Isaiah 22:20

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.


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."


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.

My servant Eliakim.
Who was he? Nobody can tell. Where else is he referred to in Holy Writ? Probably nowhere. Was he then a man without renown? That depends upon what you mean by renown, for he is indicated in the text by terms which imply infinite fame, Say "Eliakim," and nobody knows him; say "My servant Eliakim," and obscurity rises up into eminence unrivalled and never to be surpassed.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Renown, then, may be nominal, or it may be moral. Nominal renown is a thing that comes and goes, a coloured cloud, a bubble on the river, a noise in the air, nothing that is substantial, nothing that is beneficent in itself; but moral renown, the renown of goodness, the fame of character, the reputation associated with deeds of sacrifice or valour — that is a renown which lives in heaven.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The language here used about Eliakim finds its perfect fulfilment only in Him whose supreme prerogative it is so to open that no man can shut, even Jesus Christ.

(B. Blake, B. D.)

(ver. 22) consists not merely in supervision of the royal chambers, but also in the decision as to who was and who was not to be received into the king's service.

(F. Delitzsch.)

A nation's rulers (Zechariah 10:4) stand in the same relation to the community as a tent peg to the tent which it holds firmly and keeps up. As the tent peg is driven into the ground in such a way that a person can, if necessary, sit on it, so by development of the metaphor the peg is changed into a seat of honour. As a splendid chair adorns a room, so Eliakim graces his hitherto undistinguished family. The closely connected thought, that the members of his family in order to attain to honours would sit on this chair, is expressed by a different figure. Eliakim is once more presented to us as a "nail," now, however, as a high one, somewhat like a pole on which coats are hung up, or as a peg driven into the wall at a distance from the ground. On this pole or peg they hang — i.e., one hangs or there hangs — the whole heavy lot (as in chap. 8:7) of the family of Eliakim. The prophet proceeds to split up this family into its male and female components, as the juxtaposition of masculine and feminine nouns shows.

(F. Delitzsch.)

I. ELIAKIM'S CALL unto his honourable employment, whereby is represented Christ's call unto His mediatory work and office (ver. 20). Christ did not run unsent.

II. THE BADGES OF HONOUR bestowed upon Him in consequence of His call (vers. 21, 22).

1. He is clothed with a royal robe. So Christ is clothed (Revelation 1) with a garment down to the foot, that serves to cover and adorn Himself and all His members.

2. He is strengthened with a girdle, a girdle of truth and faithfulness; He is always ready girded for the execution of His work.

3. He hath the keys of the house committed to Him, and the sole government; He opens, and none shuts, etc. The keys of the heart, and the keys of hell and death are in His hand.

III. HIS CONFIRMATION IN HIS HONOURABLE OFFICE AND STATION. He is "fastened as a nail in a sure place." Christ is nailed in His mediatory work and office by an eternal decree (Psalm 2:7), and by the oath of God (Psalm 110:4); and all the powers of hell and earth shall never loose this nail.

IV. We are here told TO WHAT ADVANTAGE HE SHOULD DISCHARGE HIS TRUST. "He shall be for a glorious throne to His Father's house." God manifested in the flesh is the throne of grace to which we are called to come with boldness; and this may well be called a glorious throne," because there is, in this dispensation of grace, the brightest display of the glory of God. Christ is the ornament of His Father's house, the brightness of His glory, and the brightest crown that ever adorned the human nature.

V. CHRIST'S PREEMINENCE IN GOD'S FAMILY, and the dependence of all the domestics upon Him (ver. 24).

1. The designation given unto the Church of God; "the house of the God and Father of Christ."

2. The nature and quality of the house; there is "glory" in it.

3. The high and honourable station that Christ hath in His Father's house; He is the great Master household, and the whole family is committed to Him, and is said to "hang upon Him as a nail fastened in a sure place."

4. The common consent of the whole family unto His management; they shall hang upon Him all the glory, etc.; i.e., the Father of the family, and the whole offspring of the house, concur amicably that He should have the sole management.

5. Some account of the furniture of the house, committed to the management of the great New Testament Eliakim.

(1)The glory.

(2)The offspring and issue.

(3)The vessels of small quantity, from vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.By which we are to understand believers, for they are the children of God, and the seed of Christ by regeneration; and likewise called "vessels," because they are the recipient subjects of Divine grace, which is the wine, milk, and honey of the house.

(E. Erskine.)

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