Isaiah 37:14
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.
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(14) Hezekiah received the letter.—The Hebrew noun is plural, as though the document consisted of more than one sheet.

And spread it before the Lord.—The act was one of mute appeal to the Supreme Arbiter. The corpus delicti was, as it were, laid before the judge, and then the appellant offered up his prayer. Mr. Cheyne quotes a striking parallel from the “Annals of Assurbanipal” (Records of the Past, vii. 67), who, on receiving a defiant message from the King of Elam, went into the Temple of Ishtar, and, reminding the goddess of all he had done for her, besought her aid, and received an oracle from her as a vision of the night.




Isaiah 37:14

When Hezekiah heard the threatenings of Sennacherib’s servants, he rent his clothes and went into the house of the Lord, and sent to Isaiah entreating his prayers. When he received the menacing letter, his faith was greater, having been heartened by Isaiah’s assurances. So he then himself appealed to Jehovah, spreading the letter before Him, and himself prayed God to guard His own honour, and answer the challenge flung down by the insolent Assyrian. It is noble when faith increases as dangers increase.

I. We have here an example of what to do with troubles and difficulties.

We are to lay them out before God, as we can do by praying about them. Hezekiah’s trouble was great. His kingdom could be crushed like an eggshell by the grasp of Sennacherib’s hand. But little troubles as well as great ones are best dealt with by being ‘spread before the Lord.’ Whatever is important enough to disturb me is important enough for me to speak to God about it. Whether the poison inflaming our blood be from a gnat’s bite, or a cobra’s sting, the best antidote is-pray about it.

How much more real and fervid our prayers would be, if we habitually turned all our affairs into materials for petition! That is a very empty dispute as to whether we ought to pray for deliverance from outward sorrows. If we are living in touch with God, we cannot but take Him into our confidence, if we may so say, as to everything that affects us. And we should as soon think of hiding any matter from our dearest on earth as from our Friend in heaven. ‘In everything, by prayer and supplication’ is the commandment, and will be the instinct of the devout heart.

Note Hezekiah’s assurance that God cares about him.

Note his clear perception that God is his only help.

Note his identification of his own deliverance with God’s honour. We cannot identify our welfare, or deliverance in small matters, with God’s fair fame, in such a fashion. But we ought to be quite sure that He will not let us sink or perish, and will never desert us. And we can be quite sure that, if we identify ourselves and our work with Him, He will identify Himself with us and it. His treatment of His servants will tell the world {and not one world only} what He is, how faithful, how loving, how strong.

II. We have here an example of how God answers His servants’ prayers.

It was ‘by terrible things in righteousness’ that Hezekiah’s answer came. His prayer was at one end of the chain, and at the other was a camp full of corpses. One poor man’s cry can set in motion tremendous powers, as a low whisper can start an avalanche. That magnificent theophany in Psalm 18:1 - Psalm 18:50, with all its majesty and terror of flashing lightnings and a rocking earth, was brought about by nothing more than ‘In my distress I called upon the Lord,’ and its purpose was nothing more than to draw the suppliant out of many waters and deliver him from his strong enemy.

That army swept off the earth may teach us how much God will do for a praying child of His. His people’s deliverance is cheaply purchased at such a price. ‘He reproved kings for their sake.’

One man with God beside him is stronger than all the world. As the psalmist learned in his hour of peril, ‘Thou, Lord, makest me to dwell in safety, thou alone!’37:1-38 This chapter is the same as 2Ki 19And Hezekiah received the letter - Hebrew, 'Letters' (plural). It is not mentioned in the account of the embassy Isaiah 37:9, that a letter was sent, but it is not probable that all embassage would be sent to a monarch without a written document.

Went up into the house of the Lord - The temple Isaiah 37:1.

And spread it before the Lord - Perhaps unrolled the document there, and spread it out; or perhaps it means simply that he spread out the contents of the letter, that is, made mention of it in his prayer. Hezekiah had no other resource. He was a man of God; and in his trouble he looked to God for aid. He, therefore, before he formed any plan, went up to the temple, and laid his case before God. What an example for all monarchs and rulers! And what an example for all the people of God, in times of perplexity!

14. spread—unrolled the scroll of writing. God "knows our necessities before we ask Him," but He delights in our unfolding them to Him with filial confidence (2Ch 20:3, 11-13). No text from Poole on this verse. And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it,.... Or books (k), in which the above things were written; and everyone of these he read, as Kimchi interprets it; though the Targum is,

"he took the letters from the hand of the messengers, and read one of them;''

that is, as Kimchi's father explains it, in which was the blasphemy against God; this he read over carefully to himself, observed the contents of it, and then did with it as follows:

and Hezekiah went up unto the house of God; the temple, the outward court of it, further than that he could not go:

and spread it before the Lord; not to read it, as he had done, or to acquaint him with the contents of it, which he fully knew; but, as it chiefly regarded him, and affected his honour and glory, he laid it before him, that he might take notice of it, and vindicate himself, and avenge his own cause; he brought it as a proof of what he had to say to him in prayer, and to support him in his allegations, and as a means to quicken himself in the discharge of that duty.

(k) "libros", V. L.

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.
14. spread it (the letter) before the Lord] that Jehovah might take notice of the arrogance displayed by it. The act is symbolic. Similarly the Jews at the beginning of the Maccabee insurrection spread out in prayer a copy of the Law, defaced with idolatrous pictures, as a witness to the outrages perpetrated against their religion (1Ma 3:48).

14–20. Hezekiah’s prayer in the Temple. Cheyne refers to a striking parallel in the Egyptian version of Sennacherib’s overthrow. “On this the monarch (Sethos), greatly distressed, entered into the inner sanctuary, and before the image of the god (Ptah) bewailed the fate which impended over him. As he wept he fell asleep, and dreamed that the god came and stood by his side, bidding him be of good cheer, and go boldly forth to meet the Arabian (Assyrian) host, which would do him no hurt, as he himself would send those who should help him” (Herod. II. 141, Rawlinson).Verse 14. - Hezekiah received the letter. Sennacherib sent his present message in a written form. The communications between kings were often carried on in this way (see 2 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 20:12). The Hebrews use the same word for "letter" and "book;" but, when a letter is intended, employ generally the plural number (compare the Greek ἐπιστολαὶ and the Latin litterae). And spread it before the Lord. Not that God might see it and read it, in a material sense, but still that he might take note of it, and, if he saw fit, punish it. Compare the exhibition of the Books of the Law, painted with idolatrous emblems, at Maspha, "over against" the temple, by Judas Maccabaeus and his companions (1 Macc. 3:46-48). The act in both cases implied the referring of the whole matter to God for his consideration. It was, as Delitzsch, says, a sort of "prayer without words." Rabshakeh, who is mentioned alone in both texts as the leading person engaged, returns to Sennacherib, who is induced to make a second attempt to obtain possession of Jerusalem, as a position of great strength and decisive importance. "Rabshakeh thereupon returned, and found the king of Asshur warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he had withdrawn from Lachish. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, (K. Behold), he has come out to make war with thee; and heard, and sent (K. and repeated, and sent) messengers to Hizkiyahu, saying." Tirhakah was cursorily referred to in Isaiah 18:1-7. The twenty-fifth dynasty of Manetho contained three Ethiopian rulers: Sabakon, Sebichōs (סוא equals סוא), although, so far as we know, the Egyptian names begin with Sh), and Tarakos (Tarkos), Egypt. Taharka, or Heb. with the tone upon the penultimate, Tirhâqâh. The only one mentioned by Herodotus is Sabakon, to whom he attributes a reign of fifty years (ii. 139), i.e., as much as the whole three amount to, when taken in a round sum. If Sebichos is the biblical So', to whom the lists attribute from twelve to fourteen years, it is perfectly conceivable that Tirhakah may have been reigning in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah. But if this took place, as Manetho affirms, 366 years before the conquest of Egypt by Alexander, i.e., from 696 onwards (and the Apis-stele, No. 2037, as deciphered by Vic. de Roug, Revue archol. 1863, confirms it), it would be more easily reconcilable with the Assyrian chronology, which represents Sennacherib as reigning from 702-680 (Oppert and Rawlinson), than with the current biblical chronology, according to which Hezekiah's fourteenth year is certainly not much later than the year 714.

(Note: On the still prevailing uncertainty with regard to the synchronism, see Keil on Kings; and Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums. pp. 713-4.)

It is worthy of remark also, that Tirhakah is not described as Pharaoh here, but as the king of Ethiopia (melekh Kūsh; see at Isaiah 37:36). Libnah, according to the Onom. a place in regione Eleutheropolitana, is probably the same as Tell es-Safieh ("hill of the pure" equals of the white), to the north-west of Bet Gibrin, called Alba Specula (Blanche Garde) in ten middle ages. The expression ויּשׁמע ("and he heard"), which occurs twice in the text, points back to what is past, and also prepares the way for what follows: "having heard this, he sent," etc. At the same time it appears to have been altered from ויּשׁב.

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