Biblical Archaeology Review 42:5, September/October 2016

Strata: How Many?

How many years did the prophet Isaiah minister naked?

Answer: Three

For three years, the prophet Isaiah ministered naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:3). According to the Book of Isaiah, this was a parallel for the future captivity of the Egyptians and Ethiopians (Cushites) at the hands of the Assyrians. The Israelites had placed their faith in Egypt and Ethiopia for deliverance from Assyria; Isaiah’s demonstration was meant to show that the Israelites’ faith was misplaced. Just as Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot, so the Egyptians and Ethiopians would be led captive to Assyria naked and barefooted.

Isaiah 20:1 situates this episode c. 711 B.C.E., when Sargon of Assyria conquered the city of Ashdod, which had rebelled by refusing to pay tribute to Assyria.

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