The Condemnation of Man’s Kingdoms Isaiah 1-39, cont’d.
Isaiah 36-39 The Condemnation of Assyria’s Kingdom, cont’d.
Isaiah 37:1-5-After the delegation had reported back to the Hezekiah what they had been told...he “tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth”. These are signs of severe distress, humiliation and mourning. “Sackcloth” is a dark cloth with a course texture that was worn to identify a person when he is mourning. Then he went into the Temple. Finally, he sent the delegation to Isaiah and asked him to pray for the nation. Notice that they told Isaiah that this was a great day of distress for them…but far worse, Rabshakeh had been sent by the King of Assyria to “reproach the living God”.
Isaiah 37:6-7-Isaiah told them to not be afraid...God was going to send a "rumor" to the Assyrians and they would return to their own land and Rabshakeh would die by the sword there.
Isaiah 37:11-13-The King of Assyria is involved in a battle with the King of Cush.
While Rabhakeh is away, the Assyrians learn that Egyptian troops (under an Ethiopian king) are advancing from the south. This would be the Egyptian intervention Assyria feared, and that many in Judah trusted in. But as Isaiah prophesied, it would amount to nothing (Isaiah 20:1-6 and 30:1-7).
- "Actually Tirhakah was only a prince at the time, but because he assumed the throne in 690 B.C., the title 'king' is used proleptically." (Wolf)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Isaiah 37,
Not wanting Judah to think that they have been spared he sends a letter to King Hezekiah threatening Judah. He is so confident that he will defeat the King of Cush that he tells Hezekiah that he will come back to take care of Judah as soon as he has finished with Cush.
Isaiah 37:14-20-Hezekiah takes the letter into the Temple and lays it out before God. Almost like he is telling God, “Look at this. This is what the King of Assyria thinks of You.” He tells God that what Sennacherib has done is a reproach not just against Judah, but against God, Himself. He affirms his belief that the LORD alone is the true and only God and asks Him to deliver Judah (:16,19-20).
Isaiah 37:21-38-Isaiah sends word to Hezekiah that God has heard his prayer and will deliver Judah. Then he tells him what will happen next. God mocks the King of Assyria by saying that he talks big…but will not deliver. He declared that he would come back and annihilate Judah. But that was all talk. On the other hand, God says that he knew this day was coming from “ancient times” and the reason that He knew it was coming is because He had “planned it”. And now, He has “brought it to pass” (:26). God tells the King of Assyria that He knows not only everything that he has claimed to have accomplished, He also know everything that he has said against Him (:28). And because of that…He will cause him to be defeated and to return home. History records that things proceeded exactly as God had said. Isaiah writes that “the angel of the LORD went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians”. For some reason, 185,000 men died in the Assyrian camp. Verse 29 makes a strange comment, “I will put My hook in your nose…”.
This was an especially dramatic statement, because this is exactly how the Assryians would cruelly march those whom they forced to relocate out of their conquered lands. They would line up the captives, and drive a large fishhook through the lip or the nose of each captive, string them all together and march them. God says, "I'm going to do the same thing to you!"
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Isaiah 37,
37:36 The Lord used a sudden outbreak of a particularly virulent plague to slay the Assyrian army. Herodotus recorded that the army camp was infected with mice (or rats). See 2 Kings 19:35.
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote 37:36, p. 1067
He departed and went away: Exactly as God said He would. But he left still full of pride. After this retreat from Judah, Sennacherib commissioned record, which is preserved in the spectacular Annals of Sennacherib (the Taylor Prisim), which can be seen in the British Museum. It shows how full of pride Sennacherib's heart still was, even if he could not even claim he conquered Jerusalem!
- "I attacked Hezekiah of Judah who had not subjected himself to me, and took forty-six fortresses, forts and small cities. I carried away captive 200,150 people, big and small, both male and female, a multitude of horses, young bulls, asses, camels, and oxen. Hezekiah himself I locked up in Jerusalem like a bird in its cage. I put up banks against the city. I separated his cities whose inhabitants I had taken prisoners from his realm and gave them to Mitiniti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Zilbel, king of Gaza and thus diminished his country. And I added another tax to the one imposed on him earlier." (Cited in Bultema)
- "The Biblical account concludes with the much debated statement that the Assyrian army was struck down in some way during the night with considerable loss of life, following which the siege was called off … The Assyrian Annals tacitly agree with the Biblical version by making no claim that Jerusalem was taken, only describing tribute from Hezekiah." (T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Isaiah 37,
Afterward, the King of Assyria returned home in defeat. Years pass between Isaiah 37:37 and Isaiah 37:38-39. Perhaps he had heard that the LORD had said that he would die by the sword and thought that he had escaped God’s judgment (cf. 37:7). However, ultimately his own sons murdered him and his son, Esarhaddon, took his place on the throne.
Isaiah 38:1-8-Hezekiah becomes deathly ill. He was 39 years old (cp. 2 Kings 18:2 with 2 Kings 20:6). Isaiah tells him to prepare to die. But Hezekiah prays and asks God allow him to live longer. God tells Isaiah to tell him that he will live for 15 more years...and, that He gave him a sign that it would happen. Verse 8 says, “Behold, I will cause the shadow on the stairway...to go back ten steps”. The Hebrew word translated here as “stairway” (NASV, NIV) is alternately translated as “dial, sundial” (NLT KJV). While we may picture a “sundial” as looking like a clock face on which a shadow would move in a circular motion…it can also be in the shape of a set of steps and the shadow moves up the steps as the day lengthens. Here, the shadow on the stairway went in the opposite direction when the sun set. This was symbolic of God rolling time back for Hezekiah. In the same way that He had delayed the sunset…He would delay Hezekiah’s day of death. How did God do this? We simply do not know. But it was a miraculous sign of what God was going to do for Hezekiah.
For an interesting article on this event see:
Don Stewart :: Did God Backup the Sundial for Hezekiah?
Isaiah 38:9-20-After being healed…Hezekiah sat down and wrote a letter describing how his brush with death had made him feel. As we read his comments…keep in mind that he did not have a full revelation of what happens in the afterlife (that is revealed in the New Testament). So the recent prospect of his own death had a profound influence on his mindset towards his mortality and what that might mean. Notice what he wrote…
- (:10) at 39 he felt that he was too young to die
- (:11) he would never again have the opportunity to meet either God, or man, on earth
- (:12) life had almost come to an abrupt end without warning
- (:13-14) he was tortured by the thought that he was about to die because He felt that since God had decreed it, there was nothing that could be done to change it
- (:15) when God decided to spare his life he didn’t know what to say because he knew that he had done nothing to deserve such mercy
- (:16-17) God had forgiven him of his sins…he uses the vivid picture of God tossing his sins over his shoulder as He walks away, never to look back at them, never to turn back for them
- (:18) “Sheol” is a general term used for where people go when they die…here we see his incomplete knowledge about what happens after death
- (:19) the living are the only ones who can give God praise…an instance of a person giving God praise is when a father tells his son about God’s faithfulness
- (:20) he determines that since God has saved him, he will sing praises to him for the rest of his life
- Isaiah 38:21-Isaiah instructed the attendants of Hezekiah to place a compress made from figs on the “boil” so that it would be healed.
- Isaiah 38:22-Hezekiah had evidently asked if the Lord would give him a sign, some assurance, that he would recover from his illness and go to the Temple, once again
Prayer: Father, thank You for forgiving my sins. The picture that is given here of You tossing my sins over Your shoulder is so remarkable. Seeing You walk away from them. They are gone, forever. You leave them behind and they are never, ever brought up, again. You have done that intentionally. Thank You, Lord.