Continuation of the Subject of the Nineteenth
Chapter, BUT AT A Later Date. Captivity
of Egypt and Ethiopia.
In the reign of Sargon (722-715 B.C.), the successor of Shalmaneser, an Assyrian
invasion of Egypt took place. Its success is here foretold, and hence a
party among the Jews is warned of the folly of their "expectation" of
aid from Egypt or Ethiopia. At a later period (Isa 18:1-7), when Tirhakah of Ethiopia was
their ally, the Ethiopians are treated as friends, to whom God
announces the overthrow of the common Assyrian foe, Sennacherib. Egypt
and Ethiopia in this chapter (Isa 20:3, 4) are represented as allied
together, the result no doubt of fear of the common foe; previously
they had been at strife, and the Ethiopian king had, just before Sethos
usurpation, withdrawn from occupation of part of Lower Egypt. Hence,
"Egypt" is mentioned alone in Isa 19:1-25, which refers to a somewhat earlier
stage of the same event: a delicate mark of truth. Sargon seems to have
been the king who finished the capture of Samaria which Shalmaneser
began; the alliance of Hoshea with So or Sabacho II of Ethiopia, and
his refusal to pay the usual tribute, provoked Shalmaneser to the
invasion. On clay cylindrical seals found in Sennacherib's palace at
Koyunjik, the name of Sabacho is deciphered; the two seals are thought,
from the inscriptions, to have been attached to the treaty of peace
between Egypt and Assyria, which resulted from the invasion of Egypt by
Sargon, described in this chapter; 2Ki 18:10 curiously confirms the view derived from
Assyrian inscriptions, that though Shalmaneser began, Sargon finished
the conquest of Samaria; "they took it" (compare 2Ki 17:4-6). In Sargon's palace at Khorsabad,
inscriptions state that 27,280 Israelites were led captive by the
founder of the palace. While Shalmaneser was engaged in the siege of
Samaria, Sargon probably usurped the supreme power and destroyed him;
the siege began in 723 B.C., and ended
in 721 B.C., the first year of Sargon's
reign. Hence arises the paucity of inscriptions of the two predecessors
of Sargon, Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser; the usurper destroyed them,
just as Tiglath-pileser destroyed those of Pul (Sardanapalus), the last
of the old line of Ninus; the names of his father and grandfather,
which have been deciphered in the palace of his son Sennacherib, do not
appear in the list of Assyrian kings, which confirms the view that he
was a satrap who usurped the throne. He was so able a general that
Hezekiah made no attempt to shake off the tribute until the reign of
Sennacherib; hence Judah was not invaded now as the lands of the
Philistines and Egypt were. After conquering Israel he sent his
general, Tartan, to attack the Philistine cities, "Ashdod," &c.,
preliminary to his invasion of Egypt and Ethiopia; for the line of
march to Egypt lay along the southwest coast of Palestine. The
inscriptions confirm the prophecy; they tell us he received tribute
from a Pharaoh of "Egypt"; besides destroying in part the Ethiopian
"No-ammon," or Thebes (Na 3:8); also
that he warred with the kings of "Ashdod," Gaza, &c., in harmony
with Isaiah here; a memorial tablet of him is found in Cyprus also,
showing that he extended his arms to that island. His reign was six or
seven years in duration, 722-715 B.C.
[G. V. Smith].
1. Tartan—probably the same general as
was sent by Sennacherib against Hezekiah (2Ki 18:17). Gesenius takes "Tartan" as a title.
Ashdod—called by the Greeks Azotus
8:40); on the Mediterranean,
one of the "five" cities of the Philistines. The taking of it was a
necessary preliminary to the invasion of Egypt, to which it was the key
in that quarter, the Philistines being allies of Egypt. So strongly did
the Assyrians fortify it that it stood a twenty-nine years' siege, when
it was retaken by the Egyptian Psammetichus.
sent—Sargon himself remained behind
engaged with the Phœnician cities, or else led the main force more
directly into Egypt out of Judah [G. V.
2. by—literally, "by the hand of"
(compare Eze 3:14).
sackcloth—the loose outer garment of
coarse dark hair-cloth worn by mourners (2Sa 3:31) and by prophets, fastened at the waist
by a girdle (Mt 3:4; 2Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4).
naked—rather, "uncovered"; he merely
put off the outer sackcloth, retaining still the tunic or inner vest
(1Sa 19:24; Am 2:16; Joh 21:7); an emblem to show that Egypt should be
stripped of its possessions; the very dress of Isaiah was a silent
exhortation to repentance.
3. three years—Isaiah's symbolical
action did not continue all this time, but at intervals, to keep
it before the people's mind during that period [Rosenmuller]. Rather, join "three years" with
"sign," a three years' sign, that is, a sign that a three years'
calamity would come on Egypt and Ethiopia [Barnes], (Isa 8:18). This is the only instance of a
strictly symbolical act performed by Isaiah. With later prophets, as
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, such acts were common. In some cases they were
performed, not literally, but only in prophetic vision.
wonder—rather, "omen"; conveying a
threat as to the future [G. V.
upon—in reference to, against.
4. buttocks uncovered—Belzoni says that captives are found represented
thus on Egyptian monuments (Isa 47:2, 3; Na 3:5, 8, 9), where as here, Egypt and Ethiopia are
mentioned as in alliance.
5. they—the Philistine allies of Egypt
who trusted in it for help against Assyria. A warning to the party
among the Jews, who, though Judah was then the subordinate ally of
Assyria, were looking to Egypt as a preferable ally (Isa 30:7). Ethiopia was their "expectation"; for
Palestine had not yet obtained, but hoped for alliance with it.
Egypt was their "glory," that is, boast (Isa 13:19); for the alliance with it was
6. isle—that is, coast on the
Mediterranean—Philistia, perhaps Phœnicia (compare Isa 23:2; 11:11; 13:22; Ps 72:10).
we—emphatical; if Egypt, in which we
trusted, was overcome, how shall we, a small weak state,