2 Kings 19:1-37
And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth…
And it came to pass, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, etc. Our purpose in our sketches on this book has not allowed us to inquire into all the minute particulars of the characters or events recorded, or into the authorship of the book, or into the right of the prophet or prophets so frequently to say, "Thus saith the Lord," but simply in the briefest way to develop for practical purposes the truths either expressed or suggested. In this chapter we have three momentous events recorded - the terrible calamity to which Jerusalem was exposed; the utter destruction of the Assyrian army; and the death of Sennacherib the Assyrian despot. The whole should be read in connection with Isaiah 37. We have here for notice four subjects of thought - the exposure of a nation to an overwhelming calamity; the blessing to a nation of a ruler who looks to Heaven for help; the advantage to a nation of a truly wise counselor; and the strength of a nation that has the true God on its side.
I. THE EXPOSURE OF A NATION TO AN OVERWHELMING CALAMITY.
1. The nature of the threatened calamity. It was the invasion of the King of Assyria. This was announced in startling terms and in a haughty and ruthless spirit by the messengers of Sennacherib. "Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah King of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the King of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed?" (vers. 10-13). The danger was near at hand. Sennacherib was on his way with his hundred and four score and five thousand men. The tramplings of the war-horses and the rattling of the amour would soon be heard in Jerusalem. The utter destruction of the city was contemplated, and seemed rapidly approaching. In a far worse position was the kingdom of Judah at this moment than was England when the Spanish Armada was approaching our shores.
2. The influence of the threatened calamity.
(1) It struck the kingdom with a crushing terror. "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. And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble" (vers. 1-3). The rending of the "clothes' and the arraying in "sackcloth" were symbols to express the horror of the heart.
(2) It struck the kingdom with a helpless feebleness. "This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" (ver. 3). "The image is that of a parturient woman whose strength is exhausted, whose powers are paralyzed, at the moment when she required to put forth a vigorous effort. The expression in which the message was conveyed to the prophet described, by a strong figure, the desperate condition of the kingdom, together with the utter inability of the people to help themselves; and it intimated also a hope that the blasphemous defiance of Jehovah's power by the impious Assyrian might lead to some direct interposition for the vindication of his honor and supremacy to all heathen gods." Here is utter national helplessness in a terrible national calamity.
II. THE BLESSING TO A NATION OF A RULER WHO LOOKS TO HEAVEN FOR HELP. What, in the wretched condition of his country, does King Hezekiah do? He invokes the merciful interposition of Heaven. When the messengers came to Hezekiah with a threatening letter from the King of Assyria (see vers. 10-13), what did the monarch do? He took it into the house of the Lord, and there prayed. "And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel," etc. (vers. 14-19). In this wonderful prayer:
1. He adores the God whom Sennacherib had blasphemed. He addresses him as the "God of all the kingdoms of the earth," the Maker of "heaven and earth," the one and only Lord.
2. He implores the Almighty for his own sake to deliver the country. "Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only." "The best pleas in prayer," says an old author, "am those that are taken from God's own honor; therefore the Lord's prayer begins with 'Hallowed be thy Name,' and concludes, 'Thine be the glory.'" Who is the greatest human king? Not the man who relies on his own power and skill to protect his nation from danger, and seeks to secure it in the possession and enjoyment of all its rights; nor the king who looks to his armies and navies in time of need; but he who practically realizes his dependence upon the "Lord" that made heaven and earth, Reverence for the Infinite is the soul of true royalty.
III. THE ADVANTAGE TO A NATION OF A TRULY WISE COUNSELLOR. Apart from his inspiration, Isaiah may be fairly taken in this case as the representative of a wise counselor, and that for two reasons.
1. He looked to heaven rather than to earth for his wisdom. "Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib King of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him" (vers. 20, 21). The counsel which he had to give he here declares to have come from the Lord. God of Israel. How the wisdom was conveyed to him, whether by an outward voice or an inner vision, does not appear; he had it from heaven. He only is the true counselor of men who gets his wisdom from above. Whence do the advisers of sovereigns get their instructions? From hoary precedents or the fallible conclusions of their own feeble minds; and not directly from above. Hence the incessant blunders of cabinets, and the scandal in these days of one political party denouncing the blunders and professing to correct the mistakes of the other.
2. He received from heaven he communicated to men. In the communication:
(1) "Sennacherib is apostrophized in a highly poetic strain admirably descriptive of the turgid vanity, haughty pretensions, and heartless impiety of this despot. 'The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee,' etc. (vers. 21-28).
(2) Hezekiah himself is personally addressed, and a sign given him of coming deliverance. He is told that for two years the presence of the enemy would interrupt the peaceful pursuits of husbandry, but in the third year the people would be in circumstances to till the earth, plant the vineyards, and reap the fruits, as formerly. 'And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof,' etc. (vers. 29-31).
(3) The issue of Sennacherib's invasion is announced. 'Thus saith the Lord concerning the King of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return,' etc. (vers. 32-34) (Dr. Jamieson). Such was the communication which, in language passionate, poetic, and powerful, Isaiah made to this perplexed and terrified nation. It involves two things:
(a) the deliverance of his country;
(b) the ruin of the despot.
IV. THE STRENGTH OF A NATION THAT HAS GOD ON ITS SIDE. Who delivered the imperiled nation? Who overwhelmed the despot? "The zeal of the Lord of hosts." "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses," etc. (vers. 35-37). Who was the "angel of the Lord"? Was it some transcendent personality, or some tremendous force in nature, such as a pestiferous blast, or an electric bolt? It matters not; the "angel" was but the instrument in the hand of God.
1. How swiftly was the deliverance effected! "That night." What a night was that! - one of the most memorable nights of the world. Perhaps the whole was effected even in one single hour, or even in one instant of that night.
2. How terrible the ruin which that deliverance effected! "A hundred four score and five thousand men" destroyed. At night, a glittering array; in the morning, "dead corpses."
"Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green, "
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay wither'd and strown." How rapidly God can do his work! he can annihilate a universe in the twinkling of an eye. Behold a mystery! Why should these hundred and eighty five thousand be thus destroyed on account of the conduct of one man - Sennacherib?
"God is his own Interpreter,
And he will make it plain? The forty-sixth psalm is supposed to be the triumphant outburst of the delivered people. "God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted." This Sennacherib, this ruthless despot, does not seem to have fallen with the others. His body was not found amongst the dead corpses. Albeit, he did not escape. "So Sennacherib King of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And 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 Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead" (vers. 36, 37). What greater calamity could befall a man than to be murdered by his own sons? - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.