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Isaiah 36:1--37:38

Context
Sennacherib Invades Judah

36:1 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, 1  King Sennacherib of Assyria marched up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 36:2 The king of Assyria sent his chief adviser 2  from Lachish to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, 3  along with a large army. The chief adviser 4  stood at the conduit of the upper pool which is located on the road to the field where they wash and dry cloth. 5  36:3 Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace supervisor, accompanied by Shebna the scribe and Joah son of Asaph, the secretary, went out to meet him.

36:4 The chief adviser said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: ‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: “What is your source of confidence? 6  36:5 Your claim to have a strategy and military strength is just empty talk. 7  In whom are you trusting, that you would dare to rebel against me? 36:6 Look, you must be trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed staff. If someone leans on it for support, it punctures his hand and wounds him. That is what Pharaoh king of Egypt does to all who trust in him! 36:7 Perhaps you will tell me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God.’ But Hezekiah is the one who eliminated his high places and altars and then told the people of Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship at this altar.’ 36:8 Now make a deal with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, provided you can find enough riders for them. 36:9 Certainly you will not refuse one of my master’s minor officials and trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen. 8  36:10 Furthermore it was by the command of the Lord that I marched up against this land to destroy it. The Lord told me, ‘March up against this land and destroy it!’”’” 9 

36:11 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the chief adviser, “Speak to your servants in Aramaic, 10  for we understand it. Don’t speak with us in the Judahite dialect 11  in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 36:12 But the chief adviser said, “My master did not send me to speak these words only to your master and to you. 12  His message is also for the men who sit on the wall, for they will eat their own excrement and drink their own urine along with you!” 13 

36:13 The chief adviser then stood there and called out loudly in the Judahite dialect, 14  “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria. 36:14 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you, for he is not able to rescue you! 36:15 Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” 36:16 Don’t listen to Hezekiah!’ For this is what the king of Assyria says, ‘Send me a token of your submission and surrender to me. 15  Then each of you may eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, 36:17 until I come and take you to a land just like your own – a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 36:18 Hezekiah is misleading you when he says, “The Lord will rescue us.” Has any of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria? 16  36:19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? 17  Indeed, did any gods rescue Samaria 18  from my power? 19  36:20 Who among all the gods of these lands have rescued their lands from my power? So how can the Lord rescue Jerusalem from my power?’” 20  36:21 They were silent and did not respond, for the king had ordered, “Don’t respond to him.”

36:22 Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace supervisor, accompanied by Shebna the scribe and Joah son of Asaph, the secretary, went to Hezekiah with their clothes torn in grief 21  and reported to him what the chief adviser had said. 37:1 When King Hezekiah heard this, 22  he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and went to the Lord’s temple. 37:2 Eliakim the palace supervisor, Shebna the scribe, and the leading priests, 23  clothed in sackcloth, sent this message to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz: 37:3 “This is what Hezekiah says: 24  ‘This is a day of distress, insults, 25  and humiliation, 26  as when a baby is ready to leave the birth canal, but the mother lacks the strength to push it through. 27  37:4 Perhaps the Lord your God will hear all these things the chief adviser has spoken on behalf of his master, the king of Assyria, who sent him to taunt the living God. 28  When the Lord your God hears, perhaps he will punish him for the things he has said. 29  So pray for this remnant that remains.’” 30 

37:5 When King Hezekiah’s servants came to Isaiah, 37:6 Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master this: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Don’t be afraid because of the things you have heard – these insults the king of Assyria’s servants have hurled against me. 31  37:7 Look, I will take control of his mind; 32  he will receive a report and return to his own land. I will cut him down 33  with a sword in his own land.”’”

37:8 When the chief adviser heard the king of Assyria had departed from Lachish, he left and went to Libnah, where the king was campaigning. 34  37:9 The king 35  heard that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia 36  was marching out to fight him. 37  He again sent 38  messengers to Hezekiah, ordering them: 37:10 “Tell King Hezekiah of Judah this: ‘Don’t let your God in whom you trust mislead you when he says, “Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” 37:11 Certainly you have heard how the kings of Assyria have annihilated all lands. 39  Do you really think you will be rescued? 40  37:12 Were the nations whom my predecessors 41  destroyed – the nations of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden in Telassar – rescued by their gods? 42  37:13 Where are the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the kings of Lair, 43  Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?’”

37:14 Hezekiah took the letter 44  from the messengers and read it. 45  Then Hezekiah went up to the Lord’s temple and spread it out before the Lord. 37:15 Hezekiah prayed before the Lord: 37:16 “O Lord who commands armies, O God of Israel, who is enthroned on the cherubim! 46  You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the sky 47  and the earth. 37:17 Pay attention, Lord, and hear! Open your eyes, Lord, and observe! Listen to this entire message Sennacherib sent and how he taunts the living God! 48  37:18 It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all the nations 49  and their lands. 37:19 They have burned the gods of the nations, 50  for they are not really gods, but only the product of human hands manufactured from wood and stone. That is why the Assyrians could destroy them. 51  37:20 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power, so all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.” 52 

37:21 Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘Because you prayed to me concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria, 53  37:22 this is what the Lord says about him: 54 

“The virgin daughter Zion 55 

despises you – she makes fun of you;

daughter Jerusalem

shakes her head after you. 56 

37:23 Whom have you taunted and hurled insults at?

At whom have you shouted

and looked so arrogantly? 57 

At the Holy One of Israel! 58 

37:24 Through your messengers you taunted the sovereign master, 59 

‘With my many chariots I climbed up

the high mountains,

the slopes of Lebanon.

I cut down its tall cedars

and its best evergreens.

I invaded its most remote regions, 60 

its thickest woods.

37:25 I dug wells

and drank water. 61 

With the soles of my feet I dried up

all the rivers of Egypt.’

37:26 62 Certainly you must have heard! 63 

Long ago I worked it out,

in ancient times I planned 64  it,

and now I am bringing it to pass.

The plan is this:

Fortified cities will crash

into heaps of ruins. 65 

37:27 Their residents are powerless; 66 

they are terrified and ashamed.

They are as short-lived as plants in the field

or green vegetation. 67 

They are as short-lived as grass on the rooftops 68 

when it is scorched by the east wind. 69 

37:28 I know where you live

and everything you do

and how you rage against me. 70 

37:29 Because you rage against me

and the uproar you create has reached my ears, 71 

I will put my hook in your nose, 72 

and my bridle between your lips,

and I will lead you back

the way you came.”

37:30 73 “This will be your reminder that I have spoken the truth: 74  This year you will eat what grows wild, 75  and next year 76  what grows on its own. But the year after that 77  you will plant seed and harvest crops; you will plant vines and consume their produce. 78  37:31 Those who remain in Judah will take root in the ground and bear fruit. 79 

37:32 “For a remnant will leave Jerusalem;

survivors will come out of Mount Zion.

The intense devotion of the Lord who commands armies 80  will accomplish this.

37:33 So this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:

‘He will not enter this city,

nor will he shoot an arrow here. 81 

He will not attack it with his shielded warriors, 82 

nor will he build siege works against it.

37:34 He will go back the way he came –

he will not enter this city,’ says the Lord.

37:35 I will shield this city and rescue it for the sake of my reputation and because of my promise to David my servant.”’” 83 

37:36 The Lord’s messenger 84  went out and killed 185,000 troops 85  in the Assyrian camp. When they 86  got up early the next morning, there were all the corpses! 87  37:37 So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and went on his way. He went home and stayed in Nineveh. 88  37:38 One day, 89  as he was worshiping 90  in the temple of his god Nisroch, 91  his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword. 92  They ran away to the land of Ararat; his son Esarhaddon replaced him as king.

1 tn The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

2 sn For a discussion of this title see M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 229-30.

3 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

4 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the chief adviser) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn Heb “the field of the washer”; traditionally “the fuller’s field” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).

6 tn Heb “What is this object of trust in which you are trusting?”

7 tn Heb “you say only a word of lips, counsel and might for battle.” Sennacherib’s message appears to be in broken Hebrew at this point. The phrase “word of lips” refers to mere or empty talk in Prov 14:23.

8 tn Heb “How can you turn back the face of an official [from among] the least of my master’s servants and trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen?” In vv. 8-9 the chief adviser develops further the argument begun in v. 6. His reasoning seems to be as follows: “In your weakened condition you obviously need military strength. Agree to the king’s terms and I will personally give you more horses than you are capable of outfitting. If I, a mere minor official, am capable of giving you such military might, just think what power the king has. There is no way the Egyptians can match our strength. It makes much better sense to deal with us.”

9 sn In v. 10 the chief adviser develops further the argument begun in v. 7. He claims that Hezekiah has offended the Lord and that the Lord has commissioned Assyria as his instrument of discipline and judgment.

10 sn Aramaic was the diplomatic language of the Assyrian empire.

11 tn Or “in Hebrew” (NIV, NCV, NLT); NAB, NASB “in Judean.”

12 tn Heb “To your master and to you did my master send me to speak these words?” The rhetorical question expects a negative answer.

13 tn Heb “[Is it] not [also] to the men…?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Yes, it is.”

sn The chief adviser alludes to the horrible reality of siege warfare, when the starving people in the besieged city would resort to eating and drinking anything to stay alive.

14 tn The Hebrew text includes “and he said.”

15 tn Heb “make with me a blessing and come out to me.”

16 tn Heb “Have the gods of the nations rescued, each his land, from the hand of the king of Assyria?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course not!”

17 tn The rhetorical questions in v. 34a suggest the answer, “Nowhere, they seem to have disappeared in the face of Assyria’s might.”

18 map For location see Map2 B1; Map4 D3; Map5 E2; Map6 A4; Map7 C1.

19 tn Heb “that they rescued Samaria from my hand?” But this gives the impression that the gods of Sepharvaim were responsible for protecting Samaria, which is obviously not the case. The implied subject of the plural verb “rescued” must be the generic “gods of the nations/lands” (vv. 18, 20).

20 tn Heb “that the Lord might rescue Jerusalem from my hand?” The logic runs as follows: Since no god has ever been able to withstand the Assyrian onslaught, how can the people of Jerusalem possibly think the Lord will rescue them?

21 tn Heb “with their clothes torn”; the words “in grief” have been supplied in the translation to indicate that this was done as a sign of grief and mourning.

22 tn The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

23 tn Heb “elders of the priests” (so KJV, NAB, NASB); NCV “the older priests”; NRSV, TEV, CEV “the senior priests.”

24 tn In the Hebrew text this verse begins with “they said to him” (cf. NRSV).

25 tn Or “rebuke” (KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV), or “correction.”

26 tn Or “contempt”; NAB, NIV, NRSV “disgrace.”

27 tn Heb “when sons come to the cervical opening and there is no strength to give birth.”

28 tn Heb “all the words of the chief adviser whom his master, the king of Assyria, sent to taunt the living God.”

29 tn Heb “and rebuke the words which the Lord your God hears.”

30 tn Heb “and lift up a prayer on behalf of the remnant that is found.”

31 tn Heb “by which the servants of the king of Assyria have insulted me.”

32 tn Heb “I will put in him a spirit.” The precise sense of רוּחַ (ruakh, “spirit”) is uncertain in this context. It may refer to a spiritual being who will take control of his mind (see 1 Kgs 22:19), or it could refer to a disposition of concern and fear. In either case the Lord’s sovereignty over the king is apparent.

33 tn Heb “cause him to fall” (so KJV, ASV, NAB), that is, “kill him.”

34 tn Heb “and the chief adviser returned and he found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he heard that he had departed from Lachish.”

35 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the king) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

36 tn Heb “Cush” (so NASB); NIV, NCV “the Cushite king of Egypt.”

37 tn Heb “heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, ‘He has come out to fight with you.’”

38 tn The Hebrew text has, “and he heard and he sent,” but the parallel in 2 Kgs 19:9 has וַיָּשָׁב וַיִּשְׁלַח (vayyashav vayyishlakh, “and he returned and he sent”), i.e., “he again sent.”

39 tn Heb “Look, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, annihilating them.”

40 tn Heb “and will you be rescued?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “No, of course not!”

41 tn Heb “fathers” (so KJV, NAB, NASB); NIV “forefathers”; NCV “ancestors.”

42 tn Heb “Did the gods of the nations whom my fathers destroyed rescue them – Gozan and Haran, and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who are in Telassar?”

43 sn Lair was a city located in northeastern Babylon. See M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 235.

44 tc The Hebrew text has the plural, “letters.” The final mem (ם) may be dittographic (note the initial mem on the form that immediately follows). Some Greek and Aramaic witnesses have the singular. If so, one still has to deal with the yod that is part of the plural ending. J. N. Oswalt refers to various commentators who have suggested ways to understand the plural form (Isaiah [NICOT], 1:652).

45 tn In the parallel text in 2 Kgs 19:14 the verb has the plural suffix, “them,” but this probably reflects a later harmonization to the preceding textual corruption (of “letter” to “letters”).

46 sn Cherubim (singular “cherub”) refers to the images of winged angelic creatures that were above the ark of the covenant.

47 tn Or “the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.

48 tn Heb “Hear all the words of Sennacherib which he sent to taunt the living God.”

49 tn The Hebrew text here has “all the lands,” but the parallel text in 2 Kgs 19:17 has “the nations.”

50 tn Heb “and they put their gods in the fire.”

51 tn Heb “so they destroyed them” (NASB similar).

52 tn The parallel text in 2 Kgs 19:19 reads, “that you, Lord, are the only God.”

53 tn The parallel text in 2 Kgs 19:20 reads, “That which you prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.” The verb “I have heard” does not appear in Isa 37:21, where אֲשֶׁר (’asher) probably has a causal sense: “because.”

54 tn Heb “this is the word which the Lord has spoken about him.”

55 sn Zion (Jerusalem) is pictured here as a young, vulnerable daughter whose purity is being threatened by the would-be Assyrian rapist. The personification hints at the reality which the young girls of the city would face if the Assyrians conquer it.

56 sn Shaking the head was a mocking gesture of derision.

57 tn Heb “and lifted your eyes on high?” Cf. NIV “lifted your eyes in pride”; NRSV “haughtily lifted your eyes.”

58 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.

59 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

60 tn Heb “the height of its extremity”; ASV “its farthest height.”

61 tc The Hebrew text has simply, “I dug and drank water.” But the parallel text in 2 Kgs 19:24 has “foreign waters.” זָרִים (zarim, “foreign”) may have accidentally dropped out of the Isaianic text by homoioteleuton (cf. NCV, NIV, NLT). Note that the preceding word, מַיִם (mayim, “water) also ends in mem (ם). The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has “foreign waters” for this line. However, in several other passages the 1QIsaa scroll harmonizes with 2 Kgs 19 against the MT (Isa 36:5; 37:9, 20). Since the addition of “foreign” to this text in Isaiah by a later scribe would be more likely than its deletion, the MT reading should be accepted.

62 tn Having quoted the Assyrian king’s arrogant words in vv. 23-24, the Lord now speaks to the king.

63 tn Heb “Have you not heard?” The rhetorical question expresses the Lord’s amazement that anyone might be ignorant of what he is about to say.

64 tn Heb “formed” (so KJV, ASV).

65 tn Heb “and it is to cause to crash into heaps of ruins fortified cities.” The subject of the third feminine singular verb תְהִי (tÿhi) is the implied plan, referred to in the preceding lines with third feminine singular pronominal suffixes.

66 tn Heb “short of hand”; KJV, ASV “of small power”; NASB “short of strength.”

67 tn Heb “they are plants in the field and green vegetation.” The metaphor emphasizes how short-lived these seemingly powerful cities really were. See Ps 90:5-6; Isa 40:6-8, 24.

68 tn Heb “[they are] grass on the rooftops.” See the preceding note.

69 tc The Hebrew text has “scorched before the standing grain” (perhaps meaning “before it reaches maturity”), but it is preferable to emend קָמָה (qamah, “standing grain”) to קָדִים (qadim, “east wind”) with the support of 1Q Isaa; cf. J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:657, n. 8.

70 tc Heb “your going out and your coming in and how you have raged against me.” Several scholars have suggested that this line is probably dittographic (note the beginning of the next line). However, most English translations include the statement in question at the end of v. 28 and the beginning of v. 29. Interestingly, the LXX does not have this clause at the end of v. 28 and the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa does not have it at the beginning of v. 29. In light of this ambiguous manuscript evidence, it appears best to retain the clause in both verses.

71 tc Heb “and your complacency comes up into my ears.” The parallelism is improved if שַׁאֲנַנְךָ (shaanankha, “your complacency”) is emended to שְׁאוֹנְךָ (shÿonÿkha, “your uproar”). See M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 237-38. However, the LXX seems to support the MT and Sennacherib’s cavalier dismissal of Yahweh depicts an arrogant complacency (J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 1:658, n. 10).

72 sn The word-picture has a parallel in Assyrian sculpture. See M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 238.

73 tn At this point the word concerning the king of Assyria (vv. 22-29) ends and the Lord again addresses Hezekiah and the people directly (see v. 21).

74 tn Heb “and this is your sign.” In this case the אוֹת (’ot, “sign”) is a future reminder of God’s intervention designated before the actual intervention takes place. For similar “signs” see Exod 3:12 and Isa 7:14-25.

75 sn This refers to crops that grew up on their own (that is, without cultivation) from the seed planted in past years.

76 tn Heb “and in the second year” (so ASV).

77 tn Heb “in the third year” (so KJV, NAB).

78 tn The four plural imperatival verb forms in v. 30b are used rhetorically. The Lord commands the people to plant, harvest, etc. to emphasize the certainty of restored peace and prosperity.

79 tn Heb “The remnant of the house of Judah that is left will add roots below and produce fruit above.”

80 tn Heb “the zeal of the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts].” In this context the Lord’s “zeal” refers to his intense devotion to and love for his people which prompts him to protect and restore them.

81 tn Heb “there” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV). In terms of English style “here” is expected in collocation with “this” in the previous line.

82 tn Heb “[with] a shield” (so ASV, NASB, NRSV).

83 tn Heb “for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”

84 tn Traditionally, “the angel of the Lord” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

85 tn The word “troops” is supplied in the translation for smoothness and clarity.

86 tn This refers to the Israelites and/or the rest of the Assyrian army.

87 tn Heb “look, all of them were dead bodies”; NLT “they found corpses everywhere.”

88 tn Heb “and Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went and returned and lived in Nineveh.”

89 sn The assassination of King Sennacherib probably took place in 681 b.c.

90 tn The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

91 sn No such Mesopotamian god is presently known. Perhaps the name Nisroch is a corruption of Nusku.

92 sn Extra-biblical sources also mention the assassination of Sennacherib, though they refer to only one assassin. See M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 239-40.



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