1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.
What do you mean that you have gone up,
all of you, to the housetops,
2 you who are full of shoutings,
tumultuous city, exultant town?
Your slain are not slain with the sword
or dead in battle.
3 All your leaders have fled together;
without the bow they were captured.
All of you who were found were captured,
though they had fled far away.
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.”
5 For the Lord God of hosts has a day
of tumult and trampling and confusion
in the valley of vision,
a battering down of walls
and a shouting to the mountains.
6 And Elam bore the quiver
with chariots and horsemen,
and Kir uncovered the shield.
7 Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,
and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.
8 He has taken away the covering of Judah.
In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, 9 and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, 10 and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. 11 You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.
12 In that day the Lord God of hosts
called for weeping and mourning,
for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
13 and behold, joy and gladness,
killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
eating flesh and drinking wine.
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
14 The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”
says the Lord God of hosts. – Isaiah 22:1-14 ESV
God has spent a great deal of time addressing the nations surrounding Judah. Now, He turns His attention to His chosen people and, particularly, their capital city of Jerusalem. In this chapter, God delivers yet another oracle, this one aimed at the City of David, the place where Solomon’s Temple was located. This impressive structure poised prominently on the Temple Mount, was to have been the heart and soul of the nation. It was there that God had promised to meet with His people, providing them with the sacrificial system as a means of receiving atonement for their sins. But when construction of the temple had been completed, and Solomon had dedicated it to the Lord, he had received a very pointed message from God.
“I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
“As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’
“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled and will gasp in horror. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’
“And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why the Lord has brought all these disasters on them.’” – 1 Kings 9:3-9 NLT
But Solomon had failed to keep his part of the covenant. He had not walked with integrity and godliness. Instead, he had surrounded himself with countless foreign wives, in direct violation of God’s commands, and had ended up worshiping their false gods. As a result, God had divided his kingdom in half, allowing the ten northern tribes to form the nation of Israel. The tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, remained in the south as the nation of Judah.
And this oracle begins to address the coming destruction that God had promised would happen if His people abandoned Him and disobeyed His commands and decrees.
God opens the oracle by referring to Jerusalem as the “Valley of Vision.” This designation, while somewhat cryptic to our western ears, would have been very clear to Isaiah’s original audience. Jerusalem sat on what is known as Mount Zion. Zion was originally an ancient Jebusite fortress that David conquered and took possession of, eventually creating the city of Jerusalem. He constructed a royal palace there, and Zion/Jerusalem became the seat of power in Israel’s kingdom. In Psalm 2:6, God refers to Zion as His “holy hill.” Psalm 48 gives a further description of Zion’s status as God’s city.
How great is the Lord,
how deserving of praise,
in the city of our God,
which sits on his holy mountain!
It is high and magnificent;
the whole earth rejoices to see it!
Mount Zion, the holy mountain,
is the city of the great King!
God himself is in Jerusalem’s towers,
revealing himself as its defender. – Psalm 48:1-3 NLT
And yet, in this oracle, God refers to Jerusalem, which sat on and was synonymous with Zion, as the “Valley of Vision.” The Hebrew word for “valley” is gay’ and conjures up images of a low, flat region, just the opposite of how the psalmist describe it. No longer a “holy mountain,” Jerusalem is fated to become a valley – an image of its coming humiliation and degradation. It will be the place where God’s vision or prophetic pronouncements will be fulfilled.
And the oracle describes the people of Jerusalem as running for their lives, in an attempt to escape the swords of their enemies. But while some will manage to escape, only to become fugitives living in foreign lands, many will find themselves captured. And there will be many who die, but not as a result of battle. They will die of starvation because of a long, drawn-out siege.
Isaiah describes his reaction to this future judgment on the city of Jerusalem.
“Leave me alone to weep;
do not try to comfort me.
Let me cry for my people
as I watch them being destroyed.” – Isaiah 22:4 NLT
As a prophet of God, he knows that this outcome, while inevitable and inescapable, is still avoidable – if only the people will repent and return to God. But the very fact that God is speaking this oracle against Jerusalem reveals that the people will not listen to Isaiah’s warnings. They will not give up their wicked and rebellious ways. And the oracle makes it clear that this future day of judgment will come at the hands of God Himself.
Oh, what a day of crushing defeat!
What a day of confusion and terror
brought by the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
upon the Valley of Vision!
The walls of Jerusalem have been broken,
and cries of death echo from the mountainsides. – Isaiah 22:5 NLT
God describes a scene of chaos. The enemy’s chariots fill the valleys surrounding Jerusalem. They storm the gates and attempt to destroy the city’s fortifications. The people inside the walls busy themselves tearing down their own homes to repair the breaches made in the walls. They gather their weapons and attempt to ration their water supply, in hopes of surviving the siege. But Isaiah levels a serious charge against the people of Judah.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
You never considered the One who planned this long ago. – Isaiah 22:11 NLT
In the midst of all the suffering and threats of pending destruction, the people will party rather than repent. They will operate under the fatalistic assumption that all is lost and, rather than turn to God, they will turn to self-gratification.
…you dance and play;
you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.
You feast on meat and drink wine.
You say, “Let’s feast and drink,
for tomorrow we die!” – Isaiah 22:13 NLT
Not exactly the reaction God was looking for.
At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
called you to weep and mourn.
He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins
and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse. – Isaiah 22:12 NLT
God’s judgment was intended to bring repentance. It was meant as a wake-up call for His people, to jar them from their spiritual lethargy and moral stupor. But they would fail to listen. They would prefer to revel and die than repent and live. So, Isaiah delivers a powerful statement concerning the danger of unbelief.
“Till the day you die, you will never be forgiven for this sin.” That is the judgment of the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. – Isaiah 22:14 NLT
Persistent refusal to believe and trust in God is deadly. It is the unforgivable sin. The people of Judah were faced with a decision, trust in themselves or trust in God. Turn to pagan nations for help or turn to God for salvation. But if they refused to repent and place their hope and trust in God Almighty, they would never experience His salvation.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.