Isaiah the prophet
v1 When King Hezekiah heard that, he tore his clothes. He dressed himself in rough cloth and he went into the *Lord’s *temple. v2 Hezekiah called Eliakim, the official that controlled the palace. And he called Shebna the *secretary. He also called the leaders of the priests. He sent all those men to the *prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz. They all wore rough cloth. v3 This is the message that Hezekiah told them to give to Isaiah. ‘Today is a very sad day. God is punishing us. We have great shame. We are like a woman who is too weak to give birth to her child. v4 The king of Assyria has sent his chief officials to insult the living God. Let the *Lord, your God, hear those insults! Let him punish Assyria’s king! Some people in our nation are still alive. Pray to God for those people.’
v5 King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah. v6 And Isaiah spoke to them. ‘Tell your master what the *Lord says. “Do not be afraid of what you have heard. That official of the king of Assyria has insulted me. v7 I intend to make Assyria’s king very afraid. He will hear some news that will make him go back to his own country. There I will make somebody kill him.” ’
Hezekiah was very sad, because the official had insulted God. Hezekiah went to the *temple to pray. Then he sent a message to the *prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah’s most important officials and priests took that message. Hezekiah asked Isaiah to pray for the people who were still alive in *Judah. And he wanted Isaiah to pray for Jerusalem city. Sennacherib had already *captured most cities in *Judah.
There were two reasons why Hezekiah wanted Isaiah to pray. The first reason was that Hezekiah was afraid. The second reason was that he had hope in God. He hoped that God would act against *Judah’s enemies. Those enemies had insulted God. So Hezekiah hoped that God would punish them.
Isaiah replied to Hezekiah with a message from God. God promised that he would make the king of Assyria very afraid. The king would return to his own country. There, somebody would murder him.
v8 The army commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish. So the army commander left Jerusalem. He discovered that the king was fighting against the people in Libnah.
v9 King Sennacherib of Assyria heard that Tirhakah, king of the country called Cush, was coming to attack him. So Sennacherib sent a message to Hezekiah. This is what it said. v10 ‘This message is to King Hezekiah of *Judah. Do not trust the God on whom you depend. He will tell you that the king of Assyria will not *capture Jerusalem. But that is not true. Your God is lying to you. v11 You have heard how the kings of Assyria have destroyed so many countries. You will not escape. v12 My *ancestors destroyed Gozan, Haran and Rezeph. And they overcame the people from Eden that lived in Tel Assar. None among their gods rescued those nations. v13 And the same thing happened to the kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah.’
v14 Hezekiah took the letter from the man that brought it. Hezekiah read it. Then he went to the *Lord’s *temple. He placed the letter there in front of the *Lord. v15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the *Lord: ‘*Lord, the God of *Israel, you sit on your royal seat. It is between the special *angels with wings. You are the only God over all the *kingdoms in the world. You made the earth and the sky. v16 Listen, *Lord, listen. Look at what is happening. Listen to Sennacherib’s words and insults that he is saying about you. You are the living God.
v17 We know, *Lord, that the armies from Assyria have destroyed many nations. And they have destroyed those people’s countries. v18 They have burned those nations’ gods. Those were not real gods. They were images that men had made out of wood and stone. v19 Now, *Lord, our God, rescue us from Sennacherib. Then everybody will know that you, *Lord, are the only God.’
The army commander from Assyria left Jerusalem. He went to get further orders from King Sennacherib. The commander discovered that the king was fighting. He was fighting against the people in Libnah. Then, however, Sennacherib heard that King Tirhakah of Cush was coming with a large army. Today, we call Cush: ‘Ethiopia’ or ‘Sudan’. Cush was south of Egypt, but at this time, the kings of Cush also ruled Egypt. Therefore, Tirhakah was the same king of Egypt whom Sennacherib insulted in 18:21.
Sennacherib said that Tirhakah would never come to help *Judah. But now Tirhakah was coming to attack Sennacherib, and Sennacherib was afraid. Sennacherib realised that he could not continue his attack against *Judah. He did not have enough men in his army to fight firstly Tirhakah and then to defeat Jerusalem.
So, instead, Sennacherib wrote a letter to frighten Hezekiah. He tried to persuade Hezekiah to give the city into his control. Sennacherib reminded Hezekiah that he (Sennacherib) had *conquered many countries. Sennacherib had *conquered kings and gods. So he said that Hezekiah should not trust in his God to rescue him. Such an attitude would be very foolish, Sennacherib argued. (Of course, Sennacherib did not say that he himself was afraid of an attack by King Tirhakah’s army. Compare that with what Sennacherib said in 2 Kings 18:20-21!)
Hezekiah did not reply to the letter, but he went up to the *temple to pray. He placed the letter in front of God as he prayed. He praised God as the God of *Israel. *Israel was God’s special nation. And *Judah was the part of *Israel that still remained. God was also the one that made the whole earth. He also ruled over it. Hezekiah asked God to act because of the insults that Sennacherib had spoken. Hezekiah agreed that the army from Assyria had *captured many nations. He knew that they had destroyed those nations’ gods. But those were not real gods. They were only wood and stone. Hezekiah prayed that God would rescue the *Jews. Then everyone would know that he was the only God.
Especially, Hezekiah urged God to act so that God would receive honour. Sennacherib had insulted God. And God is the living God, who rules heaven and earth. People in other nations would see how God acted against Sennacherib. They would realise how weak Sennacherib was. And they would realise how great and powerful God is. So people everywhere would respect God after he rescued Jerusalem. And they would know that Sennacherib’s insults had no value whatever.
Hezekiah could be confident as he prayed. God had already promised, by his *prophet, that he would rescue Jerusalem (verses 6-7). So Hezekiah had *faith in God’s word. He believed God. And so he asked God to act as God himself had promised to do.
v20 Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent a message to Hezekiah. ‘This is what the *Lord, the God of *Israel, says. “I have heard your prayer about Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.” v21 This is what the *Lord has spoken against him. “The people in Jerusalem city laugh at you. They consider that you have no value. v22 You have spoken insults and wicked things. You have shouted and you have become proud. Know this! You have done all these things against me, the Holy God of *Israel. v23 Your officials have insulted me. You have said that you have *conquered the high mountains in Lebanon with your *chariots. You said proudly that you cut down the tallest *cedars and *pine trees. You reached the furthest part of the woods. v24 You dug wells and you drank water in foreign countries. You say that you have stepped all over Egypt. You say that you have dried up all its rivers.
v25 Maybe you have not heard! It was I who arranged these events a long time ago. Now I have done it. I gave you the power to make strong cities into piles of stones. v26 The people that lived there had no power. They were afraid and ashamed. Those people were like plants in the field. Or they were like weeds that grow on a roof. Such plants are dead even before they have had any chance to grow.
v27 But I know where you live. I know when you come. I know when you go. I know how you are very angry against me. v28 I have heard that you are angry and proud. I will put a piece of metal in your nose. I will put my bit (a piece of metal that people use to control a horse) in your mouth. I will make you go back. You will go back by the way that you came.”
v29 Hezekiah, this will be evidence to show you what will happen. This year and next year, you will have corn to eat that you did not plant. In the year after that, you will be able to sow your corn. Then you will be able to harvest it. You will be able to plant vines (plants on which *grapes grow) and then you can eat *grapes. v30 Those people in *Judah who are still alive will be successful. They will be like plants that send roots deep into the ground. They will be like plants that produce good fruit. v31 People in Jerusalem will remain alive and they will go out. And people on the mountain called Zion will remain alive and they will go out. The *Lord will make that happen by his power.
v32 This is what the *Lord says about Assyria’s king. “He will not enter the city and he will not shoot even one arrow here. No soldiers with *shields will attack the city. They will not surround it to make people starve. v33 The king will go back by the way that he came.” The *Lord declares that the king will not enter the city. v34 “I will defend this city and I will rescue it. That is because of my own honour. And it is because of my promise to David, my servant.” ’
God gave his answer in the form of a song. Sennacherib and his officials had laughed at God. But in this song, God laughed at Sennacherib. And God described how the people in Jerusalem would laugh at Sennacherib too. Sennacherib had become too proud. He thought that he could defeat any god. But the Holy God of *Israel is not like a false god. When the real God opposed Sennacherib, Sennacherib would be very weak.
Sennacherib was proud because of his great successes in war. Sennacherib said that he had *conquered the highest mountains. He had cut down large trees. (The Bible sometimes refers to mountains and trees as word pictures for great nations and rulers. That may be the meaning here too. In other words, Sennacherib had defeated the greatest rulers and their nations.) And it was true that Sennacherib was very successful. Sennacherib had *conquered foreign countries. But he had only been able to do that because God had allowed it. He had *conquered other people, but God would *conquer him. Soldiers from Assyria often dragged their prisoners away like horses. They often put pieces of metal in the prisoners’ noses. And they put bits in the prisoners’ mouths. (A bit is a metal bar that people put in a horse’s mouth. They attach a band to it that someone has made of leather. So then they can control the animal.) But God would send Assyria’s soldiers back to their own country. And he would be as strict with them as they were with their own prisoners.
*Judah’s inhabitants would lose the harvest from two agricultural years. During the first year, the war was so severe that the people could not take care of their crops. So there was no harvest that year. But some corn would grow anyway, although nobody was able to look after it. So the people would eat that.
Because of the war, it would not be possible to sow corn during the second agricultural year. Because people could not collect the previous year’s corn easily, some seeds would fall into the ground. Those seeds would grow and they would yield some corn.
But in the third year, the army from Assyria would not still be there. They would go away before the time to sow seeds. So in the third year, the people would be able to sow seeds. And they would be able to harvest the crops. Those people that had escaped would be able to go back to their homes. They would continue to live there for a long time. So they could plant fruit bushes. Such plants take several years to yield a harvest. So the people would be able to live in the country for many more years. They would have peace.
God promised that the soldiers from Assyria would not enter Jerusalem. They would not even attack it. God would make that happen for his own honour. That would make his promise to David become true.
v35 That night the *angel of the *Lord went out. He killed 185 000 men in the camp of Assyria’s army. When people got up the next day, those men all lay dead. v36 So King Sennacherib of Assyria turned round and he went back to Nineveh. v37 One day, he was *worshipping in the *temple where people gave honour to the god Nisroch. Two of his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him. Then they escaped to the region called Ararat. Esarhaddon, another son, became the king after Sennacherib.
Many people believe that the soldiers in the army died because of a serious disease. Sennacherib returned to his own country. There, two of his own sons *rebelled against him. They killed him. Then they escaped. A third son became the king after Sennacherib. Nisroch may be another name for the god Marduk, whom people *worshipped in Babylon.