New American Bible (Revised Edition)
G. Historical Appendix[a]
Invasion of Sennacherib. 1 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, went up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.[b](A) 2 From Lachish the king of Assyria sent his commander with a great army to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When he stopped at the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway of the fuller’s field, 3 there came out to him the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, and Shebna the scribe, and the chancellor, Joah, son of Asaph. 4 The commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this trust of yours? 5 Do you think mere words substitute for strategy and might in war? In whom, then, do you place your trust, that you rebel against me? 6 Do you trust in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it? That is what Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is to all who trust in him.(B) 7 Or do you say to me: It is in the Lord, our God, we trust? Is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed,[c] commanding Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Worship before this altar’?(C)
8 “Now, make a wager with my lord, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able to put riders on them. 9 How then can you turn back even a captain, one of the least servants of my lord, trusting, as you do, in Egypt for chariots and horses? 10 Did I come up to destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself said to me, Go up and destroy that land!”(D)
11 Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to the commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic; we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within earshot of the people who are on the wall.”[d]
12 But the commander replied, “Was it to your lord and to you that my lord sent me to speak these words? Was it not rather to those sitting on the wall, who, with you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” 13 Then the commander stepped forward and cried out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, “Listen to the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. 14 Thus says the king: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he cannot rescue you. 15 And do not let Hezekiah induce you to trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us, and this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’ 16 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria:
Make peace with me
and surrender to me!
Eat, each of you, from your vine,
each from your own fig tree.
Drink water, each from your own well,(E)
17 until I arrive and take you
to a land like your own,
A land of grain and wine,
a land of bread and vineyards.
18 Do not let Hezekiah seduce you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria?(F) 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Where are the gods of Samaria? Have they saved Samaria from my power?(G) 20 Who among all the gods of these lands ever rescued their land from my power, that the Lord should save Jerusalem from my power?” 21 But they remained silent and did not answer at all, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.”
22 Then the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, Shebna the scribe, and the chancellor Joah, son of Asaph, came to Hezekiah with their garments torn, and reported to him the words of the commander.
1 [e]When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his garments, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. 2 He sent Eliakim, the master of the palace, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to tell the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz,
4 Perhaps the Lord, your God, will hear the words of the commander, whom his lord, the king of Assyria, sent to taunt the living God, and will rebuke him for the words which the Lord, your God, has heard. So lift up a prayer for the remnant that is here.”
5 When the servants of King Hezekiah had come to Isaiah, 6 he said to them: “Tell this to your lord: Thus says the Lord: Do not be frightened by the words you have heard, by which the deputies of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.(I)
7 I am putting in him such a spirit
that when he hears a report
he will return to his land.
I will make him fall by the sword in his land.”
8 When the commander, on his return, heard that the king of Assyria had withdrawn from Lachish, he found him besieging Libnah. 9 The king of Assyria heard a report: “Tirhakah,[g] king of Ethiopia, has come out to fight against you.” Again he sent messengers to Hezekiah to say: 10 “Thus shall you say to Hezekiah, king of Judah: Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’(J) 11 You, certainly, have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands: they put them under the ban! And are you to be delivered? 12 Did the gods of the nations whom my fathers destroyed deliver them—Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the Edenites in Telassar? 13 Where are the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, or a king of the cities Sepharvaim, Hena or Ivvah?”
14 Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then he went up to the house of the Lord, and spreading it out before the Lord, 15 Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:
16 “Lord of hosts, God of Israel,
enthroned on the cherubim!
You alone are God
over all the kingdoms of the earth.
It is you who made
the heavens and the earth.[h]
17 Incline your ear, Lord, and listen!
open your eyes, Lord, and see!
Hear all the words Sennacherib has sent
to taunt the living God.
18 Truly, O Lord,
the kings of Assyria have laid waste
the nations and their lands.
19 They gave their gods to the fire
—they were not gods at all,
but the work of human hands—
Wood and stone, they destroyed them.(K)
20 Therefore, Lord, our God,
save us from this man’s power,
That all the kingdoms of the earth may know
that you alone, Lord, are God.”
21 [i]Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent this message to Hezekiah: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you have prayed concerning Sennacherib, king of Assyria: I have listened! 22 This is the word the Lord has spoken concerning him:(L)
She despises you, laughs you to scorn,
the virgin daughter Zion;
Behind you she wags her head,
23 Whom have you insulted and blasphemed,
at whom have you raised your voice
And lifted up your eyes on high?
At the Holy One of Israel!(M)
24 Through the mouths of your messengers
you have insulted the Lord when you said:
‘With my many chariots I went up
to the tops of the peaks,
to the recesses of Lebanon,
To cut down its lofty cedars,
its choice cypresses;
I reached the farthest shelter,
the forest ranges.
25 I myself dug wells
and drank foreign water;
Drying up all the rivers of Egypt
beneath the soles of my feet.’
26 Have you not heard?
A long time ago I prepared it,
from days of old I planned it,
Now I have brought it about:
You are here to reduce
fortified cities to heaps of ruins,(N)
27 Their people powerless,
dismayed and distraught,
They are plants of the field,
thatch on the rooftops,
Grain scorched by the east wind.
28 I know when you stand or sit,
when you come or go,
and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me
and your smugness has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
And make you leave by the way you came.(O)
30 This shall be a sign[j] for you:
This year you shall eat the aftergrowth,
next year, what grows of itself;
But in the third year, sow and reap,
plant vineyards and eat their fruit!
31 The remaining survivors of the house of Judah
shall again strike root below
and bear fruit above.(P)
32 For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant,
and from Mount Zion, survivors.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.(Q)
33 Therefore, thus says the Lord about the king of Assyria:
He shall not come as far as this city,
nor shoot there an arrow,
nor confront it with a shield,
Nor cast up a siege-work against it.
34 By the way he came he shall leave,
never coming as far as this city,
oracle of the Lord.
35 I will shield and save this city
for my own sake and the sake of David my servant.”(R)
36 Then the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. Early the next morning, there they were, all those corpses, dead![k](S) 37 So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp, departed, returned home, and stayed in Nineveh.
38 When he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword and fled into the land of Ararat.[l] His son Esarhaddon reigned in his place.
- 36:1–39:8 Except for 38:9–20 (Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving), this historical appendix describing the siege, etc., is paralleled in 2 Kgs 18:13–20:19, which, however, has certain details proper to itself. The events are also reflected in the cuneiform inscriptions of Sennacherib.
- 36:1 The occasion for this Assyrian attack was Hezekiah’s attempt to reject Judah’s status as vassal to Assyria, relying on help from Egypt, a course of action condemned by Isaiah (see notes on 28:15, 18; 28:16; 29:7–8; 30:1–17; etc.). 2 Kgs 19:14–16 reports that Hezekiah surrendered to the Assyrians and paid the tribute imposed on him—a report omitted in the Isaiah text.
- 36:7 The Assyrians assert that Hezekiah’s removal of the high places and altars (unofficial sanctuaries) was taken by the Lord as an insult. They declare to Jerusalem’s emissaries that the city therefore no longer has a right to the Lord’s protection and that they are the ones who truly carry out his will (cf. v. 10).
- 36:11 The emissaries of King Hezekiah ask that the conversation be carried on in Aramaic, not in Hebrew, for they fear the effect of the Assyrian claims upon the morale of the people.
- 37:1–35 There appear to be parallel accounts of Hezekiah’s appeal and the response received (vv. 1–7 and vv. 14–35): in each, Hezekiah goes to the Temple, refers to the Assyrian boasts (found in 36:15–20; 37:10–14), and receives a favorable response from Isaiah.
- 37:3 A proverbial expression. In the Bible the pangs of childbirth often typify extreme anguish; cf. 13:8; Jer 6:24; Mi 4:9–10. In this instance there is reference to the desperate situation of Hezekiah from which he would scarcely be able to free himself.
- 37:9 Tirhakah: may have been general of the Egyptian army in 701 B.C.; later he became pharaoh, one of the Ethiopian dynasty of Egyptian kings (ca. 690–664 B.C.). Many consider that this account in Isaiah combines features of two originally distinct sieges of Jerusalem by Sennacherib.
- 37:16 In contrast to the empty boasting of the Assyrians, Hezekiah proclaims the Lord as “God over all the kingdoms of the earth.”
- 37:21–37 The reversal of Isaiah’s attitude toward Hezekiah’s revolt (see note on 36:1) and a wonderful deliverance after Hezekiah had already submitted and paid tribute raise questions difficult to answer. See note on 22:1–14. Some have postulated that chaps. 36–37 combine accounts of two different Assyrian invasions.
- 37:30 A sign: sets a time limit. After two years the normal conditions of life will be resumed. See the similar use of time limits as signs in 7:15–16; 8:4; 16:14; and 21:16. You: Hezekiah.
- 37:36 The destruction of Sennacherib’s army is also recorded by Herodotus, a Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. It was possibly owing to a plague, which the author interprets as God’s activity.
- 37:38 The violent death of Sennacherib (681 B.C.) is also mentioned in non-biblical sources. It occurred twenty years after his invasion of Judah. Ararat: the land of Urartu in the mountains north of Assyria.