Isaiah 22, The Valley of Vision



The phrase “valley of vision” has seen some resurgence in popularity within the last few decades, probably due to a book released as a compilation of Puritan prayers and devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.[1] However, it is in Isaiah chapter twenty-two that the phrase originates. In order to understand the depths of this intriguing “valley,” one must first consider the surrounding context of the biblical passage and then proceed into analyzing the very meaning and significance of Isaiah’s designation, “valley of vision.”

Context of Isaiah 22

Preceding chapter twenty-two, Isaiah declares God’s oracles of judgments against surrounding nations, namely: Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Dumah, and Arabia. When chapter twenty-two begins with the phrase, “The oracle concerning the valley of vision,” it is simply repeating the pattern of oracles already submitted. The question, of course, that subsequently begs to be asked is, “What is the ‘valley of vision’”? Based on the descriptions in the text (especially verse 21), the “valley of vision” is a reference to Jerusalem. As J. Alec Motyer notes, “At first sight the oracle is a strange mixture of the national (1-14) and the personal (15-25), the city (1-14) and the individual (15-19, 20-25)…”[2] Therefore, the oracle is certainly aimed at the people of Jerusalem as a whole, but the implications are applicable for each member of their society.

A possible refutation to the identification of the valley of vision meaning Jerusalem is in the seemingly contradictory geographical formation of Jerusalem. John Martin notes, “Often Jerusalem is referred to as a mountain (e.g., Mount Zion).”[3] Such a description is quite common in the Old Testament. Yet, as Victor Buksbazen clarifies, “Jerusalem was built on several hills, with valleys running between them. The city is surrounded by high mountains. In relation to these mountains, Jerusalem appeared to be in a valley. It is quite possible that Isaiah himself lived in one of the valleys in the city, where the Lord vouchsafed to him the visions and prophecies recorded in his book.”[4] Whether or not Isaiah’s home was in one of the valleys, it is rather certain that the “valley of vision” is indeed Jerusalem, and that the descriptions used of the city are based on the context of each passage (i.e. Mount Zion versus the valley of vision).

While the identification of the entity is a bare essential for understanding the context of Isaiah 22, an additional question to consider is, “Why was this oracle delivered against Jerusalem, the valley of vision?” Motyer writes, “The charge laid at the door of Jerusalem is the choice of self-sufficiency.”[5] Particularly, “self-sufficiency” was the indictment in relation to the imminent threat of Assyria. Rather than trusting in God, the people were foolishly looking to themselves, despite their helplessness. Specifically, this chapter depicts an invasion of the Assyrians, though the precise time in history is disputed. Some view this passage as a reference to the end of the Assyrian threats, due to the “roof-top joy” in the opening verses.[6] Others think this is contemporaneous with Hezekiah’s offer of gold to Sennacherib.[7] Motyer favors the view that Isaiah 22 speaks of the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 B.C.[8] However, Buksbazen proposes that this is probably a reference to the failed attempts of Sennacherib in 702-701 B.C. to overtake Jerusalem.[9] Buksbazen’s view fits fairly well with the entire passage, including the rebuke against rejoicing early on in the passage, as well as the impending judgments still to come due to Jerusalem’s sin and lack of repentance. Thus, Isaiah 22 was a necessary and gracious warning to Jerusalem to turn from its sin of self-sufficiency and flee to God, yet a plea taken too lightly indeed.

Conclusions of the “Valley of Vision”

While a couple of historical “problems” exist in Isaiah 22, namely, the title of “valley of vision” (in contrast to its mountainous heights) and the time period of the outside, military threat. Neither is irreconcilable when observing available data. More importantly for the present day, readers can look to the valley of vision for a variety of spiritual applications. Most specifically, this passage serves as a reminder of the atrocities of man’s stubbornness to turn to God for His providential care. Jesus Christ, roughly 700 years after this oracle, spoke towards this same city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:37-39). While the warning is solemn, the opportunity for deliverance is feely available. That “valley of vision” will no longer be the recipient of God’s judgment when Christ comes; it “shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills” (Isaiah 2:2), with Jesus Christ forever as the righteous King.

[1] Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975).


[2] J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 170.


[3] John A. Martin, “Isaiah” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Is 22:1–14.


[4] Victor Buksbazen, The Prophet Isaiah (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 2008), 227.

[5] J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah, 170-171.


[6] Motyer in Isaiah, 171, notes the link to 2 Kings 19:35-36 but rejects the view.


[7] See Ibid., mentioning Skinner and A.S. Herbert as proponents.


[8] Ibid., 172.


[9] Buksbazen, The Prophet Isaiah, 226.


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