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Hezekiah Consults Isaiah


When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the L ord. 2And he sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. 4It may be that the L ord your God heard the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the L ord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.”

5 When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the L ord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor, and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.’ ”

8 The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9Now the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, “He has set out to fight against you.” When he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10“Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11See, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. Shall you be delivered? 12Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my predecessors destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?”

Hezekiah’s Prayer

14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the L ord and spread it before the L ord. 15And Hezekiah prayed to the L ord, saying: 16“O L ord of hosts, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17Incline your ear, O L ord, and hear; open your eyes, O L ord, and see; hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18Truly, O L ord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods, but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. 20So now, O L ord our God, save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the L ord.”

21 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying: “Thus says the L ord, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria, 22this is the word that the L ord has spoken concerning him:

She despises you, she scorns you—

virgin daughter Zion;

she tosses her head—behind your back,

daughter Jerusalem.



“Whom have you mocked and reviled?

Against whom have you raised your voice

and haughtily lifted your eyes?

Against the Holy One of Israel!


By your servants you have mocked the Lord,

and you have said, ‘With my many chariots

I have gone up the heights of the mountains,

to the far recesses of Lebanon;

I felled its tallest cedars,

its choicest cypresses;

I came to its remotest height,

its densest forest.


I dug wells

and drank waters,

I dried up with the sole of my foot

all the streams of Egypt.’



“Have you not heard

that I determined it long ago?

I planned from days of old

what now I bring to pass,

that you should make fortified cities

crash into heaps of ruins,


while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,

are dismayed and confounded;

they have become like plants of the field

and like tender grass,

like grass on the housetops,

blighted before it is grown.



“I know your rising up and your sitting down,

your going out and coming in,

and your raging against me.


Because you have raged against me

and your arrogance has come to my ears,

I will put my hook in your nose

and my bit in your mouth;

I will turn you back on the way

by which you came.


30 “And this shall be the sign for you: This year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that; then in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 31The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; 32for from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the L ord of hosts will do this.

33 “Therefore thus says the L ord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege ramp against it. 34By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says the L ord. 35For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”


Sennacherib’s Defeat and Death

36 Then the angel of the L ord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. 37Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived at Nineveh. 38As he was worshiping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him.

10. Let not thy God deceive thee. How shocking is this blasphemy, to speak of God the Author of truth, and to accuse him of falsehood and deceit, as if he actually imposed on his people! What is left to God when his truth is taken away, for nothing is more absolutely his own? God extorted this word from the wicked man, although he formerly pretended to revere some deity; for such impiety, as we have formerly said, God does not permit to remain any longer concealed.

Saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered. This quotation of the words uttered by God himself, that “Jerusalem would be preserved,” has led some to conjecture that Isaiah’s prediction had been disclosed to the king of Assyria by the traitor Shebna. But there is no need of such conjectures; for the Assyrian knew well that Hezekiah placed his hope in God, and was not ignorant of the promises which were made both to him and to David,

“This is my rest; here will I dwell for ever and ever.”
(Psalm 132:14.)

Not that he gave himself any trouble about heavenly oracles, but because every person knew and talked of them, and the Jews gloried in them wonderfully, and often boasted of the assistance and protection of God in opposition to their enemies.

These promises, therefore, the tyrant meets by this blasphemy, — “Let not thy God deceive thee.” And thus he exalts himself against God, as if God were not sufficiently powerful to defend Jerusalem, and as if his own power were greater, not only than all the power of men, but even than the power of God himself. He endeavors to prove this by examples, because he has vanquished nations which were under the protection of other gods, and draws an argument from the power of his ancestors, — “They conquered the gods of other nations, and I am far superior to my ancestors; therefore the God of Israel will not conquer me.”

Thus do wicked men commonly exalt themselves more and more in prosperity, so that at length they forget that they are men, and not only claim for themselves, but even think that they surpass, Divine Majesty. Setting aside all distinction between right and wrong, satisfied with the mere power of doing injury, they glory in their own crimes and those of their ancestors, and egregiously flatter themselves on the ground of their being descended from robbers and infamous men; for frequently the most powerful of monarchs is the best entitled to be called the rich son of a great robber. This tyrant does not consider whether it was in a right or a wrong manner that so many countries came into the power of his ancestors; for they have no regard to justice or injustice, when they aim at greatness; it is enough for them if in any way, either lawful or unlawful, they can bring others under their yoke. Thus they think that they are at liberty to do whatever they can. They hold by that proverb, (εἰ ἀδικητέον τυραννίδος περὶ ἀδικητέον) “if justice ought to be violated, it ought to be violated for the sake of reigning;” and this vice was not peculiar to a single age, but even now we feel it to be excessive.

11. Behold, thou hast heard. Here we ought to observe a twofold comparison; for he compares Hezekiah to other kings of Judah who preceded him, because he was inferior to them, and yet they were vanquished by the kings of Assyria; and Sennacherib, on the other hand, having obtained greater power than all the rest, is more daring and insolent. It followed, that Hezekiah could not resist him. The other comparison is that of the kings of Assyria, and Sennacherib himself, with the idols of the nations; for if the idols could not protect the nations that adored them, consequently neither will the God of Israel defend the nation by which he is adored.

When we thus read that singular assaults of temptations were directed against the faith of Hezekiah, let us prepare ourselves for the contest by being equipped with the same armor. Even while leisure is granted to us, let us endeavour to fortify ourselves early, in order that, when we come into such a field of battle, we may fight courageously. And if Satan taunt us with the destruction of many nations, we must attend to the difference of our condition; because, although we are liable to similar calamities, still we have assured hope of our salvation, of which they are destitute.

12. Gozan. This place is mentioned in 2 Kings 17:6, and 18:11. We may infer that it was a town in Media, though some think that it was situated elsewhere; but it is enough that, with regard to Jerusalem, it lay in an easterly direction. Haran is often mentioned in Scripture. Pliny places this town in Arabia; but it is more generally believed to have been in Mesopotamia, and this is confirmed by the journeyings of Abraham, who came to it along with his father, after having left his native country Chaldaea. (Acts 7:24; Genesis 11:31.) It is called Charrae, in the plural number, by heathen historians, who also mention that Crassus and his son were killed there.

14. Hezekiah took the letters. The Prophet now shews what kind of refuge Hezekiah had amidst so great calamities. He immediately went into the Temple, to lament before the Lord the calamity which: he could not remove, and to “cast upon him” (Psalm 55:22) his grief and his anxieties. 5151     “Et jetter au sein d’iceluy sa tristesse et soliciltude.” “And to pour into his bosom his grief and anxiety.” Nor was this a blind or confused lamentation, but the pious king wished to move God by his tears and complaints to render assistance. We are taught by his example that, when we are sore pressed, there is nothing better than to east our burden into the bosom of God. All other methods of relief will be of no avail, if this single method be wanting.

And spread them before Jehovah. In “spreading the letters before the Lord,” he does not do this as if the Lord did not know what was contained in the letters, but God allows us to act in this manner towards him in accommodation to our weakness Neither prayers, nor tears, nor complaints make known to God what we need; for he

“knows our wants and necessities before we ask anything
from him.” (Matthew 6:8.)

But here we ought rather to consider what is necessary for us, that is, that God should manifest that he knows the blasphemies of adversaries, and that they who have uttered them will not remain unpunished. The reason and design, therefore, why Hezekiah “spread before the Lord the letters” of the wicked tyrant was this, that he might excite his own earnestness, and inflame his own ardor, in prayer.

15. Then Hezekiah prayed to God, saying, O Jehovah of hosts. Because Sennacherib was the agent employed by Satan to shake the faith of Hezekiah, he defends himself by this rampart, that God possesses infinite power; for, by bestowing on God those lofty praises, he undoubtedly encourages himself to confidence in supplication. That out’ prayers may not be unsuccessful, we ought always to hold it as certain that God “is the rewarder of all who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6.) It was especially necessary for the pious king, that he might boldly and undauntedly remove the obstruction by which Satan had attempted to stop the progress of his confidence, to believe that although wicked men mock and undervalue the power of God, still it remains undiminished. The heroic, courage of the pious king appeared by not only contending with a wicked king in maintaining the power of God, but by exalting it in his own heart and appealing to God as the witness of his inward feelings. Accordingly, before forming any prayer, he overturns the delusions by which Satan had endeavored to shake his courage.

16. Thou alone art God over all the kingdoms of the earth. Not only does he assert God’s almighty power, but likewise maintains the authority which he exercises over the whole world. And these statements are made by the pious king for the purpose of strengthening himself in the faith which he entertained about the providence of God, by which he governs the world and every part of it. All believers ought above all to believe this, that they may not think that they pray in vain. Nor would the prayer of the king have had so much efficacy if he had only said, “Incline thine ear, O Lord,” or something of that sort, as when he believes that the Lord takes care of his works. He persuades himself that God will undertake that cause. If it belongs to God to rule and govern the whole world, he will not permit this tyrant to act in this insolent manner without restraining his insolence; for Sennacherib claims for himself what belonged to God, and at length would not pass unpunished.

The statement, that all the kingdoms of the earth are under the power and authority of God, applies especially to the present subject. Yet while this title always belongs to God alone, that he “rules over all kingdoms,” Still the Prophet does not deny that kings also, and princes, and magistrates hold their dominion, but so as to be subject to God, and to owe to him all their power and authority. In like manner, when Paul asserts that government belongs to God alone, (1 Timothy 6:15,) he does not overthrow princes and magistrates, but shews that all, how great and powerful soever they may be, depend on God alone, that they may not imagine themselves to be his equals or companions, but may acknowledge him as their Lord and Prince. Thus will kings, therefore, retain their authority, if they keep an intermediate position between God and men, and do not wish to rise higher.

Thou hast made heaven and earth. Hezekiah draws the same inference from creation itself; for it is impossible that God, who is the Creator of heaven and earth, should forsake his work; on the contrary, he governs by his providence the human race, which is the chief part of the world. It would be absurd to confine creation within such narrow boundaries as if it were a proof of a sudden and transitory exercise of the power of God; but we must extend it to perpetual government. Hence it is evident that tyrants who wish to rule at their pleasure rob God of his honor, and therefore are justly punished for their insolence.

O Jehovah of hosts, God of Israel, who dwellest between the Cherubim. Here are other titles employed by Hezekiah for the confirmation of his faith. And, first, by calling him “Jehovah of hosts,” he again extols his power. But when he adds “God of Israel,” he brings him near, and on familiar terms; for it was no ordinary token of love to take that nation under his protection. Such is also the import of “sitting between the cherubim;” as if he had said, “Thou hast here placed thy seat, and promised that thou wilt be the protector of those who call upon thee before the ark of the covenant. Relying on this promise, I flee to thee as my guardian.”

Hezekiah had in view, I have no doubt, the form of the ark, which was surrounded by two cherubim. Others interpret Cherubim to mean angels, as if it were said, that God reigneth in heaven and sitteth among the angels. But this interpretation is unsuitable; for he is said to “sit between the cherubim,” on account of the form of the ark, which was constructed in this manner. (Exodus 25:18.) We know that it was a symbol of the presence of God, though his power was not confined to it; and Hezekiah, by mentioning it, intended to express his firm belief that God was present with him, and had designed to gather a people to himself by spreading, so to speak, his wings over them. There being a wide distance between God and us, Hezekiah embraced that token of adoption. Yet there was nothing gross or earthly in his conceptions of God, as superstitious men would desire to bring him down from heaven, but, satisfied with the promise which he had received, he expresses his firm belief that we do not need to go far to seek the grace of God.

This mode of expression, therefore, deserves our attention, and teaches us, that while we gradually ascend to heaven by the light of the word which leads the way, still, in order to obtain assistance, we must not think of God as absent; for he has chosen his dwelling in the midst of us. Since his majesty far exceeds heaven and earth, we must not limit him within the capacity of our understanding; and yet, as he has revealed himself to us by the word, we may comprehend him in proportion to the small ability and measure of our understanding, not that we may bring him down from his heavenly throne, but that our understandings, which are naturally feeble and sluggish, may approach to him by degrees; for it is proper that we should strive to approach to his loftiness, since he invites us by the Word and sacraments. If we are skillful interpreters, the spiritual knowledge of God will always flourish among us; we shall not give the name of God to stones, or wood, or trees; there will be nothing earthly or gross in our conceptions of him; but the nearer he comes down to us, the more earnestly shall we labor to make a proper use of those aids which he holds out, that our minds may not grovel on the earth; since God accommodates himself to our weakness for no other reason than that the sacraments may serve to us the purpose of ladders, 5252     D’escheles. which superstition abuses for a contrary purpose.

17. incline thine ear, O Jehovah. From these words we conclude how great was the perplexity of Hezekiah; for the earnestness that pervades the prayer breathes an amazing power of anguish, so that it is easily seen that he had a struggle attended by uncommon difficulty to escape from the temptation. Though his warmth in prayer shews the strength and eminence of his faith, yet at the same time it exhibits, as in a mirror, the stormy passions. Whenever we shall be called to sustain such contests, let us learn by the example of the pious king to combat our passions by everything that is fitted to strengthen our faith, so that the very disturbance may conduct us to safety and peace, and that we may not be terrified by a conviction of our weakness, if at any time we shall be powerfully assailed by fear and perplexity. It is, indeed, the will of the Lord that we shall toil hard, and sweat and shiver; for we must not expect to gain the victory while we repose in indolence, but after diversified contests he promises to us a prosperous issue, which he will undoubtedly grant.

But why does Hezekiah demand that God should listen? Does he think float he is asleep or does not hear? By no means; but in a matter of such difficulty we frequently speak in such a manner as if we thought that God was absent or did not attend to our afflictions. He shews that he was oppressed by so great perplexity that he almost thought that God had forsaken him; that is, according to the eyes of the flesh; for if he had not by the eyes of faith beheld God as present, he would have lost courage.

Open thine eyes, O Jehovah, and see. It is as if Hezekiah had prayed that the assistance of God, which he had long kept in his heart committed to the guardianship of hope, would be actually and publicly manifested; and therefore he prays that Jehovah would “open his eyes and see;” that is, would shew that he cares about these matters. Hezekiah shews plainly what was the subject about which he was most anxious, namely, that God would revenge the insults offered to him; for although he was deeply affected by anxiety about his kingdom and people, yet he set a higher value on the glory of God than on all other sources of uneasiness. The advancement of that glory ought, indeed, above all things, to move and impress our hearts, and the more especially because we know that it is closely connected with our salvation.

Thus Hezekiah here represents this tyrant as an enemy of God, who dishonors him by reproaches and curses because Jerusalem glories in his name and protection, and concludes that God cannot forsake the city which he hath undertaken to defend, without at the same time abandoning his own name. Since, therefore, God in his infinite goodness chooses to connect our salvation with his glory, we ought to lay held on those promises for the purpose of strengthening our hearts, that although the wicked, while they reproach God and pour and vomit out the venom of their breast, harden themselves in the vain hope that they shall not be punished, still there will not be a syllable which the Lord does not hear, and which he does not at length call to account.

18. and 19. Truly, O Jehovah. Here Hezekiah begins to distinguish between the false gods and the true God, which we also ought to do very carefully. Wicked men, who have no light, indulge in some confused imaginations about God, which quickly pass away, so that they think that there is no God, or care nothing about him. 5353     “Encor qu’il y en air un.” “Though there be a God.” But God does not wish that his people shall be moved by a slight and passing opinion, but that he shall be acknowledged by them as the true God, who drives away all superstitions by the brightness of his power. 5454     “Dechassant par la splendeur de sa vertu toutes tenebres d’ignorance.” “Who drives away by the brightness of his power all the darkness of ignorance.” It is not; enough, therefore, that we believe in something which heathens imagine to be a deity, but we must believe in God in such a manner as to distinguish him from pretended gods, and to separate truth from falsehood; and, indeed, when he has once shone into our hearts, those false religions which formerly occupied our minds immediately give way.

This doctrine ought to be the more carefully held, because many persons rest satisfied with dark speculations, and think that it is enough if they acknowledge some deity. They evidently do not know whether they ought to worship the God of the Mahometans or of the Jews; and fly in the air, so that, as the saying is, they neither touch heaven nor earth. Nothing can be more destructive than this imagination; for it mingles and confounds idols with God, whose majesty does not hold its due rank if it does not reign in solitary grandeur over the ruins of all the false gods. Thus the beginning of true piety is, that from the whole multitude of false gods we shall wisely distinguish that one God to whom we ought to be entirely devoted.

For they are not gods, but the work of the hands of man, wood and stone. By two arguments Hezekiah shews that “they were not gods;” first, because they consisted of matter, 5555     “D’autant qu’ils estoyent de matire corruptible.” “Because they were of corruptible matter.” and secondly, because they were formed by the hands of men. Nothing can be more absurd than for a man to assume the right to create a god, not only because he had a beginning, while God is eternal, but because not even for a single moment does he subsist by his own power. Let the whole world collect all its strength into a single man, 5656     “En un seul homme.” he will not even be able to create a fica. What presumption is it, therefore, that every mortal man shall make for himself either one god or many! 5757     “Quel orgueil estce donc que le premier qui voudra mettre la main a la besogne se face autant de dieux que bon luy semblera!” “What presumption is it then that whoever shall first put his hand to the work shall make as many gods as he thinks proper!” Since, therefore, there is nothing in us but what is frail and fading, we shall never be able to produce a deity.

Besides, it is in the highest degree absurd to attempt, as an exercise of skill, to frame some deity out of matter which is corruptible and devoid of feeling, as if “wood or stone,” whenever it received a shape, began to be a god. In this manner, therefore, all the superstitions that men have ever invented are speedily overturned; for the existence of those gods can be found nowhere but in their own brains, and, indeed, all that they have of themselves contrived is condemned as empty and false.

20. And now, O Jehovah our God. At the conclusion of his prayer, the pious king now rises above that fear with which he had struggled; for the aids by which he had hitherto fortified himself undoubtedly encouraged him boldly to add this short clause. Although God does not always deliver his people from temporal evils, yet as he had promised that he would be the protector of the city, Hezekiah could firmly believe that all the efforts of that wicked tyrant, which were directed to the destruction of that city, would be fruitless.

May know that thou alone art Jehovah. When he pleads it as an argument with God that the deliverance of the city will be an occasion of promoting his glory, we conclude that nothing is more desirable than to make his name glorious in every possible way; and this is even the chief design of our salvation, from which we are not at liberty to depart, if we desire that God should be gracious to us. Hence we conelude that those men are unworthy of his assistance, who, satisfied with their own salvation, disregard or forget the reason why God chooses to preserve them. Not only do they dishonor God by this ingratitude, but they likewise inflict grievous injury on themselves, by separating those things which God had joined; for in saving his people he glorifies his name, which must be, as we have already said, our highest consolation. Besides, Hezekiah does not only desire that the God of Israel shall hold a certain rank, but that all idols shall be abolished, and that he shall reign alone; for at that time many idolaters would have allowed him to be worshipped along with others, but, since he does not admit companions, every deity framed by the hand of man must be destroyed, that He may hold the undivided sovereignty.

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