Isaiah 22:16
What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) What hast thou here? . . .—The prophet’s indignation is roused by Shebna’s last act of arrogance. He had no “sepulchre of his fathers” to deck with fresh stateliness, and, like the kings and great ones of the earth (the kings of Sidon, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the kings of Assyria), had built one for himself, hollowed out of the wells (probably on one of the hills of Jerusalem), to be his own everlasting “habitation,” his domus œterna. So in Ecclesiastes 12:5, the grave is the “long home” of man. Rock-hewn sepulchres of this type are found on the slopes of all the hills in the neighbourhood of the holy city.

Isaiah 22:16-19. What hast thou here? — Or, What dost thou here? What right hast thou to this place and office? And whom hast thou here? — What relations or family? That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre — That thou art ambitious of raising a stately sepulchre for thyself and thine heirs? As he that heweth out a sepulchre on high — In a high and eminent place; a habitation for himself in a rock — A monument that shall preserve his memory to all succeeding times. The Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity — Will cause thee to be carried into captivity by a strong hand, or by the hand of a mighty man, from which, therefore, thou shalt not be able to escape. The Hebrew, משׂלשׂלן שׂלשׂלה גבר, is rendered by Dr. Waterland, will throw thee out hence with a mighty throw, and may also be rendered, will cast thee away with the casting of a mighty man, that is, with great force; and will surely cover thee — Namely, with confusion, as is here implied, and as this phrase is more fully expressed Psalm 109:29. Or, this may be an allusion to the condition of mourners in general, and particularly of condemned persons, whose faces were wont to be covered. He will violently turn and toss thee like a ball — Hebrew, צנוŠ יצנפן צנפה כדור, rolling he will roll thee with the rolling of a ball; into a large country — Like a ball which is cast into a large and plain spot of ground, where, being thrown with great force, it runs far and wide. Or, to a far country, meaning probably Assyria. There shalt thou die — After having lived in obscurity. And the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house — The honour thou didst arrive at, and the chariots in which thou didst ride with so much state at Jerusalem, shall turn to thy shame, and to the reproach of those who preferred so unworthy a person. Dr. Waterland translates the verse, He will toss and whirl thee, as he were whirling a ball, &c., and there shall be thy glorious chariots, O thou shame of thy lord’s house. And I will drive thee, &c. — These are the Lord’s words; and from thy state shall he pull thee down — Namely, the Lord shall; such sudden changes of persons being very usual in these writings.

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.What hast thou here? - This verse contains a severe repoof of the pride and ostentation of Shebna, and of his expectation that he would be buried where be had built his own tomb. It also contains an "implied" declaration that he would not be permitted to lie there, but would be removed to a distant land to be buried in some less honorable manner. It is probable that Isaiah met him when he was at the sepulchre which he had made, and addressed this language to him there: 'What hast thou here? What right to expect that thou wilt be buried here, or why do you erect this splendid sepulchre, as if you were a holy man, and God would allow you to lie here?' Probably his sepulchre had been erected among the sepulchres of holy people, and perhaps in some part of the royal burying place in Jerusalem.

And whom hast thou here? - Who among the dead that are entombed here are connected with you, that you should deem yourself entitled to lie with them? If this was the royal cemetery, these words might be designed to intimate that he had no connection with the royal family; and thus his building a tomb there was an evidence of vain glory, and of an attempt to occupy a place, even in death, to which he had no title.

That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here - Sepulchres were hewn or cut out of rocks (see the note at Isaiah 14:9). It was usual also for princes and rich people to have their sepulchres or tombs constructed while they were themselves alive (see Matthew 27:60). Shebna was doubtless a man of humble birth, none of whose ancestors or family had been honored with a burial in the royal cemetery, and hence, the prophet reproves his pride in expecting to repose with the royal dead.

He that heweth him out a sepulchre on high - On some elevated place, that it might be more conspicuous. Thus Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 32:33 was buried 'in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David.' Hebrew, במעלה bema‛ălēh - 'In the highest.' Septuagint, Ἐν ἀναβάσει en anabasei. Such sepulchres are still found in Persia. They consist of several tombs, each hewn in a high rock near the top, the front of the rock being adorned with figures in relievo. 'Sepulchres of this kind are remarkably exemplified in the very ancient tombs excavated in the cliffs of the mountain of sepulchres at Naksh-i-Roustan, a full description of which may be found in Sir Robert Ker Porter's "Travels." They are excavated in an almost perpendicular cliff of about 300 feet high. There are two rows, of which the uppermost are the most ancient and interesting, presenting highly sculptured fronts about fifty-three feet broad, crowned by a representation of an act of Sabean worship. To the lowest of them, which, however, he describes as not less than sixty feet from the ground, Sir Robert could gain access only by being drawn up by means of a rope fastened around his waist, by some active natives who had contrived to clamber up to the ledge in front of the tomb. These appear to be royal sepulchres, and probably not later than the time of the kings of Persia mentioned in Scripture.' ("Pict. Bible.") Two objects were probably contemplated by such sepulchres. One was security from desecration. The other was ostentation - sepulchres thus excavated furnishing an opportunity for the display of architectural taste in front, and being conspicuous objects. Such sepulchres are found at Petra (see the notes at Isaiah 16:1), and it is probable that Shebna sought this kind of immortality. - Many a man who has done nothing to deserve celebrity by his noble deeds while living, seeks it by the magnificence of his tomb.

16. What … whom—The prophet accosts Shebna at the very place where he was building a grand sepulcher for himself and his family (compare Isa 14:18; Ge 23:1-20; 49:29; 50:13). "What (business) hast thou here, and whom hast thou (of thy family, who is likely to be buried) here, that thou buildest," &c., seeing that thou art soon to be deposed from office and carried into captivity? [Maurer].

on high—Sepulchres were made in the highest rocks (2Ch 32:33, Margin).

habitation for himself—compare "his own house" (Isa 14:18).

What hast thou here? or, What dost thou here? what right hast thou to this place and office? Whom; either,

1. What friends, in whom thou canst confide? Thou hast so ill managed thyself and thy affairs, that thou art universally hated. Or,

2. What kindred or relations? For the Jews say he was a stranger by birth; which is the more probable, because his pedigree is not mentioned in any of those places of Scripture where he is named.

Hewed thee out a sepulchre, as great and ambitious men used to do. Here; not in thine own country, the proper place for such a monument; but in Jerusalem, which should not be defiled nor disparaged with it.

On high; in a high and eminent place, as Isaiah 57:7. An habitation; either,

1. A sepulchre, which is called a man’s house, Job 30:23; or,

2. A dwelling-house. He erected, or is compared to one that doth erect, a stately house to live in, and a stately sepulchre to receive him when he dies. And these two are fitly joined together, because their sepulchres were commonly built in or near their houses. See Isaiah 14:18 John 19:41. In a rock; a fit place both for strength and state. Thus we read of a sepulchre hewed out of a rock, Matthew 27:60.

What hast thou here?.... In the king's house, or in Jerusalem; what business hast thou here? thou art unworthy of such an office, nor shalt thou long continue in it; what inheritance hast thou here? thou art an alien from the commonwealth of Israel and hast no estate or possession in the land:

and whom hast thou here? of thy family and kindred; what ancestors hast thou? where did they live or die, and were buried? what children hast thou to succeed thee in honour and estate? or what relations to be interred, when deceased, in thy grave, that thou hast made such a provision as follows? and it may be observed, that wherever he is spoken of, the name of his father is never mentioned. Aben Ezra's gloss is, who hast thou here of thy family that can help thee? his fall and ruin being at hand:

that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here; in the city of Jerusalem, or near it; the Jews say (x), among the sepulchres of the kings of the house of David; as if he thought to live and die here, and so had provided a sepulchre for himself and family, to lie in great pomp and splendour, like the kings and princes of the earth:

as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock; where sepulchres, as well as palaces, used to be built; see Matthew 27:60 and great men, especially the Egyptians, used to build sepulchres like to palaces; though it may be observed, that the word "as" is not in the text; and the words may be understood of Shebna's hewing out a sepulchre in some high place near Jerusalem, and building a fine house upon a rock there; and which may design either one and the same thing, a grave or sepulchre being called a house, Job 30:23 or two different things, a sepulchre to be buried in when dead, and a palace to dwell in while living; and so the words may be rendered thus (y), "O he that heweth himself", &c.; "O he that graveth an habitation", &c.; so the Syriac version, "O thou that hewest thy sepulchre on high", &c.

(x) T. Bab. Sanhedrin fol. 26. 2.((y) "O caedens, &c. O statuens", &c. Junius & Tremellius.

What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre {r} here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that cut out an habitation {s} for himself in a rock?

(r) Meaning, that he was a stranger, and came up of nothing.

(s) While he thought to make his name immortal by his famous sepulchre, he died most miserably among the Assyrians.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. We may imagine the meeting between Isaiah and the vizier to have taken place at the sepulchre which the latter, after the Eastern fashion, was having prepared in his lifetime. By this act the novus homo asserted his equality with the aristocracy of Jerusalem, a piece of presumption which evidently kindles the ire of the prophet.

What hast thou (to do) here? and whom (as kindred or descendants) hast thou here?] i.e. “Thou neither hast the rights of a citizen, nor canst claim to be the founder of a family.” Shebna’s grave was simply the monument of his own vulgar and ostentatious vanity.

that thou hast hewed … here] (see below)—in so conspicuous a position. That Shebna actually placed his tomb amongst those of the kings and princes of Judah is not to be assumed; but he had plainly chosen a pretentious situation.

as he that heweth …] Render: Hewing out his sepulchre on high! Graving in the rock an habitation for him! Ejaculations of unutterable scorn. The use of the third person suggests that there were bystanders.

Verse 16. - What hast thou here? i.e. what business, or what right? It seems, certainly, to be implied that Shebna was wholly unconnected with Jerusalem. Whom hast thou here? i.e. what relations? what family? To be justified in hewing out a large tomb, Shebna should have had a numerous family for whom graves would be needed. Otherwise, his excavation of a grand sepulcher was merely selfish and ostentatious. As he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high. Jewish tombs of any pretension were generally excavations in the solid rock, on the side of some hill or mountain, and had often a very elevated position. Tombs exist on the slopes of all the hills about Jerusalem, but are most numerous on the eastern side of the temple mount, which slopes steeply to the Kedron valley. A square-topped doorway leads into a chamber, generally square, from which recesses, six or seven feet long, two broad, and three high, are carried into the rock horizontally, either on a level with the floor, or with a platform, or shelf, halfway up one of the walls. These recesses have been called loculi. After a body had been placed in one, it was commonly closed by a stone, which fitted into the end, and thus shut off the body from the chamber. Chambers had sometimes twelve such loculi. An habitation (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:5). We must not suppose, however, that the Jews, like the Egyptians and Etruscans, regarded the soul as inhabiting the tomb. The soul descended into sheol; the grave was the "habitation" of the body only. Isaiah 22:16"Thus spake the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, Go, get thee to that steward there, to Shebna the house-mayor. What has thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewn thyself out a sepulchre here, hewing out his sepulchre high up, digging himself a dwelling in rocks? Behold, Jehovah hurleth thee, hurling with a man's throw, and graspeth thee grasping. Coiling, He coileth thee a coil, a ball into a land far and wide; there shalt thou die, and thither the chariots of thy glory, thou shame of the house of thy lord! And I thrust thee from thy post, and from thy standing-place he pulleth thee down." לך־בּ, go, take thyself in - not into the house, however, but into the present halting-place. It is possible, at the same time, that the expression may simply mean "take thyself away," as in Genesis 45:17 and Ezekiel 3:4. The preposition אל is interchanged with על, which more commonly denotes the coming of a stronger man upon a weaker one (1 Samuel 12:12), and is here used to designate the overwhelming power of the prophet's word. "That steward there:" this expression points contemptuously to the position of the minister of the court as one which, however high, was a subordinate one after all. We feel at once, as we read this introduction to the divine address, that insatiable ambition was one of the leading traits in Shebna's character. What Isaiah is to say to Shebna follows somewhat abruptly. The words "and say to him," which are added in the Septuagint, naturally suggest themselves. The question, What hast thou to do here, and whom hast thou to bury here? is put with a glance at Shebna's approaching fate. This building of a sepulchre was quite unnecessary; Shebna himself would never lie there, nor would he be able to bury his relations there. The threefold repetition of the word "here" (poh) is of very incisive force: it is not here that he will stay - here, where he is even now placing himself on a bier, as if it were his home. The participles חצבי and חקקי (with chirek compaginis: see on Psalm 113:1-9) are also part of the address. The third person which is introduced here is syntactically regular, although the second person is used as well (Isaiah 23:2-3; Habakkuk 2:15). Rock-tombs, i.e., a collection of tombs in the form of chambers in the rocks, were indeed to be found to the east of Jerusalem, on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, and in the wall of rock to the west of Jerusalem; but the word mârom ("high up"), in connection with the threefold "here" (poh), and the contemptuous "that administrator there," warrants us in assuming that mârom refers to "the height of the sepulchres of the sons of David" (2 Chronicles 32:33), i.e., the eastern slope of Zion, where the tombs of the kings were excavated in the rocks.

So high did Shebna stand, and so great did he think himself, that he helped after his death to rest among kings, and by no means down at the bottom. But how he deceived himself! Jehovah would hurl him far away (tūl, to be long; pilpel, to throw or stretch out to a distance),

(Note: In the later form of the language, this verbal stem signifies generally to move onward; hence tiyyūl, motion, or a walk, and metaltelı̄n, furniture, i.e., moveable goods.)

גּבר טלטלה. This is either equivalent to גּבר טלטלת טלטלה, with a man's throw (Rosenmller), or גּבר is in apposition to Jehovah (Gesenius and Knobel). As taltēlah stands too baldly if the latter be adopted, for which reason the vocative rendering "O man," which is found in the Syriac, does not commend itself, and as such an elliptical combination of the absolute with the genitive is by no means unusual (e.g., Proverbs 22:21; Jeremiah 10:10), we give the preference to the former. Jerome's rendering, "as they carry off a cock," which he obtained from the mouth of his Hebraeus, cannot be taken into consideration at all; although it has been retained by Schegg (see Geiger, Lesestcke aus der Mischna, p. 106). The verb עטה does not give a suitable sense as used in Jeremiah 43:12, where it merely signifies to cover one's self, not to wrap up; nor can we obtain one from 1 Samuel 15:19; 1 Samuel 25:14; 1 Samuel 14:32, since the verbal forms which we find there, and which are to be traced to עיט (from which comes עיט, a bird of prey), and not to עטה, signify "to rush upon anything" (when construed with either בּ or אל). It is better, therefore, to take it, as Michaelis, Rosenmller, Knobel, and others do, in the sense of grasping or laying hold of. On the other hand, tzânaph, which is applied in other instances to the twisting of a turban, also signifies to wrap up, make up into a bundle, or coil up. And caddūr, like tzenēphâh, signifies that into which Shebna would be coiled up; for the Caph is not to be taken in a comparative sense, since the use of caddūr in the sense of globus or sphaera is established by the Talmud (see at Job 15:24), whereas the Arabic daur only means gyrus, periodus. Shebna is made into a round coil, or ball, which is hurled into a land stretching out on both sides, i.e., over the broad surface of Mesopotamia, where he flies on farther and farther, without meeting with any obstacle whatever.

(Note: Compare the old saying, "The heart of man is an apple driven by a tempest over an open plain.")

He comes thither to die - he who, by his exaggeration and abuse of his position, has not only dishonoured his office, but the Davidic court as well; and thither do his state carriages also come. There can be no doubt that it was by the positive command of Jehovah that Isaiah apostrophized the proud and wealthy Shebna with such boldness and freedom as this. And such freedom was tolerated too. The murder or incarceration of a prophet was a thing of rare occurrence in the kingdom of Judah before the time of Manasseh. In order to pave the way for the institution of another in Shebna's office, the punishment of deposition, which cannot be understood in any other way than as preceding the punishment of banishment, is placed at the close of the first half of the prophecy. The subject in Isaiah 22:19 is not the king, as Luzzatto supposes, but Jehovah, as in Isaiah 22:19 (compare Isaiah 10:12).

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