Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
This and the thirty-seventh through thirty-ninth chapters form the
historical appendix closing the first division of Isaiah's prophecies,
and were added to make the parts of these referring to Assyria more
The section occurs almost word for word
(2Ki 18:13, 17-20; 19:1-37);
however, is additional matter. Hezekiah's "writing" also is in Isaiah,
not in Kings
We know from
that Isaiah wrote the acts of Hezekiah. It is, therefore, probable,
that his record here
was incorporated into the Book of Kings by its compiler. Sennacherib
lived, according to Assyrian inscriptions, more than twenty years after
his invasion; but as Isaiah survived Hezekiah
who lived upwards of fifteen years after the invasion
the record of Sennacherib's death
is no objection to this section having come from Isaiah;
is probably an abstract drawn from Isaiah's account, as the chronicler
Pul was probably the last of the old dynasty, and Sargon, a powerful
satrap, who contrived to possess himself of supreme power and found a
new dynasty (see on
No attempt was made by Judah to throw off the Assyrian yoke during his
vigorous reign. The accession of his son Sennacherib was thought by
Hezekiah the opportune time to refuse the long-paid tribute; Egypt and
Ethiopia, to secure an ally against Assyria on their Asiatic frontier,
promised help; Isaiah, while opposed to submission to Assyria, advised
reliance on Jehovah, and not on Egypt, but his advice was disregarded,
and so Sennacherib invaded Judea, 712 B.C. He was
the builder of the largest of the excavated palaces, that of Koyunjik.
HINCKS has deciphered his name in the
inscriptions. In the third year of his reign, these state that he
overran Syria, took Sidon and other Phœnician cities, and then
passed to southwest Palestine, where he defeated the Egyptians and
2Ki 18:21; 19:9).
His subsequent retreat, after his host was destroyed by God, is of
course suppressed in the inscriptions. But other particulars inscribed
agree strikingly with the Bible; the capture of the "defensed cities of
Judah," the devastation of the country and deportation of its
inhabitants; the increased tribute imposed on Hezekiah--thirty talents
of gold--this exact number being given in both; the silver is
set down in the inscriptions at eight hundred talents, in the Bible
three hundred; the latter may have been the actual amount carried off,
the larger sum may include the silver from the temple doors, pillars, &c.
1. fourteenth--the third of Sennacherib's reign. His ultimate object
was Egypt, Hezekiah's ally. Hence he, with the great body of his army
advanced towards the Egyptian frontier, in southwest Palestine, and did
not approach Jerusalem.
Tartan and Rab-saris are joined with him. Rab-shakeh was probably the
chief leader; Rab is a title of authority, "chief-cup-bearer."
Lachish--a frontier town southwest of Jerusalem, in Judah; represented
as a great fortified city in a hilly and fruitful country in the
Koyunjik bas-reliefs, now in the British Museum; also, its name is found
on a slab over a figure of Sennacherib on his throne.
upper pool--the side on which the Assyrians would approach Jerusalem
coming from the southwest
3. Eliakim--successor to Shebna, who had been "over the household,"
that is, chief minister of the king; in
this was foretold.
scribe--secretary, recorder--literally, "one who reminds"; a
remembrancer to keep the king informed on important facts, and to act as
the additional fact is given that the Assyrian envoys "called to the
king," in consequence of which Eliakim, &c., "came out to them."
4. great king--the usual title of the Persian and Assyrian kings, as
they had many subordinate princes or kings under them over provinces
5. counsel--Egypt was famed for its wisdom.
6. It was a similar alliance with So (that is, Sabacho, or else
Sevechus), the Ethiopian king of Egypt, which provoked the Assyrian to
invade and destroy Israel, the northern kingdom, under Hoshea.
7. The Assyrian mistakes Hezekiah's religious reforms whereby he took
away the high places
as directed against Jehovah. Some of the high places may have
been dedicated to Jehovah, but worshipped under the form of an
image in violation of the second commandment: the "brazen
serpent," also (broken in pieces by Hezekiah, and called
Nehushtan, "a piece of brass," because it was worshipped by
Israel) was originally set up by God's command. Hence the
Assyrian's allegation has a specious color: you cannot look for help
from Jehovah, for your king has "taken away His altars."
(De 12:5, 11;
8. give pledges--a taunting challenge. Only give the guarantee that you can supply as many as two thousand riders, and I will give thee
two thousand horses. But seeing that you have not even this small number
how can you stand against the hosts of Assyrian cavalry? The Jews tried
to supply their weakness in this "arm" from Egypt
9. captain--a governor under a satrap; even he commands more
horsemen than this.
10. A boastful inference from the past successes of Assyria, designed
to influence the Jews to surrender; their own principles bound them
to yield to Jehovah's will. He may have heard from partisans in Judah
what Isaiah had foretold
(Isa 10:5, 6).
11. Syrian--rather, "Aramean": the language spoken north and east of
Palestine, and understood by the Assyrians as belonging to the same
family of languages as their own: nearly akin to Hebrew also, though
not intelligible to the multitude (compare
"Aram" means a "high land," and includes parts of Assyria as well as
Jews' language--The men of Judah since the disruption of Israel,
claimed the Hebrew as their own peculiarly, as if they were now the
only true representatives of the whole Hebrew twelve tribes.
ears of . . . people on . . . wall--The interview is within hearing
distance of the city. The people crowd on the wall, curious to hear the
Assyrian message. The Jewish rulers fear that it will terrify the people
and therefore beg Rab-shakeh to speak Aramean.
12. Is it to thy master and thee that I am sent?
Nay, it is to the men on the wall, to let them know (so far am I
from wishing them not to hear, as you would wish), that
unless they surrender, they shall be reduced to the direst extremities
of famine in the siege
explains the word here), namely, to eat their own excrements: or,
connecting, "that they may eat," &c., with "sit upon the wall"; who, as
they hold the wall, are knowingly exposing themselves to the direst
extremities [MAURER]. Isaiah, as a faithful
historian, records the filthy and blasphemous language of the Assyrians
to mark aright the true character of the attack on Jerusalem.
13. Rab-shakeh speaks louder and plainer than ever to the men on the
15. The foes of God's people cannot succeed against them, unless they
can shake their trust in Him (compare
16. agreement . . . by . . . present--rather, "make peace with me";
literally, "blessing" so called from the mutual congratulations attending the ratification of peace. So Chaldee. Or else,
"Do homage to me" [HORSLEY].
come out--surrender to me; then you may remain in quiet possession
of your lands till my return from Egypt, when I will lead you away to a
land fruitful as your own. Rab-shakeh tries to soften, in the eyes of
the Jews, the well-known Assyrian policy of weakening the vanquished by
deporting them to other lands
19. Hamath . . . Arphad--(See on
Sepharvaim--literally, "the two scribes"; now Sipphara, on the east of
Euphrates, above Babylon. It was a just retribution
Israel worshipped the gods of Sepharvaim, and so colonists of
Sepharvaim were planted in the land of Israel (thenceforth called
Samaria) by the Assyrian conqueror
Samaria--Shalmaneser began the siege against Hoshea, because of his
conspiring with So of Egypt
Sargon finished it; and, in his palace at Khorsabad, he has mentioned
the number of Israelites carried captive--27,280 [G. V. SMITH].
Here he contradicts his own assertion
that he had "come up against the land with the Lord." Liars need
good memories. He classes Jehovah with the idols of the other lands;
nay, thinks Him inferior in proportion as Judah, under His tutelage,
was less than the lands under the tutelage of the idols.
21. not a word--so as not to enter into a war of words with the
22. clothes rent--in grief and horror at the blasphemy