One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword and escaped to the land of Ararat. And his son Esar-haddon became king in his place.
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.
His sons smote him with the sword.
Homilist.Why are we told of this fact? Holy Scripture, as a general rule, passes over the lives and deaths and exploits of the mere great men of the world in a most cursory way. Only one incident, for example, is mentioned in the life of Herod the Great. Nothing is told us of the Roman Emperor, Augustus, except his office and name; and not so much even as that of his successor, Tiberius. Why then have we related to us so particularly the death of this king, taking place, as it did, so far to one side of the usual path of God's word? The answer will be found by a reference to the past. If we consider,
I. THE CHARACTER OF HIS LIFE. Two things had distinguished it towards man — excessive violence and much pride. You have seen pictures from those Assyrian palaces brought to light again of late years. A favourite subject in most is the victorious king, commanding his captives to be slain, or himself blinding them perhaps with his spear. These pictures, we may be quite certain, are only too correct. What the artist portrayed with such vigour had frequently been in his sight. That almost brutal bodily strength, those stiff and barbarous adornments, those merciless and unrelenting features, were observable, in that ferocious dynasty, to the life. And this Sennacherib, perhaps, of all these sovereigns, was the most successful, and so, the worst.
II. THE CHARACTER OF SENNACHERIB'S DEATH.
1. We have seen the nature of his challenge. We have now to notice the reply. God replied, first, to his pride. Who can stand, the king had said, before me? God answered him, not in battle, not by spoken rebuke, but, as it was prophesied, by a "blast."
2. God replied, next, to his violence and bloodshed. "With what measure ye mete," etc. (Matthew 7:2; see also Judges 1:7; 1 Samuel 15:13; Matthew 26:52). The same kind of rule seems to have been observed in this case. After the king had returned to his own kingdom and city, the weapon he had so often employed was employed on himself.
3. Jehovah answered the man's blasphemy and profaneness. The challenge had been delivered, if not within hearing, certainly within sight, of God's house, in the ears and language of the people who sat on the wall. No answer came at the time. God, who sometimes waits to be gracious, often delays to destroy.
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