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Isaiah 37:1–20 Hezekiah Seeks Isaiah’s Counsel and Prays in the Temple
After King Sennecherib of Assyria conquered several cities of Judah and threatened the capital city Jerusalem, King Hezekiah demonstrated humility and grief (37:1), sought Isaiah’s advice (37:2–5), and prayed to the Lord in the temple (37:14–20)—this is the pattern for all of us when we are faced with extreme trials.
tore his clothes . . . sackcloth. Rending one’s clothes and covering oneself with sackcloth are symbolic actions that express profound grief (Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31). House of the Lord. Solomon’s temple.
come to the point of birth, but there is no strength to give birth. When a woman in labor lacks the strength to give birth, both the mother and baby are in danger of death. Hezekiah and his armies were like that woman; they lacked the strength to war against Assyria, so Hezekiah and the armies were in danger of death.
may you lift up a prayer. Hezekiah asks Isaiah to pray for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
I am putting a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor. The Lord states that He will direct Sennacherib to return home, where he will be killed with a sword. Later, Sennacherib’s own sons slew him with the sword, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy (see 37:38).
Have the gods delivered the nations that my fathers destroyed? The Assyrians destroyed many nations, including Gozen, Haran, Rezeph, Hamath, Arpad, and others. The chief officer was saying, in effect, since we, the Assyrians have conquered so many nations, do you (Hezekiah) think that you will survive this war?
House of the Lord. Solomon’s temple. Hezekiah prayed. The temple is the quintessential place to pray (see also 56:7; Psalm 27:4; Matthew 21:13).
Lord of Hosts. Generally refers to the Lord’s hosts of angels. enthroned on the cherubim. The mercy seat of the ark of the covenant served as God’s throne (see also 2 Samuel 6:2). He sat between (or above) the two cherubs.
kingdoms . . . may know that You alone are the Lord. Hezekiah prayed, not for his own glory but so that earth’s kingdoms would know that Jehovah alone is God.
Isaiah 37:21–38 The Lord Responds—Sennacherib Will Fall
After Hezekiah prayed (37:16–20) to the Lord for deliverance from the great Assyrian army, the Lord responded through His prophet Isaiah.
virgin Daughter of Zion/Daughter of Jerusalem. These are poetic names for Jerusalem (see also 1:8; 52:2). she scorns you! She mocks you! “You,” here, refers to the Assyrian king, to whom the Lord directs His words throughout verses 22–29. she wags her head behind your back. Jerusalem, symbolically portrayed as a woman, mocks and scorns the Assyrian king. This is a great image, either of a sweet by fiery young woman mocking the Assyrian king, or (in our day) of a pre-teen girl rolling her eyes.
Whom have you taunted and blasphemed? The Lord poses two rhetorical questions in this verse, one of which reads: “Whom have you [the Assyrian king] taunted and blasphemed?” The answer is none other than “the Holy One of Israel.”
The king of Assyria brags about his warring feats of warfare—he conquered Lebanon and cut down its famous cedars and cypresses; he produced water (dug wells) and dried up the water (“dried up all the streams”) with his foot, as if he were a god.
of foreigners. This reading comes from DSS Isaiah and the parallel passage of 2 Kings 19:24.
Have you not heard long ago? The Lord asks the Assyrian king, “Have you not heard long ago” that I am the One who “brought it to pass,” that Assyria would rise to power be part of My plan to conquer wayward nations?
short of power. Literally “short of hand.” east wind. Reading from DSS Isaiah. grass of the field/green herb. The Lord uses metaphors, stating that the inhabitants of the fortified cities were as weak as grass and green vegetation before the “east wind,” which has destructive powers.
your standing up. From DSS Isaiah. your going out, and your coming in. God, who possesses all knowledge, knew everything about the Assyrian king—when he stood up, sat down, went outside, and came inside.
My hook in your nose/My bit in your lips. The image here is of a farmer controlling a mighty ox with a small hook in its nose or dominating a large, powerful horse, with a bit in its lips. God would similarly restrain the Assyrian king—easily and with no effort.
this is the sign for you. Isaiah gives a sign to King Hezekiah to show that God would fulfill His promises concerning Assyria and its king. The sign was this: because of the Assyrian threat, the people could not farm for two years (“this year . . . and the second year”), but they would eat what “grows of itself.” In the third and subsequent years, however, the people would be able to plow, plant, and eat the fruit of their labors.
take root below/bear fruit above. The remnant of Judah, those who escaped the Assyrian wars, would reestablish themselves (“take root”) and again prosper (“bear fruit”).
He will not . . . shoot an arrow there. The Lord prophesies that the Assyrians will not shoot an arrow against Jerusalem or its inhabitants, create a siege-ramp, and so forth. Rather, the king would return to his homeland.
for the sake of David. The Lord promises to defend Jerusalem, for His sake and for that of the kingdom of David, according to the covenant that He made with David (2 Samuel 7:12–16). The Lord told David, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Jesus Christ, ultimately, would fulfill this prophecy.
angel of the Lord. During the night (2 Kings 19:35) the angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, thus fulfilling the prophecy that God would protect Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
King Sennacherib returned home, and while worshipping in the temple of his god Nisroch, two of his sons killed him with the sword, thus fulfilling the prophecy that Sennacherib would die by the sword (see 37:7). Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s youngest son, inherited his father’s throne circa 681 BC. We may contrast a great irony in this chapter—the righteous King Hezekiah prays to the Lord in the temple (37:14–20) and obtains safety from the Assyrians, versus the wicked King Sennacherib, who worships Nisroch in the temple and receives death. Bracketed words in this section are from the JST.
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