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THE MONARCHY IN JUDAH AFTER THE FALL OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
(2 Kings 18-25)
the monarchy under hezekiah
(2 Kings 18-20)
A.—The Reign of Hezekiah; the Invasion by Sennacherib, and Deliverance from it
2 Kings 18:19 (Isaiah 36, 37)
1Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign [became king]. 2Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign [became king]; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. 3And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that David his father did. 4He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves [Astarte-statues], and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he [they]1 called it Nehushtan. 2 5He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6For he clave to the Lord, and departed not [did not swerve] from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. 7And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth [in all his goings-forth;—i.e., in everything which he went out to do]: and [omit and—Insert—] he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. [;] [and] 8He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
9And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. 10And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in [on the] Habor [,] by 12the river of [omit of] Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes [Media]: Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
13Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.3 14And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended [erred]; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto [put upon] Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house. 16At that time did Hezekiah cut off [strip] the gold from [omit the gold from] the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from [omit from] the pillars4 which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it [them] to the king of Assyria.
17And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem: and they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field. 18And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the 19son of Asaph the recorder. And Rab-shakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? 20Thou sayest, (but they are but [omit they are but] vain words, [it is a saying of the lips only]) [:] I have [There is] counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? 21Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him. 22But if ye say unto me, We trust in the Lord our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem? 23Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to [make a bargain with] my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. 24How then wilt thou turn away the face of [i.e., repulse, put to flight] one captain of [amongst] the least of my master’s servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25Am I now come up without the Lord [uninstigated by Jehovah] against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it. 26Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rab-shakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews’ 27language in the ears of the people that are on the wall. But Rab-shakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may 28eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? Then Rab-shakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: 29Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his [my]5 hand: 30Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city6 shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 31Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement [terms,] with me by a present [omit by a present], and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern: 32Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will 33deliver us. Hath [Have] any of [omit any of] the gods of the nations delivered at all [omit at all] [each] his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand [that 35any delivered Samaria out of mine hand ]? Who are they [there] among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand? 36But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not. 37Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rab- 2 Kings 19:1 shakeh. 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. 2And 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. 3And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble [distress], and of rebuke [chastisement], and blasphemy [rejection]; for the children are come to the birth [opening of the womb],7 and there is not strength to bring forth. 4It may be the Lord thy God will hear all the words of Rab-shakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach [blaspheme] the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy 5God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left. So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah 6:0 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 [minions] of the king 7of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold I will send a blast upon him [I will inspire him with such a spirit that], and [when—omit and] he shall hear a rumour, and [he—omit and] shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
8So Rab-shakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish. 9And 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, 10Thus 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. 11Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by 12[in] destroying them8 utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and 13Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?
14And 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. 15And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. 16Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which [he] hath sent him [omit him] to reproach the living God. 17Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, 18And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone:9 therefore they have destroyed them. 19Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only.
20Then 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 21king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him:
[oracle of god in regard to the impending danger.]
[I. Scornful Rebuke of Sennacherib’s Boast.]
She despises thee, she scorns thee,—the virgin daughter, Zion!
She wags her head at thee, the daughter, Jerusalem!
22Whom hast thou insulted and blasphemed? against whom hast thou lifted voice?
Thou hast even lifted thine eyes on high against the Holy One of Israel!
23Through thy messengers thou hast insulted the Lord, and hast said:
“I come up with my chariots on chariots10 to the top of the mountains, to Lebanon’s summit;
And I hew down its loftiest cedars and its choicest cypresses;
And I come to its summit as a resting-place,
To its forest-grove.
24I dig, and I drink the waters of foreign nations;
Yea! I parch up with the sole of my foot all the rivers of Egypt!”
[II Refutation of his Self-assumption.]
25Hast thou not heard?—Of old time I made it—
From ancient days I ordained its course;
Now. I have brought it to pass,—
And thou art [my instrument] to reduce11 fortified cities to heaps of ruins.
26Therefore their inhabitants were short-handed;
They despaired and were terror-stricken;
They were grass of the field and green herb;
Grass of the house-top, and corn blasted in the germ.
27So, thy resting in peace, and thy going out, and thy coming in, I know;12
Also thy violent rage against me;
28For thy violent rage and thine arrogance are come up into mine ears,
And I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips,
And I will lead thee back by the way by which thou camest.
[III. Encouragement to Judah and Hezekiah.]
29And this be the sign to thee:—
Eating one year what springs of itself from the leavings of the previous crop,
And the second year the wild growth,
And the third year sow, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.
30And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall take root again downwards,
And shall bear fruit again upwards;
31For from Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and from Mount Zion a rescued band:—
The zeal of Jehovah (of Hosts)13 shall do this!
[IV. Gods Decree in regard to the Crisis.]
32Therefore, thus saith the Eternal in regard to the king of Assyria:—
He shall not come against this city,
Nor shoot an arrow there,
Nor assault it with a shield,
Nor throw up a siege wall against it.
33By the way by which he came he shall return,
And he shall not come against this city;—is the decree of the Eternal;
34But I will protect this city to save it,
For mine own sake and for the sake of David, my servant.
35And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, beheld, they were all dead [,] corpses. 36So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons14 smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia [Ararat]. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
Preliminary Remarks.—We have, besides the narrative before us in 2 Kings 18:19, , 2 Kings 18:20, two other accounts of Hezekiah’s reign, one in Isaiah 36-39, and the other in 2 Chronicles 29-32 To these authorities may be added some of the prophecies, especially of Isaiah, who had great influence at this time. The first question which arises, therefore, is this: what relation do these various accounts bear to one another?
a) The narrative in Isaiah , 36-39, agrees with the one before us from 2 Kings 18:13 on, with the exception of a few subordinate details, so literally, that the two cannot possibly have been produced by different authors independently of one another. The question is: whether the one served as the original of the other? or, whether both were derived independently from the same source? Different opinions are maintained in answer to these questions, but it is not necessary here to enter into a careful examination of them in detail. We limit ourselves to general and necessary considerations. Gesenius (Commen. zum Jesai. II. s. 392 sq.), following Eichhorn, sought to show in detail that the account before us is the original, and that the one in Isaiah is borrowed from it. De Wette, Maurer, Köster, Winer, and others take the same view. The chief ground for this opinion is that the text in Isaiah is comparatively more condensed, that it presents common and simple words in the place of those in the text which are rare and obscure, and that forms which belong to the later usage of the language appear in it. On the contrary, Grotius, Vitringa, Paulus, Hendewerk, and, most recently, Drechsler, have asserted the originality and priority of the account in Isaiah. In proof of this they bring forward the following considerations: The account in Isaiah cannot be borrowed from that in Kings because it contains Hezekiah’s long and highly important hymn of gratitude (Isaiah 38:9-20), which is entirely wanting in the latter: The language in Kings is the “more careless dialect of common life,” the style is “inferior,” while the version in Isaiah is more rich, “more correct, and more elegant.” When the opinions in regard to the style and language of the two versions are so diverse, it is impossible to deduce any arguments from this consideration for the priority of either. The truth is, as will appear from the detailed exegesis, that, as far as expression and language are concerned, sometimes one and sometimes the other version is to be preferred. The omissions are more important. The account in Isaiah cannot be borrowed from that in Kings on account of the hymn of Hezekiah; but it is just as certain that the account in Kings is not based upon that in Isaiah, for it contains additions which cannot be regarded as simple assumptions of the redactor; such, for instance, as the passages 2 Kings 18:14-15, and especially 2 Kings 20:7-11, compared with Isaiah 38:7-8; Isaiah 38:21-22. In view of the omissions which occur sometimes in one account and sometimes in the other, the majority of the modern expositors, Rosenmüller, Hitzig, Umbreit, Knobel, Ewald, Thenius, Von Gerlach, Keil, suppose that both narratives are borrowed from a common source which we no longer possess. This seems to us also to be the correct view, though we cannot agree in the opinion that the “Annals of the Kingdom” were the common source, for both accounts bear the character of prophetical, and not of mere civil, historical records. The source was more probably that collection of histories of the separate reigns, composed by different prophets, of which we spoke in the Introduction § 3. According to 2 Chronicles 32:33, Isaiah was the author of the history of Hezekiah, which had a place in this collection. Neither this narrative, therefore, nor the one in Isaiah 36-39, is Isaiah’s original composition, but both are borrowed from this, which, unfortunately, we no longer possess. Both come from Isaiah originally, but neither reproduces accurately and fully the original account. Sometimes one and sometimes the other approaches nearer to the original. This view is, on the whole, the one which the editors of Drechsler’s Commentar zu Jesaia (II. s. 151 sq.), Delitsch and Hahn, and the former also in his own Comm. zu Jes. (s. 24, 351 sq.), maintain. But they evidently contradict themselves when they admit, on the one hand, “that the text in the book of Kings is, in many cases, and, perhaps, in the most, to be preferred to that in Isaiah,” and yet, on the other hand, assert that “the author of the book of Kings cannot have obtained the parallel account 18:13–20, 19. from any other source than the book of Isaiah.” It is true that Delitsch appeals again and again to the relation between Jer. chap. 52. and 2 Kings 24:18, sq. and chap. 25. as “an analogous proof that the text of a passage may be more faithfully preserved in the secondary recension than in the original one, from which it was borrowed;” but, although it is possible to render a pure fountain impure, it is impossible that a pure stream should flow from a more or less impure fountain. How, then, can a secondary text be better and purer than the primary one? [The author agrees with the authorities mentioned above that both the accounts are borrowed from a third document as their source. Neither one of the accounts, therefore, as we have them, can be said to have superior claims to the other, as the primary recension. No one will deny that the ultimate human source of the words of the oracle was the brain and lips of Isaiah. Whether he himself collected and arranged his prophecies in the form in which we have them, is a question to be treated in its proper place. If we assume that he did, then it is indeed fair to suppose, wherever any doubt arises, that he cited his own words more accurately than another could do it. But now we have to take account of the history of the two texts since they left the hands of those who put the book of Kings and the book of Isaiah in the form in which they have come down to us—whoever they may have been. In the course of time the primary recension may have been copied more frequently, and by other means also have incurred more corruptions than a recension which, in the first place, was a secondary one. This is what Drechsler means when he says that a secondary recension may have retained the text until our time in a purer form than the primary recension. An element is here introduced which interferes materially with any apriori claim to superior weight which either the one or the other of the texts before us may make, as having come more directly from the hand of the original author. We are thrown back upon the critical examination of each individual variant in each account to determine which reading is more probably the “original” and correct one. The question which text presents, in the most cases, the preferable reading, is one which can only be decided by reviewing the results of these separate critical investigations.—W. G. S.] Nevertheless, we believe that the version in Isaiah was written earlier than the one in Kings, for, whatever opinion one may hold in regard to the time of composition of the second part of Isaiah (chaps, 40–66), no one can assert that the first part (chaps. 1–39.) was not composed before the end of the Babylonian Exile, which is the time of composition of the book of Kings (Introd. § 1). It does not by any means follow that this account was borrowed from Isaiah. The two accounts are independent recensions from the same original. The reason why the same passage occurs in two different books of the Bible is simply this, that in the one it is given for the sake of the prophet, and in the other for the sake of the king. The whole forms an important incident in Isaiah’s work, and an important incident in Hezekiah’s reign, which was an important part of the history of the kings of Judah, on account of the deliverance from Assyria.
b) The account in Chronicles condenses into very concise form the contents of the other accounts, but it contains also additions peculiar to itself. It gives (2 Chronicles 29:3 to 2 Chronicles 31:21) detailed descriptions of the rites and ceremonies which Hezekiah prescribed; especially of the Passover which he celebrated. All that has been brought forward against the credibility of this narrative has been refuted by Keil (Apolog. Versuch über die bibl. Chron. s. 399 sq.). Although it is still asserted that the Chronicler allows himself “to treat the historical facts with more freedom,” yet it is admitted that his account “has the foundation of an exact historical tradition” (Bertheau, Comm. zur Chron. s. 396), and Winer says: “There is, generally speaking, nothing in it which represents the facts and incidents in a manner false to history.” The account before us especially emphasizes the fact, in regard to Hezekiah’s reform in worship, that he abolished idolatry, and even the Jehovah-worship upon the high places. It is a matter of course, however, that the zealously pious king did not stop with the destruction and abolition of the false worship, but also positively put in its place the one which was prescribed in the Law. This the Chronicler states distinctly, and he describes this reformed cultus in detail, in complete consistency with the tendency and stand-point of his work. For him, neither the prophetical institution nor the monarchy stands in the foreground, but the levitical priesthood. While the author of Kings fixes his attention upon the political and theocratic side of the history of Hezekiah’s reign, and writes from the stand-point of the theocracy, the Chronicler fixes his attention upon those incidents of it which were important for the levitical priesthood, and writes from the stand-point of a levite. His statements are, in this case, therefore, an essential addition to the story in Kings and in Isaiah, as indeed his peculiar contributions generally supplement the narratives elsewhere found. The source from which he obtained this information was, as he himself tells us (2 Chronicles 32:32), “the הָזוֹן of the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel,” that is to say, the same work to which the author of Kings refers (2 Kings 20:20) for the history of Hezekiah.
c) The prophetical oracles in Isaiah and Micha contain, it is true, most important descriptions of the moral and religious state of things at the time when these prophets lived, but no history, in the proper sense of the word. Definite facts, which might supplement the historical narrative, cannot be derived from them, and it is especially vain to attempt this, since, up to the present day, there is no consensus of opinion in regard to whether particular oracles are to be assigned to the time of Hezekiah, or to that of some other king, during whose reign Isaiah also exerted influence. For instance, the first chapter of Isaiah refers, according to some modern critics, to the time of Hezekiah; according to others, to that of Uzziah; according to still others, to that of Jotham; and yet again, according to others, to that of Ahaz. We therefore adhere, in this place, since we have to deal with the firm substance of history, as closely as possible to the historical narratives, and leave it to the exposition of the prophetical books to show to what events, recorded in the historical books, the separate oracles refer.
[The author would probably be greatly misunderstood, if any one should infer from this that he estimated as unimportant the light which the prophetic oracles of the Old Testament throw upon the Jewish history. It is one of the unique and most remarkable features of the Old Testament that it presents to us side by side a section of human history, and a criticism of the same from the stand-point of the highest, purest, and most intense religious conviction. The historical narratives of the Old Testament are simple, brief, and dry annals of events and facts. The seventeenth chap of 2d Kings presents a solitary example in which the author comes forward to discuss causes, to weigh principles, and to review the moral forces at work under the events he records. All that we call nowadays the “philosophy of history” is wanting in the strictly historical books. It is supplied by the books of the prophets. They give us an insight into the social and political status, into the vices, the moral forces, the ambitions, and the passions which were at work under the events and produced them. To modern minds the history is not by any means complete until these are elucidated. “History” is not bare events or facts. If it were, we might save ourselves the trouble of ever studying it. It would be a pure matter of curiosity. But history is the fruit of certain moral forces. We study the forces in their fruits. We deduce lessons of warning and encouragement from the study. The forces are the same now as ever since mankind lived upon the earth, and they act, under changed outward circumstances, in the same way. They will produce the same results, and the whole practical value of history is that we may profit by the accumulated experience of mankind, as the individual profits by the mistakes and sufferings of the years through which he has lived. To this end, however, insight into the moral causes of events is the valuable thing, and it is that which we must aim at in studying history. What is peculiar to the prophets of the Old Testament, as such, is that their criticisms of Jewish history were not bare literary or scholarly productions, but appeals, rebukes, and warnings, of the most personal and practical description. That is a characteristic of them which has ethical and perhaps homiletical interest, but does not contribute to our historical knowledge, while their analysis of the social condition under which these events took place, and their statement of the moral causes which produced them, are of the highest importance for the history. These fill up the back-ground, and give the light and shade, and the perspective, to a picture of which the historical books have only sketched the outline. We have a sort of parallel in the works of the ancient orators, which have contributed essentially and undeniably to our knowledge of ancient history. Such being the case, it is evident that any one who undertakes to expound the historical books must give good heed to the light which the prophetical books throw upon them. It is indeed true that it is often very difficult to assign particular oracles to their time and circumstances, but we have only to observe the wonderful light which the oracle before us (2 Kings 19:22-34), and its historical setting, throw upon one another, now that we have them in undoubted juxtaposition, to see what we may hope for, if we can succeed in fixing the connection and relations of other and similar oracles. The light to be derived from the prophecies for the history is not by any means to be lightly set aside, but it is to be regarded as one of the fruits of critical science most highly to be valued, and most earnestly to be labored for.—W. G. S.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 18:1. Now it came to pass, &c. It must be carefully observed that 2 Kings 18:1-8 contain a summary account of the entire reign of Hezekiah, like the one given of Ahaz’ reign in 2 Kings 16:1-14. In the first place there is given, as usual, his age, the time of his accession, and the duration of his reign (2 Kings 18:1-2); then, what he did in regard to the Jehovah-worship (2 Kings 18:3-4); then, what spirit animated his life and conduct in general (2 Kings 18:5-6); finally, what successes were won, during his reign, against foreign nations (2 Kings 18:7-8). After this general summary follows, from 2 Kings 18:9 on, the narrative of the chief events during his reign, in chronological order, viz., the overthrow of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes, in his fourth year (2 Kings 18:9-12), and the oppression of the Assyrians, which began in his fourteenth (2 Kings 18:13 sq.).—In the third year of Hoshea. Since the fourth and sixth years of Hezekiah correspond to the seventh and ninth of Hoshea, according to 2 Kings 18:9-10, it has often been thought that the “third year” in this statement must be incorrect (see Maurer on the passage), and it has been believed that it ought to read “in the fourth year.” Josephus, in fact, has ἕτειδὲ τετάρτῳ. But the explanation is that the years of the two kings do not run exactly parallel. The difficulty is removed, and the text is assured “as soon as we assume that Hoshea came to the throne in the second half of 730, and Hezekiah in the first half of 727, before Hoshea’s third year had expired” (Thenius); or, “If we assume that Hezekiah’s. accession took place near the end of Hoshea’s third year, then his fourth and sixth years correspond, for the most part, with the sixth and ninth of Hoshea” (Keil).—חִזְקִיָּה is the shortened form for יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ, which is found in Chronicles, and in 2 Kings 20:10; Isaiah 1:1; Hosea 1:1. In Isaiah 36-39. the name always has the form חִזְקִיָּהוּ. This form is also found several times in Kings. In Micah 1:1. we find יְחִזְקִיָּה Gesenius gives, as the signification of the name, “Jehovah’s strength.” Fürst’s explanation is better: “Jah is Might.” In like manner אֲבִי is shortened from אֲבִיָּה which is found in Chronicles. Which Zachariah was her father, we cannot determine.
2 Kings 18:4. He removed the high-places. On בָּמוֹת see notes on 1 Kings 3:2. Here, as in 1 Kings 3:2; 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 15:14, we have not to understand by the Word, places of idolatry, but elevations on which Jehovah was worshipped, in contrast with the temple as the central place of worship. This is clear from 2 Kings 18:22. On the images (probably of stone), and the wooden Astarte-columns, see note on 1 Kings 14:23. Instead of the singular אֲשֵׁרָה, all the old versions have the plural, which is also found in 2 Chronicles 31:1. Therefore Thenius reads אֲשֵׁרִים, but this change is unnecessary. According to Keil the singular is here “used collectively.”—And brake in pieces the brazen serpent, &c. (cf. Numbers 21:5 sq.). It is commonly assumed that this refers to the serpent-image which was made by Moses in the wilderness. Von Gerlach says: “It was perhaps preserved in a side-chamber of the temple as a highly revered treasure and memorial.… In the times of manifold idolatry it had been brought out, and an idolatrous worship had been practised with it.” It is not impossible, in itself, that the image was still in existence after 800 years, and was preserved in the temple as a relic. We have no hint, however, that such was the case, and it is hardly supposable that Moses, who so carefully avoided everything which could nourish the inclination of the people towards idolatry, should have taken this image with him during his entire journey through the wilderness. Moreover, the tabernacle had no side-chamber in which it could have been kept. Even if we suppose that it was still in existence when the temple was built (480 years after the exodus), yet there is no mention of it at all amongst the objects in the tabernacle which Solomon caused to be brought down into the temple (see 1 Kings 8:4); neither is there any mention of the fact that any later king caused it to be brought out and set up where it would be possible for the people to offer incense to it. It is reckoned as a merit in Hezekiah that he caused it to be broken in pieces, but it is hardly probable that he would have been the one to destroy a symbol which had been set up and preserved by the great Law giver himself, and which had survived so long, as a sacred memorial and treasure, all the storms of time. Winer (R.-W.-B. II. s. 415) therefore infers: “The brazen serpent mentioned in 2 Kings cannot be the very one which was set up by Moses.” If the sensuous people wished to see their God and to have an image of Him, scarcely any image would suggest itself more immediately than the one which Moses had himself once made and commanded them to look upon, and of which the people were so directly reminded by their history. In the time of idolatry, therefore, they made an image like the one which Moses had set up, and offered incense to it. The text seems to us not only to admit this supposition, but also, when taken with the context, even to require it. The clause: that Moses had made, distinguishes this image expressly from the statues and images mentioned just before. They had been borrowed from the heathen, but that, though it had been made by Moses in the first place, had been abused for idolatry. Moreover, Moses had not made it with his own hands, but had caused it to be made. This also does away with the oft-repeated assertion that the serpent-worship in Israel had its origin in Egypt, where this cultus was very widespread. The serpent was there the symbol of healing power (Winer, l.c.), whereas in the book of Numbers it is represented as bringing death and destruction, wherefore Moses, who certainly was far enough from intending to thereby set up an image of idolatry, hung up a serpent-image as a sign that it could not bring death to those who, with faith in Jehovah’s death-conquering power, should look up to it.—Unto those days, i.e., not from Moses’ time on uninterruptedly until the time of Hezekiah; but “from time to time, and the idolatrous worship which was practised with this image continued until Hezekiah’s time” (Keil). The subject of ויקרא is not Hezekiah, as the Vulg. and Clericus understand, but Israel. Sept. ἐκάλεσαν. [It is better to take it as a singular with indefinite subject (one called) = they called, or it was called. See note 1 under Grammatical.] The name נְחֻשְׁתָּן, i.e., “a brazen thing,” shows that the “brass” was not an accidental circumstance in the construction of this image, but was essential, perhaps on account of its glowing-red color, in which it resembled the “fiery” serpents (Numbers 21:6; Deuteronomy 8:15; cf. Revelation 1:15), whose bite burned and consumed. נְחֻשְׁתָּן, therefore, meant, The Glowing-red One, The Consuming One, The Burning One. There is no contemptuous sense in it, such as: “A little bit of brass,” as those think who assume that Hezekiah is the subject (Dereser). Still less is it correct that the image had that name only in contrast with the other idols which were of wood or stone. Neither is the designation: “The so-called Brass-God” (Ewald), an apt rendering of the word.—The sentence in 2 Kings 18:5 : After him was none like him, &c. has been incorrectly understood as a proverbial form of expression for something which is very rare, the parallel of which is not on record. It “is not in contradiction with chap, 23:25, for its application must be restricted to the single characteristic of trust in God. In this particular Hezekiah showed himself the strongest, whereas, in 23:25, strict fidelity to the (Mosaic) Law is applauded in Josiah” (Thenius).—He clave to the Lord (2 Kings 18:6). This appeared from the fact that he never gave himself up to idolatry, but kept the commandments of God.
2 Kings 18:7. And the Lord was with him, &c. יַשְׂכִּילִּ has exactly the same sense as in 1 Kings 2:3. The words בְּכָל וגו are not to be translated as by Luther and De Wette [and the E. V.]: “Whithersoever he went forth,” but, as by the vulg.: in cunctis, ad quœ procedebat. His prosperity appeared in two points; in his escape from the Assyrian supremacy, under which Judah had disgracefully fallen during Ahaz, reign (2 Kings 16:7); and in his war against the Philistines, who had, during Ahaz, reign, made conquests in Judah (2 Chronicles 28:18). Luther’s translation, Dazu [d. i. ausserdem] ward er” [Moreover he rebelled], destroys the connection of thought. The ו before יִמְרֹד is the simple copula, and is equivalent to the German nämlich [that is to say, or, for instance]. As those two facts only are mentioned here as instances of his prosperity, we must not infer from their position in the story that they took place at the outset of his reign. It is to be observed that his revolt from Assyria is not mentioned here as something blameworthy, but as something which redounded to his praise. The apostate Ahaz subjected the kingdom to Assyria; Hezekiah, who was faithful to Jehovah, made himself independent of the Assyrian yoke. As to the time at which he resolved to do this, see note on 2 Kings 18:13.
2 Kings 18:9. And it came to pass in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, &c. 2 Kings 18:9-12 repeat what has been already narrated in 2 Kings 17:3-6. This is due, according to Thenius, to the fact that the author found these words not only in the annals of Israel, but also in those of Judah, and that he reproduces his authorities with “complete fidelity.” But the repetition cannot be due to any such merely mechanical procedure; it has a further and deeper cause. In the first place, the overthrow of Samaria was an event of the highest importance for Judah also, and it deserved especial mention here on account of the contrast with 2 Kings 18:1-8. Hezekiah carried out a reformation in his kingdom. He remained faithful to the Lord, and he succeeded in what he undertook. Israel, on the contrary, had come into conflict with the Assyrian power. The king of Assyria, encouraged and stimulated by his success in this conflict, now turned his arms against Judah. But this kingdom, although it was weaker and smaller, did not fall, because Hezekiah trusted in the Lord. This is what the historian desired to show by the repetition, so that it is exactly in its right place between 2Ki 18:8; 2 Kings 18:13.—For the detailed exposition of 2 Kings 18:9-12, see notes on 2 Kings 17:3 sq.
2 Kings 18:13. Now in the fourteenth year… did Sennacherib… come up, &c. Herodotus calls this king Ζαναχάριβος; Josephus, Σεναχήριβος. Nothing but guesses, which we do not need to notice, have yet been brought forward in regard to the signification of this name. [The true form of the name is Sin-akhe-rib, and it means: “Sin (the Moon-god) has multiplied brothers.”—Lenormant.] Sennacherib was the immediate successor of Shalmaneser, for Sargon (Isaiah 20:1) is, as was remarked above on 2 Kings 17:3, one and the same person with Shalmaneser. [For a correction of this error see the Supplementary Note after the Exeg. section on chap 17, and also the similar note at the end of this present section.] Delitsch (on Isaiah 20:1) has lately once more denied this on the authority of the Assyrian inscription published by Oppert and Rawlinson, and has ventured this assertion: “He [Sargon], and not Shalmaneser, took ‘Samaria after a three years’ siege.… Shalmaneser died before Samaria, and Sargon not only assumed command of the army, but also seized the reins of power, and, after a conflict of several years’ duration with the legitimate heirs and their party, he succeeded in establishing himself upon the throne. He was, therefore, a usurper.” The biblical text is wholly silent in regard to all this; nay, it even contradicts it. For the “king of Assyria” mentioned in 2 Kings 17:4-6, is necessarily the same one who is mentioned in 2 Kings 18:3 just before, viz., Shalmaneser. It is impossible to insert another king, and he a usurper, between these four successive verses. If Sargon was a different person from Shalmaneser, the statements of the biblical text in 2 Kings 17:3-6 are incorrect; if these are correct, then either the Assyrian inscriptions are incorrect, or they are incorrectly read and interpreted. Sennacherib would hardly have called his predecessors his “fathers,” if the supposititious Sargon had been a usurper who had come to the throne by the overthrow of the reigning dynasty.
[The reading and interpretation of the cuneiform inscriptions cannot yet, it is true, be regarded as beyond all question, yet there are certain results which are now placed beyond doubt. They constitute the highest authority for Assyrian history, and by them nothing is more satisfactorily established than the fact that Sargon succeeded Shalmaneser and was a usurper, and Sennacherib was his son. The above quotation from Delitsch correctly states the facts of the case. If the inscriptions are not correctly interpreted it remains for those who are competent to do so to make the necessary corrections; but those who have not mastered the subject (and it is a very difficult one) are not justified in treating the authority of Assyrian scholars with neglect and contempt, even upon the supposed authority of the biblical text. The author of the book of Kings was an inhabitant of Judah. Before the time of Sennacherib this kingdom had had very little to do with Assyria. Even Israel knew “the king of Assyria” only as an enemy, the head and representative of the great and threatening world-monarchy. They did not fear Shalmaneser or Sargon as individuals; they feared the head of the hostile nation, “the king of Assyria.” Shalmaneser was celebrated for his campaign against Tyre as an individual who bore this dreaded title. If, as is supposed, he began the siege of Samaria, but died during it, and if Sargon finished it, but then returned to Assyria to secure his usurped power—(Rawlinson seems to think that he was not at Samaria, but took advantage of the discontent of the people of Nineveh at Shalmaneser’s long absence to raise a rebellion against him, and then counted among the great deeds of his first year the conquest of Samaria, which Shalmaneser, or his generals, had nearly accomplished)—then it is not strange that his name is not mentioned here among those individuals who were known to the author of these books to have worn the crown of Assyria. Sennacherib was his son, and again so far from his mention of “his fathers” being an argument that he was not the son of a usurper, it is rather in character for such a person to boast of his ancestors, to try to obliterate the recollection of his origin and title to the throne, and to endeavor to avail himself of the prestige of the old dynasty. The Bible is silent in regard to all this, it is true, but it is generally silent in regard to contemporaneous Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek history. Of China, India, and Arabia it tells us nothing. For our knowledge of these things we are thrown upon the proper authorities. The silence of the Bible is no disparagement of the Bible, and no argument against the conclusions to which we may be led by such separate national authorities as we possess. For the facts in regard to the question here before us, as they appear from the Assyrian inscriptions, see the Supplementary Note at the end of this Exeg. section, and for a list of the Assyrian kings, with the dates of their reigns, see the right-hand column of the Chronological Table at the end of the volume—W. G. S.]
The fourteenth year of Hezekiah, who became king in 727, is the year 713. The fall of Samaria took place in 721 (see the Chron. Table). How long after that Shalmaneser reigned cannot be determined [by biblical data]. The ordinary opinion that he lived until 718, and that Sargon reigned from 718 to 715 or 714, falls to the ground when the identity of the two is established. Sennacherib seems to have reigned a year or two before he undertook the great expedition. Probably the change of occupant of the throne of Assyria had encouraged Hezekiah to make himself independent of the oppressor (2 Kings 18:7). It is not likely, as Niebuhr supposes, that he attempted this soon after his accession, for then Shalmaneser would not have retired from Samaria in 721 without chastising him for this revolt. It is not especially stated what caused the expedition of Sennacherib, but it certainly was not the revolt of Hezekiah alone. It was an expedition of conquest, directed especially against Egypt, which was then the great rival of Assyria, under whose protection the small kingdoms of Western Asia ranged themselves against Assyria. We do not know certainly whether Hezekiah entered into an alliance with Egypt after he revolted from Assyria. It is clear from Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 31:1, compared with 2 Kings 18:21; 2 Kings 18:24 of this chapter, that the authorities at Jerusalem were much inclined to this course, and that they had taken preliminary steps towards it. We shall recur to the subject of Sennacherib’s expedition against Egypt below, at the end of the Exegetical notes. [See the Supplem. Note after this Exeg. section. The facts, as established by the inscriptions, are there briefly stated. All that is said above about the relations of Jewish and Assyrian history must be corrected by what is stated in the Note below.]—Against all the fenced cities of Judah, &c. The statement in Chronicles is more accurate: “He encamped against the fenced cities and thought to win them for himself” (2 Chronicles 32:1). It is clear from 19:8 that he did not take them all. When he approached with his great army, Hezekiah armed himself to resist, and, as he could not risk a battle in the open field, he set Jerusalem in the best possible condition for defence (2 Chronicles 32:2 sq.; Isaiah 22:9-10).
2 Kings 18:14. And Hezekiah… sent to the king of Assyria, &c. 2 Kings 18:14-16 are entirely wanting in Isaiah, and are an important addition to the narrative there given. They are evidently taken from the common source. They are not, therefore, “a mere annalistic insertion” (Delitsch). The text of Isaiah is here condensed as it is in the following verse (17), where he only mentions Rab-shakeh, and says nothing about Rabsaris and Tartan.—Lachish, whither Hezekiah sent his messengers, was fifteen or eighteen hours’ journey south west of Jerusalem on the road to Egypt (see note on 2 Kings 14:19). Sennacherib had, therefore, already passed Jerusalem on his way to Egypt. “The possession of this city was, on account of its position, a matter of great importance to an army which was invading Egypt” (Thenius). Hezekiah, therefore, had grounds for extreme anxiety, more especially as there was no sign of movement on the part of any Egyptian force to meet Sennacherib, and Judah seemed to have been abandoned by Egypt. He determined to try to make terms with the powerful enemy, and rather to submit to a heavy tribute in money than to risk the possession of his capital and the independence of his kingdom. חָטָאתִי does not mean: I have sinned against God by my revolt from thee (that would require that לַיהוָֹה should be added, as we find it Genesis 13:13; Gen 39:9; 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 12:13 and elsewhere); nor, as the ancient expositors supposed: I have, in thy opinion, sinned; nor, imprudenter egi. We have simply to adhere to its original signification, to fail, to err (Job 5:24; Proverbs 19:2). “It is an acknowledgment wrung from him by his distressed circumstances” (Thenius). Hezekiah admits, in view of the great danger to which he has exposed himself and his kingdom, that he has committed an error.—The sum which Sennacherib demanded was certainly a very large one. Thenius estimates it at one and a half million thalers ($1,080,000), and Keil at two and a half million thalers ($1,800,000). The reduction to terms of our modern money is very uncertain. The fact that Hezekiah stripped off the metal which he had himself put upon the door-casings shows how difficult it was for him to raise this sum.
2 Kings 18:17. And the king of Assyria sent Tartan, &c. Josephus thus states the connection between 2 Kings 18:16-17. Sennacherib had promised the ambassadors of Hezekiah that he would abstain from all hostilities against Jerusalem, if he received the sum which he had demanded. Hezekiah, trusting in this, had paid it, and now believed. himself to be free from all danger. Sennacherib, however, “did not trouble himself about his promise. He marched in person against the Egyptians and Ethiopians, but he left the general (στρατηγόν) Rab-shakeh, with two other high officers (σὺν δυσὶν ἄλλοις τῶν ἐν τέλει) and a large force to destroy Jerusalem.” This undoubtedly fills up correctly the omission of the biblical text. The two last of these names are clearly official titles, but the first is not a proper name. See Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13, where these titles stand by the side of the proper names. תַּרְתָּן is the title of the general or military commander, as we see from Isaiah 20:1. Probably it is equivalent to רַב־טַבָּחִים (2 Kings 25:8; Jeremiah 39:9; Genesis 37:36), captain of the life-guard. We pass, without discussion, Hitzig’s suggestion that the title is of Persian origin and means, “Skull of the body,” that is, “Person of high rank.” רַב־סָרִים is the chief of the eunuchs, who, however, was not himself a eunuch (2 Kings 25:19; cf. Genesis 37:36; Genesis 39:1; Genesis 39:7; Daniel 1:3; Daniel 1:7). This officer is now one of the highest at the Turkish court (Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 654). All the officers and servants of the court were under his command. רַבשָׁקֵה is the chief cup-bearer, who is more distinctly designated in Genesis 40:2; Genesis 40:21 as שַׂר־הַמַּשְׁקִים. This was also a post of high honor at Oriental courts. Nehemiah once filled it (Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 2:1). These court dignitaries were at the same time the highest civil and military officers (cf. Brissonius de regno Pers. i. p. 66, 138. Gesenius on Isaiah 36:2). Sennacherib sent three such officers in order to give importance to the matter.—The upper pool is the one called Gihon (2 Chronicles 32:30; 1 Kings 1:33) outside of the city, on the west side. A canal ran from this to the field of the fullers or washers, which, partly on account of the impurity of the water collected in the pool, and partly on account of the uncleanliness of that occupation, was outside of the city. The same designation of this locality is found in Isaiah 7:3, from which it is clear that this canal existed in the time of Ahaz and earlier, and is not the one mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:30.—And when they had called to the king, &c, i.e., “They made known to those upon the wall their desire to speak with the king. He, however, did not yield to their demand to speak with him in person, not, as Josephus thinks, ὑπὸ δειλίας, but because it was beneath his dignity. The chief officers of the king appeared” (Thenius). On the offices which they filled, see notes on 1 Kings 4:3 sq. From Isaiah 22:15-22 it is commonly inferred that Shebna, who there appears as the officer עַל־הַבַּיִת, but is threatened with deposition from that office, had been degraded to a סֹפֵר, in which rank he appears here, and that Eliakim had been put in his place. Other expositors, Vitringa for instance, will not admit that he is the same person. It is at best very uncertain. Nothing can be inferred from this in regard to the comparative rank of these officers, for in 1 Kings 4:3 sq. the Sopher and the Maskir stand before the Master of the Palace.
2 Kings 18:19. And Rab-shakeh said unto them, &c Probably he was more familiar with the Hebrew language (2 Kings 18:26) than either of the others, and otherwise better fitted to be spokesman. The rabbis falsely consider him an apostate Israelite and even a son of Isaiah.—Rab-shakeh calls his king “the great king,” because he had kings for his vassals, Isaiah 10:8; Hosea 8:10. Cf. Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37, where Nebuchadnezzar is called a “king of kings.” In Ezra 7:12, the name is applied to the Persian king.—בִּטָּחוֹן does not mean defiance (Bunsen: “What is this defiant confidence with which thou defiest”?), but confidence, reliance: cf. בטח in ver 5. The question does not contain a rebuke (Gesen.: qualis est fiducia ista: i. e., quam insanis ea est); but rather astonishment. “What reliance hast thou that thou darest to revolt from me? I look about in vain for any satisfactory answer to this question” (Drechsler).—אָמַרְתָּ in 2 Kings 18:20 is to be preferred to אָמַרְתִּי in Isaiah. A saying of the lips only is not object: “Thou speakest but a word of the lips [when thou sayest]: counsel and strength, &c.” (Knobel). Still less is the sense: “Thou thinkest that my words are only empty talk.” The sense is rather: “Thou sayest” (it is, however, no well-considered expression of a conviction, but a mere pronunciation of the lips) “counsel and strength,” &c, cf. Proverbs 14:23; Job 11:2. The Vulg. translates very arbitrarily: Forsitan inisti consilium, ut prœpares te ad prœlium. 2 Kings 18:21 is not a question (Vulg. Luther). Rab-shakeh himself gives the answer to his own question in 2 Kings 18:20, and “affirms roundly that Judah is in alliance with Assyria’s arch-enemy, Egypt” (Knobel). The image of the staff (מִשְׁעֶנֶת, cf. Isaiah 3:1) of a reed is a very striking one. As it is used also in Ezekiel 29:6 in reference to Egypt, it evidently is suggested by the fact that the Nile, the representative river of Egypt, produced quantities of reeds (Isaiah 19:6). The reed, which at best has a feeble stem, bent hither and thither by the wind, is moreover “bruised,” so that, although it appears to be whole, yet it breaks all the more easily when one leans upon it, and moreover, its fragments penetrate the hand and wound it (cf. Isaiah 42:3, where רצץ and שׁבר are accurately distinguished from one another). [For רצץ, Germ, knicken, we have no precise equivalent. It is a kind of breaking which applies peculiarly to green reeds. The stem may be broken in such a way as to destroy its rigidity, its power to sustain any weight upright, and yet the tenacity of the fibre is such that the parts hold together, and the external form is maintained. A reed is not available as a staff under any circumstances. One which has been thus impaired will give way at once under any weight.—W. G. S.] Thenius: “Sennacherib compared Egypt to a reed thus snapped or bent, not because he had broken the Egyptian power, but because, in his arrogance, he regarded it already as good as broken.” Delitsch thinks that he calls it so “in consequence of the loss of the dominion over Ethiopia, which had been lost by the native dynasty of Egypt (Isaiah 18:0).” What is here said about Pharaoh agrees exactly with Isaiah 30:1-7.
2 Kings 18:22. But if ye say unto me, &c. In Isaiah 34:7 we find instead of &תֹאמַר תֹּאמְרוּן thou sayest. Keil considers this the original reading, because in 2 Kings 18:23 sq. Hezekiah is once more directly addressed in his ambassadors. The majority, however, from Vitringa on, are in favor of תֹּאמרְוּן, because Hezekiah is immediately afterwards referred to in the third person. In this case the words are not addressed simply to the ambassadors but to the entire people. Thenius takes the question, Is not that he, &c., as a continuation of the speech of those who trust in Jehovah, and who thus refer to Hezekiah’s zeal for the centralization of the national cultus as a ground for hoping for God’s help. But 2 Chronicles 32:12 is opposed to this notion. According to that passage the words are an objection raised by Rab-shakeh in order to overthrow the confidence of the people, and thus they are understood by nearly all the commentators, ancient and modern. The conclusion of the speech, 2 Kings 18:25, requires the same interpretation. The argument is: God is not with the one who has removed His altars and restricted His worship to one single place, but with the one who, at His command, has taken possession of the country, and has already won such great success. Rab-shakeh desires to inspire them with suspicion of Hezekiah, who, according to 2 Kings 18:30 and 2 Chronicles 32:7, had encouraged them to trust in Jehovah. He knew how much the people were accustomed to the worship on the high-places, and how much more convenient it was for them.
2 Kings 18:23. Now, therefore, make a bargain with, &c. וְעַתָּה i e., Take account, moreover, of the lack of a proper military force, of which cavalry forms an important part. הִתְעָרֵב does not mean: “Promise to my Lord” (Luther), nor, “lay a wager with my Lord” (Bunsen, Von Meyer). ערב means to change, exchange, barter (Ezekiel 27:9; Ezekiel 27:21). In the hithpael it means to enter into intercourse with (Psalms 106:35; Proverbs 24:21). The reference here is to a mutual giving and taking, not to entering into a contest (Knobel). The sense is: Even if any one should give thee ever so many horses, thou hast not men who are fit to ride upon and use them. [It is a strong expression of contempt for the military power of the Jews. you talk about opposing me by force, but even if I, your enemy, should furnish you with horses, you could not find men to form cavalry. If you should make terms with me so that I gave you these odds, it would not do you any good.—W. G. S.]. תָּשִׁיב means literally: to cause to face about, i. e., to put to flight. The פַּחוֹת, the governors of provinces, were likewise commanders in the army in time of war, 1 Kings 20:24 (cf. 22:31); “the least” is the one who commands the smallest number of soldiers. Drechsler’s interpretation seems to us to be entirely mistaken. According to him there is no reference here to war, and הֵשִׁיב, &c. has the signification: to reject a suppliant, so that the sense is, “He [Hezekiah] will have to concede every demand and yield to every wish which is brought before him by such a person [as one of these governors].”—On the chariots see 1 Kings 10:28 sq.—In 2 Kings 18:25 Rab-shakeh presents the matter in a light exactly contrary to that in which the Jews look at it: So far from thy being justified in relying upon Jehovah, He is, on the contrary, on our side, and it is by His command that we are come hither to destroy Jerusalem. This was, as Clericus says, purum putum mendacium. As an Assyrian he did not believe at all in the God of Israel, but only made use of this form of statement, cf. 2 Kings 18:34-35. It can hardly be that he meant to refer to the successes which the Assyrians had had up to this time as proofs that they were under the guidance and approval of Jehovah (Calmet, Thenius). Still less can we suppose that he “had heard of the declarations of the prophets, who had predicted this distress as a punishment sent by Jehovah” (Knobel, Von Gerlach, Keil, Vitringa and others.) [At the same time, if we impute to Rab-shakeh such a disbelief in the existence of Jehovah as makes his reference to His providence here a pure fiction, merely assumed for the purpose of producing an effect upon the listeners who did believe in Jehovah, we shall introduce, a modern or monotheistic idea into the speech of an ancient heathen and polytheist, to whom it was foreign. The characteristic of the Jewish monotheistic religion was exclusiveness, intolerance. The polytheistic heathen religions did not deny the existence of the national divinities of each separate nation. The fact that Rab-shakeh believed in the Assyrian divinities does not, therefore, exclude all belief on his part in Jehovah. In 2 Kings 18:12 he assumes the existence of gods of the countries mentioned. In 17:26 we have another instance of the usual heathen conception. That was, that every nation had its own divinities. These were conceived of as existing and being true gods, one as much as the other, in all the sense in which heathen ever conceived of gods as truly existing. Each nation held its own god or gods to be greater and mightier than those of other nations, but thought it necessary, especially when in a foreign country, to pay proper respect to the local divinity. Rab-shakeh no doubt went thus far, at least, in his “belief in” Jehovah, and his claim to enjoy the favor of Jehovah was either a pure assumption, good at least until the event contradicted it, or it was founded upon the successes hitherto won, or it took advantage of such prophecies of the Jewish prophets as he may have heard of. Cf. the bracketed note on p. 57 of Pt. II. in regard to Naaman’s idea of Jehovah.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 18:26. Then said Eliakim, &c. As the haughty words of Rab-shakeh, especially what he had last said (2 Kings 18:25), might have a depressing effect upon the soldiers posted on the wall, the king’s ambassadors interrupted him and begged him, in a friendly manner, to speak Syriac. To this he gives a rude answer. אֲרָמִית i.e., Syriac,—[more strictly and correctly, Aramaic. The name Syriac is commonly restricted to a later dialect of the Aramaic.—W. G. S.]—“was spoken in ancient times in Syria, Babylonia, and Mesopotamia” (Gesenius). It was “the connecting link between the languages of Eastern [middle] Asia and the Semitic languages of Western Asia” (Drechsler). On account of the intercourse between the Hebrews and these nations, the high court-officials especially were acquainted with Hebrew. The Hebrew and the Aramaic were closely related languages (Ezekiel 4:7). Rab-shakeh spoke Hebrew in this case, not out of politeness, but in order that he might be understood by the listening people, who were not acquainted with any other language. His object was to influence the common people. עַל and אֶל in 2 Kings 18:27 have no distinction of meaning. In Isaiah 36:12 we find אֶל for עַל. Rab-shakeh pretends to be a friend of “the people.” So he says, in substance: Ye are abusing your common people. In exposing them to a wasting siege ye are bringing them, with yourselves, into the direst extremity, so that they will at last be compelled to consume their own excrement. (Compare similar abominations, 2 Kings 6:28, sq.) “Instead of the vulgar word חַרְאֵיהֶם, excrementa sua, and שֵׁינֵיהֶם, urinas suas, the keri substitutes the euphemisms צוֹאָתָם their out-going, and מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם, the water of their feet. The text is punctuated for these readings” (Knobel). וַיַּעֲמוֹד stands here as in 1 Kings 8:32. Ewald: “He now, for the first time, took up a position directly in front of the wall.” It can hardly mean what Keil understands: “He took up a position calculated for effect. He does exactly the contrary of what they begged him to do. He approaches nearer in order to be still more distinctly heard by the people,” and “follows still more directly his object of influencing the minds of the common soldiers” (Drechsler).
2 Kings 18:31. Make terms with me, &c. Vulg.: Facite mecum quod vobis est utile. Luther: Accept my favor. But בְּרָכָה means blessing, and implies the same as שָׁלוֹם, peace, prosperity (Joshua 9:15), for peace was concluded with mutual blessings, and expressed wishes for prosperity on either hand (1 Chronicles 18:10). Come out to me, the usual expression for besieged who “go out” and surrender to the besiegers (1 Samuel 11:3; Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:17). The threats are now followed by wheedling and promises. Then eat ye, &c.; i.e., ye shall lead a life which is in every way peaceful and happy. See 1 Kings 4:25. Until I come, 2 Kings 18:32. Not, “until I come back from Egypt” (Knobel), but, in general; I will come and take you away. It appears, therefore, that, “Even in case of a capitulation, the Assyrians proposed to transport the Jewish population, according to their usual custom. For the proofs that they were accustomed to adopt this measure with all subjugated nations see Hengstenberg, De rebus Tyriis, p. 51, sq.” (Keil). [On these deportations see the Supplementary Note after the Exeg. section on chap. 17. The first one on record is there noticed, as well as a large number both out of, and into, Syria and Samaria.] We need not attempt to define the land referred to. The whole promise was a mere pretext. זֵית יִצהָר is the olive-tree which bears oil-producing fruit, in distinction from the wild olive-tree.
2 Kings 18:33. Have the gods of the nations delivered each his land, &c. Finally the speaker puts the Assyrian power (the “king of Assyria” is here used generally for the Assyrian imperial power, not for Sennacherib in particular) above the might of all the national divinities, and therefore above the supposititious god Jehovah, and proves the justice of the assumption by those successes of the Assyrian power which no one could deny. It is very skillful of him to close his speech with this argument which he considers the strongest and most effective. He means to say: If all the gods of these numerous and mighty nations could not resist the might of Assyria, “much less will Jehovah, the insignificant god of an insignificant nation, be able to do so” (Knobel). It is true that he thereby falls into a contradiction of what he had himself said in 2 Kings 18:25, and this shows that his words there were empty pretence.—In 2 Kings 18:34, Drechsler translates אֱלֹהֵי both times by the singular, following the Vulgate. But as it must be taken as a plural in 2 Kings 18:33, so also here, especially as it is a fact that those nations had more than one god each. On Hamath, Sepharvaim, and Joah see notes on 2 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 17:30 sq. Many hypotheses have been suggested in regard to Arpad. As it is mentioned here and Isaiah 10:9; Isaiah 37:13, and Jeremiah 49:23, in connection with Hamath, it must have belonged to Syria. We have “no trace of it either in writings or elsewhere” (Winer). It cannot be certainly affirmed that the district Arfad in northern Syria, seven hours’ journey north of Haleb (Keil), is the same place. Hena is also mentioned with Joah in 2 Kings 19:13, and in Isaiah 37:13, but its location is as little ascertainable as that of the latter place. It is more probable that we must look for it in Mesopotamia (Winer) than on the Phoenician frontier (Ewald). [In 742, when Tiglath Pileser conquered Syria (see Supp. Note on chap. 15. p. 161), the city of Arpad alone resisted him with any success. It held out for three years. The same city joined Samaria and Damascus in the revolt mentioned in the Supp. Note on chap. 17. p. 189. Sargon reconquered it. It is, therefore, certain that it was in Syria, though the identification with Arfad is doubtful. It was a large and important city, for it is mentioned in the acts of Sargon, together with Hamath, Damascus, Syria, and Samaria, as among the chief cities of that part of the world.—Some good maps offer Hena in the Euphrates valley and identify it with Anah, or Anatho. Sepharvaim was certainly in the Euphrates valley (see Exeg. note on 17:24) and it is very probable that Hena and Ivah were also there.—W. G. S.] The Vulg. which Luther, Clericus, and Thenius follow, takes כִּי־הִצִּילוּ as a question. Thenius even considers הֲכִי the original reading. But it cannot well be taken differently from כִּי־יַצִּיל in the following verse, where there certainly is not a question, but an inference, as in 2 Kings 18:20. The sentence is abbreviated. In full it would read: Where are the gods of Samaria that they should have saved it? Jehovah will be just as unable to save Jerusalem. The gods of Samaria are included in those “of the nations,”—But the people held their peace, 2 Kings 18:36. In Isaiah the word הָעָם is wanting, so that וְהֶחֱרֵישׁוּ only refers ו the three officers. Of course Hezekiah had forbidden them to reply, or to enter into any negotiations, partly because he reserved this responsibility to himself, and partly in order not to provoke the enemy still more. Because they kept silence, the people, to whom Rab-shakeh had addressed his last words, also kept silence. Hezekiah could not have commanded the people to keep silence, because he did not know beforehand that Rab-shakeh would address himself to them instead of to the ambassadors. The latter returned with rent garments, in grief and sorrow, not only for the hard message which they had to bring, but also on account of the insults to the king, and still more on account of the blasphemies against Jehovah, which they had been obliged to hear. See 2 Kings 6:30.
Chap. 19. 2 Kings 19:1. And it came to pass when king Hezekiah heard it, &c. The sackcloth which Hezekiah put on was not only a garment of sorrow, but also a garment of penitence, as in 1 Kings 20:32; 2 Kings 6:30. The king saw in this event a divine chastisement (2 Kings 19:3). The rabbis use the passage to prove that when blasphemies are uttered, not only those who hear them, but also those to whom they are reported, ought to rend their garments (See Schöttgen, Hor. Hebr. on Matthew 26:65). Hezekiah goes into the temple, “in order to humble himself before God and to pray for help” (Thenius). At the same time he sends a solemn embassy of the highest officers and the most important men to the prophet Isaiah. The elders of the priests are the most notable amongst them. “Embassies are often sent to the prophets by the kings in times of extraordinary distress” (Von Gerlach), cf. Numbers 22:5; Jeremiah 21:1). It is very significant of the comparative position of prophets and priests that the latter were chosen as ambassadors to the former. The priests were officers only by virtue of their birth. The prophets were chosen men of God, filled with His Spirit. “Isaiah was the only one to whom the nation could turn under the circumstances, the one to whom it must turn. From the point of time referred to in Isaiah 7:3 sq. he presided over this work of divine discipline” (Drechsler). Thenius’ remark: “This official embassy was intended to encourage the people,” is an error. It was not sent with any politic intention at all, but sprang from the need of reliable counsel in a desperate situation. Hezekiah desired first of all to know God’s will. He therefore sent to the approved and highly honored prophet.—A day of distress, &c., 2 Kings 19:3. Luther incorrectly, following the Vulg. (et increpationis et blasphemiœ): und des Scheltens und Lästerns [E. V. of rebuke and blasphemy]. תּוֹכֵחָה means chastisement, punishment (Hosea 5:9; Psalms 149:7). נְאָצָה means disdain, abhorrence, especially of the people by God (Deuteronomy 32:19; Lamentations 2:6). [The meaning here is that it is a day on which God has disdainfully rejected his people, and left them to their enemies—W. G. S.].—For the children are come to the opening of the womb, &c. The proverb is taken from the crisis in child-bearing, where the child is in the midst of the birth, but the strength of the mother fails on account of the continuous pains, so that she and the child are both in danger. Clericus, therefore, interprets it of the situation of those in great peril, who know what they must do in order to escape, but who feel that it is beyond their power to take the necessary measures, and who fear that, if they should make the attempt, all would be lost.—אוּלַי, 2 Kings 19:4, non est dubitantis particula, sed bene sperantis (Clericus). He hopes that God will not allow the words which have been spoken to go unnoticed. The Lord thy God, inasmuch as the prophet is in an especial sense His servant. The remnant are those who, like Jerusalem, were not yet in the power of the Assyrians, who had already overrun the country and captured the strongholds.
2 Kings 19:6. And Isaiah said unto them, &c. The prophet does not call the officers of the king עֲבָדִים, but נְעָרִים. He does not thereby simply designate them as “servants,” or, in fact, “body-servants,” as Thenius insists. There is rather a contemptuous significance in the word, which is never used of old men, such as these officers were. Knobel: “The youths, the youngsters.” Ewald and Umbreit even render it: “The boys”; Drechsler: “The guards, the rank and file, who have no discretionary judgment.” [Herein lies the contumely of the epithet. These high officers are called by a name applicable only to those who have nothing to do but mechanically obey orders. It is like calling cabinet ministers, who are, in a good sense, “servants” of the State, public lackeys.—W. G. S.]—I will inspire him with such a spirit, &c. 2 Kings 19:7. Malvenda’s rendering: Veniet per aërem nuncius seu rumor, is entirely erroneous. “Others understand by ‘spirit’ here, a wind, especially a noxious wind, the Simoom, or something of that kind, which can sweep away a whole army, and which the angel (2 Kings 19:35) may have used as an instrumentality” (Richter). That, however, is not the meaning. רוּחַ is often used for disposition, state of mind. (Knobel: I will awaken in him such a state of mind. Thenius: a despondent disposition or mood. Similarly Theodoret: πνεῦμα, τὴν δειλίαν οἶμαι δηλοῦν). Here it evidently means more than that, and refers to the “extraordinary impulsion of a divine inspiration which is to hurry him blindly on” (Drechsler). This spirit is to leave him no rest, so that, as soon as a certain rumor reaches his ears, he shall hurry away. The sense is, therefore: I will bring it about that he shall feel himself powerfully impelled to retreat. The “rumor” which he is to hear is not the news of the defeat of his army (Lightfoot, Thenius), for he was with his army in person, but the news of Tirhakah’s approach (2 Kings 19:9). This news was the first and immediate occasion of his retreat. The destruction of his army was then added, and this hastened his steps. The prophet does not, therefore, refer expressly to the latter. Drechsler finds in this a kind of “pedagogic wisdom, for thus he forced Hezekiah and the people to put implicit faith in the word of God upon which they had to rely.”—And I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. The assertion that this declaration is put in the mouth of Isaiah by the historian, post eventum, is both arbitrary and violent. It appears also in the other narrative, Isaiah 37:7, in the same words. It therefore belongs to the common source of both, which Isaiah himself wrote.
2 Kings 19:8. So Rab-shakeh returned. He did not, therefore, forthwith commence the siege, although he had come to Jerusalem with a large force (2 Kings 18:17), but first reported to his master that he had accomplished nothing by his speeches, and had found Jerusalem strongly fortified. He found Sennacherib making war before Libnah. In regard to this city, see note on 2 Kings 8:22. It lay some distance north [north-west] of Lachish, about as far from it as from Jerusalem, which lay to the northeast of both. [The position is uncertain. On the authority of Eusebius, Gesenius, Thenius, and Keil place it in the neighborhood of Eleutheropolis or Beit Jibrin. Lenormant puts Libnah on his map S. E. of Lachish.] It follows that Sennacherib had not, in the mean time, advanced southwards, towards Egypt, but northwards, that is, he had retreated. This he had done, no doubt, on account of Tirhakah’s advance. It can hardly be, as Keil and Thenius suppose, that he had taken Lachish, for, if he had done so, he would probably have remained in that place, and not have retreated. Lachish appears to have been so strong by nature that he could not take it at once, and therefore desired to get possession of Libnah at least. He heard the news of Tirhakah’s advance, not at Libnah, but while he was besieging Lachish. In the first place he passed by Jerusalem, but it was now of the utmost importance to him to get possession of this strong position, so as not to have it in his rear. [On this point also see the Supplementary Note.]—Tirhakah, who is called by Manetho, Ταρακός, by Strabo, Τεάρκων ὁ Αἰθίωψ, on Egyptian monuments Tahrka or Tahraka, “is represented on the Pylon of the great temple of Medinet-Abu in the guise of a king, who is slaughtering, before the god Ammon, enemies from the conquered countries, Egypt, Syria, and Tepopa (a country which cannot be identified)” (Keil). When, and how long, he ruled over Egypt, are questions which do not here concern us further. (See Niebuhr, Gesch. Assyr., s. 72 and 458). He is described, like Sesostris, as one of the great conquerors of the ancient world (Strabo 1:45). This was the ground for the effect which his approach produced.
2 Kings 19:9. He seat messengers again unto Hezekiah. Instead of וַיָּשָׁב we find in Isaiah 37:9 וַיּשְׁמַע. Drechsler thinks that this word is much more forcible, and that it is repeated from the beginning of the verse, in order to show that Sennacherib sent the messengers as soon as he heard the news. The text before us, however, seems to be the better one, as Delitsch also admits in this case. The point to be emphasized is, not that Sennacherib sent at once upon hearing this news, but that he sent again, made another attempt to get possession of Jerusalem by capitulation, without drawing the sword, for Jerusalem was far stronger than Samaria, and the latter cost Shalmaneser a three years’ siege.—On 2 Kings 19:10 see 2 Kings 18:30, and on 2 Kings 19:11 cf. the similar piece of boasting, Isaiah 10:8-11. This time Sennacherib addresses himself directly to Hezekiah by a letter, and hopes for better success than was won by his servants. The letter contains the same arguments as Rab-shakeh’s speech, with this difference, that still more countries which had been conquered by the Assyrian arms are here enumerated, in order to heighten the effect. לְהַחֲרִימָם (2 Kings 19:11), not: in order to destroy them, but; so that they destroyed, or: ,by this, that they destroyed them; strictly: by devoting them to destruction. Cf. Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6; Joshua 8:26; 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 15:8; Numbers 21:3.—In 2 Kings 19:12 the countries which Rab-shakeh had not mentioned are mentioned first, and then, in 2 Kings 19:13, those which he had mentioned. On Gozan see note on 2 Kings 17:6. The mention of this place in connection with Haran in Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:31) does not force us to conclude that it refers to Gauzanitis in that country. “The enumeration is founded on historical, not on geographical facts” (Keil). Rezeph was a place in the district of Palmyra, in eastern Syria, which Ptolemy calls (5,15) ‘Ρησάφα. It was a day’s journey west of the Euphrates (Winer, R.-W.-B.). Jalkuti mentions nine cities of this name in his geographical dictionary. The one here referred to was probably the most important amongst them. Eden is certainly not the Syrian Eden (Amos 1:5), for the reference here is to Assyrian conquests; but is the Eden mentioned in connection with Canneh and Haran, in Ezekiel 27:23. It must, therefore, be sought in Mesopotamia. It is quite uncertain where Thelasar was, and whether it was a city or a district. Perhaps it was in Mesopotamia, like the other places here mentioned, or perhaps it was in Babylon, for תֵּל (hill) occurs at the first part of many Babylonian geographical names. Ewald considers it identical with Theleda, near Palmyra. According to Delitsch, it is “Thelser of the Tab. Peuting., on the east side of the Tigris.” The children of Eden “may have been a tribe which had just then acquired importance, had established itself in Thelasar, a place which did not originally belong to it, and had founded a kingdom there, as the Chaldeans did in Babylon” (Drechsler).—On 2 Kings 19:13 see notes on 2 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 18:34.
2 Kings 19:14. And Hezekiah received the letter. The plural, סְפָרִים, has here a singular signification; literœ, epistola, as the suffix in וַיִּפְרְשֵׂהוּ shows. Hezekiah went into the temple to pray, after the receipt of Sennacherib’s letter, as he had done after Rab-shakeh’s speech (2 Kings 19:1). He spread it before the Lord, as it were before the throne of Jehovah. It is incomprehensible that Gesenius should have asserted that Hezekiah did this with the same motive with which the Thibetans set up their prayer-machines before their gods, in order that the gods may read the prayers for themselves. The substance of the prayer itself (2 Kings 19:15-19) contradicts any such notion most distinctly, for the conception of the one sole God of heaven and earth, as opposed to all heathen conceptions of divinity, which here appears, excludes totally any such coarse anthropomorphic fantasy. It is impossible to impute any such gross superstition to that king of Israel, who displayed zeal against idolatry such as no king since David had shown, and who stood in such relation as we have seen to Isaiah, the most gifted of the prophets. Nor can we explain to ourselves Hezekiah’s action in spreading the letter before God, with Keil and Von Gerlach, as “child-like faith and confidence,” for it would have been more than “childish” if Hezekiah had believed that this letter must be presented to God for Him to see and read it Himself. Still less can we suppose that his object was ut populum earum litcrarum conspectu ad deum orandum excitaret (Clericus). It was rather a significant, or symbolic, act. Hezekiah solemnly hands over the letter, the documentary blasphemy, to Jehovah. He spreads it before Jehovah and leaves to Him the work of punishing it. Lisco: “The act of spreading out the letter before Jehovah is a symbolic presentation of the great distress into which he has been brought by Sennacherib, and to which his prayer refers.” Delitsch: “It is a prayer without words, a prayer in action, which then passes into a spoken prayer.” He calls upon Jehovah as the God of Israel, i.e., as the one who has chosen Israel out of all the nations of the earth to be His own people, and has made a covenant with this nation, and who, therefore, sits between the cherubim, and dwells amongst His chosen people (see the dissertation on the Significance of the Temple under 1 Kings 6:0, § 6, c and d), is not, however, a mere national divinity like the gods of the nations which the Assyrians had conquered, as Sennacherib supposed, but is the One, Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. In Isaiah 37:16 we find with יְהוָֹה the word צְבָאוֹת, παντοκράτωρ (2 Samuel 5:10; 2 Samuel 7:8). This would hardly have been left out if the author had found it in the original document which served as his authority. “הוּא in אַתָּה־הוּא is an emphatic repetition, and so a reinforcement, of the subject, as in Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 51:12, &c.; tu ille (not, tu es ille), that is, tu, nullus alius” (Delitsch).
2 Kings 19:16. Lord, bow down thine ear. Drechsler: “This express mention of the two chief senses, the development of each of the two chief ideas, according to their details, into a twofold prayer, the complete symmetry of the two clauses of the sentence, the repetition of יְהוָֹה in the second clause—all these conspire to give to the prayer the greatest urgency and emphasis.” The singular, “thine ear,” with the plural, “thine eyes,” is a standing formula (Psalms 17:6; Psalms 31:2, &c.). “When we wish to hear, we bend down one ear to the speaker; when we wish to see, we open both eyes” (Gesenius). That “open thine eyes” does not mean: “Read the letter” (Knobel) is evident from Isaiah 1:15, where the reference is not to a letter at all, but only to a prayer. The second “hear” is equivalent to “notice,” “pay heed to.” [The anthropomorphism is plain. The explicit mention of the senses in addressing God is intended to express the most urgent prayer for attention.—W. G. S.] In 2 Kings 19:17 Hezekiah admits the truth of what Sennacherib had boasted of, namely, the subjugation of all those peoples and countries. By the following words he means to say: This was possible for him because they had no protection and no help in their gods of wood and stone; but thou, O Jehovah! our God, art the only God, the Almighty One, Who canst help. Help then thy people for thine own glory, that all nations may know Thee as the One True God (2 Kings 19:19). הֶחֱרִיב does not mean: to put to death by the sword (Luther), but: to devastate, to destroy. Ezekiel 19:7; Judges 16:24. Instead of the nations and their lands, Isaiah 37:18 reads: “all the lands and their (own) land.” [E. V. (as an escape from the difficulty) “all the nations and their lands.”] The reading of Isaiah is not to be preferred “on account of its greater difficulty” (Keil, Drechsler). On the contrary, the text of Kings seems to be more correct, as the majority of the commentators admit. Thenius goes so far as to say that the text of Isaiah must be “totally rejected.” The explanation that the Assyrians had, in consequence of their numerless wars, devastated their own country, is altogether too forced. It does not fit the context, for, if it were adopted, then “their gods” in 2 Kings 19:18 might refer to the gods of the Assyrians. Neither does וְנָתוֹן, in Isaiah, deserve to be preferred, as the more difficult reading, to the וְנָתְנוּ of the text before us. Knobel gives an incorrect interpretation of the words: And have cast their gods into the fire. Hezekiah does not mean “to put their godliness in its proper light,” and to say: “They acted wickedly even from their own stand-point, since they held these idols to be gods, and nevertheless destroyed them.” Drechsler’s remark is more correct: “Standing themselves in the midst of the heathen modes of thought, and moving with the mythologic tendency which was in the process of development, they recognized the deep connection between the religion of a people, its national cultus, and its identity as a particular individual in the family of nations. It was a result of this fundamental conception that the idols of conquered peoples were often carried into captivity.” [That is, the whole nationality was taken captive, reduced to submission, and carried away by the victor, root and branch.—Hezekiah’s mention of the destruction of the heathen gods (idols), in his prayer, therefore, belongs to his description of the completeness of the Assyrian victory, and the utter extirpation of the nationalities which they had conquered.—W. G. S.] Thenius refers, in his comment on this passage, to Botta, Monum. pl. 140, “where an idol is being hewn in pieces while the booty from a conquered city is being carried out and weighed.”—Therefore they have destroyed them. They were easily able to do so, he means to say, because these were gods made by men’s hands out of wood and stone. “It will, however, and it must, be entirely different, if he now proceeds to assail Jehovah” (Drechsler). [The connection of thought may be thus developed: His boast is true. He has indeed uprooted the nations, devastated their countries, and destroyed their idols, in whom they trusted for protection. The inference he desires us to draw is, that Jehovah, our God, in whom we trust, will not be able to save us, any more than these gods to save their worshippers. But what is the assumption on which this inference entirely depends? It is that Jehovah is only another god like those. But they are only pieces of wood and stone, while Jehovah is the sole and almighty God of hosts. Hence the assumption is false, the inference falls to the ground with it, and the boast, although it is true, is idle.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 19:20. Then Isaiah … sent to Hezekiah, &c. He did not probably send the following answer by a “younger prophet,” or “prophet-disciple” (2 Kings 9:1) (Knobel), but by the same embassy which Hezekiah, who in the mean time had gone into the temple, had sent to him. The reply was not written (Starke), it was delivered orally, but it is certain that it was recorded by Isaiah.—She despises thee, &c. 2 Kings 19:21. The entire passage 2 Kings 19:21-34 may be divided into three parts. In the first, 2 Kings 19:21-28, the haughty Assyrian himself is addressed. It consists of words especially adapted to scorn his pretensions. In the second, 2 Kings 19:29-31, the prophet addresses himself directly to Hezekiah. In the third, 2 Kings 19:32-34, the catastrophe of the Assyrian enterprise is solemnly foretold. The commencement of the oracle constitutes, in form and contents, the strongest and most confident contrast to the Assyrian haughtiness. [This division is correct for the sense of the passage. According to its poetic construction, however, it is rather composed of four strophes, two of four and two of three verses. The oracle is highly finished both in its poetic construction, and in the flow of thought. It commences with an indignant and scornful outburst of utter contempt for the Assyrian pretensions (first str.); it then proceeds to refute them by calmer reasoning (sec. str.); then it turns to Hezekiah and Judah, the other parties to the dispute, with encouragement (third str.); and finally it gives, with quiet confidence, a declaration as to the solution of the crisis (fourth str.).—W. G. S.]—The virgin daughter, Zion: not of Zion. Even the stat. const. בְּתוּלַת, only expresses the relation of apposition. “Daughter” is the ordinary figure under which lands and cities are designated (Isaiah 23:12; Isaiah 47:1; Jeremiah 46:11; Lamentations 1:15). “Virgin” is used of a city which is as yet unconquered (see Gesenius on Isaiah 23:12). Here it is prefixed by way of emphasis, and expresses “in contradiction to the confidence of the Assyrian, the consciousness of impregnability” (Drechsler). At thee, lit. after thee or behind thee. “This is a picturesque feature in the description, and is, therefore, mentioned first (Hebrew text). Behind thee, as thou departest in shame and disgrace” (Drechsler). She wags her head, not moving it from side to side as a sign of refusal or disapproval, but up and down, as a sign of ridicule, Psalms 22:7; Psalms 109:25; Job 16:4; Jeremiah 18:16. She shows “by this gesture that it must have turned out so and not otherwise” (Delitsch). This scorn and ridicule is well deserved, because Sennacherib had blasphemed the Most High, therefore, 2 Kings 19:22 : Whom hast thou insulted and blasphemed? He that sitteth upon the heavens shall laugh.—Lifted voice, not in the sense of shouting aloud (Drechsler, Keil) (for Rab-shakeh was the only one who had lifted up his voice in this sense, not Sennacherib), but in the more general sense of uttering words against anybody [a poetic expression for speaking]. מָרוֹם is not the “height of thine eyes” (Umbreit), but on high, upwards towards heaven; cf. Isaiah 57:15, “I dwell in the high and holy place.” It does not, therefore, simply mean, as in Isaiah 40:26, to look up towards heaven, but, as is seen by the following words: “Against the Holy One of Israel,” it has an accessory reference to that pride and arrogance, which places itself on a level with Him who dwells in heaven. The Holy One of Israel is, it is true, the name which is peculiar to Isaiah, but here it is used because “Jehovah is especially designated by the title which distinctly implies that His majesty cannot be outraged by anybody with impunity, Isaiah 5:16” (Drechsler). The Sept. and Vulg. [and E. V.] translate, in violation of the masoretic accents: “Against whom hast thou lifted up thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel!”
2 Kings 19:23. By thy messengers thou hast insulted the Lord. The “messengers” are those mentioned in 2 Kings 19:9. In Isaiah 37:24 we find instead: “thy servants,” evidently referring to those mentioned in 2 Kings 18:17. The speech which the prophet here puts in the mouth of Sennacherib, and in which he gives the key to all the feelings and disposition of the latter, is divided into two parts by the emphasized אֲנִי in 2 Kings 19:23-24. Then each principal clause is subdivided. The Sept., Vulg., Luther, and others take all the verbs in both verses as perfect tenses, but it is incorrect because the perfect עָלִיתִי, 2 Kings 19:23, is followed by the two futures אֶכְרוֹת and אָבוֹאָה, and likewise the perfect קַרְתִּי, 2 Kings 19:24, אַחֲרִיב. It is still less admissible to refer 2 Kings 19:23 to past time and 2 Kings 19:24 to future time, and to translate the perfect עָלִיתִי as a perfect, but the perfect קַרְתִּי as an imperfect, as is often done. The rule which here applies is the one given by Gesenius (Hebr. Gramm. § 126, 4): “The perfect may even refer to the future, especially in strong affirmations and assurances, in which the speaker regards the matter, in his own will, as already done, or as good as accomplished. In German [and English] the present is used in such cases instead of the future” (cf. Ewald, Lehrb. § 135, c.). This use is common in prophecies, Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 5:13. Cf. Psalms 31:6; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:20. We therefore translate, with De Wette, Hitzig, Knobel, Umbreit, Ewald, and others, both perfects by the present, especially as it could not, in any sense, be said of Sennacherib that he had already dried up all the rivers of Egypt. Sennacherib boasts not so much of what he has done as of what he can do; he represents himself as almighty. Yet it is true that “in each of the two verses, the second clause gives the consequence of the first, that is to say, the second clause tells, in each case, what the Assyrian proposes to do after he has accomplished what is mentioned in the first clause” (Keil). Drechsler’s objection that this makes the Assyrian appear as an “empty boaster,” who, “in ridiculous hyperboles piles up a catalogue of things which he boastfully intends to do,” has no weight, for it is not the prophet’s intention to mention all the great things which the Assyrian has already done, but to show what he imagines that he can do. He does not mean to make him enumerate the great deeds which he has accomplished, but he means to describe his disposition, the thoughts of his heart.—This answers the question whether the words which are here put into the mouth of Sennacherib are to be taken literally (historically) or figuratively. Many of the old commentators thought that they were literal and historical. Drechsler adopts this view. He says: “The greater the deeds were which he boasted of, the more necessary it was, if he did not wish to produce an entirely contrary effect from the one which the words seem to indicate, that there should be earnest facts behind his words, and that they should rest upon incidents which could not be denied, but were notorious.” Keil justly objects that there is not the slightest reason to believe that Sennacherib, or any of his predecessors, ever crossed Mt. Lebanon, with all his chariots and military force, and conquered Egypt, or dried up its rivers. Umbreit also says: “We do not see what the cutting down of the cedars and cypresses signifies, under this interpretation.” “Nevertheless, the speech, although it is here given in a rhetorical and poetical form, is not mere poetry. The figures used rest upon actual circumstances, and the speech is not exhausted if we simply interpret it to mean: There exists no effectual hindrance to my power, neither heights nor depths, neither mountains with impenetrable forests, nor plains which are barren and waterless, or cut up by rivers. On the contrary, 2 Kings 19:23 refers directly to Palestine, and 2 Kings 19:24 to Egypt. Lebanon is the mountain which forms the northern boundary of Palestine. It shuts it in and forms the gateway to it (cf. Zechariah 11:1, Cocceius: Libanon munimentum terrœ Canaan versus septentrionem est). When an enemy has passed over it and occupied it, the whole land lies open before him; it is in his power. Just as the word “gate” is made to cover that to which the gate leads, so Lebanon here stands for the whole country to which it is the key (Isaiah 33:9; Isaiah 35:2). [There is no instance of this use of language. Lebanon is often spoken of as one of the glories of the country; never as standing for, covering, or representing the country. The two instances quoted belong to the former usage. In Isaiah 33:9, Lebanon is mentioned with Sharon and Bashan, the other especial sources of pride to the country, as lying waste. In 35:2, among the details of the future glory which was to be enjoyed, Lebanon is mentioned to say that it shall recover its former grandeur. In neither case does it, in any sense, stand for the land of Canaan.—W. G. S.] As in the north Canaan was shut in by Lebanon, so it was enclosed and protected on the south by the waterless desert of Beersheba (Genesis 21:14), which is contiguous to the desert El Tih (Herodotus 3:5, Robinson, Palestine I., 300). Beyond are the rivers, the arms of the Nile which protect Egypt. These two great hindrances, the mountain on the north, and the desert and then the rivers on the south, the haughty king declares to be insignificant. He can pass over Lebanon even with his chariots, and can dry up the rivers of Egypt with the soles of his feet. But all this even does not exhaust the meaning of this speech. If, namely, 2 Kings 19:23 only meant to say: The highest mountain in the country is no hindrance for me, then we could not see what was the significance of the following words: And I will hew down its loftiest cedars and its choicest cypresses. It cannot refer to any actual cutting down of these trees, since Sennacherib had no reason for devastating Lebanon, or for wanting cedar or cypress wood. Moreover the cedars and cypresses were no particular hindrance to him. We have here another instance of the figure which occurs in Jeremiah 22:6-7; Jeremiah 22:23; Ezekiel 17:3, only somewhat further elaborated. Lebanon is the kingdom of Judah, its summit is Jerusalem, the city of David and Mount Zion. Its cedars and cypresses are its princes and mighty men, whom Sennacherib thinks that he can “hew down.” Its “resting-place” and “forest-grove” are the king’s palace on Mount Zion; there he intends to make his encampment (Isaiah 10:29. See Delitsch on Isaiah 37:24). יַעַר כַּרְמִלּוֹ is not a designation for the “places on Mount Lebanon which were thickly grown with herbs” (Fürst), but for the forest on its summit, which consisted of beautiful trees forming an orchard-like grove, see Isaiah 29:17. “The predicate ‘garden’ is applied to this forest because it consists of choice trees” (Drechsler). [It rather resembles a carefully kept grove or orchard than an untrained forest.—W. G. S.] Both expressions are decisive in favor of the figurative acceptation of the passage, for we cannot suppose that there was a real “inn,” or “resting-place,” on the summit of Lebanon (Clericus, Vitringa, Rosenmüller); in the first place, because there is no mention of any such thing, and again, because, if there had been, it would not have been of any importance to Sennacherib. Moreover, “Resting-place” [literally “inn”] and “forest-grove” are in apposition, but a forest is not an inn, and can only be called a “resting-place” in so far as it is a shady place fit to rest in, that is, in a figurative sense. There is, however, in both expressions a reference to the “House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7:2; Isaiah 22:8), which represented the defensive military force (see 1 Kings 7:0, Exeg. on 2 Kings 19:2, and Hist. § 2), and which resembled a forest on account of its cedar columns. The full sense of 2 Kings 19:23, therefore, which, because it affected Hezekiah, is more detailed than 2 Kings 19:24, which refers to Egypt, is this: I am putting an end to the kingdom of Judah with its capital, its citadel, its kings, and its princes, and all its glory.
[The figurative interpretation is adopted by all the commentators of note, but the above special application of the details of the verse to “Mount Zion,” the “King’s palace,” the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” the “Princes and Chief men,” &c., &c., suffers from the weakness which is inherent in every symbolical interpretation which is not directly suggested in the context. It is evident that the symbolical explanations are forced and far-fetched, and, in the mouth of an Assyrian, inexplicable. Moreover, a careful examination of the other cases where Lebanon is used in a metaphor (Isaiah 33:9; Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 22:6; Isaiah 22:1; Isaiah 22:23; Ezekiel 17:3; Habakkuk 2:17) shows that they differ essentially from this one. The simile is always formally introduced as such, and there is no evidence of any usage of language by which Lebanon was made to stand for the whole country as, for instance, “Jerusalem” or “Mount Zion” were used for the whole nation. The details given in verse 23 form an exact description of the march of an army over Lebanon. Let us suppose for a moment that Sennacherib had actually entered Palestine from the north by passing over the mountain. He then boasts that by or with the whole host of his chariots, usually supposed to be fit only for travelling over a plain, he has even gone up to the top of the mountain; that he there cut down the largest and strongest trees (cypresses and cedars being the principal trees on Lebanon), in order to make a way for his army—these mighty trees, the pride of the mountain, making it difficult for an army to march through and preserve its order, had not availed to hinder him. He had hewn them down and cast them away. He had found a resting-place and encamped his army on the very summit of the mountain, in its choicest and most beautiful forest, which had proved for him a shelter and resting-place, not a hindrance. If we thus suppose that, as a fact, he had accomplished this difficult military feat, it is seen that the details of this boast, which is put into his mouth, fit well into the actual details of such an undertaking. We will not infer that he had accomplished this feat, since no hint of it occurs anywhere, but the accuracy of the details is very remarkable. 2 Kings 19:24, on the other hand, is brief, and purely poetical. What are we to understand by parching up rivers with the soles of one’s feet? This rather corresponds to the nature of a bold enterprise, as yet unaccomplished, than to the actual details of a feat already performed. The attempt to specify in detail the things referred to by the separate objects in a bold poetic image or reference of this kind is always a failure. It only sketches in bold outline the thoughts, ambitions, and intentions of Sennacherib, being based possibly on actual deeds which he had accomplished, and in this form it must be left. It is not a parable, but a poetic and boastful statement, in huge outline, of what was in his mind. Whether, as an actual fact, he had led his army over Lebanon or not, he makes use of such a feat as a general specimen of the kind of things he was capable of accomplishing. If he had not done something of that kind, Drechsler’s objection would have great force, that his boast would be ridiculous. That “Lebanon” figures in this speech may be merely owing to the fact that a Jewish prophet puts it into the mouth of the Assyrian, and Sennacherib may somewhere else have passed with his army over a mountain which was supposed to be impassable. In short, then, it is a boast, founded probably on some feat which the Assyrians had accomplished, calling up in vivid figures their power to overcome hindrances supposed to be insurmountable, and setting forth the arrogance which these successes had inspired in them, which led them to think that no obstacles could stay them. Having passed mountains, they were ready to believe that they could parch up rivers. Then follows the rebuke that they had had all these successes only because they were foreordained instruments of God’s Providence, but that, when they had reached the limit of what he intended them to do, they could go no farther, and moreover that their arrogance in ascribing their success to their own power would call for punishment from Him.—W. G. S.]
In regard to the detailed exegesis we have yet to notice בְּרֶכֶב רִכְבָּי, literally: “With chariot of my chariots,” i.e., with my numberless chariots (cf. Nahum 3:17, גּוֹב גּוֹבַי). According to Keil this is “more original;” according to Knobel it is “more choice, more difficult, and therefore preferable” to בְּרֹב רִכְבִּי, “with the multitude of my chariots,” which we find in Isaiah 37:24, and which the keri, many codices, and all the ancient versions have in this place. We agree with Thenius in preferring the latter reading as the more natural one. The sense is the same in either case. Ewald translates: “By the simple march of my chariots,” but the point of importance here is not the uninterrupted onward march, but that chariots, which generally are only fit for level ground, are said to have passed over the highest mountains. Its summit, (יַרְכְּתֵי, cf. Jeremiah 6:22, where the Sept. has ἀπ’ ἐσχάτου), literally, its outmost limit or boundary, Vulg. summitas. מְלוֹן is decidedly to be preferred to מְרוֹם, height (Isaiah 37:24), for it is far more significant, and the idea of “height” is already expressed in ירכתי.—I dig and drink, 2 Kings 19:24. 2 Kings 19:23 refers to the subjugation of Palestine; 2 Kings 19:24 to that of Egypt. The digging does not refer to “the redigging of the wells and cisterns which had been filled up by the fleeing enemy” (Thenius), but to the work which is necessary to find water for a great army in a district where it is wanting. “Strange water” is “water which is not sprung from the soil of this nation” (Drechsler), not, water which belongs to others (Clericus: in alieno solo, quasi in meo, fodiam puteos). זַר is used as in Isaiah 17:10. The word is wanting in the text of the parallel passage of Isaiah, but it is very forcible. [This interpretation is not clear. It must mean either that Sennacherib’s army carried with it water from Assyria, which is not conceivable unless possibly for the king alone, or else, taking the verb as a distinct preterite, that he had drunk the waters of other nations than Judah, viz., of Assyria, and hence his strength. This latter hypothesis would not chime well with the next clause and is not acceptable. Clericus’ interpretation is better. The Assyrian boasts that he comes into foreign nations and digs for and drinks the water of their soil—makes use of their resources.—W. G. S.] On the other hand, where there is a superabundance of water, as in Egypt, where the rivers assure the inhabitants an abundant supply, and, at the same time, form barriers to an invader (Nile and its arms, see Winer, R.-W.-B., Isaiah 25:0Isaiah 25:0Isaiah 25:0), there he parches it up. With the sole of my foot, a strong hyperbole. It does not mean “under the footsteps of my countless army” (Knobel). [It seems to be a purely imaginative and poetic idea, with which no literal, corresponding, fact can be associated. It could only be applied to a deity, and then only by a poetic image, if the river should disappear by some extraordinary interposition. The king, in his self-assumption, asserts that he will, by some similar god-like power, which is not probably defined as to its mode of operation, even in his own mind, dispose of this hindrance when he meets it.—W. G. S.] מָצוֹר is the poetic name for Egypt. [מָצוֹר, “the ‘land of distress’ (Angstland), is a poetic metamorphosis of the Hebrew name of Egypt,” מִצְרַיִם, “cf. 2 Kings 19:6; Micah 7:12” (Ewald).] יְאֹרִים are the arms and canals of the Nile; Isaiah 19:6 compared with 7:18; Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 30:12; Micah 7:12. In like manner Claudian (De Bello Goth., V. 526) represents Alarich as boasting: Cum cesserit omnis Obsequiis natura meis? subsidere nostris. Sub pedibus montes, arescere vidimus amnes. Drechsler thinks that “the historical acceptation of 2 Kings 19:24 cannot be refuted,” but the notion of drying up the Nile with the soles of the feet is certainly figurative. [2 Kings 19:24 certainly cannot be understood literally or historically, see above.] The Nile and its branches are to Egypt what the Lebanon and its cedars were to Palestine, viz., the fortification and protection of the country. Sennacherib exalts himself above both as if he were almighty: Where there is no water, there I know how to bring it out of the earth, and where a mass of water lies in my way, I can dry it up.
2 Kings 19:25. Hast thou not heard? Jehovah now answers Sennacherib’s insolent and arrogant boast (2 Kings 19:23-24) by a question, the form of which assumes that he must give an affirmative reply, as the most lively and sharpest form of rebuke (see the questions in Job 38:0.): Thou speakest as if the greatness of thy might were thy work, and all which thou hast done an achievement of thy power. Know that I planned and ordained it thus of old, and that thou hast only executed my decrees, and been an instrument in my hand, cf. Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 6:12 sq. The old commentators took “hear” in a literal sense as referring to the wonderful deeds of God in delivering His people out of Egypt and bringing them to Canaan, which, they think, were well known to Sennacherib; but the following אֹתָהּ, this, shows that that only is meant which had been accomplished by the Assyrians. Hence others have imagined that there was a reference to prophetic oracles like Isaiah 7:20 sq. which had come to the ears of Sennacherib (cf. Jeremiah 40:1-15), but we may be sure that the prophet did not, in his oracle against the enemy, refer back to that declaration, which was pronounced against Israel. Still less can we agree with Thenius that it refers to an inner hearing of the soul or conscience, or indeed to “Assyrian oracles which were consulted before undertaking the expedition.” The question has rather this simple sense: If thou hast never heard it, then hear it now, and know that I planned and determined (literally, fashioned) it so (Isaiah 22:11). Vitringa: Eventum hunc in omni sua περιστάσει prœformasse in consilio meœ providentiœ. מֵרָחוֹק is used here of time, as in Isaiah 22:11; מִימֵי קֶדֶם as in Isaiah 23:7; Micah 7:20, “from ancient days.” וּתְהִי is generally translated: “That thou mayest be for the destruction.” Keil and Drechsler: “That there may be fortified cities for destruction,” as in the formula הָיָה לְבָעֵר (Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 44:15), i.e., that strong cities may be to be destroyed. [Bähr, in his translation of the text, follows the latter. The former is strictly grammatical and less constrained: Thou art to destroy, i.e., this is thy destiny, thou art an instrument for this work.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 19:26 is closely connected with 2 Kings 19:25. That the inhabitants fell down so powerless (literally: were short of hand, i.e., powerless, Numbers 11:23; Isaiah 50:2), and made no resistance, was not the work of the Assyrians, but was foreordained by God. The same images are used for sudden decay of power in Psalms 37:2; Isaiah 40:6. This series of metaphors forms a climax. The grass upon the roof is that which fades more quickly than that of the field, because it lacks soil (Psalms 129:6). The corn blasted in the germ is the corn which is blighted and withers away before the blade springs, so that at the very outset it has the germ of decay in itself. שְׁדֵפָה is much to be preferred to the less definite and more general שְׁדֵמָה, ground (Isaiah 37:27).—Resting in peace, going out, and coming in (2 Kings 19:27) cover all the activity of a man (Psalms 121:8; Deuteronomy 28:6; Psalms 139:2). [See note 12 under Grammatical]—Violent hate, Vitringa: Commotio furibunda, quœ ex ira nascitur superbiæ mixta (Isaiah 28:21). Arrogance, which comes from the feeling of security, Amos 6:1; Psalms 123:4. The first figure in 2 Kings 19:28 is taken from the taming of wild animals, the second from the controlling of restive horses (Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 29:4; Isaiah 30:28; Psalms 32:9). There are two sculptures at Khorsabad which represent “a victorious king leading captives, who stand before him, by a rope and a ring fastened in their lips” (Thenius). Dignum superbo supplicium, ut qui se supra hominem esse putat, ad morem bruti abjiciatur (Sanctius). By the way by which thou camest, i.e., with this purpose unaccomplished, without having reached thine object.
2 Kings 19:29. And this be the sign to thee. With these words now, the prophet turns to Hezekiah. Tibi autem, Ezechia, hoc erit signum (Vulg.). אוֹת means in general, as Delitsch accurately observes (note on Isaiah 7:11), “a thing, an event, or an action, which is intended to serve as a pledge or proof of the devine certainty of another. Sometimes it is a miracle, openly performed, striking the senses (Genesis 4:8 sq.), sometimes it is a permanent symbol of what is to come (Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 20:3), sometimes it consists in a prophecy of future events, which, whether they are natural or miraculous, are not to be foreseen by human wisdom, and therefore, when they occur, either reflect backwards in proof of their own divine origin (Exodus 3:12), or furnish evidence of the divine certainty of others yet to come (Isaiah 37:30; Jeremiah 44:29 sq.).” In the case before us the sign is no miracle (מוֹפֵת, 1 Kings 13:3), but a natural event which serves to give assurance of the truth of a prophecy (Keil). This sign is taken from agriculture, “since this was, at that time, the most important interest of the people, and their attention might be expected for a sign which took this form” (Knobel). In the following declaration אָכוֹל stands first with emphasis, an infinitive absolute, which “can stand concisely and emphatically for any tense or person of the verb which the context demands” (Gesenius, Gramm. § 131, 4 b.). It is often understood here as an imperfect: One shall eat, i.e., people shall eat, or, ye shall eat (Drechsler, Keil, and others); or, as a present; One eats, i.e. Ye are eating (Umbreit, Delitsch, and others), and הַשָּׁנָה is then translated, “this current year.” But we have here three years mentioned, of which the third is the first, which shall be a complete harvest-year, viz., on account of the withdrawal of the Assyrians, who shall leave the land which they have occupied once more free. 2 Kings 19:35 shows distinctly that the Assyrian army perished before the third year after the prophet’s declaration, and Sennacherib’s retreat therefore followed before the third year. Observe especially, in 2 Kings 19:35, the words: “that night.” (See notes below on these words.) Sennacherib, when he heard of Tirhaka’s advance, had withdrawn from Lachish to Libnah. From there he once more threateningly demanded the surrender of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:8-10). How can we now understand that, from this point on, he remained in Palestine yet three years, without really laying siege to the city which he had so earnestly threatened? We are, therefore, compelled to take this inf. abs. in the sense of a perfect: edistis (Maurer, Gesenius, Thenius. Cf. Ewald, Lehrb. § 240, a.; 302, c.). [Sixth Ed. In the seventh Ed. the subject is otherwise treated, and the inf. abs. is not represented as standing for any finite form, but as a pure and indefinite expression of the verbal notion, without giving it limitations of time or person. This is unquestionably correct. See § 328, b.—W. G. S.] הַשָּׁנָה, in contrast with “the second” and “the third” year, cannot, of course, refer to anything else than the year which precedes them, that is, the first one. In this first year the Assyrians had invaded the country, and had prevented the people from raising crops. In the second year they were still there, and the crops failed because they had devastated the country. In the third year they retired, and therefore the land could be cultivated. In the first year they lived upon סָפִיחַ, i.e., upon that which grew up from the leavings of the former crop, Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11. Vitringa: Ex etymo valet accessorium, quod sponte nascitur post sementem; a sort of after-growth from fruit of the previous crop which was accidentally dropped in gathering in the harvest. In the second year they lived upon סָחִישׁ, i.e., “offshoots of the roots, which spring up in the second year after the planting” (Fürst); αὑτοφυή (Aquila, Theodoret). “In the fertile parts of Palestine, especially in the plain of Jezreel, on the highlands of Galilee, and elsewhere, the grains and cereals propagate themselves in abundance by the ripe ears whose super-abundance no one uses (cf. Schubert, Reise, III. s. 115, 166. Ritter, Erdkunde XVI. s. 283, 482, 693). Strabo (11, p. 502) makes a similar statement in regard to Albania, that the field which has been once sown bears, in many places, a double harvest, sometimes even three, the first one fiftyfold” (Keil on Leviticus 25:6). And the third year sow, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruits. “The long series of imperatives makes a strong impression, especially in contrast with the indifference of the infin. absol. in the first hemistich” (Drechsler). This interpretation of the oracle is the only one which gives just force to אוֹת. The sign is not something which does not yet exist but is to come; it is something visible, physical, and present, which announces and gives a pledge of something invisible and future. The sense, therefore, is not: Ye shall from this time on, in the present year, eat the chance product of the uncultivated fields, and in the next, the fruit of the offshoots from the roots of the plants, and then, in the third, sow and reap—for that would not be a “sign”;—but the sense is: So certainly as ye have lived one year on the chance produce, and one year on after-growth, just so certainly shall ye sow and reap in the third year; that is to say: the land will be delivered from the Assyrians, and free for you to cultivate (cf. Hosea 6:2). [Clearly this, when it should come to pass, would not be any “sign” that something, viz., the retreat of the Assyrians, should yet come to pass. In the nature of things the Assyrians must depart before the Jews would venture into the fields. We might as well say: The clouds shall be dispelled, and the sign of it shall be that the sun shall shine. The interpretation of the passage given above is correct, but the “sign” cannot be understood to mean that, when this thing should come to pass according to the prophecy, it should be a pledge that another thing, which the prophet had also foretold, should yet come to pass. It can only mean that when the Jews should once more find themselves at work in the fields, where they had not been for two years, this should be a sign, proof, and reminder to them that they had been delivered, by divine interposition, from a great national calamity. It is a sign which is of the nature of a symptom, or index.—W. G. S.] The interpretation which is given by many of the old expositors admits, on account of 2 Kings 19:35, that the retreat of Sennacherib took place in the year in which the prophet delivered this oracle, but it takes the infinitive אָכוֹל as an imperative on account of the following imperatives, and then assumes that the “first” year, the one in which Sennacherib retreated, was a Sabbath-year, in which, under any circumstances, according to the Mosaic law, the people neither sowed nor reaped, but lived on the second, spontaneous growth (Leviticus 25:5), and that a Jubilee-year followed next after this, in which likewise there was no sowing or reaping (Leviticus 25:11), so that two harvests in succession were passed over. But the simple fact that אָכוֹל is an infinitive forbids us to take it as an imperative, and, even if we assume that the Sabbath-years and Jubilee-years were, at that time, regularly observed, yet there is no hint in Leviticus 25:0 that the Jubilee-year followed immediately after a Sabbath-year. But still farther, who can prove, since every hint of it is wanting in the text, that just at that time a Sabbath-year and a Jubilee-year followed successively? Others have, therefore, given up the Jubilee-year and have supposed that only the spontaneous product of the fields was eaten in the first year, because the country had been devastated by the Assyrians, but that the second year was a Sabbath-year. Yet even this cannot be accepted, for the intent of the “sign” is not that they, trusting in Jehovah, should for still another year have food to eat, although they did not sow or reap, but that Sennacherib should retreat, the land should be delivered from him, and that too at once, not after three years. We cannot, therefore, agree with Ewald (Proph. des Alt. Bundes, I. s. 299 sq.), whom Umbreit follows, when he says: “As, after the year in which, according to the Law, the ground lay fallow, yet another year was to be spent without raising crops, in order to restore the land to its original condition, a figure which evidently (?) floated before the mind of the prophet here, so he apprehended (?) that, in this far more important case, still a second year must pass without field-labor, in which they must eat the spontaneous product of the ground, until, after the extirpation of all that was unsound and corrupt in the State, a small company of purified men should commence, in the third year, a new and prosperous existence, and the messianic time should begin, taking its rise in Zion.” There is no reference to the Sabbath, or Jubilee, year in the entire passage, and no such reference can ever be established from the mere fact that סָפִיחַ occurs also in Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11. Neither can we agree that Drechsler’s explanation (s. 184) is “very simple.” According to him there was left in Judah at that time only a greatly diminished population, which could not at once undertake the cultivation of the fields, so that it was not until after three years that the regular cultivation of the soil was reëstablished. If there was only “a small remnant” of the population remaining, then they did not require much. They could cultivate enough soil to produce what they needed, and did not need to live on סָפִיחַ, much less on סָחִישׁ. These interpretations are all more or less forced, and they all fall to the ground as soon as we no longer insist upon taking the infin. absol. אָכוֹל as an imperfect or an imperative.
2 Kings 19:30. And the remnant of the house of Judah that is left. Starting now from the reference to the growth of the crops, the prophet goes on to matters of higher importance, and takes up that which is the chief theme of his prophecies in all their diverse phases (Schmieder), viz., that God, although he inflicts fierce judgments upon His people for their apostasy, nevertheless will not allow them to perish utterly, but will preserve a remnant which has escaped or been delivered, “a holy seed,” and that from the midst of this the Messiah shall at last arise (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 6:13; cf. 1 Kings 19:18). The repeated expressions &פְּלֵיטָה נִשְׁאָרָה, and שְׁאֵרִית, in 2 Kings 19:30-31, refer to this idea. The Assyrian invasion, like that of Ephraim and Syria (Isaiah 7:0; 2 Kings 16:5), was a divine judgment upon Judah, but the prophet says that the nation shall not perish under it. A remnant (שְׁאֵרִית, 2 Kings 19:31, refers back to הַשְּׁאֵרִית in Hezekiah’s prayer, 2 Kings 19:4) shall still remain, and it shall add roots (יָסְפָה), that is, it shall go on to develop new roots, and shall win firmer hold (Thenius); cf. Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 27:6.—For, from Jerusalem, &c., 2 Kings 19:31, i.e., it is the determination of God, adopted of old, that from Jerusalem, which now is so much distressed and apparently lost, salvation and redemption shall go forth (Isaiah 2:3). Jerusalem and Mt. Zion form the centre of the theocracy, or kingdom of God. “The Assyrian chastisement will, therefore, be a purification of the nation. It will not result in its destruction. That judgment was, therefore, a prototype of all the others which befell the kingdom of God in later times, out of which the election of grace is developed (Romans 11:5) in more and more glorious form (Von Gerlach). The only ground for what is said in 2 Kings 19:29-31 is the zeal of Jehovah, i.e., His zealous and faithful love to His people (Zechariah 1:14). The same concluding words follow the oracle, Isaiah 9:1-6, and they show that the passage before us is also, at least indirectly, messianic.—Therefore, thus saith the Eternal. לָכֵן gathers up the substance of all which precedes. The first of the four members of the verse, He shall not come, contains the principal idea. The three others “are nothing but a development of this one, intended to surround it here, at the close, with all possible emphasis” (Drechsler). At the same time they form a climax: So far from coming into the city, he shall not even discharge his missiles against it, or form an assault against it, or even build up a wall to besiege it. קָדַם in the piel means to advance. “The reference is to an assault with shields held out in front” (Thenius). Cf. Psalms 18:5; Psalms 18:18; Psalms 59:10. Instead of יָבֹא בָּהּ, in 2 Kings 19:33, we find in Isaiah 37:34 : בָּא בָּהּ, which is unquestionably the correct reading. All the old translations here present the perfect. The other reading seems to have arisen from the second יָבֹא. That which has been already said in 2 Kings 19:28; 2 Kings 19:32 is here repeated in order to emphasize the promise.—For mine own sake, “as Hezekiah had prayed, 2 Kings 19:20, and for the sake of David, my servant, i.e., for the sake of the promise given to David, 2 Samuel 7:0.” (Drechsler), cf. 1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 15:4.
2 Kings 19:35. And it came to pass that night. According to Thenius, 2 Kings 19:35-37 are “evidently borrowed from a different source from that of 18:13–19. 34, and 20:1–19.” In the original document of 2 Kings 19:35-37 he thinks that the words: “It came to pass in that night,” referred to something which had been narrated immediately before and which is not mentioned here. Delitsch also believes that there is a gap between 2 Kings 19:34-35, for, according to 2 Kings 19:29, there was to be yet a full year of distress between the prophecy and the fulfilment, during which agriculture would be neglected.” This consideration loses its force under our interpretation of 2 Kings 19:29. The narrator undoubtedly means to say in 2 Kings 19:35-37 that the prophecy which reaches its climax in 2 Kings 19:32-34, was fulfilled at once, and not after the lapse of years. This point was of especial importance to him, and we have no reason to interpret 2 Kings 19:35-37 according to 2 Kings 19:29; rather, on the contrary, 2 Kings 19:29 according to 2 Kings 19:35-37. Further, when we consider that both narratives [the one here and that in Isaiah] were constructed independently of one another from the same source (see the Prelim. Remarks), and that in both, 2 Kings 19:35-37 follow immediately upon 2 Kings 19:34, we must infer that the same was the case also in their common source. There is, therefore, no room to assume the existence of another source in which that was supplied which is here supposed to be left out.—The words: וַיְהִי בַלַּיְלָה הַהוּא are generally understood in the sense of ea ipsa nocte, i.e., in the night following the day on which Isaiah foretold the retreat of the Assyrians. On the contrary Delitsch thinks that “it can only mean (if, indeed, it is not a mere careless interpolation), illa nocte, referring to 2 Kings 19:32 sq., (i.e., the night in which the Assyrians sat down to besiege Jerusalem).” The Rabbis (Guemara Sanhedr. iii. 26), and Josephus (κατὰ τὴν πρώτην τῆς πολιορκίας νύκτα) thus understood it. But the text does not anywhere say or imply that Sennacherib had advanced with his whole army from Libnah to Jerusalem, and that he stood before it ready to besiege it. [This is true, but does not meet Delitsch’s hypothesis, which is that a year is to elapse before the Assyrian would commence the formal siege of Jerusalem, and that “that night” refers to the first night of this siege. Such an hypothesis removes the difficulty, but does not seem to be a natural interpretation of the words.—W. G. S.] The Vulg. translates: Factum est igitur, in nocte illa venit angelus. Menochius takes this to be emphatic for: in celebri illa nocte, viz., in the one in which the destruction of the Assyrian army took place. It is very noticeable that the words in question are wanting in the narrative in Isaiah, although that account is in other respects here identical with the one in Kings, and that 2 Kings 19:36 there begins with וַיֵּצֵא. Also the Sept. version of the verse before us omits הַהוּא and reads simply: καὶ ἐγένετο νυκτός. Now, although the statement is no thoughtless interpolation, and still less, as Knobel thinks, “manufactured” out of Isaiah 17:14, yet it would never have been passed over in Isaiah’s narrative, if it had been essential, or if the chief emphasis lay upon it. The interpretation ea ipsa nocte does not, therefore, seem to be absolutely necessary. The main point is, what is common to both narratives, that there was no delay in the fulfilment of the prophecy. It was not years—for instance, three years—before it was fulfilled.—The angel of the Lord “is the same one who, as הַמַּשְׁחִית, smote the first-born in Egypt (Exodus 12:29 compared with 2 Kings 19:12-13), and who inflicted the pestilence after the census under David (2 Samuel 24:15 sq.). The latter passage suggests that the slaughter of the Assyrians was accomplished by a pestilence” (Keil). Josephus (Antiq. x. 1, 5,) declares outright: τοῦ θεοῦ λοιμικὴν ἐνσκήψαντος αὐτοῦ τῷ στρατῷ νόσον. The interpretations which assume that there was a battle with Tirhaka, or an earthquake with lightning, or a poisonous simoom, are all untenable. The greatly abbreviated account in Chronicles states, instead of giving the definite number of the slain (185,000), that the angel “cut off all the mighty men of valor and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria” (2 Chronicles 32:21). This does not mean that “only” those persons were killed (Thenius), but that even these, the real supporters and the flower of the Assyrian power, fell. In the camp. We are not told where this was at that time. It is most natural to suppose that it was where Rab-shakeh found it on his return, viz., before Libnah (2 Kings 19:8), whither Sennacherib had retreated from Lachish. It was not, therefore, as has been said, before Jerusalem; neither was it in “the pestilential country of Egypt” (Thenius), for Sennacherib sent the letter to Hezekiah, not from there, but from Libnah (2 Kings 19:8-10).—And when they arose early in the morning, &c. The word בַּבֹּקֶר, which occurs also in Isaiah 37:36, presupposes the previous reference to “that night,” which is not there mentioned. Those who were spared, whose number cannot have been large, arose as usual early in the morning and found corpses everywhere. “If מֵתִים is regarded as an attribute it is very flat and superfluous, but as an apposition it gives emphasis” (Drechsler). It was a cause of great trouble to the old expositors that Sennacherib was not among the slain. It is not necessary to suppose that he chanced just then to be outside the camp. Death of a still harder kind was destined to befall him (see verse 7), but the arrogant man was first to suffer the humiliation that his entire force in which he trusted was to be destroyed, and he was to march home in shame and disgrace (2 Kings 19:21). “The heaping up of the verbs: he departed, and went, and returned, expresses the hastiness of his retreat” (Keil). This retreat cannot, therefore, have been delayed until the third year after Isaiah’s prophecy, any more than the pestilence which occasioned it. Sennacherib dwelt in Nineveh. “The object of these words is to emphasize the fact that he did not, from this time forward, undertake any assault upon Judah” (Drechsler). On Nineveh, the capital and residence of the kings of Assyria, see Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s, 158 sq. Nisroch is probably the name of the chief Assyrian divinity, which is represented on the Assyrian monuments in human form with double wings and an eagle’s head. See Keil on the place and Müller in Herzog’s Realencyc. X. s. 383. [The rank of Nisroch in the pantheon is not yet determined. He was also called Shalman. He was “king of fluids.” He “presided over the course of human destiny.” Hence marriages were placed under his care (Lenormant).] Adrammelech is the name of a divinity. [See the bracketed note on 2 Kings 17:31.] It was a very wide-spread custom that princes bore the names of divinities (Gesenius on Isaiah 7:6). Sharezer is probably also the name of a divinity. It is said to mean “Prince of Fire.” [His full name was Asshur-sarossor = “Asshur protects the king.”] The murder of Sennacherib by his sons is mentioned in Tobias 1:21, and also by Berosus, who, however, only mentions one son (Euseb. Chron. Armen. i. p. 43). The land of Ararat is, according to Jerome on Isaiah 37:0.: Regio in Armenia campestris per quam Araxes fluit. It forms, according to Moses of Chorene, the middle portion of the Armenian high land. Esar-haddon, Ezra 4:2, called by Josephus ’Ασσαραχόδδας, is mentioned by Berosus also as the successor of Sennacherib. The questions whether he ruled during his father’s life-time as viceroy of Babylon, and whether Nergilus reigned before him, do not here demand our attention. See Niebuhr, Geschichte Assyr. s. 361. It is not by any means free from doubt that Sennacherib lived nine years after his retreat before his assassination, as the Assyrian inscriptions are asserted to show. “Accordingly, when Hitzig declares that the mention of Sennacherib’s assassination bears witness against Isaiah’s authorship of this historical passage, he has at least no ground in the chronology for this assertion, for it is more than possible, it is very probable, that Isaiah lived into the reign of Manasseh” (Delitsch). [See the Supplem. Note at the end of this section.]
Appendix.—It remains still to consider the oft-debated question, whether and when the expedition of Sennacherib against Egypt took place. It is certain according to 2 Kings 19:24 that Sennacherib had the intention of marching against Egypt. It is not, however, asserted, in the biblical documents at least, that he ever carried out this intention. On the contrary, Herodotus gives (II. 141) the account which he received from the Egyptian priests, that Sennacherib advanced against Egypt as far as Pelusium, in the days of the Tanitic king Sethon, a priest of Vulcan. (Pelusium is the סִין of Ezekiel 30:15. “It lay at the mouth of the eastern branch of the Nile, twenty stadia from the Mediterranean, in the midst of marshes and morasses. Partly on account of this position and partly on account of its strong walls, it was the key to Egypt, of which every invading army which came from the East must seek to get possession. All the conquerors who invaded Egypt from this side stopped at Pelusium and besieged it.” Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 469.) They added that, at the prayer of this priest to the God for deliverance out of danger, field-mice (μῦς ) came by night and gnawed the quivers, the bows, and the straps of the shields, so that the army whose weapons had thus been made useless, was obliged to flee, and many fell; and that, on this account, there was, in the temple of Vulcan, a. stone image of this priest-king, having in the hand a mouse, and bearing the inscription: ἐς ἐμέ τις ὁρεῶν εὐσεβὴς ἔστω. Josephus (Antiq. 10:1, 1–5), referring expressly to Herodotus, narrates that Sennacherib undertook an expedition against Egypt and Ethiopia, but that διαμαρτὼν τῆς ἐπὶ τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους ἐπιβουλῆς, he returned leaving his object unaccomplished, because the siege of Pelusium had cost him a great deal of time, and because he had heard that the king of Ethiopia was advancing with a very strong army to the relief of the Egyptians. Furthermore, Josephus adds that the Chaldean historian Berosus also states that Sennacherib πάσῃ ἐπεστρατεύσατο τῆ ’Ασίᾳ καὶ τῇ Αἰγύπτῳ. It can hardly be doubted, therefore, that though the Assyrian army did not dry up the rivers of Egypt (2 Kings 19:24), yet it advanced to the frontier. But now we come to the far more difficult question, at what point of time did this take place? The least probable reply is that it fell between 2 Kings 19:34-35 (Sanctius, Knobel), and that the historian gives no account of it after 2 Kings 19:34, because it did not affect Judah, but simply mentions the destruction of the army in 2 Kings 19:35-36 without mentioning whether it took place in Judah or in Egypt. But it is incredible that Sennacherib, for whom it was of the utmost importance (2 Kings 18:17 sq.; 19:9, sq.) to get possession of Jerusalem, should have given up the effort to capture it without putting any of his threats into execution, and should have marched on against Egypt, leaving in his rear this city which was favorably disposed towards his enemies (2 Kings 18:21). His backward movement from Lachish to Libnah (2 Kings 19:8) shows that he was no longer pursuing his advance against Egypt. Ewald (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 630 sq.) proposes another hypothesis. He sets the expedition against Egypt before all which is narrated from 18:13 on. He suggests that Sennacherib marched into Egypt, by the ordinary way, by Pelusium; that he was there arrested and turned back by some extraordinary calamity to which Herodotus’ story refers; that he then fell upon Judah with a greatly superior power, and that at this point in the course of events 18:13–19:37 comes in. But this hypothesis also is untenable, for, according to it, עלה in 2 Kings 18:13 must refer to a march of Sennacherib “from South to North,” from Egypt towards Judah; but it cannot have any different meaning in 2 Kings 19:13 from what it has in 2 Kings 19:9, and there it is used of a march from Assyria to Judah, that is, from North to South. It is used in the same way in 2 Kings 16:7 in regard to Tiglath Pileser’s expedition, and in 2 Kings 17:3; 2 Kings 17:5 in regard to Shalmaneser’s. Moreover, it would be very astonishing, if the biblical narrative did not mention the march against Egypt with a single word, but only mentioned the retreat from there; for Sennacherib must have gone through Judah in order to reach Egypt, and Judah was hostile to him and friendly to Egypt. If, however, 2 Kings 19:13 is to be understood as referring to the advance of the army, then 2 Kings 19:14-16 must refer to the same and not to the retreat. Finally, Josephus proposes a third hypothesis. According to him, Sennacherib devastated Judah, but on the receipt of gifts from Hezekiah, withdrew, and advanced with his whole army against Egypt. Contrary to his agreement, under which the tribute was paid, he left Rab-shakeh and Tartan behind (κατέλιβε) that they might destroy Jerusalem. When, however, he found, after a long siege, that he could not take Pelusium, and when he heard of Tirhakah’s advance, he suddenly decided to return to Assyria; ὑποστρέψας δ’ ὁ Σεναχήριβος ’Ιεροσόλυμα κατέλαβεν ἐκεῖ τὴν ὑπὸ τῷ στρατηγῷ ‘Ραψάκῃ δύναμιν· τοῦ Θεοῦ λοιμικὴν ἐνσκήψαντος αὐτοῦ τῷ στρατῷ νόσον, κατὰ τὴν πρώτην τῆς πολιορκίας νύκτα, διαφθείρονται μυριάδες ὀκτωκαίδεκα καὶ πεντακισχίλιοι .... δείσας περὶ τῷ στρατῷ παντὶ φεύγει μετὰ τῆς λοιπῆς δυνάμεως εἰς τὴν αὐτοῦ βασιλείαν εἰς τὴν Νίνου. There is but slight objection to this hypothesis. On the whole it is the most probable of all. Hezekiah became king in the year 727 b.c. In his fourteenth year (2 Kings 18:13) Sennacherib made this expedition, and sought to get possession of all the fortified towns in Judah. This was in the year 714. In 713 he marched against Egypt, leaving Rab-shakeh in Judah. In 712 he was once more before Lachish and Libnah, and, after his overthrow by the pestilence, he retreated to Assyria. This accords with 2 Kings 19:29, according to our interpretation of it. On the contrary, according to 2 Kings 19:7-9, Sennacherib, appears to have heard of Tirhakah’s advance, not when he was before Pelusium, but when he was once more before Libnah. That he boasted as he does in 2 Kings 19:23-24, even after his retreat from Egypt, is not astonishing in the case of such a haughty king. Possibly he had drained off or dried up a few swamps in the neighborhood of Pelusium. There can be no more truth in Herodotus’ story which he obtained from the priests than possibly this, that Sennacherib besieged Pelusium, but returned without having taken it. The rest, of course, is purely mythical. A mouse was the hieroglyph for devastation and destruction (Horapoll. Hierogl. i. 50); the inhabitants of Troas worshipped mice, ὅτι τὰς νευρὰς τῶν πολεμίων διέτραγον τόξων; also, the symbol of Mars was a mouse (Bähr, Herodot. Mus. i. p. 641). It may well be that Sennacherib was impelled by some natural occurrence to desist from the siege of Pelusium and to turn back, and this may have occasioned the story about the mice. If there had not been some event of the kind, he certainly would have advanced further than the frontier. The army cannot, however, have been rendered destitute of weapons (γυμνοὶ ὅπλων) at Pelusium, or it could not have carried on war in Judah on its return. According to all this it can hardly be doubted that it is one and the same expedition of Sennacherib which is mentioned by Herodotus and by the Scriptures, nevertheless the further supposition which is commonly adopted, that the event mentioned in 2 Kings 19:35 is the same one which Herodotus narrates, though under a mythical form (Bähr, l. c. p. 881), does not seem to us to be correct. That event took place in Judah, this one before Pelusium, and it is very improbable that the Egyptian priests should have made a myth out of an event which took place in another country, and did not immediately affect them, and should have commemorated it by a statue. We cannot determine definitely what the event was which occurred before Pelusium, but we must assume that it was a very striking and important one which influenced the haughty king to give up his plan and return to Assyria. In like manner, when he stood in Judah once more with his army of 185,000 men, and there assumed such a haughty bearing, some weighty incident must have occurred which determined him to hasten his flight.
[There is no reasonable ground for finding two distinct events in these two accounts, and without reasonable ground we cannot assume that two distinct calamities befell Sennacherib which were of such a character that they were regarded as divine interpositions. Pelusium was on the frontier, and it is not at all remarkable that an event which happened there, or even at Libnah, immediately after Sennacherib had retreated from Pelusium, should figure in the history of both Judah and Egypt. Neither is it astonishing that the traditional account of the event should wear a mythical color; on the contrary, such events always take on mythical features. The biblical account is more original and direct, and is older than that of Herodotus, but it certainly refers to the same event.—W. G. S.]
However the fact may be in regard to this point, the story of Herodotus, which, as Delitsch says, “depends upon a hearsay tradition of lower Egypt,” and which therefore appears as “a suspicious imitation of the biblical story,” cannot be put on the same footing with the scriptural account, much less be used to correct it.
[Supplementary Note on the references to contemporaneous history in chaps. 18 and 19 (See similar notes on the preceding chapters.) In the note on chap. 17 we gave a summary of the Assyrian history, so far as it bears upon the history of the Northern Kingdom, especially upon the recolonization of Samaria by Sargon, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. This led us to notice some of the conquests of those kings, and so to observe the nationalities of the new population. We have now to go over the same reigns so far as they bear upon the history of Judah. Here also the Assyrian inscriptions offer us invaluable information for enlarging and correcting our knowledge of the biblical history.
It might at first seem strange that the historical books of the Bible contain no mention of Sargon. We find that he was really king of Assyria when Samaria fell; that he subdued a revolt in Samaria a few years later; that he was the king who introduced a large part of the new population into Samaria; that he conducted two very important campaigns in Philistia, in both of which he came into conflict with Egypt, and in one of which he won the battle of Raphia, one of the great battles of Assyrian history. It is impossible that this all should have come to pass without exciting the attention and interest of the inhabitants of Judah. The author of the Book of Kings seems, however, to have so construed his task, that he did not consider himself called upon to notice campaigns of the Assyrians which never actually touched, or directly threatened, Judah. Isaiah (chap. 20) mentions Sargon and his attack upon Ashdod rather in the way of a chronological date; but his reference shows that this expedition of the Assyrian king (or of his Tartan, commander-in-chief) formed an important event, and fixed a date for the Jews. Sargon was assassinated (it is not known by whom), in August, 704.
Sennacherib, son of Sargon, succeeded. We now possess very full accounts of his reign. These Assyrian statements and the biblical narrative of the conflict of Hezekiah and Sennacherib are in full accord so far as they go; but in the attempt to harmonize the details we meet with some difficulty, not from their inconsistency, but from their defectiveness. Lenormant and Rawlinson do not agree in their accounts of this section of the history. Rawlinson thinks that Sargon made or sent two separate expeditions into Judah; Lenormant thinks that the whole story belongs to one campaign. The chief argument against the theory of two separate campaigns is that only one is mentioned in the inscription, although, according to the usage of the inscriptions, the campaigns are always catalogued in their consecutive order, so that, if there was one against Judah, then one against Babylon, and then another against Judah, we should expect them to be so catalogued. Rawlinson’s account makes a very clear and satisfactory narrative (see “Five Great Monarchies” II. 431–443 2d Ed. 161–168), but the usage of the inscriptions is so constant that we seem compelled to follow the theory of one campaign.
On the death of Sargon (704), Hezekiah revolted (18:7) together with the kings of Phœnicia, Philistia, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. They had also sympathy and encouragement from Shabatok (Sabacon II., the Sethos of Herodotus, son of Sabacon I., the So of the Bible), king of Egypt. It was not until Sennacherib’s third year that he turned his attention to this revolt. An inscription on a cylinder in the British Museum reads thus:
“In my third campaign I marched towards Syria.” He swept down through Phœnicia and Philistia, crushing all opposition. “The rulers … of Ekron” (Lenormant reads Migron, cf. Isaiah 10:28) “had betrayed the king, Padi, who was inspired by friendship and zeal for Assyria, and had given him up bound in chains of iron to Hezekiah of Judah.” The Egyptians came against Sennacherib and a battle ensued near Eltekon (Joshua 15:59), in which the Assyrians won a great victory which ranked with that of Raphia in their annals. Sennacherib then took Ekron. He executed vengeance on the anti-Assyrian party. “I brought Padi, their king, out of Jerusalem, and restored him to the throne of his royalty.” (This is the point at which the biblical narrative begins. The statement “in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah” (18:13) has thus far proved irreconcilable with the inscriptions. It was the year 700. Rawlinson proposes to read “twenty-seventh” for “fourteenth.”) “But Hezekiah, king of Judah, did not submit. There were forty-four walled towns and an infinite number of villages that I fought against, humbling their pride and braving their anger. By means of battles, fire, massacre, and siege operations, I took them. I occupied them. I brought out 200,150 persons, great and small, men and women, horses, asses, mules, camels, oxen, and sheep without number, and carried them off as booty. As for himself I shut him up in Jerusalem, the city of his power, like a bird in its cage. I invested and blockaded the fortresses round about it. Those who came out of the great gate of the city were seized and made prisoners. I separated the cities I had plundered from his country, and gave them to Mitenti, king of Ashdod, to Padi, king of Ekron, to Ishmabaal, king of Gaza.
“Then the fear of my majesty terrified this Hezekiah king of Judah. He sent away the watchmen and guards whom he had assembled for the defence of Jerusalem. He sent messengers to me at Nineveh, the seat of my sovereignty, with 30 talents of gold and 400 (300?) talents of silver, metals, rubies, pearls, great carbuncles, seats covered with skins, thrones ornamented with leather, amber, seal skins, sandal wood, and ebony, the contents of his treasury, as well as his daughters, the women of his palace, his male and female slaves. He sent an ambassador to present this tribute and to make his submission” (Lenormant).
Thus the inscription omits all mention of the disaster which befell the Assyrians in this campaign, and which the Jewish and Egyptian traditions concur in affirming. There is no mention of the siege of Lachish, although that siege is represented on a bas-relief in the British Museum (Lenormant). This want of candor is not very astonishing, but it serves to show us that the account in the inscription lays stress upon the flattering circumstances and slurs over the disasters of the campaign.
Now let us interweave this with the biblical story. 2 Kings 18:13 is a parallel description of Sennacherib’s devastations in the open country. The idea of the character of the campaign which we get from this verse is exactly that which the inscription offers in detail. Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem, and the enemy ravaged the country and destroyed the small towns at will. Hezekiah sent to sue for peace. He met with certain demands and he sent certain offerings. Yet in 2 Kings 18:17 we find, when we expect to hear of peace, that an army was sent against him. The only explanation which suggests itself is that the offerings which he sent did not satisfy the Assyrian demand. Probably Sennacherib did not desire to make peace with Judah, but to get possession of Jerusalem, which he dared not leave behind him when he advanced into Egypt. Hezekiȧh desired to create the impression, by tearing off the decorations of the temple, that his resources were exhausted, though we find that he was able to make a boastful display of his treasures to the Babylonians, a year afterwards. Perhaps he did not send the full amount demanded by the Assyrian, pleading inability, and sending these decorations stripped from the temple as a proof that he had no further treasures. This gave Sennacherib an excuse for persisting in hostility. Rawlinson is led by this difficulty to suppose that Hezekiah paid the full amount demanded, and secured a respite. Three years later (698) Sennacherib came again, besieged Lachish, and sent the three great officers. Then there would be a gap of three years between 2 Kings 18:16-17. “With our present information it is impossible to decide definitely between these theories. During the siege of Lachish, whether it was in the campaign referred to in 2 Kings 18:13-16 or in a later one, Sennacherib sent a detachment of his army to besiege Jerusalem, or rather, if possible, to secure its surrender, for it was of the highest importance for him to finish the reduction of the few strongholds which still held out in Judah and Philistia, so that he might push on against Egypt, before that nation recovered from the blow which he had already inflicted. Hence the parley of the three chief-men on each side. Encouraged by Isaiah, Hezekiah sent a refusal. On the return of the three Assyrians they found that Sennacherib was besieging Libnah, having taken Lachish. (Bähr, in the text of the Comm. above, assumes that Sennacherib had suffered a check at Lachish. The only ground for this is the belief that Libnah was north of Lachish, so that going from the latter to the former was a “retreat.” The situation of Libnah, however, is so very uncertain, that this assumption rests on a slender support. There is no hint of any disaster to Sennacherib in this campaign until the great one recorded in 2 Kings 18:35 sq. This seems to have interrupted him in the full tide of success.) The success which he had won, and the news that Tirhakah was coming with a new force of Egyptians, made Sennacherib more impatient than ever to finish the conquest of Jerusalem and Libnah. Tirhakah is called king of Ethiopia. The dynasty to which he belonged (the XXVth) was a dynasty of Ethiopians. He was the son of Sabacon II. mentioned above, and grandson of Sabacon I., called in the Bible, So. He seems to have been, at this time, crown-prince (Lenormant). He raised a new army to try to retrieve the disaster of Eltekon. Under these circumstances Sennacherib sent messengers once more to Hezekiah to demand a surrender, warning him to make terms while he could, and not to incur the total destruction which had befallen those who stubbornly resisted the Assyrian power. This was again refused, and soon after the great calamity fell upon the Assyrians which forced them to retreat without coming to blows with Tirhakah. Hence the story of this disaster was preserved both in Jewish and Egyptian annals, each nation ascribing it, as a great national deliverance, to its own God.
It will be seen that this gives a simple and clear explanation of many points which, in the above section of the Commentary, remain obscure. The question in regard to Sennacherib’s invasion of Egypt is entirely solved, and it is not necessary to show in detail how much of the author’s discussion of this question in the above Appendix, which was founded upon less perfect information than we now possess, is wide of the mark.
Sennacherib was assassinated in 680 by his sons Adrammelech and Asshursarossor. Another son, Esarhaddon (Asshurakhidin [Asshur has given brothers]), had for a few years been viceroy in Babylon. He returned with hostile intentions against the assassins, who fled into Armenia. Esarhaddon was recognized throughout the Empire.—W. G. S.]
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. King Hezekiah stands in the front rank of Israelitish kings. The general characterization which precedes the history of his reign gives him a testimonial such as no other king had received up to that time, especially in reference to that which was the main point for the history of redemption, namely, his bearing towards Jehovah and His Law. In the panegyric of the holy fathers, Sirach 44-49, he is placed in the same rank with David and Josiah (Sir 49:5 : “All the kings except David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, were guilty”). Not one down to this time had reproduced the model theocratic king, David, as he did. He was, as Ewald justly says (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 621), “one of the noblest princes who ever adorned David’s throne. His reign of 29 years offers an almost unmarred picture of persevering warfare against the most intricate and most difficult circumstances, and of glorious victory. He was very noble, not unwarlike or wanting in courage (2 Kings 20:20), yet by choice more devoted to the arts of peace” (2 Chronicles 32:27-29; Proverbs 25:1). Von Gerlach, on the contrary, characterizes him often and in general as a “weak and dependent man,” but this is in contradiction with his very significant name (see notes on 18:1), and still more with the testimony in 18:3–8, and cannot, moreover, as will be seen, be brought into accord with the story of the separate acts of his life. “How wonderful it was that the most godless king of Judah had the most excellent son. An Hezekiah followed an Ahaz” (Schlier). The Scriptures give no explanation of this. It is a mere guess when it is hinted that Hezekiah’s mother may have influenced him, for we learn nothing more of her than just her name and that of her father. It is also a mere guess that she was “the granddaughter of Zachariah, who, under Uzziah, had such a good influence” (2 Chronicles 26:5) (Schlier). It is equally unsatisfactory when Köster says (die Propheten des A. T. s. 106): “Hezekiah was the opposite of his unbelieving father Ahaz; the difference is explicable from the fact that they had lived through the destruction of Ephraim, and that that event had had a mighty influence on both the king and the people of Judah.” It is certain that Hezekiah did not wait until after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel before he began his reformation of the worship, but that he commenced it immediately after his accession to the throne. The notion of the rabbis, that he had Isaiah for his tutor and guide, as the high-priest Jehoiada was the tutor of Joash, seems more probable, but, not to mention the complete silence of the text in regard to this, it does not follow from Sir 48:25, and it is very improbable in itself, that Ahaz, who never himself listened to Isaiah, should nevertheless have entrusted him with the education of his son and successor. All these and similar grounds do not suffice to account for such a sudden and complete change of policy on the throne; rather we must recognize here, if anywhere, a dispensation of Divine Providence. Just now, when Ahaz had brought the kingdom to the verge of ruin, when the kingdom of Israel was near its fall, and little Judah alone still represented the Hebrew nationality, this Judah was, according to the decree of God, to take a new start, and to receive a king on the model of David, who should be a true and genuine theocratic king, and bring the true character and destiny of the nation home to the consciences of the people. Hezekiah was for Judah a gift of the Lord. In a true sense he was king by the grace of God of whom the saying held good: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). Therefore his whole life is somewhat typical. It shows more than that of almost any other king that God’s ways are pure goodness and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimony (Psalms 25:10).
2. The first thing that Hezekiah did after his accession to the throne was to abolish the idolatry which Ahaz had introduced, and to restore the legal worship of Jehovah. The history expressly states how far he went in this effort. He not only destroyed the heathen idols, but also put an end to the Jehovah-worship on the high places, which even Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah had permitted to continue, and had not ventured to assail (1Ki 3:2; 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 15:14; 1Ki 22:44; 2 Kings 12:4; 2Ki 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 15:35). He returned to the original ordinances of the Mosaic Law, which prescribed not only one central sanctuary, but also one central worship (Leviticus 17:8-9; Deuteronomy 12:13 sq.). Hezekiah was, therefore, the restorer of that central worship which was so important and indispensable for the unity of the people and kingdom (see 1 Kings 12:1-24, Hist. § 1). His reign, for this reason, forms an epoch in the history of Israel. It is moreover specifically stated that he destroyed even the brazen serpent, which was of purely Israelitish origin, and to which there clung such important memories and associations for the people. This he did not do from puritanical zeal such as the later Judaism displayed (see 1 Kings 7:0 Hist. § 3), but because this σύμβολον σωτηρίας, as it is called, Wis 16:6, had been perverted by the people into an εἴδωλον, whereas once every one who turned to it, οὐ διὰ τὸ θεωρούμενον ἐσώζετο, ἀλλὰ διὰ σὲ τὸν πάντων σωτῆρα. To offer incense to this image was not only contrary to the Law (Exodus 25:5; Deuteronomy 5:8-9), but also it was senseless, because thereby the very thing through which Jehovah, by His own might and power, intended to grant salvation, was regarded as holy, and adored as divine. If there was anything which was contrary and hostile to the worship of the Holy One in Israel, then it was the worship of this image; therefore Hezekiah destroyed it as ruthlessly as he did all the other images. If we add to this all that is said in Chronicles about the restoration of the levitical worship by Hezekiah, then it is clear that no king of Israel since David had been filled, as he was, with zeal for the divinely-given fundamental Law. If we consider further that he ascended the throne in a time of deep decay, at a time when the temple of Jehovah was closed (2 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 29:7), and Judah was filled with all the abominations of heathenism, when disgraceful apostasy was widely spread among the great and mighty of the kingdom, then this king cannot certainly be called “a weak and dependent man.” To carry out such a reformation under the most unfavorable circumstances, is not the work of a weak man; on the contrary, it presupposes courageous faith, and extraordinary energy.
3. The oppression of Judah by the Assyrians, and its deliverance from the same, is one of the greatest and most important events of the Old Testament history of redemption, as we may infer from the fact that it is narrated with such careful detail, and that we have no less than three accounts of it. How deep an impression the event made upon the mind of the people, and what great significance was ascribed to it, is shown by its express mention in the late apocryphal books, in Jesus Sir 48:18-21, in the books of Maccabees I. 7:41; II. 8:19; III. 6:5, and in the book of Tobias 1:21 (of the Latin; 1:18, of the Greek, text). It is also generally admitted that the noble Psalms 46:0 refers to this event, if not also Psalms 75, 76 (Sept. ᾠδὴ πρὸς τὸν ’Ασσύριον). Assyria stood at the summit of its power under Sennacherib; it had become a world-monarchy. Besides the nations of Eastern [Central] Asia, it had subjugated Phœnicia and Syria, and overthrown the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. It was just ready to extend still farther and to subjugate Egypt. Having invaded Judah, which was already tributary, the conqueror had already devastated the country and captured the strongholds. Only Jerusalem yet remained. Now he threatened this last stronghold of the once prosperous kingdom. With arrogant and threatening words, scoffing at the God of Israel, he demanded a surrender of the city which was already hard pressed on every side, and spoke of carrying off its inhabitants into captivity. The greatest power on earth stood in hostility to the little kingdom of Judah, which was reduced to two small tribes, and rendered powerless by misgovernment. Its destruction seemed to be inevitable. But just at this point the power which had hitherto been resistless was broken, and it remained broken. This world-monarchy now commenced to decline. [This is a mistake. The next half century (700–650) includes the height of the Assyrian power.—W. G. S.] A change took place in the affairs of Judah which secured it yet a century and a half of existence. This change in its affairs it owed, not to its own strength or courage, not to a great army which came to its help, not to any human power, but only to its Lord and God, who said to the roaring sea: “So far and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed!” The great and invincible army perished without a battle or a stroke of the sword, as the Lord had foretold by His prophet (Isaiah 31:8). In a single night Judah was delivered out of the hand of its mighty enemy. “With the downfall of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes a new epoch had begun for Judah. It was, from this time on, to represent alone the ancient covenant people. The great act of divine deliverance which is here recorded stands at the commencement of this new era, as a new covenant-sign, and pledge of the election of Israel, but at the same time also as a loud call to faithfulness. This was the significance of an event which had had no parallel since the deliverance from Egypt. It is, therefore, put parallel with that great event which was the type of all national deliverances (see notes on 17:7, and Exeg. on 1 Kings 12:28). In subsequent times of peril it was mentioned together with the deliverance from Egypt, as a ground of prayer for divine aid (see the places quoted from the books of Maccabees). As there was there, so there is here, an arrogant enemy, who obstinately resists the God of Israel, who oppresses Jehovah’s people so that they cry to him. “As Moses there promised protection and deliverance, and said: ‘These Egyptians whom ye see to-day shall ye see no more forever,’ so Isaiah here promises help: ‘Fear not! for the Lord will guard this city. He shall not come into it, but shall return by the way by which he came;’ as there, ‘Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the sea returned at the dawning of the morning’ (Exodus 14:27), so here, ‘When they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead, corpses’: Isaiah 37:36” (Von Gerlach on Psalms 46:6); as there the angel of the Lord smote at midnight all the first-born in Egypt, and rose up against the oppressor, so that he sank in the sea with his chariots, his horses, and his horsemen (Exodus 12:29; Exodus 14:19; Exodus 14:28), so he here smote the Assyrian army by night so that Sennacherib “arose, departed, and went” (excessit, evasit, erupit. Song of Solomon 2:0 Cat. at the beginning). Ewald justly says: “One of those rare days had come again when the truth which no hands could grasp, forced itself home to the conscience and conviction of the people.… Nay, indeed, in the preceding long and weary distress and trial, as well as in the sudden deliverance, and in the convergence of all these things to enforce faith in the only true help, this time has a certain resemblance to the time of the foundation of the nation, just as, throughout all these centuries, few souls attained so nearly to the height of Moses as did Isaiah.” What a deep impression the event made upon the neighboring peoples is shown by the words of Chronicles, where the history of it closes with the words: “And many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth” (2 Chronicles 32:23). So that came to pass which Hezekiah had prayed for in his prayer for God’s help, 2 Kings 19:19.
4. The prophet Isaiah stands first and foremost among those who appear either speaking or acting in the foregoing history. He is the central figure of the story, so that it appears also in the book of his prophecies. All that constitutes the peculiarity of the Jewish institution of prophets, and its high significance in the history of redemption, by virtue of which it stands independent of, and even above, the priestly office and the throne, presents itself to us here in one person as it does not in any other case either earlier or later. Not only as a “human counsellor in difficult political transactions” (Köster, Die Propheten, s. 106), as the king’s privy-councillor, but as the servant and minister of Jehovah, the God of Israel, Who, through him, makes known His will and His decrees, and guides the fortunes of His people, and as the messenger and intermediary of the divine dispensations, Isaiah stands before us. He fulfils his mission most completely. Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah were in peril such as had never before befallen them since they had existed. No one was prepared with advice or counsel. Anxiety, terror, and despair controlled all. In the midst of all this Isaiah stood firm and unshaken as a rock in the sea. With calmness and even joy, such as only a servant of Jehovah, who is conscious that he stands before his Lord, can feel (1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:15), he proclaims, in the name of his Master, deliverance to the covenant people, and destruction to the blasphemous foe, and as he says so it comes to pass. Where in the history of the ancient world is there anything at all resembling this? The oracle, 2 Kings 18:21-34, belongs to the grandest which have been preserved, and is in the front rank even of those of Isaiah. All the things which we find to admire in the discourses of this prophet are here united. The language is clear and unambiguous, it is concise and rich, powerful and stirring, sharp in censure as well as consoling and encouraging. At the same time it is, in form and expression, poetical and rhetorical. The religious feeling on which it rests is the distinctively Israelitish, in all its depth and purity. The God, in whose name the prophet speaks, is the Holy One of Israel (see Isaiah 6:3), a character in which He has revealed Himself to this people alone, and in which no other people knows Him. At the same time He is a Being who is elevated absolutely above all creature limitations, and He governs all the nations of the earth according to His will. He has chosen Israel to be His own peculiar people, while it keeps His covenant. He is merciful and gracious, but He will not be scorned or blasphemed. The godless are an instrument in His hand, which He breaks and throws away when it has served His purpose. This discourse was indeed occasioned by the peculiar circumstances of the time, and it refers in the first place to them, nevertheless it does not lack that which is the deepest and inmost soul of all prophecy, the forecast of the distant future, the Messianic שְׁאָר יָשׁוּב [the idea that out of all calamities a purified remnant shall still survive to carry on the office of the chosen people] (2 Kings 18:30-31; cf. Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21). This deliverance is the type and pledge of the one which shall go forth from Zion (Isaiah 2:2-3).
5. The prophet’s prediction of the destruction of Sennacherib is a prophecy in the common use of the word [something foretold], and every attempt to rob it of this character is shown to be vain, first by the great definiteness of the prediction, and secondly, by its undeniable fulfilment. Modern criticism, starting from the assumption that a specific prophecy is impossible, has declared 2 Kings 18:7, as well as the concluding verses of the oracle, 2 Kings 18:32-34, on account of their “suspicious definiteness,” to be additions by the late redactor. This is indeed the easiest way to set aside any apparent prophecy. It is to be noticed, however, that the whole passage, from 2 Kings 18:21 on, comes naturally and necessarily to this termination, and the tone and language are exactly the same as in the previous verses. [The artificial construction of the strophe and antistrophe make it impossible to regard 2 Kings 18:32-34 as anything but an integral part of the original composition. See the arrangement in the translation.—W. G. S.] To take these verses away from the oracle is to rob it of all its point. It is both arbitrary and violent.
The so-called naturalistic explanation, which Knobel maintains, is not much better. According to this, the pestilence had then already commenced, and it threatened to weaken the Assyrian army very materially. News had also come that Tirhakah was advancing (2 Kings 18:9). These two things caused the prophet to “hope” that Sennacherib would not persevere, and, inspired by this hope, he “sustains his courage and exhorts the king and nation to confidence.” But the assumption that the pestilence had at this time already broken out in the Assyrian camp is unfounded, it is entirely arbitrary, and it even contradicts the statements of the text in 2 Kings 18:35-36. With this assumption the factitious “hope” of the prophet falls to the ground. Moreover it is perfectly clear that the prophet is not giving expression to a mere hope. As Knobel himself admits, “the tone is that of the utmost confidence,” and “the passage (2 Kings 18:32-34) is perfectly definite.”
Ewald’s conception of it is much finer and more delicate. (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 634 [Ed. third s. 682]). He thus states his conception of the circumstances: In the first place, when Rab-shakeh uttered his threats, the prophet exhorted the king in general to courage and fearlessness (2 Kings 18:6). Afterwards, when Sennacherib’s letter arrived and Hezekiah was in great anxiety, “Isaiah forth-with announced to him, if possible (!) yet more distinctly than before, the heaven-sent consolation. The bolder and more insolent the language of Sennacherib was, the more firm was the divine confidence against all his human vanity which Isaiah expressed in his mighty oracles. Thereby he powerfully influenced both the king and the people. He was the most unwavering support in this calamity, and the unswerving strength of his soul grew with the raging of the storm.” However much this conception may contain which is grand and true, yet it does not rise above the idea that the prophet had a merely natural and human hope and foreboding. The prophet himself, however, means to have his words taken as something more than this. He could not possibly, with good conscience, say of something which he merely hoped for and foreboded: “Thus saith the Lord!”
[The question in dispute is: What did the prophets mean when they said: Thus saith the Lord! No one will assert that they meant that they had heard words with physical ears, or read words with physical eyes, which came to them from God. Their apprehension of the things which they thus announced must have been subjective, in so far that it was spiritual and conscientious. Then we come to a psychological analysis of the degrees of hope, expectation, faith, and foresight. If the process by which prophets apprehended divine oracles is utterly beyond the analogy of our experience, then, of course, it defies our analysis. But, in that case, it is a pure dogma which we cannot explain or state in words, and therefore cannot teach or transmit. We can repeat a formula, but we cannot form an idea. If, however, we have an analogy in our experience of faith and trust in God,—in our knowledge and conception of His laws—and in our belief in His Providence, for the kind of activity which produced the prophecies, then we may indeed believe that the prophets acted upon a much greater measure of the same convictions. Certainly the prophets did not utter guesses, and pronounce them with a “Thus saith the Lord!” Any attentive reader of the prophecies will perceive that this formula has, in the mouths of the prophets, a truly awful meaning. They had intense convictions as to God’s will and Providence, and a profound faith in His truth and justice. When they spoke it was without faltering, and with complete faith that they were pronouncing the oracles of God. The “definiteness” of this prophecy, which is made a ground for believing it post eventum, may be questioned. It is grand, broad, and poetic. It is not specific in announcing the form of the deliverance, but has the features of O. T. predictions. The more detailed treatment of prophecy belongs to the exposition of the prophetical books.—W. G. S.]
There was nothing in the circumstances to justify the expectation that the hitherto invincible conqueror, who was already in the neighborhood of Jerusalem with 185,000 men, would withdraw immediately. On the contrary nothing seemed more certain than that he would carry out his threats. Nevertheless Isaiah declared to the king and the people in regard to him, “in the tone of an ambassador of God” (Köster), with the greatest definiteness and confidence: “He shall not come into this city, &c.” If this was mere surmise and supposition, then it was, under these circumstances, pure insanity to exhort Jerusalem to scorn and defy the conqueror at the very moment when it was in the greatest jeopardy; nay, even the comparison of Sennacherib with a wild beast with a ring through its nose and a bridle in its mouth, would be a piece of bombast no way inferior to that of Rab-shakeh. What would have become of Isaiah? What would have become of the prophetic institution, if he had then been mistaken in his mere individual and subjective supposition and hope? It is useless to turn and twist the matter. We must either strike out the entire oracle, or we must recognize in it a genuine prediction and admit that “the prophecy came not in old times by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were inspired by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). The fact that this event, which was beyond the range of all human foresight and calculation, was definitely foretold by the prophet, gives it the character of an event determined beforehand of God for the deliverance of His people, that is, of an incident in the history of redemption, and takes away from it all appearance of an accidental, natural, occurrence.
[The question is: Were the prophets infallible? The author’s argument seems to assume that they were. The assumption ought to be fairly stated and understood, and the issue involved ought to be fairly met. If the prophets, who were “men,” “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17), were infallible, why may not the Pope be so? If a distinction can be made, and if it be said that the prophets were infallible in their oracles, why may not the Pope be infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, though not otherwise? A fair criticism of this oracle will show it to be a prediction. The event which followed was a dispensation of Providence and an incident in the history of redemption (see bracketed addition to § 9, below). It rested on very much more than a hope or suspicion. It was a confident expectation which was based on trust in God and faith in His Providence. This amounted to a certain conviction in the prophet’s mind, so that he did not hesitate to pronounce it in solemn form as God’s will that Sennacherib’s plan against Judah should be frustrated. He was obliged to stake his prophetical authority on this prediction. His religious faith rose above all the appearances of improbability (humanly speaking), that Sennacherib’s course could be arrested. He did not fear, relying on his faith in God, to threaten Sennacherib with the most shameful overthrow. Sennacherib lived and prospered for twenty years afterwards (see Supplem. Note after the Exeg. section). If we insist on the literal accuracy, or even specific reference, of 2 Kings 18:28 we shall make a grievous error, but, as a poetic expression for a prediction of shame and disaster to Sennacherib, it was completely fulfilled. Thus the event justified Isaiah’s faith, and ratified his authority as a man of God; i.e., a man endowed with power to see and understand the ways of God. The notion that the prophets had communications from heaven, which gave them infallible information as to what was to be, is a superstition. The idea that they were men whose faith and love towards God gave them communion with Him, knowledge of His ways, insight into His Providence, and, therefore, foresight of His dealings with men, is a sublime religious truth,—one which deserves the study, as it will cultivate the religious powers, of every Christian man.—W. G. S.]
6. Hezekiah’s behavior during the peril from the Assyrians appears to be inconsistent with the general characterization which stands at the head of the narrative (18:5–7), inasmuch as he, who had the courage to declare his independence of the Assyrian supremacy, and who, according to 2 Chronicles 32:5-8, at Sennacherib’s approach, not only took all possible measures for a determined resistance, but also encouraged the people to trust in Jehovah, its God, and not to fear, nevertheless instructed his ambassadors to ask for mercy, and declared himself ready to submit to any sacrifice which might be demanded of him (2 Kings 18:14). This one fact, however, does not justify us in regarding him as a “weak and dependent man” (see above § 1). We do not even know whether he took the step on his own motion, or, as is very possible, was forced to it by those who were about him. It was not until the Assyrian army had advanced even beyond Jerusalem, had taken one city after another and devastated the country, so that it seemed to him that Jerusalem could not much longer be defended, that he determined to make this humiliating offer. He had a good intention, which was to save Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah from a fate like that of Samaria. Yet he did not send to the Assyrian such a message as his wretched father, Ahaz had once sent: “I am thy servant and thy son” (2 Kings 16:7), but only went so far as necessity compelled him. Certainly he was not a hero in faith like Isaiah. “When he had taken the first step (the revolt), trusting in his God, then he ought to have taken the second, also trusting in Him” (Schlier), but that he did not do so does not prove that he had no faith. There are times in the life of every truly pious and believing man when the ground trembles under his feet, and he is wanting in firm and invincible faith. It was in such a moment that John the Baptist sent to ask the Saviour: “Art thou He that should come?” and yet the Saviour said of him that he was no reed shaken by the wind. Peter denied his master, and yet the master called him the rock on which the Church should be built. The time of peril from the Assyrians was, for Hezekiah, a time of trial and discipline. Soon after he had acted in faint-heartedness and despair he learned that help is not to be bought in distress by gold or silver. The treacherous foe only pressed him the harder, and then at last Hezekiah showed himself a true theocratic king. Recognizing a divine chastisement and discipline in this danger, he turns first to the prophet as the servant of Jehovah and the organ of the divine spirit, and sends an embassy of the chief royal officers and of the chief priests to him to beg his intercession. The solemn embassy was a physical recognition by the king of the prerogative of the prophet. It shows that where both were such as they ought to be there could be no question of “independent powers” over against each other (see 1 Kings 21:0. Hist. § 4, and Pt. II. p. 104), but that both worked together, and had co-ordinate and complementary functions in carrying on the plan of redemption. The position which Hezekiah took up in his dealings with the prophetical institution, even when it was exercising its functions of warning and rebuke, may be seen from the incidental allusion in Jeremiah 26:18 sq. (See Caspari über Micha, den Morasthiten, s. 56.) In the case before us he did not rest content with the solemn embassy to the prophet, but went before the Lord, and poured out his heart to Him in prayer. Von Gerlach justly says: “It is most clearly apparent that, in this prayer, the inmost faith of a genuine Israelite is expressed.” In true humility and fervor he calls upon the only living God, who has made heaven and earth, and who is the king of all kings of earth; who had chosen Israel to be His people, and dwells and reigns amongst them as a sign and pledge of His covenant. To Him, the Almighty One, who alone can help and save, he cries for help and salvation. He is not so much alarmed for his throne and his own glory as he is that the name of this God shall not be blasphemed, but rather be revered by all the world. We have no such prayer from any other king sizce Solomon. Because the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, and does what the god-fearing ask of Him, and hears their cry (Psalms 145:18 sq.), therefore this prayer was heard. The Lord helped wondrously and beyond all Hezekiah’s prayer or hope.
7. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, and his chief cup-bearer form the sharpest contrast to Hezekiah and the prophet. The pride and arrogance which, as a rule, animate all great conquerors, is expressed by them. Such men, insolently relying on their own human power and might, recognize nothing superior to themselves, shrink from no means of gratifying their ambition for territorial aggrandizement, and insult and scoff at Almighty God, until He finally sends His judgments upon them and brings them to shame. The language which this ancient conqueror used is that of a heathen, but the spirit which animated it has not perished from the earth; it appeared again in the words of the greatest conqueror of modern times. When Napoleon, during his expedition to Egypt, said to a Mufti: “I can cause a fiery chariot to descend from heaven and to turn its course to earth;”—when, in his proclamation to the inhabitants of Cairo, he declared, denying the true God and putting fate in His place: “Can there be any one who is blind enough not to see that fate itself guides all my undertakings? … Inform the people that it is written from the foundation of the world that, after the destruction of all the enemies of Islam and the overthrow of the cross, I should come from the far west to fulfil the task which is set for me.… Those who raise prayers against us to heaven pray for their own damnation. I could demand from each one of you an account of the secret thoughts of his heart, for I know all, even that which ye have told to no one. A day will come when all will see that I have been guided by commands from above, and that all the efforts of men can accomplish nothing against me” (Leo, Universalgesch. V. s. 317. Baur, Geschichts- und Lebensbilder, I. s. 385, sq.)—is that not the same thing as Sennacherib boasts 2Ki 18:25; 2 Kings 18:35; 2 Kings 19:1 sq. in regard to himself, though with different words? It is an entire misconception, on the part of Ewald, when he thus states Sennacherib’s policy and intentions (l. c. s. 596): “The wars between the numerous small kingdoms this side the Euphrates had, during the last centuries, assumed continually more and more the character of mere plundering expeditions. It was enough to merely rob and plunder a weaker neighbor.… There was no conception of a fatherland, a great kingdom which was a power to restrain wrong by justice and unity. But the ‘warlike’ [Ewald’s interpretation of יָרֵב] king, as the Assyrian king was now called before all others (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 10:6) desired a great, united, and powerful kingdom, in which petty national jealousies should disappear.” The Scriptures do not contain any hint of any such noble and beneficent intentions on the part of the Assyrian king. On the contrary, Sennacherib himself boasts that he has devoted all the conquered lands to destruction, and has caused the nations to perish (2 Kings 19:11-12). The Scriptures call Sennacherib especially a destroyer, plunderer, or robber (Isaiah 33:1), whose heart is set to destroy and uproot nations, and who does not know that he is only a hired razor, the rod of God’s wrath, and the staff of His anger (Isaiah 10:5-7). That this man, the greatest and mightiest of the kings of Assyria, before whom all nations trembled, should come to shame in his contest with the small and weak kingdom of Judah, this proclaimed to all the world the great and eternal truth: He can humiliate even the proud!
8. The speech of the ambassador, Rab-shakeh, is a remarkable specimen of ancient oriental rhetoric. It has, in form and expression, none of the smoothness and fineness of modern diplomacy, but it is, in the method which it pursues, by no means out of date, but as fresh as if it had been spoken but yesterday. In the first part, which is addressed to king Hezekiah and his high officers, the speaker utters undeniable truths. It was true that Egypt was like a broken reed on which a man could not rest or rely. It was true that Hezekiah had abolished the worship on the high places and centralized the cultus in Jerusalem. It was true that if he had ever so many horses he lacked riders for them, while the Assyrian army was richly provided with both. It was true, finally, that this army had not advanced to Jerusalem and beyond without the permission of God; but all these truths stand here in the service of arrogance, hypocrisy, and falsehood. The ancient diplomat understood the falsely celebrated art of convincing by sophistical arguments, and yet of cheating and deceiving. When the royal councillors did not at once yield to him, he became rude and insolent towards them, and began to harangue the common people. In the first place, he puts before them the distress and misery which await them if the city is not given up at once; then he makes promises, tempts them and sets prosperity, and good fortune, and wealth before them; then he makes them suspicious of their king, and calls them to disobedience to him; finally, he undermines their religious faith, represents to them their trust in God as foolish and vain, and appeals to the fall of Samaria which (he declares) this God was as little able to prevent as the gods of the other nations were to prevent their overthrow. Here again we must exclaim with Menken, as above in the case of Naaman: “How true and faithful is the ancient picture! How fresh and new it is, as if men of to-day had sat for it!”
9. The destruction of the Assyrian army, which impelled Sennacherib to retreat, is unquestioned as an historical fact; if has not been assailed even by modern critical science. Its character as an incident in the history of the redemptive plan (see § 3) has, however, been taken from it by the assertion that it was due to one of the pestilences which were common in the Orient, and especially in Egypt; that the number of those who died is “exaggerated,” and that the destruction in a single night is a mythical detail. Appeal is made in proof to the “frightful devastation which the pestilence accomplishes in a short time.” Instances are cited such as that “at Constantinople, in 1714, nearly 300,000 human beings perished, and at the same place, in 1778, 2,000 died daily” (Winer, R.-W.-B., II. s. 232), and that “the pestilence in Milan, in 1629, according to Tadino, carried off 160,000 persons; at Vienna, in 1679, 122, 849; and in Moscow, at the end of the last century, according to Martens, 670,000” (Delitsch on Isaiah 37:36). As for the number 185,000, the fact that it is not “an exactly round number bears witness to its historical accuracy” (Thenius). Both accounts have it. Moreover it occurs 1Ma 7:41, and 2Ma 15:22, and Jos. Antiq. x. 1, 5. It is arbitrary to throw aside a number which is supported by such testimony and has nothing against it. It would not be allowed in the case of a number supported by so many profane authors. As for the assumed mythical detail that they all perished in one night, that is not the statement of the text; but that “the angel went out on that night and he smote,” &c., that is, on that night the pestilence broke out in the Assyrian camp, so that in the morning very many already lay dead, and it raged until the whole army, 185,000 strong, was carried off. With that night the destruction of the entire army began. [That is hardly a fair reading of 2 Kings 18:35. The angel went out that night and smote 185,000 men, and in the morning they were corpses. The naïveté of the remark, that they rose up and lo! they were all dead, belongs to the simplicity of the style of composition. Its meaning is clear that the 185,000 men did not comprise the whole Assyrian army. The intention of the history to declare that 185,000 men were smitten and perished in one night is undeniable.—W. G. S.] “In view of the conciseness of the record we may assume, with Hensler and others, that the pestilence raged in the Assyrian camp for some time, and that it carried off thousands by night (Psalms 91:6) up to the number of 185,000” (Delitsch). If the words בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא were what made of the incident a miraculous interposition of God, they could not be wanting from the narrative in Isaiah; also the Chronicler, who does not in other cases show any distrust of what is miraculous, and the three places in the book of Maccabees, and that in Sirach, all of which mention the event, would not be silent as to that which would form the distinctive feature of it. When Knobel remarks that “the historian ascribes the event which brought about the deliverance of Judah to the God of Judah,” we must ask, to whom else should he ascribe it? to Nature? to the climate? to accident? The God of Judah is the living God, who, as Hezekiah says (19:15, 19), made heaven and earth. He alone is God. If not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him (Matthew 10:29), then 185,000 men were not carried off without His will. As in the case of Isaiah’s prophecy (§ 5), so here, all turning and twisting is useless. The incident was “a dispensation of God which evades until this day all attempts to solve its causes.” We may admit that it was produced by the pestilence; “but, in the way of an attempt at a natural explanation, this amounts to nothing. No disease has ever, in its natural course, accomplished anything of the kind. All the extraordinary cases which are cited from history are only calculated to render the more prominent the fact that the incident here recorded is totally dissimilar from them all” (Drechsler).
[The miraculousness of the incident consists neither in the number of the slain, nor in the short space of time in which they perished. It consists in the fact that this extraordinary calamity befell the Assyrian army, by a dispensation of Providence, at a great crisis in the history of Judah. The ravages of pestilence in various historical instances are, therefore, no parallels. They are entirely aside from the point. The destruction of the Spanish armada by a storm is a far closer parallel than any one of these. We may hesitate to interpret these dispensations of Providence in modern times. The prophetic author of the Jewish history had no such scruples. He saw and plainly declared the hand of God in this event. “It is not without reason that in the churches of Moscow the exultation over the fall of Sennacherib is still read on the anniversary of the retreat of the French from Russia; or that Arnold, in his Lectures on Modern History, in the impressive passage (p. 177) in which he dwells on that great catastrophe, declared that for ‘the memorable night of frost in which 20,000 horses perished, and the strength of the French army was utterly broken,’ he ‘knew of no language so well fitted to describe it as the words in which Isaiah described the advance and destruction of the hosts of Sennacherib.’ ” (Stanley, II. 534.) Our best means of arriving at a strictly historical conception of such providential interpositions as the one here recorded, is that of comparing them with other similar events nearer and more familiar to ourselves.—W. G. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 18:1-8. The noble Testimony which the Holy Scriptures bear to King Hezekiah. (a) He abolished the false worship in his kingdom and reestablished that which was in accordance with the word of God (2 Kings 18:3-4). (b) He trusted the Lord, clung to him, and departed not from Him (2 Kings 18:5-6). (c) What he did prospered, for the Lord was with him (2 Kings 18:7-8).
2 Kings 18:3-6. Lange: It is sad when godly parents have godless children and must see that all their pains are spent upon them in vain. On the contrary, where godless parents, especially a godless father, have pious children, we must look upon it as a direct fruit of the grace of God. The testimony to Hezekiah is, therefore, the more excellent the more depraved his father was. Cramer: Virtue and godliness are not inherited from one’s parents.
2 Kings 18:4. Hezekiah succeeded in uprooting ancient abuses, because he was moved not merely by political or other human considerations, but only by love to the Lord, and zeal for His honor. He was anxious not only to root up, destroy, and deny, but also to set up in the place of what was evil that which was right and good.—The brazen serpent. The purpose for which Moses made it (John 3:14 sq.); why Hezekiah destroyed it (worship of images and destruction of images. Use and abuse of images).—Cramer: If the cross on which Christ hung were preserved by the papists it would certainly be a relic of remarkable antiquarian interest, but to keep a feast in its honor, make pilgrimages to it, and grant indulgences by virtue of it, would be pure idolatry.
2 Kings 18:5-6. True piety consists of (a) a faith which is at once trust and confidence, Hebrews 11:1; (b) clinging to the Lord in adversity and in prosperity, without departing from Him, Psalms 73:25 sq.; (c) keeping the commandments of God, Jam 2:17; 1 John 5:3.
2 Kings 18:7-8. Osiander: God rewards godliness even in this life, Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8.—Starke: Only the faithful and pious can console themselves with God’s favor, and boast that God is with them, Psalms 118:6-7; Psalms 1:3.—To throw off a disgraceful foreign yoke, and to take back what one has been robbed of, is not a breach of fidelity, but it is the right and duty of every ruler who wears a crown lawfully.
2 Kings 18:9-12. See notes on chap. 17. Hoshea and Hezekiah. The former came to the throne by conspiracy and murder, and he did not do what was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he perished with his people. The latter trusted in the Lord and clung to Him, and therefore he came out with his people victoriously from the peril.
2 Kings 18:13-16. Hezekiah enjoyed peace and rest for fourteen years. His reign was a prosperous one; then, however, came the time of trial and danger, which does not fail to come even to those who have faith and trust.—Berleb. Bibel: No one can belong to God unless he passes through trial and discipline. The harder the trial is, the more must we increase our faith and dependence, for God chastises us only that He may make more clear His mercy and care for those who trust in Him.—The gold of faith can only be made to appear through the fires of adversity, Sir 2:5. If thy faith is not a mere notion, or opinion, or feeling, or sensation, then it will not diminish in the time of trial, but grow and become stronger and purer. “Whence should we have had David’s psalms, if he had not been tried?” Therefore St. Paul says, Romans 5:3 sq.
2 Kings 18:14. There is nothing harder for any one who holds a high position than to humble himself, yet there is nothing more beneficial. The king finds himself compelled, in order to save his kingdom, to beg forgiveness of the monarch from whom he had revolted. That was the first consequence of his chastisement.—Cramer: An oppressive peace is better than the most just war, and it is better to purchase peace than to risk kingdom and people, life and liberty.—When we see that we have done wrong we ought to confess it not only before God but also before men.—Do thou say to God what Hezekiah sent his ambassadors to say to Sennacherib. Thou wilt find Him not faithless, but always good and faithful, and He will lay upon thee no burden which thou canst not carry.
2 Kings 18:11. We can never rely upon the fidelity of a man who is simply bought with money.—Want of courage in one’s self invites an enemy to arrogance. The more humbly one approaches an enemy the more insolent he becomes.—Peace and quiet which are bought with money have no duration. [This ought to be taken to modify the doctrine quoted above (on 2 Kings 18:14) from Cramer, that it is better to buy peace than to risk war.]
2 Kings 18:17-35. Rab-shakeh’s speech (a) to Hezekiah’s messengers, 2 Kings 18:19-27; (b) to the people, 2 Kings 18:28-33. See Histor. § 8. That is always the way of the devil; he mixes up truth and falsehood, that he may inoculate us with the falsehood.—Rabshakeh, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. (a) He appears to warn against Egypt as a power which neither can nor will help, just as Isaiah himself does, while he himself comes to destroy and devour (Matthew 7:15; 1 John 4:1). (b) He represents what had been ordained by Hezekiah according to the Law of the Lord and for His honor as a sin and a breach of religion, while he himself cared nothing whatever for the Law of the Lord or the true and right worship. Beware of those who represent as weakness and folly that which is divine wisdom and strength (1 Corinthians 1:18 sq.). (c) He claims that the Lord is with him and has commanded him to do what he is doing (2 Kings 18:25), whereas, in fact, he is only the rod of God’s wrath, the staff of His anger, a “hired razor,” and ambition, lust for gold and land, desire for glory and plunder are his only motives (Matthew 7:22 sq.). Be not deceived by the prosperity and the victory of the godless. They are like chaff which the wind scatters and their way disappears (Psalms 1:3; Psalms 1:6).
2 Kings 18:20. In what dost thou trust? Ask thyself this every day. Dost thou trust in other men who have rank, wealth, and influence
(Psalms 60:12; Psalms 146:3-4; Jeremiah 17:5); upon thyself, thine own power, wisdom, and judgment (Proverbs 3:5; Proverbs 3:7; 1 Corinthians 1:19-20); or on the Lord alone (Psalms 118:8-9; Psalms 146:5; Jeremiah 17:1; Jeremiah 17:8)?
2 Kings 18:21. J. Lange: How often it happens that when a man abandons God and seeks another reliance, he finds but a broken reed!—Umbreit: So weak and faithless men often prepare for those who are not satisfied with God’s grace, but seek help from them, the deepest misfortunes. He who trusts only in God stands high and free even above the ruins of his earthly happiness; he who takes refuge in men becomes the slave of men.
2 Kings 18:22. Kyburz: It is the most deadly temptation of the adversary that he throws suspicion upon all which one has done for God, or upon all the spiritual good which one has wrought. This is the way of the devil and of the blinded world. They praise that for which one deserves punishment and make a threat of that by virtue of which one might hope for the favor of God. He who does not mean to fall under this trial must strive for the testing spirit that it may teach him to distinguish false and true, light and darkness, according to the divine standards (John 12:4 sq.).—Starke: When the world wishes to give pain to the pious it calls their trust in God obstinacy, and their constancy, arrogance.—Würt. Summ.: Perverse and depraved men often consider true religion the origin of all misfortune.
2 Kings 18:23-24. The boastful cannot stand before the eyes of the Lord (Psalms 5:6-7). He says to them: “Speak not with a stiff neck,” &c. (Psalms 75:5-8. cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24). “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host,” &c. (Psalms 33:16-17).
2 Kings 18:25. Starke: The godless do not want to have the appearance of making their undertakings under and with God; they boast that they do not do so, yet wrongly.—Menken: God uses the bad for purposes for which he cannot use the good. The prosperity of the wicked destroys them (Proverbs 1:32).—How often a man puts his own wishes or thoughts in the place of the will of God and says or thinks: The Lord commanded me! It is crime, however, for a man to ascribe to the will of God that which sprang from his own evil lusts (James 1:13 sq.).
2 Kings 18:26-28. The just Request of the King’s Councillors to Rab-shakeh and his insolent Reply.—Cramer: A Christian ought to be careful in all things and to try to avert harm wherever he can (Ephesians 5:15).—Simple and uneducated people lend an ear far too easily to boasters, to those who distort truth, and allow themselves to be cajoled, because they lack insight to distinguish between appearance and reality, error and truth. Therefore not all subjects should be discussed before the multitude, in whose minds one distorted expression will often do more harm than the most reasonable discourse can cure. A faithful government ought to protect its subjects from hypocritical and lying teachers as much as from thieves and robbers. 2 Kings 18:27. He who cannot endure any contradiction, however moderate and just it may be, without becoming violent and angry, shows thereby that he is not aiming at truth and right, but that he has a selfish and insincere purpose.—Rab-shakeh was an official of the court and a man in high station, who did not lack wisdom and information; nevertheless his words show rudeness and vulgarity. High rank and position, even when united with wisdom and information, do not insure against rudeness and vulgarity. These only disappear where the life has its springs in God, and there is a purified heart and a sanctified disposition (Luke 6:45).
2 Kings 18:28-35. The ways and means of demagogues and those who stir up sedition. (a) 2 Kings 18:29-30. They cast suspicion upon the lawful authority, however righteous its intentions may be. They scatter abroad distrust of its power and of its good disposition, and strive to make the people discontented with all its ordinances. (b) 2 Kings 18:31-32. They promise to the people peace and prosperity and good fortune, deliverance from tyranny and slavery, in order that they may then lay upon it their yoke, which is far heavier and more disgraceful (Psalms 140:5). (c) 2 Kings 18:33 sq. They undermine the faith of the people under the pretence of enlightening it, while they themselves walk in darkness and are enemies of the cross of Christ. Therefore: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
2 Kings 18:28. Starke: When Satan wants attentive listeners he talks God’s language; therefore believe not every spirit (1 John 4:1).
2 Kings 18:30. The Lord will save us! (a) A noble saying in the mouth of a king speaking to his people. He thereby admits that his own power is insufficient and vain. He leads his people in that faith which is a confidence in what is hoped for, and which admits no doubt of what is not seen. How well it would be for all princes and peoples if they had such faith. (b) In this saying all the hope of the Christian life is expressed: With God we overcome the world, for the Lord will at length save and deliver us from all evil, and bring us to his heavenly kingdom. The blasphemer and boaster wanted to remove these words of the king from the heart of the people, because he knew that he should then have won. Nowadays also these words are laughed at and scorned. Let them not be torn from your heart! Happy is he whose trust is in the Lord his God (Psalms 146:5).
2 Kings 18:31 sq. Cramer: When Satan cannot accomplish anything by resistance and force, he strikes the softer strings and promises luxury, riches, splendor (Matthew 4:9).
2 Kings 18:33 sq. Pride and arrogance go so far that man, who is but dust and ashes, exalts himself in his folly above Almighty God.—Pfaff. Bibel: The Lord punishes with especial severity the crime of scoffing at the Living God and doubting of his might and majesty (2Ma 9:28; Isaiah 14:13-15).
2 Kings 18:36 sq. The Impression which Rab-shakeh’s Speech made. (a) The people kept silence and did not answer. (Silence is an answer—often a more emphatic one than speech. Happy is the people which is deaf to the words of seducers and those who stir up insurrection.) (b) The ambassadors of the king tear their clothes as a sign of grief and of horror at the blasphemous words which they had been forced to hear. Rab-shakeh was obliged to depart with his mission unaccomplished (1 Peter 5:8-9).
2 Kings 18:36. We ought not to enter into any dispute with those who do not care to arrive at the truth, but only to accomplish their own selfish ends, and who are versed in the art of mixing truth and falsehood, but we should punish them by silence.
2 Kings 18:37. Starke: We ought not to laugh at blasphemous speeches, but to be heartily saddened by them.—Würt. Summ.: We ought not to get angry at a blasphemer, lest we also do some wrong, but we ought to wait patiently for the Lord (Isaiah 30:15).—Cramer: Cast not your pearls before swine, nor give what is holy unto the dogs (Matthew 7:6). It is not always wise to answer a fool. There is a time for silence (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
2 Kings 19:1-7. Hezekiah in great Distress. (a) He rends his clothes (as a sign of horror at Rab-shakeh’s blasphemous speech). He puts on sack-cloth (as a sign of repentance), and goes to the house of the Lord (to humble himself before God, for he recognizes in his need and distress a consequence of sin and apostasy, and a call to repentance). (b) He sends the chiefs and representatives of the people to the prophet, from whom he hopes to hear the best counsel. He orders them to make known his request, and he is encouraged by him to stand fast in faith.
2 Kings 19:1. The words in Psalms 1:1 apply to Hezekiah. A man who truly fears God cannot endure that unbelief should open its insolent mouth; his heart is torn when he hears the living God scoffed at. Woe to the people and country in which the speeches of the godless are listened to in silence and with indifference, without pain or grief, and where jests at God and divine things are regarded as enlightenment and wisdom (Luke 19:40).
2 Kings 19:2-3. In anxiety and perplexity our only consolation is to call upon God (Psalms 34:19; Psalms 46:1).—Hall: The more we hear the name of God despised and abused the more we ought to love and honor it.—Starke: It is of great importance that, in time of need, one should have a faithful friend, to whom one can confide all, and find counsel and help.
2 Kings 19:4. Cramer: We should not doubt in prayer, nor prescribe methods of action to God, but wait in patience and humility for the help of the Lord (James 5:10).—We should apply to others in our need that they may intercede for us. When a man like the Apostle Paul exhorts the believers to pray for him (Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:18-19), how much more does it become us to beg this service of love of others, and to console ourselves with the strength of the intercession of those who have intercourse of prayer with the Lord. He, however, who desires that others should pray for him ought not to have given up the habit of prayer himself. Hezekiah went first himself into the house of the Lord to pray, and then he sent to the prophet.
2 Kings 19:5. What happiness and what a blessing it is in times of distress and perplexity to have a faithful servant of God at hand, who stands firm in the storm.
2 Kings 19:6-7. Isaiah’s Answer (a) as a word of encouragement (2 Kings 19:6), (b) as a word of promising and threatening (2 Kings 19:7). The prophet calls the emissaries of the Assyrian king: “servants” [see Exeg. on the verse], a contemptuous name, because they had blasphemed the God of Israel. It is not manly to assume airs of superiority and to pretend to scorn the word of God, but it is boyish. However high in rank a man may be, if he speaks and acts as these men did he is a low fellow (Psalms 37:12-13).
2 Kings 19:7. God punishes those who have no fear of Him by making them fear men, and flee at the mere rumor of a danger which is not yet at hand. Pray God, therefore, that He may give thee the right spirit, not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).—We think that danger threatens the Kingdom of God and Christianity when people write and declaim against it, but fear not: all these adversaries have perished like Herod who sought the young child’s life (Matthew 2:20), and only forfeited their own salvation, for “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken” (Matthew 21:44).—Osiander: God has many means whereby he can bring the rage of His adversaries to naught.—Hall: Proud and self-confident men of the world think little of the future consequences, and even while they are spinning their plots they come to shame.
2 Kings 19:8-19. The two Contrasted Kings, Sennacherib and Hezekiah—the Godless and the Just. (a) Sennacherib, who sees himself in peril and obliged to retreat by the approach of Tirhakah, does not on that account become more modest or more humble, but only more obstinate and arrogant. That is the way with godless and depraved men. In distress and peril, instead of bending their will and yielding to the will of God, they only become more stubborn, insolent, and assuming. (Osiander: The less ground the impious have to hope for victory over the righteous, the more cruel do they attempt to be.) Hezekiah, on the contrary, who was in unprecedented trouble and peril, was thereby drawn into more earnest prayer. He humbled himself under the hand of God, and sought refuge in the Lord alone. He went into the house of God and poured out his soul in prayer, Psalms 5:5-7. (Calw. Bibel: Learn from this to pray earnestly and faithfully, when thou art in distress; also learn from this what is the best weapon in war, and when the fatherland is in the dangers of battle.) (b) Sennacherib rejects faith in the God of Israel as folly, and boasts that all the gods of the heathen were powerless before him. He lives without God in the world and knows no God but himself. But it is the fool who hath said in his heart: “There is no God” (Psalms 14:1). He asks: “Where is?” &c., but where is now Sennacherib who talked so proudly? (Berl. Bib.) He is gone like chaff before the wind, for the way of the godless shall perish (Psalms 1:4; Psalms 1:6; Psalms 35:5; Zephaniah 2:2). But Hezekiah will not let himself be drawn away from his God. His faith becomes only so much warmer and deeper. He prays and seeks not his own honor, but that of the Lord in whom he puts his confidence (Psalms 1:3). The greater the cross the greater the faith. The palm grows under weight. Sweetness flows from the grape when it is well trodden (Psalms 1:1-2).
2 Kings 19:14-19. Hezekiah’s Prayer. (a) The appeal for hearing (2 Kings 19:15-16); (b) the Confession (2 Kings 19:17-18); (c) the request (2 Kings 19:19) (see Histor. § 6).—Distress and misfortune are the school in which a man learns to pray aright. How many a one repeats prayers every day and yet never prays aright. Every one knows from his own experience that he has never talked so directly with God as in the time of need.—Starke: Earthly kings ought not to be ashamed to pray, but rather go before others with a good example.—Arndt: Who is a true man? He who can pray, and who trusts in God.
2 Kings 19:15. Under the old covenant God dwelt above the cherubim of the ark; under the new one, He dwells in Christ amongst us, therefore He demands to be addressed by us as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Kings 19:16. “He that planted the ear,” &c. (Psalms 94:9). Though men do not hear or see, He hears and sees all, even that which is said and done in secret (Psalms 139:1 sq.). It often seems as if He did not see or hear, but he will some time bring to light what was done in darkness, and will make known the secret counsel of the heart. We must give an account of every vain word which we have spoken.
2 Kings 19:17-18. Gods which are the work of man’s hands, or the invention of man’s brain, can be thrown into the fire and destroyed. They are good for nothing more, but the Holy, Living God cannot be thus done away with or destroyed. He is himself a consuming fire which shall consume all the adversaries (Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 12:29).
2 Kings 19:19. When we pray to God for relief from distress, or for anything else which we earnestly desire, we must not have our own honor, or fortune, or prosperity altogether or principally at heart, but we must try to bring it about that, by the fulfilment of our prayer, God’s name may be glorified and hallowed. Therefore this petition stands first in the Lord’s Prayer.
2 Kings 19:21-34. Isaiah’s Prophecy (a) against Sennacherib, 2 Kings 19:21-28; (b) on behalf of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 19:29-34.
2 Kings 19:21. There is no more fitting punishment for a proud and arrogant man, than to be laughed at and derided without being able to take revenge. The derision of the daughter, Zion, at the blasphemous boaster, Sennacherib, is not due to sinful malice; it is rather a joyful recognition and a praise of the power and faithfulness of God, who reigns in heaven and laughs at those who scoff at him (Psalms 2:4; Psalms 37:12-13).
2 Kings 19:22. When sinful man, who is dust and ashes, ascribes to himself that which he can only do by God’s help, or which God alone can do, that is a denial and an insult of God.
2 Kings 19:23. Here we see the mode of thought and of speech of all the proud. All this have I done by my wisdom and courage and skill. The Apostle, who had labored more than any other, responds to them all: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10).—Cramer: When we remember that the affair is not ours but God’s, then we see that the enemies are not ours but God’s. When we see the pride and arrogance of our enemies, then we may look for their fall very soon (Proverbs 16:18).
2 Kings 19:25. If no hair of our heads can fall without the will of God, how much less can a land or a city perish unless He has so ordained it? Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in His good time (1 Peter 5:6).
2 Kings 19:26. “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (Psalms 33:8), for they are like the grass of the field before Him; He causes the wind to blow upon them and they are gone.
2 Kings 19:27-28. Be not deceived by the victory and good fortune of the enemies of the kingdom of God, to think that God is with them. He knows their going out and their coming in, their rage and their arrogance. They are in His hand and He uses them without their knowledge for His own purposes. They cannot take a step beyond the limits which He has set for them. When they have done what He intended them to do, He puts His bridle in their mouths and leads them back by the way by which they came. (As Sennacherib came to Jerusalem, so came Napoleon to Moscow. Then the Lord called to him: “So far and no farther!” and led him back by the way by which he came.) Isaiah 14:5-6; Isaiah 10:12-15.
2 Kings 19:29. All sowing and reaping should be to us a sign of what God does for us and what we ought to do for Him (Galatians 6:7-9; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 8:7; James 3:18; Sir 7:3; Ecclesiastes 11:4; Ecclesiastes 11:6). God does not always give full harvests in order that we may learn to be satisfied with little, and may not forget that His blessing is not tied to our labor, but that He gives it where and when He will.
2 Kings 19:30-31. Starke: In the midst of all calamities God preserves a faithful remnant for Himself which shall praise and spread abroad His name (Psalms 46:3-5; Psalms 22:30).—The Same: The Church of Christ is invincible. However much it may be oppressed at times, yet God preserves a secret seed for Himself (Matthew 16:18; 1 Kings 19:18).—The deliverance goes forth from Zion (Isaiah 2:2-3); salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22).—The saved form the holy seed (Isaiah 6:13), which takes root below and bears fruit above. The ground in which they take root and stand firm is Christ (Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7). The fruit which they bear is love, joy, peace, &c. (Galatians 5:22). They never perish. They continue from generation to generation. However small their number, and however fiercely the world may rage against them, they nevertheless endure, for the Lord is their confidence, His truth is their shield (Psalms 91:4). Therefore, “Fear not, little flock,” &c. (Luke 12:32).
2 Kings 19:32-34. Jerusalem, the earthly City of God, a Type of the Eternal City, the Church of Christ. If God protected the former so that no arrow could come into it, how much more will He protect the latter, break in pieces the bows of its enemies, and burn their chariots in fire. Cf. Psalms 46:0, and Luther’s hymn: “Ein’ feste Burg,” &c.
2 Kings 19:35-37. Sennacherib’s Fall. (a) A miracle of the saving power and faithfulness of God; (b) a terrible judgment of the Holy and Just God (see Histor. § 9).—Cf. Psalms 46, 75, , 76. Von Gerlach: When such times recur, similar psalms and hymns are given to the Church, as in 1530 the hymn: “Ein, feste Burg ist unser Gott,” which is founded on Psalms 46:0, was composed. (Compare the noble hymn of Joh. Heermann: “Herr, unser Gott, lass nicht zu Schanden werden.”)—God’s judgments are often delayed for a long time, but then they come all the more suddenly and mightily (Psalms 73:19). A single night may change the whole face of the matter. Where is now the boaster? Where is the multitude of his chariots? Luke 12:20.—Sennacherib’s calamity and his retreat proclaim to all the world that God resisteth the proud, and they are a testimony to the truth of 1 Samuel 2:6-10.—He who had smitten whole kingdoms and peoples fell under the blows of his own sons. “With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).—Osiander: When God has sufficiently chastised His Church, He throws the rod of His wrath into the fire, Isaiah 33:1.
2 Kings 18:4; 2 Kings 18:4.—[ויקרא is singular, but with the indefinite subject, equivalent to an English indefinite plural.
2 Kings 18:4; 2 Kings 18:4.—[נחשׁתן, the thing of brass.
2 Kings 18:13; 2 Kings 18:13.—[ויתפשׂם;—The masculine suffix is used (though the feminine would be correct) as the more general. and universal. This is not rare. Cf. Genesis 31:9; Amos 3:2; Jeremiah 9:19; 2 Samuel 20:3; Ew. § 184, c.—In the classical passages (“Prose of the priests”) such irregularities do not occur, but in the prose of less cultivated writers (laymen), in popular poetry, and in the later language, they are frequent. See 2 Kings 18:16, and 2 Kings 19:11 (Böttcher, § 877, 3).
2 Kings 18:16; 2 Kings 18:16.—[האמנות:—Elsewhere we find מְזוּזוֹת for door-posts. Bähr says that the words are synonymous, but Thenius’ explanation is better. He thinks that האמנות refers, not only to the door-posts, but also the door-frame, sill, and lintel; i.e., all which gives stability, strength, and shape, (אמן), to the door-opening.—On the suffix in ויתנם, see Gramm. note 3, above.—The patach in קצַּץ is due to the guttural which follows. Cf. 2 Kings 21:3 : אִבַּד חזקיה (Böttcher, § 378. 1.)—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 18:29; 2 Kings 18:29.—Instead of מִיָּדוֹ, which is wanting in the text of Isaiah, we must read, with all the old versions, מִיָּדִי.—Bähr.
2 Kings 18:30; 2 Kings 18:30.—[The אֶת before הָעִיר is wanting in Isaiah 36:15. It is important as bearing on the question whether אֶת ever stands with a proper nominative. Ewald admits that, if the אֶת in this place were properly in the text, we should have one instance. He adopts the reading in Isaiah, erases the אֶת, and says that this particle “never become unfaithful to its primary force so far as to designate a simple nominative” (Lehrb. § 277, d, note 2). Böttcher (§ 516. β) affirms that אֶת occurs with the nominative. Cf. Genesis 9:28; Deuteronomy 20:8; 2 Samuel 21:22; Jeremiah 36:22. These are cases where it occurs with the passive. It is used with the active, also, in the sense of “self,” or “even,” or “very” (this very one). Cf. 2Ki 6:5; 2 Kings 8:28, Gramm. notes. The instances are certainly sufficiently strong to support the reading with אֶת which our text offers us:=“This very city,” or, “This city here.”
2 Kings 19:3; 2 Kings 19:3.—[מַשְׁבֵר: orificium uteri.
2 Kings 19:11; 2 Kings 19:11.—[On the suffix in להחרימם, see Gramm. note on 2 Kings 18:13 (note 3, above).
2 Kings 19:15; 2 Kings 19:15.—[In Isaiah we find שָׁלַח instead of שְׁלָחוֹ. “The suffix refers to דברי as a singular object,=the message” (Thenius), so also Ewald and Keil.
2 Kings 19:23; 2 Kings 19:23.—[I prefer the chetib. Bähr adopts the keri (see Exeg. on the verse). However, as he says, the sense is the same. The idiom in the chetib is similar to the one by which it is rendered in the translation.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 19:25; 2 Kings 19:25.—לַהשׁוֹת is shortened from the keri לְהַשְׁאוֹת, which is found in Isaiah 37:2.—Bähr.
2 Kings 19:27; 2 Kings 19:27.—[It is impossible to reproduce in English the pregnant brevity of this line. Whether thou abidest at home (abstainest from any interference with other nations), or goest forth (with plans of attack and conquest), or returnest (victorious), all takes place under my cognizance (by my ordinance, and under my permission). It is folly, therefore, for thee to boast of thy deeds, as against me; it is false for thee to cite my approval; and I will punish thine arrogance which rages against my controlling hand, and only claims my approval to serve its own purpose.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 19:31; 2 Kings 19:31.—The words “of Hosts” are furnished by the keri, which inserts here the word: צְבָאוֹת, as in Isaiah 37:32; Isaiah 9:6.—Bähr.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
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