Isaiah 20

The Word Made Fresh

1The supreme commander of the Assyrian forces was sent by Sargon, king of Assyria, to Ashdod. He attacked and captured it. 2At that same time the LORD had spoken to Isaiah, son of Amoz, and said, “Now remove the sackcloth from around your waist and take off your sandals.” Isaiah had done so, and now was walking around naked and barefooted. 3After three years the LORD said, “Just as Isaiah has walked naked and barefooted for three years as a sign and an omen against Egypt and Cush, 4so shall the king of Assyria bring away as captives the Cushites and the Egyptians, and will exile the young and the old, the naked and barefooted with buttocks exposed, and it will be to Egypt’s shame. 5They will be put to shame because Ethiopia was their hope and they had boasted about themselves. 6On the day that they are put to shame the people who live in the coastal lands will say, “See, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How are we going to be rescued now?”


1-6: We revisit the oracles about Cush (Ethiopia) and Egypt that were presented in chapters 18 and 19. Isaiah hears God telling him to walk about naked and barefoot to illustrate how the people of Ethiopia and Egypt would be treated as exiles and prisoners of war. Ashdod was a Philistine city on the Mediterranean coast, about thirty-five miles due west of Jerusalem. Assyria was pressing onward towards Egypt, and Isaiah prophesied that they would be successful in toppling the Egyptian and Ethiopian regimes.


Isaiah’s behavior is shocking, but that is the kind of thing prophets did to get the people’s attention. Would any of us be willing to embarrass ourselves to get people’s attention so that God’s warning would be heard? I don’t think God would tell us to strip and walk around in the buff; we live in a different time and a different world, and God would have a more acceptable way of getting us to pay attention. I hope.