In Chapter 22 Isaiah prophesies concerning the final few years leading up to the time when Jerusalem would be destroyed. Her people would be attacked, scourged and carried away captive into Babylon. Chapter 22 also prophesies concerning the Messiah, who will hold the key of the house of David, inherit glory, and be fastened as a nail in a sure place. In this chapter Isaiah refers to Jerusalem alternately as “the valley of vision,” “the daughter of my people,” and “the city of David.”
Verse 1 begins: “The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?” “The burden of the valley of vision” means “a message of doom to Jerusalem.” “Valley of vision” refers to Jerusalem as the home of prophets. The housetops provided a clear view to the people of what transpired while offering a measure of safety from invading armies. The housetops were also a customary place for mourning.1
In verse 2, “Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.”2 “Full of stirs” means full of noise. The slain men of the city are dead as to things of righteousness, rather than being slain with the sword. “Joyous city,” together with “tumultuous city,” connotes scenes of revelry and celebration.
In verse 3, Isaiah foresees: “All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far.” The rulers and others with skills useful to the invading Babylonian conquerors would be preserved but bound and taken captive. “Archers” refers to the invading army, or components of it.
In verse 4 Isaiah mourns upon having seen in vision the invasion and ravaging of the city of Jerusalem: “Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.” He sorrows, despite the wickedness that repulses him. Isaiah’s reference here to Jerusalem as “the daughter of my people” reflects the beauty of the beloved city.
Verse 5 begins: “For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.” Isaiah acknowledged, despite his sorrow expressed in verse 4, that Jerusalem’s destruction is “by the Lord GOD of hosts.” “Breaking down the walls, and…crying to the mountains” elaborate the destruction and anguish.
Verse 6 describes the alliance of Jerusalem’s old adversaries with Babylon in bringing down Jerusalem: “And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.” Elam is Persia and Kir is the capital city of Moab.
In verse 7, Isaiah describes the fearful invasion and siege of the destroying host: “And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.”3 Horsemen, or mounted warriors, would position themselves at the gate of Jerusalem to control entry and exit.
Verse 8 describes the total humiliation of Judah: “And he discovered the covering of Judah” is similar in meaning to “discover their secret parts,”4 a Hebrew idiom meaning “put them to shame.” “And thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.” The meaning is that Zedekiah would seek after military strength rather than trusting in the Lord.
The house of the forest was a secondary palace built by Solomon on the Temple Mount, used for storing armor and weapons.5 It was called the house of the forest because it was constructed of materials imported from the forests of Lebanon.
Verse 9 refers to “breaking down the walls” of the city mentioned in verse 5: “Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.” The defenders would try to preserve a supply of water for the city; depriving a city’s inhabitants of water is an effective maneuver during a siege. The lower pool was built during the reign of Hezekiah.6
Verse 10 describes additional measures taken by the city’s defenders: “And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.” To counter the invaders’ efforts to break down the wall from the outside, houses in Jerusalem were torn down in desperation to provide materials to strengthen the wall from the inside.
In verse 11, Isaiah predicts further efforts to preserve a water supply during the siege: “Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.7 Jerusalem’s defenders have not turned to the Lord.
Verses 12 and 13 cite the Lord’s call to repentance and Jerusalem’s subsequent rejection of that call, persisting in revelry as usual. Verse 12 begins: “And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth.” Sackcloth, mourning, and cutting or shaving of hair are outward signs of repentance.
Verse 13 describes Jerusalem’s ongoing revelry: “And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.” Their partying was in defiance of the Lord’s command to repent, delivered by the prophet.
The last phrase of verse 13 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament: “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.”8
Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, paraphrases and expands, describing the mindset of the wicked:
Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.9
The wicked rationalize against repentance.
In verse 14, Isaiah testifies against the unrepentant inhabitants of Jerusalem: “And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.”10
In verses 15 through 19 the Lord issues a personal warning to Shebna through Isaiah. Shebna was a scribe and treasurer from the household of King Hezekiah who witnessed the blasphemous speech of Rab-Shakeh, servant to Assyrian king Sennacherib, and succeeding events that culminated in the Lord slaying 185,000 of the Assyrian host.11 Verse 15 commences: “Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say—” Shebna was in charge of the king’s palace and its business affairs.
Verse 16, continuing the sentence of the previous verse, commences the Lord’s chastisement of Shebna: “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?”12 The Lord warns him that his position in the king’s house would ultimately result in his death—that his efforts at establishing his position as the head of the king’s house were like hewing himself a sepulchre out of the rock.
Verses 17 through 19 continue the Lord’s warning to Shebna. Verse 17 states: “Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.” “Cover thee” may have reference to the practice of blindfolding prisoners during transport; many of those carried captive were blindfolded.13
Verse 18 continues: “He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.” “Glory,” as used here, means political strength.14 Shebna would be carried into Assyria, where he would spend the rest of his life.
Verse 19 concludes: “And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.”15 Shebna would be removed from his elevated position in the house of the king by the Lord.
Verses 20 and 21 describe a time when Eliakim, a servant of Hezekiah who also witnessed the blasphemous speech of Rab-Shakeh the servant of Assyrian king Sennacherib, would be established in Shebna’s position. Verse 20 begins: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah.”
Verse 21 states: “And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle,” meaning the honor that once belonged to Shebna. “And I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.”16 Shebna’s position over the house of the king would be given to Eliakim.
In verses 22 through 25, the point of interest suddenly shifts forward over 100 years to another with the same name—Eliakim the son of Josiah, who would become king. The Hebrew meaning of the name Eliakim is “God raises” or “God sets up.”17 Also in verses 22 through 25, this symbolic name becomes a type for the Savior.
Verse 22 states: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” meaning both Eliakim the son of Josiah, and Jesus Christ, the Messiah: “so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” This pair of phrases refers to the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, not possessed by Eliakim the king but held by Jesus Christ.18 For Eliakim, these phrases describe absolute temporal authority.
John the Revelator, in the New Testament, quotes verse 22: “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.”19 Here John refers both to the Davidic heirship and the holy priesthood possessed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 23 states, referring both to Eliakim and the Lord Jesus Christ: “And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.” Regarding Christ this has reference to the crucifixion; but regarding Eliakim the king—a predecessor of Christ as heir to the throne of David—it refers to his becoming firmly established in power. To the Lord’s followers at the time of His Second Coming when He will assume leadership as heir to David’s throne, their knowledge of the significance of this phrase will serve as a test of their discipleship.20
Verses 22 and 23 contain a chiasm:
A: (22) And the key of the house of David
B: will I lay upon his shoulder;
C: so he shall open,
D: and none shall shut;
D: and he shall shut,
C: and none shall open.
B: (23) And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place;
A: and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.
Both Eliakim and Christ would be heirs to the throne of David; both would possess great power.
Verse 24 again refers to both Eliakim the king and the coming Messiah: “And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons,” or, all that pertains to the throne of David, even down to the small household vessels. “And they shall hang upon him” is a strange phrase to be used in describing the attributes of kingship to be possessed by both; but with reference to the Lord Jesus Christ it refers to His being hung upon the cross.
Verse 24 contains a chiasm:
A: (24) And they shall hang upon him
B: all the glory of his father’s house,
C: the offspring
C: and the issue,
B: all vessels of small quantity,
A: from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.
Vessels of the king’s house are symbolic of the glory, or authority, of both the king and the coming Messiah.
Verse 25 concludes: “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.” Regarding Christ, this refers to His being taken down from the cross following His death, but regarding Eliakim it refers to his being removed from his position as king of Judah, being placed in fetters and being carried away captive into Babylon.21 Regarding Christ, “the burden that was placed” upon him refers to the inestimable burden of sin that He took upon Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane which, upon His death, would be removed from all those who would repent. Isaiah, regarding Christ’s Atonement, says in Chapter 53: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”22
Verse 25 contains a chiasm:
A: (25) In that day, saith the LORD of hosts,
B: shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed,
C: and be cut down,
C: and fall;
B: and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off:
A: for the LORD hath spoken it.
“Saith the LORD of hosts” matches “for the LORD hath spoken it;” Isaiah bears a strong testimony that these words come from God and not from man.
1. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 196.
2. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: What aileth thee now/full of stirs/tumultuous city/joyous city/thy slain men are not slain with the sword/nor dead in battle.
3. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: Valleys/full/of chariots/horsemen/in array/gate.
4. Isaiah 3:17.
5. 1 Kings 7:2.
6. 2 Kings 20:20.
7. See Isaiah 7:3.
8. 1 Corinthians 15:32.
9. 2 Nephi 28:7-8.
10. Verses 1 through 14 contain a large-scale chiasm: What aileth thee now/a joyous city/I will weep bitterly/for it is a day of trouble/in the valley of vision/Elam bare the quiver/Kir uncovered the shield/thy choicest valleys/he discovered the covering of Judah/call to weeping/joy and gladness/ this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die.
11. See 2 Kings 18:18-37 and 2 kings 19.
12. Verse 16 contains a chiasm: What hast thou here/whom hast thou here/hewed thee out a sepulchre here/that heweth him out/a sepulchre on high/graveth an habitation for himself.
13. See Ezekiel 12:3-6, 11-13.
14. See Isaiah 8:7; 10:18; 16:14; 17:3-4; 20:5; 21:16-17; 66:12.
15. Verses 18 and 19 contain a chiasm: Violently turn and toss thee/there shalt thou die/chariots of thy glory/shall be the shame of thy lord’s house/I will drive thee from thy station/shall he pull thee down.
16. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: And it shall come to pass/I will call my servant Eliakim/clothe him/ strengthen him/I will commit thy government into his hand/he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
17. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 471, p. 45.
18. See 1 Kings 17:1; Malachi 4:5; Helaman 10:7; Doctrine and Covenants 1:8; Doctrine and Covenants 132:46 .
19. Revelation 3:7.
20. See Isaiah 49:16 and pertinent commentary. See also Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 32.
21. See 2 Chronicles 36:4-9.
22. Isaiah 53:5.