Our reading today begins with an interruption in the judgment oracles against the nations. Instead, God through Isaiah pronounces judgment on Judah. We will see that in the next chapter, there is judgment pronounced against more gentile nations (Tyre and Sidon). That gentile nations are “mixed in” with God’s people in these judgments is no accident. When it comes to judgment and salvation, there will be no difference between physical Israel and the nations.
Isaiah begins by calling the oracle as oracle “concerning the valley of visions” (22:1). In verse 5, we see that this “valley of vision” is used of Jerusalem (taking verses 1-11 together). However, Jerusalem is on a mountain, not in a valley. I think that Jerusalem is the physical Jerusalem, but also representative of where God reveals Himself on earth. As we have seen, the dwelling place of God is always on a mountain (Horeb, Sinai, Jerusalem) that pictures heaven itself, and the idea of the mountain of God is used in the Bible to point to God’s presence on earth (Ps 99:9, Dan 2:35). Therefore, the “valley of vision” (or “valley of revelation”) may symbolize where on earth (the metaphorical valley) God makes Himself known (vision or revelation), which at this point in time was the Temple in Jerusalem.
Isaiah then prophesies of the Babylonian siege and captivity (vv. 2-3). For this, God and/or Isaiah laments (v. 4). In verse 5, we have a description of the destruction of Jerusalem. However, since this begins with “YHWH God of hosts has a day,” the day of YHWH is in view, so this also has its ultimate fulfillment in the final judgment of the world. That God invokes the names of cities neither in Judah or Babylon would seem to prove this out (v. 6).
In verse 8, God’s focus is on Judah. God’s presence has been their covering. The word here for “covering” is the same word used to describe both the cloud of His presence (Ps 105:39) and the entrance door (or “screen”) of the Tabernacle (Ex 35:15). We then have the “in that day” used to describe when Judah will look to the “weapons of the House of the Forest.” The House of the Forest was the great room Solomon built from the cedars of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2-5) where he placed those gold shields he made (1 Kings 10:16-17). God is referring to Judah looking for shields when He ceases to be their Shield. They will rely on themselves instead of Him for protection (vv. 10-11). This will happen at the end of the siege when the walls of Jerusalem are breached by Babylon (v. 9). This will also happen to all who trust in worldly powers or wisdom on the day of judgment.
In verse 12, Isaiah prophesies of events “in that day,” so we know the final judgment is in view. When that judgment approaches, God will call for mourning and repentance (v. 12), but the world will refuse to repent (v. 13 – see Rev 9:20-21). They will be eating and drinking and living as they always were (see Matt 24:37-39). Paul uses this verse when discussing the necessity of right living in light of our bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:32). When judgment comes, the iniquity of the world will be paid for by them and their eternal punishment (v. 14).
God then chastises those in Jerusalem for their pride and their plans. He points to Shebna (v. 15), who was the steward of the king. Like the wealthy and comfortable of his day, he has an elaborate tomb set for himself when he dies (v. 16). But God will not allow the comfortable to rest comfortably. He will send them into captivity (vv. 17-18). He will cancel their plans and humble them. As a sign of this, God is going to humble Shebna and take away his position (vv. 19-21). We see this come to pass as Shebna is later called a “secretary” (see Isa 36:3). Eliakim will rise to be steward of the king, and will yield royal power from his position (v. 22). Verse 23 points to God’s sovereign hand in all of this. Eliakim will make every decision (v. 24), yet the day of judgment will not be averted (v. 25).
In chapter 23, God turns His attention to Tyre and Sidon. They were Phoenician port cities in the northwest that grew very wealthy because of their ports (23:3). This is why the ships of Tarshish (Spain) wail (v. 1, 6) – there will be no port to bring their goods to. Egypt will suffer because Tyre and Sidon’s punishment, as well (v. 5). In verses 8-9, we see that God will sovereignly bring this about. We again see that pride is at the root of their sin.
God then promises utter destruction for Tyre. Note that God says He has given command concerning Canaan (v. 11). He then points to the land of the Chaldeans as the direction from which destruction will come (v. 13). In verse 15, He promises that Tyre will be “forgotten for seventy years”, which here refer to the generation of a king. Then, He refers to Tyre as a prostitute (v. 16). At the end of the seventy years, God will restore Tyre who will resume her business (v. 17), but who will dedicate her profits to helping the needy people of God (v. 18).
While this serves as an oracle against Tyre, there are details in this portion of the oracle that point to a warning for Judah. Judah is on the land of Canaan (v. 11). They will be sieged by the Chaldeans (Babylon – v. 13). They will go into captivity for seventy years (v. 15 – see Jer 25:12, Dan 9:2). And they will be restored by God in Jesus Christ as the true spiritual Israel Who will dwell in the presence of YHWH.