Major Prophets – Isaiah 36-37

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. When the commander stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field, Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to him.
The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have counsel and might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar”?
“‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! How then can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”
Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”
But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
“Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
“Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.

  • Isaiah 36:1-22

When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”
When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”
When the field commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish, he withdrew and found the king fighting against Libnah.
Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush, was marching out to fight against him. When he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’  Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?”
Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.”
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word the Lord has spoken against him:
“Virgin Daughter Zion
    despises and mocks you.
Daughter Jerusalem
    tosses her head as you flee.
Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?
    Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
    Against the Holy One of Israel!
By your messengers
    you have ridiculed the Lord.
And you have said,
    ‘With my many chariots
I have ascended the heights of the mountains,
    the utmost heights of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars,
    the choicest of its junipers.
I have reached its remotest heights,
    the finest of its forests.
I have dug wells in foreign lands
    and drunk the water there.
With the soles of my feet
    I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’
“Have you not heard?
    Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
    now I have brought it to pass,
that you have turned fortified cities
    into piles of stone.
Their people, drained of power,
    are dismayed and put to shame.
They are like plants in the field,
    like tender green shoots,
like grass sprouting on the roof,
    scorched before it grows up.
“But I know where you are
    and when you come and go
    and how you rage against me.
Because you rage against me
    and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
    by the way you came.
“This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:
“This year you will eat what grows by itself,
    and the second year what springs from that.
But in the third year sow and reap,
    plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah
    will take root below and bear fruit above.
For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,
    and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:
“He will not enter this city
    or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
    or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return;
    he will not enter this city,”
declares the Lord.
“I will defend this city and save it,
    for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”
Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.

  • Isaiah 37:1-38

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Isaiah 36-39 ‘Historical Interlude’: “These four chapters duplicate, almost verbatim, 2 Kings 18:13-20:19 (cf. 2 Chr. 32:1-23). See notes on 2 Kings for amplification. Isaiah added this material to make the references to Assyria more understandable. It is most probable that Isaiah is the author of this section, since 2 Chronicles 32:32 says Isaiah also wrote the acts of Hezekiah. Isaiah’s record was incorporated into 2 Kings by the author of that record. These chapters form the transition that closes the first division of Isaiah’s prophecy. Chapters 36 and 37 are the historical consummation of chapters 1-35-Ierusalem’s deliverance from Assyria-and chapters 38 and 39 the historical basis for chapters 40-66-a preview of the Babylonian captivity.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 36:1 ‘fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’: “Since Sennacherib’s attack came in 701 B.C., this places the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign in 715 B.C. But since 2 Kings 18:1 says he began to reign in the third year of Hoshea, c. 729 B.C., Hezekiah served as co—regent with Ahaz (c. 729-716 B.C.) before assuming the throne exclusively. It was customary for the later kings of Israel to bring their sons into partnership in the government during their lives. Sennacherib. The king of Assyria (c. 705 to 681 B.C.). fortified cities. The discovery of the ancient Annals of Sennacherib reveals the cities he conquered in his campaign southward from Sidon on the Mediterranean coast.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 36:2 ‘Rabshakeh’: “The spokesman for Sennacherib’s three highest officials, who represented the king against Jerusalem on this occasion, according to 2 Kings 18:17. great army. This was a token force of the main army (37:36), with which Sennacherib hoped to bluff Judah into submitting. Lachish. A city about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s conquest of this city was in its closing phase when he sent the messengers. aqueduct from the upper pool. Isaiah met Ahaz at the same spot in his unsuccessful attempt to dissuade him from trusting in foreign powers (7:3).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 36:5 ‘We can trust God’: We as Christians can say, by way of commending our God to others, that we feel we can rest on him for the future. We have been in strange places and in peculiar conditions in the past, but we never were thrown where we could not find all we needed in God. Therefore, we are encouraged to believe that when death’s dark night comes with all its gathering of terror, we will fear no evil, for the same God will be with us to be our supporter and our protector. Even if the believer is thrown one way or another, he finds something to stand on: throw him into death or into life, into the lion’s den, or into the whale’s belly—cast him into fire, or into water—the Christian still trusts in his God and finds him a very  present help in time of trouble. In whom do we trust? We can answer boldly, ‘We trust in him whose power will never be exhausted, whose love will never cease, whose kindness will never change, whose faithfulness will never be sullied, whose wisdom will never be perplexed, and whose perfect goodness never can know a reduction.’ If we are trusting in God, let us love him who thus gives himself so we will trust him. No one can truly trust God who does not love him. Whenever there is faith, there love also dwells. We must show our love for God. If it is as a spark hidden in the midst of a heap of refuse, clear out the evil matter, fan the spark into a flame, and add fuel to it till you are all ablaze with love for God. Nothing short of this satisfies God. Everything else is wrong and should not, for one moment, be tolerated by us.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 36:7 ‘He whose high places and whose altars’: “Rabshakeh mistakenly thought Hezekiah’s reforms in removing idols (2 Kin. 18:4; 2 Chr. 31:1) had removed opportunities to worship the Lord. this altar. That all worship should center in Solomon’s temple was utterly foreign to the polytheistic Assyrians.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 36:11 ‘Aramaic … Hebrew’: “Hezekiah’s representatives, aware of the alarm created by the suggestion that the Lord was on the Assyrian side, asked Rabshakeh to change from Hebrew to Aramaic, the language of diplomacy, so the people on the wall could not understand his words and be terrified.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 36:17, 18-20 ‘take you away’: “Rabshakeh did not hide Assyria’s well-known practice of deporting conquered peoples to distant places.
“In Rabshakeh’s eyes, the Lord was one of the many gods worshiped by nations conquered by the Assyrians (cf. 10:8-11).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:1 ‘tore … sackcloth’: “A reaction that symbolized Hezekiah’s grief, repentance, and contrition. The nation was to repent and the king was to lead the way. house of the LORD. God designated the temple as His ‘house of prayer’ (56:7; Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46), so it was the proper place to confess sins and seek forgiveness (cf. Ps. 73:16, 17).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:4 ‘reproach the living God’: “Hezekiah received a report of Rabshakeh’s belittling of the Lord by equating Him with other gods and responded by pointing out the distinction between God who is living and gods who are lifeless and helpless (40:18-20; 46:5-7). remnant that is left. Only Jerusalem remained unconquered. Hezekiah asked Isaiah’s prayer for the city.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:9 ‘Tirhakah king of Ethiopia’: “Tirhakah did not become king of Ethiopia (and Egypt) until eleven years after the 701 B.C. siege, so Isaiah’s use of king anticipates his future title. At that moment, however, he represented a threat to Sennacherib from the south that caused him to renew his call for Jerusalem’s surrender to the north.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:12-20 ‘Sennacherib’s siege but Yahweh’s victory’: In 701 b.c. Sennacherib began his attack on Judah by destroying a number of cities. Suffering extreme devastation was the city of Lachish.
“Undoubtedly the news of the destruction of Lachish traveled to Jerusalem faster than did the field commander. So the stage was set for him to call for surrender.
“When the message is brought to Hezekiah, he is overwhelmed with fear and enacts the rites of repentance, always a prerequisite to salvation. Then he sends for Isaiah, who assures Hezekiah that God will deliver Jerusalem. The language here is theological. The Assyrians have called into question the power of Yahweh to act (37:12). Likewise, Hezekiah appeals to the honor of God in his prayer (37:14-20), that in delivering his people God may be known throughout the earth. In response to Hezekiah’s prayer, Isaiah condemns the arrogance of Assyria and brings assurance of God’s protection. The earlier references to a remnant (7:3; 10:20-23) are reiterated here (37:31-32).
“This concludes with a narrative account of the destruction of the Assyrian army and the murder of Sennacherib.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 37:14 ‘house of the Lord’: “Godly Hezekiah returned to the house of the Lord (cf. v. 1) as he should have, in contrast to Ahaz, who in a similar crisis refused even to ask a sign from the Lord (7:11, 12).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:29 ‘hook in your nose … bridle in your lips’: “In judging Sennacherib, the Lord treated him as an obstinate animal with a ring in his nose and/or a bridle in his mouth. Some ancient sources indicate that captives were led before a king by a cord attached to a hook or ring through the upper lip and nose. Thus, he was to be brought back to his own country.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:31-32 ‘remnant … remnant’: “From the remnant of survivors in Jerusalem came descendants who covered the land once again (1:9, 27; 3:10; 4:3; 6:13; 8:16, 17; 10:20, 22; 11:12, 16; 26:1-4, 8; 27:12; 28:5; 37:4).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 37:35 ‘For My own sake’: “Since Sennacherib had directly challenged the Lord’s faithfulness to His word (v. 10), the faithfulness of God was at stake in this contest with the Assyrians (cf Ezek. 36:22, 23). for My servant David’s sake. God pledged to perpetuate David’s line on his throne (2 Sam. 7:16; cf. 9:6, 7; 11:1; 55:3).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)


My Thoughts

Rabshakeh is not mentioned by name, but he enters Jerusalem and talks of them surrendering peacefully or the siege will last long enough for the people of the city to eat their own excrement.  Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah asked him to speak in Aramaic, but he refused.  He wanted those who were on the wall, defending the city to become disheartened.

In Rabshakeh’s speech, he was essentially taunting God.  He disrespected and misunderstood Hezekiah’s reforms in not worshipping false gods, discrediting the worship of God in the temple altogether.  The reversal in our modern times is due to the same thing.  People are going to false “gods”, whether they consider them gods or not is questionable, because they discredit the God that is worshipped in the Church, capitalized to denote all denominations.

Rabshakeh says that, if they surrender, they can eat food from their own fields, but then, he states they will be exiled to other places.  While Babylon would later force the Jews into exile and leave them in large settlements for the most part, Assyria scattered their captive so that there was no national identity that remained.  Thus, the remnant of the northern tribes will be watered down drastically.  Other than a detectable DNA distinction, they have blended in with all other nations.

Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah tore their robes.  The people on the wall did not say anything.  When Hezekiah heard the demands, he tore his robes.  This is significant. Ahaz refused to hear what Isaiah had to say and he was condemned for it.  Ahab, the evil king of Israel, tore his robes when Elijah prophesied his demise.  This sign of humility caused God to shift the curse to Ahab’s sons.  Thus, Hezekiah and his leading officials showed humility before God.  But God had been blasphemed.  God would not take that from Rabshakeh or his king Sennacherib.

Hezekiah went to the temple to pray.  Again, humbling himself before God.  Isaiah provides God’s reply.  The preamble was basically saying two things.  God was blasphemed and the Assyrians would pay.  And Hezekiah had gone to the Lord in prayer.  God makes it very clear that the Assyrians would leave like someone carried away with a hook in the nose and a bit in the mouth, often mentioned as punishment for a king in utter defeat.  Sennacherib will never enter Jerusalem.  After this is prophesied, 185,000 Assyrian troops suddenly died.  Sennacherib awoke the next day without an army.  He returned to Assyria where two of his own sons killed him by the sword (mentioned within the curse).

The key points are that we should never wait until the final hour before we start praying.  Many other Jewish cities had fallen by this point.  We should never rely on pagan enemies to be our allies.  They might just have too much on their hands already, such as the king of Ethiopia at their back door.  And when God is blasphemed, people will have to answer for that one.  And God sometimes answers in a very powerful way.

The photo above is from, but somewhere among my slides, I have its duplicate, from Rottenburg ober der Tauber, Germany, a walled city, now a famous tourist town.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“Isaiah 36: 1. How must the faith of Hezekiah have appeared to the Assyrians? ln what situation has your faith in God‘s promises appeared equally foolish?
“2. Given your level of faith now, would you have clung to Isaiah’s prophecies at this point, or would you have caved in to ‘reality’? Why? What ‘Assyrian threat’ faces you now? To what promises of God are you clinging?
“3. Isaiah’s promises must have been the anchor to which Hezekiah held. What promises of God serve as an anchor for you in times of crisis?
37:1-20 Jerusalem’s deliverance and Hezekiah’s prayer: 1. Hezekiah models how to respond to intimidation. What big threat to the Christian faith do you worry about? ls the threat real or imagined?
“2. What might intimidate you about that, except for what Hezekiah models for you?
“3. What does this prayer have in common with that of the disciples in Acts 4:23-31? What do these prayers show about God’s and Hezekiah‘s character?
37:21-38 Sennacherib’s Fall: 1. What is the difference between spiritual pride and a rightful sense of accomplishment? What are the indications of each?
“2. Since all we have comes from God, what is the place for human planning, preparing and hard work? How have you taken credit for something that was in reality far more than you could possibly have pulled off by yourself? What did it take to wake you up to that fact?
“3. When have you felt like Hezekiah — backed up against a wall with no recourse but to pray? What happened? How have you seen God’s affirmation of his love for you?
“4. Although Jerusalem was spared, Lachish, a city only 20 miles away was destroyed. How would you explain God’s ways to a resident of Lachish?
“5. Lachish wanted ‘last minute salvation’ from God, but it didn‘t happen that way. When ‘11th hour’ appeals to God seem to fall on deaf ears, how do you cope? What could be God‘s purpose in delaying or saying ‘No’?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for Isaiah 36 and Isaiah 37 is divided into two sets of questions as noted above.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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