In Chapter 36, Sennecharib’s general threatened the inhabitants of Jerusalem and blasphemed their God. General Rabshakeh even claimed that he was sent by the God of Israel. This is a good example of taking the name of the Lord in vain. Claiming to act in God’s will or even claiming to speak concerning God’s will is a very serious matter. (That goes double for us as Christians.) This all took place by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field. (Isa 36:2) This is the same place where Isaiah spoke to king Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, some thirty years earlier. (Isa 7) At that time, Ahaz refused to believe the word of the Lord from Isaiah that God would deliver Judah from Syria and Israel. Instead, he hired the Assyrians to fight for him. (2 Kings 16:5-9) Isaiah told Ahaz that God would ‘shave’ the holy land using the very mercenaries he hired to help him, the Assyrians. (Isa 7:20) Isaiah’s prophecy has now come to pass, inasmuch as the Assyrians have shaved both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. The only city left standing is Jerusalem.*
Bible scholars generally agree that Isaiah 38, 39 took place before Isaiah 36, 37. In Chapter 38:1-6, Isaiah assured Hezekiah that God would deliver Jerusalem out of the hand of the Assyrians. So Hezekiah has a choice to make. He can go to his dad’s playbook, and try buying mercenaries from Egypt or somewhere else, or he can choose to trust the word of the Lord from Isaiah.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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.
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.
As I said above, Isaiah had already told Hezekiah that the Assyrians would not conquer Jerusalem. Upon hearing the news from the front, Hezekiah first went to the temple to pray. He then sent messengers to Isaiah asking him to pray as well:
3 And they said unto him [Isaiah], 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.
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.
5 So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
6 And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master [Hezekiah], 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.
Isaiah begins his wise counsel by exhorting Hezekiah not to be afraid. Fear is a trap. Fear is one of the enemy’s favorite tactics. Jesus never showed fear, even when facing the cross. I count at least sixteen times that Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Therefore, fearfulness is a sin. The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. (Pr 29:25)
7 Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
8 So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.
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,
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.
Rabshakeh doubles down on his blasphemy by calling the God of Israel a deceiver. He then reminds Hezekiah that he has conquered other nations and their gods could not save them:
11 Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered?
12 Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar?
13 Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?
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.
After Hezekiah reads the blasphemous letter from Rabshakeh, he again goes to the temple to pray:
15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying,
16 O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
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.
18 Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries,
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.
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 gives Hezekiah his answer through Isaiah:
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:
22 This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee [Sennacherib], and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
28 But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.
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.
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.
31 And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward:
The sign (v 30) is for Hezekiah, not Sennacherib. Although the crops have been destroyed, for the next two years they will eat what grows on its own. They were supposed to do this every seven years according to the Law. (Lev 25:4,5) Jerusalem would continue to flourish. (vv 31,32)
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.
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.
Isaiah makes a bold prediction. Not one arrow. If just one Assyrian soldier would have drawn his bow at a venture and shot an arrow over the city wall, Isaiah would have been labeled a false prophet—and false prophets were stoned to death.
34 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.
35 For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
Isaiah’s words were soon fulfilled:
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.
37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
38 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping 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 Esar–haddon his son reigned in his stead.
Sennacherib’s general ridiculed the God of Israel and the gods of the nations he had conquered, but in the end Sennacherib’s god couldn’t save him. He was killed while worshiping Nisroch, and by his own sons. Hezekiah was a great king (more on this next time), but he did not ask God for help based on his own merit. He asked God to help him for God’s own glory. (v 20) God said He would defend Jerusalem for his own sake, and for his servant David’s sake. (v 35) Just as Hezekiah was the beneficiary of God’s promise to David, being David’s direct descendant, we are the beneficiaries of the Father’s love for the Son; because as he is, so are we in this world (1 Jn 4:17b). Therefore when I ask our Father for help, I ask that He help me for his glory and I ask in Jesus’ name.
In closing, I cannot imagine a more terrifying situation than Hezekiah’s. The Assyrian army made the Hell’s Angels look like knitting club. There were 185,000 of them and they were out for blood. Yet overnight, the angel of the LORD (ie Jesus) annihilated the Assyrians. If this story tells us anything, it tells us that when we trust in God, we have nothing to fear. Daniel could have given in to fear when he was faced with the lion’s den, but instead he chose to trust God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have given in to fear when they were faced with the fiery furnace, but instead they chose to trust God. Moses could have given in to fear when he was trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, but instead he chose to trust God. Jesus could have given in to fear when faced with the cross, but instead He chose to trust God.
PPSome trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
PPThe name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
PPThe horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
PPPeace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Father, give us courage to face the challenges and trials You send our way. Make us into the soldiers You called us to be. Give us the courage of David and the strength of Samson, that we may represent You well in all things, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
* One hundred years later, Nebuchadnezzar would complete the prophecy. Having conquered Assyria and effectively making himself king of Assyria as well as Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and razed the city.