II Kings 19

 

This chapter is almost verbatim of Isaiah 37, with a few minor differences –

For a shorter version go to that text.

 

 

      SECOND EXPEDITION OF SENNACHERIB AGAINST HEZEKIAH

                       

The chapter falls into four portions:

 

  • The sequel to the embassy of Rabshakeh (vs. 1-8);
  • The insulting letter of Sennacherib (vs. 9-14);
  • Hezekiah’s prayer, and God’s answer to it by the mouth of Isaiah (vs.15-34);
  • The destruction of Sennacherib’s host, his hurried flight, and his murder

            at Nineveh by his sons (vs. 35-37). The narrative runs parallel with that

            in Isaiah 37., with which it corresponds almost word for word.

 

1  And it came to pass, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes”

- following the example of his chief officers, who came into his presence “with their

clothes rent” (ch.18:37) — “and covered himself with sackcloth,” - A sign of

grief and self-humiliation -  It was natural that the king should be even more strongly

affected than his ministers – “and went into the house of the Lord.” -  to open

his griefs, ask counsel, and pray for aid.

 

2  And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the

scribe, and the elders of the priests,” -  “The elders of the priests” are aged

men holding the priestly office, not necessarily the high priest, or the most notable

or most dignified of the priests. The king felt that his best hope, so far as man was

concerned, lay in the prophetical order. Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Micah, and perhaps

Obadiah, were the prophets of the time; but it is not clear that any of them were

accessible except Isaiah. He had been Ahaz’s counselor (Isaiah 7:4-16), and was

now certainly among the regular counselors of Hezekiah. Moreover, he was in

Jerusalem, and could readily be consulted. Hezekiah, therefore, sends to

him in his distress, and sends a most honorable and dignified embassy. It is

his intention to treat the prophet with the utmost respect and courtesy. No

doubt, at this period the prophetical order stood higher than the priestly

one in general estimation; and not unworthily. If any living man could give

the king sound advice under the circumstances, it was the son of Amoz -

- “covered with sackcloth,” -  Probably by the king’s command. Hezekiah

wished to emphasize his own horror and grief in the eyes of the prophet,

and could only do so by making his messengers assume the garb which he

had judged suitable for himself on the occasion – “to Isaiah the prophet

the son of Amoz.”  Nothing more is known of Amoz beyond his being

Isaiah’s father. He is not to be confounded with the Prophet Amos, whose

name is spelt quite differently: swOm[;, not ˜wOma.

 

3  And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a

day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: - of “trouble,” or

distress,” manifestly — a day on which the whole nation is troubled,

grieved, alarmed, distressed, made miserable. It is also a day of “rebuke,”

or rather of “chastisement” — a day on which God’s hand lies heavy upon

us and chastises us for our sins. And it is a day, not of “blasphemy,” but of

abhorrence” or of “contumely” — a day on which God contumeliously

rejects His people, and allows them to be insulted by their enemies -  “for the

children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.”

A proverbial expression, probably meaning that a dangerous crisis approaches,

and that the nation has no strength to carry it through the peril.

 

4  It may be the Lord thy God”— still “thy God,” at any rate, if He will not

condescend to be called ours, since we have so grievously offended him by our

many sins and backslidings — “will hear all the words of Rabshakeh,” –

“The words of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 37:4); but the expression here used is more

emphatic. Hezekiah hoped that God would “hear” Rabshakeh’s words, would

note them, and punish them  - “whom the king of Assyria his master hath

sent to reproach the living God;” -  (For the “reproaches” intended, see 

ch.18:30-35. For the expression, “the living God,yj" μyjila, see

Deuteronomy 5:26; Joshua 3:10; I Samuel 17:26; Psalm 42:2; 84:2; Hosea 1:10).

A contrast is intended between the “living” God, and the dead idols whom

Rabshakeh has placed on a par with Him – ‘and will reprove the words which

the Lord thy God hath heard:” -  The “words of Rabshakeh,” his contemptuous

words concerning Jehovah (ch.18:33-35) and his lying words  (Ibid. v. 25),

constituted the new feature in the situation, and, while a ground for “distress,” were

also a ground for hope: would not God in some signal way vindicate His own honor,

and “reprove” them? -  “wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are

left.”  Sennacherib, in his former expedition, wherein he took forty-six of the Judaean

cities, besides killing vast numbers, had, as he himself tells us (‘Eponym Canon,’

p. 134),carried off into captivity 200,150 persons. He had also curtailed Hezekiah’s

dominions, detaching from them various cities with their territories, and attaching them

to Ashdod, Gaza, and Ekron (ibid., p. 135).  Thus it was only a “remnant” of the

Jewish people that was left in the land (compare Isaiah 1:7-9).

 

5  So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.”  6  And Isaiah said

unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master,” -  Isaiah seems to have been

ready with a reply. The news of the words spoken by Rabshakeh had probably

flown through the city, and reached him, and he had already laid the matter before

God, and received God’s instructions concerning it. He was therefore able to

return an answer at once -  “Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words

which thou hast heard, with which the servants — rather, lackeys; the term

 used is not the common one for “servants,” viz. ydeb][", but a contemptuous one,

yre[}n", “foot-boys,” or “lackeys” — of the King of Assyria have blasphemed

me.”

 

7  Behold, I will send a blast upon him,” -  The meaning is doubtful. Most

modern critics translate, with the LXX., “I will put a spirit within him,” and

understand “a spirit of cowardice,” or a despondent mood, or an extraordinary

impulse of Divine inspiration, which is to hurry him blindly on. But the idea of

our translators, that the blast (hWr) is external, and sent upon him, not put in

him — that, in fact, the destruction of his army is referred to, seems defensible

by such passages as Exodus 15:8 and Isaiah 25:4. The prophecy was, no

doubt, intentionally vague — enough for its immediate purpose, which was

to comfort and strengthen Hezekiah — but not intended to gratify man’s

curiosity by revealing the exact mode in which God would work – “and he

shall hear a rumor,” -  literally, he shall hear a hearsay; i.e. he shall be told

something, which shall determine him on a hasty retreat, he would learn

the catastrophe from the mouth of some one who came into his tent and

told him — he would “hear a hearsay” – “and shall return to his own land

(see v. 36), and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.

(On Sennacherib’s murder, see the comment upon v. 37.)

 

8  So Rabshakeh returned.,” -  Rabshakeh’s embassy came to an end

with the retirement of Hezekiah’s officers from their conference with the

three envoys of Sennacherib. No further communication was held with him.

He had outraged all propriety by his appeal to the “men upon the wall”

(ch.18:27-35); and it seems to have been thought most dignified to give him

no answer at all. He had offered no terms — he had simply delivered a

summons to surrender, and the closed gates and guarded walls were a

sufficient reply. So he returned to his master – “and found the king of

Assyria warring against Libnah:” -  The position of Libnah relatively to

Lachish is uncertain – “for he had heard that he was departed from

Lachish.” Whether Lachish had been taken or not cannot be determined

from these words. But we can scarcely suppose that a place of such slight

strength can have defied the Assyrian arms successfully. It is best therefore

to suppose that Lachish had been taken.

 

 

                        Sennacheribs Letter to Hezekiah (vs. 9-13)

 

Sennacherib seems to have been induced to write to Hezekiah by the fact that he

could not march against him at once. A forward movement on the part of Tirhakah

was reported to him (v. 9), and he thought it necessary to meet, or at least watch it.

But he must vent his anger on the rebel Judaean monarch in some way. He sends a

etter, therefore, as more weighty and impressive than a mere message. He warns

Hezekiah against being himself deceived by Jehovah (v. 10); and he expands his

inductive argument in proof of the irresistible might of Assyria, by an enumeration

of four more recent conquests (v. 12). Otherwise, he does little but repeat what

Rabshakeh had already urged.

 

 

9  And when he heard say of Tirhakah King of Ethiopia,” - Tirhakah was one

of the most distinguished of the later Egyptian monarchs. An Ethiopian by birth, and

originally ruling from Napata over the Upper Nile valley from the First Cataract to

(perhaps) Khartoum, he extended his dominion over Egypt probably about B.C. 700,

maintaining, however, Shabatok, as a sort of puppet-king, upon the throne. About

B.C. 693 he succeeded Shabatok, and held the throne till B.C. 667, being

engaged in many wars with the Assyrians. He has left numerous memorials in Egypt

and Ethiopia, and was regarded by the Greeks as a great conqueror. At the

time of Sennacherib’s second attack on Hezekiah (about B.C. 699) he was,

as appears in the text, not yet King of Egypt, but only of Ethiopia. Still, he

regarded Egypt as practically under his suzerainty, and when it was

threatened by Sennacherib’s approach, he marched to the rescue – “Behold,

he is come out to fight against thee,” -  He may have regarded himself as

bound in honor to come to the relief of Hezekiah, or he may have been simply bent

on defending his own territory – ‘he sent messengers again unto

Hezekiah, saying,”

 

10  Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah King of Judah, saying,” -

The messengers brought a “letter” (μydip;s]), as we see from v. 14; but

still they were to “speak to Hezekiah”i.e. they were first to read the

contents to him, and then to hand him the copy - Let not thy God in

whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be

delivered into the hand of the King of Assyria.” Sennacherib drops the

fiction that he himself is sent by Jehovah to attack Judaea and destroy it

(ch. 18:25), and contents himself with suggesting that any announcements which

Hezekiah may have received from his God are untrustworthy. Probably he spoke

his convictions. He did not think it possible that Jerusalem could resist or escape

him (compare Isaiah 10:8- 11 and 13-14).

 

11  Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands,

by destroying them utterly:” (see the comment on ch.18:33). The fact was

indisputable (see. v.17).  The question remained — Would this triumphant career

of success  necessarily continue? - “and shalt thou be delivered?”

 

12  Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have

destroyed?” The Assyrian kings always speak of all their predecessors as their

ancestors. In point of fact, Sennacherib had had only one “father” among the

previous kings, viz. Sargon - As Gozan (see the comment on ch.17:6). It is

uncertain at what time Gozan was finally conquered and absorbed. It was

frequently overrun by the Assyrians from the reign of Tiglath-pileser I. (about

B.C. 1100); but it was probably not absorbed until about B.C. 809. The Prefect

of Gozan first appears in the list of Assyrian Eponyms in B.C. 794 – “and Haran

- Haran is generally admitted to be the city of Terah (Genesis 11:32), and

indeed there is no rival claimant of the name. Its position was in the western part

of the Gauzanitis region, on the Belik, about lat. 36° 50’ N. It was probably

conquered by Assyria about the same time as Gozan -  “and Rezeph” -  A town

calledRazappa,” probably “Rezeph,” appears in the Assyrian inscriptions from

an early date. It is thought to have been in the near vicinity of Haran, but had been

conquered and absorbed as early as B.C. 818. Whether it is identical with the

Resapha of Ptolemy (Geograph.,’ 5:15) is doubtful – “and the children of Eden

- Probably the inhabitants of a city called “Bit-Adini” in the Assyrian inscriptions,

which was on the Middle Euphrates, not far from Carchemish, on the left bank

(‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 3. pp. 69, 71, etc.). This place was conquered

by Asshur-nazir-pal, about B.C. 877 – “which were in Thelasar?” - 

Thelasaris probably the Hebrew equivalent of “Tel-Asshur,” “the hill or fort of

Asshur,” which may have been the Assyrian name of Bit-Adini, or of a city

dependent on it. Asshur-nazir-pal gave Assyrian names to several cities on

the Middle Euphrates (see ‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 3. p. 55, line 48; p. 69, line 50).

 

13  Where is the king of Hamath,”  Ilu-bid, King of Hamath, raised a rebellion

against Sargon in B.C. 720, and was taken prisoner the same year and carried to

Assyria (see the ‘Eponym Canon,’) – “and the king of Arpad,” - Arpad revolted

in conjunction with Hamath, and was reduced about the same time (Ibid.). Its “king”

is not mentioned, but he probably shared the fate of Ilu-bid – “and the king of the

city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?”  The question asked of their kings

are in ch. 18:34, asked of their gods.

 

14  And Hezekiah received the letter” -  It had not been previously

stated that Sennacherib had written a letter. But the author forgets this, and

so speaks of “the letter.” Kings generally communicated by letters, and not

merely by messages (see 2 ch. 5:5; 20:12; II Chronicles 2:11; Nehemiah 1:9) –

of the hand of the messengers, and read it:” - Probably Sennacherib had

caused it to be written in Hebrew  - “and Hezekiah went up into the house

of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.”  Not as if God would not otherwise

know the contents of the letter, but to emphasize his detestation of the letter, and

to make it silently plead for him with God.

 

 

                                    Hezekiah’s Prayer (vs. 15-19)

.

15  And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel,”

  In the parallel passage of Isaiah 37:16 we find, “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel.”

Our author probably abbreviates – “which dwellest between the cherubims,” –

 or, on the cherubim — “which hast thy seat,” i.e., behind the veil in the awful

holy of holies, consecrated to thee, and where thou dost manifest thyself.”

Hezekiah calls into prominence the covenant relation into which Jehovah, the

Almighty Creator and Ruler of the whole world, had entered towards Israel.

As the covenant God, who was enthroned above the cherubim, the Lord was

bound to help His people, if they turned to Him with faith in the time of

their distress and entreated his assistance “thou art the God, even thou

alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth;” - Thou art not, i.e., as Sennacherib

supposes, a mere local god, presiding over Judaea, and protecting it; but

thou art the God of all the earth and of all its kingdoms, including his

own, equally. Moreover, thou alone art the God of the kingdoms. Their

supposed gods are no gods, have no existence, are the mere fictions of an

idle and excited imagination, are mere “breath” and “nothingness.” – “thou

hast made heaven and earth.” Whereas they have done nothing, have

given no proof of their existence (Isaiah 41:23-24).

 

16  Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear:” -  “Bow down thine ear”

is a Hebrew idiom for “give ear,” “attend “(see Psalm 31:2; 71:2; 86:1)

. It is based upon the fact that, when men wish to catch exactly  what another

says to them, they bend themselves towards him, and bring one ear as near to him

as they can – “open, Lord, thine eyes, and see:” -  Take cognizance both with

eye and ear; i.e. take full cognizance — let nothing escape thee -  “and hear the

words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God.”

 

17  Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria i.e. Sennacherib,

and his predecessors — the long line of monarchs who have sat on the

Assyrian throne for many past ages — have destroyed the nations and

their lands,” -  rather, have laid waste, as in the parallel passage of Isaiah

(37:18). “Destroyed” is too strong a word. Hezekiah fully admits the boast

of the Assyrian monarch, that he and his predecessors have had a

wonderful career of success (compare Isaiah 10:5-14); but he refuses to

regard this past success as ensuring success in the future. All is in the hand

of God, and will be determined as God pleases. It is not an iron necessity

that rules the world, but a personal will, and this well may be affected by

prayer, to which (v. 19) he therefore has recourse.

 

18  And have cast their gods into the fire:” - The images

worshipped by the various nations are regarded as “their gods,” which they

were, at any rate in the minds of the common people. The ordinary practice

of the Assyrians was to carry off the images taken from a conquered

people, and to set them up in their own country as trophies of victory (see

Isaiah 46:1-2, where a similar practice is ascribed by anticipation to the

Persians). But there are places in the inscriptions where the gods are said

to have been “destroyed” or “burnt.” It is reasonable to suppose that the

images destroyed were those of wood, stone, and bronze, which had little

or no intrinsic value, while the gold and silver idols were carried off to the

land of the conqueror. No doubt idols of the former far outnumbered those

of the latter kind, and, at each sack of a city the “gods” which it contained

were mostly burnt – “for they were no gods, but the work of men’s

hands, wood and stone:” -  (compare Isaiah 42:17; 44:9-20). Wooden

images were probably the earliest that were made, and, on account of

their antiquity, were often especially reverenced. They were carved, but rude, with

undivided feet, and eyes indicated by a line, the face colored red, or white, or gilt.

It was only later that ivory and gold plates were commonly laid over the wood,

vested and decked out with ornaments. Stone idols were at first shapeless masses,

then pillars or cones, finally imitations of the human form, varying from the rudest

representations to the priceless statues of Phidias. (they that make them are

like unto them” – Psalm 115:-8, Isaiah 46:6-7) - In Assyrian times, neither the

wooden nor the stone idols were possessed of any artistic beauty -  “therefore

they have destroyed them.” -  “gods” of this kind could not help themselves,

much less save their devotees or the cities supposed to be under their protection.

It was not to be wondered at that the Assyrians had triumphed ever such gods.

 

19  Now therefore, O Lord our God,” -  Hezekiah draws the

strongest possible contrast between Jehovah and the idols. Sennacherib had

tried to place them upon a par (18:33-35; 19:10-13). Hezekiah insists

that the idols are “no gods,” are “nothing” — at any rate are mere blocks

of wood and stone, shaped by human hands. But Jehovah is “the God of all

the kingdoms of the earth, the Maker of heaven and earth (v.15), the one

and only God (v. 19) — answering to His name, self-existing, all-sufficient,

the groundwork of all other existence. (“All things were made by Him;

and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3) –

“He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:17) –

and HE IS OUR GOD the special God of Israel, bound by covenant to protect

there against all enemies. “I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand,” –

 i.e. “do that which this proud blasphemer thinks that thou canst not do” (ch. 18:35);

show him that thou art far mightier than he supposes, wholly unlike those “no-gods,”

over whom he has hitherto triumphed — a “very present Help in trouble”

(Psalm 46:1) - potent to save“that all the kingdoms of the earth may know

that thou art the Lord God,” - The glory of God is the end of creation; and

God’s true saints always bear the fact in mind, and desire nothing so much as that

His glory should be shown forth everywhere and always. Moses, in his prayers

for rebellious Israel in the wilderness, constantly urges upon God that it will not be

for His glory to destroy or desert them (Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-20;

Deuteronomy 9:26-29). David, in his great strait, asks the destruction of his

enemies, “that men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art

the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18); and again (Psalm 59:13),

“Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be; and let

them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth.” Hezekiah

prays for a signal vengeance on Sennacherib, not for his own sake, not even for

his people’s sake, so much as for the vindication of God’s honor among the

nations of the earth — (Reader, we are living in some trying times – in the end

times the book of Ezekiel states that God says, over and over “they shall know

that I am God”   - I recommend Ezekiel – Study of God’s Use of the Word

Know – this web site – CY – 2011)  that it may be known far and wide that

Jehovah is a God who can help, the real Ruler of the world, against whom earthly

kings and earthly might avail nothing – “even thou only.”  It would not

satisfy Hezekiah that Jehovah should be acknowledged as a mighty god,

one of many. He asks for such a demonstration as shall convince men that

He is unique, that He stands alone, that He is the only mighty God in

all the earth!

 

 

                        God’s Answer to Hezekiah’s Prayer (vs. 20-34)

 

20  Then Isaiah the son of Amos sent to Hezekiah, saying,” -  As

Hezekiah prays, Isaiah is by Divine revelation made cognizant of his

prayer, and commissioned to answer it favorably. That he sends his

answer, instead of taking it, is indicative of the high status of the prophets

at this period, which made it not unseemly that, in spiritual matters, they

should claim at least equality with the monarch – “Thus saith the Lord God

of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib

king of Assyria I have heard.” -  First of all, Hezekiah is assured that his

prayer has been “heard.” God has “bowed down his ear” to it (v. 16) —

has taken it into his consideration, and has sent a reply.

 

 

The reply follows, in fourteen verses arranged in four strophes or stanzas.

 

  • The first (vs. 21-24) and second (vs. 25-28) are addressed to

      Sennacherib, and breathe a tone of scorn and contempt.

 

  • The third (vs. 29-31), is addressed to Hezekiah, and is encouraging

      and consolatory.

 

  • The fourth (vs. 32-34) is an assurance to all whom it may concern, that

      Jerusalem is safe, that Sennacherib will not take it, that he will not even

      commence its siege.

 

21  This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him;” -  “him” is,

of course, Sennacherib. It adds great liveliness and force to the opening portion of

the oracle, that it should be addressed directly by Jehovah to Sennacherib, as an

answer to his bold challenge. The only address at all similar in Scripture is that to

Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:31-32), spoken by “a voice from heaven” but the

present passage is one of far greater force and beauty – “The virgin the

daughter of Zion” -  Cities were commonly personified by the sacred writers,

and represented as “daughters” (see Isaiah 23:10,12; 47:1,5). “Virgin daughter”

here may perhaps represent “the consciousness of impregnability” but the phrase

seems to have been used rhetorically or poetically, to heighten the beauty or pathos

of the picture (Ibid. 23:12; 47:1; Jeremiah 46:11; Lamentations 2:13), without any

reference to the question whether the particular city had or had not been previously

taken. Jerusalem certainly had been taken by Shishak (I Kings 14:26),

and by Joash (ch. 14:13); but Zion, if it be taken as the name of the eastern city,

may have been still a “virgin fortress.” – “hath despised thee, and laughed thee

to scorn;”  - The Hebrew preterite has often a present sense. Whatever was the

case a little while ago (see Isaiah 22:1-14), the city now laughs at thy threats –

the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” or, wags her

 head at thee — in scorn and ridicule (compare Psalm 22:7).

 

22  Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?” i.e. “Against whom hast

thou been mad enough to measure thyself? Whom hast thou dared to insult and defy?”

Not an earthly king — not a mere angelic being — but the Omnipotent, the Lord

of earth and heaven. What utter folly is this! What mere absurdity? and

against whom hast thou exalted thy voice? i.e. “spoken proudly” — in the tone

in which a superior speaks of an inferior — and lifted up thine eyes on high?”

 i.e. “looked down upon” — treated with contempt, as not worth consideration

— “even against the Holy One of Israel.”  Isaiah’s favorite phrase — used by

him twenty-seven times, and only five times in the rest of Scripture — marks

this entire prophecy as his genuine utterance. The oracle bears all the marks of

Isaiah’s elevated, fervid, and highly poetic style.

 

23  By thy messengers — literally, by the hand of thy messengers

Rabshakeh and others – “thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said,”

Sennacherib had not said what is here attributed to him, any more than Sargon

had said the words ascribed to him in Isaiah 10:13-14. But he had thought it;

and God accounts men’s deliberate thoughts as their utterances. Isaiah’s “oracle”

brings out and places in a striking light the pride, self-confidence, and self-

sufficiency which underlay Sennacherib’s messages and letters -  “With the

multitude of my chariots” -  or, with chariots upon chariots. The chariot

force was the main arm of the Assyrian military service — that on which

most dependence was placed, and to which victory was commonly

attributed. The number of chariots that could be brought into the field by

the Assyrians is nowhere stated; but we find nearly four thousand hostile

chariots collected to oppose an ordinary Assyrian invasion, and defeated

(see ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 2. p. 362, note 8). The estimates of Cterias

— eleven thousand for Ninas, and a hundred thousand for Semiramis

(Died. Sic., 2:5. § 4) — are, of course, unhistorical – “I am come up to the

height of the mountains, -  “The height of the mountains” is here the high

ground which an army would have to traverse in passing from the Coele-

Syrian valley into Palestine. It is not exactly Lebanon, which runs parallel

with the coast, and certainly does not “guard Palestine to the north,  but

it may be viewed as a “side” or “flank” of Lebanon. In point of fact, Lebanon

and Hermon unite their roots to form a barrier between the Coele-Syrian plain

(El Bukaa) and the valley of the Jordan, and an invader from the north must

cross this barrier. It is not so difficult or rugged but that the Assyrians could bring

their chariots over it. They were accustomed to traverse far more difficult regions

in Zagros and Niphatos and Taurus, and to carry their chariots with them,

dismounting when necessary, and having the vehicles lifted over obstacles by human

hands (see ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 2. p. 74) – “to the sides of Lebanon,” -

An army which invades Palestine by the Coele-Syrian valley — quite the

easiest and most usual line of invasion — necessarily passes along the

entire eastern “side,” or “flank,” of Lebanon, which is the proper meaning

of hK;r]y", and not “loftiest height”, or “innermost recess” (Revised Version).

The plural, ytek]r]y", is natural when a mountain range, like Lebanon, is spoken of –

and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees

thereof:” -  The felling of timber in the Syrian mountain-chains was a common

practice of the Assyrian invaders, and had two quite distinct objects. Sometimes

it was mere cruel devastation, done to injure and impoverish the inhabitants; but

more often it was done for the sake of the timber which the conqueror carried

off into his own country. “The mountains of Amanus I ascended,” says

Asshur-nazir-pal; “wood for bridges, pines, box, cypress, I cut down... cedar-

wood from Amanus I destined for Bit-Hira and my pleasure-house called Azmaku,

and for the temple of the moon and sun, the exalted gods. I proceeded to the land

of Iz-mehri, and took possession of it throughout: I cut down beams for bridges, and

carried them to Nineveh” (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 3. p. 74). The cedar (erez) and

the pine, or juniper (berosh), were in special request – “and I will enter into the

lodgings of his borders” — perhaps a palace or hunting-lodge on the outskirt of

the Lebanon forest region (compare Song of Solomon 7:4) — “and into the forest

of his Carmel.” -  rather, the forest of its orchard; i.e. the choicest part of the

Lebanon forest region — the part which is rather park or orchard than mere forest.

 

24   “I have digged and drunk strange waters,” -  rather, perhaps, I

dig, and drink... and dry up — the preterite having again a present sense.

Sennacherib means that this is what he is wont to do. As mountains do not

stop him (v. 23), so deserts do not stop him — he digs wells in them, and

drinks water “strange” to the soil — never before seen there – “and with

the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.” -

rather, will I dry up all the rivers of Egypt (compare the Revised Version.

Mazor” is used for “Egypt” in Isaiah 19:6 and Micah 7:12). It is

the old singular from which was formed the dual Mizraim.  There was

probably a native word, from which the Hebrew Mazor, the Assyrian

Muzr, and the Arabic Misr were taken. Sennacherib’s boast is that, as he

makes deserts traversable by digging wells, so, if rivers try to stop him, he

will find a way of drying them up.

 

25  Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it?” -  The

strain suddenly changes — the person of the speaker is altered. It is no

longer Sennacherib who reveals the thoughts of his own heart, but Jehovah

who addresses the proud monarch. “Hast thou not heard, how from long

ago I have acted thus? Hast thou never been taught that revolutions,

conquests, the rise and fall of nations, are God’s doing, decreed by Him

long, long age — ay, from the creation of the world? Art thou not aware

that this is so, either from tradition, or by listening to the voice of reason

within thine own heart?” It is implied that such knowledge ought to he in

the possession of every man – “and of ancient times that I have formed

it?” -  A rhetorical repetition of the previous question, needful for the balance

of clauses, in which Hebrew poetry delights, but adding nothing to the

sense“Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay

waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.”  The idea was very familiar to

Isaiah and his contemporaries. Years before, when Assyria first became

threatening, Isaiah, speaking in the person of Jehovah, had exclaimed, “O

Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine

indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the

people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take

the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isaiah 10:5, 6).

But the heathen kings whom God made His instruments to chasten sinful nations

imagined that they conquered and destroyed and laid waste by their own strength

(see Isaiah 10:7-14).

 

26  Therefore their inhabitants were of small power,” -  literally,

were short of hand — unable, i.e., to make an effectual resistance. When

God has decreed a change in the distribution of power among the nations,

His providence works doubly. It infuses confidence and strength into the

aggressive people, and spreads dismay and terror among those who are

attacked. (Exodus 15:14-15; 23:27-28; Deuteronomy 2:25) - Unaccountable

panics seize them — they seem paralyzed; instead of making every possible

preparation for resistance, they fold their hands and do nothing. They are like

fascinated birds before the stealthy advance of the serpent – “they were

dismayed and confounded;” -  Historically, the prophet declares, this was the

cause of the general collapse of the nations whom the Assyrians attacked. God

put a craven fear into their hearts – “they were as the grass of the field, and

as the green herb, as the grass on the house-tops,” -  The “grass of the

 field is one of the most frequent similes for weakness. “All flesh is grass”

(Isaiah 40:6); “They shall soon be cut down like the grass” (Psalm 37:2;

103:15-16); “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth (Isaiah 40:8);

“I am withered like grass” (Psalm 102:11). In the hot sun of an Eastern

sky nothing faded more quickly. But this weakness was intensified in the

grass of the house-tops.” It “withered before it grew up” (Psalm 129:6).

[This is also true of people.  One of the national disgraces of the United

States of America is abortion.  In this sense, little children are dead before

they develop.  Recently, I came across a comment on Psalm 58:8 by

Charles Haddon Spurgeon {1834-1892} – “EVERY UNREGENERATE

MAN IS AN ABORTION” – thus, spiritually, they wither before they come

to the God-desired fruition – Oh, Reader, how plainer can anything be?? –

CY – 2011]  - The depth of earth was so slight, the exposure so great, the heat

so scorching, that it sank in death almost as soon as it had sprung to life. (Compare

Jesus’ words “Some seeds fell….an when the sun was up, they were

scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away”  - Oh Reader,

May this never be said of you or me!!!! – CY – 2011)  Such has been the weakness

of the nations given over as a prey to the Assyrians – “and as corn blasted before

it be grown up.”  Corn blasted before it shoots into a stalk is as frail as grass, or

frailer. It dwindles and disappears without even asserting itself.

 

27  But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in,” - Resting

 in peace, going out, and coming in, cover all the activity of a man, or rather,

cover his whole life, active and passive. Jehovah has an absolute knowledge of all

that Sennacherib does or thinks, both when he is in action and when he is at rest.

(The same for you and me – CY – 2011) – NOTHING IS HID FROM HIM!  

(compare  Psalm 139:1-16). Human pride should stand abashed before such

absolute knowledge. “And thy rage against me.”  Opposition to their will

fills violent men with fury and rage. Sennacherib’s anger was primarily

against Hezekiah, but when once he was convinced that Hezekiah really

trusted in Jehovah (v. 10), his fury would turn against God himself (see Psalm

2:1-4,  where the Lord’s anointed is primarily Jesus Christ ).

 

28  Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult — rather, thy

arrogancy (see the Revised Version); ˆnav is rather the quiet security of

extreme pride and self-confidence than “tumult” — is come up into mine

ears i.e. has attracted my notice — therefore I will put my hook in

thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips,” - The imagery is most striking. Captive

kings were actually so treated by the Assyrians themselves. A hook or

split-ring was thrust through the cartilage of the nose, or the fleshy part of

the under lip, with a rope or thong attached to it, and in this guise they

were led into the monarch’s presence, to receive their final sentence at his

hands. In the sculptures of Sargon at Khorsabad we see three prisoners

brought before him in this fashion, one of whom he seems to be about to

kill with a spear (‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 1. p. 367). In another

sculpture set up by a Babylonian king, his vizier brings before him two

captives similarly treated, but with the ring, apparently, passed through the

cartilage of their noses (ibid., vol. 3. p. 436) Manasseh seems to have

received the same treatment at the hands of the “captains” (II Chronicles 33:11)

who brought him a prisoner to Esarhaddon at Babylon.  Other allusions to the

practice in Scripture will be found in Isaiah 30:28; Ezekiel 29:4; 38:4. The threat

in the present passage was, of course, not intended to be understood literally, but

only as a declaration that God would bring down the pride of Sennacherib,

humiliate him, and reduce him to a state of abject weakness and abasement –

and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.” (compare

v. 33).  The meaning is clear. Sennacherib would not be allowed to come near

Jerusalem. He would hurry back by the low coast route (ch.  18:17), by which

he had made his invasion.

 

29  And this shall be a sign unto thee,” -  Another sudden change in

the address. The prophet turns from Sennacherib to Hezekiah, and

proceeds to give him a sign, and otherwise speak to him encouragingly.

Signs were at the time freely offered and given by God both to the faithful

and the unfaithful (ch. 20:4; Isaiah 7:11, 14). They generally consisted in the

prediction of some near event, whose occurrence was to serve as a pledge, or

evidence, of the probable fulfillment of another prediction of an event more distant.

Such signs are not necessarily miraculous – “Ye shall eat this year such things

as grow of themselves,” -  The Assyrian invasion, coming early in the spring, as

was usual, had prevented the Israelites from sowing their lands. But they would

soon be gone, and then the Israelites could gather in such self-sown corn as they

might find in the corn-lands. The next year, probably a sabbatical year, they

were authorized to do the same, notwithstanding the general prohibition

(Leviticus 25:5); [the year of jubilee] - the third year they would return to their

normal condition. The sign was not given with reference to Sennacherib’s

departure, which belonged to the first year, and must take place before the

ingathering of the self-sown corn could begin, but with reference to the

promise that Jerusalem should be free from any further attack on his part.

Sennacherib reigned seventeen years longer, but led no further expedition

into Palestine.“and in the second year that which springeth of the

same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards,

and eat the fruits thereof.”

 

30  And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah” -

Sennacherib, who in his first expedition had carried away out of Judaea

200,150 prisoners (‘Eponym Canon’ p. 134, line 12), had in his second

probably done considerable damage to the towns in the south-west of

PalestineLachish, for instance, which was a city of Judah (Joshua

15:39; ch. 14:19). The open country had been wasted, great numbers killed, and

many probably carried off by famine and pestilence. Thus both Hezekiah (v. 4) and

Isaiah regard the population still in the land as a mere “remnant.” -  “shall yet

again take root downward i.e., be firmly fixed and established in the land, like

a vigorous tree that strikes its roots into the soil deeply — and bear fruit upward.”

-  i.e. exhibit all the outward signs of prosperity. The reign of Josiah, when the

Jewish dominion embraced the whole of Palestine, was the special fulfillment

of this prophecy.

 

31  For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant,” -  The march

of Sennacherib and the raid of Rabshakeh had driven the mass of the

escaped population of Judaea to take refuge within the walls of Jerusalem,

from which, on the retirement of the invaders, they would gladly “go

forth,” to recultivate their lands (v. 29) and restore their ruined homes.

and they that escape — rather, that shall escape — out of Mount Zion

— “Mount Zion” is a variant for Jerusalem, as in v. 21, and in Isaiah and

the Psalms so continually — “the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.”

(I put great stock in this statement.  Compare Isaiah 9:7; 37:32; I Thessalonians

5:24 – our God is a Great Comfort, even to the 21st century - CY - 2011) -

The meaning is that God’s zealous love and care for His people will effect

their complete restoration to prosperity and glory, difficult as it was at the

 time to imagine such a restoration.

 

32  Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria,” –

The oracle concludes with a general announcement, addressed to all whom it

may concern, not to any one individually, concerning the existing distress. First, it is

laid down what shall not be the issue. “He i.e. Sennacherib — shall not come

into — rather, unto this city i.e. Jerusalemnor shoot an arrow there” –

 — i.e., he shall not begin the attack, as was usually done, with discharges of arrows,

to clear the walls of their defenders, and make it safe for the sappers and miners

and the siege artillery to draw near — “nor come before it with shield”  i.e.

advance close, to raise the scaling-ladders, or mine the walls, or fire the gates,

under the protection of huge shields — “nor east a bank against it.” Much less

shall he proceed to the last extremity of raising mounds against the walls,

and planting upon them his balistae and his battering-rams, with the object

of effecting a breach. Each of the successive stages of a siege is touched,

and negated. None of these things shall be done. There shall be no siege.

 

33  By the way that he came, by the same shall he return,” -  (see

v. 28). Not merely, he shall fail of his object but he shall return disappointed;

but, literally, he shall retrace his steps, he shall quit Palestine by the same route

by which he entered it — the coast route along the maritime plain, which left

Jerusalem on the right at a distance of forty miles – “and shall not come into

rather, unto — this city, saith the Lord.” An emphatic ending (compare

Isaiah 22:14; 45:13; 54:17; 55:8; 59:20; 65:25; 66:21-24).

 

34  For I will defend this city, to save it” — not merely with a

view of saving it, but in such sort as effectually to save it — “for mine own

sake i.e., because my own honor is concerned in its preservation,

especially after the taunts of Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:32-35; 19:10-13)

and for my servant David’s sake.”

 

 

                        Destruction of Sennacherib’s Host

                                                and

              His Own Violent Death at Nineveh (vs. 35-37)

 

The sequel is told in a few words. That night destruction came down on the host

of Sennacherib, as it lay encamped at some distance from Jerusalem, silently and

swiftly.  Without noise, without disturbance, the sleeping men slept the sleep of

death, and in the morning, when the survivors awoke, it was found that a

hundred and eighty-five thousand were slain. Upon this, with the remnant

of his army, Sennacherib hastily returned to Nineveh. There, some time

after — about seventeen years according to our reckoning — a conspiracy

was formed against him by two of his sons, who murdered him as he was

worshipping in a temple, and fled into Armenia. Another son, Esarhaddon,

succeeded.

 

35  And it came to pass that night,” -  The important expression,

that night,” is omitted from the narrative of Isaiah 37:36, but is

undoubtedly an original portion of the present history. It can have no other

meaning than the night following the day on which Isaiah had foretold to

Hezekiah the deliverance of Jerusalem.  God’s word “runneth very swiftly.”

(Psalm 147:15)  No sooner was the premise given than the destroying angel

received his orders, and “that night” the terrible stroke fell – “that the

angel of the Lord went out,” -  or, an angel (a]ggelov Kuri>ou, LXX.).

and smote” -  Imagination has been over-busy in conjecturing the

exact manner of the smiting, but the narrative rather points to sudden and silent

death during sleep, such as often happens to men in the course of nature singly,

and here on this occasion was made to happen in one night to a hundred

and eighty-five thousand men by the Divine order -  “in the camp of the

Assyrians” -  The destruction was not only at one time, but in one place.

“The camp of the Assyrians” - Sennacherib was somewhere with his main army,

encamped for the night, and there, wherever it was, the blow fell. But the exact

locality is uncertain. All that the narrative makes clear is that it was not in the

immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. Herodotus places the catastrophe at

Pelusium (2. 141). Bahr thinks it was probably before Libnah. I should

incline to place it between Libnah and the Egyptian frontier, Sennacherib,

when he heard that Tirhakah was coming against him (v. 9), having

naturally marched forward to meet and engage his army – “an hundred four

score and five thousand:” - These figures do not pretend to exactness, and

can scarcely have been more than a rough estimate. They are probably the

Assyrians’ own estimate of their loss, which the Jews would learn from

such of the fugitives as fell into their hands – “and when they i.e., the

survivorsarose early in the morning, behold, they i.e. the hundred and

eighty-five thousand — were all dead corpses.” — absolutely dead, that is;

not merely sick or dying. The fact makes against the theory of a pestilence.

 

36  So Sennacherib King of Assyria departed, and went and returned,” –

The, original is more lively, and more expressive of haste. Sennacherib, it is said,

decamped, and departed, and returned” — the heaping up of the verbs expressing

the hurry of the march home (compare I Kings 19:3) – “and dwelt at Nineveh.”

Nineveh was Sennacherib’s favorite residence. He had built himself a palace, there,

marked by the modern mound of Koyunjik. Sargon, his father, had dwelt

mainly at Dur-Sargina or Khorsabad, Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaueser at

Calah or Nimrod. Sennacherib’s palace and his other buildings at Nineveh

are described in his annals at some length (see ‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 1.

pp. 50-52). The expression, “dwelt at Nineveh,” does not mean that he

never quitted it, but merely implies that he dwelt there for some considerable

time after his return, as he appears to have done by his annals.  The Eponym

Canon makes his last year B.C. 682.

 

37  And it came to pass” — seventeen or eighteen years afterwards; -

— “as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god,” - The word

Nisroch offers considerable difficulty. It has been connected with nesher

(rv,n,), “eagle,” and explained as a reference to the eagle-headed genius

sometimes seen in the Assyrian sculptures (‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 2. p.

265). But there is no evidence that the genii were ever worshipped in

Assyria, much less that they had temples of their own, nor is any name

resemblingNisroch” attached to any of them. The word itself is somewhat

doubtful, and different manuscripts of the Septuagint, here and in Isaiah

37:38, have the variants of Nasaraeh, Esorach, Meserach, and Asarach,

while Josephus has Araskas. Asarach might conceivably be a strengthened

form of Asshur; but the substitution of samech for shin is against this

explanation. Still, Asshur was certainly Sennacherib’s favorite god, the

deity whom he principally worshipped. Josephus regards the name as

belonging, not to the god, but to the temple, which is perhaps the true solution

of the difficulty. Translate — “as he was worshipping his god in the house

Nisroch.”“that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons” -  Adram-melech

is called “Adrammeles” by Aby-denus, “Ardamazanes” by Polyhistor. Neither

form resembles any known Assyrian name, but Adrammelech has a good Semitic

derivation (see the comment on ch. 18:31). “Sharezer” is probably a

shortened form of Nergal-shar-ozer (compare  Shalman,” Hosea 10:14),

which was a name in use at the time (‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 68). Abydenus

seems to have called him Nergilus“smote him with the sword:” -  So

Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:1. § 5).  A mutilated inscription of Esarhaddon’s seems

to have described his war with his brothers (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 3. p. 103)

at the commencement of his reign, but the earlier part is wanting – “and they

escaped into the land of Armenia.” -  literally, of Ararat. The Hebrew “Ararat”

is the Assyrian “Urarda” — the ordinary name for the country about Lakes Van

and Urumiyeh. The name “Armenia” is not found earlier than the inscriptions of

Darius Hystaspis. “And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.”

Esarhaddon (the Sarchedon of Tobit 1:21, and the Asshur-akh-iddin of the

Assyrian inscriptions) succeeded his father in B.C. 681, and was engaged

for some time in a war with his brothers on the Upper Euphrates, after

which he made himself master of Nineveh. He reigned from B.C. 681 to

B.C. 669, when he was succeeded by his son, Asshur-bani-pal. Assyria

reached the acme of her prosperity in his time.

 

 

Sennacherib is an example for all, great or small that tries to usurp the will

of God.   Today a mighty conqueror carrying everything before him,

unfeignedly astonished that any one should dare to disobey his commands;

on the morrow he is a wretched fugitive, hurrying homewards as fast as his

chariot-steeds will bear him, only anxious to escape from the foes whom he

so lately despised, and to bury his shame and his disgrace within the walls

of his distant palace. In his pride and his self-trust he had thrown out a

challenge to God. God took up the challenge, and struck him down to the

earth. The circumstances of the catastrophe are unique in the world’s

history; but the lesson is one that the events of history have taught again

and again. At the height of his pride and arrogancy and self-trust, the

ungodly conqueror is stricken with failure, humiliated, beaten down to the

ground, shown that, after all, he is a mere man, and that the fates of nations

are not in his power, but in the hand of One whose name is “the Most

High,” and who ruleth in all the kingdoms of the earth.

 

 

 

 

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