Isaiah 37
Isaiah 37 Kingcomments Bible Studies

Isaiah Is Asked to Intercede

On hearing the report, great dejection takes hold of Hezekiah. Just as the delegates did, Hezekiah tears his clothes (Isa 37:1). He expresses his sorrow and humiliation by covering himself with sackcloth. Thus he enters the house of the LORD to seek in his distress the presence of the LORD.

However, at the same time he feels a need for the support of Isaiah (Isa 37:2). Therefore, he sends an envoy to Isaiah made up of some high officials and elders of the priests. Just like Hezekiah, they are covered with sackcloth. Their appearance matches what they have to say to Isaiah. They tell him of the great need in which Jerusalem finds itself.

We can connect the “distress” with the feelings of persons, the “rebuke” with what happens to the city and the “rejection” with what is done to the LORD. Distress weighs so hard that there is no strength to deliver (Isa 37:3). It means that at that critical moment they are helpless and powerless, so that their downfall is certain.

But with a cautious “perhaps” they indicate that there may still be a glimmer of hope (Isa 37:4). There is nothing in their request that indicates a demand or that they believe they have a right to salvation. With this request they acknowledge that they only hope for grace. This is reminiscent of the efficacy of “the Spirit of grace and of supplication” (Zec 12:10).

Their hope lies in the faithfulness of the LORD to Himself and to a remnant chosen by Him (cf. Zechariah 13-14). The enemy has ventured “to reproach the living God” (cf. 1Sam 17:26). Would Isaiah not want to pray that the LORD, for the honor of His Name, will deliver the remnant from the grip of this enemy? With this message the delegation comes to Isaiah (Isa 37:5).

The Answer of Isaiah

The faith of Hezekiah does not remain unanswered. God never fails to answer anyone who entrusts everything to Him. He promised: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psa 50:15). The answer Isaiah has is encouraging. He does not have to pray first, because the LORD has already given him a word that he may give to this envoy (Isa 37:6).

They are allowed to go to Hezekiah with the encouraging message: “Do not be afraid.” Isaiah said the same to Ahaz earlier (Isa 7:4), but unfortunately he did nothing with this encouragement. The word of the prophet only has a powerful effect for those who want to believe.

Hezekiah need not be afraid of all that the messengers of the king of Assyria have said and with which they have blasphemed the LORD. “Because he has stretched out his hand against God and conducts himself arrogantly against the Almighty” (Job 15:25), he will soon learn how foolish it is to fight against the Almighty. The LORD will simply put an end to the siege. He will simply ensure that this hostile king will hear a rumor that will bring him back to his land (Isa 37:7; cf. Pro 21:1). There he will come to his end. So powerful is the LORD and so powerless is this king.

Once More Rabshakeh

After the, apparently negative, reaction of Hezekiah to the threatening boast of Rabshakeh, Rabshakeh returns to his lord to report to him (Isa 37:8). The king of Assyria then finds himself with an army in Libnah. After the report of Rabshakeh, the king would certainly have gone against Jerusalem if he had not heard a rumor, so he doesn’t go up (Isa 37:9) together with the army that is already around Jerusalem to take the city. This is a fulfillment of the first part of the promise of the LORD in Isa 37:7.

What the king still does is to make it clear once more to Hezekiah that he should not cherish the illusion that Jerusalem will be spared (Isa 37:10). In the previous chapter he accuses Hezekiah of deceiving his people; now he goes even further and accuses God of deceiving Hezekiah. Now he tries again to undermine the faith of Hezekiah by writing to him that his trust in his God will prove to be useless. Surely, Hezekiah has heard that no one has been able to withstand the kings of Assyria, hasn’t he (Isa 37:11)? So he must not think that he will be saved.

The word “behold” means that what the king now says are facts that everyone knows. The king’s persuasive argument consists of concrete facts which can all be traced. All the gods of those peoples have not benefited those peoples (Isa 37:12). To Sennacherib, the God of Israel is no different than all the other gods. Let Hezekiah tell him where all the kings of those conquered nations are (Isa 37:13). Hezekiah will share in their fate.

With the exception of the living God, Sennacherib’s argumentation is strong and irrefutable. But the exception is no small thing. That the God of Israel, the living God Who created heaven and earth, is no more than the idols of other peoples, is the biggest mistake Sennacherib and with him the rest of the world can make. The king of Assyria will soon learn the difference between the dead idols of the nations and the living God whom Hezekiah trusts.

The Prayer of Hezekiah

The king of Assyria sent the message of the previous verses in writing to Hezekiah. When Hezekiah has taken in the contents, he goes to the temple again (Isa 37:14; Isa 37:1). At the beginning of the threat Hezekiah also went to the temple, but then to take the gold from it and give it to Sennacherib to buy off the threat (2Kgs 18:15-16). Now it says that he ‘goes up to the house of the LORD’ to present his need to the LORD.

First he spreads out the letter before the LORD, as it were, to let Him read them. Then he prays and presents his need to the LORD (Isa 37:15). He makes his problem a problem of the LORD. The prayer that Hezekiah pronounces is one of the most beautiful expressions of a burdened heart that we find recorded in Scripture. The prayer is short and purposeful. It is pure in its words.

He begins to pronounce the greatness of the LORD (Isa 37:16). With that greatness every earthly opposition will be diminished to nothing. Not that Hezekiah sees no longer difficulties now. He asks this great God not to remain blind and deaf to his supplication. He asks the LORD not to let all the pruning words that Sennacherib has spoken about Him pass Him by. After all, are they words with which “the living God” is reproached (Isa 37:17). Hezekiah is not concerned with what has been said to him personally, but with what has been said to the LORD. Hezekiah knows the LORD as the living God (cf. Isa 37:4). That makes an enormous difference with the gods of the nations, because they are all dead idols.

Hezekiah does not belittle the victories of the kings of Assyria (Isa 37:18). He does not close his eyes to the facts and acknowledges what is true in the words of the enemy. However, the fact that their gods were unable to save them is no wonder to him. They are gods you can throw into the fire because they are gods made by human hands (Isa 37:19). Let God now show His majesty by delivering His helpless people from the power of the king of Assyria (Isa 37:20). That will be a testimony to all kingdoms of the earth that the LORD alone is God! Hezekiah seeks the salvation of the nations.

The LORD Judges Assyria

Shortly after his prayer Hezekiah receives the answer of the LORD which He has made known to the prophet Isaiah (Isa 37:21). Isaiah does not bring Hezekiah the answer himself, but has it conveyed by messengers. This answer is given in the form of a mocking song, similar to the ending of the song of Deborah (Jdg 5:24-30).

The prayer of Hezekiah is a prayer with a subject. It concerns “Sennacherib, the king of Assyria”. It is good that we also go to the Lord with concrete subjects and not pray in general terms. We may then expect a concrete answer.

The answer therefore contains a word of the LORD about Sennacherib (Isa 37:22). The answer is in the form of a poem. We see that the LORD is not impressed by the king of Assyria. On the contrary. He puts Jerusalem despised by Sennacherib words of contempt and mockery in the mouth to speak to this king. Jerusalem, the daughter Zion, will contemptuously shake her head behind him over his humiliating retreat that the LORD will cause of troops that have seemed so invincible.

The LORD takes the matter seriously. The core of the whole situation is shown by two questions in which the answer is included. Against whom are those slanderous words directed? Against the powerless little remnant? Against Hezekiah? No, the king of Assyria has dared to lift himself up against the Holy One of Israel, the three times holy God (Isa 37:23; Job 15:25).

Through his servants he has expressed his contempt for the Almighty by pretending that the LORD does not exist (Isa 37:24). He has acted in confidence on his own strength and insight, full as he is of his own ‘I’. Full of self-confidence he speaks of ‘I will this’ and ‘I will that’ (Isa 37:24-25). He sums up what he has accomplished.

All this haughty speech shrivels when the “I” of the LORD sounds (Isa 37:26). The question “have you not heard?” emphasizes the ignorance about what the LORD is doing. He asks this question here to the heathen king of Assyria. Soon He will ask the same question to His people (Isa 40:21; 28). In their pride people think they can govern the history of the world. They will discover that God controls everything.

The LORD has made come what He had been planning for a long time. By this He means the use of the Assyrians for the execution of His plan. That degrades the mighty king of Assyria to just an instrument in God’s hand doing nothing but carrying out God’s plan (Isa 37:26-27). As a result he has been successful in his enterprises, he has been able to destroy cities and kill their inhabitants. But he did not think of God Who enabled him to do so.

The LORD exposes the heart and deliberations of the king of Assyria (Isa 37:28; cf. Psa 139:2-4; Heb 4:12). The LORD is the Omniscient. He shows that the king of Assyria rather raged against Him. In doing so, this bloated king has sealed his own judgment. The LORD has heard his pride (Psa 94:9a). He will cause his strength to be broken and that he will have to withdraw (Isa 37:29).

The LORD for Hezekiah

In the previous section the LORD has spoken about and to the king of Assyria (Isa 37:22). In Isa 37:30 He addresses Hezekiah and promises him a sign of deliverance. This sign does not come before, but after the deliverance. When the sign is fulfilled, it is proof that the LORD has worked the deliverance. Because of the siege they could neither reap nor sow. After the deliverance they will eat what has risen by itself from the fallen out grains of the previous year. After that they will be able to sow again and eat the fruit at the set time.

The prophet uses this as a picture of the people themselves. Just as there will be a harvest left for the people, so there will be a new flowering season of the people after the judgments (Isa 37:31). This will happen through a “surviving remnant” (Isa 37:31; Isa 37:32), which will go out of Jerusalem (Isa 37:32). The LORD will take care of this in His zeal for His people. This will happen after the church has been raptured.

The prophecy ends with the assurance that the king of Assyria will not be a threat in any way (Isa 37:33). He will not be able to make any attempt to conquest, but will move away from the city (Isa 37:34). The LORD defends the city and will save it (Isa 37:35). He has two reasons for this. The first reason is His own connection with the city. He has attached His honor to it and therefore He protects it. The second reason is His promise to His servant David, the man after His own heart.

He has given Jerusalem to David and in David to the true David, the Messiah, the coming King, Who once will reign in righteousness in the city of peace. The LORD here prophetically gives the promise of the restoration of Israel in the millennial realm, immediately after the supernatural destruction of the Assyrian.

The Enemies Killed

After the comprehensive answer to the prayer of Hezekiah, the Angel of the LORD kills 185,000 men the next night (Isa 37:36; Isa 31:8a). This judgment must have been carried out silently by the LORD. Only when it becomes morning do the survivors see the drama of the night and its extent. The sight of this enormous number of corpses must have been awe-inspiring. After this immense loss, Sennacherib is forced to withdraw and settle in Nineveh (Isa 37:37).

This great blow also has a prophetic meaning. The Angel of the LORD is the Lord Jesus. He executes the judgment here. He will do the same in the end time with the king of the North and other hostile powers (Rev 19:19-21). It is mentioned without fuss.

From the way the king of Assyria comes to his end, a loud message goes out. Those who ignore God in spite of the many proofs he has received of His existence, find their end in the area he worships instead of God. The fool seeks salvation in the temple of his self-conceived and self-made god (Isa 37:38). While he worships that dead god in that temple, at the same place the vengeance of the living God strikes him by means of the sword with which his sons kill him. An idol is completely powerless even in its own temple. Not only the Assyrian army, but also its king falls prey to the judgment of the living God.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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