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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
2 Kings 19

 

 

Verse 1

2 Kings 19:1. When Hezekiah heard it, he rent his clothes — Good men were wont to do so, when they heard of any reproach cast on God’s name; and great men must not think it any disparagement to them to sympathize with the injured honour of the great God.


Verse 3

2 Kings 19:3. This is a day of rebuke and blasphemy — From the Assyrian, who reviles and reproaches us. For the children, &c. — We are like a poor travailing woman in great extremity, having no strength left to help herself, and to bring forth her infant into the world. We have attempted to deliver ourselves from the Assyrian yoke, and carried on that work to some maturity, and, as we thought, brought it to the birth; but now we have no might to finish. We have begun a happy reformation, and are hindered by this insolent Assyrian from bringing it to perfection.


Verse 4

2 Kings 19:4. It may be, &c. — He speaks doubtfully, because he knew not whether God would not deliver them all up into the hands of the Assyrians, as he knew he and his people deserved. That the Lord thy God — To whom thou art dear and precious, and who will regard thy petitions: will hear all the words of Rab-shakeh — Will show by his actions that he hath heard them with just indignation. Hezekiah does not say our God, because God seemed to have forsaken and rejected them; and they, by their sins, had forfeited all their interest in him. And will reprove the words — Or rather, will reprove him for the words, as the Syriac, Arabic, and Chaldee render it. Wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant — For Judah, which is but a remnant, now the ten tribes are gone: for Jerusalem, which is but a remnant, now the defenced cities of Judah are taken.


Verse 7

2 Kings 19:7. I will send a blast upon him — Hebrew, a wind, a storm or tempest, by which name God’s judgments are often called: that is, a violent, sudden, and terrible stroke; namely, that miraculous destruction of his army, recorded 2 Kings 19:35.


Verse 8

2 Kings 19:8. Rab-shakeh returned — To the king, to give him an account of what had been done, and to receive further orders; leaving behind him the army under the other commanders, mentioned 2 Kings 18:17. For it seems most probable, from the other threatening message here following, that the siege was not raised. He was departed from Lachish — Not being able to take it.


Verse 9

2 Kings 19:9. He heard say of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, &c. — Probably of Ethiopia beyond Egypt. For Josephus affirms that the Egyptians (against whom, according to Herodotus and Berosus, this Sennacherib warred) and Ethiopians were confederates in this expedition. It is most likely he was the same with the Sabaco of Herodotus. See Universal Hist., vol. 4, p. 321. He sent messengers again unto Hezekiah — It is probable the king of Assyria thought by this message to terrify Hezekiah and the people to compliance, which it was now the more necessary for him to do, as the invasion of Tirhakah rendered it less proper for him to attempt so long a siege as that of Jerusalem was likely to prove.


Verse 10-11

2 Kings 19:10-11. Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah — That is, these things shall ye communicate; for they did not signify them by word of mouth, but in writing. Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee — Rab- shakeh had said to the people, Let not Hezekiah deceive you. Sennacherib writes to Hezekiah, Let not thy God deceive thee. Those who have the God of Jacob for their help, and whose hope is in the Lord their God, need not fear being deceived by him, as the heathen were by their pretended gods. It is probable Sennacherib had heard that Hezekiah professed to have an assurance from the Lord, that the king of Assyria should not prevail against him. Behold thou hast heard, &c. — This letter is of the same import with the former message, presuming that the God of Israel was like the gods of other countries, and had no more power to preserve his worshippers than they had to preserve theirs.


Verse 13

2 Kings 19:13. Where is the king of Hamath, &c. — He may mean the gods of these places, calling them their kings, because the people looked upon them as their protectors and governors, which kings are or should be to their subjects: or rather, he means their kings, properly so called. And so, as before he compared their gods with the God of Jerusalem, so now he compares their kings with King Hezekiah; and by both comparisons intends to persuade Hezekiah and his people that neither he, their king, nor their God, was able to save them out of his hand.


Verse 14

2 Kings 19:14. Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord — Into the outward court of the temple, for further he might not go, and at the entrance of the court of the priests, he looked toward the sanctuary, where God was peculiarly present, and spread the letter before him; which he did, not to acquaint God with its contents, but as a token that he appealed to him concerning them, and referred himself and his cause to his righteous judgment, expecting him to answer for himself, and manifest that power which the king of Assyria had so daringly blasphemed. He meant also hereby to affect his own mind, strengthen his own faith, and quicken his desires in prayer, to a greater degree of fervency.


Verse 15

2 Kings 19:15. Hezekiah prayed and said, O Lord God of Israel, &c. — He calls him the God of Israel, because Israel was his peculiar people; and the God that dwelt between the cherubim, because there was the peculiar residence of his glory on earth; but he gives glory to him as the God of the whole earth, and not, as Sennacherib fancied, the God of Israel only. Let them say what they will, thou art sovereign Lord, the God of gods, even thou alone; universal Lord of all the kingdoms of the earth; and rightful Lord; for thou hast made heaven and earth — Being Creator of all, by an incontestable title thou art owner and ruler of all.


Verses 16-18

2 Kings 19:16-18. Which hath sent him — That is, the messenger who brought this railing letter; or rather Rab-shakeh, who is easily understood to be referred to from the contents of the former chapter, although he would not do him the honour to name him. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations, &c. — He acknowledges their triumphs over the gods of the heathen, but distinguishes between them and the God of Israel. And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods — They were unable to help either themselves or their worshippers, and therefore it is no wonder that the Assyrians have destroyed them. And, in destroying them, though they knew it not, they really served the justice and jealousy of the God of Israel, who has determined to annihilate all the gods of the heathen. But they were deceived in thinking they could therefore be too hard for him, who was so far from being one of the gods whom men’s hands had made, that he himself made all things.


Verse 19

2 Kings 19:19. Now therefore, save us out of his hand — For if we be conquered, as other lands have been, they will say that thou art conquered, as the gods of those lands were; but, Lord, distinguish thyself by distinguishing us; and let all the world know, and be made to confess, that thou art the Lord, the self-existent God, even thou only, and that all pretenders to divinity are vanity and a lie. Let it be observed here, that the best pleas in prayer are those which are taken from God’s honour, and the concerns thereof; and therefore the Lord’s prayer begins with, Hallowed be thy name, and concludes with, Thine is the glory.


Verse 20

2 Kings 19:20. Then Isaiah, the son of Amoz, sent to Hezekiah — Isaiah was informed, by the spirit of prophecy, that Hezekiah had represented his case to God in the temple, and he was commissioned to assure him his petition was granted.


Verse 21

2 Kings 19:21. The daughter of Zion — That is, Jerusalem; which is called the daughter of Zion, say some, because the hill of Zion, as being the strongest and safest part, was first inhabited, and by the increase of inhabitants, Jerusalem arising around, as it were, sprang from it, and might therefore properly enough be termed its daughter. But it is more probable that the people of Zion, or of Jerusalem, (Zion, an eminent part of the city, being put for the whole,) are here termed its daughter, cities and countries being often called mothers, and their inhabitants daughters. Thus we read of the daughter of Babylon, the daughter of Tyre, &c., Psalms 137:8; Psalms 45:13. Zion or Jerusalem is termed a virgin, because she was pure in good measure from that gross idolatry wherewith other people were defiled, which is called spiritual whoredom; and to signify that God would defend her from the rape which Sennacherib intended to commit upon her, with no less care than parents do their virgin daughters from those who seek to force and deflour them. The image is extremely fine, whereby the contempt of Sennacherib’s threats is expressed.


Verse 22

2 Kings 19:22. And lifted up thieve eyes on high — As those do who have haughty thoughts, and look down on others with contempt and scorn. Even against the Holy One of Israel — Whose honour is dear to him, and who has power to vindicate it, which the gods of the heathen have not.


Verse 23

2 Kings 19:23. By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord — Advancing hereby thy very servants above him. And hast said, With the multitude of my chariots, I am come up, &c. — I have brought up my very chariots to those mountains, which were thought inaccessible by my army. To the sides of Lebanon — A high hill famous for cedars and fir-trees, as is signified in what follows. And will cut down the tall cedars thereof, &c. — This may be understood, 1st, Mystically, I will destroy the princes and nobles of Judah, sometimes compared to cedars and fir-trees, or their strongest cities. “Cities,” says Dr. Dodd, “in the prophetical writings are metaphorically represented by woods or forests, especially those of Lebanon and Carmel; and the several ranks of inhabitants by the taller and lesser trees growing there. Hence we may collect the true sense of this passage, which represents the Assyrian prince as threatening to take mount Zion, together with the capital city Jerusalem, and to destroy their principal inhabitants.” The following words, the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel, or, as the latter clause is more properly rendered, the grove of his fruitful field, are generally thought figuratively to refer to the temple and city. The Chaldee paraphrast renders it, And I will also take the house of their sanctuary, and I will subject to me their fortified cities. If, 2d, The reader prefer understanding the words literally, the meaning is, I will cut down the trees and woods that hinder my march, and will prepare and make plain the way for all my numerous army and chariots. Nothing shall stand in my way, nor be able to obstruct or impede my march, no, not the highest and strongest places. The words contain an admirable description of the boastings of a proud monarch, puffed up with his great success. As if he had said, What place is there into which I cannot make my way? Or, what is there I cannot achieve? Even if it were to go up to the top of the steepest mountains with my chariots? My power is sufficient to remove all obstacles, and overcome all opposition.


Verse 24

2 Kings 19:24. I have digged and drunk strange waters — That is, says Vitringa, “I have hitherto possessed all my desires; whatever I have vehemently thirsted after, I have attained.” Others understand this and the following clause more literally, thus: “I have marched through deserts, where it was expected my army would have perished with thirst; and yet even there have I digged and found water: and I have rendered rivers fordable by turning their streams from their ancient beds, and have deprived the besieged of the benefit of those waters.” Vitringa, however, renders the last clause, with the sole of my feet will I dry up all the rivers of Egypt. The prophet is thought to allude to a custom of the Egyptians, who commonly made use of machines, which were worked by the foot, to draw water from rivers, for whatever purpose it might be wanted; and the meaning, according to Vitringa, is, that the Assyrian, by the assistance of his very numerous army, the sole of his foot, would dry up all the rivers of Egypt, so that they should not delay the success of his expedition. The expression is of the hyperbolic kind, and well suits this haughty monarch, whose mind was at this time full of his expedition into Judea and Egypt. — See Dr. Dodd.


Verse 25

2 Kings 19:25. Hast thou not heard long ago, &c. — Hast thou not long since learned that which some of thy philosophers could have taught thee; that there is a supreme and powerful God, by whose decree and providence all these wars and calamities are sent and ordered; whose mere instrument thou art; so that thou hast no cause for these vain boastings? This work is mine, not thine. I have done it, &c. — I have so disposed of things by my providence, that thou shouldest be a great and victorious prince, and that thou shouldest be so successful as thou hast hitherto been, first against the kingdom of Israel, and now against Judah. Thus God answers the boastings of this proud prince, and shows him that all his counsel and power are nothing; since these events wholly depended on a superior cause; namely, on God’s sovereign decree and overruling providence, whereof he had made this Assyrian the instrument in his almighty hand.


Verse 26

2 Kings 19:26. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power — The people of Israel and Judah, and of other countries which thou hast conquered, because I had armed thee with my commission and strength, and had taken away their spirit and courage, and had withdrawn my help from them to give it to thee. They were as the grass of the field — Which is weak, and quickly fades, and is unable to resist any hand or instrument which offers violence to it. As corn blasted before it be grown up — All their designs and hopes were disappointed before they could come to any perfection or success.


Verse 27

2 Kings 19:27. But I know thy abode, &c. — Though thou dost not know me, yet I thoroughly know thee, and all thy designs and actions, all thy secret contrivances in the place of thy abode, in thy own kingdom and court; and the execution of thy designs abroad, what thou intendest in thy going out, and with what farther thoughts thou comest in, or returnest to thy own land. And thy rage against me — Against Hezekiah my servant, and my people, because they will not deliver up Jerusalem to thee, and against my temple, to destroy it. Things are frequently said to be done against God which are only done against his people, his cause, and worship, because of that near relation and union which are between them.


Verse 28

2 Kings 19:28. Thy rage and thy tumult is come into mine ears — That is, thy tumultuous noise, thy clamours and blasphemies, belched forth against me by thyself, and thy servants in thy name. I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips — The metaphor in the latter clause is plainly taken from a horse, or ass, or mule, that must be thus governed; and that in the former may allude, perhaps, to the manner in which they managed their beasts in the east, particularly the dromedaries, which are led by a cord fastened to a ring run through the nostrils of the beast. Or the allusion may be to the absolute power which a man has over a fish which is fastened by the nose to his hook. The meaning of the passage is, that God would so order and dispose matters by his providence, that the Assyrian monarch should be compelled to return back with his army, being circumscribed and led like a horse or wild beast, wherever and as God pleased. See Dodd. What a comfort it is that God has a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the jaws, of all his and our enemies!


Verse 29

2 Kings 19:29. This shall be a sign unto thee — Of the certain accomplishment of the promises here made; that Zion shall triumph over this insulting enemy, 2 Kings 19:21; and that God will not only preserve the city from Sennacherib’s present fury, but also will bless his people with durable prosperity, and a happy increase, 2 Kings 19:30-31. For the sign here given is not so much intended to be a token of their present deliverance from Sennacherib, which would be effected before the sign took place, as of their future preservation from him and the Assyrians, and of blessings which were to continue long after it. In other passages of Scripture we have signs given in the same manner, particularly in Exodus 3:12 and Isaiah 7:14. At the time that Isaiah spoke this, nothing seemed more improbable than that the Jews, delivered from the Assyrians, should freely use and enjoy their own land, and be supported from its productions. They had cause to fear that the Assyrians would be greatly enraged at their shameful repulse, and the destruction of their army, and would quickly recruit their forces and come against them with far greater strength and violence than before. But if not, they had reason to fear another enemy equally formidable and destructive, a grievous famine. The Assyrian army had trodden down or eaten up all their corn, and the next year, which was the fifteenth of Hezekiah, was the sabbatical year, in which their law neither allowed them to plough nor sow. How were they to be supported? God engages they shall have sufficient support: Ye shall eat this year — ספיח, sapiach, sponte natum, the natural produce of the ground, which the invasion of the Assyrian army in a great measure prevented you from ploughing and sowing. And the second year, that which springeth of the same — סחישׁ, sachish, sponte renatum, the name here given to the spontaneous productions of the earth the second year that it had not been sown. And in the third year, sow ye, and reap — You shall not sow, and another reap, as has lately been the case; but you shall enjoy the fruit of your own labour. Now this was an excellent sign, for it was miraculous, especially considering the waste and destruction which the Assyrians had made in the land, and that the Jews had been forced to retire into their strong holds, and consequently to neglect their tilling, sowing, and reaping. And these events taking place accordingly, year after year, and the predictions being punctually fulfilled, the hopes of Hezekiah and his people would be revived and confirmed more and more, and assurance would be given them that they had nothing further to fear from the Assyrians, and that God would yet defend, bless, and prosper his people.


Verse 30

2 Kings 19:30. The remnant that is escaped shall yet again bear fruit upward Shall increase and multiply greatly. It is a metaphor taken from plants. “The prophet passes from fields to men, and from the cultivation of land to the state of the church; for, having just said, that, being delivered from the Assyrians, they should cultivate their land as usual, he adds, that it should also come to pass that the kingdom and church, delivered from this calamity, should flourish again, increase, and bring forth much fruit; which we know happened under Hezekiah.” — Dodd.


Verse 31

2 Kings 19:31. For out of Judah shall go forth a remnant — That handful of Jews who were now gathered together, and shut up in Jerusalem, should go out to their several habitations, and, by God’s singular blessing, increase exceedingly. The zeal of the Lord shall do this — Although, when you reflect upon yourselves, and consider either your present fewness and weakness, or your great unworthiness, this may seem too great a blessing for you to expect; yet God will do it from the zeal which he hath, both for his own name, and for the good of his undeserving people.


Verse 32

2 Kings 19:32. Thus saith the Lord, He shall not come to this city — The king of Assyria shall be so far from possessing himself of the city at this time, that he shall not shoot so much as an arrow into it, much less raise any bulwarks to besiege it. There is a gradation in the words, says Dr. Dodd, as is usual with Isaiah. The first declaration is, that Sennacherib, if he shall attempt to besiege the city, shall never be able to succeed; he shall not come into this city. The second is, that he shall not bring his army so near the city as to come before it with shields, wherewith to defend themselves from those on the wall, or raise a bank against it. The third, that he shall not even shoot an arrow into the city, which might be done from far. It seems the army sent with Rab-shakeh did not form a close siege against it, but only disposed themselves so as to block it up at some distance; possibly waiting till the king of Assyria had taken Libnah and Lachish, (which they presumed he would speedily do.)


Verse 33-34

2 Kings 19:33-34. By the same shall he return — Whereas he expected to devour the kingdom of Judah at one morsel, and then to proceed farther and conquer Egypt, and other neighbouring countries; and to cut off nations not a few, as is said of him concerning this very time and design, (Isaiah 10:7,) he shall meet with so sad a disappointment and rebuke here, that he shall make haste to return with shame to his own country. For my servant David’s sake — For my promise and covenant’s sake made with David, concerning the stability and eternity of his kingdom, 1 Kings 11:12-13. It must be remembered, that all the promises made to David were made to him in Christ: he and his kingdom were types of the kingdom of Christ. It is to this, and not to the personal merits of David, that the sacred writer here alludes.


Verse 35

2 Kings 19:35. And it came to pass that night, &c. — Sometimes it was long before prophecies were accomplished, and promises performed, but here the word was no sooner spoken than the work was done. The night which immediately followed the sending of this message to Hezekiah, was the main body of the besieging army slain. Hezekiah had not force sufficient to sally out upon them, and attack their camp, nor would God destroy them by sword or bow; but he sent a destroying angel, in the dead of night, to make an assault upon them, which their sentinels, though ever so watchful, could neither discover nor resist: such an angel as slew the firstborn of Egypt. Josephus says, the angel slew them by inflicting a pestilential disease which caused death immediately. “But his authority,” says Vitringa, “in matters of this kind, is of no great weight. It is my opinion,” continues he, “that in a dreadful storm, raised by this destroying angel, these men were killed by lightning; their bodies being burned within, while their outward garments were untouched.” The number slain was prodigious, and Rab-shakeh, probably, among them. And when they rose early in the morning — Namely, the few that were left alive; behold, they were all dead corpses — Scarce a living man of their companions and fellow- soldiers remained. How great in power and might must the holy angels be, when one angel, in one night, could make so great a slaughter! And how weak are the mightiest men before the almighty God! Who ever hardened himself against him, and prospered? The pride and blasphemy of the king and his general are punished by the destruction of one hundred and eighty- five thousand men! O God, how terrible art thou in thy justice! All these lives are sacrificed to the glory of God and the safety of his people!


Verse 36

2 Kings 19:36. So Sennacherib departed — Ashamed to see himself, after all his proud boasts, thus defeated, and disabled to pursue his conquests, or even to secure what he had gained, the flower of his army being cut off; nay, and continually afraid of falling under the like stroke himself. The manner of the expression, He departed, and went, and returned, intimates the great disorder and distraction of mind he was in.


Verse 37

2 Kings 19:37. He was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god — The God of Israel had done enough to convince him that he was the only true God, yet he persists in his idolatry: justly then is his blood mingled with his sacrifices, who will not be convinced, by so dear-bought a demonstration, of his folly in worshipping idols. His sons smote him — Smote their own father, (whom they were bound to protect at the hazard of their own lives,) and that when they saw him engaged in the very act of his devotion!

Monstrous villany! But God was righteous in it. Justly are the sons suffered to rebel against their father that begat them, when he was in rebellion against the God that made him. They, whose children are undutiful to them, ought to consider whether they have not been so to their Father in heaven. They escaped into the land of Armenia — Which was a country most fit for that purpose, because it was near to that part of Assyria, and was very mountainous, and inaccessible by armies; and the people were stout and warlike, and constant enemies to the Assyrians. And Esar- haddon his son reigned in his stead — Who, according to Ezra, (Ezra 4:2,) sent great supplies to his new colony at Samaria; fearing, probably, lest Hezekiah should improve the last great advantage to disturb his late conquest there.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 19:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-kings-19.html. 1857.

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Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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