JERUSALEM SUPERNATURALLY DELIVERED
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2Ki . Sent to the prophet Isaiah—The prophet, in that Jewish age, was regarded as the messenger and representative of Jehovah. While the king was entrusted to witness of the Royalty and Majesty of God, the prophet was recognized as the oracle of Divine Wisdom and Truth. Here was a crisis of eminent peril to the nation, in which the people and the Name of Jehovah were alike contemptuously menaced. It was a moment for the Word of God to come forth; so Isaiah was sought by the king.
2Ki . And Isaiah said unto them, Be not afraid—Terror met by cheerfulness; deliverance assured to Judah, destruction threatened to Assyria. "The servants of the king of Assyria" are called contemptuously נַעֲרֵי מֶלֶךְ, "the young men of the king," i.e., his boastful and blasphemous generals. The literal fulfilment of these predictions proves so keen a difficulty to modern naturalism (as opposed to the supernatural) that critics are intent on discrediting these 2Ki 19:6-7 as an interpolation. But "the Word of the Lord endureth for ever."
2Ki . He heard of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia—This was the "rumour" (2Ki 19:7). The name of Tirhakah. king of Upper Egypt, a monarch of mighty conquests, lingers still in the inscriptions in the Egyptian temple of Medinet Abon. Apprehending the arrival of this Egyptian warrior, the Assyrian king sent Hezekiah a terrifying letter urging immediate surrender.
2Ki . The children of Eden in Thelasar—Not the Eden of Amos (2Ki 1:5), situate amid the beauties of Lebanon, but the Assyrian Eden mentioned by Ezekiel (Eze 27:33).
2Ki . Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord—This act has been charmingly. described by Delitsch as "a prayer without words, a prayer in action, which then passes into a spoken prayer."
2Ki . Then Isaiah sent to Hezekiah—While the king prayed, the prophet was receiving the answer. The simultaneousness of prayer and answer is emphasized. The message from God through Isaiah is a rhetorical outpouring of scorn upon the Assyrian king's pretensions, followed by direct and withering denunciations, which are sealed by minute prophecies, whose fulfilment should indicate to Hezekiah that the Lord Himself would effect the boastful blasphemer's overthrow. "The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this" (2Ki 19:31).
2Ki . This shall be a sign unto thee—An address to Hezekiah. The sign was that for two years the peaceful labours of husbandry would be impracticable in consequence of the enemy's presence near at hand but that agriculture would proceed in quiet in the third year, labour being crowned with bounty.
2Ki . Nor come before it with shield—Perhaps an assault, advancing with shield held in front; or, more probably, Not occupy any position before the city defended by a fence or breastworks. None of the processes of seige or war should be permitted against Jerusalem. Rawlinson's readings of the Assyrian slabs discovers extended and minute records of this expedition of Sennacherib, graphically reproducing the Scripture story of events. No account of the catastrophe is there given; the Assyrians only recounted their victories.
2Ki . That night the angel of the Lord went out, &c.—Two years interposed, during which the invasion of the land by Sennacherib went forward. "That night" therefore, refers to the ultimate concentration of the Assyrian army upon Jerusalem, with the intention of commencing the seige next day. "The angel of the Lord," even as "the destroying angel" (Exo 12:23), went forth against the first born of Egypt; and 185,000 perished. How was this effected? By the scorching simoom, which still destroys entire caravans? or, as Josephus records (Antiq. x. i. 5), τοῦ θεοῦ λοιμικὴν ἐνσκὴψαντος αύτοῦ τῷ στρατῷ νόσον? "God had sent a pestilential distemper upon his army."
2Ki . Sennacherib slain—His reverses in battle rendered him furious; his rage and tyranny grew intolerable. Judgment fell upon him from the hands of his own sons. And a third son, Esarhaddon, came to the Assyrian throne. Berosus informs as that this Asordanus was first viceroy of Babylon, and afterwards eight years king of Assyria.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2Ki
THE RESOURCES OF THE GOOD MAN IN TIME OF TROUBLE
THIS was a day of sore trouble to Hezekiah. The veteran hosts of Sennacherib, flushed with victory, invested Jerusalem, and threatened it with destruction. The expected help from Egypt was not forthcoming. The defensive resources of Hezekiah were circumscribed, and it seemed hopeless to offer resistance. He had but one refuge—a refuge the proud Assyrian despised: but it proved all-sufficient in the day of his calamity. The whole chapter is a striking illustration of the resources of the good man in time of trouble.
I. He seeks counsel from those who are most competent to advise him. (2Ki ). It is not every prince who has an Isaiah at his elbow to advise in difficulty and comfort in distress. God's way of helping in trouble is often in directing us to the best human counsellors.
1. The good man, like Hezekiah, recognizes the need of Divine intervention (2Ki ). While the supercilious Assyrian trusted in his arms, Hezekiah trusted in his God. There are times when we are reduced to such straits that none but God can help us. No one sees these times with a keener eye than the good man. His common sense teaches him to exhaust all natural, human means, and not to stand wringing his hands in despair, or folding his arms in indifference; but he is aware a point is reached where all he can do is to trust: God must do the rest. It is wise to recognize this. It honours God and saves us from presumption.
2. The good man, like Hezekiah, recognizes the utility and power of prayer by a true servant of Jehovah. "Wherefore lift up thy prayer, &c." (2Ki ). The heritage of God's people is a heritage of prayers. It is a strength to us in trouble to know that our own prayers are reinforced and supplemented by the prayers of others. Every praying agency we can set in operation is a positive gain. Even the prayerless are benefited by the supplications of praying souls on their behalf. We may be receiving blessings to-day in answer to the anxious prayers of parents who are no longer with us.
3. The good man, like Hezekiah, is encouraged with the promise of Divine help (2Ki ). The message of Isaiah must have convinced the king of the wisdom of the course he adopted in seeking the advice and help of the prophet. Jehovah will punish the insolence of the blasphemous Assyrian, and deliver the distressed monarch from his fangs. How tenaciously we cling to the most indefinite promise of help when we are in trouble; it is the silvery rift in the cloud, the distant gleam of the squadrons rapidly hurrying to our relief. But with what calm confidence should we rest on the slightest word of the living God!
II. He is reminded of the nearness and reality of his peril (2Ki ). There are plenty of real dangers in life without unduly harassing ourselves with imaginary ones. If Hezekiah, with the powerful Assyrian forces encircling his only stronghold, had been tempted to regard the peril as but trifling, he would be undeceived when he received the fierce, war-breathing message of Sennacherib. The wildest threats of Rabshakeh were reiterated, and Jehovah again insulted and blasphemed. Well did Hezekiah know the terrible might of the Assyrian arms; and yet, while he trembled, he was undismayed. It is fanaticism to treat danger with indifference. It is to court defeat and ruin.
III. He resorts to God in earnest prayer (2Ki ). The prayer is short, but it is sublime in its style and comprehensive in its range, and burns throughout with incandescent earnestness. Its salient features are worthy of study. It is a model prayer for a distressed soul.
(1) The petitioner acknowledges the supreme Rulership of Jehovah (2Ki ).
(2) He traces the ruin of nations to their idolatry (2Ki ).
(3) He calls upon Jehovah to vindicate His supreme Lordship by delivering him from the threatened peril (2Ki ). Prayer is the grand refuge of the distressed; it is the passionate outcry of conscious need. The more vividly we realise our peril, the more sincere and earnest will be our prayer. In prayer, says Bunyan, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.
IV. He is assured of a signal answer to his prayer (2Ki ). If there were no answer, it would still be our duty to pray, though without an answer we should be in danger of becoming simply mechanical in our prayers. As by a letter Hezekiah was plunged into deepest grief, so by a letter of a different import shall his heart be made glad. This letter was written in the gorgeous imagery familiar to the gifted Isaiah. It is true a draught of water is as sweet to the thirsty, whether drank from a common earthenware vessel, or from a richly chased goblet; still, the precious fluid may be found in the one vessel as in the other. In this Divinely inspired answer Sennacherib is rebuked for his proud boasting, and his humiliation and retreat predicted; a pledge is given that Judah shall still flourish in peace and prosperity; a solemn announcement is made that Senuacherib shall utterly fail in carrying out his boasted threats, and Jehovah promises himself to defend and deliver the beleagured city. How great is the condescension of our God, in not only hearing prayer, but in assuring the suppliant of an answer—an answer adequate to meet the case, turning fear into confidence, humiliation into triumph, sorrow into joy.
V. He is privileged to witness a great and miraculous deliverance (2Ki ). One hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians smitten in one night, and Sennacherib murdered by his own sons! Surely Judah is sufficiently avenged, its insults and suffering atoned, and the word of the blasphemed Jehovah solemnly vindicated. It is probable that the supernatural agent of Divine vengeance made use of a deadly plague or pestilence in the destruction of the Assyrian soldiers. Dr. Kitto contends that a simoom, or hot pestilential wind, was the destroying agent. Whatever the means used, the awful fact that so many perished cannot be explained away. Herodotus refers to it in his history, though in a legendary form, when he relates:—"As the two armies (Egyptian and Assyrian) lay opposite one another, there came in the night a multitude of field mice, which devoured all the quivers and bowstrings of the Assyrians, and ate the thongs by which they managed their shields. Next morning they commenced their flight, and great multitudes fell, as they had no arms with which to defend themselves." Jehovah is not restricted to any one method in punishing his enemies.
1. Prayer is the best refuge of the distressed.
2. National calamities give anxiety to the true-hearted monaroh.
3. Sincere prayer is never offered in vain.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2Ki . O the noble piety of Hezekiah! Notwithstanding all the straits of the siege and the danger of so powerful an enemy, I find not the garments of this good king any otherwise than whole and unchanged; but now, so soon as blasphemy is uttered against the majesty of his God, though by a pagan dog, his clothes are torn and turned into sackcloth. There can be no better argument of an upright heart than to be more sensible of the indignities offered to God than of our own dangers. The more we see God's name profaned, the more shall we, if we be truly religious, love and honour it.—Bp. Hall.
2Ki ; 2Ki 19:20-34. Isaiah a sublime example of a great prophet.
1. Was himself unmoved and confident while king and court were perplexed and distressed.
2. His influence and power were fully recognized in the depth of the national crisis.
3. Was familiar with the intentions of Jehovah, and rejoiced in vindicating His character.
4. His predictions were couched in terms of inimitable grace and dignity.
2Ki . A sorrowful embassy.
1. Its external appearance was symbolic of the desperate straits of the nation and its leaders.
2. It was sent to the only man who seemed able to advise in the emergency.
3. It returned with a message that inspired confidence and hope.
2Ki . Pray to thine utmost, strive and strain, tug hard and bestir thee all that may be. Prayer is a laborious exercise; and as a man that would be good at lifting must set his sides and shoulders to work, he must also often use himself to lifting, so here. This gets a dexterity, a handiness to the work.—Trapp.
2Ki . The arrogance of power.
1. Is fed by military successes.
2. Is exasperated by resistance.
3. Is imperious and blustering in its demands.
4. Refuses to acknowledge any power superior to itself.
2Ki . The two contrasted kings: Sennacherib and Hezekiah—the godless and the just.
I. Sennacherib, who sees himself in peril and obliged to retreat by the approach of Tirhakah, does not on that account become more modest and humble, but only more obstinate and arrogant. This 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. 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.
II. 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. He asks, "Where is the God of Hamath?" &c. But where is now Sennacherib, who talked so proudly? He is gone like chaff before the wind, for the way of the godless shall perish. 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 honour, but that of the Lord, in whom he puts his confidence. The greater the cross, the greater the faith. The palm grows under weight. Sweetness flows from the grape when it is well trodden.—Lange.
2Ki . A king in trouble. It is evident that Sennacherib did not desire to make peace with Hezekiah. The destruction of Jerusalem would have been of great advantage to the Assyrians; to have left that strong city unsubdued behind them as they advanced towards Egypt would have been impolitic and unsafe. So Sennacherib determined to destroy it, and sent a letter full of boastful arrogance, threats, blasphemy, false insinuations, and insults to its king.
I. Hezekiah's trouble.
1. Kings cannot escape the scorching sparks of trouble that fly in all directions from the burning wheels of life. Palatial walls are often no barrier, and perfumed chambers are no relief. Trouble, like death, enters all dwellings. The higher the station, the greater the liability to woe. Storms howl on mountain tops when sunshine gilds the plain. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." "The lofty pine the great wind often rives."
2. Neither does piety prevent trouble. Hezekiah had manifested the most ardent zeal for the worship of Jehovah. He walked before God in truth and righteousness. And yet this trouble fell upon him. Trouble is not an absolute evil. If it were, the pious would escape it. It is an angel in dishabille stooping to serve us. "Celestial benedictions often assume dark disguises." Trouble is a divine factor in human life. "Divine diet," as an old writer phrases it, is as necessary for moral growth and strength as daily food is for our physical natures. Trouble is often a proof of God's interest in us. The best need discipline. The pious are often more benefited by trouble than by joy.
3. Trouble, too, may arise, not from our own wrong-doings, but from the wrong-doings of others. Sennacherib's lawless ambitions then troubled the whole earth. God uses evil men to discipline his saints. Our troubles are shaped by God. He controls them, though they appear wild and formless. Men rage like a storm, but we may be
"Assured that He, who from the tempest's neck
Hath loosed his grasp, still holds it at His beck;
And with a pulse too deep for mortal sense,
The secret pulse of His omnipotence,
That beats through every motion of the storm,
Can check destruction in its wildest form."
The hand that holds these sharp threshing instruments, these pruning knives, these fashioning chisels, is a firm one, and guided by infinite wisdom. God knew what Hezekiah needed. God used Sennacherib to discipline him.
4. Great troubles may be conveyed to us by insignificant means. A letter only was received, and yet what a universe of woe there was in it. Only a letter! But it has crushed a noble spirit, broken a mother's heart, cast a man upon the earth writhing in unutterable anguish, blotted out his life's sun, and driven him forth an exile to wander over a dark and desolate waste for ever. Only a letter! But who can tell what troubles the reception of a letter may convey? Postmen often carry social torpedoes in their bags. But, further, what was the trouble which now distressed Hezekiah?
1. The threatened loss of his kingdom. Men cling to their possessions. They have an instinct to retain as well as gain. Loss is always painful. To lose his kingdom was to lose his all.
2. The threatened loss of his position. None like to be compelled to abdicate, even if his throne be only the chief seat in the synagogue, the vestry hall, the market-place, or the workshop. Men grip high places tenaciously. Dread of social humiliation will blacken life's fairest pictures. Hezekiah saw before him the loss of all his greatness and honour.
3. Threatened captivity or death. To grace a conqueror's triumph, to pine away in a dungeon, or to endure a cruel death, would most probably be his lot if he were not delivered from his powerful foe. Little mercy was shown to the conquered in those days. A dark doom stared him in the face. That which men hold most dear—liberty and life—were imperilled.
4. Possible demolition of the royal city. Imperial cities have ever been dear to monarchs. The most heartless have wept over their destruction. Jerusalem was dear to every Jew. It was especially so to its kings. Hezekiah had fortified and beautified it. Its threatened destruction would fill him with dismay.
5. The ruin and exile of his people. Hezekiah felt deeply for his people's welfare. Under his reign they had enjoyed much peace and prosperity. That they should be exposed to the brutalities of an invading host, their houses and vineyards destroyed, and themselves ultimately carried away captive into a strange land, would overwhelm him with grief. Such a Calamity seemed nigh.
6. The dishonour of Jehovah. Sennacherib had insulted God, and Hezekiah's pious heart burned with a holy indignation. If Jerusalem were taken, God's holy and beautiful house would be profaned, His glory tarnished, and His worship' which had been lately restored, obliterated from the earth. These were the bitter elements thrown into his chalice of grief. With a heavy heart he wended his way to the house of God, taking the letter with him.
II. Hezekiah's refuge.—All men have not a Divine refuge in trouble. The irreligious cannot rush into the sheltering arms of God. If earthly refuge fails, they are like a ship caught in the tempest without anchor or haven; a warrior exposed to his enemies without shield or fortress; a traveller under the pelting storm without covert or home. Earthly refuges are insufficient in times of extreme peril. Life's insecurities throw us on God. The pious have an advantage over the godless in hours of trial: they can use every means of protection and help which the irreligious have, and then shelter themselves in God. Hezekiah had availed himself of every earthly defence. He had done all that a wise monarch could do to defend his city, and after this, he committed his cause to God. Fanaticism despises means, but true faith uses them, and then soars above them to rest in omnipotence.
1. Hezekiah sought God in his refuge in the Temple. He went there because, in that holy place, God more particularly manifested Himself. Special promises were given to those who prayed within its sacred precincts. Hezekiah had often beheld the Divine glory there. It was his accustomed place of worship. His trouble had not driven him there, as trouble often drives one to the sauctuary. He went there because he believed that he would find God most easily in that place. Helpful memories often crowd upon us in places where we have often prayed, and bear us up, as upon eagles' wings, into the Divine presence. Sacred places are often the gale of heaven to the troubled spirit. Men, then, strive to find the quickest way to the sympathetic heart of God.
2. Hezekiah would set a good example to the nation. He would lead his people to seek God in that day of trouble. Kings have great influence. Many follow them either to the temples of vice, or to the temples of religion. A king's example is often more potent than a Divine command.
3. He would publicly manifest his confidence in God's power to protect and save. His faith found expression in an act which honoured God and quickened his confidence in Him. It was not under the paralysis of despair, nor from an ostentatious display of formal piety, but from the promptings of a sincere trust in the living God, that Hezekiah "went up into the House of the Lord." Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord. This was a most significant act—"a prayer in action." It probably was done in solemn silence, words afterwards rising to his lips. He would not reply to this letter, but he would leave it with God to answer it. Many letters might better be left with God than answered. He wished to show how completely he could place his trouble before God. It is not every trouble that can be spread before God. Troubles that come from our follies, or that are the sequences of our sins, and that are the result of our opposition to the will of God, cannot be fully spread "before the Lord." Some reserve is necessary, and this is often fatal to our success in prayer. Hezekiah had nothing to hide: he placed himself and his trouble entirely in the hands of God. This was his refuge, and his deliverance was sure.
1. To live so as to have those troubles only which come by Divine appointment.
2. In the greatest of these troubles never to despair of Divine help, but to expect it.
3. To be pious in prosperity, that when adversity comes we may have God for our refuge.—Hom. Quarterly.
—The devout spirit of this prayer, the recognition of the Divine Being in the plenitude of His Majesty—so strikingly contrasted with the fancy of the Assyrians as to His merely local power; his acknowledgment of the conquests obtained over other lauds, and of the destruction of their wooden idols, which, according to the Assyrian practice, were committed to the flames, because their tutelary deities were no gods; and the object for which he supplicated the Divine interposition, that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that the Lord was the only God—this was an attitude worthy to be assumed by a pious theocratic king of the chosen people.—Jamieson.
2Ki . A pathetic spectacle.
1. A monarch pleading for a nation in distress (2Ki ).
2. Jehovah reminded of His close relationship to His covenant people (2Ki ).
3. A picture of the havoc wrought in a nation by its idolatry (2Ki ).
4. A touching appeal to Jehovah to vindicate His character (2Ki ).
—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. Who is a true man? He who can pray, and who trusts in God.—Lange.
2Ki . A king in prayer. Prayers have their histories. Their ancestry is trouble, struggle with circumstances, and helplessness. They mark epochs in our lives. They are born in those hours which leave an indelible impression upon us. The sublimest strains which men have uttered have been towards God in moments of agony. A great man's prayers in the anguish of trial lay bare the inner heart of humanity, and should be treasured up as a revelation. "Misery sees miracles." Prayer is a great relief to the troubled heart. To utter our distress is to relieve it. To truly cast it upon God in prayer, is to remove it. Hezekiah sought relief in his trouble in prayer.
I. Hezekiah prayed to Jehovah as the God of his nation. O Lord God of Israel.
1. The nation bore the name of one of its progenitors, that "as a prince had prevailed with God." The name Israel had been more generally applied to the northern kingdom of Samaria, which had already been overthrown; but Hezekiah claims it for the remnant that was left. Did he wish to remind himself of Jacob's power in prayer when he uttered that name? or of God's special interest in his nation? Perhaps both. What God has been to our forefathers, our churches, our nation in times of trouble, He will be to us amid the perils of our day. History is a handmaid in the service of faith.
2. His nation was Jehovah's peculiar dwelling-place—"which dwellest between the cherubims." The Shekinah—the holy light—as a symbol of the Divine presence, ever shone forth from between those weird and colossal figures which Solomon had carved and placed on either side of the mercy-seat. There might be seen a constant manifestation of the presence of God. But Hezekiah's reference to this peculiar Divine manifestation—using words which were probably common among the Jews—was to suggest that as God dwelt among them He would protect His own dwelling-place. God would surely save His chosen habitation. This is true, God will protect where He dwells. While He remains, there is perfect safety. When He departs there is ruin.
(1). God dwelling in a nation saves it. God now manifests Himself, not by a material brightness, but by righteousness, purity, and truth.
(2). God dwelling in a man saves him. Every Christian is a temple of God. The true cherubim and shekinah are in the soul.
(3). God dwelling in a church saves it. No enemies can overthrow a church that has the Divine glory shining in the midst of it.
(4). We can appeal to the manifestations of the Divine presence to increase our confidence in God in times of danger.
II. Hezekiah recognizes, in his prayer, the sole supremacy of Jehovah. "Thou art the God," &c.
1. Hezekiah asserted that Jehovah was the only true God. Polytheism was a foolish delusion. It probably arose from men's innate propensity to materialize spiritual things, from the worship of natural objects as the manifestation of the Divine power, from the sinful and insatiate imagination of men's hearts, from the deification of departed heroes, or from the attempt to give visible shape to applauded virtues. But there can be but one infinite and eternal God. He may reveal Himself in many ways—in flaming fire, in human forms, in religious truth, in nature, in Christ, in the Spirit—He is one only—infinite, eternal, and incomprehensible—God alone. None can be associated with Him. None can be placed in comparison with Him. All other gods are "no gods." False and dead images, they cannot save themselves from destruction. But Jehovah, the true and living God, could save.
2. That He exercised supreme control over all the kingdoms of the earth. He was not only the God of Israel, but of all nations. Where His power was not acknowledged it was supreme. Where He was not worshipped He reigned, King of all kings, and Lord of all Lords. Hezekiah rested upon God's sovereignty, though it was then obscured. It is often obscured. Evil powers seem triumphant Anarchy reigns. "High uproar lords it wide." But God's order manifests itself. His purposes unfold themselves. He overrules all dynasties, overthrowing one kingdom and setting up another, curbing the restless might of men, not destroying human freedom, but controlling it. Hezekiah's faith grasped the truth that no earthly power could exist without the permission or surveillance of God. Assyria, as well as Judah, belonged to God.
III. He appealed to Jehovah as the Maker of heaven and earth. Heaven and earth to the Jewish mind included all things. Here was an assertion of universal creatorship. In this sublime idea of God is involved:—
1. That He is eternal. He existed before all things; delighting in the glory of His own nature before the worlds were made, no material form or spiritual existence sharing that eternity with Him.
2. That He is separate from His works. The universe is not He, as the ancient pantheists taught, and as some teach now. He is immanent in all His creatures, but independent of them. The Maker is not His work. God transcends all beings and worlds.
3. That He is omnipotent. He who made the universe must be almighty. Its greatness is inconceivable, and the power that produced it must be infinite.
4. That He has an absolute right to control all things. The Maker has indefeasible rights in his productions. This is admitted of men.
5. That He has all things under His direct control. As He has created all forces, all laws, all agencies, all worlds, all angels, all men, He has them under His immediate direction, and can turn them whithersoever He will. This conception of God afforded solid ground for Hezekiah's faith. Before the greatness of Jehovah the might of Hezekiah's enemies sank into nothingness. Large conceptions of God will ever give large expectations in prayer. The more we widen our views of God, the more confidence we shall have in Him in trouble.
IV. Hezekiah prayed with great earnestness. "Lord, bow down Thine ear," &c. "Now, therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech Thee." He ardently craves the attention of God. God's knowledge is always perfect, and His interest in His troubled saints always sure; but it sometimes seems as if He heeded not. Faith needs testing. Desire must be tried. Hearing and seeing in men are the chief means of observation. The heart in its agonies ever feels the humanity of God. Heart cries to heart, deep unto deep, soul to soul. Earnestness is the living spirit in prayer. Our prayers may have order, beauty, and eloquence, but without earnestness they are vain. To desire fervently will lead invariably to ardent expressions. Cold prayers are no prayers. "I beseech Thee" is the natural cry of a praying heart. Earnestness is needed, not to lead God to observe our condition, or to create a disposition in Him to help us, but—
1. That the strength of our desires may be revealed.
2. That we may be raised from the low condition of formal devotion.
3. That we may have all the spiritual culture which the outcries of real need may impart.
4. That we may be prepared to receive Divine deliverance thankfully. Hezekiah was stirred with the most powerful emotions as he prayed. His trouble heated his soul as fire.
V. Hezekiah recognized the greatness of the deliverance which he sought. "Of a truth, Lord," &c. Other kingdoms had fallen, why not his? Only that his hope was in God. No human ingenuity or might could deliver him. No gods could protect; Jehovah alone must save. Men must be brought to see that deliverance is God's work. The soul is a besieged city. The forces of Diabolus are around Mansoul. The deliverance which it needs is great. Its Sennacherib is mighty. "Of a truth." The whole race has come under his power. We cannot estimate the greatness of our danger. "When Napoleon Buonaparte, watching the fortunes of the battle, saw the charge of our Scots Greys, at Waterloo, as, launched on his columns, they dashed like a thunderbolt into the thick of them, crushing and bearing down all before them, he exclaimed, "How terrible are these Greys!" But what mortal foe so terrible as him we have to fight—so relentless, so malignant, ever walking about seeking whom he may devour! No serpent so cunning, no lion so savage! From other enemies escape may be found; from him, none. Neither the world, nor the Church itself, offers any asylum, nor the universe, other than the hollow of God's hand, the shadow of His wings" (Guthrie). To recognize the greatness of the deliverance we need, will—
1. Deepen our sense of helplessness in ourselves.
2. Stimulate the exercise of great faith.
3. Prepare us for the manifestation of God's great delivering hand.
VI. Hezekiah associates the glory of Jehovah with the deliverance which he sought.
1. The reproaches which had been cast upon him had been cast upon God. This deliverance would be one of those great revelations of the true and only God which, in an age when power in the Deity would be more influential than righteousness or love to impress men, would exercise a most potent influence in shaping their spiritual destinies, and, perhaps, set forces at work that for centuries would operate upon men in giving them a deeper reverence for the unseen God, and thus checking their vices and preparing the way for more exalted unfoldings of His character.
2. Hezekiah's prayer prevailed. God's might was put forth; whether, as Kingsley suggests, "by a stream of poisonous vapour, such as often comes forth out of the ground during earthquakes and eruptions of burning mountains, and kills all men and animals that breathe it," or by a pestilence, or by the simoom, or by a plague of mice—according to the Egyptian legend of Herodotus—we cannot tell. But it was God's delivering arm put forth in answer to Hezekiah's faith and prayer—
(1) That his people might learn to put their trust in Him; and
(2) that all the earth might know that none could defy His power and prosper.—Hom. Quarterly.
2Ki . Jehovah, the defence of His people.
1. He vindicates His character from the wicked aspersions of His enemies.
2. He preserves His people inviolate.
3. He delivers them from distress, and restores to them prosperity and power.
4. He is unchanging in His fidelity to His covenant.
2Ki . 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 (Psa 2:4; Psa 37:12-13).—Lange.
2Ki . Impotent men! What are we in the hands of the Almighty? We purpose, He overrules; we talk of great matters, and think to do wonders, He blows upon our projects and they vanish with ourselves. He that hath set bounds to the sea hath appointed limits to the rage of the proudest enemies; yea, even the devils themselves are confined. Why boast ye yourselves, O ye tyrants, that ye can do mischief? Ye are stinted, and even within those lists is confusion.—Bp. Hall.
2Ki . 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 His enemies, and burn their chariots in fire!—Lange.
2Ki . The proud boaster humbled. I. He is smitten with dismay by the terrible evidences of a Divine avenging power (2Ki 19:35).
Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And the widows of Asshur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
II. He relinquishes in fear and disgrace his proudly-cherished enterprise (2Ki ). III. He comes to an untimely and ignominious end (2Ki 19:37).
—God's judgments are often delayed for a long time, but then they come all the more suddenly and mightily (Psa ). A single night may change the whole face of the matter. Where is now the boaster? Where is the multitude of his chariots? Sennacherib's calamity and his retreat proclaim to all the world that God resisteth the proud; and they are a testimony only to the truth of 1Sa 2:6-10. He who had smitten whole kingdoms and peoples, fell under the blows of his own sons. When God has sufficiently chastised His church, He throws the rod of His wrath into the fire (Isa 33:1).—Lange.
2Ki . Sennacherib was the last of the great Assyrian conquerors. No Assyrian host again ever crossed the Jordan. Within a few years from that time, the Assyrian power suddenly vanished from the earth. The effect of the event must have been immense, in proportion to the strain of expectation and apprehension that had preceded it. Isaiah staked upon his prophetic word the existence of his country, his own and his people's faith in God. So literally had that word been fulfilled that he was himself, in after times, regarded as the instrument of the deliverance. There is no direct expression of his triumph at the moment, but it is possible we have his hymn of thanksgiving, when he afterwards heard of the world-renowned murder which struck down the mighty king in the temple at Nineveh. The earth again breathes freely. The sacred cedar-grove feels itself once more secure. The world of shades, the sepulchre of kings, prepares to receive its new inmate (Isaiah 14.) If there is any doubt as to the prophet's utterance, there is none as to the burst of national thanksgiving, as incorporated in the Book of Psalms (Psalms 46, 76). The weapons of the great army, such as we see them in the Assyrian monuments—the mighty bow and its lightning arrows, the serried shields—were shattered to pieces. The long array of dead horses; the chariots, now useless, left to be burnt; the trophies carried off from the dead, all rise to view in the recollection of that night. The proud have slept their sleep, and the mighty soldiers fling out their hands in vain. The arms have fallen from their grasp. The neigh of the charger, the rattle of the chariot, are alike hushed in the sleep of death. The wild uproar is over, the whole world is silent, and in that awful stillness the Israelites descend from the heights of Jerusalem, like their ancestors to the shores of the Red Sea, to see the desolation that had been wrought on the earth. As then, they carried away the spoils as trophies. The towers of Jerusalem were brilliant with the shields of the dead. The fame of the fall of Sennacherib's host struck the surrounding nations with terror far and wide. It was like the knell of the great potentates of the world; and in their fall the God of Israel seemed to rise to a higher and yet higher exaltation. The importance of the deliverance was not confined to the country or the times of Hezekiah. 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 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 host of Sennacherib." The grandeur of the deliverance has passed into the likeness of all sudden national escapes.—Stanley.
—Thou art avenged, O God, Thou art avenged plentifully of thine enemies! Whoever strives with thee, is sure to gain nothing but loss, but shame, but death, but hell. The Assyrians are slain; Sennacherib is rewarded for his blasphemy; Jerusalem is rescued; Hezekiah rejoices; the nations wonder and tremble.—Bp. Hall.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter