Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.Ch. 2 Kings 19:1-7. Hezekiah sends messengers to Isaiah. Isaiah’s answer in the name of the Lord. (Not in Chronicles. Isaiah 37:1-7)
1. Hezekiah … covered himself with sackcloth] No doubt the words which his messengers reported were such as to tell upon the king, especially that saying of Rab-shakeh ‘The Lord said unto me, Go up against this place and destroy it’. The king was struck with horror as much as his counsellors. But he feels that he has in his council one who has long been known as God’s messenger to Judah. So while he himself falls to humiliation and prayer, going for that purpose into the house of the Lord, he sends his servants to enquire of the prophet what hope there is amid the terrible attack which may very soon be upon them.
And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.2. he sent … to Esai] R.V. Isaiah. The historian has up to this time never mentioned the name of the great prophet. But we know from Isaiah’s own writings that as early as the reign of Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1) the Lord had revealed His majesty to the son of Amoz, and had sent him to bear witness unto Judah. The reigns of Jotham and Ahaz are past, and to the latter king Isaiah had brought the message of deliverance from Pekah and Rezin, which had been fully accomplished, so that Ephraim was now broken and was no more a people (Isaiah 7:8). We may be sure that one so endowed with insight into the divine will had been taken at once into the councils of Hezekiah, and that no one’s words had carried more weight. It may well be that Isaiah had advised the struggle for freedom which Hezekiah undertook, and certainly during the fourteen years (2 Kings 18:13) which had elapsed since Hezekiah came to the throne the God-fearing king had done much, may we not say most things, by the advice of the prophet. Hence when the days are darkest, it is to Isaiah he sends as the source of true light.
And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.3. This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy] R.V. contumely. The words refer to the condition of Hezekiah and his people. First they are in great anguish, kept in and surrounded by a threatening and mighty enemy, this is the trouble: then they are reminded of their offences and feel that for their wrong they are under chastisement and reproof: and lastly, that they are given over to the adversaries so that their enemies mock at their confidence with insolent derision. Hence without help from God, and with no hope from men, their conceptions of freedom and liberty were likely all to prove abortive, and come to no result. The figure which the king employs indicates that they were in the extremest danger, and had no power to save themselves.
It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.4. It may be] The Hebrew word introduces expressions of uncertainty but yet of hope. Cf. Numbers 23:3 where Balaam says to Balak, ‘Peradventure the Lord will come and meet me’; and Joshua 14:12 where Caleb entreats for the possession of Hebron, in hope to drive out the Anakim, ‘If so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out’. Hezekiah is sending to the only source of hope.
and will reprove R.V. [rebuke] the words] The verb is cognate with the noun rendered ‘rebuke’ in the previous verse. The ground on which Hezekiah pleads that God should interpose is not that he and his people have deserved such mercy, but that in what they suffer God’s name and honour are blasphemed.
wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are [R.V. is] left] The cities round about had been for the most part reduced by Sennacherib’s army. The feeble remnant is Jerusalem and its people. For these Hezekiah entreats Isaiah to intercede. The king knew from the experience of his father’s reign how Isaiah had been chosen by God as His messenger. His prayer therefore he thinks will be of much efficacy. As to send to a mighty king by one who has near access to him is the surest way of making a want known, and obtaining relief.
So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.6. Be not afraid of the words which [R.V. that] thou hast heard, with which [R.V. wherewith] &c.] These slight changes make the rendering like that in Isaiah, where the Hebrew corresponds exactly.
God’s prophet sets down the threats and insults of Rab-shakeh as ‘words’ and no more. That there is a degree of contempt in the whole sentence is shewn in the words for ‘servants’ which is not the same as that so rendered in verse 6, but may be rendered ‘young men’ (the LXX has παιδάρια), not that Rab-shakeh and his comrades were young, but the words of Isaiah estimate their boasts and threatenings as ‘young men’s words’.
Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.7. Behold, I will send a blast upon him] R.V. put a spirit in him. ‘Blast’ in this verse is often wrongly accepted as referring to the destroying angel of verse 35 below. The true sense is represented in R.V. God would give to Sennacherib and his soldiers such an inward motion or impulse that the news which should be brought to them should alarm them and drive them away. We know from Saul’s history how an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him (1 Samuel 16:14). In another wise there should come a troubling spirit upon the Assyrians, which should make them ready to take alarm at anything. This is the sense of the LXX. δίδωμι ἐν αὐτῷ πνεῦμα. But the word for ‘spirit’ and for ‘wind’ being the same in both Hebrew and Greek some interpreters have thought that the allusion is to the blast, sound or noise which would bring the rumour alluded to in the next words. But this sense seems less likely than the former, and finds no illustration elsewhere.
and he shall hear a rumour] Probably refers to the report about the Ethiopian king, Tirhakah, spoken of presently, in verse 9 as on the march to meet Sennacherib. The answer of the prophet does not speak of the destruction of the host, an event which more than anything else hastened Sennacherib’s departure.
and shall return to his own land] See below verse 36.
I will cause him to fall] Though the whole manner of God’s intervention be not made known, enough is laid open to shew us that to the boastful Sennacherib God had already fixed his day. The two sons (verse 37) are the instruments, but they, though they know it not, are only working out God’s design.
So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.8–13. Sennacherib’s letter to Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:17; Isaiah 37:8-13)
8. So Rab-shakeh returned] i.e. Southward, towards Lachish, but during his absence Sennacherib had undertaken to attack Libnah, and there Rab-shakeh found him.
Libnah] See above on 2 Kings 8:22. Libnah was almost in a direct line eastward from Lachish.
And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, Behold, he is come out to fight against thee: he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah, saying,9. And when he heard say of Tirhakah] Tirhakah is called by Manetho, Tarakos. He was the third and last king of the 25th dynasty, which was Ethiopian. The duration of his reign is not accurately known. The news of Tirhakah’s advance caused Sennacherib to feel the importance of getting Jerusalem into his possession, seeing it was so much stronger than any position which he yet had. It had been a fortress of considerable importance in the time of the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:6), and in the intervening period between David and Hezekiah its defences had been made much more complete.
he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah] This time they were the bearers of a letter (see below, verse 14) to the king. This may be the letter alluded to 2 Chronicles 32:17.
Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.10. Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying] These words are unrepresented in the LXX.
Let not thy God … deceive thee] This was the sort of railing on the God of Israel, and the speaking against Him on which the Chronicler dwells so strongly.
Jerusalem shall not be delivered] R.V. given. The change brings this passage into conformity with Isaiah. Also as ‘deliver’ is used in the two following verses in a different sense, it is well that the word should be varied.
Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?11. by destroying them utterly] The verb implies ‘dooming’, ‘devoting as if to a curse’. Hence the LXX. represents it by ἀναθεματίσαι.
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar?12. as Gozan] The R.V. omits the italic ‘as’ both here and in the parallel place in Isaiah. On Gozan see above 2 Kings 17:6 note.
and Haran] The LXX. gives for this place Χαῤῥὰν, as in Genesis 27:43, thus identifying it with the place where Abraham dwelt after leaving Ur of the Chaldees. The town of Haran [still called Harran] is in the midst of the district which lies under Mt. Masius between the Khabour and the Euphrates.
and Rezeph] This name is found in several places in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, where from the situation of the other cities mentioned with it, this Rezeph most likely was situated. Two places, one on the west and one on the east of the Euphrates have been put forward as the city here mentioned but we have no means of deciding more than that the place was not far distant from the others named along with it.
the children of Eden which were in Thelasar] R.V. Telassar. This latter form is the orthography of A.V. in the parallel verse in Isaiah. Of the position of this Eden it is impossible to say more than that it was probably somewhere in the north west of Mesopotamia, whither Assyrian conquest had spread in the times just preceding Sennacherib, and to which he would intend now to call attention. The LXX. omits this name in the parallel place in Isaiah. Telassar must have been the chief seat of these children of Eden, the capture of which broke down the people. In Ezekiel 27:23, Eden is again joined with Haran, and with Asshur. Hence some confirmation may be drawn for placing the people in the upper Mesopotamian plain.
All the places above named are additional to those given by Rab-shakeh in his recital of Assyrian victories (2 Kings 17:34).
Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?13. Where is the king of Hamath] On all the places named here, see above in the notes on 2 Kings 17:34.
And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.14–19. Hezekiah spreads the letter before the Lord, and prays for deliverance (2 Chronicles 32:20; Isaiah 37:14-20)
14. Hezekiah received the letter] Though bringing a written document the messengers of Sennacherib may be supposed to have also enforced their message by words of their own.
went up into [R.V. unto] the house of the Lord] The change brings the words into exact likeness with the verse in Isaiah. It is not likely that the king entered the temple. He would go into no place which was set apart only for priests and Levites. It is more reasonable to suppose that standing at the porch he made his prayer towards the Holy of Holies to which he alludes.
spread it before the Lord] We are not to think of this act as intended by the king to exhibit the letter for the divine inspection. It was rather done that the object being present to his own sight, his prayer might be prompted thereby and rendered more fervent. The letter was no doubt in the Hebrew character, and the sight of its language would help his thoughts.
And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.15. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord] The Chronicler says ‘Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven’.
O Lord God [R.V. the God] of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims] R.V. which sittest upon the cherubim. On the cherubim and their position above the ark, as the place where the divine presence was manifested and dwelt, see note on 1 Kings 6:23.
thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth] Sennacherib’s letter had spoken of ‘the gods of the nations’. Hezekiah contrasts his own faith in Jehovah with the false opinions of the heathen whose lands Sennacherib had overrun, and hence shews at once that he hopes that the fate of himself and his people will also be a contrast to theirs. In the next clause also he shews that the maker of all things must be the disposer of them all.
LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God.16. Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear] R.V. Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear. This is the translation in Isaiah of the same Hebrew. Both should be alike, and the form chosen by R.V. seems preferable as the words are addressed to God. The king can only speak in the figures which men would use to one another, but in this application of human attributes to the Almighty there need not be of necessity any misconception. There could have been none in Hezekiah’s thoughts concerning the Maker of heaven and earth.
which hath sent him [R.V. wherewith he hath sent] to reproach the living God] There is in the orginal a suffix in the singular number attached to the verb, which refers to the ‘words’ before alluded to though they are mentioned as plural. The idea is however singular, and indicates the ‘message’. So that literally the Hebrew would be translated ‘which he hath sent it’, and that is their way of saying, ‘wherewith he hath sent’. The A.V. took the suffix which in the parallel place of Isaiah is not expressed to refer to Rab-shakeh and so translated ‘which hath sent him’.
Hezekiah calls Jehovah ‘the living God’ as opposed to the idols of wood and stone spoken of in Sennacherib’s letter.
Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands,17. the kings of Assyria have destroyed [R.V. laid waste] the nations] The change is in conformity with the rendering in Isaiah, where the Hebrew, however, says ‘all the countries and their land’ (R.V.) The Hebrew word translated ‘destroyed’ in the next verse is different from this.
And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.18. have cast their gods into the fire] A conquering heathen would shew his contempt for the nations which he overcame by destroying the objects of their worship, thus practically telling the vanquished that his gods were superior to theirs. Moreover such destruction would very often be a source of booty, for the images, of wood and stone underneath, were often richly overlaid with gold and silver.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.19. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us] The R.V. puts ‘I beseech thee’ after ‘save thou us’ that being the order of the Hebrew sentence. There is no Hebrew in Isaiah for ‘I beseech thee’.
that all the kingdoms of the earth may know] It is remarkable how the loftiest souls among the Jews felt that their nation was meant to be God’s witness to the rest of the world. Such sentiments are found not seldom in the prophecies and psalms. Cf. also 1 Samuel 18:4-6 and the marginal references there. That case, which is David’s conquest of Goliath, may be aptly compared with this. For all men would understand if Sennacherib now were conquered it was not by the power of Jerusalem only, but by the hand of Him who had put His name there, just as David had said ‘The battle is the Lord’s’.
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.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’.
This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.21. The virgin the [R.V. omits the] daughter of Zion hath despised thee] The first part of the prophetic word is addressed to Sennacherib. Jerusalem is called ‘daughter of Sion’ because her inhabitants may be counted poetically as the offspring of Sion. She is also called ‘virgin’ because hitherto, since David’s time, when the chosen people first obtained complete possession of the place, it had never been conquered. And by opening the prophecy with this word it seems to be foretold that it shall still he saved from conquest. Some have preferred to take the three words as all in apposition, rendering ‘The virgin-daughter Sion’, with much the same sense. In the original the first two words are both in the construct form, but instances are found of such forms standing as if only in apposition.
The daughter of Jerusalem] i.e. The people dwelling in the city.
hath shaken her head at thee] This was a gesture of scorn. Cf. Job 16:4, ‘I could heap up words against you and shake mine head at you’. See also Psalm 22:7; Psalm 44:15; Psalm 109:25 and other parallel passages.
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.22. and lift [R.V. lifted] up thine eyes on high] The name by which Jehovah is often called is ‘the Most High’ (cf. Psalm 56:2). To utter reproaches and blasphemies against Him betrays a great uplifting of the eyes, a terrible excess of arrogancy.
the Holy One of Israel] This title of God, which occurs very frequently in Isaiah, signifies not only that God Himself is holy and specially gracious unto Israel, but that He makes the people holy also, separate from the rest of the world and sanctified by and for Himself. It expresses both the praise of God, and the privilege of His people.
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 lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.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’.
I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.24. I have digged and drunk strange waters] Probably there is some allusion in this boast which is put into the mouth of Sennacherib to the attempts made by Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:3-4) to deprive the Assyrians of a supply of water. Sennacherib means to say: ‘Do what you may I am able by digging wells wherever I go to get water for my host, even where none had been found before’. This is most likely the sense of ‘strange’, which word does not appear in the corresponding verse of Isaiah.
And with the sole of my feet have I dried] [R.V. will I dry] up all the rivers of besieged places] R.V. of Egypt. This is a boast of the opposite nature. In Judæa the trouble might be that there was too little water. In Egypt there would be too much. But as in the former case the Assyrian could surmount all difficulties, so he had but to march into Egypt, and at his approach the Nile should be dried up and make a way for his troops to pass. The change of tense in the verb is necessary from the Hebrew, and the language is the proud king’s way of saying ‘As soon as I have reduced Jerusalem, I will pass on to Egypt and win that land too’.
The word translated ‘rivers’ is the Heb. ‘Yeor’ and is a proper name of the Nile. See R.V. Genesis 41:1 margin. It is translated ‘Nile’ in R.V. of Isaiah 19:7, three times over. Also the word rendered ‘besieged places’ is the Hebrew ‘Mazor’ another form for ‘Mizraim’ the common word for ‘Egypt’, ‘Mazor’ is translated ‘Egypt’ in R.V. both here and in Isaiah 19:6, and Micah 7:12.
Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.25. This verse and the three following contain Jehovah’s response to Sennacherib. The boaster is told that in all he has done he has been but God’s instrument, and that the events in which he has played that part had been ordained by the divine counsels long before.
Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it] The R.V. puts ‘long ago’ at the end of this clause. The fame of God’s protection and leading of Israel might be expected to have penetrated to other nations. From their history the heathen might have learnt that the people of the world are under the rule of the Lord, and that their destinies are ordered by Him.
And of ancient times that I have formed it] R.V. and formed it of ancient times. The LXX. represents the two first clauses of this verse merely by ἔπλασα αὐτήν, συνήγαγον αὐτήν.
Now have I brought it to pass] It was ordained long ago, and now I have permitted it to become a fact. With the whole of these four verses may be compared the Lord’s address to the Assyrian (Isaiah 10:9-19). There that nation is described as the ‘rod of God’s anger’. It is God that sends him and gives him his charge to take spoil and prey. But hereafter the Lord will punish him also, and the glory of his high looks. For another rendering of this sentence see margin of A.V.
Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.26. Therefore] i.e. Not, as thou thinkest, because of thy might, but because I sent thee; for this reason it is that the people against whom thou camest were dismayed.
of small power] Literally, as in the margin ‘short of hand’. Cf. the question of Moses (Numbers 11:23) ‘Is the Lord’s hand waxen short?’ See also Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 59:1.
They were as the grass of the field] All these figures of frailty are found in other places of Scripture. See Psalm 27:2; Psalm 90:5; Psalm 102:4; Psalm 102:11; Isaiah 40:7. The grass upon the housetops, Psalm 129:6.
But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.27. But I know thy abode] R.V. sitting down. The verse expresses to the full, but with wonderful conciseness, how God has observed and is observing every action of Sennacherib. His dwelling, his movements to and fro, and the spirit which actuates them are all open before God’s eyes, and He identifies Himself so completely with Hezekiah and Jerusalem as to call the rage of the Assyrian against them rage against Himself.
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.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.
And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof.29. And this shall be a [R.V. the] sign unto thee] The next portion of the oracle is addressed to Hezekiah. On the giving of a sign to mark the certainty of a prophecy, cf. Isaiah 7:11-14.
Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves] R.V. that which groweth of itself. The meaning of the sign appears to be this. Sennacherib was to be driven away from Jerusalem, yet though the land had been overrun by the enemy, and the people of Jerusalem had been shut up within the walls, they should find enough produce from what had been shed on the ground in the previous harvest time to serve them for the first year. In the next year they should be supplied in the same way, so that they could rest from the labours of the field, and both they and their lands enjoy a sabbatical year. Then in the third year they should commence undisturbedly their agricultural work, and enjoy their crops in peace. So that the sign looks far beyond the immediate deliverance (as also it does in Isaiah 7:14 just quoted) and proclaims to Jerusalem a prolonged period of peace and security.
And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.30. The remnant … shall yet again take rool] Just as in the case of their crops, so shall it be with the people. God shall preserve a remnant, as He was doing in the shed grain of the harvest, and these shall once more grow up, in spite of their present low estate.
For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.31. And they that escape out of mount Zion] R.V. And out of mount Zion they that shall escape. The change of order, as well as the change of tense, makes the sense more clear, and improves the parallelism.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do [R.V. perform] this] In the Massoretic text there is a space left without consonants for the words in italics, and the vowel-points only are written there. The complete text exists in Isaiah, and ought to be here, but because in the early authoritative copies it did not occur, it has been continually left out. The R.V., which translates the Kethib, omits the italics.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.32. Therefore] The LXX. makes the same error here with regard to the word ‘therefore’ as was noticed above on 2 Kings 1:3, and renders the Hebrew by οὐχ οὑτῶς. See former note.
He shall not come into [R.V. unto] this city] The R.V. renders the preposition correctly, and makes the same change in the next verse. We have no mention of Sennacherib’s personal approach nearer than Libnah. (See above verse 8.)
Nor [R.V. neither shall he] come] The change relieves the verse from the monotony of several clauses commencing in exactly the same way.
nor cast a bank [R.V. mount] against it] ‘Mount’ is the correct term for an embankment thrown up for the purposes of a siege, and occurs in the A.V. of Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 32:24; Jeremiah 33:4; Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 21:22.
By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.33. By the way that he came] Cf. above verse 28, and the fulfilment in verse 36.
For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.34. for mine own sake] God’s mercy and love to Israel were manifested that in them He might have witness to all the world. Hence the Psalmist often celebrates these qualities, and adds that they were shewn by Jehovah ‘for His name’s sake’. Cf. Psalm 106:8, ‘He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known’. So God speaks (Isaiah 43:25) by the prophet: ‘I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake’. See also Isaiah 48:11.
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.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.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.36. and dwelt at Nineveh] Apparently, and very naturally, deterred from any of his grander schemes by the terrible calamity which had befallen him, Sennacherib went to his own capital. How long a time elapsed between this overthrow around Jerusalem and the death of the king, spoken of in the next verse, we have not sufficient data to decide. The canon of Ptolemy fixes the accession of Sennacherib in b.c. 702, his death in b.c. 680. These dates cannot be made to harmonize with the Scripture chronology.
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.37. in the house of Nisroch] The LXX. gives the name as Μεσεράχ. Of Nisroch we have no information except this passage, and it is uncertain whether the name be rightly represented in the Hebrew. Some have connected the word with the Hebrew nesher = an eagle, and because on the Assyrian monuments one most conspicuous figure is an eagle-headed man have thought that the name given to the god by the Hebrews refers to this representation. Probably the name is incorrect either because the Jews did not learn it correctly, or connected it with a false etymology. Josephus (Ant. x. 1, 5) says Sennacherib was murdered ‘in his own temple Arasce’ (ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ ναῷ Ἀράσκῃ), which looks as if he had had some different name before him.
Adrammclech and Sharezer his sons] Just as in verse 31 the Massoretic text had an omission of consonants and gave only the vowels of the word, so it is done with ‘his sons’ here. The consonants as well as vowels are written in the parallel place in Isaiah. The Chronicler (2 Chronicles 32:21) says ‘they that came forth of his own bowels slew him with the sword’.
into the land of Armenia] R.V. Ararat. The change is in accordance with the Hebrew text. But the interpretation of Ararat as Armenia is found in the Vulgate of Genesis 8:4, where ‘upon the mountains of Ararat’ is represented by super montes Armeniœ. Then in the verse of Isaiah parallel to this of 2 Kings, the LXX. translates by εἰς Ἀρμενίαν, and the Vulgate by in terram Armeniorum. That Ararat, though unknown to the Greeks and Romans, was the name of a part of Armenia is made evident by the name Araratia being given by Moses of Khorene to the central province of that country (Hist. Armen. Whiston, p. 361). In Tob 1:21 where we have a notice of this king Sennacherib and his death, the name of the land of refuge is given as Ararath.
Esarhaddon] According to the Assyrian canon this king came to the throne in b.c. 681, and reigned till 668. In consequence of disaffection in Babylonia, he united it to the Assyrian kingdom and was the first (and only) Assyrian who had two capital cities. For he resided now in Nineveh and now in Babylon. On his dwelling at Babylon, cf. 2 Chronicles 33:11. Esarhaddon was famous for the number and grandeur of his buildings, having erected in Mesopotamia and Assyria no fewer than thirty temples. His palace at Nimrûd has been discovered and excavated in recent times.