Isaiah 37

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

37:1.  “And it came to pass when King Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord.”


The torn clothes speak of confessed imperfect righteousness; the sackcloth, of genuine repentance; and his going into the house of the Lord speaks of approach to God in humble acknowledgement of need.  This is the pattern for us when we approach God, not just in times of heart-felt need, but always.


37:2. “And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah, the prophet, the son of Amoz.”


Eliakim means God will establish; Shebna, who built; tarry, I pray; Isaiah, save thou Jehovah; and Amoz to be strong: courageous, meanings having a good connotation.  Isaiah is here a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the mediator between God and men, 1 Timothy 2:5, and the lesson being taught here is that He is the One to whom we should go in every difficulty.


37:3.  “And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.”


“... blasphemy” is also rendered contumely, reproach, reviling, despising, disgrace, contempt, frustration, all of these describing not only the plight of Israel, but also the attitude of the Assyrian towards Israel’s God.  The Jews predicament was like that of a woman, who in spite of hard labor, was unable to deliver the child.


37:4.  “It may be the Lord, thy God, will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria, his master, hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the Lord, thy God, hath heard; wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.”


Their coming to Isaiah, begging him to pray for them, implies their awareness that their own conduct had robbed them of the right to approach Jehovah with any expectation of His responding favorably to their prayer; and surely we must confess that all too often we have found ourselves in the same position.  But as they had an intermediary to whom they could go, so do we, Scripture itself assuring us that, “.... there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:5.


37:5.  “So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.”


37:6.  “And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.”


To blaspheme is to revile, speak against.  In the final analysis Assyria’s quarrel was with Jehovah, not with His people Israel, relative to whom it is written, “... for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his (God’s) eye,” Zechariah 2:8, a comforting assurance which apples to us also.   


37:7.  “Behold I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and return to his own land; And I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”


The “blast” came in the form of news that his own country was being invaded, so that he had to abandon his attack on Israel and hurry back to repel that invader; but what he didn’t know was that he had little time left to live, for shortly after returning home he was slain by his two sons, see verse 38.


37:8.  “So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah; for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.”                                                 


When Rabshakeh returned he found that Sennacherib his king had left Lachish, and was besieging Libnah, a city of Judah.


37:9.  “And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee.  And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying,”


Tirhakah means he searched out the pious: he searched out the one who waits; and Ethiopia means black, meanings which point to him as being a type of Satan who rules over the kingdom of darkness, and who searches out, with intent to destroy or injure, those who belong to Christ, and who wait upon His ordering of their lives.


37:10.  “Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”


Upon learning of Tirhakah’s approach against Sennacherib, Rabshakeh was about to go to his master’s aid, but before leaving he warned the Jews not to imagine that he was finished with them: he meant to return and chastise them further.


37:11.  “Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered?”


He reminded Israel that since Assyria had destroyed nations greater than she, it would be folly on her part to imagine that she would be delivered out of his hand.


37:12.  “Have the gods of the nations delivered them that my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telessar?”


37:13.  “Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?”


This list of nations which Assyria had already destroyed was meant to impress still further upon Israel the impossibility of her escaping the same fate.


37:14.  “And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.”


We would be wise to follow his example relative to every problem or threat  that confronts us, for He will either intervene Himself on our behalf, or reveal to us the course of action we ourselves are to take.


37:15.  “And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord, saying,”


37:16.  “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel; that dwellest between the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.”


He began his prayer by declaring his acknowledgement of God’s omnipotence, and his rejection of the so-called gods of the nations: a tacit expression of his confidence in God’s ability to deliver Israel out of the hand of the oppressor.  We would enjoy a far greater measure of peace were we imbued with that same confidence, that nothing can happen without God’s permission or direction, and that He orders the circumstances of our lives for His own glory and our ultimate blessing.


37:17.  “Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear; open thine eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.”


“... to reproach” is to defy, taunt, insult, mock.  Hezekiah’s first concern was for the maintenance of God’s honor, a fact which indicates his confidence that Israel’s preservation was inseparably linked with that honor.  The Israelites were His people, and His honor would be impugned were she to be destroyed.


37:18.  “Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries.”


37:19.  “And have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone; therefore, they have destroyed them.”


While not attempting to minimize its military might, Hezekiah nevertheless pointed out that the so-called “gods” Assyria had destroyed weren’t gods at all, but merely dead figures carved out of wood and stone by their deluded votaries.


37:20.  “Now therefore, O Lord, our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only.”


God’s honor continued to have first place in Hezekiah’s mind, and what happened to Israel was inextricably linked with that honor, for if she were delivered into the hand of the Assyrians the nations would conclude that the god of the Assyrians was more powerful than Jehovah.  That same spirit of jealously for God’s honor is conspicuously absent from Christendom today, for He is as much dishonored by the disobedience of professing Christians as He is by the careless indifference of the unconverted.


37:21.  “Then Isaiah, the son of Amoz, sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib, king of Assyria:”


37:22.  “This is the word which the Lord hath spoken concerning him: the virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.”


God’s response to the King was the certainty that He, Jehovah, would answer his prayer, and vindicate Israel beyond Hezekiah’s greatest expectation; and His similar comfort to us is conveyed in the assurance recorded in Ephesians 3:20, that God, “... is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think ....”


“... hath shaken her head at thee,” is also translated “has made sport of you, and tosses her head in scorn as you retreat.”


37:23.  “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?  And against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high?  Even against the Holy One of Israel.”


The jeering Assyrian was about to be dramatically silenced, for in taunting Israel he was also mocking her God, “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye,” Zechariah 2:8.


37:24.  “By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel.”


In the present context “reproach” means to boast against, to defy, insult, mock, taunt.


The trees mentioned here are generally understood to be metaphoric references to the Assyrian’s purposed slaughter of all ranks of the people, and since Carmel means fruitful field, the utter devastation of the land is implied.


37:25.  “I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.”


This is also translated, “I have made water-holes and taken their waters,”  “wells you’ve dug in conquered lands,” “Egypt with all its armies is no obstacle ....”


37:26.  “Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it, and of ancient times, that I have formed it?  Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps. ”


It is generally agreed that the Speaker here is Jehovah, Taylor’s rendering being, “But do you not yet know that it was I who decided all this long ago? That it was I who gave you all this power from ancient times?”  The most cunningly devised plans can’t change God’s purposes, nor can men do anything apart from His direction or permission.


37:27.  “Therefore, their inhabitants were of small power; they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.”


The conquered cities had been overcome, not because of superior might on the part of Sennacherib, but because God had so ordered it for the accomplishment of His own purposes.  This however, should not be taken to mean that man doesn’t have a free will.  He does; but such is God’s omnipotence that He can allow man free-willed choice, and still use those choices for the accomplishment of His own grand designs.  When however, that freedom produces reckless contempt of God to the point where His patience becomes exhausted, He will execute judgment, see verse 29.


37:28.  “But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.”


By His omniscience God foreknows what each man will do, while leaving each one free to make his own choices; and Sennacherib was no exception.  Nothing man does ever takes God by surprise.


37:29.  “Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.”


“... tumult” is also rendered contempt, arrogance, insolence, fury, proud ravings.  Sennacherib had exhausted God’s patience, and was now to become the object of His righteous wrath.  His captain Rabshakeh was going to be compelled to return to his own country and be among the 185,000 whom God was about to slay in one night, see verse 36.


“... my hook in thy nose” is believed by many commentators to be related to the fact that the Assyrians are reported to have led their prisoners by means of hooks through their noses, and God was now repaying them in kind.


God’s warning to all men is, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Genesis 6:3; “He who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Proverbs 29:1; “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10:31.


37:30.  “And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.”


Taylor has translated this verse, “This year he will abandon his siege.  Although it is too late now to plant your crops, and you will have only volunteer grain this fall, still it will give you enough seed for a small harvest next year, and two years from now you will be living in luxury again.”


37:31.  “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward;”


Moffatt’s translation reads, “And what survives of the house of Judah, the remnant, shall once more strike down its roots and then rise to be fruitful.”


37:32.  “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion; the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.”


God would not permit Israel to be destroyed, but would preserve a remnant to be the nucleus of the spared and revived nation.


37:33.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.”


This promise was designed to allay the apprehension of His people.  God would not permit the enemy to enter Jerusalem.


37:34.  “By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.”


This reiteration of the promise was to emphasize the certainty of God’s protection of His own.


37:35.  “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”


The king who will reign in Jerusalem during the Millennium will be a descendant of David who is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, for whose sake God also preserves believers of this present dispensation.


37:36.  “Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”


In Ephesians 3:20 we are reminded that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think ....” and surely this destruction of the Assyrian army is an outstanding example of His miraculous intervention on behalf of His own beyond their wildest dreams.


37:37.  “So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.”


Sennacherib means the thorn laid waste, and surely no more appropriate name could have been given him, for thorns are symbolic of a curse, and he whose hatred of Israel had made him accursed in God’s sight was indeed “a thorn laid waste,” as is recorded in verse 38.


37:38.  “And it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch, his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.”


Nisroch means ensign of delicateness; Adrammelech, the glorious king: glory of the king; Sharezer, he beheld treasure; Armenia, the curse reversed: precipitation of curse; Esarhaddon, captivity of the fierce: I will chastize the fierce


I believe that there is spiritual significance attached to all of these names, as there is to every Biblical name, but I regret being unable to determine what that lesson is here.

[Isaiah 38]

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