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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 19

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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.

Hesekiah ... rent his clothes ... The rending of his clothes was a mode of expressing horror at the daring blasphemy-the assumption of sackcloth, a sign of his mental distress-his entrance into the temple to pray, the refuge of a pious man in affliction-and the forwarding an account of the Assyrian's speech to Isaiah was to obtain the prophet's counsel and comfort. This mission, consisting of some of the most important members of time court and the priesthood, shows the great influence which Isaiah, by his prophetic character and sage counsels, exercised over the proceedings of Hezekiah, and no circumstances could evince that monarch's wisdom and habitual piety more strikingly than his solicitude for Isaiah's advice and aid, as the servant of Yahweh, in that critical juncture.

Verse 2

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 JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

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.

The children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. The image is that of a parturient woman, whose strength is exhausted, whose powers are paralyzed, at the moment when she required to put forth a vigorous effort. The expression in which the message was conveyed to the prophet described, by a strong figure, the desperate condition of the kingdom, together with their own inability to help themselves; and it intimated also a hope that the blasphemous defiance of Yahweh's power by the impious Assyrian might lead to some direct interposition for the vindication of his honour and supremacy to all pagan gods.

Verse 4

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.

The living God - is a most significant expression, taken in connection with the senseless deities that Rab-shakeh boasted were unable to resist his master's victorious arms.

Wherefore - i:e., on account of Rab-shakeh's blasphemy.

Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left (Hebrew, found) - i:e., for the people of Judah, and especially the inhabitants of Jerusalem, placed in imminent jeopardy, and who now form but a small remnant of the chosen people in the land that was given them by "covenant," to which, though they had unhappily broken it, the king of Judah and his subjects faithfully adhere.

Verse 5

So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

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.

Isaiah said ... Be not afraid. The prophet's answer was most cheering, since it held out the prospect of a speedy deliverance from the invader.

Of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me, [ na`ªreey (H5288), young men, different from `abdeey (H5650), servants, used, 2 Kings 19:5. The former word implies something like contempt for the indiscretion and levity of young end thoughtless lads. The Septuagint has: ta paidaria].

Verse 7

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.

Behold, I will send a blast upon him. The usual way of interpreting this clause is by considering it the first announcement in the series of divine judgments which were to befall the haughty blasphemer. The blast, the rumour, the fall by the sword, contained a brief prediction that was soon fulfilled in all the three particulars-namely, the alarm that hastened his retreat, the destruction that overtook his army, and the violent death that suddenly ended his career. "I will send a blast" [ noteen (H5414) bow (H871a) ruwach (H7307). The word ruwach does sometimes signify a blast, a violent wind (2 Kings 2:16; Job 1:19; Job 30:15; Isaiah 27:8; Isaiah 40:7; Hosea 13:15; Jonah 1:4); and what is here called a spirit, is called (2 Kings 19:36-37) "an angel," according to Psalms 104:4. But it cannot bear such a meaning in its present connection. The import of this clause, rendered literally, is, 'I will put a spirit in him.' And so also the Septuagint: egoo (G1473) didoomi (G1325) en (G1722) autoo (G846) pneuma (G4151), 'I will infuse a spirit into him;' pneuma (G4151) deilias (G1167), a spirit of timidity, misgiving (Secker, quoted by Lowth). In this sense of imagination, affection, or state of mind, the word occurs frequently-the spirit of jealousy (Numbers 5:14), the spirit of slumber (Romans 11:8), the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) (Many attach this meaning to it here, thinking the reference in to a sudden panic, which drove the foe hurriedly back to Assyria), and the spirit of courage, energy, fortitude (Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1; 1 Kings 10:5). This last view is advocated by Henderson (Isaiah 37:7). Gesenius thinks it denotes the spirit mind, resolution of a person to do a thing, and accordingly translates the clause, 'I will inspire him with a purpose'-namely, to prosecute his expedition into Egypt, instead of coming in person to besiege Jerusalem.]

And he shall hear a rumour - the report of the destruction of a large portion of his army, or the intelligence that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, was to join his forces with those of Lower Egypt, in opposing his invasion. This news, immediately consequent upon the awful disaster that had befallen his army, would be sufficient, in his disabled state, to urge upon him the necessity of a hasty retreat.

Verse 8

So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.

Rab-shakeh ... found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah. Whether Lachish had fallen or not, is not said. But Sennacherib had transferred his battering-rams against the apparently neighbouring fortress of Libnah (Joshua 10:29: cf. 2 Kings 19:31; 15:42 ); where the chief cup-bearer reported the execution of his mission.

Verse 9

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,

When he heard say of Tirkakah ... This was the "rumour" to which Isaiah referred. Tirhakah reigned in Upper Egypt, while So, or Sabaco, ruled in Lower Egypt. He was a powerful monarch-another Sesostris; and both he and Sabaco have left many monuments of their greatness. The name and figure of Tirhakah receiving war-captives are still seen in the Egyptian temple of Medinet 'Abou. This was the expected succour which was sneered at (2 Kings 18:21) by Rab-shakeh as a "bruised reed." Rage against Hezekiah for allying himself with Egypt, or the hope of being better able to meet this attack from the south, induced him, after hearing the rumour of Tirhakah's advance, to send a menacing letter to Hezekiah, in order that he might force the king of Judah to an immediate surrender of his capital. This letter, couched in the same vaunting and imperious style us the speech of Rab-shakeh, exceeded it in blasphemy, and contained a larger enumeration of conquered places, with the view of terrifying Hezekiah, and showing him the utter hopelessness of all attempts at resistance. Tirhakah's name appears on the monuments of Egypt (Loftus, p. 336; Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 1:,

p. 436; Wilson's 'Lands of the Bible,' 1:, p. 91).

Verses 10-13

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 JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 14

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.

Hezekiah received the letter ... and ... went up into the house of the Lord. Hezekiah, after reading it, hastened into the temple, spread it, in the child-like confidence of faith, before the Lord, as containing taunts deeply affecting the divine honour, and implored deliverance from this proud defier of God and man. The devout spirit of this prayer, the recognition of the Divine Being in the plenitude of His Majesty-so strikingly contrasted with the fancy of the Assyrians as to his merely local power; his acknowledgment of the conquests obtained over other lands, and of the destruction of their wooden idols, which, according to the Assyrian practice, were committed to the flames, because their tutelary deities were no gods; and the object for which he supplicated the divine interposition, that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that the Lord was the only God-this was an attitude worthy to be assumed by a pious theocratic king of the chosen people.

Verses 15-19

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 JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 20

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.

Then Isaiah ... sent. A revelation having been made to Isaiah, the prophet announced to the king that his prayer was heard. The prophetic message consisted of three different portions: First, Sennacherib is apostrophized (2 Kings 19:21-28) in a highly poetical strain, admirably descriptive of the turgid vanity, haughty pretensions, and presumptuous impiety of the Assyrian despot. Secondly, Hezekiah is addressed (2 Kings 19:29-31), and a sign given him of the promised deliverance-namely, that for two years the presence of the enemy would interrupt the peaceful pursuits of husbandry, but on the third year the people would be in circumstances to till their fields and vineyards, and reap the fruits as formerly. Thirdly, The issue of Sennacherib's invasion is announced (2 Kings 19:32-34).

Verse 21

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, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee - the inhabitants in the upper part of the city, the citadel or fortress of Zion, called a virgin because it had hitherto been inviolate by a foreign enemy.

The daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. This, of course, must denote the people in the lower city. 'Shaking head'-a sign of contempt (Psalms 22:7; Matthew 27:39).

Verse 22

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.

Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? ... even against the Holy One of Israel. In the Jewish law he was guilty of blasphemy who applied that fearful and glorious name to an idol; not less was he chargeable with the same crime who would have the boldness to apply it unwarrantably to himself. Of the latter form of blasphemy Sennacherib was guilty, in ascribing to himself powers, and a command over success and victory, such as can belong to none but an omnipotent being.

Verse 23

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.

I am come up ... the sides of Lebanon. There is no reason to suppose there was an actual ascent of Lebanon, as Hannibal and Napoleon crossed the Alps. The description is figurative.

I will enter into the lodgings of his borders [ mªlown (H4411) qitsoh (H7093)] a lodging place or I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, [ mªlown (H4411) qitsoh (H7093)] - a lodging-place, or khan, on the border.

And into the forest of his Carmel - according to some, its densest forest. The words "and into" are not in the original. Carmel, when used as a proper name, whether of the well-known mountain in the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 12:22), or of the district "of Maon," in the wilderness of Paran, is invariably preceded by the article, ha-Carmel. Since the article is missing in this passage, the word must be a common noun, denoting a fruitful field, a rich, cultivated country (cf. Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 32:15-16; Jeremiah 4:6-7). The clause then may be translated, 'I will go into the lodging of (I will encamp with my troops on) his border, his forest, his fruitful country.' 'Thus,' as Poole remarks, 'all the parts of the land are here enumerated; the mountains, the cities, the woods, and the fruitful fields. Or "his fruitful forest" may mean Jerusalem, which is thought by many interpreters to be called a forest (Jeremiah 21:14; Ezekiel 20:46) - a name agreeing well enough with cities, where buildings are very numerous, close, and high, like trees in a forest. Further, if Jerusalem might be called "a forest," it may well be called Hezekiah's Carmel, a fruitful place, because his chief strength, treasure, and fruit were now in it; and this last word seems to be added here, to intimate that this was not like other forests, unfruitful and barren. So both this and the foregoing words are understood of Jerusalem, the last branch being joined to the former by way of apposition - "into the lodgings of his border," "the forest of his Carmel," or his fruitful forest, there being no more words in the Hebrew text.'

Verse 24

I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.

I have digged and drunk strange waters. Here is another instance of boasting that he had overcome the greatest difficulties and disadvantages of nature. Though passing through foreign countries, parts of which extended in inhospitable deserts, where it might have been anticipated that his army would have perished of thirst, he had with skillful and well-applied labour digged into the arid soil, and found a sufficient supply of the necessary fluid.

And with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places. The metaphor was probably derived from the familiar fact of a gardener opening rills of water by his foot. Assuming that there is some reality, or basis of fact, under this grandiloquent figure, it may be supposed to mean, that the strongest fortresses had been taken by his forces, and that cities defended by the encircling course of broad rivers were successfully stormed, by diverting the currents, so that the assailants, crossing dry-shod the old channels of those streams, had, contrary to human anticipations, effected an easy entrance into the "besieged places." [But maatsowr (H4693), rendered "besieged places," is considered by Gesenius (sub voce) and Bochart ('Hierezoicon,' part 2:, lib. 5:, cap. 15) to be here the proper name of Egypt, and apparently of Lower Egypt (so called, probably, from being well fortified. Bochart, 'Phaleg.,' 4:, 34).] In this sense the word occurs in Isaiah 19:6; Micah 7:12.

If Sennacherib made an actual invasion into Lower Egypt, it must have been with the army of his father Sargon. For the Assyrian monuments afford no evidence that he himself proceeded further against the Egyptians than Lachish, which was at that time under their jurisdiction. The language seems to point to the energetic and politic measures which Hezekiah had taken for stopping up the wells, fountains, and reservoirs about Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:3-4; Isaiah 22:9; Isaiah 22:11; Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 14:, sec. 5); notwithstanding which the proud Assyrian boasted that he was under no apprehension of wanting a supply of that essential liquid, or being compelled to fetch it from distant sources, since he had previously overcome the greatest difficulties in that respect. (See Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:, p. 437, where that writer states it as his opinion that the blocking up of the fountains at Jerusalem took place on the first expedition of Sennacherib. And, on the nature and extent of the changes made at that time in the water supply, Williams' 'Holy City,' 2:, pp. 472-482; Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 1:, p. 513; Stewart's 'Tent and Khan,' p. 271; Barclay's 'City of the Groat King,' ch. 10:, especially p. 307; Wilson's 'Lands of the Bible,' 1:, p. 493; Porter's 'Handbook,' p. 135, sec. 47.)

Verse 25

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 heard long ago how I have done it. Here comes the prophet's response to the Assyrian's boasting. The purport of it is, that Sennacherib was merely an instrument in the hands of Yahweh, to accomplish His purposes of providential judgment.

Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps ...

This divine description of Sennacherib's career receives a striking illustration from that king's own monumental account of his rapid course of conquest, which has rarely been paralleled in history except by Napoleon the Great. 'In my third (i:e., regnal) year, I went up to the country of the Khetta, or Hittites (a name denoting Phoenicia, Palestine, etc.) Euliya, king of Sidon (the Eluloeus of Menander), had thrown off the yoke of allegiance. On my approach from Abiri, he fled to Yetnana which is on the seacoast (the Rhinocolura of the Greeks). I reduced his entire country. The places which submitted to me were Sidon the greater and Sidon the less, Beth-zitta (the city of Olives) - unknown; Saripat (Sarepta), Mahallat (an ascent), Husuva (Tyre), Akzib (Ecdippa), and Akka (Accho, Acre).

I placed a new prince on the throne instead of Euliya, and imposed on him the regulated amount of tribute. The kings of the seacoast all repaired to my presence in the neighbourhood of Husuva (Tyre), and brought me their accustomed tribute.' The names of these kings-all maritime princes-are only found upon Colonel Taylor's cylinder, and same of them are unfortunately illegible. 'Sika of Ascalon, who did not come to pay me homage, the gods of his house and his treasures, his sons and his daughters, and his brothers of the house of his father, I seized, and sent off to Nineveh. I placed another chief on the throne of Ascalon, and I imposed on him the regulated amount of tribute.' All these achievements were performed during the spring and summer. 'In the autumn of that year' he continues, 'certain other cities, among which was Ekron the inhabitants of which were attached to Hezekiah, and which had refused to submit to my authority, I took and plundered.' Then he describes his progress southward, until he reached Al...ku, or Allkahis (Lachish) (Rawlinson's 'Outlines of Assyrian History,' p. 35:)

Verse 26

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 27

But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.

I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in. All the movements of Sennacherib were well known to Yahweh. His residence in Assyria, his expedition against Judah and Egypt, his return home for a time, his second expedition, his menaces against Judah, and blasphemous defiance of Judah's God-all these were well known and permitted in the course of Divine Providence.

Verse 28

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.

I will put my hook in thy nose - or I have put, etc. People in the East lead their large and turbulent beasts by a bridle fastened to a ring, which is put through the cartilage of the animal's nose (Job 41:1-2). The Assyrians often strung a number of war-captives in that way, with their hands bound behind them, and rings fastened in their nostrils (cf. Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 19:9; Ezekiel 29:3-4) (Rawlinson, 'On the Cuneiform Inscriptions,' p. 76). Sometimes the ring was passed through the lip ('Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, 376).

Verse 29

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.

This shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves ... The "sign" which Isaiah goes on to promise, in terms apparently made obscure in order to excite consideration, seems best explained to mean, that the Assyrian devastations of the open country of the Jews had prevented the regular cropping of the land, and consequently the regular harvest for the current year; and as the enemy was still in occupation of the country, there was no possibility of plowing and sowing, in preparation for the next year either; but the season after that, the prophet confidently asserts that they would be able to sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.

The promise is thus brought into strict harmony with the previous threat (cf. Isaiah 32:10), that 'the vintage should fail, and the gathering not come' for a time, which we must understand Isaiah thereby to say would be considerable; whether we understand the 'days above a year,' of the original, to mean 'more than full year,' or look only at the general expressions in the following verses of the passage referred to. That what Isaiah said there, he may have meant here, might seem answer enough to the objection, that those who give this explanation of the loss of two harvests, must suppose the prophet to have expected the Assyrian occupation to last much longer than the history shows that it did; but the objection itself vanishes, if we recollect that the movements of great armies against and over a country defended by deserts and mountains and fortified cities, the political negotiations preceding and following these movements, and the recovery of depopulated villages and wasted grain-fields and vineyards, were not events which could begin and end within any such short space as it takes to write or read of them.

'This sign is analogous in character to all other symbols (cf. Genesis 9:1-29; Exodus 3:12; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:1) of which the purpose is, not to establish faith in a future miracle, because a present one has been performed, but to supply such an outward and visible sign of the accompanying inward spiritual grace as will, from the very constitution of man's being, help him to realize the latter, as he could not do by any naked mental effort. And the thing here signified has itself an inward and an outward part; for as the spontaneously-sowed and multiplied grain and fruit will be the foundation and materials of the regular cultivation of the third year, so will the deserted villages and farms be replenished with the survivors of those who have for the present found refuge within the walls of Jerusalem; and both the one and the other will be the types of "holy seed," the existence of which in the corrupt nation was made know to Isaiah at his first calling to the prophetic office, when he was told that he was to watch and wait with the long patience of the farmer for the growing up of that seed, after the hard ground had been broken up, and the rampant weeds rooted out, by the plowshare of repeated national calamities' (Strachey, 'Hebrew Politics,' p. 280).

Verse 30

And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.

The remnant ... shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward, [ pªriy (H6529), fruit of the womb; need sometimes of beasts, but here of persons (cf. Jeremiah 12:2; Hosea 9:10)].

Verses 31-32

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. No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 33

By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.

Shall not come into this city - nor approach near enough to shoot an arrow, not even from the most powerful engine which throws missiles to the greatest distance; nor shall he occupy any part of the ground before the city by a fence, a mantelet, or covering for men employed in a siege; nor cast (raise) a bank (mound) of earth, overtopping the city walls, whence he may see and command the interior of the city. None of these, which were the principal modes of attack followed in ancient military art, should Sennacherib be permitted to adopt. Though the army under Rab-shakeh marched toward Jerusalem, and encamped at a little distance, with a view to blockade it, they delayed laying siege to it, probably waiting until the king, having taken Lachish and Libnah, should bring up his detachment, that with the whole combined forces of Assyria they might invest the capital. So determined was this invader to conquer Judah and the neighbouring countries (Isaiah 10:7), that nothing but a divine interposition could have saved Jerusalem.-It might be supposed that the powerful monarch who overran Palestine, and carried away the tribes of Israel, would leave memorials of his deeds on sculptured slabs or votive bulls. A long and minute account of this expedition is contained in the annals of Sennacherib, a translation of which has recently been made into English; and in his remarks upon it, Colonel Rawlinson says the Assyrian version confirms the most important features of the Scripture account. The Jewish and the Assyrian narratives of the campaign are, indeed, on the whole, strikingly illustrative of each other.

Verse 34

For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.

For mine own sake - (cf. Isaiah 48:11.)

And for my servant David's sake - i:e., from regard to the promise and solemn covenant established with David, relating to the stability of his kingdom and the perpetuity of his royal line (2 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Kings 11:12-13).

Verse 35

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.

And it came to pass that night. These two last words are not contained in the parallel passages either of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:21) or of Isaiah (Isaiah 37:36). The latter passage reads simply, "Then the angel of the Lord went forth;" and as the phrase 'that day' is frequently used in a vague, indefinite sense (cf. Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 26:1; Isaiah 27:1), so may "that night," meaning only that memorable night on which the destruction took place. Certainly the idea of its immediate occurrence is directly at variance with the limitation of time specified, 2 Kings 19:29. That the catastrophe was completed in one night is confirmed by Psalms 46:1-11 (a psalm which is generally regarded as composed at the time by Isaiah, or some devout inhabitant of Jerusalem), in 2 Kings 19:5 of which the words. "God shall help her, and that right early," are, in the Hebrew original, 'God shall help her at the turning of the morning.' The expression is exceedingly significant and striking, if it be viewed as pointing to that period of the night when the awful overthrow took place, the sight of which was discovered at the break of day (cf. Isaiah 17:14).

`Like the leaves of the forest, when summer is green, That host with their banners at sunset were seen; Like the leaves of the forest, when autumn hath blown,

That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.'

The angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand. The representation of an angel smiting the camp of the Assyrians expresses, according to the mental conception of the sacred historian, the suddenness, fatality, and widespread extent of the terrible visitation (cf. Acts 12:23).

And when they arose early in the morning ... they were all dead corpses. It was the miraculous interposition of the Almighty that defended Jerusalem; and, in the despair of help from human counsels or arms, which Hezekiah betrays on receiving the letter, nothing but a divine power could have rescued the kingdom of Hezekiah at that time from an immediate overthrow similar to those of Damascus and Samaria. As to the secondary agent employed in the destruction of the Assyrian army, some think (Berosus, quoted by Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 10:, ch. 2:, p. 48) that it was caused by the pestilence, to which may be ascribed the sickness of Hezekiah about the same time; or it might be that it was effected by a hot south wind, the Simoom, such as to this day often envelops and destroys whole caravans.

This conjecture is supported by various reasons: The destruction was during night: the officers and soldiers being in full security, were negligent, their discipline was relaxed, the camp-guards were not alert, or perhaps they themselves were the first taken off, and those who slept, not wrapped up, imbibed the poison plentifully. Others, among whom is Vitringa ('Commentary,' in loco), founding on Isaiah 30:30 (English version), and considering that 'the voice of Yahweh' denotes thunder (Psalms 29:1-11), are of opinion that the destruction was effected by a tempest of extraordinary violence, the hailstones being as destructive as at the battle of Beth-horon (Joshua 10:11).

Furthermore, that it took place in Judah, not in Egypt, appears from Isaiah 14:25. If this had been an evening of dissolute mirth (no uncommon thing in a camp) their joy (perhaps for a victory, or 'the first night of their attacking the city,' says Josephus), became, by its effects, one means of their destruction. This hypothesis proceeds on the assumption, which the text appears to warrant, that the destruction was accomplished in one night. Berosus, the Chaldean historian, and Herodotus (b. 2:, p. 141) agree with the apparent tenor of the sacred record, that the calamity occurred in one night. The former says that it happened on the first night of the siege of Jerusalem. The latter, who drew his account from the Egyptians, attributes it to a singular visitation. His words are, 'Sennacherib came against the Egyptian king, who was the priest of Vulcan, and that as he was besieging Pelusium, he broke up the siege for the following reason: The Egyptian priest prayed to his god, who heard him, and sent a judgment on the Arabian (erroneously for the Assyrian) king. A multitude of mice gnawed to pieces in one night both the bows and the other accoutrements of the Assyrians, and that it was on that account Sennacherib, when he had no armour left, hastily withdrew his army from Pelusium.' Herodotus thus lays the scene of the disaster in Egypt, misled by a national myth, which the vanity of his Egyptian informers, in ascribing it to their god, palmed upon him. But the sacred history, and Berosus along with it, represent the Assyrian soldiers as perishing by an invisible stroke.

As to the number of the slain, immense as the destruction was, there would be no extraordinary difficulty in ascertaining the precise amount. The scene in the morning would exhibit no trace of the wild disorder and universal confusion consequent upon a battle. The camp was in its normal state of orderly disposition, the common soldiers stretched upon their beds, unconscious of what had befallen them, the officers in their splendid tents, and the sentinels at their respective posts of duty, when they were overtaken by the sudden visitation which made them all dead corpses. The Jews, therefore, would soon learn the astounding intelligence; and Hezekiah, who would doubtless regard the dispensation as the accomplishment of Isaiah's prediction, would send out messengers to examine and report. When their first astonishment, mingled with the deepest feelings of reverential awe, and of thanksgiving for what was so unmistakeably a divine interposition in their behalf, had subsided, they would be able with ease, as well as with perfect accuracy in the circumstances, to take the tale of the slaughtered Assyrians, and bring it to Jerusalem. The report of the Jews would spread with the rapidity of lightning through all the cities of Philistia and Phoenicia, Syria, and Chaldea, which had suffered from the ruthless invader, as well as the people of Hezekiah; so that in all likelihood Berosus, in making his numerical statement at 185,000, was giving permanence to the popular tradition universally current among the tributary nations of the Assyrian empire.

No notice, as might be expected, is found in the Ninevite inscriptions of this terrible catastrophe. The Assyrian monarchs were accustomed to record in minute detail the successes of the national arms, but they carefully abstained from the smallest allusion to any reverse. But the omission of a full record of this second expedition, so contrary to the invariable practice, the established usage, of those sovereigns to narrate the transactions of their own reigns, is very significant; and although Sennacherib has not registered the miraculous destruction of his vast army, the abandonment of all further attempts to prosecute his enterprise against Jerusalem is in itself a most intelligible indication that he felt himself no longer in a condition to make an attack on that city. 'The events of the following year of Sennacherib present a marked contrast to the detailed and magniloquent descriptions of the preceding periods. They are confined to a few meagre lines, and refer exclusively to an expedition against the Chaldees, which Sennacherib does not seem even to have conducted in person' (Rawlinson's 'Outlines,' p. 37).

The narrative of this great campaign, so memorable for that miraculous interposition of Yahweh which rescued the kingdom of Judah from otherwise inevitable ruin, and dealt a fatal blow to the Assyrian empire, is, in the chapter before us, scanty and imperfect, being continued, in fact, only so far as was necessary to show the bearing of the expedition upon the interest of Jerusalem and Judah. Some parts of it are involved in considerable obscurity. It is impossible to determined whether Sennacherib had actually taken Lachish, when he despatched Rab-shakeh, Rabsaris, and Tartan, with a large contingent of troops against Jerusalem, to intimidate Hezekiah;-whether Rab-shakeh withdrew these troops from Jerusalem when he returned himself to Sennacherib's headquarters;-whether, if they were left before the walls of Jerusalem, to commence a regular siege of that metropolis, it was this portion of the soldiers which perished so awfully, or the main body of the Assyrian army;-whether Sennacherib, having, as he says in his annals, signally defeated the Egyptians at Lachish, had penetrated into Egypt, and having heard of Tirhakah the Ethiopian's junction of his forces to those of the native king, Sethos (or Zet), he formed the determined purpose to encounter him, but on hearing the report of the sudden and mysterious loss of his army, he was struck with uncontrollable awe, and hastily fled, as Josephus says, out of Egypt, back to his own country; these and other questions of a similar kind, it is impossible, from the succinct account of the sacred historians, to answer with confidence.

But we may learn from it all that it is important and necessary know. 'We see that in the regular advance of the Assyrian power, it had reached the point at which Sennacherib could cease to temporize with Judah, and might proceed completely to absorb the tributary state into the empire. The kingdom of Samaria had already followed the fate of Damascus in this respect; the taking of Ashdod had not only opened the road to Egypt, but also turned the position of Judah; the plunder of No-ammon had sharpened the appetites of the northern invaders for new campaigns and conquests; and if Sennacherib thought it well to try and intimidate Hezekiah and his people into surrendering cities, which even Tartan himself would have had difficulty in taking, until they were starved out, we may infer from the insolent way in which he still avows his ultimate intentions, if they did surrender, that he really had no fear for the result, even though he should be obliged to fight Tirhakah, with Judah unconquered, and assisting the Egyptians.

The justness of the belief, which (as we learn from Herodotus) was held by the Egyptians as well as by the Hebrews, that nothing but an interposition of God's hand could at this moment have broken the great Assyrian power, is confirmed by this conduct of Sennacherib and his messenger, no less than by the despair of help from human counsels, or of arms, which Hezekiah manifests on receiving the report of the message and the letter by which it was afterward followed. The conviction that the Lord of Israel was strong enough, and no less willing, to keep his convenant, by defending the nation against all its enemies, had no doubt supported Hezekiah hitherto; but it would have been insufficient, in this moment, to meet the terrible feeling that he was now in the actual presence and power of the representative of irresistible arbitrary force, unless a higher truth had come to sustain this lower one, and he had realized (as men only do realize in some extremity of their own helplessness) that there was an absolute Will retaining the mastery over that irresistible force, however crushing it might seem; and that the Lord of Israel, who "dwelt between the cherubims," was himself the God, the only God, of all the kingdoms of the earth, and so of this Assyrian kingdom among the rest' (Strachey, 'Hebrew Politics,' p. 274). It was the living power of this truth which supported the heart of Hezekiah himself, and which being communicated through his royal example, together with the exhortations and assurances of Isaiah to the court and inhabitants of Jerusalem, enabled them all to stand still in faith and patience until, like the Israelites pursued by Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea, they saw the salvation of God.

Verse 36

So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.

So Sennacherib ... departed, and went and returned [ wayica` (H5265), decamped; Septuagint, apeere, took away by force, departed with the remnant of his army. The redundancy of expression used in this description of Sennacherib's flight from Judah is similar to that of Catiline's from Rome, Abiit, excessit. evasit, erupit]. The early chariot-track near Beirut is on the rocky edge of Lebanon, which is skirted by the ancient Lycus (Nahr el-Kelb). On the perpendicular face of the limestone rock, at different heights, are seen slabs with Assyrian inscriptions, which, having been deciphered, are found to contain the name of Sennacherib. Thus, by the preservation of these tablets, the wrath of the Assyrian invaders is made to praise the Lord.

Dwelt at Nineveh [ yeesheb (H3427) Septuagint ookeese] - resided remained in his capital administering Dwelt at Nineveh, [ yeesheb (H3427) Septuagint, ookeese] - resided, remained in his capital, administering the internal government of his kingdom, and relinquishing all extensive plans of foreign conquest-particularly against Judah, the king and kingdom of which he had learned by dire experience were under divine protection. Both the Hebrew and Greek verbs imply a considerable period of time, but neither of them determines the question, how long he dwelt at Nineveh, though most readers take up an impression, from the tenor of the context, that so daring a blasphemer would not be permitted to live long. Josephus ('Antiquities,'

b. 10:, ch. 1:, sec. 3) quotes Berosus, who says indefinitely, that 'he had abode there a little while,' when his life was suddenly terminated. The annals of his reign, as read in the inscriptions at Kouyunjik, carry on his history at least five years after his return to Nineveh.

Notices are supposed to have been found which record his conducting a war against the Armenians and Medes in the fifth year, and that, having engaged Phoenician sailors to man a small fleet he had built to put on the navigable rivers the Tigris and Euphrates, he put himself at the head of a naval armament fitted out against some of his revolted subjects along the shores of the Persian Gulf, whom he reduced to submission. This expedition occupied him the whole of the next three years. But from the eighth year after his disastrous retreat from Palestine his annals are missing. Eusebius, quoting Alexander Polyhistor ('Chronica,' b. 1:, ch.

v.), says he reigned for 18 years; but there is monumental evidence that the duration of his reign extended over 22 or 25 years. This statement implies a considerable period of time, and his annals carry on his history at least five years after his disastrous campaign at Jerusalem. No record of his catastrophe can be found, since the Assyrian practice was to record only victories. The sculptures gave only the sunny side of the picture.

Verse 37

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.

As he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch. Nisroch, a great eagle (Gesenius). The eagle was declared to be the form of this Assyrian god long before the discovery of the Ninevite monuments (Selden, 'De Diis Syris. Syntag.,' 2:, cap. 10:; Beyer, 'Addimenta,' p. 325); and conformably to that ancient belief, it was supposed that the eagle, or vulture-headed figure, which so frequently occurs among the sculptured remains, had a reference to some deified hero who was worshipped under that title-either Asshur, the founder and tutelary deity of Assyria (Rawlinson's 'Outlines,' p. 18), or Nimrod, whose personal qualities and pursuits were expressed by that rapacious bird (see 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 459; also 'Nineveh and Babylon,'

p. 637, note).

Asshur, however, the head of the Assyrian Pantheon, is not represented as a vulture headed figure-that is now ascertained to be a priest-but as a winged figure in a circle. No trace of Nisroch is found except in the present passage and the parallel one of Isaiah 37:38, and Sir H. Rawlinson has shown that there was no temple of Asshur in Nineveh. [The name, which does not occur in the Assyrian monuments, is variously given, being called by Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 10:, ch. 1:, sec. 3) Arascus (Eng., Arask); Septuagint, Vatican, Meserach; Alexandrine, esthrach; but in Isaiah the same version has: Nasarach . These various readings of the Septuagint version,' says Rawlinson ('Ancient Monuments,' 2:, p. 265) 'make it extremely uncertain what was the name actually written in the original Hebrew text.'] Nisroch, which is utterly unlike any divine name hitherto found in the Assyrian records, is most probably a corruption (see also Sir H. Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,'

b. 1:, 590), Josephus ('Antiquities, b. 10:, ch. 1:, sec. 3) says that Sennacherib was slain in his own temple, b. 1:, 590), Josephus ('Antiquities, b. 10:, ch. 1:, sec. 3) says that Sennacherib was slain in his own temple, which was called Araske.

Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword [ 'Adramelek (H152), splendour of the king; Septuagint, Vatican, Adramelech; Alexandrine, Adremelech]. Berosus calls him Ardumusanus, and mentions him alone, doubtless as being the principal assassin. Moses Chorenensis ('Hist. Armen.,' 1:, 22) gives him the name of Adramelus in one passage, and that of Argamozanus in another. Eusebius ('Chr. Can. Pars prima,' cap. 5:, sec. 1), from Alexander Polyhistor, styles him Ardumuzanes, and (in Ditto, cap. 9:) from Abydenus, Adrameles. "Sharezer" [ Sar'etser (H8272), prince of fire, according to Gesenius, who derives it from the Persic; Septuagint, Sarasar; Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 10:, ch. 1:, sec. 3), Seraser].

According to the monuments, the oldest son of Sennacherib was Asshur-inadi-su, the Asordanes of Polyhistor, and the Assaranadius of Ptolemy's canon, who, having been made governor of Babylon, might naturally have been expected, had he survived, to succeed his father on the throne of Assyria. In consequence of his death, the right of succession devolved on Nergilus (Nergal), who is supposed to have been the second son of Sennacherib, but whom Abydenus (Eusebius, 'Chr. Can. Pars,' 9:, already quoted) erroneously considers the father of Adrameles; and the king was slain by him. It appears from the monuments that Sennacherib had other three sons, Adrammelech, Sharezer, and Esarhaddon, the two first being full brothers, the last a half-brother. 'Perhaps,' says Rawlinson ('Ancient Monarchies,' 2:, p. 464), 'upon the death of Asshur-inadi-su, disputes arose about the succession.

Adrammelech and Sharezer, anxious to obtain the throne for themselves, plotted against the life of their father, and having slain him in a temple as he was worshipping, proceeded further to remove their brother Nergilus, who claimed the crown, and wore it for a brief space after Sennacherib's death. Having murdered him, they expected to obtain the throne without further difficulty; but Esarhaddon now came forward, and was favourably received. The murderers finding that they had miscalculated, quitted Assyria, and went into voluntary exile' (see also p. 43). Josephus says that they were expelled by the indignation of the people. This is a historical chain, ingeniously done by connecting the isolated facts recorded on the monuments, and it wears so strong an air of probability that it may be accepted as the true account of the motive and the object of the unnatural parricides. This murder, if a judgment upon Sennacherib personally (cf. 2 Kings 19:7), was at least equally a judgment on the empire over which he reigned. Sennacherib's temper, exasperated, probably by his reverses, displayed itself in the most savage cruelty and intolerable tyranny over his subjects and slaves. He intended to sacrifice his two sons to pacify the gods, and dispose them to grant him a return of prosperity, and that, it has been said, according to a horrid usage of pagan kings when their kingdoms were in desperate circumstances.

And they escaped into the land of Armenia, [ 'AraaraaT (H780). The Septuagint in this passage renders eis geen Ararath; but in Isa. 38:38 , they have eis Armenian]. Jerome ('Commentary' on Isaiah 37:38) says, 'The land of Ararat is a region in the lowlands of Armenia, through which the Araxes flows, and distinguished by its extraordinary fertility. This region probably extended as far north as the river Cyrus, and embraced most of the country lying between the lakes Oormiah and Van (see also Rosenmuller's 'Biblical Geography,' vol. 1:, ch. 4:, sec. 7). Moses Chorenensis says that the two parricides, on their arrival in Armenia, were hospitably received by the sovereign of the country, who gave them possessions, and they became respectively founders of two large and influential families.

And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead [ 'Eecar-Chadon (H634), gift of fire. Ezer enters largely into the composition of Assyrian proper names, being put sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end, of a word. Septuagint, Vatican, Asordan; Alexandrine, aradad; Josephus, Assarachoddas.] His claim to be the successor of his father may have arisen from his being the oldest son at the death of Sennacherib. The rumour that the great king of Assyria had fallen, and in so horrid a manner, would naturally produce a deep and universal sensation throughout contemporary nations. Among the people of Judah, who expected some awful judgment to befall so daring a blasphemer, it would be received with awe, mingled with thanksgiving for their deliverance, now at length complete. And accordingly, various direct references in the writings of contemporary prophets and others attest how intensely the national feelings were excited by the hand of God, so awfully displayed in the fate of Sennacherib.

The magnificent ode of Isaiah (Isaiah 14:1-32), on the fall of the great conqueror, who was called interchangeably 'the king of Assyria,' and "the king of Babylon," is felt to be exceedingly pointed and striking, if it be considered as composed immediately on the intelligence of his assassination reaching Jerusalem. And several psalms, believed to have had their origin at the time of the invasion, abound with facts and allusions which set before the imagination of the reader a vivid picture of the horrors of "that night." These are graphically grouped together by Dean Stanley in the following passage ('Lectures on the Jewish Church,' 38:): The weapons of the great army, such as we see them in the Assyrian monuments, the mighty bow and its lightning arrows, the serried shields (Isaiah 37:33; Psalms 76:3 (Heb.); also Psalms 46:9; Herodotus, 2:, 141; Layard's "Nineveh," 2:, pp. 340, 342) were shattered to pieces; the long array of dead horses (Psalms 76:6; Isaiah 37:36) (the Hebrew word always includes animals); the chariots now useless, left to be burnt (Psalms 46:9: cf. Isaiah 9:5; Lowth); the trophies carried off from the dead-all rise to view in the recollection of that night.

The proud have slept their sleep, and the mighty soldiers (Psalms 76:5; Psalms 46:10) fling out their hands in vain. The arms have fallen from their grasp. The neigh of the charger, the rattle of the chariot, are alike hushed in the sleep of death. The wild uproar is over; the whole world is silent (Psalms 76:8; Psalms 46:10), and in that awful stillness the people descend from the heights of Jerusalem (Psalms 46:8; Psalms 76:4-5), like their ancestors to the shores of the Red Sea, to see the desolation that had been done upon the earth. As then, they carried away the spoils as trophies. The towers of Jerusalem were brilliant with the shields (Psalms 76:4) of the dead. The fame of the fall of Sennacherib's host struck the surrounding nations with terror far and wide. It was like the knell of the great potentates of the world; and in their fall the God of Israel seemed to rise to a higher and yet higher exaltation (Psalms 46:10; Psalms 76:10-11).'

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-kings-19.html. 1871-8.
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