Tagged: commentaries on Isaiah

Isaiah 45: Not for Price or Bribe

Isaiah 45: Not for Price or Bribe (audio file / mp3)

Isaiah 45: Not for Price or Bribe (study notes and worksheet / pdf)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 45 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile.

Key verses:

Isa. 45:12-13 – “I made the earth, and created man on it. It was My hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. I have raised him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and will level all roads for him. He will rebuild My city, and set My exiles free, not for a price or a bribe,” says the Lord of Hosts.

Quick summary:

Isaiah prophesies that Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, will be God’s chosen servant to free the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity and restore them to their homeland. The Lord, who “made the earth, and created man on it” (v. 12), will empower Cyrus to crush the Gentile nations for the benefit of Israel and the glory of God.

Take note:

That the Lord controls human history is evident from His many declarations in this chapter, among them:

  • “I will go before you and level the uneven places” (v. 2).
  • “I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places” (v.3).
  • “I call you by your name” (v. 4).
  • “I will strengthen you, though you do not know me” (v. 5).
  • “I make success and create disaster” (v. 7).
  • “Woe to the one who argues with his Maker” (v. 9).
  • “It was My hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host” (v. 12).
  • “Israel will be saved by the Lord” (v. 17).
  • “Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance” (v. 23).

So All May Know (Isa. 45:1-13)

In chapter 44, the Lord names the Persian king who will free the Jews from Babylonian captivity and return them to their homeland – 150 years before this king is born. Cyrus is called “My shepherd” in chapter 44 and now “His anointed” in chapter 45. The word “anointed” refers to the relationship between the Lord and Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David (1 Sam. 10:1, 16:6). Since Israel will have no king in exile, Cyrus will function in this role to bring about God’s blessings. “Like the Messiah (lit. ‘the Anointed One’) who would come after him, Cyrus would have a twofold mission: to free the people, and to bring God’s judgment on unbelievers” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1099).

Cyrus will conquer other nations with God’s help and fill his coffers with their treasures. His defeat of Lydia and Babylon are two examples. All of this is for the sake of God’s people and despite the fact that Cyrus does not acknowledge the Lord as the true God. This is an important lesson in history and contemporary culture. The Lord is sovereign over His creatures and is moving human history to its climax in the “glorious appearing” of Messiah. If He can enable Sampson to use the jawbone of a donkey to smite the Philistines (Judges 15:14-16), empower a donkey to prophesy (Num. 22:22-31) and write with His invisible hand on the wall of a king’s palace (Dan. 5:5), He can use a pagan king to rescue His people and restore them to their homeland. Never think that the success of the wicked is due to a twisted sense of justice on God’s part or His lack of interest in the affairs of mankind. The Lord is omniscient and omnipresent; nothing escapes His attention.

Verses 5-7 emphasize the uniqueness of God, a theme repeated often in chapters 43-46. The Lord is not universally recognized in Cyrus’ day, but the day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). The words “light” and “darkness,” “success” and “disaster” in verse 7 are Hebrew expressions of opposites suggesting all that is. Every event in human history comes from the Lord – not that He is the author of evil (James 1:13), but that He is able to turn mankind’s wicked deeds into ultimate good (Gen. 50:20). No one may trick God, or thwart His purposes.

Verse 8 provides a graphic glimpse of the Lord’s ministry during the millennium. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck write, “When the millennial kingdom is established on the earth the heavens, figuratively speaking, will rain down righteousness (God’s standards will be followed). And salvation, like a great harvest, will spring up. That is, people everywhere will know the Lord (cf. v. 6; 11:9; Hab. 2:14)” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1100)

In verses 9-13 it is clear that those who question the Lord’s sovereignty invite His woes. A potsherd, a broken and discarded piece of pottery, has no right to question the potter. Neither does a child have the right to question why her parents brought her into the world. In the same way, Israel has no justification for challenging God’s decision to raise up Cyrus as His “shepherd” and “anointed one” to deliver the Jews from Babylonian bondage. The people may inquire of God and seek to understand His ways, but they must never question His authority, as Maker, to direct human history. The Lord later reminds the Jews, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways…. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

Turn to Me and be Saved (Isa. 45:14-25)

In the millennium, the nations will realize that Israel’s God is the only true God, and they will acknowledge Him. People from Egypt and Cush – and even the Sabeans, known as majestic men of stature – will be subservient to the Jews and declare “there is no other God” (v. 14). Although Isaiah admits that the Lord, at times, seems to hide Himself, He is without a doubt the Savior of Israel. While those who worship false gods will be ashamed because their gods cannot save them, the Jews will never be ashamed because they will enjoy God’s presence throughout eternity. During their coming days in captivity in Babylon, God’s people can count on Him to send Cyrus to deliver them. The Lord offers two proofs. First, He is the Creator of heaven and earth, in complete control of kings and kingdoms. Second, He is truth (see also John 14:6); whatever He speaks is right. God’s people are assured of their redemption because God has determined it and has spoken truthfully that it will come to pass.

The Lord invites the Gentiles who will escape Cyrus’ sword to present their case before Him. The futility of praying to hand-made wooden gods will be exposed, and any case the pagans can muster in favor of idol worship will fall on the deaf ears of gods who “cannot save” and “have no knowledge” (v. 20). Which of the idols can name the Jews’ deliverer a century before his birth? And which of the carved wooden statues can save a nation from exile? Only the God who “announced it from ancient times.” He declares, “There is no God but Me, a righteous God and Savior; there is no one except Me” (v. 21).

The final verses of this chapter mark God’s gracious call to all the world’s inhabitants to repent and be saved. The Lord affirms once again that He is the only true God and, as such, the only means of salvation. “Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance,” He states in verse 23. The New Testament boldly applies this passage to Christ, directly in Phil. 2:10-11 and indirectly in Rom. 14:9, 11:

  • “… so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
  • “Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living. But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God” (Rom. 14:9-11).

Even so, many people will continue to rebel against God. And while the Lord allows them to wallow in their sins for a while, ultimately they will be “put to shame” (v. 24). The apostle Paul warns unbelievers that one day they will stand before God “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). The apostle John provides more graphic details of the final judgment of the wicked: “And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

However, the redeemed of Israel will rejoice in being justified, or made righteous in the Lord. While this passage is a message of hope to the Jews under siege by the Assyrians, and facing future exile at the hands of the Babylonians, we are not to conclude that all Jews will receive eternal life just because of their nationality. Rather, Isaiah is speaking of a nation of redeemed Jews who have turned from unbelief and embraced their Lord and Savior. By the same token, we are not to assume that only Jews will be saved, for the Lord invites all the nations to turn to Him, and the apostle Paul makes much of the fact that Jews and Gentiles alike are grafted together to make up the people of God (Rom. 11:11-24). John confirms this in Rev. 5:9: “You redeemed [people] for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes: “All true Christians, that depend upon Christ for strength and righteousness, in him shall be justified and shall glory in that. Observe, First, All believers are the seed of Israel, an upright praying seed. Secondly, The great privilege they enjoy by Jesus Christ is that in him, and for his sake, they are justified before God, Christ being made of God to them righteousness…. Thirdly, The great duty believers owe to Christ is to glory in him, and to make their boast of him” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 45:20).

Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 44: The First and the Last

Isaiah 44: The First and the Last (audio)

Isaiah 44: The First and the Last (study notes and worksheet / pdf)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

 

When this takes place:

Chapter 44 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance and the worldwide impact of the coming of Messiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 44:6 – This is what the Lord, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts, says: I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but Me.

Quick summary:

God assures Israel that He has chosen the nation and will continue to bless it. He makes plans for His servants while they are yet in their mothers’ wombs. Isaiah declares God’s majesty and uniqueness, then contrasts it with an almost comical description of the man-made gods who depend completely on the people who worship them. He calls on Israel to return to the one true and living God, who will remain faithful to His promises. The chapter ends with an amazing prophecy in which the pagan king who will free the Jews from Babylonian captivity two centuries later is called by name.

Take note:

The Lord often refers to Himself as “The first and … the last” or in similar ways in Scripture, reminding us of His eternal nature, creative and sustaining powers, and sovereignty. Isaiah and the apostle John, in the Book of Revelation, record these words, used interchangeably by God the Father and His Son:

  • “I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last – I am He”  (Isa. 41:4)
  • “… I am He. No god was formed before Me, and there will be none after Me” (Isa. 43:10).
  • “Listen to Me, Jacob, and Israel, the one called by Me: I am He; I am the first, I am also the last” (Isa. 48:12).
  • “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).
  • “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17-18).
  • “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13).

Spiritual Blessing (Isa. 44:1-5)

Because God has chosen Israel – a fact mentioned twice in verses 1-2 – the people are not to fear. The Lord will deliver the nation physically and spiritually. Twice He calls Jacob “My servant” and promises to pour out “My Spirit” and “My blessings” on coming generations. Continuing a theme from the previous chapter, He reminds the people that He has formed them. Like all of God’s creative acts, it is for a divine purpose. Although judgment is imminent, the nation’s restoration and spiritual revival are guaranteed. In verse 2 Israel is called “Jeshurun,” a poetic synonym meaning “the upright one” and used elsewhere only in Deuteronomy (see Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26).

In the days to come, the Lord will “pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground,” making it fruitful (v. 3). Even more important, He will pour out the Holy Spirit, resulting in an unprecedented return to the Lord of Israel. But when will this occur? Nationally, the Jews return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity, and again in 1948 after nearly 2,000 years without a state following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The spiritual revival, however, is yet to come. “This outpouring of the Spirit will occur when the people have returned in belief to the land (cf. Ezek. 36:24, 27; Joel 2:25-29) just after the Messiah’s second coming to establish the Millennium. Redeemed Israel will prosper numerically like grass and poplar trees, and they will want to be known as righteous individuals (Isa. 44:5), unashamed of Him and their nation” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1098).

No God but Me (Isa. 44:6-23)

The Lord reminds the Jews of several of His titles, thus punctuating His unique claim of sovereignty. He is “the Lord, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts … the first and … the last … Rock” (vv. 6, 8).  He makes a simple and profound declaration: “There is no God but Me” (v. 6), and He argues for His uniqueness by challenging anyone to predict the future (v. 7). Since His knowledge of things to come may be traced to His existence in eternity past, His chosen people have no reason to fear. In fact, they are witnesses of His mighty deeds (v. 8).

The God of Israel then exposes the futility of idol makers, whom he describes as “nothing” (v. 9) and whom He says have brought spiritual blindness upon themselves. Idolatry dominates the world in Isaiah’s day. Some idol makers are superstitious, viewing their creations of wood, metal and stone as deities, while others fashion these magnificent statues as physical representations of unseen gods. In any case, their efforts are futile and their proud professions will only result in shame. Idolatry in any form is a denial of the Creator and invites His wrath. The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 1, arguing that idolatry is the natural consequence of rejecting the one true and living God, who has revealed Himself to all people (Rom. 1:18ff). As a result, Paul writes, they are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

In Isaiah, however, “the Lord’s scathing contempt for idolatry is expressed in mockery of the ‘wisdom’ of human beings who cut down a tree, burn some of it as fuel, make a few utensils for the home, fashion an idol from the leftovers, and then pray to that idol to deliver them. Only a God who lives, who is capable of action, and who cares, could possibly help anyone – then, or now” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 433). The people who craft these images for profit are mere humans, whom God will cause to “assemble and stand … be startled and put to shame” (v. 11). They labor feverishly over their iron and wood, denying themselves food and water for the sake of their craft until they grow weak. But their work is in vain and their muscled arms cannot overcome their dulled minds. They take cedar, cypress or oak, cut it down and use some of it to warm themselves, some of it to bake their bread and some of it to fashion idols. While they are in complete control of the wood in every stage of its use, they blindly choose to worship what their own hands have made. “Save me, for you are my god,” they cry (v. 17).  

Their failure to see the futility of their deeds is due first of all to their rejection of God and second to God’s response, which is to grant them what they desire – spiritual blindness. The word “detestable” in verse 19 is a strong Hebrew word (siqqus) that links idolatry to immoral practices. Isaiah makes the point that religious sins, which involve direct rebellion against God, are especially grievous and invite the wrath of the Almighty. In the end, the idolater “feeds on ashes” (v. 20), or delights in what is vain. This verse also might refer to the wood being used. The idol maker has reduced much of it to ashes to warm himself and prepare his food; it would have been better if the rest of the tree had been reduced to ashes as well.

Finally in this section, the Lord calls Judah to “remember these things” (v. 21). Jacob is God’s “servant,” whom he has formed, and He will not forget His people. He has swept away their sins, called them to return, and redeemed them. Now at last, He calls upon heaven and earth – even the elements that idol makers have reduced to graven images – to rejoice because the Lord “glorifies Himself through Israel” (v. 23).

Cyrus, the Lord’s Shepherd (Isa. 44:24-28)

The Lord’s repeated claim to control the course of human history, with special regard to Israel, is renewed in the closing verses of this chapter as He makes specific promises about the people, the temple and Jerusalem. After the Babylonian captivity, Jerusalem will be repopulated. The cities of Judah will be rebuilt. The temple will be restored. And, in dramatic fashion, the Lord names the Persian king whose edict makes it all possible – Cyrus, “My shepherd,” who would not even be born for another 150 years (see Ezra 1:1-4). If the Jews have any doubts about God’s command of time and events, He clears them up in this passage. Lawrence Richards notes: “Some commentators, who deny the possibility of such detailed predictive prophecy, have insisted the mention of Cyrus is evidence of postexilic authorship of the second part of Isa. But in the context the naming of Cyrus is evidence of something far different. It is proof of the power of Israel’s living God and a guarantee that history itself moves toward His intended end” (The Bible Readers Companion, S. 433).

But why is a pagan king called the Lord’s “shepherd,” a name normally reserved for the Messiah or the nation of Israel? It appears this title is given to show the citizens of Judah that God uses even unbelievers like Cyrus to accomplish His purposes and that no one, no matter how powerful, operates independently of the One who created all things. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps…. Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail” (Prov. 16:9, 19:21).

Closing Thought

John Walvoord and Roy Zuck describe the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In 586 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar and his forces broke through Jerusalem’s walls, burned the houses and the temple, and carried many captives into exile. Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, first came to the throne of Anshan in Eastern Elam in 559. In 549 he conquered the Medes and became the ruler of the combined Persian and Median Empire. In 539 he conquered Babylon (Dan. 5:30) and the very next year issued a decree that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). In doing this Cyrus was serving God’s purposes as if he were God’s shepherd. Those returnees built the temple, completing it in 515 b.c., and years later (in 444 b.c.) Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures), S. 1:1099).

Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 37: My Hook in Your Nose

Isaiah 37: My Hook in Your Nose (audio)

Isaiah 37: My Hook in Your Nose — Study Notes and Worksheet (pdf)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

The events in this chapter occur in 701 B.C., when Sennacherib besieges Jerusalem.

Key verses:

Isa. 37:28-29 – But I know your sitting down, your going out and your coming in, and your raging against Me. Because your raging against Me and your arrogance has reached My ears, I will put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth; I will make you go back the way you came.

Quick summary:

When Hezekiah hears of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem and the Assyrian’s blasphemous boasts, the king of Judah asks Isaiah to seek the Lord on the people’s behalf. Isaiah delivers three messages from the Lord, according to Willmington’s Bible Handbook (S. 368):

  • Message 1: “Don’t worry, he’s doomed” (vv. 5-20).
  • Message 2: Sennacherib’s rise and ruin (vv. 21-29).
  • Message 3: “Neither army nor arrows will enter the city” (vv. 30-35).

These messages are fulfilled (vv. 36-38). The angel of the Lord miraculously destroys the Assyrian army. Sennacherib returns home and, some time later, is assassinated.

Take note:

“The Angel of the Lord,” who strikes 185,000 Assyrians dead on the hills surrounding Jerusalem, is a “theophany,” an appearance or manifestation of God to people. Many commentators believe the Angel of the Lord (distinct from “an angel of the Lord” or “an angel sent by the Lord”) is the pre-incarnate Messiah, who appears in numerous places to different people throughout the Old Testament: to Hagar in the wilderness (Gen. 16:7-11); to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3); to Balaam as he rode his donkey (Num. 22:22-35); to Gideon beneath the oak of Ophrah (Judges 6:11-24); to David in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 24:11-17); and elsewhere.

 

Don’t be Afraid (Isa. 37:1-7)

Like the envoys sent to meet the Assyrian commander, King Hezekiah tears his clothes in anguish over the Rabshakeh’s threats and in response to the pagan’s blasphemy. The king also puts on sackcloth and enters the temple as a public declaration that the nation’s destiny is fully in the hands of the God of Israel. He sends Eliakim, who is in charge of the palace, and Shebna the scribe to Isaiah, declaring this “a day of distress, rebuke, and disgrace” and seeking a word from the Lord through the prophet. Picking up the imagery from Isa. 26:17-18, they compare Judah to a woman so weakened in pregnancy that she is about to die in childbirth.

Although the Assyrian commander mocks the living God in hopes of driving Hezekiah to abandon his faith and agree to surrender, the king turns to the Lord for deliverance. Matthew Henry writes, “Rabshakeh intended to frighten Hezekiah from the Lord, but it proves that he frightens him to the Lord. The wind, instead of forcing the traveller’s coat from him, makes him wrap it the closer about him. The more Rabshakeh reproaches God the more Hezekiah studies to honour him, by rending his clothes for the dishonour done to him and attending in his sanctuary to know his mind”  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 37:1).

Isaiah tells the messengers to assure the king not to be afraid. The Lord has heard the Rabshakeh’s boasting and blasphemy and will not permit them to go unpunished. He will put “a spirit” in King Sennacherib, influencing his judgment and causing him to return to his country, where he will die by the sword. This comes to pass as Sennacherib, who has turned to the southwest to face off against Judah’s allies, hears of the death of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and goes home to regroup, only to be assassinated.

Sennacherib’s Letter (Isa. 37:8-13)

Sennacherib has left Lachish, the city from which he stages his assault on Jerusalem, in order to address a threat from Tirhakah, a Cushite army commander who later will become king of Egypt. Word has arrived that Tirhakah has come to the aid of Judah, and Sennacherib moves his forces five miles north of Lachish to meet the Cushite army. Not wanting to fight a war on two fronts, Sennacherib sends a threatening letter to Judah’s King Hezekiah, urging him to surrender immediately. He reminds Hezekiah that other nations’ gods were powerless to stop the advancing Assyrian war machine and that Judah’s God will fare no better. Gozan, a city on the Habor River, fell to the Assyrians a century earlier. Haran, a city in Aram, is now an Assyrian stronghold. Rezeph, also a city in Aram, had long ago been subdued. The arrogant king lists other places and their leaders that have fallen into Assyria’s hands.

Matthew Henry comments: “Great successes often harden sinners’ hearts in their sinful ways and make them the more daring. Because the kings of Assyria have destroyed all lands (though, in fact, they were but a few that fell within their reach), therefore they doubt not but to destroy God’s land; because the gods of the nations were unable to help they conclude the God of Israel is so…. Thus is this proud man ripened for ruin by the sunshine of prosperity” (S. Is 37:8).

Hezekiah’s Prayer (Isa. 37:14-20)

Hezekiah takes Sennacherib’s taunting letter to the temple and lays it out before the Lord. What follows is a great prayer of faith. The king begins with praise, acknowledging the Lord of Hosts as the one true and living God, the Creator, exalted above all things and sovereign over the kingdoms of the world. Referring to Him as “God of Israel,” Hezekiah remembers (for God needs no reminding of) the special covenant relationship between the Lord and His people. The king’s reference to God being “enthroned above the cherubim” points to His presence, the Shekinah glory, in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem’s temple (1 Kings 6:23; 8:10-13). The cherubim “are so inseparably associated with the manifestation of God’s glory, that whether the Lord is at rest or in motion, they always are mentioned with Him (Nu 7:89; Ps 18:10)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 37:16).

The king confesses God’s sovereignty over all the kingdoms of the world, including Assyria, which has demolished its enemies and run roughshod over their false gods, gods of wood and stone “made by human hands” (v. 19). But now Sennacherib has overstepped his bounds, mocking the living God and treating Him and His people with contempt. Hezekiah’s plea is simple, humble and direct: “Now, Lord our God, save us from his hand so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord – You alone” (v. 20).

God’s Answer (Isa. 37:21-35)

The Lord’s reply to Hezekiah’s prayer provides a three-fold assurance: Jerusalem will not be taken; the Assyrians will not stay; and the Jews will not starve.

The “Daughter Zion,” like a young virgin, will not be ravaged by the barbarous Assyrians. She may look at the enemy and shake her head in scorn because he cannot touch her. The Lord will spare His remnant for a number of reasons. First, to glorify His name (vv. 23, 35). Sennacherib has mocked the God of Israel and the Assyrians have exalted themselves above all men and gods, but they will soon learn to fear the one true and living God. Second, the Lord will spare Jerusalem because of His covenant with David (v. 35; 2 Sam. 7). He promised that one of David’s descendents would reign on the throne forever. Ultimately this is fulfilled in Christ. It’s true that Jerusalem will fall and the temple will be destroyed a century later at the hands of the Babylonians, but God’s promise stands and His timing and purpose are unchallenged. A third reason the Lord will spare a remnant is because of His promise to use Israel as the means by which the Abrahamic covenant would be fulfilled and all the world would be blessed through the Messiah (Gen. 12:1-3).

The Lord’s second assurance to Hezekiah is that the Assyrians will not stay (vv. 23-29). God addresses Sennacherib directly in these verses, reminding the king that his empty and blasphemous boasts will not thwart the plan of God. Ultimately, the Lord will humble the king and his army and lead them like cattle away from Daughter Zion: “I will put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth; I will make you go back the way you came” (v. 29).

The Lord’s final assurance is that the Jews will have enough to eat – comforting words to people under siege. Although normal agricultural pursuits would be interrupted momentarily, the cycle of planting and harvesting would return to normal within three years (v. 30). Warren Wiersbe observes that Psalm126 may have been written to commemorate Jerusalem’s deliverance from the Assyrians: “The harvest promise in verse 30 parallels Psalm 126:5–6. The seed would certainly be precious in those days! That grain could be used for making bread for the family, but the father must use it for seed; so it is no wonder he weeps. Yet God promised a harvest, and He kept His promise. The people did not starve” (Be Comforted, S. Is 36:1).

Sennacherib’s Demise (Isa. 37:36-38)

As God promises, the Assyrians fail to take Jerusalem. The angel of the Lord, who some commentators say is the pre-incarnate Messiah, strikes down 185,000 enemy soldiers in a single night. The carnage the next morning is difficult to fathom: There are no signs of a struggle, no battle wounds on the fallen; just a massive army of soldiers lying dead on the hillsides. The Lord promised to chop down the Assyrians like a forest (Isa. 10:33-34), pummel them like a storm with fire, rain, a torrent and hailstones (Isa. 30:27-30), and destroy their leader (Isa. 30:31-33), and now He is true to His word. The work of God on this fateful night reminds the Jews of His sovereignty in bringing both deliverance and judgment (Ex. 12:12; 2 Sam. 24:15-17).

News of the Assyrian defeat prompts Sennacherib to leave Judah and return to his capital city of Ninevah. Twenty years later, as a result of a power struggle, he is assassinated by two of his sons while worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch (or Asshur, the chief Assyrian god depicted as an eagle-headed human figure), thus fulfilling Isa. 37:7 (see also 2 Kings 19:7, 35-37). Although Sennacherib mocks the God of Israel, his own god is unable to save him.

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry summarizes: “God can quickly stop their breath who breathe out threatenings and slaughter against his people, and will do it when they have filled up the measure of their iniquity; and the Lord is known by these judgments which he executes, known to be a God that resists the proud. Many prophecies were fulfilled in this providence, which should encourage us, as far as they look further, and are designed as common and general assurances of the safety of the church and of all that trust in God …” (S. Isa 37:21).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips