Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.Hezekiah acquainteth Isaiah the prophet with the blasphemies of Rab-shakeh: he promiseth deliverance from the Lord, 2 Kings 19:1-7. Sennacherib is forced to march against the Moors; sendeth blasphemous letters to Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:8-13. His prayer, 2 Kings 19:14-19. Isaiah prophesieth the destruction of Sennacherib, and good of Zion, 2 Kings 19:20-34. The same night an angel slayeth the Assyrians: Sennacherib is murdered at Nineveh by his own sons, 2 Kings 19:35-37.
No text from Poole on this verse.
And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.A day of trouble and of rebuke; either,
1. From God, wherein God rebukes and chastens us sorely. Or rather,
2. From the Assyrian, who reviles and reproacheth us; for his business here is to complain, not of God, but of the Assyrian. We are like a poor travailing woman in great extremity, and having no strength left to help herself, and to bring forth her infant into the world. We have attempted to deliver ourselves from the Assyrian yoke; and had carried on that work to some maturity, and, as we thought, brought it to the birth; but now we have no might to finish, unless thou assist us. We have begun a happy reformation, and are hindered by this insolent Assyrian from bringing it to perfection. See 2 Chronicles 32:1.
It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.It may be; he speaks doubtfully, because he knew not whether God would not deliver them all up into the Assyrian’s hand, as he and his people deserved. But sometimes this is not a word of doubt, but of good hope; as Numbers 22:33 Joshua 14:12.
The Lord thy God, to whom thou art dear and precious. He saith not our God, because he seemed to have forsaken and rejected them; and they by their designs had forfeited all their interest in him.
Will hear, i.e. will show by his actions that he hath heard them with just indignation.
Will reprove the words, or rather, will reprove him (an ellipsis of the pronoun, which is frequent in the Hebrew tongue) for the words, as the Syria, and Arabic, and Chaldee render it.
Lift up thy prayer for the remnant: this he mentions as an argument to stir up Isaiah to pray, and to move God’s compassion towards them; that they were but a small remnant, either of God’s people, of whom ten tribes were now lost; or of the kingdom of Judah, which had been greatly wasted and depopulated in the days of Ahaz, and now lately by this Assyrian, 2 Kings 19:13.
So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.No text from Poole on this verse.
Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.I will send a blast upon him, Heb. a wind, a storm or tempest, by which name God’s judgments are oft called, i.e. a violent, and sudden, and terrible stroke; namely, that miraculous destruction of his army, of which 2 Kings 19:35. Although the place may be rendered thus, I will put a spirit within him, so that he shall hear a rumour, and return, &c. For by spirit is many times understood an imagination, or inclination, or affliction; in which sense we read of the spirit of fear, 2 Timothy 1:7; of the spirit of jealousy, Numbers 5:14; of the spirit of slumber, Romans 11:8. Or, a spirit against (for so the Hebrew preposition beth is oft used, as hath been noted before) him; of whom this word is elsewhere used, as Judges 9:23 1 Samuel 16:14,23 1 Kings 22:23; as it is also given to man’s soul, Job 12:10 Ecclesiastes 12:7, which is a spiritual substance, as the angels are. And this interpretation seems most agreeable to the design of this verse, which is in brief to represent all the judgments of God which were to befall him, and which are related in the following history; and therefore all the other particulars being contained in the following branches of this verse; the tidings of Tirhakah, 2 Kings 19:9, in these words,
he shall hear a rumour; his returning to his own land, and being slain there, 2 Kings 19:36,37, in the next words; it seems most probable that the chiefest of all the judgments, to wit, the destruction of 185,000 soldiers in one night, 2 Kings 19:35, is not omitted here, but expressed in the first branch of the verse; and the spirit here is the same thing which is there called an angel; this latter word being there used to limit and explain the former, which otherwise was of a doubtful signification.
So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.Rab-shakeh returned to the king, to give him an account of the treaty, and to advise with him what was further to be done; leaving behind him the army under the other commanders, mentioned 2 Kings 18:17, as is most probable from the other threatening message here following; which would have been very unsuitable, if his siege had been raised.
He was departed from Lachish; not being able to take it.
And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, Behold, he is come out to fight against thee: he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah, saying,King of Ethiopia, Heb. of Cush, i.e. either,
1. Of Arabia, as that word is most commonly meant; of which see the notes, and especially my Latin Synopsis, upon Numbers 12:1. Or rather,
2. Of Ethiopia beyond Egypt. Nor was there any need that he should force his passage through Egypt, which is objected against this opinion by a very learned man; because the Egyptians (against whom this Sennacherib warred, as heathen historians, Herodotus and Berosus, relate) and the Ethiopians were confederates in this expedition, as Josephus expressly affirms; who lived above 1600 years nearer the time when this was done than we, and therefore was more likely to understand it.
Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.No text from Poole on this verse.
Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?No, certainly, never expect it: such questions oft imply a denial, as Genesis 18:17.
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar?Several places about or beyond Euphrates. See Genesis 11:31 Ezekiel 27:23.
Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?where is the king of Hamath? either,
1. Their god, whom he here calls their king, because they looked upon him as their protector and governor, which kings are or should be to their people. Or rather,
2. Their king properly so called. And as before he compared their gods with the God of Jerusalem, so now he compares their kings with king Hezekiah; and by both intends to persuade them, that neither their God nor their king was able to save them out of his hand.
Of Sepharvaim, of Itena, and Ivah; of which See Poole "2 Kings 18:31".
And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.Into the house of the Lord, i.e. into the court of the temple; for further he might not enter.
Before the Lord, i.e. before the ark or temple; which he did, not to acquaint God, but to strengthen his own faith, and quicken himself to prayer.
And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.No text from Poole on this verse.
LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God.Which hath sent him, i.e. the messenger who brought this railing letter, 2 Kings 19:14; or Rab-shakeh, who was easily understood out of the former chapter, although he would not do him the honour to name him; or, sent it, to wit, this letter.
Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands,No text from Poole on this verse.
And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.No text from Poole on this verse.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.i.e. Accepted it, and will answer it; a common synecdoche.
This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.The virgin; so he calls Zion, or Jerusalem; partly, because she was pure in good measure from that gross idolatry wherewith other people were defiled, which is called spiritual whoredom; partly, to signify that God would defend her from that rape which Sennacherib intended to commit upon her, with no less care and zeal than parents do their virgin daughters from those who seek to force and deflour them; and partly, to intimate, that as she had not yet been forced and taken by her barbarous enemies, so she should still retain her virginity, in spite of his attempts against her.
The daughter of Zion, i.e. the people of Zion, i.e. as it follows, of Jerusalem; so called synecdochically from the mountain and city of Zion, which was an eminent part of it. Cities and countries are oft called mothers, as 2 Samuel 20:19; and their inhabitants daughters, as Numbers 21:25 Joshua 17:16 Judges 1:27 Psalm 45:13 Psalm 137:8.
Hath shaken her head at thee; laughed at all thy proud and impotent threatenings. This is a gesture of contempt and derision; of which see Psalm 22:7 44:14 Jeremiah 18:16 Matthew 27:39.
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.Exalted thy voice; by Rab-shakeh, who cried with a loud voice, 2 Kings 18:28.
Lifted up thine eyes on high; a gesture of pride and scornfulness, Proverbs 21:4.
Against the Holy One of Israel: not against man, but against the holy God, who will not suffer thy impious blasphemies to go unpunished; and against the Holy One of Israel, who hath a special relation and kindness to Israel, having as it were set himself apart for them, and set them apart for himself, as being at this time the God of the Jews only, and not the God of the Gentiles; whom, as yet, he suffered to walk in their own evil ways, Acts 14:16. And therefore he will plead their cause against thee.
By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.By thy messengers; so thou hast advanced thy very servants above me.
I am come up to the height of the mountains; I have brought up my very chariots to those mountains which were thought inaccessible by my army.
Lebanon; a high hill, famous for cedars and fir trees, here following.
Will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: this may be understood, either,
1. Mystically, I will destroy the princes and nobles of Judah, (which are sometimes compared to cedars, &c.,) or their strongest cities. Or rather,
2. Literally, I will cut down the trees that hinder my march and plain and prepare the way for all my numerous army and chariots. And by this one instance he intimates that nothing should stand in his way; no, not the highest and strongest places.
The lodgings of his borders, i.e. those towns and cities (which he calls lodgings in way of contempt) which are in his utmost borders, and most remote from me. I am come into the land of Canaan at one border, Lebanon, and I resolve to march on to the other extreme border, and so to destroy the whole country, from one border to another; the borders of a land being oft put for the whole land within its, borders; as Exodus 8:2 Psalm 74:17 147:14 Isaiah 44:12. Or, as it is in the Hebrew, into the lodging of his border; for which, in the parallel place, Isaiah 37:21, it is into the height of his border. And so this may be understood of Jerusalem; which it is not probable that in all his brags he would omit; and against which his chief design now lay; which he here calleth a lodging for its contemptible smallness, if compared with his great and vast city of Nineveh: or, as it is in Isa 37, the height, for its two famous mountains, Zion and Moriah; or for the mountains which were round about Jerusalem, Psalm 125:2; and he adds, of his border, because this city was in the border of Judah; as being part of it in the tribe of Benjamin, and near the kingdom of the ten tribes, which was now in the Assyrian’s hands.
The forest of his Carmel, i.e. the forest of Mount Carmel, which may seem to be another inaccessible place, like Lebanon. Or, into his forest, and his fruitful field; for Carmel, though properly it was a pleasant and fruitful mountain in the tribe of Issachar, of which see Joshua 12:22; yet it is oft used to signify any fruitful place, as is manifest from Isaiah 10:18 16:10 Jeremiah 2:7. And thus all the parts of the land are here enumerated; the mountains, the cities, the woods, and the fruitful fields. Or, his fruitful forest, to wit, Jerusalem; which is thought by many interpreters to be called a forest, Jeremiah 21:14 Ezekiel 20:46, a name which agrees well enough to cities, where buildings are very numerous, and close, and high, like trees in a forest. And if Jerusalem might be called a forest, it might well be called Hezekiah’s Carmel, or fruitful place, because his chief strength, and treasure, and fruit was now in it; and this last word may seem to be added here, to intimate that this was not like other forests, unfruitful and barren. And so both this and the foregoing words are understood of the same place, even of Jerusalem; the last branch being joined to the former by way of apposition; into the lodging of his border, the forest of his Carmel, or his fruitful forest; there being no more words in the Hebrew text.
I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.Strange waters; such as were never discovered nor used by others. And therefore all thy endeavours to deprive me of water for my army, 2 Chronicles 32:3, are idle and fruitless.
With the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places; and as I can furnish my army with water digged out of the earth, by their labour, and my art; so I can deprive my enemies of their water, and can dry up their rivers, and that with the sole of my feet, i.e. with the march of my vast and numerous army, who will easily do this, either by marching through them, and each carrying part away with them; or by drinking every one a little of them; or by their pains making many new channels, and driving the waters of the river into them, as Cyrus dried up Euphrates, and thereby took Babylon.
Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.Hast thou not long since learned that which some of thy philosophers could and did teach thee, that there is a supreme and powerful God, by whose decree and providence all these wars and calamities were sent and ordered, whose mere instrument thou art, so that thou hast no cause for these vain boastings? This work is mine, more than thine. Or, as it is in the margin of our Bibles, Hast thou not heard that (a particle oft understood) I have made (i.e. constituted, or purchased, or adorned, for all these ways is this Hebrew verb used) it (either Jerusalem, which he now threatened; or rather, the Jewish nation, which he endeavoured to root out; the relative pronoun being put without the antecedent, which is to be gathered out of the context; of which I have formerly given instances) long ago, and formed it
of ancient times? i.e. didst thou not hear what I did for this people many ages since, that I carried them out of Egypt in spite of Pharaoh and all his host; and through the Red Sea, where I overthrew the Egyptians; and through the vast howling wilderness; and then brought them into this land by a strong hand, by which I destroyed all their enemies, and planted them in their stead? By which thou mayest understand how dear this people are to me, and how easily I could destroy thee before them, if I saw it fit; and that the places which thou hast taken, and the conquest which thou hast made here, are not to be imputed to thy valour or numbers, but unto my providence, who for wise and just reasons have given them up into thy hands, as it here follows. This may seem to be the truest sense, because that barbarous prince and people were much more likely to hear the tidings of what God did for the Israelites in Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and in Canaan, the fame of which was spread in all those parts, than to hear of or be instructed in the doctrine of God’s particular providence in the government of several nations, and all their counsels and actions of state and war. For though the Assyrian was indeed the rod in God’s hand, &c., Isaiah 10:5, yet he did not so understand it, nor was God in all his thoughts; but he minded only the enlargement of his own empire by the destruction of other kingdoms, as it there follows, 2 Kings 19:7,13-15.
Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps: this translation seems better to agree both with the foregoing branch of this verse, and with the following verse, than the other interrogative translation in the margin; and the plain sense seems to be this: Great things I have done for this people, which thou canst not be ignorant of; but now I have changed my course towards them, resolved to punish them severely for their sins; and therefore now I have brought it to pass, i.e. I have so disposed of things by my providence, that thou shouldst be a great and victorious prince, and that thou shouldst employ thy forces against them to do my work upon them, that thou shouldst be (to wit, a person raised up and fitted and strengthened for this very purpose) to lay waste fenced cities (and to turn them) into ruinous heaps, i.e. that thou shouldst be so successful as thou hast hitherto been, first against the kingdom of Israel, and now against Judah.
Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.Therefore; because I had armed thee with my commission and strength, and taken away their spirit and courage, and withdrew my help from them to give it to thee.
Their inhabitants; the people of Israel, and Judah, and other places which thou hast conquered.
As the grass of the field; which is weak and quickly fading, and unable to resist any hand or instrument which offers violence to it.
As corn blasted before it be grown up, i.e. all their designs and hopes were disappointed before they could come to any perfection or success.
But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.Though thou dost not know me, yet I thoroughly know thee, and all thy designs and actions, all thy secret and subtle contrivances in the place of
thy abode, in thy own kingdom and court, and the execution of thy designs abroad, what thou intendest in thy going out, and with what successes or former thoughts thou comest in, or returnest to thy own land. For the phrase, compare Deu 31:2 Psalm 139:2,3.
And thy rage against me, i.e. against my servant Hezekiah, and my people, against whom he was engaged, because they would not deliver up Jerusalem to him, which he demanded. Things are frequently said to be done against God, which are only done against his people, because of that near union and relation which is between them. See Zechariah 2:8 Acts 9:4,5. But the words may well be rendered, and thy rage is with me, or before me, as the Syriac hath it; or, is manifest to me, as the Chaldee renders it. And so this branch of the verse answers to the former, I know, &c., and it is before me.
Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.Thy tumult, i.e. thy tumultuous noise, thy clamours and blasphemies which Rab-shakeh in thy name beached forth against me with a loud voice, 2 Kings 18:28.
My hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips; a metaphor from wild and furious beasts, that must be thus managed.
I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest; I will cause thee to return to thy home with shame and loss.
And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof.A sign unto thee, to wit, of the certain accomplishment of the promises here made to thee; that Zion should triumph over this insulting enemy, 2 Kings 19:21; that God would not only preserve the city from his present fury, 2 Kings 19:34, but also that God would bless his people with a durable prosperity, and a happy increase, 2 Kings 19:30,31. And thus it is not only a sign of a short deliverance, which would be past before this sign was fulfilled, (though there are instances of such signs as followed the thing done; as Exodus 3:12 Isaiah 7:14) but of a future mercy, which was to continue long after that sign. And this sign was the more necessary, because otherwise Hezekiah and his people had cause to fear that the Assyrians would be greatly enraged for their shameful repulse, and the destruction of their army, and would quickly recruit their army, and return against them with far greater force and violence. But some affirm that Sennacherib, when he heard of Tirhakah’s march against him, of which 2 Kings 19:9, went with his army to meet him, and overthrew him, and the Egyptian who was joined with him, as was noted before; and prosecuted his victory by following them into Egypt and Ethiopia; in the conquest of which he spent two years, in which space the people did eat such things as grew of themselves; and in the third year returned to Jerusalem, intending to besiege it. It is true, it is said, and so the sign went before the thing, (which may be objected against the truth of this relation,) 2 Kings 19:9, that when he heard of Tirhakah, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, pretending as if he would forthwith come against him; but it is not said that he did so, nor is it set down what he did with Tirhakah, because the design of the sacred writer was only to write the history of the Jewish nation; not of others, but only with respect to them.
In the third year: this was an excellent sign, for it was miraculous; especially considering the waste and havoc which the Assyrians had made in the land; and that the Jews had been forced to retire into their strong hold, and consequently to neglect their tilling, and sowing, and reaping; and yet this year they should have sufficient provision from those fruits of the earth which the Assyrian left; and the second year, which probably was the year of release, in which they might neither sow, nor reap from such fruits as the earth brought forth of its own accord; and so in the third year.
Sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof; you shall not sow, and another reap, as lately you did; but you shall enjoy the fruit of your own labours.
And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.i. e. shall increase and multiply greatly; a metaphor from plants. Compare Job 29:19.
For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.A remnant; that handful of Jews who now were gathered together, and shut up in Jerusalem, shall go out to their several habitations, and by my singular blessing increase exceedingly.
They that escape out of Mount Zion; the same thing expressed in other words, which is usual in the Hebrew language.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this: although when you reflect upon yourselves, and consider either your present fewness and weakness, or your great unworthiness, this may seem too great a blessing for you to expect or believe; yet God will do it from the zeal which he hath, both for his own name, to vindicate it from the blasphemous reproaches of the Assyrians, and for the good of his undeserving people.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.Which was true, though he sent Rab-shakeh and others with a great host against Jerusalem, 2 Kings 18:17; either because that host went away with Rab-shakeh to Libnah, above, 2 Kings 19:8; or rather, because that army did not form a close siege against it, but only marched towards it, and disposed themselves so as to block it up at some distance; possibly waiting till the king of Assyria had taken Libnah and Lachish, (which they presumed he would speedily do,) and should come up with the rest of his forces, when they intended to fall more vigorously to their work.
By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.Whereas he expected to devour the kingdom of Judah at one morsel, and then to proceed further, and to conquer Egypt or other neighbouring countries; and as it is said of him, and concerning this very time and design, Isaiah 10:7, to cut off nations not a few, he shall meet with so sad a disappointment and rebuke here, that he shall make haste to return with shame to his own country.
For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.For my promise and covenant’s sake, made with David concerning the stability and eternity of his kingdom. See 1 Kings 11:12,13.
And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.That night; either,
1. In the night following this message of the prophet to Hezekiah; or,
2. In that famous night when God destroyed the Assyrians, it was done in this manner. For such expressions are oft used of an indefinite and uncertain time, as that day is frequently taken, as Isaiah 4:1 26:1 27:1, &c. Smote in the camp, with pestilence, or some other sudden and mortal stroke. The camp of the Assyrians; either before Libnah, or in some other place near Jerusalem, where they were encamped.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.God spared
Sennacherib, not in mercy, but in wrath, reserving him to a more dreadful and shameful death by the hands of his own children.
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.The land of Armenia was a place most fit for their purpose, because it was near to that part of Assyria, and was very mountainous and inaccessible by armies, and the people more stout and warlike, and constant enemies to the Assyrians.
Esarhaddon; who sent great supplies to his new colony in Samaria, Ezra 4:2, fearing, it seems, lest Hezekiah should improve the last great advantage to disturb his new conquests there.