Judgment on Shebna
“Indeed, the Lord will throw you away violently, O mighty man, and will surely seize you” (v. 17).- Isaiah 22:15-25
We have before us a prophecy concerning two individuals, which is a rare subject in Isaiah, for he dealt mainly with nations as a whole. But in his case, God chose to bring to light broader principles by singling out a man who represented evil within the Jewish nation. The prophecy is against Shebna, an officer in the court of Hezekiah, a good and noble king. Shebna was a wicked, deceitful, and proud man who, as some Jewish historians maintain, conspired with Assyria in an attack on Jerusalem. Shebna probably was elevated to his position as household treasurer during the reign of Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz.
The Lord saw Shebna’s pride and wickedness, and He sent Isaiah to proclaim judgment on him. The main point of the prophecy was that Shebna would be brought down and another man, Eliakim, would be put in his place over the household. Eliakim was a servant of the Lord, faithful and trustworthy, and he would rise from a lower position to become a great officer in the court.
This probably seemed ridiculous to Shebna at the time because he believed himself rooted in his position. He even had a sepulcher hewn out for himself as a monument to his greatness. He was ambitious to be remembered and honored even after his death. Shebna was full of his own glory, but God was not impressed, and He would not tolerate a traitor in the midst of His people. He would replace Shebna, bringing him down from his lofty position to that of a scribe, and then eventually sending him from the country to die in a foreign land, alone and forgotten. Some Jewish historians believe Shebna contracted leprosy and was forced from the court and eventually from the nation because the disease was seen as a direct judgment of God. If this was what happened, then God’s judgment was complete, for a “great” man was brought low without hope of redemption.
This passage reminds us that God is in control of everything, and though it might seem as if wicked men will never be removed, He can bring them down in a moment and replace them with His good and faithful servants. This was what happened in Judah. A wicked man was removed from office and a man after God’s own heart was put in his place. We need never fear that prideful men will truly succeed in their quests for power, for the Lord will judge them for their crimes.
Read Luke 1:52. Who is in control of promotions and demotions? Think of the political and ecclesiastical leaders in your nation. Which of them are humble men? Which are proud and self-serving? When you think of these men and their evil actions, take comfort in the passage from Luke, as well as the passages below.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 2:7
2 Kings 18:37–19:2