The Peg in Isaiah 22 and Petrine Succession
A Protestant friend who is currently splashing in the Tiber and scrambling out on the Catholic side wrote and asked about the Peg of Isaiah 22:23-25. Below is his query and my response.
He wrote: >>>The only issue which has unsettled me scripturally which I have not been able to find an answer that suits me is that of the peg in Isaiah 22. As Matthew 16 is a key passage in understanding an aspect of the foundations of the Catholic Church, I tried to research it and apply the typologies and allusions from the passages and I remain unsettled. It seems as though it states that the peg driven into a firm place will hold a great burden which seems to be referring to what could be the Catholic Church, as the Catholic Church seems to be in a firm place and holds a great burden of upholding the truth. However, it bothers me that the peg is said to break by the weight of the burden. If the peg is referring to
We have here two different things. First it is a historical situation dealing with a real steward, having nothing to do with a "prophecy" about Peter or the future
The Jerome Biblical Commentary comments:
“Is . This prose supplement describes the ultimate downfall of Eliakim, brought to disaster by dispensing patronage to members of his own family. Nepotism had loosened the firmly secured peg and the whole family went down in Eliakim’s collapse. From Is 36:3, 22; 37:2, it would seem that Shebna’s downfall was not complete, for he appears in these passages, dating from 701, as a royal secretary. This discrepancy would argue for a demotion rather than a complete expulsion from royal service; of course, it may be that Shebna later suffered total disgrace when the folly of his pro-Egyptian policy became evident" (Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. (1996, c1968). The Jerome Biblical commentary.
Word Biblical Commentary comments:
"In that day looks beyond the setting of vv 15–24 dealing with Shebna’s demotion to announce Yahweh’s reversal of the announcement that Eliakim will take Shebna’s place. He is no better and must now be removed" (
So, in Isaiah 22 the actual historical situation is what is being referred to. I do not believe it is a "prophecy" of any downfall of the future papacy, any more than the previous verses are a prophecy of a future papacy. Rather it was simply a prophecy about the inevitable downfall of Shebna and then also of Eliakim—eventually. Actually, Isaiah 22 should not be considered a prophecy about the future papacy at all. This brings me to my 2nd point.
Second, Isaiah 22 is a historical situation in the
So, Isaiah 22 is used to set the historical backdrop for the restored
This is political stuff, but also eternal. The earthly political situation is being used to give you a visual trajectory for the spiritual political situation. Jesus is King. He has an eternal kingdom (Dan -14). The kingdom will resemble what the Jews already know because what Jesus is founding is not a democracy but a kingdom. And kingdoms have stewards and the steward of THIS kingdom will be Peter.
But what about the broken peg? Eliakim would also fail. He was the peg driven into the wall but he too, like Shebna would wiggle loose over time and fail. Sinful man—ah, what a curse. Someone would eventually take his place and probably fail too, just like the queen mothers of the Old Testament most of the time failed to live up to their high position. But, there was no promise of the Holy Spirit leading them, or protecting them, or guiding them into all truth. They were merely political figures whereas the office holders of the
So, to conclude: first, Eliakim is not a prophecy about Peter. We only refer to Isaiah 22 as a historical reference to explain what a Royal Steward (the One Over the House) actually is and to provide the obvious reference to Jesus' words. Second, even if we WANT to use it as a prophecy of the future, I would see it as a warning that the Jewish kingdom, economy and official offices would all fail God—and they did. God destroyed
Interestingly, some Evangelical commentaries say Jesus is the peg. Take Matthew Henry for example "
"Eliakim was compared to a nail in a sure place; all his family are said to depend upon him. In eastern houses, rows of large spikes were built up in the walls. Upon these the moveables and utensils were hung. Our Lord Jesus is as a nail in a sure place. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground, which is by faith hung upon Christ. He will set before the believer an open door, which no man can shut, and bring both body and soul to eternal glory. But those who neglect so great salvation will find, that when he shutteth none can open, whether it be shutting out from heaven, or shutting up in hell for ever" (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (Is 22:15).
If they take their projections to the limit, then Jesus is a peg that will eventually break loose and fall. I hardly think that is any more a qualified interpretation that to say the loosened peg must refer to Peter and his successors.
New wine had to be placed in new wineskins. The temporary economy of the Old Covenant was insufficient. The peg would eventually fall and be replaced again by a peg that would NEVER fall—which the papacy never has. But I don't think we need to go this far with Isaiah 22—I think it is stretching the bounds of hermeneutics.
Remember the stone jars of water for purification at the wedding of