2 Kings 19:23
By your messengers you have reproached the LORD, and have said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The multitude.—The reading of the Hebrew margin, of many MSS., Isaiah, and all the versions. The Hebrew text has “with the chariotry of my chariotry”—obviously a scribe’s error.

I am come up . . . mountains.I (emphatic) have ascended lofty mountains. Such boasts are common in the Assyrian inscriptions.

To the sides of Lebanon.—Thenius explains: “the spurs of the Lebanon—i.e., the strongholds of Judæa, which Sennacherib had already captured.” “Lebanon, as the northern bulwark of the land of Israel, is used as a representative or symbol for the whole country (Zechariah 11:1)” (Cheyne). The language is similar in Isaiah 14:13.

And will cut down . . .—Or, and I will fell the tallest cedars thereof, the choicest firs thereof. Cedars and firs in Isaiah’s language symbolise “kings, princes, and nobles, all that is highest and most stately” (Birks), or “the most puissant defenders” (Thenius). (See Isaiah 2:13; Isaiah 10:33-34.)

The lodgings of his borders.—Or, the furthest lodging thereof—i.e., Mount Zion or Jerusalem. Isaiah has height for lodging, either a scribe’s error or an editor’s correction.

Carmeli.e., pleasure-garden or park (Isaiah 10:18). The royal palace and grounds appear to be meant. Thenius compares “the house of the forest of Lebanon” (1Kings 7:2).

2 Kings 19:23. By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord — Advancing hereby thy very servants above him. And hast said, With the multitude of my chariots, I am come up, &c. — I have brought up my very chariots to those mountains, which were thought inaccessible by my army. To the sides of Lebanon — A high hill famous for cedars and fir-trees, as is signified in what follows. And will cut down the tall cedars thereof, &c. — This may be understood, 1st, Mystically, I will destroy the princes and nobles of Judah, sometimes compared to cedars and fir-trees, or their strongest cities. “Cities,” says Dr. Dodd, “in the prophetical writings are metaphorically represented by woods or forests, especially those of Lebanon and Carmel; and the several ranks of inhabitants by the taller and lesser trees growing there. Hence we may collect the true sense of this passage, which represents the Assyrian prince as threatening to take mount Zion, together with the capital city Jerusalem, and to destroy their principal inhabitants.” The following words, the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel, or, as the latter clause is more properly rendered, the grove of his fruitful field, are generally thought figuratively to refer to the temple and city. The Chaldee paraphrast renders it, And I will also take the house of their sanctuary, and I will subject to me their fortified cities. If, 2d, The reader prefer understanding the words literally, the meaning is, I will cut down the trees and woods that hinder my march, and will prepare and make plain the way for all my numerous army and chariots. Nothing shall stand in my way, nor be able to obstruct or impede my march, no, not the highest and strongest places. The words contain an admirable description of the boastings of a proud monarch, puffed up with his great success. As if he had said, What place is there into which I cannot make my way? Or, what is there I cannot achieve? Even if it were to go up to the top of the steepest mountains with my chariots? My power is sufficient to remove all obstacles, and overcome all opposition.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.And hast said - Isaiah clothes in words the thoughts of Sennacherib's heart - thoughts of the most extreme self-confidence. Compare Isaiah 10:7-14, where, probably at an earlier date, the same overweening pride is ascribed to this king.

With the multitude of my chariots - There are two readings here, which give, however, nearly the same sense. The more difficult and more poetical of the two is to be preferred. Literally, translated it runs - "With chariots upon chariots am I come up, etc."

To the sides of Lebanon - , "Lebanon," with its "cedars" and its "fir-trees," is to be understood here both literally and figuratively. Literally, the hewing of timber in Lebanon was an ordinary feature of an Assyrian expedition into Syria. Figuratively, the mountain represents all the more inaccessible parts of Palestine, and the destruction of its firs and cedars denotes the complete devastation of the entire country from one end to the other.

The lodgings of his borders - literally, "the lodge of its (Lebanon's) end;" either an actual habitation situated on the highest point of the mountain-range, or a poetical periphrasis for the highest point itself.

The forest of his Carmel - Or, "the forest of its garden" - i. e., "its forest which is like a garden," etc.

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). By thy messengers; so thou hast advanced thy very servants above me.

I am come up to the height of the mountains; I have brought up my very chariots to those mountains which were thought inaccessible by my army.

Lebanon; a high hill, famous for cedars and fir trees, here following.

Will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: this may be understood, either,

1. Mystically, I will destroy the princes and nobles of Judah, (which are sometimes compared to cedars, &c.,) or their strongest cities. Or rather,

2. Literally, I will cut down the trees that hinder my march and plain and prepare the way for all my numerous army and chariots. And by this one instance he intimates that nothing should stand in his way; no, not the highest and strongest places.

The lodgings of his borders, i.e. those towns and cities (which he calls lodgings in way of contempt) which are in his utmost borders, and most remote from me. I am come into the land of Canaan at one border, Lebanon, and I resolve to march on to the other extreme border, and so to destroy the whole country, from one border to another; the borders of a land being oft put for the whole land within its, borders; as Exodus 8:2 Psalm 74:17 147:14 Isaiah 44:12. Or, as it is in the Hebrew, into the lodging of his border; for which, in the parallel place, Isaiah 37:21, it is into the height of his border. And so this may be understood of Jerusalem; which it is not probable that in all his brags he would omit; and against which his chief design now lay; which he here calleth a lodging for its contemptible smallness, if compared with his great and vast city of Nineveh: or, as it is in Isa 37, the height, for its two famous mountains, Zion and Moriah; or for the mountains which were round about Jerusalem, Psalm 125:2; and he adds, of his border, because this city was in the border of Judah; as being part of it in the tribe of Benjamin, and near the kingdom of the ten tribes, which was now in the Assyrian’s hands.

The forest of his Carmel, i.e. the forest of Mount Carmel, which may seem to be another inaccessible place, like Lebanon. Or, into his forest, and his fruitful field; for Carmel, though properly it was a pleasant and fruitful mountain in the tribe of Issachar, of which see Joshua 12:22; yet it is oft used to signify any fruitful place, as is manifest from Isaiah 10:18 16:10 Jeremiah 2:7. And thus all the parts of the land are here enumerated; the mountains, the cities, the woods, and the fruitful fields. Or, his fruitful forest, to wit, Jerusalem; which is thought by many interpreters to be called a forest, Jeremiah 21:14 Ezekiel 20:46, a name which agrees well enough to cities, where buildings are very numerous, and close, and high, like trees in a forest. And if Jerusalem might be called a forest, it might well be called Hezekiah’s Carmel, or fruitful place, because his chief strength, and treasure, and fruit was now in it; and this last word may seem to be added here, to intimate that this was not like other forests, unfruitful and barren. And so both this and the foregoing words are understood of the same place, even of Jerusalem; the last branch being joined to the former by way of apposition; into the lodging of his border, the forest of his Carmel, or his fruitful forest; there being no more words in the Hebrew text. 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.

By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the {p} lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.

(p) Meaning Jerusalem, which Isaiah calls the height of his borders, that is, of Judah, Isa 37:24.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. By thy messengers] Rab-shakeh and his companions.

With the multitude of my chariots] This is the translation of the marginal reading (Keri) which stands as Kethib in the corresponding verse of Isaiah. Another reading is represented on the margin of the R.V. thus ‘with the driving of my chariots’. This stands in the Hebrew text in Kings, and by some is preferred as being more unusual and therefore perhaps better suited to a poetical passage like the present. But the form in Isaiah has the support of all the versions and so had better be adopted here.

to the sides [R.V. innermost parts] of Lebanon] The word which A.V. translates ‘sides’ is very frequently applied to the interior, as of a house (Amos 6:10), or a ship (Jonah 1:5), or a cave (1 Samuel 24:4), or a grave (Isaiah 14:15). And so here it indicates the interior recesses of Lebanon, whither as conqueror Sennacherib expects to penetrate. The Lebanon was one of the choicest parts of the Holy Land, and its beauty is extolled in several passages of Solomon’s song (see note on 1 Kings 9:16).

and will [R.V. I will] cut down the tall cedar trees [R.V. cedars] thereof] Both the changes are to the form in Isaiah. The beauty of the Lebanon was in its glorious trees. The figure chosen therefore expresses the devastation which the Assyrian purposed to bring on the grandest features of the country.

the lodgings of his borders] R.V. his farthest lodging-places. The words express the intention of the Assyrian to leave no place in the whole land of Judah unravaged, however remote it might be. There is a various reading in Isaiah, which is rendered ‘the height of his border’. The LXX. does not represent this clause.

and into the forest of his Carmel] R.V. the forest of his fruitful field. R.V. also omits the italics. Carmel though often used as a proper name to designate that beautiful and fertile promontory which stretches out to the Mediterranean on the border of the tribe of Asher, yet as a common noun signifies a fruitful garden-like field. Thus Jeremiah 2:7, ‘I brought you into a plentiful country’ (lit. a country of garden-land, Heb. Carmel). So here the phrase describes some park-like grounds with all the beauty of fine gardens. ‘His wood which is cultivated like a garden’.Verse 23. - By thy messengers - literally, by the hand of thy messengers - Rabshakeh and others (see 2 Kings 18:30, 35; 2 Kings 19:10-13) - thou hast reproached the Lord, and but said. Sennacherib had net said what is here attributed to him, any more than Sargon had said the words ascribed to him in Isaiah 10:13, 14. But he had thought it; and God accounts men's deliberate thoughts as their utterances. Isaiah's "oracle" brings out and places in a striking light the pride, self-confidence, and self-sufficiency which underlay Sennacherib's messages and letters. With the multitude of my chariots; or, with chariots upon chariots. The chariot-force was the main arm of the Assyrian military service - that on which most dependence was placed, and to which victory was commonly attributed. The number of chariots that could be brought into the field by the Assyrians is nowhere stated; but we find nearly four thousand hostile chariots collected to oppose an ordinary Assyrian invasion, and defeated (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 362, note 8). The estimates of Cterias - eleven thousand for Ninas, and a hundred thousand for Semiramis (Died. Sic., 2:5. § 4) - are, of course, unhistorical. I am come up to the height of the mountains. "The height of the mountains" is here the high ground which an army would have to traverse in passing from the Coele-Syrian valley into Palestine. It is not exactly Lebanon, which runs parallel with the coast, and certainly does not "guard Palestine to the north," as Keil supposes; But it may be viewed as a "side" or "flank" of Lebanon. In point of fact, Lebanon and Hermon unite their roots to form a barrier between the Coele-Syrian plain (El Buka'a) and the valley of the Jordan, and an invader from the north must cross this barrier. It is not so difficult or rugged but that the Assyrians could bring their chariots ever it. They were accustomed to traverse far more difficult regions in Zagros and Niphatos and Taurus, and to carry their chariots with them, dismounting when necessary, and having the vehicles lifted over obstacles by human hands (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 74). To the sides of Lebanon. An army which invades Palestine by the Coele-Syrian valley - quite the easiest and most usual line of invasion - necessarily passes along the entire eastern "side," or "flank," of Lebanon, which is the proper meaning of יַרְכָּה, and not "loftiest height" (Keil), or "innermost recess" (Revised Version). The plural, יַרְכְתֵי, is natural when a mountain range, like Lebanon, is spoken cf. And will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof. The felling of timber in the Syrian mountain-chains was a common practice of the Assyrian invaders, and had two quite distinct objects. Sometimes it was mere cruel devastation, done to injure and impoverish the inhabitants; but more often it was done for the sake of the timber which the conqueror carried off into his own country. "The mountains of Amanus I ascended," says Asshur-nazir-pal; "wood for bridges, pines, box, cypress, I cut down... cedar-wood from Amanus I destined for Bit-Hira and my pleasure-house called Azmaku, and for the temple of the moon and sun, the exalted gods. I proceeded to the land of Iz-mehri, and took possession of it throughout: I cut down beams for bridges, and carried them to Nineveh" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 3. p. 74). The cedar (erez) and the pine, or juniper (berosh), were in special request. And I will enter into the lodgings of his borders - rather, the lodge of its border - perhaps a palace or hunting-lodge on the outskirt of the Lebanon forest region (comp. Song of Solomon 7:4) - and into the forest of his Carmel; rather, the forest of its orchard; i.e. the choicest part of the Lebanon forest region - the part which is rather park or orchard than mere forest. After the challenge, to observe the blasphemies of Sennacherib, Hezekiah mentions the fact that the Assyrians have really devastated all lands, and therefore that it is not without ground that they boast of their mighty power; but he finds the explanation of this in the impotence and nothingness of the gods of the heathen. אמנם, truly, indeed - the kings of Asshur have devastated the nations and their land. Instead of this we find in Isaiah: "they have devastated all lands and their (own) land" - which is evidently the more difficult and also the more original reading, and has been altered in our account, because the thought that the Assyrians had devastated their own land by making war upon other lands, that is to say, had depopulated it and thereby laid it waste, was not easy to understand. "And have cast their gods into the fire, for they are not gods, but works of human hands, wood and stone, and have thus destroyed them." Hezekiah does not mention this as a sign of the recklessness of the Assyrians (Knobel), but, because Sennacherib had boasted that the gods of no nation had been able to resist him (vv. 12, 13), to put this fact in the right light, and attach thereto the prayer that Jehovah, by granting deliverance, would make known to all the kingdoms of the earth that He alone was God. Instead of ונתנוּ we have in Isaiah ונתון, the inf. absol.; in this connection the more difficult and more genuine reading. This also applies to the omission of אלהים (2 Kings 19:19) in Isaiah 37:20, since the use of Jehovah as a predicate, "that Thou alone art Jehovah," is very rare, and has therefore been misunderstood even by Gesenius. By the introduction of Elohim, the thought "that Thou Jehovah art God alone" is simplified.
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