Isaiah 36
Expositor's Bible Commentary
Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.


701 B.C.

INTO this fourth book we put all the rest of the prophecies of the Book of Isaiah, that have to do with the prophet’s own time: chapters 1, 22 and 33, with the narrative in 36, 37. All these refer to the only Assyrian invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem: that undertaken by Sennacherib in 701.

It is, however, right to remember once more, that many authorities maintain that there were two Assyrian invasions of Judah-one by Sargon in 711, the other by Sennacherib in 701-and that chapters 1 and 22 (as well as Isaiah 10:5-34) belong to the former of these. The theory is ingenious and tempting; but, in the silence of the Assyrian annals about any invasion of Judah by Sargon, it is impossible to adopt it. And although Chapters 1 and 22 differ very greatly in tone from chapter 33, yet to account for the difference it is not necessary to suppose two different invasions, with a considerable period between them. Virtually, as will appear in the course of our exposition, Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah was a double one.

1. The first time Sennacherib’s army invaded Judah they took all the fenced cities, and probably invested Jerusalem, but withdrew on payment of tribute and the surrender of the casus belli, the Assyrian Vassal Padi, whom the Ekronites had deposed and given over to the keeping of Hezekiah. To this invasion refer Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 22:1-25. and the first verse of 36.: "Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah that Sennacherib, King of Assyria, came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them." This verse is the same as 2 Kings 18:13, to which, however, there is added in 2 Kings 18:14-16 an account of the tribute sent by Hezekiah to Sennacherib at Lachish, that is not included in the narrative in Isaiah. Compare 2 Chronicles 32:1.

2. But scarcely had the tribute been paid when Sennacherib, himself advancing to meet Egypt, sent back upon Jerusalem a second army of investment, with which was the Rabshakeh; and this was the army that so mysteriously disappeared from the eyes of the besieged. To the treacherous return of the Assyrians and the sudden deliverance of Jerusalem from their grasp refer Isaiah 33:1-24, Isaiah 36:2-22, with the fuller and evidently original narrative in 2 Kings 18:17-19. Compare 2 Chronicles 32:9-23.

To the history of this double attempt upon Jerusalem in 701-chapters 36 and 37 - there has been appended in 38 and 3 an account of Hezekiah’s illness and of an embassy to him from Babylon. These events probably happened some years before Sennacherib’s invasion. But it will be most convenient for us to take them in the order in which they stand in the canon. They wilt naturally lead us up to a question that it is necessary we should discuss before taking leave of Isaiah-whether this great prophet of the endurance of the kingdom of God upon earth had any gospel for the individual who dropped away from it into death.




701 B.C.

Isaiah 36:1-22IT remains for us now to follow in chapters 36, 37, the historical narrative of the events, the moral results of which we have seen so vivid in chapter 33- the perfidious return of the Assyrians to Jerusalem after Hezekiah had bought them off, and their final disappearance from the Holy Land.

This historical narrative has also its moral. It is not annals, but drama. The whole moral of Isaiah’s prophesying is here flung into a duel between champions of the two tempers, which we have seen in perpetual conflict throughout his book. The two tempers are-on Isaiah’s side an absolute and unselfish faith in God, Sovereign of the world and Saviour of His people; on the side of the Assyrians a bare, brutal confidence in themselves, in human cleverness and success, a vaunting contempt of righteousness and of pity. The main interest of Isaiah’s book has consisted in the way these tempers oppose each other, and alternately influence the feeling of the Jewish community. That interest is now to culminate in the scene which brings near such thorough representatives of the two tempers as Isaiah and the Rabshakeh, with the crowd of wavering Jews between. Most strikingly, Assyria’s last assault is not of force, but of speech, delivering upon faith the subtle arguments of the worldly temper; and as strikingly, while all official religion and power of State stand helpless against them, these arguments are met by the bare word of God. In this mere statement of the situation, however, we perceive that much more than the quarrel of a single generation is being decided. This scene is a parable of the everlasting struggle between faith and force, with doubt and despair between them. In the clever, self-confident, persuasive personage with two languages on his tongue and an army at his back; in the fluttered representatives of official religion who meet him and are afraid of the effect of his speech on the common people; in the ranks of dispirited men who hear the dialogue from the wall; in the sensitive king so aware of faith, and yet so helpless to bring faith forth to peace and triumph; and, in the background of the whole situation, the serene prophet of God, grasping only God’s word, and by his own steadfastness carrying the city over the crisis and proving that faith indeed can be "the substance of things hoped for"-we have a phase of the struggle ordained unto every generation of men, and which is as fresh today as when Rabshakeh played the cynic and the scribes and elders filled the part of nervous defenders of the faith, under the walls of faith’s fortress, two thousand five hundred years ago.


This word is a Hebrew transliteration of the Assyrian Rab-sak, "chief of the officers." Though there is some doubt on the point, we may naturally presume from the duties he here discharges that the Rabshakeh was a civilian-probably the civil commissioner or political officer attached to the Assyrian army, which was commanded, according to 2 Kings 18:16, by the Tartan or commander-in-chief himself.

In all the Bible there is not a personage more clever than this Rabshakeh, nor more typical. He was an able deputy of the king who sent him, but he represented still more thoroughly the temper of the civilisation to which he belonged. There is no word of this man which is not characteristic. A clever, fluent diplomatist, with the traveller’s knowledge of men and the conqueror’s contempt for them, the Rabshakeh is the product of a victorious empire like the Assyrian, or, say, like the British. Our services sometimes turn out the like of him-a creature able to speak to natives in their own language, full and ready of information, mastering the surface of affairs at a glance, but always baffled by the deeper tides which sway nations; a deft player upon party interests and the superficial human passions, but unfit to touch the deep springs of men’s religion and patriotism. Let us speak, however, with respect of the Rabshakeh. From his rank (Sayce calls him the Vizier), as well as from the cleverness with which he explains what we know to have been the policy of Sennacherib towards the populations of Syria, he may well have been the inspiring mind at this time of the great Assyrian empire-Sennaeherib’s Bismarck.

The Rabshakeh had strutted down from the great centre of civilisation, with its temper upon him, and all its great resources at his back, confident to twist these poor provincial tribes round his little finger. How petty he conceived them we infer from his never styling. Hezekiah "the king." This was to be an occasion for the Rabshakeh’s own glorification. Jerusalem was to fall to his clever speeches. He had indeed the army behind him, but the work to be done was not the rough work of soldiers. All was to be managed by him, the civilian and orator. This fellow, with his two languages and clever address, was to step out in front of the army and finish the whole business.

The Rabshakeh spoke extremely well. With his first words he touched the sore point of Judah’s policy: her trust in Egypt. On this he spoke like a very Isaiah. But he showed a deeper knowledge of Judah’s internal affairs, and a subtler deftness in using it, when he referred to the matter of the altars. Hezekiah had abolished the high places in all parts of the land, and gathered the people to the central sanctuary in Jerusalem. The Assyrian knew that a number of Jews must look upon this disestablishment of religion in the provinces as likely to incur Jehovah’s displeasure and turn Him against them. Therefore he said, "But if thou say unto me, We trust in Jehovah our God, is not that He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar"? And then, having shaken their religious confidence, he made sport of their military strength. And finally he boldly asserted, "Jehovah said unto me, Go up against this land and destroy it." All this shows a master in diplomacy, a most clever demagogue. The scribes and elders felt the edge, and begged him to sheathe it in a language unknown to the common people. But he, conscious of his power, spoke the more boldly, addressing himself directly to the poorer sort of the garrison, on whom the siege would press most heavily. His second speech to them is a good illustration of the policy pursued by Assyria at this time towards the cities of Palestine. We know from the annals of Sennacherib that his customary policy, to seduce the populations of a hostile State from allegiance to their rulers, had succeeded in other cases; and it was so plausibly uttered in this case, that it seemed likely to succeed again. To the common soldiers on the walls, with the prospect of being reduced to the foul rations of a prolonged siege (Isaiah 36:12), Sennacherib’s ambassador offers rich and equal property and enjoyment. "Make a treaty with me, and come out to me, and eat every one of his vine and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one of the water of his cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and grapes, a land of bread-corn and orchards. Everyone!"-it is a most subtle assault upon the discipline, comradeship, and patriotism of the common soldiers by the promises of a selfish, sensuous equality and individualism. But then the speaker’s native cynicism gets the better of him-it is not possible for an Assyrian long to play the part of clemency-and, with a flash of scorn, he asks the sad men upon the walls whether they really believe that Jehovah can save them: "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the King of Assyria that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" All the range of their feelings does he thus run through, seeking with sharp words to snap each cord of faith in God, of honour to the king and love of country. Had the Jews heart to answer him, they might point out the inconsistency between his claim to have been sent by Jehovah and the contempt he now pours upon their God. But the inconsistency is characteristic. The Assyrian has some acquaintance with the Jewish faith; he makes use of its articles when they serve his purpose, but his ultimatum is to tear them to shreds in their believers’ faces. He treats the Jews as men of culture still sometimes treat barbarians, first scornfully humouring their faith and then savagely trampling it under foot.

So clever were the speeches of the Rabshakeh. We see why he was appointed to this mission. He was an expert both in the language and religion of this tribe, perched on its rock in the remote Judsean highlands. For a foreigner he showed marvellous familiarity with the temper and internal jealousies of the Jewish religion. He turned these on each other almost as adroitly as Paul himself did in the disputes between Sadducees and Pharisees. How the fellow knew his cleverness, strutting there betwixt army and town! He would show his soldier friends the proper way of dealing with stubborn barbarians. He would astonish those faith-proud highlanders by exhibiting how much he was aware of the life behind their thick walls and silent faces, "for the king’s commandment was, Answer him not."

And yet did the Rabshakeh, with all his raking, know the heart of Judah? No, truly. The whole interest of this man is the incongruity of the expertness and surface-knowledge, which he spattered on Jerusalem’s walls, with the deep secret of God, that, as some inexhaustible well, the fortress of the faith carried within her. Ah, Assyrian, there is more in starved Jerusalem than thou canst put in thy speeches! Suppose Heaven were to give those sharp eyes of thine power to look through the next thousand years, and see this race and this religion thou puffest at, the highest-honoured, hottest-hated of the world, centre of mankind’s regard and debate, but thou, and thy king and all the glory of your empire wrapped deep in oblivion. To this little fortress of highland men shall the heart of great peoples turn: kings for its nursing-fathers and queens for its nursing-mothers, the forces of the Gentiles shall come to it, and from it new civilisations take their laws; while thou and all thy paraphernalia disappear into blackness, haunted only by the antiquary, the world taking an interest in thee just in so far as thou didst once hopelessly attempt to understand Jerusalem and capture her faith by thine own interpretation of it. Curious pigmy, very grand thou thinkest thyself, and surely with some right as delegate of the king of kings, parading thy cleverness and thy bribes before these poor barbarians; but the world, called to look upon you both from this eminence of history, grants thee to be a very good head of an intelligence department, with a couple of languages on thy glib tongue’s end, but adjudges that with the starved and speechless men before thee lies the secret of all that is worth living and dying for in this world.

The Rabshakeh’s plausible futility and Jerusalem’s faith, greatly distressed before him, are typical. Still as men hang moodily over the bulwarks of Zion, doubtful whether life is worth living within the narrow limits which religion prescribes, or righteousness worth fighting for with such privations and hope deferred, comes upon them some elegant and plausible temptation, loudly calling to give the whole thing up. Disregarding the official arguments and evidences that push forward to parley, it speaks home in practical tones to men’s real selves-their appetites and selfishness. "You are foolish fellows," it says, "to confine yourselves to such narrowness of life and self-denial! The fall of your faith is only a matter of time: other creeds have gone; yours must follow. And why fight the world for the sake of an idea, or from the habits of a discipline? Such things only starve the human spirit; and the world is so generous, so free to every one, so tolerant of each enjoying his own, unhampered by authority or religion."

In our day what has the greatest effect on the faith of many men is just this mixture, that pervades the Rabshakeh’s address, -of a superior culture pretending to expose religion, with the easy generosity, which offers to the individual a selfish life, unchecked by any discipline or religious fear. That modern Rabshakeh, Ernest Renan, with the forces of historical criticism at his back, but confident rather in his own skill of address, speaking to us believers as poor picturesque provincials, patronising our Deity, and telling us that he knows His intentions better than we do ourselves, is a very good representative of the enemies of the Faith, who owe their impressiveness upon common men to the familiarity they display with the contents of the Faith, and the independent, easy life they offer to the man who throws his strict faith off. Superior knowledge, with the offer on its lips of a life on good terms with the rich and tolerant world-pretence of promising selfishness-that is today, as then under the walls of Jerusalem, the typical enemy of the Faith. But if faith be held simply as the silent garrison of Jerusalem held it, faith in a Lord God of righteousness, who has given us a conscience to serve Him, and has spoken to us in plain explanation of this by those whom we can see, understand, and trust-not only by an Isaiah, but by a Jesus-then neither mere cleverness nor the ability to promise comfort can avail against our faith. A simple conscience of God and of duty may not be able to answer subtle arguments word for word, but she can feel the incongruity of their cleverness with her own precious secret; she can at least expose the fallacy of their sensuous promises of an untroubled life. No man, who tempts us from a good conscience with God in the discipline of our religion and the comradeship of His people, can ensure that there will be no starvation in the pride of life, no captivity in the easy tolerance of the world. To the heart of man there will always be captivity in selfishness; there will always be exile in unbelief. Even where the romance and sentiment of faith are retained, after the manner of Renan, it is only to mock us with mirage. "As in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, our heart and flesh shall cry out for the living God, as we have aforetime seen Him in the sanctuary." The land in which the tempter promises a life undisturbed by religious restraints is not our home, neither is it freedom. By the conscience that is within us, God has set us on the walls of faith, with His law to observe, with His people to stand by; and against us are the world and its tempters, with all their wiles to be defied. If we go down from the charge and shelter of so simple a religion, then, whatever enjoyment we have, we shall enjoy it only with the fears of the deserter and the greed of the slave.

In spite of scorn and sensuous promise from Rabshakeh to Renan, let us lift the hymn which these silent Jews at last lifted from the walls of their delivered city: "Walk about Zion and go round about her; tell ye the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, and consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation to come. For this God is our God forever and ever. He will be our Guide even unto death."



THE two narratives, in which Isaiah’s career culminates-that of the Deliverance of Jerusalem {Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38} and that of the Recovery of Hezekiah {Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8}-cannot fail, coming together as they do, to suggest to thoughtful readers a striking contrast between Isaiah’s treatment of the community and his treatment of the individual, between his treatment of the Church and his treatment of single members. For in the first of these narratives we are told how an illimitable future, elsewhere so gloriously described by the prophet, was secured for the Church upon earth; but the whole result of the second is the gain for a representative member of the Church of a respite of fifteen years. Nothing, as we have seen, is promised to the dying Hezekiah of a future life; no scintilla of the light of eternity sparkles either in Isaiah’s promise or in Hezekiah’s prayer. The net result of the incident is a reprieve of fifteen years: fifteen years of a character strengthened, indeed, by having met with death, but, it would sadly seem, only in order to become again the prey of the vanities of this world (chapter 39). So meagre a result for the individual stands strangely out against the perpetual glory and peace assured to the community. And it suggests this question: Had Isaiah any real gospel for the individual? If so, what was it?

First of all, we must remember that God in His providence seldom gives to one prophet or generation more than a single main problem for solution. In Isaiah’s day undoubtedly the most urgent problem-and Divine problems are ever practical, not philosophical-was the continuance of the Church upon earth. It had really got to be a matter of doubt whether a body of people possessing the knowledge of the true God, and able to transfuse and transmit it, could possibly survive among the political convulsions of the world, and in consequence of its own sin. Isaiah’s problem was the reformation and survival of the Church. In accordance with this, we notice how many of his terms are collective, and how he almost never addresses the individual. It is the people, upon whom he calls-"the nation," "Israel," "the house of Jacob My vineyard," "the men of Judah His pleasant plantation." To these we may add the apostrophes to the city of Jerusalem, under many personifications: "Ariel, Ariel," "inhabitress of Zion," "daughter of Zion." When Isaiah denounces sin, the sinner is either the whole community or a class in the community, very seldom an individual, though there are some instances of the latter, as Ahaz and Shebna. It is "This people hath rejected," or "The people would not." When Jerusalem collapsed, although there must have been many righteous men still within her, Isaiah said, "What aileth thee that all belonging to thee have gone up to the housetops?". {Isaiah 22:1} His language is wholesale. When he is not attacking society, he attacks classes or groups: "the rulers," the land-grabbers, the drunkards, the sinners, the judges, the house of David, the priests and the prophets, the women. And the sins of these he describes in their social effects, or in their results upon the fate of the whole people; but he never, except in two cases, gives us their individual results. He does not make evident, like Jesus or Paul, the eternal damage a man’s sin inflicts on his own soul. Similarly when Isaiah speaks of God’s grace and salvation the objects of these are again collective-"the remnant; the escaped" (also a collective noun); a "holy seed"; a "’ stock" or "stump." It is a "restored nation" whom he sees under the Messiah, the perpetuity and glory of a city and a State. What we consider to be a most personal and particularly individual matter-the forgiveness of sin-he promises, with two exceptions, only to the community: "This people that dwelleth therein hath its iniquity forgiven." We can understand all this social, collective, and wholesale character of his language only if we keep in mind his Divinely appointed work-the substance and perpetuity of a purified and secure Church of God.

Had Isaiah then no gospel for the individual? This will indeed seem impossible to us if we keep in view the following considerations:-

1. ISAIAH HIMSELF had passed through a powerfully individual experience. He had not only felt the solidarity of the people’s sin-"I dwell among a people of unclean lips"-he had first felt his own particular guilt: "I am a man of unclean lips." One who suffered the private experiences which are recounted in chapter 6; whose "own eyes" had "seen the King, Jehovah of hosts"; who had gathered on his own lips his guilt and felt the fire come from heaven’s altar by an angelic messenger specially to purify him; who had further devoted himself to God’s service with so thrilling a sense of his own responsibility, and had so thereby felt his solitary and individual mission-he surely was not behind the very greatest of Christian saints in the experience of guilt, of personal obligation to grace and of personal responsibility. Though the record of Isaiah’s ministry contains no narratives, such as fill the ministries of Jesus and Paul, of anxious care for individuals, could he who wrote of himself that sixth chapter have failed to deal with men as Jesus dealt with Nicodemus, or Paul with the Philippian gaoler? It is not picturesque fancy, nor merely a reflection of the New Testament temper, if we realise Isaiah’s intervals of relief from political labour and religious reform occupied with an attention to individual interests, which necessarily would not obtain the permanent record of his public ministry. But whether this be so or not, the sixth chapter teaches that for Isaiah all public conscience and public labour found its necessary preparation in personal religion.

2. But, again, Isaiah had an INDIVIDUAL FOR HIS IDEAL. To him the future was not only an established State; it was equally, it was first, a glorious king. Isaiah was an Oriental. We moderns of the West place our reliance upon institutions; we go forward upon ideas. In the East it is personal influence that tells, persons who are expected, followed, and fought for. The history of the West is the history of the advance of thought, of the rise and decay of institutions, to which the greatest individuals are more or less subordinate. The history of the East is the annals of personalities; justice and energy in a ruler, not political principles, are what impress the Oriental imagination. Isaiah has carried this Oriental hope to a distinct and lofty pitch. The Hero whom he exalts on the margin of the future, as its Author, is not only a person of great majesty, but a character of considerable decision. At first only the rigorous virtues of the ruler are attributed to Him, {Isaiah 11:1 ff.} but afterwards the graces and: influence of a much broader and sweeter humanity. {Isaiah 32:2} Indeed, in this latter oracle we saw that Isaiah spoke not so much of his great Hero, as of what any individual might become. "A man," he says, "shall be as a hiding-place from the wind." Personal influence is the spring of social progress, the shelter and fountain force of the community. In the following verses the effect of so pure and inspiring a presence is traced in the discrimination of individual character-each man standing out for what he is-which Isaiah defines as his second requisite for social progress. In all this there is much for the individual to ponder, much to inspire him with a sense of the value and responsibility of his own character, and with the certainty that by himself he shall be judged and by himself stand or fall. "The worthless person shall be no more called princely, nor the knave said to be bountiful."

3. If any details of character are wanting in the picture of Isaiah’s hero, they are supplied by HEZEKIAH’S SELF-ANALYSIS (chapter 38). We need not repeat what we have said in the previous chapter of the king’s appreciation of what is the strength of a man’s character, and particularly of how character grows by grappling with death. In this matter the most experienced of Christian saints may learn from Isaiah’s pupil.

Isaiah had then, without doubt, a gospel for the individual; and to this day the individual may plainly read it in his book, may truly, strongly, joyfully live by it-so deeply does it begin, so much does it help to self-knowledge and self-analysis, so lofty are the ideals and responsibilities which it presents. But is it true that Isaiah’s gospel is for this life only?

Was Isaiah’s silence on the immortality of the individual due wholly to the cause we have suggested in the beginning of this chapter-that God gives to each prophet his single problem, and that the problem of Isaiah was the endurance of the Church upon earth? There is no doubt that this is only partly the explanation.

The Hebrew belonged to a branch of humanity-the Semitic-which, as its history proves, was unable to develop any strong imagination of, or practical interest in, a future life apart from foreign influence or Divine revelation. The pagan Arabs laughed at Mahommed when he preached to them of the Resurrection; and even to-day, after twelve centuries of Moslem influence, their descendants in the centre of Arabia, according to the most recent authority, fail to form a clear conception of, or indeed to take almost any practical interest in, another world. The northern branch of the race, to which the Hebrews belonged, derived from an older civilisation a prospect of Hades, that their own fancy developed with great elaboration. This prospect, however, which we shall describe fully in connection with chapters 14 and 26, was one absolutely hostile to the interests of character in this life. It brought all men, whatever their life had been on earth, at last to a dead level of unsubstantial and hopeless existence. Good and evil, strong and weak, pious and infidel, alike became shades, joyless and hopeless, without even the power to praise God. We have seen in Hezekiah’s case how such a prospect unnerved the most pious souls, and that revelation, even though represented at his bedside by an Isaiah, offered him no hope of an issue from it. The strength of character, however, which Hezekiah professes to have won in grappling with death, added to the closeness of communion with God which he enjoyed in this life, only brings out the absurdity of such a conclusion to life as the prospect of Sheol offered to the individual. If he was a pious man, if he was a man who had never felt himself deserted by God in this life, he was bound to revolt from so God-forsaken an existence after death. This was actually the line along which the Hebrew spirit went out to victory over those gloomy conceptions of death, that were yet unbroken by a risen Christ. "Thou wilt not," the saint triumphantly cried, "leave my soul in Sheol, nor wilt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption." It was faith in the almightiness and reasonableness of God’s ways, it was conviction of personal righteousness, it was the sense that the Lord would not desert His own in death, which sustained the believer in face of that awful shadow through which no light of revelation had yet broken.

If, these, then, were the wings by which a believing soul under the Old Testament soared over the grave, Isaiah may be said to have contributed to the hope of personal immortality just in so far as he strengthened them. By enhancing as he did the value and beauty of individual character, by emphasising the indwelling of God’s Spirit, he was bringing life and immortality to light, even though be spoke no word to the dying about the fact of a glorious life beyond the grave. By assisting to create in the individual that character and sense of God, which alone could assure him he would never die, but pass from the praise of the Lord in this life to a nearer enjoyment of His presence beyond, Isaiah was working along the only line by which the Spirit of God seems to have assisted the Hebrew mind to an assurance of heaven.

But further in his favourite gospel of the REASONABLENESS OF GOD - that God does not work fruitlessly, nor create and cultivate with a view to judgment and destruction-Isaiah was furnishing an argument for personal immortality, tile force of which has not been exhausted. In a recent work on "The Destiny of Man" the philosophic author maintains the reasonableness of the Divine methods as a ground of belief both in the continued progress of the race upon earth and in the immortality of the individual. "From the first dawning of life we see all things working together toward one mighty goal-the evolution of the most exalted and spiritual faculties which characterise humanity. Has all this work been done for nothing? Is it all ephemeral, all a bubble that bursts, a vision that fades? On such a view the riddle of the universe becomes a riddle without a meaning. The more thoroughly we comprehend the process of evolution by which things have come to be what they are, the more we are likely to feel that to deny the everlasting persistence of the spiritual element in man is to rob the whole process of its meaning. It goes far toward putting us to permanent intellectual confusion. For my own part, I believe in the immortality of the soul, not in the sense in which I accept demonstrable truths of science, but as a supreme act of faith in the reasonableness of God’s work."

From the same argument Isaiah drew only the former of these two conclusions. To him the certainty that God’s people would survive the impending deluge of Assyria’s brute force was based on his faith that the Lord is "a God of judgment," of reasonable law and method, and could not have created or fostered so spiritual a people only to destroy them. The progress of religion upon earth was certain. But does not Isaiah’s method equally make for the immortality of the individual? He did not draw this conclusion, but he laid down its premises with a confidence and richness of illustration that have never been excelled.

We, therefore answer the question we put at the beginning of the chapter thus:-Isaiah had a gospel for the individual for this life, and all the necessary premises of a gospel for the individual for the life to come.

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