Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:1
When Hezekiah had heard from his counsellors the report of Rabshakeh's words, he rent his clothes with horror at his daring mockery of the living God (Kg2 19:4), put on mourning clothes as a sign of the trouble of his soul and went into the temple, and at the same time sent Eliakim and Shebna with the oldest of the priests in mourning costume to the prophet Isaiah, to entreat him to intercede with the Lord in these desperate circumstances.
(Note: "But the most wise king did not meet his blasphemies with weapons, but with prayer, and tears, and sackcloth, and entreated the prophet Isaiah to be his ambassador." - Theodoret.)
The order of the words: Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, is unusual (cf. Kg2 14:25; Kg2 20:1; Kg1 16:7, etc.), and is therefore altered in Isaiah into Isaiah the son of Amoz, the prophet.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:3
"A day of distress, and of chastisement, and of rejection is this day." תּוכחה: the divine chastisement. נאצה: contemptuous treatment, or rejection of the people on the part of God (compare נאץ, Deu 32:19; Jer 14:21; Lam 2:6). "For children have come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth." A figure denoting extreme danger, the most desperate circumstances. If the woman in travail has not strength to bring forth the child which has come to the mouth of the womb, both the life of the child and that of the mother are exposed to the greatest danger; and this was the condition of the people here (see the similar figure in Hos 13:13). For לדה instead of לדת, see Ges. 69, 2 Anm.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:4
Perhaps Jehovah thy God will hear the blasphemies of the living God on the part of Rabshakeh. ישׁמע: hear, equivalent to observes, take notice of, and in this case punish. חי אלהים: the living God, in contrast to the gods of the heathen, who are only lifeless idols (cf. Sa1 17:26, Sa1 17:36). והוכיח is not to be taken in connection with לחרף, as if it stood for להוכיח, "and to scold with words" (Luth., Ges., etc.), but is a perf. rel. or a progressive perfect (Ewald, 234, a.), and the continuation of ישׁמע: "and will chastise (punish, sc. him) for the words which He has heard." תף ונשׂאת "therefore lift up prayer (to heaven) for the (still) existing remnant, sc. of the people of God;" nearly all Judah having come into the power of Sennacherib since the carrying away of the ten tribes.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:5
Isaiah replied with this comforting promise: Hezekiah was not to be afraid of the blasphemous words of the Assyrian king; the Lord would frighten him with a report, so that he would return to his own land, and there would He cause him to fall by the sword. מלך א נערי, the servants or young men of the Assyrian king, is a derogatory epithet applied to the officials of Assyria. "Behold, I put a spirit into him, so that he shall hear a report and return into his own land." שׁמוּעה does not refer to the report of the destruction of his army (Kg2 19:35), as Thenius supposes, for Sennacherib did not hear of this through the medium of an army, but was with the army himself at the time when it was smitten by the angel of the Lord; it refers to the report mentioned in Kg2 19:9. For even if he made one last attempt to secure the surrender of Jerusalem immediately upon hearing this report, yet after the failure of this attempt to shake the firmness of Hezekiah his courage must have failed him, and the thought of return must have suggested itself, so that this was only accelerated by the blow which fell upon the army. For, as O. v. Gerlach has correctly observed, "the destruction of the army would hardly have produced any decisive effect without the approach of Tirhakah, since the great power of the Assyrian king, especially in relation to the small kingdom of Judah, was not broken thereby. But at the prayer of the king the Lord added this miracle to the other, which His providence had already brought to pass. - For the fulfilment of the prophecy of Sennacherib's death, see Kg2 19:37.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:8
In the meantime Rabshakeh had returned to his king at Libnah (see at Kg2 8:22), to which he had gone from Lachish, probably after having taken that fortress.
There Sennacherib heard that Tirhakah was advancing to make war against him. Tirhakah, Θαρακά (lxx), king of Cush, is the Ταρακός of Manetho, the successor of Sevechus (Shebek II), the third king of the twenty-fifth (Ethiopian) dynasty, described by Strabo (xv. 687), who calls him Τεάρκων, as a great conqueror. His name is spelt Thlqa or Tharqo upon the monuments, and on the Pylon of the great temple at Medinet-Abu he is represented in the form of a king, cutting down enemies of conquered lands (Egypt, Syria, and Tepop, an unknown land) before the god Ammon (see Brugsch, hist. d'Egypte, i. pp. 244,245).
(Note: According to Jul. Afric. (in Syncell. i. p. 139, ed. Dind.) he reigned eighteen years, according to Euseb. (in Syncell. p. 140) twenty years. Both statements are incorrect; for, according to an Apis-stele published by Mariette, the birth of an Apis who died in the twentieth year of Psammetichus fell in the twenty-sixth year of Tirhakah, so that the reign of Tirhakah may be supposed to have lasted twenty-eight years (see Brugsch, l.c. p. 247). But the chronological conclusions respecting the date of his reign are very uncertain. Whereas M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. Ass. p. 72) fixes his expedition against Sennacherib in the thirty-seventh aer. Nab., i.e., 710 b.c., and the commencement of his reign over Egypt in 45 aer. Nab., i.e., 702 b.c., and assumes that he marched against Sennacherib before he was king of Egypt, which is apparently favoured by the epithet king of Cush, not of Egypt; Brugsch (l.c. p. 292) has given the year 693 b.c. as the commencement of his reign. It is obvious that this statement is irreconcilable with the O.T. chronology, since the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, in which Sennacherib invaded Judah, corresponds to the year 714 or 713 b.c. These diversities simply confirm our remark (p. 411), that the chronological data as to the kings of Egypt before Psammetichus cannot lay any claim to historical certainty. For an attempt to solve this discrepancy see M. v. Niebuhr, pp. 458ff.)
- On hearing the report of the advance of Tirhakah, Sennacherib sent ambassadors again to Hezekiah with a letter (Kg2 19:14), in which he summoned him once more to give up his confidence in his God, and his assurance that Jerusalem would not be delivered into the hands of the king of Assyria, since the gods of no other nation had been able to save their lands and cities from the kings of Assyria who had preceded him. The letter contained nothing more, therefore, than a repetition of the arguments already adduced by Rabshakeh (Kg2 18:19.), though a larger number of the lands conquered by the Assyrians are given, for the purpose of strengthening the impression intended to be made upon Hezekiah of the irresistible character of the Assyrian arms. - To offer a successful resistance to Tirhakah and overcome him, Sennacherib wanted above all things a firm footing in Judah; and for this the possession of Jerusalem was of the greatest importance, since it would both cover his back and secure his retreat. Fortifications like Lachish and Libnah could be quickly taken by a violent assault. But it was very different with Jerusalem. Salmanasar had stood before Samaria for three years before he was able to conquer it; and Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem for two years before the city was starved out and it was possible to take it (Kg2 25:1.). But as Tirhakah was approaching, Sennacherib had no time now for so tedious a siege. He therefore endeavoured to induce Hezekiah to surrender the city quietly by a boastful description of his own power. Instead of ויּשׁלח ויּשׁב (Kg2 19:9), we have in Isaiah ויּשׁלח ויּשׁמע, "when he heard this he sent," which is probably the more original, and indicates that when Sennacherib received the intelligence he sent at once (Drechsler).
ישּׁיאך אל: "let not thy God deceive thee," i.e., do not allow yourself to be deceived by your confidence in your God. לאמר, to say, i.e., to think or believe, that Jerusalem will not be given, etc. To shatter this confidence, Sennacherib reminds him of the deeds of the Assyrian kings. להחרימם, to ban them, i.e., by smiting them with the ban. The verb החרים is chosen with emphasis, to express the unsparing destruction. הנּצל ואתּה: and thou shouldst be saved? - a question implying a strong negative.
"Have the gods of the nations delivered them?" אתם is not a pronoun used in anticipation of the object, which follows in וגו גּוזן (Thenius), but refers to כּל־הארצות in Kg2 19:11, a specification of which is given in the following enumeration. Gozan may be the province of Gauzanitis in Mesopotamia, but it may just as well be the country of Gauzania on the other side of the Tigris (see at Kg2 17:6). The combination with Haran does not force us to the first assumption, since the list is not a geographical but a historical one. - Haran (Charan), i.e., the Carrae of the Greeks and Romans, where Abraham's father Terah died, a place in northern Mesopotamia (see at Gen 11:31), is probably not merely the city here, but the country in which the city stood. - Rezeph (רצף), the Arabic rutsâfat, a very widespread name, since Jakut gives nine cities of this name in his Geographical Lexicon, is probably the most celebrated of the cities of that name, the Rusapha of Syria, called ̔Ρησάφα in Ptol. v. 15, in Palmyrene, on the road from Racca to Emesa, a day's journey from the Euphrates (cf. Ges. Thes. p. 1308). - "The sons of Eden, which (were in Telassar," were evidently a tribe whose chief settlement was in Telassar. By עדן we might understand the בּית־עדן of Amo 1:5, a city in a pleasant region of Syria, called Παράδεισος by Ptol. (v. 15), since there is still a village called Ehden in that locality (cf. Burckhardt, Syr. p. 66, and v. Schubert, Reise, iii. p. 366), if we could only discover Telassar in the neighbourhood, and if the village of Ehden could be identified with Παράδεισος and the Eden of the Bible, as is done even by Gesenius on Burckhardt, p. 492, and Thes. p. 195; but this Ehden is spelt ‛hdn in Arabic, and is not to be associated with עדן (see Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 586, 587). Moreover the Thelseae near Damascus (in the Itin. Ant. p. 196, ed. Wess.) is too unlike Telassar to come into consideration. There is more to be said in favour of the identification of our עדן with the Assyrian Eden, which is mentioned in Eze 27:23 along with Haran and Calneh as an important place for trade, although its position cannot be more certainly defined; and neither the comparison with the tract of land called (Syr.) ma‛āden, Maadon, which Assemani (Biblioth. or. ii. p. 224) places in Mesopotamia, towards the Tigris, in the present province of Diarbekr (Ges., Win.), nor the conjecture of Knobel that the tribe-name Eden may very probably have been preserved in the large but very dilapidated village of Adana or Adna, some distance to the north of Bagdad (Ker Porter, Journey, ii. p. 355, and Ritter, Erdk. ix. p. 493), can be established as even a probability. תּלאשּׂר, Telassar, is also quite unknown. The name applies very well to Thelser on the eastern side of the Tigris (Tab. Peut. xi. e), where even the later Targums on Gen 10:12 have placed it, interpreting Nimrod's Resen by תלסר, תלאסר, though Knobel opposes this on the ground that a place in Assyria proper is unsuitable in such a passage as this, where the Assyrian feats of war outside Assyria itself are enumerated. Movers (Phniz. ii. 3, p. 251) conjectures that the place referred to is Thelassar in Terodon, a leading emporium for Arabian wares on the Persian Gulf, and supposes that Terodon has sprung from Teledon with the Persian pronunciation of the תל, which is very frequent in the names of Mesopotamian cities. This conjecture is at any rate a more natural one than that of Knobel on Isa 37:12, that the place mentioned in Assemani (Bib. or. iii. 2, p. 870), (Arabic) tl b-ṣrṣr, Tel on the Szarszar, to the west of the present Bagdad, is intended. - With regard to the places named in Kg2 19:13, see at Kg2 18:34.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:14
Hezekiah's prayer. - Kg2 19:14. Hezekiah took the letter, read it, went into the temple and spread it out before Jehovah, to lay open its contents before God. The contents of the letter are given in Kg2 19:10-13 in the form of the message which the ambassadors delivered to Hezekiah from their king, because the ambassadors communicated to Hezekiah by word of mouth the essential contents of the writing which they conveyed, and simply handed him the letter as a confirmation of their words. ספרים, like litterae, means a letter; hence the singular suffix attached to ויּפרשׂהוּ, whereas in the case of ויּקראם, which stands nearer, the suffix follows the number of the noun to which it refers. The spreading out of the letter before God was an embodiment of the wish, which sprang from a child-like and believing trust, that the Lord would notice and punish that defiance of the living God which it contained. What Hezekiah meant by this action he expressed in the following prayer.
In opposition to the delusion of the Assyrians, he describes Jehovah, the God of Israel, as the only God of all the kingdoms of the earth, since He was the Creator of heaven and earth. הכּרבים ישׁב (see at Sa1 4:4 and Exo 25:22) indicates the covenant-relation into which Jehovah, the almighty Creator and Ruler of the whole world, had entered towards Israel. As the covenant God who was enthroned above the cherubim the Lord was bound to help His people, if they turned to Him with faith in the time of their distress and entreated His assistance; and as the only God of all the world He had the power to help. In Isaiah, צבאות, which is very rare in historical prose, but very common in prophetical addresses, is added to the name יהוה, and thus Jehovah at the very outset is addressed as the God of the universe. On the meaning of צבאות, see at Sa1 1:3. On האלהים הוּא אתּה, see Sa2 7:28 and Kg1 18:39.
The accumulation of the words, "bow down Thine ear, Jehovah, and hear; open, Jehovah, Thine eyes and see, and hear the words," etc., indicates the earnestness and importunity of the prayer. The plural עיניך by the side of the singular אזנך is the correct reading, since the expression "to incline the ear" is constantly met with (Psa 17:6; Psa 31:3; Psa 45:11, etc.); and even in the plural, "incline ye your ear" (Psa 78:1; Isa 55:3), and on the other hand "to open the eyes" (Job 27:19; Pro 20:13; Zac 12:4; Dan 9:18), because a man always opens both eyes to see anything, whereas he turns one ear to a person speaking. The עינך of Isaiah is also plural, though written defectively, as the Masora has already observed. The suffix in שׁלחו, which is wanting in Isaiah, belongs to אשׁר, and refers with this to דּברי in the sense of speech: the speech which Sennacherib had made in his letter.
After the challenge, to observe the blasphemies of Sennacherib, Hezekiah mentions the fact that the Assyrians have really devastated all lands, and therefore that it is not without ground that they boast of their mighty power; but he finds the explanation of this in the impotence and nothingness of the gods of the heathen. אמנם, truly, indeed - the kings of Asshur have devastated the nations and their land. Instead of this we find in Isaiah: "they have devastated all lands and their (own) land" - which is evidently the more difficult and also the more original reading, and has been altered in our account, because the thought that the Assyrians had devastated their own land by making war upon other lands, that is to say, had depopulated it and thereby laid it waste, was not easy to understand. "And have cast their gods into the fire, for they are not gods, but works of human hands, wood and stone, and have thus destroyed them." Hezekiah does not mention this as a sign of the recklessness of the Assyrians (Knobel), but, because Sennacherib had boasted that the gods of no nation had been able to resist him (vv. 12, 13), to put this fact in the right light, and attach thereto the prayer that Jehovah, by granting deliverance, would make known to all the kingdoms of the earth that He alone was God. Instead of ונתנוּ we have in Isaiah ונתון, the inf. absol.; in this connection the more difficult and more genuine reading. This also applies to the omission of אלהים (Kg2 19:19) in Isa 37:20, since the use of Jehovah as a predicate, "that Thou alone art Jehovah," is very rare, and has therefore been misunderstood even by Gesenius. By the introduction of Elohim, the thought "that Thou Jehovah art God alone" is simplified.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:20
The divine promise. - Kg2 19:20, Kg2 19:21. When Hezekiah had prayed, the prophet Isaiah received a divine revelation with regard to the hearing of this prayer, which he sent, i.e., caused to be handed over, to the king. שׁמעתּי (Kg2 19:21) is omitted in Isaiah, so that וגו התפּלּלתּ אשׁר is to be taken in the sense of "with regard to that which thou hast prayed to me," whilst שׁמעתּי (I have heard) elucidates the thought and simplifies the construction. The word of the Lord announced to the king, (1) the shameful retreat of Sennacherib as a just retribution for his mockery of the living God (Kg2 19:21-28; Isa 37:22-29); (2) the confirmation of this assurance through the indication of a sign by which Hezekiah was to recognise the deliverance of Jerusalem (Kg2 19:29-31; Isa 37:30-32), and through the distinct promise, that the Assyrian would neither come into the city nor besiege it, because the Lord was sheltering it (Kg2 19:32-34; Isa 37:33-35). In the first part the words are addressed with poetic vivacity directly to Sennacherib, and scourge his haughty boastings by pointing to the ridicule and scorn which would follow him on his departure from the land.
"The virgin daughter Zion despises thee, the daughter Jerusalem shakes the head behind thee." By daughter Zion, daughter Jerusalem, we are not to understand the inhabitants of Zion, or of Jerusalem, as though בּת stood for בּנים or בּני (Ges., Hitzig, and others); but the city itself with its inhabitants is pictorially personified as a daughter and virgin, and the construct state בּת־ציּון is to be taken, like פּרת נהר, as in apposition: "daughter Zion," not daughter of Zion (vid., Ges. 116, 5; Ewald, 287, e.). Even in the case of בּתוּלת the construct state expresses simply the relation of apposition. Zion is called a "virgin" as being an inviolable city to the Assyrians, i.e., one which they cannot conquer. Shaking the head is a gesture denoting derision and pleasure at another's misfortune (cf. Psa 22:8; Psa 109:25, etc.). "Behind thee," i.e., after thee as thou goest away, is placed first as a pictorial feature for the sake of emphasis.
This derision falls upon the Assyrian, for having blasphemed the Lord God by his foolish boasting about his irresistible power. "Whom hast thou despised and blasphemed, and against whom hast thou lifted up the voice? and thou liftest up thine eyes against the Holy One of Israel." Lifting up the voice refers to the tone of threatening assumption, in which Rabshakeh and Sennacherib had spoken. Lifting up the eyes on high, i.e., to the heavens, signifies simply looking up to the sky (cf. Isa 40:26), not "directing proud looks against God" (Ges.). Still less is מרום to be taken adverbially in the sense of haughtily, as Thenius and Knobel suppose. The bad sense of proud arrogance lies in the words which follow, "against the Holy One of Israel," or in the case of Isaiah, where אל stands for על, in the context, viz., the parallelism of the members. God is called the Holy One of Israel as He who manifests His holiness in and upon Israel. This title of the Deity is one of the peculiarities of Isaiah's range of thought, although it originated with Asaph (Psa 78:41; see at Isa 1:4). This insult to the holy God consisted in the fact that Sennacherib had said through his servants (Kg2 19:23, Kg2 19:24): "With my chariots upon chariots I have ascended the height of the mountains, the uttermost part of Lebanon, so that I felled the tallness of its cedars, the choice of its cypresses, and came to the shelter of its border, to the forest of its orchard. I have dug and drunk strange water, so that I dried up all the rivers of Egypt with the sole of my feet." The words put into the mouth of the Assyrian are expressive of the feeling which underlay all his blasphemies (Drechsler). The two verses are kept quite uniform, the second hemistich in both cases expressing the result of the first, that is to say, what the Assyrian intended still further to perform after having accomplished what is stated in the first hemistich. When he has ascended the heights of Lebanon, he devastates the glorious trees of the mountain. Consequently in Kg2 19:24 the drying up of the Nile of Egypt is to be taken as the result of the digging of wells in the parched desert; in other words, it is to be interpreted as descriptive of the devastation of Egypt, whose whole fertility depended upon its being watered by the Nile and its canals. We cannot therefore take these verses exactly as Drechsler does; that is to say, we cannot assume that the Assyrian is speaking in the first hemistichs of both verses of what he (not necessarily Sennacherib himself, but one of his predecessors) has actually performed. For even if the ascent of the uttermost heights of Lebanon had been performed by one of the kings of Assyria, there is no historical evidence whatever that Sennacherib or one of his predecessors had already forced his way into Egypt. The words are therefore to be understood in a figurative sense, as an individualizing picture of the conquests which the Assyrians had already accomplished, and those which they were still intending to effect; and this assumption does not necessarily exhibit Sennacherib "as a mere braggart, who boastfully heaps up in ridiculous hyperbole an enumeration of the things which he means to perform" (Drechsler). For if the Assyrian had not ascended with the whole multitude of his war-chariots to the loftiest summits of Lebanon, to feel its cedars and its cypresses, Lebanon had set no bounds to his plans of conquest, so that Sennacherib might very well represent his forcing his way into Canaan as an ascent of the lofty peaks of this mountain range. Lebanon is mentioned, partly as a range of mountains that was quite inaccessible to war-chariots, and partly as the northern defence of the land of Canaan, through the conquest of which one made himself lord of the land. And so far as Lebanon is used synecdochically for the land of which it formed the defence, the hewing down of its cedars and cypresses, those glorious witnesses of the creation of God, denotes the devastation of the whole land, with all its glorious works of nature and of human hands. The chief strength of the early Asiatic conquerors consisted in the multitude of their war-chariots: they are therefore brought into consideration simply as signs of vast military resources; the fact that they could only be used on level ground being therefore disregarded. The Chethb רכבּי רכב, "my chariots upon chariots," is used poetically for an innumerable multitude of chariots, as גּובי גּוב for an innumerable host of locusts (Nah 3:17), and is more original than the Keri רכבּי רב, the multitude of my chariots, which simply follows Isaiah. The "height of the mountains" is more precisely defined by the emphatic לבנון ירכּתי, the uttermost sides, i.e., the loftiest heights, of Lebanon, just as בור ירכּתי in Isa 14:15 and Eze 32:23 are the uttermost depths of Sheol. ארזיו קומת, his tallest cedars. בּרשׁיו מבחור, his most select or finest cypresses. קצּה מלון, for which Isaiah has the more usual קצּו מרום, "the height of his end," is the loftiest point of Lebanon on which a man can rest, not a lodging built on the highest point of Lebanon (Cler., Vitr., Ros.). כּרמלּו יער, the forest of his orchard, i.e., the forest resembling an orchard. The reference is to the celebrated cedar-forest between the loftiest peaks of Lebanon at the village of Bjerreh.
Kg2 19:24 refers to the intended conquest of Egypt. Just as Lebanon could not stop the expeditions of the Assyrians, or keep them back from the conquest of the land of Canaan, so the desert of et Tih, which separated Egypt from Asia, notwithstanding its want of water (cf. Herod. iii. 5; Rob. Pal. i. p. 262), was no hindrance to him, which could prevent his forcing his way through it and laying Egypt waste. The digging of water is, of course, not merely "a reopening of the wells that had been choked with rubbish, and the cisterns that had been covered up before the approaching enemy" (Thenius), but the digging of wells in the waterless desert. זרים מים, strange water, is not merely water belonging to others, but water not belonging to this soil (Drechsler), i.e., water supplied by a region which had none at other times. By the perfects the thing is represented as already done, as exposed to no doubt whatever; we must bear in mind, however, that the desert of et Tih is not expressly named, but the expression is couched in such general terms, that we may also assume that it includes what the Assyrian had really effected in his expeditions through similar regions. The drying up of the rivers with the soles of the feet is a hyperbolical expression denoting the omnipotence with which the Assyrian rules over the earth. Just as he digs water in the desert where no water is to be had, so does he annihilate it where mighty rivers exist.
(Note: Compare the similar boasting of Alarich, already quoted by earlier commentators, in Claudian, de bello Geth. v. 526ff.:
cum cesserit omnis
Obsequiis natura meis? subsidere nostris
Sub pedibus montes, arescere vidimus amnes.
v. 532. Fregi Alpes. galeis Padum victricibus hausi.)
יאורי are the arms and canals of the Yeor, i.e., of the Nile. מצור, a rhetorical epithet for Egypt, used not only here, but also in Isa 19:6 and Mic 7:12.
To this foolish boasting the prophet opposes the divine purpose which had been formed long ago, and according to which the Assyrian, without knowing it or being willing to acknowledge it, had acted simply as the instrument of the Lord, who had given him the power to destroy, but who would soon restrain his ranting against Him, the true God.
"Hast thou not heard? Long ago have I done this, from the days of olden time have I formed it! Now have I brought it to pass, that fortified cities should be to be destroyed into waste heaps." Kg2 19:26. "And their inhabitants, short of hand, were dismayed and put to shame; they were herb of the field and green of the turf, grass of the roofs and blighted corn before the stalk." Kg2 19:27. "And thy sitting and thy going out and thy coming I know, and thy raging against me." Kg2 19:28. "Because of thy raging against me and thy safety, which rise up into my ears, I put my ring into thy nose, and my bridle into thy lips, and bring thee back by the way by which thou hast come." The words are still addressed to the Assyrian, of whom the Lord inquires whether he does not know that the destructive deeds performed by him had been determined very long before. "Hast thou not heart?" namely, what follows, what the Lord had long ago made known through His prophets in Judah (cf. Isa 7:7-9; Isa 8:1-4 and Isa 8:7, etc.). למרחוק, from distant time have I done it, etc., refers to the divine ordering and governing of the events of the universe, which God has purposed and established from the very beginning of time. The pronoun אתהּ, and the suffixes attached to יצרתּיה and הביאתיה, do not refer with vague generality to the substance of Kg2 19:23 and Kg2 19:24, i.e., to the boastings of the Assyrians quoted there (Drechsler), but to להשׁות וּתהי, i.e., to the conquests and devastations which the Assyrian had really effected. The ו before יצרתיה introduces the apodosis, as is frequently the case after a preceding definition of time (cf. Ges. 155, a). להשׁות וּתהי, "that it may be to destroy" (להשׁות, a contraction of להשׁאות, Keri and Isaiah, from שׁאה; see Ewald, 73, c., and 245, b.), i.e., that it shall be destroyed, - according to a turn which is very common in Isaiah, like לבער היה, it is to burn = it shall be burned (cf. Isa 5:5; Isa 6:13; Isa 44:15, and Ewald, 237, c.). The rendering given by Ges., Knob., Then., and others, "that thou mayest be for destruction," is at variance with this usage.
Kg2 19:26 is closely connected, so far as the sense is concerned, with the last clause of Kg2 19:25, but in form it is only loosely attached: "and their inhabitants were," instead of "that their inhabitants might be." יד קצרי, of short hand, i.e., without power to offer a successful resistance (cf. Num 11:23, and Isa 50:2; Isa 59:1). - They were herbage of the field, etc., just as perishable as the herbage, grass, etc., which quickly fade away (cf. Psa 37:2; Psa 90:5-6; Isa 40:6). The grass of the roofs fades still more quickly, because it cannot strike deep roots (cf. Psa 129:6). Blighted corn before the stalk, i.e., corn which is blighted and withered up, before it shoots up into a stalk. In Isaiah we have שׁדמה instead of שׁדפה, with a change of the labials, probably for the purpose of preserving an assonance with קמה, which must not therefore be altered into שׁדמה. The thought in the two verses is this: The Assyrian does not owe his victories and conquests to his irresistible might, but purely to the fact that God had long ago resolved to deliver the nations into his hands, so that it was possible to overcome them without their being able to offer any resistance. This the Assyrian had not perceived, but in his daring pride had exalted himself above the living God. This conduct of his the Lord was well acquainted with, and He would humble him for it. Sitting and going out and coming denote all the actions of a man, like sitting down and rising up in Psa 139:2. Instead of rising up, we generally find going out and coming in (cf. Deu 28:6 and Psa 121:8). התרגּזך, thy raging, commotio furibunda, quae ex ira nascitur superbiae mixta (Vitr.). We must repeat רען before שׁאננך; and באזני עלה is to be taken in a relative sense: on account of thy self-security, which has come to my ears. שׁאנן is the security of the ungodly which springs from the feeling of great superiority in power. The figurative words, "I put my ring into thy nose," are taken from the custom of restraining wild animals, such as lions (Eze 19:4) and other wild beasts (Eze 29:4 and Isa 30:28), in this manner. For "the bridle in the lips" of ungovernable horses, see Psa 32:9. To lead a person back by the way by which he had come, i.e., to lead him back disappointed, without having reached the goal that he set before him.
To confirm what he had said, the prophet gave to Hezekiah a sign (Kg2 19:29.): "Eat this year what groweth in the fallow, and in the second year what groweth wild, and in the third year sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof." That the words are not addressed to the king of Assyria as in Kg2 19:28, but to Hezekiah, is evident from their contents. This sudden change in the person addressed may be explained from the fact that from Kg2 19:29 the words contain a perfectly fresh train of thought. For האות זה־לּך see Exo 3:12; Sa1 2:34 and Sa1 14:10; also Jer 44:29. In all these passages אות, σημεῖον, is not a (supernatural) wonder, a מופת as in Kg1 13:3, but consists simply in the prediction of natural events, which serve as credentials to a prediction, whereas in Isa 7:14 and Isa 38:7 a miracle is given as an אות. The inf. abs. אכול is not used for the pret. (Ges., Then., and others), but for the imperf. or fut.: "one will eat." השּׁנה, the (present) year. ספיח signifies the corn which springs up and grows from the grains that have been shaken out the previous year (Lev 25:5, Lev 25:11). סחישׁ (in Isa. שׁחיס) is explained by Abulw. as signifying the corn which springs up again from the roots of what has been sown. The etymology of the word is uncertain, so that it is impossible to decide which of the two forms is the original one. For the fact itself compare the evidence adduced in the Comm. on Lev 25:7, that in Palestine and other lands two or three harvests can be reaped from one sowing. - The signs mentioned do not enable us to determine with certainty how long the Assyrians were in the land. All that can be clearly gathered from the words, "in this and the following year will they live upon that which has sprung up without any sowing," is that for two years, i.e., in two successive autumns, the fields could not be cultivated because the enemy had occupied the land and laid it waste. But whether the occupation lasted two years, or only a year and a little over, depends upon the time of the year at which the Assyrians entered the land. If the invasion of Judah took place in autumn, shortly before the time for sowing, and the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian forces occurred a year after about the same time, the sowing of two successive years would be prevented, and the population of Judah would be compelled to live for two years upon what had sprung up without sowing. Consequently both the prophecy of Isaiah and the fulfilment recorded in vv. 35, 36 would fall in the autumn, when the Assyrians had ruled for a whole year in the land; so that the prophet was able to say: in this year and in the second (i.e., the next) will they eat after-growth and wild growth; inasmuch as when he said this, the first year had not quite expired. Even if the overthrow of the Assyrians took place immediately afterwards (cf. Kg2 19:35), with the extent to which they had carried out the desolation of the land, many of the inhabitants having been slain or taken prisoners, and many others having been put to flight, it would be utterly impossible in the same year to cultivate the fields and sow them, and the people would be obliged to live in the second or following year upon what had grown wild, until the harvest of the second year, when the land could be properly cultivated, or rather till the third year, when it could be reaped again.
(Note: There is no necessity, therefore, to explain the sign here given, either by the assumption of a sabbatical year, with or without a year of jubilee following, or by supposing that the Assyrians did not depart immediately after the catastrophe described in Kg2 19:35, but remained till after they had attempted an expedition into Egypt, or indeed by any other artificial hypothesis.)
The sign is followed in Kg2 19:30, Kg2 19:31 by the distinct promise of the deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem, for which Isaiah uses the sign itself as a type. "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah will again strike roots downwards and bear fruit upwards; for from Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and that which is escaped from Mount Zion; the zeal of Jehovah will do this." שׁרשׁ יסף, to add roots, i.e., to strike fresh roots. The meaning is, that Judah will not succumb to this judgment. The remnant of the nation that has escaped from destruction by the Assyrians will once more grow and flourish vigorously; for from Jerusalem will a rescued remnant go forth. פּליטה denotes those who have escaped destruction by the judgment (cf. Isa 4:2; Isa 10:20, etc.). The deliverance was attached to Jerusalem or to Mount Zion, not so much because the power of the Assyrians was to be destroyed before the gates of Jerusalem, as because of the greater importance which Jerusalem and Mount Zion, as the centre of the kingdom of God, the seat of the God-King, possessed in relation to the covenant-nation, so that, according to Isa 2:3, it was thence that the Messianic salvation was also to proceed. This deliverance is traced to the zeal of the Lord on behalf of His people and against His foes (see at Exo 20:5), like the coming of the Messiah in Isa 9:6 to establish an everlasting kingdom of peace and righteousness. The deliverance of Judah out of the power of Asshur was a prelude and type of the deliverance of the people of God by the Messiah out of the power of all that was ungodly. The צבאות of Isaiah is omitted after יהוה, just as in Kg2 19:15; though here it is supplied by the Masora as Keri. - In Kg2 19:32-34 Isaiah concludes by announcing that Sennacherib will not come to Jerusalem, nor even shoot at the city and besiege it, but will return disappointed, because the Lord will defend and save the city for the sake of His promise. The result of the whole prophecy is introduced with לכן: therefore, because this is how the matter stands, viz., as explained in what precedes. אל־מלך, with regard to the king, as in Kg2 19:20. מגן יקדּמנּה לא, "he will not attack it with a shield," i.e., will not advance with shields to make an attack upon it. קדּם with a double accusative, as in Psa 21:4. It only occurs here in a hostile sense: to come against, as in Psa 18:19, i.e., to advance against a city, to storm it. The four clauses of the verse stand in a graduated relation to one another: not to take, not even to shoot at and attack, yea, not even to besiege the city, will he come. In Kg2 19:33 we have Kg2 19:28 taken up again, and Kg2 19:32 is repeated in Kg2 19:33 for the purpose of strengthening the promise. Instead of בּהּ יבוא we have in Isaiah בּהּ בּא: "by which he has come." The perfect is actually more exact, and the imperfect may be explained from the fact that Sennacherib was at that very time advancing against Jerusalem. In Kg2 19:34 we have אל גּנּותי instead of the על גּנּותי of Isaiah: על is more correct than אל. "For my sake," as Hezekiah had prayed in v. 19; and "for my servant David's sake," because Jehovah, as the unchangeably true One, must fulfil the promise which He gave to David (sees at Kg1 11:13).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 19:35
The fulfilment of the divine promise. - Kg2 19:35. "It came to pass in that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the army of the Assyrian 185,000 men; and when they (those that were left, including the king) rose up in the morning, behold there were they all (i.e., all who had perished) dead corpses," i.e., they had died in their sleep. מתים is added to strengthen פּגרים: lifeless corpses. ההוּא בּלּילה is in all probability the night following the day on which Isaiah had foretold to Hezekiah the deliverance of Jerusalem. Where the Assyrian army was posted at the time when this terrible stroke fell upon it is not stated, since the account is restricted to the principal fact. One portion of it was probably still before Jerusalem; the remainder were either in front of Libnah (Kg2 19:8), or marching against Jerusalem. From the fact that Sennacherib's second embassy (Kg2 19:9.) was not accompanied by a body of troops, it by no means follows that the large army which had come with the first embassy (Kg2 18:17) had withdrawn again, or had even removed to Libnah on the return of Rabshakeh to his king (Kg2 19:8). The very opposite may be inferred with much greater justice from Kg2 19:32. And the smiting of 185,000 men by an angel of the Lord by no means presupposes that the whole of Sennacherib's army was concentrated at one spot. The blow could certainly fall upon the Assyrians wherever they were standing or were encamped. The "angel of the Lord" is the same angel that smote as המּשׁחית the first-born of Egypt (Exo 12:23, compared with Exo 12:12 and Exo 12:13), and inflicted the pestilence upon Israel after the numbering of the people by David (Sa2 24:15-16). The last passage renders the conjecture a very probable one, that the slaying of the Assyrians was also effected by a terrible pestilence. But the number of the persons slain - 185,000 in a single night - so immensely surpasses the effects even of the most terrible plagues, that this fact cannot be interpreted naturally; and the deniers of miracle have therefore felt obliged to do violence to the text, and to pronounce either the statement that it was "the same night" or the number of the slain a mythical exaggeration.
(Note: The assertion of Thenius, that Kg2 19:35-37 are borrowed from a different source from Kg2 18:13-19, Kg2 18:34 and 20:1-19, rests upon purely arbitrary suppositions and groundless assumptions, and is only made in the interest of the mythical interpretation of the miracle. And his conclusion, that "since the catastrophe was evidently (?) occasioned by the sudden breaking out of a pestilence, the scene of it was no doubt the pestilential Egypt," is just as unfounded, - as if Egypt were the only land in which a pestilence could suddenly have broken out. - The account given by Herodotus (ii. 141), that on the prayer of king Sethon, a priest of Vulcan, the deity promised him victory over the great advancing army of Sennacherib, and that during the night mice spread among the enemy (i.e., in the Assyrian camp at Pelusium), and ate up the quivers and bows, and the leather straps of the shields, so that the next morning they were obliged to flee without their weapons, and many were cut down, is imply a legendary imitation of our account, i.e., an Egyptian variation of the defeat of Sennacherib in Judah. The eating up of the Assyrian weapons by mice is merely the explanation given to Herodotus by the Egyptian priests of the hieroglyphical legend on the standing figure of Sethos at Memphis, from which we cannot even gather the historical fact that Sennacherib really advanced as far as Pelusium.)
This divine judgment compelled Sennacherib to retreat without delay, and to return to Nineveh, as Isaiah 28 and 32, had predicted. The heaping up of the verbs: "he decamped, departed, and returned," expresses the hurry of the march home. בּנינוה ויּשׁב, "he sat, i.e., remained, in Nineveh," implies not merely that Sennacherib lived for some time after his return, but also that he did not undertake any fresh expedition against Judah. On Nineveh see at Gen 10:11.
Kg2 19:37 contains an account of Sennacherib's death. When he was worshipping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer slew him, and fled into the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon became king in his stead. With regard to נסרך, Nisroch, all that seems to be firmly established is that he was an eagle-deity, and represented by the eagle-or vulture-headed human figure with wings, which is frequently depicted upon the Assyrian monuments, "not only in colossal proportions upon the walls and watching the portals of the rooms, but also constantly in the groups upon the embroidered robes. When it is introduced in this way, we see it constantly fighting with other mythical animals, such as human-headed oxen or lions; and in these conflicts it always appears to be victorious," from which we may infer that it was a type of the supreme deity (see Layard's Nineveh and its Remains). The eagle was worshipped as a god by the Arabs (Pococke, Specim. pp. 94, 199), was regarded as sacred to Melkarth by the Phoenicians (Nonnus, Dionys. xl. 495,528), and, according to a statement of Philo. Bybl. (in Euseb. Praepar. evang. i. 10), that Zoroaster taught that the supreme deity was represented with an eagle's head, it was also a symbol of Ormuzd among the Persians; consequently Movers (Phniz. i. pp. 68, 506, 507) regards Nisroch as the supreme deity of the Assyrians. It is not improbable that it was also connected with the constellation of the eagle (see Ideler, Ursprung der Sternnamen, p. 416). On the other hand, the current interpretation of the name from נשׁר (נשׁר, Chald.; nsr, Arab.), eagle, vulture, with the Persian adjective termination ok or ach, is very doubtful, not merely on account of the ס in נסרך, but chiefly because this name does not occur in Assyrian, but simply Asar, Assar, and Asarak as the name of a deity which is met with in many Assyrian proper names. The last is also adopted by the lxx, who (ed. Aldin. Compl.) have rendered נסרך by Ἀσαράχ in Isaiah, and Ἐσοράχ (cod. Vatic.) in 2 Kings, by the side of which the various readings Μεσεράχ in our text (cod. Vat.) and Νασαράχ in Isaiah are evidently secondary readings emended from the Hebrew, since Josephus (Ant. x. 1, 5) has the form Ἀρασκής, which is merely somewhat "Graecized." The meaning of these names is still in obscurity, even if there should be some foundation for the assumption that Assar belongs to the same root as the name of the people and land, Asshur. The connection between the form Nisroch and Asarak is also still obscure. Compare the collection which J. G. Mller has made of the different conjectures concerning this deity in the Art. Nisroch in Herzog's Cycl. - Adrammelech, according to Kg2 17:31, was the name of a deity of Sepharvaim, which was here borne by the king's son. שׁראצר, Sharezer, is said to mean "prince of fire," and was probably also borrowed from a deity. בּנין (Isa.) is wanting in our text, but is supplied by the Masora in the Keri. The "land of Ararat" was a portion of the high land of Armenia; according to Moses v. Chorene, the central portion of it with the mountains of the same name (see at Gen 8:4). The slaying of Sennacherib is also confirmed by Alex. Polyhistor, or rather Berosus (in Euseb. Chr. Armen. i. p. 43), who simply names, however, a son Ardumusanus as having committed the murder, and merely mentions a second Asordanius as viceroy of Babylon.
(Note: With regard to the statement of Abydenus in Euseb. l. c. p. 53, that Sennacherib was followed by Nergilus, who was slain by his son Adrameles, who again was murdered by his brother Axerdis, and its connection with Berosus and the biblical account, see M. v. Niebuhr, Geschichte Assurs, pp. 361ff. Nergilus is probably the same person as Sharezer, and Axerdis as Esarhaddon.)
The identity of the latter with Esarhaddon is beyond all doubt. The name אסר־חדּן, Esar-cha-don, consisting of two parts with the guttural inserted, the usual termination in Assyrian and Babylonian, Assar-ach, is spelt Ἀσορδάν in the lxx, Σαχερδονός in Tobit - probably formed from Ἀσερ-χ-δονοσορ by a transposition of the letters, - by Josephus Ἀσσαραχόδδας, by Berosus (in the armen. Euseb.) Asordanes, by Abyden. ibid. Axerdis, in the Canon Ptol. Ἀσαράδινος, and lastly in Ezr 4:10 mutilated into אסנפּר, Osnappar (Chald.), and in the lxx Ἀσσεναφάρ; upon the Assyrian monuments, according to Oppert, Assur-akh-iddin (cf. M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Ass. p. 38). The length of his reign is uncertain. The statements of Berosus, that he was first of all viceroy of Babylon, and then for eight years king of Assyria, and that of the Canon Ptol., that he reigned for thirteen years in Babylon, are decidedly incorrect. Brandis (Rerum Assyr. tempora emend. p. 41) conjectures that he reigned twenty-eight years, but in his work Ueber den histor. Gewinn, pp. 73, 74, he suggests seventeen years. M. v. Niebuhr (ut sup. p. 77), on the other hand, reckons his reign at twenty-four years.