2 Chronicles 32:1-8
After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah…
I. THE DATE,
1. Indefinitely. "After these things, and this faithfulness" (ver. 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 not stated; the juxtaposition of the Passover and the invasion favours the idea that the former fell not in Hezekiah's first year, but after his sixth (see homily on 2 Chronicles 30:2), since the latter cannot be placed earlier than eight years after the fall of Samaria, B.C. 720.
2. Definitely. "In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah" (2 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 earlier ( B.C. 711), marched against "the people of Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab," who had formed an alliance with the King of Egypt - a monarch who could not save them; and in particular besieged and took Ashdod (Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' pp. 291, 292). The expedition against Ashdod (Isaiah 20:1) was conducted by Sargon's tartan, or commander-in-chief, "while Sargon himself overran ' the wide-spreading land of Judah,' and captured its capital, Jerusalem." The invasion of Jerusalem is referred to in Isaiah 10., as Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Damascus, and Samaria, were conquests, not of Sennacherib, but of Sargon (Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., p. 137); and beyond question this must be the invasion to which 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:13) and Isaiah (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 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:13), 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 37:1), and Isaiah (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 Israel, p. 295), Rawlinson ('Kings of Israel and Judah,' p. 187), and Canon 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.
II. THE INVADER.
1. 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 Samaria (B.C. 723-720), seized the crown and assumed the name Sargon, "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 Samaria, Egypt, Ashdod, (Jerusalem?), and Babylon, and destroyed the independence of the Hittites at Car-chemish. The town of Khorsabad, Dur-Surrukin, the city of Sargon, opposite Mosul, and ten miles from Nineveh, "in the country which borders the mountains," was founded by him ('Records,' etc., 11:33).
2. 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 assassination, ascended the throne of Assyria on the 12th of Ab (July), 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, powerful prince, prince of legions, king of the land of Assyria, 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, and had no notion of underrating their own virtues, or modestly concealing their own merit.
III. THE OBJECT.
1. Proximate. To besiege and capture or break down the fenced cities of Judah (ver. 1). According to 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:13) and Isaiah (Isaiah 36:1), Sennacherib (or Sargon) was in this successful (cf. Isaiah 10:5-10). This, according to the monuments, Sargon did while his tartan was besieging Ashdod, s.c. 711 (Sayce), or in connection with his earlier expedition against Hanno of Gaza and Seveh the Sultan of Egypt in B.C. 720 (Sehrader); and Sennacherib in B.C. 701 by besieging, capturing, and plundering forty-six of Hezekiah's cities, "strong fortresses and cities without number" ('Records,' etc., 7:62).
2. Ultimate. To capture Jerusalem, which also, according to the 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 fight against Jerusalem," was applicable to both sovereigns, though only of Sargon was it true that Jerusalem was taken. Sennacherib besieged 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 vers. 6, 12, 22, 24, 34).
IV. THE RESISTANCE. Hezekiah adopted measures to meet the attack of Sargon, or of Sennacherib, on his capital.
1. A council of war called. Attended by his princes and mighty men, i.e. his statesmen and the generals of his army (ver. 3), who advised that steps should be taken to protect the metropolis, and lent him their aid for that purpose (ver. 3). Probably they also recommended Hezekiah, besides looking for help to Egypt, to join the league Merodach-Baladan of Babylonia was forming against Sargon; or, if the later date be adopted, to seek the aid of Tirhakah against Sennacherib.
2. The water supplies outside the city stopped.
(1) The reason - that the Assyrian kings should not find much water (ver. 4). Without water it would be impossible to conduct a protracted siege.
(2) The mode - by covering up the fountains outside Jerusalem, and leading their waters by subterranean channels into the city (ver 3; cf 2 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 Jerusalem, connecting the upper pool of Gihon (Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 36:2), the present-day Birket Mamilla, with the under or lower pool (Isaiah 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, called Hezekiah's pool, close by the gate of Gennath" (Weser, in Riehm, art. "Gihon"); or, should the Gihon be sought in the spring Ain Sitti Marjam, outside the east wall (Miihlau, in Riehm, art. "Jerusalem;" Conder, 'Handbook,' etc., p. 339), then the reservoir into which the waters were conducted will have been one of the four smaller pools in the neighbourhood of the pool of Siloam, if not that of Siloam itself (Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., pp. 97-107). Warren locates the Gihon spring in the Tyropoean valley, and says it has not yet been discovered ('Picturesque Palestine,' 1:113; cf. 'The Recovery of Jerusalem,' p. 237). That similar stratagems were adopted when Sargon's tartan was at Ashdod, and Sargon himself was expected at Jerusalem, may be inferred 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 (Isaiah 22:9-11) shows.
(3) The urgency. So great and obvious that the inhabitants generally assisted in the work (ver. 4).
3. The city fortifications increased.
(1) 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 feeblest link.
(2) 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 labours of his masons and engineers.
(3) Outside of the existing wall he erected another, which enclosed the lower city, Acra.
(4) He repaired the castle-fortress Millo, in the city of David, which had been built by Solomon (1 Kings 9:24).
(5) He provided weapons and shields in abundance, as had been done by his grandfather Uzziah (2 Chronicles 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 fortification of Jerusalem his royal city he had collected within it" ('Records,' etc., 1:41).
4. 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 modern peoples when expecting an invasion.
5. 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 2 Chronicles 29:4).
6. The soldiers suitably addressed. He encouraged them in their work of defence, as at the great Passover he had encouraged the Levites in their temple duties (2 Chronicles 30:32).
(1) Spirited exhortations.
(a) "Be strong." So the Philistine generals charged their troops when fighting against Israel (1 Samuel 4:9); so David, dying, exhorted Solomon succeeding (1 Kings 2:2); so Oded counselled Asa returning from war (2 Chronicles 15:7); so Paul recommends Christians for the fight of faith (1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1).
(b) "Be courageous." So Joab had encouraged David's army against the Syrians (2 Samuel 10:12); and Jehoshaphat the Levites and priests in their duties (2 Chronicles 19:11); so Peter advises the followers of Christ (2 Peter 1:5).
(c) "Be not afraid or dismayed." So Jahaziel to Jehoshaphat's troops (2 Chronicles 20:15-17); and Isaiah to Ahaz when threatened by Rezin and Pekah (2 Chronicles 7:4); so Christ to his disciples (John 6:20).
(2) Effective arguments.
(a) General: that a Greater was with them than with the invader (cf. 2 Kings 6:16; Romans 8:31; 1 John 4:4).
(b) Particular: that he had only frail human power to lean upon - men and horses without number, but still only "an arm of flesh" (cf. Jeremiah 17:5; Psalm 56:5; Isaiah 21:3); whereas they had Jehovah their God to keep them and fight their battles, as Moses (Exodus 14:14), Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:12), and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:17) had; and as Christians may have (Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:31).
7. The confidence of the people raised. They rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah (ver. 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.
1. The military spirit essentially an aggressive spirit.
2. The best bulwarks of a nation are the pious lives of its people.
3. The necessity of combining faith and works in ordinary matters as well as in things of the spirit.
4. Confidence in God the best protection against fear of man.
5. The certainty that none can be victorious who fight against God, or be defeated for whom God fights. - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.