Isaiah 36 - 39
The Siege of Jerusalem

Introduction to the History of Chapters 36 through 39.
Sennacherib's invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem

The biblical account in Isaiah 36-39 is obviously a condensed account of many events that though contemporary were stretched out over a number of years with other events overlapping these as well.

It will take some thorough study of these events before one will conclude that the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib took place, not in the 14th year, but in the very last years of Hezekiah's 29 year reign, which began six years before the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE and ended about 698 BCE. The miracle of the sun dial recorded in Isaiah 38 added 15 years to Hezekiah's life. It occurred therefore in the 14th year of Hezekiah's 29 year reign. (29-15=14). Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem probably took place after 701 BCE which would have been the 27th or 28th year of the reign of Hezekiah. Now read on to see why this has to be so.

The text seems to say that the siege took place in the 14th year of Hezekiah. (Isaiah 36:1ff) There is no hope at present of harmonizing the biblical chronology with the Assyrian historical sources if the 14th year of Hezekiah is coincident with the invasion of Sennacherib (during which the siege of Lachish, which just preceded the siege of Jerusalem,) took place. If the biblical account means that in the 14th year of Hezekiah Sennacherib sent Rab Shakah to announce the coming siege which followed shortly after, then there is a hopeless problem in the chronology.

However the siege of Jerusalem is not the beginning of the interaction of Assyrian kings which precipitated the events that are outlined in the biblical documents as being a part of this period. There is a lengthy preliminary period of appeasement of Assyria by Hezekiah and diplomacy which preceded the actual invasion. There is also a lengthy period of preparation for the inevitable attack on Jerusalem. It is in this light perhaps that the discrepancy may be answered. From the first attempt to subject Hezekiah to Assyrian oversight, until the invasion, followed by the siege, there are several years that had to transpire, perhaps enough to make up the discrepancy because the 14th year of Hezekiah is only 8 years after the fall of Samaria in 722 BC (2Ki 18:10) which would make the Bible chronology of these events begin in 716 or 715 BC. Rawlinson gives the years 714 or 713 BC and notes that Sargon was succeeded by Sennacherib, his son, in 705 and he did not invade Palestine until 701 BC. Hence this is at least 11 or 12 years after the 14th year of Hezekiah. The text in 2 Chronicles 32:1-9 indicates that many preparations, including the building of water courses, aqueducts and the Gihon to Siloam tunnel dug through solid rock, (see chapter 22) were started and completed before the siege because of the initial invasion of Sennacherib. The invasion in 701 BC that included the siege of Lachish is much too close to the siege of Jerusalem to have afforded time to complete the vast public works programs which Sennacherib's threats caused Hezekiah to put in motion.. Thus the preparations for the impending attack by the Assyrians occupied a lengthy period. of time

2 Chron 32:1 After these things, and this faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fortified cities, and thought to win them for himself. And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, 3 he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city; and they helped him. 4 So there was gathered much people together, and they stopped all the fountains, and the brook that flowed through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water? 5 And he took courage, and built up all the wall that was broken down, and raised it up to the towers, and the other wall without, and strengthened Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. 6 And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the broad place at the gate of the city, and spoke comfortably to them, saying, 7 Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him; for there is a greater with us than with him: 8 with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is Jehovah our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. 9 After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (ASV)

Thus in verse 1 above, the encamping around Judean cities before they were actually taken, is the event that precipitated the preparations for a siege in Jerusalem.
It is suggested that Sennacherib was a regent with his father Sargon and that a first invasion of Judah which set the preparations in progress while he was regent is more in harmony with the 14th year of Hezekiah as beginning the events that would lead up to the inevitable siege. Sargon's army assaulted and took Ashdod in Judah (Isaiah 20:1) in 712 BC. He sent an army led by his emissary Tartan. The general at the time of the siege of Jerusalem has the same name and it is possible it is the same person. It is easily possible that Sennacherib was acting as king regent by 712 BC and the preparations would have begun at that time which sets the stage for the events described within the framework of the siege being the central event of the events begun in the 14th year of Hezekiah (714 BC if the biblical chronology is to be considered correct.). The biblical account is obviously a condensation of a great many events over a long period of time. For instance Sennacherib's death is described as happening in the same frame work . He is reported to have gone home in disgrace after the loss of 185,000 men, lost in one night, and to have been assassinated by his sons. His death at the hands of his sons was actually 20 years later
The preparations which follow the beginning point of the 14th year of Hezekiah were extensive and would occupy a great length of time,-- so vast were the projects which include:
1. Immediately after Sennacherib began his expeditions against Judah Hezekiah began dialog and exchange of letters with the Assyrians. Ambassadors were sent to try to achieve a political solution.
2. .This was followed by an attempt at appeasing Sennacherib through sending an indemnity that had been agreed upon in the exchange of letters, which finally resulted in Hezekiah stripping the temple of gold and silver to be sent to Sennacherib which was then transported to Assyria. This was done but the appeasement was not successful. (2 Kings 18:14-15)
3. That which began the process just mentioned was the taking of fortified cities in Judea. But just before the siege of Jerusalem began "all" the fortified cities of Judah had already fallen to the Assyrians. Thus the completion of the sieges and taking of the fortified cities followed, in time, the sending of the useless bribe. How long would it take to gain access to one city after another by the Assyrian armies? Even three such supposed expeditions at one time would require sieges that would be time consuming. It is obvious from the text that Sennacherib had more than one expeditionary army operating at the same time.
4. Preparations of vast public works for the coming siege were set in motion in the 14th year of Hezekiah. These included:
** a. Covering and hiding of all springs and water courses north of the city and the building of conduits, aqueducts and reservoirs (also disguised and covered) hidden from view to bring water into the city. (2 Chron. 32:1-4).
** b. Building a second wall (I think inside) the city rather than outside and repairing the old wall. Reservoirs and aqueducts were placed within the two walls and the rubble from the houses that had to be razed was used to cover the pools and conduits. No small undertaking
** c. From these pools an underground aqueduct was built to take water to other parts of the city via the Gihon spring, a distance of just about one mile. A full description of the Gihon-Siloam tunnel from Harpers Bible Dictionary can be found in chapter 22.
** d. The sources of the spring at Gihon were excavated by following the source back into the cliff face of the Hill Ophel. This resulted in building a large cave big enough for 50 to 60 people to stand in which was carved out of the solid rock. The opening of the cave was then walled up and made so that it could not be distinguished from the cliff face. (2 Chron. 32:30)
** e. Probably the most ambitious project was attacking the solid rock and digging a tunnel through the hill Ophel to carry the water of Gihon Spring into the city to the Pool of Siloam. This water still courses through the same tunnel to this day. A shaft was then dug from the tunnel upward to the top of Hill Ophel to provide water to the main part of the city and the palaces that were located there in those days. The Gihon-Siloam tunnel was dug through almost 1800 feet of solid rock and was so narrow that only one man at a time could face the rock wall Digging from both sides they met more or less in the middle. A project that would obviously consume more than one year. (2 Chron. 32:30)
** f. Hezekiah created an armaments industry which produced a large quantity of arms implying that there were troops mustered to wield them.
( 2 Chron 32:5,6) In 2 Chronicles 32:9 which follows this description of creating these defenses the text reads "After this." Thus the actual siege begins long after the things set in motion in the 14th year of Hezekiah.

Let us compound the difficulties in the historical material in the 36 to 39th chapters of Isaiah. The two events whose recounting in 38, 39 follows the account in 36-37 of invasion and loss of Assyrian armies are
1. (38) the illness of Hezekiah which gave him 15 more years to live and contains the miracle of the receding shadow on the sun dial and
2. (39) the visit of Merodach Baladan from Babylon. The first event starts with the words, "in those days." The Hebrew could easily be construed to mean "during the same period." The LXX implies "approximately the same time." Investigation of the chronology would make these two events take place before the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib. This being the case the extent of Hezekiah's confidence and faith is given some support if he would have had seen a miracle assuring him of "peace and truth" in his time as well as assurance that his life was not going to end during a siege in the near future.

Hezekiah's reign lasted 29 years. (2Kings 18:2) If after his illness he was promised 15 years of added life then the illness had to take place in the 14th year of his reign and he would have experienced the miracle before the siege of Jerusalem. Not long afterward, the events of Isaiah 39 are introduced with the words "At that time." This, with the context of Isaiah 39, places the visit of Merodach Baladan during the period of recuperation of Hezekiah's illness and it means that these events preceded the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib.

Josephus adds even more to the account. He makes the siege of Jerusalem (which according to him) was to be led by Rabshakah while Sennacherib himself proceeded on to Egypt where he laid siege to the outpost city of Pelusium which guarded the border of Egypt from the Assyrians. The eastern most mouth of the Nile was called the Pelusian Nile. Josephus quotes Herodotus to verify this bit of a skirmish. (Herod Book II:141) According to him it was at Pelusium that he heard the rumor of the approach of the Ethiopian king and returned from there breaking off the siege of Pelusium and arriving at Jerusalem in time to view the plague-smitten troops and then making his hasty retreat to Assyria. Herodotus and his history still read the same as when Josephus quoted it. Josephus, to support his account used other "secular" historians, also quoted another source whose books unfortunately did not survive to the present. But he quotes one Berosus:

And Herodotus does indeed give us this history; nay, and Berosus, who wrote of the affairs of Chaldea, makes mention of this king Sennacherib, and that he ruled over the Assyrians, and that he made an expedition against all Asia and Egypt; and say thus:
" Now when Sennacherib was returning from his Egyptian war to Jerusalem, he found his army under Rabshakeh his general in danger [by a plague], for God had sent a pestilential distemper upon his army;" Josephus Book X:I:i,5

Adding to this Whiston, the translator and editor of Josephus, says in a footnote in this place that the sickness of Hezekiah and miracle of the sun dial happened in the 14th or 15th year of Hezekiah's reign but the ruin of Sennacherib's army took place in the 18th year. Thus, to Whiston the miracle was before the siege began. But Whiston is mistaken on the 3 or 4 years he thought were between the miracle and the siege. He must have arrived at that through his own perusal of the things we have already mentioned. Two or three years difference will not help in accounting for the time between the 14th year of Hezekiah and the actual siege. Whiston did his work before the Assyrian cuneiform texts were able to be read so his suggestion of the 14th and 18th years are approximations which are not close enough. Deciphering the Assyrian text was not accomplished until after Rawlinson deciphered and translated the text at Behistun about 1850. Learning the language and reading other texts followed in the late 1800s.

Sennecherib recorded his campaigns on a prism on which he described his version of the siege and its aftermath. Of course he left out the part about the defeat of his army. See the prism and the translation of the portion that deals with Hezekiah here.

1. Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.

Chapter 36 Verse 1: Fourteenth year: For difficulties encountered in harmonizing the historical dates with the Bible Chronology see notes under 20:1.

2 And the king of Assyria sent Rabbi Shakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem to king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.

Verse 2: A great army: Tartan led the army. See 2 Ki. 18:17 and Isaiah 20:1 and note under 20:1.

Verse 2: Rabbi: The word is used often of the Assyrian officials and is written as a separate word in the Hebrew text. It means "Great one." It is altogether an Assyrian appellation and was passed on to the Babylonians. After the Babylonian captivity it was appropriated by Jewish teachers who called themselves and others Rabbi or simply Rab when addressing the master teacher to whom the label was given. The Hebrew is simply (Rab) as the names appear in the Hebrew text here and 2 Ki. 18:17. e.g. (Rab Saris and Rab Shekah)

3 Then Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder, came out to him .

Verse 3: Over the household: The Mayor Domo, second only to the King. Shebna had formerly held that position but was demoted. See note under verse 22 below.

4 And Rabbi Shakeh said to them, Say now to Hezekiah, Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this which you trust in? 5 I ask, Do you say these vain words? I have counsel and strength for war: But who is it in whom you trust, that you rebel against me?

Verse 5: Vain Words: The LXX renders this verse "You could not with a wish or a laughable word make a battle line." This is a good illustration of the freedom used by LXX translators in rendering nuances of thought.

6 Lo, you trust in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. 7 But if you say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar?

Verse 7: The LXX omits the rest of this verse, i.e.: "is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar?"

8 Now therefore give promises to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you be able on your part to set riders on them. 9 How then will you turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put your trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 10 And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it. 11. Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to Rabbi Shakeh, Please speak to your servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and do not speak to us in the Jewish language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.

Verse 11: This verse reads differently in the Qumran Text. "Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to Rabbi Shakeh, Please speak to your servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and do not speak to us in the ears of the people that are on the wall." The request is not to speak in a language that would not be understood by the men of the city who sat on the wall. It is doubtful that Aramaic, a similar Semitic language to Hebrew, would not have been understood. Thus the request is to speak privately in Aramaic. Rabbi Shakeh responded that it is to the men on the wall that he is sent to speak and therefore speaks in 'Yehudith." See below in verse 13.

12 But Rabbi Shakeh said, Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words? has he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own excrement and drink urine, the water of their own legs, with you? 13 Then Rabbi Shakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jewish language, and said, Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. 14 Thus says the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. 15 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 16 Listen not to Hezekiah: for thus says the king of Assyria, Give me a present, and come out to me: and eat you every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink you every one the waters of his own cistern; 17 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18 Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Has any god of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20 Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand? 21 But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, Answer him not. 22 Then Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with torn clothes, and they told him the words of Rabbi Shakeh.

. Verse 22: Shebna the scribe: The passage in Isaiah 22:15-25 needs to be read in conjunction with this chapter to understand both places and the reason why the LXX adds a description of Shebna as "the mighty one." After "Shebna" the LXX has added "Ho grammateus tas dunameos" which means Shebna "the scribe the mighty [one]." The reasons for the demotion of Shebna to a lower position than that now held by Eliakim is hinted at in 22:15-25. Delitschz supposes that he cast doubt on Isaiah's prediction of the anguish of Jerusalem during the siege described by Isaiah in the first 14 verses of chapter 22. And isaiah there gave a denunciatory prediction which said that he would be disgraced and demoted. Shebna lived to see such an outcome. The event that he ridiculed when it was predicted came to pass and he was an eyewitness to the precise fulfillment which included his removal from being the head of the Royal household to simply "the recorder" of events. See the notes under 22:15-25 especially 22:25 (Septuaginta, (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart) 1979.)

Isaiah 37 1. And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he tore 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, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3 And they said to him, Thus says 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 your God will hear the words of Rabbi Shakeh, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD your God has heard: wherefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left. 5 So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6 And Isaiah said to them, Thus shall you say to your master, Thus says the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 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.8. So Rabbi Shakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he had left Lachish. 9 And he heard it said that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia is come out to make war with you. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10 Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not your God, in whom you trust, deceive you, saying, Jerusalem shall 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 lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you 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 when Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it he went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying,16 O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who dwells between the cherubim, you are God, even you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: you have made heaven and earth.

Verse 16: God who Dwells: A reference to the Shekinah or "Cavod YHWH" which was seen in the Temple as a light. For a complete discussion of the Shekinah references in the Bible see this author's work, Zechariah and Jewish Renewal where all Shekinah events including the departure from the first Temple and restoration to the second Temple are treated.

17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 18 Truly 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 not 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 you are the LORD, even you only. 21. Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Where as you have prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: 22 This is the word which the LORD has spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you. 23 Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? and against whom have you exalted your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel. 24 By your servants have you reproached the Lord, and have 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 there, and their choice fir trees, 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 Have you not heard long ago, how I did it, and of ancient times, that I have formed it? Now have I brought it to pass, that you should lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.

Verse 26: Ruinous Heaps. See comment on Qumran Isaiah scroll for a different reading for the word ruinous. The Qumran text reads " galiym notsriym." "Galiym" can also be "exiles." The word Notsriym" is the only Hebrew word that Jews use for the word "Christian." It literally means Nazarines. In the Qumran text of the Great Isaiah Scroll this verse can be read as: "That ruined exiles should become Christian cities."

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 your abode and your going out and your coming in and your rage against me. 29 Because your rage against me, and your tumult, is come up into my ears, therefore will I put my hook in your nose, and my bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back to the way by which you came. 30 And this shall be a sign to you, you shall eat this year such as grows of itself and the second year that which springs of the same and in the third year you will sow 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: 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 says 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.

Verses 31 - 33: The Remnant: The same words (as is the rest of this history of the siege of Jerusalem) is in 2 Ki. 19:30, 31. Here Isaiah concludes that the assured future of the "remnant" precludes this being the coming punishment and exile for Judah which he has already outlined in his prophecies. (Outlined in Isa. 14 - 29) He predicts here that Sennacherib would not get into the city. His main reason for this conclusion is stated: There is to be a remnant of Judah to take root in the future in the literal earth of Palestine, and he said, that root would grow until it produced the fruit of the messianic age. Isaiah's confidence is without doubt based on his previous predictions and not on a special vision at the time of this request of Hezekiah for answers. It is rather based on prophecies like Isa. 2:2 that the word of God would go out to all nations from Mt Zion in Jerusalem. His confidence is further supported by his previous predictions (see Isaiah 8:8) that the Assyrian kings would conquer Israel but would "pass through" Judah and not conquer it. Isaiah had also the support of a past vision depicting the entire siege now being described in these chapters. The vision which he "saw" (Isa. 10:28-34) depicted every advance of the Assyrian armies and the frustration of the King shaking his hand against Jerusalem but little more. One more important prophecy (among others) which would increase the self assurance of Isaiah's bold assertions was that he has already predicted the punishment and exile and the resultant "remnant" which he describes here as foreordained to return and take root physically in Jerusalem and later to produce the fruit of Isa. 2:2 But the future punishment and exile, he has said, is to be inflicted by Babylonia, not Assyria. Without doubt, Isaiah understood his own political predictions and here he makes application of his previous visions for which, at this point, he did not require a further seer's "vision." He knew Assyria was not the appointed instrument of Exile, but rather for Judah, was an implement of short term discipline. Isaiah knew this: Assyria was the implement of long term punishment and exile for the nation of Israel while Babylon was reserved for future use by God as His instrument of punishment and exile for Judah. Therefore, just as I had said for almost 25 years before 1991, "do not look for the second coming of Christ as long as Russia is an enemy of the Gospel of Christ," and now I say, "do not look for the second coming of Christ until there is religious and political freedom in Islamic lands like Arabia, Algeria and Iran," so Isaiah would understand the political consequences of his prophecy and would be able to say, "Sennacherib will not enter this city."

34 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, says the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it for my own sake, and for my servant David's sake. 36 Then the angel of the LORD went and struck one hundred eighty five thousand men in the camp of the Assyrians and when the rest arose early in the morning, they beheld all the dead corpses.37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned to dwell 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 struck him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.

Verse 34: By the way that he came: Sennacherib approached the city from the north as Isaiah described in the vision of 10:28-34 and not from the south west, as has been supposed because he was involved with the siege of Lachish, when the news of the Ethiopian intention to attack him hastened his attack on Jerusalem. The ascent from the plain of Sharon to the high passes approaching Jerusalem is a danger point for an invader. Since the Assyrians already had long term possession of Samaria the return there and the descent from higher ground from the north was chosen by Sennacherib but to little avail. He returned by the way that he came to the north and went back to Nineveh. Thirty some odd years later his son would make an invasion and take captive Hezekiah's son but this too would be a short term discipline as Esarhaddon would cause no exile of Judeans and would return a repentant Mannaseh to his throne

. Isaiah 38

1. In those days was Hezekiah sick to death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, Thus says the LORD, Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live. 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, 3 And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech you, how I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. 4 Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, 5 Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold, I will add to your days fifteen years.

Verse 5: Add Fifteen Years: If Hezekiah reigned for a total of 29 years as it says in 2 Kings 18:2 then this illness and miracle happened in the 14th year of his reign at which time all the events that led up to the siege of Jerusalem began. All of his greatest public works, including the digging of the Gihon-Siloam tunnel were still to be achieved. And the defeat of Sennacherib's army by divine intervention had not happened yet. Thus the events of chapters 38 and 39, -- Hezekiah's illness and the miracle of the sundial, and the visit of Merodach Baladin from Babylon -- all preceded the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib.

6 And I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.

Verse 6: Deliver out of the hand of the King of Assyria: In the introduction to this section at the beginning of chapter 36 we give a fuller discussion and further evidence that shows that these events took place before the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib. This verse and what follows confirms this view. It confirms again the source of the confidence that Hezekiah had which he was also able to convey to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He knew on the basis of this miracle that the siege recorded in chapters 36 and 37 would not be successful.

7 And this shall be a sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has spoken; 8 Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees in the sun dial of Ahaz, which is gone down, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it had gone down. 9. The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: 10 I said concerning the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of Sheol: I am deprived of the residue of my years. 11 I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. 12 My age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have my life cut off like a weaver: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night will you make an end of me. 13 I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night will you make an end of me. 14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: my eyes fail with looking upward: LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me. 15 What shall I say? he has both spoken to me, and himself has done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul. 16 O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so will you recover me, and make me to live. 17 Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but you have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for you have cast all my sins behind your back. 18 For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot celebrate you: they that go down into Sheol cannot hope for your truth. 19 The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known your truth. 20 The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD. 21 For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover. 22 Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?

Isaiah 39

1. At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. 2 And Hezekiah was glad for them, and showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them. 3 Then came Isaiah the prophet to king Hezekiah, and said to him, What did these men say? and where did they come from to you? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country to me, even from Babylon. 4 Then said he, What have they seen in your house? And Hezekiah answered, They have seen all that is in my house there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them. 5. Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And of your sons that shall issue from you, which you shall beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. 8 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which you have spoken, he explained, Because there shall be peace and truth in my days.

Verse 8: "Peace and truth." This reply by Hezekiah sounds a little unfeeling for others in translation. The original does not carry that note of cynicism but rather a resignation to accept what is good from the will of God. The companion passage where the event is retold in 2 Ki. 20:19 contains a question and a subjunctive "if" which indicates quite a different sense of feeling in Hezekiah's heart. That passage says "Good is the word of the Lord that you have spoken. Is the word not good if there is peace and truth in my days." In this verse in Isaiah 39:8 "moreover" is an added word and the text gives the sense: "The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good because there will be peace and truth in my days."

Questions, comments or suggestions on the historical problems in these chapters are appreciated by Fred. You can reach him, Click here for EMAIL

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