Prophecy about Egypt and Ethiopia
This first verse is a description of when the Assyrian commander Tartan came and conquered the Philistine city of Ashdod. The Prophet Isaiah responds with a sign of this Assyrian victory. This invasion of the Assyrians has a concrete marking in secular history which occurred in 711 B.C. the Philistines were neighbors to Israel and they were also thorns to them. The fall of Ashdod would certainly make the Israelites think they would be next and be looking for protection.
Before this event, Isaiah wore outer garments of sackcloth which is an expression of mourning. Now the Lord God tells Isaiah to remove the sackcloth and his sandals. “God would sometimes have his prophets to add to their word a visible sign, to awaken people’s minds to a more serious consideration of the matters proposed to them.” (Poole)
We should not think that Isaiah was walking around nude as he still had his inner garments on, much like wearing only his underwear. His message was not nudity but that of poverty and humiliation. Isaiah dressed as the poorest and destitute. “One need not imagine that Isaiah walked around stripped for the entire three years or that Ezekiel lay on his side for 390 days without getting up (Ezek. 4:9). Perhaps part of each day was used for those designated purposes.” (Wolf)
For three years Isaiah dressed in his poor and humble way. This was a message against Egypt, as the Assyrians would lead the Egyptians away as prisoners. When the Assyrians took the Egyptians captive they led them away humiliated by stripping them. These prisoners were then the shame of Egypt.
Judah then would be afraid of Ethiopia and their expectation of Egypt’s glory. With God’s judgment against Ethiopia and Egypt it now is obvious how foolish they were to seek protection from them from Assyria. Whatever our expectation and whatever our glory is if it is wrong God will cause these things to disappoint us. Judah had set their expectation on Ethiopia and they looked to Egypt for their glory but now they are left afraid and ashamed. “There is no place of security for the people of God, other than that to be found in the rule of God. All expectation not centered in God is doomed to disappointment and discomfiture.” (Morgan)
There is now no escape for Judah as God has allowed them to be backed into a corner. They found themselves between two mighty armies Assyria and Egypt. They were not able to trust either one and had no place to go but to the Lord.