The prophet, in this chapter, is dealing,
I. With the proud oppressors of his people at home, that abused their
power, to pervert justice, whom he would reckon with for their tyranny,
II. With a threatening invader of his people from abroad, Sennacherib
king of Assyria, concerning whom observe,
1. The commission given him to invade Judah,
2. His pride and insolence in the execution of that commission,
3. A rebuke given to his haughtiness, and a threatening of his fall and
ruin, when he had served the purposes for which God raised him up,
4. A promise of grace to the people of God, to enable them to bear up
under the affliction, and to get good by it,
5. Great encouragement given to them not to fear this threatening
storm, but to hope that, though for the present all the country was put
into a great consternation by it, yet it would end well, in the
destruction of this formidable enemy,
And this is intended to quiet the minds of good people in reference to
all the threatening efforts of the wrath of the church's enemies. If
God be for us, who can be against us? None to do us any harm.
|The Condemnation of Oppressors.
||B. C. 740.|
1 Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write
grievousness which they have prescribed;
2 To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the
right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey,
and that they may rob the fatherless!
3 And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the
desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for
help? and where will ye leave your glory?
4 Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they
shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned
away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Whether they were the princes and judges of Israel of Judah, or both,
that the prophet denounced this woe against, is not certain: if those
of Israel, these verses are to be joined with the close of the
foregoing chapter, which is probable enough, because the burden of that
prophecy (for all this his anger is not turned away) is repeated
if those of Judah, they then show what was the particular design with
which God brought the Assyrian army upon them--to punish their
magistrates for mal-administration, which they could not legally be
called to account for. To them he speaks woes before he speaks comfort
to God's own people. Here is,
I. The indictment drawn up against these oppressors,
They are charged,
1. With making wicked laws and edicts: They decree unrighteous
decrees, contrary to natural equity and the law of God: and what
mischief they prescribe those under them write it, enrol
it, and put it into the formality of a law. "Woe to the superior powers
that devise and decree these decrees! they are not too high to be under
the divine check. And woe to the inferior officers that draw them up,
and enter them upon record--the writers that write the
grievousness, they are not too mean to be within the divine
cognizance. Principal and accessaries shall fall under the same woe."
Note, It is bad to do hurt, but it is worse to do it with design and
deliberation, to do wrong to many, and to involve many in the guilt of
2. With perverting justice in the execution of the laws that were made.
No people had statutes and judgments to righteous as they had, and yet
corrupt judges found ways to turn aside the needy from judgment,
to hinder them from coming at their right and recovering what was their
due, because they were needy and poor, and such as they could get
nothing by nor expect any bribes from.
3. With enriching themselves by oppressing those that lay at their
mercy, whom they ought to have protected. They make widows' houses and
estates their prey, and they rob the fatherless of the little
that is left them, because they have no friend to appear for them. Not
to relieve them if they had wanted, not to right them if they were
wronged, would have been crime enough in men that had wealth and power;
but to rob them because on the side of the oppressors there was power,
and the oppressed had no comforter
was such apiece of barbarity as one would think none could ever be
guilty of that had either the nature of a man or the name of an
II. A challenge given them with all their pride and power to outface
the judgments of God
"What will you do? To whom will you flee? You can trample upon
the widows and fatherless; but what will you do when God riseth
Great men, who tyrannise over the poor, think they shall never be
called to account for their tyranny, shall never hear of it again, or
fare the worse for it; but shall not God visit for these things?
Will there not come a desolation upon those that have made others
desolate? Perhaps it may come from far, and therefore may be
long in coming; but it will come at last (reprieves are not pardons),
and coming from far, from a quarter whence it was least expected, it
will be the greater surprise and the more terrible. What will then
become of these unrighteous judges? Now they see their help in the
but to whom will they then flee for help? Note,
1. There is a day of visitation coming, a day of enquiry and discovery,
a searching day, which will bring to light, to a true light, every man,
and every man's work.
2. The day of visitation will be a day of desolation to all wicked
people, when all their comforts and hopes will be lost and gone, and
buried in ruin, and themselves left desolate.
3. Impenitent sinners will be utterly at a loss, and will no know what
to do in the day of visitation and desolation. They cannot fly and hide
themselves, cannot fight it out and defend themselves; they have no
refuge in which either to shelter themselves from the present evil
(to whom will you flee for help?) or to secure to themselves
better times hereafter: "Where will you leave your glory, to
find it again when the storm is over?" The wealth they had got was
their glory, and they had no place of safety in which to deposit that,
but they should certainly see it flee away. If our souls be our glory,
as they ought to be, and we make them our chief care, we know where to
leave them, and into whose hands to commit them, even those of a
4. It concerns us all seriously to consider what we shall do in the day
of visitation, in a day of affliction, in the day of death and
judgment, and to provide that we may do well.
III. Sentence passed upon them, by which they are doomed, some to
imprisonment and captivity (they shall bow down among the
prisoners, or under them--those that were most highly
elevated in sin shall be most heavily loaded and most deeply sunk in
trouble), others to death: they shall fall first, and so shall fall
under the rest of the slain. Those that had trampled upon the widows
and fatherless shall themselves be trodden down,
"This it will come to," says God, "without me, that is, because
you have deserted me and driven me away from you." Nothing but utter
ruin can be expected by those that live without God in the world, that
cast him behind their back, and so cast themselves out of his
And yet, for all this, his anger is not turned away, which
intimates not only that God will proceed in his controversy with them,
but that they shall be in a continual dread of it; they shall, to their
unspeakable terror, see his hand still stretched out against them, and
there shall remain nothing but a fearful looking for of
|The Pride of the King of Assyria; Sennacherib's Pride Rebuked; Destruction of the King of Assyria.
||B. C. 740.|
5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their
hand is mine indignation.
6 I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against
the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the
spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire
of the streets.
7 Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so;
but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a
8 For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings?
9 Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is
not Samaria as Damascus?
10 As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose
graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;
11 Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so
do to Jerusalem and her idols?
12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath
performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will
punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and
the glory of his high looks.
13 For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds
of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put
down the inhabitants like a valiant man:
14 And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people:
and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all
the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the
mouth, or peeped.
15 Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth
therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that
shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that
lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it
were no wood.
16 Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his
fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning
like the burning of a fire.
17 And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy
One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his
briers in one day;
18 And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his
fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a
19 And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a
child may write them.
The destruction of the kingdom of Israel by Shalmaneser king of Assyria
was foretold in the foregoing chapter, and it had its accomplishment in
the sixth year of Hezekiah,
2 Kings 18:10.
It was total and final, head and tail were all cut off. Now the
correction of the kingdom of Judah by Sennacherib king of Assyria is
foretold in this chapter; and this prediction was fulfilled in the
fourteenth year of Hezekiah, when that potent prince, encouraged by the
successes of his predecessor against the ten tribes, came up against
all the fenced cities of Judah and took them, and laid siege to
(2 Kings 18:13,17),
in consequence of which we may well suppose Hezekiah and his kingdom
were greatly alarmed, though there was a good work of reformation
lately begun among them: but it ended well, in the confusion of the
Assyrians and the great encouragement of Hezekiah and his people in
their return to God. Now let us see here,
I. How God, in his sovereignty, deputed the king of Assyria to be his
servant, and made use of him as a mere tool to serve his own purposes
"O Assyrian! know this, that thou art the rod of my
anger; and I will send thee to be a scourge to the people of my
wrath." Observe here,
1. How bad the character of the Jews was, though they appeared very
good. They were a hypocritical nation, that made a profession of
religion, and at this time particularly of reformation, but were not
truly religious, not truly reformed, not so good as they pretended to
be now that Hezekiah had brought goodness into fashion. When rulers are
pious, and so religion is in reputation, it is common for nations to be
hypocritical. They are a profane nation; so some read it.
Hezekiah had in a great measure cured them of their idolatry, and now
they ran into profaneness; nay, hypocrisy is profaneness: none profane
the name of God so much as those who are called by that name and call
upon it, and yet live in sin. Being a profane hypocritical nation, they
are the people of God's wrath; they lie under his wrath, and are likely
to be consumed by it. Note, Hypocritical nations are the people of
God's wrath: nothing is more offensive to God than dissimulation in
religion. See what a change sin made: those that had been God's chosen
and hallowed people, above all people, had now become the people of
his wrath. See
2. How mean the character of the Assyrian was, though he appeared very
great. He was but the rod of God's anger, an instrument God was
pleased to make use of for the chastening of his people, that, being
thus chastened of the Lord, they might not be condemned with the
world. Note, The tyrants of the world are but the tools of
Providence. Men are God's hand, his sword sometimes, to kill and slay
at other times his rod to correct. The staff in their hand,
wherewith they smite his people, is his indignation; it is his
wrath that puts the staff into their hand and enables them to deal
blows at pleasure among such as thought themselves a match for them.
Sometimes God makes an idolatrous nation, that serves him not at all, a
scourge to a hypocritical nation, that serves him not in sincerity and
truth. The Assyrian is called the rod of God's anger because he
is employed by him.
(1.) From him his power is derived: I will send him; I will give him
a charge. Note, All the power that wicked men have, though they
often use it against God, they always receive from him. Pilate could
have no power against Christ unless it were given him from
(2.) By him the exercise of that power is directed. The Assyrian is
to take the spoil and to take the prey, not to shed any blood.
We read not of any slain, but he is to plunder the country, rifle the
houses, drive away the cattle, strip the people of all their wealth and
ornaments, and tread them down like the mire of the streets.
When God's professing people wallow in the mire of sin it is just with
God to suffer their enemies to tread upon them like mire. But why must
the Assyrian prevail thus against them? Not that they might be ruined,
but that they might be thoroughly reformed.
II. See how the king of Assyria, in his pride, magnified himself as his
own master, and pretended to be absolute and above all control, to act
purely according to his own will and for his own honour. God
ordained him for judgment, even the mighty God established him
to be an instrument of bringing his people to repentance, howbeit he
means not so, nor does his heart think so,
1. He does not think that he is either God's servant or Israel's
friend, either that he can do no more than God will let him or
that he shall do no more than God will make to work for the good
of his people. God designs to correct his people for, and so to cure
them of, their hypocrisy, and bring them nearer to himself; but was
that Sennacherib's design? No, it was the furthest thing from his
thoughts--he means not so. Note,
(1.) The wise God often makes even the sinful passions and projects of
men subservient to his own great and holy purposes.
(2.) When God makes use of men as instruments in his hand to do his
work it is very common for him to mean one thing and them
to mean another, nay, for them to mean quite the contrary to what he
intends. What Joseph's brethren designed for hurt God overruled for
Men have their ends and God has his, but we are sure the counsel of
the Lord shall stand. But what is it the proud Assyrian aims at?
The heart of kings is unsearchable, but God knew what was in his
2. He designs nothing but to destroy and to cut off nations not a
few, and to make himself master of them.
[1.] He designs to gratify his own cruelty; nothing will serve but to
destroy and cut off. He hopes to regale himself with blood and
slaughter; that of particular persons will not suffice, he must cut off
nations. It is below him to deal by retail; he traffics in murders by
wholesale. Nations, and those not a few, must have but one neck, which
he will have the pleasure of cutting off.
[2.] He designs to gratify his own covetousness and ambition, to set up
for a universal monarch, and to gather unto him all nations,
An insatiable desire of wealth and dominion is that which carries him
on in this undertaking.
3. The prophet here brings him in vaunting, and hectoring; and by his
general's letter to Hezekiah, written in his name, vainglory and
arrogance seem to have entered very far into the spirit and genius of
the man. His haughtiness and presumption are here described very
largely, and his very language copied out, partly to represent him as
ridiculous and partly to assure the people of God that he would be
brought down; for that maxim generally holds true, that pride goes
before destruction. It also intimates that God takes notice, and keeps
an account, of all men's proud and haughty words, with which they set
heaven and earth at defiance. Those that speak great swelling words
of vanity shall hear of them again.
(1.) He boasts of the great things he had done to other nations.
[1.] He had made their kings his courtiers
"My princes are altogether kings. Those that are now my princes
are such as have been kings." Or he means that he had raised his throng
to such a degree that his servants, and those that were in command
under him, were as great, and lived in as much pomp, as the kings of
other countries. Or those that were absolute princes in their own
dominions held their crowns under him, and did him homage. This was a
vainglorious boast; but how great is our God whom we serve, who is
indeed King of kings, and whose subjects are made to him kings!
[2.] He had made himself master of their cities. He names several
that were all alike reduced by him. Calno soon yielded as
Carchemish did, Hamath could not hold out any more than
Arpad, and Samaria had become his as well as
Damascus. To support his boasts he is obliged to bring the
victories of his predecessor into the account; for it was he that
conquered Samaria, not Sennacherib.
[3.] He had been too hard for their idols, their tutelar gods, had
found out the kingdoms of the idols and found out ways to make them
Their kingdoms took denomination from the idols they worshipped; the
Moabites are called the people of Chemosh
because they imagined their gods were their patrons and protectors; and
therefore Sennacherib vainly imagined that every conquest of a kingdom
was the conquest of a god.
[4.] He had enlarged his own dominions, and removed the bounds of
enclosing many large territories within the limits of his own kingdom
and shifting a great way further the ancient land-marks which his
fathers had set; he could not bear to be hemmed in so closely, but must
have more room to thrive. By his removing the border of the
people Mr. White understands his arbitrarily transplanting colonies
from place to place, which was the constant practice of the Assyrians
in all their conquests; and this is a probable interpretation.
[5.] He had enriched himself with their wealth, and brought it into his
own exchequer: I have robbed their treasures. In this he said
truly, Great conquerors are often no better than great robbers.
[6.] He had mastered all the opposition he met with: "I have put
down the inhabitants as a valiant man. Those that sat high, and
thought they say firmly, I have humbled and made to come down."
(2.) He boasts of the manner in which he had done them.
[1.] That he had done all this by his own policy and power
"By the strength of my hand, for I am valiant; and by my
wisdom, for I am prudent;" not by the permission of Providence and
the blessing of God. He knows not that it is God that makes him what he
is, and puts the staff into his hand, but sacrifices to his own
"This wealth is all gotten by my might and the power of my
Downright atheism and profaneness, as well as pride and vanity, are at
the bottom of men's attributing their prosperity and success thus to
themselves and their own conduct, and raising their own character upon
[2.] That he had done all this with a great deal of ease, and had made
but a sport and diversion of it, as if he had been taking birds' nests
my hand has found as a nest the riches of the people; and when
he had found them there was no more difficulty in taking them than in
rifling a nest, nor any more reluctance or regret within his own breast
in destroying families and cities than in destroying crows'-nests;
killing children was no more to him than killing birds. "As one
gathers the eggs that are left in the nest by the dam, so easily
have I gathered all the earth." Like Alexander, he thought he
had conquered the world; and whatever prey he seized there was none
that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped, as birds do
when their nests are rifled. They durst not make any opposition, no,
nor any complaint; such awe did they stand in of this mighty conqueror.
They were so weak that they knew it was to no purpose to resist, and he
was so arbitrary that they knew it was to no purpose to complain.
Strange that ever men who were made to do good should take a pride and
a pleasure in doing wrong, and doing mischief to all about them without
control, and should reckon that their glory which is their shame! But
their day will come to fall who thus make themselves the
terror of thy mighty, and much more of the feeble, in the land
of the living.
(3.) He threatens what he will do to Jerusalem, which he was now about
to lay siege to,
He would master Jerusalem and her idols, as he had subdued other places
and their idols, particularly Samaria.
[1.] He blasphemously calls the God of Israel an idol, and sets
him on a level with the false gods of other nations, as if none were
the true God but Mithras, the sun, whom he worshipped. See how ignorant
he was, and then we shall the less wonder that he was so proud.
[2.] He prefers the graven images of other countries before those of
Jerusalem and Samaria, when he might have known that the worshippers of
the God of Israel were expressly forbidden to make any graven images,
and if any did it must be by stealth, and therefore they could not be
so rich and pompous as those of other nations. If he means the ark and
the mercy-seat, he speaks like himself, very foolishly, and as one that
judged by the sight of the eye, and might therefore be easily deceived
in matters of spiritual concern. Those who make external pomp and
splendour a mark of the true church go by the same rule.
[3.] Because he had conquered Samaria, he concluded Jerusalem would
fall of course: "Shall not I do so to Jerusalem? can I not as
easily, and may I not as justly?" But it did not follow; for Jerusalem
adhered to her God, whereas Samaria had forsaken him.
III. See how God, in his justice, rebukes his pride and reads his doom.
We have heard what the great king, the king of Assyria, says, and how
big he talks. Let us now hear what the great God has to say by his
servant the prophet, and we shall find that, wherein he deals proudly,
God is above him.
1. He shows the vanity of his insolent and audacious boasts
Shall the axe boast itself against him that hews therewith? or shall
the saw magnify itself against him that draws it? So absurd are the
boasts of this proud man. "O what a dust do I make!" said the fly upon
the cart-wheel in the fable. "What destruction do I make among the
trees!" says the axe. Two ways the axe may be said to boast itself
against him that hews with it:--
(1.) By way of resistance and opposition. Sennacherib blasphemed God,
insulted him, threatened to serve him as he had served the gods of the
nations; now this was as if the axe should fly in the face of him that
hews with it. The tool striving with the workman is no less absurd than
the clay striving with the potter; and as it is a thing not to be
justified that men should fight against God with the wit, and wealth,
and power, which he gives them, so it is a thing not to be suffered.
But if men will be thus proud and daring, and bid defiances to all that
is just and sacred, let them expect that God will reckon with them; the
more insolent they are the surer and sorer will their ruin be.
(2.) By way of rivalship and competition. Shall the axe take to itself
the praise of the work it is employed in? So senseless, so absurd was
it for Sennacherib to say, By the strength of my hand I have done
it, and by my wisdom,
It is as if the rod, when it is shaken, should boast that it guides the
hand which shakes it; whereas, when the staff is lifted up, is it
not wood still? so the last clause may be read. If it be an ensign
of authority (as the nobles of the people carried staves,
if it be an instrument of service, either to support a weak man or to
correct a bad man, still it is wood, and can do nothing but as it is
directed by him that uses it. The psalmist prays that God would make
the nations to know that they were but men
the staff to know that it is but wood.
2. He foretels his fall and ruin.
(1.) That when God had done his work by him he would then do his work
For the comfort of the people of God in reference to Sennacherib's
invasion, though it was a dismal time with them, let them know,
[1.] That God designed to do good to Zion and Jerusalem by this
providence. There is a work to be done upon them, which God intends,
and which he will perform. Note, When God lets loose the enemies of his
church and people, and suffers them for a time to prevail, it is in
order to the performing of some great good work upon them; and, when
that is done, then, and not till then, he will work deliverance for
them. When God brings his people into trouble it is to try them
to bring sin to their remembrance and humble them for it, and to awaken
them to a sense of their duty, to teach them to pray and to love and
help one another; and this must be the fruit, even the taking away
When these points are, in some measure, gained by the affliction, it
shall be removed, in mercy
otherwise not; for, as the word, so the rod shall accomplish that
for which God sends it.
[2.] That when God had wrought this work of grace for his people he
would work a work of wrath and vengeance upon their invaders: I will
punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria. His big
words are here said to come from his stout heart, and they are the
fruit of it; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaks. Notice is taken too of the glory of his high looks,
for a proud look is the indication of a proud spirit. The enemies of
the church are commonly very high and haughty; but, sooner or later,
God will reckon for their haughtiness. He glories in it as an
incontestable proof of his power and sovereignty that he looks upon
proud men and abases them,
(2.) That, how threatening soever this attempt was upon Zion and
Jerusalem, it should certainly be baffled, and broken, and come to
nothing, and he should not be able to bring to pass his enterprise,
[1.] Who it is that undertakes his destruction, and will be the author
of it; not Hezekiah, or his princes, or the militia of Judah and
Jerusalem (what can they do against such a potent force?), but God
himself will do it, as the Lord of hosts, and as the light of
Israel. First, We are sure he can do it, for he is the Lord of
hosts, of all the hosts of heaven and earth. All the creatures are
at his command; he makes what use he pleases on them. He is the Lord of
the hosts both of Judah and of Assyria, and can give the victory to
which he pleases. Let us not fear the hosts of any enemy if we have the
Lord of hosts for us. Secondly, We have reason to hope he will
do it, for he is the light of Israel, and his Holy One. God is
light; in him are perfect brightness, purity, and happiness. He is
light, for he is the Holy One; his holiness is his glory. He is
Israel's light, to direct and counsel his people, to favour and
countenance them, and so to gladden and comfort them in the worst of
times. He is their Holy One, for he is in covenant with them; his
holiness is engaged and employed for them. God's holiness is the
saints' comfort; they give thanks at the remembrance of it, and
with a great deal of pleasure call him their Holy One,
[2.] How this destruction is represented. It shall be, First, As
a consumption of the body by a disease: The Lord shall send leanness
among his fatnesses, or his fat ones. His numerous army,
that was like a body covered with fatness, shall be diminished, and
waste away, and become like a skeleton. Secondly, As a
consumption of buildings, or trees and bushes, by fire: Under his
glory, that very thing which he glories in, he will kindle a
burning, as the burning of a fire, which shall lay his army in
ruins as suddenly as a raging fire lays a stately house in ashes. Some
make it an allusion to the fire kindled under the sacrifices; for proud
sinners fall as sacrifices to divine justice. Observe,
1. How this fire shall be kindled,
The same God that is a rejoicing light to those that serve him
faithfully will be a consuming fire to those that trifle with him or
rebel against him. The light of Israel shall be for a fire to
the Assyrians, as the same pillar of cloud was a light to the
Israelites and a terror to the Egyptians in the Red Sea. What can
oppose, what can extinguish, such a fire?
2. What desolation it shall make: it shall burn and devour its
thorns and briers, his officers and soldiers, which are of little
worth, and vexations to God's Israel, as thorns and briers, whose end
is to be burned, and which are easily and quickly consumed by a
devouring fire. "Who would set the briers and thorns against me in
battle? They would be so far from stopping the fire that they would
inflame it. I would go through them and burn them together
they shall be devoured in one day, all cut off in an instant." When
they cried not only Peace and safety, but Victory and triumph, then
sudden destruction came; it came surprisingly, and was completed in a
little time. "Even the glory of his forest
the choice troops of his army, the veterans, the troops of the
household, the bravest regiments he had, that he was most proud of and
depended most upon, that he valued as men do their timber-trees (the
glory of their forest) or their fruit-trees (the glory of the Carmel),
shall be put as briers and thorns before the fire; they shall be
consumed both soul and body, entirely consumed, not only a limb burned,
but life taken away." Note, God is able to destroy both soul and body,
and therefore we should fear him more than man, who can but kill the
body. Great armies before him are but as great woods, which he can fell
or fire when he pleases.
[3.] What would be the effect of this great slaughter. The prophet
tells us, First, That the army would hereby be reduced to a very
small number: The rest of the trees of his forest shall be few;
very few shall escape the sword of the destroying angel, so few that
there needs no artist, no muster-master or secretary of war, to take an
account of them, for even a child may soon reckon the numbers of
them, and write the names of them. Secondly, That those
few who remained should be quite dispirited: They shall be as when a
standard-bearer fainteth. When he either falls or flees, and his
colours are taken by the enemy, this discourages the whole army, and
puts them all into confusion. Upon the whole matter we must say, Who
is able to stand before this great and holy Lord God?
|Encouragement to Israel.
||B. C. 740.|
20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of
Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no
more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the
LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
21 The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto
the mighty God.
22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea,
yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed
shall overflow with righteousness.
23 For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even
determined, in the midst of all the land.
The prophet had said
that the Lord would perform his whole work upon Mount Zion and upon
Jerusalem, by Sennacherib's invading the land. Now here we are told
what that work should be, a twofold work:--
I. The conversion of some, to whom this providence should be sanctified
and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness, though for the present
it was not joyous, but grievous; these are but a remnant
the remnant of Israel
the remnant of Jacob
but a very few in comparison with the vast numbers of the people of
Israel, who were as the sand of the sea. Note, Converting work is
wrought but on a remnant, who are distinguished from the rest and set
apart for God. When we see how populous Israel is, how numerous the
members of the visible church are, as the sand of the sea, and yet
consider that of these a remnant only shall be saved, that of the many
that are called there are but few chosen, we shall surely strive to
enter in at the strait gate and fear lest we seem to come
short. This remnant of Israel are said to be such as had escaped
of the house of Jacob, such as escaped the corruptions of the house
of Jacob, and kept their integrity in times of common apostasy; and
that was a fair escape. And therefore they escape the desolations of
that house, and shall be preserved in safety in times of common
calamity; and that also will be a fair and narrow escape. Their
lives shall be given them for a prey,
The righteous scarcely are saved. Now,
1. This remnant shall come off from all confidence in an arm of flesh,
this providence shall cure them of that: "They shall no more again
stay upon him that smote them, shall never depend upon the
Assyrians, as they have done, for help against their other enemies,
finding that they are themselves their worst enemies." Ictus
piscator sapit--sufferings teach caution. "They have now learned by
dear-bought experience the folly of leaning upon that staff as a stay
to them which may perhaps prove a staff to beat them." It is part of
the covenant of a returning people
Assyria shall not save us. Note, By our afflictions we may learn
not to make creatures our confidence.
2. They shall come home to God, to the mighty God (one of the names
given to the Messiah,
to the Holy One of Israel: "The remnant shall return (that was
signified by the name of the prophet's son, Shear-jashub,
even the remnant of Jacob. They shall return, after the raising
of the siege of Jerusalem, not only to the quiet possession of their
houses and lands, but to God and to their duty; they shall repent, and
pray, and seek his face, and reform their lives." The remnant that
escape are a returning remnant: they shall return to God, and shall
stay upon him. Note, Those only may with comfort stay upon God that
return to him; then may we have a humble confidence in God when we make
conscience of our duty to him. They shall stay upon the Holy One of
Israel, in truth, and not in pretence and profession only. This
promise of the conversion and salvation of a remnant of Israel is
applied by the apostle
to the remnant of the Jews which at the first preaching of the gospel
received and entertained it, and sufficiently proves that it was no new
thing for God to abandon to ruin a great many of the seed of Abraham in
full force and virtue; for so it was now. The number of the children of
Israel was as the sand of the sea (according to the promise,
and yet only a remnant shall be saved.
II. The consumption of others: The Lord God of hosts shall make a
This is not meant (as that
of the consumption of the Assyrian army, but of the consumption of the
estates and families of many of the Jews by the Assyrian army. This is
taken notice of to magnify the power and goodness of God in the escape
of the distinguished remnant, and to let us know what shall become of
those that will not return to God; they shall be wasted away by this
consumption, this general decay in the midst of the land.
1. It is a consumption of God's own making; he is the author of it. The
Lord God of hosts, whom none can resist, shall make this consumption.
2. It is decreed. It is not the product of a sudden resolve, but
was before ordained. It is determined, not only that there shall
be such a consumption, but it is cut out (so the word is); it is
particularly appointed how far it shall extend and how long it shall
continue, who shall be consumed by it and who not.
3. It is an overflowing consumption, that shall overspread the land,
and, like a mighty torrent or inundation, bear down all before it.
4. Though it overflows, it is not at random, but in
righteousness, which signifies both wisdom and equity. God will
justly bring this consumption upon a provoking people, but he will
wisely and graciously set bounds to it. Hitherto it shall come, and
|Encouragement to Israel.
||B. C. 740.|
24 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people that
dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite
thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after
the manner of Egypt.
25 For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall
cease, and mine anger in their destruction.
26 And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him
according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and
as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the
manner of Egypt.
27 And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden
shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off
thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the
28 He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he
hath laid up his carriages:
29 They are gone over the passage: they have taken up their
lodging at Geba; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled.
30 Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be
heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth.
31 Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather
themselves to flee.
32 As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his
hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of
33 Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough
with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down,
and the haughty shall be humbled.
34 And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron,
and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.
The prophet, in his preaching, distinguishes between the precious and
the vile; for God in his providence, even in the same providence, does
so. He speaks terror, in Sennacherib's invasion, to the hypocrites, who
were the people of God's wrath,
But here he speaks comfort to the sincere, who were the people of God's
love. The judgment was sent for the sake of the former; the deliverance
was wrought for the sake of the latter. Here we have,
I. An exhortation to God's people not to be frightened at this
threatening calamity, nor to be put into any confusion or consternation
by it. Let the sinners in Zion be afraid
but O my people, that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the
Note, It is against the mind and will of God that his people, whatever
may happen, should give way to that fear which has torment and
amazement. Those that dwell in Zion, where God dwells and where his
people attend him, and are employed in his service, that are under the
protection of the bulwarks that are round about Zion
need not be afraid of any enemy. Let their souls dwell at ease in
II. Considerations offered for the silencing of their fear.
1. The Assyrian shall do nothing against them but what God has
appointed and determined. They are here told before hand what he shall
do, that it may be no surprise to them: "He shall smite thee by
the divine permission, but it shall be only with a rod to
correct thee, not with a sword to wound and kill; nay, he shall but
lift up his staff against thee, threaten thee, and frighten thee,
and shake the rod at thee, after the manner of Egypt, as the
Egyptians shook their staff against your fathers at the Red Sea, when
they said, We will pursue, we will overtake
but could not reach to do them any hurt." Note, We should not be
frightened at those enemies that can do no more than frighten us.
2. The storm shall soon blow over
Yet a very little while--a little, little while (so the word
is), and the indignation shall cease, even my anger, which is
the staff in their hand
so that when that ceases they are disarmed and disabled to do any
further mischief. Note, God's anger against his people is but for a
and when that ceases, and is turned away from us, we need not fear the
fury of any man, for it is impotent passion.
3. The enemy that threatens them shall himself be reckoned with. God's
anger against his people shall cease in the destruction of their
enemies; when he turns away his wrath from Israel he shall turn it
against the Assyrian; and the rod with which he corrected his people
shall not only be laid aside, but thrown into the fire. He lifted up
his staff against Zion, but God shall stir up a scourge for
he is a terror to God's people, but God will be a terror to him. The
destroying angel shall be this scourge, which he can neither flee from
nor contend with. The prophet, for the encouragement of God's people,
quotes precedents, and puts them in mind of what God had done formerly
against the enemies of his church, who were very strong and formidable,
but were brought to ruin. The destruction of the Assyrian shall be,
(1.) According to the slaughter of Midian (which was effected by
an invisible power, but effected suddenly, and it was a total rout);
and as, at the rock of Oreb, one of the princes of Midian, after
the battle, was slain, so shall Sennacherib be in the temple of his god
Nisroch, after the defeat of his forces, when he thinks the bitterness
of death is past. Compare with this
Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb; and see how God's
promises and his people's prayers agree.
(2.) As his rod was upon the sea, the Red Sea, as Moses' rod was
upon that, to divide it first for the escape of Israel and then to
close it again for the destruction of their pursuers, so shall his rod
now be lifted up, after the manner of Egypt, for the deliverance
of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Assyrian. Note, It is good to
observe a resemblance between God's latter and former appearances for
his people, and against his and their enemies.
4. They shall be wholly delivered from the power of the Assyrian, and
from the fear of it,
"They shall not only be eased of the Assyrian army, which is now
quartered upon them and which is a grievous yoke and burden to them,
but they shall no more pay that tribute to the king of Assyria which
before this invasion he exacted from them
(2 Kings 18:14),
shall be no longer at his service, nor lie at his mercy, as they have
done; nor shall he ever again put the country under contribution." Some
think it looks further, to the deliverance of the Jews out of their
captivity in Babylon; and further yet, to the redemption of believers
from the tyranny of sin and Satan. The yoke shall not only be taken
away, but it shall be destroyed. The enemy shall no more recover
his strength, to do the mischief he has done; and this because of
the anointing, for their sakes who were partakers of the anointing.
(1.) For Hezekiah's sake, who was the anointed of the Lord, who had
been an active reformer, and was dear to God.
(2.) For David's sake. This is particularly given as the reason why God
would defend Jerusalem from Sennacherib
For my own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
(3.) For his people Israel's sake, the good people among them that had
received the unction of divine grace.
(4.) For the sake of the Messiah, the Anointed of God, whom God had an
eye to in all the deliverances of the Old-Testament church, and hath
still an eye to in all the favours he shows to his people. It is for
his sake that the yoke is broken, and that we are made free indeed.
III. A description both of the terror of the enemy and the terror with
which many were struck by it, and the folly of both exposed,
to the end. Here observe,
1. How formidable the Assyrians were and how daring and threatening
they affected to appear. Here is a particular description of the march
of Sennacherib, what course he steered, what swift advances he made:
He has come to Aiath, &c. "This and the other place he has made
himself master of, and has met with no opposition." At Michmash he
has laid up his carriages, as if he had no further occasion for his
heavy artillery, so easily was every place he came to reduced; or the
store-cities of Judah, which were fortified for that purpose, had now
become his magazines. Some remarkable pass, and an important one, he
had taken: They have gone over the passage.
2. How cowardly the men of Judah were, the degenerate seed of that
lion's whelp. They were afraid; they fled upon the first
alarm, and did not offer to make any head against the enemy. Their
apostasy from God had dispirited them, so that one chased a thousand of
them. Instead of a valiant shout, to animate one another, nothing was
heard by lamentation, to discourage and weaken one another. And poor
Anathoth, a priests' city, that should have been a pattern of
courage, shrieks louder than any,
With respect to those that gathered themselves together, it was
not to fight, but to flee by consent,
This is designed either,
(1.) To show how fast the news of the enemy's progress flew through the
kingdom: He has come to Aiath, says one; nay, says another,
He has passed to Migron, &c. And yet, perhaps, it was not
altogether so bad as common fame represented it. But we must watch
against the fear, not only of evil things, but of evil tidings, which
often make things worse than really they are,
(2.) To show what imminent danger Jerusalem was in, when its enemies
made so many bold advances towards it and its friends could not make
one bold stand to defend it. Note, The more daring the church's enemies
are, and the more dastardly those are that should appear for her, the
more will God be exalted in his own strength, when, notwithstanding
this, he works deliverance for her.
3. How impotent his attempt upon Jerusalem shall be: he shall remain
at Nob, whence he may see Mount Zion, and there he shall shake
his hand against it,
He shall threaten it, and that shall be all; it shall be safe, and
shall set him at defiance. The daughter of Jerusalem, to be even with
him, shall shake her head at him,
4. How fatal it would prove, in the issue, to himself. When he
shakes his hand at Jerusalem, and is about to lay hands on it,
then is God's time to appear against him; for Zion is the place of
which God has said, This is my rest for ever; therefore those
who threaten it affront God himself. Then the Lord shall lop the
bough with terror and cut down the thickets of the forest,
(1.) The pride of the enemy shall be humbled, the boughs that are
lifted up on high shall be lopped off, the high and stately trees shall
be hewn down; that is, the haughty shall be humbled. Those that lift up
themselves in competition with God or opposition to him shall be
(2.) The power of the enemy shall be broken: The thickets of the
forest he shall cut down. When the Assyrian soldiers were under
their arms, and their spears erect, they looked like a forest, like
Lebanon; but, when in one night they all became as dead corpses, the
pikes were laid on the ground, and Lebanon was of a sudden cut down
by a mighty one, by the destroying angel, who in a little time
slew so many thousands of them: and, if this shall be the exit of that
proud invader, let not God's people be afraid of him. Who art thou,
that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die?