And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:…
I. A SERVANT OF JEHOVAH. So he is characterized. The title may be of personal, spiritual, import, or of official; or both may be blended, as in the case of Isaiah himself (Isaiah 20:3); or there may be a separation of the two. Unhappy for a nation or for a Church if the true servants of the Eternal, the true devotees of right and truth, are excluded from the places of honor and influence; or if the "ministers and stewards" of Divine mysteries are so only technically and officially. The true servant must in any case be called. He must not push himself forward, but must be drawn forward by invisible, Divine leading. He does not "achieve greatness," but it is "thrust upon him." "In that day I will call to my servant." The words suggestively remind us of that principle of Divine selection which runs through the order of the world. In this, in every day, the "right men" are wanted for every place. In this day, too, there is much excitement about education. What men can do by the instruction of the intellect is very limited; in quiet places and in hidden ways, unknown to the schools, the Almighty is growing men and training men till the time is ripe for their service, and his call is heard.
II. HIS INVESTITURE.
1. It is the solemn, symbolical way of transferring an office. We think of Elijah finding the son of Shaphat ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and casting his mantle upon him as he passed by (1 Kings 19:19). That was the prophet's simpler dress; this is the tunic of a man of rank and state. The girdle was an essential article of Oriental dress, worn by all classes and by both sexes. The fineness of its quality denoted the rank of the wearer. Here it was probably similar to that worn by the priests (Exodus 28:39; Exodus 39:29). Josephus describes it as made of linen so fine that it looked like the slough of a snake, and it was embroidered with flowers of scarlet, blue, purple ('Ant.,' 3:7. 2). This is the only place where the word abneth is used for any but a priestly girdle.
2. The girdle is in other ways symbolic. Jehovah "girds kings with a girdle," and "ungirds them according to his pleasure" (Job 12:18). Thus to be "girded with strength" is a symbol of Divine invigoration (1 Samuel 2:4); to be "girded with gladness," of refreshment (Psalm 30:11). "Have your loins girt about with truth" (Ephesians 6:14); "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end" - are noble Christian exhortations, carrying with them all the force of the old Oriental imagery. To be ungirt is a way of describing nervelessness, lack of strength and manhood; and the very picture of the good servant is of one "whose loins are girt about, whose lamp is burning."
III. THE SPIRIT AND FUNCTIONS OF THE STEWARD.
1. He is to be like a father to the people. An appropriate term for the chief man of a town or the prime minister of a country (1 Chronicles 2:24; 1 Chronicles 4:5; cf. 9:6; Job 29:16; Judges 5:7). So the Roman senators were patres. It speaks of benevolence united with wisdom and experience - a rule both firm and loving. The great Father in heaven must be the sublime ideal before us in all positions of rule and influence on earth.
2. He is to bear the key. This is an ancient badge of office; Callimachus represents the priestess of Demeter as having a key upon her shoulder ('Hymn. ad Cererem,' 1.45), and in the 'Supplices' (291) of AEschylus, in like manner, Io, priestess of Hera, is "key-holder" of the goddess. For illustration the following interesting passage may be cited from Roberts: "How much delighted was I when I first saw the people, especially the Moors, going along the streets, with each his key on his shoulder! The handle is sometimes made of brass, though sometimes of silver, and is often nicely worked in a device of filigree. The way it is carried is to have the corner of a kerchief tied to a ring; the key is then placed on the shoulder, and the kerchief hangs down in front. At other times they have a bunch of large keys, and then they have half on one side of the shoulder and half on the other. For a man thus to march along with a largo key on his shoulder, shows at once that he is a person of consequence. 'Roman is in great favor with the modehir, for he now carries the key.' 'Whose key have you got on your shoulder?' 'I shall carry my key on my own shoulder.'" (For the application to the apostles and to the Lord himself, see Matthew 16:19; Revelation 3:7.)
3. His tenure of office. The nails must be those hooks or spikes which were worked into the mortar of the walls of houses while still soft, answering the purpose of cramp-irons to hold the walls together, and pegs to hang things on. So, in temples, armor, shields, helmets, swords, spoils of war, were hung on such nails. An appropriate image these of stability, of (to use a modern coinage) reliableness. All may depend upon a man such as this; all "know where to find him;" sacred and precious trusts may be reposed on him without fear of disappointment. So in Zechariah 10:4 the "peg means a prince.
IV. ABUSES OF STATION AND OFFICE. There is another side" to everything good in human institutions. "All the honor of his father's house" will be found hanging upon Eliakim. All his humble relations - the "small fry," as we say; the "small vessels," as the prophet calls them - will look up to him, and. he will shed luster anti give support to all. The allusion is to vessels of a small kind - basins, leathern bottles, earthen pitchers. We must respect the judgment of the majority of commentators, who see a turn in the prophecy about Eliakim here. There is an impression of nepotism, of favoritism; and it seems that the firm "peg" is, after all, to be loosened from its place. And if so, how instructive the passage! How is it that man, once high in esteem and general confidence, came to be weighed in the balances and found wanting? Some weakness of flesh and blood, some undue leaning to one's kith and kin, some dement of partiality or favoritism, is often the cause. "His family makes a wrong use of him; and he is more yielding than he ought to be, and makes a wrong use of his office to favor them! He therefore falls, and brings down all with him that hung upon the peg, and who have brought him to ruin through the rapacity with which they have grasped at prosperity" (Delitzsch). Whatever view may be taken of the passage, 'twere well to remind ourselves of the old lesson, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." God. raises up and brings low. Let us walk softly, nor boast ourselves if for a time we flourish like a green bay tree. Our own weakness may, like a worm, be gnawing at our root. The "pitted speck" in the "garnered fruit" may be spreading, the "little rift" in the lute be widening.
"More the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests sailing overhead." Let us be content with obscurity, with fallentis semita vitae, seeing that station brings out men's weaknesses no less than their strength, and the loftier the columnar height of the great, the more overwhelming the fall. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: