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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 19

 

 

Verse 1

HEZEKIAH’S GRIEF AND MESSAGE TO ISAIAH, 2 Kings 19:1-5.

1. Rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth — Customary signs of deep distress and grief.

Went into the house of the Lord — For it was supposed that Jehovah’s eyes were upon that place night and day. Compare 2 Kings 19:14 and 1 Kings 8:29.


Verse 2

2. Sent Eliakim… and Shebna — Two of the same officers who had heard Rab-shakeh’s speech, and could give an exact report. But in place of Joah, the recorder, he sends the elders of the priests, that is, the heads of the priestly families, who from their age and office would give weight to the message.

To Isaiah — Who as the prophet of Jehovah was regarded as an authorized expounder of the Divine will.


Verse 3

3. A day of trouble — Better, a day of anguish, or, of deep distress.

Rebuke — Hezekiah recognised in his affliction a Divine reproval and chastisement.

Blasphemy — A reference to the contempt with which Rab-shakeh had treated the God of Israel; a day when such blasphemy abounds, or goes unpunished. Others render נאצהrejection, or disdain, and understand it of contemptuous treatment and rejection of Judah on the part of God. The word is capable of either sense.

Not strength to bring forth — “The proverb is taken from the crisis in childbearing, where the child is in the midst of the birth, but the strength of the mother fails on account of the continuous pains, so that she and the child are both in danger. Clericus, therefore, interprets it of the situation of those in great peril, who know what they must do in order to escape, but who feel that it is beyond their power to take the necessary measures, and who fear that, if they should make the attempt, all would be lost.” — Bahr.


Verse 4

4.

Yet again take root — Literally, add root; that is, strike out new roots, and thereby take firmer hold downward into the soil.

Bear fruit upward — Not only striking its roots deep in the earth, but its upspringing boughs yielding bountiful harvests. The general sense of this verse is, that Judah shall survive and vigorously flourish.


Verses 5-7

ISAIAH’S REPLY, 2 Kings 19:6-7.

7. I will send a blast upon him — The translators here evidently meant by blast some destructive plague or pestilence. The Hebrew is, literally, Behold, I put in him a spirit. Some understand by spirit the destroying angel mentioned in 2 Kings 19:35, but it is better to understand it of a Divine impulse that is to seize him, and hurry him blindly on, so that as soon as he hears a certain rumour of approaching hosts, he will hasten a retreat to his own land, namely, Assyria. The rumour, here mentioned seems most naturally to refer to the report of the approach of the king of Ethiopia to fight against him. 2 Kings 19:9. Others understand it of the report of the destruction of his army by the angel of the Lord; but it does not appear from 2 Kings 19:35 that he was absent from his army when the destroying angel smote it. We take it that when the rumour of Tirhakah’s approach reached him, he was seized with sudden alarm. He first sends Rab-shakeh to demand again the surrender of Jerusalem, hoping, in case of its surrender, to be able to resist the forces of Egypt. But meantime Jerusalem disdains an answer, the angel suddenly smites his army, and under the impulse of a spirit of alarm and terror he returns to Nineveh.

Fall by the sword — See the fulfilment of this prediction recorded in 2 Kings 19:37.


Verse 8

SENNACHERIB’S SECOND MESSAGE TO HEZEKIAH, 2 Kings 19:8-13.

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8. Returned — From Jerusalem to the king, who was now at Libnah, but he probably left “the great host” with which he went up to Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:17) still encamped against the city, and under command of Tartan, the chief general, Rab-shakeh himself being rather an ambassador and herald than military officer. See note on 2 Kings 18:19. Libnah was situated in the great Philistine plain, apparently between Makkedah and Lachish, but its site has not been identified.

He was departed from Lachish — Whether he had captured the city or had been forced to raise the siege does not appear from the Scriptures, but on a slab discovered at Nineveh appears a plan of Lachish after its capture, with the Assyrian tents pitched within its walls, and Assyrian worship going on. Compare note on 2 Kings 18:14.


Verse 9

9. Tirhakah king of Ethiopia — According to Manetho he was the third and last king of the twenty-fifth Egyptian dynasty. His successful resistance of the Assyrian invasion is chronicled on the walls of a temple at Thebes, and his monuments still exist in Egypt and Ethiopia. Rawlinson treats of the events connected with this verse as follows: “The Apis stelae show that Tirhakah did not ascend the throne of Egypt till B.C. 690, eight years after this; but he may have been already, as he is called in Scripture, king of Ethiopia. It is probable that Sennacherib, having received the submission of Libnah, had advanced upon Egypt. It was important to crush an Egyptian army which had been collected against him by a certain Sethos, one of the many native princes who at this time ruled in the lower country, before the great Ethiopian monarch Tehrak, or Tirhakah, who was known to be on his march, should effect a junction with the troops of this minor potentate. Sethos, with his army, was at Pelusium, (Herodotus, 2:141,) and Sennacherib, advancing to attack him, had arrived within sight of the Egyptian host, and pitched his camp over against the camp of the enemy, just at the time when Hezekiah received his letter and made the prayer to which Isaiah was instructed to respond. The two hosts lay down at night in their respective stations, the Egyptians and their king full of anxious alarm, Sennacherib and his Assyrians proudly confident, intending on the morrow to advance to the combat and repeat the lesson taught at Raphia and Attaku.” — Ancient Monarchies, vol. ii, p. 167.

Sent messengers again — For with the Ethiopian forces before him he did not wish to have Jerusalem fall upon his rear, and he apparently hoped to awe Hezekiah into a surrender.


Verse 10

10. Let not thy God… deceive thee — The arguments urged in this second message are substantially identical with those urged by Rab-shakeh in 2 Kings 18:19-35, and were probably prepared by the same officer.


Verse 12

12. Gozan — The district on the upper Habor. See note on 2 Kings 17:6.

Haran — Also in Mesopotamia, but lying some distance northwest of Gozan. Here Abraham abode for a time after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, (Genesis 11:31,) and here a Roman army under Crassus was defeated by the Parthians. It is called Carrae, by the classical writers, and Charran in Acts 7:4. It is doubtless identical with the modern Haran, which is situated on the river Belik, one of the branches of the upper Euphrates. Rezeph is still a common name in the East, and applied to a number of cities. Most interpreters incline to identify this Rezeph with a place in eastern Syria which Ptolemy calls Resapha. It is about a day’s journey west of the Euphrates.

Children of Eden which were in Thelasar — This last name should be written Telassar, and may signify the hill of Asshur; so called, perhaps, from some shrine which the Assyrians had there erected to Asshur. Eden would seem to be a district of which Telassar was a chief city, but no trace of either has been found.


Verse 13

13. Where is the king of Hamath — In 2 Kings 18:34, we have “gods of Hamath.” The arrogant Assyrian claims that neither gods nor kings can resist his power.


Verse 14

HEZEKIAH’S PRAYER, 2 Kings 19:14-19.

14. Spread it before the Lord — As containing that which burdens his soul, and brings him in profound humiliation before the most holy place. “The act of spreading out the letter before Jehovah,” says Sisco, “is a symbolic presentation of the great distress into which Hezekiah has been brought by Sennacherib, and to which his prayer refers.”


Verse 15

15. Between the cherubim — Allusion to the arrangements of the place of communion in the sanctuary. See at Exodus 25:22.

Thou alone, of all the kingdoms — The true Hebrew doctrine of the absolute supremacy and ubiquity of God, in distinction from the heathen notion, which the Assyrians held, that each land or kingdom had its god.


Verse 16

16. Thine ear… thine eyes — “This express mention of the two chief senses, the development of each of the two chief ideas, according to their details, into a twofold prayer, the complete symmetry of the two clauses of the sentence, the repetition of Jehovah in the second clause — all these conspire to give to the prayer the greatest urgency and emphasis.” — Drechsler.

Which hath sent him — Rather, which he hath sent; that is, the words or the message which Sennacherib had sent.


Verse 18

18. Cast their gods into the fire — The gods here meant were the idols, or graven images of wood and stone, as the sequel shows. Having thus destroyed the idols of many nations, and the gods not resisting, well might the king of Assyria ask, Where are those gods? 2 Kings 18:34. “The application of the word gods to the mere external image is common in profane as well as sacred writings, and arises from the fact that all idolaters, whatever they may theoretically hold as to the nature of their deities, identify them practically with the stocks and stones to which they pay their adorations.” — Alexander.


Verse 19

19. Now — That is, at length; after so much success, and in view of his pride and blasphemy, show the king of Assyria, and all the kingdoms he has conquered, that there is one God with whom it is folly to contend.


Verse 20

20. Sent to Hezekiah — This oracle was delivered to Hezekiah in the form of a letter, just as Sennacherib’s message had been sent. 2 Kings 19:14. As by one letter Hezekiah had been brought to profoundest grief and humiliation before God, so would Jehovah, by another letter, cheer his soul.


Verses 20-34

ISAIAH’S ORACLE, 2 Kings 19:20-34.

This prophecy, so rich in poetic diction, so emphatic in its outbursts of righteous indignation and scorn against Assyria, and so comforting to Judah for its predictions of Assyrian defeat and of coming prosperity and glory for the people of God, consists, 1.) of a scornful rebuke of Sennacherib’s pride and boasting, with a prophecy of his humiliation and retreat, (2 Kings 19:21-28;) 2.) of a cheering pledge that Jehovah would bring about the peace and triumph of Judah and Jerusalem, (29-31;) and, 3.) a solemn announcement of the utter failure of Sennacherib to take the holy city, (32-34.)


Verse 21

21. The virgin the daughter of Zion — Better, the virgin daughter Zion. Zion, the chief mountain on which the Jewish metropolis stood, is metaphorically represented as a virgin daughter, and thus becomes a personification of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. These are collectively called in the next line of the parallelism daughter of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is called a virgin, because yet unconquered and inviolate. Compare Isaiah 23:12; Isaiah 47:1; Jeremiah 46:11; Lamentations 1:15.

Despised — A very appropriate word to express the feelings of a virgin towards one who aims to destroy her honour.

Laughed thee to scorn — As one conscious of impregnability.

Hath shaken her head at thee — Literally, after thee the head she has shaken. Jerusalem shakes her head as a gesture of triumphant derision after Sennacherib, as after a smitten and flying foe.


Verse 22

22. Whom hast thou reproached — Art thou aware of the exalted and holy character of Him against whom thou hast exalted thyself?

Thine eyes on high — He had uttered his blasphemies as if looking up to the skies on purpose to defy Jehovah.


Verse 23

23. By thy messengers — Hebrew, by the hand of thy messengers, referring to the letter mentioned 2 Kings 19:14, and also other messages.

The multitude of my chariots — So the Keri and the parallel passage, Isaiah 37:24; but the Chethib seems to be the more original reading, and is, literally, with chariot of my chariots. The sense in either case is substantially the same, the latter expression ( רכב רכבי) meaning with my numberless chariots, or chariots on chariots. Compare גוב גובי, locust of locusts, in Nahum 3:17, which is properly rendered swarms of locusts; not great grasshoppers, as in our version.

Lebanon… cedar trees… fir trees — See notes on 1 Kings 5:6; 1 Kings 5:8.

Lodgings of his borders — Literally, lodging place of his extremity. The Hebrew מלון קצה, is explained, but not to be emended, by the parallel passage in Isaiah, where we have מרום קצו, height of his extremity, that is, its extreme summit. Sennacherib’s boast is, that he pitches his camp and lodges on the very summit of Lebanon.

Forest of his Carmel — The word Carmel is here to be taken in its primary sense of garden, cultivated field; not as a proper name. The forest of his garden, or garden forest, designates the orchard-like groves, or beautiful parks of choice trees, on the terraces and summit of Lebanon. This pompous boasting of the king of Assyria is not to be understood as literally historical, nor yet as without historical foundation. Sennacherib probably entered Palestine from the north, and so would cross the summit and sides of some part of Lebanon, and this, in connexion with the various triumphs of his march, would be sufficient ground for the hyperbolical language of his boasts. His language is poetical, but not mere poetry; and the whole verse is to be understood of what he has power to do.


Verse 24

24. Strange waters — That is, waters of foreign countries; waters strange to a native Assyrian. He boasts that he enters strange lands, and digs and drinks their waters.

With the sole of my feet — As though I were a god, and able to dry up rivers by merely setting my foot upon their waters.

All the rivers of besieged places — Better, all the canals of Matzor; commonly rendered, all the streams of Egypt. מצור, Matzor, is a poetical name for Egypt, (compare Isaiah 19:6,) and the rivers would naturally refer to the arms or canals of the Nile. So this verse contains Sennacherib’s boast of what he intends to do to Egypt. “Just as Lebanon could not stop the expeditions of the Assyrians, or keep them back from the conquest of the land of Canaan, so the desert which separated Egypt from Asia, notwithstanding its want of water, could not prevent his forcing his way through it and laying Egypt waste. The digging of water is not merely ‘a reopening of the wells that had been choked up with rubbish, and the cisterns that had been covered up before the approaching enemy,’ (Thenius,) but the digging of wells in the waterless desert. Strange water is not merely water belonging to others, but water not belonging to this soil, that is, water supplied by a region which had none at other times. By the perfects [I have digged, etc.] the thing is represented as already done — as exposed to no doubt whatever. The drying up of the rivers with the soles of the feet is an hyperbolical expression denoting the omnipotence with which the Assyrian rules over the earth. Just as he digs water in the desert where no water is to be had, so does he annihilate it where mighty rivers exist.” — Keil.


Verse 25

25. Hast thou not heard — The question expresses surprise that the king of Assyria should be ignorant of a matter so notorious as that Assyria was to be the instrument divinely chosen to scourge Israel and Judah.

Of ancient times that I have formed it — That is, Jehovah, long before, had appointed these triumphs of Assyria, ordained that Assyria should lay waste the land of Judah, and he had announced it by his holy prophets.

Compare Isaiah 7:17-20; Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 10:5-11.

That thou shouldest be to lay waste — This is thy preordained destiny, namely, to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps. So far was he from working his conquests by his own power, that he was unconsciously working out the preordained plans of Jehovah.


Verse 26

26. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power — The margin renders, more literally, were short of hand — unable to resist the invader. So Sennacherib is informed that the dismay and confusion of the people he had conquered were not produced by his greatness, but by Jehovah’s decree.

Grass… green herb — Images of frailty and sudden decay. Compare Psalms 37:2; Psalms 90:5; Isaiah 40:6.

Grass on the housetops — Which is more perishable even than that of the field, for it has no depth of soil, and quickly withers away. Compare Psalms 129:6.

Blasted before it be grown up — Blighted at the very outset, before it has become a stalk.


Verse 27

27. Thy abode — Rather, thy sitting down. The expressions sitting down, going out, coming in, are often used to denote all the actions of men.

Psalms 139:2. Jehovah was fully acquainted with all the works and life of the impious Sennacherib.


Verse 28

28. Thy tumult — Rather, thy arrogance; a reference to his impious and haughty boasts.

Hook… bridle — Allusion to the method of taming and controlling wild and restive animals. The Assyrians and Babylonians were also wont, as appears from the monuments, to lead their most distinguished prisoners by a rope or chain fastened in the lower lip, or the nose.

The way by which thou camest — These words indicate an ignominious retreat.

An invader who goes back by the same route he came usually goes back disappointed and humbled from having failed to carry out his plans.

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Verse 29

29. A sign unto thee — Unto Hezekiah; for the oracle of the prophet here turns to comfort Judah and Jerusalem.

Such things as grow of themselves — The spontaneous growth which springs up from the leavings of the previous harvest. Compare Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11.

That which springeth of the same — Hebrew, סחישׁ, sachish, which Furst defines as the “aftergrowth out of the roots of stocks in the second year after sowing.” Strabo (xi, 4, 3) says of Albania, “In many places the ground, which has once been sown, produces two or three crops, the first of which is even fiftyfold, and that without a fallow.” The same is true of various parts of Palestine.

The third year sow ye, and reap — But if, as 2 Kings 19:35 implies, the Assyrian army was smitten soon after this prophecy of Isaiah, why should they wait till the third year to cultivate the soil? Some say that this year was a sabbatical year, and the second year the year of jubilee, during both of which, according to the law, (Leviticus 25:4; Leviticus 25:11,) no sowing or reaping was allowed. This supposition may be true, but it seems to us far more simple and satisfactory to understand this year as that of Sennacherib’s invasion, which was now near its close, but during which the Jews had been obliged to eat such things as grow of themselves; the next, or second year, came so soon after the retreat of the Assyrians, and found the land in so unsettled a state, that there could be no cultivation of the soil that year; and so it was not till the third year that they could sow and reap. And all this, as it came to pass, was to be a sign to Hezekiah and his people of their miraculous deliverance from Assyria. So the sign in this case was not to be a prophecy or pledge of any thing yet future, as that the Assyrians would retreat the third year, for when that year came, and long before, the Assyrians had retreated; but the sign was of the nature of a suggestive memorial — a proof or testimonial of the Divine interposition in their behalf.


Verse 30

30. The remnant… of Judah — Those who witness the sign just mentioned, having been delivered from the hand of Assyria. There is here a reference to the remnant for whom the king had asked Isaiah to pray. Ver.


Verse 31

31. For — The blessings of Judah mentioned above are based on still deeper reasons.

Out of Jerusalem… out of mount Zion — This holy city and this sacred mountain were the divinely chosen centre of the kingdom of God. From it were to proceed the evangelizing forces of the Messianic age, (Isaiah 2:3,) so that Jerusalem and Zion were ever to be associated with the holiest communion and noblest hopes of the saints of God. Hebrews 12:22.

A remnant — The “remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5) who were to form the nucleus around which all the elect of Jehovah out of every nation should be gathered, and by the eternal covenant “have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Ephesians 2:18.

The zeal of the Lord… shall do this — So closes the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-7; this fact favours the Messianic reference of this verse. The zeal of the Lord, is his jealous care for his people, (Zechariah 1:14,) his profound interest in their welfare, as manifested in the entire history of the chosen race.


Verse 32

32. Therefore — In view of this decreed permanency of Judah.

He shall not come — The different expressions here used indicate Sennacherib’s total failure to injure Jerusalem. “The four clauses,” says Keil, “stand in a graduated relation to one another — not to take, not even to shoot at and attack, yea, not even to besiege, the city, will he come.”


Verse 33

33. By the way that he came — See note on 2 Kings 19:28.


Verse 35

SMITING AND FLIGHT OF THE ASSYRIANS — SENNACHERIB’S DEATH, 2 Kings 19:35-37.

That night — Apparently the night that succeeded the day on which Isaiah sent his oracle to Hezekiah.

The angel of the Lord went out — A supernatural minister of Jehovah’s will, as the one whom, in David’s time, Jehovah sent to scatter deadly pestilence upon Israel. 2 Samuel 24:15-16, notes. Josephus says, that in this case God sent upon the Assyrian army a pestilential plague, ( λοιμικην νοσον,) and some interpreters assume that the angel of the Lord is a Hebraism for a destructive pestilence. It is very possible that the angel made use of plague or pestilence in his work of destruction, but there is no need of confounding the angel with the plague. There is no more improbability in Jehovah’s using superhuman beings than the Assyrian army to execute his judgments, and the numbers slain on this occasion clearly evidence a preternatural stroke of Divine vengeance.

Smote in the camp of the Assyrians — “Where this overthrow took place, whether before Jerusalem, or at Libnah, or at some intervening point, has been disputed, and cannot be determined, in the absence of all data, monumental or historical. Throughout the sacred narrative it seems to be intentionally left uncertain whether Jerusalem was besieged at all — whether Sennacherib, in person, ever came before it; whether his army was divided or united when the stroke befel them, and also what proportion of the host escaped. It is enough to know that one hundred and eighty-five thousand men perished in a single night.” — Alexander.

When they arose — When the survivors arose.

All dead corpses — The one hundred and eighty-five thousand had perished while asleep. It is interesting in this connexion to note that this preternatural stroke against the Assyrian army is also recorded in legendary form in profane history. Herodotus relates (ii, 141): “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 enemy, [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.”

36. Sennacherib… departed — For Jehovah had put his hook in his nose, (2 Kings 19:28,) and led him back, like a strayed bull, to the place whence he had broken loose.

Returned, and dwelt at Nineveh — “The murder of the disgraced Sennacherib ‘within fifty-five days’ of his return to Nineveh, seems to be an invention of the Alexandrian Jew who wrote the Book of Tobit, (i, 21.) The total destruction of the empire in consequence of the blow, is an exaggeration of Josephus, (Antiquities, 2 Kings 10:2; 2 Kings 10:2,) rashly credited by some moderns. Sennacherib did not die till seventeen years after this misfortune; and the empire suffered so little that we find Esar-haddon, a few years later, in full possession of all the territory that any king before him had ever held, ruling from Babylonia to Egypt. Even Sennacherib himself was not prevented by his calamity from undertaking important wars during the latter part of his reign.” — RAWLINSON, Ancient Monarchies, vol. ii, p. 169

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Verse 37

37. Nisroch — The rank and character of this god in the Assyrian pantheon is not yet determined. Gesenius suggests that the word comes from the Hebrew root נשׁר, eagle; and Layard proposes to identify Nisroch with the eagle-headed human figure, which is one of the most prominent on the earliest Assyrian monuments. Keil says, “the eagle was worshipped as a god by the Arabs, was regarded as sacred to Melkarth by the Phenicians, and according to a statement of Philo, (that Zoroaster taught that the supreme deity was represented with an eagle’s head,) was also a symbol of Ormuzd among the Persians; consequently Movers regards Nisroch as the supreme deity or the Assyrians. It is not improbable that it was also connected with the constellation of the eagle.” But all the above suppositions concerning the Assyrian deity are largely conjectural.

Adrammelech was the name of one of the gods of Sepharvaim, (see 2 Kings 17:31, note,) and Sharezer was doubtless the name of some other deity. It was a common and widespread custom in the East to name princes after the gods. The following summary of Rawlinson, gathered from the monuments and other sources, is the best commentary on this verse: “Our various sources of information make it clear that Sennacherib had a large family of sons. Adrammelech and Sharezer, anxious to obtain the throne for themselves, plotted against the life of their father, and having slain him in a temple as he was worshipping, proceeded further to remove their brother Nergilus, who claimed the crown and wore it for a brief space after Sennacherib’s death. Having murdered him, they expected to obtain the throne without further difficulty; but Esar-haddon, who at the time commanded the army which watched the Armenian frontier, now came forward, assumed the title of king, and prepared to march upon Nineveh. It was winter, and the inclemency of the weather precluded immediate movement. For some months, probably, the two assassins were recognised as monarchs at the capital, while the northern army regarded Esar-haddon as the rightful successor of his father. Thus died the great Sennacherib, a victim to the ambition of his sons. Esar-haddon’s inscriptions show that he was engaged for some time after his accession in a war with his half-brothers, who, at the head of a large body of troops, disputed his right to the crown. According to Abydenus, Adrammelech fell in the battle; but better authorities state that both he and his brother, Sharezer, escaped into Armenia, where they were kindly treated by the reigning monarch, who gave them lands, which long continued in the possession of their posterity.” — Anc. Mon., vol. ii, pp. 185, ff.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-19.html. 1874-1909.

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