Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.1. After these things, and the establishment thereof] R.V. After these things, and this faithfulness. The phrase is a Hendiadys and stands for, “After these faithful dealings.”
Sennacherib] This king (Sanḥerib in Hebrew, Sin-aḥi-irib [-irba] in Assyrian, the Σαναχάριβος of Herod. ii. 141) reigned 705–681 b.c. He was the son of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1), father of Esar-haddon (2 Kings 19:37; Ezra 4:2), and grandfather of Asnapper [Osnappar, R.V.] (Ezra 4:10), the well-known Σαρδανάπαλλος of Herod. ii. 150, the Asshur-bani-pal of the Assyrian inscriptions. Under this dynasty Assyria reached the height of its power. The empire included Babylonia (which however was frequently in revolt), Assyria proper, Syria as far north as Cilicia (inclusive), and (under Esar-haddon and Osnappar) Egypt. After Osnappar’s death (about 626 b.c.) the Assyrian power was speedily destroyed.
to win them] Lit. to make breaches in them. According to 2 Kings 18:13 Sennacherib took these cities; according to the Assyrian account (Prism Inscr. of Sennacherib) in Schrader’s Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek) they were forty-two in number.
Ch. 2 Chronicles 32:1-8 (cp. 2 Kings 18:13-16). Sennacherib’s threatened Invasion. Hezekiah’s Precautions
The Chronicler introduces us somewhat abruptly to the Assyrian crisis. From 2 Kin. we learn first that Hezekiah renounced the suzerainty of Assyria (2 Chronicles 18:7), which his father Ahaz had acknowledged (ibid. 2 Chronicles 16:7). Thereupon Sennacherib invaded Judah, and Hezekiah was obliged to acknowledge with a heavy payment of tribute his dependence on the Assyrian king (ibid. 2 Chronicles 18:13-16), Sennacherib having discovered the weakness of Judah, next demanded an unconditional surrender, intending to transport the Jews to another country (ibid. 31, 32). This demand Hezekiah resisted, being strengthened thereto by Isaiah.
And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem,
He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him.3. to stop the waters] Cp. 2 Kings 20:20 (“[Hezekiah] made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city”) and Isaiah 22:9; Isaiah 22:11.
At the present day there is an underground tunnel cut through the rock leading from St Mary’s Well down to the Lower Pool of Siloam. It is rudely constructed and owing to its windings is 586 yards long, though the distance in a straight line is only 368 yards. As therefore the Lower Pool was probably within the ancient walls, while St Mary’s Well was outside, this tunnel may be Hezekiah’s conduit. If the well were stopped, the besiegers would lose the water, which would collect in the Pool for the use of the besieged. An inscription in ancient Hebrew characters (“The Siloam Inscription”) discovered in situ describes briefly the digging of the tunnel, but does not enable us to fix the date of it for certain. See for the original text Lidzbarski, Nordsemitische Epigraphik, Tafel xxi. 1, and for an English translation, Sayce, Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments, p. 87.
So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?4. who stopt] R.V. and they stopped.
the brook that ran] R.V. the brook that flowed. The Heb. verb means “flow with strong stream” (as a flood). We naturally look for such a brook either east of Jerusalem in the valley of Kidron or south in the valley of the son of Hinnom, but no perennial stream runs in either valley now. Possibly the waters which fed such a brook in the Chronicler’s day now lose themselves (owing to physical changes in the configuration of the country) in the soil.
Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.5. Also he strengthened himself] R.V. And he took courage. Cp. 2 Chronicles 1:1 (note).
broken] R.V. broken down; cp. 2 Chronicles 25:23 (note).
raised it up to the towers] Render, repaired the towers, lit. “brought up [healing, restoration] upon the towers; cp. 2 Chronicles 24:13 (Heb.); Nehemiah 4:1 (Heb.). The ellipse is harsh, but not too harsh for the Chronicler. Vulg. reads, “built towers upon it.”
another wall] R.V. the other wall. In Isaiah 22:9-11 the preparations to meet the Assyrian attack are described by the prophet who speaks of a “ditch” (R.V. “reservoir”) made at this time between “the two walls.” In Excavations at Jerusalem, 1894–1897, Dr Bliss describes a buttressed wall (pp. 96 ff.) built without lime (see his frontispiece for an illustration of it) and enclosing the pool of Siloam on the S.E, which, he says, “may date back as far as Hezekiah” (pp. 325 f.). Dr Bliss also, following up a clue given by earlier explorers found a second wall (running at an angle to the first) enclosing the pool on the west. This second wall was probably due to Herod, but Dr Bliss suggests that the line it follows may have been defended by a wall as early as Hezekiah’s day (p. 326). Thus it is not hard to infer the general course of Hezekiah’s two walls.
Millo] Cp. 1 Chronicles 11:8, note.
darts and shields] These were meant, not for such trained soldiers as Hezekiah could collect, but for the levy en masse with which the king proposed to man the walls. A dart to throw and a shield to protect the thrower as he threw were all that the citizen-soldier needed. The Heb. word (shelaḥ) means “dart, missile”; the more general rendering of the R.V. “weapons” obscures the meaning of Hezekiah’s preparations.
And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying,6. in the street of the gate] R.V. in the broad place at the gate; cp. 2 Chronicles 29:4; Nehemiah 8:16. There is nothing here to shew which of the two broad places mentioned in Nehemiah is meant, or whether some third place is intended.
Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:7. and courageous] R.V. and of a good courage.
there be moe] R.V. there is a greater.
With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.8. an arm of flesh] Cp. Jeremiah 17:5. Contrast the frequent phrase “a mighty hand and a stretched out arm” (of Jehovah). An “arm” is an ally or helper.
with us is the Lord] Cp. 2 Chronicles 15:2; 2 Chronicles 20:17; Isaiah 8:10.
After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying,9. his servants] Three of these are specified in 2 Kin. by their titles, viz. the Tartan (“Commander-in-chief”), the Rab-saris (“Chief of the Heads”), and the Rab-shakeh (“Chief of the officers”).
but he himself laid siege against Lachish] R.V. now he was before Lachish. The capture of Lachish by Sennacherib and its spoliation are shewn on an Assyrian relief now in the British Museum. The king himself besieged Lachish because it was of more importance for the main object of the campaign than Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s objective was Egypt (Herod. ii. 141), and Lachish (Tell-el-Ḥesy, Bädeker, p. 154), lay directly in his path.
9–19 (cp. 2 Kings 18:17-35). Sennacherib’s Threatening Messages
In this section Chron. briefly summarizes 2 Kin.
Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?10. abide in the siege] R.V. abide the siege.
in Jerusalem] Isaiah promised deliverance in Jerusalem; e.g. in Isaiah 29:8; Isaiah 30:19.
Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?11. persuade] Or “entice”; cp. 1 Chronicles 21:1 (“provoked” for the same Heb. word).
to give over yourselves] R.V. to give you over.
Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?12. his high places] Cp. 2 Kings 18:4, R.V. The “high places” (bâmôth) were properly sanctuaries of Jehovah, and not necessarily idolatrous in themselves. Yet in practice the bamoth were found to give shelter to heathen worship, and idolatrous symbols, e.g. the ashçrah, the relics of Canaanite worship, were often placed beside them. It was found in fact that the purity of sacrificial worship could be best preserved by separating it from all places having heathen associations and restricting it to Jerusalem. Hezekiah acted vigorously in accordance with this experience and removed the bâmôth throughout the country.
burn incense upon it] R.V. upon it shall ye burn incense.
Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand?13. the people of other lands] R.V. the peoples of the lands. In 2 Kings 18:34 the lands are specified and include Samaria.
of those lands … their lands] R.V. of the lands … their land.
Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand?
Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?15. neither yet believe him] R.V. neither believe ye him.
And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah.
He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.17. to rail on] Or, to defy (the same Heb. word as in 2 Samuel 23:9).
of other lands have not delivered] R.V. of the lands, which have not delivered.
Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews' speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city.18. in the Jews’ speech] R.V. in the Jews’ language. Cp. 2 Kings 18:28 ff. The Rab-shakeh shewed clearly that his object was not to treat with Hezekiah, but to excite a revolt among the Jews against Hezekiah and so gain possession of the city.
And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.19. against the God of Jerusalem] R.V. of the God of Jerusalem. For this designation cp. Psalm 135:21.
as against the gods of the people] R.V. as of the gods of the peoples.
which were the work of the hands of man] R.V. which are the work of men’s hands. Cp. Psalm 135:15-18.
And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.20. And for this cause Hezekiah … prayed] R.V. And Hezekiah … prayed because of this.
heaven] Here used reverently for “God”; cp. 2 Chronicles 28:9; Daniel 4:26; Luke 15:21.
20–23 (cp. 2 Kings 19:1-4; 2 Kings 19:14-19; 2 Kings 19:35-37). Hezekiah and Isaiah pray. The Deliverance
This section is a very brief epitome of 2 Kings 19. The Chronicler assumes here as elsewhere that his readers have access to the fuller sources of information.
And 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 he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.21. all the mighty men] In number 185,000 according to 2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah 37:36. The agency was probably the plague, which is pictured as a destroying angel in 2 Samuel 24:16.
And when he was come] The murder of Sennacherib did not occur till some 20 years after his Judæan expedition (circ. 701 b.c.), i.e. not till 681 b.c.
they that came forth] Render, some (or one) that came forth. The Chronicler no doubt follows Isaiah 37:38, “Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him”; but the accuracy of the present text of this passage of Isaiah is doubtful, for in the parallel passage (2 Kings 19:37, C’thib) the words his sons are missing. The only notice of Sennacherib’s death known to us at present from the Inscriptions is simply “Sennacherib king of Assyria his son (sing.) slew him in a revolt.” No name is given to this son. (Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, vol. 11., p. 281).
Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.22. guided them on every side] The verb in Heb. is the same as in Psalm 23:2 (“he leadeth me”). The LXX. read the Heb. differently, “Gave them rest on every side”; cp. 2 Chronicles 20:30.
And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.23. brought gifts] Cp. Psalm 68:29; Isaiah 18:7; Haggai 2:7-8 (R.V.).
presents] R.V. precious things.
In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.24–33 (cp. 2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38, 39)). Hezekiah’s Sickness. The Ambassadors from Babylon. Hezekiah’s Death
24. In those days] The phrase is taken over from 2 Kings 20:1, and it cannot be determined what date is intended, though we might conclude from 2 Kings 20:6 that it was a time at which the Assyrian danger was not yet past, and that it was about the fourteenth year of Hezekiah (reigned 14 + 15 = 29 years).
he spake] The Heb. word means in certain connexions, “to promise,” and the idea of “promise” is present here, the sense being “God made him a promise and confirmed it by a wonder”; cp. 2 Kings 20:5-6; 2 Kings 8-11.
a sign] Rather, a wonder (R.V. mg.), as in 2 Chronicles 32:31.
But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.25. his heart was lifted up] Cp. 2 Chronicles 32:31; 2 Kings 20:12-15.
wrath] Heb. qeçeph, a visitation of divine wrath; cp. 2 Chronicles 19:2; 2 Chronicles 19:10; 2 Chronicles 24:18, 2 Chronicles 29:8.
Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.26. humbled himself] Cp. 2 Kings 20:19.
And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels;27. riches and honour] Cp. 2 Kings 20:13 (= Isaiah 39:2).
shields] If the text be correct we must think of silver and gold in the form of shields; cp. 2 Chronicles 9:15-16; but perhaps we should read migdânoth, “precious things,” (as in 2 Chronicles 32:23), for mâginnoth “shields.” LXX. ὁπλοθήκας, i.e. “armouries”; Pesh. (text being doubtful here) “shields” or “pearls” or “precious gifts.”
pleasant jewels] R.V. goodly vessels.
Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.28. cotes for flocks] A.V. here follows LXX. Vulg. and R.V. (following the Massoretic text) flocks in folds. The “cotes” or “folds” were enclosures with high stone walls as a defence against robbers and wild beasts. The text is probably faulty; Pesh. omits the clause.
Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.29. cities] The context suggests that these cities were meant chiefly as places of refuge for the flocks and herds in time of war.
substance very much] R.V. very much substance.
This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.30. stopped] Cp. 2 Chronicles 32:3-4.
the upper watercourse] R.V. the upper spring of the waters.
Gihon] The upper spring of Gihon is perhaps represented to-day by St Mary’s Well; cp. Bädeker, p. 99, and note on 2 Chronicles 32:3 above.
to the west side] R.V. on the west side. The present Lower Pool of Siloam is rather to the S.E. of the present Jerusalem but it may have been S.W. of the ancient City of David. The Ambrosian MS. of Pesh. reads, on the east side, and this may be right.
Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.31. ambassadors] Lit. “interpreters.”
to inquire of the wonder] According to 2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1, the ostensible reason of the embassy was to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery. The real object was to gain over Judah to an alliance against Assyria, against which Babylon was in a chronic state of revolt.
to try him, that he might know, etc.] The phrase is based on Deuteronomy 8:2.
Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.32. his goodness] R.V. his good deeds. Cp. 2 Chronicles 35:26 (of Josiah); Nehemiah 13:14 (of Nehemiah).
and in the book] R.V. omits and, the meaning of the Chronicler being that the vision of Isaiah is contained in the Book of Kings.
And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.33. in the chiefest] R.V. in the ascent, LXX. ἐν ἀναβάσει.
did him honour] Cp. 2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19.