Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CONTINUATION OF THE
NARRATIVE IN THE
1. sackcloth--(See on
house of the Lord--the sure resort of God's people in distress
(Ps 73:16, 17; 77:13).
2. unto Isaiah--implying the importance of the prophet's position at
the time; the chief officers of the court are deputed to wait on him
3. rebuke--that is, the Lord's rebuke for His people's sins
blasphemy--blasphemous railing of Rab-shakeh.
the children, &c.--a proverbial expression for, We are in the most
extreme danger and have no power to avert it (compare
4. hear--take cognizance of
reprove--will punish him for the words, &c.
remnant--the two tribes of the kingdom of Judah, Israel being already
captive. Isaiah is entreated to act as intercessor with God.
6. servants--literally, "youths," mere lads, implying disparagement,
not an embassy of venerable elders. The Hebrew is different from
that for "servants" in
7. blast--rather, "I will put a spirit
into him," that is, so influence his judgment that when he hears the
concerning Tirhakah), he shall return [GESENIUS];
the "report" also of the destruction of his army at Jerusalem, reaching
Sennacherib, while he was in the southwest of Palestine on the borders
of Egypt, led him to retreat.
by the sword--
8. returned--to the camp of his master.
Libnah--meaning "whiteness," the Blanche-garde of the Crusaders
JEROME place it more south, in the district of
Eleutheropolis, ten miles northwest of Lachish, which Sennacherib had
captured (see on
Libnah was in Judea and given to the priests
(1Ch 6:54, 57).
9. Tirhakah--(See on
Egypt was in part governed by three successive Ethiopian monarchs, for
forty or fifty years: Sabacho, Sevechus, and Tirhakah. Sevechus retired
from Lower Egypt owing to the resistance of the priests, whereupon
Sethos, a prince-priest, obtained supreme power with Tanis (Zoan in
Scripture), or Memphis, as his capital. The Ethiopians retained Upper
Egypt under Tirhakah, with Thebes as the capital. Tirhakah's fame as a
conqueror rivalled that of Sesostris; he, and one at least, of the
Pharaohs of Lower Egypt, were Hezekiah's allies against Assyria. The
tidings of his approach made Sennacherib the more anxious to get
possession of Jerusalem before his arrival.
more fully expresses Sennacherib's eagerness by adding "again."
10. He tries to influence Hezekiah himself, as Rab-shakeh had
addressed the people.
God . . . deceive--(Compare
11. all lands--
He does not dare to enumerate Egypt in the list.
12. Gozan--in Mesopotamia, on the Chabour
(2Ki 17:6; 18:11).
Gozan is the name of the district, Chabour of the river.
Haran--more to the west. Abraham removed to it from Ur
the Carroe of the Romans.
Rezeph--farther west, in Syria.
Eden--There is an ancient village, Adna, north of Baghdad. Some
think Eden to be the name of a region (of Mesopotamia or its vicinity)
in which was Paradise; Paradise was not Eden itself
"A garden in Eden."
Telassar--now Tel-afer, west of Mosul [LAYARD]. Tel means a "hill" in Arabic and
13. Hena . . . Ivah--in Babylonia. From Ava
colonists had been brought to Samaria
14. spread--unrolled the scroll of writing. God "knows our
necessities before we ask Him," but He delights in our unfolding them to
Him with filial confidence
(2Ch 20:3, 11-13).
16. dwellest--the Shekinah, or fiery symbol of God's presence,
dwelling in the temple with His people, is from shachan,
Ps 80:1; 99:1).
cherubim--derived by transposition from either a Hebrew root,
rachab, to "ride"; or rather, barach, to "bless." They were
formed out of the same mass of pure gold as the mercy seat itself
Margin). The phrase, "dwellest between the cherubim," arose from
their position at each end of the mercy seat, while the Shekinah, and
the awful name, JEHOVAH, in written letters, were
in the intervening space. They are so inseparably associated with the
manifestation of God's glory, that whether the Lord is at rest or in
motion, they always are mentioned with Him
(1) They are first mentioned
"on the edge of" (as "on the east" may be translated) Eden; the
Hebrew for "placed" is properly to "place in a tabernacle,"
which implies that this was a local tabernacle in which the symbols of
God's presence were manifested suitably to the altered circumstances in
which man, after the fall, came before God. It was here that Cain and
Abel, and the patriarchs down to the flood, presented their offerings:
and it is called "the presence of the Lord"
When those symbols were removed at the close of that early patriarchal
dispensation, small models of them were made for domestic use, called,
in Chaldee, "seraphim" or "teraphim." (2) The cherubim, in the
Mosaic tabernacle and Solomon's temple, were the same in form as those
at the outskirts of Eden: compound figures, combining the
distinguishing properties of several creatures: the ox, chief among the
tame and useful animals; the lion among the wild ones; the eagle among
birds; and man, the head of all (the original headship of man over the
animal kingdom, about to be restored in Jesus Christ,
is also implied in this combination). They are, throughout Scripture,
represented as distinct from God; they could not be likenesses of Him
which He forbade in any shape. (3) They are introduced in the third or
as "living creatures" (not so well translated "beasts" in
English Version), not angels, but beings closely connected with
the redeemed Church. So also in
Eze 1:5-25; 10:1-22.
Thus, throughout the three dispensations, they seem to be symbols of
those who in every age should officially study and proclaim the
manifold wisdom of God.
thou alone--literally, "Thou art He who alone art God of
all the kingdoms"; whereas Sennacherib had classed Jehovah with the
heathen gods, he asserts the nothingness of the latter and the sole
lordship of the former.
17. ear . . . eyes--singular, plural. When we wish to
hear a thing we lend one ear; when we wish to see a thing we
open both eyes.
18. have laid waste--conceding the truth of the Assyrian's allegation
but adding the reason, "For they were no gods."
19. cast . . . gods into . . . fire--The policy of the Assyrians in
order to alienate the conquered peoples from their own countries was,
both to deport them elsewhere, and to destroy the tutelary idols of
their nation, the strongest tie which bound them to their native land.
The Roman policy was just the reverse.
20. The strongest argument to plead before God in prayer,
the honor of God
Da 9:18, 19).
21. Whereas thou hast prayed to me--that is, hast not relied on thy
own strength but on Me (compare
"That which thou hast prayed to Me against Sennacherib, I have heard"
22. Transition to poetry: in parallelism.
virgin . . . daughter--honorable terms. "Virgin" implies that the city
is, as yet, inviolate. "Daughter" is an abstract collective feminine personification of the population, the child of the place denoted
Zion and her inhabitants.
shaken . . . head--in scorn
(Ps 22:7; 109:25;
With us to shake the head is a sign of denial or displeasure; but
gestures have different meanings in different countries
23. Whom--not an idol.
24. said--virtually. Hast thou within thyself?
height--imagery from the Assyrian felling of trees in Lebanon
(Isa 14:8; 33:9);
figuratively for, "I have carried my victorious army through the
regions most difficult of access, to the most remote lands."
sides--rather, "recesses" [G. V. SMITH].
fir trees--not cypresses, as some translate; pine foliage and cedars
are still found on the northwest side of Lebanon
height of . . . border--In
"the lodgings of his borders." Perhaps on the ascent to the top there
was a place of repose or caravansary, which bounded the usual attempts
of persons to ascend [BARNES]. Here, simply, "its
forest of . . . Carmel--rather, "its thickest forest."
"Carmel" expresses thick luxuriance (see on
25. digged, and drunk water--In
it is "strange waters." I have marched into foreign lands where
I had to dig wells for the supply of my armies; even the natural
destitution of water there did not impede my march.
rivers of . . . besieged places--rather, "the streams (artificial
canals from the Nile) of Egypt." "With the sole of my foot," expresses
that as soon as his vast armies marched into a region, the streams
were drunk up by them; or rather, that the rivers proved no
obstruction to the onward march of his armies. So
referring to Egypt, "the river--brooks of defense--shall be
dried up." HORSLEY,
translates the Hebrew for "besieged places,"
26. Reply of God to Sennacherib.
long ago--join, rather, with "I have done it." Thou dost boast that
it is all by thy counsel and might: but it is
I who, long ago, have ordered it so
thou wert but the instrument in My hands
(Isa 10:5, 15).
This was the reason why "the inhabitants were of small power before
namely, that I ordered it so; yet thou art in My hands, and I know thy
and I will check thee
Connect also, "I from ancient times have arranged ('formed')
it." However, English Version is supported by
Isa 33:13; 45:6, 21; 48:5.
27. Therefore--not because of thy power, but because I made them
unable to withstand thee.
grass--which easily withers
on . . . housetops--which having little earth to nourish it fades
corn blasted before it be grown up--SMITH
translates, "The cornfield
(frail and tender), before the corn is grown."
28. abode--rather, "sitting down"
The expressions here describe a man's whole course of life
(De 6:7; 28:6;
There is also a special reference to Sennacherib's first being at
home, then going forth against Judah and Egypt, and
raging against Jehovah
hook in . . . nose--Like a wild beast led by a ring through the nose,
he shall be forced back to his own country (compare
Job 41:1, 2;
Eze 19:4; 29:4; 38:4).
In a bas-relief of Khorsabad, captives are led before the king by a
cord attached to a hook, or ring, passing through the under lip or the
upper lip, and nose.
30. Addressed to Hezekiah.
sign--a token which, when fulfilled, would assure him of the
truth of the whole prophecy as to the enemy's overthrow. The two years,
in which they were sustained by the spontaneous growth of the earth,
were the two in which Judea had been already ravaged by Sennacherib
Thus translate: "Ye did eat (the first year) such as groweth of
itself, and in the second year that . . . but in this
third year sow ye," &c., for in this year the land shall be
delivered from the foe. The fact that Sennacherib moved his camp away
immediately after shows that the first two years refer to the
past, not to the future [ROSENMULLER]. Others,
referring the first two years to the future, get over the difficulty of
Sennacherib's speedy departure, by supposing that year to have
been the sabbatical year, and the second year the jubilee; no
indication of this appears in the context.
31. remnant--Judah remained after the ten tribes were carried
away; also those of Judah who should survive Sennacherib's invasion are
33. with shields--He did come near it, but was not allowed to conduct
a proper siege.
bank--a mound to defend the assailants in attacking the walls.
Isa 37:29, 37;
35. I will defend--Notwithstanding Hezekiah's measures of defense
Jehovah was its true defender.
mine own sake--since Jehovah's name was blasphemed by Sennacherib
David's sake--on account of His promise to David
(Ps 132:17, 18),
and to Messiah, the heir of David's throne
(Isa 9:7; 11:1).
36. Some attribute the destruction to the agency of the plague
which may have caused Hezekiah's sickness, narrated immediately after;
Isa 33:1, 4,
proves that the Jews spoiled the corpses, which they would not have
dared to do, had there been on them infection of a plague. The
secondary agency seems, from
Isa 29:6; 30:30,
to have been a storm of hail, thunder, and lightning (compare
The simoon belongs rather to Africa and Arabia than Palestine, and
ordinarily could not produce such a destructive effect. Some few of the
seems to imply, survived and accompanied Sennacherib home. HERODOTUS (2.141) gives an account confirming Scripture
in so far as the sudden discomfiture of the Assyrian army is concerned.
The Egyptian priests told him that Sennacherib was forced to retreat
from Pelusium owing to a multitude of field mice, sent by one of their
gods, having gnawed the Assyrians' bow-strings and
shield-straps. Compare the language
"He shall not shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with
shields," which the Egyptians corrupted into their version of
the story. Sennacherib was as the time with a part of his army, not at
Jerusalem, but on the Egyptian frontier, southwest of Palestine. The
sudden destruction of the host near Jerusalem, a considerable part of
his whole army, as well as the advance of the Ethiopian Tirhakah,
induced him to retreat, which the Egyptians accounted for in a way
honoring to their own gods. The mouse was the Egyptian emblem of
destruction. The Greek Apollo was called Sminthian, from
a Cretan word for "a mouse," as a tutelary god of agriculture, he was
represented with one foot upon a mouse, since field mice hurt corn. The
Assyrian inscriptions, of course, suppress their own defeat, but
nowhere boast of having taken Jerusalem; and the only reason to be
given for Sennacherib not having, amidst his many subsequent
expeditions recorded in the monuments, returned to Judah, is the
terrible calamity he had sustained there, which convinced him that
Hezekiah was under the divine protection. RAWLINSON says, In Sennacherib's account of his wars with
Hezekiah, inscribed with cuneiform characters in the hall of the palace
of Koyunjik, built by him (a hundred forty feet long by a hundred
twenty broad), wherein even the Jewish physiognomy of the captives is
portrayed, there occurs a remarkable passage; after his mentioning his
taking two hundred thousand captive Jews, he adds, "Then I prayed unto
God"; the only instance of an inscription wherein the name of GOD occurs without a heathen adjunct. The forty-sixth
Psalm probably commemorates Judah's deliverance. It occurred in one
"night," according to
with which Isaiah's words, "when they arose early in the morning,"
&c., are in undesigned coincidence.
they . . . they--"the Jews . . . the Assyrians."
37. dwelt at Nineveh--for about twenty years after his disaster,
according to the inscriptions. The word, "dwelt," is consistent with any
indefinite length of time. "Nineveh," so called from Ninus, that is,
Nimrod, its founder; his name means "exceedingly impious rebel"; he
subverted the existing patriarchal order of society, by setting up a
system of chieftainship, founded on conquest; the hunting field was his
training school for war; he was of the race of Ham, and transgressed the
limits marked by God
(Ge 10:8-11, 25),
encroaching on Shem's portion; he abandoned Babel for a time, after the
miraculous confusion of tongues and went and founded Nineveh; he was,
after death, worshipped as Orion, the constellation (see on
38. Nisroch--Nisr, in Semitic, means
"eagle;" the termination och, means "great." The
eagle-headed human figure in Assyrian sculptures is no doubt Nisroch,
the same as Asshur, the chief Assyrian god; the corresponding goddess
was Asheera, or Astarte; this means a "grove," or sacred tree, often
found as the symbol of the heavenly hosts (Saba) in the
sculptures, as Asshur the Eponymus hero of Assyria
answered to the sun or Baal, Belus, the title of office, "Lord." This
explains "image of the grove"
The eagle was worshipper by the ancient Persians and Arabs.
he is mentioned as having brought colonists into Samaria. He is also
thought to have been the king who carried Manasseh captive to Babylon
He built the palace on the mound Nebbiyunus, and that called the
southwest palace of Nimroud. The latter was destroyed by fire, but his
name and wars are recorded on the great bulls taken from the building.
He obtained his building materials from the northwest palaces of the
ancient dynasty, ending in Pul.