Isaiah 36 and 37
We have now reached 701 BC, the year of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem, so long predicted. Chapters 36-39 repeat, with a few omissions and additions, the history recorded in 2 Kgs. 18:13-20:11. The course of events seems to have been as follows: (1) After receiving the tribute demanded (2 Kgs. 18:14-16), Sennacherib sent three envoys with an army to demand further the surrender of Jerusalem (36:1-37:7). (2) This was refused and the Assyrian troops withdrew, but Sennacherib sent a letter to Hezekiah renewing his demands (37:8-35). This also was rejected, and the chapter concludes with a brief account of how God fulfilled his word (37:36-38).
- 36:4-10, 13-20. How did the field commander try to shake the confidence of the defenders of Jerusalem in the power of God to save them? What fact did he ignore that invalidated the basic assumption of his argument? Cf. 37:18-20, 23-29.
- Both Hezekiah and Isaiah recognized in Sennacherib’s challenge a blasphemous insult to the living God (37:6, 7, 17, 23). How did this give them confidence? Cf. 1 Sam. 17:26, 36, 45-47.
- 36:1. The chronological note is wrong, for 701 BC was Hezekiah’s twenty-sixth year. Possibly the note belongs properly to 38:1, and has become misplaced. See Note under Study 21 below.
- 36:2, 3. The field commander (‘Rabshakeh’) was the title of the Assyrian chief-captain, second to the Tartan or commander-in- chief. As there were three envoys (2 Kgs. 18:17), so three Jewish high officials were sent to meet them.
- 36:7. Whether in ignorance or in subtlety, the field commander spoke of Hezekiah’s religious reformation (2 Kgs. 18:4), as if it had been an act of disrespect towards God. Possibly to a heathen mind it appeared in that light.
Isaiah 38 and 39
The events of these chapters preceded Sennacherib’s invasion. Hezekiah reigned twenty-nine years (2 Kgs. 18:2). He probably fell ill in the fourteenth year of his reign. See Note on 36:1 in study 20 above.
- How does chapter 38 show: (a) the power of prayer (cf. Jas. 5:16b), (b) a loving purpose behind suffering (cf. Ps. 119:71, 75), (c) the completeness of God’s forgiveness (cf. Ps. 103:12; Mic. 7:19), (d) the duty of praise (cf. Ps. 13:6)?
- Wherein lay Hezekiah’s sin in displaying his royal treasures and military might to the envoys of Merodach-Baladan? Cf. 2 Chr. 32:25, 31. How does the incident reveal what was in his heart?
- 38:7, 8. The sign was a miraculous alteration of the shadow on the sundial, and not necessarily of the sun in the sky. It may have been caused by eclipse or reflection, and appears to have been a local phenomenon only (cf. 2 Chr. 32:31).
- 38:11 and 18. The thought that death cut them off from God made it a cause of dread to Old Testament believers. Contrast 1 Cor.15:20, 55, 56.
- 39:1. Merodach-Baladan made himself king of Babylon in defiance of Assyria in 721 BC, but was taken captive by the Assyrian king Sargon in 709. Before his downfall he sought to secure himself against Assyria by foreign alliances, one of which was with Judah in 714. Hezekiah’s sickness and remarkable recovery gave him occasion to make a first approach. Cf. 2 Chr. 32:31.
The prophecies of chapters 40-48 have as their main theme the proclamation that God is about to restore the exiled Jews in Babylon to their own land. See introduction. They refer to a time when the words spoken to Hezekiah (39:5-7) have been fulfilled. The first eleven verses are a prologue in which the prophet hears heavenly voices declaring to Jerusalem the glad message of redemption.
- In verses 1-11 what four great facts are proclaimed by God to give comfort to his people? How does this prophecy of future coming and glory of the Lord find fulfillment in the New Testament? Cf. Matt. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; John 10:11.
- In verses 12-26 how is God shown to be beyond the petty mind of human beings to comprehend or to explain? How can we, as his creatures, draw on his infinite strength and power? See verses 29-31.
In this magnificent chapter the supremacy of the God of Israel is further demonstrated. First the nations (verses 1, 2) and then their gods (verses 21-29) are summoned before him, and challenged as to what counsel they can give, and what control they can exercise in regard to the world-shaking onward march of Cyrus. They know nothing and can do nothing. It is the holy One of Israel who alone can predict the future, for he has planned all, and brought it to pass. Let Israel lift up his head, for he is God’s elect and for him he has great purposes in view (verses 8-10).
- The nations in their fear make new idols (verses 5-7). How are these idols shown to be worthless (verses 23, 24, 28, 29)? The reference in verses 2 and 25 is to Cyrus; what is God’s relation to this mighty conqueror and to the events of history in general (verses 2-4, 25-27)?
- Tabulate the promises made to Israel in verses 8-20. How far and in what sense are they true for us today? Cf. 2 Cor. 1:20. In what measure have we tried and proved God’s promises?
- Verses 2, 3. Here the first actor is God, and the second is Cyrus.
2. Verses 21-24. The idols are now summoned before God. Note how they are challenged.