Isaiah 20



Assyrian inscriptions enable us to date this prophecy with a near approach

to exactness. Ashdod was besieged by an Assyrian army twice in the reign

of Sargon — in his ninth year (B.C. 713) and in his eleventh year (B.C.

711). On the former occasion it is probable that the arms of a general

(Tartan) were employed; on the latter it is nearly certain that Sargon made

the expedition in person. The capture of Ashdod, here mentioned, is

consequently the first capture. Egypt and Ethiopia were at the time united

under one head, Shabak, or Shabatok; and the inhabitants of Ashdod

looked to this quarter for deliverance from the Assyrian power. Shortly

after the first capture, they revolted, deposed the king whom Sargon had

set over them, appointed another, and then proceeded, in conjunction with

Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab, to call in the aid of the Egyptians and

Ethiopians. Isaiah’s mission on this occasion was to discourage Judaea

from joining Ashdod and her allies in this appeal. He was instructed to

prophesy that Assyria would shortly inflict a severe defeat on the two

African powers, and carry into captivity large numbers of both nations. The

prophecy seems to have had its accomplishment about twelve years later,

when Sennacherib defeated the combined forces of Egypt and Ethiopia at

Eltekeh, near Ekron (G. Smith, ‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 133).


v. 2 – “walking naked” - Probably not actually “naked,” for captives were

not stripped bare by the Assyrians, but with nothing on besides his short

tunic, as the male captives are commonly represented in the Assyrian

sculptures.  The supposed “impropriety” of Isaiah’s having “gone naked and

barefoot – v. 3 for three years arises from a misconception of the word “naked.”

which is not to be taken literally. The costume adopted would be extraordinary,

especially in one of Isaiah’s rank and position; but would not be in any degree

improper.” It would be simply that of working men during the greater part of

the day (see Exodus 22:26, 27).


v. 3 – “My servant Isaiah” - Isaiah shares this honorable title, “my

servant,” with a select few among God’s saints — with Abraham

(Genesis 26:24), Moses (Numbers 12:7), Caleb (Numbers 14:24),

Job (Job 1:8; 42:7, 8), Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20), and Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:23).

It is a great acknowledgment for the Creator to make to the creature, that he

really does Him service.


v. 4 – “naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to

the shame of Egypt - Assyrian captives are ordinarily represented “barefoot.”

Most commonly they wear a single tunic, reaching from the neck to the knees, or

sometimesto the ankles, and girt about the waist with a girdle. It is probable that

Egyptian and Ethiopian prisoners would be even more scantily clad, since

the ordinary Egyptian tunic began at the waist and ended considerably

above the knee.


v. 5 – “they shall be afraid and ashamed-  Those who have resorted

to Egypt and Ethiopia for aid shall be “ashamed” of their folly in doing so,

and “afraid” of its consequences (see the last clause of v. 6).



                                    Additonal Notes


vs. 1-4 - Foolish Trust Rebuked by a Strange Sign.

Few things are so difficult as to bring men to rely WHOLLY AND

SOLELY upon God. The circumstances of the time were these. Humanly

speaking, Judaea lay absolutely at the mercy of Assyria. There was no existing

power or combination of powers that could successfully contend at the time

against the vast bodies of well-armed and well-disciplined soldiers which a king

of Assyria could bring into the field. Nothing could prolong Jewish

independence for more than a few years but some miraculous interposition

of God on behalf of the Jewish people. But for God to interpose

miraculously, it was necessary that implicit trust should be placed in him

(Mark 6:5; 9:23). The Jews, however, could not bring themselves

to believe that they had no help but Jehovah. They thought Egypt, or

Egypt and Ethiopia combined, might well prove a match for Assyria, and

were bent on placing themselves under the protection of the combined

powers. The lesson of the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, which had

trusted in Egypt (2 Kings 17:4), and then been destroyed by Assyria,

was lost on them. In connection with Ashdod, they had actually sent

ambassadors to Egypt to entreat assistance (Isaiah 30:1-4). Then it was

that Isaiah received the special mission which was to warn his countrymen

of the utter folly of trusting to human aid. For three years he was to wear

the scant clothing that Assyrian captives ordinarily wore, announcing that

he did so in token that ere long the warriors of Egypt and Ethiopia would

be seen thus clad, on their way from Egypt to captivity at Nineveh. The

unusual attire of the prophet could not but create a great sensation. It

probably made a considerable impression on Hezekiah and his counselors.

It was not forgotten; and if it did not at once cause the negotiations with

Egypt to be broken off, it produced the result that, when Isaiah’s

prediction was fulfilled after the battle of Eltekeh, the Jewish monarch and

people did in their trouble turn to God. At the crisis of his danger,

Hezekiah made appeal to the Almighty (Isaiah 37:4); and his appeal

was followed by that destruction of the Assyrian host (Isaiah 37:36)

which caused the Assyrians to respect and fear the Jews thenceforward,

and to allow them to retain their independence. Thus the life of the Jewish

monarchy was extended for above a century.


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