2 Kings 19:14
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.
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(14) The letter.—The Hebrew word is plural, like the Latin litterae. The first “it” is plural, the second singular. 2Kings 19:10-13 may be regarded as embodying the substance of the letter, which the envoys first delivered orally, and then presented the letter to authenticate it. But perhaps the contents of the letter were not preserved in the Hebrew annals.

Spread it before the Lord.—Commentators have taken offence at this act, as if it betokened some heathenish conception of Jehovah. “Très-naïvement, pour que Dieu la lût aussi” (Reuss). But one who could think of his God as having “made heaven and earth,” and as the only God, would not be likely to imagine Him ignorant of the contents of a letter until it had been laid before Him in His sanctuary. Hezekiall’s act was a solemn and perfectly natural indication to his ministers and people that he had put the matter into the hands of Jehovah.

2 Kings 19:14. Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord — Into the outward court of the temple, for further he might not go, and at the entrance of the court of the priests, he looked toward the sanctuary, where God was peculiarly present, and spread the letter before him; which he did, not to acquaint God with its contents, but as a token that he appealed to him concerning them, and referred himself and his cause to his righteous judgment, expecting him to answer for himself, and manifest that power which the king of Assyria had so daringly blasphemed. He meant also hereby to affect his own mind, strengthen his own faith, and quicken his desires in prayer, to a greater degree of fervency.

19:8-19 Prayer is the never-failing resource of the tempted Christian, whether struggling with outward difficulties or inward foes. At the mercy-seat of his almighty Friend he opens his heart, spreads his case, like Hezekiah, and makes his appeal. When he can discern that the glory of God is engaged on his side, faith gains the victory, and he rejoices that he shall never be moved. The best pleas in prayer are taken from God's honour.Hezekiah received the letter - The inscriptions show that scribes accompanied the Assyrian armies, with the materials of their craft, so that such a dispatch might be easily drawn up. As Hezekiah himself "read" it, we may presume that it was in the Hebrew tongue. 2Ki 19:14-34. Hezekiah's Prayer.

14-19. Hezekiah received the letter … and went up into the house of the Lord—Hezekiah, after reading it, hastened into the temple, spread it in the childlike confidence of faith before the Lord, as containing taunts deeply affecting the divine honor, and implored deliverance from this proud defier of God and man. The devout spirit of this prayer, the recognition of the Divine Being in the plenitude of His majesty—so strikingly contrasted with the fancy of the Assyrians as to His merely local power; his acknowledgment of the conquests obtained over other lands; and of the destruction of their wooden idols which, according to the Assyrian practice, were committed to the flames—because their tutelary deities were no gods; and the object for which he supplicated the divine interposition—that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that the Lord was the only God—this was an attitude worthy to be assumed by a pious theocratic king of the chosen people.

Into the house of the Lord, i.e. into the court of the temple; for further he might not enter.

Before the Lord, i.e. before the ark or temple; which he did, not to acquaint God, but to strengthen his own faith, and quicken himself to prayer.

And it came to pass, when King Hezekiah heard it,.... The report of Rabshakeh's speech, recorded in the preceding chapter:

that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth; rent his clothes because of the blasphemy in the speech; and he put on sackcloth, in token of mourning, for the calamities he feared were coming on him and his people: and he went into the house of the Lord; the temple, to pray unto him. The message he sent to Isaiah, with his answer, and the threatening letter of the king of Assyria, Hezekiah's prayer upon it, and the encouraging answer he had from the Lord, with the account of the destruction of the Assyrian army, and the death of Sennacherib, are the same "verbatim" as in Isaiah 37:1 throughout; and therefore the reader is referred thither for the exposition of them; only would add what Rauwolff (t) observes, that still to this day (1575) there are two great holes to be seen, wherein they flung the dead bodies (of the Assyrian army), one whereof is close by the road towards Bethlehem, the other towards the right hand against old Bethel.

(t) Travels, par. 3. ch. 22. p. 317.

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 {h} LORD.

(h) Before the Ark of the covenant.

14–19. Hezekiah spreads the letter before the Lord, and prays for deliverance (2 Chronicles 32:20; Isaiah 37:14-20)

14. Hezekiah received the letter] Though bringing a written document the messengers of Sennacherib may be supposed to have also enforced their message by words of their own.

went up into [R.V. unto] the house of the Lord] The change brings the words into exact likeness with the verse in Isaiah. It is not likely that the king entered the temple. He would go into no place which was set apart only for priests and Levites. It is more reasonable to suppose that standing at the porch he made his prayer towards the Holy of Holies to which he alludes.

spread it before the Lord] We are not to think of this act as intended by the king to exhibit the letter for the divine inspection. It was rather done that the object being present to his own sight, his prayer might be prompted thereby and rendered more fervent. The letter was no doubt in the Hebrew character, and the sight of its language would help his thoughts.

Verse 14. - And Hezekiah received the letter. It had not been previously stated that Sennacherib had written a letter. But the author forgets this, and so speaks of "the letter." Kings generally communicated by letters, and not merely by messages (see 2 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 20:12; 2 Chronicles 2:11; Nehemiah 1:9, etc.). Of the hand of the messengers, and read it. Probably Sennacherib had caused it to be written in Hebrew. And Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Not as if God would not otherwise know the contents of the letter, but to emphasize his detestation of the letter, and to make it silently plead for him with God. Ewald rightly compares what Judas Maccabaeus did with the disfigured copies of the Law at Maspha (1 Macc. 3:48), but incorrectly calls it ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 183, note 1, Eng. trans.) "a laying down of the object in the sanctuary." Maspha was "over against" the temple, at the distance of a mile or more. 2 Kings 19:14Hezekiah's prayer. - 2 Kings 19:14. Hezekiah took the letter, read it, went into the temple and spread it out before Jehovah, to lay open its contents before God. The contents of the letter are given in 2 Kings 19:10-13 in the form of the message which the ambassadors delivered to Hezekiah from their king, because the ambassadors communicated to Hezekiah by word of mouth the essential contents of the writing which they conveyed, and simply handed him the letter as a confirmation of their words. ספרים, like litterae, means a letter; hence the singular suffix attached to ויּפרשׂהוּ, whereas in the case of ויּקראם, which stands nearer, the suffix follows the number of the noun to which it refers. The spreading out of the letter before God was an embodiment of the wish, which sprang from a child-like and believing trust, that the Lord would notice and punish that defiance of the living God which it contained. What Hezekiah meant by this action he expressed in the following prayer.
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