Isaiah – Chapter 22

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Because Tomorrow...

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Next, Isaiah reveals a prophecy regarding the “valley of vision,” which Rashi identifies with Jerusalem. “Why have you gone on to the rooftops?” the prophet asks. (Rashi refers us to the story in the Talmud, Taanis 29a, in which the Kohanim ascended the Temple roof to “return” the Temple keys to G-d.) Jerusalem was a happy, prosperous city that now mourns. They are starving in the streets; it would have been better to fall in battle! Tzidkiyahu and his officers fled before the archers; any who were captured were bound in chains.

Isaiah – or possibly G-d Himself – says to leave him (Him) alone so that he (He) may mourn over Jerusalem. It is a day of destruction, with Nebuchadnezzar breaching the city wall and people fleeing to the mountains for refuge.

Many nations – even the already-conquered Elam, will take up arms against Jerusalem. The enemy will destroy the Temple and the people will turn to the shields that King Solomon placed in the palace called the Forest of Lebanon (in I Kings chapter 10). The cracks in the walls of Jerusalem will grow and the people will gather to defend the spot most likely to be breached. Houses will be demolished so that the stones can be used to fortify the city wall, but the people don’t think to turn to G-d.

G-d warned the people this was coming so they would repent, but they didn’t listen. They lived for the present, saying, “Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die!” (Rashi says they partied in this world because they had no share in the Next World.) Therefore G-d said that their sin would not be atoned for until they perished (in the Next World, says Rashi).

G-d told Isaiah to go to Shevna, the Temple treasurer, who was a hedonist. According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 26a), Shevna tried to betray King Chizkiyahu to the Assyrians. Isaiah was to ask Shevna why he bothered making himself a grave site in the royal burial grounds, to which he had no right. G-d will toss him through the air, around and around, to an empty place, where he would die – and he would not get to use his intended burial place of honor.

When Shevna is exiled, G-d will call upon Elyakim, son of Chilkiyahu, whom He will dress in fine clothes and appoint him a leader over the Jewish people. He will give him the keys to the Temple and the government and his position will be secure. Everyone will rely on Elyakim, while Shevna, who abused his position, will be removed and his people will be cut off.

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