And that very night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 men in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the next morning, there were all the dead bodies!
I. THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB'S ARMY.
1. Its historic truth. On all hands, though Sennacherib's own annals pass over the event in silence, this seems to be admitted. "Thus," says Wellhausen, "it proved in the issue. By a still unexplained catastrophe, the main army of Sennacherib was annihilated on the frontier between Egypt and Palestine, and Jerusalem thereby freed from all danger. The Assyrian king had to save himself by a hurried retreat to Nineveh; Isaiah was triumphant."
2. Its miraculous character. Granting that the event happened, it seems impossible, in view of Isaiah's distinct prediction, to deny its supernatural character. God's hand is almost seen visibly stretched out for the deliverance of his city, and the bringing low of Sennacherib's pride. Allow that the sweeping off of this great army was in any way connected with Isaiah's faith, hope, and prayers, and a supernatural government of the world is established.
3. Its spiritual lessons.
(1) We see the end which commonly overtakes worldly boasters. Greek story delights to dwell on the Nemesis which overtakes inordinate pride. Napoleon, the modern Sennacherib, met with a discomfiture not dissimilar to that here recorded.
(2) We learn not to be afraid of spiritual boasters. The nations may rage, and the people imagine a vain thing; the kings of the earth may set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed. But "he that sits in the heavens will laugh; the Lord will have them in derision" (Psalm 2:4). Scientific and philosophic boasters have not prevailed against the Church yet, and are not likely to do so.
(3) We learn the advantage of entire reliance on God. While Hezekiah leaned on the help of man, he could accomplish nothing. When he cast himself on God's help, he was saved. God has all power in heaven and earth at his command, and is able to do all things for us.
II. THE END OF SENNACHERIB.
1. The great king's retreat. At this point "the great king," the King of Assyria, his boasting effectually silenced, disappears forever from Jewish history. He "departed, and went and returned, and dwelt in Nineveh." No more is heard of his exploits in these pages.
2. His miserable end. His end was a fitting satire on his boasts. Two of his own sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, conspired against him, and slew him while he was worshipping in the house of his god. This is the god to whose power, it may be presumed, he attributed all his conquests. Poor god! that could not save his own worshipper. Sic transit gloria mundi. The sons who slew him could not keep the throne, which was taken by Esarhaddon. - J.O.
And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out.
Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.I. THAT THIS DELIVERANCE WAS MIRACULOUS, because —
1. It was foretold with absolute certainty (vers. 22, 23). Certainty is not an element in human plans. "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow" (James 4:14).
2. It is described as having been wrought by direct superhuman agency.
II. THAT THE DELIVERANCE WAS WROUGHT BECAUSE OF THE CHARACTERS OF THREE MEN.
1. The character of Hezekiah.
2. The character of David (ver. 34). So that David's character had an influence in saving Jerusalem at this time.
3. The character of Sennacherib: From his words here recorded, his pride, his daring opposition to Jehovah are revealed.Therefore the narrative most impressively bears witness —
1. To the fact that God is influenced by human character in His government of the world. A God who would deal with His creatures without regard to their moral character would not command our reverence and love. What would be thought of a human ruler or father who acted thus?
2. That the administration of just punishment is compatible with, is indeed a necessary phase of, the purest benevolence. The angels of God are the most benevolent, because the most perfect, of God's creatures. But they can smite the transgressor as well as succour the afflicted. The removal of the instruments of tyranny from the earth is an act of pure benevolence.
3. That those who live morally above their age, will live beyond their age. David, although an imperfect man, lived upon a higher level of goodness than most of his contemporaries, therefore he has a part in the salvation of his much-loved city long after he ceased to reign in it.
4. He alone can turn the afflictions of life into blessings who has learned to pray. Hezekiah's prayer had much to do with averting the catastrophe which threatened his people. The message to him from God was, "that which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib, king of Assyria, I have heard."
(Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.)
I. THAT ANGER IS AT TIMES COMMENDABLE. We find the Deity moved to hot anger against the Assyrian host, taking vengeance upon the multitude that formed the Assyrian army. It is true, that to say, God is angry, or jealous, is but to speak after the manner of men, is but to attribute human motives to the Godhead. Yet, if we could imagine anger to possess the Deity, even in the sense in which we use the word anger, it would be no diminution of His Divine perfections. Strife against sin, against wrong-doing, against injustice, against the oppression of the weak, against falsehood, against hypocrisy, this was implanted in us for the noblest purposes, this, in fact, is a virtue, and not a vice.
II. THAT WE SHOULD SEE GOD'S HAND IN ALL THE REVOLUTIONS OF HISTORY.
III. THAT A HAUGHTY SPIRIT OFTENTIMES PRECEDES A FALL. Pride, in its egotistical wilfulness, vanity, in its ridiculous pretensions, must be rooted out of the character before any good Christian seed can be developed. Every one that exalteth himself, whether in a spirit of godless self-sufficiency like Sennacherib, or of religious self-complacency like the Pharisees of old, shall be abased; and every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Before honour is humility.
IV. THAT THE DISPENSATIONS OF PROVIDENCE ARE SOMETIMES VERY SUDDEN IN THEIR ACTION. On the very night that Sennacherib encamped, filled doubtless with an idea of his own grandeur, and with a belief that he was about to add to his glory and power by a decisive victory on the morrow, in "that night" the angel of the Lord smote his mighty strength to the ground. "The only thing to be looked for in the conduct of the French on any occasion," says a cynical observer, "is the unexpected" Might not the same statement, in a greater or less degree, be made about all nationalities and about all individuals?
V. THAT WE SHOULD LAY ALL OUR TROUBLES AND WEAKNESSES BEFORE GOD IN PRAYER.
(R. Young, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THE EVENTS OF THIS NIGHT DEVELOP THE FORCE OF WICKEDNESS. How rampant was wickedness this night. Wickedness has ever had great power in this world. Wealth, dominion, and numbers, have ever been at its command. Ever since the Fall, it has been, and still is, the power whose reign is the most extensive. Like the Assyrian hosts, it invades the most sacred scenes, and carries alarm into the most sainted spirits. The fact that wickedness is allowed such power on this earth shows:
1. The regard which God has for the free agency of the human mind. At first He was pleased to endow man with a power of free action and the attributes of responsibility, and although he has sinned and abused this power, the Almighty does not check its operations. He sets before man the good and the evil, and leaves him to make his choice. If he chooses the evil, and is determined to give himself up to it, He allows him often. times to run such lengths, that he becomes a Pharaoh, a Sennacherib, a Nebuchadnezzar, a Herod, or a Napoleon. The fact that wickedness is allowed such power on this earth shows:
2. The wonderful forbearance of God. How wonderful it is that He, who could with a word annihilate every rebel in His universe, should allow His intelligent creatures to live in hostility to Him and His universe. How great His forbearance! How great His forbearance with the Pharaohs who continued to oppress His chosen people for so many generations; with the antediluvian world; with the Jewish nation, etc., etc. Why does He not crush the sinner at once with the first sin? Why does He allow him to go on for years transgressing His laws? The answer is, "He waiteth to be gracious." "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count," etc. The fact that wickedness is allowed such power on this earth, shows:
3. The certainty of a future retribution — It will not always be thus.
II. THE EVENTS OF THIS NIGHT DEVELOP THE FORCE OF JUSTICE. "The angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians."
1. Justice will not always sleep. Indeed, it never sleeps; it only seems to.
2. Justice, when roused, does its work with ease. One angel or agent now destroyed these one hundred and eighty-five thousand armed men.
3. The work of justice involves ruin to the wicked, but salvation to the good. The waters that destroyed the old world bore in safety in its bosom righteous Noah and his family. The sea that engulfed Pharaoh and his host made a highway for the ransomed to pass through; and now the blow that crushed one hundred and eighty-five thousand men, delivered Jerusalem from destruction.
III. THE EVENTS OF THIS NIGHT DEVELOP THE FORCE OF PRAYER. We learn from the preceding verses of this chapter, that when pious Hezekiah the king received haughty and blasphemous threats of his country's destruction from Rabshakeh, the minister of Sennacherib, that he took the letter which contained it, read it, and went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before God (ver. 14.)
1. Observe Hezekiah's prayer (vers. 15-19).
2. Observe the answer (vers. 32-34). "Therefore, thus saith the Lord, concerning the King of Asyna," etc.From this subject we learn two things:
1. That wickedness, however triumphant, must end in ruin.
2. That goodness, however threatened, shall end in a glorious deliverance. "What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they? These are they which came out of great tribulation."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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