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Isaiah 20:1-2

Naked and Obedient

1 In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it; 2 At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.


In this chapter, Isaiah describes the commencement of the destruction of Egypt and Ethiopia, which had been prophesied in the two previous chapters. The year that Tartan captured Ashdod was 711 B.C. which was during the reign of Hezekiah in Judah.

Shalmaneser V of Assyria had laid siege to Samaria for three years but he died during the siege, perhaps at the hand of his general, Sargon. Sargon subsequently assumed the throne and, with this change of leadership, many of the kings who had been forced to pay tribute to Shalmaneser saw it as an opportunity to revolt. Jaman, king of Ashdod in Philistia, was one of those kings. The Egyptians promised to help in the revolt, and many of the other Philistine cities, along with Edom and Moab, also participated. Judah seems to have stayed out of the controversy but had placed much of her trust in Egypt to protect her against an Assyrian invasion..

After taking Samaria, Sargon wanted to march on toward Egypt. Ashdod was an extremely well fortified city and needed to be captured before proceeding into Egypt. Therefore, Sargon removed the threat of Ashdod by sending Tartan to take it. The siege of Ashdod began in 713 B.C. and lasted three years until 711. It was in 713, therefore, that Isaiah actually received these instructions from the Lord (See v.3).

Yahweh delivered His message directly to Isaiah, who was to propagate it by acting symbolically. Isaiah was told to take off the sackcloth that he wore. The sackcloth was a coarse hairy garment often worn by prophets. Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8 wore it, and John the Baptist appears to have worn it (Mat 3:4; also see Zechariah 13:4). He was also told to remove his shoes and to go barefoot.

Now, the scripture said that Isaiah went naked and barefoot, and we must be careful how we interpret that. The prophet most likely wore an undergarment under his sackcloth. This was generally the custom. Therefore, he may not have been totally naked and would not have been viewed as immoral by the people to whom he was ministering. Yet, it was humiliating to walk around in only one's undergarment.

"What Isaiah was directed to do, therefore, was simply opposed to common custom, and not to moral decency. He was to lay aside the dress of a mourner and preacher of repentance, and to have nothing on but his tunic (cetoneth); and in this, as well as barefooted, he was to show himself in public. This was the costume of a man who had been robbed and disgraced, or else of a beggar or prisoner of war." (Keil & Delitzsch Commentary)

On the other hand, Isaiah was imitating the condition of the Egyptian and the Ethiopian when Assyria would lead them into captivity. In verse four, we are told that their "buttocks" would be "uncovered." Albert Barnes' Commentary on the fourth verse says, "...that in the figures on the remains of their (the Egyptians') temples, prisoners are often represented as naked, or only in aprons, with disheveled hair, and with their hands chained."

It is more reasonable to believe that Isaiah wore his undergarment, because the people of that region were extremely modest people. The important thing for us to remember is that either mode of dress, undergarments or completely naked, would have been extremely humiliating, but Isaiah obeyed Yahweh's command and went naked and barefoot for three years.

Had Isaiah not obeyed, he would have been left more naked and humiliated, for the Lord would have seen his disobedient heart and he would one day have to answer the Lord face to face for his disobedience.

How often have you put off doing the Lord's work, because it was difficult, inconvenient, not on your list of priorities, expensive, or humiliating? Perhaps the world looks favorably on you, but God sees your heart. Each of us needs to learn obedience. No one is perfect as long as we are in this flesh, and we must constantly strive to submit more of ourselves to the Lord.

Even Jesus learned obedience. "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Hebrews 5:7-9)

He has set the example and calls out to you, saying, "Follow me." Will you follow?

Before The Throne:

Confess your sins before the Lord and believe in your heart that Jesus has paid for each of them. You are forgiven. Ask God to help you learn to be more obedient. Ask Him to help you to make His work your first priority in life. Ask Him to keep you from doing self-righteous or self-serving works in His name and to show you what is His true and perfect will. Pray for the courage to obey like Isaiah, without questioning, without hesitation and with the willingness to suffer any humiliation, hardship or pain. Praise Him for every opportunity to serve in the kingdom of God.

For Further Study:

(v.1) 2Ki 18:17; ** Ashdod. 1Sa 6:17; Jer 25:20; Am 1:8; ** and took. Jer 25:29,30;

(v.2) ** Go. Jer 13:1-11; 19:1-15; Eze 4:5; Mt 16:24; ** the sackcloth. 2Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4; Mt 3:4; Re 11:3; ** put. Ex 3:5; Jos 5:15; Eze 24:17,23; ** naked. 1Sa 19:24; 2Sa 6:20; Job 1:20,21; Mic 1:8,11; Joh 21:7; Ac 19:16;

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