Isaiah 20

Isaiah 20

Isaiah 20 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Let’s first set the stage. Coming on the heels of Isaiah 19 and the oracle concerning Egypt, we now see the unfolding of God’s judgment. King Sargon of Assyria orders his commander to invade Ashdod (one of the largest Philistine cities). This happened in 711 BC. Three years prior, Isaiah was given the command from God to strip his outer garments and sandals and go “naked” symbolizing the humiliation and defeat that would occur at the hands of the Assyrians.

However, that prophecy was not speaking to the Philistines but was predicting the downfall of both Egypt and Ethiopia who would also be crushed by the Assyrians just years later. So, much like a parable, God’s prophet was acting out the fate of both Egypt and Ethiopia.

Personally, I doubt that he walked completely naked during this time. It’s certainly possible he was stark naked. However, I would assume that being nude would have created a great deal of struggle both culturally and practically. The truth is, if God asked him to navigate life fully exposed, then I’m sure He protected and provided for Isaiah along the way.

It is more likely that he removed his sackcloth and sandals but kept his inner garment on. The point was not to be controversial but to illustrate the total poverty and desolation that was coming for Egypt and Ethiopia. Assyria, under the leadership of Sargon, was going to conquer both of these nations and the captives would be marched out in total humiliation.

“the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot three years as a sign and omen against Egypt and Cush, [4] so the king of Assyria will lead the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old alike, stripped and barefoot, with bared buttocks—to Egypt’s shame.”

Isaiah 20:3-4 CSB

What significance does this have for Judah?

“Isaiah’s warning of their defeat and captivity is intended to discourage Judah from looking to Egypt for aid against Assyria. This was 711 B.C. The prediction was fulfilled 11 years later. Sennacherib’s annals for 701 B.C. say: “I fought with the kings of Egypt, accomplished their overthrow, and captured alive charioteers and sons of the king.””

Halley’s Bible Handbook

When Sargon came for the Philistine city of Ashdod, the people of God knew they were in danger. Ashdod was located just southwest of Jerusalem. The temptation for Judah would be to trust in the Egyptians for protection.

The lesson is simple. Do not look for answers to problems in human strength. This was an issue for God’s people throughout the Old Testament and continues to plague believers today. Humans will always fail. God never will. This is the lesson God is trying to illustrate to His people. The same is true today.

Often, God allows us to be put into situations where He is our only hope.

“The LORD allowed Judah to be backed into a corner, caught between two mighty Empires (Egypt and Assyria), without being able to trust either one. There was no escape – except in the LORD.”

David Guzik

How many of us do this today? We feel safe and secure because of how much money is in our bank account or how successful we are at our occupation. We turn to the things of this world so quickly when life gets hard. In addition, we forget how fleeting this “protection” actually is. The things of this world can never give us the peace and security we find in the Lord. We can choose to respond to the Lord today and trust Him over everything or we can continue to trust in worldly things and learn the hard way.

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