Isa. 37:14-20, 30-35 - WERNER COMMENTARY
37:14. Masoretic Text: And Hezekiah received the writings from the hand of the messengers and read it ["them," Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah]. And he went up to the house of YHWH, and Hezekiah spread it out before the face of YHWH.
Septuagint: And Hezekiah received the scroll from the messengers and opened it before the Lord.
Commentary v. 14: From the messengers Sennacherib had sent, Hezekiah accepted the document and read the contents. Thereafter, to indicate the seriousness of the threat that confronted him and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to make his appeal for YHWH's aid, Hezekiah went to the temple and laid down the writings from Sennacherib. He probably placed the document in front of himself, dropped to his knees, and then prostrated himself in an attitude of prayer.
37:15. And Hezekiah prayed to YHWH, saying,
Septuagint: And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying,
Commentary v. 15: Having spread out the blasphemous document from King Sennacherib, Hezekiah began to pray to YHWH.
37:16. Masoretic Text: "YHWH of hosts, God of Israel, being seated upon the cherubs, you alone [are] the God of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth."
Septuagint: "Lord Sabaoth, God of Israel, who is seated upon the cherubs, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the habitable land; you have made the heaven and the earth."
"Sabaoth" is a transliterated expression of the Hebrew designation meaning "armies" or "hosts."
Commentary v. 16: Hezekiah recognized YHWH as the God without equal, the one with hosts of angels in his service. Like fellow Israelites, he had a relationship to YHWH who was uniquely the "God of Israel." The reference to YHWH's being seated on the cherubs could refer either to his representative presence above the cherubs on the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy of the temple or to the heavenly reality that the cherubs were subject to him and loyally supported his exalted position as Sovereign. Even the powerful kingdom of Assyria was subject to him, for YHWH alone occupied the position of God over all the kingdoms of the earth. Without his permission, these kingdoms could not exercise authority. Nothing is exempt from his sovereign will, for he is the Creator of everything - heaven and earth.
37:17. Masoretic Text: "Incline your ear, O YHWH, and hear; open your eyes, O YHWH, and see, and hear all the words of Sennacherib that he sent to reproach the living God."
Septuagint: "Hear, O Lord; look, O Lord, and see the words that Sennacherib [Sennacherim] has sent to reproach the living God."
Commentary v. 17: Through his representative the Rabshakeh, Sennacherib had reproached YHWH, maintaining that he could not save Jerusalem from conquest and implying that he was as powerless as the nonexistent, lifeless gods of the nations who suffered defeat. The same blasphemous claim was repeated in writing. Therefore, the reproach of the living God could both be heard and seen. Hezekiah prayed that YHWH might hear and see the words of reviling, taking note of the distressing situation in which he and his subjects found themselves and then taking action to prevent Sennacherib from attaining his objective. The Targum of Isaiah represents the appeal as petitioning YHWH to judge, to avenge himself, and to execute vengeance on all the words of Sennacherib.
37:18. Masoretic Text: "Truly, O YHWH, the kings of Asshur [Assyria] have devastated all the lands and their land."
Septuagint: "For truly the kings of the Assyrians have devastated the whole inhabited earth and their country."
Commentary v. 18: King Hezekiah acknowledged that the Assyrian monarchs had indeed brought ruin to all the nations against whom they waged war. With their armies, they wreaked havoc in the lands through which they passed during their campaigns of conquest, leaving behind the ruins of villages, towns, and cities. The warriors felled trees for siegeworks and devastated cultivated fields and vineyards.
37:19. Masoretic Text: "And their gods they tossed into the fire, for they were no gods but the work of the hands of man ['adhám, the 'earthling'], wood and stone; and they have destroyed them."
Septuagint: "And they have tossed their idols into the fire, for they were no gods but the works of men's hands, wood and stone; and they have destroyed them."
Commentary v. 19: To indicate the superiority of their deities in having granted them the military victories, the Assyrians would cast the images of the gods of conquered peoples into the fire. These gods of other peoples, as King Hezekiah knew, were unrealities, no gods at all, but merely the handiwork of mere mortals. Having been fashioned from wood or stone, the images could be destroyed either by being consigned to the flames or by being smashed to pieces.
37:20. Masoretic Text: "And now, YHWH our God, save us from his hand, and the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are YHWH."
Septuagint: "But you, Lord our God, save us out of their hand so that every kingdom of the earth may know that you alone are God."
The parallel passage in 2 Kings 19:19 amplifies the thought, identifying YHWH alone as being God. This is also the reading of Isaiah 37:20 in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.
Commentary v. 20: Hezekiah's petition for YHWH to save him and his people from the "hand" of Sennacherib, or from the power of his military force, had as its noble motive the exaltation of the Almighty. The deliverance would serve to show to all the "kingdoms of the earth," or to all the people living in the respective realms, that YHWH was not like the nonexistent gods who possessed no power for effecting deliverance from enemy aggression. YHWH alone is the God with matchless power, always able to give unfailing aid and sure protection.
37:30. Masoretic Text: "And this [will be] the sign for you: This year you will eat what grows [of itself], and in the second year what sprouts [therefrom], and in the third year sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit."
Septuagint: "But this [will be] the sign for you: Eat this year what you have sown, but the second year the leftover, but the third year sow, reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit."
The Septuagint rendering seems to indicate that first year there would be a crop from what had been sown, but this does not fit the present context.
Commentary v. 30: In the Hebrew text and in the Septuagint, the pronoun "you" is singular, and so the words about the sign regarding the certain end of the Assyrian threat are directed to King Hezekiah. On account of the Assyrian invasion, agricultural operations had been disrupted, making it necessary for the people, including Hezekiah, to eat what grew of itself from the spilled kernels of the previous harvest. Even in the following year, the people would depend on eating the produce from seed that they had not been able to sow on account of the presence of the Assyrian forces. In the third year, agricultural operations could be resumed, and the people would be able to sow, reap, plant vineyards, and to eat the produce of their land.
37:31. Masoretic Text: "And the remnant of the house of Judah, the ones remaining, will add a root downward and bear fruit upward."
Septuagint: "And they will be the ones left in Judea [who] will sprout a root below and produce seed above."
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the words rendered "remnant of the house of Judah" are written above the line of the main text, indicating that they should be inserted. Instead of a word for "add," this scroll says "gather" ("the remnant of the house of Judah will gather") and indicates that "those who are found" would take root and bear fruit.
According to the Targum of Isaiah, the survivors of the house of Judah would be like a tree that sends its roots downward and lifts its branches upward.
Commentary v. 32: After being liberated from the enemy threat, the survivors of the house of Judah or the Judean kingdom would again be able to flourish. They would become secure as when a plant grows roots below the surface of the soil, eventually to bear fruit upon attaining its fully developed state.
37:32. Masoretic Text: "For a remnant will go forth out of Jerusalem, and an escaped group out of Mount Zion. The zeal of YHWH of hosts will do this."
Septuagint: "For the ones left over will come out from Jerusalem, and those preserved alive from Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do these things."
"Sabaoth" is a transliterated form of the Hebrew word meaning "hosts" or "armies."
The Targum of Isaiah interprets the "remnant" to be the "remnant of the righteous," and the ones who escaped to be those who "uphold the law."
Commentary v. 33: It would be because of YHWH's zeal for, or his jealous guarding of, his people that there would be those in Jerusalem or Mount Zion who would escape with their lives from the serious military threat they faced. The preservation of the remnant of the people would not be dependent on any defensive measures that Hezekiah and his subjects might undertake.
37:33. Masoretic Text: "Therefore, thus says YHWH about the king of Asshur [Assyria]: He will not come into this city and shoot an arrow there and come before it with a shield and cast a siege ramp against it."
Septuagint: "Therefore, thus says the Lord about the king of the Assyrians: By no means will he enter into this city nor will he cast an arrow against it nor lay a shield against it nor will he surround it with a palisade."
Commentary v. 33: These words gave positive assurance to King Hezekiah that Sennacherib would not conquer Jerusalem and that he and his subjects would not have to endure the hardships of a siege. Not a single Assyrian arrow would be directed against the city, not even one Assyrian warrior would appear with a shield, and no Assyrian force would be constructing a siege ramp or, according to the Septuagint, a palisade to encircle the city.
37:34. Masoretic Text: "By the way that he came, by the same [way] he will return; and he will not come into this city," says YHWH.
Septuagint: "But by the way that he came, by it he will return," thus says the Lord.
Commentary v. 34: Sennacherib had come from Nineveh to carry out his punitive military campaign, and he would return to Nineveh by the same way but as a king who had failed to capture Jerusalem or to force the surrender of the city. Through Isaiah, YHWH assured Hezekiah that Sennacherib would not enter Jerusalem.
37:35. Masoretic Text: "And I will defend this city to save it for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."
Septuagint: "I will shelter over this city to save it for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."
Commentary v. 35: Through Isaiah, YHWH assured Hezekiah that he would protect Jerusalem, delivering the city from falling into the hands of the Assyrians. Sennacherib had blasphemed YHWH, claiming that he would be unable to save the city. Therefore, when not permitting Sennacherib to seize Jerusalem, YHWH acted for the sake of his name, revealing himself to be the only living God who did have the power to deliver his people. Centuries earlier, YHWH had promised to King David that his royal line of descent would continue (2 Samuel 7:12-16) By delivering Jerusalem and, therefore, Hezekiah of the royal line of David and his subjects, YHWH acted in harmony with his promise and so also for the sake of his servant David.
Pett Commentary - Isa. 37:14-20
1. King Hezekiah Seeks Yahweh (Isaiah 37:14-20)
Isaiah 37:14: 'And Hezekiah received the message from the hand of the messengers and read it, and Hezekiah went up to the house of Yahweh and spread it before Yahweh.'
Hezekiah was slowly learning what he must do. No longer did he call for ambassadors from other countries but took the message and spread it before God in the house of Yahweh. It was a direct appeal to Yahweh by the intercessory priest of the order of Melchizedek, who represented his people before God, pleading for his city. The idea was that Yahweh Himself would then see it and know what had been said.
Isaiah 37:15-20: 'And Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh, saying, "O Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, who dwells between the cherubim, you are the God, even you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Bend your ear, O Yahweh, and hear, open your eyes, O Yahweh, and see, and hear all the words of Sennacherib which he has sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, Yahweh, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries and their land, and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are Yahweh, even you alone." '
He describes Yahweh as dwelling between the cherubim. In the Holiest of all, the inner chamber in the Temple, was the ark of the covenant, over which was the mercy seat, the throne of Yahweh. And to each side of the mercy seat was a cherub (Exodus 37:6-9). This was seen as depicting the heavenly reality (see Isaiah 6:2-3; Psalms 99:1-3). Yahweh was Lord over creation.
He declares his faith that Yahweh is the only God and over all the kingdoms of the world, He is the Creator and maker of all things. Then he appeals to Him to listen to what he has to say. Let Him consider how His name has been blasphemed and what reproach is being brought upon it. (If our prayers had more concern for God's glory and less for our own desires they would be more effective. Compare the Lord's prayer).
But then he has to admit that the king of Assyria was to some extent right. They had indeed laid waste many countries and humiliated many gods. But that was the point. Those gods had been made of wood and stone and therefore could be destroyed. They were simply man-made.
Then he prays that Yahweh will reveal this difference and show His great power by intervening as He has promised (Isaiah 37:7), demonstrating to the whole world Who He is and what He can do.
The whole prayer emphasises that the teaching of Isaiah has not been lost on him, and that his mind is now clear on these central truths of the uniqueness of Yahweh, the folly of idolatry, and the transcendent power of Yahweh.
2. Verses 30-35 - Yahweh's Assurance of Deliverance to Jerusalem
At this point Isaiah turns his thoughts back to what Hezekiah really wants to know. What is about to happen to Jerusalem?
Isaiah 37:30: 'And this shall be the sign to you, you will eat this year what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that, and in the third year, sow, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.'
The sign that what he has described will come on Sennacherib is given by a promise of what is to occur in the future (compare Isa 7:14-15). While for the next year or so they will have to survive on crops that grow of themselves, they have Yahweh's promise that by 'the third year' they will once again be eating cultivated crops and grapes. (Even if we take it literally this is not exactly three years. Part of the first year had gone so that the period was less than three years). But the sign is found in the promise. The fact that Yahweh could promise crops within three years was a satisfactory sign that His words could be depended on.
The words reveal the practicalities of the situation. What is gathered by the population once the Assyrians have left, 'what grows of itself' (compare Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11) will be sparse. It would be required for survival. For no sowing had taken place since their arrival, and the Assyrians will have made use of much that was there. By the second year enough would grow to enable some to be set aside for sowing. Thus the fuller harvest awaited the third year. The vines would take a little longer to bring under control, but would be sufficient to produce some sort of crop within the period, for some vines would have survived the ordeal. It would be a case of restoring them to fruitfulness. He may also have had in mind that the Assyrian withdrawal would take time.
This incidentally demonstrates that the Assyrian army were still encircling Jerusalem. Had they not been, some sowing would have taken place. People were used to taking advantage of lulls in the fighting in war-torn countries, but here there had been no lull.
Isaiah 37:31-32: 'And the remnant who are escaped of the house of Judah will again take root downwards and bear fruit upwards, for out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion they who will escape. The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will perform this.'
Then the remnant who remain will flourish. The mention of Mount Zion stresses that this will be Yahweh's deliverance. It is reminding us that it was because Mount Zion was His earthly dwelling place, and was in Jerusalem, that Jerusalem will be delivered. Through His power they will have escaped destruction, and will be able to rebuild their shattered lives. We must remember that Jerusalem would not only have its own population but would be packed full with refugees. They will again be able to take root (find security) and bear fruit (enjoy blessing and prosperity).
This is the closest that Isaiah comes to equating Mount Zion with Jerusalem, but its distinction must be maintained. It is not without significance that 'escaping' is linked with Mount Zion. They escaped because He was protecting them. The deliverance was Yahweh's, the result of His zeal on behalf of His people.
The remnant here are not the godly remnant of Isaiah 10:21 but the remnant of Isaiah 1:9, they are survivors, like the one tenth in Isaiah 6:13 a rather than the holy seed of Isaiah 6:13 b. They are, however, a reminder that God is preserving the nation with a view to what He will produce from it in the future.
Isaiah 37:33-34: 'Therefore thus says Yahweh concerning the king of Assyria, "He will not come to this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor will he come before it with a shield, nor cast a mount against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he will not come to this city," says Yahweh.'
The besieged city would expect that one day Sennacherib himself would come to supervise the final taking of the city. He would want to be in on the final action, and like kings often liked to do, he would want to fire a symbolic arrow there. But here Yahweh promises that he will not even approach it, never mind arriving and
shooting a token arrow, and bearing a shield and supervising the building of a siege mount.
It was typical of even great men that they liked to be thought of as warriors, and to display themselves in armour and have at least a token part in the action so as to mention their presence there in their inscriptions. (Compare the heads of armed forces today who love to display row upon row of medals which mean little). But Sennacherib would not go through these false paces here. His departure to Assyria would be soon enough for this not to happen. He would return to Assyria by the route that he had taken, and it would not lead past Jerusalem.
Interestingly the reliefs in Sennacherib's former palace illustrate this, for they did portray him as personally viewing the spoils from Lachish, a siege in which he did personally take part. So he did like to be personally connected with his triumphs, a fact which is brought out in these verses.
Alternatively this may be referring to the fact that Jerusalem is ring-fenced by the Assyrian army but not actually under attack, so that Yahweh is saying that that attack will never come.
Note again the fourfold description, "he will not come to this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor will he come before it with a shield, nor cast a mount against it.'
Isaiah 37:35: "For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake, and for the sake of David my servant."
The defense of the city is not for its own sake but because of His past promises, and because of His future intentions. And especially because of His promises to the Davidic house. His future intentions include within them a crucial place for the line of David, as Isaiah has already made clear, especially in chapters 6-11, even though it will not apply to the current house of David. It is not without significance that David is here called 'my servant'. This is preparing for Isaiah's coming revelation concerning God's Servant, and linking Him back to the coming David.
Isa. 37:14-20, 30-35 - EXTRA COMMENTARY
Verses 9-13: 9 Now he heard them say regarding Tirhakah king of [c]Cush, "He has come out to fight against you," and when he heard it he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10 "This is what you shall say to Hezekiah king of [d]Judah: 'Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, "Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria." 11 Behold, you yourself have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be saved? 12 Did the gods of the nations which my fathers destroyed save them: Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?'"
Sennacherib warned Hezekiah, through messengers and a letter (Isaiah 37:14), not to let messages from Yahweh deceive him into thinking that Jerusalem would survive. After all, all the lands that the Assyrian kings had invaded had fallen to them, he claimed. None of the powerful cities of the upper Euphrates received help to overcome Assyria from their gods. Likewise, the cities of Aram had not been able to resist takeover.
Verses 14-15: 14 Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying,
When Hezekiah received Sennacherib's letter, he took it with him into the temple and laid all the enemy's words before the Lord in prayer.
Verses 16-20: 16 "LORD of armies, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth. 17 Incline Your ear, LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, LORD, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to taunt the living God. 18 Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries and their lands, 19 and have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but only the work of human hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 20 But now LORD, our God, save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, [g]LORD, are God."
Hezekiah began his prayer-did Isaiah witness it?-by acknowledging Yahweh's uniqueness. Yahweh was not like the gods of the nations but the only true God, who dwelt among His people, the Creator who rules and determines everything. Theologically this confession climaxes the whole first part of the Book of Isaiah. Hezekiah asked the living God to pay attention to the reproachful blasphemies of the Assyrian king. He acknowledged the Assyrians' superiority over the nations they had overrun, but he ascribed this to the fact that those nations had only gods of wood and stone to defend them. Finally, he asked God to deliver Jerusalem so the nations would know that Yahweh alone was God. In short, he prayed for the glory of God.
"Like all true prayer, Hezekiah's is preoccupied with God: who he is (16); his honour (17); his uniqueness (18-19); and the revelation of his glory to the world (20).
". . . The heart of prayer is not its petitionary content but the acknowledgment of God." [Note: Motyer, p. 281.]
"Hezekiah's prayer (Isaiah 37:15-20) is saturated with biblical theology and is not unlike the prayer of the church in Acts 4:24-31." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 45.]
God responded to Hezekiah's prayer by giving Isaiah a message for the king. The prophet first explained what God would do (Isaiah 37:21-29). Then he gave the king a sign that He would indeed do it (Isaiah 37:30-35).
Verse 30: 30 "Then this shall be the sign for you: [m]you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what grows from the same, and in the third year sow, harvest, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.
For two years normal agriculture would be impossible around Jerusalem, but God would cause the land to produce enough to sustain the inhabitants. Probably the two years of interruption resulted from Assyrian military activity in the region. Fruitfulness has always been God's blessing on those who trust Him. Then the third year, planting and harvesting as usual would resume. It was particularly unusual that the Judahites would be able to plant vineyards and eat their fruit shortly after that because it often took several years for new grapevines to yield a crop.
Verse 31: 31 The survivors that are left of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Additionally, the surviving remnant of the Judahites would increase in numbers and become stronger, like the plants just mentioned. They would enjoy security and prosperity.
Verse 32: 32 For out of Jerusalem a remnant will go, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD of armies will perform this."'
The Lord would preserve a people for Himself from among the Jerusalemites. This would include the Davidic line of kings, as He had promised (2 Samuel 7:16; cf. Isaiah 9:6). His own zeal to remain true to His Word and to bless His people would perform this (cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 59:17). It would not depend on the faithfulness of His people (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).
Verses 33-35: 33 "Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: 'He will not come to this city nor shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield, nor heap up an assault ramp against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he will not come to this city,' declares the LORD. 35 'For I will protect this city to save it for My own sake, and for My servant David's sake.'"
The Lord promised Hezekiah, in closing, that Sennacherib would not even besiege Jerusalem, let alone attack it, either from close range or from farther away. He would, instead, return to his own land the same way he came. On his prism, discovered by archaeologists, Sennacherib claimed to have shut Hezekiah up like a bird in a cage, but it was really Yahweh who protected Hezekiah. [Note: See Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near . . ., pp. 287-88.] Yahweh would defend Jerusalem and preserve it, not so much for the sake of Hezekiah and as a reward for his faith, but for the Lord's own reputation and for David's sake, to whom He had promised an everlasting dynasty, which culminated in Messiah. [Note: See Avraham Gileadi, "The Davidic Covenant: A Theological Basis for Corporate Protection," in Israel's Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison, pp. 157-63.]
Isa. 37:14-20, 30-35 EXPLAINED
Verses 14-32: Hezekiah took the "letter" into the temple and "spread it before the Lord" as an act of his utter dependence upon God. In his prayer, he acknowledges that the "Lord of hosts" is the "God of Israel" who dwells "between the cherubim," where His glory was manifested on the Ark of the Covenant. In response to Hezekiah's prayer, God promises a divine reprieve of continued national prosperity when Judah will "take root downward, and bear fruit upward".
Isaiah 37:14 "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."
"House of the Lord": Godly Hezekiah returned to the house of the Lord as he should have, in contrast to Ahaz, who in a similar crisis refused even to ask for a sign from the Lord (7:11-12).
God already knew about the letter, but Hezekiah is not aware of that fact. He takes the letter to the temple and shows it to God. This in a sense, is just bringing God's attention to the matter.
It was very important for Hezekiah to come to show the letter to God. It shows that Hezekiah has faith in God to punish them for this.
Isaiah 37:15-16 "And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying," "O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest [between] the cherubims, thou [art] the God, [even] thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth."
In this, Hezekiah states his unfailing belief in God. Notice "the God". This shows that Hezekiah believes in no other God. In the tabernacle in the wilderness and in the temple in Jerusalem, God's presence was in the Holy of Holies. In fact, the presence was over the mercy seat. He even recognizes the fact that God created the earth and all that is in it.
The Egyptians, at this time, believed in something very similar to what we call evolution. Sennacherib believed each country had its own god. The Hebrews believed in One God. This statement lets God know that Hezekiah has not picked up the beliefs of the Egyptians.
Isaiah 37:17 "Incline 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 the living God."
"Hear ... see ... hear": In contrast to the gods of other nations (Ps 115:4-7), the God of Israel heard and saw all.
Hezekiah realizes that his only hope is in God. In the physical sense, Hezekiah cannot win. He reminds God that this Sennacherib is not only threatening him, but God as well. He is actually ridiculing the God of Hezekiah.
We will see in the next lesson just how dangerous it is to come against the Living God.
Verses 18-19: Hezekiah exposed the Assyrian theory that the Lord was no different from gods of the other nations that could not deliver their worshipers.
Isaiah 37:18 "Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries,"
In the last lesson, we saw that Hezekiah carried the threatening letter from the Assyrians, and laid it before the Lord in the temple. He also, prayed for God's help. In the prayer, he reaffirmed his faith in God. Now he says, it is true, the Assyrians have defeated many of their neighboring countries.
Isaiah 37:19 "And have cast their gods into the fire: for they [were] no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them."
Hezekiah is reaffirming the fact that the gods of these countries had been easy to destroy, because they were not really God. Things made with your hands are idols (nothings). God is Spirit. You cannot see Him with your physical eyes.
Isaiah 37:20 "Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou [art] the LORD, [even] thou only."
"Thou only": Hezekiah displayed the highest motivation of all in requesting the salvation of Jerusalem: that the world may know that the Lord alone is God (Dan. 9:16-19).
In this request, Hezekiah tells God that all the surrounding countries would believe in the One True God, if He saves Judah. It would prove to the others that the LORD is God, and there is none other.
Isaiah 37:30 "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."
The two years in which they were sustained by the growth of the crops were the two in which Sennacherib ravaged them (32:10). He left immediately after the deliverance (37:37), so in the third year, the people left could plant again.
The sign given to Hezekiah is that they will eat of voluntary crops the year this is spoken, and the next year, and the third year the land will produce in a normal fashion as before. The third year, they will have to plant a normal crop and reap the fruit as it comes in.
Verses 31-32: "Remnant ... remnant": From the remnant of survivors in Jerusalem came descendants who covered the land once again.
Isaiah 37:31 "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward:"
God always saves a remnant of Judah. God is saying in the third year they shall spread over the land and not be afraid because they have the protection of God. They shall be settled in the land, grounded in the protection of God, and their fruit will produce.
We know that a large number of the men of Judah had been captured already by the Assyrians, but God will protect the remainder.
Isaiah 37:32 "For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this."
"The zeal of the Lord of hosts": The same confirmation of God's promise (in 9:7), assured the future establishment of the messianic kingdom. Deliverance from Sennacherib in Hezekiah's day was a down payment on the literal, final restoration of Israel.
The remnant was always those who had not bowed their knee to Baal. They were those who truly believed in God. They put their trust in the Lord and He did not let them down. There is a special protection from God on this remnant. The zeal of the LORD could also be thought of as the holiness of the LORD.
Mount Zion is the city of our God, Jerusalem. It is also the church. Just as God protects this remnant, He protects the church supernaturally as well. He is jealous over His people. He will not let them be destroyed.
Verses 33-38: God promised Hezekiah that the "king of Assyria ... shall not come into this city", because God will defend it "for my servant David's sake" (i.e. to protect the Davidic line). "The angel of the Lord" is Christ Himself who had often moved in power on Israel's behalf (Gen 18: 1-13; Josh. 5:13 - 6:5; and Judges 6:11-23).
Just as He had earlier delivered Israel from the Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 12:29), so now He delivers Judah from the king of Assyria. He "went forth, and smote" 185,000 in the "camp of the Assyrians." A parallel account is recorded (in 2 Kings 19:35), which adds the words "and it came to pass that night (i.e. the night after Hezekiah had prayed).
Hearing of the devastation of his troops at Jerusalem and of the advance of Tirhakah's army, Sennacherib returned to "Nineveh," where he was assassinated 20 years later (in 681 B.C.), by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer (known in Akkadian as Adad-milki and Shar-usur).
"Armenia" is south of Russia beyond the Ararat mountains. "Esar-haddon" succeeded Sennacherib and ruled Assyria (from 681 to 669 B.C.).
Isaiah 37:33 "Therefore 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 shields, nor cast a bank against it."
"Shall not come ... cast a bank against it": God promised that the Assyrians would not even pose a physical threat to Jerusalem. They came near, but never engaged in a true siege of the city.
God stops Sennacherib short of coming into Jerusalem. He cannot even fight his war in the city at all. God spoke it, and it is so.
Isaiah 37:34 "By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD."
God will stop him and send him back the same way he came.
Isaiah 37:35 "For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake."
"For mine own sake": Since Sennacherib had directly challenged the Lord's faithfulness to His word (verse 10), the faithfulness of God was at stake in this contest with the Assyrians (Ezek. 36:22).
"For my servant David's sake": God pledged to perpetuate David's line on this throne (see 2 Sam. 7:16; 9:6-7; 11:1; 55:3). Jerusalem was the city of David, as well as being the holy city of God. God Himself, will defend Jerusalem.
Isa.. 37:14-20, 30-35 - PULPIT COMMENTARY
Isaiah 37:14: 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.
Verse 14. - Hezekiah received the letter. Sennacherib sent his present message in a written form. The communications between kings were often carried on in this way (see 2 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 20:12). The Hebrews use the same word for "letter" and "book;" but, when a letter is intended, employ generally the plural number (compare the Greek ἐπιστολαὶ and the Latin litterae). And spread it before the Lord. Not that God might see it and read it, in a material sense, but still that he might take note of it, and, if he saw fit, punish it. Compare the exhibition of the Books of the Law, painted with idolatrous emblems, at Maspha, "over against" the temple, by Judas Maccabaeus and his companions (1 Macc. 3:46-48). The act in both cases implied the referring of the whole matter to God for his consideration. It was, as Delitzsch, says, a sort of "prayer without words."
Isaiah 37:15: And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying,
Isaiah 37:16: O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
Verse 16. - O Lord... that dwellest between the cherubims; literally, that sittest upon the cherubim. The allusion is scarcely to the poetic imagery of God riding on the cherubim in the heavens (Psalm 18:10), as Mr. Cheyne suggests; but rather to his dwelling between the two cherubic forms in the holy of holies, and there manifesting himself (camp. Numbers 7:89; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1). Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. It has been questioned whether Hezekiah was really as pronounced a monotheist as these expressions would imply, and suggested that his actual words received "a colouring" from a later writer. Hezekiah's contemporaries, it is said, Isaiah and Micah, make no such strong statements of their belief in one only God as this (Kuenen, Cheyne). But it is difficult to see what can be a clearer revelation of monotheism than Isaiah 6:1-5, or what truth more absolutely underlies the whole of Isaiah's teaching than the unity of the Supreme Being. The same under-current is observable in Micah (Micah 1:2, 3; Micah 4:5; Micah 6:6-9; Micah 7:17, 18). Sennacherib's belief, that each country has its own god (Isaiah 36:18-20), is not shared by the religious Jews of his time. They are well aware that the heathen gods are "vanity" (Isaiah 46:3; Hosea 4:15; Amos 1:5; Jonah 2:8), "wind" and "confusion" (Isaiah 41:29, etc.). Thou hast made heaven and earth (comp. Genesis 1:1; Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 40:26-28; Isaiah 42:5, etc.).
Isaiah 37:17: Incline 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 the living God.
Verse 17. - Incline thine ear... open thine eyes. This is a conscious pleading of the promise made to Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:15).
Isaiah 37:18: Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries,
Verse 18. - Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations. This was a stubborn fact, which it was impossible to deny. From the time of Asshur-izir-pal at any rate, about B.C. 880, Assyria had pursued for nearly two centuries a steady career of conquest, reducing the nations which were her neighbors, almost without exception, and gradually spreading her power from the tract immediately about Nineveh to the Persian Gulf on the south, the great plateau of Iran on the east, the Armenian Mountains (Niphates and Taurus) on the north, and on the west to Cilicia and the Mediterranean. Her progress towards the west alone is marked in Scripture, since there alone she came in contact with God's people. Under Pul (about B.C. 760) she attacked Samaria (2 Kings 15:19); under Tiglath-Pileser II. she carried off a portion of the ten tribes (2 Kings 15:29); under the same monarch she subjugated Damascus (2 Kings 16:9); under Shalmaneser she besieged (2 Kings 17:5), and under Sargon took, Samaria (2 Kings 17:6); under Sargon also she invaded Philistia and captured Ashdod (ch. 20:1). Now she was bent on subduing Judaea, and so preparing the way for the reduction of Egypt. Humanly speaking, it was most unlikely that the small and weak state of Judaea would be able to resist her. But God was all-powerful, and might be pleased to cast down, as he had been pleased to exalt (Isaiah 10:5-19). Hence Hezekiah's appeal.
Isaiah 37:19: And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
Verse 19.: And have cast their gods into the fire. The more valuable of the foreign idols were usually carried off by the Assyrians, and placed in the shrines of their own gods as trophies of victory; but no doubt great numbers of the inferior idols. which were of wood, not even coated with metal - the ξόανα of the Greeks - were burnt. For they were no gods (temp. Jeremiah 2:11; Jeremiah 5:7; Jeremiah 16:20, etc.). Isaiah's favourite word for "idols" is elilim, which is, etymologically, "not-gods" (Isaiah 2:8, 18, 20; Isaiah 10:10, 11; Isaiah 19:1, 3; Isaiah 31:7). The work of men's hands (see Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 41:7, etc.). The absurdity of men's worshipping as gods what their own hands had made is ever increasingly ridiculed by the religious Jews (comp. Psalm 115:4-8; Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:3-15; 'Ep of Jeremy,' 8-73).
Isaiah 37:20: Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.
Verse 20: - Save us... that all the kingdoms... may know, etc. God's true servants desire deliverance and triumph over enemies, not alone for their own sakes, not even for the sake of the country or people whose fate is bound up with their own, but for the glory of God, that his honour may be vindicated in the sight of the world at large. It is a large part of the satisfaction of Moses at the passage of the Red Sea, that "the peoples would hear... the dukes of Edom be amazed... the mighty men of Moab tremble," etc. (Exodus 15:14, 15). David would have his foes "consumed" in order that they might know that "God ruled in Jacob, and unto the cads of the earth" (Psalm 59:13), and again, in order "that men may know that thou, whose Name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth" (Psalm 83:18). It has been well said that "the object of all the judgments which the true prophet desires is to bring all nations into subjection to God."
Isaiah 37:30: 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.
Verse 30. - This shall be a sign unto thee; rather, the sign. The prophet now turns to Hezekiah, and makes an address to him. "This," he says, "shall be the sign unto thee of Sennachcrib's being effectually 'bridled,' and the danger from Assyria over. In the third year from the present the land shall have returned to its normal condition, and you shall enjoy its fruits as formerly. Meanwhile you shall obtain sufficient nourishment from the grain which has sown itself." The "third year," according to Hebrew reckoning, might be little more than one year from the date of the delivery of the prophecy. The entire withdrawal of all the Assyrian garrisons from the country, which no doubt followed on Sennacherib's retreat, might well have occupied the greater part of a year. Till they were withdrawn, the Jews could not venture to till their territory. Plant vineyards. The Assyrians had, no doubt, cut down the vines (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 3. pp. 40, 62, 79; vol. 7. p. 43, etc.; Layard, 'Monuments of Nineveh,' second series, pl. 40).
Isaiah 37:31: And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward:
Verse 31. - The remnant that is escaped (see the comment on ver. 4). Take root downward, and bear fruit upward; i.e. "spread over the land, and became firmly rooted in it, and flourish as in the former time." We must conceive of the Assyrians having, in their two recent invasions, completely depopulated the country districts. Numbers had, no doubt, been slain; more than two hundred thousand had been carried into captivity; a portion had found refuge in the capital On the withdrawal of the Assyrians, these last "went forth," reoccupied their lands, and rebuilt their towns and villages. The blessing of God was upon them, and in a short time Judaea recovered her ancient vigour, so that, under Josiah, she was able to extend her dominion over almost the whole of the old Israelite territory (2 Chronicles 34:6, 18).
Isaiah 37:32: For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
Verse 32. - The zeal, etc. (comp. Isaiah 9:7). The phrase is very emphatic, marking the greatness of the thing to be done, and at the same time bringing the strophe to an end with an asseveration beyond which nothing could go.
Isaiah 37:33: Therefore 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 shields, nor cast a bank against it.
Verse 33. - Therefore, etc. A new clause is commenced - the concluding clause of the prophecy. For Hezekiah's satisfaction and consolation something more definite is needed than the vague assurances that "the daughter of Jerusalem shook her head at Sennacherib" (ver. 22), and that God would "put a bridle in Sennacherib's mouth" (ver. 29). Accordingly, it is now declared, in the plainest terms, that he shall not even lay siege to the city, but shall return by the way by which he came - the coast route - leaving Jerusalem untouched, nay, unattempted. He shall not come into this city; rather, unto the city. He was at Libnah, in the Shefeleh, thirty or forty miles from Jerusalem, when we last heard of him (ver. 8); and, having then been just informed of the advance of Tirhakah, he is likely to have proceeded on towards Egypt. There is, at any rate, not the slightest intimation of his having made a retrograde movement towards the Jewish capital. Nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. The main points of an Assyrian siege are happily seized. The first assailants were the archers. They boldly approached in large bodies, and strove to clear the battlements of the defenders. Then shields were brought into play. Under their cover the archers drew nearer; the scaling parties brought up their ladders; the miners attacked the foundations of the walls; and the torch-bearers endeavoured to fire the gates. Finally, if these tactics did not avail, banks were raised against the walls, which were then assailed with battering-rams till they were breached and the assailants could cuter. God promises that Jerusalem shall experience none of these things at Sennacherib's hands.
Isaiah 37:34: By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.
Verse 34. - By the way that he came. It is clear that Sennacherib on this occasion had marched by the usual coast route, through Sharon and the Shefeleh, upon Lachish, leaving Jerusalem far to his left. From Laehish he sent Rabshakeh to Hezekiah with a threatening message, and (as our version has it) "with a great army;" rather, "with a strong force." Rabshakeh, having delivered his message, returned to his master (Isaiah 37:8), doubtless with his escort. Sennacherib then sent a letter by messengers, but without an army, so far as we are told, to renew his threats. Meanwhile from Lachish he went to Libnah, after which we know nothing of his movements, unless we accept the Egyptian account, which was, that he advanced to Pelusium. The declaration, "By the way that he came, by the same shall he return" (comp. ver. 29) was the most comforting that Hezekiah could possibly receive. It assured him that he would not even be confronted with his enemy. Into this city; rather, unto this city (as in ver. 32).
Isaiah 37:35: For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
Verse 35. - I will defend this city... for mine own sake; literally, I will cover over this city, as a bird covers its young with its wings (comp. Isaiah 31:5; Matthew 23:37). God would do this "for his own sake;" i.e. because his own honour was concerned in the defence of his people. He would also do it for his servant David's sake; i.e. because of the promises made to David, that his children should sit upon his throne (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:29-37; Psalm 132:11-14, etc.), which involved the continued independence of Judaea and Jerusalem.