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CHAPTER 36

Isa 36:1-22. Sennacherib's Invasion; Blasphemous Solicitations; Hezekiah Is Told of Them.

This and the thirty-seventh through thirty-ninth chapters form the historical appendix closing the first division of Isaiah's prophecies, and were added to make the parts of these referring to Assyria more intelligible. So Jer 52:1-34; compare 2Ki 25:1-30. The section occurs almost word for word (2Ki 18:13, 17-20; 19:1-37); 2Ki 18:14-16, however, is additional matter. Hezekiah's "writing" also is in Isaiah, not in Kings (Isa 38:9-20). We know from 2Ch 32:32 that Isaiah wrote the acts of Hezekiah. It is, therefore, probable, that his record here (Isa 36:1-39:8) was incorporated into the Book of Kings by its compiler. Sennacherib lived, according to Assyrian inscriptions, more than twenty years after his invasion; but as Isaiah survived Hezekiah (2Ch 32:32), who lived upwards of fifteen years after the invasion (Isa 38:5), the record of Sennacherib's death (Isa 37:38) is no objection to this section having come from Isaiah; 2Ch 32:1-33 is probably an abstract drawn from Isaiah's account, as the chronicler himself implies (2Ch 32:32). Pul was probably the last of the old dynasty, and Sargon, a powerful satrap, who contrived to possess himself of supreme power and found a new dynasty (see on Isa 20:1). No attempt was made by Judah to throw off the Assyrian yoke during his vigorous reign. The accession of his son Sennacherib was thought by Hezekiah the opportune time to refuse the long-paid tribute; Egypt and Ethiopia, to secure an ally against Assyria on their Asiatic frontier, promised help; Isaiah, while opposed to submission to Assyria, advised reliance on Jehovah, and not on Egypt, but his advice was disregarded, and so Sennacherib invaded Judea, 712 B.C. He was the builder of the largest of the excavated palaces, that of Koyunjik. Hincks has deciphered his name in the inscriptions. In the third year of his reign, these state that he overran Syria, took Sidon and other Phœnician cities, and then passed to southwest Palestine, where he defeated the Egyptians and Ethiopians (compare 2Ki 18:21; 19:9). His subsequent retreat, after his host was destroyed by God, is of course suppressed in the inscriptions. But other particulars inscribed agree strikingly with the Bible; the capture of the "defensed cities of Judah," the devastation of the country and deportation of its inhabitants; the increased tribute imposed on Hezekiah—thirty talents of gold—this exact number being given in both; the silver is set down in the inscriptions at eight hundred talents, in the Bible three hundred; the latter may have been the actual amount carried off, the larger sum may include the silver from the temple doors, pillars, &c. (2Ki 18:16).

1. fourteenth—the third of Sennacherib's reign. His ultimate object was Egypt, Hezekiah's ally. Hence he, with the great body of his army (2Ch 32:9), advanced towards the Egyptian frontier, in southwest Palestine, and did not approach Jerusalem.

2. Rab-shakeh—In 2Ki 18:17, Tartan and Rab-saris are joined with him. Rab-shakeh was probably the chief leader; Rab is a title of authority, "chief-cup-bearer."

Lachish—a frontier town southwest of Jerusalem, in Judah; represented as a great fortified city in a hilly and fruitful country in the Koyunjik bas-reliefs, now in the British Museum; also, its name is found on a slab over a figure of Sennacherib on his throne.

upper pool—the side on which the Assyrians would approach Jerusalem coming from the southwest (see on Isa 7:3).

3. Eliakim—successor to Shebna, who had been "over the household," that is, chief minister of the king; in Isa 22:15-20, this was foretold.

scribe—secretary, recorder—literally, "one who reminds"; a remembrancer to keep the king informed on important facts, and to act as historiographer. In 2Ki 18:18, the additional fact is given that the Assyrian envoys "called to the king," in consequence of which Eliakim, &c., "came out to them."

4. great king—the usual title of the Persian and Assyrian kings, as they had many subordinate princes or kings under them over provinces (Isa 10:8).

5. counsel—Egypt was famed for its wisdom.

6. It was a similar alliance with So (that is, Sabacho, or else Sevechus), the Ethiopian king of Egypt, which provoked the Assyrian to invade and destroy Israel, the northern kingdom, under Hoshea.

7. The Assyrian mistakes Hezekiah's religious reforms whereby he took away the high places (2Ki 18:4) as directed against Jehovah. Some of the high places may have been dedicated to Jehovah, but worshipped under the form of an image in violation of the second commandment: the "brazen serpent," also (broken in pieces by Hezekiah, and called Nehushtan, "a piece of brass," because it was worshipped by Israel) was originally set up by God's command. Hence the Assyrian's allegation has a specious color: you cannot look for help from Jehovah, for your king has "taken away His altars."

to Jerusalem—(De 12:5, 11; Joh 4:20).

8. give pledges—a taunting challenge. Only give the guarantee that you can supply as many as two thousand riders, and I will give thee two thousand horses. But seeing that you have not even this small number (see on Isa 2:7), how can you stand against the hosts of Assyrian cavalry? The Jews tried to supply their weakness in this "arm" from Egypt (Isa 31:1).

9. captain—a governor under a satrap; even he commands more horsemen than this.

10. A boastful inference from the past successes of Assyria, designed to influence the Jews to surrender; their own principles bound them to yield to Jehovah's will. He may have heard from partisans in Judah what Isaiah had foretold (Isa 10:5, 6).

11. Syrian—rather, "Aramean": the language spoken north and east of Palestine, and understood by the Assyrians as belonging to the same family of languages as their own: nearly akin to Hebrew also, though not intelligible to the multitude (compare 2Ki 5:5-7). "Aram" means a "high land," and includes parts of Assyria as well as Syria.

Jews' language—The men of Judah since the disruption of Israel, claimed the Hebrew as their own peculiarly, as if they were now the only true representatives of the whole Hebrew twelve tribes.

ears of … people on … wall—The interview is within hearing distance of the city. The people crowd on the wall, curious to hear the Assyrian message. The Jewish rulers fear that it will terrify the people and therefore beg Rab-shakeh to speak Aramean.

12. Is it to thy master and thee that I am sent? Nay, it is to the men on the wall, to let them know (so far am I from wishing them not to hear, as you would wish), that unless they surrender, they shall be reduced to the direst extremities of famine in the siege (2Ch 32:11, explains the word here), namely, to eat their own excrements: or, connecting, "that they may eat," &c., with "sit upon the wall"; who, as they hold the wall, are knowingly exposing themselves to the direst extremities [Maurer]. Isaiah, as a faithful historian, records the filthy and blasphemous language of the Assyrians to mark aright the true character of the attack on Jerusalem.

13. Rab-shakeh speaks louder and plainer than ever to the men on the wall.

15. The foes of God's people cannot succeed against them, unless they can shake their trust in Him (compare Isa 36:10).

16. agreement … by … present—rather, "make peace with me"; literally, "blessing" so called from the mutual congratulations attending the ratification of peace. So Chaldee. Or else, "Do homage to me" [Horsley].

come out—surrender to me; then you may remain in quiet possession of your lands till my return from Egypt, when I will lead you away to a land fruitful as your own. Rab-shakeh tries to soften, in the eyes of the Jews, the well-known Assyrian policy of weakening the vanquished by deporting them to other lands (Ge 47:21; 2Ki 17:6).

19. Hamath … Arphad—(See on Isa 10:9).

Sepharvaim—literally, "the two scribes"; now Sipphara, on the east of Euphrates, above Babylon. It was a just retribution (Pr 1:31; Jer 2:19). Israel worshipped the gods of Sepharvaim, and so colonists of Sepharvaim were planted in the land of Israel (thenceforth called Samaria) by the Assyrian conqueror (2Ki 17:24; compare 2Ki 18:34).

Samaria—Shalmaneser began the siege against Hoshea, because of his conspiring with So of Egypt (2Ki 17:4). Sargon finished it; and, in his palace at Khorsabad, he has mentioned the number of Israelites carried captive—27,280 [G. V. Smith].

20. (Compare Isa 10:11; 2Ch 32:19). Here he contradicts his own assertion (Isa 36:10), that he had "come up against the land with the Lord." Liars need good memories. He classes Jehovah with the idols of the other lands; nay, thinks Him inferior in proportion as Judah, under His tutelage, was less than the lands under the tutelage of the idols.

21. not a word—so as not to enter into a war of words with the blasphemer (Ex 14:14; Jude 9).

22. clothes rent—in grief and horror at the blasphemy (Mt 26:65).

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