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
1 “After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king
of Assyria came, and entered into
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
came … entered into
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
and a place of great strength of petition, but conquered by
(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
2 “And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he
was purposed to fight against
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
FOLLOW SIN. We never
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).
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.
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.
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
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
be placed earlier than eight years after the fall of
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
711), marched against “the people of
monarch who could not save them; and in particular besieged and took
commander-in-chief, “while Sargon himself overran ‘ the wide-spreading
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
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.
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
“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
the Hittites at Car-chemish. The town of
the city of
“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
ascended the throne of
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,
prince, prince of legions, 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.
Ø Proximate. To besiege and capture or break down the fenced cities of
Sargon) was in this successful (compare Isaiah 10:5-10). This, according to
Sargon did while his tartan was besieging
(Sayce), or in connection with his earlier expedition against Hanno of Gaza
and Seveh the Sultan of
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
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
Sargon was it
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).
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
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.
mode — by covering up
the fountains outside
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
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,
Hezekiah’s pool, close by the gate of Gennath” (
Riehm, art. “Gihon”); or, should the Gihon be sought in the
spring Ain Sitti Marjam, outside the east wall (Miihlau, in Riehm, art.
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).
spring in the Tyropoean valley, and says it has not yet been discovered
That similar stratagems were adopted when Sargon’s tartan was at
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
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.
repaired the castle-fortress Millo, in the city of
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
(‘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
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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).
this did Sennacherib king of
power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of
that were at
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
proceeds to send his servants and his insolent defiances to the metropolis,
evidently give place to the single word “remained” or “was;” i.e. he and all
his host with him remained at, or opposite to,
went to defy
10 “Thus saith Sennacherib king of
ye abide in the siege in
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Invasion of Sennacherib: A Summons to Surrender (vs. 9-16)
eighteen hours west-south-west
on the confines of Philistia, fourteen miles north-east of
on ch. 11:9; 25:27) — on the monuments Lakis — according to a slab in the
power of resistance was so great as to demand a protracted siege.
Ø Sennacherib’s route thither. From the north — not by the military road
Gibeah, Anathoth, Nob (Isaiah 10:28-32), Sargon’s route (Sayce,
etc., p. 137), but by
Ø Sennacherib’s employment there.
siege; but some
sculptured slabs in the
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
is rendered probable by the circumstance that one of these slabs depicts
the capture of
the King of
spoil of 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
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
The league was joined by the Ekronites, against the will of Padi their
remained faithful to
chains of iron,
and unto Hezekiah King of
“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
the kings of
“great presents,” and kiss his feet. Zedek of Ascalon, who,
gods, apprehended and deported to
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
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
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.)
generals were three in number.
Ø Their titles.
(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
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
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
o Their commission. To advance, with a detachment of the army, against
this, to prosecute against it a siege. Sennacherib was most likely moved
to this by the
report of the approach of the kings of
before encountering these, it was clearly to his advantage to reduce both
“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
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
confidence was based upon expected assistance from
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
altars, and commanding all
at one altar (v. 12). Either the fame of Hezekiah’s reformation had
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
(Isaiah 10:5-19), and that whensoever Jehovah pleased He could
cause the Assyrian, who smote with a rod, to be beaten down
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
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!
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.
wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of
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
rumor of the approach of “Tirhakah
Sennacherib’s anxiety to make short work with the conflict
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
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.
they spake against the God of
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
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
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
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.
the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of
from the hand of Sennacherib the king of
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.
many brought gifts unto the LORD to
to Hezekiah king 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
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
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.
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
Sennacherib and Hezekiah: Abasement and Exaltation (vs. 9-23)
We have here brought out in very vivid contrast:
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
§ to negligence,
§ to imprudence,
§ to some fatal error of either:
Ø action or
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
godly Hezekiah, presents an opposite picture to that of his formidable and
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
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
The Invasion of Sennacherib: The Great Deliverance (vs. 16-23)
Ø The letter of Sennacherib to Hezekiah. (v. 17.) The tartan with his
having failed to either storm
inhabitants, returned, or more probably dispatched, Rabshakeh to his
master for further instructions. Sennacherib was now at Libnah, a few
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,
Ø The railings of Sennacherib’s 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.
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,
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;
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.
Ø The destruction of Sennacherib’s army.
Where? “In the camp of the King of
tartan lying before
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
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
the following year, sat down to besiege
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
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).
With what effect? The return of Sennacherib to
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
memorial of Menephtah’s overthrow in the
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
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
god” (v. 21); i.e. in
(II Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:37) — a divinity not yet identified in the
When? Not immediately on returning to
the inscriptions, he lived twenty years after the Egyptian and Jewish
expedition, and undertook five more campaigns in other parts of his
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).
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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;
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”
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
Ø The condescension of God — in stooping to regard faith’s
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
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
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)
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
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
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;
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
Probably they had not been unfavorable to a Babylonian alliance against
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)
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
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.”
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
(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
The Greatness of Hezekiah (vs. 27-30)
Ø Large. “Much riches” (v. 27); “very much substance” (v. 29). In this
he resembled Solomon (ch. 9:22) and Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:5).
o Precious metals. “Gold. silver, precious stones.”
o Flocks and herds. “All manner of beasts and flocks’ (v. 28).
the wealth of Abraham (Genesis 13:2) and
(ibid. v. 5).
o Miscellaneous articles. Spices, shields, goodly vessels.
o Field produce. Corn and wine and oil (v. 28).
Ø Treasuries. For his gold, silver, precious stones; for spices, shields, and
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).
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
Ø At death.
his people — all
Judah and the inhabitants of
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;
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;
book of the kings of
the chronicles of the kings of
Ø The best wealth — grace.
Ø The noblest deeds — works of faith.
Ø The highest honour — salvation and glory.
31 “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of
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
the expression of which led to the embassy, so to call it.
Hezekiah’s Mistake (v. 31)
of the princes of
Ø The senders of this embassy. “The princes of
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
The first, a king of
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
defeated, dethroning him and burning his city of
710-9 (‘Records,’ etc., 7:46-49); and the third, a King of Babylonia, whom
overthrew in the vicinity of
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
about the time of Sargon’s invasion of
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
more closely the condition of the forces of
o with a view to present needs, to concert measures against the King
by forming a league between
Palestinian states (Sayce, Rawlinson).
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
often in dispute with
flashed like lightning across Isaiah’s mind that
attracted by those very treasures which Hezekiah, not without a certain
complacency, had displayed to the ambassadors, might in the future
dangerous to that same
(Ewald, ‘The History of
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.
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
ambassadors had arrived at
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
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
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
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:
the inhabitants of
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:
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
the completer manifestations of
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
the narrative goes, he does not directly reply to what “these men’ said. He
was probably flattered by “great
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
some alliance with him. This all was emphasized greatly by the fact that the
present visit was the first converse
of the two kingdoms.
(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
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
Hezekiah himself, and it contains valuable lessons for us all.
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
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
others’ sorrow. 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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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!
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:
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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