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A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Isaiah 22

Kuruvilla Thomas
Bangalore
Published on 10 March 2020




Isaiah 22 Timeline
Fig. 1


Introduction

This study treats Isaiah 22 as a "Functional Chiasmus" in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is arranged in the form of a functional chiasmus must be rearranged based on certain logical principles to be correctly interpreted. A functional chiasmus is a new concept; see definition here [1]. This study also contains an exegesis of the rearranged text. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Part 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.

We show that this prophecy is about 3 distinct periods of Jerusalem - the "Valley of Vision". The simple chiastic structure of the prophecy is obscured through its phrasing and so we will go into some detail on our parsing decisions.


Notes:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem in the 1st century who primarily were of the tribe of Judah; We will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.


Discussion

1. Presuppositions

We base our parse of Isaiah 22 on the assumption that it refers to 3 periods:

  1. The time of Eliakim and Shebna (circa 700BC).
  2. The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD). The Roman army began their siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD and completely destroyed the city and its people shortly thereafter.
  3. The start of Christ's millennial reign on earth (circa 2000AD).

2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will use the NIV Bible for this parse.

Parsing this chiasmus involves dividing portions of the text into three categories as above. We will call the time of Eliakim and Shebna Period 1, the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD Period 2 and the start of Christ's millennial reign Period 3.


Categorizing Isaiah 22

Vs 1-11 belong to Period 2. Although the text does not specify who attacked Jerusalem, or when, we take the stand that this is the Roman attack during the First Jewish-Roman war, primarily because we expect to see it in chiastic reconstructions.

Vs 12-14 belong to Period 3. God asks for repentance and mourning but instead there is revelry and celebration. This hardly seems to be the likely attitude of people who are about to die a gruesome death at the hands of the Romans. So we believe that it refers to the time before the millennial reign of Christ when this attitude is commonly seen.

Vs 15-21 belong to Period 1. Eliakim replaces Shebna as the palace administrator of Jerusalem.

Vs 22-24 belong to Period 3. The coming Messiah will have the keys to the house of David. On a straight-through reading, this passage seems to be about Eliakim's promotion to palace administrator of Jerusalem, but the power and honour given to the person in this passage seems rather excessive for that position. We take the stand that this is about the coming Messiah, either Christ or a representative, who will rule Israel.

Ch 25 belongs to Period 2. Jerusalem, the firm peg, will be sheared off, i.e., Jerusalem is destroyed. Although the same metaphor of the pegs is used in the previous verses about the Messiah, it is unlikely that this verse predicts the Messiah's or Eliakim's deposition. This technique of applying the the same metaphor for different Periods to obscure subunit boundaries is often used in chiastic passages.


Original text

We color-code the chiastic units of the original text (NIV) below for easy visual identification using: red for Period 1, blue for Period 2 and green for Period 3.


Isaiah 22 22 A prophecy against the Valley of Vision:
What troubles you now, that you have all gone up on the roofs, 2 you town so full of commotion, you city of tumult and revelry? Your slain were not killed by the sword, nor did they die in battle. 3 All your leaders have fled together; they have been captured without using the bow. All you who were caught were taken prisoner together, having fled while the enemy was still far away. 4 Therefore I said, “Turn away from me; let me weep bitterly. Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people.”
5 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, has a day of tumult and trampling and terror in the Valley of Vision, a day of battering down walls and of crying out to the mountains. 6 Elam takes up the quiver, with her charioteers and horses; Kir uncovers the shield. 7 Your choicest valleys are full of chariots, and horsemen are posted at the city gates.
8 The Lord stripped away the defenses of Judah, and you looked in that day to the weapons in the Palace of the Forest. 9 You saw that the walls of the City of David were broken through in many places; you stored up water in the Lower Pool. 10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. 11 You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.

12 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”
14 The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

15 This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says:
“Go, say to this steward, to Shebna the palace administrator: 16 What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?
17 “Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, you mighty man. 18 He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country. There you will die and there the chariots you were so proud of will become a disgrace to your master’s house. 19 I will depose you from your office, and you will be ousted from your position.
20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah.

22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.
25 “In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down.” The Lord has spoken.


3. Building the reconfigured text


From this parse, it appears that Isaiah 22 forms a Functional chiasmus as below:

A1   Vs 1-11 Period 2. The Roman attack during the First Jewish-Roman war.
  B1   Vs 12-14 Period 3. The attitude before the Millennial reign of Christ.
    X   Vs 15-21 Period 1. Eliakim replaces Shebna as the palace administrator.
  B2   Vs 22-24 Period 3. The coming Messiah will have the keys to the house of David.
A2   Vs 25 Period 2. Jerusalem, the firm peg, will be sheared off.


We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure above and based on the ordering rules of a functional chiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X'. The corresponding subunits (For example; subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

X  [A1,A2]  [B1,B2]        (1)

Translating (1) into verse numbers, we get:

Vs 15-21  [Vs 1-11, Vs 25]   [Vs 12-14, Vs 22-24]        (2)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (2).



4. Isaiah 22 Reconfigured

Eliakim and Shebna (circa 700BC).(Vs 15-21)
15 This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says:
“Go, say to this steward, to Shebna the palace administrator: 16 What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?
17 “Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, you mighty man. 18 He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country. There you will die and there the chariots you were so proud of will become a disgrace to your master’s house. 19 I will depose you from your office, and you will be ousted from your position.
20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah.


The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD).(Vs 1-11, Vs 25)
1 A prophecy against the Valley of Vision:
What troubles you now, that you have all gone up on the roofs, 2 you town so full of commotion, you city of tumult and revelry? Your slain were not killed by the sword, nor did they die in battle. 3 All your leaders have fled together; they have been captured without using the bow. All you who were caught were taken prisoner together, having fled while the enemy was still far away. 4 Therefore I said, “Turn away from me; let me weep bitterly. Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people.”
5 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, has a day of tumult and trampling and terror in the Valley of Vision, a day of battering down walls and of crying out to the mountains. 6 Elam takes up the quiver, with her charioteers and horses; Kir uncovers the shield. 7 Your choicest valleys are full of chariots, and horsemen are posted at the city gates.
8 The Lord stripped away the defenses of Judah, and you looked in that day to the weapons in the Palace of the Forest. 9 You saw that the walls of the City of David were broken through in many places; you stored up water in the Lower Pool. 10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. 11 You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.


25 “In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down.” The Lord has spoken.

The start of Christ's millennial reign on earth (circa 2000AD) (Vs 12-14, Vs 22-24)
12 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”
14 The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.


22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.



5. An exegesis of the reconfigured text.

The passage has been split into 3 sections as above for analysis.

5.1 Eliakim and Shebna (circa 700BC).(Vs 15-21)

15 This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says:
“Go, say to this steward, to Shebna the palace administrator: 16 What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?
17 “Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, you mighty man. 18 He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country. There you will die and there the chariots you were so proud of will become a disgrace to your master’s house. 19 I will depose you from your office, and you will be ousted from your position.
20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah.

Shebna abused his power as the palace administrator in Jerusalem for his own gain and glory. As punishment, God will oust Shebna and replace him with Eliakim, who will fulfil his duties in the right spirit. Instead of enjoying his possessions and being buried in his elaborate tomb, Shebna was to be stripped of his belongings, brought low and exiled to an unnamed "large country".



5.2 The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD).(Vs 1-11, Vs 25)


1a A prophecy against the Valley of Vision:

This line falls outside the functional chiasmus, but is included here for completeness. Although Jerusalem sits on elevated land, it is called a "valley" here, because it is "encompassed" by mountains. It is a place of "vision", probably because many prophets were based out of the city.



1b What troubles you now, that you have all gone up on the roofs, 2a you town so full of commotion, you city of tumult and revelry?

The people of Jerusalem, known for revelry, have gone up to the roofs to watch with consternation as the Romans lay siege outside the city. Jesus advised his followers to flee to the mountains without tarrying to collect their belongings at this time (Matthew 24:17).



2b Your slain were not killed by the sword, nor did they die in battle. 3 All your leaders have fled together; they have been captured without using the bow. All you who were caught were taken prisoner together, having fled while the enemy was still far away.

A number of the people in Jerusalem were killed because of starvation (food stores were destroyed to force the people to fight) and internecine squabbling and not in battle against the enemy. Apparently, the leaders of the city tried to flee but were captured.



4 Therefore I said, “Turn away from me; let me weep bitterly. Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people.”

An expression of bitter sorrow at the awful devastation and brutal slaughter of God's own people by the Romans.



5 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, has a day of tumult and trampling and terror in the Valley of Vision, a day of battering down walls and of crying out to the mountains.

On this "Day of the Lord", God used the Romans to massacre His own people and destroy Jerusalem as punishment for their many sins. The desperate cries of the people of the city could be heard from afar.



6 Elam takes up the quiver, with her charioteers and horses; Kir uncovers the shield. 7 Your choicest valleys are full of chariots, and horsemen are posted at the city gates.

Elam and Kir are likely mentioned here for the reputation of their warriors and not to identify the attackers. The region of Judea, especially around Jerusalem, was covered by the Roman army.



8 The Lord stripped away the defenses of Judah, and you looked in that day to the weapons in the Palace of the Forest.

As we have seen in our parse of the "70 weeks of Daniel" [2], God made a "covenant" with the Romans that allowed this massacre of His own people to take place. The "Palace of the Forest of Lebanon" - probably so called from the great quantity of cedar from Lebanon used in its construction - was an armoury built by Solomon.



9 You saw that the walls of the City of David were broken through in many places; you stored up water in the Lower Pool. 10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. 11 You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.


The people of Jerusalem were well prepared for an extended siege: they repaired and strengthened their city walls; stored sufficient water; and had the armaments to fight the Romans. But they wrongly trusted in these preparations more than in their God who had given them the city.



25 “In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down.” The Lord has spoken.

Jerusalem, the firm peg, was taken down; it was no longer the capital city and refuge of God's people and it no longer contained the temple of God.



5.3 The start of Christ's millennial reign on earth (circa 2000AD) (Vs 12-14, Vs 22-24)

12 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”
14 The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

At the time of the start of the Millennial reign of Christ, the people of earth are asked to repent and change their ways, but instead, many of them choose to live a dissolute life. The attitude that "you only live once" and so, "do as thou wilt" has become common at this time. This is the stance of the immoral atheist who does not believe in God or an afterlife and also the attitude promoted by the Satan worshipper; they will attract God's wrath for it.



22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

The coming Messiah will get the key to the house of David - he will inherit the throne of David - and his decisions will be final, as we saw in Revelation 3 [3]. At the time of Isaiah, instead of the cupboards we use today, pegs driven into the wall were used to store things - all the household's belongings were hung on the pegs. So the sense is that the Messiah will act as a mainstay for the family of David; his family, especially his offspring, will be honored through his work and life.




Conclusion

This paper is a chiastic reconstruction of the text which shows that the passage contains three interwoven prophetic passages. Once again, we see the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD feature prominently in a functional chiasmus.

The first Period of this reconstruction is about Eliakim replacing Shebna, which is a minor incident compared to what we usually see in functional chiasmi - not much else is known about Shebna or Eliakim. We propose that this event is a type of the start of the Messiah's reign. Just as the selfish Shebna was replaced by Eliakim, so also the corrupt, greedy world leadership of the time will replaced by a righteous Messiah.



References

[1] A Definition of Functional Chiasmus
[2] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel"
[3] A Chiastic Twist to Revelation 2 and 3










Related pages

Daniel 9
Mark 13
Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37
Functional Chiasmus