2 Kings 20:4
And it came to pass, before Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
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(4) Into the middle court.—This is the reading of some Heb. MSS., and of all the versions. The Hebrew text (city; see margin) is wrong. Before Isaiah had left the precincts of the palace, he was bidden to return. (Keil says that here, as in 2Kings 10:25, the word rendered “city” denotes “castle,” i.e., the royal residence.)

2 Kings 20:4-5. Afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court — Namely, of the king’s palace. This is mentioned to show God’s great readiness to hear the prayers of his children. Thus saith the God of thy father David —

I am mindful of my promise made to David and his house, and will make it good in thy person. I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears — Prayer addressed to God with fervency and affection, is in a special manner pleasing to him; and when offered in faith, and for things which he, in his word, hath encouraged or authorized us to ask, shall be heard and answered. I will heal thee — Diseases are God’s servants; as they go where he sends them, so they come when he remands them, Matthew 8:8-9. On the third day thou shalt go up to the house of the Lord — To give him solemn praise for his mercy. That he was able to go up so soon as the third day, showed the cure to be miraculous.20:1-11 Hezekiah was sick unto death, in the same year in which the king of Assyria besieged Jerusalem. A warning to prepare for death was brought to Hezekiah by Isaiah. Prayer is one of the best preparations for death, because by it we fetch in strength and grace from God, to enable us to finish well. He wept sorely: some gather from hence that he was unwilling to die; it is in the nature of man to dread the separation of soul and body. There was also something peculiar in Hezekiah's case; he was now in the midst of his usefulness. Let Hezekiah's prayer, see Isa 38. interpret his tears; in that is nothing which is like his having been under that fear of death, which has bondage or torment. Hezekiah's piety made his sick-bed easy. O Lord, remember now; he does not speak as if God needed to be put in mind of any thing by us; nor, as if the reward might be demanded as due; it is Christ's righteousness only that is the purchase of mercy and grace. Hezekiah does not pray, Lord, spare me; but, Lord, remember me; whether I live or die, let me be thine. God always hears the prayers of the broken in heart, and will give health, length of days, and temporal deliverances, as much and as long as is truly good for them. Means were to be used for Hezekiah's recovery; yet, considering to what a height the disease was come, and how suddenly it was checked, the cure was miraculous. It is our duty, when sick, to use such means as are proper to help nature, else we do not trust God, but tempt him. For the confirmation of his faith, the shadow of the sun was carried back, and the light was continued longer than usual, in a miraculous manner. This work of wonder shows the power of God in heaven as well as on earth, the great notice he takes of prayer, and the great favour he bears to his chosen.The middle court - i. e., of the royal palace. This is preferable to the marginal reading. 4. afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court—of the royal castle. Into the middle court, to wit, of the king’s palace; of which See Poole "1 Kings 7:8". Or, into the middle city, as it is in the Hebrew. For some observe that there were three cities, or three parts of this city; one called the city of David in Zion; another called Jebus, or Salem; and a third, which was betwixt these two parts, and united them all into one city, called Jerusalem. This is noted to show God’s great readiness to hear the sincere and fervent prayers of his children. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court,.... Of the king's palace, which is called the other court within the porch, 1 Kings 7:8 so it is according to the marginal reading, which we follow; but the textual reading is, "the middle city"; Jerusalem was divided into three parts, and this was the middle part Isaiah was entering into: but before he did, so it was:

that the word of the Lord came to him, saying; as follows.

And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
4. into the middle court] R.V. middle part of the city. The variation is due to a difference of reading, the R.V. translating, as is nearly always the case, the Kethib. The LXX. and most of the versions render the Keri, which the A.V. follows. The Kethib has הציר, the Keri substitutes חצר, which latter is the word for the ‘court’ of the palace in the description of Solomon’s buildings (1 Kings 7:8). But the city of Jerusalem was built on two hills, the western of which was more than a hundred feet higher than the eastern. The expression in the text would apply exactly to the portion lying between these two, and there seems to be no reason for accepting the Keri. It probably has sprung from a desire to represent God as hearing prayer so readily that a favourable answer was given before the prophet was beyond the precincts of the palace.

A description of the city will be found in Josephus, B. J. v. 4, 1, seqq. where the three parts of Jerusalem are noticed, the upper city (ἡ ἄνω πόλις) being Zion, the lower (ἡ κάτω πόλις) Akra. Isaiah had, according to the Kethib, gone into the portion between these two.Verse 4. - And it same to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court. The narrative in Isaiah 38:4 does not contain this touch, which is very graphic, and indicative of the eye-witness. "The middle court" is probably the second or intermediate court of the royal palace. Isaiah had not gone further than this, when he was arrested in his course by a Divine communication. That the word of the Lord came to him, saying. How the word of the Lord came to the prophets is an inscrutable mystery. Sometimes, no doubt, it came in vision, which to a certain extent we can understand. But how, when the prophet was secularly engaged, as in this instance, walking across a court, he knew that the thought which occurred to him was a Divine message, it is almost impossible to conceive. Still, we cannot doubt that if God determines to communicate his will to man, he must be able, with the message, to impart an absolute certainty of its source, an assured conviction that it is his word, which precludes all question, hesitation, or dubiety. Isaiah, in the middle of his walk, finds his steps arrested, anew injunction laid upon him, with a necessity of immediately obeying it. The fulfilment of the divine promise. - 2 Kings 19:35. "It came to pass in that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the army of the Assyrian 185,000 men; and when they (those that were left, including the king) rose up in the morning, behold there were they all (i.e., all who had perished) dead corpses," i.e., they had died in their sleep. מתים is added to strengthen פּגרים: lifeless corpses. ההוּא בּלּילה is in all probability the night following the day on which Isaiah had foretold to Hezekiah the deliverance of Jerusalem. Where the Assyrian army was posted at the time when this terrible stroke fell upon it is not stated, since the account is restricted to the principal fact. One portion of it was probably still before Jerusalem; the remainder were either in front of Libnah (2 Kings 19:8), or marching against Jerusalem. From the fact that Sennacherib's second embassy (2 Kings 19:9.) was not accompanied by a body of troops, it by no means follows that the large army which had come with the first embassy (2 Kings 18:17) had withdrawn again, or had even removed to Libnah on the return of Rabshakeh to his king (2 Kings 19:8). The very opposite may be inferred with much greater justice from 2 Kings 19:32. And the smiting of 185,000 men by an angel of the Lord by no means presupposes that the whole of Sennacherib's army was concentrated at one spot. The blow could certainly fall upon the Assyrians wherever they were standing or were encamped. The "angel of the Lord" is the same angel that smote as המּשׁחית the first-born of Egypt (Exodus 12:23, compared with Exodus 12:12 and Exodus 12:13), and inflicted the pestilence upon Israel after the numbering of the people by David (2 Samuel 24:15-16). The last passage renders the conjecture a very probable one, that the slaying of the Assyrians was also effected by a terrible pestilence. But the number of the persons slain - 185,000 in a single night - so immensely surpasses the effects even of the most terrible plagues, that this fact cannot be interpreted naturally; and the deniers of miracle have therefore felt obliged to do violence to the text, and to pronounce either the statement that it was "the same night" or the number of the slain a mythical exaggeration.

(Note: The assertion of Thenius, that 2 Kings 19:35-37 are borrowed from a different source from 2 Kings 18:13-19, 2 Kings 18:34 and 2 Kings 20:1-19, rests upon purely arbitrary suppositions and groundless assumptions, and is only made in the interest of the mythical interpretation of the miracle. And his conclusion, that "since the catastrophe was evidently (?) occasioned by the sudden breaking out of a pestilence, the scene of it was no doubt the pestilential Egypt," is just as unfounded, - as if Egypt were the only land in which a pestilence could suddenly have broken out. - The account given by Herodotus (ii. 141), that on the prayer of king Sethon, a priest of Vulcan, the deity promised him victory over the great advancing army of Sennacherib, and that during the night mice spread among the enemy (i.e., in the Assyrian camp at Pelusium), and ate up the quivers and bows, and the leather straps of the shields, so that the next morning they were obliged to flee without their weapons, and many were cut down, is imply a legendary imitation of our account, i.e., an Egyptian variation of the defeat of Sennacherib in Judah. The eating up of the Assyrian weapons by mice is merely the explanation given to Herodotus by the Egyptian priests of the hieroglyphical legend on the standing figure of Sethos at Memphis, from which we cannot even gather the historical fact that Sennacherib really advanced as far as Pelusium.)

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