The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 20

Isa 20:1

Date: 711 BC, based on Assyrian chronology.

Background: "Ashdod had been taken once before by the Assyrians, but advantage had been taken from Sargon's preoccupation elsewhere to reassert independence and to organize an alliance in that area against Assyria (so says Sargon's own inscription). It certainly looks from 2Ki 18:8, as though Yamani, the king of Ashdod, was a Jewish puppet ruler (Khorsabad inscription)" (WIsa 235).

There were 5 major Philistine cities (1Sa 6:17; Josh 13:3), but in later days the prophets carefully leave Gath out of the picture (Amo 1:6-8; Zeph 2:4; Jer 25:20; Zec 9:5,6). Why? Uzziah, in his war against the Philistines, smashed up Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod (2Ch 26:6). The last of these was evidently strategic enough to warrant rebuilding (Isa 20:1), but the other two disappeared from history -- and from prophecy also.

THE SUPREME COMMANDER: Heb "Tartan" (as in KJV): the title of the Assyrian general (2Ki 18:17).

Isa 20:2

SACKCLOTH: Such clothing -- a rough, mourning garment -- was the "uniform" of the prophet (cp Zec 13:4; 2Ki 1:8; Mat 3:4; Isa 50:3,4; and prob 1Sa 28:14).

STRIPPED: Not necessarily completely naked, but wearing a minimum of clothing, as a slave might. May sig "lightly dressed, stripped to one's undergarments" (HAL). (Cp Micah's words, at same time: Mic 1:8).

Isa 20:3

FOR THREE YEARS, AS A SIGN: Prob one time each year, for a 3-year period. Not every day, day after day, for a full 3-year period.

Isa 20:4

An obvious connection between the Assyrian capture of Ashdod (v 1) and the shame of Egypt-Ethiopia: "Ashdod had become a Jewish fortress, but already the lean-on-Egypt policy which Isaiah was to denounce so strongly later on, was beginning to dominate Judah's policy (the young king Hezekiah being under the influence of his princes, men of politics rather than faith); so evidently Egyptian help took the form of a garrison which to all intents and purposes made Ashdod into an Egyptian outpost. These Egyptians... would experience the shame of captivity which the prophet himself had acted before the people of Jerusalem" (WIsa 236).

STRIPPED AND BAREFOOT: Sym sinful, ashamed (Gen 3:7-10; Mic 1:8-11).

Isa 20:5

"In all this he was trying to educate his nation to see Egypt as a worthless prop and an evil influence. Was it not Egyptian encouragement which had helped Jeroboam to bring about the schism between Israel and Judah (1Ki 11:40)? The northern kingdom, remembering how its greatest tribes had been descended from an Egyptian mother (Gen 41:50-52), had constantly followed a pro-Egyptian policy -- to its own destruction (Hos 7:16; 8:13; 9:3,6)" (WIsa 236). Cp Isa 30:3-7; 36:6.

Isa 20:6

HOW THEN CAN WE ESCAPE?: Cited in Heb 2:3: Seeing this happens to our "allies", how then can we (Israel) escape the judgments of God?

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