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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Isaiah 37

Verses 1-38

Responses of Hezekiah and Isaiah (37:1-38)

Isaiah’s Intercessory Prayer Requested (37:1-7)

Chapter 37 includes several pieces of information of great interest, which were the sequel to the challenge of Sennacherib’s Rabshakeh. In the first section of the chapter Hezekiah is said to have put on mourning and to have gone to the Temple for prayer, at the same time sending a commission to Isaiah informing him of what had happened and asking for his intercessory prayer. Isaiah’s word for Hezekiah is one from the Lord himself to the effect that Hezekiah should not be afraid. God will deal with Sennacherib; he will hear a rumor and have to return to his own land, where he will be murdered. Whether some report of a palace revolt against Sennacherib actually reached the monarch so that he had to hasten home is unknown. We do know that he was murdered in 682 b.c., some five years after the death of Hezekiah.

Intervention of Egypt and New Message from Sennacherib (37:8-20)

This section involves a second message of Sennacherib to Hezekiah when the Ethiopian king of Egypt, Tirhakah, has led an army into Palestine to oppose the Assyrians. To meet this threat Sennacherib presumably has to break off his siege of the Judean frontier fortresses, but when he does so he sends a new warning to Hezekiah not to let his hopes rise, for no one has ever escaped the Assyrian power.

The warning was contained in a letter which Hezekiah took with him into the Temple. His prayer there is reported in verses 16-20. The reference to God’s being “enthroned above the cherubim” is based on the symbolism of the Holy of Holies in the Temple. These two large winged sphinxes (“cherubim”) were considered to be the support for God’s invisible throne above them (1 Kings 6:23-28). Cherub thrones—that is, chairs, the sides and legs of which were fashioned in the form of winged sphinxes —were in common use among the kings of the coastland of Syria and Palestine. The cherubim thus symbolized God as enthroned in sovereignty over Israel and the world. In deep sincerity Hezekiah confesses in his prayer that though it is true that the Assyrians have laid waste nation after nation and cast their gods into the fire, it was because they were simply idols which could be destroyed. The Lord of Israel, however, is “the living God,” and Hezekiah prays that God will save Judah so that mankind may know that he alone is the Lord. The divine title, “the living God,” seems to be used only when some special emphasis is desired, or when a special point is being made of the active, sovereign nature of the Lord of Israel over against the impotence of the gods of the peoples of the world. It does not mean that God is living as opposed to other gods not living. Instead it means that God is the Creator and Sustainer of life; that is, the Hebrew word for “living” or “life” stands in a predicate relation with “God” in the phrase.

Isaiah’s Message for Hezekiah ( 37 : 21 - 35 )

A message from the Lord to Hezekiah through the mediation of the prophet Isaiah is now presented. Verses 22-29 form a poetic denunciation of Assyria. In verse 22 Jerusalem is pictured as a young girl making fun of the great conqueror. Then there is a direct address to the Assyrian king and nation from the Lord (vss. 23-29), comparable in some respects with the prophecy in 10:5-19. In verses 23-25 the arrogance and boasting of the Assyrian is depicted. It is as though he thinks of himself as God, whereas he is actually only carrying out what God has planned for him to do (vss. 26-27). All of this braggadocio is actually a defiant raging against God himself. For that reason the king will be defeated and sent back along the road to his own country.

Putting the hook in the nose or a bit in the mouth (vs. 29) is a reference to the Assyrian as to an animal mastered and controlled.

Verses 30-35 are two prose fragments, the first of which (vss. 30-32) promises that there will be a remnant surviving the disasters, one preserved by the Lord. The sign is that by the third year Judeans will be reaping and planting as though nothing had happened. The second fragment (vss. 33-35) is an additional statement concerning God’s determination to save and protect Jerusalem against the Assyrian king.

Destruction of Assyrian Power (37:36-38)

Verse 36 recounts the salvation of Jerusalem which is accomplished by the destruction of the Assyrian army. That this was done by “the angel of the Lord” is very likely a theological interpretation of a plague which killed off large numbers of soldiers. This in turn may well be correlated with the information which we have about such a plague in the history of Herodotus. Sennacherib’s murder at the hands of his sons took place in 682 b.c. The name of the god worshiped by Sennacherib, Nisroch (vs. 38), cannot be identified with certainty. The spelling is probably corrupt.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 37". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/isaiah-37.html.