Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.2. HEZEKIAH’S MESSAGE TO ISAIAH
1AND it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the 1scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of 2blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. 34It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, 4whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will 5reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: 6wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is 7left. 5So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the 8servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7Behold, I will 9send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and return to his own land; and 10I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 37:3. יום צדה comp. Ps. 20:2; 1:15; Obad. 12:14; Nah. 1:7, etc.—The expression יום תוכחה is taken from Hos. 5:9.—נאצה from נָאַץ contemnere, aspernari (1:4; 5:24; 60:14. contemtus, opprobrium occurs only here. In Neh. 9:18, 26 נֶאָצָה is found in the sense of βλασφημία, blasphemy. Our present word must be taken in this sense (comp. verse 4).—The expression the “children are come עד־משׁבר” occurs again only 2 Kings 19:3. But comp. Hos. 13:13.—לדהinf. nom. again only Jer. 13:21.
Isa 37:4. שׁלח ,אשׁר שׁלחו with double acc. like verbs of teaching, commanding: comp. 55:11; Exod. 4:28, etc.—אלהים חי, except here and Isa 37:17, the expression always reads א׳ חיים (Deut. 5:23; 1 Sam. 17:26, 36; Jer. 10:10; 23:36). The constant absence of the article in the expression is noteworthy. Thus it appears to me to designate God, not as the only living God, but only in general as living God in contrast with the dead idols, whereby is not expressly excluded that there may be still other א׳ חיים (comp. δόξας βλασφημεῖν Jude 8).—The two perfects והוכיח and ונשׂאת connect with the imperfect ישׁמע. Many older expositors have explained והוכיח to be an infinitive, and have taken it as the continuation of לחרף. But then one must make the word mean “to contemn,” which it does not. It must therefore be construed as perfect. The meaning is direct causative: “exercise reproof,” (comp. 2:4; 11:4). The prefix בְּ before דברים has a causal sense: “and he will use reproof (judicial decision) (moved) by the words, etc.” Comp. 50:1; 57:17.—The perf. ונשׂאת formally connects with the Imperf. ישׁמע although materially the reverse is the proper relation.—הנמצאה השׁארית is the remnant in fact as opposed to that which ought to be. Comp. 13:15; 22: 3.
Isa 37:6. גדף occurs only in Piel (Num. 15:30; Ps. 44:17; Ezek. 20:27; 2 Kings 19:6, 22); it means “to wound, insult, blaspheme.”
Differences between the text of Isaiah here and 2 Ki. 18 appear in verses 2, 4, 6. In verse 6 Isaiah has אליהם instead of לָהֶם because the former is the more usual, at least in these chapters (comp. 2 Kings 18:19, 22, 25, 26, 27; 19:3, 10; 20:1, 8, 14, 16, 19). The simple לְ after אמר occurs only once, 2 Kings 18:22.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. And it came—Amoz.
Isa 37:1, 2. It is perhaps not unimportant to note that, except here, when Isaiah speaks of putting on sackcloth he uses the expression חגר שׂק (3:24; 15:3; 22:12) and never employs the general article that occurs in Kings, and elsewhere also (2 Kings 6:30, comp. 1 Kings 21:27). The expression “elders of the priests” beside here and 2 Kings 19:2, occurs only Jer. 19:1. ŒHLER (HERZ.,R.-Encycl. XII. p. 182 sq.), distinguishes these priest-elders from the שָׂרֵי or רָאשֵׁי הַכֹּהֲנִים (2 Chr. 26:14; Ezr. 10:5; Neh. 12:7), and understands by the latter the overseer of the priestly class, and by the former only “the most respected priests on account of their age.” The embassy to Isaiah as one sees from those composing it, was one commensurate with the importance of the subject, and also very honorable for Isaiah.
[“Hezekiah resorted to the temple, not only as a public place, but with reference to the promise made to Solomon (1 Kings 8:29) that God would hear the prayers of His people from that place when they were in distress.” On Isa 37:2. “The king applies to the Prophet as the authorized expounder of the will of God. Similar applications are recorded 1 Kings 22:9; 2 Kings 22:14; Jer. 37:3.”—J. A. ALEX.].
2. And they said—in his own land.
Isa 37:3-7. One may say that צרה “anguish” relates only to the Jews, תוכחה “rebuke” is received from the LORD through the Assyrians, and the object of נאצה, “contempt,” is Israel and their God. Thus it appears, they intimate that the matter concerns, not them only, but also God, and that in an active and in a passive sense. [The metaphor in the last clause expresses, in the most affecting manner, the ideas of extreme pain, imminent danger, critical emergency, utter weakness, and entire dependence on the aid of others.—J. A. ALEX.]. Judah had done all in its power to keep away the supreme power of Assyria. But the latter has taken the whole land (36:1); and moreover an immense sum of gold has been sacrificed (2 Kings 18:14). But the Assyrian demands the capital itself, and Judah is powerless to hold him back. There is no going backwards, i.e., what was done in vain to ward off the Assyrian cannot be made a thing not done; and there is no going forwards, i.e., there are no means left to ward off the worst. Therefore the very life is in peril. Such is the meaning of the figurative language. In Isa 37:4 the messengers present their request. It begins timidly with אולי,“peradventure.” It refers to two things: 1) that Jehovah will hear and punish the words of Rabshakeh, 2) that Isaiah will make supplication. The order may seem an inverted one. But they produce the things sought for, not in the order in which they are to be realized, but according to their importance. The most important is that Jehovah hears and punishes. The means to this is Isaiah’s intercession. [“The preterite שׁמע denotes a past time only in reference to the contingency expressed by ישׁמע. Perhaps he will hear and then punish what he has heard. The reproach and blasphemy of the Assyrian consisted mainly in his confounding Jehovah with the gods of the surrounding nations (2 Chr. 32:19), in antithesis to whom, as being impotent and lifeless, He is here and elsewhere called the living God.—J. A. ALEX.]. Comp. 8:9; Ps. 104:28; 115:4 sqq. “To reproach the living God,” strongly reminds one of the blasphemy of Goliath, 1 Sam. 17:26, 36, 45. Such an one the Assyrian here appears. “The remnant extant” (see Text. and Gram.). The deportation of the Ten Tribes, and 36:1 show that Jerusalem was at that time only a weak remnant of the theocracy.
[Isa 37:5 “is a natural and simple resumption of the narrative, common in all inartificial history. It affords no ground for assuming a transposition in the text, nor for explaining ויאמרו Isa 37:3, as a subjunctive.”—J. A. ALEX.]. Isa 37:6, 7, contain Isaiah’s answer. The Assyrian messengers are contemptuously called נערים, i.e., “boys, striplings” of the king of Assyria. The expression Behold, I am putting a spirit in him designates the subjective side of a resolve accomplished in the king of Assyria, and he shall hear a report the objective cause. It had manifestly been the purpose of the king of Assyria to go immediately at that time against Jerusalem. Sending Rabshakeh was the prelude to it. On the return of the latter with Hezekiah’s refusal, the advance on Jerusalem was instantly to be made. This is confirmed Isa 37:9, 10 by the warning to Hezekiah not to cherish unwarranted expectations from the unlooked for diversion made by the Ethiopian army. Thus the Prophet says here, “I impart to him a spirit, i.e. I occasion him a mind, a tendency of the will (comp. 19:14; 29:10, etc.), and he shall hear a report.” This is the first stage of the deliverance. It intimates that the Assyrian’s next intention now at once to advance on Jerusalem shall not be realized. But that only wards off the immediate danger. Perhaps to reprieve is not to relieve. Thus the Assyrian himself seems to have thought according to Isa 37:10–13. But there is no danger. He shall not come before Jerusalem at all (Isa 37:33), but shall return into his land, and there fall by the sword. Let those believe that, “and I will fell him by the sword,” etc., is ascribed to Isaiah by the narrator post eventum, who cannot believe that there may be such a thing as a spirit of God, that can look freely into the future, and, when it seems good to him, can declare the future.
with which the king commissioned him.
administer punishment for the words.
and thou wilt lift up a prayer.
Or, put a spirit into him.
I fell him.
So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.3. THE WRITING OF SENNACHERIB TO HEZEKIAH
8So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria 11warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he 12was departed from Lacish. 9And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; 13and shalt thou be delivered? 12Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, 13and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 37:9. The variations from 2 Kings 19:9 are slight; על here instead of אל, and a second וישׁמע instead of וישׁב 2 Kings 19; which latter is doubtless the correct reading. That second וישׁמע seems to be merely a copyist’s error, unless the reviser of the Isaiah text overlooked the familiar adverbial meaning that the word has here.
Isa 37:10. On השׁיא, comp. on 36:14.—בוטח בו see on 36:7.—לא תנתך ו׳ see on 36:15.
Isa 37:11. להחרימם (see 11:15; 34:5) is that verbal form which we translate by the ablative of the gerund.
Isa 37:13. The words הנע ועוה are difficult. The Masorets seem to have regarded them as verbs, seeing that they have punctuated the former as perf. Hiph., and the latter as perf. Piel. So also the CHALD. (expulerunt eos et in captivitatcm duxcrunt) and SYMMACHUS (ἀνεστάτωσεν καὶ ἐταπείνωσεν). But the context demands names of localities. The LXX. translates 2 Kings 19:13 Ἀνὰ καὶ Ἀουά; also the VULG. both 2 Kings and our text.
In Isa 37:11–13 the variations from the text in 2 Kings 19 are inconsiderable. But such as they are they also give evidence of an effort at simplification and accommodation to the prevalent usus loquendi. For example Isaiah, תְּלַשָּׂר (according to sound) instead of 2 Kings תְּלַאשָּׂר (which would correspond to the Assyrian Tul-Assuri, i.e., hill of Assyria).
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. While the events narrated Isa 37:1–7 were taking place, Rabshakeh returned to report to his master, whom he found at Libnah. The news received there of the movement of the king of Ethiopia made it impossible to undertake anything against Jerusalem just then. In the event of a prolonged siege, Sennacherib might find himself in the bad situation of having the Jews in his front, and Tirhakah in his rear. This he must not risk. But to check the triumph of Hezekiah, he sends the message of Isa 37:10–13, which is virtually a repetition of Rabshakeh’s words 36:18–20, except that while the latter warned the people against Hezekiah Sennacherib warns Hezekiah not to let his God deceive him.
2. So Rabshakeh—saying.
Isa 37:8, 9. Rabshakeh it seems did not tarry long before Jerusalem for a reply. The silence (36:21) that followed his words was itself an answer. He returned, therefore, to his master to report that neither in king nor people did he meet with any disposition to make a voluntary submission. Libnah, in the siege of which he found his master engaged, was an ancient Canaanite royal city (Josh. 10:29 sqq.). It belonged (Josh. 15:42) to the low country of Judah, and was later (Josh. 21:13; 1 Chr. 6:42) a Levitical and free city. It must have been near to Lacish (Josh. 10:29 sqq.), and between that place and Makkedah. VAN DE VELDE supposes it is identical with the Tell of ‘Arâk-el-Menschîjeh, because “this is the only place in the plain between Sumeil (Makkedah) and Um-Lakhis, that can be recognized as an ancient fortified place” (HERZ., R.-Encycl., XIV. p. 753). Isa 37:9. The subject of “he heard” beginning Isa 37:9 is, of course, Sennacherib. Tirhakah was the third and last king of the twenty-fifth or Ethiopic dynasty. Sabako, or Sevechos, I. and II. were his predecessors. He resided in Thebes, where, on the left bank of the Nile, in the palace of Medenet-Habu, sculptures still exist, that represent Tirhakah wielding the war-mace over bearded Asiatics. See WILKINSON, “Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians,” I. p. 393 sqq. According to HEROD., II., 141, there appears as his contemporary, probably as subordinate king (comp. EWALD,Gesch., d. V. Isr. III. p. 678), Sethon, a priest of Hephastos, who ruled over middle and lower Egypt. According to the Assyrian monuments, Sargon conquered Seveh (Sevechos) king of Egypt in the year 720 B. C. at Rephia (comp. on 20). Again in 715, the canon of regents mentions a payment of tribute by the Pharaoh of Egypt. In the arrow-headed inscriptions of Sennacherib’s time, the name of Tirhakah has not been found as yet. But Asurbanipal (Sardanapalus), the grandson of Sennacherib, and successor of his son Esarhaddon, relates, that he directed his first expedition against the rebellious Tar-ku-u of Egypt and Meroe (SCHRADER, p. 202 sq.). As Sennacherib reigned till 681, and Esarhaddon till 668, the statement of MANETHO, that Tirhakah arose 366 years before Alexander’s conquest of Egypt, agrees, of course, better with the Assyrian statement, according to which Sennacherib came to the throne in 705, and undertook the expedition against Egypt in 700, than with the chronology hitherto accepted, that places this expedition in 714 B. C.
3. Thus shall ye—and Ivah?
Isa 37:10-13. [The design to destroy, not the people’s confidence in Hezekiah, but Hezekiah’s confidence in God, makes Sennacherib’s blasphemy much more open and direct than that of Rabshakeh.—J. A. ALEX.]. The servant could in flattery ascribe conquests to his master (36:18–20) which the latter (Isa 37:11 sqq.), more honestly acknowledges as the deed of his predecessors. [“Others, with more probability, infer that the singular form, employed by Rabshakeh, is itself to be understood collectively, like “king of Babylon” in chap. 14”—J. A. ALEX.]. Gozan, in the form Guzanu, is often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions, and that as a city (SCHRADER, p. 323, 9), and a province (ibid. p. 327, 11, 12; p. 331, 8). But opinions differ as to its location, some taking it for a Mesopotamian locality (GESEN., KNOBEL, on the authority of PTOLEMAEUS V.18, 4, also SCHRADER, p. 161, because, in an Assyrian list of geographical contents, Guzana is named along with Nisibis, and in our text with Haran and Rezeph. But others, on the authority of Arab geographers, seek for Gozan in the mountainous region northeast of Nineveh. There is a river Chabur there, flowing from the mountain region of Zuzan. This Chabur, a left branch of the Tigris, appears to be the חָבוֹר נְהַר גּוֹזָן mentioned 2 Kings 17:6; 18:11, and must be distinguished from the כְּבָר or Chaboras (Chebar) Ezek. 1:3, etc., that is a branch of the Euphrates. Comp. DELITZSCHin loc.EWALD,Gesch. d. V. Isr. III. p. 638, 658: “The Nestorians, or the Lost Tribes,” by ASAHEL GRANT. According to 2 Kings 17:6; 18:11, Gozan belongs to the lands into which the Israelites were deported. Now we find these (Ezek. 1:3; 3:15, 23; 10:15, 22) settled on the כְּבָר, i.e., Chebar. The subject is not yet cleared up. Haran, occurs often as Harran in the inscriptions as a Mesopotamian city (SCHRADER, p. 45). It is a very ancient city (Gen. 11:31; 12:5; 27:43, etc.), and well-known to Greeks and Romans under the name Κάῤῥαι, Carrae [famous for the great defeat of Crassus.—TR.], (see PLUTARCH,vit. Crassi, 25, 27 sq.). Rezeph, too, is a Mesopotamian city, west of the Euphrates, that frequently appears in the inscriptions as Ra-sa-ap-pa or Ra-sap-pa. Later it appears under the name Resafa, or Rosafa (comp. EWALD,l. c. III. p. 639). Regarding the “B’ne Eden in Telasser,” it must be noted that Ezek. 27:23 mentions a people עֶדֶז, that were merchants dealing between Sheba, i.e., Arabia and Tyre, along with חָרָן and כַּנֵּהi.e., כַּלְנֵה or כַּלְנוֹIsa. 10:9). Moreover Amos 1:5 mentions a בית עדן that, as part of the people of Syria, was to emigrate to Kir. Telasser is mentioned only once in the inscriptions, where it is related, that Tiglath-Pileser brought an offering in Tul-Assuri to the god “Marduk (i.e., Merodach) that dwelt at Telassar” (SCHRADER, p. 203 sq.). We must thus consider Eden and Telassar as Mesopotamian localities, though views differ much as to their precise locations. The question (Isa 37:13) “where is the king of Hamath,” etc., is a repetition of 36:19, excepting that we have here “king” instead of “the gods.” It is moreover remarkable that here it reads: מֶלֶד לָעִיר ם׳. The reason for this form of expression, if it is not a mere variation, is not clear. For analogies see Josh. 12:18; Num. 22:4, and in the Chaldee Ezra. 5:11. [“Another explanation of these words is that suggested by Luzzatto, who regards them as names of the deities worshipped at Hamath, Arpad and Sepharvaim, and takes מלך in the sense of idol or tutelary deity, which last idea is as old as CLERICUS. This ingenious hypothesis Luzzatto endeavors to sustain by the analogy of Adrammelech, and Anamelech, the gods of Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:31), the second of which names he regarded as essentially identical with Hena. In favor of this exposition, besides the fact already mentioned that the names, as names of places, occur nowhere else, it may be urged that it agrees not only with the context in this place, but also with 2 Kings 18:34, in which the explanation of the words as verbs or nouns is inadmissible.”—J. A. ALEX.].
and thou wilt be delivered.
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.4. HEZEKIAH’S INTERCESSION
14AND Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15, 16And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that 14dwellest between the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, 15of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. 17Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach 16the living God. 18Of a truth LORD, the 19kings of Assyria have laid waste all the 17Nations, and their countries, And have 18cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: 19therefore they have destroyed them. 20Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that 20thou art the LORD, even thou only.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 37:14. ספרים, properly scripta, stands, like the Latin litcrae, for one writing (comp. 1 Kings 21:8; 2 Kings 10:1, where verse 2 ספר interchanges with ספרים; 2 Kings 20:12, comp. Isa. 39:1). The singular suffix following refers to the singular notion ספר, scriptum.
Isa 37:15. The contents of this verse forms in 2 Kings 19 the beginning of Isa 37:15, and instead of לאמר אל־יהוה, which is the more usual form of speech, it reads in 2 Kings לפני י׳ ויאמר.
Isa 37:16. אתה הוא האלהים. Grammatically it is, of course, not impossible to take חוא as predicate and האלהים as in apposition with it. But then הוא is in effect a formal, rhetorical emphasis of the predicate. But if הוא is construed in apposition with the subject, then it is materially significant. For then it acquires meaning “talis,” and refers emphatically to the being of God as the inward ground of His works. This emphatic sense (= talis) הוא has in reference to men Jer. 49:12.
Isa 37:17. עינך, according to the punctuation and according to 2 Kings 19:16, עֵינֶיךָ, is to be construed as plural. פקח is used only of opening the eyes and the ears 42:20, comp. Dan. 9:18.
Isa 37:18. Instead of את־כל־הארצות we read in 2 Ki. 19:17 את־הגוים. If the reading in Isaiah be correct, then the following ואת־ארצם can only mean that the Assyrians have destroyed their own land, and that “by depopulation in consequence of constant War” [comp. 14:20.—TR.]. But אמנם introduces a concession of the truth of what the Assyrian says, who boasts only of what they have done to other nations. It must then be admitted that 2 Kings has the more correct reading. There appears to be an alteration in Isaiah, probably occasioned by the החריבו less used of nations than of lands, and possibly also by the לכל־הארצות Isa 37:11.—החריב, which reminds of החרים Isa 37:11, means properly “to make withered,” then generally “to waste, desolate,” In its radical meaning and primarily it is used of lands, then also of nations (49:17; 60:12; Jer. 50:27). [ארצות is used here in the sense of nations, as the singular seems sometimes to denote the inhabitants of the earth or land. This would at the same time account for the masculine suffix in ארצם.—J. A. ALEX. The Author’s hypothesis to account for the variation in Isaiah’s text is noticed by J. A. ALEX., as urged by GESENIUS, as is the case with much beside that the Author has to present on the same subject. In reference to the present instance J. A. ALEX. says: “Besides its fanciful and arbitrary character as a mere make-shift, and its gratuitous assumption of the grossest stupidity and ignorance as well as inattention in the writer, it is sufficiently refuted by the emphatic combination of the same verb and noun 60:12,—(which) proves that such a writer could not have been so shocked at the expression as to make nonsense of a sentence merely for the purpose of avoiding it. The reader will do well to observe, moreover, that the same imaginary copyist is supposed, in different emergencies, to have been wholly unacquainted with the idioms of his mother tongue [comp. Dr. NAEGELSBACH above at 36:21 on החרישׁו, and at 37:9 on וישמע], and yet extremely sensitive to any supposed violation of usage. Such scruples and such ignorance are not often found in combination. A transcriber unable to distinguish sense from nonsense would not be apt to take offence at mere irregularities or eccentricities in the phraseology or diction of his author.” The wisdom of this remark will no doubt in most minds outweigh the considerations that the Author offers, in the progress of his commentary on the present section, in proof of our text being second hand.—TR.].
Isa 37:19. ויאבדום describes, according to the succession of verbs החריבו—ונתן, the concluding result.
Isa 37:20. אתה יהוה. In 2 Kings 19:19 the reading is יהוה אלהים, and according to the accents these words belong together, whether construed as predicate or apposition with the subject אתה. Moreover the author of the Isaiah text seem to have combined them, and for this reason to have treated אלהים as superfluous. But it is certainly the most natural to separate the two words and take אלהים as predicate so that we obtain the sense: “that thou Jehovah alone art God.” Then the Isaiah text must be so understood, and יהוה be taken as in apposition with the subject אתה, while the notion God is supplied from the context: “that thou Jehovah, alone art (it, viz. God).”
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. And Hezekiah—saying.
Isa 37:14, 15. We learn here for the first that the messengers were to deliver a written message, for Isa 37:9, 10 spoke only of an oral commission. The spreading out of the letter was a symbolic transaction. It verified on the one hand, the reality of the present necessity, on the other, it would, as it were, itself cry to heaven, the blasphemy of it should itself call down the divine vengeance. It recalls all the passages where mention is made of impiety that cried to heaven: comp. e.g., Gen. 4:10; Job 16:18; 24:12; 31:33; Hab. 3:11.
2. O LORD—thou only.
Isa 37:16-20. That the Cherubim are only symbolic and not personal angel forms, as LANGE would have it (Gen. 3:24) is hard to believe. What Ezekiel saw (1:4 sqq.; 9:3; 10:2 sqq.), were not mere symbols, for symbols are likenesses, in which from a known greatness one infers the unknown. That partially agrees with the Ezekiel visions. For the rest these are of a transcendental nature. They open to us glimpses into the depths of the divinity, consequently into realities in fact, but into such before which we stand as before one that speaks in tongues. We must modestly refer the cherubim to the class of riddles that will not be resolved until the next life. It is a reflection of those heavenly functions of the cherubim, as they are described in Ezekiel, when we see the cherubim forms appear on the ark of the covenant as the bearers of the presence of God in the midst of the congregation of the Old Testament (Exod. 25:18 sqq.). From the Kapporeth, from out the space between the two cherubim (ibid.22) the LORD will reveal Himself. Hence He is repeatedly designated as the ישׁב הכרבים (1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; 22:11; 1 Chr. 13:6; Ps. 80:2; 99:1). The thou art the God, even thou Hezekiah took from the glorious prayer of thanksgiving of his ancestor David (2 Sam. 7:28) in which the latter made known his faith in the glorious promise given to his house (ibid. Isa 37:12 sqq.). [See Text. and Gram.]. In reference to God, comp. Ps. 44:5. Moreover one needs to examine closely in its context every single passage which may besides be drawn hither (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10, 13, 25; 48:12; 51:12; Neh. 9:6, 7), see on 41:4. Hezekiah evidently is at pains right thoroughly to emphasize the aloneness of God. Rabshakeh and Sennacherib himself (Isa 37:12) had most incisively expressed the heathen idea that every land has its gods. In contrast with this Hezekiah most decisively makes prominent that Jehovah is not merely a God, but the God alone for all nations of the earth: and that because he made heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 44:24; 51:13, etc.).
The causal clause for they were no gods,etc. Isa 37:19, gives at once the reason why those victories of the Assyrians were possible, and the negative ground of comfort for Israel’s hope. They could desolate those lands and destroy their gods, because the latter were only men’s work of wood and stone. But therein lay the reason for Israel’s hope. For Israel’s God was something very different: therefore the victory over those gave no ground for inferring that Assyria would conquer also the God of Israel. Isa 37:20 contains the prayer itself.
[“The adverb now is equivalent to therefore, or since these things are so. The fact that Sennacherib had destroyed other nations, is urged as a reason why the LORD should interpose to rescue His own people from a like destruction: and the fact that He had really triumphed over other gods, as a reason why He should be taught to know the difference between them and Jehovah.”—J. A. ALEX.].
seated on the, etc.
thou Jehovah alone (art it).
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria:5. ISAIAH’S MESSAGE TO HEZEKIAH CONCERNING THE DANGER THREATENED BY SENNACHERIB
21THEN Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, 21Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: 22this is the word which the LORD hath spoken 22concerning him;
The Virgin, the daughter of Zion hath despised thee,
And laughed thee to scorn;
The daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head 23at thee.
23 Whom hast thou reproached and 24blasphemed?
And against whom hast thou exalted thy voice,
And lifted up thine eyes on high?
Even against the Holy One of Israel.
24 25By thy servants hast thou reproached the LORD, and hast said,
By the multitude of my chariots am I come up
To the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon;
And I will cut down 26the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof;
And I will enter into the height of his 27border, and 28the forest 29of his Carmel.
25 I have digged and drunk water;
And with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers 30of the 31besieged places.
26 32Hast thou not 33heard long ago, how I have done it;
And of ancient times, that I have formed it?
Now have I brought it to pass,
That thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps,
27 34Therefore their inhabitants were 35of small power,
They were dismayed and confounded:
They were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb,
As the grass on the housetops,
And 36as corn blasted before it be grown up,
28 iBut I know thy 37abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in,
And 38thy rage against me.
29 Because kthy rage against me, and thy 39tumult, is come up into mine ears,
Therefore will I put my hook in thy nose,
And my bridle in thy lips,
And I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
30 And this shall be a sign unto thee,
Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself;
And the second year that which springeth of the same:
And in the third year sow ye, and reap,
And plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.
31 And 40the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah
Shall again 41take root downward,
And bear fruit upward:
32 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant,
And 42they that escape out of Mount Zion:
The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
33 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria,
He shall not come into this city,
Nor shoot an arrow 43there,
Nor come before it with 44shields,
Nor cast a bank against it.
34 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return,
And shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.
35 For I will defend this city to save it
For mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Isa 37:21. שׁלח is here, not merely “to send” generally, but to send a message, as appears from לאמר: comp. Gen. 38:25; 2 Sam. 14:32; 1 Kings 9:5; 2 Kings 5:8, etc.—The clause אשׁר התפללת וגו׳ can be construed grammatically as the premise to the apodosis זה הדבר וגו׳ Isa 37:22, or as a relative explanatory clause to יהוה אלהי י׳ Isa 37:21. The latter is possible because in Hebrew, by a prepositive אשׁרְ even the casus obliqui of the pronouns of the first and second persons can receive a relative meaning. Comp. 41:8, 9; 64:10; Gen. 45:4. But the latter explanation seems to me unsuitable because a clause like “I to whom thou hast prayed,” does not sound well in the mouth of God. For does not that assume that Hezekiah might have prayed to some other? But the harshness of the first explanation, according to which in the premise Jehovah Himself speaks, while in the conclusion He is spoken of, is an objection to it. Hence the reading of 2 Kings 19:22, at the end, שׁמעתי, which the Isaiah text omits as needless, is the more correct; especially as there appears to be an intentional echo of God’s promise to Solomon 1 Kings 9:3.
Isa 37:22. The accents designate the verb בָּזָה as Milra. According to that, it would be either part. fem. from בּוּז, or 3 pers. masc. Kal from בָּזָה. The latter would be grammatically possible, so far as בזה can be regarded as prepositive predicate. But, although בוז and בזה mean the same, still the latter is more frequently joined with the accusative and the former with the dative. For בזה occurs with ל only 2 Sam. 6:16 (1 Chron. 15:29), whereas בוז mostly appears joined with לְ (Prov. 6:30; 11:12; 13:13; 14:21; 23:9; 30:17; Zech. 4:10; Song of Sol. 8:1, 7). Besides these בוז occurs only Prov. 1:7; 23:22. As the Masoretic pointing is not binding, I would rather regard our בזה as 3 pers. fem. Kal. from בוז, corresponding to לעגה.—Also לעג is mostly joined with לְ; Ps. 2:4; 59:9; 80:7; Prov. 17:5; 30:17; Jer. 20:7, etc.—הניע ראשׁ a gesture of derision as in Ps. 22:8; 109:25; Job 16:4; Lam. 2:15.
Isa 37:23. חרף and גדף comp. Isa 37:4 and 6.—קדוֹשׁ י׳ is a specifically Isaianic expression.
Isa 37:24. This verse contains a number of variations on 2 Kings 19:23, that, from the stand-point of our author, represent emendations.—On קומה see 10:33.—In יער כרמלו of an adjective notion is made a substantive. For כדמל has here its appellative meaning: “fruitful field or garden.”
Isa 37:25. יאדי מצור comp. on 19:1 and 6.
Isa 37:26. למדחוק is, like מימי קדם (simplified from למימי 2 Kings 19:25), to be referred to what follows. Properly the prep, מן before רחוק would suffice; but the Hebrew favors the cumulation of prepositions (comp. 2 Sam. 7:19; Job 36:9; 2 Chron. 26:15. etc.). By the prefixed לְ is expressed the thought that the divine doing relates to a period beginning far back.—On ימי קדם comp. 23:7; 51: 9.—By עתה הבאתיה (comp. 46:11) the Prophet affirms that precisely what the Assyrian pretended he had done by his own power, was only the accomplishment of Jehovah’s thought. Hence ותהי must also be construed as 2 pers. masc. and referred to the Assyrian. היח with לְ following is used in the sense of “to serve for something” as in 5:5; 44:15.—השׁאות is Hiph. from שׁאה strepere, tumultuari. But the word means also the noise, the cracking of something falling in, and hence not only Kal (6:11) and the corresponding Niph. (ibid.) and Hiph. (our text and 2 Kings) have the meaning “to fall in ruins, to be laid waste,” but also the substantive שָׁאוֹן means interitus, pernicies Ps. 40:3; Jer. 44:11).—The words גלים נצים, according to Heb. usage, express the result of the destruction in the form of apposition with the thing to be destroyed; comp. 6:11; 24:12. נִצִּים is part. Niph. from נצה, and occurs in the sense of “waste” only here and Jer. 4:7.
Isa 37:27. The expression קצרי־יד “short-handed,” i. e., weak, original in Num. 11:23, occurs again only 50:2; 59:1, the adjective קָצֵר only here.—חתו ובשׁו as in 20:5.—Everywhere else the expression “grass of the field” reads עֵשֶׂב הַשָׂדֶה as in Gen. 2:5; 3:18, etc.—ירק דשא only here; comp. Ps. 37:2.—In 2 Kings 19:26 the fourth comparison is שְׁדֵפָה “blasting,” or “blasted field,” instead of שְׁדִמָה “a field.” It is no doubt a stronger figure, and as a climax, more in place. It is far more likely that it is the primitive reading and that our text is secondary.
Isa 37:29. On יען first depends the infin., which then as in 30:12, continues in the verb fin.—Instead of שַֽׁאֲנַנְֽךָ 2 Kings 19:27 has שַֽׁאֲנָֽנְֽךָ. [In some editions it is precisely the reverse.—TR.]. Are both Infin. as OLSHAUSEN (§ 187, a and § 251, b, p. 552) maintains; or is only the former, as EWALD seems to assume (§ 157, b, comp. §120, a) [also GREEN, see § 122, 1 and 187, 1, d—TR.]? To me the latter seems more probable, for I do not see why, when שַֽׁאֲנַן is infin., it would be pointed שַֽׁאֲנָנּךָ whereas this is quite easily explained if שַֽׁאֲנָנְךָ be derived from the adjective שַֽׁאֲנָן “quiet.”
Isa 37:30. אָכוֹל in the inf. absol. presents the verbal notion without determining the time or manner. The Prophet thereby affirms simply what actually is, what occurs according to nature.—שָׁחִים is ἅπ. λεγ. 2 Kings 19:29 has סָחִישׂ. The latter word is devoid of any etymological basis, as there is no root סָחַשׁ either in Hebrew or the kindred dialects. Moreover there is no agreement about the root of the form שׁחים. There is no root שָׁחַם in Hebrew. Of various explanations, that may deserve the preference which connects שׁהים with the Arabic schahis, which means “scattered, standing thin,” unless perhaps the fundamental meaning is “to divide itself, to cut loose from,” so that שׁחים would mean “that which separates itself from the root, grows out of it.” שׁחים would then be the sprouts of the root (AQUILA and THEOD. translate αὐτοφυῆ).—The imperative in זרעו וגו׳ involves so for an exhortation that the Prophet would say to the Israelites to lay aside all anxiety about the enemy for the third year, and carry on agriculture confidently.—Instead of ואכול K’ri has וְאִכְלוּ which is also the reading of 2 Kings 19:29, and seems to be the more original. For ואכול may be suspected of being imitated from the same word beginning the verse, and moreover it would involve a certain emphasis which, accurately considered, would be out of place here. It would = “and—in short—eat your fruit;” thus it would recapitulate and say in brief. It can, however, naturally refer only to כרמים (comp. 65:21; Jer. 29:5, 28; Amos 9:14).
Isa 37:32. The word צבאות is wanting in K’thibh of 2 Kings 19:31. The books of Kings have this word of the divine name only three times, viz., 1 Kings 18:15; 19:10 and 14; 2 Kings 3:14 in the history of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In Isaiah, on the other hand, it is of frequent occurrence; see 9:6 (7) the parallel passage and on 1:9.
Isa 37:33. שָׁם here stands for שָׁמָּה as in 1 Sam. 2:14; 1 Kings 18:10; Jer. 19:14.—קִדֵּם is never used in the transitive sense = “to make come before, cause to meet,” so as to construe the word with a double accusative of the place and the nearer object. But as after other verbs the instrument can be designated by the accusative (comp. 1: 20), as well as the use of בְּ, so also קִדְּם can be used with בְּ (comp. Deut. 23:5; Isa. 21:14; Ps. 95:2) and with the simple accus. instrum. as in Ps. 21:4. We have here a double accusative of the place and of the instrument.
Isa 37:34. יבא intimates that the Assyrian must be thought of as not in the land, but on the way to Jerusalem.
Isa 37:35. On גנותי see on 31:5; 38:6.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. To Hezekiah’s prayer (Isa 37:16–20) the LORD gives an answer through Isaiah, which announces the triumph of Jerusalem (Isa 37:22), convicts the Assyrian of blasphemy against God, in that he spoke haughtily against the Holy One of Israel, and ascribed to himself the glory of conquests in which he was only the instrument (Isa 37:23–27). But the LORD knows him thoroughly, and will make him know himself by unmistakable treatment (Isa 37:28, 29). To Judah a sign is given, that it is to be free forever from the Assyrian (Isa 37:30–32). For the immediate future it is announced that the Assyrian shall not even come near Jerusalem, but shall return home by the way he came; and God is declared to be the protector of Jerusalem (Isa 37:33–35).
2. Then Isaiah—at thee
Isa 37:21, 22. See Text. and Gram. Jerusalem shall see the Assyrian retreating with aims unaccomplished. Then it will look after him (אחרִיך) with derision. [“HITZIG supposes that the shaking of the head, with the Hebrews as with us, was a gesture of negation, and that the expression of scorn consisted in a tacit denial that Sennacherib had been able to effect his purpose. Thus understood, the action is equivalent to saying in words, no, no! i. e., he could not do it. A similar explanation is given by HENTGSTENBERG, on Ps. 22:8.”—J. A. ALEX. For another view see BAEHR, on 2 Kings 19:21.—TR.].
3. Whom hast thou reproached—besieged places.
Isa 37:23-25. The question extends to “thine eyes;” and thus “against the Holy,” etc., is the answer to all the preceding questions (VITRINGA, GESEN., DELITZ.). Others construe “against the Holy,” etc., with the foregoing words “and lifted up,” etc., as the answer; so that the question ends with “voice.” But against the latter it may be urged that the question and answer do not correspond; the question is not answered, and the answer given refers to something about which nothing is asked. According to our construction it is asked: “Whom hast thou blasphemed, and against whom hast thou insolently raised voice and eyes (comp. Ps. 18:28; 101:5; Prov. 6:17; 21:4)?” The answer is: “against the Holy,” etc.; wherein, according to familiar usage, the form of the answer corresponds to the final member of question. This appears more evident in 2 Kings 19:22, as על־קדושׁ י׳ connects more exactly with על־מי ה׳ [“EWALD carries the interrogation through the verse, and renders ו at the beginning of the last clause, that or so that, while HITZIG makes the whole of that clause an exclamation. This construction is more natural—the answer begins with the next verse where he is expressly charged with blasphemy against Jehovah.”—J. A. ALEX.].
Isa 37:24, 25 express more exactly how he has blasphemed. It was done by his servants. (The “hand of” figurative expression for “organ, service, means” generally 20:2; Jer. 37:2; 50:1; Hag. 1:1, 3; 2:1). The emphatic thought is that servants of men have blasphemed the LORD of the world.
This blasphemy consisted mainly (36:7, 15, 18) in representing trust in Jehovah as folly, and in the inference that, because they had conquered heathen nations, it was logically necessary that the people of God might be conquered, and thus in placing Jehovah on a level with idols. Moreover what they did, they supposed they had done by their own might, and that what was to be done yet could be done in the same way. Isaiah expresses this thought in Isa 37:24, 25, with close adherence to the circumstances, so as to divide as it were the task of the Assyrian into two parts. The first part was the conquest of the Syrian, Phœnician and Palestinian districts. All these lands lie about Lebanon. One traveling from Nineveh by Carchemish to Phœnicia must in any case go past Lebanon, which, by its lofty, snow-covered summits, gives distant notice of the locality of these lands. Lebanon therefore may serve as an emblem. Moreover in the Scriptures it is not uncommon to represent Zion under the image of Lebanon (comp. Jer. 22:6, 7, 23; Ezek. 17:3), partly because in general Lebanon is the image of what is lofty and admirable (comp. 2:13; 10:33 sq.; 35:2; 60:13; Hos. 14:6 sqq.; Zech. 11:1 sq.), partly and especially because the king’s palace in Zion had grown on Lebanon, i. e., was built of cedars of Lebanon, (comp. 1 Kings 7:2 “house of the forest of Lebanon,” or “house of the forest,” Isa. 22:8). It is inconceivable that Sennacherib or one of his predecessors ever scaled Lebanon with horse and chariot, and destroyed the cedars. The Prophet rather makes him boast that he had conquered the lands of Lebanon. And Hamath, Arphad, Syria, Phœnicia, the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, the greater part of Judah and Philistia, were actually in his possession. With reference to this, one might well represent him as saying: I have ascended up the heights of the mountains, up the sides (properly the shanks, comp. on 14:13) of Lebanon. The chief work seemed done, the chief summits were surmounted. It only remained to penetrate into the inmost part, and there destroy the ornament of Lebanon, its glorious standing timber of cedar and cypress. By עליהי the Prophet manifestly refers to what has been accomplished, i. e., the occupation of the Lebanon districts. But ואכדת and ואבוא refer to what remains to be done. Only Jerusalem remained for Sennacherib to conquer (comp. on 36:1). Thus the best, the real ornament, the central point of the Palestinian Lebanon lands was not yet his. Jerusalem with its temple and its king’s palace, the two Lebanon houses (because with both cedars of Lebanon had so much to do, comp, 1 Kings 6:9 sqq.; 7:2 sqq.) might well be compared to the crown of Lebanon with its ornament of cedars. Such is the understanding of THENIUS and BAEHR, with whom I agree. The expression “tall-growth of its cedars, choice of its cypress,” quite agrees with the Latin mode of expression, by which can be said e.g.cibum partim unguium tenacitate arripiunt, partim aduncitate rostrorum” (CIC.Deor. Nat. II. 47, 122). Comp. FRIEDR. NAEGELSBACH’SLatein. Stilistik, § 74; Isa. 1:16; 22:7; 25:12; 30:30. The Prophet does not ascribe to the Assyrian the intention of destroying the height of the cedars, while he would leave them their other qualities, but that he would utterly cut down the high cedars as they are.—On ברושׁ, the cypress, comp. on 14:8. “The height of his end or border” is also no more than his highest summit. The notion height is not already expressed in “the uttermost,” as BAEHR supposes. For a mountain has an uttermost in every direction. One may therefore speak of an uttermost in the direction upward, and of a height of the uttermost.—The forest of his garden-land is then the forest that, as it were, forms the garden of Lebanon, that adorns Lebanon like a pleasure park. The most luxuriant, glorious standing forest of Lebanon is meant.
In Isa 37:25 the Prophet speaks of the second task presented to Sennacherib, which was to conquer Egypt. That concerned a certain campaign, not in a mountainous region, but in a level land, partly waste and without water, partly abounding in water. While Sennacherib stood on the south of Palestine the great army had no superabundance of water. When, e. g., we read of Moses’ request to Edom (Num. 20:17 sqq.) it cannot seem strange that the Prophet imputed to Sennacherib the boastful assertion that so far he has provided his mighty host with water in a strange land, that he has dug wells, because the existing ones were insufficient, and had drunk away their water from the inhabitants. For such is the meaning of מים זרים2 Kings 19:24, which our author has omitted for the sake of simplicity. Had the Assyrian traversed the desert et-Tih, digging wells would, of course, have been a still greater necessity. But on the border of it, whither Sennacherib penetrated, it may have been needful. He boasts, moreover, that where there is much water, and the water is a bulwark for the inhabitants, as the Nile with its canals is to Egypt, he will easily destroy this bulwark. For by the sole of his tramp shall the streams of Egypt be dried up. Thus his warriors will dry up the streams of Egypt like a puddle, merely by the tramp of their feet. The expression “sole of the tramp” is found only here. It is metonymy. Still in respect to the act of stepping, “step” and “foot” are often interchanged. Comp. Ps. 140:5 with 56:14; 116:8; Ps. 17:5 with 38:17, etc. [“The drying up of the rivers with the soles of the feet is understood by VITRINGA as an allusion to the Egyptian mode of drawing water with a tread-wheel (Deut. 11:10).”—J. A. ALEX.].
4. Hast thou not heard—thou camest?
Isa 37:26-29. The Assyrian imagined that he pushed, and he was pushed. He regarded all he did as the product of his own free fancy, and of his power to do. The Prophet however says to him that he had only been an instrument in the hands of God. With “hast thou not heard,” the Prophet, so to speak, appeals to the better understanding of the Assyrian. Has it not somehow, if not from without, still from within, come to thy hearing (comp. Ps. 62:12) that it is not as thou thinkest? Does not thy conscience, the voice of God within thee say that it was not thou that hast planned and carried out all this, but that I, the Almighty God, long ago (22:11; 25:1) laid it out and have accomplished it? Therefore the Assyrian was to be a thorough destroyer of things. But when God destroys the things, He intends always a corresponding effect on the persons. The latter is the thought of Isa 37:27. Their inhabitants (i. e., of the cities named Isa 37:26), as short-handed, (i. e., weak), are dismayed and confounded. Then with strong figures this effect is more nearly characterized. The sorely visited inhabitants are compared to the “grass of the field,” “the green herb,” “the grass on the house tops” (in shallow soil, weak rooted; the expression again only Ps. 129:6), “the grain field before the standing fruit” (i. e., all blade and no stalk), and thus soft and tender like grass.—But not only is the foregoing true of the Assyrian as the instrument of God’s purpose, but all his doing and not doing has been directed by the LORD without his knowing it: what he proposed at home, his march forth, his coming into the Holy Land, and his hostile raging against the people of God, all was under the notice of the LORD, and must run the course determined by Him. “Sitting, going forth, coming home,” are expressions for the total activity of a man (comp. Deut. 28:6; Ps. 121:8; 139:2). רגז stands for every vehement emotion whether of fear, of anger, or of joy (comp. 5:25; 13:13; 14:9, 16; 23:11; 28:21, etc.). The Hithp. occurs only here and Isa 37:29. Because the Assyrian with this התדגז had sinned against the LORD and rebelled, and would not hear of his being dependent on the LORD, but only the report of his proud security came to the LORD, he must feel his dependence in the most incisive way. He must return home by the way he came, as it were, led by a ring through the nose like a wild beast (comp. Ezek. 19:4, 9; 29:4; 38:4), or by a bridle between the lips, like a tame beast. On the ruins of Chorsabad are figures of prisoners whom the “royal victor holds to a rope by means of a ring fastened in their lips.” Comp. THENIUS on 2 Kings 19:28.
5. And this shall—do this.
Isa 37:30-32. The Prophet turns to Hezekiah. In Isa 37:22, 29 he had in a general way held out the prospect of the pitiful retreat of the Assyrian out of the Holy Land. Now he names a sign to the king that shall be a pledge of the promise given and place it in the right light. It may be asked: how can this sign, that requires two years for its accomplishment, be a pledge for an event that is to take place at once; according to 2 Kings 19:35, even that very night? I believe that two things are to be considered here. First: Israel receives the promise, not merely of a momentary, but of a definite deliverance from the power of Assyria. This appears, evident from our prophecy itself. The scorn with which Zion greets the retreat of the Assyrian (Isa 37:22) would be ill-timed if he could return to take vengeance. According to Isa 37:29 he is so thoroughly led off that he is certain to have no wish to come back. According to Isa 37:33, 35 he is not to come before Jerusalem. It is not said, however, that this shall not happen only this time and in the present danger. The Assyrian shall never come any more. Assyria is done away. The Theocracy has nothing more to fear from it. We have shown above that this thought occurs in chaps. 28–33, especially in 33. It cannot surprise one that a promise so all-important, that Assyria shall nevermore hurt the Theocracy, is guaranteed by a sign requiring years for its realization. A promise to be fulfilled after some hours properly requires no pledge.
In the second place: it is to be noticed that there is no exact statement in our prophecy as to the way in which Assyria is to be expelled from Judah. It is neither said that it shall be so suddenly, nor in this fashion. Hence the question might arise after the event, whether this sudden expulsion is to be explained by accidental or natural causes, or as the operation of divine omnipotence. Did the LORD give a sign and the sign come about, it would prove that that first mighty blow carried out against Assyria was also intended by the LORD. But it may be asked: how can a series of events serve for a sign, which in fact take a very natural course, which could not happen otherwise? It might be urged that it took mighty little prophetic insight to know that no regular seeding and harvest could be possible before the third year. That is true. Yet only He for whom there is properly no future could know beforehand that in the third year there would certainly be a seeding and harvest. For it was quite possible that the Assyrian invasion would last for years still. What the Prophet predicts here is the favorable aspect of the future that was in general possible. Better could not happen. I construe Isa 37:30 essentially as DRECHSLER does, and think that the subject has been needlessly made hard. According to the Assyrian monuments, the expedition of Sennacherib against Syria, Palestine and Egypt occupied only the one year, 700 B. C. For in the year 699 we find him on another theatre of war, employed against Suzub of Babylon. Comp. the canon of Regents in SCHRADER, p. 319, and our remarks on 39:1. If, then, this campaign lasted no longer than a year, still it certainly demanded the whole of the time of a year suitable for warfare. Therefore Sennacherib certainly was in Palestine in Spring before the harvest, and when it was ripe seized on it, for his immense army. He conquered in fact the whole land, and shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem “like a bird in its cage.” But he must have remained in Canaan till late in the year. For when one considers that in this year he made the conquest of Phœnicia, several Philistine cities (Beth-Dagon, Joppa, B’ne-Barak, Azur), forty-six fortified cities of Judah, besides countless castles and smaller places, and then also fought a considerable battle with the Ethiopic army, there is presented a labor for whose accomplishment three-quarters of a year does not appear too much time. But with that the invasion lasted so long that the season for preparing a harvest had passed by; especially when it is considered that the inhabitants needed first to assemble again, put their houses to rights, and provide beasts of labor, as their stock must certainly have fallen a prey to the enemy. Comp. 32:10,12, 13 and 33:8, 9, which may be taken as a suitable description of the condition brought about by this invasion. For the year after the invasion, therefore, there was no product of the land to be expected in general, but such as would spring up of itself. Not before the third year could there be regular cultivation and a corresponding harvest. And, as already said, that was much, in fact, the best that could happen as things then were. For that end it would be necessary that the Assyrian by the end of the second year should no more be in the land, and have no more power to hinder field-labor. According to this explanation, we have no need of assuming a Sabbatic year, nor a year of jubilee, nor a return of the Assyrian out of Egypt to Palestine, nor an invasion lasting three years, nor that agriculture in Palestine at that time was carried on in the same ceremonious way that, according to WETSTEIN (in DELITZSCH, p. 389 sq.), is the case now-a-days. Naturally, during the invasion, in the first year, there was no fruit of harvest to eat, since the Assyrian had carried it off, but only ספיח (Lev. 25:5, 11; Job 14:19). The word comes from ספח, which undoubtedly means effundere, profundere, infundere (Hab. 2:15; Job 30:7; Isa. 5:7), in Niph. and Hithp.: “to pour” (of rivers), “to mouth, debouch,” i. e., se adjungere, adjungi (14:1; 1 Sam. 26:19). ספיח, therefore, is effusio, “the outpour, what is poured out, spilt.” Thus all field produce is meant that comes from spilling at seeding or harvest, or that comes from such spilt fruit. In the present case it would be first the former, like crumbs from the rich man’s table, and then the latter, of which the Israelites would get the benefit. On שׁחים see Text. and Gram. See in GESEN. and KNOBEL proof that in warm countries grain propagates itself partly by spilt seeds and partly by shoots from the root. [The stooling of winter wheat is familiar to agriculturists.—TR.]
But the Prophet has not only deliverance from ruin to announce to Judah, but also new growth. The escaped (פליטה, comp. 4:2; 10:20; 15:9) of the house of Judah (בית י׳ again only 22:21), the remnant (comp. 11:11, 16), shall add on root downwards (27:6). It shall, however, also bear fruit upwards, thus be a firm-rooted and fruitful tree. It is true that Judah somewhat more than an hundred years later was uprooted. Still it was not, like Israel, quite and forever wrested away from its indigenous soil, but only transplanted for a while, to be replanted again, in order to go and meet a new and final judgment, with which, however, was also combined a transition into a new and higher stage of existence. And precisely for this higher stage of existence the remnant, according to our passage and former statements of the Prophet (4:3; 6:13; 10:20 sqq.), formed the point of connection. By Isa 37:32a the Prophet explains how this revivescence of Judah shall be brought about. All Judah fell into the hand of the enemy, and by him was hostilely treated and desolated. Only the capital remained unhurt. Therefore in it had been preserved an untouched nucleus, formed partly of the inhabitants of Jerusalem themselves, partly of such men of Judah as had taken refuge in the capital. Hence the Prophet can say: “out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and the escaped from mount Zion.” For of course the repeopling and restoration of the land must proceed from Jerusalem, as from the intact core and heart of the land. On the last clause of Isa 37:32 see on 9:6. The words here are evidently intended in a consolatory sense, and to intimate that what the LORD has promised, He will perform with zeal.
6. Therefore thus saith—David’s sake.
Isa 37:33-35. In these verses, what was given in the foregoing in a general way is now definitely formulated and applied to the present situation. The Prophet affirms most positively that Jerusalem shall not be besieged by the Assyrian. It is commonly assumed that the Assyrian of course enclosed Jerusalem, and that he met the fearful overthrow narrated Isa 37:36 before its walls. But when Sennacherib received intelligence of the approach of the Ethiopian army, he was at Libnah. From there he retired a little further north to Altakai (Eltekeh), where occurred the battle. Evidently he avoided encountering the Ethiopian near, and especially obliquely south of Jerusalem, so as not to tempt the Jews to aid the enemy, and to avoid having to sustain their attack on his rear. But it is thought that the “great army’ (36:2) with which Rabshakeh appeared before Jerusalem remained there while he returned to the king (Isa 37:8). The text, however, says nothing of this, and moreover, it is internally not probable. For with the prospect of encountering so great a host as the army of Egypt and Ethiopia doubtless was, Sennacherib would not have weakened himself by sending away a great part of his own army. He might have sent a small corps of observation: but the 185,000 men of which Isa 37:36 speaks certainly did not lie before Jerusalem. There is therefore a climax in Isa 37:33. First it says, Sennacherib shall not come into the city. Then, he shall not shoot an arrow into it. In sieges among the ancients, the shield played a great part as a protection against spears, stones, etc., that were hurled down from the walls, as also against melted pitch (comp. HERZ.Real-Encycl. IV. p. 392 sqq.). סללה, “the besiegers’ wall” (2 Sam. 20:15; Jer. 6:6; Ezek. 4:2, etc.). Isa 37:35 is causal as to its contents. The first clause names, as the reason of the Assyrian’s expulsion, Jehovah’s purpose to protect Jerusalem. But the reason for this protection is the promise given to David (2 Sam. 7:12 sqq.; comp. 1 Ki. 15:4) whereby the honor of the LORD itself was at stake (comp. 43:25; 48:11) and thus the preservation of Jerusalem was necessary. It is true that Jerusalem was destroyed, after all, at a later period, and the kingdom of David demolished; but this occurred under circumstances that did not exclude a restoration. Had Judah been destroyed at that time by Sennacherib, it would have had the same fate as the kingdom of Israel.
regarding that that thou hast prayed to me respecting Sennacherib.
Heb. By the hand of thy servants.
Heb. the tallness of the cedars thereof, and the choice of the fir trees thereof.
his most luxuriant forest.
Or, and his fruitful field.
Or, fenced and closed.
Or, Hast thou not heard how I have made it long ago, and formed if of ancient times? should I now bring it to be laid waste, and defenced cities to be ruinous heaps?
heard I from far back I have done it, from ancient days I have formed, etc.
Heb. short of hand.
a field before the stalk.
Heb. the escaping of the house of Judah that remaineth.
Heb. the escaping.
Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.6. THE DELIVERANCE.
36THEN the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 37So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 38And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of 45Armenia: and Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Then the angel—in his stead.
Isa 37:36-38. In 2 Kings 19:35 it is said: “And it came to pass that night that the angel,” etc. If these additional words were supplied by some later copyist or glossarist, it is incomprehensible how they do not appear in both texts. For whoever made the addition must have wished to be credited. But in order to credibility both documents must agree in this respect. Or if it be assumed that these words were originally in the Isaiah text, but were omitted by some one who could not harmonize them with the view of Isa 37:29; then the question arises: why did not the same one omit the words at 2 Kings 19.? We must therefore hold that the words in 2 Kings 19 are genuine, and that the Author of our text omitted them, as he has done much beside, because they appeared to him superfluous or obscure. Of course, on a first view, this datum may appear strange. The events narrated in Isa 37:9–35 are unmarked by any data to indicate the time they required. Thus it may appear that they followed in quick succession, and that there is left no room for the battle between Sennacherib and Tirhaka, if the 185,000 were destroyed the night following Isaiah’s response. Yet that battle must have occurred between the announcement of Tirhaka’s approach (Isa 37:9) and the destruction of the 185,000.
According to the inscriptions on the hexagon cylinder (SCHRADER, p. 171) and on the Kujundschick bulls (ibid. p. 184), the battle of Altaku took place even before the payment of tribute by Hezekiah. But SCHRADER is undoubtedly correct in remarking (p. 190): “he (Sennacherib) purposely displaces the chronological order and concludes with the statement of the rich tribute, as if this stamped its seal on the whole, whereas we know from the Bible that this tribute was paid while the great king was encamped at Lacish, and before the battle of Altaku (2 Kings 18:14).” The Assyrian documents, therefore, cannot prevent us from placing the battle in the period between Isa 37:9–36. But it could not have been attended with decisive results. For had Sennacherib sustained a decisive defeat, he must have retreated, and the destruction of the 185,000 would not have been necessary. On the contrary, had he conquered, then the Egyptians must have retreated, of which we have no trace. Moreover the Assyrian account of the battle sounds pretty modest. For though it speaks of a defeat of the Egyptians, and of the capture of “the charioteer and sons of the Egyptian king, and of the charioteer of the king of Meroe,” yet there is wanting that further statement of the number of prisoners taken, the chariots captured, etc., statements that otherwise never fail to be made. SCHRADER also concludes from this that it must have been a Pyrrhus victory, if a victory at all. According to 31:8, Assyria was even not to fall by the sword of man. The LORD had reserved him for Himself.
If the battle of Altaku occurred as we have said, then it follows that the events narrated, Isa 37:9–36, cannot have occurred in such very rapid succession. “In that night,” 2 Kings 19:35, therefore does not refer to a point of time immediately near the total events previously narrated. It seems to me to relate only to the day in which Isaiah gave his response. When Sennacherib heard of the approach of Tirhaka (Isa 37:9) he did not necessarily send off at once his message to Hezekiah. He had likely more important matters on hand. It sufficed for his object if he sent his messengers two or three days later. Then the messengers would require several days to reach Jerusalem. If, then, on the same day [of its receipt] Hezekiah spread the letter of the Assyrian before the LORD, still it is not at all to be assumed that the response immediately followed. That could not follow sooner than the LORD commissioned the Prophet. But the LORD postponed His response to the moment when the fulfilment could follow on the heels of the promise. It is apparent that, after days of anxious waiting, the facts of the comforting assurance and of the unspeakably glorious help, coming blow on blow, must have had a quite overpowering effect. It is, after all, but the LORD’S wise and usual way, in order to exercise men in faith and patience, to let them wait for His answer, that, when they have stood the trial, He may then let His help burst in on them mightily, to their greater joy (comp. Ps. 22:3; Prov. 13:12; Jer. 42:7; 1 Sam. 14:37, 41 sq., etc.).
The mention of “the angel of the LORD” calls to mind the destruction of the first-born in Egypt (Ex. 12:12 sqq.), and the plague in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 24:15 sqq.). In these three places the angel is said “to smite” (הִכָּהExod. 12:12 sq.; 2 Sam. 24:17 or נָגַףExod. 12:13, 23; 2 Sam. 24:21, 25). He is therefore designated as מַשְׁחִית “destruction” (Exod. 12:13, 23; 2 Sam. 24:21, 25). But in 2 Sam. 24:15 the destruction wrought by the angel is expressly called דֶּבֶר, “pest,” which word is employed by Amos 4:10, probably with reference to that destruction of the first-born. Thus, then, in our passage a pest is to be understood as the sword with which the angel smote the host of Assyria; to the rejection of other explanations, such as a tempest, a defeat by the enemy, or forsooth poisoning (comp. WINER, R. W. B., Art. Hezekiah). Even that plague in David’s time carried off in a short space (probably in less than a day, according as one understands עת מועד2 Sam. 24:15) 70,000 men in Palestine. Other examples of great pest-catastrophes in ancient and modern times, none of which however equal what is told here, see in GESEN. and DELITZSCH. What is told here receives indirect confirmation from HEROD. (II. 141), who narrates that “Sanacharibos, king of the Arabians and Assyrians” was compelled to retreat before king Sethos at Pelusium, because swarms of field mice had gnawed away the leather work of the Assyrian arms. As a monument of this victory there stands in the temple of Hephaestos [Vulcan], whose priest Sethos was, a stone statue of this king with a mouse on his hand, and the superscription “ἐς ἐμέ τις ὁρέων εὐσεβἠς ἕστω.” This superscription HERODOTUS accounts for, by narrating that this king in his necessity before the battle prayed to his god, and received the assurance of divine help. If this be perhaps a trace that the overthrow of Sennacherib was recognized as evidently a demonstration of divine help, so, too, the mouse is probably a reminiscence of the rescuing plague. For the hieoroglyphics employ the mouse as the symbol of wasting and dsestruction; so that the narrative of HERODOTUS contains probably only the signification of the mouse supporting statue ascribed to it by those of later times. This combination was first made by J. D. MICHAELIS, who has been followed by GESEN. [?], HITZIG, THENIUS [BARNES, J. A. ALEX., per contra see BAEHR, 2 Kings 19]. Comp. LEYRER in HERZ., R.-Encycl. XI. p. 411.
Though the plague is a natural agent, still the great number carried off in one night is something wonderful. It appears inadmissible to me to assume with HENSLER and others (DELITZSCH, too,) a longer prevalence of the plague. The deliverance of Israel was not to come about by the sword of Egypt, nor by a natural event of a common sort. Both Israel and the heathen must recognize the finger of God, that every one may fear Him and trust in Him alone. Comp. 10:24 sqq.; 14:24–27; 17:12–14; 29:1–8; 30:7–15 sqq., 30 sqq.; 31:1–9; 33:1–4, 10 sqq., 22 sqq. The subject of וישׁכימו is the surviving Assyrians, as those who actually in the morning came upon the corpses. In מתים is evidently to be made prominent the notion of inability to act, especially to fight. The strong warriors of Sennacherib were become motionless, harmless corpses. The ויסע וילך וישב, as has often been remarked, recalls CICERO’Sabiit, evasit, excessit, erupit. The three verbs depict the haste of the retreat. In “and dwelt at Nineveh” the verb וישׁב has manifestly the meaning of remaining, comp. Gen. 21:16; 22:5; 24:55; Exod. 24:14, etc. In fact, after this overthrow, Sennacherib reigned still twenty years, and undertook five more campaigns. But these were all directed toward the north or south of Nineveh. He came no more to the west (SCHRADER, l. c. p. 205). What is narrated, therefore, in Isa 37:38, did not occur till twenty years after this.
According to OPPERT (Exped. scient. en Mesop. II. p. 339) נִסְרֹךְ means “binder, joiner,” and as the prayers that have been found addressed to him have for their subject chiefly the blessing of marriage, the conclusion seems justified that Nisroch corresponded to Hymen of the Greeks and Romans. SCHRADER assents to this view, only that, according to him, the root “sarak” in Assyrian means “to vouchsafe, to dispense,” rather than “to bind,” so that נסדך would more properly be “the good, the gracious” or “the dispenser.” An inscription of Asurbanipal, the son and successor of Esar-haddon, in which he narrates his mounting the throne in the month Iyyar, calls this month “the month of Nisroch, the lord of humanity” (SCHRADER, p. 208). In the list of gods found in the library of Asurbanipal (comp. on 46:1, and SCHRADER in the Stud. and Krit., 1874, II. p. 336 sq.), the name of Nisroch is not found. While Sennacherib worshipped in the house of his god, his two sons slew him. An awful deed: parricide and sacrilege at the same moment, each aggravating the other. Such was the end of the haughty Sennacherib who had dared to blaspheme the God of Israel. He, who had boasted that no god nor people could resist him, must fall before the swords of his sons. He that regarded himself unconquerable by the help of his idols, must suffer death in the temple and in the presence of his idol. [How different the experience of Hezekiah in the temple of Jehovah, and the fate of Sennacherib in the temple of his idol!—TR.]. HENDEWERK cites, as parallel instances of monarchs murdered while at prayer, the cases of Caliph Omar, and the emperor Leo V. No mention has been discovered thus far, in the Assyrian inscriptions of the murder of Sennacherib, whereas they do inform us of the murder of his father Sargon. POLYHYSTOR, among profane historians, relates (in EUSEB.Armen. Chron. ed. Mai, p. 19) the murder of Sennacherib. But he only names Ardumusanus, i.e., Adrammelech as the murderer. ABYDENUS, on the other hand (ibid. p. 25) makes Nergilus the son of Sennacherib succeed the latter. This one was murdered by his brother Adramelus, and the latter in turn by his brother Axerdis. Here Adramelus is evidently = Adrammelech, Axerdis = Esarhaddon. Nergilus, however, according to SCHRADER’S sagacious conjecture, = Sarezer. For Sarezer in Assyrian is Sar-usur, i.e., protect the king. But to this Imperative is prefixed the name of the god that protects, so that the complete name may sound, sometimes Bil-sar-usur, sometimes, Asur-sar-usur, sometimes Nirgal-sar-usur, etc. But the name may also be used in an abbreviated form, viz.: with the omission of the name of the god: so that thus this Sarezer when the name in full was spoken, may have been Nirgal-sar-usur.ABYDENUS then may have preserved the first half of this name, while the Bible preserved the latter half (SCHRADER, p. 206) Adrammelech occurs as the name of a god 2 Kings 17:31. The word in Assyrian is Adar-malik, i.e. Adar is prince. (SCHRADER, p. 168).
According to Armenian tradition, the two sons of Sennacherib were to have been offered in sacrifice by their father (see DELITZSCHin loc.). According to the book of Tobit (1:18 sqq.), Sennacherib wreaked his vengeance for the overthrow he suffered on the captives of the Ten Tribes. On the other hand he was a hated person by the Jews, whence also they held his murderers in high honor. Later Rabbins were of the opinion that these became Jews, and in the middle ages their tombs were pointed out in Galilee (comp. EWALD, Hist. d. V. Isr. III. p. 690, Anm.). Our text says the parricides escaped to the land of Ararat, i.e., Central Armenia The Assyrian for Ararat is Ur-ar-ti. The word often occurs in the lists of government as the designation of Armenia (comp. SCHRADER, p. 10, 324, lines 37–40, 42, 44; p. 329, lines 31, 39). According to Armenian historians, the posterity of those two sons of the king long existed in the two princely races of the Sassunians, and Arzerunians. From the latter descended the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Armenian, from whom in turn a long row of Byzantine rulers were descended. “Not less than ten Byzantine Emperors, if such were the case, may be regarded as the posterity of Sennacherib: so that thus the prophecy of Nah. 1:14 received its fulfilment only very late. DELITZSCH, in loc.; RITTER, Erdkunde, X. p. 585 sq. Esar-haddon in Assyrian is Asur-ah-iddin, i.e., Asur gives a brother (SCHRADER, p. 208). According to the canon of regents (ibid. p. 320), Esarhaddon ascended the throne in the year 681 B. C. EWALD places the date of Isaiah’s entrance on his office under Uzziah in the year 757, his death under Manasseh in the year 695 (Gesch. d. V. Isr. III. p. 844, 846). DELITZSCH, following DUNCKER sets the beginning of Esar-haddon’s reign in the year 693, and admits that in this case Isaiah must have been almost ninety years old. Now in as much as, according to the very certain data of the Assyrian documents, Isaiah, if he lived when Esar-haddon’s reign began, must have become almost 100 years old, one must recognize at least in Isa 37:37 sq., an addition by a later hand, which also DELITZSCH admits. [The reader that desires to inform himself more particularly on these questions of chronology, and to see a defence of Isaiah’s data, is hereby referred to BIRK’SComm. on Isa., Appendix III., “THE ASSYRIAN REIGNS IN ISAIAH.” The same article will serve as an introduction to the English literature on the subject.—TR.].