Isaiah 20:6

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New American Standard Bible
Isaiah 20:6 ?So the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ?Behold, such is our hope, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and we, how shall we escape

Parallel Verses

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“So the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, such is our hope, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and we, how shall we escape?'”

GOD’S WORD? Translation (©1995)
When that day comes, those who live on this coastland will say, ‘Look at what has happened to our hope. We ran to Egypt for help to be rescued from the king of Assyria. How can we escape?'”

King James Bible
And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

Douay-Rheims Bible
And the inhabitants of this isle shall say in that day: Lo this was our hope, to whom we fled for help, to deliver up from the face of the king of the Assyrians: and how shall we be able to escape?

Darby Bible Translation
And the inhabitants of this coast shall say in that day, Behold, such is our confidence, whither we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape?

English Revised Version
And the inhabitant of this coastland shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and we, how shall we escape?

Webster’s Bible Translation
And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

World English Bible
The inhabitants of this coast land will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is our expectation, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria. And we, how will we escape?'”

Young’s Literal Translation
and the inhabitant of this isle hath said in that day — Lo, thus is our trust, Whither we have fled for help, To be delivered from the king of Asshur, And how do we escape — we?’

Cross References

Matthew 23:33 “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

1 Thessalonians 5:3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

Hebrews 2:3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,

Isaiah 10:3 Now what will you do in the day of punishment, And in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth?

Isaiah 30:3 “Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.

Isaiah 30:7 Even Egypt, whose help is vain and empty. Therefore, I have called her “Rahab who has been exterminated.”

Isaiah 31:3 Now the Egyptians are men and not God, And their horses are flesh and not spirit; So the LORD will stretch out His hand, And he who helps will stumble And he who is helped will fall, And all of them will come to an end together.

Jeremiah 4:30 And you, O desolate one, what will you do? Although you dress in scarlet, Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold, Although you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you make yourself beautiful. Your lovers despise you; They seek your life.

Jeremiah 30:1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

Jeremiah 30:7 ‘Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it.

Jeremiah 31:1 “At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”


Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary

Chapter 20

This chapter is a prediction of the carrying away of multitudes both of the Egyptians and the Ethiopians into captivity by the king of Assyria. Here is, I. the sign by which this was foretold, which was the prophet’s going for some time barefoot and almost naked, like a poor captive (v. 1-2). II. The explication of that sign, with application to Egypt and Ethiopia (v. 3-5). III. The good use which the people of God should make of this, which is never to trust in an arm of flesh, because thus it will deceive them (v. 6).

Verses 1-6

God here, as King of nations, brings a sore calamity upon Egypt and Ethiopia, but, as King of saints, brings good to his people out of it. Observe,

I. The date of this prophecy. It was in the year that Ashdod, a strong city of the Philistines (but which some think was lately recovered from them by Hezekiah, when he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza, 2 Kings 18:8), was besieged and taken by an army of the Assyrians. It is uncertain what year of Hezekiah that was, but the event was so remarkable that those who lived then could by that token fix the time to a year. He that was now king of Assyria is called Sargon, which some take to be the same with Sennacherib; others think he was his immediate predecessor, and succeeded Shalmaneser. Tartan, who was general, or commander-in-chief, in this expedition, was one of Sennacherib’s officers, sent by him to bid defiance to Hezekiah, in concurrence with Rabshakeh, 2 Kings 18:17.

II. The making of Isaiah a sign, by his unusual dress when he walked abroad. He had been a sign to his own people of the melancholy times that had come and were coming upon them, by the sackcloth which for some time he had worn, of which he had a gown made, which he girt about him. Some think he put himself into that habit of a mourner upon occasion of the captivity of the ten tribes. Others think sackcloth was what he commonly wore as a prophet, to show himself mortified to the world, and that he might learn to endure hardness; soft clothing better becomes those that attend in king’s palaces (Mathew 11:8) than those that go on God’s errands. Elijah wore hair-cloth (2 Kings 1:8), and John Baptist (Mathew 3:4) and those that pretended to be prophets supported their pretension by wearing rough garments (Zechariah 13:4); but Isaiah has orders given him to loose his sackcloth from his loins, not to exchange it for better clothing, but for none at all-no upper garment, no mantle, cloak, or coat, but only that which was next to him, we may suppose his shirt, waistcoat, and drawers; and he must put off his shoes, and go barefoot; so that compared with the dress of others, and what he himself usually wore, he might be said to go naked. This was a great hardship upon the prophet; it was a blemish to his reputation, and would expose him to contempt and ridicule; the boys in the streets would hoot at him, and those who sought occasion against him would say, The prophet is indeed a fool, and the spiritual man is mad, Hosea 9:7. It might likewise be a prejudice to his health; he was in danger of catching a cold, which might throw him into a fever, and cost him his life; but God bade him do it, that he might give a proof of his obedience to God in a most difficult command, and so shame the disobedience of his people to the most easy and reasonable precepts. When we are in the way of our duty we may trust God both with our credit and with our safety. The hearts of that people were strangely stupid, and would not be affected with what they only heard, but must be taught by signs, and therefore Isaiah must do this for their edification. If the dress was scandalous, yet the design was glorious, and what a prophet of the Lord needed not to be ashamed of.

III. The exposition of this sign, v. 3, 4. It was intended to signify that the Egyptians and the Ethiopians should be led away captive by the king of Assyria, thus stripped, or in rags, and very shabby clothing, as Isaiah was. God calls him his servant Isaiah, because in this matter particularly he had approved himself God’s willing, faithful, obedient servant; and for this very thing, which perhaps others laughed at him for, God gloried in him. To obey is better than sacrifice; it pleases God and praises him more, and shall be more praised by him. Isaiah is said to have walked naked and barefoot three years, whenever in that time he appeared as a prophet. But some refer the three years, not to the sign, but to the thing signified: He has walked naked and barefoot; there is a stop in the original; provided he did so once that was enough to give occasion to all about him to enquire what was the meaning of his doing so; or, as some think, he did it three days, a day for a year; and this for a three years’ sign and wonder, for a sign of that which should be done three years afterwards or which should be three years in the doing. Three campaigns successively shall the Assyrian army make, in spoiling the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and carrying them away captive in this barbarous manner, not only the soldiers taken in the field of battle, but the inhabitants, young and old; and it being a very piteous sight, and such as must needs move compassion in those that had the least degree of tenderness left them to see those who had gone all their days well dressed now stripped, and scarcely having rags to cover their nakedness, that circumstance of their captivity is particularly taken notice of, and foretold, the more to affect those to whom this prophecy was delivered. It is particularly said to be to the shame of Egypt (v. 4), because the Egyptians were a proud people, and therefore when they did fall into disgrace it was the more shameful to them; and the higher they had lifted up themselves the lower was their fall, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.

IV. The use and application of this, v. 5, 6. 1. All that had any dependence upon, or correspondence with, Egypt and Ethiopia, should now be ashamed of them, and afraid of having any thing to do with them. Those countries that were in danger of being overrun by the Assyrians expected that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, with his numerous forces, would put a stop to the progress of their victorious arms, and be a barrier to his neighbours; and with yet more assurance they gloried that Egypt, a kingdom so famous for policy and prowess, would do their business, would oblige them to raise the siege of Ashdod and retire with precipitation. But, instead of this, by attempting to oppose the king of Assyria they did but expose themselves and make their country a prey to him. Hereupon all about them were ashamed that ever they promised themselves any advantage from two such weak and cowardly nations, and were more afraid now than ever they were of the growing greatness of the king of Assyria, before whom Egypt and Ethiopia proved but as briers and thorns put to stop a consuming fire, which do but make it burn the more strongly. Note, Those who make any creature their expectation and glory, and so put it in the place of God, will sooner or later be ashamed of it, and their disappointment in it will but increase their fear. See Ezekiel 29:6, 7. 2. The Jews in particular should be convinced of their folly in resting upon such broken reeds, and should despair of any relief from them (v. 6): The inhabitants of this isle (the land of Judah, situated upon the sea, though not surrounded by it), of this country (so the margin); every one shall now have his eyes opened, and shall say, “Behold, such is our expectation, so vain, so foolish, and this is that which it will come to. We have fled for help to the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and have hoped by them to be delivered from the king of Assyria; but, now that they are broken thus, how shall we escape, that are not able to bring such armies into the field as they did?” Note, (1.) Those that confide in creatures will be disappointed, and will be made ashamed of their confidence; for vain is the help of man, and in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills or the height and multitude of the mountains. (2.) Disappointment in creature confidences, instead of driving us to despair, as here (how shall we escape?), should drive us to God; for, if we flee to him for help, our expectation shall not be frustrated.

Calvin’s Commentary

Isaiah 20:1-6

1. In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;

1. Anno quo venit Thartan in Asdod, cum misisset eum Sargon rex Assyri?, oppugnassetque Asdod, et cepisset;

2. At the same time spake the Lord by Isaiah the son Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

2. Tempore illo, inquam, loquutus est Iehova iu manu Isai? filii Amoz, dicendo: Vade et solve saccum de lumbis tuis, et calceamentum tuum exrahe de pede tuo; fecitque sic, ambulans nudus et discalceatus.

3. And the Lord said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;

3. Et dixit Iehova: Sicut ambulavit servus meus Isaias nudus et discalceatus tribus annis, signum et portentum super ?gypto et Ethiopia;

4. So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

4. Ita abducet rex Assur captivitatem ?gypti, et transmigrationem ?thiopi? juvenum et senum, nudam et discalceatam, et discoopertos natibus in ignominiam ?gypti.

5. And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.

5. Et timebunt, et pudefient ab ?thiopia respectu suo, et ab ?gypto gloriatione (vel, pulchritudine) sua.

6. And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

6. Dicetque incola insul? hujus in die illa; Ecce, quomodo habeat respectus noster, quo confugimus auxilii causa, ut liberemur a facie regis Assur; et quomodo effugiemus nos?

1. In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod. In the preceding chapter Isaiah prophesied about the calamity which threatened Egypt, and at the same time promised to it the mercy of God. He now introduces the same subject, and shews that Israel will be put to shame by this chastisement of the Egyptians, because they placed their confidence in Egypt. He now joins Ethiopia, which makes it probable that the Ethiopians were leagued with the Egyptians, as I have formerly remarked, and as we shall see again at the thirty-seventh chapter.

First, we must observe the time of this prediction. It was when the Jews were pressed hard by necessity to resort, even against their will, to foreign nations for assistance. Sacred history informs us (2 Kings 18:17) that Tartan was one of Sennacherib’s captains, which constrains us to acknowledge that this Sargon was Sennacherib, who had two names, as may be easily learned from this passage. We must also consider what was the condition of Israel, for the ten tribes had been led into captivity. Judea appeared almost to be utterly ruined, for nearly the whole country was conquered, except Jerusalem, which was besieged by Rabshakeh. (2 Kings 18:13.) Tartan, on the other hand, was besieging Ashdod. Sacred history (2 Kings 18:17) mentions three captains; [60] and this makes it probable that Sennacherib’s forces were at that time divided into three parts, that at the same instant he might strike terror on all, and might throw them into such perplexity and confusion that they could not render assistance to each other. Nothing was now left for the Jews but to call foreign nations to their aid. In the mean time, Isaiah is sent by God to declare that their expectation is vain in relying on the Egyptians, against whom the arm of the Lord was now lifted up, and who were so far from assisting them, that they were unable to defend themselves against their enemies. Hence the Jews ought to acknowledge that they are justly punished for their unbelief, because they had forsaken God and fled to the Egyptians.

We must consider the end which is here proposed, for the design of God was not to forewarn the Egyptians, but to correct the unbelief of the people, which incessantly carried them away to false and wicked hopes. In order therefore to teach them that they ought to rely on God alone, the Prophet here foretells what awaits their useless helpers. The warning was highly seasonable, for the Ethiopians had begun to repel the Assyrians, and had forced them to retire, and no event could have occurred which would have been more gladly hailed by the Jews. Lest those successful beginnings should make them wanton, he foretells that this aid will be of short duration, because both the Ethiopians and the Egyptians will soon be most disgracefully vanquished.

2. Go and loose the sackcloth from thy loins. In order to confirm this prophecy by the use of a symbol, the Lord commanded Isaiah to walk naked. If Isaiah had done this of his own accord, he would have been justly ridiculed; but when he does it by the command of the Lord, we perceive nothing but what is fitted to excite admiration and to strike awe. In this nakedness, and in the signs of a similar kind, something weighty is implied. Besides, the Lord does nothing either by himself or by his servants without likewise explaining the reason; and therefore the Prophet does not merely walk naked, but points out the design which the Lord had in view in ordering him to do so. In other respects false prophets imitate the true servants of God, and put on varied and imposing shapes, to dazzle the eyes of the multitude, and gain credit to themselves; but those symbols are worthless, because God is not the author of them.

This ought to be carefully observed in opposition to the Papists, who bring forward empty ceremonies instead of true sacraments. This is the rule with which we ought to meet them. If they proceed from God, we ought to embrace them, but if not, we may boldly reject them; and, indeed, they cannot be adopted without offering an insult to God, because in such cases men usurp his authority. Besides, God does not bring forward signs without the word, for what would a sacrament be if we beheld nothing but the sign? It is the doctrine alone that makes the sacrament, and therefore let us know that it is mere hypocrisy where no doctrine is taught, and that Papists act wickedly when they lay aside doctrine, and give the name of sacrament to empty ceremonies; for the Lord has connected them in such a manner that no man can separate them without infringing that order which he has enjoined.

When the Lord commands him to loose the sackcloth; almost all the commentators infer from it that Isaiah at that time wore a garment of mourning, because he bewailed the distressed condition of Israel; for sackcloth was a mourning dress, as is evident from Joel (Joel 1:13.) Their interpretation is, that this was done in order that, in the dress of culprits, he might supplicate pardon from God, or that it was impossible for his countenance or his dress to be cheerful when his heart was sad, and he could not but be affected with the deepest grief when he beheld so great a calamity. Some think that it was his ordinary dress, because the Prophets, as Zechariah informs us, commonly wore a mantle. (Zechariah 13:4.) But that conjecture rests on exceedingly slight grounds, and has no great probability. It is more probable that he wore sackcloth as expressive of mourning. Judea was at that time sunk into such a state of indifference, that when men saw their brethren wretchedly distressed and wasted, still they were not affected by it, and did not think that the affliction of their brethren was a matter which at all concerned them. They still thought that they were beyond the reach of danger, and mocked at the Prophets when they threatened and foretold destruction. Hence Micah also complains that no man bewails the distresses of Israel. (Micah 1:11.)

A question arises, Was this actually done, or was it merely and simply a vision which he told to the people? The general opinion is, that the Prophet never went naked, but that this was exhibited to him in a vision, and only once. They allege as a reason, that on account of heat and cold, and other inconveniences of the weather, he could not have walked naked during the whole period of three years. What if we should say that the Prophet wore clothes at home, and also in public, unless when he wished to come forth to teach, and that on such occasions he was accustomed to present to the people a spectacle of nakedness? I pay little attention to the argument, that he was unable to endure heat and cold; for God, who commanded him to do this, could easily strengthen and protect him. But they assign another reason, that nakedness would have been unbecoming in a Prophet. I answer, this nakedness was not more unbecoming than circumcision, which irreligious men might consider to be the most absurd of all sights, because it made an exposure of the uncomely parts. Yet it must not be thought that the Prophet went entirely naked, or without covering those parts which would present a revolting aspect. It was enough that the people understood what the Lord was doing, and were affected by it as something extraordinary.

I am led to form this opinion by what is here said, “By the hand of Isaiah;” for although this mode of expression frequently occurs elsewhere, still we never find it where it does not imply something emphatic, to describe the effect produced. He places himself in the midst between God and his countrymen, so as to be the herald of a future calamity, not only in words, but likewise by a visible symbol. Nor is it superfluous that it is immediately added, He did so. I am therefore of opinion that Isaiah walked naked whenever he discharged the office of a prophet, and that he uncovered those parts which could be beheld without shame.

So far as relates to sackcloth, although it was customary for men in private stations of life to express their guilt in this manner in adversity, yet it is probable that it was with a view to his office that Isaiah made use of this symbol to confirm his doctrine, that he might the better arouse the people from their sluggishness. If at any time the Lord chastise ourselves or our brethren, he does not enjoin us to change our raiment, but we are cruel and (astorgoi) without natural affection, if we are not moved by the afflictions of brethren and the ruin of the Church. If we have any feeling towards God, we ought to be in sadness and tears; and if it be our duty to mourn, we ought also to exhort others and stimulate them by our example to feel the calamities of the Church, and to be touched with some (sumpatheia) compassion.

3. Three years. Why for such a period? Because that was the time granted to the Egyptians and Ethiopians, during which the Lord gave them a truce for repentance, and at the same time wished to make trial of the obedience of his people, that without delay they might relinquish unlawful aid, and that, though the Egyptians and Ethiopians appeared to be secure, they might know that they were not far from ruin. The Lord intended also to expose the rebellion of wicked men; for undoubtedly many persons made an open display of their impiety when they despised the nakedness of the prophet, and the godly, on the other hand, moved by the sight of his nakedness, though the prosperity of the Ethiopians was delightfully attractive, still did not hesitate to fix their attention on the word. What they were bound to consider was not the nakedness itself, but the mark which the Lord had put upon it; in the same manner as, in the visible sacraments, we ought to behold those things which are invisible.

4. The captivity of Egypt and the removal of Ethiopia. [61] The words “captivity” and “removal” are taken collectively, to denote the multitude of captives and emigrants. Next, he shews that there will be no distinction of age, declaring that the old, as well as the young, shall be led into captivity.

5. And they shall be afraid. He now shews for whose benefit he had foretold these things about the Egyptians and Ethiopians. It was in order that the Jews might learn amidst their afflictions to hope in God, and might not have recourse to foreign aid, which the Lord had forbidden.

6. Lo, what is become of our expectation? He calls them expectation, or lurking, because the Jews turned towards them, whenever they were oppressed by any calamity, and placed their hope in them. We are accustomed to turn our eyes to that quarter from which we expect any assistance. Hence also, to “look” often signifies, in the Hebrew language, to “hope.” (Psalm 34:5; Job 6:19.) Now, they ought to have looked to God alone. Their wandering levity is therefore censured. And the same thing must happen to us, and deservedly, that when we have been invited by God, and refuse the sure refuge which he offers to us, and allow ourselves to be captivated by the delusions of Satan, we may lie down naked and destitute with shame and disgrace.

And the inhabitants of the island shall say. He gives the name island not only to Jerusalem, but to the whole of Judea; and it is generally thought that the name is given because its shores are washed by the Mediterranean sea. But I think that there is a different reason for this metaphor, for it is but a small portion of the sea that washes it; but as an island is separated from other lands, so the Lord separated Judea from other countries. It was kept apart from all the nations, which cherished a mortal hatred towards the Jews; for there was a “wall” between them, as Paul says, (Ephesians 2:14,) which Christ at length threw down. Here again Isaiah confirms his prophecy. If you are not now moved by my nakedness, you shall one day be taught by the event, that these words were not spoken to you in vain. Thus, at a late hour, obstinate and rebellious men are constrained by God to confess their guilt, so that they are struck with amazement, and argue within themselves how they could be so greatly blinded by their own stubbornness.


[60] “Tartan, and Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh” ^FT318 “The Egyptians prisoners (Heb. the captivity of Egypt) and Ethiopians captives.” — Eng. Ver. “The captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush.” — Lowth

[61] {Bogus footnote}

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  1. Unshakeable Servant left a comment on June 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    June 18, 2011

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