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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 36

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Isaiah 36:1 . In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, Sennacherib came up against all the cities of Judah. This history is related in 2 Chronicles 32:0., with notes and comments: but it was proper for Isaiah to insert it in his own volume, being an exact accomplishment of his predictions against the western nations of Africa.

Isaiah 36:2 . Rabshakeh stood by the conduit of the upper pool. The Assyrian army occupied an elevated position on the whole west of the city, where they had water and defence. See the map of Jerusalem, and 2 Chronicles 32:30.

Isaiah 36:8 . Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king. Rabshakeh demanded two thousand hostages of the best families, for whom he would provide horses. He offered to remove them to a land like their own, but alas, a land unnamed! The military insolence of a man elated with conquests. Who but the vanquished can bear it?

Isaiah 36:10 . Am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? He used the word Jehovah, a name which he thought would have weight with the Jews. If his gods had delivered such an oracle, they had done it to destroy both him and his army. A great man consummately wicked. Blasphemy filled up the measure of his sins.

Isaiah 36:19 . Where are the gods of Hamath? The country north of the passe of Lebanon. Sephar-vaim, a kingdom north of Damascus. Arphad, Hena, and Ivah were royal cities, adjacent to the kingdom of Hamath. Those men boasted of having conquered the gods; to say they had conquered men was of small account. Idolaters from the beginning have placed their cities and temples under the care of titular divinities. The origin of such practices was pious, without a doubt; for Jacob says, “the angel of the Lord, (the Messiah) hath redeemed me from all evil and mischief.” The Athenians, walking in the vanity of their imagination, placed their city under the care of the blue-eyed Pallas. We follow them in placing churches and chapels under the patronage of apostles, saints and martyrs.


Thousands of men, on reading the lives of conquerors, feel an ambition kindle in their heart to imitate their career. Dazzled with the idea of glory, they overlook the bloodshed, the devastation and misery they must bring on the vanquished. But God graciously controuls their pride, and holds them fast in the fetters of restraint. However, when the God of nations sees it meet to humble the proud, and punish every crime with an appropriate stroke, he draws from the treasures of his providence a man everyway adapted for his purpose. Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Sesostris, Alexander, Julius C├Žsar, the Mahomedan conquerors, and one of our own times, have been eminently distinguished as the scourges of heaven to a guilty age. But the commission has its limits, the duration has its bounds, and the reward for their work is sure. Thus the great king of Nineveh, seeing his standards flying on the towers of Ecbatana in the east, on Babylon in the south, and northward among the Scythians, resolved to cut off the nations of the west who should rebel, and to transport the cities who should submit to other parts of his empire. As a mighty inundation when the spring-tides break all the banks, he sallied forth from all the cities of the Tygris and Euphrates. Damascus, Samaria, Philistia, and all the nations of western Asia, either perished by the storming of their cities, or submitted to the pleasure of the conqueror. Hezekiah alone seems to have bought off the calamity with an immensity of gifts; nor did this wave of destruction recoil on Nineveh till Sennacherib was obliged to raise the siege of Pelusium, now Damiette, at the mouth of the Nile. Then this most wicked army, being about a thousand miles from home, nearly all perished in their retreat. Hence the attack on Jerusalem was very unfair, after the acceptance of Hezekiah’s gifts; and the nature of the summons was insolent and impious in the extreme. Thus God very often permits wickedness to arrive at maturity before he thrusts in the sickle. The summons of Rabshakeh has a specious appearance of wisdom and equity. He mocks at Hezekiah’s resources for war, and at his confidence in Egypt. And as to help from heaven, the general farther inferred that Hezekiah could expect none, because he had taken away the high places and altar of Israel’s God. This was a just argument, though founded on mistake, for it was Baal’s altars that Hezekiah had destroyed. But let us not profit the less by truth for this mistake. Learn then, oh backsliding soul, that if thou forsakest the house and altar of thy God, thou hast no just claim to help in the day of trouble. We have next the great prudence of Hezekiah’s ministers, in wishing to conceal the progress of the treaty they wanted to ratify, till it was matured for disclosure; because it would divide the people in opinion, inflame their passions, and be an insult to the king. But the general, just like sinners on the verge of destruction, gloried in rejecting counsel, and applained the way for his total ruin.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 36". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/isaiah-36.html. 1835.
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