We have here the gracious copious answer which God gave to Hezekiah’s prayer. The message which he sent him by the same hand (2 Kgs. 19:6, 7), one would think, was an answer sufficient to his prayer; but, that he might have strong consolation, he was encouraged by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, Heb. 6:18. In general, God assured him that his prayer was heard, his prayer against Sennacherib, 2 Kgs. 19:20. Note, The case of those that have the prayers of God’s people against them is miserable. For, if the oppressed cry to God against the oppressor, he will hear, Exod. 22:23. God hears and answers, hears with the saving strength of his right hand, Ps. 20:6.
This message bespeaks two things:—
I. Confusion and shame to Sennacherib and his forces. It is here foretold that he should be humbled and broken. The prophet elegantly directs his speech to him, as he does, Isa. 10:5. O Assyrian! the rod of my anger. Not that this message was sent to him, but what is here said to him he was made to know by the event. Providence spoke it to him with a witness; and perhaps his own heart was made to whisper this to him: for God has more ways than one of speaking to sinners in his wrath, so as to vex them in his sore displeasure, Ps. 2:5. Sennacherib is here represented,
1. As the scorn of Jerusalem, 2 Kgs. 19:21. He thought himself the terror of the daughter of Zion, that chaste and beautiful virgin, and that by his threats he could force her to submit to him: “But, being a virgin in her Father’s house and under his protection, she defies thee, despises thee, laughs thee to scorn. Thy impotent malice is ridiculous; he that sits in heaven laughs at thee, and therefore so do those that abide under his shadow.” By this word God intended to silence the fears of Hezekiah and his people. Though to an eye of sense the enemy looked formidable, to an eye of faith he looked despicable.
2. As an enemy to God; and that was enough to make him miserable. Hezekiah pleaded this: “Lord, he has reproached thee,” 2 Kgs. 19:16. “He has,” saith God, “and I take it as against myself (2 Kgs. 19:22): Whom hast thou reproached? Isa. it not the Holy One of Israel, whose honour is dear to him, and who has power to vindicate it, which the gods of the heathen have not?” Nemo me impune lacesset—No one shall provoke me with impunity.
3. As a proud vainglorious fool, that spoke great swelling words of vanity, and boasted of a false gift, by his boasts, as well as by his threats, reproaching the Lord. For, (1.) He magnified his own achievements out of measure and quite above what really they were (2 Kgs. 19:23, 24): Thou hast said so and so. This was not in the letter he wrote, but God let Hezekiah know that he not only saw what was written there, but heard what he said elsewhere, probably in the speeches he made to his councils or armies. Note, God takes notice of the boasts of proud men, and will call them to an account, that he may look upon them and abuse them, Job 40:11. What a mighty figure does Sennacherib think he makes! Driving his chariots to the tops of the highest mountains, forcing his way through woods and rivers, breaking through all difficulties, making himself master of all he had a mind to. Nothing could stand 403c before him or be withheld from him; no hills too high for him to climb, no trees too strong for him to fell, no waters too deep for him to dry up; as if he had the power of a God, to speak and it is done. (2.) He took to himself the glory of doing these great things, whereas they were all the Lord’s doing, 2 Kgs. 19:25, 26. Sennacherib, in his letter, had appealed to what Hezekiah had heard (2 Kgs. 19:11): Thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done; but, in answer to that, he is reminded of what God has done for Israel of old, drying up the Red Sea, leading them through the wilderness, planting them in Canaan. “What are all thy doings to these? And as for the desolations thou hast made in the earth, and particularly in Judah, thou art but the instrument in God’s hand, a mere tool: it is I that have brought it to pass. I gave thee thy power, gave thee thy success, and made thee what thou art, raised thee up to lay waste fenced cities and so to punish them for their wickedness, and therefore their inhabitants were of small power.” What a foolish insolent thing was it for him to exalt himself above God, and against God, upon that which he had done by him and under him. Sennacherib’s boasts here are expounded in Isa. 10:13, 14, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, etc.; and they are answered (2 Kgs. 19:15), Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? It is surely absurd for the fly upon the wheel to say, What a dust do I make! or for the sword in the hand to say, What execution I do! If God be the principal agent in all that is done, boasting is for ever excluded.
4. As under the check and rebuke of that God whom he blasphemed. All his motions were, (1.) Under the divine cognizance (2 Kgs. 19:27): “I have thy abode, and what thou dost secretly devise and design, thy going out and coming in, marches and counter-marches, and thy rage against me and my people, the tumult of thy passions, the tumult of thy preparations, the noise and bluster thou makest: I know it all.” That was more than Hezekiah did, who wished for intelligence of the enemy’s motions; but what need was there for this when the eye of God was a constant spy upon him? 2 Chron. 16:9. (2.) Under the divine control (2 Kgs. 19:28): “I will put my hook in thy nose, thou great Leviathan (Job 41:1, 2), my bridle in thy jaws, thou great Behemoth. I will restrain thee, manage thee, turn thee where I please, send thee home like a fool as thou camest, re infecta—disappointed of thy aim.” Note, It is a great comfort to all the church’s friends that God has a hook in the nose and a bridle in the jaws of all her enemies, can make even their wrath to serve and praise him and then restrain the remainder of it. Here shall its proud waves be stayed.
II. Salvation and joy to Hezekiah and his people. This shall be a sign to them of God’s favour, and that he is reconciled to them, and his anger is turned away (Isa. 12:1), a wonder in their eyes (for so a sign sometimes signifies), a token for good, and an earnest of the further mercy God has in store for them, that a good issue shall be put to their present distress in every respect.
1. Provisions were scarce and dear; and what should they do for food? The fruits of the earth were devoured by the Assyrian army, Isa. 32:9, 10 Why, they shall not only dwell in the land, but verily they shall be fed. If God save them, he will not starve them, nor let them die by famine, when they have escaped the sword: “Eat you this year that which groweth of itself, and you shall find enough of that. Did the Assyrians reap what you sowed? You shall reap what you did not sow.” But the next year was the sabbatical year, when the land was to rest, and they must neither sow nor reap. What must they do that year? Why, Jehovah-jireh—The Lord will provide. God’s blessing shall save them seed and labour, and, that year too, the voluntary productions of the earth shall serve to maintain them, to remind them that the earth brought forth before there was a man to till it, Gen. 1:11. And then, the third year, their husbandry should return into its former channel, and they should sow and reap as they used to do. 2. The country was laid waste, families were broken up and scattered, and all was in confusion; how should it be otherwise when it was over-run by such an army? As to this, it is promised that the remnant that has escaped of the house of Judah (that is, of the country people) shall yet again be planted in their own habitations, upon their own estates, shall take root there, shall increase and grow rich, 2 Kgs. 19:30. See how their prosperity is described: it is taking root downwards, and bearing fruit upwards, being well fixed and well provided for themselves, and then doing good to others. Such is the prosperity of the soul: it is taking root downwards by faith in Christ, and then being fruitful in fruits of righteousness. 3. The city was shut up, none went out or came in; but now the remnant in Jerusalem and Zion shall go forth freely, and there shall be none to hinder them, or make them afraid, 2 Kgs. 19:31. Great destruction had been made both in city and country, bit in both there was a remnant that escaped, which typified the saved remnant of Israelites indeed (as appears by comparing Isa. 10:22, 23, which speaks of this very event, with Rom. 9:27, 28), and they shall go forth into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 4. The Assyrians were advancing towards Jerusalem, and would in a little time besiege it in form, and it was in great danger of falling into their hands. But it is here promised that the siege they feared should be prevented,—that, though the enemy had now (as it should seem) encamped before the city, yet they should never come into the city, no, nor so much as shoot an arrow into it (2 Kgs. 19:32, 33),—that he should be forced to retire with shame, and a thousand times to repent his undertaking. God himself undertakes to defend the city (2 Kgs. 19:34), and that person, that place, cannot but be safe, the protection of which he undertakes. 5. The honour and truth of God are engaged for the doing of all this. These are great things, but how will they be effected? Why, the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this, 2 Kgs. 19:31. He is Lord of hosts, has all creatures at his beck, therefore he is able to do it; he is jealous for Jerusalem with great jealousy (Zech. 1:14); having espoused her a chaste virgin to himself, he will not suffer he to be abused, 2 Kgs. 19:21. “You have reason to think yourselves unworthy that such great things should be done for you; but God’s own zeal will do it.” His zeal, (1.) For his own honour (2 Kgs. 19:34): “I will do it for my own sake, to make myself an everlasting name.” God’s reasons of mercy are fetched from within himself. (2.) For his own truth: “I will do it for my servant David’s sake; not for the sake of his merit, but the promise made to him and the covenant made with him, those sure mercies of David.” Thus all the deliverances of the church are wrought for the sake of Christ, the Son of David.