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Utley's You Can Understand the Bible Utley Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 37". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ubc/ isaiah-37.html. 2021.
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 37". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compareyour subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. Isaiah 37:1-7 describes the reactions of Hezekiah to the Assyrian message in Isaiah 36:0.
B. It is uncertain if Isaiah 37:1-7 and 14-20 are two separate reactions. It seems contextually that after Isaiah 37:8-9 Sennacherib sent a second message to be delivered to Jerusalem and Isaiah 37:14-20 are Hezekiah's response to this second message, which is similar to the first one.
Possibly Hezekiah was trusting YHWH and Egypt in Isaiah 37:1-7, but after Isaiah 37:9 he had to trust YHWH alone (cf. Isaiah 37:14-20, Isaiah 37:30).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:1-4 1And when King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the LORD. 2Then he sent Eliakim who was over the household with Shebna the scribe and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz. 3They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, 'This day is a day of distress, rebuke and rejection; for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver. 4Perhaps the LORD your God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left.'“
Isaiah 37:1 “he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth” These are signs of mourning. See Special Topic: Grieving Rites.
▣ “the house of the LORD” This refers to the temple in Jerusalem. Exactly what area of the temple he entered is uncertain. Only priests and Levites had access to the sacred buildings. However, there was a special area set aside for the monarch to be as close as possible and view the activities of festival rituals.
Isaiah 37:2 “Eliakim. . .Shebna” See note at Isaiah 36:3, Isaiah 36:22.
Isaiah 37:3 Hezekiah vividly describes the situation (cf. 2 Kings 19:3).
1. NASB, NRSV , “a day of distress” (BDB 865 I)
NKJV, “a day of trouble”
NJB, “a day of suffering”
LXX, “a day of affliction”
2. NASB, NKJV, NRSV, “a day of rebuke” (BDB 407)
NJB, “a day of punishment”
LXX, “a day of reproach”
3. NASB, “a day of rejection” (BDB 611)
NKJV, “a day of blasphemy”
NRSV, NJB, “a day of disgrace”
LXX, “a day of rebuke”
4. LXX, Peshitta, “a day of anger”
5. “time for birth, but no strength to deliver”
All of these phrases refer to YHWH's actions, not Assyria's. Hezekiah knew the problem was covenant disobedience and faithlessness. Assyria was not the real problem, but YHWH's instrument of judgment against a disobedient covenant people.
Isaiah 37:4 Hezekiah is hoping that as YHWH heard the blasphemy (i.e., “reproach,” BDB 357, KB 355, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, cf. Isaiah 37:17, Isaiah 37:23, Isaiah 37:24) of Assyria's arrogant boast (cf. Isaiah 36:15, Isaiah 36:18, Isaiah 36:20), He would defend His name (i.e., Ezekiel 36:22-23).
▣ “the remnant” This term can be used in several senses depending on the context. See Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:5-7 5So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD, “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. 7Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor and return to his own land. And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.”'“
Isaiah 37:6 Notice how Isaiah responds to the messengers of Hezekiah with the very words of YHWH (cf. Isaiah 37:21)!
▣ “Do not be afraid” This statement (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) is a recurrent message from God to His leaders (cf. Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 8:12; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 54:4; Genesis 15:1; Genesis 21:17; Genesis 26:24; Genesis 46:3; Exodus 20:20; Numbers 14:9; Deuteronomy 1:21, Deuteronomy 1:29; Deuteronomy 3:2, Deuteronomy 3:22; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 20:1, Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 8:1; Joshua 10:8, Joshua 10:25; Joshua 11:6; Judges 6:23, etc.).
NASB, NJB, LXX“I will put a spirit in him” NKJV“I will send a spirit upon him” NRSV“I myself will put a spirit in him” TEV“The LORD will cause the emperor to hear” REB“I shall sap his morale” PESHITTA“I will send a blast against him
The MT has ruah (BDB 924), which, in this context, refers to an inner feeling or sense of doom and foreboding. The “great king”of Assyria (cf. Isaiah 36:4) is controlled by the God of Israel! See Special Topic: Breath, Wind, Spirit.
▣ “hear a rumor and return to his own land” This is YHWH's response because Hezekiah turned to Him for help (as Ahaz did not). He will confuse the army and send them home (cf. Isaiah 37:37). Some have wondered if Isaiah 37:9 is not a fulfillment of this rumor, but it seems, in context, to refer to a rumor that will force him to return to Assyria and not simply meet Egypt in battle.
▣ “I will make him fall by the sword in his own land” See Isaiah 37:38 for the historical fulfillment of this prophecy.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:8-13 8Then Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9When he heard them say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “He has come out to fight against you,” and when he heard it he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10”Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, 'Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? 12Did the gods of those nations which my fathers have destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?'“
Isaiah 37:9-11 This repeats Isaiah 36:13-20.
Isaiah 37:9 “Tirhakah king of Cush” There have been some historical problems connected with this verse because this man, though the younger brother of the current Pharaoh of Egypt (i.e., twenty-fifth Nubian Dynasty), Shebitku, nephew of Shabaka, reigned from 407/06 - 690 or 696/95 - 685/84 B.C. (?) Tirhakah became a Pharaoh and reigned from 690 - 664 B.C. He was also known as the King of Ethiopia (cf. 2 Kings 19:9). However, this may be a military title or an anachronism (which means that one reads a later event or person into an earlier document). Hence, in this text, Tirhakah was only Pharaoh's representative sent with the army.
Isaiah 37:12-13 There are several geographical locations mentioned that Assyria had previously conquered.
1. Gozan - In 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11; 1 Chronicles 5:26 this is called a river (i.e., region) of Mesopotamia where Tiglath-pileser III exiled people from the tribal areas of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. and later, more of the northern ten tribes by Sargon II.
2. Haran - This was a city in Assyria (cf. Genesis 12:4; Genesis 24:4) that had rebelled and was destroyed by Asshur-dan III in 763 B.C.
3. Rezeph - This is another significant city in Assyria, conquered by Shalmanezer III (858-824 B.C.). It may have been conquered several times, but information is minimal.
4. Telassar - This is a city or kingdom of Eden which was conquered by Tiglath-pileser III. It was close to the border of Elam.
5. Hamath - This is a city in Syria on the border with Israel. Some of its citizens were exiled into Israel.
6. Arpad - This is a city in northern Syria, the capital of a province or small kingdom (Bit-Agusi). It was defeated by Tiglath-pileser III in 740 B.C.
7. Lair - This is a city of northern Babylon whose spelling is close to “city” (BDB 746, ריע, NJB, NET Bible).
8. Sepharvaim - See note at Isaiah 36:19
9. Hena - This is a city possibly in upper Mesopotamia (cf. ABD, vol. 3, p. 137).
10. Ivvah - This is an unknown locality. Some scholars associate #8 and #9 with the name of local gods.
The purpose of mentioning these specific cities (which Hezekiah must have known or which were on the way from Assyria to Palestine which Sennacherib conquered) was to show that no one could resist the Assyrian military!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:14-20 14Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15Hezekiah prayed to the LORD saying, 16”O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God. 18Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, 19and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 20Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God.”
Isaiah 37:14 This is obviously firsthand detailed historical narrative. It is very graphic and specific. Readers can see in their minds Hezekiah approaching YHWH, somewhere in the temple compound (cf. 1 Kings 8:33), unscrolling these Assyrian messages before Him so that He could read them. Hezekiah mentions in Isaiah 37:4 that YHWH heard Rabshakeh read the message from the King of Assyria. Hezekiah now wants to remind Him of their arrogant and blasphemous character!
Isaiah 37:16 Notice the titles and ways Hezekiah characterizes YHWH.
1. O LORD of hosts
2. the God (Elohim) of Israel, cf. Joshua 7:13, Joshua 7:19, Joshua 7:20
3. who is enthroned above the cherubim, cf. Exodus 25:22; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalms 80:1; Psalms 99:1
4. You are the God (Elohim), cf. Deuteronomy 10:17
5. You alone, this term (BDB 94) is denoting monotheism here and YHWH's choice of Israel as His instrument of redemption for all the world
6. You have made heaven and earth, Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:18; Genesis 1:1
See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.
Isaiah 37:17 There is a series of IMPERATIVES in Hezekiah's prayer used as reverent requests.
1. incline Your ear, BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Daniel 9:18
2. hear, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE
3. open Your eyes, BDB 824, KB 959, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Daniel 9:18
4. see, BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE
5. listen, same as #2
Hezekiah is using anthropomorphic language (see Special Topic: God Described As Human) to beseech God to hear, see, and respond to the arrogant, blasphemous message of Sennacherib.
These same VERBS are used in Solomon's dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8:29, 1 Kings 8:52; 2 Chronicles 6:39-40; 2 Chronicles 7:15.
▣ “the living God” This verse is very anthropomorphic (see Special Topic at Isaiah 6:1), attributing to YHWH human body parts as if He were a man. The OT presents God as an eternal, ever-present spirit. The term “living God” is a play on the name YHWH from Exodus 3:14, which means “I Am that I Am.”
Isaiah 37:18 There was surely a measure of truth in Sennacherib's claims.
Isaiah 37:19 The truth of Isaiah 37:18 is seen to be overstated because the gods of the cities mentioned were idols, not the true and only God! Idols were made by human hands. They could not see and hear and respond (i.e., Isaiah 37:17) as YHWH could, would, and will!
Isaiah 37:20 This verse has two VERBS.
1. deliver, BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 33:22; Isaiah 35:4. It is used fourteen times in chapters 40-66.
2. know, BDB 393, KB 390, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense. See Special Topic: Know at Isaiah 19:21.
This is a very important verse and shows the ultimate purpose of God's acts. Israel was meant to be a kingdom of priests (cf. Exodus 19:5-6). From the initial call of Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:3), God's plan was to deal with the entire world (cf. Isaiah 45:8, Isaiah 45:22). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.
▣ “that You alone, LORD, are God” This is surely an affirmation of the uniqueness of Israel's God in the ancient world. He was God alone. There was no other (cf. Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 45:5, Isaiah 45:18, Isaiah 45:21-22). This is the theological affirmation of monotheism!
The phrase “art God” is not in the MT, but is in the DSS, LXX, and the parallel in 2 Kings 19:19.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:21-29 21Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22this is the word that the LORD has spoken against him: “She has despised you and mocked you, The virgin daughter of Zion; She has shaken her head behind you, The daughter of Jerusalem! 23Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? And against whom have you raised your voice And haughtily lifted up your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel! 24Through your servants you have reproached the LORD, And you have said, 'With my many chariots I came up to the heights of the mountains, To the remotest parts of Lebanon; And I cut down its tall cedars and its choice cypresses. And I will go to its highest peak, its thickest forest. 25I dug wells and drank waters, And with the sole of my feet I dried up All the rivers of Egypt.' 26Have you not heard? Long ago I did it, From ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it to pass, That you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps. 27Therefore their inhabitants were short of strength, They were dismayed and put to shame; They were as the vegetation of the field and as the green herb, As grass on the housetops is scorched before it is grown up. 28But I know your sitting down And your going out and your coming in And your raging against Me. 29Because of your raging against Me And because your arrogance has come up to My ears, Therefore I will put My hook in your nose And My bridle in your lips, And I will turn you back by the way which you came.
Isaiah 37:21-24 This is YHWH's response to Hezekiah's faith and the resulting message to Assyria, who went beyond YHWH's purpose (cf. Isaiah 10:5) and became arrogant and blasphemous.
Isaiah 37:1. Isaiah 37:22, she despised (BDB 100, KB 114, Qal PERFECT), mocked (BDB 541, KB 532, Qal PERFECT), and shook her head at (BDB 631, KB 681, Hiphil PERFECT) Judah, here called
a. the virgin daughter of Zion
b. the daughter of Jerusalem
The Peshitta, TEV, and REB see this verse as referring to Judah's actions toward retreating Sennacherib, but I think it refers to Assyria's arrogance against Judah that YHWH is reacting to. The question is who does “she” refer to. Sennacherib is the “him” of Isaiah 37:22a, but “she” could refer to
Isaiah 37:2. Isaiah 37:23, she attacked Judah's God (i.e., the Holy One of Israel)
a. reproached, BDB 357, KB 355, Piel PERFECT
b. blasphemed, BDB 154, KB 180, Piel PERFECT
c. raised your voice, BDB 926, KB 1202, Hiphil PERFECT
d. haughtily lifted your eyes, BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Isaiah 10:12
Isaiah 37:3. Isaiah 37:24, lauds her activities
a. with many chariots I came up to the heights of the mountains, to the remotest parts of Lebanon
b. cut down its tall cedars and choicest cypresses (Isaiah used many allusions to trees)
c. I will go to its highest peak, its thickest forest
Isaiah 37:24 is similar to the arrogance of the King of Babylon (that I think refers to Merodach- baladan, cf. Isaiah 39:1), mentioned in Isaiah 14:13. If so, then possibly the language here also refers to the northern mountain of the gods of Canaanite mythology, see note at Isaiah 14:13-14.
Isaiah 37:21 “Because you have prayed to Me” Hezekiah responds in faith and trust in YHWH, so different from his father, Ahaz. This shows the theological significance of intercessory prayer. I believe that God has limited Himself to act in response to the prayers of His children. Therefore, we have not because we ask not.
SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER
Isaiah 37:22 “She has shaken her head behind you” This VERB (BDB 631, KB 681, Hiphil PERFECT) denotes a Hebrew idiom of shaking one's head as a sign of contempt (cf. 2 Kings 19:21; Job 16:4; Psalms 22:7; Psalms 109:25; Lamentations 2:15; Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29).
Isaiah 37:25-29 At this point the focus turns from Assyria's accomplishments (although it is possible that Isaiah 37:25 refers to the arrogant claims of Sennacherib, but Isaiah 37:26 cannot) to YHWH's accomplishments.
Isaiah 37:1. Isaiah 37:25, YHWH's control of water (i.e., life, cf. Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 44:27)
Isaiah 37:2. Isaiah 37:26-27, YHWH's ancient plans to use Assyria to punish His people (cf. Isaiah 10:5). Isaiah 37:27 refers to Israel and Judah's humiliation and defeat.
Isaiah 37:3. Isaiah 37:28, YHWH's foreknowledge (very similar to Psalms 139:0)
Isaiah 37:4. Isaiah 37:29, the consequences of arrogance against YHWH
a. put a hook in your nose
b. put a bridle in your lips (these are metaphors for exile)
c. turn you back by the way which you came (cf. Isaiah 37:37)
Isaiah 37:26 “Have you not heard?
Long ago I did it,
From ancient times I planned it” This shows that God has always had a plan for dealing, not only with Assyria (Isaiah 10:5; Jeremiah 18:11; see full note at Isaiah 12:5), but also with the entire world (cf. Isaiah 14:24, Isaiah 14:26; Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 25:1; Isaiah 46:10-11; see full note at Isaiah 12:5). History is not moving in a haphazard manner, but is on a teleological track to an end-time confrontation and restoration.
The word translated “long ago” (BDB 935) can refer to time or space. It also can refer to
1. long past time, here
2. future time, cf. 2 Samuel 7:19; 1 Chronicles 17:17
Isaiah 37:28 “your raging against Me” This VERB (BDB 919, KB 1182, Hithpael INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is repeated in Isaiah 37:29. Notice the personal element!
This VERB in the Hiphil stem is often used of fear and trembling (cf. Isaiah 14:16; Isaiah 23:11) or eschatological events (cf. Isaiah 13:13). It is used of YHWH Himself in Ezekiel 16:43.
Isaiah 37:29 “I will put My hook in your nose” This is exactly what Assyria did to others. She tried to frighten them by boasting of the cruelty that she had done to other nations. She tied the conquered people together using hooks in their noses, lips, or tongues and marched them into exile (cf. 2 Kings 19:28). God will now do the same thing to them.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:30-32 30”Then this shall be the sign for you: you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 31The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 32For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”'
Isaiah 37:30 “this shall be the sign for you” This is important because Hezekiah is the Messianic representative (i.e., Isaiah 7:14-16) as Ahaz was (i.e. Isaiah 8:8c, Isaiah 8:10c). God will show him a sign (BDB 16) here and in Isaiah 38:7 (as He did Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14). This particular sign is related to a three-year promise of full restoration of the land of Judah. I think 37:30-32 should be a separate paragraph, as should Isaiah 37:33-35 and 36-38.
Verse Isaiah 37:30 has a series of IMPERATIVES as YHWH promises a three-year restoration (i.e., the covenant promises of Deuteronomy 27-28).
1. eat - BDB 37, KB 46, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE. This form is repeated in this verse (kethib), but the MT scholars suggested a change (Qere) to a Qal IMPERATIVE, which matches the other IMPERATIVES in the verse. The difference is very close.
a. ואכול, MT
b. ואכלו, suggested change
2. sow - BDB 281, KB 282, Qal IMPERATIVE
3. reap - BDB 894, KB 1126, Qal IMPERATIVE
4. plant - BDB 642, KB 694, Qal IMPERATIVE
5. eat, Qere, see note at #1
Just one added thought, it is possible that this promised restoration is related to the “Year of Jubilee,” Leviticus 25:10, see James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 96.
Isaiah 37:31 “the surviving remnant” See Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses.
▣ The agricultural metaphors continue. Judah is described as
1. taking a strong root
2. bearing fruit
Isaiah 37:32 Those who survive Assyria's attack will do so, not by their own plans or provisions, but by the zeal (cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 59:17) of the LORD of hosts! Ahaz planned, but Hezekiah trusted!
▣ “The zeal of the LORD” This (BDB 888) refers to YHWH's special love and care for His covenant people (a faithless wife of Hosea 1-3). YHWH acts passionately for His purposes in redemption (cf. Isaiah 63:15-19, which involves the children of Abraham, cf. Genesis 12:1-3). The phrase has Messianic implications in Isaiah 9:7 and Isaiah 59:17. Context determines whether (1) zealous or (2) jealous is the best translation. The term can have either a positive or negative connotation depending on the context. Here it is surely positive and redemptive!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:33-35 33”Therefore, thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, 'He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield, or throw up a siege ramp against it. 34By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he will not come to this city,' declares the LORD. 35For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David's sake.'“
Isaiah 37:33-34 This is a promise that no siege will occur against Jerusalem. At this point the Assyrian army was not before the gates of Jerusalem, but still at walled cities of the Shephelah some distance away, such as Lachish.
There are several things that YHWH will allow and not allow in relation to Assyria's attack on Jerusalem.
1. the army of Assyria shall not come to Jerusalem to besiege it
2. the army shall not shoot an arrow there
3. the army shall not come with shield
4. the army shall not throw up a siege mound
5. Assyria shall retreat the way she came
Isaiah 37:35 The reason given for Assyria's limitations and retreat are
1. YHWH Himself will defend (BDB 170, KB 199, Qal PERFECT) the city (i.e., Holy War imagery)
2. YHWH will deliver/save it (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)
3. YHWH does it
a. for Himself (i.e., His eternal redemptive plan and His personal reputation, cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38)
b. for His servant David (cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 16:5; Isaiah 22:9, Isaiah 22:22; Isaiah 29:1; Isaiah 38:5; Isaiah 55:3; 2 Samuel 7:0)
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 37:36-38 36Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185, 000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead. 37So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. 38It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.
Isaiah 37:36 “the angel of the LORD went out” This is similar to the personage of the death angel who represented YHWH's presence in the last plague on Egypt in Exodus 11:0 and Exodus 12:23, Exodus 12:29 (also note 2 Samuel 24:16).
There is no “grim reaper.” YHWH controls life and death. It is hard to separate the sovereignty of God from conditions of a fallen world. This is not the world that God intended it to be. Death is the result of human rebellion. God knows, allows, and executes His will. Secondary causes, so important to us, were not part of the ancient worldview (i.e., Matthew 6:25-27; Matthew 10:28-31), where there was no distinction between the supernatural and natural.
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
▣ “struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians” This was not before the walls of Jerusalem, but apparently some distance away at the Assyrian camp (cf. 2 Kings 19:35). Herodotus, an ancient historian, records this plague and implies that it was related to rodents, possibly bubonic plague. This judgment did not kill the entire army. This very event is foreshadowed in Isaiah 31:8, where it is described as death by the sword of the LORD. However, here it seems to be a plague. Remember this is hyperbolic poetry, not historical narrative. Modern western readers are unduly affected by their own worldviews and read the Bible (an ancient eastern book) through the filter of their current understanding of history and literature, which always causes confusion and misunderstanding!
Isaiah 37:37 “Nineveh” This was the capital of Assyria and was located on the Tigris River.
Isaiah 37:38 “Nisroch his god” This is an unknown name.
1. The LXX translation of this is a spelling very similar to the god of the city of Asshur, who was the head of the Assyrian pantheon.
2. It is also possible that it is a misspelling of “Nusku” (BDB 652), the Babylonian and Assyrian god of light and fire who was worshiped at Haran and associated with the moon god (i.e., his son).
3. E. J. Young thinks it was an intentional corruption of the name Marduk. See James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 182.
We know from historical documentation that there is a twenty-year gap between Isaiah 37:37 and 38. This prophecy was literally fulfilled in 681 B.C. when Sennacherib's two sons assassinated him and the third son took the throne.
▣ “Esarhaddon” This is one of the king's sons who reigned in Assyria from 681-669 B.C.