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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 20

Verses 1-6

Isaiah 20. The Sign of Egypt’ s Overthrow.— The year in which the Assyrian Tartan, or commander-in-chief, came to Ashdod was 711. This city had been in negotiation with Egypt against Assyria, and so too had Judah, Moab, and Edom. Isaiah had protested against this policy by the sign here recorded. To show the futility of trusting in Egypt and Ethiopia he put off his outer garment, and for three years walked stripped and barefoot like a captive, symbolising the fate that was coming on these lands. Ashdod was quickly captured, many of its inhabitants were taken to Assyria and their place supplied by other exiles, as had been the case with Samaria. We do not know how Judah was treated. The desperate measures taken by Isaiah, and the summary punishment of Ashdod, may have kept Judah from open rebellion. Isaiah 20:2 seems to represent the command to walk in captive’ s dress as given to Isaiah in the year that Ashdod was taken, whereas from Isaiah 20:3 it is clear that by this time Isaiah had already been walking so for three years. It is simplest to regard Isaiah 20:2 as an insertion, and this is supported by the use of the phrase “ by Isaiah” instead of, as we ought to have, unto Isaiah.” If Isaiah 20:2 is retained, it must be treated as a parenthesis, a very loose interpretation must be given to “ at that time,” and we must translate “ had spoken” instead of “ spake.”

At the time of the conquest of Ashdod, Isaiah had by Divine command walked for three years in captive’ s dress. This was a sign that Assyria would carry captive the Egyptians and Ethiopians. Then dismay and disappointment would overwhelm those who trusted in Egypt and favoured alliance with her and they would fear for their own safety.

Isaiah 20:1 . Sargon: see p. 59. He is mentioned here only in OT.

Isaiah 20:2 . The sackcloth was worn by mourners, also by prophets, and was often made of hair. Isaiah removes his outer garment, and appears with nothing but the long linen cloak which was worn next the skin.

Isaiah 20:6 . this coastland: i.e. Palestine. Strictly speaking, Philistia was a coastland, while Judah was not. The prophet has in mind the small nations of Palestine, especially Judah. As a matter of fact, the conquest of Egypt took place at a later period.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 20". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.