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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And have cast (put) their gods into the fire.—Comp. 1Chronicles 14:12. The Assyrian’s emphatic question, “Where are the gods?” implied their annihilation.
For they were no gods.—This idea is common in the latter half of the Book of Isaiah. The question has been raised whether the compiler of Kings has not made Hezekiah express a stricter monotheism than had been attained by the religious thought of his days. But if, as Kuenen alleges, no such definite statement of this belief is to be found in Isaiah and Micah (but comp. Isaiah 2:18-21; Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 10:10 seq.) we may still point to the words of a third prophet of that age—namely, Amos the herdman of Tekoah. (Comp. Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8; Amos 9:6-7.) “To Amos . . . the doctrine of creation is full of practical meaning. ‘He that formed the mountains and created the wind, that declareth unto man what is His thought, that maketh the morning darkness and treadeth on the high places of the earth, Jehovah, the God of hosts is His name.’ This supreme God cannot be thought of as having no interest or purpose beyond Israel. It was He that brought Israel out of Egypt, but it was He too who brought the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir. Every movement of history is Jehovah’s work. It is not Asshur but Jehovah who has created the Assyrian empire; He has a purpose of His own in raising up the vast overwhelming strength, and suspending it as a threat of imminent destruction over Israel and the surrounding nations. To Amos, therefore, the question is not what Jehovah as king of Israel will do for His people against the Assyrian, but what the Sovereign of the world designs to effect by the terrible instrument He has created” (Robertson Smith). We do not think, however, that the utterance of Hezekiah on this occasion was necessarily recorded in writing at the time. The prayer may well be a free composition put into the king’s mouth by the author of this narrative.
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.
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.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. have cast their gods into the fire] A conquering heathen would shew his contempt for the nations which he overcame by destroying the objects of their worship, thus practically telling the vanquished that his gods were superior to theirs. Moreover such destruction would very often be a source of booty, for the images, of wood and stone underneath, were often richly overlaid with gold and silver.Verse 18. - And have east their gods into the fire. The images worshipped by the various nations are regarded as "their gods," which they were, at any rate in the minds of the common people. The ordinary practice of the Assyrians was to carry off the images taken from a conquered people, and to set them up in their own country as trophies of victory (see Isaiah 46:1, 2, where a similar practice is ascribed by anticipation to the Persians). But there are places in the inscriptions where the gods are said to have been "destroyed" or "burnt." It is reasonable to suppose that the images destroyed were those of wood, stone, and bronze, which had little or no intrinsic value, while the gold and silver idols were carried off to the land of the conqueror. No doubt idols of the former far outnumbered those of the latter kind, and, at each sack of a city the "gods" which it contained were mostly burnt. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone (comp. Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 46:6, 7). Wooden images (the Greek ξόανα) were probably the earliest that were made, and, on account of their antiquity, were often especially reverenced. They were "carved, but rude, with undivided feet, and eyes indicated by a line, the face colored red, or white, or gilt. It was only later that ivory and gold plates were commonly laid over the wood, vested and decked out with ornaments" (Dollinger, 'Jew and Gentile,' vol. 1. p. 240). Stone idols were at first shapeless masses, then pillars or cones, finally imitations of the human form, varying from the rudest representations to the priceless statues of Phidias. In Assyrian times, neither the wooden nor the stone idols were possessed of any artistic beauty. Therefore they have destroyed them. "Gods" of this kind could not help themselves, much less save their devotees or the cities supposed to be under their protection. It was not to be wondered at that the Assyrians had triumphed ever such gods. 2 Kings 19:11, a specification of which is given in the following enumeration. Gozan may be the province of Gauzanitis in Mesopotamia, but it may just as well be the country of Gauzania on the other side of the Tigris (see at 2 Kings 17:6). The combination with Haran does not force us to the first assumption, since the list is not a geographical but a historical one. - Haran (Charan), i.e., the Carrae of the Greeks and Romans, where Abraham's father Terah died, a place in northern Mesopotamia (see at Genesis 11:31), is probably not merely the city here, but the country in which the city stood. - Rezeph (רצף), the Arabic rutsâfat, a very widespread name, since Jakut gives nine cities of this name in his Geographical Lexicon, is probably the most celebrated of the cities of that name, the Rusapha of Syria, called ̔Ρησάφα in Ptol. v. 15, in Palmyrene, on the road from Racca to Emesa, a day's journey from the Euphrates (cf. Ges. Thes. p. 1308). - "The sons of Eden, which (were in Telassar," were evidently a tribe whose chief settlement was in Telassar. By עדן we might understand the בּית־עדן of Amos 1:5, a city in a pleasant region of Syria, called Παράδεισος by Ptol. (v. 15), since there is still a village called Ehden in that locality (cf. Burckhardt, Syr. p. 66, and v. Schubert, Reise, iii. p. 366), if we could only discover Telassar in the neighbourhood, and if the village of Ehden could be identified with Παράδεισος and the Eden of the Bible, as is done even by Gesenius on Burckhardt, p. 492, and Thes. p. 195; but this Ehden is spelt ‛hdn in Arabic, and is not to be associated with עדן (see Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 586, 587). Moreover the Thelseae near Damascus (in the Itin. Ant. p. 196, ed. Wess.) is too unlike Telassar to come into consideration. There is more to be said in favour of the identification of our עדן with the Assyrian Eden, which is mentioned in Ezekiel 27:23 along with Haran and Calneh as an important place for trade, although its position cannot be more certainly defined; and neither the comparison with the tract of land called (Syr.) ma‛āden, Maadon, which Assemani (Biblioth. or. ii. p. 224) places in Mesopotamia, towards the Tigris, in the present province of Diarbekr (Ges., Win.), nor the conjecture of Knobel that the tribe-name Eden may very probably have been preserved in the large but very dilapidated village of Adana or Adna, some distance to the north of Bagdad (Ker Porter, Journey, ii. p. 355, and Ritter, Erdk. ix. p. 493), can be established as even a probability. תּלאשּׂר, Telassar, is also quite unknown. The name applies very well to Thelser on the eastern side of the Tigris (Tab. Peut. xi. e), where even the later Targums on Genesis 10:12 have placed it, interpreting Nimrod's Resen by תלסר, תלאסר, though Knobel opposes this on the ground that a place in Assyria proper is unsuitable in such a passage as this, where the Assyrian feats of war outside Assyria itself are enumerated. Movers (Phniz. ii. 3, p. 251) conjectures that the place referred to is Thelassar in Terodon, a leading emporium for Arabian wares on the Persian Gulf, and supposes that Terodon has sprung from Teledon with the Persian pronunciation of the תל, which is very frequent in the names of Mesopotamian cities. This conjecture is at any rate a more natural one than that of Knobel on Isaiah 37:12, that the place mentioned in Assemani (Bib. or. iii. 2, p. 870), (Arabic) tl b-ṣrṣr, Tel on the Szarszar, to the west of the present Bagdad, is intended. - With regard to the places named in 2 Kings 19:13, see at 2 Kings 18:34.
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