What is meant by the covering of Judah, which in the beginning of this paragraph is said to be discovered, is not agreed. The fenced cities of Judah were a covering to the country; but these, being taken by the army of the Assyrians, ceased to be a shelter, so that the whole country lay exposed to be plundered. The weakness of Judah, its nakedness, and inability to keep itself, now appeared more than ever; and thus the covering of Judah was discovered. Its magazines and stores, which had been locked up, were now laid open for the public use. Dr. Lightfoot gives another sense of it, that by this distress into which Judah should be brought God would discover their covering (that is, uncloak their hypocrisy), would show all that was in their heart, as is said of Hezekiah upon another occasion, 2 Chron. 32:31. Thus, by one means or other, the iniquity of Ephraim will be discovered and the sin of Samaria, Hos. 7:1.
They were now in a great fright, and in this fright they manifested two things much amiss:—
I. A great contempt of God’s goodness, and his power to help them. They made use of all the means they could think of for their own preservation; and it is not for doing this that they are blamed, but, in doing this, they did not acknowledge God. Observe,
1. How careful they were to improve all advantages that might contribute to their safety. When Sennacherib had made himself master of all the defenced cities of Judah, and Jerusalem was left as a cottage in a vineyard, they thought it was time to look about them. A council was immediately called, a council of war; and it was resolved to stand upon their defence, and not tamely to surrender. Pursuant to this resolve, they took all the prudent measures they could for their own security. We tempt God if, in times of danger, we do not the best we can for ourselves. (1.) They inspected the magazines and stores, to see if they were well stocked with arms and ammunition: They looked to the armour of the house of the forest, which Solomon built in Jerusalem for an armoury (1 Kgs. 10:17), and thence they delivered out what they had occasion for. It is the wisdom of princes, in time of peace, to provide for war, that they may not have arms to seek when they should use them, and perhaps upon a sudden emergency. (2.) They viewed the fortifications, the breaches of the city of David; they walked round the walls, and observed where they had gone to decay for want of seasonable repairs, or were broken by some former attempts made upon them. These breaches were many; the more shame for the house of David that they suffered the city of David to lie neglected. They had probably often seen those breaches; but now they saw them to consider what course to take about them. This good we should get by public distresses, we should be awakened by them to repair our breaches, and amend what is amiss. (3.) They made sure of water for the city, and did what they could to deprive the besiegers of it: You gathered together the water of the lower pool, of which there was probably no great store, and of which therefore they were the more concerned to be good husbands. See what a mercy it is that, as nothing is more necessary to the support of human life than water, so nothing is more cheap and common; but it is bad indeed when that, as here, is a scarce commodity. (4.) They numbered the houses of Jerusalem, that every house might send in its quota of men for the public service, or contribute in money to it, which they raised by a poll, so much a head or so much a house. (5.) Because private property ought to give way to the public safety, those houses that stood in their way, when the wall was to be fortified, were broken down, which, in such a case of necessity, is no more an injury to the owner than blowing up houses in case of fire. (6.) They made a ditch between the outer and inner wall, for the greater security of the city; and they contrived to draw the water of the old pool to it, that they might have plenty of water themselves and might deprive the besiegers of it; for it seems that was the project, lest the Assyrian army should come and find much water (2 Chron. 32:4) and so should be the better able to prolong the siege. If it be lawful to destroy the forage of a country, much more to divert the streams of its waters, for the straitening and starving of an enemy.
2. How regardless they were of God in all these preparations: But you have not looked unto the Maker thereof (that is, of Jerusalem, the city you are so solicitous for the defence of) and of all the advantages which nature has furnished it with for its defence—the mountains round about it (Ps. 125:2), and the rivers, which were such as the inhabitants might turn which way soever they pleased for their convenience. Note, (1.) It is God that made his Jerusalem, and fashioned it long ago, in his counsels. The Jewish writers, upon this place, say, There were seven things which God made before the world (meaning which he had in his eye when he made the world): the garden of Eden, the law, the just ones, Israel, the throne of glory, Jerusalem, and Messiah the Prince. The gospel church has God for its Maker. (2.) Whatever service we do, or endeavour to do, at any time to God’s Jerusalem, must be done with an eye to him as the Maker of it; and he takes it ill if it be done otherwise. It is here charged upon them that they did not look to God. [1.] They did not design his glory in what they did. They fortified Jerusalem because it was a rich city and their own houses were in it, not because it was the holy city and God’s house was in it. In all our cares for the defence of the church we must look more at God’s interest in it than at our own. [2.] They did not depend upon him for a blessing upon their endeavours, saw no need of it, and therefore sought not to him for it, but thought their own powers and policies sufficient for them. Of Hezekiah himself it is said that he trusted in God (2 Kgs. 18:5), and particularly upon this occasion (2 Chron. 32:8); but there were those about him, it seems, who were great statesmen and soldiers, but had little religion in them. [3.] They did not give him thanks for the advantages they had, in fortifying their city, from the waters of the old pool, which were fashioned long ago, as Kishon is called an ancient river, Jdg. 5:21. Whatever in nature is at any time serviceable to us, we must therein acknowledge the goodness of the God of nature, who, when he fashioned it long ago, fitted it to be so, and according to whose ordinance it continues to this day. Every creature is that to us which God makes it to be; and therefore, whatever use it is of to us, we must look at him that fashioned it, bless him for it, and use it for him.
II. A great contempt of God’s wrath and justice in contending with them, Isa. 22:12-14. Here observe,
1. What was God’s design in bringing this calamity upon them: it was to humble them, bring them to repentance, and make them serious. In that day of trouble, and treading down, and perplexity, the Lord did thereby call to weeping and mourning, and all the expressions of sorrow, even to baldness and girding with sackcloth; and all this to lament their sins (by which they had brought those judgments upon their land), to enforce their prayers (by which they might hope to avert the judgments that were breaking in), and to dispose themselves to a reformation of their lives by a holy seriousness and a tenderness of heart under the word of God. To this God called them by his prophet’s explaining his providences, and by his providences awakening them to regard what his prophets said. Note, When God threatens us with his judgments he expects and requires that we humble ourselves under his mighty hand, that we tremble when the lion roars, and in a day of adversity consider.
2. How contrary they walked to this design of God (Isa. 22:13): Behold, joy and gladness, mirth and feasting, all the gaiety and all the jollity imaginable. They were as secure and cheerful as they used to be, as if they had had no enemy in their borders or were in no danger of falling into his hands. When they had taken the necessary precautions for their security, then they set all deaths and dangers at defiance, and resolved to be merry, let come on them what would. Those that should have been among the mourners were among the wine-bibbers, the riotous eaters of flesh; and observe what they said, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die. This may refer either to the particular danger they were now in, and the fair warning which the prophet gave them of it, or to the general shortness and uncertainty of human life, and the nearness of death at all times. This was the language of the profane scoffers who mocked the messengers of the Lord and misused his prophets. (1.) They made a jest of dying. “The prophet tells us we must die shortly, perhaps to-morrow, and therefore we should mourn and repent to-day; no, rather let us eat and drink, that we may be fattened for the slaughter, and may be in good heart to meet our doom; if we must have a short life, let it be a merry one.” (2.) They ridiculed the doctrine of a future state on the other side death; for, if there were no such state, the apostle grants there would be something of reason in what they said, 1 Cor. 15:32. If, when we die, there were an end of us, it were good to make ourselves as easy and merry as we could while we live; but, if for all these things God shall bring us into judgment, it is at our peril if we walk in the way of our heart and the sight of our eyes, Eccl. 11:9. Note, A practical disbelief of another life after this is at the bottom of the carnal security and brutish sensuality which are the sin, and shame, and ruin of so great a part of mankind, as of the old world, who were eating and drinking till the flood came.
3. How much God was displeased at it. He signified his resentment of it to the prophet, revealed it in his ears, to be by him proclaimed upon the house-top: Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till you die, Isa. 22:14. It shall never be expiated with sacrifice and offering, any more than the iniquity of the house of Eli, 1 Sam. 3:14. It is a sin against the remedy, a baffling of the utmost means of conviction and rendering them ineffectual; and therefore it is not likely they should ever repent of it or have it pardoned. The Chaldee reads it, It shall not be forgiven you till you die the second death. Those that walk contrary to them; with the froward he will show himself froward.