CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 22.
When Isaiah returns to talking about how Jerusalem will be attacked and the people carried away captive, he is talking about Assyria invading Judah (after the ten tribes of Israel have already been carried off). The Assyrian king was Sennacherib, and the king of Judah was Hezekiah. Hezekiah started a revolt against Sennacherib by refusing to pay the Assyrian taxes, and at least 46 cities were conquered. Jerusalem was “scourged” and only saved because Hezekiah decided at the last minute to pay the taxes to save Jerusalem.
Isaiah warned the people that the Lord would help them fight their battles if they would repent, but the Lord showed Isaiah in a vision that they would not. Isaiah is now in or somewhere near Jerusalem, and so calls the valley the “valley of vision” as the Lord gives him one vision after another (verse 1). He sees the people of Jerusalem on their famous rooftop walks (still present today), running outside to the rooftops to look over the walls and see what the commotion is – only to discover it is the approaching Assyrian army.
Even then, even when the people can literally see the approaching army, the people still do not turn to the Lord. Even the men, Isaiah says, do not go out to fight (verse 2). They do not defend the city. They do not defend their families. Skousen wrote (p. 340):
… there was no evidence that the men of Judah were either courageous or valiant in defending their freedom or their families. Men that should have been willing to be slain rather than be conquered has not been slain. Men who should have gone bravely into battle even at the risk of their lives had not gone into battle. Instead, they were reveling in wickedness and making their habitations a “joyous city” of indulgence and dissipation when their strength should have been spent in fortifying and defending themselves.
Even the governing officials and ruling elite ran away instead of fighting (verse 3). Isaiah said they would be shot by archers and tied up as captives, and even many who came to Jerusalem for the safety of its walls would be captured.
It is such a painful sight, and the destruction so severe, that Isaiah cries to the see the vision of it (verse 4). He could not be comforted by those around him because he already knew they would be the ones to let Jerusalem fall. The only thing that would comfort him would be for the leaders to step up and defend their families and the city, and he knew they would not. Jerusalem would be lost to the Assyrians, and the people would be left hungry and alone and frightened as they tried to escape (verse 5).
He knew it would get worse before it got better. Elam (Persia) would attack also, as would Kir (Medes) (verse 6). So now Isaiah is seeing several visions: that the Assyrians would attack first, followed by the Babylonians, followed by the Persians and Medes. Because the terrain of mountains is so rough, the only place the people can grow crops is in the valleys (and that’s where the water is); but Isaiah saw that because of all the fighting, the valleys would be torn up and crops destroyed (verse 7). The armies would make it all the way to the gate (“covering”), even discovering how to break in and take the city (verse 8). When Isaiah says the armies will “look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest”, he is talking about the arsenal of Jerusalem built back in the day by King Solomon (1 Kings 7:2-5). He means that the approaching armies will even confiscate Judah’s weapons. Because Judah chose not to defend its families and its cities, they will lose the privilege of having weapons to do so.
This is significant in likening to our day. If we choose not to defend ourselves and our families in righteousness, we will lose the gifts we have been given to do so. If we do not work, we cannot provide for our families. If we do not spend time with our families, we do not have the relationship in which to grow with them spiritually. If we do not do the basics of our self-care, including daily prayer and scripture study and temple worship, we will not have the blessings, strength, or capacity to be righteous – nor the right to ask our families to do so. The world calls it karma, and science calls it inertia. But we are only empowered in the ways we have empowered ourselves – it is the Lord who makes it exponential, but it is us who must first turn to Him to begin. When we neglect our “structure”, our “cities” (families) are vulnerable for attack.
Jerusalem neglected its city, literally, with weak places in the walls and their defenses not fortified (verse 9). The people have to work fast, tearing down the bricks of their own houses to fortify the walls of the city (verse 10). They also dug a tunnel to let water build up in the Pool of Siloam so that they would have enough water under siege.
Taking what we learned in Isaiah 8 about the Pool of Siloam, we see how the people physically labored to have enough water for when they were attacked – but not until they were already under attack. Spiritually, they did not do the work to have the Lord on their side and fight their battles for them, and now they are begging for help at the last minute.
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 (verse 11).
Isaiah is trying to tell Hezekiah that his plan may save them water, but what about the Living Water that saves their souls? King Hezekiah is not listening to the prophet, not returning to the Lord, the Maker, the one who provides Water – whether physical or spiritual nourishment.
Because the people will not return to the Lord, they will mourn their destruction: physically, with the destruction of Jerusalem, and spiritually, with their separation from His Presence (verse 12).
Instead of turning to the Lord, the people continue doing their own thing, making their own plans, and behaviorally saying “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (verse 13). So the prophet acknowledges the choice of the people, agreeing that they will die – that the Lord has said it is the only way to purge out the iniquity from the people (verse 14). The Lord is telling Isaiah that the people are not going to repent, and to let them continue with their selfish choices and to suffer the consequences of being miserable because they have chosen misery.
Because the people would better respond if their leaders would respond, the Lord tells Isaiah to use the leaders as examples.
The first message is to Shebna, the city treasurer (and scribe to the king, see 2 Kings 18:37) (verse 15). Isaiah wants to know (because the Lord is asking!) what exactly Shebna thinks he is doing. Isaiah points out how Shebna is gathering riches for himself, not helping others, and so preparing only for his own grave with the approaching armies (verse 16). It is out of balance and out of context, and Isaiah calls him out on it! Isaiah tells him that if he does not repent, there will be no fancy burial for the destruction that will come (verse 17). Isaiah warns him this destruction will including being taken captive, violence against him, and being carried away to another country (verse 18). Isaiah is warning Shebna that if he will not humble himself, the Lord will do the humbling for him (verse 19).
Shebna was a real person, but like the other people in Isaiah’s life, he was also symbolic of the people. In the Book of Mormon, we see the pattern of cultures and societies that turn away from the Lord. The first things that happens are a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the poor treatment of women and those without access to the priesthood, or “widows and orphans”. Isaiah is warning the people that this is who they have become, gathering up riches for themselves and neglecting the important things – like caring for and protecting their families.
When this happens, either with a leader or a society, physically or spiritually, the person reaps their own consequences and the Lord calls a new servant, one who will do it His way that is best for all the people (verse 20). Isaiah says this will be Eliakim, which means “whom God raised up”.
However, there is something interesting here.
“Eliakim”, if one were playing with words, looks like a Hebrew plural (the “-im” ending).
If that were true, it would be the plural of “Elias” or “Elijah”.
That would mean that after destruction comes, the Lord will raise up a chosen people, a people of holiness, a people raised up under (the authority or keys of) Elijah.
It’s restoration language, talking about us.
If Shebna represents the political authority, Eliakim represents the spiritual authority, and Isaiah is saying that the Lord promises that the spiritual authority is going to win (verse 21).
This idea seems to be confirmed in verse 22 when Isaiah says this Eliakim will have the “key of the house of David”, and that the responsibility of it will be “upon his shoulder”. Isaiah is saying that the priesthood will be restored (now!), and that the keys of its authority to seal ordinances will be given to the people so that they can do the work of God (on both sides of the veil).
He also tells what this people will do (what the Savior, the leader of this people will do). Look at verse 23:
And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place;
and he shall be for a glorious thrown to his father’s house.
The nail in the sure place was what happened to the Savior when he got put on the cross, with nails through his wrists.
It also means that once these keys are restored to the people of holiness, to Eliakim, it will be sure and steady, never removed again from the Earth.
This is us, now, in the Latter-days, in this final dispensation!
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 vessels of cups,
even to all vessels of flagons (verse 24).
And they (the people Eliakim, the Latter-day people of holiness)
shall hang upon Him (by the nail in the sure place, or by the atonement and the restoration)
all the glory (for those on both sides of the veil – “glory” = immortality and eternal lives)
of his father’s house (Temple work to gain that immortality and eternal lives)
the offspring and the issue (promised blessings for posterity)
from vessels of cups (small sins)
even to all vessels of flagons (big sins).
Wait! The poetry all made sense and had beautiful imagery until we got to small sins and big sins.
What is that about?
Look at verse 25 to get the “key”:
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.
There are so many layers, so many layers.
When the Savior was on the cross, after he died, the nails that held him up there were removed, and his body taken down. His work was “finished”.
What was His work? The atonement.
What was fastened by His “nails” (the atonement) to the sure place? Our sins, big and little.
When the atonement was made, justice had been paid.
With justice paid, we could now be given mercy.
In mercy, our sins – the big ones and the little ones – were “removed”, cut down, and fallen.
So also were the burden(s), or the curse(s), or the consequences that go with those sins.
All of it, gone.
This is the exchange of the atonement:
that we give Him our sins,
the big ones and the little ones,
and He pays the justice-debt.
That is mercy, not giving us what we do deserve.
This is the Great Exchange:
we give Him our sins,
and He gives us His righteousness.
That is grace, giving us what we do not deserve.
Only by His grace, and His mercy,
and only by this atonement,
this Great Exchange
of our sins
for His righteousness
only by this are we made holy.
Only by this do we become Eliakim,
the people of holiness.
Holiness to the Lord,
the House of the Lord.