Isaiah 22:15
Thus said the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get you to this treasurer, even to Shebna, which is over the house, and say,
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(15) Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna.—The section that follows opens a chapter in the internal politics of the reign of Hezekiah. The word for “treasurer” (literally, companion) implies a position like that of a vizier, identical, probably, with that of the “king’s friend” of Genesis 26:26; 2Samuel 15:37; 1Kings 4:5. In addition to this office Shebna had the position of being over the house,” an office, like that of a Lord Chamberlain, of such importance that it was sometimes held by a king’s son (2Chronicles 26:21). It gave him supreme control over the treasury of the king and the internal affairs of his kingdom, and made him almost like a maire du palais under the Merovingian kings. It is obvious that his influence was exercised to thwart the prophet’s counsels; and the probable sequence of thought connecting the two sections is that he was prominent as the representative of the false security and luxury which the prophet had condemned; probably also of the party which rested their hope on an alliance with Egypt. What follows seems to show that he was a novus homo, with no ancestral dignities in his house, possibly even a foreigner (the name is Aramaean in form), pushing himself forward with an obtrusive ambition. We note the touch of scorn in “this Shebna.”

Isaiah 22:15. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, &c. — This second part of the prophet’s discourse, which contains the judgment upon Shebna, seems to be so connected with the former as to give reason to suppose that this man was the chief among the profane nobles of that time, against whom the prophet declaims in the preceding verses; and that, having the first place in the state and palace after the king, he had, by his example, corrupted many others. We know nothing certain concerning him, further than that he was the treasurer, or steward of the king’s household. He seems to have been a different person from that Shebna, the scribe, mentioned Isaiah 37:2. Some have thought that he was not a native Jew, but a foreigner, and a man of low birth; which they infer from “the pride of his desire to ennoble himself by a splendid sepulchre:” but of these things there is no evidence.22:15-25 This message to Shebna is a reproof of his pride, vanity, and security; what vanity is all earthly grandeur, which death will so soon end! What will it avail, whether we are laid in a magnificent tomb, or covered with the green sod? Those who, when in power, turn and toss others, will be justly turned and tossed themselves. Eliakim should be put into Shebna's place. Those called to places of trust and power, should seek to God for grace to enable them to do their duty. Eliakim's advancement is described. Our Lord Jesus describes his own power as Mediator, Re 3:7, that he has the key of David. His power in the kingdom of heaven, and in ordering all the affairs of that kingdom, is absolute. Rulers should be fathers to those under their government; and the honour men bring unto their families, by their piety and usefulness, is more to be valued than what they derive from them by their names and titles. The glory of this world gives a man no real worth or excellence; it is but hung upon him, and it will soon drop from him. Eliakim was compared to a nail in a sure place; all his family are said to depend upon him. In eastern houses, rows of large spikes were built up in the walls. Upon these the moveables and utensils were hung. Our Lord Jesus is as a nail in a sure place. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground, which is by faith hung upon Christ. He will set before the believer an open door, which no man can shut, and bring both body and soul to eternal glory. But those who neglect so great salvation will find, that when he shutteth none can open, whether it be shutting out from heaven, or shutting up in hell for ever.Analysis of Isaiah 22:15-25. - Vision 20.

The remainder of this chapter Isaiah 22:15-25 is occupied with a prediction respecting Shebna, and the promotion of Eliakim in his place. From the prophecy itself it appears that Shebna was prefect of the palace Isaiah 22:15, or that he was in the highest authority in the time of Hezekiah. That he was an unprincipled ruler is evident from the prophecy, and hence, Isaiah was directed to predict his fall, and the elevation of another in his place. Whether this Shebna is the same that is mentioned in Isaiah 36:3, is not known. The Shebna there mentioned is called a "scribe" Isaiah 22:22, and that was "after" the fall of Shebna mentioned here, for it occurred after Eliakim had been placed over the palace. Eliakim was then in office, and was sent on that embassy to Sennacherib Isaiah 36:2, Isaiah 36:22; Isaiah 37:2. The probability is, therefore, that this was some other man of the same name, unless it may have been that "Shebna," after being degraded from the rank of prefect of the palace or prime minister, became "a scribe," or had an inferior office under Eliakim. The prophecy contains the following things:

1. A "command" to Isaiah to go to Shebna, and to reprove him for his self-confidence in his sin Isaiah 22:15-16.

2. A declaration that he should be carried captive to a foreign land Isaiah 22:17-18.

3. A declaration that he should be deposed and succeeded by Eliakim Isaiah 22:20.

4. A description of the character and honors of Eliakim, and his qualifications for the office Isaiah 22:21-24, and

5. A confirmation of the whole prophecy, or a summing up the whole in a single declaration Isaiah 22:25.

Isaiah 22:15

Thus saith the Lord God of hosts - (see the note at Isaiah 1:9).

Go, get thee - Hebrew, 'Go, come to.' This was one of the instances in which the prophets were directed to go personally, and even at the hazard of their life, to those who were high in office, and to denounce on them the divine judgment for their sins.

Unto this treasurer - (הסכן hassokēn). The Vulgate renders this, 'To him who dwells in the tabernacle.' The Septuagint renders it, Εἰς τὸ παστοφόrion Eis to pastophorion, denoting properly what is borne into a recess, cell, or chapel, and referring properly to a place where an idol was placed in a temple; and then any recess, or chamber, as a treasury, and referring here to the room which the treasurer of the temple occupied. The Hebrew word שׁכן shâkan means "to dwell with anyone;" then to be an associate or friend, and hence, the participle is applied to one entrusted with the care of anything, a steward, a treasurer. Jerome explains this in his Commentary as meaning, 'go to him who dwells in the tabernacle, which in Hebrew is called Sochen.' He understands by this some room, or recess in the temple, where the treasurer or the prefect of the temple dwelt. Our translators have expressed probably the true sense by the word 'treasurer.'

Which is over the house - That is, either who is over the temple, or over the palace. I understand it of the latter. Shebna was not high priest, and the expression, 'over the house,' more properly denotes one who had the rule of the palace, or who was the principal minister of the king. See 1 Kings 18:3 : 'And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house.' What was the offence or crime of Shebna, it is impossible to say. The Jewish commentators say that he was intending to betray the city to Sennacherib, but although this is possible it has no direct proof.

Isa 22:15-25. Prophecy That Shebna Should Be Deposed from Being Prefect of the Palace, and Eliakim Promoted to the Office.

In Isa 36:3, 22; 37:2, we find Shebna "a scribe," and no longer prefect of the palace ("over the household"), and Eliakim in that office, as is here foretold. Shebna is singled out as the subject of prophecy (the only instance of an individual being so in Isaiah), as being one of the irreligious faction that set at naught the prophet's warnings (Isa 28:1-33:24); perhaps it was he who advised the temporary ignominious submission of Hezekiah to Sennacherib.

15. Go, get thee unto—rather, "Go in to" (that is, into the house to).

treasurer—"him who dwells in the tabernacle" [Jerome]; namely, in a room of the temple set apart for the treasurer. Rather, "the king's friend," or "principal officer of the court" (1Ki 4:5; 18:3; 1Ch 27:33, "the king's counsellor") [Maurer]. "This" is prefixed contemptuously (Ex 32:1).

unto Shebna—The Hebrew for "unto" indicates an accosting of Shebna with an unwelcome message.

Get thee unto this treasurer; which the prophet might boldly do, because he had the protection not only of God, who sent him upon this errand, but probably of Hezekiah also, who at the time of this prophecy was either king, or his father’s viceroy, or at least heir-apparent to the crown.

Shebna; who seems to have been advanced by wicked Ahaz, and to have been a great patron of impiety and injustice in his reign, and by politic compliance with Hezekiah thought to gain his favour, and so to keep his place and power at court.

Over the house; over the house of David, as is more fully expressed below, Isaiah 22:22. Possibly he was not only the lord treasurer, but also the king’s prime minister of state. Thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Go,.... These words are spoken to the prophet, bidding him go to Shebna's house; so the Arabic version, "go to the house"; or however, by some means or other, let him know that he should be displaced, and turned out of his office, and another put in his room:

get thee unto this treasurer; or governor, as the Targum; treasurer in the house of King Hezekiah, as Kimchi: the word has the signification of profit; and Jarchi, from the Talmud (s), calls him master of the profits; that is, of the profits and revenues belonging to the king; though, perhaps, he sought more his own profit and advantage than the king's: it has also the signification of danger, and so may be rendered, "this dangerous" man to the king and state. The Jews say (t) he entered into conspiracy with some others in Jerusalem, to deliver up the city and king into the hands of Sennacherib. It is also used for a cherisher or nourisher, 1 Kings 1:2 and may be understood of him, as a cherisher and encourager of the scoffers before mentioned, and a fomenter of secret conspiracies against the king and the city. Some render it, "this Sochenite", so called from the place of his birth, or from whence he came; and the Jews (u) say he came from Sochen, a place in Egypt; and he seems by what follows to have been a foreigner, and not an inhabitant of Jerusalem; nor is it likely that he should be twice described by his office:

even unto Shebna, which is over the house; that is, over the king's house, so Kimchi; the steward, that had the ordering of all the affairs civil and domestic in it, which was a very high post; he had the keys of the money, stores, and provisions in it; see Isaiah 22:22. The Vulgate Latin version calls him the governor of the temple; so Jarchi understands it, that he was over the house of the sanctuary, the temple; some Jewish writers say he was a high priest; and others that he was an "amarcal" (w), which was a name of office in the temple, a governor there, that had the keys of the stores in it:

and say; this is not in the text, but is supplied; the message to him follows.

(s) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 26. 2.((t) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc. & Sanhedrin, ib. Colossians 1. (u) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 5. fol. 150. 2.((w) Ibid.

Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, repair to this {q} treasurer, even to Shebna, who is over the house, and say,

(q) Because the Hebrew word also signifies one who nourishes and cherishes, there are those of the scholars who think that this wicked man nourished a secret friendship with the Assyrians and Egyptians to betray the Church and to provide for himself against all dangers: in the mean season he packed craftily, and got of the best offices into his hand under Hezekiah, ever aspiring to the highest.

15. this treasurer] Better: this official. The “this” is contemptuous. The word for “official” (sôkçn) is not elsewhere found. It seems to mean either “associate” (like the “king’s friend” of 2 Samuel 15:37; 2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Kings 4:5; 1 Chronicles 27:33), or “administrator” (the Assyrian šaknu).

which is over the house] (cf. 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3). This office has been compared to that of “mayor of the palace” under the Merovingian kings.

Ch. Isaiah 22:15-25. A Philippic against an influential Politician

Shebna, the minister here addressed, is supposed from his name and from Isaiah’s indignation at his ambitious desire to have a magnificent sepulchre in Jerusalem, to have been a foreigner in the royal service. The office which he holds is the highest in the court, and is of course a measure of his influence with the king. That he was a partisan of the Egyptian alliance may be safely assumed, and it is likely that Isaiah had found in him the most astute and resolute opponent of the policy which he advocated. This opposition, together with hearty contempt for the character of the man, is the occasion of Isaiah’s only invective against an individual. The prophecy is therefore probably contemporaneous with ch. 28–31. Eliakim was probably the leader of the party favourable to Isaiah’s views, and the substitution of the one minister for the other was equivalent to a radical change of policy on the part of Hezekiah. This change seems to have taken place before the crisis of the invasion, for in ch. Isaiah 36:3, Isaiah 37:2 we find Eliakim in possession of the dignity which Shebna here holds. But since the latter then occupied the lower office of secretary, we must conclude that some compromise had been arranged, and that Shebna’s power was not altogether broken.

The passage contains three parts:

i. The denunciation of Shebna, and the announcement of his deposition and banishment, Isaiah 22:15-19.

ii. The installation of Eliakim, and the honour of his family, Isaiah 22:20-23.

iii. A very perplexing appendix, which seems to warn Eliakim against nepotism, and to anticipate the ruin of his house, Isaiah 22:24-25.Verses 15-24. - PROPHECY ON THE DEPOSITION OF SHEBNA AND THE ELEVATION OF ELIAKIM. In its first and simplest application, this section predicts the fall of one state official and the advancement of an-other - matters, no doubt, of some importance in the court history of the time, but scarcely (with reverence be it said) of such moment as to be worthy either of prophetic announcement or of divinely inspired record. It has, therefore, been generally felt that there must be a secondary application of the passage. According to some, the two officials represent respectively the two cove-hunts, the old and the new; according to others, they stand for the two great parties in the Jewish slate of the time - that which put its trust in Jehovah, and that which leant upon heathen alliances. Verse 15. - The Lord God of hosts. This form, Adonay Jehovah Tsabaoth - rarely used by Isaiah, but occurring above in vers. 5, 12, and 13 - seems to show that this section is in its right place, being intended as a sequel to the description of Sennacherib's siege. This treasurer. The word "this" is contemptuous. That translated "treasurer" is of doubtful import. The key to it is probably to be found in the cognate noun, translated "storehouse" in 2 Chronicles 32:28, and "store" in 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4, 6; 2 Chronicles 16:4; 2 Chronicles 17:12. Translate, this storekeeper. Shebna (see below, Isaiah 36:2, 11, 22; Isaiah 37:2; and comp. 2 Kings 18:18, etc.). The name, which is not found elsewhere, is thought to be Syriac rather than Hebrew, and Shebna himself is conjectured to have been a foreign adventurer, perhaps "a refugee from Damascus" (Cheyne). (See the next verse.) Which is over the house. An office like the imperial praefectus palatio" at Rome, or the Frankish "mayor of the palace" (see Genesis 41:40; 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3). At this time it seems to have been the highest office that a subject could hold (2 Chronicles 26:21; 2 Kings 18:18, etc.). When Judah, after being for a long time intoxicated with hope, shall become aware of the extreme danger in which it is standing, it will adopt prudent measures, but without God. "Then he takes away the covering of Judah, and thou lookest in that day to the store of arms of the forest-house; and ye see the breaches of the city of David, that there are many of them; and ye collect together the waters of the lower pool. And ye number the houses of Jerusalem, and pull down the houses, to fortify the wall. And ye make a basin between the two walls for the waters of the old pool; and ye do not look to Him who made it, neither do ye have regard to Him who fashioned it long ago." Mâsâk is the curtain or covering which made Judah blind to the threatening danger. Their looks are now directed first of all to the forest-house, built by Solomon upon Zion for the storing and display of valuable arms and utensils (nēshĕk, or rather, according to the Masora on Job 20:24, and the older editions, nĕshĕk), and so called because it rested upon four rows of cedar columns that ran all round (it was in the centre of the fore-court of the royal palace; see Thenius, das vorexil. Jerusalem, p. 13). They also noticed in the city of David, the southern and highest portion of the city of Jerusalem, the bad state of the walls, and began to think of repairing them. To this end they numbered the houses of the city, to obtain building materials for strengthening the walls and repairing the breaches, by pulling down such houses as were suitable for the purpose, and could be dispensed with (vattithtzu, from nâthatz, with the removal of the recompensative reduplication). The lower pool and the old pool, probably the upper, i.e., the lower and upper Gihon, were upon the western side of the city, the lower (Birket es-Sultan) to the west of Sion, the upper (Birket el-Mamilla) farther up to the west of Akra (Robinson, i.-483-486; V. Raumer, Pal. pp. 305-6). Kibbētz either means to collect in the pool by stopping up the outflow, or to gather together in the reservoirs and wells of the city by means of artificial canals. The latter, however, would most probably be expressed by אסף; so that the meaning that most naturally suggests itself is, that they concentrate the water, so as to be able before the siege to provide the city as rapidly as possible with a large supply. The word sâtham, which is used in the account of the actual measures adopted by Hezekiah when he was threatened with siege (2 Chronicles 32:2-5), is a somewhat different one, and indicates the stopping up, not of the outflow but of the springs, and therefore of the influx. But in all essential points the measures adopted agree with those indicated here in the prophecy. The chronicler closes the account of Hezekiah's reign by still further observing that "Hezekiah also stopped the outflow of the upper Gihon, and carried the water westwards underground to the city of David" (2 Chronicles 32:30, explanatory of 2 Kings 20:20). If the upper Gihon is the same as the upper pool, there was a conduit (teeâlâh), connected with the upper Gihon as early as the time of Ahaz, Isaiah 7:3. And Hezekiah's peculiar work consisted in carrying the water of the upper pool "into the city of David." The mikvâh between the two walls, which is here prospectively described by Isaiah, is connected with this water supply, which Hezekiah really carried out. There is still a pool of Hezekiah (also called Birket el-Batrak, pool of the patriarchs, the Amygdalon of Josephus) on the western side of the city, to the east of the Joppa gate. During the rainy season this pool is supplied by the small conduit which runs from the upper pool along the surface of the ground, and then under the wall against or near the Joppa gate. It also lies between two walls, viz., the wall to the north of Zion, and the one which runs to the north-east round the Akra (Robinson, i.-487-489). How it came to pass that Isaiah's words concerning "a basin between the two walls" were so exactly carried out, as though they had furnished a hydraulic plan, we do not know. But we will offer a conjecture at the close of the exposition. It stands here as one of those prudent measures which would be resorted to in Jerusalem in the anticipation of the coming siege; but it would be thought of too late, and in self-reliant alienation from God, with no look directed to Him who had wrought and fashioned that very calamity which they were now seeking to avert by all these precautions, and by whom it had been projected long, long before the actual realization. עשׂיה might be a plural, according to Isaiah 54:5; but the parallel יצרהּ favours the singular (on the form itself, from עשׂי equals עשׂה, see Isaiah 42:5, and at Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 1:30). We have here, and at Isaiah 37:26, i.e., within the first part of the book of Isaiah, the same doctrine of "ideas" that forms so universal a key-note of the second part, the authenticity of which has been denied. That which is realized in time has existed long before as a spiritual pattern, i.e., as an idea in God. God shows this to His prophets; and so far as prophecy foretells the future, whenever the event predicted is fulfilled, the prophecy becomes a proof that the event is the work of God, and was long ago the predetermined counsel of God. The whole of the Scripture presupposes this pre-existence of the divine idea before the historical realization, and Isaiah in Israel (like Plato in the heathen world) was the assiduous interpreter of this supposition. Thus, in the case before us, the fate of Jerusalem is said to have been fashioned "long ago" in God. But Jerusalem might have averted its realization, for it was no decretum absolutum. If Jerusalem repented, the realization would be arrested.
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