Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
THE INVASION OF SENNACHERIB—HEZEKIAH’S RECOVERY FROM DEADLY SICKNESS—His PRIDE AND WEALTH—His RECEPTION OF THE EMBASSY FROM BABYLON—END OF THE REIGN.
After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.(1-23) Invasion and Divine overthrow of Sennacherib. ( Comp. 2Kings 18:13 to 2Kings 19:37. ) The Assyrian monarch’s own record of the campaign may be read on his great hexagonal prism of terra-cotta, preserved in the British Museum, containing an inscription in 487 lines of cuneiform writing, which is lithographed in the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, III. 38, 39, and printed in G. Smith’s History of Sennacherib.
Sennacherib.—So the Vulg. The LXX. gives Σενναχηριμ or είμ; Herodotus, Σαναχάριβος; Josephus, Σενναχήριβος. The Hebrew is Sanchērib. The real name as given by the Assyrian monuments is Sin-ahi-iriba, or erba (“Sin,” i.e.,the moon-god,”multiplied brothers”).
And thought to win them for himself.—Literally, and said to himself that he would break them open (2Chronicles 21:17), or and commanded to break them open for himself. Kings states that he fulfilled his purpose; he “came up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.” Sennacherib himself boasts as follows: “And Hazakiyahu of the country of the Jews who had not submitted to my yoke, forty-six strong cities of his, fortresses, and the small cities of their neighbourhood, which were without number . . . I approached, I took.” The chronicler’s object is to relate the mighty deliverance of Hezekiah. Hence he omits such details as would weaken the impression he desires to produce. For the same reason nothing is said here of Hezekiah’s submission and payment of tribute (2Kings 18:14-16); and perhaps for the further reason (as suggested by Keil) that “these negotiations had no influence on the after-course and issue of the war,” but not because (as Thenius alleges) the chronicler was unwilling to mention Hezekiah’s (forced) sacrilege. They are omitted also in Isaiah, where the account is in other respects abridged as compared with Kings.
And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem,PREPARATIONS FOR THE DEFENCE (2Chronicles 32:2-8).
They did help him.—By “gathering much people together” (2Chronicles 32:4).
So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?(4) The fountains.—Ma‘yānôth. 2Chronicles 32:3 has “springs” (‘ayānôth).
The brook.—Nàchal. “The wâdy.” The Gihon is meant, a watercourse in the Valley of Hinnom, supplied with water by the springs which Hezekiah closed in and diverted. See Note on 2Chronicles 32:30, and 2Kings 20:20; comp. Ecclesiasticus 48:17, “Hezekiah fortified his city, and brought into their midst the Gog” (LXX., Vat.), or, “into its midst water” (LXX., Alex.).
The kings of Assyria.—A vague rhetorical plural, as in 2Chronicles 28:16.
Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.(5) Also he strengthened himself.—And he took courage. (2Chronicles 15:8; 2Chronicles 18:1.)
Built up all the wall that was broken.—Isaiah 22:9-10, where “many breaches” are spoken of, and it is said that “houses were pulled down to fortify the wall.”
Raised it up to the towers.—Heb., and went up on the towers, or, and caused to go up on the towers. A different division of the Hebrew letters will give the sense “and raised upon it towers,” which is probably correct. Thenius prefers to keep the ordinary reading, which he understands to mean, and heightened the towers; alleging that 2Chronicles 26:9 shows that the wall was already furnished with towers. The LXX. has simply καί πύργους, “and towers;” the Vulgate, “et exstruxit turres desuper.” The Syriac renders, “Let them show themselves strong, and make another wall opposite the wall, and let them stop up the ditch which David made.”
Another wall without.—Literally, and on the outside of the wall (he built) another—viz., the wall enclosing the lower city or Aera, which he “built,” that is, repaired and strengthened. (See Isaiah 22:11, “the two walls.”)
Millo.—The rampart. See Note on 1Chronicles 11:8.
In the city of David.—To wit, the city of David.
And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying,(6) Captains of war.—Literally, captains of battles: a phrase found here only.
The gate.—Which gate we are not told; but the
LXX. reads, τὴν πλατεῖαν τῆς πύλης τῆς φάραγγος, “the broad place of the gate of the ravine.”
Spake comfortably to them.—Encouraged them. 2Chronicles 30:22. (See margin.)
Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:(7) Be not afraid . . . the multitude.—Comp. 2Chronicles 20:15, “Be not afraid nor dismayed for this great multitude.” “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid” occurs in Deuteronomy 31:6 (Heb.).
For there be more with us than with him.—A reminiscence of 2Kings 6:16, “Be not thou afraid; for more are they that are with us than they that are with them.” It is not necessary to suppose that the chronicler professes to give the exact words of Hezekiah’s exhortation, but only the substance and spirit of it.
With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.(8) With him is an arm of flesh.—A reminiscence of Jeremiah 17:5, “the man that maketh flesh his arm.” (Comp. Isaiah 31:3 : “Their horses are flesh and not spirit.”) His power is human, ours superhuman.
To fight our battles.—1Samuel 8:20, “a king . . . to fight our battles.”
After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying,(9-21) A brief summary of what is related in 2Ki 18:17 to 2Ki 19:37.
(9) After this did Sennacherib . . . send.—See 2Kings 18:17.
But he himself . . . Lachish.—The verb nilkham, “fought,” has perhaps fallen out. The great inscription of Sennacherib says nothing about the siege of Lachish; but a bas-relief, now in the British Museum, represents him seated on his throne receiving a file of captives who issue from the gate of a city. Over the king’s head is written “Sennacherib, the king of multitudes, the king of the land of Asshur, on a raised throne sate, and caused the spoils of the city of Lachish (Lakisu) to pass before him.”
His power.—Literally, his dominion or realm. Comp. Jeremiah 34:1, “all the kingdoms of the lands of the dominion of his hand.” The word hêl, “army,” may have fallen out.
Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?(10) Whereon . . . the siege.—Rather, Whereon are ye trusting, and why are ye sitting in distress in Jerusalem? The phrase sitting or abiding in distress occurs in Jeremiah 10:17. (Comp. also Deuteronomy 28:53.)
Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?(11) Doth not Hezekiah persuade you.—Is not Hezekiah inciting you (2Kings 18:32; 1Chronicles 21:1). The, verb recurs in 2Chronicles 32:15.
To give over yourselves . . . by thirst.—In order to deliver you to dying . . . by thirst. A softening down of the coarse expression recorded in 2Kings 18:27. Esarhaddon in the record of his Egyptian campaign uses similar language: “siege-works against him I constructed, and food and water, the life of their souls, I cut off.”
Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?(12) The same Hezekiah.—Hezekiah himself.
Ye shall worship . . . upon it.—Literally, before one altar shall ye worship, and thereon shall ye burn incense. Comp. 2Kings 18:22 : “Is it not He whose high places and altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, Before this altar shall ye worship in Jerusalem?” The chronicler is even more emphatic than Kings in asserting the sole validity of the Brazen Altar in the Temple Court.
Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand?(13) What I and my fathers have done.—The Assyrian kings are fond of such references to their predecessors.
The people of other lands.—Rather, the peoples of the countries.
Those lands.—The countries.
Their lands.—Their country. The chronicler omits the names of the vanquished states given in 2Kings 18:34, some of which had probably become obscure by lapse of time.
Assurbanipal relates that in his eighth campaign he carried off the gods of Elam with the other spoils: “His gods, his goddesses, his furniture, his goods, people small and great, I carried off to Assyria;” and he adds the names of nineteen of these deities.
Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand?(14) Who was there among all the gods.—Comp. 2Kings 18:35.
Utterly destroyed.—Put under the ban, devoted to destruction.
Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?(15) Neither yet believe him.—And believe him not.
How much less . . . deliver you.—Rather, much less will your gods deliver you; or, much more will your gods not deliver you. (Comp. Isaiah 37:10-11.) According to ancient conceptions the gods of strong nations were strong gods. Now the Assyrians had vanquished stronger nations than Judah, and therefore, as they ignorantly supposed, stronger deities than the God of Judah. (Some Hebrew MSS. and all the versions have the verb in the singular, which gives the sense, “much less will your god deliver you.”)
And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah.(16) Spake yet more.—See the parallel passages in Kings and Isaiah. The verse shows that the chronicler does not profess to give a full report.
Against the Lord God.—Literally, against Jehovah the (true) God. “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? . . . the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 37:23).
He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.(17) He wrote also letters to rail on.—And letters wrote he to reproach (Isaiah 37:23). Sennacherib wrote to Hezekiah demanding submission, after the failure of the mission of the Tartan and his companions (2Kings 19:8-14). If, therefore, the chronicler had been careful about the strictly chronological sequence of events, this verse would have followed rather than preceded 18, 19. As it is, the remark is thrown in here as a parenthesis, in the middle of the account of the behaviour of the Assyrian envoys. Something must be allowed for the necessities of abbreviation, which the author has studied in the entire narrative.
As the gods . . . have not delivered.—Literally, Like the gods of the nations of the countries, which have not delivered. (Comp. 2Kings 19:10; 2Kings 19:12 : “Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee,” &c.) “Have the gods of the nations delivered them,” &c.
Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews' speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city.(18) They cried . . . on the wall.—LXX. and Vulg., “he cried” (i.e., the Rab-sak). (See 2Kings 18:26-28.)
To affright them, and to trouble (terrify, scare) them; that they might take the city.—This is the chronicler’s own statement of the purpose of the words of the Rab-sak reported in 2Kings 18:28-35.
And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.(19) They spake against.—Or, spake of Literally, unto. (Comp. Psalm 2:7; Psalm 3:2.)
The work.—The versions have “works.” Instead of repeating the offers which the Assyrian envoys made to the people of Jerusalem, to induce them to submit, the chronicler dwells on that blasphemy against the God of Israel which was the cause of the Assyrian overthrow.
The work of the hands of man.—A reminiscence of 2Kings 19:18 : “And they put their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but the work of human hands, wood and stone” (part of Hezekiah’s prayer).
And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.(20) For this cause.—Upon this (‘al zôth). The reference is to the Assyrian blasphemies against Jehovah, which Hezekiah urged in his prayer for deliverance (2Kings 19:16), and to which Isaiah referred in his prophetic answer (Isaiah 37:23). The prayer of Hezekiah is given in 2Kings 19:15-19; Isaiah 37:15-20. The parallel passages do not say that Isaiah also prayed; but 2Kings 19:2-4, and Isaiah 37:2-4, report that the king sent a deputation of nobles to the prophet, requesting his prayers “for the remnant that were left.”
And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.(21) And the Lord sent an angel.—See 2Kings 19:35, seq.; Isaiah 37:36, seq. Hitzig thinks that Psalms 46-48. were composed by Isaiah to commemorate this great natural miracle, an hypothesis which is borne out by the similarity observable between the language and ideas of these psalms and those of Isaiah’s prophecies.
Which cut off . . . valour.—Literally, and he hid (i.e., caused to disappear, destroyed; the Greek άφανίζειν; Exodus 23:23) every valiant warrior, and leader and captain. (Comp. Psalm 76:5, a psalm which in the LXX. bears the title ᾠδὴ πρὸς τὸν Ἀσσύριον.) Kings gives the number of those who perished as 185,000.
And when he was come . . . with the sword.—And he went into the house of his god, and certain of his own offspring there felled him with the sword. 2Kings 19:37 gives the names of the parricides—viz., Adrammelech and Sharezer; and the name of the god—viz., Nisroch—which is probably corrupt. It is added that the assassins “escaped into the land of Ararat.” The chronicler as usual suppresses unfamiliar foreign’names.
Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.(22) Thus.—And. The whole verse is the chronicler’s own comment on the preceding narrative. (Comp. 2Kings 18:7.)
The hand of all.—Some MSS. appropriately add his enemies, an expression which may have fallen out of the text.
And guided them on every side (round about).—A somewhat unusual phrase. The conjecture, “and gave them rest round about (wayyānah Iāhem for wayyĕnahālēm), appears correct. (See 2Chronicles 14:6; 2Chronicles 15:15; 2Chronicles 20:30; 1Chronicles 22:18.) So the LXX. and Vulg.
And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.(23) Brought.—Were bringing =used to bring.
Gifts.—An offering (minchah), or tribute.
Presents to Hezekiah.—Among those who brought such were the envoys of Meroaach Baladan, king of Babylon (2Kings 20:12). Probably also the neighbouring peoples—e.g., the Philistines—relieved from the pressure of the Assyrian invaders, would thus evince their gratitude to the God of Israel. (Comp. 2Chronicles 18:11.)
So that he was magnified . . . nations.—Literally, and he was lifted up, to the eyes of all the nations.
In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS—HIS PRIDE AND WEALTH—THE BABYLONIAN EMBASSY—CONCLUSION (2Chronicles 32:24-33).
(24) In those days Hezekiah was sick.—This single verse epitomises 2Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38
To the death.—Unto dying.
He spake unto him.—By the mouth of Isaiah.
And he gave him a sign.—The recession of the shadow on the dial of Ahaz. Literally, and a sign He gave him; the emphatic word first.
But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.(25) But Hezekiah.—For Hezekiah’s pride, see the account of his reception of the Babylonian embassy (2Kings 20:12-19; Isaiah 39).
According to the benefit done unto him.—In his illness he promised to walk humbly all his days (Isaiah 38:15); but when he had recovered, “his heart was lifted up.”
Therefore there was wrath upon him.—And wrath fell upon him. The token of this was seen in Isaiah’s prophetic rebuke, foretelling that the royal treasures would be carried away to Babylon, and that some of Hezekiah’s sons would be eunuchs in the palace there (2Kings 20:16-18; Isaiah 39:5-7).
Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.(26) Notwithstanding.—And.
The wrath of the Lord . . . days of Hezekiah.—(Comp. Isaiah 39:8.) On hearing Isaiah’s prophecy of coming evil, Hezekiah humbly acquiesced in the will of Jehovah. “Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah. Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. And he said, There shall be peace and permanence in my own days” (2Kings 20:19).
And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels;(27) Had.—Or, got.
Shields.—Comp. Solomon’s golden, and Rehoboam’s brazen, shields. No doubt the term is here used to suggest arms in general. Kings and Isaiah mention “his armoury.”
All manner of pleasant jewels.—Literally, all vessels of desire. (Comp. Nahum 2:10, “wealth of every vessel of desire.”) Costly implements and utensils of all sorts are included.
Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.(28) storehouses also.—And magazines (2Chronicles 8:4; Exodus 1:11).
Stalls.—‘Urāwôth (Syriac, ‘ûrâwôthô). (Comp. ûryôth, 2Chronicles 9:25; and ‘ăwērôth, “cotes,” a word only found here.)
All manner of beasts.—Every kind of cattle.
Cotes for flocks.—Heb., and flocks for folds. The words appear to have been transposed by some copyist. (Comp. LXX., καὶ μάνδρας εἰς τὰ ποίμνια, “and folds for the flocks.” So Vulg., “et caulas pecorum.” Syriac omits.)
Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.(29) Moreover he provided him cities.—And he made him watch-towers. The word rendered “cities” (ārîm) appears in this connection to mean watch-towers j or forts for the protection of the flocks and herds. Isaiah 1:8 (“a besieged city “); 2Kings 17:9; 2Chronicles 26:10.
Substance.—Wealth in kind, especially cattle (2Chronicles 31:3).
This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.(30) This same Hezekiah also stopped.—And he, Hezekiah, had closed in the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon. (See 2Chronicles 32:3.)
And brought . . . city of David.—And conducted them underground to the west of the city of David. (Comp. 2Kings 20:20, where also this great work of Hezekiah is referred to in concluding his history: “He made the pool, and the aqueduct, and brought the waters into the city.”) The chronicler gives further details.
Brought it straight.—Directed or conducted them (wayyashshĕrēm; the form in the Hebrew margin is a peculiar contraction of the ordinary piel form which appears in the text).
Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.(31) Howbeit.—Literally, And thus; that is, and when things were thus prosperous with him. In the midst of Hezekiah’s prosperity, God left him for a moment to himself, by way of putting him to the proof.
The princes of Babylon.—The same vague plural which we have already noticed in 2Chronicles 28:16; 2Chronicles 30:6, and 2Chronicles 32:4, supra. The king who “sent letters and a present “to Hezekiah, with congratulations on his recovery from Sickness, and overtures of alliance against the common enemy, Assyria, was Merodach-baladan (Maruduk-abla-iddina, “Merodach gave a son”). (See the account in 2Kings 20:12, seq.; Isaiah 39)
Who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder (Hebrew, the sign, as in 2Chronicles 32:24).—This is not mentioned in the parallel passage of Kings and Isaiah. But such an inquiry is quite in harmony with what we know of the Babylonians from their own monuments. Babylon was the home of the arts of divination and augury, from observation of all kinds of signs and portents in every department of nature. Moreover, the sign given to Hezekiah would have a special interest for the astrologers and astronomers of the Babylonian temple-towers.
That he might know—i.e., in order to bring out and make manifest the latent possibilities of Hezekiah’s character. The Searcher of hearts knew the issue beforehand; but we can only conceive of His dealings with man by means of human analogies, such as that of the chemist, who subjects an imperfectly known substance to various combinations of circumstances, by way of ascertaining its nature and affinities. The remark is peculiar to the chronicler.
Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.(32) Now the rest of the acts.—See 2Kings 20:20-21.
And in the book of the kings.—Omit and. The “vision of Isaiah” is referred to as a section of the “book of the kings of Judah and Israel.” (See Introduction.) Kings l.c. says, “are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the Kings of Judah?”
And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.(33) And they buried him . . . honour at his death.—Statements peculiar to the chronicler. They go to prove an authority besides the canonical books of Kings.
The chiefest.—Rather, the ascent—i.e., the way up to the royal tombs. (Comp. 2Chronicles 20:16.) “The sons of David” are the kings of the house of David. Hezekiah may have chosen a favourite spot for his burial-place; but, as his successors Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah likewise, were not laid in the tombs of the kings, it would appear that the old royal sepulchres were full.
Did him honour at his death.—The phrase, “did him honour” (‘asû kābôd lô) occurs here only. (Comp. “give honour to,” 1Samuel 6:5; Psalm 29:1.) Probably a great burning of spices was made in honour of Hezekiah as of Asa. (See 2Chronicles 16:14; 2Chronicles 21:19.)