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The Ashdod Rebellion – Isaiah 18:1-32:20

While Sargon, king of Assyria, was occupied with Babylon, a new dynasty came to power in Egypt. An Ethiopian ruler named Piankhy (747-716 B.C.) swept through the land, uniting Egypt under on ruler for the first time in generations. The new power in Egypt gave hope to the nations of Palestine, who formed a coalition to rebel against Sargon. From 714 to 712 B.C. this rebellion was centered in Ashdod, on the Philistine coast, but it involved Moab, Edom, and certain promised from Egypt. Judah was invited to join the anti-Assyrian coalition, but opinion on the matter was divided. Many thought this was Judah’s chance, but Isaiah disagreed. Perhaps one of Isaiah’s opponents was Shebna the scribe, mentioned in Is. 22:15-25. The exact nature of Shebna’s conduct which caused him to be demoted from his office (22:19) is unknown. He represents the blindness of Judah’s leaders. Some of Isaiah’s hardest messages were directed against Egypt (18:1-20:6) and against all those who trusted in Egypt’s help (30:2-32:20). Neither would a relationship with Moab help Judah (15:1-16:14). God would save Zion, he agreed, but the way to salvation was through faith in God, not through alliances. Read Scripture Text • Isaiah 18:1 – 20:6 • Isaiah 15:1 – 16:14 • Isaiah 22:15-25 • Isaiah 30:1 – 32:20 Geography & Environment The White Nile flows from LakeTanzania, and near Kartoum it joins the Blue Nile that originates in Ethiopia. The Nile is 4,132 miles long, the longest river in the world. All the inhabited land of Egypt depends directly on the Nile (Is. 19:7), since there is practically no rainfall in the country. The Tartan comes to Ashdod (Is. 20:1). Back in the period of Israel’s judges, Ashdod had been a major Philistine city. Ashdod was prominent in the Philistine capture of the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam. 5:1-7), and it is also mentioned in Urgaritic sources of that time (15th to 13th centuries B.C.). In the 8th century B.C. the threat of Assyria loomed large on the Palestinian horizon. The Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III had conquered the Aramean state of Damascus in 732 B.C., and there is evidence that the Assyrians also campaigned against the Philistines at that time. Ashdod and other cities in Palestine certainly felt the presence of Assyrian imperial power. The Assyrian annals of Sargon II report how Ashdod revolted against Assyria a generation later. Ashdod’s king Aziru formed an alliance with Egypt, Gaza, Ekron, Judah (under Hezekiah), Moab, Ammon, and Edom. But the alliance failed, and Sargon came to Palestine in 713 B.C. placing his own brother on Ashdod’s throne in place of Aziru. The people of Ashdod did not give up. Overthrowing Sargon’s brother, they appointed a certain commoner, named Yamani. Yamani was successful in organizing another coalition against Assyria, this time consisting of the Philistine city-states Judah, Moab, Edom, Ammon, and possibly Cyprus. But Sargon returned again in 712 B.C. and Yamani was forced to flee to Egypt. Ashdod did not recover this time. Sargon’s annals mention an unnamed king of Egypt who sent Yamani in chains back to Assyria. The Assyrians returned, this time under the leadership of the Tartan, a commander called turtanu in the Assyrian language. The Tartan seized the city of Ashdod and deported the royal family, the gods of Ashdod, and its people, gold, and silver to Assyria (Is. 20:1). Ashdod was made into an Assyrian province. Fragments of victory stele of Sargon have been found at the site of ancient Ashdod. PROCLOMATION AGAINST ETHIOPIA – ISAIAH 18:1 18 "Woe to the land shadowed with buzzing wings, Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia," ETHIOPIANS RULING IN EGYPT (IS. 20:2-6) The Prophet Isaiah acted out Egypt’s and Ethiopia’s fate of being taken naked into Assyrian captivity (Is. 20:2-6). The Assyrian invasion, which Isaiah describes as an attack on both Ethiopians and Egyptians, would result in the “shame of Egypt” (20:4) The attack is against on “territory” whose inhabitants consider “ Ethiopia their expectation and Egypt their glory” (20:5,6). The name Ethiopia is a translation of the Hebrew Cush, a land south of Egypt and east of the Nile. Later the Romans knew the land as Nubia. The Egyptians had extensive trading relations with the Cushites, and often dominated them politically. The Bible also mentions important trading connections with this area (Job 28:19). A close blood tie is observed in the Bible, as Cush was the brother of Mizraim, the ancestor of Egypt (Gen. 10:6). By the 8th century B.C. the Cushites were successful in conquering Egypt and creating the Egyptian Dynasty (c. 780-656 B.C.). The brought a certain degree of unity to Egypt, but faced a threat from the expanding Assyrian Empire. When Sennacherib and the Assyrians sought to conquer Judah, the Cushites, under Tirhakah, attempted to halt the advance of the Assyrian army (Is. 37:9). This event occurred either in 701 B.C., when Tirhakah from Memphis in 671 B.C., and Ashurbanipal recaptured Memphis in 667 B.C. While the Ethiopians (Cushites) ruled Egypt, they surely wondered how they might be “delivered from the king of Assyria” (Is. 20:6) Isaiah 20:2-6 A SIGN AGAINST EGYPT AND CUSH 2 “at the same time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, "Go, and remove the sackcloth from your 3 body, and take your sandals off your feet." And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. 3 Then the LORD said, "Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4 "so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. 5 "Then they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation and Egypt their glory. 6 "And the inhabitant of this territory will say in that day, 'Surely such is our expectation, wherever we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape?' "

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