Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT TROUBLE MAY FOLLOW FAITHFULNESS AS IT DOES FOLLOW SIN. We never read of Israel's serious departure from their loyalty to Jehovah without reading of appropriate penalty coming in due course. Suffering always waits on sin - suffering in some form. But sometimes, as here, trouble comes to the right-hearted; to the nation which has Hezekiah for its king, and Isaiah for its prophet; to the man who is zealous in the cause of his Divine Lord. "Many are the afflictions [even] of the righteous, and sometimes great as well as many. They have a work to do within and beyond, the value of which will immeasurably outweigh the "grievousness of the present" (Hebrews 12:11).
II. THAT IT SHOULD BE MET WITH COURAGE, ENERGY, INTELLIGENCE, AND PIETY. These qualities Hezekiah was now showing. He had given way to trepidation, and he had resorted to means which were unworthy of his position and his piety (see 2 Kings 18:9-16). But now he was in a nobler mood. His courage rose to the occasion (ver. 7); his energy was manifested in the effective measures (vers. 4, 5) he took to distress and to disappoint the enemy; his intelligence was shown in his taking counsel with the strongest and wisest of his people, in the rapidity of the measures he adopted and in their sagacity, and also in his effort to inspire the people with confidence and security; his piety shone forth in his address to the people, calling on them to remember that they had not an "arm of flesh," but "the Lord their God," to lean upon. Let us meet any form of trouble - disappointment, loss, bereavement, sickness, or any affliction whatsoever - in this spirit and with these qualities, and it will not master us; we shall prevail over it. It will not leave desolation and ruin in its track; it will rather leave benefit and blessing behind it.
III. THAT WHEN WE ARE ATTACKED OUR AIM SHOULD BE TO DEFEAT THE ENEMY'S INTENTION. This is not altogether the truism it may seem. Too often men think that their duty and their wisdom under attack is to reply to the enemy in the same form in which he is assailing them. But that may be most unwise. Just as Hezekiah considered what Sennacherib was aiming at, and took prompt and able measures to defeat that purpose; so we should always consider, not the kind of warfare, but the "real objective," the ultimate purpose of our enemy, and should set to work to prevent its realization. He may only be wanting to provoke and disturb us, and we shall absolutely defeat his purpose by not allowing ourselves to be provoked or disturbed; he may be desirous of inducing us to take some compromising step, and we shall gain the victory by refusing to be drawn in that direction; he may want to bring himself into notoriety, and we shall defeat him by quietly letting him alone, etc. Consider his aim, and move so as to thwart that.
IV. THAT RECTITUDE IS THE STRENGTH OF ANY CAUSE OR KINGDOM. Sennacherib's multitude of soldiery was nothing whatever when he deliberately and ostentatiously arrayed them against the living God. Hezekiah's army was indifferent in size and (probably) in military equipment and training, but what mattered that so long as they had righteousness in their ranks and God for their Leader? We are not, indeed, to despise the means which we employ, but it is so much that we may say that it is everything to know and feel that our cause is just, that we ourselves are upright in our heart and character, and that, with perfect purity and simplicity of spirit, we can ask God's blessing on our efforts. - C.
I. THE DATE,
1. Indefinitely. "After these things, and this faithfulness" (ver. 1); i.e. after the great Passover, which terminated in the destruction of the symbols of idolatry throughout the land, with the restoration of the true worship of Jehovah in Connection with the reopened and purified temple (ch. 30., 31.), and after the singular display of zeal and piety on the part of Hezekiah in furthering that good work. How long after not stated; the juxtaposition of the Passover and the invasion favours the idea that the former fell not in Hezekiah's first year, but after his sixth (see homily on 2 Chronicles 30:2), since the latter cannot be placed earlier than eight years after the fall of Samaria, B.C. 720.
2. Definitely. "In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah" (2 Kings 18:13; Isaiah 36:1). If this date be correct, the invasion referred to cannot have been that of Sennacherib ( B.C. 701), eighteen or nineteen years after the capture of the northern capital, or in Hezekiah's twenty-fourth year, but must have been an expedition of Sargon, who, ten years earlier ( B.C. 711), marched against "the people of Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab," who had formed an alliance with the King of Egypt - a monarch who could not save them; and in particular besieged and took Ashdod (Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' pp. 291, 292). The expedition against Ashdod (Isaiah 20:1) was conducted by Sargon's tartan, or commander-in-chief, "while Sargon himself overran ' the wide-spreading land of Judah,' and captured its capital, Jerusalem." The invasion of Jerusalem is referred to in Isaiah 10., as Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Damascus, and Samaria, were conquests, not of Sennacherib, but of Sargon (Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., p. 137); and beyond question this must be the invasion to which 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:13) and Isaiah (Isaiah 36:1) allude, if the date given by them be correct. If, however, Sennacherib's invasion is meant, an error must have crept into the text with reference to the date, and "twenty-fourth" will require to be substituted for the "fourteenth." Kleinert, Sayce, and Professor Cheyne ('The Prophecies of Isaiah,' 1:201-210) adopt the former view, that in 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:13), 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 37:1), and Isaiah (Isaiah 37:1) "Sargon" should be read for "Sennacherib" - an opinion with which G. Smith. appears to coincide ('Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 293); but Schrader, ('Die Keilinschnften, pp. 309, 310), Robertson Smith ('The Prophets of Israel, p. 295), Rawlinson ('Kings of Israel and Judah,' p. 187), and Canon Driver ('Isaiah: his Life and Times,' p. 49) regard this view as insufficiently established, and believe the invasion alluded to in all these passages to be that of Sennacherib.
II. THE INVADER.
1. Sargon (to adopt the alternative view above referred to). On the monuments, Sarru-kinu, "Strong is the king," or Sar-ukin, "He [God] appointed the king." One of Shalmaneser's generals, probably his tartan, or commander-in-chief, who, on Shalmaneser's death during the siege of Samaria (B.C. 723-720), seized the crown and assumed the name Sargon, "in memory of the famous Babylonian monarch who had reigned so many centuries before" (Sayce). Whether, like Tiglath-Pileser II., he had sprung from the ranks (Sayce), or was of kingly descent, probably proceeding from a collateral branch of the royal family (Schrader), cannot be decided; but he was one of the most brilliant potentates that ever sat on the Assyrian throne. A rough and energetic soldier, he conquered in succession Samaria, Egypt, Ashdod, (Jerusalem?), and Babylon, and destroyed the independence of the Hittites at Car-chemish. The town of Khorsabad, Dur-Surrukin, the city of Sargon, opposite Mosul, and ten miles from Nineveh, "in the country which borders the mountains," was founded by him ('Records,' etc., 11:33).
2. Sennacherib. On the monuments, Sin-ahi-irib, or Sin-ahi-ir-ba, "(The god) Sin multiplies the brothers," - Sargon's son, who, after his father's assassination, ascended the throne of Assyria on the 12th of Ab (July), B.C. 705. "Brought up in the purple, he displayed none of the rugged virtues of his father. He was weak, boastful, and cruel, and preserved his empire only by the help of the veterans and generals whom Sargon had trained" (Sayce, 'Assyria,' etc., p. 41). This, of course, was not the opinion of Sennacherib, who, in an inscription on one of the gigantic bulls guarding the entrance to his palace, speaks of himself as "Sennacherib, great prince, powerful prince, prince of legions, king of the land of Assyria, king of the four regions, worshipped of the great gods, valiant, the manly, the brave, chief of the kings of disobedient people, subverter of evil designs" ('Records,' etc., 7:59). Oriental sovereigns generally had not studied Proverbs 27:2, and had no notion of underrating their own virtues, or modestly concealing their own merit.
III. THE OBJECT.
1. Proximate. To besiege and capture or break down the fenced cities of Judah (ver. 1). According to 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:13) and Isaiah (Isaiah 36:1), Sennacherib (or Sargon) was in this successful (cf. Isaiah 10:5-10). This, according to the monuments, Sargon did while his tartan was besieging Ashdod, s.c. 711 (Sayce), or in connection with his earlier expedition against Hanno of Gaza and Seveh the Sultan of Egypt in B.C. 720 (Sehrader); and Sennacherib in B.C. 701 by besieging, capturing, and plundering forty-six of Hezekiah's cities, "strong fortresses and cities without number" ('Records,' etc., 7:62).
2. Ultimate. To capture Jerusalem, which also, according to the monuments, was taken by Sargon, but not by Sennacherib. The assertion of the Chronicler with reference to the Assyrian king, that "his face was to fight against Jerusalem," was applicable to both sovereigns, though only of Sargon was it true that Jerusalem was taken. Sennacherib besieged Hezekiah, shutting him up "like a caged bird in the midst of the city of his royalty" ('Records,' etc., 7:62); but Jehovah "put a hook into his nose, and a bridle into his lips," and sent him back the way by which he came, without permitting him to enter the city (Isaiah 37:29-37). If Isaiah 10. refers to Sargon's invasion (Sayce), it would seem as if the capital had been taken (see vers. 6, 12, 22, 24, 34).
IV. THE RESISTANCE. Hezekiah adopted measures to meet the attack of Sargon, or of Sennacherib, on his capital.
1. A council of war called. Attended by his princes and mighty men, i.e. his statesmen and the generals of his army (ver. 3), who advised that steps should be taken to protect the metropolis, and lent him their aid for that purpose (ver. 3). Probably they also recommended Hezekiah, besides looking for help to Egypt, to join the league Merodach-Baladan of Babylonia was forming against Sargon; or, if the later date be adopted, to seek the aid of Tirhakah against Sennacherib.
2. The water supplies outside the city stopped.
(1) The reason - that the Assyrian kings should not find much water (ver. 4). Without water it would be impossible to conduct a protracted siege.
(2) The mode - by covering up the fountains outside Jerusalem, and leading their waters by subterranean channels into the city (ver 3; cf 2 Kings 20:20). "The brook that flowed through the midst of the land, i.e. the Gihon which flowed through the valley of that name on the west side of Jerusalem, connecting the upper pool of Gihon (Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 36:2), the present-day Birket Mamilla, with the under or lower pool (Isaiah 22:9), the modern Birket-es-Sultan, was likewise dried up by the waters of the two springs being drained off by a conduit, and led into a great cistern within the city walls, called Hezekiah's pool, close by the gate of Gennath" (Weser, in Riehm, art. "Gihon"); or, should the Gihon be sought in the spring Ain Sitti Marjam, outside the east wall (Miihlau, in Riehm, art. "Jerusalem;" Conder, 'Handbook,' etc., p. 339), then the reservoir into which the waters were conducted will have been one of the four smaller pools in the neighbourhood of the pool of Siloam, if not that of Siloam itself (Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., pp. 97-107). Warren locates the Gihon spring in the Tyropoean valley, and says it has not yet been discovered ('Picturesque Palestine,' 1:113; cf. 'The Recovery of Jerusalem,' p. 237). That similar stratagems were adopted when Sargon's tartan was at Ashdod, and Sargon himself was expected at Jerusalem, may be inferred from the fact that Sargon says of the Ashdodites, "Their cities they prepared to make war... against capture they fortified its (capital)... around it a ditch they excavated. Twenty cubits (thirty-four feet) in its depth they made it, and they brought the waters of the springs in front of the city" (Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' pp. 290, 291). That corresponding measures were resorted to in the time of Sennacherib, Isaiah (Isaiah 22:9-11) shows.
(3) The urgency. So great and obvious that the inhabitants generally assisted in the work (ver. 4).
3. The city fortifications increased.
(1) Hezekiah built up all the wall that was broken down, i.e. wherever he found a breach he repaired, or a weak part he strengthened it. The prudence of this was apparent. The strength of a wall or fortress is not more than that of its weakest part, as the strength of a chain is that of its feeblest link.
(2) He raised the existing wall to the height of the towers on it, or increased the height of the towers, or ascended the towers upon the walls to make a survey of the situation, and direct the labours of his masons and engineers.
(3) Outside of the existing wall he erected another, which enclosed the lower city, Acra.
(4) He repaired the castle-fortress Millo, in the city of David, which had been built by Solomon (1 Kings 9:24).
(5) He provided weapons and shields in abundance, as had been done by his grandfather Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:14), whom in military genius he considerably resembled. An inscription of Sennacherib mentions that Hezekiah "had given commandment to renew the bulwarks of the great gate of his city" (this may suggest that the bulwarks had suffered damage in an earlier siege), and that "workmen, soldiers, and builders for the fortification of Jerusalem his royal city he had collected within it" ('Records,' etc., 1:41).
4. The city population armed. All the able-bodied men of the metropolis were enlisted, divided into companies, placed under regular military commanders, and drilled, just as is done by modern peoples when expecting an invasion.
5. The extemporized army reviewed. By the king's orders the troops were mustered in the broad place at the east gate of the city (see on 2 Chronicles 29:4).
6. The soldiers suitably addressed. He encouraged them in their work of defence, as at the great Passover he had encouraged the Levites in their temple duties (2 Chronicles 30:32).
(1) Spirited exhortations.
(a) "Be strong." So the Philistine generals charged their troops when fighting against Israel (1 Samuel 4:9); so David, dying, exhorted Solomon succeeding (1 Kings 2:2); so Oded counselled Asa returning from war (2 Chronicles 15:7); so Paul recommends Christians for the fight of faith (1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1).
(b) "Be courageous." So Joab had encouraged David's army against the Syrians (2 Samuel 10:12); and Jehoshaphat the Levites and priests in their duties (2 Chronicles 19:11); so Peter advises the followers of Christ (2 Peter 1:5).
(c) "Be not afraid or dismayed." So Jahaziel to Jehoshaphat's troops (2 Chronicles 20:15-17); and Isaiah to Ahaz when threatened by Rezin and Pekah (2 Chronicles 7:4); so Christ to his disciples (John 6:20).
(2) Effective arguments.
(b) Particular: that he had only frail human power to lean upon - men and horses without number, but still only "an arm of flesh" (cf. Jeremiah 17:5; Psalm 56:5; Isaiah 21:3); whereas they had Jehovah their God to keep them and fight their battles, as Moses (Exodus 14:14), Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:12), and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:17) had; and as Christians may have (Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:31).
7. The confidence of the people raised. They rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah (ver. 8). In the face of Isaiah's accusation (Isaiah 22:11) this can hardly mean that they placed an unreserved and exclusive trust in Jehovah. The prophet rather charges them with trusting less to him than to their defensive preparations.
1. The military spirit essentially an aggressive spirit.
2. The best bulwarks of a nation are the pious lives of its people.
3. The necessity of combining faith and works in ordinary matters as well as in things of the spirit.
4. Confidence in God the best protection against fear of man.
5. The certainty that none can be victorious who fight against God, or be defeated for whom God fights. - W.
I. THE FOLLY OF RESTING ON THE USE OF FORMULAE. There are some sacred forms or phrases, theological or scriptural, which have been much urged upon men, as if they had some very special potency in them; as if we could be perfectly at rest, in regard to human souls, if they did but pronounce those particular phrases with their lips. Such superstition as this is pitiable and perilous. It is utterly without warrant, and it is likely to withdraw the soul from that true trust in which life is to be found. To believe in Jesus Christ can never be resolved into the use of any form of words, how~ ever excellent or scriptural such form may be.
II. THE CONFIDENCE WHICH IS FATAL, viz. to rest upon the words of those who are unworthy of our trust. How many of the children of men have lost everything that is most precious because they have made this fatal mistake! Of those whose words should never be built upon are:
1. The ignorant, whose range of knowledge is very small, and who have not had the opportunity of learning the ascertainable truth and wisdom of God.
2. The prejudiced and obdurate, who will not learn, and therefore do not know and cannot counsel.
3. The superficial, who are contented with a knowledge which does not reach "the deep heart of truth."
4. The false, who only say what they think is palatable and profitable.
5. The fickle, who have one doctrine to-day, but may have a different one to-morrow.
III. THE TRUST WHICH IS SOUND AND WISE. There are words on which we may build. When God speaks to us we know that we may rest on his Word absolutely; we know that we should heed his warnings, and that we may build on his promises. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," etc. But how shall we know when Christ is speaking to us? Many speak in his name who do not speak on his authority.
1. We should pay regard to the words of those who profess to speak for him, and whose character for purity and unselfishness sustains their claim (Matthew 7:15-20).
2. We should heed the words of those of his disciples who urge that which meets our spiritual necessities and accords with the deepest convictions of our nature.
3. We should consult the Master's own recorded words, always remembering that they are to be interpreted in the spirit, and not in the letter. If we do this we shall not only be "resting on words," we shall be building on the rock, for we shall be abiding in the truth; we shall be grounded on the very wisdom of God itself, or (we may say) on the Wisdom of God himself (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). - C.
I. THE HISTORY OF THE HAUGHTY.
1. Appearances are all on its side. It has apparently overwhelming numbers, superior military training and equipments, the prestige of previous success and acknowledged worldly power.
2. It is honeycombed with spiritual evil. It is
(1) lamentably ignorant of the truth which it distorts (ver. 12);
(2) scornful (ver. 11), indulging in a contemptuous spirit and correspondingly contemptuous language;
(3) pride, and its accompanying vain-gloriousness (vers. 13-15);
(4) impiety, speaking of the living God as if he were to be classed with the gods of the heathen (vers. 13, 15). All these evil tempers and baneful utterances are serious sins, either against self or against others, or directly against God.
3. It draws down upon itself the decisive displeasure of the Divine Ruler. For the vauntful Sennacherib, who made so sure of an easy victory and an added honour, there was reserved, in the righteous providence of God, a calamitous disaster (ver. 21; and see 2 Kings 19:15) and bitter shame. "So he returned with shame of face to his own land" (ver. 21). Thus he that exalted himself was abased; and thus the haughty may expect to be brought low, for there are two powers working against them.
(1) The moral condition of haughty-heartedness is one that conducts almost certainly to negligence, to imprudence, to some fatal error of either action or inaction.
(2) God's high displeasure is kindled against them. Again and again has he "revealed his wrath" against this evil and baneful passion. To fall under its power is penalty indeed, but it leads on and down to other sorrows.
II. THE HISTORY OF THE HUMBLE. Humility, in the person of the godly Hezekiah, presents an opposite picture to that of his formidable and defiant enemy.
1. It is apparently in great peril. The outward and visible forces - those of this world - are decidedly against it. If the race were always to the swift and the battle to the strong, there would be no chance for humility. It would never clasp the goal, nor win the victory.
2. Its character is one of beauty and of piety. There is no little moral comeliness in humility; it is "fair to see;" it attracts the gaze of the purest eyes above and below. Moreover, its spirit is reverent; it knows its own helplessness, and it looks upward for the aid it needs; it "cries to Heaven" (ver. 20); it leans on God.
3. Its end is not only deliverance, but honour. The Lord saved Hezekiah from the hand of Sennacherib (ver. 22); and to the King of Judah were brought valuable gifts, and "he was magnified in the sight of all nations" (ver. 23). Concerning humility now, as it may appear in all men's hearts, we may say that
(1) it is a fair and beautiful grace in itself, most worth possessing for its own sake, really enriching its subject;
(3) it will be honoured in due time. Not only is it the case that humility introduces us into the kingdom of Christ, but it is also true that it leads us on to an advanced position in that kingdom. "The lowly heart that leans on thee" is not only "happy everywhere," but it is spiritually prosperous everywhere; it is certain to receive proofs of Divine regard, probably in human estimation (as with Hezekiah); but, if not thus, in some other way of gracious and gladdening enlargement. - C.
I. SENNACHERIB'S ENCAMPMENT AT LACHISH. Fifteen or eighteen hours west-south-west of Jerusalem, in the low country of Judah, on the confines of Philistia, fourteen miles north-east of Gaza, Lachish (see on 2 Chronicles 11:9; 2 Chronicles 25:27) - on the monuments Lakis - according to a slab in the British Museum, was a walled town with towers and battlements, whose power of resistance was so great as to demand a protracted siege.
1. Sennacherib's route thither. From the north - not by the military road through Nazareth, Jezreel, Sichem, Bethel, At, Michmash, Geba, Rama, Gibeah, Anathoth, Nob (Isaiah 10:28-32), Sargon's route (Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., p. 137), but by Sidon, Akko, Joppa, Bene-berak, Beth-dagon, Ekron, and Ashdod (Schrader, p. 386).
2. Sennacherib's employment there.
(1) Besieging Lachish. Sennacherib's annals furnish no account of this siege; but some sculptured slabs in the British Museum represent a large city "defended by double walls, with battlements and towers and by fortified outworks," for the capture of which Sennacherib brought up his whole army, "and raised against the fortifications as many as ten banks or mounts, completely built of stones, bricks, earth, and branches of trees" (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 149). That this was Lachish is rendered probable by the circumstance that one of these slabs depicts the capture of Lachish, the inscription reading, "Sennacherib, the king of multitudes, the King of Assyria, sat on an upright throne, and the spoil of the city of Lachish passed before him" (ibid., p. 150). "The besieged defended themselves with great determination, thronged the battlements and towers, showering arrows, javelins, stones, and blazing torches upon the assailants," while the Assyrians "poured water with large ladies upon the flaming brands which threatened to destroy their engines" (ibid., p. 149). The stubborn resistance of Lachish no doubt delayed the advance of Sennacherib's whole force against Jerusalem ('Records,' etc., 1:35).
(2) Receiving Hezekiah's submission. Hezekiah had rebelled against the Assyrian supremacy in the days of Shalmaneser (2 Kings 18:7), but had again been placed under it by Sargon. On Sargon's assassination ( B.C. 705) the kings of Sidon, Ascalon, and Judah formed an alliance with Egypt and Ethiopia to once more break the oppressive yoke of Assyria. The league was joined by the Ekronites, against the will of Padi their prince, who remained faithful to Assyria, and whom they "placed in chains of iron, and unto Hezekiah King of Judah delivered," who "shut him up in darkness (or prison)." Before the allies could unite their forces, Sennacherib appeared upon the scene, having obtained a hint of the confederacy being formed against him. First he swooped down upon Luliah the King of Sidon, who fled to a distant spot in the middle of the sea, leaving to the mercy of the conqueror "his strong cities and castles, walled and fenced, and his finest garrison towns." Next the kings of Samaria, Sidon, Arvad, Gubal, Ashded, Beth-Ammon, Moab, and Edom, hastened to meet the invader with "great presents," and kiss his feet. Zedek of Ascalon, who, along with Judah, still stood out, was, with his wife, sons, daughters, brothers, and gods, apprehended and deported to Assyria. At Lachish a halt was made to await the Ethiopian and Assyrian kings, who were soon after defeated at Altaku, the Eltekon of Joshua 15:59. Dreading the fate he saw approaching, Hezekiah despatched an embassy to Lachish, proffering submission, and agreeing to pay whatever tribute might be asked (2 Kings 18:14). Sennacherib demanded three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. The monuments give the tribute as eight hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold, and state that it was sent to Nineveh after Sennacherib, with "woven cloth, scarlet, embroidered; precious stones of large size, couches of ivory, movable thrones of ivory, skins, and teeth of buffaloes - all sorts of treasures, his (Hezekiah's) daughters, the male and female inmates of his palace, as also male and female slaves." The discrepancy as to the number of silver talents may be explained by supposing different standards of value to have been employed in reckoning, while the biblical account of the place to which the tribute was sent is clearly to be preferred. In order to pay the exaction Hezekiah appropriated all the silver in the temple, and the treasures in the palace, as well as stripped the gold from off the doors and pillars of the former (2 Kings 18:15, 16). ('Records,' etc., 1:33, etc.; Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 295, etc.; Schrader, 'Die Keilinschriften,' p. 291, etc.; Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., p. 139, etc.)
II. SENNACHERIB'S COMMISSION TO HIS GENERALS. These generals were three in number.
1. Their titles.
(2) Rabsaris, "chief of the eunuchs" (2 Kings 18:17), probably Sennacherib's lord chamberlain, whose duty was to act as official scribe.
(3) Rabshakeh, "chief of the cup-bearers" (2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 36:2). As the inscriptions never speak of this court official as a military personage, it has been suggested (Schrader, p. 319) that Rabshakeh is a Hebraized or Aramaized form of Rabsak, meaning "upper chief, superior officer," perhaps Sennacherib's prime minister. Tiglath-Pileser II. had a general of this name, whom he sent to Tyre (Smith's 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 264). The Rabshakeh was obviously the orator of Sennacherib's three (2 Kings 18:19). The tartan was most likely too exalted a personage to hold either oral or written communications with the king's enemies.
2. Their commission. To advance, with a detachment of the army, against Jerusalem, with the view of intimidating it into surrender; failing in this, to prosecute against it a siege. Sennacherib was most likely moved to this by the report of the approach of the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia; before encountering these, it was clearly to his advantage to reduce both Ekron and Jerusalem.
III. SENNACHERIB'S ADDRESS TO THE KING AND INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM. Not delivered in person, but through "his servants" (ver. 9), and in particular Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:19; Isaiah 36:2-4). Nor spoken directly to Hezekiah and his people, but to Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, who was over the household, i.e. the king's high steward (Isaiah 22:20), to Shebna the scribe, or king's secretary, who had lately been deposed from the office of high steward (Isaiah 22:15-19) because of favouring the interest of Assyria, and to Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder, or king's annalist. Standing by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field, where Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub had met with Ahaz when the Syro-Israelitish invasion was threatened (Isaiah 7:3), and where the Assyrian army was now encamped, over against the Gennath Gate, in front of which the envoys of Hezekiah stood, while the inhabitants crowded round it and even sat upon the city wall, observing the scene (Isaiah 22:1-13), - Rabshakeh, in the name of his master, called upon the king and his subjects to surrender, using the Hebrew tongue, that the inhabitants might understand, and becoming alarmed, induce their rulers to submit. The points in Rabshakeh's harangue, considerably shortened by the Chronicler, were two.
1. That the hope of deliverance held out by Hezekiah was a delusion. If their confidence was based upon expected assistance from Egypt, they would soon know that Pharaoh was "a bruised reed, upon which, if a man leant, it would go into his hand and pierce it" (2 Kings 18:21); if it was Jehovah to whom Hezekiah was persuading them to turn their gaze (ver. 11; cf. 2 Kings 18:22; Isaiah 36:7), that source of succour would prove as little satisfactory.
(1) Because it was not likely Jehovah would extend aid to one who had so openly insulted him as Hezekiah had done by taking away his high places and altars, and commanding all Jerusalem and Judah to worship at one altar (ver. 12). Either the fame of Hezekiah's reformation had travelled to Nineveh, or Sennacherib had heard of it since coming into the country. if he had not learnt of it from Sargon his father. But Sennacherib either wilfully, or most likely ignorantly, misrepresented Hezekiah's action as one that would rather cause him to forfeit than gain the Divine favour. So the best deeds of men are often misunderstood, and their good conversation falsely accused by others who speak against them as evildoers (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:16).
(2) Because, even although Jehovah did extend aid to Hezekiah, it would come to nothing. Jehovah would prove as powerless as the gods of other nations had done. Not one of these had been able to oppose the resistless march of Sennacherib and his predecessors on the Assyrian throne, or to deliver from destruction the peoples that served them; and if these had failed to render effectual aid to their devotees, much more would Jehovah fail in protecting his (vers. 13-15; cf. 2 Kings 18:33-35; Isaiah 36:11-13). Sennacherib forgot, as Sargon had done before him, that the power of himself and his fathers over the nations and their gods arose from this - that Assyria was the rod of Jehovah's anger (Isaiah 10:5-19), and that whensoever Jehovah pleased he could cause the Assyrian, who smote with a rod, to be beaten down (Isaiah 30:31).
2. That their resistance would entail upon them all the horrors of a siege. They would certainly perish by famine and by thirst (ver. 11), if not by the sword, since their escape was impossible. Neither Sennacherib nor his generals guessed the resources of the God of Judah; had they done so, their attitude would have been less defiant and their language less confident. Events were to teach them that what was impossible for man was both possible and easy for God. Learn:
1. The presumption of some wicked men.
2. The impotence of all heathen gods.
3. The supremacy of the one living and true God.
4. The security of those whom Jehovah defends. - W.
I. SENNACHERIB AND HIS GENERALS. Their renewed efforts to take the city.
1. The letter of Sennacherib to Hezekiah. (Ver. 17.) The tartan with his assistants having failed to either storm Jerusalem or intimidate its inhabitants, returned, or more probably despatched, Rabshakeh to his master for further instructions. Sennacherib was now at Libnah, a few miles nearer Jerusalem than Lachish, which in the interval had capitulated. Learning that the King of Egypt was on the way north to give him battle, he sent back Rabshakeh, accompanied, by special messengers, bearing a letter to Hezekiah to expedite the taking of the city. The letter when received was read by Hezekiah with indignation and alarm. It contained a repetition with emphasis of what had been uttered by Rabshakeh in the hearing of the king's envoys and of the inhabitants of the city. Of course, the mere reassertion of Rabshakeh's boastings, though in the form of a letter from Sennacherib himself. did not make them the less false, insolent, or blasphemous.
2. The railings of Sennacherib's generals. As before by Rabshakeh, so a second time by the generals and perhaps also the messengers (ver. 18). To the people on the town wall in their own tongue were addressed words meant to terrify and persuade to capitulation - loud, boastful, arrogant, blasphemous reproaches against Jehovah. putting him on a level with idols, the works of men's hands, and declaring him to be as powerless as these (ver. 19), little dreaming they were so soon and so completely to be undeceived (ver. 21). So men often hug to their bosoms the false ideas they have formed of the Christian's God, without thinking that in a moment, by being admitted through death's portal into his presence, they may be proved to have been deceived.
II. HEZEKIAH AND HIS PROPHET. Their supplications to the God of heaven (ver. 20).
(1) Where offered. "In the house of the Lord." Having read the Assyrian's letter, Hezekiah repaired to the temple and spread it before the Lord; in which act lay a double propriety - Jehovah having invited his people to call upon him in the day of trouble (Psalm 1:15), and promised to deliver them (Psalm 91:15); and Jehovah being the One most insulted by Sennacherib's reproaches.
(2) To whom addressed. To Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel, whose presence was with his people, who alone governed the nations, and was supreme Creator of heaven and earth (cf. Jehoshaphat's prayer, 2 Chronicles 20:6-12).
(3) In what terms couched. Earnest, reverential, direct, and hopeful. Requesting a favourable audience for his intercession, he first called God to see and hear the reproaches of Sennacherib, next acknowledged the truth of Sennacherib's language concerning the gods of the nations he destroyed, and finally besought God to show that he alone was God, by saving them out of the King of Assyria's hand.
(4) With what result followed. It was answered by Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who, speaking in God's name, assured him that "Sennacherib should not come into the city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it, but should return by the way that he came, and should not come into the city" (2 Kings 19:32, 33; Isaiah 37:33, 34).
2. The prayer of Isaiah. Though not recorded by the writer of 2 Kings that Isaiah prayed along with or in addition to Hezekiah, the fact mentioned that, on Rabshakeh's first approach, Hezekiah requested Isaiah to "lift up his prayer" on their behalf (2 Kings 19:4), renders it probable that on this occasion also he joined the king in crying unto Heaven.
III. JEHOVAH AND HIS ANGEL. Their interposition on behalf of Judah and Jerusalem (vers. 21, 22).
1. The destruction of Sennacherib's army.
(1) Where? "In the camp of the King of Assyria;" most probably in that of the tartan lying before Jerusalem (Delitzsch), though it may have been in that of Sennacherib's army. According to Herodotus (2. 141), the disaster occurred at Pelusium, whither Sennacherib, "King of the Arabians and Assyrians," had marched with a great host on his way to Egypt. If so (Ewald, Cheyne, and others), then Sennacherib must have broken up his camp at Libnah, and moved south to intercept Tirhakah (cf. Driver, 'Isaiah: his Life and Times,' pp. 81, 82).
(2) When? "That night" (2 Kings 19:35); but Whether the night after Hezekiah's prayer (Rawlinson, Bahr)is uncertain. Hardly, if Pelusium was the scene of the overthrow; possibly, if the Assyrian camp still remained at Libnah (Keil). That the night was that in which Sennacherib, in the following year, sat down to besiege Jerusalem with his own army (Keil, Delitzsch) does not seem likely.
(3) How? By an angel - the angel of the Lord (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36). Whether the blow was supernatural or natural cannot be determined from the language of Scripture. The destruction of the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:29) and the diminution of David's army (2 Samuel 24:15, 16) were both accomplished by the angel of the Lord; yet the former only appear to have been suddenly smitten, while the latter were cut off by pestilence. Herodotus's notion, that the bow-strings, and shield-straps of Sennacherib's soldiers were gnawed through during the night by innumerable field-mice, favours the pestilence-theory - among the Egyptians the mouse having been the hieroglyph of devastation by pestilence (J. D. Michaelis).
(5) With what effect? The return of Sennacherib to Assyria with shame of face, because of having failed to effect the object of his expedition. Whether the fleeing Assyrians were pursued by the liberated Judahites (Ewald) is not stated by the Chronicler, and is only a doubtful inference from Psalm 46:7, 8; Psalm 76:3,
5. That the Assyrian monuments have preserved no record of Sennacherib's humiliation is not surprising. The Egyptian monuments of the nineteenth dynasty contain no memorial of Menephtah's overthrow in the Red Sea. Nations, like individuals, do not publish their misfortunes) least of all perpetuate the remembrance of their defeats.
2. The assassination of Sennacherib himself. The usual end of kings in Assyria (Sargon, and probably Shalmaneser II. and Assurnirari), no less than in Israel and Judah. "Within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples of a king keeps death his court," etc. ('Richard II.,' act 3. sc. 2).
(1) Where Sennacherib was murdered. "In his own land," in "the house of his god" (ver. 21); i.e. in Nineveh, in the house of Nisroch his god (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 36:37) - a divinity not yet identified in the Assyrian pantheon.
(2) When? Not immediately on returning to Nineveh, since, according to the inscriptions, he lived twenty years after the Egyptian and Jewish expedition, and undertook five more campaigns in other parts of his empire.
(3) By whom? "They that came forth of his own bowels" - "Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons" (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 36:38); the former in Assyrian Adar-malik, "Adar is prince," also the name of an Assyrian god (2 Kings 17:31); and the latter in Assyrian Sar-usur, a shortened form of an Assyrian word, of which the first part was probably Assur, Bil, or Nergal, meaning "Assur (Bel or Nergal) protect the king" (Schrader, p. 329). Nergal-sarezer occurs as a proper name in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:3, 13). This may have been the full designation of Sennacherib's son (Alexander on 'Isaiah,' 2:74; Cheyne, 'The Prophecies of Isaiah,' 1:225).
IV. THE PEOPLES AND THEIR PRESENTS. The effect produced by this deliverance on surrounding nations.
1. Gifts unto Jehovah. Brought not by Judahites alone, but by the inhabitants of nations who had been delivered from the Assyrians' yoke, and were designed as a grateful recognition of Jehovah's hand in effecting their emancipation. No benefactor more deserving of man's thanks than God (Psalm 139:17, 18); no duty more frequently urged upon men than gratitude to the Supreme Giver (Psalm 50:14; Psalm 100:4; Psalm 107:1; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:18); yet no bestower of good receives less thanks than he.
2. Precious things to Hezekiah. As the Philistines and Arabians had brought presents to Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:10), so now the inhabitants of heathen countries, among whom may have been the Babylonians - though ver. 31; 2 Kings 20:12; and Isaiah 39:1 refer not to this (see below) - sent gifts to Hezekiah in recognition of his greatness, as attested by the Divine deliverance wrought on his behalf. Learn:
1. The heinousness of scoffing at religion.
2. The impotence of human rage against God (Psalm 2:1-5).
3. The superiority of the true God over all divinities worshipped by the heathen (Psalm 115:3, 4).
4. The efficacy of prayer (James 5:16).
5. The advantage of social supplication (Matthew 18:19).
6. The command of God over the resources of nature (Numbers 11:23).
7. The ability of God to save his people out of any sort of peril (1 Corinthians 10:13).
8. The sad fate of the ungodly (Psalm 75:8, 10).
9. The indebtedness of the world to the Church's God. - W.
I. THE INCALCULABLE ELEMENT IN OUR TRIALS. This is large.
1. We cannot guess when they will come. What little reason had Hezekiah to anticipate that "sickness unto death"! It sprang upon him unawares. So does our affliction. We are reckoning on prosperity, health, friendship; and, behold! immediately in front of us is trouble, sickness, loneliness. A few hours may make all the difference to us in the colour and complexion of our life.
2. We cannot calculate how far they will go. We expect the little ailment to pass away in a day or two, and it becomes a very grave and threatening illness; we think we are stricken with a mortal blow, and we find that we have nothing that need seriously disturb us. And so with other troubles beside bodily disorder. We cannot measure their magnitude or their gravity.
3. We cannot understand why they have come, or what they mean. Is it that we have sinned? or that others have erred, and we are "carrying their infirmity "? Is it a mark of Divine displeasure? or is it a sign of our Father's interest in us and care for our deeper and truer well-being?
4. We cannot enter, except in a very slight degree, into the seriousness of others sorrow. A very special gift of the grace and power of sympathy will enable some men (and women) to understand and feel much with others; but those who have ordinary human faculties very imperfectly understand what other souls are suffering, how much other hearts are bleeding.
II. OUR REFUGE IN GOD. Hezekiah "prayed unto the Lord." We know, from the account in 2 Kings 20., how the afflicted man "poured out his heart" unto God. and how earnestly he besought the Divine compassion. In the clay of our trouble - especially in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow" - there is nothing we can do that approaches the wisdom or that supplies half the relief of seeking and finding a refuge in God. Even if we do not expectantly ask for deliverance from our adversity, we appeal (and never vainly) for Divine sympathy and succour in it. This, we are sure, can never be denied us. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him" (Psalm 103:13). We have in Jesus Christ the "High Priest... touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15). Our affliction tries us; it proves, not only to God, but to ourselves and to others, what is the spirit we are of; whether ours is, or is not, the spirit of filial trustfulness, of quiet acquiescence, of genuine piety, of openness of heart to learn, and of readiness of will to do, his holy will. But there is another trial, which perhaps strikes deeper and proves us more thoroughly.
III. THE TRIAL OF RESTORATION. Hezekiah bore well the trial of sickness; it drew, or drove, him to the Rock of his salvation. He did not stand well the trial which came with his restoration. Then came congratulatory embassage, and then the uplifted heart showed itself, and the unbecoming ostentation came forth; and with it came the displeasure of the Lord. The king "rendered not again according to the benefit done;" he did not respond to God's especial grace (ver. 24) with corresponding gratitude, losing sight of self and keeping God's pitiful and powerful intervention in view. His heart was unchastened and "lifted up." How do we bear ourselves when the cloud has departed and the sun shines again? What is our spiritual attitude when we are strong again, or rich again, or again surrounded with friends? That is the trial-hour. Then God proves us; then we show to him and to our neighbours what mind we are of - whether our affliction has permanently purified, or only temporarily touched us. Let those who have been cast clown to the ground in any kind of affliction, and who have been raised up again by the good hand of their God upon them, ask themselves the main question - Have they proved themselves to be docile children of their heavenly Father, apt disciples of the Lord of their life? Have they learned humility, self-distrust, unworldliness, consecration? Or are they lapsing into that which is selfish, earthly, proud? God has been proving them; let them examine their own hearts. "Let every man prove his own" heart. If he can, let him "have rejoicing in himself,' in his spiritual integrity; if he cannot, let him consider well and act wisely before God, "lest a worse thing happen unto him." - C.
I. HEZEKIAH'S SICKNESS.
(1) In the days of Sennacherib's invasion, either at its beginning (Keil), during its continuance (Thenius), or after its close (Ewald); but as, according to the monuments, this occurred B.C. 701, or in Hezekiah's twenty-fourth year, either Hezekiah lived more than twenty-nine years in all, or his sickness must be placed earlier.
(2) In the days of Sargon's invasion in B.C. 711, and therefore in Hezekiah's fourteenth year (see preceding homilies).
2. The nature of it. A boil (2 Kings 20:7; Isaiah 38:21); but whether an ordinary abscess or a carbuncle cannot be determined, though there is no ground for connecting it with the pestilence that cut off Sennacherib's army. It probably arose out of the bodily weakness induced by long labours in reforming religion, and heavy anxieties in meeting and resisting the Assyrian invasion.
3. The severity of it. "Even unto death." It had all the appearance of being fatal. Hezekiah himself expected nothing else than that "in the noontide of his days he should depart unto the gates of Sheol, and be deprived of the residue of his years" (Isaiah 38:10). Even had his malady not suggested this to his mind, Jehovah's message to him by Isaiah (Isaiah 39:1) would have done so. All sickness a prelude to, and premonition of, the last.
II. HEZEKIAH'S PRAYER.
1. To whom directed. The Lord; the only living and true God, as welt as the only Hearer of prayer (Psalm 65:2). Doubtless Hezekiah also recognized Jehovah's hand in his affliction, and understood that he alone could remove the malady by whose permission it had come. Asa, in his disease, sought not to Jehovah, but to the physicians (2 Chronicles 16:12); and the result with him was different.
2. By what supported.
(1) Bitter grief. "Hezekiah wept sore" (2 Kings 20:3). Like Antigone (line 198, etc.), he lamented his sad fate, not merely because he was to die, but because he was being cut off in the middle of his days, and when as yet he had no heir (cf. Genesis 15:2).
(2) Strong arguments. He had walked before Jehovah in truth and with a perfect heart, and had done what was good in his sight; and was thus in a manner entitled to the blessing of long life (Deuteronomy 25:15; Psalm 34:12).
3. In what ended. Jehovah spake unto him, granting his request, adding fifteen years to his life, and gave him a sign. The cure was effected by Isaiah laying a cake of figs upon the boil - the vis medicatrix, however, proceeding not from the fruit, but from him who had said, "Behold, I will heal thee'" Jehovah-rophi (Exodus 15:26) one of Jehovah's names. The sign granted at Hezekiah's request was the turning back of the shadow upon the sun-dial, or step-clock, of Ahaz (2 Kings 20:11; Isaiah 38:8). This sundial, or step-clock, was probably "an obelisk upon a square or circular elevation ascended 1,y steps, which threw the shadow of its highest point at noon upon the highest steps, and in the morning and evening upon the lowest, either on the one side or the other, so that the obelisk itself served as a gnomon." How the shadow was turned back is best explained by "the assumption of a miraculous refraction of the sun's rays, effected by God at the entreaty of the prophet" (Keil on 2 Kings 20:11; cf. Delitzsch on Isaiah 38:8), though it has been well said, "refraction to the extent required would be very strange and abnormal" (Rawlinson, 'Kings of Israel and Judah,' p. 199).
1. The liability of all to affliction.
2. The certainty of death.
3. The contingency of many of the Divine decrees.
4. The efficacy of prayer.
5. The weakness of faith in some good men - Hezekiah needed a sign.
6. The condescension of God - in stooping to regard faith's infirmity.
7. The Divine control over nature's resources. - W.
I. HEZEKIAH'S SIN.
1. Its character.
(1) Ingratitude. "He rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him." That benefit had been great - deliverance from a more powerful assailant than the King of Assyria, even from the king of terrors (Job 18:14) - and ought to have awakened undying thankfulness in Hezekiah's besom, as, indeed, he promised it would (Isaiah 38:20). But it did not. Ingratitude, a sin of which Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16) and Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:1) before him bad been guilty, with which men in general are often chargeable (Luke 17:17; Romans 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:2), and into which the best of men occasionally fall (2 Samuel 12:7, 8, 9).
(2) Pride. "His heart was lifted up." Like other good men before and since, his vows upon his sick-bed were better than his performances when health was restored. He had engaged "to go softly all his years, because of the bitterness of his soul" (Isaiah 38:15); but instead, his heart was lifted up, not as Jehoshaphat's had been, "in the ways of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 17:6), but as Uzziah's (2 Chronicles 26:16) and Amaziah's (2 Chronicles 25:19) had been, in self-sufficiency - the allusion being to his behaviour in connection with the Babylonian envoys, who shortly after his recovery visited Jerusalem, and endeavoured to enlist him in a league against Assyria (see homily on ver. 31).
2. Its punishment. The wrath of Jehovah was threatened
(2) upon Judah and Jerusalem, by the law of imputation, and in accordance with the solidarity of nations. The punishment of sin often falls on the innocent, because of their connection with the guilty. Children suffer for the evil-doing of their parents, and subjects for that of their rulers. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:2).
II. HEZEKIAH'S REPENTANCE.
1. The self-abasement of the king. "He humbled himself for the pride of his heart." The wrath of Jehovah, pronounced against him and his people by Isaiah, was the Babylonish captivity. When Hezekiah heard the prophet's threatening, he realized that he had sinned, and humbled himself before Jehovah, saying, "Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken" (2 Kings 20:14-19; Isaiah 38:3-8).
2. The concurrence of the people. "He and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." Probably they had not been unfavourable to a Babylonian alliance against Assyria, and were really "art and part" co-criminals with Hezekiah; if they had no share in Hezekiah's action, they had still cause to humble themselves before God on account of Hezekiah their king.
3. The clemency of Jehovah. The judgment was to fall on Hezekiah's sons rather than on himself, which Hezekiah recognized as a mercy, and acknowledged by adding, "Is it not so [i.e. good] if peace and truth shall be in my days?"
1. The possibility of spiritual declension.
2. The duty of repentance,
3. The obligation of gratitude.
4. The sin of pride. - W.
1. There can be no question at all as to Hezekiah's greatness. He was one of the greatest of the kings of Judah; not more than two, or three at the most, can be named as being greater than he.
2. Or as to the excellency of his estate (see text, vers. 27-29). He had all that his heart could wish, so far as temporal possessions were concerned.
3. Or as to the regard in which he was held by his subjects. They evidently "delighted to honour" him, as they showed by their action when he died (ver. 33). When the restraints of a great man's presence are taken away, we see what his fellows really think, and how they feel about him. But was he a happy man, an enviable man, one with whose condition - "state for state with all attendants" - we should like to exchange our own? That may well be doubted. Consider -
I. THE DEEPENING SHADOW THAT LAY ALONG HIS PATH, He knew that, from the time of his sickness, he had fifteen years to live (2 Kings 20:6). Now, with such a sensitive and thoughtful spirit as his was (Isaiah 38:2, 3), we may be sure that he counted the years as they went by, and that he realized with painful force the diminution of those that remained to him. How much more happy are we who are in ignorance of the number of the years before us! To know positively that only so many more remain must cast an ever-darkening shadow on the path of life.
II. THE LACK OF THE LIGHT BEYOND THE SHADOW. Hezekiah does not seem to have cherished any hope, to have entertained any expectation that could be truly called a hope, concerning the future (see Isaiah 38:9-20). And to be drawing nearer and nearer, day by day, by a distinctly measurable distance, the hour when the light of life would go out into the thick darkness, - what a saddened life must that have been to a thoughtful and imaginative spirit!
III. THE FEAR HE MUST HAVE FELT CONCERNING HIS COUNTRY'S FUTURE, Manasseh, his son, may have been too young to have given any very decided intimation of his probable future. But, looking behind him, remembering the imperfections or the reactions and apostasies of Solomon, of Jehoram, of Ahaz, he must have been seriously concerned lest his son should undo what he himself had so laboriously done. What security was there that the evil and idolatrous practices he had so fearlessly and so faithfully suppressed would not be revived? that the religion of Jehovah he had so carefully re-established would not be set aside, and thus his life-labour lost? Such reflections - especially if he had any insight into, and therefore any foresight of, Manasseh's character and course - must have tinged his thought with a melancholy hue. Yet was there one compensating and reassuring thought, which may have balanced all others, and have brightened his latter days. That was -
IV. THE REVIEW OF HIS OWN LIFE, and of the work he had wrought since he had occupied the throne. It was not the recollection of his prosperities (ver. 30) which would gladden his heart in the after-years; they become of continually smaller consequence as we leave them behind us. It was the remembrance of his kindnesses (ver. 32, marginal reading) and of his faithfulness as the chief servant of Jehovah, that would give gladness to his heart, as they gave lustre to his reign. Let us remember that physical enjoyments, mental excitements, earthly honours, human congratulations or landations, - all these melt away into nothingness as time comes between them and our spirit. Soon the one vital and only serious question will be - What have we done of all that God gave us to do? what have we achieved with the faculties and the facilities he placed in our charge? Prosperities and enjoyments do for the passing hour, but kindnesses and fidelities attend us to the dying pillow, and they cross the last stream and await us as we land on the other side. - C.
I. HIS WEALTH.
(1) Precious metals. "Gold. silver, precious stones."
(3) Miscellaneous articles. Spices, shields, goodly vessels.
(4) Field produce. Corn and wine and oil (ver, 28).
II. HIS WORKS.
1. Treasuries. For his gold, silver, precious stones; for spices, shields, and goodly vessels.
2. Storehouses. For his corn, wine, and oil.
3. Stalls. For his beasts and herds.
4. Folds. For his flocks.
5. Cities - i.e. either watchtowers for his shepherds (2 Chronicles 26:10)or dwelling-places for his herds and beasts.
6. Reservoirs. Containing water for the use of the inhabitants, especially in the time of a siege (ver. 30).
III. HIS HONOUR.
1. In life.
(1) By Jehovah, who had exalted and prospered him in all his undertakings, public and private, military and commercial (ver. 30).
(2) By his subjects, who trusted, obeyed, revered, and loved him.
(3) By foreign princes and peoples, who brought presents to him in Jerusalem (ver. 23).
2. At death.
(1) By his people - all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem - who buried him in the chiefest, or in the ascent, of the sepulchres of the sons of David; i.e. in a special grave prepared for him and succeeding kings, and did him honour, most likely by burning spices (2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19).
(2) By God, who gave him a son to reign in his stead. His throne passed not to a stranger, but continued in the line of David's house, according to the promise.
3. After death. By receiving a double, yea, a threefold memorial:
(1) in the vision of Isaiah the prophet;
(2) in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel; and
(3) in the chronicles of the kings of Judah.
1. The best wealth - grace.
2. The noblest deeds - works of faith.
3. The highest honour - salvation and glory. - W.
I. ITS OCCASION. "In connection with the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon."
1. The senders of this embassy. "The princes of Babylon;" more particularly Berodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:12); or Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39:1) - undoubtedly the correct form, "Merodach has given a son." Three bearers of this name in the cuneiform inscriptions. The first, a king of South Chaldea and son of Jakin, with whom Tiglath-Pileser II. had warlike dealings (O. Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 256); the second, also a son or' Jakin and King of the Chaldeans, whom Sargon defeated, dethroning him and burning his city of Dur-jakin, B.C. 710-9 ('Records,' etc., 7:46-49); and the third, a King of Babylonia, whom Sennacherib overthrew in the vicinity of Kish ('Records,' etc., 1:25; G. Smith, 'Assyrian. Discoveries,' p. 297). The Merodach-Baladan who sent ambassadors to Hezekiah was not the first, unless all three were the same person, but the son and successor of the first (Schrader). The sole question is whether the second and the third were the same, and, if not, which of them it was that despatched envoys to Hezekiah. Sehrader distinguishes the two because the Bible describes Hezekiah's Merodach-Baladan as the son of Baladan; while the monuments designate Sargon's as the son of Jakin ('Die Keilinschriften,' p. 342); but Sayce ('Fresh Light,' p. 135) identifies the two, and explains "the son of Baladan" (2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1) as due to the error of a copyist, like "Berodach" for "Merodach." An absolute decision is meanwhile impossible.
2. The date of the embassy.
(1) The sacred narrative appears to connect it with Hezekiah's sickness, and this again with Sennacherib's invasion (Ewald, Schrader, Delitzsch). But if Hezekiah's sickness occurred after the invasion, the arrival of the ambassadors must have taken place before it, as otherwise he could not have shown them the treasures of the palace which, prior to their coming, had been despoiled to appease Sennacherib.
(2) Hence the opinion has gained ground that, as Hezekiah's sickness must have occurred about the time of Sargon's invasion of Judaea, the mission of Merodach-Baladan must be placed in connection with that event, and that both the sickness and the mission should be dated about B.C. 712-10 (Sayce, Cheyne, Driver).
3. The pretext of this embassy.
(1) Friendship. To congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery from what had seemed a fatal malady (2 Kings 20:12). A proper thing for friends and acquaintances, especially if Christian, to do - to congratulate each other on restored health, provided always such congratulations be sincere, not like these of Joab to Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9), but like those the patriarch of Uz received from his friends (Job 42:11).
(2) Scientific research. To inquire of Hezekiah concerning the wonder that was done in the land (2 Chronicles 32:31). According to the view taken of the date of this embassy, the wonder referred to will be the destruction of Sennacherib's army, or, what is more probable, the miraculous phenomenon connected with the step-clock of Ahaz (Delitzsch, Keil, Stanley). There is, however, no ground for thinking that either of these formed the real reason.
4. The object of this embassy. Political. Perhaps
(1) with an eye to future expeditions, "to investigate a little more closely the condition of the forces of Judah" (Ewald); but also
(2) with a view to present needs, to concert measures against the King of Assyria by forming a league between Babylon and the Palestinian states (Sayce, Rawlinson).
1. A political blunder. So Isaiah warned Hezekiah. The days would come when these very treasures which Hezekiah had so good-naturedly exhibited to the ambassadors of the Babylonian king, or others in their room, would be carried into Babylon (Isaiah 39:3-8). The prophet saw that "from Babylon especially Judah had nothing good to hope for, inasmuch as that state, though often in dispute with Nineveh, was yet by its peculiar position too closely entwined with Assyria; and it was really only a question whether Nineveh or Babylon should be the seat of universal dominion Accordingly, it flashed like lightning across Isaiah's mind that Babylon, attracted by those very treasures which Hezekiah, not without a certain complacency, had displayed to the ambassadors, might in the future become dangerous to that same kingdom of Judah it was now flattering" (Ewald, 'The History of Israel,' 4:188). "Even political sharp-sightedness might have foreseen that some such disastrous consequences would follow Hezekiah's imprudent course" (Delitzsch on 'Isaiah,' 2:126).
2. A personal transgression. That Hezekiah's indiscreet conduct was the outcome of mingled motives is hardly doubtful. Amongst these were
(1) vanity, or a feeling of inward complacency - in fact, he felt flattered by the attentions of a great Oriental prince like Merodach-Baladan;
(2) pride, or a sense of his own importance, arising from the fact that his military resources - his wealth, weapons, and war-chariots - were so abundant; and
(3) self-sufficiency, which made him set a higher value on himself than on Jehovah as an Ally.
III. ITS CAUSE. "Jehovah left Hezekiah to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart."
1. The fact stated. "Jehovah left Hezekiah."
(1) He did not warn Hezekiah by sending Isaiah to him before the Babylonian ambassadors had arrived at Jerusalem, or before the evil had been done. God is under no obligation to his intelligent creatures, or even regenerate children, to adopt special means to warn them of approaching danger in the shape of temptation, seeing that the faculties they possess, aided by the light of natural and revealed truth, should suffice to apprize them of the imminence of peril.
(2) He did not supernaturally enlighten Hezekiah, either as to the secret designs of the ambassadors or as to the disastrous consequences that should in after-years result from the false step he was about to take. The former Hezekiah should have suspected - Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes; knowledge of the latter was not requisite for determining the course of action which duty prescribed.
(3) He did not exceptionally reinforce Hezekiah in the moment of trial, so as to prevent him from falling. Had Hezekiah sought grace, he would have got it; Jehovah was under no obligation to extend it unasked.
2. The reason given. "That he might know all that was in his [Hezekiah's] heart." The heart the proper seat of religion (Deuteronomy 30:6; 1 Kings 8:58; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19). The character of the heart in every instance known to God (2 Chronicles 6:30; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 7:9: 139. 50:4; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15). Yet this character not always visible to others or even to one's self (Jeremiah 17:9). Hence God is wont, when his wisdom deems it necessary, to withhold reinforcements of grace from the individual, that this discovery - the unsuspected character of the heart - may be thereby brought to the light. So Christ dealt with Peter (Luke 22:31, 32).
1. The danger of flattery.
2. The sin of ostentation.
3. The feebleness of good men when left by God.
4. The necessity of having the heart right in religion.
5. The certainty that God tries all. - W.