THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OVERTHROWN
This chapter is almost verbatim of II Kings 19, with a few minor
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:
(vs. 15-34); and
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
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 - Sennacherib’s 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
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
alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven
vs. 17-18 – “Of
a truth, Lord, the kings of
(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,
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
Cilicia and the
marked in Scripture, since there alone she came in contact with God’s
people. Under Pul (about B.C. 760)
under Tiglath-Pileser II. she carried off a portion of the ten tribes
(2 Kings 15:29); under the same monarch she subjugated
(2 Kings 16:9); under Shalmaneser she besieged (2 Kings 17:5),
under Sargon took,
invaded Philistia and captured
subduing Judaea, and so preparing the way
for the reduction of
Humanly speaking, it was most unlikely that the small and weak state of
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 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” –
“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 peoples would
hear… the dukes of
“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
off in Isaiah) – “Thus
saith the Lord God of
which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib, King of
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:
are addressed to Sennacherib, and breathe a tone of scorn and contempt.
encouraging and consolatory.
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
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 Reader – May 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
(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
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
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
special fulfillment of this prophecy. “For out of
remnant. The march of Sennacherib and the raid of Rabshakeh had driven
mass of the escaped population of
gladly “go forth,” to recultivate their lands (v. 29) and restore their ruined
homes – “and they that escape” or shall escape “out of
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
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
in a few words. That night destruction came down on the host of
Sennacherib, as it
lay encamped at some distance from
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
remnant of his army, Sennacherib hastily returned to
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
“and it came to pass THAT NIGHT” - “the night following the
day on which Isaiah had foretold to Hezekiah the deliverance of
premise given than the destroying angel received his orders, and “that
night” the 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
as this, without disturbance (Exodus 12:30). There a “great cry in
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
Zech. 14:3 - "Then shall the Lord go forth and fight
against those nations, as when He fought in the
day of battle"
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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