Hezekiah is greatly distressed, and sends to Isaiah to pray for him, 1-4. Isaiah returns a comfortable answer, and predicts the destruction of the king of Assyria and his army, 5-8. Sennacherib, hearing that his kingdom was invaded by the Ethiopians, sends a terrible letter to Hezekiah, to induce him to surrender, 9-13. Hezekiah goes to the temple, spreads the letter before the Lord, and makes a most affecting prayer, 14-19. Isaiah is sent to him to assure him that his prayer is heard; that Jerusalem shall be delivered; and that the Assyrians shall be destroyed, 20-34. That very night a messenger of God slays one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians, 35. Sennacherib returns to Nineveh, and is slain by his own sons, 36,37.
Notes on Chapter 19
To Isaiah the prophet
His fame and influence were at this time great in Israel; and it was well known that the word of the Lord was with him. Here both the Church and the state unite in fervent application to, and strong dependence upon, God; and behold how they succeed!
The children are come to the birth
The Jewish state is here represented under the emblem of a woman in travail, who has been so long in the pangs of parturition, that her strength is now entirely exhausted, and her deliverance is hopeless, without a miracle. The image is very fine and highly appropriate.
A similar image is employed by Homer, when he represents the agonies which Agamemnon suffers from his wound:-
οφραοιαιμετιθερμονανηνοθενεξωτειλης λυταρεπειτομενελκοςετερσετοπαυσατοδαιμα οξειαιοδυναιδυνονμενοςατρειδαο ωςδοτανωδινουσανεχηβελοςοξυγυναικα δριμυτοτεπροεισιμογοστοκοιειλειθυιαι ηρηςθυγατερεςπικραςωδιναςεχουσαι ωςοξειοδυναιδυνονμενοςατρειδαο Il. xi., ver. 266.
This, while yet warm, distill'd the purple flood; But when the wound grew stiff with clotted blood, Then grinding tortures his strong bosom rend. Less keen those darts the fierce Ilythiae send, The powers that cause the teeming matron's throes, Sad mothers of unutterable woes. POPE.
Better translated by Macpherson; but in neither well: "So long as from the gaping wound gushed forth, in its warmth, the blood; but when the wound became dry, when ceased the blood to flow amain, sharp pains pervade the strength of Atrides. Racking pangs glide through his frame; as when the Ilythiae, who preside over births, the daughters of white armed Juno, fierce dealers of bitter pains, throw all their darts on hapless women, that travail with child. Such pains pervade the strength of Atrides."
The remnant that are left
That is, the Jews; the ten tribes having been already carried away captive by the kings of Assyria.
Behold, I will send a blast-and he shall hear a rumour
The rumour was, that Tirhakah had invaded Assyria. The blast was that which slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand of them in one night, see 2 Kings 19:35.
Cause him to fall by the sword
Alluding to his death by the hands of his two sons, at Nineveh. See 2 Kings 19:35-37.
These two places were not very distant from each other; they were in the mountains of Judah, southward of Jerusalem.
Let not thy God in whom thou trustest
This letter is nearly the same with the speech delivered by Rab-shakeh. See 2 Kings 18:29.
Spread it before the Lord
The temple was considered to be God's dwelling-place; and that whatever was there was peculiarly under his eye. Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord, as he wished him to read the blasphemies spoken against himself.
Thou art the God,
Thou art not only God of Israel, but God also of Assyria, and of all the nations of the world.
The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
"So truly contemptible is thy power, and empty thy boasts, that even the young women of Jerusalem, under the guidance of Jehovah, shall be amply sufficient to discomfit all thy forces, and cause thee to return with shame to thy own country, where the most disgraceful death awaits thee."
When Bishop Warburton had published his Doctrine of Grace, and chose to fall foul on some of the most religious people of the land, a young woman of the city of Gloucester exposed his graceless system in a pamphlet, to which she affixed the above words as a motto!
The tall cedar trees-the choice fir trees
Probably meaning the princes and nobles of the country.
The forest of his Carmel.
Better in the margin: the forest and his fruitful field.
I have dipped and drunk strange waters
I have conquered strange countries, in which I have digged wells for my army; or, I have gained the wealth of strange countries.
With the sole of my feet
My infantry have been so numerous that they alone have been sufficient to drink up the rivers of the places I have besieged.
Hast thou not heard
Here Jehovah speaks, and shows this boasting king that what he had done was done by the Divine appointment, and that of his own counsel and might he could have done nothing. It was because God had appointed them to this civil destruction that he had overcome them; and it was not through his might; for God had made their inhabitants of small power, so that he only got the victory over men whom God had confounded, dismayed, and enervated, 2 Kings 19:26.
I will put my hook in thy nose
This seems to be an allusion to the method of guiding a buffalo; he has a sort of ring put into his nose, to which a cord or bridle is attached, by which he can be turned to the right, or to the left, or round about, according to the pleasure of his driver.
This shall be a sign unto thee
To Hezekiah; for to him this part of the address is made.
Ye shall eat this year
Sennacherib had ravaged the country, and seed-time was now over, yet God shows them that he would so bless the land, that what should grow of itself that year, would be quite sufficient to supply the inhabitants and prevent all famine; and though the second year was the sabbatical rest or jubilee for the land, in which it was unlawful to plough or sow; yet even then the land, by an especial blessing of God, should bring forth a sufficiency for its inhabitants; and in the third year they should sow and plant, sign to Hezekiah, that his deliverance had not been effected by natural or casual means; for as without a miracle the ravaged and uncultivated land could not yield food for its inhabitants, so not without miraculous interference could the Assyrian army be cut off and Israel saved.
The remnant-shall yet again take root
As your corn shall take root in the soil, and bring forth and abundantly multiply itself, so shall the Jewish people; the population shall be greatly increased, and the desolations occasioned by the sword soon be forgotten.
Out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant
The Jews shall be so multiplied as not only to fill Jerusalem, but all the adjacent country.
And they that escape out of Mount Zion
Some think that this refers to the going forth of the apostles to the Gentile world, and converting the nations by the preaching of the Gospel.
He shall not,
Here follow the fullest proofs that Jerusalem shall not be taken by the Assyrians. 1. He shall not come into this city; 2. He shall not be able to get so near as to shoot an arrow into it; 3. He shall not be able to bring an army before it, 4. Nor shall he be able to raise any redoubt or mound against it; 5. No; not even an Assyrian shield shall be seen in the country; not even a foraging party shall come near the city.
By the way that he came
Though his army shall not return, yet he shall return to Assyria; for because of his blasphemy he is reserved for a more ignominious death.
The very night after the blasphemous message had been sent, and this comfortable prophecy delivered.
The angel of the Lord went out
I believe this angel or messenger of the Lord was simply a suffocating or pestilential WIND; by which the Assyrian army was destroyed, as in a moment, without noise confusion or any warning. See Clarke on 1 Kings 20:30. Thus was the threatening, 2 Kings 19:7, fulfilled, I will send a BLAST upon him; for he had heard the rumour that his territories were invaded; and on his way to save his empire, in one night the whole of his army was destroyed, without any one even seeing who had hurt them. This is called an angel or messenger of the Lord: that is, something immediately sent by him to execute his judgments.
When they arose early
That is, Sennacherib, and probably a few associates, who were preserved as witnesses and relaters of this most dire disaster. Rab-shakeh, no doubt, perished with the rest of the army.
Dwelt at Nineveh.
This was the capital of the Assyrian empire.
Nisroch his god
We know nothing of this deity; he is nowhere else mentioned.
Smote him with the sword
The rabbins say that his sons had learned that he intended to sacrifice them to this god, and that they could only prevent this by slaying him.
The same writers add, that he consulted his wise men how it was that such miracles should be wrought for the Israelites; who told him that it was because of the merit of Abraham who had offered his only son to God: he then said, I will offer to him my two sons; which when they heard, they rose up and slew him. When a rabbin cannot untie a knot, he feels neither scruple nor difficulty to cut it.