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2 Chronicles 32:1 . Sennacherib king of Assyria, Our knowledge of the once great and flourishing empire of the Assyrians, is very imperfect. Berosus, a native of Chaldea, has written the most; Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus, are the principal authors who afford fragments of its history. Nineveh was the capital, and it contained one hundred thousand infants; and of course a population of not less than five hundred thousand inhabitants. We are ignorant of the extent of the Assyrian empire; but it embraced the Caspian sea, for many of the ten tribes were placed in Armenia, and on the river Gozan, which runs into the Caspian. The whole of Babylon, of Persia, of Damascus or Syria, of Samaria and Galilee, was now under its power. According to Plato, Troy itself once bore their yoke: but the seat of empire was not yet transferred to Babylon. Considering the present victorious character of the empire, we are the less surprised that Sennacherib should boast that no god of any nation was able to deliver the people out of his hand: 2 Chronicles 32:15.
2 Chronicles 32:21 . Cut off all the mighty men of valour. Herodotus, when travelling in Egypt, records the destruction of the Assyrian army in a hieroglyphical manner. While Sennacherib, whom he calls king of the Arabs and Assyrians, was besieging Pelusium, Sethon, a priest in the temple of Vulcan, being greatly alarmed and distressed, retired to his temple, and bewailed the calamity. While engaged in these devotions, he fell asleep, and dreamed that he saw his god, who exhorted him to take courage, assuring him that no harm should happen to him, provided he went to meet the Arabs, for he would send him succour. He obeyed, and was followed, not by the soldiers, but only by tradesmen, artisans, and mechanics. On his arrival before Pelusium, an infinite number of field rats invaded the camp that same night, and eat up all their belts, bowstrings, and leather quivers, so that next morning, unable to use their armour, they took to flight, and lost abundance of people. In memory of this action, they erected in the temple of Vulcan a statue of stone which represents this king holding a rat in his hand, with this inscription: WHOSOEVER THOU ART THAT SEEST ME, LEARN TO FEAR THE GODS. Euterpe. It is not improbable that many Assyrians were slain before Pelusium, as well as before Jerusalem. Sacred and profane history agree that the scourge was in one night, consequently it was supernatural, and not a disease of camp or climate. But the priest’s going in distress to the temple, and the promise of deliverance, are in perfect accordance with Hezekiah in the temple, and the promise of deliverance from the Lord by Isaiah the prophet. Berosus the Babylonian historian says, “that Sennacherib having war in Egypt, and by returning from this war having offended his army, he left it under the command of Rabshakeh, and it was destroyed the first night they sat down before the city, and one hundred and eighty five thousand men wasted away.” This author attributes the destruction of the army to the effects of the Simoons, or hot winds. Josephus speaks to the same effect, that while Sennacherib fought against the Egyptians and the Ethiopians, he left his general to besiege Jerusalem; and he also seems to convey an idea that this signal visitation happened while the king of the Assyrians was besieging Pelusium. Other commentators think that the Assyrians were now making a disgraceful retreat from Egypt towards their own country, and that Sennacherib was besieging Libnah and Lachish, two cities of Judah not far distant from each other.
Sennacherib was indeed spared, but it was only to carry the terrors of his ruin to Nineveh, for according to our Prideaux, he demanded of some about him to know the cause, that the irresistible God of heaven so favoured the Jewish nation; and he was answered that Abraham, from whom they were descended, by sacrificing his only son to the Lord, had purchased this protection to his progeny. Sennacherib replied, if that will do, I will spare two of my sons to gain him over to my interest. When Sharezer and Adrammelech heard that they were to be the victims, they resolved to prevent their own death by sacrificing their father. Whether this story be legendary or true, it shows that this king, who had made so dreadful a carnage of human nature, met with the same reward.
2 Chronicles 32:30 . The upper watercourse of Gihon, on the west of Jerusalem. This was a powerful spring, which made glad the city of God, and watered the temple. It flowed into the pool of Siloam, and of Bethesda. Hezekiah covered it in with a continuous arch and earth, lest, in case of a siege, the enemy should find it, and divert the stream. It supplied the prophets with figures of speech. “All my springs are in thee.” Psalms 87:7. Ezekiel 47:1. Revelation 22:1.
2 Chronicles 32:33 . Hezekiah was buried in the chiefest of the sepulchres. Both the Hebrew and the Greek read, the highest of the sepulchres.
The rise and fall of empires, the overflowing of war, and the devastations of the earth, are at all times interesting subjects of moral and political contemplation. When nations have remained awhile in ease, when agriculture and commerce have given an aspect of luxury and riot to the character, when vice becomes insolent and scorns the controul of law and religion, then heaven prepares its scourges of famine, pestilence and war. So it was in western Asia, when the Assyrian forces, perhaps half a million in number, issued forth from the Tigris, and all the cities fell before them; yea Jerusalem, so strong by nature, by a large present, bought off the siege. Nor did Sennacherib stop till he had reached the eastern branch of the Nile. What a vast career of invasion, what carnage, what cruelties! What devastation must have attended their progress! But the overflowing scourge which left the Tigris, crossed the Euphrates, swept the range of the Jordan, and traversed the desart, was stopped by the banks of the Nile. So God said to the Assyrian, as to the proud waves of the sea, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.
But mark, reader, mark for the encrease of thy faith and comfort; when God abandoned all those nations to the mercy of the enemy, he protected Jerusalem, and all who fled thither to trust under the wings of JEHOVAH. The perfidious Assyrian took the money of Hezekiah, and advanced southward; but either repenting of his lenity, or not thinking his retreat secure while Jerusalem was unoccupied, he sent Rabshakeh back with an army, and an imperious summons to surrender. Hezekiah had indeed concealed the fountain of water which flowed in a subterraneous channel, but he had no might against so great a multitude. Rabshakeh’s talents and eloquence were irresistible. This wicked and impious man, well skilled in the Hebrew tongue, not only defied the God of Israel, but attempted to excite despair and revolt in the city.
We see farther, when the arm of flesh fails, the arm of the Lord is more than sufficient. Hezekiah’s ministers being returned from the enemy’s camp, and with Sennacherib’s insolent letter, 2 Kings 19:0.; the king rent his robe, and going into the temple, spread the letter before the Lord, and wept sore. Thus Hezekiah and all his people sought the Lord; they cried to Him who had so often delivered them in the day of trouble; nor had they prayed long, before Isaiah sent them from the Lord a letter of comfort, to do away the effects of the enemy’s letter; and it was written in an eloquence worthy of the subject. It despises the enemy’s blasphemy, and scorns his threats. “By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord and said, with the multitude of my chariots I am come to the height of the mountains, and the sides of Lebanon; and I will enter into the lodgings of his border, and enter into the forests of his Carmel. I have digged, and drank strange waters; and with the soles of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.” Who then shall hinder me from entering into Jerusalem? “I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, saith the Lord, and will turn thee back by the way which thou camest.” What a consolation are God’s words, and God’s ministers, in the day of affliction. By divine promises we anticipate deliverance, and scorn the malice of our foes.
The accomplishment was not long delayed. That same night the angel of the Lord, with thunderbolts in his hands, and vials of pestilence poured in the air, smote one hundred and eighty five thousand of the infidel host. Hereby God taught the proud Assyrian, that though he had been commissioned to chastise wicked nations; yet he would not allow him to touch his Zion, and his covenant people. Where now are all his proud speeches, and the boasts of an infidel tongue? What have nations or individuals to fear, who abide in covenant with God? How grateful would Judah be for the best of kings, and for returning to the Lord. How grateful when they considered by way of contrast, that their apostate brethren in Samaria were in captivity, and that they had no help in the day of trouble. The invaders, and the spoil of plundered nations, lay prostrate at their feet. Oh what a day of joy to Jerusalem: what an instance of encouragement to future ages.
But prosperity is apt to intoxicate the brain. Hezekiah, soon forgetting his obligations, rendered not again unto the Lord according to this signal deliverance. Therefore the Lord afflicted him, as we shall see at large in Isaiah 38:0. So it happens in the economy of providence over man; they who have great mercies, often have great crosses and sore affliction. So it was with Jacob, with David, and with Paul. We had better be kept poor and afflicted through life, than sin against God by forgetting his mercies; and by making a vain parade of riches, as though they were solely acquired by our own efforts.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 32". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13