from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 29

Isaiah 37: Isaiah and Hezekiah

Historical Study


We have divided the first thirty-nine chapters into four sections: chapters 1-6 reflect the times of Uzziah; chapters 7-12 refer to incidents in the reign of Ahaz; chapters 13-35 are prophetic utterances against ten nations, against the church in general, and the relation of Judah to Assyria; and chapters 36-39 relate incidents in the reign of Hezekiah. These last chapters are almost an exact reproduction of 2 Kings 18:13-20:19. 2 Kings 18:14-16 is not in Isaiah, and Isa. 38:9-20 is not in Kings. Repetitions of this kind with slight variations are not uncommon in the Old Testament. We are most familiar with those in the Gospels. It is noteworthy that a repetition never appears in exactly the same context. The context varies its meaning, just like the meaning of words themselves. The Divine Word is thus enriched by them. These historical chapters deal with the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. (36; 37), Hezekiah's sickness (38), and the visit of the king of Babylon (39).

We have lately, when studying the Book of Kings, had the story of this great invasion before us. It is useful to recall the circumstances. The repetitions of the narrative should at least make a double or increased impression on our minds. It is a very important event. Sennacherib invaded Judah and sent Rab-shakeh to Jerusalem to demand the surrender of the city. Rab-shakeh is not the name of a man, but his title. The word is Assyrian and means "chief of the captains." Likewise Sartan and Rabsaris are titles meaning respectively "commander-in-chief" and "chief of the heads of princes." The Rab-shakeh approaches the walls of the city and addresses the people thereon in Hebrew. His words are cunning. They first point to the weakness of Judah in trusting to Egypt for help. Then they seek to show how useless it is to trust in Jehovah. And they close with the blasphemous challenge, "Jehovah said unto me, Go up against this land and destroy it." The scribes and priests ask the Rab-shakeh to speak in Syrian. They fear the influence of his words upon the people. The Rab-shakeh only becomes the more bold in his speech, offering rewards to those who surrender. Hezekiah sends to Isaiah in his extremity. The prophet enjoins silence; the city will be saved. The Rab-shakeh returned to Sennacherib at Libnah. But Tirade, Egypt's Ethiopian king, was on his way to meet Sennacherib. The Rab-shakeh again came to Jerusalem with a more urgent demand for its surrender. Hezekiah took the letter to the temple, and spread it before the Lord, praying to Him to vindicate His honor. The answer came through Isaiah. Assyria has uttered blasphemy and shall be punished. There were slain that night 185,000. Twenty years later, in 681 B.C., Sennacherib was slain by his sons, and Esarhaddon reigned in his stead. This was the last appearance of the Assyrians in the land. Many are the conjectures as to the means by which the host was slain. The immediate cause is explained in A. 7879.

The prophet's sign of the promised relief in 37:30 is most interesting. The Assyrians had devastated the land. The Jews must be content that year with the crop resulting from the seed of the previous year's growth which has sown itself, i.e., the aftergrowth. Next year, "that which springs of itself" - the wild corn - shall be their only harvest. But the following year will yield abundant fruits. It is another symbol of the indestructible remnant in the Lordís church, as is proved by the succeeding words in verses 31, 32.

Spiritual Study


An able commentator on this prophecy (Dr. G. A. Smith) makes some impressive remarks on these chapters which suggest the essential spiritual lesson. Jerusalem is the "fortress of faith." Those on Isaiah's side represent "an absolute and unselfish faith in God, Sovereign of the world and Savior of His people; those on the Assyrian side possess a bare, brutal confidence in themselves, in human cleverness and success, a vaunting contempt of righteousness and pity." It is the ancient conflict between faith in the Divine and mere human reason. Dr. Smith adds, "The more we have fed on the promises of the Bible, the more that the Spirit of God has engendered in our pure hearts assurances of justice and peace, the more we shall sometimes tremble with the fear that in outward fact there is no life for these beautiful conceptions of the soul. Do we really believe in the Fatherhood of Godóbelieve in it till it has changed us inwardly, and we carry a new sense of destiny, a new conscience of justice, a new disgust of sin, a new pity for pain? Then how full of the anguish of impotence must our souls feel when they consciously survey one day of common life about us, or when we honestly look back on a year of our own conduct? Does it not seem as if upon one or two hideous streets in some center of our civilization all Christianity, with its eighteen hundred years of promise and impetus, had gone to wreck? Is God only for the imagination of man? Is there no God outwardly to control and grant victory? Is He only a voice and not a Creator? Is Christ only a prophet and not the King?" It is faith and human reason, Israel and Assyria, face to face. And the question is most critical indeed when it touches an old evil habit which we seek to excuse. There is no living faith unless we are ready, by means of the Word, to confute all excuses, and conform in conduct to the will of the Lord. Without private regeneration in this way, the world's redemption is hopeless. Strict attention to the work needed to be done in self is the antidote for doubts about the fulfillment of prophecy for the world at large. The more we hate evilóthe particular evil to which we are proneóthe more subtle and specious become the reasons which excuse that evil, and make it appear justifiable and right, yea, from the Lord Himself. The enemy ravages and overpowers all pure intellectualisms (Israel), and then concentrates its forces upon the will, the love of doing right from the Lord (Judah). The more we perceive what is right in the light of the Divine Word, the more vigorous become the attacks of the evil spirits who seek to prevent it. The false reasons that excuse grow more difficult to repel because they increasingly appear to be from the Word. "Jehovah said unto me (Assyria), go up against this land, and destroy it." The Lord directed Assyria! The Lord is on the side of our enemies! This conflict reduces us to great despair. But with repentance and humiliation before the Lord, the deliverance from our enemies is effected. A remnant, the sense of right taught us in youth embedded in our hearts, this is our preservation. It is the holy seed of righteousness freed from all selfishness which takes root downward: and bears fruit upward in increasing abundance. (Isa. 37:30-32) It is the work of the Lord promised through His servant Isaiah, whose name means, "Jehovah is my Savior." The fruits of righteousness are gained through persistent effort to do right as of ourselves. (P. 100-128)

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