2 Kings 19:20
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, That which you have prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Then Isaiah . . .—The prophet, as Hezekiah’s trusted adviser, may have counselled the king to “go up into the house of the Lord,” or, at least, would be cognisant of his intention in the matter.

Against.—Hebrew text, in regard to. . . . touching.

I have heard.—The verb has fallen out in Isaiah 37:21.

2 Kings

‘HE UTTERED HIS VOICE, THE EARTH MELTED’

2 Kings 19:20 - 2 Kings 19:22
; 2 Kings 19:28 - 2 Kings 19:37.

At an earlier stage of the Assyrian invasion Hezekiah had sent to Isaiah, asking him to pray to his God for deliverance, and had received an explicit assurance that the invasion would be foiled. When the second stage was reached, and Hezekiah was personally summoned to surrender, by a letter which scoffed at Isaiah’s promise, he himself prayed before the Lord. Isaiah does not seem to have been present, and may not have known of the prayer. At all events, the answer was given to him to give to the king; and it is noteworthy that, as in the former case, he does not himself come, but sends to Hezekiah. He did come when he had to bring a message of death, and again when he had to rebuke {2 Kings 20:1 - 2 Kings 20:21}, but now he only sends. As the chosen speaker of Jehovah’s will, he was mightier than kings, and must not imperil the dignity of the message by the behaviour of the messenger. In a sentence, Hezekiah’s prayer is answered, and then the prophet, in Jehovah’s name, bursts into a wonderful song of triumph over the defeated invader. ‘I have heard.’ That is enough. Hezekiah’s prayer has, as it were, fired the fuse or pulled the trigger, and the explosion follows, and the shot is sped. ‘Whereas thou hast prayed, . . . I have heard,’ is ever true, and God’s hearing is God’s acting in answer. The methods of His response vary, the fact that He responds to the cry of despair driven to faith by extremity of need does not vary.

But it is noteworthy that, with that brief, sufficient assurance, Hezekiah, as it were, is put aside, and instead of three fighters in the field, the king, with God to back him, and on the other side Sennacherib, two only, appear. It is a duel between Jehovah and the arrogant heathen who had despised Him. Jerusalem appears for a moment, in a magnificent piece of poetical scorn, as despising and making gestures of contempt at the baffled would-be conqueror, as Miriam and her maidens did by the Red Sea. The city is ‘virgin,’ as many a fortress in other lands has been named, because uncaptured. But she, too, passes out of sight, and Jehovah and Sennacherib stand opposed on the field. God speaks now not ‘concerning,’ but to, him, and indicts him for insane pride, which was really a denial of dependence on God, and passionate antagonism to Him, as manifested not only in his war against Jehovah’s people, but also in the tone of his insolent defiances of Hezekiah, in which he scoffed at the vain trust which the latter was placing in his God, and paralleled Jehovah with the gods of the nations whom he had already conquered {Isaiah 19:12}.

The designation of God, characteristic of Isaiah, as ‘the Holy One of Israel,’ expresses at once His elevation above, and separation from, all mundane, creatural limitations, and His special relation to His people, and both thoughts intensify Sennacherib’s sin. The Highest, before whose transcendent height all human elevations sink to a uniform level, has so joined Israel to Himself that to touch it is to strike at Him, and to vaunt one’s self against it is to be arrogant towards God. That mighty name has received wider extension now, but the wider sweep does not bring diminished depth, and lowly souls who take that name for their strong tower can still run into it and be safe from ‘the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,’ and the strongest foes.

There is tremendous scorn in the threat with which the divine address to Sennacherib ends. The dreaded world-conqueror is no more in God’s eyes than a wild beast, which He can ring and lead as He will, and not even as formidable as that, but like a horse or a mule, that can easily be bridled and directed. What majestic assertion lies in these figures and in ‘My hook’ and ‘My bridle!’ How many conquerors and mighty men since then have been so mastered, and their schemes balked! Sennacherib had to return by ‘the way that he came,’ and to tramp back, foiled and disappointed, over all the weary miles which he had trodden before with such insolent confidence of victory. A modern parallel is Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. But the same experience really befalls all who order life regardless of God. Their schemes may seem to succeed, but in deepest truth they fail, and the schemers never reach their goal.

In 2 Kings 19:29 the prophet turns away abruptly and almost contemptuously from Sennacherib to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, addressing Hezekiah first, but turning immediately to the people. The substance of his words to them is, first, the assurance that the Assyrian invasion had limits of time set to it by God; and, second, that beyond it lay prosperous times, when the prophetic visions of a flourishing Israel should be realised in fact. For two seed-times only field work was to be impossible on account of the Assyrian occupation, but it was to foam itself away, like a winter torrent, before a third season for sowing came round.

But how could this sequence of events, which required time for its unfolding, be ‘a sign’? We must somewhat modify our notions of a sign to understand the prophet. The Scripture usage does not only designate by that name a present event or thing which guarantees the truth of a prophecy, but it sometimes means an event, or sequence of events, in the future, which, when they have come to pass in accordance with the divine prediction of them, will shed back light on other divine words or acts, and demonstrate that they were of God. Thus Moses was given as a sign of his mission the worshipping in Mount Sinai, which was to take place only after the Exodus. So with Isaiah’s sign here. When the harvest of the third year was gathered in, then Israel would know that the prophet had spoken from God when he had sung Sennacherib’s defeat. For the present, Hezekiah and Judah had to live by faith; but when the deliverance was complete, and they were enjoying the fruits of their labours and of God’s salvation, then they could look back on the weary years, and recognise more clearly than while these were slowly passing how God had been in all the trouble, and had been carrying on His purposes of mercy through it all. And there will be a ‘sign’ for us in like manner when we look back from eternity on the transitory conflicts of earthly life, and are satisfied with the harvest which He has caused to spring from our poor sowings to the Spirit.

The definite promise of deliverance in 2 Kings 19:32 - 2 Kings 19:34 is addressed to Judah, and emphasises the completeness of the frustration of the invader’s efforts. There is a climax in the enumeration of the things that he will not be allowed to do-he will not make his entry into the city, nor even shoot an arrow there, nor even make preparation for a siege. His whole design will be overturned, and as had already been said {2 Kings 19:28}, he will retrace his steps a baffled man.

Note the strong antithesis: ‘He shall not come into this city, . . . for I will defend this city.’ Zion is impregnable because Jehovah defends it. Sennacherib can do nothing, for he is fighting against God. And if we ‘are come unto the city of the living God,’ we can take the same promise for the strength of our lives. God saves Zion ‘for His own sake,’ for His name is concerned in its security, both because He has taken it for His own and because He has pledged His word to guard it. It would be a blot on His faithfulness, a slur on His power, if it should be conquered while it remains true to Him, its King. His honour is involved in protecting us if we enter into the strong city of which the builder and maker is God. And ‘for David’s sake,’ too, He defends Zion, because He had sworn to David to dwell there. But Zion’s security becomes an illusion if Zion breaks away from God. If it becomes as Sodom, it shares Sodom’s fate.

It is remarkable that neither in the song of triumph nor in the prophecy of deliverance is there allusion to the destruction of the Assyrian army. How the exultant taunts of the one and the definite promises of the other were to be fulfilled was not declared till the event declared it. But faithful expectation had not long to wait, for ‘that night’ the blow fell, and no second was needed. We are not told where the Assyrian army was, but clearly it was not before Jerusalem. Nor do we learn what was the instrument of destruction wielded by the ‘angel of the Lord,’ if there was any. The catastrophe may have been brought about by a pestilence, but however effected, it was ‘the act of God,’ the fulfilment of His promise, the making bare of His arm. ‘By terrible things in righteousness’ did He answer the prayer of Hezekiah, and give to all humble souls who are oppressed and cry to Him a pledge that ‘as they have heard, so’ will they ‘see, in the city of’ their ‘God.’ How much more impressive is the stern, naked brevity of the Scriptural account than a more emotional expansion of it, like, for instance, Byron’s well-known, and in their way powerful lines, would have been! To the writer of this book it seemed the most natural thing in the world that the foes of Zion should be annihilated by one blow of the divine hand. His business is to tell the facts; he leaves commentary and wonder and triumph or terror to others.

There is but one touch of patriotic exultation apparent in the half-sarcastic and half-rejoicing accumulation of synonyms descriptive of Sennacherib’s retreat. He ‘departed, and went and returned.’ It is like the picture in Psalm 48:1 - Psalm 48:14, which probably refers to the same events: ‘They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.’

About twenty years elapsed between Sennacherib’s retreat and his assassination. During all that time he ‘dwelt at Nineveh,’ so far as Judah was concerned. He had had enough of attacking it and its God. But the notice of his death is introduced here, not only to complete the narrative, but to point a lesson, which is suggested by the fact that he was murdered ‘as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god.’ Hezekiah had gone into the house of his God with Sennacherib’s letter, and the dead corpses of an army showed what Jehovah could do for His servant; Sennacherib was praying in the temple of his god, and his corpse lay stretched before his idol, an object lesson of the impotence of Nisroch and all his like to hear or help their worshippers.2 Kings 19:20. Then Isaiah, the son of Amoz, sent to Hezekiah — Isaiah was informed, by the spirit of prophecy, that Hezekiah had represented his case to God in the temple, and he was commissioned to assure him his petition was granted.19:20-34 All Sennacherib's motions were under the Divine cognizance. God himself undertakes to defend the city; and that person, that place, cannot but be safe, which he undertakes to protect. The invasion of the Assyrians probably had prevented the land from being sown that year. The next is supposed to have been the sabbatical year, but the Lord engaged that the produce of the land should be sufficient for their support during those two years. As the performance of this promise was to be after the destruction of Sennacherib's army, it was a sign to Hezekiah's faith, assuring him of that present deliverance, as an earnest of the Lord's future care of the kingdom of Judah. This the Lord would perform, not for their righteousness, but his own glory. May our hearts be as good ground, that his word may strike root therein, and bring forth fruit in our lives.If the mighty army of the great Assyrian king were successfully defied by a petty monarch like Hezekiah, it would force the surrounding nations to confess that the escape was owing to the protecting hand of Yahweh. They would thus be taught, in spite of themselves, that He, and He alone, was the true God. 20. Then Isaiah … sent—A revelation having been made to Isaiah, the prophet announced to the king that his prayer was heard. The prophetic message consisted of three different portions:—First, Sennacherib is apostrophized (2Ki 19:21-28) in a highly poetical strain, admirably descriptive of the turgid vanity, haughty pretensions, and presumptuous impiety of the Assyrian despot. Secondly, Hezekiah is addressed (2Ki 19:29-31), and a sign is given him of the promised deliverance—namely, that for two years the presence of the enemy would interrupt the peaceful pursuits of husbandry, but in the third year the people would be in circumstances to till their fields and vineyards and reap the fruits as formerly. Thirdly, the issue of Sennacherib's invasion is announced (2Ki 19:32-34). i.e. Accepted it, and will answer it; a common synecdoche. 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.

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20–37. The answer of the Lord through Isaiah, and the manner of its fulfilment (2 Chronicles 32:21-22; Isaiah 37:21-38)

20. The Lord God [R.V. the God] of Israel] The LXX. represents here ‘the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel’, a very suitable expression at such a crisis but not in the Hebrew either here or in Isaiah.

That which [R.V. whereas] thou hast prayed to me] This change is in conformity with Isaiah. But in the Hebrew there, the words ‘I have heard’ are not represented. In the verse before us the R.V. puts ‘thee’ in italics after them. ‘I have heard thee’.Verse 20. - Then Isaiah the son of Amos sent to Hezekiah, saying. As Hezekiah prays, Isaiah is by Divine revelation made cognizant of his prayer, and commissioned to answer it favorably. That he sends his answer, instead of taking it, is indicative of the high status of the prophets at this period, which made it not unseemly that, in spiritual matters, they should claim at least equality with the monarch. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib King of Assyria I have heard. First of all, Hezekiah is assured that his prayer has been "heard." God has "bowed down his ear" to it (ver. 16) - has taken it into his consideration, and has sent a reply. Then the reply follows, in fourteen verses arranged in four strophes or stanzas. The first (vers. 21-24) and second (vers. 25-28) are addressed to Sennacherib, and breathe a tone of scorn and contempt. The third (vers. 29-31), is addressed to Hezekiah, and is encouraging and consolatory. The fourth (vers. 32-34) is an assurance to all whom it may concern, that Jerusalem is safe, that Sennacherib will not take it, that he will not even commence its siege. Hezekiah'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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