William J.

Hamblin
Chapters 21-23 continue with
additional oracles against the nations.
Broadly, the basic form of the other oracles
agains the nations continues here:
condemnation for sin, threat of devastation,
and hope for the future.
The only temple motif in chapter 21 is
the overthrow of the idols of Babylon when
the city is destroyed by the Elamites and
Medes (21:2). “Fallen, fallen is Babylon, and
all the idols of her gods lie smashed on the
ground!” (21:9b), a theme developed in
Revelation 14:8, 18:2. The powerlessness of
idols is an important theme in Isaiah with two
aspects: Yahweh should not be worshipped in
the form of a man-made idol, while the
foreign gods should not be worshipped at all.
From the temple perspective the problem was
both worshipping foreign idols and
worshipping Yahweh in the form of an idol in
the temple. The purging of idols from the
temple--whether of foreign gods or Yahweh--
was a fundamental part of ancient temple
reform (2 Chr 34:3, 7).
Temple Themes in Isaiah 21-23 1 Monday, October 4, 2010
Hamblin of Jerusalem http://hamblinofjerusalem.blogspot.com/
Templ e Themes i n Is ai ah
OUTLINE:
Oracles Against the Nations
ISAIAH 21
Oracles against the
“wilderness by the
sea” (Babylon) (21:1-10),
Edom (21:11-12), and
Arabia (21:13-17).
ISAIAH 22
The “Valley of
Vision” (Jerusalem)
(22:1-25)
ISAIAH 23
Oracle against Tyre
(23:1-18)
Temple Themes in Isaiah 21-23
William J. Hamblin
The historical context of the first half
of chapter twenty-two may be the Assyrian
siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE. The imagery
in the first verses describe a siege and assault
on walls (22:5). The key clues are the
mention of the construction of water conduits
(22:9, 11; 2 Kgs 20:20), and the expansion of
fortifications (22:10), which are probably
related to the construction of Hezekiah’s
tunnel and the “long wall.”
The second half of chapter 22 focuses on
the internal politics of the royal court of
Judah at this time. Shebna, the royal steward
is to be expelled from his office for
mismanagement (22:15-19).
1
Shebna is to be
replaced by another courtier, Eliakim (cf. 2
Kgs 18:18). Although this is a royal
appointment, rather than a priestly
consecration, the description of Eliakim’s
investiture contains a number of temple-
related motifs (22:20-25 ESV):
20 In that day I will call my servant
Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will
clothe him with your robe, and will bind
your sash on him, and will commit your
[Shebna’s] authority to his hand. And he
shall be a father to the inhabitants of
Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22
Temple Themes in Isaiah 21-23 2 Monday, October 4, 2010
Hamblin of Jerusalem http://hamblinofjerusalem.blogspot.com/
1
The tomb of a royal steward with an inscription was found in Silwan, southeast of the Old City
of Jerusalem; many scholars think it may be the tomb of Shebna mentioned in the 22:16; it is
certainly the type of aristocratic tomb Isaiah is condemning.
Hezekiah’s tunnel, dug around 701 BCE to
divert water from the Gihon spring south to
the pool of Siloam, alluded to in Isa 22:9.
Hezekiah’s “Long Wall” built against the
Assyrian threat in the late eighth century BC,
and mentioned in Isaiah 22:10.
And I will place on his shoulder the key of
the house of David. He shall open, and
none shall shut; and he shall shut, and
none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him
like a peg in a secure place, and he will
become a throne of honor to his father’s
house.
This passage includes the following elements
of royal investiture:
1- Eliakim is called by Yahweh (22:20).
2- Investiture is symbolized by clothing
with robe (:‰::: kuttonet) and sash (c::×
abnet) (22:21a).
2
In ancient societies, special
clothing was often symbolic of special status.
3- Authority is
placed in his hand
(22:21b). This may
simply be a metaphor,
but transfer of
authority and covenant
were frequently
ritually manifest by a
handclasp,
symbolically
transferring the authority of the king to his
minister, or God to a king or priest (see Ps
73:23; Isa 45:1).
4- The key of the house of David is placed
on his shoulder (22:22a). The royal steward
was literally given the “keys of the kingdom,”
that is to say, keys to the buildings, palace,
treasury, armory, temple, etc. He was given a
sash or rope over his shoulder on which these
keys were hung. With these keys, he alone
had the authority to open and close all doors
in the kingdom: “He shall open, and none
shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall
open” (22:22b). This concept is allegorically
transformed into Christ’s keys of the kingdom
of heaven which are given to Peter Mt 16:19.
Likewise, Christ as the cosmic Davidic key-
bearer appears in Rev 3:7-8. The entire
metaphorical concept of divinely bestowed
keys of the kingdom of heaven derives from
this passage in Isaiah.
5- Eliakim is a
metaphorical throne
and a “peg (yāted) in a
secure place” (¡:׉:
c·¬:: ¬:· = yāted be-
māqōm ne’emān =
KJV: “nail in a sure
place”). Yāted is a
large peg or nail, frequently a tent peg, most
notably the tent pegs that hold up the
Tabernacle.
3
Thus the phrase “nail in a sure
place” probably alludes to placing the tent
pegs of the Tabernacle in solid ground or rock
so that the Tabernacle--here metaphorically
Temple Themes in Isaiah 21-23 3 Monday, October 4, 2010
Hamblin of Jerusalem http://hamblinofjerusalem.blogspot.com/
2
Both of these terms are related to temple clothing. Priestly robes are often described as
kuttonet: Ex 28:4, 39f, 29:5, 8, 39:27, 40:14; Lev 8:7, 13, 10:5, 16:4. Abnet is usually a term for
the priestly sash or girdle wrapped around the waist: Ex 28:4, 39f, 29:9, 39:29, Lev 8:7, 13.
3
Ex 27:19, 35:18, 38:20, 31, 39:40.
the “house/tent of David” (22:22a)--will
remain standing. If the nail is placed in an
insecure place it will be pulled out out when
weight is placed on it. The term translated
“secure” or “sure” is ne’emān (¡:׉:), is more
literally a “trustworthy”
or “faithful” place. The
link of this metaphor to
the Tabernacle is further
emphasized in Ezra 9:8,
which alludes to this
passage in Isaiah, but
with a difference: “give
to us a peg in his holy
place” (·:√¬∂¬ c·¬:: ¬:·
= yāted be-māqōm
qādeš-ū). Thus, it is the
peg that rests in the
“holy place” (Temple/
Tabernacle) that is “faithful/trustworthy.”
The other aspect of this metaphor is a peg
securely placed in a wall will hold weight
hung on it, while an insecure peg will
collapse under the same weight (22:25).
The oracle in chapter 23 is against Tyre,
probably alluding to the Assyrian threat. Tyre
is threatened with destruction, to be
“forgotten” for seventy years (23:15)--
perhaps broadly related to the seventy year
prophecy of the restoration of the temple by
Jeremiah (Jer 25:11). When, after these
seventy years, Tyre’s trade revives, Tyre’s
wealth will be “holy (:¬¬ qodeš) to
Yahweh” (23:18a). This is a variant on
Isaiah’s theme we have seen elsewhere that
all the nations will one day send temple-
tribute to Yahweh. It is interesting to note in
this regard that in the time of Christ the
temple-tax could only be paid in the coinage
of Tyre
4
--hence the need for money-changers
at the temple. Likewise, Tyre will provide
“fine clothing” to those who “dwell before
Yahweh” (23:18b), probably an allusion to
the cloth used to make the priest’s robes for
temple service.
Temple Themes in Isaiah 21-23 4 Monday, October 4, 2010
Hamblin of Jerusalem http://hamblinofjerusalem.blogspot.com/
4
Mishnah, Bekhoroth 8:7; Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 11a.
Tyrian half-shekel (AD 37), the only coin accepted by the Temple
for payment of the Jewish temple-tax.

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