Isaiah 22; 24-26; 28-30

With this lesson we have skipped chapters 7-21 of Isaiah (many of which are quoted in the Book of Mormon, so that may be part of the reason) and moved on to chapter 22.  The chapters covered in this lesson contain many symbols and themes that we can interpret as prefiguring the mission and wonders that Jesus Christ would perform. The themes of the judgment and future redemption of Israel are also continued.  The fact that Jehovah/Yahweh is the Savior of the House of Israel is emphasized.

Again, I won’t attempt to make a full commentary on every verse, but will try to look at some of the key ideas.

Isaiah 22

The prophet Isaiah continues with the theme of the judgments that will befall Jerusalem because of their wickedness: they will be attacked and led away captive.

With all these judgments that are sent upon Judah, it is clear that the Lord is calling on them to repent — to weep and to mourn for their awful predicament brought upon them by their sins (Isa. 22:12).  Their response, however, is the opposite — they see the impending destruction as a call to party hard, throwing a big feast and declaring: “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (Isa. 22:13; we see this same sentiment expressed by the wicked in 2 Ne. 28:8). This is not the reaction that the Lord was hoping for.

The Lord declares that their sins will not be purged until they die, they will be taken captive, and then we get this rather unusual (but pretty cool) judgment:

He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country (Isa. 22:18)

This was actually spoken through the prophet to a person named Shebna, an overseer or steward in the royal palace.  The Lord informs Shebna that he will be removed from his high station, because of his iniquities, and will be replaced by a righteous servant whom the Lord trusts — Eliakim the son of Hilkiah (who was apparently the High Priest at the time, 2 Kings 22; note that 2 Kings 18 describes Eliakim as being over the household/palace while Shebna is the scribe).

Eliakim would inherit the royal regalia and authority that was taken from Shebna:

Isaiah 22:21–24 21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, 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. 22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 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. 24 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.

I can’t claim to know the specifics of the royal/political dealings that are being spoken of here, but to me its clear that Eliakim was being put in a very high royal office — perhaps a position of vizier, or official representative of the king. Whatever his specific position was, the language used to describe it is, in some ways, that of a king. We should keep in mind that the ideal role of the king was that of messiah – an anointed one — a type that prefigured the role of Jesus Christ.  I think the role of royal vizier is very appropriate for the idea of messiah as the Davidic kings were understood to rule only under the authority of God, the true King.

Compare the above role given to Eliakim with the famous messianic verses of Isaiah 9 (which refers to the role of the Davidic king in Jerusalem):

Isaiah 9:6–7 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Both of these sets of verses demonstrate the prevailing royal ideology of the time — this is who the Messiah was expected to be — both king (vizier) and priest.  The Davidic kings were also priests — after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4) The robe placed on Eliakim was both a royal and a priestly robe, and the girdle/sash mentioned is the same word used to describe the sash of the temple priests’ apparel.1

Saying that he had the key of the House of David on his shoulder (v. 22) is similar to saying that “the government shall be upon his shoulder” — it refers to the authority that he would have in the royal palace. The man who had the key had the authority. Matthew Brown, in his book The Gate of Heaven, gives a great description of the significance of this key:

One symbolic object that was connected with royal apparel was the “key of the house of David.” This symbol was placed upon the shoulder of the robe of a royal official…”The heavy key of the palace, carried on a loop slung over the shoulder, gave both symbolic and actual sole power to lock and unlock the principal door.”87 Some biblical commentators suggest that instead of a physical key hanging from the shoulder, the “key of the house of David” may have been something like “the figure of a key…worn on the shoulder as an epaulette is now, as a sign of office and authority.”88 In one rabbinical commentary this object is connected with the temple in that it is identified as the “key to the sanctuary and dominion of the house of David.”89 The stated purpose of this key was to enable one to “open, and none shall shut; and…shut, and none shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). Because this key is mentioned in a passage that is widely held to be Messianic, some scholars feel that it too was somehow connected with the Messiah.90 And indeed the Lord Jesus Christ declared Himself to be “he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7).2

It is also very interesting that Eliakim was designated to be fastened as “a nail in a sure place” (Isa. 22:23; cf. Ezra 9:8). If you are going to hang something on a nail, that nail needs to be hammered into a sure place, or it is in danger of falling. Eliakim was to be a nail in a sure place that the “glory of his father’s house” could be hanged on.  All his father’s offspring, from the least to the greatest, would benefit from the strength of his position.  Interestingly, there is (or was) a practice at the Western Wall (of the ancient temple complex) in Jerusalem of inserting nails into the cracks of the wall–a practice based on a reading of the above cited verses.

We see much value in this verse for our understanding of the role of Jesus Christ and his atonement. The idea of a “nail in a sure place” can be applied to the fact that, and the manner in which, Christ was nailed to the cross. An article of relevance to this comparison can be found here.  Christ would also figuratively be the nail fastened in the sure place upon which the “glory of his father’s house” could be hanged. All of his Father’s offspring could look to him as a secure, dependable source of blessings.

Chapters 24

In chapter 24, we hear more about the tribulations that would come upon the sinful inhabitants of the earth. We read that these terrible destructions will come upon them primarily because they have failed to keep the covenants of the Lord and have apostatized from correct principles and practices.

5The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

6Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

This is a recurring theme in the Scriptures — the breaking of the covenant with Yahweh brings a curse.  The people who were eating, drinking, and being merry are suddenly not having such a good time. The hour of the Lord’s judgment is finally upon them.

20The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. 21And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. 22And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.

After the great destruction that is brought upon the earth, those who held high positions will be brought low.  The phrase that reads in the KJV “punish the host of the high ones that are on high” is rather difficult to interpret.  It seems to indicate that God will also punish the angelic host that is in the heavens as well as the kings that are on the earth. This could possibly be referring to the ancient belief that each nation was aided by a specific divine being, a heavenly “shepherd”, a son of God that was given stewardship over that nation.  Yahweh was the “angel/God” that was given Israel as his stewardship.  We can read about this division of the nations among the sons of God in Deuteronomy 32:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. ((I’m citing the RSV translation which is based on a manuscript of Deuteronomy from Qumran, which is similar to the Septuagint translation, and not on the common Masoretic Text version on which the KJV translation is based.))

We see an account of the judgment of these sons of God, or gods, in the 82nd Psalm (RSV):

Psalm 82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I say, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!

In the end of this psalm we see these divine beings judged just like men on earth. Because they have not ruled well in their stewardship, they will lose their inheritance and all nations will, in the end, belong to the God of Israel.

We also see (Isa. 24:23) that the Sun and the Moon are considered to be among this heavenly host that will be judged at the Lord’s coming. They too will be ashamed. Compare this to Deuteronomy 4:19, where we see that there was in Israel a tendency to want to worship these heavenly bodies:

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

In all the ancient world, including, it would seem, in Israel as well, there was a belief that the sun, moon, and stars were, or at least represented, the host of heaven — divine beings.  I really couldn’t say if what is being referred to here is, according to LDS belief, the hosts of heaven that followed Lucifer or not, but that may be a possible interpretation. But in the last days, the world would be made to recognize that Yahweh rules over all of these and is the true God of Heaven and Earth.

The scripture (v. 22) tells us that all of these (presumably the host of heaven and the kings of the earth) would be gathered and thrown into a pit, or a prison.  Reference to the pit often signifies Sheol, the realm of the dead. In other words, they would be made captive in “spirit prison.” However, God is merciful and promises that after many days, they would be visited.  We can see a fulfillment of this promise promised in John 5:25:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

We also see this idea in 1 Peter 3, speaking of Christ:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;20Which sometime were disobedient,…

To be continued…

(Unfortunately, this week was really crazy and I have elaborated more on this post than I had expected, so I’ll have to finish the rest of it in the very near future — I feel like I wrote almost exactly the same thing at the end of my first post for last week’s lesson…)

  1. See Matthew Brown, The Gate of Heaven (American Fork, Ut.: Covenant, 1999), 127
  2. Ibid., 128. I would also note that in ancient Greece, the kleidouchos was the temple priest or priestess that held the key to the temple, and was often depicted as having the key draped over the shoulder. See also 1 Chr. 9:26–27

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