ISAIAH CHAPTER 37.
The Pride and Overthrow of the King of Assyria.
THE EFFECT OF SENNACHERIB’S BOAST UPON HEZEKIAH. — V. 1. And it came to pass, when King Hezekiah heard it, namely, the report of his envoys, that he rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, the depth of his grief and distress being shown by the fact that he wrapped himself in the vestments of mourning, and went into the house of the Lord, seeking help in the place in which God had promised to hear the prayers of His faithful people, 1 Kings 8, 29. V. 2. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, the royal chamberlain, and Shebna, the scribe, a high state officer, and the elders of the priests, a committee of priests selected on account of their age and experience, covered with sackcloth, in the same garments of mourning as the king had donned, unto Isaiah, the prophet, the son of Amoz, thus indicating the importance of the prophet’s position at that time. V. 3. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, of great affliction, and of rebuke, the king recognizing here a reproof of the Lord on account of the sins of his people, and of blasphemy, namely, of the blasphemous utterances of Rabshakeh; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth, the mother’s labor being inadequate to complete the birth, the reference being to the situation in the nation, which was threatened with destruction on account of its own weakness. V. 4. It may be the Lord, thy God, will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria, his master, hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the Lord, thy God, hath heard, namely, the blasphemous statements that Jehovah, after all, was no more than the gods of the surrounding nations, a mistake which others had made before, 1 Kings 20, 23; wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left, namely, Jerusalem and its inhabitants, everything else having been conquered by the invaders. V. 5. So the servants of King Hezeikiah came to Isaiah. V. 6. And Isaiah said unto them, when they had presented their message, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants, literally, “the youths,” a disparaging designation characterizing their empty boasting, of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me, that being the real and grievous offense committed by Rabshakeh’s embassy. V. 7. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, influence his judgments and actions by a spirit which will guide him according to the plans of the Lord, and he shall hear a rumor, an evil report, and return to his own land, instead of attacking Jerusalem, as he evidently intended to do; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land, by the hand of assassins, as related at the end of the chapter. V. 8. So Rabshakeh returned, marching back to the camp of his master without having accomplished his end, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, a fortified city somewhat nearer to Jerusalem; for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish, withdrawing before the Egyptian advance. V. 9. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, at that time master of the entire country of Egypt, He is come forth to make war with thee, this being the report which, according to Isaiah’s promise, was to influence Sennacherib to abandon his campaign. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, in a second attempt to get possession of Jerusalem and thus to strengthen his cause against Egypt, v. 10. Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah, king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. His attempt to intimidate the inhabitants of Jerusalem having failed, Sennacherib hoped to influence Hezekiah himself and cause him to yield. V. 11. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly, this being a typical example of the boastfulness which characterizes the royal tablets of the Assyrian kings; and shalt thou be delivered? V. 12. Have the gods of the nations, namely, those subdued up to that time, delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, a province and city on the boundary of Mesopotamia and Armenia, and Haran, in Mesopotamia proper, and Reseph, in the valley of the Euphrates, on the western side, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? a Mesopotamian locality on the east side of the Tigris. V. 13. Where is the king of Hamath and the king of Arphad and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, chap. 30, 19, Hena, and Ivah? the latter being cities in Babylonia. V. 14. And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, that is, the sheets upon which the message was penned. and read it. And Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord, unrolled the parchment-scroll of writing. He thus brought the blasphemy to the attention of the Lord. V. 15. And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord, saying, v. 16. O Lord of hosts, Commander of the heavenly armies, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubim, for that was the place from which the Lord communed with Moses, where He dwelt in the midst of His people, Ex. 25, 22; Num. 7, 89, Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth, the one and only supreme Ruler of the universe; Thou hast made heaven and earth, and by virtue of His creation they are subject to Him. V. 17. Incline Thine ear, O Lord, in the gesture of close attention, and hear; open Thine eyes, O Lord, and see, both of them, as it were, being focused upon conditions as they obtained in Judah at that time, and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God, to heap contempt upon Him. V. 18. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their countries, the nations and their land, v. 19. and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, dead and helpless idols; therefore they have destroyed them, this fact explained the easy victory of the As-Syrians. V. 20. Now, therefore, O Lord, our God, upon whom Hezekiah and his people based their firm trust for deliverance, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the Lord, even Thou only, the appeal thus being that the Lord should rescue His honor. That is the strongest argument which we may plead before the Lord in prayer, that lie must hear us for the sake of His holy name, lest His honor be attacked with a show of right by the enemies.
ISAIAH’S PROPHECY AND ITS FULFILLMENT. — V. 21. Then, after Hezekiah had laid his matter before the Lord in prayer, Isaiah, the son of Amoz, sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to Me against Sennacherib, king of Assyria: v. 22. this is the word which the Lord hath spoken concerning him, and therefore the plan which would be carried into effect: The virgin, the daughter of Zion, Jerusalem with its in habitants, as representing the Church of God, hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee, namely, in derision, as she looked after the Assyrian, who was forced to retreat without having accomplished his object. The reason for this change of fortunes is now stated: v. 23. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed, and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, in boastful mockery, and lifted up thine eyes on high? in a gesture of supercilious contempt. Even against the Holy One of Israel. That is where Sennacherib had made his mistake, in directing his blasphemous scorn against the true God, who is jealous of His honor. V. 24. By thy servants, Rabshakeh and his companions, hast thou reproached the Lord and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, thus relying entirely upon his own strength; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, the finest trees of the mighty forests, and the choice fir-trees thereof, the splendid cypresses to be found there; and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel, the most luxuriant part of his forest. The reference, as has been repeatedly noted, is not only to the occupation of the Lebanon district by the Assyrian forces, but there is also a hint here of Sennacherib’s plan to conquer Jerusalem with its Temple, whose buildings were largely constructed of cedars and cypresses from Lebanon. V. 25. I have digged and drunk water, so the boast of Sennacherib went on, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places, that is, where water was lacking, he had his men provide it, and where streams hindered his progress, he had but to call upon the resources at his command and the waters were diverted. Over against this proud boasting of the Assyrian concerning his own might the prophet explains that he was but the tool in the hands of God. V. 26. Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, the Lord Himself having planned this punishment for the purposes of His mercy, and of ancient times, that I have formed it? everything being ordered in accordance with His plans. Now have I brought it to pass that thou shouldest be to lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps, the Lord having decided upon their destruction in order to call their inhabitants to repentance, if possible. V. 27. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, helpless before the invaders; they were dismayed and confounded, rendered powerless by terror; they were as the grass of the field and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, with but a thin layer of soil, and as corn blasted before it be grown up, such vegetation being unable to withstand even a moderate amount of blasting winds. The prophecy now turns directly against Sennacherib. V. 28. But I know thy abode, namely, when he is at home, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against Me, the entire course of Sennacherib’s life being known to the Lord, also the preparations for the present campaign and its success hitherto. V. 29. Because thy rage against Me and thy tumult, his proud self-confidence, is come up into Mine ears, therefore will I put My hook in thy nose, as one controls an unruly beast, and My bridle in thy lips, so that he must submit, though unwillingly, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. The prophet’s message now turns to Hezekiah: v. 30. And this shall be a sign unto thee, a token whose fulfillment would assure him of the truth of the entire prophecy, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself, volunteer grain; and the second year that which springeth of the same, for the Assyrian invasion had not only destroyed the harvest of the last year, but had also made it impossible to put out the new crop; and in the third year, that is, about one year after the present prophecy, sow ye, this being done in the fall of the year, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof, everything being restored to its usual order by that time. V. 31. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah, those who survived after Sennacherib’s invasion, shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward, be firmly settled once more, for the kingdom of Judah lasted for another century after this prophecy; v. 32. for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, those who had found shelter in the city before the advance of the Assyrians, and they that escape out of Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this. There is more than a hint here concerning the rejuvenation of the Messianic period. The Lord now abandons His figurative language and makes a direct statement. V. 33. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, not subdue it, nor shoot an arrow there, he will not even begin his threatened siege of the city, nor come before it with shields, for the purpose of storming it, nor cast a bank against it, the usual trenches of siege warfare. V. 34. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, without accomplishing his object, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. V. 35. For I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake, to defend His own honor against the bragging of Sennacherib, and for My servant David’s sake, the establishment of whose kingdom was connected with the safety of his capital. Cp. 2 Kings 20, 6. V. 36. Then the Angel of the Lord, the Son of God, who bears this name throughout the Old Testament, went forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand, the calamity being in the nature of a pestilence or some other similar visitation. And when they, the survivors, arose early in the morning, behold, they, the Assyrians, were all dead corpses, their army had been practically annihilated. V. 37. So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed, he abandoned his campaign, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh, the capital of his empire. V. 38. And it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch, his god, one of the chief idols of Assyria, an eagle-headed human figure, that Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, smote him with the sword, his own offspring becoming guilty of assassination; and they escaped into the land of Armenia, where they, according to some accounts, established kingdoms of their own. And Esarhaddon, his son, reigned in his stead, who is mentioned Ezra 4, 2. “Such was the end of the haughty Sennacherib, who had dared to blaspheme the God of Israel. He who had boasted that no god or people could resist him must fall before the swords of his sons. He that regarded himself unconquerable by the help of his idols must suffer death in the temple, in the presence of his idol!” (Lange.) Thus the Lord ever upholds the honor of His holy name.