Isaiah 38:4
Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
38:1-8 When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet, if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be his, we do not pray in vain. See 2Ki 20:1-11.Then came the word of the Lord - In the parallel place in 2 Kings 20:4, it is said, 'And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came unto him.' That is, the message of God name to Isaiah before he had left Hezekiah; or as soon as he had offered his prayer. This circumstance is omitted by Isaiah on the revision of his narrative which we have before us. But there is no contradiction. In this place it is implied that the message came to him soon, or immediately. 4. In 2Ki 20:4, the quickness of God's answer to the prayer is marked, "afore Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him"; that is, before he had left Hezekiah, or at least when he had just left him, and Hezekiah was in the act of praying after having heard God's message by Isaiah (compare Isa 65:24; Ps 32:5; Da 9:21). No text from Poole on this verse. Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah,.... Before he had got out into the middle court, 2 Kings 20:4,

saying, as follows:

Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. In 2 Kings 20:4 we read that “afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court,” this message came to him. So quickly was the king’s prayer answered. A somewhat similar instance of the revocation of one prophetic communication by another is that of Nathan in the matter of the building of the Temple (2 Samuel 7:3-4 ff.).Verse 4. - Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying. The author of Kings describes graphically how Isaiah, after delivering his message, had gone out, but had not reached the middle court of the palace, when his footsteps were arrested, and the Divine voice bade him "turn again and relieve Hezekiah's fears by a fresh announcement" (2 Kings 20:4). So swiftly does God answer "the prayer of faith." To this culminating prophecy there is now appended an account of the catastrophe itself. "Then (K. And it came to pass that night, that) the angel of Jehovah went forth and smote (vayyakkeh, K. vayyakh) in the camp of Asshur a hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when men rose up in the morning, behold, they were all lifeless corpses. Then Sennacherib king of Asshur decamped, and went forth and returned, and settled down in Nineveh. And it cam to pass, as he was worshipping in the temple of Misroch, his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons (L. chethib omits 'his sons') smote him with the sword; and when they escaped to the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon ascended the throne in his stead." The first pair of histories closes here with a short account of the result of the Assyrian drama, in which Isaiah's prophecies were most gloriously fulfilled: not only the prophecies immediately preceding, but all the prophecies of the Assyrian era since the time of Ahaz, which pointed to the destruction of the Assyrian forces (e.g., Isaiah 10:33-34), and to the flight and death of the king of Assyrian (Isaiah 31:9; Isaiah 30:33). If we look still further forward to the second pair of histories (chapters 38-39), we see from Isaiah 38:6 that it is only by anticipation that the account of these closing events is finished here; for the third history carries us back to the period before the final catastrophe. We may account in some measure for the haste and brevity of this closing historical fragment, from the prophet's evident wish to finish up the history of the Assyrian complications, and the prophecy bearing upon it. But if we look back, there is a gap between Isaiah 37:36 and the event narrated here. For, according to Isaiah 37:30, there was to be an entire year of trouble between the prophecy and the fulfilment, during which the cultivation of the land would be suspended. What took place during that year? There can be no doubt that Sennacherib was engaged with Egypt; for (1.) when he made his second attempt to get Jerusalem into his power, he had received intelligence of the advance of Tirhakah, and therefore had withdrawn the centre of his army from Lachish, and encamped before Libnah (Isaiah 37:8-9); (2.) according to Josephus (Ant. x. 1, 4), there was a passage of Berosus, which has been lost, in which he stated that Sennacherib "made an expedition against all Asia and Egypt;" (3.) Herodotus relates (ii. 141) that, after Anysis the blind, who lost his throne for fifty years in consequence of an invasion of Egypt by the Ethiopians under Sabakoa, but who recovered it again, Sethon the priest of Hephaestus ascended the throne. The priestly caste was so oppressed by him, that when Sanacharibos, the king of the Arabians and Assyrians, led a great army against Egypt, they refused to perform their priestly functions. but the priest-king went into the temple to pray, and his God promised to help him. He experienced the fulfilment of this prophecy before Pelusium, where the invasion was to take place, and where he awaited the foe with such as continued true to him. "Immediately after the arrival of Sanacharibos, an army of field-mice swarmed throughout the camp of the foe, and devoured their quivers, bows, and shield-straps, so that when morning came on they had to flee without arms, and lost many men in consequence. This is the origin of the stone of Sethon in the temple of Hephaestus (at Memphis), which is standing there still, with a mouse in one hand, and with this inscription: Whosoever looks at me, let him fear the gods!" This Σέθως (possibly the Zet whose name occurs in the lists at the close of the twenty-third dynasty, and therefore in the wrong place) is to be regarded as one of the Saitic princes of the twenty-sixth dynasty, who seem to have ruled in Lower Egypt contemporaneously with the Ethiopians

(Note: A seal of Pharaoh Sabakon has been found among the ruins of the palace of Kuyunjik. The colossal image of Tarakos is found among the bas-reliefs of Mediet-Habu. He is holding firmly a number of Asiatic prisoners by the hair of their head, and threatening them with a club. There are several other stately monuments in imitation of the Egyptian style in the ruins of Nepata, the northern capital of the Meriotic state, which belong to him (Lepsius, Denkmler, p. 10 of the programme).)

(as, in fact, is stated in a passage of the Armenian Eusebius, Aethiopas et Saitas regnasse aiunt eodem tempore), until they succeeded at length in ridding themselves of the hateful supremacy. Herodotus evidently depended in this instance upon the hearsay of Lower Egypt, which transferred the central point of the Assyrian history to their own native princely house. The question, whether the disarming of the Assyrian army in front of Pelusium merely rested upon a legendary interpretation of the mouse in Sethon's hand,

(Note: This Sethos monument has not yet been discovered (Brugsch, Reiseberichte, p. 79). The temple of Phta was on the south side of Memphis; the site is marked by the ruins at Mitrahenni.)

which may possibly have been originally intended as a symbol of destruction; or whether it was really founded upon an actual occurrence which was exaggerated in the legend,

(Note: The inhabitants of Troas worshipped mice, "because they gnawed the strings of the enemies' bows" (see Wesseling on Il. i.39).)

may be left undecided.

But it is a real insult to Isaiah, when Thenius and G. Rawlinson place the scene of Isaiah 37:36 at Pelusium, and thus give the preference to Herodotus. Has not Isaiah up to this point constantly prophesied that the power of Asshur was to be broken in the holy mountain land of Jehovah (Isaiah 14:25), that the Lebanon forest of the Assyrian army would break to pieces before Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:32-34), and that there the Assyrian camp would become the booty of the inhabitants of the city, and that without a conflict? And is not the catastrophe that would befal Assyria described in Isaiah 18:1-7 as an act of Jehovah, which would determine the Ethiopians to do homage to God who was enthroned upon Zion? We need neither cite 2 Chronicles 32:21 nor Psalm 76:1-12 (lxx ὠδὴ πρὸς τὸν Ἀσσύριον), according to which the weapons of Asshur break to pieces upon Jerusalem; Isaiah's prophecies are quite sufficient to prove, that to force this Pelusiac disaster

(Note: G. Rawlinson, Monarchies, ii.445.)

into Isaiah 37:36 is a most thoughtless concession to Herodotus. The final catastrophe occurred before Jerusalem, and the account in Herodotus gives us no certain information even as to the issue of the Egyptian campaign, which took place in the intervening year. Such a gap as the one which occurs before Isaiah 37:36 is not without analogy in the historical writings of the Bible; see, for example, Numbers 20:1, where an abrupt leap is made over the thirty-seven years of the wanderings in the desert. The abruptness is not affected by the addition of the clause in the book of Kings, "It came to pass that night." For, in the face of the "sign" mentioned in Isaiah 37:30, this cannot mean "in that very night" (viz., the night following the answer given by Isaiah); but (unless it is a careless interpolation) it must refer to Isaiah 37:33, Isaiah 37:34, and mean illa nocte, viz., the night in which the Assyrian had encamped before Jerusalem. The account before us reads just like that of the slaying of the first-born in Egypt (Exodus 12:12; Exodus 11:4). The plague of Egypt is marked as a pestilence by the use of the word nâgaph in connection with hikkâh in Exodus 12:23, Exodus 12:13 (compare Amos 4:10, where it seems to be alluded to under the name דּבר); and in the case before us also we cannot think of anything else than a divine judgment of this kind, which even to the present day defies all attempts at an aetiological solution, and which is described in 2 Sam s effected through the medium of angels, just as it is here. Moreover, the concise brevity of the narrative leaves it quite open to assume, as Hensler and others do, that the ravages of the pestilence in the Assyrian army, which carried off thousands in the night (Psalm 91:6), even to the number of 185,000, may have continued for a considerable time.

(Note: The pestilence in Mailand in 1629 carried off, according to Tadino, 160,000 men; that in Vienna, in 1679, 122,849; that in Moscow, at the end of the last century, according to Martens, 670,000; but this was during the whole time that the ravages of the pestilence lasted.)

The main thing is the fact that the prophecy in Isaiah 31:8 was actually fulfilled. According to Josephus (Ant. x. 1, 5), when Sennacherib returned from his unsuccessful Egyptian expedition, he found the detachment of his army, which he had left behind in Palestine, in front of Jerusalem, where a pestilential disease sent by God was making great havoc among the soldiers, and that on the very first night of the siege. The three verses, "he broke up, and went away, and returned home," depict the hurried character of the retreat, like "abiit excessit evasit erupit" (Cic. ii. Catil. init.). The form of the sentence in Isaiah 37:38 places Sennacherib's act of worship and the murderous act of his sons side by side, as though they had occurred simultaneously. The connection would be somewhat different if the reading had been ויּכּהוּ (cf., Ewald, 341, a).

continued...

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