Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus said the LORD, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold, I will add to your days fifteen years.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Fifteen years.—The words fix the date of the illness, taking the received chronology, as B.C. 713. The next verse shows that there was danger at the time to be apprehended from Assyria, but does not necessarily refer to Sennacherib’s invasion. Sargon’s attack (Isaiah 20:1) may have caused a general alarm.2 Kings 18:3, and because a long and happy reign had been granted to David; and also because the promise had been made to David that there should not fail a man to sit on his throne (see the note at Isaiah 37:35). As Hezekiah resembled David, God promised that his reign should be lengthened out; and as he perhaps was then without a son and successor, God promised him a longer life, with the prospect that he might have an heir who should succeed him on the throne.
Behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years - This is perhaps the only instance in which any man has been told exactly how long he would live. Why God specified the time cannot now be known. It was, however, a full answer to the prayer of Hezekiah, and the promise is a full demonstration that God is the hearer of prayer, and that he can answer it at once. We learn here, that it is right for a friend of God to pray for life. In times of sickness, and even when there are indications of a fatal disease, it is not improper to pray that the disease may be removed, and the life prolonged. If the desire be to do good; to advance the kingdom of God; to benefit others; or to perfect some plan of benevolence which is begun, it is not improper to pray that God would prolong the life. Who can tell but that he often thus spares useful lives when worn down with toil, and when the frame is apparently sinking to the grave, in answer to prayer? He does not indeed work miracles as he did in the case of Hezekiah, but he may direct to remedies which had not before occurred; or he may himself give a sudden and unlooked-for turn to the disease, and restore the sufferer again to health.
days … years—Man's years, however many, are but as so many days (Ge 5:27).2 Kings 20:5,
thus saith the Lord the God of David thy father; this is said, to show that he remembered the covenant he made with David his father, concerning the kingdom, and the succession of his children in it; and that he had a regard to him, as walking in his steps:
I have heard thy prayer; and therefore was not surely a foolish one, as Luther somewhere calls it, since it was heard and answered so quickly:
I have seen thy tears; which he shed in prayer, and so studiously concealed from others, when he turned his face to the wall:
behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years; that is, to the days he had lived already, and beyond which it was not probable, according to the nature of his disease, he could live; and besides, he had the sentence of death pronounced on him, and had it within himself, nor did he pray for his life; so that these fifteen years were over and above what he could or did expect to live; and because it was unusual in such a case, and after such a declaration made, that a man should live, and especially so long a time after, it is ushered in with a "behold", as a note of admiration; it being a thing unheard of, and unprecedented, and entirely the Lord's doing, and which, no doubt, was marvellous in the eyes of the king.Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)5. The verse is greatly abbreviated from 2 Kings 20:5. After Hezekiah the words “the captain of my people” are omitted; and also the sentence “I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord,” which follows the word behold. It cannot be doubted that the historical book here preserves the original text.
the God of David thy father] for whose sake this special mercy is vouchsafed to the king (cf. ch. Isaiah 37:35; 2 Kings 20:6).
fifteen years] That the number was arrived at by calculation on the part of the historian is not to be believed. If there be calculation in the case at all, it is in the date of ch. Isaiah 36:1, which may very possibly be an inference from this prediction combined with the statement of 2 Kings 18:2. (See on ch. Isaiah 36:1) In any case the assumption that the prophecy was exactly fulfilled is a legitimate one, and the fourteenth year of Hezekiah must be accepted as the true date of this sickness. The only question is whether the writer of ch. Isaiah 36:1 may not have fallen into error by supposing that the date of Hezekiah’s sickness fixed the time of Sennacherib’s invasion. On that point see the Chronological Note, pp. lxxvi f. Since the king began to reign in his twenty-fifth year, it is after all not a long life that is here promised to him. His reign was to be doubled.Verse 5. - Thus saith the Lord,... I have heard thy prayer. According to the author of Kings, the full message sent to Hezekiah was, "I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy clays fifteen years; and I will deliver time and this city out of the hand of the King of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake" (2 Kings 20:5, 6). The words in italics are additional to those here reported by Isaiah. Fifteen years. This was doubling, or rather more than doubling, the length of Hezekiah's reign, and allowing him a length of life exceeding that of the great majority of the kings of Judah, who seldom attained the age of fifty. Hezekiah lived to be fifty-four. Isaiah 10:33-34), and to the flight and death of the king of Assyrian (Isaiah 31:9; Isaiah 30:33). If we look still further forward to the second pair of histories (chapters 38-39), we see from Isaiah 38:6 that it is only by anticipation that the account of these closing events is finished here; for the third history carries us back to the period before the final catastrophe. We may account in some measure for the haste and brevity of this closing historical fragment, from the prophet's evident wish to finish up the history of the Assyrian complications, and the prophecy bearing upon it. But if we look back, there is a gap between Isaiah 37:36 and the event narrated here. For, according to Isaiah 37:30, there was to be an entire year of trouble between the prophecy and the fulfilment, during which the cultivation of the land would be suspended. What took place during that year? There can be no doubt that Sennacherib was engaged with Egypt; for (1.) when he made his second attempt to get Jerusalem into his power, he had received intelligence of the advance of Tirhakah, and therefore had withdrawn the centre of his army from Lachish, and encamped before Libnah (Isaiah 37:8-9); (2.) according to Josephus (Ant. x. 1, 4), there was a passage of Berosus, which has been lost, in which he stated that Sennacherib "made an expedition against all Asia and Egypt;" (3.) Herodotus relates (ii. 141) that, after Anysis the blind, who lost his throne for fifty years in consequence of an invasion of Egypt by the Ethiopians under Sabakoa, but who recovered it again, Sethon the priest of Hephaestus ascended the throne. The priestly caste was so oppressed by him, that when Sanacharibos, the king of the Arabians and Assyrians, led a great army against Egypt, they refused to perform their priestly functions. but the priest-king went into the temple to pray, and his God promised to help him. He experienced the fulfilment of this prophecy before Pelusium, where the invasion was to take place, and where he awaited the foe with such as continued true to him. "Immediately after the arrival of Sanacharibos, an army of field-mice swarmed throughout the camp of the foe, and devoured their quivers, bows, and shield-straps, so that when morning came on they had to flee without arms, and lost many men in consequence. This is the origin of the stone of Sethon in the temple of Hephaestus (at Memphis), which is standing there still, with a mouse in one hand, and with this inscription: Whosoever looks at me, let him fear the gods!" This Σέθως (possibly the Zet whose name occurs in the lists at the close of the twenty-third dynasty, and therefore in the wrong place) is to be regarded as one of the Saitic princes of the twenty-sixth dynasty, who seem to have ruled in Lower Egypt contemporaneously with the Ethiopians
(Note: A seal of Pharaoh Sabakon has been found among the ruins of the palace of Kuyunjik. The colossal image of Tarakos is found among the bas-reliefs of Mediet-Habu. He is holding firmly a number of Asiatic prisoners by the hair of their head, and threatening them with a club. There are several other stately monuments in imitation of the Egyptian style in the ruins of Nepata, the northern capital of the Meriotic state, which belong to him (Lepsius, Denkmler, p. 10 of the programme).)
(as, in fact, is stated in a passage of the Armenian Eusebius, Aethiopas et Saitas regnasse aiunt eodem tempore), until they succeeded at length in ridding themselves of the hateful supremacy. Herodotus evidently depended in this instance upon the hearsay of Lower Egypt, which transferred the central point of the Assyrian history to their own native princely house. The question, whether the disarming of the Assyrian army in front of Pelusium merely rested upon a legendary interpretation of the mouse in Sethon's hand,
(Note: This Sethos monument has not yet been discovered (Brugsch, Reiseberichte, p. 79). The temple of Phta was on the south side of Memphis; the site is marked by the ruins at Mitrahenni.)
which may possibly have been originally intended as a symbol of destruction; or whether it was really founded upon an actual occurrence which was exaggerated in the legend,
(Note: The inhabitants of Troas worshipped mice, "because they gnawed the strings of the enemies' bows" (see Wesseling on Il. i.39).)
may be left undecided.
But it is a real insult to Isaiah, when Thenius and G. Rawlinson place the scene of Isaiah 37:36 at Pelusium, and thus give the preference to Herodotus. Has not Isaiah up to this point constantly prophesied that the power of Asshur was to be broken in the holy mountain land of Jehovah (Isaiah 14:25), that the Lebanon forest of the Assyrian army would break to pieces before Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:32-34), and that there the Assyrian camp would become the booty of the inhabitants of the city, and that without a conflict? And is not the catastrophe that would befal Assyria described in Isaiah 18:1-7 as an act of Jehovah, which would determine the Ethiopians to do homage to God who was enthroned upon Zion? We need neither cite 2 Chronicles 32:21 nor Psalm 76:1-12 (lxx ὠδὴ πρὸς τὸν Ἀσσύριον), according to which the weapons of Asshur break to pieces upon Jerusalem; Isaiah's prophecies are quite sufficient to prove, that to force this Pelusiac disaster
(Note: G. Rawlinson, Monarchies, ii.445.)
into Isaiah 37:36 is a most thoughtless concession to Herodotus. The final catastrophe occurred before Jerusalem, and the account in Herodotus gives us no certain information even as to the issue of the Egyptian campaign, which took place in the intervening year. Such a gap as the one which occurs before Isaiah 37:36 is not without analogy in the historical writings of the Bible; see, for example, Numbers 20:1, where an abrupt leap is made over the thirty-seven years of the wanderings in the desert. The abruptness is not affected by the addition of the clause in the book of Kings, "It came to pass that night." For, in the face of the "sign" mentioned in Isaiah 37:30, this cannot mean "in that very night" (viz., the night following the answer given by Isaiah); but (unless it is a careless interpolation) it must refer to Isaiah 37:33, Isaiah 37:34, and mean illa nocte, viz., the night in which the Assyrian had encamped before Jerusalem. The account before us reads just like that of the slaying of the first-born in Egypt (Exodus 12:12; Exodus 11:4). The plague of Egypt is marked as a pestilence by the use of the word nâgaph in connection with hikkâh in Exodus 12:23, Exodus 12:13 (compare Amos 4:10, where it seems to be alluded to under the name דּבר); and in the case before us also we cannot think of anything else than a divine judgment of this kind, which even to the present day defies all attempts at an aetiological solution, and which is described in 2 Sam s effected through the medium of angels, just as it is here. Moreover, the concise brevity of the narrative leaves it quite open to assume, as Hensler and others do, that the ravages of the pestilence in the Assyrian army, which carried off thousands in the night (Psalm 91:6), even to the number of 185,000, may have continued for a considerable time.
(Note: The pestilence in Mailand in 1629 carried off, according to Tadino, 160,000 men; that in Vienna, in 1679, 122,849; that in Moscow, at the end of the last century, according to Martens, 670,000; but this was during the whole time that the ravages of the pestilence lasted.)
The main thing is the fact that the prophecy in Isaiah 31:8 was actually fulfilled. According to Josephus (Ant. x. 1, 5), when Sennacherib returned from his unsuccessful Egyptian expedition, he found the detachment of his army, which he had left behind in Palestine, in front of Jerusalem, where a pestilential disease sent by God was making great havoc among the soldiers, and that on the very first night of the siege. The three verses, "he broke up, and went away, and returned home," depict the hurried character of the retreat, like "abiit excessit evasit erupit" (Cic. ii. Catil. init.). The form of the sentence in Isaiah 37:38 places Sennacherib's act of worship and the murderous act of his sons side by side, as though they had occurred simultaneously. The connection would be somewhat different if the reading had been ויּכּהוּ (cf., Ewald, 341, a).
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