Isaiah  37

 

 

            THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OVERTHROWN

 

This chapter is almost verbatim of II Kings 19, with a few minor

differences.

 

This section is recorded three times:  here, II Kings 18-19 and II

Chronicles 32.  It is one of the most astounding miracles in the Old

Testament.  In one night the Assyrian army was destroyed by a

direct stroke from heaven – v. 36 Of this action of God, Isaiah had given

repeated assurances – (10:24-34; 17:12-14; 29:5-8, 14; 30:27-33; 31:4-9;

33:3-4, 21-23; and 38:6)

 

vs. 1-37 - 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); and

 

  • the destruction of Sennacherib’s host, his hurried flight, and his

      murder at Nineveh by his sons (vs. 35-38). The narrative runs

      parallel with that in II Kings 19, with which it corresponds almost

      word for word.

 

This chapter is the sequel of the preceding, and is so closely connected

with it that the two really constitute but one narrative - v. 22 of ch. 36 is

more closely connected with ch. 37, than with the position of the narrative

to which it is attached.

 

v. 1 - Hezekiah's reaction to the information from Eliakim, Shebna,

            and Joah in the last verse of the previous chapter - "went into the

            house of the Lord" - -  the temple was not only a place for offering

            praise and sacrifice but also a “house of prayer” to open his

            griefs, ask counsel and for aid!

 

v.2 - sent for Isaiah by a dignified embassy – contrast the rudness of

        Ahab sending for Micaiah by a single eunuch  -  I Kings 22:9

 

 

 

The prophets as representatives of Jehovah, were entitled to respect

and observance even from kings.  If any living man could give the

king sound advice it was Isaiah, the son of Amoz.

 

v. 3 – “a day of trouble…rebuke …and blasphemy” - of reproof, or

punishment (comp. Psalm 149:7 and Hosea 5:9). That God should have

allowed such an insulting embassy to come and go in safety was a mode

of reproving His people, and to some extent punishing them for their sins.

Even Hezekiah himself deserved reproof for having so long placed his

reliance upon Egypt (Isaiah 20:5, 6; 30:1-4; 36:6, 9), though now apparently

he had turned to Jehovah, and relied on Him only (Isaiah 36:7, 15).

 

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!

 

v. 4 - A contrast is intended between the “living” God, and the dead

            idols whom Rabshakeh has placed on a par with Him.

 

Rabshakeh scornfully asks “wherefore lift up thy prayer for the

remnant that are left?”when in reality PRAYER IS THE ONLY

KEY THAT CAN UNLOCK THE DOOR OF ESCAPE!

 

v. 7 - 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.

 

vs. 9-14 -  Sennacheribs letter to Hezekiah. 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 letter, 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.

 

v. 14 – “Hezekiah received the letter…..and went up unto the house of

            the Lord, and spread it before the Lord”  - The act in both cases

            implied the referring the whole matter to God for His

            consideration – a sort of “prayer without words”.

 

v. 16 – “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel…..thou art the God, even thou

            alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth:  thou hast made heaven

            and earth”

 

vs. 17-18 – “Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste

(destroyed) all the nations” - This was a fact, which it was impossible to deny.

From the time of Asshur-izir-pal at any rate, about B.C. 880, Assyria had

pursued for nearly two centuries a steady career of conquest, reducing the

nations which were her neighbors, almost without exception, and gradually

spreading her power from the tract immediately about Nineveh to the

Persian Gulf on the south, the great plateau of Iran on the east, the

Armenian Mountains (Niphates and Taurus) on the north, and on the west

to Cilicia and the Mediterranean. Her progress towards the west alone is

marked in Scripture, since there alone she came in contact with God’s

people. Under Pul (about B.C. 760) she attacked Samaria (2 Kings 15:19);

under Tiglath-Pileser II. she carried off a portion of the ten tribes

(2 Kings 15:29); under the same monarch she subjugated Damascus

(2 Kings 16:9); under Shalmaneser she besieged (2 Kings 17:5),

and under Sargon took, Samaria (2 Kings 17:6); under Sargon also she

invaded Philistia and captured Ashdod (Isaiah 20:1). Now she was bent on

subduing Judaea, and so preparing the way for the reduction of Egypt.

Humanly speaking, it was most unlikely that the small and weak state of

Judaea would be able to resist her. But God was all-powerful, and might be

pleased to cast down, as he had been pleased to exalt (Isaiah 10:5-19).

Hence Hezekiah’s appeal.

 

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vs. 15-20 - Prayer - "the effectual fervent prayer of a

            righteous man availeth much" - James 5:16

 

“Now therefore, O Lord our God” -  Hezekiah draws the strongest possible

contrast between Jehovah and the idols. Sennacherib had placed them upon a par

(2 Kings 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” (v. 15 or 16),

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.

And He isour 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” –

 do that which this proud blasphemer thinks that thou canst not do” (2

Kings 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.   For the vindication of God’s honor among the nations of the earth –

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.  (Such God does in Ezekiel when 62 times

the scripture says “and they shall know that I am God” by the works that

He does!   CY – 2009)

 

v. 19 – II Kings 19 or v. 20 – Isaiah 37 – “Save us… that all the kingdoms…

            may know” -  God’s true servants desire deliverance and triumph over

            enemies, not alone for   their own sakes, not even for the sake of the country

            or people whose fate is bound up with their own, but for the glory of God,

            that His honour may be vindicated in the sight of the world at large. It is a

            large part of the satisfaction of Moses at the passage of the Red Sea, that

            the peoples would hearthe dukes of Edom be amazed… the mighty

            men of Moab tremble,” (Exodus 15:14, 15). David would have his foes

            consumed in order that they might know that “God ruled in Jacob, and

            unto the ends of the earth” (Psalm 59:13), and again, in order “that men

            may know that thou, whose Name alone is JEHOVAH, art the Most High

            over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18). It has been well said that “the object

            of all the judgments which the true prophet desires is to bring all nations

            into subjection to God.”

 

v. 20 – II Kings 19 or v. 21 – Isaiah 37 – (the reader will have to adjust the

            following to whether it refers to II Kings 19 or Isaiah 37) – they are

            one verse off in Isaiah) – “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) – He has taken it

            into His consideration, and has sent a reply. Then the reply follows, in

            fourteen verses arranged in four strophes or stanzas:

 

  • The first (vs. 21-24 or vs. 22-25) and second (vs. 25-28 or vs. 26-29)

      are addressed to Sennacherib, and breathe a tone of scorn and contempt.

 

  • The third (vs. 29-31 or vs. 30-32), is addressed to Hezekiah, and is

      encouraging and consolatory.

 

  • The fourth (vs. 32-34 or vs. 33-35) 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.

 

The force of prayer is greatly enhanced when prayer is

multiplied  - "where two or three ...agree on earth as

touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for

them by my Father which is in heaven" - Matt. 18:19

 

LET US SPREAD BEFORE THE LORD OUR PROBLEMS!

 

"every man the  plague of his own heart" - I Kings 8:38

 

v. 22 or v. 23 – “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?

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 -

even against the Holy One of Israel” -  A specially Isaiahian

phrase, employed by Isaiah twenty-eight times, and only five times in all

the rest of Scripture.

 

v. 25 or v. 26 – respectively – God asks “Hast thou not heard long

ago, how I have done it”

                                                                                  

An abrupt transition, such as is common in Isaiah. From speaking in the

person of Sennacherib, the prophet without warning breaks off, and returns

to speaking in the person of Jehovah, as his mouthpiece. “Hast thou not

heard,” he says, long ago; or rather, that from long ago! have done this?”

Art thou so ignorant, so devoid of that light of nature, which should

lighten every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9), as not to

know God’s method of governing the world? How that “from long ago,”

in His eternal counsels, He designs the rise and fall of nations, and the

mode in which their destruction is to be brought about? Art thou not

aware that conquerors are mere instruments in God’s hands

the rods of His anger” (Isaiah 10:5) — to work His will, and then to

have His will worked upon them in turn (Isaiah 10:6-19)? Sennacherib

seems to be really reproached for not knowing what he ought to have

known, and might have known, if he had listened to the voice of

conscience and reason.  IT IS IMPLIED THAT SUCH KNOWLEDGE

OUGHT TO BE IN THE POSSESSION OF EVERY MAN – What

about you O ReaderMay God help you to see JESUS CHRIST

TODAY AND TO SEE GOD’S WILL FOR YOU LIFE! – CY -2009)

now I have brought it to pass” -  All that Sennacherib had done, he had

done as God’s instrument, by God’s permission — nay, by His aid. He had

been the axe in the hand of the hewer (Isaiah 10:15), the saw, the rod, the staff,

of God’s indignation (Isaiah 10:5), the executor of his vengeance. The very

purpose of his being was that he should “lay waste (certain) defenced cities

into ruinous heaps.”

 

v. 26 or v. 27 – God says that when Sennacherib attacked the people

offered little resistance – “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); “The grass

withereth, the flower fadeth (Isaiah 40:8); I am withered like grass

(Psalm 102:11) – surely the people is grass”  - Isaiah 40:7 - 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). 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. Such

has been the weakness of the nations given over as a prey to the Assyrians.

 

vs. 27-28 or vs. 28-29 – “I know thy abode” literally, thy down-sitting

(Psalm 139:2). The meaning is that God has, and has had, His eye on

Sennacherib throughout all his career, seeing to and watching over his

performance of his will. The phrase, “going out, and coming in” is a

Hebrew idiom for a man’s doings (Numbers 27:17; Deuteronomy 28:6; 31:2;

1 Samuel 18:13, 16; 2 Samuel 3:25; 1 Kings 3:7, etc.) –“thy rage against me” –

As shown in the message sent by Rab-shakeh (ch. 36:7), in Rabshakeh’s speech

to the “men on the wall” (Isaiah 36:15-20), and in the letter sent to Hezekiah

from Lachish (Isaiah 37:10).  Therefore will I put my hook in thy nose

(Ezekiel 29:4; 38:4; 2 Chronicles 33:11). The Assyrians were in the habit of

passing “hooks” or “rings” through the noses or lips of their more distinguished

prisoners, and attaching a thong to the hook or ring, by which they led the prisoners

into the royal presence - God “turned Sennacherib back” and reconducted him

to Nineveh. not with an actual “hook” or “thong,” but by the “bridle” of necessity.

 

vs. 29-31 or vs. 30-32 - And this shall be a sign unto thee. Another sudden

change inthe 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 (2 Kings 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 third year

they would return to their normal condition. “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.

 

“And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah……”

shall yet again take root downward …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 (2 Kings 23. 15-20), was the

special fulfillment of this prophecy.  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” or 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”

This phrase is very emphatic, marking the greatness of the thing to be  done!

So in Isaiah 9:7 and 37:32. Here most manuscripts have “the zeal of the

Lord,” omitting “of hosts;” and this is probably the right reading. 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.

 

vs. 32-34  or vs. 33-35 – God’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer:

 

“Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he

shall not come into this city, not shoot an arrow there, nor come

before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.  By the way

that he came by the same shall he return, and shall not come

into this city, saith the Lord.  For I will defend this city to save

it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake”

 

The declaration, “By the way that he came, by the same shall he return”

(comp. v. 29) was the most comforting that Hezekiah could possibly receive.

It assured him that he would not even be confronted with his enemy.

 

 

vs. 35-37 or vs. 36-39 -DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB’S HOST,

AND HIS OWN VIOLENT DEATH AT NINEVEH. 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.

 

and it came to pass THAT NIGHT” - “the night following the

day on which Isaiah had foretold to Hezekiah the deliverance of

Jerusalem.” God’s word runneth very swiftly.” No sooner was the

premise given than the destroying angel received his orders, and “that

nightthe terrible stroke fell.  185,000 men died that night – “when

they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses”

 

“Then the angel of the Lord went forth” - The parallel passage

of Kings (2 Kings 19:35) has, “It came to pass that night, that the angel

of the Lord went out.” The word of Isaiah had its accomplishment within a

few hours. On the camp of the Assyrians, wherever it was, whether at

Libnah, or at Pelusium (Herod., 2:141), or between the two, in the dead of

night, the destroying angel swooped down, and silently, without

disturbance, took the lives of a hundred and eighty-five thousand’ men.

The silent death in one night of a hundred and eighty-five thousand persons

by what English juries call “the visitation of God.” The nearest parallel which

Holy Scripture offers is the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt; but that was

not, as this, without disturbance (Exodus 12:30). There a “great cry in Egypt

broke the silence of the night; here it was not till morning, when men woke from

their peaceful slumbers, that the discovery was made that “they were all dead

corpses.”

 

 

Zech. 14:3 - "Then shall the Lord go forth and fight

            against those nations, as when He fought in the

            day of battle"

 

 

                                   

                                    ADDITONAL NOTES

 

                            The Utter Folly of Sennacherib

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking our Cross to God, and Casting All Our Care upon Him.

 

Deep afflictions seem to pass beyond the reach of human aid. Whether it be

bereavement, or sense of sin, or coming trouble of any heavy kind, the

profoundly afflicted soul for the most part feels human help vain, human

sympathy impertinent, and finds no refuge, no consolation, except in

pouring itself out before God. “Pour out your heart before Him” –

(Psalm 62:8) - We know that “He careth for us” (1 Peter 6:7); we know that

He can understand us. It is true wisdom to fly to Him, and put our griefs before

Him – “every man the plague of his own heart” – (I Kings 8:38) - Only let

us be sure that, like Hezekiah, we “spread” the whole before the Lord (v. 14)

 

 

 

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