And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.
And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.
To Isaiah the prophet - His fame and influence were at this time great in Israel; and it was well known that the word of the Lord was with him. Here both the Church and the state unite in fervent application to, and strong dependence upon, God; and behold how they succeed!
And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.
The children are come to the birth - The Jewish state is here represented under the emblem of a woman in travail, who has been so long in the pangs of parturition, that her strength is now entirely exhausted, and her deliverance is hopeless, without a miracle. The image is very fine and highly appropriate.
A similar image is employed by Homer, when he represents the agonies which Agamemnon suffers from his wound: -
Οφρα οἱ αἱμ' ετι θερμον ανηνοθεν εξ ωτειλης·
Λυταρ επει το μεν ἑλκος ετερσετο παυσατο δ' αἱμα,
Οξειαι οδυναι δυνον μενος Ατρειδαο·
Ως δ' ὁταν ωδινουσαν εχῃ βελος οξυ γυναικα,
Δριμυ, το τε προΐεισι μογοστοκοι Ειλειθυιαι
Ἡρης θυγατερες πικ ρας ωδινας εχουσαι·
Ὡς οξει' οδυναι δυνον μενος Ατρειδαο.
Il. xi., ver. 266.
This, while yet warm, distill'd the purple flood;
But when the wound grew stiff with clotted blood,
Then grinding tortures his strong bosom rend.
Less keen those darts the fierce Ilythiae send,
It may be the LORD thy God will hear all 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: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.
The remnant that are left - That is, the Jews; the ten tribes having been already carried away captive by the kings of Assyria.
So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.
Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
Behold, I will send a blast - and he shall hear a rumor - The rumor was, that Tirhakah had invaded Assyria. The blast was that which slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand of them in one night, see 2 Kings 19:35.
Cause him to fall by the sword - Alluding to his death by the hands of his two sons, at Nineveh. See 2 Kings 19:35-37.
So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.
Libnah - Lachish - These two places were not very distant from each other; they were in the mountains of Judah, southward of Jerusalem.
And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, Behold, he is come out to fight against thee: he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah, saying,
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 delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
Let not thy God in whom thou trustest - This letter is nearly the same with the speech delivered by Rab-shakeh. See 2 Kings 18:29.
Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar?
Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?
And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.
Spread it before the Lord - The temple was considered to be God's dwelling-place; and that whatever was there was peculiarly under his eye. Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord, as he wished him to read the blasphemies spoken against himself.
And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.
Thou art the God, etc. - Thou art not only God of Israel, but God also of Assyria, and of all the nations of the world.
LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God.
Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands,
And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee - "So truly contemptible is thy power, and empty thy boasts, that even the young women of Jerusalem, under the guidance of Jehovah, shall be amply sufficient to discomfit all thy forces, and cause thee to return with shame to thy own country, where the most disgraceful death awaits thee." When Bishop Warburton had published his Doctrine of Grace, and chose to fall foul on some of the most religious people of the land, a young woman of the city of Gloucester exposed his graceless system in a pamphlet, to which she affixed the above words as a motto!
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.
By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.
The tall cedar trees - the choice fir trees - Probably meaning the princes and nobles of the country.
The forest of his Carmel - Better in the margin: the forest and his fruitful field.
I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.
I have dipped and drunk strange waters - I have conquered strange countries, in which I have digged wells for my army; or, I have gained the wealth of strange countries.
With the sole of my feet - My infantry have been so numerous that they alone have been sufficient to drink up the rivers of the places I have besieged.
Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.
Hast thou not heard - Here Jehovah speaks, and shows this boasting king that what he had done was done by the Divine appointment, and that of his own counsel and might he could have done nothing. It was because God had appointed them to this civil destruction that he had overcome them; and it was not through his might; for God had made their inhabitants of small power, so that he only got the victory over men whom God had confounded, dismayed, and enervated, 2 Kings 19:26.
Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.
Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
I will put my hook in thy nose - This seems to be an allusion to the method of guiding a buffalo; he has a sort of ring put into his nose, to which a cord or bridle is attached, by which he can be turned to the right, or to the left, or round about, according to the pleasure of his driver.
And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof.
This shall be a sign unto thee - To Hezekiah; for to him this part of the address is made.
Ye shall eat this year - Sennacherib had ravaged the country, and seed-time was now over, yet God shows them that he would so bless the land, that what should grow of itself that year, would be quite sufficient to supply the inhabitants and prevent all famine; and though the second year was the sabbatical rest or jubilee for the land, in which it was unlawful to plough or sow; yet even then the land, by an especial blessing of God, should bring forth a sufficiency for its inhabitants; and in the third year they should sow and plant, etc. and have abundance, etc. Now this was to be a sign to Hezekiah, that his deliverance had not been effected by natural or casual means; for as without a miracle the ravaged and uncultivated land could not yield food for its inhabitants, so not without miraculous interference could the Assyrian army be cut off and Israel saved.
And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.
The remnant - shall yet again take root - As your corn shall take root in the soil, and bring forth and abundantly multiply itself, so shall the Jewish people; the population shall be greatly increased, and the desolations occasioned by the sword soon be forgotten.
For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
Out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant - The Jews shall be so multiplied as not only to fill Jerusalem, but all the adjacent country.
And they that escape out of Mount Zion - Some think that this refers to the going forth of the apostles to the Gentile world, and converting the nations by the preaching of the Gospel.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.
He shall not, etc. - Here follow the fullest proofs that Jerusalem shall not be taken by the Assyrians.
1. He shall not come into this city;
2. He shall not be able to get so near as to shoot an arrow into it;
3. He shall not be able to bring an army before it,
4. Nor shall he be able to raise any redoubt or mound against it;
5. No; not even an Assyrian shield shall be seen in the country; not even a foraging party shall come near the city.
By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.
By the way that he came - Though his army shall not return, yet he shall return to Assyria; for because of his blasphemy he is reserved for a more ignominious death.
For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
That night - The very night after the blasphemous message had been sent, and this comfortable prophecy delivered.
The angel of the Lord went out - I believe this angel or messenger of the Lord was simply a suffocating or pestilential Wind; by which the Assyrian army was destroyed, as in a moment, without noise confusion or any warning. See the note 1 Kings 20:30. Thus was the threatening, 2 Kings 19:7, fulfilled, I will send a Blast upon him; for he had heard the rumor that his territories were invaded; and on his way to save his empire, in one night the whole of his army was destroyed, without any one even seeing who had hurt them. This is called an angel or messenger of the Lord: that is, something immediately sent by him to execute his judgments.
When they arose early - That is, Sennacherib, and probably a few associates, who were preserved as witnesses and relaters of this most dire disaster. Rab-shakeh, no doubt, perished with the rest of the army.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
Dwelt at Nineveh - This was the capital of the Assyrian empire.
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
Nisroch his god - We know nothing of this deity; he is nowhere else mentioned.
Smote him with the sword - The rabbins say that his sons had learned that he intended to sacrifice them to this god, and that they could only prevent this by slaying him.
The same writers add, that he consulted his wise men how it was that such miracles should be wrought for the Israelites; who told him that it was because of the merit of Abraham who had offered his only son to God: he then said, I will offer to him my two sons; which when they heard, they rose up and slew him. When a rabbin cannot untie a knot, he feels neither scruple nor difficulty to cut it.