Isaiah 22:1-19 The destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians and the Romans
The prophecies of Isaiah are great because they often have dual or multiple fulfillments. Certainly, these prophecies were fulfilled when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem about 589 BC. Furthermore, the same prophesies apply as well to the Roman captivity of 70-71 AD. Third, they will likely be fulfilled one more time just prior to the Second Coming according to the prophecy of Zechariah, "the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city." (Zech. 14:2)
We have more information about the Roman destruction than the Babylonian one. The historian, Josephus, communicated between Roman general Titus and the Jews during the Roman siege. His history helps us see how some of the details of Isaiah's prophecies were fulfilled to the very letter.
Thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian... It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after him Sosius and Herod [the Great] took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate... It was demolished entirely by the Babylonians, 477 years and six months after [David] And from king David, who was the first of the Jews who reigned therein, to this destruction under Titus, were one 1179 years. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 10:1)
Isaiah 22:1 the burden of the valley of vision
A burden is a curse or destruction of the Lord. The Jews were to suffer "the burden of the valley of vision" by the hands of the Babylonians and later the Romans.
The Roman soldiers stationed themselves in the valleys outside the fortified walls of Jerusalem. They allowed no food or drink to enter the city. Soon the siege produced a terrible famine within the walls of the city. The valleys became mass graveyards.
Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves; for many died as they were burying others... as first [they] gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath.
However, when Titus, in going his rounds along those valleys, saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan; and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing; and such was the sad case of the city itself. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V, 12:3-4)
Isaiah 22:2 Thou... art full of stirs, a tumultuous city
Just prior to the Roman siege, Jerusalem suffered internal ravages at the hands of three seditious bands engaged in a destructive civil war. Their leaders John, Eleazar, and Simon fought against each other in bitter street battles. The city was indeed "full of noise" and tumultuous.
Although [John] suffered more mischief from Eleazar and his party than he could inflict upon them, yet would he not leave off assaulting them, insomuch that there were continual sallies made one against another, as well as darts (spears) thrown at one another, and the temple was defiled every where with murders...
And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men... The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear... The noise also of those that were fighting was incessant, both by day and by night; but the lamentations of those that mourned exceeded the other; nor was there ever any occasion for them to leave off their lamentations, because their calamities came perpetually one upon another. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V, 1:2,5)
Isaiah 22:6 Elam bare the quiver... Kir uncovered the shield
Elam was the land just east of Babylon. Kir's exact location is not known, but it may have been just west of Babylon. If so, then the east and west boundaries of Jerusalem's enemy are here delineated by the Lord. This geography applies to Jerusalem's first destruction at the hands of the Babylonians.
Isaiah 22:7 thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate
Suffering a slow and painful death by starvation, the famine drove the Jews to extremes. Without food in the city, many would venture out into the more fertile valleys. However, these "choicest valleys" were full of Roman soldiers who were specifically instructed to intercept the Jews.
[Titus] then sent a party of horsemen, and ordered they should lay ambushes for those that went out into the valleys to gather food... the severity of the famine made them bold in thus going out... and when they were going to be taken [by the Romans] they were forced to defend themselves... so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews: nay, some days they caught more... So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses and crosses wanting for the bodies. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V, 11:1)
Isaiah 22:9 Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many
Jerusalem was built with three strong walls for protection. Because of its extensive fortifications, Josephus records, "it was called the 'Citadel,' by king David... it was built very strong; because David and Solomon, and the following kings, were very zealous about this work." (Wars of the Jews, Book V, 4:1-2)
The wall was, however, ten cubits wide, and it would probably have had a height greater than that, had not his zeal who began it been hindered from exerting itself. After this, it was erected with great diligence by the Jews, as high as twenty cubits, above which it had battlements of two cubits, and turrets of three cubits altitude, insomuch that the entire altitude extended as far as twenty-five cubits.
Now the towers that were upon it were twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in height; they were square and solid, as was the wall itself, wherein the niceness of the joints, and the beauty of the stones, were no way inferior to those of the holy house itself. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V, 4:2-3)
Strong fortifications frustrated Titus and the Romans. They had built special machines and battering rams to break down the walls. On suicide missions, zealous Jewish warriors would run out onto the wooden machines and light them on fire (Wars of the Jews, Book V, 11:5).
Titus tried building up banks of earth in order for his soldiers to scale them. Whenever they began to scale the walls, they were attacked from above suffering significant losses. Eventually, however, the breaches in the city of David increased until the Romans made their way into the city.
When the Jews were retreated, the Romans brought their engines, although they had all the while stones thrown at them from the tower of Antonia, and were assaulted by fire and sword, and by all sorts of darts... Now these Romans struggled hard, on the contrary, to bring them, as deeming that this zeal of the Jews was in order to avoid any impression to be made on the tower of Antonia, because its wall was but weak, and its foundations rotten. However, that tower did not yield to the blows given it from the engines; yet... they undermined its foundations, and with great pains they removed four of its stones. Then night came upon both sides, and put an end to this struggle for the present; however, that night the wall was so shaken by the battering rams in that place where John had used his stratagem before, and had undermined their banks, that the ground then gave way, and the wall fell down suddenly. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 1:3)
Isaiah 22:10 the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall
The unexpected joy of the Romans at this fall of the wall [was] soon quenched by the sight they had of another wall, which John and his party had built within it... This new wall appeared also to be much weaker than the tower of Antonia, and accordingly the Romans imagined that it had been erected so much on the sudden, that they should soon overthrow it. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 1:4)
Isaiah 22:11 ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool
This prophecy was fulfilled prior to the Babylonian captivity in the days of Hezekiah. While there may be another fulfillment during the Babylonian or Roman captivities, available history is silent on the subject.
"Hezekiah began refortifying the city walls to prepare Jerusalem for the retaliatory invasion [of the Assyrians]. A two-hundred-foot (sixty-five-meter) section of Hezekiah's wall has been uncovered in recent years in today's Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The 'broad wall,' as it is called in 'Nehemiah 3:8 and 12:38, is twenty-five feet wide (seven meters), testimony of the serious fortification works of Jerusalem's king. As archaeologists cleared away the debris of centuries, they exposed to view houses that were destroyed along the course of Hezekiah's protective wall, just as Isaiah noted: 'Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall' (Isa. 22:9-10).
"Hezekiah cut an underground tunnel to ensure a constant supply of water from the Gihon Spring into the city. Second Chronicles 32:30 says, 'This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David.' This refers to Hezekiah's famous water tunnel, which still exists today, twenty-seven hundred years later. An inscription discovered in 1880, twenty feet inside the south end of the tunnel, tells the story of how the two teams of workmen, one from each end, chiseled 1,748 feet (nearly one-third of a mile) through solid limestone and how they met in the middle." (David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew C. Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 95 - 96)
Isaiah 22:17 the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity
This is another passage with multiple fulfillments. First and most obvious, is the captivity of Babylon in which Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem, killed many, took many prisoners and brought them home. Many were further scattered from Babylon while a remnant would return 70 years later. The 70 years was definitely a "mighty captivity."
"With the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C., the Jews were again dispersed, this time to Egypt. Once again, many who adapted themselves to living in other lands never returned. Now there were two major centers of the Diaspora (scattering): Babylon and Alexandria." (Lenet Hadley Read, How We Got the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 17 - 18)
Next, the Jews were scattered by the Romans (~70 AD) after the capture of Jerusalem described at length by Josephus, "Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be [97,000]; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, [1,100,000]." (Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 9:3) The 97,000 captives were then spread all over the Roman Empire, which was practically the entire known world at the time. That has become known as the Diaspora.
"Some Jews were sold as slaves or transported as captives after the fall of Judea, others joined the existing diaspora, while still others remained in Judea and began work on the Jerusalem Talmud. For those Jews in the diaspora, they were generally accepted into the Roman Empire, but with the rise of Christianity, restrictions grew. Forced expulsions and persecution resulted in substantial shifts in the international centers of Jewish life to which far-flung communities often looked; although not always unified due to the Jewish people's dispersion itself." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_diaspora)
(speaking of 2 Nephi 25:15-20.) This prophecy clearly sets forth how the Jews would be scattered among all nations where they would be scourged for many generations until they are persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God as their Messiah, at which time the Lord shall set His hand the second time to restore them from their lost and fallen state, even by the doing of a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men, even through the bringing forth of His word for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them. And this is the purpose of this presentation to offer unto the Jews the marvelous work and a wonder the Lord has accomplished in bringing forth His word, even the Stick of Joseph. (Israel! Do You Know? [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 57)
Isaiah 22:18 He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country
Stopping to enjoy Isaiah's metaphors is like stopping "to smell the roses." It takes longer, but the beauty and fragrance are worth it. When the Jews were taken to Babylon, they were taken violently. It was as easy for the Lord to pass this punishment on Jerusalem as it is to toss a ball. Pretty easy! The Jews were picked up from Jerusalem and tossed into Babylon. The captivity of 70 years before they would return would ensure the fulfillment of the prophecy, "there shalt thou die." As a punishment from the Lord, "Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die" (v. 14). Like the rebellious children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, the Jews would not enter into the rest of the Lord for the rest of their lives.
Isaiah 22:22 the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder
"Kingship belongs to Jesus the Messiah both by lineage and by divine decree. He alone possesses "the key of the house of David" (Isa. 22:22; see also Rev. 3:7), the key to the governance of Israel. The house of David reigns forever because the Son of David reigns forever. He will be the God-King of this celestialized earth." (Richard D. Draper, ed., A Witness of Jesus Christ: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 255)
Isaiah 22:23 I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place
Latter-day Saints forget their unique doctrinal understanding of this passage. In the temple, we learn that the crucifixion nails were not just driven through Christ's hands; they were driven through his wrists as well. The wrist mark is the "nail in a sure place." Non-LDS Christians don't know about the nail in the wrist because it is never mentioned in the gospels and it is only mentioned in passing by Isaiah. Not surprisingly, then, a quick internet search of crucifixion images revealed not a single representation of Christ with a nail in the wrist. The nail is always in the hand.
Purported to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, the Shroud of Turin has been questioned by authorities. While we might like to believe in a physical object proving the Resurrection of Christ, the astute student should know immediately that such a shroud could not possibly be authentic because there is no nail mark in the wrist. Without a mark in the sure place, you can be sure this is a fake.
Isaiah 22:24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house
Just because Jehovah told Elohim, "the glory be thine forever," (Moses 4:1) doesn't mean all the glory goes to the Father. It only means the Son was willing to give the Father all the glory. The Father is not so jealous that he intends to hoard all the glory, and so the House of Israel and all the god-fearing people of the whole earth will "hang upon him all the glory of his father's house." What Satan sought, Christ refused; when Christ submitted, he obtained what Satan sought-the glory of his Father. Of this he spoke eloquently to the unbelieving Sanhedrin, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Matt. 26:64)
"He brought glory to His Father and His Father's house when He was fastened as a nail in a sure place-a striking image that points to His crucifixion (22:22-23). Fastened as a nail in a sure place, Christ bore the sins and burdens, the 'vessels of flagons' of the children of His Father, the 'offspring and the issue' (22:23-24). Ultimately the nail would be removed and the burdens lifted (22:25). As our beloved hymn assures, 'Once all things he meekly bore, / But he now will bear no more' (Hymns, No. 196). As children of our Heavenly Father, our hope for glory hangs upon Him whom we love as our Savior." (Terry Ball and Nathan Winn, Making Sense of Isaiah, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2009], 3)