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Eliakim or Shebna? Isaiah Devotional Journal 44

Simultaneously posted by Christina Wilson on  at Eliakim or Shebna? Isaiah Devotional Journal 44 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 22:15-25     Link to LXE Modernized

Does Isaiah 22:25 Refer to Eliakim or Shebna?

Eliakim or Shebna? Today’s readers have a habit of reading chronologically, in a string. We are used to statements that flow sequentially. Latter statements attach to statements made immediately prior. Read this way, Isaiah 22:25 would naturally appear to belong with the immediately prior passage concerning Eliakim, the Lord’s servant. But Isaiah, embedded in the traditions of Hebrew written literature, did not necessarily, nor even by preference, write sequentially, in a string. It is possible that verse 25 refers to Shebna, rather than Eliakim.

An Analogy with “Power Paragraphs”

Can we think back to our early school days here in America? Many school districts required graduating high school students to successfully write an essay on a given topic. The most commonly accepted format was based on a series of “power paragraphs.” The multi-paragraph essay needed to contain a clearly identifiable topic sentence. Near the end of the essay, judges of the paper looked for a conclusion. The conclusion would most often refer back to the topic sentence.

In some disciplines, college students write many papers. These, too, must have a “thesis” statement near the beginning. Near the end of the paper, teachers required a conclusion. The conclusion would often repeat the thesis, but in somewhat different words.

It is possible to outline the structure of Isaiah 22:15-25 (Septuagint) as a “power paragraph.”

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

The beginning phrase is nearly the same as the final phrase. A fancy word for this structure is inclusio.  Everything that lies between the beginning and ending statements is included in the passage. The beginning and ending statements are like bookends on a book shelf. What makes the argument convincing that such is the case here in this Isaiah passage is the fact that the phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” or, “for the Lord has spoken,” occurs nowhere in-between. So, the entire passage is a packet that opens and closes with the claim that what lies between was spoken directly by the Lord. It’s roughly analogous to an introduction and conclusion, a topic and conclusion, or a thesis and conclusion. Isaiah used a specific structure in his writing.

A Second Inclusio

The entire passage from Isaiah 22:15 to Isaiah 22:25 has two main topics. First, Isaiah prophesies concerning the wickedly prideful Shebna, who is to be deposed. Second, Isaiah prophesies concerning the Lord’s highly favored choice, the one whom he calls, “my servant,” Eliakim. Our outline now looks like this:

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

A. Prophecy concerning Shebna (15-19)

B. Prophecy concerning Eliakim (20-24)

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

But, the question still remains, does the content of verse 25 belong with Section A concerning Shebna, or Section B concerning Eliakim? Note that as Christian readers, we are most likely cheering for Eliakim. That makes us potentially biased in our analysis. For example, in verse 25, we don’t want to read that Eliakim, a type of Messiah, “shall be removed… be taken away… shall fall…” and that his “glory… shall be utterly destroyed.” On the other hand, the way we normally tend to read in English appears to make this interpretation possible. We begin to make “excuses” and find reason for this decidedly gloomy portion.

First, perhaps Isaiah is prophesying that the human Eliakim, rather than the future Messiah, is the only one to whom these events will occur? In other words, perhaps this verse alone ceases to be messianic and refers only to a time frame closer to Isaiah’s own day?

Second, perhaps Isaiah is prophesying that Messiah will be cut off during his crucifixion? That would be true. He was. But then, where is his joyful resurrection? And isn’t his glory and kingdom eternal?

So, let’s look at the linguistic structure of sections A and B. Perhaps that will shed some light.

A New Beginning and Ending Phrase

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

A. Prophecy concerning Shebna (15-19)

B. Prophecy concerning Eliakim (20-24)

1. 20 And it shall come to pass in that day,…

2. 24 …they shall depend upon him in that day.

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

The section concerning Eliakim, the type of Messiah, both opens and closes with the phrase, “in that day.”  This phrase serves as the bookends for another inclusio. Since the phrase in vs 24, “in that day,” is a bookend, it belongs with the metaphorical books on the shelf. These concern Eliakim, the Messiah. In other words, the opening and closing statements of an inclusio belong with the material included in-between.

A Grammatical Difficulty

When the reader compares several of the biblical translations available today, she will realize that most translators place the period before the phrase, “in that day.” Others place it after. So what? Simply this, if the period falls before “in that day,” then the phrase introduces and refers to verse 25. But if the period falls after the phrase “in that day,” then the phrase closes out the prior section and definitely connects with Eliakim and Messiah in verse 24. Grammatically, it could go either way. It makes sense both ways.

Translations which place, “In that day,” as the introductory words of verse 25 are the KJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, and NET. In other words, seemingly all the versions based on the Masoretic textual tradition read something like, “In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 22:25 ESV)

It is important to point out that the “peg that was fastened in a secure place” could conceivably refer to Shebna in any event, period or no period. However, the manner in which we normally read language in strings causes many readers to place the reference upon Eliakim and Messiah.

The Greek text Brenton used places the period after “in that day.” Rahlfs’s Greek text places it before. NETS, the New English Translation of the Septuagint, by Moíses Silva, places the period after “on that day.” He translates the phrase as part of the prior clause, although it falls at the beginning of verse 25.

Where Do I Stand?

Personally, I like Brenton’s translation and the great sense it makes structurally. Further, I like the Greek text upon which his translation is based. It highly favors the presence of Messiah in the books of Isaiah and the Psalms. My eye of faith prefers his edition.

Other Reasons to Find an Inclusio

1. The major reason, of course, to place “in that day” as the concluding phrase of verses 20-24 is that it forms a beautiful inclusio, as outlined above, for verses 20-24.

2. A second reason to interpret “in that day” as descriptive of Eliakim, rather than Shebna, concerns vocabulary. Isaiah says of the wicked Shebna, “Behold now, the Lord of hosts casts forth and will utterly destroy such a man, and will take away your robe and your glorious crown,” ( Isiah 22:17 LXE, CAB). Isaiah calls Shebna “a man.” On the other hand, he speaks honorably of Eliakim/Messiah, “My servant,” (vs 20), “a father,” (vs 21), and “ruler,” (v23). In verses 20-24, Isaiah never refers to Eliakim/Messiah as “man.” However, verse 25 prophesies against “the man” that is “fastened in the sure place,” (Septuagint). (The Septuagint text never uses the word “peg.” That word appears only in the Masoretic.) The use of “man” in verse 25 (LXE) seems to refer back to Shebna, rather than Eliakim.

3. A third reason to place verse 25 back with verses 15-19, rather than with the embedded inclusio of verses 20-24, are the verb tenses. When Isaiah prophesies, who at that time, strictly according to this passage, is in the “priestly chamber” (Silva, NETS)? It is Shebna. The verbs the Septuagint uses throughout verses 15-19, about Shebna, indicate that he is presently in the priestly chamber and will be removed. Contrasting with this, the verbs in the portion about Eliakim/Messiah, verses 20-24, are every one future tense: “will” or “shall.” Verse 25, however, abruptly switches back to present tense, “The man that is fastened in the sure place…” Notice the less-than-admirable subject, “man,” and the present tense, “is.” These combined give strong evidence that the text in verse 25 refers to Shebna, rather than Eliakim/Messiah.

4. Finally, the vocabulary of verse 25 best matches the vocabulary used of Shebna, rather than that used of Eliakim/Messiah. For example, Isaiah writes that this “man” shall be “removed” and “taken away,” and that his glory shall be “utterly destroyed.” Correspondingly, Isaiah writes in verses 17-19, concerning the wicked Shebna, that the Lord will “cast(s) forth and will utterly destroy,” will “take away” his robe and crown, will “cast [throw]” him into “a great and unmeasured land,” where he “shall die.” The Lord will bring his “fair chariot to shame” and the house of his prince would be “trodden down.” He would be “removed” from his stewardship and from his place. Verse 25 fairly sums up and repeats the entire passage from verses 17-19, concerning Shebna.

25 The man that is fastened in the sure place shall be removed and be taken away, and shall fall; and the glory that is upon him shall be utterly destroyed;

5. In conclusion, it appears far more likely that for the reasons of structure and language just given, verse 25 should be applied to Shebna, rather than to Eliakim/Messiah.


Isaiah 22:15-25 presents an inclusio with a second inclusio embedded within. Verses 15 and 25, introduce and conclude the passage. Both of these verses, set off by the phrases, “Thus says the Lord… ” and “for the Lord has spoken,” refer to the wickedly proud Shebna, here a type of Satan.

The second inclusio embedded within the first is Isaiah 22:20-24. The phrase, “in that day,” (beginning of verse 20 and end of verse 24) sets off the boundaries of this inclusio. The first inclusio is about the wicked Shebna. The second refers to Eliakim, a type of Messiah, Christ.


Isaiah, up until now, at least, has given predominantly bad news. The section popularly called the prophecies, judgments, or oracles “against the nations” is particularly painful to read. On many levels and for many reasons, this portion of Isaiah will relieve and gladden the hearts of tender readers. He predicts the good news of a better priest/ruler to come.

First, he is God’s special servant, the whom God approves and sets in place. His authority will be great and his majesty glorious. He will be a father to many, and everyone, from least to greatest, will trust in him.

Second, because Isaiah prophesied of him a good 600 years before his appearance, those who hear know that he was indeed chosen in advance by God. His credentials are real. That Isaiah speaks of a good, faithful, humble, and wise servant/ruler is good news for the whole world.

Fall of Jerusalem and Judea: Isaiah Devotional Journal 42

Posted simultaneously at: Fall of Jerusalem and Judea: Isaiah Devotional Journal 42 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 22     Link to LXE Modernized

Chapter Divisions

Isaiah 22 divides best into two parts: Isaiah 22:1-14 and Isaiah 22:15-25. Both parts concern Jerusalem and Judea, but the time frames are different. The first division occurs just over one hundred years after the second

I. Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and Exile

CLUES that Reveal Isaiah’s Prophecy Concerns Babylon

Isaiah 22:2 … your slain are not slain with swords, nor are your dead those who have died in battle. All your princes have fled, and your captives are tightly bound, and the mighty men in you have fled far away.  (CAB, LXE)

  • 2 Kings 25 describes the fall of Jerusalem. Verse 4 describes how the “whole army ran away at night…Zedekiah [the king] and his men ran toward the Jordan Valley.” There, abandoned by his scattered army, the hostile forces captured the king and took him bound to Babylon. He spent the remainder of his life a prisoner there. Nebuzaradan (Nebuchadnezzar’s commander) took captive nearly everyone else, as well. A few years later, 2 Kings 25:26 describes how “all the people [who were left behind after the first wave of captivity], from the least important to the most important, ran away to Egypt. The army leaders also went. This was because they were afraid of the Babylonians.” (ICB)

Isaiah 22:6 And the Elamites took their quivers, and there were men mounted on horses, and there was a gathering for battle.

By File:Near East topographic map-blank.svg: SémhurFile:Elam-map-PL.svg: Wkotwicaderivative work: Morningstar1814 – File:Elam-map-PL.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61956849
  • The World History Encyclopedia tells how Elam cooperated with the Medes and the Babylonians to dismantle the former Assyrian Empire (Elam – World History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu)). This occurred during the approximate time period when Babylon conquered Judea.

Isaiah 22:4 Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (ESV)

  • The Babylonian invasion was the first successful invasion of Jerusalem since King David established the city and Solomon built the temple. The Assyrians, a century before, turned back at the outer wall and were miraculously destroyed (2 Kings 19:35-36). This passage does not describe that event.
  • The phrase “daughter of my people” also reveals the time frame toward which Isaiah’s prophecy was aimed: that is, the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. The reasoning follows. First, this phrase occurs 13 times in all of Scripture. We see it once in Isaiah 22:4, seven times in Jeremiah, and five times in Lamentations (also written by Jeremiah). Second, each and every occurrence refers to the wounding, chastisement, or destruction of this daughter. Finally, Jeremiah 1:1-3 defines the time during which Jeremiah prophesied to be a good 80 years after Isaiah and up until the captivity of Jerusalem. This use of language supports the reckoning that Isaiah 22:1-14 refers to the Babylonian invasion, rather than the Assyrian.


Isaiah’s text reveals how greatly God loved Jerusalem and Judea. While Jeremiah claims the title, “The Weeping Prophet,” Isaiah, and God through him, weeps in this portion.

First, in verse 4 above, Isaiah cries out, “Let me alone, I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me for the breach of the daughter of my people.” (Brenton, LXE). This is the only place in all of Isaiah in which the prophet refers to Jerusalem as “the daughter of my people.” The word “daughter” is used several times in the phrase “daughter of Zion,” but never, except here, the “daughter of my people.” This is very personal to Isaiah and to God. This is his child.

Second, having just spoken of Jerusalem as the daughter of his people, Isaiah twice uses the word “uncover.” In verse 8 of the Septuagint he writes, “they shall uncover the gates of Juda, and they shall look in that day on the choice houses of the city.” Again in verse 9, he says, “And they shall uncover the secret places of the houses of the citadel of David.” In good times, these things ought not to be. There is great shame here. Neither Isaiah nor God are exulting in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem the city, its people, and its temple, once the house of worship of God Almighty.

In Isaiah 22:11, God uncovers his own heart, and the ears of faith can hear the anguish in the voice that cries out–

And ye procured to yourselves water between the two walls within the ancient pool: but ye looked not to him that made it from the beginning, and regarded not him that created it. (Isaiah 22:11 LXE)

This verse needs some explaining. Approximately 100 years earlier, Assyria came very close to overwhelming Jerusalem. 2 Kings 20:20 records how King Hezekiah had altered the water conduits that fed the city. He had blocked off the spring located outside the city wall. He dug a tunnel through rock and channeled this water into the city. He did this to withstand the privation a prolonged siege would cause. The tunnel is accessible in Jerusalem to this day. Isaiah 22:9 also mentions Hezekiah’s tunnel, “… one had turned the water of the old pool into the city;” This had been an amazing feat of engineering and a wonderful thing to do.

King Hezekiah was one of Judah’s few good kings. He followed the Lord’s commands diligently and loved him. He did turn to the Lord. He himself prayed, and he also called upon Isaiah, as the Lord’s prophet, for help.

However, during the days of the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem, no one remained who called upon the Lord’s name. Verse 11 makes reference to how they gladly relied upon the water from the ancient pool (King Hezekiah’s conduit). But they failed to call upon the eternal God. God had helped Hezekiah mightily. And more than that, God is he who exists from the beginning. He created the water. God does not begrudge them their water. But, the people should not have neglected to call upon God. God made the water in the first place and helped King Hezekiah build the conduit that carried it. It’s about gladly using the blessings of God but failing even to acknowledge the giver.

This verse mostly emphasizes how God desires relationship with his people. Isaiah describes Israel as God’s beloved vineyard and his people God’s choice vines (Isaiah 5:1-4). He refers to Israel as his God’s wife (Isaiah 54:6; see also Jeremiah 3:20). It’s the heart of faith, not imagination, that hears the anguished cries of a spurned lover in Isaiah 22:11. The verses following expound the depth of disappointment in God’s heart concerning his people.

Isaiah 22:12 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!” 14 The LORD Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (NIV)

It wasn’t just anyone whom Judah had spurned. It was the Lord, the Lord of hosts (LXE), the Lord Almighty. He greatly desired that they would recognize their tragedy and call upon him in repentance and for help. But they would not. Instead, they pretended that God did not even exist.

This is the end. God’s patience has run out. “‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 22:14; See also 2 Kings 24:20a“… he finally threw them out of his presence.” NET).

This is the fall of Jerusalem. The Babylonians killed many, but spared those taken into captivity (Revelation 13:10).

Closing Thoughts

… for this sin shall not be forgiven you, until you die. (Isaiah 22:14 CAB, LXE)

  1. The first division ends with the words above. They speak of lack of forgiveness and death. Although God had exercised extreme and extended patience with his people, it was time to move on. The next division is considered by many to be a messianic passage. What Israel failed to do for itself, God will do for them.
  2. God initially called his people through Abraham, Israel’s first father. Abraham was born in Ur (Genesis 15:7). The map shows that Ur lies to the southeast of Babylon. Haran, where Abraham’s father had settled on his way to Canaan, lies to the northwest (Genesis 11:31). Babylon lies in the middle.

    Notice how God sent his people back to their point of origin. It’s as though he were saying, “Let’s start this all over again.”

  3. The captivity marks God’s second great judgmental destruction.  The first was the flood in Noah’s day. That flood took humanity back to its beginnings. By choosing a special people, God limited the scope of his second judgment. But he took those people back to the beginning, as well.
  4. Isaiah prophesies a third and final judgment (Isaiah 24). This last judgment will be the final judgment of the entire world.
  5. Between the record of the second and third judgments, that of Israel God’s special people (Isaiah 22:1-14) and the judgment of the whole world (Isaiah 24), God speaks of his answer to the sinfulness of all people. He shall appoint the one who holds “the key to the house of David,” (Isaiah 22:22).

II. Shebna and Eliakim during Hezekiah’s Reign–To Be Continued

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