II Chronicles 32

 

 

 

This chapter of thirty-three verses is paralleled by the sixty-one verses that

begin with II Kings 18:13 and end with 19:37; and by Isaiah 36., 37.

Our chapter gives, as might be anticipated, but a very partial and somewhat

broken account, therefore, of this stretch of Hezekiah’s career, and no

adequate impression whatever of the great power of some portions of the

parallel. A close comparison of the two places leaves us tolerably clear as

to the order and consecutiveness of the history, although perhaps not

entirely so. The style of our present chapter betrays the usual marks of

disjointedness, in the case of extracts from fuller history, in the

indefiniteness of its connecting phrases, found, e.g., in vs. 1, 9, 24, 31.

Our compiler, by omission, seems to shield Hezekiah, probably designedly,

from the disrepute that must be felt to attach to his want of faith, courage,

and fidelity in his trusteeship of the sacred property of the temple as

indicated by what is written in II Kings 18:14-16, of which see further

infra.

 

1  “After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king

of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the

fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.”  The establishment thereof;

translate, and this (his) truth. The word is the same with the third of the trio (see

above), as given in v. 20 of the foregoing chapter. The evident meaning intended

to be conveyed is, “After these things and this truth,” i.e. truthfulness of conduct

on the part of Hezekiah, the strict rendering being, “After the things and the truth

this.” Sennacherib… came … entered into Judah… encamped against

the fenced cities… thought to win. This verse and these items of it may

without any inconvenient strain be made conterminous with just one verse

in II Kings 18:13. The king personally seems to have devoted himself

especially to the siege of Lachish, an Amoritish city indeed originally,

and a place of great strength of petition, but conquered by Judah

(ch.11:9; 25:27; and infra here and in parallel; Joshua 10:26, 31-35).

This invasion of Sennacherib (Herod., 2:141), son of Sargon,

may be with moderate certainty affixed to the date B.C. 701. Thought to

win. A weak rendering for the preferable purposed or boasted to break

them.

 

2 “And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he

was purposed to fight against Jerusalem,”  Whether the three verses of

ill omen already alluded to (II Kings 18:14-16) may be read precedent to this

verse, and purport that the bribes had been paid, and yet had failed of their object,

so that Hezekiah was now compelled to brace himself to the occasion, and

“took counsel,” etc. (next verse); or whether this verse dates (as some think)

the quailing heart of Hezekiah, and an offer or part payment of treasure by

Hezekiah to Sennacherib, which only increased his insolence, as immediately

now related, is uncertain, perhaps. In the face of the emphatic language of the

three verses of the parallel, and in consideration of the possible motives as

suggested above for our compiler omitting the matter altogether, we

incline to the former opinion. That would have the effect of making this

verse say that when Hezekiah had his eyes opened to the failure of his bribe

— a waste payment, for that Sennacherib still “purposed to fight against

Jerusalemhe finally proceeded to take the right steps. However, the

witness and indications of Isaiah 22:13-19; 29:2-4, may go some way

to shield Hezekiah from the entire blame. The silence of our compiler on

the whole matter is the one residuum of fact, and unfortunate in its

suggestion.

 

3 “He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the

waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did

help him.  To stop the waters of the fountains… without the city.

These fountains or springs were probably those represented by En Rogel,

on the Ophel spur or very large mound, or fortified hill (mistranslated

possibly from that circumstance “tower,” in II Kings 5:24; Isaiah 32:14),

on the southeast of the temple. The object of Hezekiah is obvious

enough. The word (סָתַּם) for “stopping” occurs in all thirteen times —

twice in piel in Genesis, once in niph. in Nehemiah, and ten times in kal in

Kings, Chronicles, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Psalms. It is for all material

purposes very uniformly rendered in all these places by the word “stop”

eight times, and otherwise “shut” or “closed,” or to carry a derived

meaning, “hidden” or “secret.” If the word “shut” or “shut off” were

employed, it would fit every occasion. So we are not told here how he

stopped the fountain or fountains, but that he shut the waters off from one

direction and guided them into another, viz. by a conduit running westward

from the springs and the Gihon (i.e. the brook) flowing naturally down the

Tyropoean valley to a pool prepared for it in the city (see our v. 30; and

II Kings 18:17; 20:20; Ecclesiasticus, 48:17; and Conder’s ‘Handbook to the

Bible,’ p. 339). This pool was very probably none other than the pool of

Siloam.

 

4 “So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the

fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land,

saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?”

The brook that ran through the midst of the land. Compare

the Septuagint, which has it, “through the midst of the city;” and compare

foregoing verse and note; and see again above reference to Conder’s

‘Handbook’ at length.

 

5 “Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was

broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without,

and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields

in abundance.”  He strengthened himself; i.e., as in our several previous

instances of the occurrence of the phrase (ch. 12:1; 25:11; 26:8;

I Chronicles 11:10;), he took all possible means to make himself

and people and city strong to withstand the invader. All the wall that was

broken (see Isaiah 22:9). Although we read that the devastation

wrought by Joash (ch. 25:23) was very largely repaired by

Uzziah (ch. 26:9) and by Jotham (ch. 27:3), it is not explicitly said that

the broken four hundred cubits of wall, from the gate of Ephraim to the

corner gate, were made absolutely good again, although in the matter of

towers and fortifications much was evidently done. Note also the word

“all” here, side by side with the “much” of ch. 27:3. And raised (it) up

to the towers. Discard this Authorized Version rendering. The meaning

cannot be certainly pronounced upon, but perhaps it may be intended to

say that he heightened the towers. The objection is that the same verb is

wanted for the next clause, and that its rendering would need to be there

slightly reduced again to a mere statement of raising from the ground

(i.e. building) another wall without. Repaired Millo (see note, I Chronicles

11:8).

 

6 “And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them

together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake

comfortably to them, saying,”  The street of the gate; translate, the wide

area at the gate, etc.; what gate is not specified, but presumably either

“the gate of Ephraim,” which would be the one opposed to the camp of

the besiegers, or possibly “the corner gate” (ch. 25:23; and Conder’s

‘Handbook,’ pp. 343-345).

 

7 “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king

of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be

more with us than with him:”  Several of the descriptive dramatic touches

of Isaiah 22:4-14 are forcible and apt commentary to this verse.

 

8 “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to

help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves

upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”   (See II Kings 6:16;

Jeremiah 17:5.) The admirable language of Hezekiah here quickens our

desire to feel sure that this was after (and after genuine repentance for)

his faithlessness (II Kings 18:14-16).

 

 

In Face of the Enemy (vs. 1-8)

 

We do not know how long “after these things, and the establishment

thereof,” occurred the events which are here narrated; but the connection

of the two in the record of the Chronicler may suggest to us:

 

  • THAT TROUBLE MAY FOLLOW FAITHFULNESS AS IT DOES

FOLLOW SIN. We never read of Israel’s serious departure from their

loyalty to Jehovah without reading of appropriate penalty coming in due

course. Suffering always waits on sin — suffering in some form. But

sometimes, as here, trouble comes to the right-hearted; to the nation which

has Hezekiah for its king, and Isaiah for its prophet; to the man who is

zealous in the cause of his Divine Lord. “Many are the afflictions [even] of

the righteous” (Psalm 34:19), and sometimes great as well as many. They

have a work to do within and beyond, the value of which will immeasurably

outweigh the “grievousness of the present” (Hebrews 12:11).

 

  • THAT IT SHOULD BE MET WITH COURAGE, ENERGY,

INTELLIGENCE, AND PIETY. These qualities Hezekiah was now

showing. He had given way to trepidation, and he had resorted to means

which were unworthy of his position and his piety (see II Kings 18:9-16).

But now he was in a nobler mood. His courage rose to the occasion

(v. 7); his energy was manifested in the effective measures (vs. 4-5) he

took to distress and to disappoint the enemy; his intelligence was shown in

his taking counsel with the strongest and wisest of his people, in the

rapidity of the measures he adopted and in their sagacity, and also in his

effort to inspire the people with confidence and security; his piety shone

forth in his address to the people, calling on them to remember that they

had not an “arm of flesh,” but “the Lord their God,” to lean upon. Let us

meet any form of trouble — disappointment, loss, bereavement, sickness,

or any affliction whatsoever — in this spirit and with these qualities, and it

will not master us; we shall prevail over it. It will not leave desolation and

ruin in its track; it will rather leave benefit and blessing behind it.

 

  • THAT WHEN WE ARE ATTACKED OUR AIM SHOULD BE TO

DEFEAT THE ENEMY’S INTENTION. This is not altogether the truism

it may seem. Too often men think that their duty and their wisdom under

attack is to reply to the enemy in the same form in which he is assailing

them. But that may be most unwise. Just as Hezekiah considered what

Sennacherib was aiming at, and took prompt and able measures to defeat

that purpose; so we should always consider, not the kind of warfare, but

the “real objective,” the ultimate purpose of our enemy, and should set to

work to prevent its realization. He may only be wanting to provoke and

disturb us, and we shall absolutely defeat his purpose by not allowing

ourselves to be provoked or disturbed; he may be desirous of inducing us

to take some compromising step, and we shall gain the victory by refusing

to be drawn in that direction; he may want to bring himself into notoriety,

and we shall defeat him by quietly letting him alone, etc. Consider his aim,

and move so as to thwart that.

 

  • THAT RECTITUDE IS THE STRENGTH OF ANY CAUSE OR

KINGDOM. Sennacherib’s multitude of soldiery was nothing whatever

when he deliberately and ostentatiously arrayed them against the living

God. Hezekiah’s army was indifferent in size and (probably) in military

equipment and training, but what mattered that so long as they had

righteousness in their ranks and GOD FOR THEIR LEADER!   We are not, indeed,

to despise the means which we employ, but it is so much that we may say

that it is everything to know and feel that our cause is just, that we

ourselves are upright in our heart and character, and that, with perfect

purity and simplicity of spirit, we can ask God’s blessing on our efforts.

 

 

 

An Assyrian Invasion of Judah (vs. 1-8)

 

  • THE DATE,

 

Ø      Indefinitely. “After these things, and this faithfulness” (v. 1); i.e. after

the great Passover, which terminated in the destruction of the symbols of

idolatry throughout the land, with the restoration of the true worship of

Jehovah in connection with the reopened and purified temple (ch. 30.,

31.), and after the singular display of zeal and piety on the part of Hezekiah

in furthering that good work. How long after is not stated; the juxtaposition

of the Passover and the invasion favors the idea that the former fell not in

Hezekiah’s first year, but after his sixth (see homily on ch. 30:2), since the

latter cannot be placed earlier than eight years after the fall of Samaria,

B.C. 720.

 

Ø      Definitely. “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah” (II Kings 18:13;

Isaiah 36:1). If this date be correct, the invasion referred to

cannot have been that of Sennacherib (B.C. 701), eighteen or nineteen

years after the capture of the northern capital, or in Hezekiah’s twenty-fourth

year, but must have been an expedition of Sargon, who, ten years

earlier (B.C. 711), marched against “the people of Philistia, Judah, Edom,

and Moab,” who had formed an alliance with the King of Egypt — a

monarch who could not save them; and in particular besieged and took

Ashdod (Smith, ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ pp. 291, 292). The expedition

against Ashdod (Isaiah 20:1) was conducted by Sargon’s tartan, or

commander-in-chief, “while Sargon himself overran ‘ the wide-spreading

land of Judah,’ and captured its capital, Jerusalem.” The invasion of

Jerusalem is referred to in Isaiah 10., as Calno, Carchemish, Hamath,

Arpad, Damascus, and Samaria, were conquests, not of Sennacherib, but

of Sargon (Sayce, ‘Fresh Light,’ etc., p. 137); and beyond question this

must be the invasion to which II Kings 18:13 and Isaiah 36:1,  allude, if the

date given by them be correct. If, however, Sennacherib’s invasion is meant,

an error must have crept into the text with reference to the date, and

“twenty-fourth” will require to be substituted for the “fourteenth.” Kleinert,

Sayce, and Professor Cheyne (‘The Prophecies of Isaiah,’ 1:201-210) adopt

the former view, that in II Kings 18:13), here, v. 1, and Isaiah 37:1

“Sargon” should be read for “Sennacherib” — an opinion with which G.

Smith. appears to coincide (‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ p. 293); but Schrader,

(‘Die Keilinschnften, pp. 309, 310), Robertson Smith (‘The Prophets of

Israel, p. 295), Rawlinson (‘Kings of Israel and Judah,’ p. 187), and Canon

Driver (‘Isaiah: his Life and Times,’ p. 49) regard this view as insufficiently

established, and believe the invasion alluded to in all these passages to be

that of Sennacherib.

 

  • THE INVADER.

 

Ø      Sargon (to adopt the alternative view above referred to). On the

monuments, Sarru-kinu, “Strong is the king,” or Sar-ukin, “He [God]

appointed the king.” One of Shalmaneser’s generals, probably his tartan, or

commander-in-chief, who, on Shalmaneser’s death during the siege of

Samaria (B.C. 723-720), seized the crown and assumed the name Sargon,

“in memory of the famous Babylonian monarch who had reigned so many

centuries before” (Sayce). Whether, like Tiglath-Pileser II., he had sprung

from the ranks (Sayce), or was of kingly descent, probably proceeding

from a collateral branch of the royal family (Schrader), cannot be decided;

but he was one of the most brilliant potentates that ever sat on the Assyrian

throne. A rough and energetic soldier, he conquered in succession Samaria,

Egypt, Ashdod, (Jerusalem?), and Babylon, and destroyed the

independence of the Hittites at Car-chemish. The town of Khorsabad, Dur-

Surrukin, the city of Sargon, opposite Mosul, and ten miles from Nineveh,

“in the country which borders the mountains,” was founded by him

(‘Records,’ etc., 11:33).

 

Ø      Sennacherib. On the monuments, Sin-ahi-irib, or Sin-ahi-ir-ba, “(The

god) Sin multiplies the brothers,” — Sargon’s son, who, after his father’s

assassination, ascended the throne of Assyria on the 12th of Ab (July),

B.C. 705. “Brought up in the purple, he displayed none of the rugged

virtues of his father. He was weak, boastful, and cruel, and preserved his

empire only by the help of the veterans and generals whom Sargon had

trained” (Sayce, ‘Assyria,’ etc., p. 41). This, of course, was not the opinion

of Sennacherib, who, in an inscription on one of the gigantic bulls guarding

the entrance to his palace, speaks of himself as “Sennacherib, great prince,

powerful prince, prince of legions, king of the land of Assyria, king of the

four regions, worshipped of the great gods, valiant, the manly, the brave,

chief of the kings of disobedient people, subverter of evil designs”

(‘Records,’ etc., 7:59). Oriental sovereigns generally had not studied

Proverbs 27:2 (“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own

mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”), and had no notion of

underrating their own virtues, or modestly concealing their own merit.

 

  • THE OBJECT.

 

Ø      Proximate. To besiege and capture or break down the fenced cities of

Judah (v. 1). According to II Kings 18:13 and Isaiah 36:1, Sennacherib (or

Sargon) was in this successful (compare Isaiah 10:5-10). This, according to

the monuments, Sargon did while his tartan was besieging Ashdod, s.c. 711

(Sayce), or in connection with his earlier expedition against Hanno of Gaza

and Seveh the Sultan of Egypt in B.C. 720 (Sehrader); and Sennacherib in

B.C. 701 by besieging, capturing, and plundering forty-six of Hezekiah’s

cities, “strong fortresses and cities without number” (‘Records,’ etc., 7:62).

 

Ø      Ultimate. To capture Jerusalem, which also, according to the

monuments, was taken by Sargon, but not by Sennacherib. The assertion of

the Chronicler with reference to the Assyrian king, that “his face was to

fight against Jerusalem,” was applicable to both sovereigns, though only of

Sargon was it true that Jerusalem was taken. Sennacherib besieged

Hezekiah, shutting him up “like a caged bird in the midst of the city of his

royalty” (‘Records,’ etc., 7:62); but Jehovah “put a hook into his nose, and

a bridle into his lips,” and sent him back the way by which he came,

without permitting him to enter the city (Isaiah 37:29-37). If Isaiah 10.

refers to Sargon’s invasion (Sayce), it would seem as if the capital had

been taken (see vs. 6, 12, 22, 24, 34).

 

  • THE RESISTANCE. Hezekiah adopted measures to meet the attack

of Sargon, or of Sennacherib, on his capital.

 

Ø      A council of war called. Attended by his princes and mighty men, i.e. his

statesmen and the generals of his army (v. 3), who advised that steps

should be taken to protect the metropolis, and lent him their aid for that

purpose (v. 3). Probably they also recommended Hezekiah, besides

looking for help to Egypt, to join the league Merodach-Baladan of

Babylonia was forming against Sargon; or, if the later date be adopted, to

seek the aid of Tirhakah against Sennacherib.

 

Ø      The water supplies outside the city stopped.

 

o        The reason — that the Assyrian kings should not find much water (v. 4).

Without water it would be impossible to conduct a protracted siege.

 

o        The mode — by covering up the fountains outside Jerusalem, and

leading their waters by subterranean channels into the city (v. 3;

compare II Kings 20:20). “The brook that flowed through the midst

of the land, i.e. the Gihon which flowed through the valley of that

name on the west side of Jerusalem, connecting the upper pool of

Gihon (Isaiah 22:11; 36:2), the present-day Birket Mamilla, with

the under or lower pool (ibid. ch. 22:9), the modern Birket-es-Sultan,

was likewise dried up by the waters of the two springs being drained

off by a conduit, and led into a great cistern within the city walls,

called Hezekiah’s pool, close by the gate of Gennath (Weser, in

Riehm, art. “Gihon”); or, should the Gihon be sought in the

spring Ain Sitti Marjam, outside the east wall (Miihlau, in Riehm, art.

Jerusalem;” Conder, ‘Handbook,’ etc., p. 339), then the reservoir into

which the waters were conducted will have been one of the four smaller

pools in the neighborhood of the pool of Siloam, if not that of Siloam

itself (Sayce, ‘Fresh Light,’ etc., pp. 97-107). Warren locates the Gihon

spring in the Tyropoean valley, and says it has not yet been discovered

(‘Picturesque Palestine,’ 1:113; cf. ‘The Recovery of Jerusalem,’ p. 237).

That similar stratagems were adopted when Sargon’s tartan was at

Ashdod, and Sargon himself was expected at Jerusalem, may be inferred

from the fact that Sargon says of the Ashdodites, “Their cities they

prepared to make war… against capture they fortified its (capital)…

around it a ditch they excavated. Twenty cubits (thirty-four feet) in its

depth they made it, and they brought the waters of the springs in front

of the city” (Smith, ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ pp. 290, 291). That

corresponding measures were resorted to in the time of Sennacherib,

Isaiah (22:9-11) shows.

 

o        The urgency. So great and obvious that the inhabitants generally

assisted in the work (v. 4).

 

Ø      The city fortifications increased.

 

o        Hezekiah built up all the wall that was broken down, i.e. wherever he

found a breach he repaired, or a weak part he strengthened it. The

prudence of this was apparent. The strength of a wall or fortress is not

more than that of its weakest part, as the strength of a chain is that of its

feeblest link.

 

o        He raised the existing wall to the height of the towers on it, or

increased the height of the towers, or ascended the towers upon the

walls to make a survey of the situation, and direct the labors of his

masons and engineers.

 

o        Outside of the existing wall he erected another, which enclosed the

lower city, Acra.

 

o        He repaired the castle-fortress Millo, in the city of David, which had

been built by Solomon (I Kings 9:24).

 

o        He provided weapons and shields in abundance, as had been done by

his grandfather Uzziah (ch. 26:14), whom in military genius he

considerably resembled. An inscription of Sennacherib mentions that

Hezekiah “had given commandment to renew the bulwarks of the great

gate of his city” (this may suggest that the bulwarks had suffered damage

in an earlier siege), and that “workmen, soldiers, and builders for the

fortification of Jerusalem his royal city he had collected within it”

(‘Records,’ etc., 1:41).

 

Ø      The city population armed. All the able-bodied men of the metropolis

were enlisted, divided into companies, placed under regular military

commanders, and drilled, just as is done by modem peoples when

expecting an invasion.

 

Ø      The extemporized army reviewed. By the king’s orders the troops were

mustered in the broad place at the east gate of the city (see on ch. 29:4).

 

Ø      The soldiers suitably addressed. He encouraged them in their work of

defense, as at the great Passover he had encouraged the Levites in their

temple duties (ch. 30:22).

 

o        Spirited exhortations.

 

§         “Be strong.” So the Philistine generals charged their troops

when fighting against Israel (I Samuel 4:9); so David, dying,

exhorted Solomon succeeding (I Kings 2:2); so Oded counseled

Asa returning from war (ch. 15:7); so Paul recommends

Christians for the fight of faith (I Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians

6:10; II Timothy 2:1).

 

§         “Be courageous.” So Joab had encouraged David’s army

against the Syrians (II Samuel 10:12); and Jehoshaphat the

Levites and priests in their duties (ch. 19:11); so Peter advises

the followers of Christ (II Peter 1:5).

 

§         “Be not afraid or dismayed.” So Jahaziel to Jehoshaphat’s

troops (ch. 20:15-17); and Isaiah to Ahaz when threatened

by Rezin and Pekah (Isaiah 7:4); so Christ to His disciples

(John 6:20).

 

o        Effective arguments.

 

§         General: that a Greater was with them than with the invader

(compare II Kings 6:16; Romans 8:31; I John 4:4).

 

§         Particular: that he had only frail human power to lean upon

— men and horses without number, but still only “an arm

of flesh” (compare Jeremiah 17:5; Psalm 56:5; whereas

they had Jehovah their God to keep them and fight

their battles, as Moses (Exodus 14:14), Abijah (ch. 13:12),

and Jehoshaphat (ch. 20:17) had; and as Christians may have

(Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:31).

 

Ø      The confidence of the people raised. They rested themselves upon the

words of Hezekiah (v. 8). In the face of Isaiah’s accusation (Isaiah 22:11)

this can hardly mean that they placed an unreserved and exclusive

trust in Jehovah. The prophet rather charges them with trusting less to Him

than to their defensive preparations.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The military spirit essentially an aggressive spirit.

Ø      The best bulwarks of a nation are the pious lives of its people.

Ø      The necessity of combining faith and works in ordinary matters

as well as in things of the spirit.

Ø      Confidence in God the best protection against fear of man.

Ø      The certainty that none can be victorious who fight against God,

or be defeated for whom God fights.

 

 

 

Resting upon Words (v. 8)

 

“And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah.” How far

are we right and wise in building upon words, upon the words of another?

 

  • THE FOLLY OF RESTING ON THE USE OF FORMULAE. There

are some sacred forms or phrases, theological or scriptural, which have

been much urged upon men, as if they had some very special potency in

them; as if we could be perfectly at rest, in regard to human souls, if they

did but pronounce those particular phrases with their lips. Such

superstition as this is pitiable and perilous. It is utterly without warrant, and

it is likely to withdraw the soul from that true trust in which life is to be

found. To believe in Jesus Christ can never be resolved into the use of any

form of words, however excellent or scriptural such form may be.

 

  • THE CONFIDENCE WHICH IS FATAL, viz. to rest upon the words

of those who are unworthy of our trust. How many of the children of men

have lost everything that is most precious because they have made this fatal

mistake! Of those whose words should never be built upon are:

 

Ø       The ignorant, whose range of knowledge is very small, and who have

not had the opportunity of learning the ascertainable truth and wisdom

of God.

 

Ø      The prejudiced and obdurate, who will not learn, and therefore do not

know and cannot counsel.

 

Ø      The superficial, who are contented with a knowledge which does not

reach “the deep heart of truth.”

 

Ø      The false, who only say what they think is palatable and profitable.

 

Ø      The fickle, who have one doctrine to-day, but may have a different one

to-morrow.

 

  • THE TRUST WHICH IS SOUND AND WISE. There are words on

which we may build. When God speaks to us we know that we may rest on

His Word absolutely; we know that we should heed His warnings, and that

we may build on His promises. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but

my words shall not pass away!”  (Matthew 24:35)  But how shall we know

when Christ is speaking to us? Many speak in His name who do not speak

on His authority.

 

Ø      We should pay regard to the words of those who profess to speak for

Him, and whose character for purity and unselfishness sustains their claim

(Matthew 7:15-20).

 

Ø      We should heed the words of those of His disciples who urge that which

meets our spiritual necessities and accords with the deepest convictions of

our nature.

 

Ø      We should consult the Master’s own recorded words, always

remembering that they are to be interpreted in the spirit, and not in the

letter. If we do this we shall not only be “resting on words,” we shall be

building on the rock, for we shall be abiding in the truth; we shall be

grounded on the very wisdom of God itself, or (we may say) on the

Wisdom of God Himself (I Corinthians 1:24, 30).

 

9 “After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to

Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his

power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah

that were at Jerusalem, saying,”  The passage beginning with this verse and

ending with v. 21 represents the much fuller parallel (II Kings 18:17-19:37),

fifty-eight verses in all.  This much greater fullness is owing to the greater

length at which the language of defiance on the part of Sennacherib and his

appointed officers is narrated, and the matter of his subsequent letter; also

the prayer of Hezekiah; and his application to Isaiah, with the reply of the

latter to it. On the other side, there is very little additional in our narrative,

a few words heightening the effect in our vs. 18, 20-21, constituting the

whole of such additional matter. The vague mark of time, after this, with

which our present verse opens, merely says that in due course of

Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah, and attack of the fenced cities (v. 1), he

proceeds to send his servants and his insolent defiances to the metropolis,

Jerusalem itself. The three words in italics, “himself laid siege,” should

evidently give place to the single word “remained” or “was;” i.e. he and all

his host with him remained at, or opposite to, Lachish, while his servants

went to defy Jerusalem in his name.

 

10 “Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that

ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?”  In the siege. This Authorized Version

rendering is manifestly incorrect, though, if we simply omit the article, and

render in siege, we shall probably have Sennacherib’s exact idea. He spoke not

of the literal technical thing siege, but of the distress and confinement that the

apprehension of the siege did not fail to bring. This so to say moral tone to

the rendering of the word (בְּמָצור) is much to be preferred to that of the

margin, “in the fortress or stronghold.”

 

11 “Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by

famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us

out of the hand of the king of Assyria?” The policy of Sennacherib, in the

direct attempt to undermine Hezekiah by appealing straight to his people,

instead of to himself or his ministers of state, is yet more pronounced in

expression, as seen in II Kings 18:26-27.

 

12 “Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his

altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall

worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?”

This misrepresenting of Hezekiah’s pious actions is thought by

some to have been innocent ignorance on the part of Sennacherib. Yet it is

scarcely credible.

 

13 “Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people

of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any

ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand? 14 Who was there

among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed,

that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should

be able to deliver you out of mine hand?”  Some of these deeds of

Sennacherib and his fathers, i.e. predecessors in the kingdom of Assyria,

are mentioned in detail in II Kings 17., passim.

 

 

15 “Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on

this manner, neither yet believe him: for no God of any nation or

kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out

of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver

you out of mine hand?”  The urgency of Sennacherib’s appeal to the people

was of course his way of trying to save work of actual siege, fighting, etc., to

himself and his army. The how much less of the message of Sennacherib

probably meant that his estimate of the your God i.e. the God of Israel,

was measured partly by the comparative smallness and unwarlike character

of the nation of Judah, when set side by side with the great heathen

nations, and partly by the spiritual and invisible character and being of God,

little intelligible to such a one as Sennacherib.

 

16 “And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and

against His servant Hezekiah.”  And his servants spoke yet more.

A glimpse of the fact that the compiler of our book very designedly

excerpted only what he thought needful from very much more abundant

resources.

 

 

The Invasion of Sennacherib: A Summons to Surrender (vs. 9-16)

 

  • SENNACHERIB’S ENCAMPMENT AT LACHISH. Fifteen or

eighteen hours west-south-west of Jerusalem, in the low country of Judah,

on the confines of Philistia, fourteen miles north-east of Gaza, Lachish (see

on ch. 11:9; 25:27) — on the monuments Lakisaccording to a slab in the

British Museum, was a walled town with towers and battlements, whose

power of resistance was so great as to demand a protracted siege.

 

Ø      Sennacheribs route thither. From the north — not by the military road

through Nazareth, Jezreel, Sichem, Bethel, Ai, Michmash, Geba, Rama,

Gibeah, Anathoth, Nob (Isaiah 10:28-32), Sargon’s route (Sayce,

‘Fresh Light,’ etc., p. 137), but by Sidon, Akko, Joppa, Bene-berak, Bethdagon,

Ekron, and Ashdod (Schrader, p. 386).

 

Ø      Sennacheribs employment there.

 

o        Besieging Lachish. Sennacherib’s annals furnish no account of this

siege; but some sculptured slabs in the British Museum represent a large

city “defended by double walls, with battlements and towers and by

fortified outworks,” for the capture of which Sennacherib brought up his

whole army, “and raised against the fortifications as many as ten banks

or mounts, completely built of stones, bricks, earth, and branches of

trees” (Layard, ‘Nineveh and Babylon,’ p. 149). That this was Lachish

is rendered probable by the circumstance that one of these slabs depicts

the capture of Lachish, the inscription reading, “Sennacherib, the king

of multitudes, the King of Assyria, sat on an upright throne, and the

spoil of the city of Lachish passed before him” (ibid., p. 150). “The

besieged defended themselves with great determination, thronged

the battlements and towers, showering arrows, javelins, stones, and

blazing torches upon the assailants,” while the Assyrians “poured

water with large ladies upon the flaming brands which threatened to

destroy their engines” (ibid., p. 149).  The stubborn resistance of

Lachish no doubt delayed the advance of Sennacherib’s whole force

against Jerusalem (‘Records,’ etc., 1:35).

 

o        Receiving Hezekiah’s submission. Hezekiah had rebelled against the

Assyrian supremacy in the days of Shalmaneser (II Kings 18:7), but had

again been placed under it by Sargon. On Sargon’s assassination (B.C.

705) the kings of Sidon, Ascalon, and Judah formed an alliance with

Egypt and Ethiopia to once more break the oppressive yoke of Assyria.

The league was joined by the Ekronites, against the will of Padi their

prince, who remained faithful to Assyria, and whom they “placed in

chains of iron, and unto Hezekiah King of Judah delivered,” who

“shut him up in darkness (or prison).” Before the allies could unite

their forces, Sennacherib appeared upon the scene, having obtained

a hint of the confederacy being formed against him. First he swooped

down upon Luliah the King of Sidon, who fled to a distant spot in

the middle of the sea, leaving to the mercy of the conqueror “his

strong cities and castles, walled and fenced, and his finest garrison

towns.” Next the kings of Samaria, Sidon, Arvad, Gubal, Ashdod,

Beth-Ammon, Moab, and Edom, hastened to meet the invader with

“great presents,” and kiss his feet. Zedek of Ascalon, who,

along with Judah, still stood out, was, with his wife, sons, daughters,

brothers, and gods, apprehended and deported to Assyria. At Lachish

a halt was made to await the Ethiopian and Assyrian kings, who were

soon after defeated at Altaku, the Eltekon of Joshua 15:59. Dreading

the fate he saw approaching, Hezekiah dispatched an embassy to Lachish,

proffering submission, and agreeing to pay whatever tribute might be

asked (II Kings 18:14). Sennacherib demanded three hundred talents

of silver and thirty talents of gold. The monuments give the tribute as

eight hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold, and state that it was

sent to Nineveh after Sennacherib, with “woven cloth, scarlet,

embroidered; precious stones of large size, couches of ivory,

movable thrones of ivory, skins, and teeth of buffaloes — all sorts

of treasures, his (Hezekiah’s) daughters, the male and female inmates

of his palace, as also male and female slaves.” The discrepancy as to

the number of silver talents may be explained by supposing different

standards of value to have been employed in reckoning, while the

biblical account of the place to which the tribute was sent is clearly

to be preferred. In order to pay the exaction Hezekiah appropriated

all the silver in the temple, and the treasures in the palace, as well as

stripped the gold from off the doors and pillars of the former

(II Kings 18:15-16). (‘Records,’ etc., 1:33, etc.; Smith, ‘Assyrian

Discoveries,’ p. 295, etc.; Schrader, ‘Die Keilinschriften,’ p. 291, etc.;

Sayce, ‘Fresh Light,’ etc., p. 139, etc.)

 

  • SENNACHERIB’S COMMISSION TO HIS GENERALS. These

generals were three in number.

 

Ø      Their titles.

 

o        Tartan. In Assyria, tur-ta-nu, commander-in-chief, or field-marshal

(II Kings 18:17; Isaiah 20:1).

 

o        Rabsaris, “chief of the eunuchs” (II Kings 18:17), probably

Sennacherib’s lord chamberlain, whose duty was to act as official

scribe.

 

o        Rabshakeh, “chief of the cup-bearers” (ibid.; Isaiah 36:2).

As the inscriptions never speak of this court official as a military

personage, it has been suggested (Schrader, p. 319) that Rabshakeh is

aHebraized or Aramaized form of Rabsak, meaning “upper chief,

superior officer,” perhaps Sennacherib’s prime minister.

Tiglath-Pileser II had a general of this name, whom he sent

to Tyre (Smith’s ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ p. 264). The

Rabshakeh was obviously the orator of Sennacherib’s three

(II Kings 18:19). The tartan was most likely too exalted a

personage to hold either oral or written communications with the

king’s enemies.

 

o        Their commission. To advance, with a detachment of the army, against

Jerusalem, with the view of intimidating it into surrender; failing in

this, to prosecute against it a siege. Sennacherib was most likely moved

to this by the report of the approach of the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia;

before encountering these, it was clearly to his advantage to reduce both

Ekron and Jerusalem.

 

  • SENNACHERIB’S ADDRESS TO THE KING AND INHABITANTS

OF JERUSALEM. Not delivered in person, but through

“his servants” (v. 9), and in particular Rabshakeh (II Kings 18:19;

Isaiah 36:2-4). Nor spoken directly to Hezekiah and his people, but to

Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, who was over the household, i.e. the king’s high

steward (Isaiah 22:20), to Shebna the scribe, or king’s secretary, who

had lately been deposed from the office of high steward (ibid.  vs. 15- 19)

because of favoring the interest of Assyria, and to Joah, Asaph’s son,

the recorder, or king’s annalist. Standing by the conduit of the upper pool

in the highway of the fuller’s field, where Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub

had met with Ahaz when the Syro-Israelitish invasion was threatened

(Isaiah 7:3), and where the Assyrian army was now encamped, over

against the Gennath Gate, in front of which the envoys of Hezekiah stood,

while the inhabitants crowded round it and even sat upon the city wall,

observing the scene (Isaiah 22:1-13), — Rabshakeh, in the name of his

master, called upon the king and his subjects to surrender, using the

Hebrew tongue, that the inhabitants might understand, and becoming

alarmed, induce their rulers to submit. The points in Rabshakeh’s harangue,

considerably shortened by the Chronicler, were two.

 

Ø      That the hope of deliverance held out by Hezekiah was a delusion. If

their confidence was based upon expected assistance from Egypt, they

would soon know that Pharaoh was “a bruised reed, upon which, if a man

leaned, it would go into his hand and pierce it” (II Kings 18:21); if it was

Jehovah to whom Hezekiah was persuading them to turn their gaze (v. 11;

compare II Kings 18:22; Isaiah 36:7), that source of succor would

prove as little satisfactory.

 

o        Because it was not likely Jehovah would extend aid to one who had so

openly insulted Him as Hezekiah had done by taking away his high

places and altars, and commanding all Jerusalem and Judah to worship

at one altar (v. 12). Either the fame of Hezekiah’s reformation had

traveled to Nineveh, or Sennacherib had heard of it since coming into

the country,  if he had not learnt of it from Sargon his father. But

Sennacherib either willfully, or most likely ignorantly, misrepresented

Hezekiah’s action as one that would rather cause him to forfeit than

gain the Divine favor. So the best deeds of men are often misunderstood,

and their good conversation falsely accused by others who speak against

them as evildoers (I Peter 2:12; 3:16).

 

o        Because, even although Jehovah did extend aid to Hezekiah, it would

come to nothing. Jehovah would prove as powerless as the gods of

other nations had done. Not one of these had been able to oppose

the resistless march of Sennacherib and his predecessors on the

Assyrian throne, or to deliver from destruction the peoples that

served them; and if these had failed to render effectual aid to their

devotees, much more would Jehovah fail in protecting His

(vs. 13-15; compare II Kings 18:33-35; Isaiah 36:11-13).

Sennacherib forgot, as Sargon had done before him, that the

power of himself and his fathers over the nations and their gods

arose from this — that Assyria was the rod of Jehovah’s anger

(Isaiah 10:5-19), and that whensoever Jehovah pleased He could

cause the Assyrian, who smote with a rod, to be beaten down

(Isaiah 30:31).

 

Ø      That their resistance would entail upon them all the horrors of a siege.

They would certainly perish by famine and by thirst (v. 11), if not by the

sword, since their escape was impossible. Neither Sennacherib nor his

generals guessed the resources of the God of Judah; had they done so,

their attitude would have been less defiant and their language less

confident.  Events were to teach them that what was impossible for man

WAS BOTH POSSIBLE AND EASY FOR GOD!

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The presumption of some wicked men.

Ø      The impotence of all heathen gods.

Ø      The supremacy of the one living and true God.

Ø      The security of those whom Jehovah defends.

 

17 “He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to

speak against Him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands

have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the

God of Hezekiah deliver His people out of mine hand.”

Letters to rail on the Lord God of Israel (so II Kings 19:8-14). The

rumor of the approach of “Tirhakah King of Ethiopia” (v. 9) quickened

Sennacherib’s anxiety to make short work with the conflict at Jerusalem,

by intimidating the people to an early collapse of their resistance,.

 

18  “Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ speech unto the

people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to

trouble them; that they might take the city.” In the Jews’ speech

(see again II Kings 18:26-27). The last three clauses of this verse are

additional matter to that contained in the parallel.

 

19 “And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods

of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.”

Our compiler, at all events, signalizes the difference, which Sennacherib

worse than minimizes, between the God of Israel and the so-called gods

of the surrounding heathen nations.

 

20 “And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the

son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”  For the prayer of Hezekiah,

see II Kings 19:14-19; and for the place of the prayer or prayers of Isaiah,

and the indications of their having been offered, see alike ch.19:4-7, and

the verses of the grand passage, vs. 20-31.

 

21 “And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of

valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of

Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And

when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth

of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.”

The exact matter corresponding with this one verse is

embraced by the parallel (II Kings 19:35-37). It gives the number

of slain as a hundred and eighty-five thousand. It does not speak of the

heavy proportion of leaders and captains lost. It leads us to suppose that

for all survivors it was a surprise in the morning — that silent vision of the

dead in such vast array. Stating, on the other hand, in mere historic dry

detail, the return of Sennacherib to his own land, his dwelling at Nineveh,

and assassination, in the house of Nisroch “his god,” at the hands of his

own two sons, mentioned by name Adrammelech and Sharezer, who had to

fly for it to Armenia (Ararat), it does not show the obviously designed

moral touch of our compiler, so he returned with shame of face to his

own land, nor the similarly complexioned description of the time, place,

and agents of his assassination. Lastly, it gives Esarhaddon as the name of

his successor on the throne.

 

22 “Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem

from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all

other, and guided them on every side.”  This verse, with the notification of

Hezekiah’s great deliverance from the hand of the King of Assyria, summarizes

also his various other deliverances, with tacit reference to such suggestion of

other conflicts as we have in II Kings 18:7-8. Guided them on every side.

The Septuagint reads, gave them rest. This suits the connection as regards

meaning best, and also as regards the immediately following adverb, “on

every side.” It has also in our present book the correspondences of ch. 14:6;

15:15; and especially ch. 20:30, with the Hebrew words of which, an easily

supposed rectification brings it into exact agreement.

 

23 “And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents

to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of

all nations from thenceforth.” Presents to Hezekiah. The “precious things”

(מִגְדָּנות) of ch. 21:3.

 

 

The Weakness that Bodes Strength; the Defiant Strength that Bodes

  “Shame of Face.”  (vs. 1-23)

 

One of the most fruitful sources of strength in the individual character is

according to the trustfulness that may be in it - the absence, or all but entire

absence, of it on the one hand, and the larger or lesser bulk of it on the

other. Trustfulness is a sure turning-point — a determining feature in the

original shaping and in the growing formation of any character. The

direction in which that trustfulness goes out to exercise itself, or goes in

quest of an object on which, in its lovingness, to lean, is watched often

enough with trembling solicitude, and is a matter of intrinsic importance. It

is undeniable that the trustful disposition often means that which is prone

to trust too soon, too easily, and to its own hurt therefore. It often, also,

goes with too little self-reliance. These are, however, the weaknesses

incident to what is really a strong feature. Where a person is strongest,

there, by many an analogy, may lurk some form of weakness, some snare.

Once more, there is an opposite of trustfulness, that consists in

suspiciousness, and not simply in too little trust. Of such an opposite

nothing good can be said. But, even by the side of too little trust, the

trustfulness that errs by excess must be considered to show to advantage,

and really to gain advantage, unless the excess be to a manifestly foolish

extent, and a thing of perpetual recurrence. The practical outcome of all is

that, as between man and man, we distinguish the two expressions —

trustfullness, and exercising trust — and we discriminate the two qualities

which those expressions purport to describe. Such a distinction and such

discrimination are more than necessary as between man and God. Implicit

trust, constant trust, and all the loving trust of trustfulness, can never be

misspent, never misdirected towards God. The example outlined before us

in the first eight verses of this chapter is an instance of a notable effort and

enterprise of trust, as compared with perhaps that afforded us by the life of

Abraham and many others, which illustrated an habitual trustfulness. Let us

learn:

 

  • THAT THE ULTIMATE GREATEST MATERIAL OF STRENGTH

IS TRUST IN THE UNSEEN. Such trust is not only a last resource, an

ungrateful last resort; it is the matter of strength, its material. “This is the

victory that [even] overcometh the world… faith.(I John 5:4)  This dictum

of the apostle, who loved love so well, and was something less known for

faith, may be held to carry the whole question. What a fine field of survey,

what a wide horizon opens before us, when once we begin to try to count the

achievements of faith! This faith in the Unseen, and in the UNSEEN ONE,

is no mere matter of high contemplation; it works with trust.

 

Ø      The trust, that characterizes an honest consciousness of duty done to the

best and utmost of human ability, becomes at once a strong incentive of

faith.

 

Ø      So also that trust which comes of a clear discernment of the

incompetency of self when alone and unaided.

 

Ø      The very craving of trust helps the grand quality of faith. And, on the

other hand, the reacting of the intelligent conviction of the existence and

presence and favor of the great Master of all circumstance and all events

is the very suggestion and nourishing of trust. These also have a very

spreading nature (v. 8). There are very many who learn trust and faith at

second hand, if it may be so expressed, who have not force enough

apparently in and of themselves, and without the inducement and

encouragement of many examples, or, perhaps otherwise, of some very

leading and remarkable example. And then, at the crisis — some crisis of

great extremity — the sudden cry of prayer makes the whole scene burst

into life; faith and trust are exchanged for fruition (vs. 20-21). It was so

now with Hezekiah and his people; it was often so in the history of other

kings and people; and it is often so — how much oftener might it be? — in

our individual life.

 

  • THAT THE EXTREMITY OF WEAKNESS IS DEFIANT TRUST

IN SELF. Self-trust is, indeed, except under certain circumstances, nothing

short of utter weakness; but the daring, defiant form of it presented by the

narrative before us exceedingly, and actively aggravates the mischief, E.g.:

 

Ø      The defiance that comes of overweening conceit of self is certain to

underrate the strength of others (vs. 9-19).

 

Ø      The defiance that comes of an overbearing temper is certain to betray

the owner of it into what must involve such moral fault as adds weakness

to weakness. For instance, it does not fall short of mocking fellow-men,

nor hesitate at all to do so!

 

Ø      The defiance that comes of impious disbelief of THE ONE GOD and

infatuated reliance on no other but the god self, is merely another way of

saying that the man guilty of it is already shut up within the smallest circle

of resource. And with all this corresponds, again, the howl of the servants

and soldiers of Sennacherib (v. 18) against the besieged “people of

Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them,” in

some mocking imitation of their venerated language; in place of the “prayer

and cry to heaven” of Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet (v. 20).

That howl came of sense alone, and appealed to sense alone. So rude an

attempt at intimidation of an enemy a very poor substitute for “prayer” to

God for strength to prevail, and “cry” for His protecting and delivering

mercy!

 

 

 

Sennacherib and Hezekiah: Abasement and Exaltation (vs. 9-23)

 

We have here brought out in very vivid contrast:

 

  • THE HISTORY OF THE HAUGHTY.

 

Ø      Appearances are all on its side. It has apparently overwhelming

numbers, superior military training and equipments, the prestige of

previous success and acknowledged worldly power.

 

Ø      It is honeycombed with spiritual evil. It is

 

o        lamentably ignorant of the truth which it distorts (v. 12);

o        scornful (v. 11), indulging in a contemptuous spirit and

correspondingly contemptuous language;

o        pride, and its accompanying vain-gloriousness (vs. 13-15);

o        impiety, speaking of the living God as if He were to be classed with the

gods of the heathen (vs. 13, 15). All these evil tempers and baneful

utterances are serious sins, either against self or against others, or

directly against God.

 

Ø      It draws down upon itself the decisive displeasure of the Divine Ruler.

For the vauntful Sennacherib, who made so sure of an easy victory and an

added honor, there was reserved, in the righteous providence of God, a

calamitous disaster (v. 21; and see II Kings 19:15) and bitter shame.

“So he returned with shame of face to his own land” (v. 21). Thus he that

exalted himself was abased; and thus the haughty may expect to be brought

low, for there are two powers working against them.

 

o        The moral condition of haughty-heartedness is one that conducts

almost certainly:

 

§         to negligence,

§         to imprudence,

§         to some fatal error of either:

 

Ø      action or

Ø      inaction

 

o        God’s high displeasure is kindled against them. Again and again has

He“revealed His wrath” against this evil and baneful passion. To fall

under its power is penalty indeed, but it leads on and down to other

sorrows.

 

  • THE HISTORY OF THE HUMBLE. Humility, in the person of the

godly Hezekiah, presents an opposite picture to that of his formidable and

defiant enemy.

 

Ø      It is apparently in great peril. The outward and visible forces — those of

this world — are decidedly against it. If the race were always to the swift

and the battle to the strong, there would be no chance for humility. It

would never clasp the goal, nor win the victory.

 

Ø      Its character is one of beauty and of piety. There is no little moral

comeliness in humility; it is “fair to see;” it attracts the gaze of the

purest eyes above and below. Moreover, its spirit is reverent; it

knows its own helplessness, and it looks upward for the aid it

needs; it “cries to Heaven” (ver. 20); it leans on God.

 

Ø      Its end is not only deliverance, but honor. The Lord saved Hezekiah

from the hand of Sennacherib (v. 22); and to the King of Judah were

brought valuable gifts, and “he was magnified in the sight of all

nations” (v. 23). Concerning humility now, as it may appear in all

men’s hearts, we may say that:

 

o       it is a fair and beautiful grace in itself, most worth possessing

for its own sake, really enriching its subject;

 

o       it brings with it the favor of God our Father (Isaiah 57:15;

Matthew 5:3; 18:4; 23:11; I Peter. 5:5-6);

 

o       it will be honored in due time. Not only is it the case that

humility introduces us into the kingdom of Christ, but it is

also true that it leads us on to an advanced position in that

kingdom. “The lowly heart that leans on thee” is not only

“happy everywhere,” but it is spiritually prosperous

everywhere; it is certain to receive proofs of Divine regard,

probably in human estimation (as with Hezekiah); but, if not

thus, in some other way of gracious and gladdening

enlargement.

 

 

The Invasion of Sennacherib: The Great Deliverance (vs. 16-23)

 

  • SENNACHERIB AND HIS GENERALS. Their renewed efforts to take

the city.

 

Ø      The letter of Sennacherib to Hezekiah. (v. 17.) The tartan with his

assistants having failed to either storm Jerusalem or intimidate its

inhabitants, returned, or more probably dispatched, Rabshakeh to his

master for further instructions. Sennacherib was now at Libnah, a few

miles nearer Jerusalem than Lachish, which in the interval had capitulated.

Learning that the King of Egypt was on the way north to give him battle,

he sent back Rabshakeh, accompanied, by special messengers, bearing a

letter to Hezekiah to expedite the taking of the city. The letter when

received was read by Hezekiah with indignation and alarm. It contained a

repetition with emphasis of what had been uttered by Rabshakeh in the

hearing of the king’s envoys and of the inhabitants of the city. Of course,

the mere reassertion of Rabshakeh’s boastings, though in the form of a

letter from Sennacherib himself. did not make them the less false, insolent,

or blasphemous.

 

Ø      The railings of Sennacheribs generals. As before by Rabshakeh, so a

second time by the generals and perhaps also the messengers (v. 18). To

the people on the town wall in their own tongue were addressed words

meant to terrify and persuade to capitulation — loud, boastful, arrogant,

blasphemous reproaches against Jehovah, putting him on a level with idols,

the works of men’s hands, and declaring Him to be as powerless as these

(v. 19), little dreaming they were so soon and so completely to be

undeceived (v. 21). So men often hug to their bosoms the false ideas they

have formed of the Christian’s God, without thinking that in a moment, by

being admitted through death’s portal into HIS PRESENCE,  they may be

proved to have been deceived.

 

  • HEZEKIAH AND HIS PROPHET. Their supplications to the God of

heaven (v. 20).

 

Ø      The prayer of Hezekiah. Recorded in II Kings 19:14-19 and Isaiah 37:15-19.

 

o        Where offered. “In the house of the Lord.” Having read the Assyrian’s

letter, Hezekiah repaired to the temple and spread it before the Lord; in

which act lay a double propriety — Jehovah having invited His people to

call upon Him in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15), and promised to

deliver them (Psalm 91:15); and Jehovah being the One most insulted

by Sennacherib’s reproaches.

 

o        To whom addressed. To Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel, whose

presence was with His people, who alone governed the nations, and was

supreme Creator of heaven and earth (compare Jehoshaphat’s prayer,

ch. 20:6-12).

 

o        In what terms couched. Earnest, reverential, direct, and hopeful.

Requesting a favorable audience for his intercession, he first called

God to see and hear the reproaches of Sennacherib, next acknowledged

the truth of Sennacherib’s language concerning the gods of the nations

he destroyed, and finally besought God to show that He alone was God,

by saving them out of the King of Assyria’s hand.

 

o        With what result followed. It was answered by Isaiah, the son of Amoz,

who, speaking in God’s name, assured him that “Sennacherib should

not come into the city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it

with shield, nor cast a bank against it, but should return by the way

that he came, and should not come into the city” (II Kings 19:32-33;

Isaiah 37:33-34).

 

Ø      The prayer of Isaiah. Though not recorded by the writer of II Kings that

Isaiah prayed along with or in addition to Hezekiah, the fact mentioned

that, on Rabshakeh’s first approach, Hezekiah requested Isaiah to lift up

his prayer” on their behalf (II Kings 19:4), renders it probable that on

this occasion also he joined the king in crying unto Heaven.

 

  • JEHOVAH AND HIS ANGEL. Their interposition on behalf of Judah

and Jerusalem (vs. 21-22).

 

Ø      The destruction of Sennacheribs army.

 

o        Where? “In the camp of the King of Assyria;” most probably in that

of the tartan lying before Jerusalem (Delitzsch), though it may have

been in that of Sennacherib’s army. According to Herodotus (2. 141),

the disaster occurred at Pelusium, whither Sennacherib, “King of the

Arabians and Assyrians,” had marched with a great host on his way

to Egypt. If so (Ewald, Cheyne, and others), then Sennacherib must

have broken up his camp at Libnah, and moved south to intercept

Tirhakah (cf. Driver, ‘Isaiah:  his Life and Times,’ pp. 81, 82).

 

o        When? That night” (II Kings 19:35); but whether the night after

Hezekiah’s prayer (Rawlinson, Bahr) is uncertain. Hardly, if Pelusium

was the scene of the overthrow; possibly, if the Assyrian camp still

remained at Libnah (Keil). That the night was that in which

Sennacherib, in the following year, sat down to besiege Jerusalem

with his own army (Keil, Delitzsch) does not seem likely.

 

o        How? By an angel — the angel of the Lord (II Kings 19. 35; Isaiah

37:36). Whether the blow was supernatural or natural cannot be

determined from the language of Scripture. The destruction of the

firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:29) and the diminution of David’s

army (II Samuel 24:15-16) were both accomplished by the angel

of the Lord; yet the former only appear to have been suddenly smitten,

while the latter were cut off by pestilence. Herodotus’s notion, that the

bow-strings, and shield-straps of Sennacherib’s soldiers were gnawed

through during the night by innumerable field-mice, favors the

pestilence-theory — among the Egyptians the mouse having been

the hieroglyph of devastation by pestilence (J. D. Michaelis).

 

o        To what extent? To the cutting off of “all the mighty men of valor,”

with “the leaders and the captains”? (v. 21); in all, 185,000

II Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36).

 

o        With what effect? The return of Sennacherib to Assyria with shame

of face, because of having failed to effect the object of his expedition.

Whether the fleeing Assyrians were pursued by the liberated

Judahites (Ewald) is not stated by the Chronicler, and is only a

doubtful inference from Psalm 46:7-8; 76:3.  That the Assyrian

monuments have preserved no record of Sennacherib’s humiliation

is not surprising. The Egyptian monuments of the nineteenth dynasty

contain no memorial of Menephtah’s overthrow in the Red Sea.

Nations, like individuals, do not publish their misfortunes,

least of all perpetuate the remembrance of their defeats.

 

Ø      The assassination of Sennacherib himself. The usual end of kings in

Assyria (Sargon, and probably Shalmaneser II. and Assurnirari), no less

than in Israel and Judah. “Within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal

temples of a king keeps death his court,” etc. (‘Richard II.,’ act 3. sc. 2).

 

o        Where Sennacherib was murdered. “In his own land,” in “the house

of his god” (v. 21); i.e. in Nineveh, in the house of Nisroch his god

(II Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:37) — a divinity not yet identified in the

Assyrian pantheon.

 

o        When? Not immediately on returning to Nineveh, since, according to

the inscriptions, he lived twenty years after the Egyptian and Jewish

expedition, and undertook five more campaigns in other parts of his

empire.

 

o        By whom? “They that came forth of his own bowels” —

Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons” (II Kings 19:37; Isaiah

36:38); the former in Assyrian Adar-malik, Adar is prince,” also

the name of an Assyrian god (II Kings 17:31); and the latter in

Assyrian Sar-usur, a shortened form of an Assyrian word, of which

the first part was probably Assur, Bil, or Nergal, meaning “Assur

(Bel or Nergal) protect the king” (Schrader, p. 329). Nergal-sarezer

occurs as a proper name in Jeremiah (39:3, 13). This may have been

the full designation of Sennacherib’s son (Alexander on ‘ Isaiah,’

2:74; Cheyne, ‘The Prophecies of Isaiah,’ 1:225).

 

  • THE PEOPLES AND THEIR PRESENTS. The effect produced by

this deliverance on surrounding nations.

 

Ø      Gifts unto Jehovah. Brought not by Judahites alone, but by the

inhabitants of nations who had been delivered from the Assyrians’ yoke,

and were designed as a grateful recognition of Jehovah’s hand in

effecting their emancipation. There is no benefactor more deserving of

man’s thanks than God (Psalm 139:17-18); no duty more frequently

urged upon men than gratitude to the Supreme Giver (Psalm 50:14;

100:4; 107:1; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:12;

I Thessalonians 5:18); yet no bestower of good receives less thanks

than HE!

 

Ø      Precious things to Hezekiah. As the Philistines and Arabians had

brought presents to Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:10-11), so now the

inhabitants of heathen countries, among whom may have been the

Babylonians — though v. 31; II Kings 20:12; and Isaiah 39:1 refer

not to this (see below) — sent gifts to Hezekiah in recognition of his

greatness, as attested by the Divine deliverance wrought on his behalf.

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The heinousness of scoffing at religion.

Ø      The impotence of human rage against God (Psalm 2:1-5).

Ø      The superiority of the true God over all divinities worshipped by the

heathen (Psalm 115:3-4).

Ø      The efficacy of prayer (James 5:16).

Ø      The advantage of social supplication (Matthew 18:19).

Ø      The command of God over the resources of nature (Numbers 11:23).

Ø      The ability of God to save His people out of any sort of peril

(I Corinthians 10:13).

Ø      The sad fate of the ungodly (Psalm 75:8, 10).

Ø      The indebtedness of the world to the Church’s GOD!

 

24 “In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the

LORD: and He spake unto him, and He gave him a sign.”

The extreme brevity again of our compiler, in the account of

Hezekiah’s illness, and his passing so lightly over whatever in it cast shades

upon his character and career, cannot escape our notice. Much fuller is the

narrative of II Kings 20:1-21. Gave him a sign (see ibid. vs. 8-11, and our

v. 31, middle clause. See also at length of the sickness of Hezekiah, Isaiah 38.).

 

 

 

                                Hezekiah’s Sickness and Prayer (v. 24)

 

  • HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS.

 

Ø      The time of it. “In those days” (v. 24; II Kings 20:1; Isaiah 38:1) —

       an indefinite expression, differently understood.

 

o        In the days of Sennacherib’s invasion, either at its beginning (Keil),

during its continuance (Thenius), or after its close (Ewald); but as,

according to the monuments, this occurred B.C. 701, or in Hezekiah’s

twenty-fourth year, either Hezekiah lived more than twenty-nine

years in all, or his sickness must be placed earlier.

 

o        In the days of Sargon’s invasion in B.C. 711, and therefore in

Hezekiah’s fourteenth year (see preceding homilies).

 

Ø      The nature of it. A boil (II Kings 20:7; Isaiah 38:21); but whether

an ordinary abscess or a carbuncle cannot be determined, though there is

no ground for connecting it with the pestilence that cut off Sennacherib’s

army. It probably arose out of the bodily weakness induced by long labors

in reforming religion, and heavy anxieties in meeting and resisting the

Assyrian invasion.

 

Ø      The severity of it. “Even unto death.” It had all the appearance of being

fatal. Hezekiah himself expected nothing else than that “in the noontide of

his days he should depart unto the gates of Sheol, and be deprived of the

residue of his years” (Isaiah 38:10). Even had his malady not suggested

this to his mind, Jehovah’s message to him by Isaiah (Isaiah 39:1)

would have done so. All sickness a prelude to, and premonition of, the last.

 

  • HEZEKIAH’S PRAYER.

 

Ø      To whom directed. The Lord; the only living and true God, as well as

the only Hearer of prayer (Psalm 65:2). Doubtless Hezekiah also

recognized Jehovah’s hand in his affliction, and understood that He alone

could remove the malady by whose permission it had come.  Asa, in his

disease, sought not to Jehovah, but to the physicians (ch. 16:12); and the

result with him was different.

 

Ø      By what supported.

 

o        Bitter grief. “Hezekiah wept sore” (II Kings 20:3). Like Antigone

(line 198, etc.), he lamented his sad fate, not merely because he was

to die, but because he was being cut off in the middle of his days,

and when as yet he had no heir (compare Genesis 15:2).

 

o        Strong arguments. He had walked before Jehovah in truth and with a

perfect heart, and had done what was good in His sight; and was thus

in a manner entitled to the blessing of long life (Deuteronomy 25:15;

Psalm 34:12-14).

 

Ø      In what ended. Jehovah spake unto him, granting his request, adding

fifteen years to his life, and gave him a sign. The cure was effected by

Isaiah laying a cake of figs upon the boil — the vis medicatrix (the

body's natural ability to heal itself),  however, proceeding not from the

fruit, but from Him who had said, “Behold, I will heal thee.” Jehovah-rophi

(Exodus 15:26) one of Jehovah’s names. The sign granted at Hezekiah’s

request was the turning back of the shadow upon the sun-dial, or step-clock,

of Ahaz (II Kings 20:11; Isaiah 38:8).  This sundial, or step-clock, was

probably “an obelisk upon a square or circular elevation ascended by steps,

which threw the shadow of its highest point at noon upon the highest steps,

and in the morning and evening upon the lowest, either on the one side

or the other, so that the obelisk itself served as a gnomon.” How the shadow

was turned back is best explained by “the assumption of a miraculous

refraction of the sun’s rays, effected by God at the entreaty of the prophet”

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The liability of ALL TO AFFLICTION!

Ø      The CERTAINTY OF DEATH!

Ø      The contingency of many of the Divine decrees.

Ø      The efficacy of prayer.

Ø      The weakness of faith in some good men — Hezekiah needed a

sign.

Ø      The condescension of God — in stooping to regard faith’s

infirmity.

Ø      The Divine control over nature’s resources.

 

25 “But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done

unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath

upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.”  The parallel, II Kings 20:12-19

and Isaiah 39., fully explain the circumstances here referred to, and we may

conclude that Hezekiah’s sin consisted in the spirit in which he acted, displaying

his treasures, so that it was in the fullest sense a sin of “the heart.”

 

26 “Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his

heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of

the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”

Hezekiah humbled himself. Possibly the language of the

nineteenth verse in the parallel is the one surviving historic trace of this.

The language found in Jeremiah 26:19 may be also a note of the same,

though its dependence (see vs. 17-18) on Micah 3:12 seems to make

it less likely.

 

 

Hezekiah’s Fall and Repentance (vs. 25-26)

 

  • HEZEKIAH’S SIN.

 

Ø      Its character.

 

o        Ingratitude. “He rendered not again according to the benefit done

unto him.” That benefit had been great — deliverance from a more

powerful assailant than the King of Assyria, even from the king of

terrors (Job 18:14) — and ought to have awakened undying

thankfulness in Hezekiah’s bosom, as, indeed, he promised it would

(Isaiah 38:20). But it did not. Ingratitude, a sin of which Uzziah

(ch. 26:16) and Rehoboam (ch. 12:1) before him had been guilty,

with which men in general are often chargeable (Luke 17:17;

Romans 1:21; II Timothy 3:2), and into which the best of men

occasionally fall (II Samuel 12:7-9).

 

o        Pride. “His heart was lifted up.” Like other good men before and since,

his vows upon his sick-bed were better than his performances when

health was restored. He had engaged “to go softly all his years, because

of the bitterness of his soul” (Isaiah 38:15); but instead, his heart was

lifted up, not as Jehoshaphat’s had been, “in the ways of the Lord”

(ch. 17:6), but as Uzziah’s (ch. 26:16) and Amaziah’s (ch. 25:19)

had been, in self-sufficiency — the allusion being to his behavior

in connection with the Babylonian envoys, who shortly after his

recovery visited Jerusalem, and endeavored to enlist him in a

league against Assyria (see homily on v. 31).

 

Ø      Its punishment. The wrath of Jehovah was threatened:

 

o        upon himself, the immediate offender, which was righteous

(ch. 19:2; 24:18; compare Romans 1:18); and

 

o        upon Judah and Jerusalem, by the law of imputation, and in

accordance with the solidarity of nations. The punishment of sin

often falls on the innocent, because of their connection with the

guilty. Children suffer for the evil-doing of their parents, and

subjects for that of their rulers. “The fathers have eaten sour

grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:29;

Ezekiel 18:2).

 

  • HEZEKIAH’S REPENTANCE.

 

Ø      The self-abasement of the king. “He humbled himself for the pride of his

heart.” The wrath of Jehovah, pronounced against him and his people by

Isaiah, was the Babylonish captivity. When Hezekiah heard the prophet’s

threatening, he realized that he had sinned, and humbled himself before

Jehovah, saying, “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken”

(II Kings 20:14-19; Isaiah 38:3-8).

 

Ø      The concurrence of the people. “He and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

Probably they had not been unfavorable to a Babylonian alliance against

Assyria, and were really “art and part” co-criminals with Hezekiah; if they

had no share in Hezekiah’s action, they had still cause to humble

themselves before God on account of Hezekiah their king.

 

Ø      The clemency of Jehovah. The judgment was to fall on Hezekiah’s sons

rather than on himself, which Hezekiah recognized as a mercy, and

acknowledged by adding, “Is it not so [i.e. good] if peace and truth shall be

in my days?”  (Compare Thomas Paine's statement, "If there must be

trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." - CY - 2016)

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The possibility of spiritual declension.

Ø      The duty of repentance,

Ø      The obligation of gratitude.

Ø      The sin of pride.

 

27 “And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honor: and he made

himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones,

and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels;”

If Hezekiah not only began to negotiate, but actually paid the

precious metals, etc., with which he offered to buy off the invasion of

Sennacherib (II Kings 18:14-16), he may have become considerably

recouped by the presents and gifts subsequently, liberally it would appear,

brought to him (see our v. 23), and it is possible that this may give us

some further clue to where it was that his heart strayed, while displaying

his wealth and treasures to the messengers of Berodach-Baladan King of

Babylon.

 

28 “Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and

stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.  29 Moreover he provided

him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had

given him substance very much.”  Cotes for flocks should be tendered,

conversely, flocks to the stalls, i.e. stalls full of flocks.

 

30 “This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon,

and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David.

(see vs. 3-4).  What Hezekiah “stopped” was the spring, or more strictly

access to it, and guided its prized waters down, probably by an underground

channel, to Siloam, or else to the pool in the city which he had constructed and

enclosed by that “another wall without” (v. 5), west of the “city of David.”

 

 

                              The Greatness of Hezekiah (vs. 27-30)

 

  • HIS WEALTH.

 

Ø      Large. “Much riches” (v. 27); “very much substance” (v. 29). In this

he resembled Solomon (ch. 9:22) and Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:5).

 

Ø      Varied.

 

o        Precious metals. “Gold. silver, precious stones.”

o        Flocks and herds. “All manner of beasts and flocks’ (v. 28).

Compare the wealth of Abraham (Genesis 13:2) and Lot

(ibid. v. 5).

o        Miscellaneous articles. Spices, shields, goodly vessels.

o       Field produce. Corn and wine and oil (v. 28).

 

  • HIS WORKS.

 

Ø      Treasuries. For his gold, silver, precious stones; for spices, shields, and

goodly vessels.

Ø      Storehouses. For his corn, wine, and oil.

Ø      Stalls. For his beasts and herds.

Ø      Folds. For his flocks.

Ø      Cities — i.e. either watchtowers for his shepherds  (ch. 26:10)

or dwelling-places for his herds and beasts.

Ø      Reservoirs. Containing water for the use of the inhabitants, especially in

the time of a siege (v. 30).

 

  • HIS HONOR.

 

Ø      In life.

 

o        By Jehovah, who had exalted and prospered him in all his

undertakings, public and private, military and commercial (v. 30).

o        By his subjects, who trusted, obeyed, revered, and loved him.

o        By foreign princes and peoples, who brought presents to him in

Jerusalem (v. 23).

 

Ø      At death.

 

o        By his people — all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem — who

buried him in the chiefest, or in the ascent, of the sepulchers of the

sons of David; i.e. in a special grave prepared for him and succeeding

kings, and did him honor, most likely by burning spices (ch. 16:14;

21:19).

o        By God, who gave him a son to reign in his stead. His throne passed

not to a stranger, but continued in the line of David’s house,

according to the promise.

 

Ø      After death. By receiving a double, yea, a threefold memorial:

 

o        in the vision of Isaiah the prophet;

o        in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel; and

o       in the chronicles of the kings of Judah.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The best wealth — grace.

Ø      The noblest deeds — works of faith.

Ø      The highest honoursalvation and glory.

 

31 “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of

Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was

done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all

that was in his heart.”  Howbeit; literally, and thus. The italic type dispensed

with, the verse may be rendered, And thus with or among the ambassadors of the

princes… God left him to, etc. The princes. This plural may be the

pluralis excellentiae (The plural of nouns expressing dignity and majesty), and

designate the king himself, who doubtless issued the official command to the

messengers to visit Hezekiah with gifts, etc., but not necessarily so. The word

may betray the inquiries and curiosity of the princes of Babylon, under the king,

the expression of which led to the embassy, so to call it.

 

 

 

Hezekiah’s Mistake (v. 31)

 

  • ITS OCCASION. In connection with “the business of the ambassadors

of the princes of Babylon.”

 

Ø      The senders of this embassy. “The princes of Babylon;” more particularly

Berodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon (II Kings 20:12); or

Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39:1) — undoubtedly the correct form, “Merodach

has given a son.” There are three bearers of this name in the cuneiform

inscriptions. The first, a king of South Chaldea and son of Jakin, with whom

Tiglath-Pileser II. had warlike dealings (O. Smith, ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’

p. 256); the second, also a son or’ Jakin and King of the Chaldeans, whom

Sargon defeated, dethroning him and burning his city of Dur-jakin, B.C.

710-9 (‘Records,’ etc., 7:46-49); and the third, a King of Babylonia, whom

Sennacherib overthrew in the vicinity of Kish (‘Records,’ etc., 1:25;

G. Smith, ‘Assyrian. Discoveries,’ p. 297). The Merodach-Baladan who

sent ambassadors to Hezekiah was not the first, unless all three were the

same person, but the son and successor of the first (Schrader). The sole

question is whether the second and the third were the same, and, if not,

which of them it was that dispatched envoys to Hezekiah. Schrader

distinguishes the two because the Bible describes Hezekiah’s Merodach-

Baladan as the son of Baladan; while the monuments designate Sargon’s

as the son of Jakin (‘Die Keilinschriften,’ p. 342); but Sayce (‘Fresh Light,’

p. 135) identifies the two, and explains “the son of Baladan” (II Kings 20:12;

Isaiah 39:1) as due to the error of a copyist, like “Berodach” for “Merodach.”

An absolute decision is meanwhile impossible.

 

Ø      The date of the embassy.

 

o        The sacred narrative appears to connect it with Hezekiah’s sickness,

and this again with Sennacherib’s invasion (Ewald, Schrader, Delitzsch).

But if Hezekiah’s sickness occurred after the invasion, the arrival of the

ambassadors must have taken place before it, as otherwise he could not

have shown them the treasures of the palace which, prior to their coming,

had been despoiled to appease Sennacherib.

 

o        Hence the opinion has gained ground that, as Hezekiah’s sickness must

have occurred about the time of Sargon’s invasion of Judaea, the

mission of Merodach-Baladan must be placed in connection with that

event, and that both the sickness and the mission should be dated

about B.C. 712-10 (Sayce, Cheyne, Driver).

 

Ø      The pretext of this embassy.

 

o        Friendship. To congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery from what

had seemed a fatal malady (II Kings 20:12). A proper thing for friends

and acquaintances, especially if Christian, to do — to congratulate

each other on restored health, provided always such congratulations

be sincere, not like these of Joab to Amasa (II Samuel 20:9), but like

those the patriarch of Uz received from his friends (Job 42:11).

 

o        Scientific research. To inquire of Hezekiah concerning the wonder

that was done in the land (v. 31). According to the view taken

of the date of this embassy, the wonder referred to will be the

destruction of Sennacherib’s army, or, what is more probable, the

miraculous phenomenon connected with the step-clock of Ahaz

(Delitzsch, Keil, Stanley). There is, however, no ground for thinking

that either of these formed the real reason.

 

Ø      The object of this embassy.

 

o        Political. Perhaps with an eye to future expeditions, “to investigate

a little more closely the condition of the forces of Judah” (Ewald);

but also

 

o        with a view to present needs, to concert measures against the King

of Assyria by forming a league between Babylon and the

Palestinian states (Sayce, Rawlinson).

 

  • ITS NATURE. The discovery to Sargon’s (or Sennacherib’s) envoys

of all the treasures in his palace and in his kingdom (II Kings 20:13;

Isaiah 39:21). A twofold indiscretion.

 

Ø      A political blunder. So Isaiah warned Hezekiah. The days would come

when these very treasures which Hezekiah had so good-naturedly exhibited

to the ambassadors of the Babylonian king, or others in their room, would

be carried into Babylon (Isaiah 39:3-8). The prophet saw that “from

Babylon especially Judah had nothing good to hope for, inasmuch as that

state, though often in dispute with Nineveh, was yet by its peculiar position

too closely entwined with Assyria; and it was really only a question

whether Nineveh or Babylon should be the seat of universal dominion

Accordingly, it flashed like lightning across Isaiah’s mind that Babylon,

attracted by those very treasures which Hezekiah, not without a certain

complacency, had displayed to the ambassadors, might in the future

become dangerous to that same kingdom of Judah it was now flattering”

(Ewald, ‘The History of Israel,’ 4:188). “Even political sharp-sightedness

might have foreseen that some such disastrous consequences would follow

Hezekiah’s imprudent course” (Delitzsch on ‘Isaiah,’ 2:126).

 

Ø      A personal transgression. That Hezekiah’s indiscreet conduct was the

outcome of mingled motives is hardly doubtful. Amongst these were:

 

o        vanity, or a feeling of inward complacency — in fact, he felt flattered

by the attentions of a great Oriental prince like Merodach-Baladan;

 

o        pride, or a sense of his own importance, arising from the fact that his

military resources — his wealth, weapons, and war-chariots — were

so abundant; and

 

o        self-sufficiency, which made him set a higher value on himself than

on Jehovah as an Ally.

 

  • ITS CAUSE.Jehovah left Hezekiah to try him, that he might know

all that was in his heart.”

 

Ø      The fact stated. “Jehovah left Hezekiah.”

 

o        He did not warn Hezekiah by sending Isaiah to him before the

Babylonian ambassadors had arrived at Jerusalem, or before the evil

had been done. God is under no obligation to his intelligent creatures,

or even regenerate children, to adopt special means to warn them of

approaching danger in the shape of temptation, seeing that the

faculties they possess, aided by the light of natural and revealed truth,

should suffice to apprize them of the imminence of peril.

 

o        He did not supernaturally enlighten Hezekiah, either as to the secret

designs of the ambassadors or as to the disastrous consequences that

should in after-years result from the false step he was about to take.

The former Hezekiah should have suspected Timeo Danaos et

dona ferentes (Beware of Greeks bearing gifts); knowledge of the

latter was not requisite for determining the course of action which

duty prescribed.

 

o        He did not exceptionally reinforce Hezekiah in the moment of trial, so

as to prevent him from falling. Had Hezekiah sought grace, he would

have got it; Jehovah was under no obligation to extend it unasked.

 

Ø      The reason given. That He might know all that was in his

[Hezekiah’s] heart.” The heart is the proper seat of religion

(Deuteronomy 30:6; I Kings 8:58; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19).

The character of the heart in every instance known to God (ch. 6:30;

I Kings 8:39; Psalm 7:9: 139:1-4; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15). Yet

this character is not always visible to others or even to one’s self

(Jeremiah 17:9). Hence God is wont, when His wisdom deems it

necessary, to withhold reinforcements of grace from the individual,

that this discovery — the unsuspected character of the heart —

may be thereby brought to the light. So Christ dealt with Peter

(Luke 22:31-32).

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The danger of flattery.

Ø      The sin of ostentation.

Ø      The feebleness of good men when left by God.

Ø      The necessity of having the heart right in religion.

Ø      The certainty that God tries all.

 

32 “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold,

they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of

Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.”

In the vision of Isaiah (so Isaiah 1:1).

 

33 “And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the

chiefest of the sepulchers of the sons of David: and all Judah and

the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. And

Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.”  In the chiefest of the sepulchres;

literally, in the ascent of the sepulchres; i.e. in new burial-places, either on

the ascent to the old ones, probably now full, or else above, them.

 

 

 

The Shadow which Hezekiah Casts on His Own Life’s History

(vs. 24-26, 31)

 

The great commendation of Hezekiah, written in one word — his

“goodness” — in our thirty-second verse, but somewhat more expressly in

the parallel (II Kings 18:5), which raised him to the very first rank with

David and Jehoshaphat, may well be accepted as fully explained and

sustained by the undeviating excellence of his administration of the

kingdom. His reign is, at any rate, unsullied by any sins like those of David.

Yet one error, one sin, and from its denunciation and punishment

manifestly a grievously offensive one, is to be laid to his charge, and which

seems to have consisted in a boastful ostentatiousness, on an occasion

which presumably pre-eminently condemned it for untimeliness and

inexpedience. The faithfulness, and yet the tenderness, of allusion to it, as

made by our present writer (v. 31), we cannot but notice, understand,

and admire. But for the fuller suggestions that lie within it, they are to be

sought and found in the parallel (II Kings 20:12-19), and in the writing

of the Prophet Isaiah (39., wonderfully prefaced by 38.). From this part of

the history of Hezekiah we may notice something to be learned as to:

 

  • THE SEED OF OCCASION. There are seeds — many, indeed — of

occasion, besides those which, perhaps, we think more justly called seeds,

viz. those of cause. They are to be thought on and feared, for they are the

lighter and less visible; more approaching to a certain omnipresence, and

wafted hither and thither on the gentlest of breezes, as well as the stiffest,

they alight so softly, at most unsuspected times, and on spots most

unsuspected. These occasion-seeds are, doubtless, often part of the very

scheme and works of Providence. Designed to good, they are, like many of

the completer manifestations of Providence, warped and wrested to evil.

The exact origin of the severe “sickness unto death” of Hezekiah is

nowhere told us. It looks uncommonly like an earlier “thorn in the flesh.”

The thorn in the flesh, out of which St. Paul made for himself such good

history (II Corinthians 12:7-11), turns to all the reverse with Hezekiah!

His “thorn in the flesh” was sent because the all-seeing Eye saw this —

that there was already sign of Hezekiah being exalted above measure (v. 25)

through the long run of mercy and prosperity vouchsafed to him, even

though vouchsafed in harmony with his own “goodness.” Yet mercy

strews “his path and his bed.” Promise of recovery, sign and marvel —

sign of recovery, and recovery itself — are all in early sequel. Mercies of

kindness still follow and pursue him (Isaiah 39:1; Psalm 23:6) — letters,

presents, congratulations, flattering inquiries of the wonderful sign granted

to Hezekiah, in a double sense, of Heaven itself — and the issue already

declares itself! The net is not “spread in vain in the sight of this bird”!

(Proverbs 1:17)  Sickness, warning, special kindness, special suggestions

of dependence, and therefore of the appropriate humility; of dependence

most graciously remembered of Heaven, and therefore of gratitude, that

should have been responsive; — “all this array one cunning bosom-sin

blows quite away.” The occasion of sin came through, the very warning

against sin, and shows how sin will carve its own occasion right through

all occasion!

 

  • THE SIN ITSELF NOW IN QUESTION. The careful study of this for

our own warning is the more desirable, inasmuch as it is the one only

recorded defection of Hezekiah. It comes on the page of his history

unexpectedly, and must be supposed to come out of one of those most

sunken and aside depths that give facility for sin to harbor, and for Satan

to work his devices in the more difficult cases for him. The lesson is that

with Satan, the expert in the offensive, it needs ever that with much prayer

we strive to be experts in the defensive. The pomp of display and the vanity

of ostentation by which and into which Hezekiah was now entrapped, were

probably attended by aggravating circumstances, which, though not stated,

may be surmised with no little probability; but, at any rate, they were

penetrated by this aggravation — that they came from one who knew

better, and had so well known and done better, that they could only be

viewed as some very retrograde condition of heart, and, unless sternly

checked, liable to lead to worse developments in practice. Civil words to

Babylon, and civil deeds to the ambassadors of her king, happened to be

just the wrong thing, and not the right.   A vain-glorious display of the

treasures, that already excite the cupidity of plunder — temptations to our

tempter and would-be betrayer and destroyer — was a grand mistake

indeed. So are civil words to our souls’ tempters, and civil deeds to our

great enemy Satan! If Hezekiah had known that “these men,” and “the

country whence they came” (II Kings 20:14), were going to be the

capturers and the enforced home respectively of God’s people, whom he

had been set jealously to guard and watch over as the under-shepherd; if he

had known that all his “precious things, silver and gold, spices and

ointment, armour and all treasures,” were to be the sacrilegious plunder of

Babylon and the King of Babylon; — would he then have done as he did?

These things, it may truly be said, he did not know now. But what did he

know? And did he not know such things as these — that pride and vanity,

vain-glory and ostentation, were not for him, who was the dependent

servant of God, and the trustee of treasures, sacred treasures, also, that

belonged to Him to whom the earth and the fullness thereof and all its

precious things, but especially Israel, belonged? How often do we excuse

ourselves, both for mere faults and also for sins, on the plea that we did not

know certain exact facts, forgetful of these two things:

 

Ø      first, that we nevertheless did know, and do know, certain great

general principles and rules which, had we observed them, would

have covered and governed all individual cases; and,

 

Ø      secondly, that though we may often say, “We did not know,” there

remains to be answered the question whether our ignorance

was not nevertheless of our own making, or at least within the

reach of our own removing!

 

  • THE ATTITUDE OF HEZEKIAH TO HIS FAITHFUL PROPHET,

It certainly would appear (II Kings 20:14-15; Isaiah 39:3-4) that he

was conscious of wrong in the presence of Isaiah, that he feared his

interrogation, that he equivocated in his reply, or, at any rate, concealed,

or tried to conceal, some part of what had transpired in his interview with

the ambassadors of Babylon, laying emphasis enough on the rest. So far as

the narrative goes, he does not directly reply to what “these men’ said. He

was probably flattered by “great Babylon coming at all, by the

congratulations brought, by the inquiry respecting “the wonder that was

done in the land,” and — infatuation though it were, if so — by the

presumable overtures on the part of the King of great Babylon to enter into

some alliance with him. This all was emphasized greatly by the fact that the

present visit was the first converse of the two kingdoms. Israel had heard

of Babylon, of her “wealth,” her “glory,” her “beauty,” and of her “sins”

(Isaiah 13., 14., 21.) also, but up to this time had held no sort of

communion with her. In an evil hour the “uplifted” (v. 25) heart of

Hezekiah answered to all the blandishments of the occasion, and the new

and grand acquaintance which he has made is prophetically and positively

set before him by Isaiah in a light which quickly disenchants him, as the

conqueror and taker-captive of Israel, and the very master of his sons and

humbled posterity. An hour ago it was his ambition to show all his

“wealth” and all his “dominion,” and watch whether they vied with those

of the great master of the “ambassadors.” A moment’s vision of the truth

dashes all else to the ground; and Hezekiah becomes either the genuine

resigned penitent — God having “tried him,” left him “to himself, that he

might learn all that was in his heart” (v. 31) — or the alike obsequious

and selfish receiver of the tidings of doom for his people, delayed till after

his own death. If this latter be the position, the even grateful resignation to

the Divine will, uttered by Hezekiah’s lip, contrasts ill with the nobility we

would wish to put to the credit of such a king, and the king of such a people.

 

 

 

The Trial of Restoration (vs. 24-26, 31)

 

The incident to which the text refers was a very small one when measured

against the magnitude of that with which the preceding verses deal. It

concerns the sickness and the recovery of one man, together with a visit to

the court at Jerusalem of a few ambassadors. But it was very much to

Hezekiah himself, and it contains valuable lessons for us all.

 

  • THE INCALCULABLE ELEMENT IN OUR TRIALS. This is large.

 

Ø      We cannot guess when they will come. What little reason had Hezekiah

to anticipate that sickness unto death”! It sprang upon him unawares. So

does our affliction. We are reckoning on prosperity, health, friendship;

and, behold! immediately in front of us is trouble, sickness, loneliness.

A few hours may make all the difference to us in the color and complexion

of our life.

 

Ø      We cannot calculate how far they will go. We expect the little ailment to

pass away in a day or two, and it becomes a very grave and threatening

illness; we think we are stricken with a mortal blow, and we find that we

have nothing that need seriously disturb us. And so with other troubles

beside bodily disorder. We cannot measure their magnitude or their

gravity.

 

Ø      We cannot understand why they have come, or what they mean. Is it that

we have sinned? or that others have erred, and we are “carrying their

infirmity”? Is it a mark of Divine displeasure? or is it a sign of our Father’s

interest in us and care for our deeper and truer well-being?

 

Ø      We cannot enter, except in a very slight degree, into the seriousness of

otherssorrow. A very special gift of the grace and power of sympathy will

enable some men (and women) to understand and feel much with others;

but those who have ordinary human faculties very imperfectly understand

what other souls are suffering, how much other hearts are bleeding.

 

  • OUR REFUGE IN GOD. Hezekiah “prayed unto the Lord.” We know,

from the account in II Kings 20., how the afflicted man “poured out his

heart” unto God and how earnestly he besought the Divine compassion. In

the day of our trouble — especially in the day of grief and of desperate

sorrow” — there is nothing we can do that approaches the wisdom or that

supplies half the relief of seeking and finding a refuge in God. Even if we

do not expectantly ask for deliverance from our adversity, we appeal (and

never vainly) for Divine sympathy and succor in it. This, we are sure, can

never be denied us. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth

them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). We have in Jesus Christ the “High

Priest… touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).

Our affliction tries us; it proves, not only to God, but to ourselves and to

others, what is the spirit we are of; whether ours is, or is not, the spirit of

filial trustfulness, of quiet acquiescence, of genuine piety, of openness of

heart to learn, and of readiness of will to do, His holy will. But there is

another trial, which perhaps strikes deeper and proves us more thoroughly.

 

  • THE TRIAL OF RESTORATION. Hezekiah bore well the trial of

sickness; it drew, or drove, him to the Rock of his salvation. He did not

stand well the trial which came with his restoration. Then came

congratulatory embassage, and then the uplifted heart showed itself, and

the unbecoming ostentation came forth; and with it came the displeasure of

the Lord. The king “rendered not again according to the benefit done;” he

did not respond to God’s especial grace (v. 24-25) with corresponding

gratitude, losing sight of self and keeping God’s pitiful and powerful

intervention in view. His heart was unchastened and “lifted up.” How do

we bear ourselves when the cloud has departed and the sun shines again?

What is our spiritual attitude when we are strong again, or rich again, or

again surrounded with friends? That is the trial-hour. Then God proves us;

then we show to Him and to our neighbors what mind we are of —

whether our affliction has permanently purified, or only temporarily

touched us. Let those who have been cast clown to the ground in any kind

of affliction, and who have been raised up again by the good hand of their

God upon them, ask themselves the main question — Have they proved

themselves to be docile children of their heavenly Father, apt disciples of

the Lord of their life? Have they learned humility, self-distrust,

unworldliness, consecration? Or are they lapsing into that which is selfish,

earthly, proud? God has been proving them; let them examine their own

hearts. “Let every man prove his own” heart. If he can, let him “have

rejoicing in himself” (Galatians 6:4), in his spiritual integrity; if he cannot,

let him consider well and act wisely before God, “lest a worse thing

happen unto him.” (John 5:14)

 

 

 

Hezekiah’s Happiness (vs. 27-30, 32-33)

 

1. There can be no question at all as to Hezekiah’s greatness. He was one

of the greatest of the kings of Judah; not more than two, or three at the

most, can be named as being greater than he.

 

2. Or as to the excellency of his estate (see text, vs. 27-29). He had all

that his heart could wish, so far as temporal possessions were concerned.

 

3. Or as to the regard in which he was held by his subjects. They evidently

“delighted to honor” him, as they showed by their action when he died

(v. 33). When the restraints of a great man’s presence are taken away,

we see what his fellows really think, and how they feel about him. But was

he a happy man, an enviable man, one with whose condition — “state for

state with all attendants” — we should like to exchange our own? That

may well be doubted. Consider:

 

  • THE DEEPENING SHADOW THAT LAY ALONG HIS PATH. 

He knew that, from the time of his sickness, he had fifteen years to live

II Kings 20:6). Now, with such a sensitive and thoughtful spirit as his was

(Isaiah 38:2-3), we may be sure that he counted the years as they went

by, and that he realized with painful force the diminution of those that

remained to him. How much more happy are we who are in ignorance of

the number of the years before us! To know positively that only so many

more remain must cast an ever-darkening shadow on the path of life.

 

  • THE LACK OF THE LIGHT BEYOND THE SHADOW. Hezekiah

does not seem to have cherished any hope, to have entertained any

expectation that could be truly called a hope, concerning the future (see

Isaiah 38:9-20). And to be drawing nearer and nearer, day by day, by a

distinctly measurable distance, the hour when the light of life would go out

into the thick darkness, — what a saddened life must that have been to a

thoughtful and imaginative spirit!

 

  • THE FEAR HE MUST HAVE FELT CONCERNING HIS

COUNTRY’S FUTURE, Manasseh, his son, may have been too young to

have given any very decided intimation of his probable future. But, looking

behind him, remembering the imperfections or the reactions and apostasies

of Solomon, of Jehoram, of Ahaz, he must have been seriously concerned

lest his son should undo what he himself had so laboriously done. What

security was there that the evil and idolatrous practices he had so fearlessly

and so faithfully suppressed would not be revived? that the religion of

Jehovah he had so carefully re-established would not be set aside, and thus

his life-labor lost? Such reflections — especially if he had any insight into,

and therefore any foresight of, Manasseh’s character and course — must

have tinged his thought with a melancholy hue. Yet was there one

compensating and reassuring thought, which may have balanced all others,

and have brightened his latter days. That was:

 

  • THE REVIEW OF HIS OWN LIFE, and of the work he had wrought

since he had occupied the throne. It was not the recollection of his

prosperities (v. 30) which would gladden his heart in the after-years; they

become of continually smaller consequence as we leave them behind us. It

was the remembrance of his kindnesses (v. 32, marginal reading) and of

his faithfulness as the chief servant of Jehovah, that would give gladness to

his heart, as they gave luster to his reign. Let us remember that physical

enjoyments, mental excitements, earthly honors, human congratulations or

laudations, — all these melt away into nothingness as time comes between

them and our spirit. Soon the one vital and only serious question will be —

What have we done of all that God gave us to do? what have we achieved

with the faculties and the facilities he placed in our charge? Prosperities

and enjoyments do for the passing hour, but kindnesses and fidelities attend

us to the dying pillow, and they cross the last stream and await us as we

land on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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