2 Kings 19:28
Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
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(28) Because thy rage . . . is come up.—Literally, Because of thy rage . . . and of thy self confidence (Isaiah 32:9; Isaiah 32:11; Isaiah 32:18) which hath come up. Or else the construction is changed: Because of thy rage . . . and because that thy self-confidence is come up . . .

I will put my hook . . . lips.—Comp. the Note on 2Chronicles 33:11, where this threat is shown to be no mere figure of speech. Keil’s remark, however, is also to the purpose: “The metaphor is taken from wild animals, which are thus held in check—the ring in the nose of lions (Ezekiel 19:4), and other wild beasts (Ezekiel 29:4; Isaiah 30:28), the bridle in the mouth of intractable horses” (Psalm 32:9). This agrees with “I will turn thee back,” &c. (With this last comp. 2Kings 18:24).

2 Kings


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 19:28. Thy rage and thy tumult is come into mine ears — That is, thy tumultuous noise, thy clamours and blasphemies, belched forth against me by thyself, and thy servants in thy name. I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips — The metaphor in the latter clause is plainly taken from a horse, or ass, or mule, that must be thus governed; and that in the former may allude, perhaps, to the manner in which they managed their beasts in the east, particularly the dromedaries, which are led by a cord fastened to a ring run through the nostrils of the beast. Or the allusion may be to the absolute power which a man has over a fish which is fastened by the nose to his hook. The meaning of the passage is, that God would so order and dispose matters by his providence, that the Assyrian monarch should be compelled to return back with his army, being circumscribed and led like a horse or wild beast, wherever and as God pleased. See Dodd. What a comfort it is that God has a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the jaws, of all his and our enemies!

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.Thy tumult - Rather, "thy arrogance."

I will put my hook in nose - Rather, "my ring." The sculptures show that the kings of Babylon and Assyria were in the habit of actually passing a ring through the flesh of their more distinguished prisoners, of attaching a thong or a rope to it, and of thus leading them about as with a "bridle." In Assyria the ring was, at least ordinarily, passed through the lower lip; while in Babylonia it appears to have been inserted into the membrane of the nose. Thus Sennacherib would be here threatened with a punishment which he was perhaps in the habit of inflicting.

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). Thy tumult, i.e. thy tumultuous noise, thy clamours and blasphemies which Rab-shakeh in thy name beached forth against me with a loud voice, 2 Kings 18:28.

My hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips; a metaphor from wild and furious beasts, that must be thus managed.

I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest; I will cause thee to return to thy home with shame and loss.

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.

Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my {s} hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.

(s) I will bridle your rage, and turn you to and fro as it pleases me.

28. is come up into mine ears] So the cry of Sodom is said (Genesis 18:21) to come up unto God, and grieve Him. See also James 5:4 where the cries of the oppressed labourers are said to be ‘entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth’. The R.V. renders the first part of the verse Because of thy raging against me and for that thine arrogance is come up, &c.

I will put my hook in thy nose] The Assyrian is but as a wild beast let forth and permitted to do harm, but he is to be caught and reduced to subjection again, now that the time has come to put an end to his work.

by the way by which thou camest] Answering the boast that Sennacherib would go on till he had conquered Egypt.

Verse 28. - Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult - rather, thy arrogancy (see the Revised Version); שׁאנן is rather the quiet security of extreme pride and self-confidence than "tumult" - is come up into mine ears - i.e. has attracted my notice - therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips. The imagery is most striking. Captive kings were actually so treated by the Assyrians themselves. A hook or split-ring was thrust through the cartilage of the nose, or the fleshy part of the under lip, with a rope or thong attached to it, and in this guise they were led into the monarch's presence, to receive their final sentence at his hands. In the sculptures of Sargon at Khorsabad we see three prisoners brought before him in this fashion, one of whom he seems to be about to kill with a spear ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 367). In another sculpture set up by a Babylonian king, his vizier brings before him two captives similarly treated, but with the ring, apparently, passed through the cartilage of their noses (ibid., vol. 3. p. 436) Manasseh seems to have received the same treatment at the hands of the "captains" (2 Chronicles 33:11) who brought him a prisoner to Esarhaddon at Babylon. Other allusions to the practice in Scripture will be found in Isaiah 30:28; Ezekiel 29:4; Ezekiel 38:4. The threat in the present passage was, of course, not intended to be understood life-rally, but only as a declaration that God would bring down the pride of Sennacherib, humiliate him, and reduce him to a state of abject weakness and abasement. And I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest (comp. ver. 33). The meaning is clear. Sennacherib would not be allowed to come near Jerusalem. He would hurry back by the low coast route (2 Kings 18:17), by which he had made his invasion. 2 Kings 19:282 Kings 19:26 is closely connected, so far as the sense is concerned, with the last clause of 2 Kings 19:25, but in form it is only loosely attached: "and their inhabitants were," instead of "that their inhabitants might be." יד קצרי, of short hand, i.e., without power to offer a successful resistance (cf. Numbers 11:23, and Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 59:1). - They were herbage of the field, etc., just as perishable as the herbage, grass, etc., which quickly fade away (cf. Psalm 37:2; Psalm 90:5-6; Isaiah 40:6). The grass of the roofs fades still more quickly, because it cannot strike deep roots (cf. Psalm 129:6). Blighted corn before the stalk, i.e., corn which is blighted and withered up, before it shoots up into a stalk. In Isaiah we have שׁדמה instead of שׁדפה, with a change of the labials, probably for the purpose of preserving an assonance with קמה, which must not therefore be altered into שׁדמה. The thought in the two verses is this: The Assyrian does not owe his victories and conquests to his irresistible might, but purely to the fact that God had long ago resolved to deliver the nations into his hands, so that it was possible to overcome them without their being able to offer any resistance. This the Assyrian had not perceived, but in his daring pride had exalted himself above the living God. This conduct of his the Lord was well acquainted with, and He would humble him for it. Sitting and going out and coming denote all the actions of a man, like sitting down and rising up in Psalm 139:2. Instead of rising up, we generally find going out and coming in (cf. Deuteronomy 28:6 and Psalm 121:8). התרגּזך, thy raging, commotio furibunda, quae ex ira nascitur superbiae mixta (Vitr.). We must repeat רען before שׁאננך; and באזני עלה is to be taken in a relative sense: on account of thy self-security, which has come to my ears. שׁאנן is the security of the ungodly which springs from the feeling of great superiority in power. The figurative words, "I put my ring into thy nose," are taken from the custom of restraining wild animals, such as lions (Ezekiel 19:4) and other wild beasts (Ezekiel 29:4 and Isaiah 30:28), in this manner. For "the bridle in the lips" of ungovernable horses, see Psalm 32:9. To lead a person back by the way by which he had come, i.e., to lead him back disappointed, without having reached the goal that he set before him.
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