By your servants have you reproached the Lord, and have said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)By the multitude of my chariots.—The words refer apparently to the taunt of Isaiah 36:8. The inscriptions of the Assyrian king are full of like boasts. Shalmaneser, “Trackless paths and difficult mountains . . . I penetrated” (Records of the Past, iii. 85): and Assumacirpal, “Rugged mountains, difficult paths, which for the passage of chariots were not suited, I passed” (Ibid. p. 43).
To the sides of Lebanon.—The passage of Lebanon was not necessarily implied in Sennacherib’s invasion of Palestine. Possibly the words had become a kind of proverb for surmounting obstacles. Lebanon and Carmel are joined together, as in Isaiah 33:9.Isaiah 36, and by those whom he had now sent to Hezekiah with letters Isaiah 37:9, Isaiah 37:14.
And hast said - Isaiah does not here quote the precise words which Rabshakeh or the other messengers had used, but quotes the substance of what had been uttered, and expresses the real feelings and intentions of Sennacherib.
To the height of the mountains - Lebanon is here particularly referred to. Chariots were commonly used, as cavalry was, in plains. But it is probable that Lebanon was accessible by chariots drawn by horses.
To the sides of Lebanon - On the situation of Lebanon see the notes at Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 29:17. Sennacherib is represented as having carried desolation to Lebanon, and as having cut down its stately trees (see the note at Isaiah 33:9).
I will cut down the tall cedars thereof - Margin, 'The tallness of the cedars thereof.' The boast of Sennacherib was that he would strip it of its beauty and ornament; that is, that he would lay the land waste.
And the choice fir-trees thereof - (see the note at Isaiah 14:8). The Septuagint renders it, Υπαρίσσου Uparissou - 'The beauty of the cypress.' The word here denotes the cypress, a tree resembling the white cedar. It grew on Lebanon, and, together with the cedar, constituted its glory. Its wood, like that of the cedar, was employed for the floors and ceilings of the temple 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 6:15, 1 Kings 6:34. It was used for the decks and sheathing of ships Ezekiel 27:5, for spears Nehemiah 2:4; and for musical instruments 2 Samuel 6:5.
The height of his border - The extreme retreats; the furthest part of Lebanon. In 2 Kings 19:23, it is, 'I will enter the lodgings of his borders;' perhaps referring to the fact that on the ascent to the top of the mountain there was a place for the repose of travelers; a species of inn or caravansera which bounded the usual attempts of persons to ascend the mountain. Such a lodging-place on the sides or tops of mountains which are frequently ascended, is not uncommon.
And the forest his Carmel - On the meaning of the word Carmel, see the note at Isaiah 29:17. Here it means, as in that passage, a rich, fertile, and beautiful country. It is known that Lebanon was covered on the top, and far down the sides, with perpetual snow. But there was a region lying on its sides, between the snow and the base of the mountain, that was distinguished for fertility, and that was highly cultivated. This region produced grapes in abundance; and this cultivated part of the mountain, thick set with vines and trees, might be called a beautiful grove. This was doubtless the portion of Lebanon which is here intended. At a distance, this tract on the sides of Lebanon appeared doubtless as a thicket of shrubs and trees. The phrase 'garden-forest,' will probably express the sense of the passage. 'After leaving Baalbec, and approaching Lebanon, towering walnut trees, either singly or in groups, and a rich carpet of verdure, the offspring of numerous streams, give to this charming district the air of an English park, majestically bordered with snow-tipped mountains. At Deir-el-Akmaar, the ascent begins winding among dwarf oaks, hawthorns, and a great variety of shrubs and flowers. A deep bed of snow had now to be crossed, and the horses sunk or slipped at every moment. To ride was impracticable, and to walk dangerous, for the melting snow penetrated our boots, and our feet were nearly frozen. An hour and a half brought us to the cedars.' (Hogg.)
height—imagery from the Assyrian felling of trees in Lebanon (Isa 14:8; 33:9); figuratively for, "I have carried my victorious army through the regions most difficult of access, to the most remote lands."
sides—rather, "recesses" [G. V. Smith].
fir trees—not cypresses, as some translate; pine foliage and cedars are still found on the northwest side of Lebanon [Stanley].
height of … border—In 2Ki 19:23, "the lodgings of his borders." Perhaps on the ascent to the top there was a place of repose or caravansary, which bounded the usual attempts of persons to ascend [Barnes]. Here, simply, "its extreme height."
forest of … Carmel—rather, "its thickest forest." "Carmel" expresses thick luxuriance (see on Isa 10:18; Isa 29:17).
and hast said, by the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains; not only with his foot soldiers, but with his chariots, and a great number of them, he had travelled over hills and mountains, as Hannibal over the Alps, and was now upon the high mountains which were round about Jerusalem, and very near the mountain of the Lord's house; of which Jarchi interprets the words:
to the sides of Lebanon; meaning either the mountain of Lebanon, which was on the borders of the land of Israel, famous for cedars and fir trees, later mentioned; or, the temple made of the wood of Lebanon, near which his army now lay; so the Targum and Jarchi understand it:
and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof; to make way for his army, and to support himself with materials for the siege; to make tents with for his soldiers to lie in, or wooden fortresses from whence to annoy the city. The cedars of Lebanon were very large and tall. Mr. Maundrell (p) says he measured one of the largest, and
"found it six and thirty feet and six inches thick; its branches spread a hundred and eleven feet; its trunk from the ground was about fifteen or sixteen feet, and then divided into five branches, each of which would make a large tree.''
Monsieur Thevenot (q) says, now there are no more nor less that, twenty three cedars on Mount Lebanon, great and small: or it may be, these metaphorically intend the princes, and nobles, and chief men of the Jewish nation, he threatens to destroy; so the Targum,
"and I will kill the most beautiful of their mighty ones, and the choicest of their princes:''
and I will enter into the height of his border; some think the tower of Lebanon, which stood on the east part of it towards Syria, is meant; but it seems rather to design Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation, which he thought himself sure of entering into, and taking possession of; and this was what his heart was set upon; so the Targum,
and I will subdue the city of their strength; their strong city Jerusalem, in which they placed their strength:
and the forest of his Carmel: or "the forest and his fruitful field" (r); the same city, which, for the number of its houses and inhabitants, was like a forest, and was Hezekiah's fruitful field, where all his riches and treasure were. The Targum interprets it of his army,
"and I will consume the multitude of their army.''By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)24. For servants 2 Kings has “messengers,” as in Isaiah 37:9; Isaiah 37:14.
am I come up] Better, I go up. The “I” is emphatic.
the sides of Lebanon means its recesses (R.V. “innermost parts”).
the height of his border] Render, its furthest height; or (changing the text in accordance with 2 Kings 19:33) its last retreat (lit. “lodging-place”).
the forest of his Carmel] R.V. the forest of his fruitful field (see ch. Isaiah 10:18, Isaiah 29:17, Isaiah 32:15 f.)—perhaps the cedar groves on the highest ridges.
24, 25. The king of Assyria is represented as boasting of the ease with which he triumphs over all natural obstacles in the pursuance of his plans; such language is blasphemy against Jehovah, the Lord of Nature; although the king himself may be hardly conscious of the sin he is committing. The tenses in the speech might all be made perfects by a change of vowels, or they may all be rendered by presents; the king’s meaning being simply that he constantly performs such impossibilities as these. The Assyrian parallels cited by Cheyne are very striking (see his Commentary, p. 219 and the references there).Verse 24. - By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord (see Isaiah 36:15-20). And hast said. Sennacherib had not actually uttered these words with his mouth; but the prophet clothes in his own highly poetic language the thoughts which the Assyrian king had cherished in his heart. He had regarded "the multitude of his chariots" as irresistible; he had considered that the mountains which guarded Palestine would be no obstacle to his advance; he had contemplated ravaging and despoiling of its timber the entire country; he had meant to penetrate into every region that was lovely and fertile. The emphatic "I" of the original - ani - twice repeated, marks the proud egotism of the monarch. By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains; rather, with the multitude; or, according to another reading, with chariots upon chariots. The Assyrian kings contrived to cross with their chariots mountain chains of great difficulty, and frequently boast of the achievement. Tiglath-Pileser I. says, "I assembled my chariots and warriors. I betook myself to carts of iron in order to overcome the rough mountains and their difficult marches. I made the wilderness thus practicable for the passage of my chariots and warriors" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. pp. 9, 10). Asshur-izir-pal, "The rugged hill country, unfitted for the passage of chariots and armies, with instruments of iron I cut through, and with metal rollers I beat down the chariots and troops I brought over" (ibid., vol. 3. p. 58). Shalmaneser II., "Trackless paths, difficult mountains, which like the point of an iron sword stood pointed to the sky, on wheels of iron and bronze I penetrated. My chariots and armies I transported over them" (ibid., p. 85). In the less rough parts, while the warders dismounted, tire horses drew the chariots, which were assisted over obstacles by attendants ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 74); but, in regions of greater difficulty, they were conveyed across the mountain ranges in waggons of rude and strong construction ('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. p. 13) The chariot-force was regarded as so important that the Assyrians never made any distant expedition without it. To the sides of Lebanon. It was not necessary to cross either Libanus or Anti-Libanus in order to invade Judaea, since the natural route was along the Coele-Syrian valley and across the spurs of Hermon to the Jordan; but an Assyrian army was intent on plunder and devastation, no less than upon conquest, and would ascend mountain regions that did not lie on its direct line of march for either or both of these objects. It was customary for the soldiers to cut clown the tall cedars and choice fir trees of Lebanon on their Syrian campaigns, in order to transport the timber to Nineveh and other great cities, where it was used for building (see the comment on Isaiah 14:8, and compare Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' pp. 356, 357, and 'Records of the Past,' vol. 3. pp. 40, 47, 83, 90; vol. 5. p. 119; vol. 9. p. 16, etc.). It was also customary to destroy the trees in an enemy's country, simply in order to inflict injury upon the foe ('Ancient Monarchies.' vol. 2. p. 84). I will enter into the height of his border; rather, I will enter into its uttermost height; i.e. I will penetrate through the entire mountain region of Palestine, called roughly "Lebanon," to the furthest height of any importance - that on which Jerusalem stood - and thus occupy the whole land. The parallel passage of 2 Kings has "lodging" for "height," in apparent allusion to the palace of Hezekiah. And the forest of his Carmel; or, the forest of its pleasure-garden; i.e. the rich plantation tracts, covered with vines, olives, and fig trees, which formed the special glory of Judaea (see Isaiah 36:16, 17). Psalm 18:11 and Psalm 80:2. הוּא in אתּה־הוּא is an emphatic repetition, that is to say a strengthening, of the subject, like Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 51:12; 2 Samuel 7:28; Jeremiah 49:12; Psalm 44:5; Nehemiah 9:6-7; Ezra 5:11 : tu ille (not tu es ille, Ges. 121, 2) equals tu, nullus alius. Such passages as Isaiah 41:4, where הוּא is the predicate, do not belong here. עין is not a singular (like עיני in Psalm 32:8, where the lxx have עיני), but a defective plural, as we should expect after pâqach. On the other hand, the reading shelâchō ("hath sent him"), which cannot refer to debhârı̄m (the words), but only to the person bringing the written message, is to be rejected. Moreover, Knobel cannot help giving up his preference for the reading venâthōn (compare Genesis 41:43; Ges. 131, 4a); just as, on the other hand, we cannot help regarding the reading ואת־ארצם את־כּל־הארצות as a mistake, when compared with the reading of the book of Kings. Abravanel explains the passage thus: "The Assyrians have devastated the lands, and their own land" (cf., Isaiah 14:20), of which we may find examples in the list of victories given above; compare also Beth-arbel in Hosea 10:14, if this is Irbil on the Tigris, from which Alexander's second battle in Persia, which was really fought at Gaugamela, derived its name. But how does this tally with the fact that they threw the gods of these lands - that is to say, of their own land also (for אלהיהם could not possibly refer to הארצות, to the exclusion of ארצם) - into the fire? If we read haggōyı̄m (the nations), we get rid both of the reference to their own land, which is certainly purposeless here, and also of the otherwise inevitable conclusion that they burned the gods of their own country. The reading הארצות appears to have arisen from the fact, that after the verb החריב the lands appeared to follow more naturally as the object, than the tribes themselves (compare, however, Isaiah 60:12). The train of thought is the following: The Assyrians have certainly destroyed nations and their gods, because these gods were nothing but the works of men: do Thou then help us, O Jehovah, that the world may see that Thou alone art it, viz., God ('Elōhı̄m, as K. adds, although, according to the accents, Jehovah Elohim are connected together, as in the books of Samuel and Chronicles, and very frequently in the mouth of David: see Symbolae in Psalmos, pp. 15, 16).
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