Isaiah 22 – A Burden about Jerusalem & Pagan Gods and Goddesses

I have seen that at times You choose who the leader is going to be, like King David (1 Sam 16:13) and You made Abraham a powerful leader (Gen 12:1-3), and Moses (Ex 3:10) and a lot of others.  But I don’t understand why you made Saul king because You knew he was bad (1 Sam 16:7) and You knew that you would fire him (1 Sam 15:17-23).

Why did You let Obama become president?  Or did You allow him to become president because as the Israelite disobeyed you, so is most of the United States?  Or did you allow it so that the world will end sooner and we can get onto having a great life with Jesus? Obama did a great job of messing up everything and he doesn’t even worship you but Allah. Can you at least give me a clue of what’s to happen? – Jn 3:1819; 1 Jn 2:15-17; Rev 21:8.

1 The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?

“Valley of vision” – a valley where God revealed Himself in visions, probably one of the valleys near Jerusalem (see note on v 7).  

22:1-13 – the notes on this prophecy assume that it refers primarilyto the final Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 588-586 B.C.  but it is also possible that the primary reference is to the siege by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701.

 King Sennacherib – Son of Sargon II spent his rule (705-681) defending the kingdom his father had built. He was renowned for enlarging and building up the capital of Nineveh. He extended the city wall and built an irrigation canal.

2 Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.

“Tumultuous…joyous” – see v 13, 15:11-12, 32:13.  Jerusalem is behaving just like Babylon (see 21:5; cf 23:7).

“Not slain with the sword” – perhaps a reference to death from disease and famine when the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

3 All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far.

“Rulers are fled together” – King Zedekiah and his army fled Jerusalem but were captured near Jericho (see 2 Kgs 25:4-6).

4 Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labor not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.

5 For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.

“Trouble…perplexity” – conditions of calamity and confusion, a fulfillment of the curse of Deut 28:20.

6 And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.

Zedekiah – The last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon.

“Elam” – see not on 11:11.  Elamites probably fought in the Babylonian army.

“Kir” – perhaps another name for Media (see 21:2).

7 And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.

“Choicest valleys” – the Kidron Valley lay east of Jerusalem (see Jn 18:1), the Hinnom Valley to the south and west (see Josh 15:8).

8  And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armor of the house of the forest.

“House of the forest” – built by King Solomon out of cedars from Lebanon (see 2 Kgs 7”2-6; 10:17, 21).

9 Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.

“Lower pool” – probably the same as the “old pool” of v 11.  Hezekiah made a pool and a tunnel as a precaution against Sennacherib’s invasion (see 2 Kgs 20:20).  The “upper pool” is mentioned in 7:3, 36:2.

10 And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.

“Fortify the wall” – cf Hezekiah’s preparations in 2 Chr 32:5.

11 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.

Stairs leading out of Hezekiah’s Tunnel to an open channel, through which the water flows into the Pool of Siloam.

 

“Ye have not looked unto the Maker” – in 31:1 those who look to horses and chariots rather than to God are similarly condemned.

12 And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:

“Baldness” – the hair was either torn out or shaved off (cf Jer 16:6; Eze 27:31).

13 And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.

“Joy and gladness” – the people of Jerusalem were celebrating that they had avoided destruction, but this was supposed to be a time to mourn over their sins (Ecc 3:4).

14 And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

15  Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,

“Shebna” – apparently a foreigner, possibly Egyptian; a contemporary of King Hezekiah.

“Over the house” – the official in charge of the royal house, a position second only to the king.

16 What hast thou here? And whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulcher here, as he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?

“Hewed thee out a sepulcher” – One’s place of burial was considered very important, and Shebna coveted a tomb worth of a king (cf 2 Chr 16:14).

17 Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.

Ziggurat – Ur is credited with being the first to create arched doorways. This may well be the oldest arch in the world, from about 6,000 B.C.

“The LORD will carry…captivity” – Lt. “the LORD will violently hurl you, O mighty man.”  Shebna will not buried in his tomb because the Lord is going to violently cast him out of the city of Jerusalem; cf Jer 22:24-26.

 

18 He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.

“Turn and toss thee like a ball” – repeats the idea of the previous verse – the Lord will wad Shebna into a ball and throw him out of the city.

“There shalt thou die” – apparently without an honorable burial (see note on 14:19).

“Chariots” – a sign of luxury and high office (see 2:7; Gen 41:43).

19 And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.

20  And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:

“In that day” – when the Lord acts in judgment (see v 17-19).

21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.

“Commit thy government into his hand” – by 701 B.C. (see 36:3) Eliakim had replaced Shebna who was demoted to “scribe.”

22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Shebna Inscription
The Shebna inscription is an important ancient Hebrew inscription found at Siloam outside Jerusalem in 1870. After passing through various hands, the inscription was purchased by the British Museum in 1871.
The inscription is broken at the point where the tomb’s owner would have been named, but biblical scholars have suggested a connection to Shebna on the basis of a verse in the bible mentioning a royal steward who was admonished for building a conspicuous tomb.

Quoted in part in Rev 3:7.  The mention of “father’ (v 21) and of the responsibility “upon his shoulder” recalls the words about the Messiah in 9:6

 

“Key of the house of David” – the authority delegated to him by the king who belongs to David’s dynasty – perhaps controlling entrance into the royal palace.  Cf the “keys of the kingdom” given to Peter (Matt 16:19).

23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

24 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 the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

25 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.    

“Nail…be removed” – Eliakim, like Shebna, will eventually fall from power.

Pagan Gods and Goddesses  

God had clearly commanded the descendants of Abraham not to have any other gods before him (Ex 20:3).  This strict, undivided loyalty was the basis of the covenant relationship God established between himself and the people of Israel.  But of course, most people didn’t listen, and not much has changed.

ARTEMIS.  Greek goddess (Diana) of fertility worshiped at Ephesus and elsewhere during the New Testament era. Her worship combined Greek, Roman, and Anatolian elements and dates back to ca. 1000 B.C.

In Ephesus a temple was built in the third century B.C. to replace an earlier one that burned down and became known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  A well-known statue of Artemis emphasizes fertility. 

Paul’s preaching directly challenged her worship and precipitated a riot that only official interaction could quell (Acts 19:23-41).  In the end, the worship of Christ prevailed and the cult of Artemis disappeared from history.

ASHERAH.  The people of Israel had been settled in the Promised Land for only a brief time before their attention turned to the deities of the Canaanites.  The Book of Judges chronicles this apostasy.  The people forsook the Lord God to serve Asherah and her husband Baal (Ashteroth is an alternative name for Asherah, Jud 2:13, 3:7).

The name “Asherah” and its variant spellings occur thirty-nine times in the Old Testament.  In a number of these instances, Baal is mentioned along with Asherah.  Evidence from Ugaritic mythologies and other texts suggests that the term refers to both the Canaanite goddess and cultic objects facilitating her worship.

That Baal and Asherah are mentioned together in several Old Testament passages suggests that the Canaanites and other peoples considered Asherah to be an important “high deity” along with Baal. 

The most explicit passage disclosing the close relationship between the two comes from the narrative about Ahab and Jezebel’s confrontation with Elijah (1 Kgs 18:1-19:19).

Their endorsement of and participation in the worship of these Canaanite deities is the most extreme of any incidents related in Scripture concerning Israelite rulers who adopted the worship of these gods.  In fact, Jezebel went so far as to insist that Ahab provide for the worship of her Phoenician deities.

Ancient Canaanite Religion
The land of Canaan, which comprises the modern regions of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. At the time when Canaanite religion was practiced, Canaan was divided into various city-states.

Canaanite religion refers to the group of ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era.

Canaanite religion was polytheistic, and in some cases monolatristic.

Asherah was one of the three chief consort-goddesses within the Canaanite pantheon, along with Astarte (or Ashtaroth) and Anath.  These three goddesses were jealous rivals. 

In the mythology, Asherah is portrayed as the consort of both El and Baal.  In the Ugaritic myths she clearly emerges as the consort of El, the chief high god of the west Semitic pantheon.  The Canaanite myths associated El with the source of fresh water, located in the distant west or north. 

On this basis El’s consort was identified mainly as a sea-goddess.  During the kingdom period of Israel’s history she was the goddess at the side of Baal. 

On some occasions, however, she comes across as a fierce opponent of Baal, particularly when she thought she would lose her authority or influence among other members of the pantheon or when Baal preferred Anath instead of Asherah as his sexual intimate.  Of course such acts were never seen simply because these are all ideas or inanimate objects, but the stories sounded good.

The most shocking endorsement of Israel’s buying into Canaanite religion was the construction of a temple for the worship of Baal at Samaria.  This, as mentioned above, was promoted by Ahab (869-850 B.C.) and Jezebel, his wife, who was the daughter of the Tyrian king Ethbaal (1 Kgs 16:29-34).

This temple was constructed with the help of Tyrian artisans, along with an altar on which to offer sacrifices and a “sacred pole” (NRSV) or “wooden image” (NKJV).  Because of this apostasy, judgment was poured out on Ahab and Jezebel.  Jehu later destroyed this temple (2 Kgs 10:18-31).

During the reign of Manasseh (687-642 B.C.).  Canaanite religion was appropriated by the people of Judah from Geba to Beer-sheba (2 Kgs 16:4-14).  Manasseh added various aspects of Canaanite (a carved image of Asherah, 2 Kgs 21:7) and other religions to the city of Jerusalem.  He even offered his own son as burnt offering (2 Kgs 21:6).  Josiah later cleansed Jerusalem of the excesses of Canaanite worship (2 Kgs 23).

The Israelites had been warned before settling the land of Canaan about established religious worship sites, particularly the “high places” like the one to the right.  These sites were often furnished with basic cultic objects and resident sacred personnel. Cultic features included the following: small clay figurines (Jud 3:7; Micah 5:13); “sacred pillars” (1 Kgs 14:23); an “incense altar” (2 Chr 30:14); an altar for offering the whole burnt offering (2 Kgs 21:5) and “priests” and “priestesses.”

Several Canaanite high places were appropriated by Israel’s religious leaders early in the settlement, including Bethel (Jud 1:22-26), Shiloh (1 Sam 1:1-18), and Gibeah (1 Sam 13:1-4).  Both Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1-4) and Manasseh (2 Kgs 21:1-17) encouraged worship at high places.  Asherah and Baal worship caused the downfall of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel.

ASHTORETH.  Ashtoreth was a popular goddess in several cultures.  Her worship attracted the Israelites shortly after their settlement in Canaan.  At the heart of this pagan religion was the worship of the fertility or fecundity “forces/features” that characterized the animate aspects of the created world.  Ashtoreth’s popularity among the Phoenicians and other northwest Semitic peoples was long-standing.

The major confrontation between Ashtoreth and Yahweh took place during the days of Eli, Samuel, and Saul.  Particularly after the defeat on Mount Gilboa, the people of Israel faced an almost imponderable theological dilemma.

Instructions were sent throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim victory over Israel and their God Yahweh.  The proclamation was to be made in the temples of their idols and among the people (1 Sam 31:6-10): the Baals and Ashtoreths were mightier than the Lord!

Ashtoreth’s influence was finally discredited by Josiah, who “cleaned house” by destroying the shrines erected by Solomon.  He made clear that Yahweh was the only and true God for the people of Israel.

BAAL.  Baal the most significant male deity of the Canaanites and his consort Asherah were the most alluring deities confronting Israel in the Promised Land following the conquest.

The numerous references to Baal in the Old Testament indicate his attractiveness and influence on the Israelites.  The Book of Judges chronicles the numerous times the people fell to the temptation to worship Baal.  During the time of Ahab and Jezebel Baal was declared the official national deity. 

A temple and hundreds of officials were established for Baal’s worship in Samaria (1 Kgs 16:29-34).  A final chapter concerning Baal worship was written during the reigns of Jehu and Josiah, when the southern kingdom and its capital were purged of the worship of Baal (2 Kgs 10, 23:1-30).

Baal’s name derives from the Semitic word ba’lu,  meaning “lord.”  He was assumed to fulfill several significant roles by the peoples who worshiped him.  As god of the storm the roar of his voice in the heavens was the thunder of the sky.  He was the god who both created and granted fertility. 

He was the deity slain by enemies who thus fell into the hands of Death.  During the time that Baal was under the control of Death, the vegetation wilted or ceased and procreation stopped.  He was the god of justice, feared by evildoers.

The Book of Kings recounts that Jezebel used the plan of the Baal temple in Sidon for the construction of a similar temple in Samaria.  Ahab agreed with her to make Baal worship the royal religion of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 16:29-31).  Baal, like Asherah, was also worshiped at high places.

The cult of Baal involved the offering of many animal sacrifices.  Priests would officiate on behalf of the persons presenting sacrificial animals to the god.  Some of the northern kingdom rulers even “made their sons pass through fire” offering their own sons as sacrifices to Baal.  “Holy prostitutes “both male and female were available to worshipers, encouraging the fertility of both land and people.

BAAAL-ZEBUB.  Phoenician god worshiped at Ekron in Old Testament times (2 Kgs 1:2-16).  Original meaning of the name is unknown but the Old Testament form, Baal-zebub, means “Lord of the flies”; in Jesus’ day this god is derisively called Beel-zebul (NIV Beelzebub), “lord of dung, ” and identified with Satan, the ruler of demons (Matt 12:24)

Jesus’ enemies accused him of casting out demons by invoking Beel-zebul (M

k 3:22) and even of being his embodiment(Matt 10:25).  Jesus, rejecting this calumny, pointed out that the expulsion of demons was Satan’s defeat, heralding the arrival of God’s kingdom (Lk 11:20-22).

CHEMOSH.  Chemosh was the primary national god of the Moabites and Ammonites. The Moabites are called the “people of Chemosh” in the passage of Scripture that details the travels of the Israelites through Edom, Moab, and Ammon, (Num 21:21-32).  During the reign of Solomon worship of Chemosh, along with that of other pagan gods, was established and promoted in the city of Jerusalem.  Jeremiah specifically condemns the worship of Chemosh (ch 38).  The prophet focuses on the god’s impotence by showing him going into captivity with his priests and people.

 

DAGON.  Dagon was the highly venerated national deity of the Philistines.  Each city of the Philistine pentapolis had its temple for the worship of this god.  The temple statuary portraying Dagon was characterized by an upper human torso, with the lower torso of a fish.  The major cultic rite in Dagon’s worship was human sacrifice.

When the Philistines captured and overcame Samson, the five Philistine cities planned a great celebration.  Dagon had delivered their enemy into their hands (Jud 16:23-24).  The Philistines called for a sacrifice to their god.  Presumably they intended to offer Samson as a human holocaust/offering.  Dagon was, however, defeated by Yahweh.

Dagon haunted the reigns of both Saul and David.  The Israelites relied on their theological understanding that Yahweh was mightier than Dagon but, unfortunately, with an inexcusable naiveté, when they brought the ark of the covenant from Shiloh and took it into battle against the Philistines, it did not result in their victory.  However, the presence of the ark in Philistine hands led to the challenge to their god, Dagon, and the return of the ark to the Israelites.

Throughout the narratives relating the encounters between the people of Israel and the Philistines there persists an underlying theological dilemma.  Which deity is greater and therefore the one to worship and serve: the Lord God or Dagon?

HADAD.  Hadad was a prominent god among the Arameans, Syrians, and other west Semitic peoples.  The name appears especially in the Edomite genealogy of Genesis 36 and in the history of the two Israelite kingdoms to the downfall of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C.

Hadad was the deification of natural forces and war.  He was viewed as the god of the storm, who displayed his power in thunder, lightning, and rain.  He was credited with both the good (desirable) and bad (undesirable) sides of storms. 

He was regarded as the origin and regulator of the beneficial rains, making him the principle of life and fertility.  The Assyrians saw him as a mighty warrior-god.  He was portrayed as standing on the back of a bull, wearing the horns of the bull on his helmet and wielding a mace and thunderbolt.

The name “Hadad” was used in reference to a human individual to indicate the essence or being of the patron deity, the power bestowed on that person, and bestowal of favor or help against an enemy or opponent. 

The name is used of a number of important persons in the scriptural record.  Several rulers of the Edomites contemporary with David and Solomon had the name “Hadad.”

LEVIATHAN.  Leviathan can be identified with Lotan, sea-monster of the Ugaritic Texts mythology.  The Ugaritic myth recounts how Lotan and Baal were locked in mortal combat, until Baal killed the sea-monster. 

Leviathan is also mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh.  The references to Leviathan in Scripture occur almost exclusively in poetic or semi poetic passages, emphasizing the might and control of the Lord God over the forces of nature.  Yet, Baal did not kill Leviathan.

In Job 40-41 God describes Leviathan as a sea monster and man can’t kill him.  In Ps 74:14, God says that He smashed Leviathan’s head in.  And in Is 27:1 it appears that the Leviathan that God is talking about is the devil, that He will destroy him in the end.

Whether there is or was a great sea-monster such as Leviathan we don’t know, but it doesn’t matter, God can do whatever He chooses.  Read Job 40-41, Leviathan is more frightening then any creature we have ever known.  I believe we are told of Leviathan, whether he’s real or not, to let us know that there is nothing more powerful than God.

MARDUK.  Marduk was the chief deity of Babylon.  He becamethe supreme god among the older Sumerian gods as creator and ruler.  Enlil was the original chief god until the Code of Hammurabi and the Creation Epic focused on Marduk instead.  Jeremiah prophesied that Marduk would be put to shame (Jer 50:2).

 

MILCOM.  Milcom, called the “abomination” of the Ammorites, was apparently the chief deity of the Ammonites or Moabites.  The “abomination” label seems to convey both the detestable aspect of origin and of the worship of Lot’s descendants. 

Solomon built a worship facility for this foreign deity (see 1 Kgs 11:5, 7, 33).  Milcom is sometimes identified with Molech, but this is incorrect since the two gods were worshiped individually.

MOLECH Molech or Moloch was another “abomination” of the Ammonites.  Solomon also built a high place for this god in Jerusalem.  The worship of this god was particularly odius, as it required human sacrifice. 

QUEEN OF HEAVENJeremiah was directed by God to speak out the Lord’s disapproval of Israel’s worship of the “Queen of Heaven”  (7:18, 44:17-19).  This female deity was particularly worshiped by the women of Judah and Egypt during the time of Jeremiah.

Children were gathering firewood; women were busily kneading dough for cakes to be offered to this queen.  The details and activity suggest that the Canaanite goddess Astarte was the deity motivating the people in Jerusalem to such frenzied worship activity.

TAMMUZ.  Tammuz was a Syrian and Phoenician god of fertility, venerated in the worship of idols and elaborate, extreme rituals.  The Greeks adopted Tammuz as one of their prominent deities, changing his name to Adonis.

Ezekiel lists the worship of Tammuz as one of the abominations in God’s sight (8:1-18) that was being practiced in the temple precincts in Jerusalem.  The chanting of a litany of woes (or, singing a song, of lamentation see Eze 8:14) shows that the cult of Tammuz was active in Jerusalem.