Isa 37:1-38. Continuation of
the Narrative in the Thirty-sixth Chapter.
1. sackcloth—(See on Isa 20:2).
house of the Lord—the sure resort of
God's people in distress (Ps 73:16, 17; 77:13).
2. unto Isaiah—implying the importance
of the prophet's position at the time; the chief officers of the court
are deputed to wait on him (compare 2Ki 22:12-14).
3. rebuke—that is, the Lord's rebuke for
His people's sins (Ps 149:7; Ho 5:9).
blasphemy—blasphemous railing of
the children, &c.—a proverbial
expression for, We are in the most extreme danger and have no power to
avert it (compare Ho 13:13).
4. hear—take cognizance of (2Sa 16:12).
reprove—will punish him for the words,
remnant—the two tribes of the kingdom
of Judah, Israel being already captive. Isaiah is entreated to act as
intercessor with God.
6. servants—literally, "youths," mere
lads, implying disparagement, not an embassy of venerable elders. The
Hebrew is different from that for "servants" in Isa 37:5.
blasphemed me—(Isa 36:20).
7. blast—rather, "I will put a
spirit (Isa 28:6; 1Ki 22:23) into him," that is, so influence his
judgment that when he hears the report (Isa 37:9, concerning Tirhakah), he shall return
[Gesenius]; the "report" also of the
destruction of his army at Jerusalem, reaching Sennacherib, while he
was in the southwest of Palestine on the borders of Egypt, led him to
by the sword—(Isa 37:38).
8. returned—to the camp of his
Libnah—meaning "whiteness," the
Blanche-garde of the Crusaders [Stanley]. Eusebius
and Jerome place it more south, in the
district of Eleutheropolis, ten miles northwest of Lachish, which
Sennacherib had captured (see on Isa 36:2).
Libnah was in Judea and given to the priests (1Ch 6:54, 57).
9. Tirhakah—(See on Isa 17:12; Isa 18:6). Egypt was
in part governed by three successive Ethiopian monarchs, for forty or
fifty years: Sabacho, Sevechus, and Tirhakah. Sevechus retired from
Lower Egypt owing to the resistance of the priests, whereupon Sethos, a
prince-priest, obtained supreme power with Tanis (Zoan in Scripture),
or Memphis, as his capital. The Ethiopians retained Upper Egypt under
Tirhakah, with Thebes as the capital. Tirhakah's fame as a conqueror
rivalled that of Sesostris; he, and one at least, of the Pharaohs of
Lower Egypt, were Hezekiah's allies against Assyria. The tidings of his
approach made Sennacherib the more anxious to get possession of
Jerusalem before his arrival.
sent—2Ki 19:9 more fully expresses Sennacherib's
eagerness by adding "again."
10. He tries to influence Hezekiah
himself, as Rab-shakeh had addressed the people.
God … deceive—(Compare Nu 23:19).
11. all lands—(Isa 14:17). He does not dare to enumerate
Egypt in the list.
12. Gozan—in Mesopotamia, on the Chabour
17:6; 18:11). Gozan is the
name of the district, Chabour of the river.
Haran—more to the west. Abraham
removed to it from Ur (Ge 11:31);
the Carroe of the Romans.
Rezeph—farther west, in Syria.
Eden—There is an ancient village,
Adna, north of Baghdad. Some think Eden to be the name of a
region (of Mesopotamia or its vicinity) in which was
Paradise; Paradise was not Eden itself (Ge 2:8). "A garden in Eden."
Telassar—now Tel-afer, west of Mosul
[Layard]. Tel means a "hill" in
Arabic and Assyrian names.
13. Hena … Ivah—in Babylonia. From
Ava colonists had been brought to Samaria (2Ki 17:24).
14. spread—unrolled the scroll of
writing. God "knows our necessities before we ask Him," but He
delights in our unfolding them to Him with filial confidence (2Ch 20:3,
16. dwellest—the Shekinah, or fiery
symbol of God's presence, dwelling in the temple with His
people, is from shachan, "to dwell" (Ex 25:22;
Ps 80:1; 99:1).
cherubim—derived by transposition from
either a Hebrew root, rachab, to "ride"; or rather,
barach, to "bless." They were formed out of the same mass of
pure gold as the mercy seat itself (Ex 25:19, Margin). The phrase, "dwellest
between the cherubim," arose from their position at each end of the
mercy seat, while the Shekinah, and the awful name, Jehovah, in written letters, were in the intervening
space. They are so inseparably associated with the manifestation of
God's glory, that whether the Lord is at rest or in motion, they always
are mentioned with Him (Nu 7:89; Ps 18:10). (1) They are first mentioned (Ge 3:24) "on the edge of" (as "on the
east" may be translated) Eden; the Hebrew for "placed" is
properly to "place in a tabernacle," which implies that this was a
local tabernacle in which the symbols of God's presence were manifested
suitably to the altered circumstances in which man, after the fall,
came before God. It was here that Cain and Abel, and the patriarchs
down to the flood, presented their offerings: and it is called "the
presence of the Lord" (Ge 4:16).
When those symbols were removed at the close of that early patriarchal
dispensation, small models of them were made for domestic use, called,
in Chaldee, "seraphim" or "teraphim." (2) The cherubim, in the
Mosaic tabernacle and Solomon's temple, were the same in form as those
at the outskirts of Eden: compound figures, combining the
distinguishing properties of several creatures: the ox, chief among the
tame and useful animals; the lion among the wild ones; the eagle among
birds; and man, the head of all (the original headship of man over the
animal kingdom, about to be restored in Jesus Christ, Ps 8:4-8, is also implied in this combination).
They are, throughout Scripture, represented as distinct from God; they
could not be likenesses of Him which He forbade in any shape. (3) They
are introduced in the third or gospel dispensation (Re 4:6) as "living creatures" (not so
well translated "beasts" in English Version), not angels, but
beings closely connected with the redeemed Church. So also in Eze
1:5-25; 10:1-22. Thus,
throughout the three dispensations, they seem to be symbols of those
who in every age should officially study and proclaim the manifold
wisdom of God.
thou alone—literally, "Thou art He
who alone art God of all the kingdoms"; whereas Sennacherib had
classed Jehovah with the heathen gods, he asserts the nothingness of
the latter and the sole lordship of the former.
17. ear … eyes—singular, plural.
When we wish to hear a thing we lend one ear; when we wish to
see a thing we open both eyes.
18. have laid waste—conceding the truth
of the Assyrian's allegation (Isa 36:18-20), but adding the reason, "For they were
19. cast … gods into …
fire—The policy of the Assyrians in order to alienate the
conquered peoples from their own countries was, both to deport them
elsewhere, and to destroy the tutelary idols of their nation, the
strongest tie which bound them to their native land. The Roman policy
was just the reverse.
20. The strongest argument to plead before God
in prayer, the honor of God (Ex 32:12-14; Ps
83:18; Da 9:18, 19).
21. Whereas thou hast prayed to me—that
is, hast not relied on thy own strength but on Me (compare 2Ki 19:20). "That which thou hast prayed to Me
against Sennacherib, I have heard" (Ps 65:2).
22. Transition to poetry: in parallelism.
virgin … daughter—honorable
terms. "Virgin" implies that the city is, as yet, inviolate. "Daughter"
is an abstract collective feminine personification of the
population, the child of the place denoted (see on Isa 23:10; Isa 1:8). Zion and
shaken … head—in scorn (Ps
22:7; 109:25; Mt 27:39). With
us to shake the head is a sign of denial or displeasure; but gestures
have different meanings in different countries (Isa
58:9; Eze 25:6; Zep 2:15).
23. Whom—not an idol.
24. said—virtually. Hast thou within
height—imagery from the Assyrian
felling of trees in Lebanon (Isa 14:8; 33:9); figuratively for, "I have carried my
victorious army through the regions most difficult of access, to the
most remote lands."
sides—rather, "recesses" [G. V. Smith].
fir trees—not cypresses, as some
translate; pine foliage and cedars are still found on the northwest
side of Lebanon [Stanley].
height of … border—In 2Ki 19:23, "the lodgings of his borders."
Perhaps on the ascent to the top there was a place of repose or
caravansary, which bounded the usual attempts of persons to ascend
[Barnes]. Here, simply, "its extreme
forest of … Carmel—rather, "its
thickest forest." "Carmel" expresses thick luxuriance (see on Isa 10:18; Isa 29:17).
25. digged, and drunk water—In 2Ki 19:24, it is "strange waters." I
have marched into foreign lands where I had to dig wells for the supply
of my armies; even the natural destitution of water there did not
impede my march.
rivers of … besieged
places—rather, "the streams (artificial canals from the Nile)
of Egypt." "With the sole of my foot," expresses that as soon as
his vast armies marched into a region, the streams were drunk
up by them; or rather, that the rivers proved no obstruction
to the onward march of his armies. So Isa 19:4-6, referring to Egypt, "the
river—brooks of defense—shall be dried up." Horsley, translates the Hebrew for
"besieged places," "rocks."
26. Reply of God to Sennacherib.
long ago—join, rather, with "I have
done it." Thou dost boast that it is all by thy counsel and
might: but it is I who, long ago, have ordered it so (Isa 22:11); thou wert but the instrument in
My hands (Isa 10:5, 15). This was the reason why "the
inhabitants were of small power before thee" (Isa 37:27), namely, that I ordered it so; yet thou
art in My hands, and I know thy ways (Isa 37:28), and I will check thee (Isa 37:29). Connect also, "I from ancient times
have arranged ('formed') it." However, English Version is
supported by Isa 33:13; 45:6, 21; 48:5.
27. Therefore—not because of thy power,
but because I made them unable to withstand thee.
grass—which easily withers (Isa 40:6;
on … housetops—which having
little earth to nourish it fades soonest (Ps 129:6-8).
corn blasted before it be grown
up—Smith translates, "The
cornfield (frail and tender), before the corn is grown."
28. abode—rather, "sitting down" (Ps 139:2). The expressions here describe a
man's whole course of life (De 6:7; 28:6; 1Ki 3:7; Ps
121:8). There is also a
special reference to Sennacherib's first being at home, then
going forth against Judah and Egypt, and raging against
Jehovah (Isa 37:4).
hook in … nose—Like a wild beast
led by a ring through the nose, he shall be forced back to his own
country (compare Job 41:1, 2; Eze 19:4; 29:4; 38:4). In a bas-relief of Khorsabad, captives
are led before the king by a cord attached to a hook, or ring, passing
through the under lip or the upper lip, and nose.
30. Addressed to Hezekiah.
sign—a token which, when fulfilled,
would assure him of the truth of the whole prophecy as to the enemy's
overthrow. The two years, in which they were sustained by the
spontaneous growth of the earth, were the two in which Judea had been
already ravaged by Sennacherib (Isa 32:10). Thus translate: "Ye did eat
(the first year) such as groweth of itself, and in the second year that
… but in this third year sow ye," &c., for in this
year the land shall be delivered from the foe. The fact that
Sennacherib moved his camp away immediately after shows that the
first two years refer to the past, not to the future [Rosenmuller]. Others, referring the first two years
to the future, get over the difficulty of Sennacherib's speedy
departure, by supposing that year to have been the sabbatical year, and
the second year the jubilee; no indication of this appears in the
31. remnant—Judah remained after
the ten tribes were carried away; also those of Judah who should
survive Sennacherib's invasion are meant.
33. with shields—He did come near it,
but was not allowed to conduct a proper siege.
bank—a mound to defend the assailants
in attacking the walls.
34. (See Isa 37:29, 37; Isa
35. I will defend—Notwithstanding
Hezekiah's measures of defense (2Ch 32:3-5), Jehovah was its true
mine own sake—since Jehovah's name was
blasphemed by Sennacherib (Isa 37:23).
David's sake—on account of His promise
to David (Ps 132:17, 18), and to Messiah, the heir of David's
throne (Isa 9:7; 11:1).
36. Some attribute the destruction to the
agency of the plague (see on Isa 33:24), which
may have caused Hezekiah's sickness, narrated immediately after; but
4, proves that the Jews
spoiled the corpses, which they would not have dared to do, had there
been on them infection of a plague. The secondary agency seems, from
29:6; 30:30, to have been a
storm of hail, thunder, and lightning (compare Ex 9:22-25). The simoon belongs rather to
Africa and Arabia than Palestine, and ordinarily could not produce such
a destructive effect. Some few of the army, as 2Ch 32:21 seems to imply, survived and accompanied
Sennacherib home. Herodotus (2.141)
gives an account confirming Scripture in so far as the sudden
discomfiture of the Assyrian army is concerned. The Egyptian priests
told him that Sennacherib was forced to retreat from Pelusium owing to
a multitude of field mice, sent by one of their gods, having gnawed the
Assyrians' bow-strings and shield-straps. Compare the
language (Isa 37:33),
"He shall not shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with
shields," which the Egyptians corrupted into their version of
the story. Sennacherib was as the time with a part of his army, not at
Jerusalem, but on the Egyptian frontier, southwest of Palestine. The
sudden destruction of the host near Jerusalem, a considerable part of
his whole army, as well as the advance of the Ethiopian Tirhakah,
induced him to retreat, which the Egyptians accounted for in a way
honoring to their own gods. The mouse was the Egyptian emblem of
destruction. The Greek Apollo was called Sminthian, from
a Cretan word for "a mouse," as a tutelary god of agriculture, he was
represented with one foot upon a mouse, since field mice hurt corn. The
Assyrian inscriptions, of course, suppress their own defeat, but
nowhere boast of having taken Jerusalem; and the only reason to be
given for Sennacherib not having, amidst his many subsequent
expeditions recorded in the monuments, returned to Judah, is the
terrible calamity he had sustained there, which convinced him that
Hezekiah was under the divine protection. Rawlinson says, In Sennacherib's account of his wars
with Hezekiah, inscribed with cuneiform characters in the hall of the
palace of Koyunjik, built by him (a hundred forty feet long by a
hundred twenty broad), wherein even the Jewish physiognomy of the
captives is portrayed, there occurs a remarkable passage; after his
mentioning his taking two hundred thousand captive Jews, he adds, "Then
I prayed unto God"; the only instance of an inscription wherein the
name of God occurs without a heathen
adjunct. The forty-sixth Psalm probably commemorates Judah's
deliverance. It occurred in one "night," according to 2Ki 19:35, with which Isaiah's words, "when they
arose early in the morning," &c., are in undesigned
they … they—"the Jews …
37. dwelt at Nineveh—for about twenty
years after his disaster, according to the inscriptions. The word,
"dwelt," is consistent with any indefinite length of time. "Nineveh,"
so called from Ninus, that is, Nimrod, its founder; his name means
"exceedingly impious rebel"; he subverted the existing patriarchal
order of society, by setting up a system of chieftainship, founded on
conquest; the hunting field was his training school for war; he was of
the race of Ham, and transgressed the limits marked by God (Ge 10:8-11,
25), encroaching on Shem's
portion; he abandoned Babel for a time, after the miraculous confusion
of tongues and went and founded Nineveh; he was, after death,
worshipped as Orion, the constellation (see on Job
9:9; Job 38:31).
38. Nisroch—Nisr, in
Semitic, means "eagle;" the termination och, means
"great." The eagle-headed human figure in Assyrian sculptures is no
doubt Nisroch, the same as Asshur, the chief Assyrian god; the
corresponding goddess was Asheera, or Astarte; this means a "grove," or
sacred tree, often found as the symbol of the heavenly hosts
(Saba) in the sculptures, as Asshur the Eponymus hero of
10:11) answered to the sun or
Baal, Belus, the title of office, "Lord." This explains "image of the
21:7). The eagle was
worshipper by the ancient Persians and Arabs.
Esar-haddon—In Ezr 4:2 he is mentioned as having brought
colonists into Samaria. He is also thought to have been the king who
carried Manasseh captive to Babylon (2Ch 33:11). He built the palace on the mound
Nebbiyunus, and that called the southwest palace of Nimroud. The latter
was destroyed by fire, but his name and wars are recorded on the great
bulls taken from the building. He obtained his building materials from
the northwest palaces of the ancient dynasty, ending in Pul.