Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. “Isaiah 1-37, part C, “The Universal Kingdom” (13:1-27:13) Loc. 3910-6649. 2. The Second Cycle of Oracles. The World in the Shadows (21:1-23:18), Loc. 5093-5754.
Motyer continues to point up the way Isaiah builds a mosaic of world view. While the first cycle was optimistic about God’s promises, this one is less so. “It reveals a Gentile world seeking but not finding help (21:13ff) and accuses the people of God of an unforgivable sin (22:14)” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5102). The oracles refer to places but also to very negative situations.
Though the fall of Babylon to Cyrus in 539 is a commonly held referent of the oracle, Motyer cites other falls at other times as well as composition which lacks detail about that specific fall (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5121). He suggests that the prophecy of Isaiah 21 refers to the fall in 689 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5134). As Judah had made an alliance with Babylon against Assyria (21:1-4) they need to remain aware that Babylon will itself be crushed (21:10) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5139). God’s people should be bothered by depending upon an alliance which is doomed to failure. 21:1-2 refers strongly to the untrustworthy nature of the alliances Judah has formed (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5171). The resulting horror in verses 3-4 is both at Babylon’s fall and God’s future judgment (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5187). Verses 6-9 are a strong assertion of the prophet’s reliability in his task, like a faithful sentry (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5210).
Motyer sees in 21:11-12 a second brief oracle regarding Edom (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5229). Here, the darkness of the world will be extended. Rescue will be delayed (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5243).
A third oracle in 21:13-17 depicts a situation in which there are “needs but no solutions” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5260). The location given is Tema and the people of Kedar, an Arabian setting. Again, this fits historically with Isaiah’s time period (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5264). The idea of evening denotes a world which is growing dark (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5283). People who are in need are met with food and water (v. 15) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5295). The need of the people is not merely warfare but also divine judgment (v. 16) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5322).
Motyer identifies a fourth oracle in this series as speaking of Jerusalem’s sin in 22:1-25 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5332). The people have been self-reliant rather than trusting God. In verses 1-14 the city has become self-reliant (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5343). After considering alternative explanations, Motyer considers this prophecy as looking forward to a day of judgment (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5366). It may well be referring to a present joy in response to the securing of the city’s water supply accomplished by Hezekiah (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5376). The plans of life and security in the city are turned to death and captivity in verse four (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5410). Verses 8-11 speak of the past choices of Judah which have led them to this end (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5446). There has been a denial of faith, an immediate self-trust, and a refusal to repent even in times of trial (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5466). Despite God’s call to repentance, the people reject him and so in verse 14 God withholds forgiveness (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5496). Verses 15-25 shift a focus from the city to individual characters. “Shebna found his identity as a person in the ‘this-worldly’ benefits of his office, and he set about securing his ‘place in history’ by his own efforts” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5519). He is a prominent man in the city. Motyer considers him symbolic of the entire self-reliant city. On the other hand, Eliakim is one of the people others trust (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5528). Shebna has worked to become in charge of the city. He pursues all possible honors in life and for his memory. However, in verses 17-18 he will be cast away as a disgrace (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5574). Eliakim’s authority was given to him. He did not apparently strive for it (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5579). When people depend on him rather than on God they will find him insufficient. The city will eventually collapse (v. 25).
The fifth of this series of oracles is in 23:1-18, against the pride and apparent holiness of Tyre (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5602). The alliances formed between Solomon and the Phonecians of Tyre corrupted Solomon. This is a common recognition in the time of Isaiah (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5611). Motyer observes the overall pattern in these oracles of religious corruption rather than political oppression (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5621). Tyre was noted as a naval and trade superpower. Yet in 23:2 the fleet is silent and still. Activity ceases (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5657). Rather than a leader, in verse four, Tyre is an object of scorn (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5663). The wealthy traders become refugees in verse seven. They have failed to account for God’s plans (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5683). Motyer describes Tyre’s decline beginning around 745 B.C. (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5700). The city eventually fell for good in 332, though it went through cycles of decline before then. Motyer finally observes that in 23:15-18 there will be recovery for Tyre. They will have a time of holiness for seventy years (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5732). The nation is present as a merchant in time for the reconstruction after the Babylonian exile. Isaiah pictures Tyre as set apart for the Lord (Motyer 1993, Loc. 5747).