Shebna's Tomb

In Isaiah 22:15ff, the prophet rebukes a royal official. Whatever else his crimes, he constructs for himself a grand tomb, communicating his pride and earthly greatness. God is not impressed:

“Go, proceed to this steward,

To Shebna, who is over the house, and say:

‘What have you here, and whom have you here,

That you have hewn a sepulchre here,

As he who hews himself a sepulchre on high,

Who carves a tomb for himself in a rock?

Verses 17-19 indicate that the man will fall from power, his pride misplaced.

Interestingly, a stone coffin from that period is preserved in the British Museum, above. Crucially, the official’s name is lost, but an inscription states it is to hold the bones of the royal steward and his servant, and curses any who will violate the place, while pointing out there is no gold or silver within. Might it be Hezekiah’s steward, Shebna? It does not look very grand by our standards, but then it is wearied by age and would have been only one small part of an elaborate burial place. Despite the good quality stone, the serious inscription, the accompanying maidservant and Shebna’s great power, God determined to humble his pride. I suspect that exhibiting his empty coffin on the wall of a gentile museum might well have been part of the Lord’s verdict on Shebna’s legacy. Removing his actual name would also be a fitting humiliation.

Where you are buried and with what state and fanfare matter not; the earthly power you had and the riches you borrowed are of no significance. Your legacy is futile, for only what God thinks of your life is the estimation worth having. The godless care about their graves for that is the only place they belong. The godly are looking ahead to the resurrection, wherein they shall truly shine.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and perpetual contempt. And they that be wise, shall shine, as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars, forever and ever. Dan. 12:2-3, Geneva.