Isaiah 20:6
And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither 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.

Isaiah 20:6But if Egypt and Ethiopia are thus shamefully humbled, what kind of impression will this make upon those who rely upon the great power that is supposed to be both unapproachable and invincible? "And they cry together, and behold themselves deceived by Ethiopia, to which they looked, and by Egypt, in which they gloried. And the inhabitant of this coast-land saith in that day, Behold, thus it happens to those to whom we looked, whither we fled for help to deliver us from the king of Asshur: and how should we, we escape?" אי, which signifies both an island and a coast-land, is used as the name of Philistia and Zephaniah 2:5, and as the name of Phoenicia in Isaiah 23:2, Isaiah 23:6; and for this reason Knobel and others understand it here as denoting the former with the inclusion of the latter. But as the Assyrians had already attacked both Phoenicians and Philistines at the time when they marched against Egypt, there can be no doubt that Isaiah had chiefly the Judaeans in his mind. This was the interpretation given by Jerome ("Judah trusted in the Egyptians, and Egypt will be destroyed"), and it has been adopted by Ewald, Drechsler, Luzzatto, and Meier. The expressions are the same as those in which a little further on we find Isaiah reproving the Egyptian tendencies of Judah's policy. At the same time, by "the inhabitant of this coast-land" we are not to understand Judah exclusively, but the inhabitants of Palestine generally, with whom Judah was mixed up to its shame, because it had denied its character as the nation of Jehovah in a manner so thoroughly opposed to its theocratic standing.

Unfortunately, we know very little concerning the Assyrian campaigns in Egypt. But we may infer from Nahum 3:8-10, according to which the Egyptian Thebes had fallen (for it is held up before Nineveh as the mirror of its own fate), that after the conquest of Ashdod Egypt was also overcome by Sargon's army. In the grand inscription found in the halls of the palace at Khorsabad, Sargon boasts of a successful battle which he had fought with Pharaoh Sebech at Raphia, and in consequence of which the latter became tributary to him. Still further on he relates that he had dethroned the rebellious king of Ashdod, and appointed another in his place, but that the people removed him, and chose another king; after which he marched with his army against Ashdod, and when the king fled from him into Egypt, he besieged Ashdod, and took it. Then follows a difficult and mutilated passage, in which Rawlinson agrees with Oppert in finding an account of the complete subjection of Sebech (Sabako?).

(Note: Five Great Monarchies, vol. ii. pp. 416-7; compare Oppert, Sargonides, pp. 22, 26-7. With regard to one passage of the annals, which contains an account of a successful battle fought at Ra-bek (Heliopolis), see Journal Asiat. xii. 462ff.; Brandis, p. 51.)

Nothing can be built upon this, however; and it must also remain uncertain whether, even if the rest is correctly interpreted, Isaiah 20:1 relates to that conquest of Ashdod which was followed by the dethroning of the rebellious king and the appointment of another, or to the final conquest by which it became a colonial city of Assyria.

(Note: Among the pictures from Khorsabad which have been published by Botta, there is a burning fortress that has been taken by storm. Isidor Lwenstern (in his Essai, Paris 1845) pronounced it to be Ashdod; but Rdiger regarded the evidence as inconclusive. Nevertheless, Lwenstern was able to claim priority over Rawlinson in several points of deciphering (Galignani's Messenger, Revelation 28, 1850). He read in the inscription the king's name, Sarak.)

This conquest Sargon ascribes to himself in person, so that apparently we must think of that conquest which was carried out by Tartan; and in that case the words, "he fought against it," etc., need not be taken as anticipatory. It is quite sufficient, that the monuments seem to intimate that the conquest of Samaria and Ashdod was followed by the subjugation of the Egypto-Ethiopian kingdom. But inasmuch as Judah, trusting in the reed of Egypt, fell away from Assyria under Hezekiah, and Sennacherib had to make war upon Egypt again, to all appearance the Assyrians never had much cause to congratulate themselves upon their possession of Egypt, and that for reasons which are not difficult to discover. At the time appointed by the prophecy, Egypt came under the Assyrian yoke, from which it was first delivered by Psammetichus; but, as the constant wars between Assyria and Egypt clearly show, it never patiently submitted to that yoke for any length of time. The confidence which Judah placed in Egypt turned out most disastrously for Judah itself, just as Isaiah predicted here. But the catastrophe that occurred in front of Jerusalem did not put an end to Assyria, nor did the campaigns of Sargon and Sennacherib bring Egypt to an end. And, on the other hand, the triumphs of Jehovah and of the prophecy concerning Assyria were not the means of Egypt's conversion. In all these respects the fulfilment showed that there was an element of human hope in the prophecy, which made the distant appear to be close at hand. And this element it eliminated. For the fulfilment of a prophecy is divine, but the prophecy itself is both divine and human.

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