Isaiah 37:25
I have dig, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) I have digged, and drunk water . . .—This, again, was one of the common boasts of the Assyrian conquerors. It was Sennacherib’s special glory, as recorded in his inscriptions, that he had provided cities with water which were before scantily supplied, that he had made wells even in the deserts (Records of the Past, i. 29, 31, 9:23).

All the rivers of the besieged places.—As the words stand, they suggest the thought that the Assyrian army could cut off the supply of water as well as provide it, and so connect themselves with the Rabshakeh’s taunt in Isaiah 36:12. Their true meaning, however, is probably, as in Isaiah 19:6; Micah 7:12, “the rivers or canals of Egypt,” a form being used for Egypt which also conveys the idea of “besieged fortresses.” So taken, the words are a defiant threat against Tirhakah. Not all the branches of the Nile in the Delta should protect his cities. His armies would, as it were, dry them up.

37:1-38 This chapter is the same as 2Ki 19I have digged - That is, I have digged wells. This was regarded among eastern nations as an important achievement. It was difficult to find water, even by digging, in sandy deserts; and in a country abounding with rocks, it was an enterprise of great difficulty to sink a well. Hence, the possession of a well became a valuable property, and was sometimes the occasion of contention between neighboring tribes Genesis 26:20. Hence, also to stop up the wells of water, by throwing in rocks or sand, became one of the most obvious ways of distressing an enemy, and was often resorted to Genesis 26:15, Genesis 26:18; 2 Kings 3:19, 2 Kings 3:25. To dig wells, or to furnish water in abundance to a people, became also an achievement which was deemed worthy to be recorded in the history of kings and princes 2 Chronicles 26:10. Many of the most stupendous and costly of the works of the Romans in the capital of their empire, and in the principal towns of their provinces, consisted in building aqueducts to bring water from a distance into a city.

An achievement like this I understand Sennacherib as boasting he had performed; that he had furnished water for the cities and towns of his mighty empire; that he had accomplished what was deemed so difficult, and what required so much expense, as digging wells for his people; and that he had secured them from being stopped up by his enemies, so that he and his people drank of the water in peace. Gesenius, however, understands this as a boast that he had extended the bounds of his empire beyond its original limits, and unto regions that were naturally destitute of water, and where it was necessary to dig wells to supply his armies. Rosenmuller understands it as saying: 'I have passed over, and taken possession of foreign lands.' Drusius regards it as a proverbial saying, meaning 'I have happily and successfully accomplished all that I have undertaken, as he who digs a well accomplishes that which he particularly desires.' Vitringa regards it as saying, 'that to dig wells, and to drink the water of them, is to enjoy the fruit of our labors, to be successful and happy.' But it seems to me that the interpretation above suggested, and which I have not found in any of the commentators before me, is the correct exposition.

And drunk water - In 2 Kings 19:24, it is, 'I have drunk strange waters;' that is, the waters of foreign lands. I have conquered them, and have dug wells in them. But the sense is not materially changed.

And with the sole of my feet - Expressions like this, denoting the desolations of a conqueror, are found in the classic writers. Perhaps the idea there is, that their armies were so numerous that they drank up all the waters in their march - a strong hyperbole to denote the number of their armies, and the extent of their desolations when even the waters failed before them. Thus Claudian (De Bello Getico, 526) introduces Alaric as boasting of his conquests in the same extravagant manner, and in language remarkably similar to this:

Cum cesserit omnis

Obsequiis natura meis. Subsidere nostris

Sub pedibus montes; arescere vidimus amnes -

Fregi Alpes, galeisque Padum victricibus hausi.

So Juvenal (Sat. 10:176), speaking of the dominion of Xerxes, says:

- credimus altos

Defecisse amnes, epotaque ilumina Medo

Prandente.

The boast of drying up streams with the sole of the foot, is intended to convey the idea that he had not only supplied water for his own empire by digging wells, but that he had cut off the supplies of water from the others against whom he had made war. The idea perhaps is, that if such an army as his was, should pass through the streams of a country that they should invade, and should only take away the water that would adhere to the sole or the hollow of the foot on their march, it would dry up all the streams. It is strong hyperbolical language, and is designed to indicate the number of the forces which were under his command.

Of the besieged places - Margin, 'Fenced' or 'closed'. The word rendered 'rivers' (אורי 'rēy), may denote canals, or artificial streams, such as were common in Egypt. In Isaiah 19:6, it is rendered 'brooks,' and is applied to the artificial canals of Egypt (see the note on that place). The word rendered here 'besieged places' (מצור mâtsôr), may mean distress, straitness Deuteronomy 28:53; siege Ezekiel 4:2, Ezekiel 4:7; mound, bulwark, intrenchment Deuteronomy 20:20; or it may be a proper name for Egypt, being one of the forms of the name מצרים mitserayim or Egypt. The same phrase occurs in Isaiah 19:6, where it means Egypt (see the note on that place), and such should be regarded as its meaning here. It alludes to the conquests which Sennacherib is represented as boasting that he had made in Egypt, that he had easily removed obstructions, and destroyed their means of defense. Though he had been repulsed before Pelusium by Tirhakah king of Ethiopia (see the note at Isaiah 36:1), yet it is not improbable that he had taken many towns there, and had subdued no small part of the country to himself. In his vain boasting, he would strive to forget his repulse, and would dwell on the case of conquest, and the facility with which he had removed all obstructions from his way. The whole language of the verse therefore, is that of a proud and haughty Oriental prince, desirous of proclaiming his conquests, and forgetting his mortifying defeats.

25. digged, and drunk water—In 2Ki 19:24, it is "strange waters." I have marched into foreign lands where I had to dig wells for the supply of my armies; even the natural destitution of water there did not impede my march.

rivers of … besieged places—rather, "the streams (artificial canals from the Nile) of Egypt." "With the sole of my foot," expresses that as soon as his vast armies marched into a region, the streams were drunk up by them; or rather, that the rivers proved no obstruction to the onward march of his armies. So Isa 19:4-6, referring to Egypt, "the river—brooks of defense—shall be dried up." Horsley, translates the Hebrew for "besieged places," "rocks."

No text from Poole on this verse. I have digged, and drunk water,.... In places where he came, and found no water for his army, he set his soldiers to work, to dig cisterns, as the Targum, or wells, so that they had water sufficient to drink; in 2 Kings 19:24, it is "strange waters", which were never known before:

and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places; or, as the Targum,

"with the soles of the feet of the people that are with me;''

the Syriac version, "with the hoofs of my horses": with which he trampled down banks of rivers, and pools, and cisterns of water; signifying the vast numbers of his soldiers, who could drink up a river, or carry it away with them, or could turn the streams of rivers that ran by the sides, or round about, cities besieged, and so hindered the carrying on of a siege, and the taking of the place; but he had ways and means very easily to drain them, and ford them; or to cut off all communication of the water from the besieged. Some render it, "I have dried up all the rivers of Egypt" (s), as Kimchi, on 2 Kings 19:24, observes, and to be understood hyperbolically; see Isaiah 19:6, so Ben Melech observes.

(s) "omnes rivos Aegypti", Vitringa.

I have dug, {q} and drank water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.

(q) He boasts of his policy in that he can find means to nourish his army: and of his power in that his army is so great, that it is able to dry up whole rivers, and to destroy the waters which the Jews had closed in.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. I have digged … water] I (again emphatic) dig and drink foreign waters. The word “foreign” is to be supplied from 2 Kings 19:24. For the expression cf. Proverbs 9:17; Proverbs 5:15.

all the rivers of the besieged places] Render with R.V. all the rivers (lit. “Nile-streams”) of Egypt. See on ch. Isaiah 19:6. The extravagant hyperbole covers an empty boast; no Assyrian army had ever yet set foot in Egypt, and Sennacherib was not destined to see his dream fulfilled.Verse 25. - I have digged, and drunk water. Sennacherib notes three natural obstacles to his advance - the forces of his opponents he does not appear to account an obstacle - viz. mountains, deserts, rivers. Mountains do not stop him - he crosses them even with his chariot-force (ver. 24). Deserts do not stop him - he digs wells there, and drinks their waters. Rivers will not stop him - he will dry them up, trample them into puddles. Note the contrast between the past tenses, "I have come up," "I have digged," "I have drunk," and the future, "I will dry up." He had crossed the mountain ranges Sinjar, Amanus, Lebanon; he had passed waterless tracts, where he had had to dig wells, in Mesopotamia and Northern Syria. He was about to find his chief obstacle, rivers, when he invaded Lower Egypt. The rivers of the besieged places; rather, the rivers of Egypt. Mazor, the singular form (compare Assyrian Muzr, and modern Arabic Misr), is used here (as in Micah 7:12, and perhaps in Isaiah 19:6), instead of the ordinary dual term, Miz-raim, probably because Lower Egypt is especially intended. Sennacherib was looking especially to the invasion of Lower Egypt,where the Nile had "seven branches" (Herod., 2:17), and the country was also cut up by numerous canals, which would naturally constitute a great difficulty to a force depending mainly on its chariots. He believed, however, in his heart, that he would find a way of "drying up" these "rivers." This intimidating message, which declared the God of Israel to be utterly powerless, was conveyed by the messengers of Sennacherib in the form of a latter. "And Hizkiyahu took the letter out of the hand of the messengers, and read it (K. read them), and went up to the house of Jehovah; and Hizkiyahu spread it before Jehovah." Sephârı̄m (the sheets) is equivalent to the letter (not a letter in duplo), like literae (cf., grammata). ויּקראהוּ (changed by K. into m- ') is construed according to the singular idea. Thenius regards this spreading out of the letter as a naivetי; and Gesenius even goes so far as to speak of the praying machines of the Buddhists. But it was simply prayer without words - an act of prayer, which afterwards passed into vocal prayer. "And Hizkiyahu prayed to (K. before) Jehovah, saying (K. and said), Jehovah of hosts (K. omits tsebhâ'ōth), God of Israel, enthroned upon the cherubim, Thou, yea Thou alone, art God of all the kingdoms of the earth; Thou, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth. Incline Thine ear, Jehovah, and hear וּשׁמע, various reading in both texts וּשׁמע)! Open Thine eyes (K. with Yod of the plural), Jehovah, and see; and hear the (K. all the) words of Sennacherib, which he hath sent (K. with which he hath sent him, i.e., Rabshakeh) to despise the living God! Truly, O Jehovah, the kings of Asshur have laid waste all lands, and their land (K. the nations and their land), and have put (venâthōn, K. venâthenū) their gods into the fire: for they were not gods, only the work of men's hands, wood and stone; therefore they have destroyed them. And now, Jehovah our God, help us (K. adds pray) out of his hand, and all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou Jehovah (K. Jehovah Elohim) art it alone." On כּרבים (no doubt the same word as γρυπές, though not fabulous beings like these, but a symbolical representation of heavenly beings), see my Genesis, p. 626; and on yōshēbh hakkerubhı̄m (enthroned on the cherubim), see at Psalm 18:11 and Psalm 80:2. הוּא in אתּה־הוּא is an emphatic repetition, that is to say a strengthening, of the subject, like Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 51:12; 2 Samuel 7:28; Jeremiah 49:12; Psalm 44:5; Nehemiah 9:6-7; Ezra 5:11 : tu ille (not tu es ille, Ges. 121, 2) equals tu, nullus alius. Such passages as Isaiah 41:4, where הוּא is the predicate, do not belong here. עין is not a singular (like עיני in Psalm 32:8, where the lxx have עיני), but a defective plural, as we should expect after pâqach. On the other hand, the reading shelâchō ("hath sent him"), which cannot refer to debhârı̄m (the words), but only to the person bringing the written message, is to be rejected. Moreover, Knobel cannot help giving up his preference for the reading venâthōn (compare Genesis 41:43; Ges. 131, 4a); just as, on the other hand, we cannot help regarding the reading ואת־ארצם את־כּל־הארצות as a mistake, when compared with the reading of the book of Kings. Abravanel explains the passage thus: "The Assyrians have devastated the lands, and their own land" (cf., Isaiah 14:20), of which we may find examples in the list of victories given above; compare also Beth-arbel in Hosea 10:14, if this is Irbil on the Tigris, from which Alexander's second battle in Persia, which was really fought at Gaugamela, derived its name. But how does this tally with the fact that they threw the gods of these lands - that is to say, of their own land also (for אלהיהם could not possibly refer to הארצות, to the exclusion of ארצם) - into the fire? If we read haggōyı̄m (the nations), we get rid both of the reference to their own land, which is certainly purposeless here, and also of the otherwise inevitable conclusion that they burned the gods of their own country. The reading הארצות appears to have arisen from the fact, that after the verb החריב the lands appeared to follow more naturally as the object, than the tribes themselves (compare, however, Isaiah 60:12). The train of thought is the following: The Assyrians have certainly destroyed nations and their gods, because these gods were nothing but the works of men: do Thou then help us, O Jehovah, that the world may see that Thou alone art it, viz., God ('Elōhı̄m, as K. adds, although, according to the accents, Jehovah Elohim are connected together, as in the books of Samuel and Chronicles, and very frequently in the mouth of David: see Symbolae in Psalmos, pp. 15, 16).
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