1 - 5 Hezekiah Sends Servants to Isaiah
1 And when King Hezekiah heard [it], he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the LORD. 2 Then he sent Eliakim who was over the household with Shebna the scribe and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3 They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth and there is no strength to [deliver]. 4 Perhaps the LORD your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left.’” 5 So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
When the delegation has passed on the commander’s words to Hezekiah, Hezekiah tears his clothes. He also covers himself with sackcloth. He shows his good mind, that of humility. He is not arrogant, but bows under the judgment that comes upon him. He knows what he has earned, and that the hand of the LORD brings it upon him. Therefore he goes to Him in His house.
Furthermore he sends a delegation, with some persons he first sent to the commander, to Isaiah. With this he takes refuge in the Word of God to ask what should happen. It is the example for us to ask God by consulting His Word.
They bring Hezekiah’s need to Isaiah. It is “a day of distress” because the enemy lies in front of the gate of Jerusalem and the strength lacks to fight the enemy. Powerlessness causes distress. It is also a day of “rebuke”. Thus Hezekiah acknowledges that the distress of the enemy is a rebuke they deserve for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. Hezekiah also characterizes the commander’s words as “rejection”.
Hezekiah continues his feelings in verse 4. But first he speaks in pictorial language about God’s work in His people. He compares the situation of the people with a birth that presents itself, while there is no strength to give birth. There are birth contractions, but the children are not born, so that the mother’s death threatens. There is in the people, in the person of Hezekiah, acknowledgment of unfaithfulness. Confession of unfaithfulness can be compared to the pain of a new birth (cf. Jn 16:21a). But it seems that the birth will not continue. Hezekiah sees only distress and no salvation.
He no longer dares to speak of the LORD as ‘my God’. For himself he sees that he has lost that right. But “perhaps” the LORD will listen to Isaiah. He speaks to Isaiah about “the LORD your God”. He recognizes the good relationship Isaiah has with the LORD. The reason for his request for prayer is not that he is personally offended or that the people are threatened, but that the enemy has dishonored the living God (cf. 1Sam 17:45). It is about the Name of God. Is that also our motivation when we ask something, or is it about our own honor?
The question to Isaiah is whether he wants to send a prayer “for the remnant that is left”. That makes this history applicable to the end time, when there will be a remnant that is in great need. It also applies to us, believers in an apostate Christianity, who (want to) be a remnant that focuses on the honor of the Name of God.
6 - 7 Encouragement by Isaiah
6 Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. 7 Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor and return to his own land. And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.”‘“
The servants of Hezekiah come to Isaiah as men who share in the feelings of Hezekiah. They can therefore interpret them correctly. That is why they get an encouraging answer. It is the promise of deliverance of the people and judgment on the king of Assyria. The LORD will ensure that the king of Assyria hears something that will lead him to give up the siege of Jerusalem and return to his land. When he is back in his own land, the LORD himself shall cut him down by the sword.
Here is the promise that judgment will come over the rod of discipline used by God to discipline His people (Isa 10:12). God shows that He is not only a God of Judah, but of all kingdoms. He is not a local God, but God of the whole earth. He makes sure that this king will be killed in his own land in the midst of his own gods and thus shows His omnipotence.
8 - 13 Assyria Wants to Impress Again
8 Then Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9 When he heard [them] say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “Behold, he has come out to fight against you,” he sent messengers again to Hezekiah saying, 10 “Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? 12 Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, [even] Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who [were] in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and [of] Hena and Ivvah?’”
The commander makes one last attempt to break the resistance of the people. It is an emergency attempt to subjugate the people in order to then go and fight Tirhaka. The rumor has reached him that he is attacking him. The commander once again uses an argument already used before. That argument is to point to achievements of the Assyrian kings, what they have done with other lands. He also points to the gods of those nations and to their inability to deliver the nations of which they were the gods. Thus the commander, without saying it explicitly, compares the LORD, the God of His people, again with the idols of the nations. He prunes that the LORD, like the idols, will not be able to deliver His people from the power of the king of Assyria.
14 - 19 Hezekiah’s Prayer
14 Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned [above] the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 19 Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.”
Hezekiah’s response to the threats of the enemy is beautiful and imitable. Hezekiah once again resorts to the LORD. What he does is always God’s great purpose in trials. It is also nice to see how he does that. He does not ask God for an answer to these letters for the king of Assyria, but for a solution for the content.
He spreads out the letters containing all the threats to the LORD. He acquaints the LORD with its content. In this way, we may lay down all our needs before the Lord, one by one. We can mention by name all the things we care about.
Hezekiah acknowledges that God alone is God on earth. In that awareness he approaches God. He first addresses God with the name “LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned [above] the cherubim”. This beautiful name of God shows His connection with His people and that He rules. Hezekiah confesses Him as the only God, not only of Israel, but “of all the kingdoms of the earth”. This is He because He is the Creator of heaven and earth. Therefore He is the Owner of it. No such thing is ever said of or to any idol. God is the God of the universe.
That almighty God can be approached and addressed and be moved to listen and see. Hezekiah begs him to pay attention to “the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God”. We see that with Hezekiah it is not about words spoken to him, but about what has been said to the living God, with what He has been dishonored and offended.
Hezekiah is not blind to what his enemy has done. It is all true what the enemy has said about peoples and their gods they have conquered. But Hezekiah immediately says why. Of course the king of Assyria could conquer these gods, because they were only dead things of wood and stone, the work of human hands. You can just pick up such things and burn them or throw them to pieces.
Hezekiah knows that despite all the achievements of the enemy, his God is above all. He alone is able to deliver; He can judge this enemy. Hezekiah asks for the delivery to the LORD. He does not do this primarily for his own salvation, but that “all the kingdoms of the earth”, of which God is God (verse 15), will actually know that He “alone“ is God” (verse 19).
20 - 34 Prophecy of Isaiah
20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard [you].’
21 This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him:
‘She has despised you and mocked you,
The virgin daughter of Zion;
She has shaken [her] head behind you,
The daughter of Jerusalem!
22 ‘Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?
And against whom have you raised [your] voice,
And haughtily lifted up your eyes?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
23 ‘Through your messengers you have reproached the Lord,
And you have said, “With my many chariots
I came up to the heights of the mountains,
To the remotest parts of Lebanon;
And I cut down its tall cedars [and] its choice cypresses.
And I entered its farthest lodging place, its thickest forest.
24 “I dug [wells] and drank foreign waters,
And with the sole of my feet I dried up
All the rivers of Egypt.”
25 ‘Have you not heard?
Long ago I did it;
From ancient times I planned it.
Now I have brought it to pass,
That you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps.
26 ‘Therefore their inhabitants were short of strength,
They were dismayed and put to shame;
They were as the vegetation of the field and as the green herb,
As grass on the housetops is scorched before it is grown up.
27 ‘But I know your sitting down,
And your going out and your coming in,
And your raging against Me.
28 ‘Because of your raging against Me,
And because your arrogance has come up to My ears,
Therefore I will put My hook in your nose,
And My bridle in your lips,
And I will turn you back by the way which you came.
29 ‘Then this shall be the sign for you: you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 30 The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 31 For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD will perform this. 32 ‘Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, “He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,”‘ declares the LORD. 34 ‘For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”
Hezekiah himself prayed directly to God, but the answer comes via Isaiah (verse 20). It is an exhaustive answer from the LORD. This answer applies to the end time.
The LORD begins by mocking the power of the king of Assyria (verse 21). With this word of mockery of God about the enemies the people make themselves one. They are also the words of the people, presented here as “the virgin daughter of Zion” and “the daughter of Jerusalem”. These mocking words are put into the mouth of the remnant by the LORD. Only when the people really have the character of virgin and daughter they will be able to speak these words.
It is here a holy, a divine mocking (Psa 2:4). That’s how we should learn to mock. Mocking is often an expression of the flesh or an expression of feelings of revenge. Feelings of gloating are also often present when we mock. None of this is present in the mockery of God and in divine mockery by His people.
The LORD takes the insults by the king of Assyria very serious (verse 22). How audacious is it to speak in this way to the Holy One of Israel! The LORD can do only bring His wrath upon him.
The LORD knows exactly what the proud king has said and on which he boasts (verses 23-24). Through Isaiah He lets know what lives in the heart of the enemy. It is the language of pride. He believes he can overcome the greatest powers of the world. He has indeed conquered a great deal, but in his pride he believes that he can also conquer God. The king of Assyria speaks as if he were God.
Then the LORD speaks to the conscience of the enemy (verse 25). Has it never occurred to him that he is only an instrument of God, and that he only carries out His will? The enemy does not do anything but what God intended long ago. God governs history and not the mighty men of the world. If those in power realized this, they would come to conversion and perform their duties in fear of God and for the good of their subjects. Therefore we are exhorted to pray for all who are in authority (1Tim 2:1-4).
God lets the king of Assyria know that he could only get the conquered peoples in his power because God has given them in his power (verse 26). In himself he is as one of the peoples conquered by him. For him, the conquered peoples have become like grass, but he himself is no different from the same grass. “All who hate Zion” will “be put to shame and turned backward”. They will “be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it grows up” (Psa 129:5-6). This judgment also includes the pruning king of Assyria.
God knows the enemy through and through. For the believer, this awareness is an encouragement, and at the same time he has the desire to be known through and through himself, so that he may be totally to God’s glory (Psa 139:1-3,23-24). For the unbeliever, that thought is intolerable.
The LORD will deal with the enemy without being able to resist (verse 28). The enemy will be removed by Him as an unwilling animal with means which He will use for this purpose and which are in accordance with his pride.
In verse 29 Isaiah suddenly turns to Hezekiah. The sign Hezekiah receives is a sign that God will not leave His people. The LORD will bless the fruit of the land again. There has been no opportunity to sow, but they will be able to eat what comes naturally. God will ensure that the people will have to eat. In the third year they will have to start sowing again and will be able to reap and eat again.
We can also apply this spiritually. Someone who has just been delivered from the power of sin, who has just been converted, does not know much yet, but the Lord will bless him richly. He gets all these blessings thrown into his lap, as it were, and is allowed to eat what is given to him in this way. But he must also read and study himself, he must sow himself and will also be allowed to reap. He goes looking for food himself.
The beautiful verses 30-31 are about the remnant. These verses correspond to what Isaiah said earlier: “Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” (Isa 10:20-21). The mighty God is the Messiah (Isa 9:6). Here we see the connection between the events here and the future.
We must have this remnant character. Mighty enemies threaten us, but we are dependent on the Lord. We may look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus. For us He does not intervene by judging our enemies, but by taking us up from between our enemies to Himself.
The LORD concludes His answer to Hezekiah with the promise that the enemy will not enter the city. This promise is made repeatedly and in different ways in verses 32-34. The LORD does everything to convince Hezekiah of the certainty of the deliverance. The main reason that the enemy will not get possession of God’s city is that the LORD protects the city for His own sake and for His servant David’s sake.
The LORD has chosen this city, it is His city to which his name is connected forever. The LORD also has chosen David his servant to be his king. For the sake of the true David, the Man according to His heart, the Lord Jesus, God will in the future “defend this city to save it”. That salvation is given a pre-fulfilment in the following verses.
35 - 37 Deliverance of Jerusalem
35 Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned [home], and lived at Nineveh. 37 It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.
Immediately after the LORD has promised to deliver Jerusalem, He fulfills his promise. “That night” it happens. “The angel of the LORD”, that is the Lord Jesus, goes to war. That night He kills no less than 185,000 enemy soldiers by an act of power. Thus, in the future, the Lord Jesus will come to earth to judge the enemy and to deliver His people.
Sennacherib’s answer is that he breaks up and returns home. When he is worshiping before his god in the house of his god, he is killed with the sword by his sons. It is really touching, pathetic, to see how “the great king”, as he called himself, bows down before a dead idol. He worships a piece of wood or stone to expect its help, despite the shameful retreat out of Judah. And it becomes even more slanderous when he, worshiping this piece of wood or stone to ask for help there, is killed. In his idol there is no movement to protect him. The idol stands there unmoved.
The death of Sennacherib happens as God has predicted in verse 7b. God shows here that He is the God of the whole earth and stands above all gods. Similarly, the king of Assyria that will be there in the end time will find its end by the power of God (Dan 11:45).