And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)THE CATASTROPHE. SENNACHERIB’S RETREAT, AND HIS “VIOLENT END.
(35) And it came to pass (in) that night.—This definition of time is wanting in the parallel text; but it is implied by the phrase in the morning (Isaiah 37:36; 2Kings 19:35). The night intended can hardly be the one which followed the day when the prophecy was spoken (see 2Kings 19:29). The expression “in that night,” may perhaps be compared with the prophetic “in that day,” and understood to. mean simply “in that memorable night which was the occasion of this catastrophe.” (Theuius sees in this clause an indication that the present section was derived from another source, probably from the one used by the chronicler in 2Chronicles 32:20-23. Reuss thinks this confirmed by the fact that neither the prediction in 2Kings 19:7, nor that of 2Kings 19:21-34, speaks of so great and so immediate an overthrow.)
The angel of the Lord went out.—The destroying angel, who smote the firstborn of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12-13; Exodus 12:23), and smote Israel after David’s census (2Samuel 24:15-17). These passages undoubtedly favour the view that the Assyrian army was devastated by pestilence, as Josephus asserts. Others have suggested the agency of a simoom, a storm with lightning, an earthquake, &c. In any case a supernatural causation is involved not only in the immense number slain, and that in one night (Psalm 91:6), but in the coincidence of the event with the predictions of Isaiah, and with the crisis in the history of the true religion:
“Vuolsi così colà dove si puote
Ciò che si vuole; e più non dimandare.”
In the camp of the Assyrians.—Where this was is not said. That it was not before Jerusalem appears from 2Kings 19:32-33; and the well-known narrative of Herodotus (ii. 141) fixes Egypt, the land of plagues, as the scene of the catastrophe. “Of the details of the catastrophe, which the Bible narrative is content to characterise as the act of God, the Assyrian monuments contain no record, because the issue of the campaign gave them nothing to boast of; but an Egyptian account, preserved by Herodotus, though full of fabulous circumstances, shows that in Egypt, as well as in Judæa, it was recognised as a direct intervention of Divine power. The disaster did not break the power of the great king, who continued to reign for twenty years, and waged many other victorious wars. But none the less it must have been a very grave blow, the effects of which were felt throughout the empire, and permanently modified the imperial policy; for in the following year Chaldæa was again in revolt, and to the end of his reign Sennacherib never renewed his attack upon Judah” (Robertson Smith).
And when they arose early.—The few who were spared found, not sick and dying, but corpses, all around them. (Comp. Exodus 12:33 : “They said, we be all dead men.”)2 Kings 19:35. And it came to pass that night, &c. — Sometimes it was long before prophecies were accomplished, and promises performed, but here the word was no sooner spoken than the work was done. The night which immediately followed the sending of this message to Hezekiah, was the main body of the besieging army slain. Hezekiah had not force sufficient to sally out upon them, and attack their camp, nor would God destroy them by sword or bow; but he sent a destroying angel, in the dead of night, to make an assault upon them, which their sentinels, though ever so watchful, could neither discover nor resist: such an angel as slew the firstborn of Egypt. Josephus says, the angel slew them by inflicting a pestilential disease which caused death immediately. “But his authority,” says Vitringa, “in matters of this kind, is of no great weight. It is my opinion,” continues he, “that in a dreadful storm, raised by this destroying angel, these men were killed by lightning; their bodies being burned within, while their outward garments were untouched.” The number slain was prodigious, and Rab-shakeh, probably, among them. And when they rose early in the morning — Namely, the few that were left alive; behold, they were all dead corpses — Scarce a living man of their companions and fellow- soldiers remained. How great in power and might must the holy angels be, when one angel, in one night, could make so great a slaughter! And how weak are the mightiest men before the almighty God! Who ever hardened himself against him, and prospered? The pride and blasphemy of the king and his general are punished by the destruction of one hundred and eighty- five thousand men! O God, how terrible art thou in thy justice! All these lives are sacrificed to the glory of God and the safety of his people!
When they arose early in the morning, behold ... - These words form the only trustworthy data that we possess for determining to any extent the manner of the destruction now worked. They imply that there was no disturbance during the night, no alarm, no knowledge on the part of the living that their comrades were dying all around them by thousands. All mere natural causes must be rejected, and God must be regarded as having slain the men in their sleep without causing disturbance, either by pestilence or by that "visitation" of which English law speaks. The most nearly parallel case is the destruction of the first-born, Exodus 12:29.
The Egyptian version of this event recorded in Herodotus is that, during the night, silently and secretly, an innumerable multitude of field-mice spread themselves through the Assyrian host, and gnawed their quivers, bows, and shield-straps, so as to render them useless. When morning broke, the Assyrians fled hastily, and the Egyptians pursuing put a vast number to the sword.
35. in the morning … they were all dead corpses—It was the miraculous interposition of the Almighty that defended Jerusalem. As to the secondary agent employed in the destruction of the Assyrian army, it is most probable that it was effected by a hot south wind, the simoon, such as to this day often envelops and destroys whole caravans. This conjecture is supported by 2Ki 19:7 and Jer 51:1. The destruction was during the night; the officers and soldiers, being in full security, were negligent; their discipline was relaxed; the camp guards were not alert, or perhaps they themselves were the first taken off, and those who slept, not wrapped up, imbibed the poison plentifully. If this had been an evening of dissolute mirth (no uncommon thing in a camp), their joy (perhaps for a victory), or "the first night of their attacking the city," says Josephus, became, by its effects, one means of their destruction [Calmet, Fragments].That night; either,
1. In the night following this message of the prophet to Hezekiah; or,
2. In that famous night when God destroyed the Assyrians, it was done in this manner. For such expressions are oft used of an indefinite and uncertain time, as that day is frequently taken, as Isaiah 4:1 26:1 27:1, &c. Smote in the camp, with pestilence, or some other sudden and mortal stroke. The camp of the Assyrians; either before Libnah, or in some other place near Jerusalem, where they were encamped.
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 it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)35. And it came to pass that night] For this the record in Isaiah has only ‘Then’. It would appear from the history that the destruction of his army took place before Sennacherib himself could have reached Jerusalem.
the angel of the Lord went out] R.V. went forth. The R.V. assimilates to Isaiah. In 2 Chronicles 32:21 the record is, ‘The Lord sent an angel which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land’.
and when they [R.V. men] arose early] The number of the slain (185,000) was exceeding great, and the Chronicler’s statement makes the loss more terrible by saying that among those destroyed were all the leaders of the host.Verses 35-37. - DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB'S HOST, AND HIS OWN VIOLENT DEATH AT NINEVEH. The sequel is told in a few words. That night destruction came down on the host of Sennacherib, as it lay en-camped at some distance from Jerusalem, silently and swiftly. Without noise, without disturbance, the sleeping men slept the sleep of death, and in the morning, when the survivors awoke, it was found that a hundred and eighty-five thousand were slain. Upon this, with the remnant of his army, Sennacherib hastily returned to Nineveh. There, some time after - about seventeen years according to our reckoning - a conspiracy was formed against him by two of his sons, who murdered him as he was worshipping in a temple, and fled into Armenia. Another son, Esarhaddon, succeeded. Verse 35. - And it came to pass that night. The important expression, "that night," is omitted from the narrative of Isaiah 37:36, but is undoubtedly an original portion of the present history. It can have no other meaning - as Keil and Bahr have seen - than "the night following the day on which Isaiah had foretold to Hezekiah the deliverance of Jerusalem." God's word "runneth very swiftly." No sooner was the premise given than the destroying angel received his orders, and "that night" the terrible stroke fell. That the angel of the Lord went out; or, an angel (ἄγγελος Κυρίου, LXX.). We cannot say, with Bahr, that it was "the same one who smote the firstborn in Egypt, and inflicted the pestilence after the census under David." Revelation does not tell us that there is definitely one destroying angel. "The angel of death" is a rabbinical invention. It accords rather with the analogy of God's dealings that he should use at one time the services of one minister, at another time those of another. And smote. Imagination has been over-busy in conjecturing the exact manner of the smiting. Some critics have suggested pestilence, or more definitely "the plague" (Gesenius, Dathe, Maurer, Ewald, Winer, Thenins, Keil, etc.); others a terrible storm (Vitringa, Stanley); others the simoom (Prideaux, Milman); others a nocturnal attack by Tirhakah (Ussher, Preiss, Michaelis). Some of these the text altogether precludes, as the attack of Tirhakah, which must have aroused the whole host, and not left the disaster to be discovered by those who "awoke early in the morning." Others are improbable, as the simoom, or a terrible storm with thunder and lightning, which have never been known to accomplish such a destruction. Pestilence is no doubt possible, but a pestilence of a strange and miraculous character, to which men succumbed without awaking or disturbing others. But the narrative rather points to sudden and silent death during sleep, such as often happens to men in the course of nature singly, and here on this occasion was made to happen in one night to a hundred and eighty-five thousand men by the Divine omnipotence acting abnormally. In the camp of the Assyrians. The destruction was not only at one time, but in one place. "The camp of the Assyrians" cannot mean half a dozen camps situated in half a dozen different places, as Keil supposes. Sennacherib was somewhere with his main army, encamped for the night, and there, wherever it was, the blow fell. But the exact locality is uncertain. All that the narrative makes clear is that it was not in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. Herodotus places the catastrophe at Pelusium (2. 141). Bahr thinks it was probably before Libnah. I should incline to place it between Libnah and the Egyptian frontier, Sennacherib, when he heard that Tirhakah was coming against him (ver. 9), having naturally marched forward to meet and engage his army. A hundred four score and five thousand. These figures do not pretend to exactness, and can scarcely have been more than a rough estimate. They are probably the Assyrians' own estimate of their loss, which the Jews would learn from such of the fugitives as fell into their hands. And when they - i.e., the survivors - arose early in the morning, they - i.e. the hundred and eighty-five thousand - were all dead corpses - absolutely dead, that is; not merely sick or dying. The fact makes against the theory of a pestilence. 2 Kings 19:29.): "Eat this year what groweth in the fallow, and in the second year what groweth wild, and in the third year sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof." That the words are not addressed to the king of Assyria as in 2 Kings 19:28, but to Hezekiah, is evident from their contents. This sudden change in the person addressed may be explained from the fact that from 2 Kings 19:29 the words contain a perfectly fresh train of thought. For האות זה־לּך see Exodus 3:12; 1 Samuel 2:34 and 1 Samuel 14:10; also Jeremiah 44:29. In all these passages אות, σημεῖον, is not a (supernatural) wonder, a מופת as in 1 Kings 13:3, but consists simply in the prediction of natural events, which serve as credentials to a prediction, whereas in Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 38:7 a miracle is given as an אות. The inf. abs. אכול is not used for the pret. (Ges., Then., and others), but for the imperf. or fut.: "one will eat." השּׁנה, the (present) year. ספיח signifies the corn which springs up and grows from the grains that have been shaken out the previous year (Leviticus 25:5, Leviticus 25:11). סחישׁ (in Isa. שׁחיס) is explained by Abulw. as signifying the corn which springs up again from the roots of what has been sown. The etymology of the word is uncertain, so that it is impossible to decide which of the two forms is the original one. For the fact itself compare the evidence adduced in the Comm. on Leviticus 25:7, that in Palestine and other lands two or three harvests can be reaped from one sowing. - The signs mentioned do not enable us to determine with certainty how long the Assyrians were in the land. All that can be clearly gathered from the words, "in this and the following year will they live upon that which has sprung up without any sowing," is that for two years, i.e., in two successive autumns, the fields could not be cultivated because the enemy had occupied the land and laid it waste. But whether the occupation lasted two years, or only a year and a little over, depends upon the time of the year at which the Assyrians entered the land. If the invasion of Judah took place in autumn, shortly before the time for sowing, and the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian forces occurred a year after about the same time, the sowing of two successive years would be prevented, and the population of Judah would be compelled to live for two years upon what had sprung up without sowing. Consequently both the prophecy of Isaiah and the fulfilment recorded in vv. 35, 36 would fall in the autumn, when the Assyrians had ruled for a whole year in the land; so that the prophet was able to say: in this year and in the second (i.e., the next) will they eat after-growth and wild growth; inasmuch as when he said this, the first year had not quite expired. Even if the overthrow of the Assyrians took place immediately afterwards (cf. 2 Kings 19:35), with the extent to which they had carried out the desolation of the land, many of the inhabitants having been slain or taken prisoners, and many others having been put to flight, it would be utterly impossible in the same year to cultivate the fields and sow them, and the people would be obliged to live in the second or following year upon what had grown wild, until the harvest of the second year, when the land could be properly cultivated, or rather till the third year, when it could be reaped again.
(Note: There is no necessity, therefore, to explain the sign here given, either by the assumption of a sabbatical year, with or without a year of jubilee following, or by supposing that the Assyrians did not depart immediately after the catastrophe described in 2 Kings 19:35, but remained till after they had attempted an expedition into Egypt, or indeed by any other artificial hypothesis.)
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