on the subject to the Lutherische Zeitschrift, 1841, 3. Hvernick, in his Introduction, has not been able to do anything better than appropriate the arguments adduced by Caspari. And we will not repeat for a third time what has been said twice already. The two halves of the prophecy are like the two wings of a bird. And it is only through its second half that the prophecy becomes the significant centre of the Ethiopic and Egyptian trilogy. For chapter 19 predicts the saving effect that will be produced upon Egypt by the destruction of Assyria. And Isaiah 19:23. announces what will become of Assyria. Assyria will also pass through judgment to salvation. This eschatological conclusion to chapter 19, in which Egypt and Assyria are raised above themselves into representatives of the two halves of the heathen world, is the golden clasp which connects chapters 19 and Isaiah 20:1-6. We now turn to this third portion of the trilogy, which bears the same relation to chapter 19 as Isaiah 16:13-14 to Isaiah 15-16:12.

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