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The Assyrians Surround Jerusalem

36 Hezekiah had been king of Judah for fourteen years when King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the country and captured every walled city except Jerusalem. The Assyrian king ordered his army commander to leave the city of Lachish and to take a large army to Jerusalem.

The commander went there and stood on the road near the cloth makers' shops along the canal from the upper pool. Three of the king’s highest officials came out of Jerusalem to meet him. One of them was Hilkiah’s son Eliakim, who was the prime minister. The other two were Shebna, assistant to the prime minister, and Joah son of Asaph, keeper of the government records.

The Assyrian commander told them:

I have a message for Hezekiah from the great king of Assyria. Ask Hezekiah why he feels so sure of himself. Does he think he can plan and win a war with nothing but words? Who is going to help him, now that he has turned against the king of Assyria? Is he depending on Egypt and its king? That’s the same as leaning on a broken stick, and it will go right through his hand.

Is Hezekiah now depending on the Lord, your God? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down all except one of the Lord’s altars and places of worship?[a] Didn’t he tell the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship at that one place?

The king of Assyria wants to make a bet with you people! He will give you two thousand horses, if you have enough troops to ride them. How could you even defeat our lowest ranking officer, when you have to depend on Egypt for chariots and cavalry? 10 Don’t forget that it was the Lord who sent me here with orders to destroy your nation!

11 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said, “Sir, we don’t want the people listening from the city wall to understand what you are saying. So please speak to us in Aramaic instead of Hebrew.”

12 The Assyrian army commander answered, “My king sent me to speak to everyone, not just to you leaders. These people will soon have to eat their own body waste and drink their own urine! And so will the three of you!”

13 Then, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he shouted out in Hebrew:

Listen to what the great king of Assyria says! 14 Don’t be fooled by Hezekiah. He can’t save you. 15 Don’t trust him when he tells you that the Lord will protect you from the king of Assyria. 16 Stop listening to Hezekiah. Pay attention to my king. Surrender to him. He will let you keep your own vineyards, fig trees, and cisterns 17 for a while. Then he will come and take you away to a country just like yours, where you can plant vineyards and raise your own grain.

18 Hezekiah claims the Lord will save you. But don’t be fooled by him. Were any other gods able to defend their land against the king of Assyria? 19 What happened to the gods of Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim? Were the gods of Samaria able to protect their land against the Assyrian forces? 20 None of these gods kept their people safe from the king of Assyria. Do you think the Lord, your God, can do any better?

21-22 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah had been warned by King Hezekiah not to answer the Assyrian commander. So they tore their clothes in sorrow and reported to Hezekiah everything the commander had said.

Hezekiah Asks Isaiah for Advice

37 As soon as Hezekiah heard the news, he tore off his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. Then he went into the temple of the Lord. He told Prime Minister Eliakim, Assistant Prime Minister Shebna, and the senior priests to dress in sackcloth and tell me:

Isaiah, these are difficult and disgraceful times. Our nation is like a woman too weak to give birth, when it’s time for her baby to be born. Please pray for those of us who are left alive. The king of Assyria sent his army commander to insult the living God. Perhaps the Lord heard what he said and will do something, if you will pray.

When these leaders came to me, I told them that the Lord had this message for Hezekiah:

I am the Lord. Don’t worry about the insulting things that have been said about me by these messengers from the king of Assyria. I will upset him with rumors about what’s happening in his own country. He will go back, and there I will make him die a violent death.

Meanwhile the commander of the Assyrian forces heard that his king had left the town of Lachish and was now attacking Libnah. So he went there.

About this same time, the king of Assyria learned that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia[b] was on his way to attack him. Then the king of Assyria sent some messengers with this note for Hezekiah:

10 Don’t trust your God or be fooled by his promise to defend Jerusalem against me. 11 You have heard how we Assyrian kings have completely wiped out other nations. What makes you feel so safe? 12 The Assyrian kings before me destroyed the towns of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and everyone from Eden who lived in Telassar. What good did their gods do them? 13 The kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah have all disappeared.

Hezekiah Prays

14 After Hezekiah had read the note from the king of Assyria, he took it to the temple and spread it out for the Lord to see. 15 Then he prayed:

16 Lord God All-Powerful of Israel, your throne is above the winged creatures.[c] You created the heavens and the earth, and you alone rule the kingdoms of this world. 17 Just look and see how Sennacherib has insulted you, the living God.

18 It is true, our Lord, that Assyrian kings have turned nations into deserts. 19 They destroyed the idols of wood and stone that the people of those nations had made and worshiped. 20 But you are our Lord and our God! We ask you to keep us safe from the Assyrian king. Then everyone in every kingdom on earth will know that you are the only Lord.

Isaiah Gives the Lord’s Answer to Hezekiah

21-22 I went to Hezekiah and told him that the Lord God of Israel had said:

Hezekiah, you prayed to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria.[d] Now this is what I say to that king:

The people of Jerusalem
    hate and make fun of you;
    they laugh behind your back.

23 Sennacherib, you cursed,
shouted, and sneered at me,
    the holy God of Israel.
24 You let your officials
    insult me, the Lord.
And here is what you
    have said about yourself,
“I led my chariots
    to the highest heights
    of Lebanon’s mountains.
I went deep into its forest,
cutting down the best cedar
    and cypress trees.
25 I dried up every stream
    in the land of Egypt,
and I drank water
    from wells I had dug.”

26 Sennacherib, now listen
    to me, the Lord.
I planned all of this long ago.
And you don’t even know
    that I alone am the one
who decided that you
    would do these things.
I let you make ruins
    of fortified cities.
27 Their people became weak,
    terribly confused.
They were like wild flowers
or like tender young grass
    growing on a flat roof
or like a field of grain
    before it matures.[e]

28 I know all about you,
    even how fiercely angry
    you are with me.
29 I have seen your pride
    and the tremendous hatred
    you have for me.
Now I will put a hook
    in your nose,
    a bit in your mouth,[f]
then I will send you back
    to where you came from.

30 Hezekiah, I will tell you what’s going to happen. This year you will eat crops that grow on their own, and the next year you will eat whatever springs up where those crops grew. But the third year, you will plant grain and vineyards, and you will eat what you harvest. 31 Those who survive in Judah will be like a vine that puts down deep roots and bears fruit. 32 I, the Lord All-Powerful, will see to it that some who live in Jerusalem will survive.

33 I promise that the king of Assyria won’t get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack. 34 As surely as I am the Lord, he will return by the way he came and will never enter Jerusalem. 35 I will protect it for the sake of my own honor and because of the promise I made to my servant David.

The Death of King Sennacherib

36 The Lord sent an angel to the camp of the Assyrians, and he killed one hundred eighty-five thousand of them all in one night. The next morning, the camp was full of dead bodies. 37 After this, King Sennacherib went back to Assyria and lived in the city of Nineveh. 38 One day he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, when his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him with their swords. They escaped to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon became king.[g]

Hezekiah Gets Sick and Almost Dies

38 About this time, Hezekiah got sick and was almost dead. So I went in and told him, “The Lord says you won’t ever get well. You are going to die, and so you had better start doing what needs to be done.”

Hezekiah turned toward the wall and prayed, “Don’t forget that I have been faithful to you, Lord. I have obeyed you with all my heart, and I do whatever you say is right.” After this, he cried hard.

Then the Lord sent me with this message for Hezekiah:

I am the Lord God, who was worshiped by your ancestor David. I heard you pray, and I saw you cry. I will let you live fifteen years more, while I protect you and your city from the king of Assyria.

Now I will prove to you that I will keep my promise. Do you see the shadow made by the setting sun on the stairway built for King Ahaz? I will make the shadow go back ten steps.

Then the shadow went back ten steps.[h]

King Hezekiah’s Song of Praise

This is what Hezekiah wrote after he got well:

10 I thought I would die
    during my best years
and stay as a prisoner forever
    in the world of the dead.
11 I thought I would never again
    see you, my Lord,
or any of the people
    who live on this earth.
12 My life was taken from me
like the tent that a shepherd
    pulls up and moves.
You cut me off like thread
    from a weaver’s loom;
you make a wreck of me
    day and night.

13 Until morning came, I thought
you would crush my bones
    just like a hungry lion;
both night and day
    you make a wreck of me.[i]
14 I cry like a swallow;
    I mourn like a dove.
My eyes are red
    from looking to you, Lord.
I am terribly abused.
    Please come and help me.[j]
15 There’s nothing I can say
    in answer to you,
since you are the one
    who has done this to me.[k]
My life has turned sour;
    I will limp until I die.

16 Your words and your deeds
bring life to everyone,
    including me.[l]
Please make me healthy
    and strong again.
17 It was for my own good
    that I had such hard times.
But your love protected me
    from doom in the deep pit,[m]
and you turned your eyes
    away from my sins.

18 No one in the world of the dead
    can thank you
or praise you;
none of those in the deep pit
can hope for you
to show them
    how faithful you are.
19 Only the living can thank you,
    as I am doing today.
Each generation tells the next
    about your faithfulness.[n]

20 You, Lord, will save me,
    and every day that we live
we will sing in your temple
to the music
    of stringed instruments.

Isaiah’s Advice to Hezekiah

21 I had told King Hezekiah’s servants to put some mashed figs on the king’s open sore, and he would get well. 22 Then Hezekiah asked for proof that he would again worship in the Lord’s temple.

Isaiah Speaks the Lord’s Message to Hezekiah

39 Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan, was now king of Babylonia. And when he learned that Hezekiah was well, he sent messengers with letters and a gift for him. Hezekiah welcomed the messengers and showed them all the silver, the gold, the spices, and the fine oils that were in his storehouse. He even showed them where he kept his weapons. Nothing in his palace or in his entire kingdom was kept hidden from them.

I asked Hezekiah, “Where did these men come from? What did they want?”

“They came all the way from Babylonia,” Hezekiah answered.

“What did you show them?” I asked.

Hezekiah answered, “I showed them everything in my kingdom.”

Then I told Hezekiah:

I have a message for you from the Lord All-Powerful. One day everything you and your ancestors have stored up will be taken to Babylonia. The Lord has promised that nothing will be left. Some of your own sons will be taken to Babylonia, where they will be disgraced and made to serve in the king’s palace.

Hezekiah thought, “At least our nation will be at peace for a while.” So he told me, “The message you brought from the Lord is good.”

Encourage God’s People

40 Our God has said:

“Encourage my people!
    Give them comfort.
Speak kindly to Jerusalem
    and announce:
Your slavery is past;
    your punishment is over.
I, the Lord, made you pay
    double for your sins.”

Someone is shouting:
“Clear a path in the desert!
    Make a straight road
    for the Lord our God.
Fill in the valleys;
flatten every hill
    and mountain.
Level the rough
    and rugged ground.
Then the glory of the Lord
    will appear for all to see.
The Lord has promised this!”

Someone told me to shout,
and I asked,
    “What should I shout?”
We humans are merely grass,
and we last no longer
    than wild flowers.
At the Lord’s command,
flowers and grass disappear,
    and so do we.
Flowers and grass fade away,
but what our God has said
    will never change.

Your God Is Here!

There is good news
    for the city of Zion.
Shout it as loud as you can[o]
    from the highest mountain.
Don’t be afraid to shout
to the towns of Judah,
    “Your God is here!”
10 Look! The powerful Lord God
is coming
to rule
    with his mighty arm.
He brings with him
what he has taken in war,
    and he rewards his people.
11 The Lord cares for his nation,
just as shepherds care
    for their flocks.
He carries the lambs
    in his arms,
while gently leading
    the mother sheep.

Who Compares with God?

12 Did any of you measure
    the ocean by yourself
or stretch out the sky
    with your own hands?
Did you put the soil
    of the earth in a bucket
or weigh the hills and mountains
    on balance scales?

13 Has anyone told the Lord[p]
what he must do
    or given him advice?
14 Did the Lord ask anyone
to teach him wisdom
    and justice?
Who gave him knowledge
    and understanding?
15 To the Lord, all nations
are merely a drop in a bucket
    or dust on balance scales;
all of the islands
    are but a handful of sand.
16 The cattle
    on Lebanon’s mountains
would not be enough
to offer
    as a sacrifice to God,
and the trees would not
    be enough for the fire.
17 God thinks of the nations
    as far less than nothing.

18 Who compares with God?
    Is anything like him?
19 Is an idol at all like God?
    It is made of bronze
with a thin layer of gold,
    and decorated with silver.
20 Or special wood may be chosen[q]
    because it doesn’t rot—
then skilled hands
take care to make an idol
    that won’t fall on its face.

God Rules the Whole Earth

21 Don’t you know?
    Haven’t you heard?
Isn’t it clear that God
    created the world?[r]
22 God is the one who rules
    the whole earth,
and we that live here
    are merely insects.
He spread out the heavens
like a curtain or an open tent.

23 God brings down rulers
    and turns them into nothing.
24 They are like flowers
freshly sprung up
    and starting to grow.
But when God blows on them,
they wilt
and are carried off
    like straw in a storm.

25 The holy God asks,
“Who compares with me?
    Is anyone my equal?”

26 Look at the evening sky!
    Who created the stars?
Who gave them each a name?
    Who leads them like an army?
The Lord is so powerful
that none of the stars
    are ever missing.

The Lord Gives Strength

27 You people of Israel, say,
“God pays no attention to us!
    He doesn’t care if we
    are treated unjustly.”

But how can you say that?
28 Don’t you know?
    Haven’t you heard?
The Lord is the eternal God,
    Creator of the earth.
He never gets weary or tired;
his wisdom cannot be measured.

29 The Lord gives strength
    to those who are weary.
30 Even young people get tired,
    then stumble and fall.
31 But those who trust the Lord
    will find new strength.
They will be strong like eagles
    soaring upward on wings;
they will walk and run
    without getting tired.

The Lord Controls Human Events

41 Be silent and listen,
    every island in the sea.
Have courage and come near,
    every one of you nations.
Let’s settle this matter!
Who appointed this ruler
    from the east?[s]
Who puts nations and kings
    in his power?[t]
His sword and his arrows
turn them to dust
    blown by the wind.
He goes after them so quickly
that his feet
    barely touch the ground—
he doesn’t even get hurt.

Who makes these things happen?
Who controls human events?
    I do! I am the Lord.
I was there at the beginning;
    I will be there at the end.
Islands and foreign nations
saw what I did
and trembled
    as they came near.

What Can Idols Do?

Worshipers of idols
comfort each other,
    saying, “Don’t worry!”
Woodcarvers, goldsmiths,
    and other workers[u]
encourage one another and say,
    “We’ve done a great job!”
Then they nail the idol down,
    so it won’t fall over.

The Lord’s Chosen Servant

Israel, you are my servant.
I chose you,
the family
    of my friend Abraham.
From far across the earth
    I brought you here and said,
“You are my chosen servant.
    I haven’t forgotten you.”

10 Don’t be afraid. I am with you.
Don’t tremble with fear.
    I am your God.
I will make you strong,
as I protect you with my arm
    and give you victories.
11 Everyone who hates you
    will be terribly disgraced;
those who attack
    will vanish into thin air.
12 You will look around
    for those brutal enemies,
but you won’t find them
    because they will be gone.

13 I am the Lord your God.
I am holding your hand,
    so don’t be afraid.
I am here to help you.

14 People of Israel, don’t worry,
though others may say,
    “Israel is only a worm!”
I am the holy God of Israel,
    who saves and protects you.
15 I will let you be like a log
    covered with sharp spikes.[v]
You will grind and crush
every mountain and hill[w]
    until they turn to dust.
16 A strong wind will scatter them
    in all directions.
Then you will celebrate
and praise me, your Lord,
    the holy God of Israel.

The Lord Helps the Poor

17 When the poor and needy
are dying of thirst
    and cannot find water,
I, the Lord God of Israel,
will come to their rescue.
    I won’t forget them.
18 I will make rivers flow
    on mountain peaks.
I will send streams
    to fill the valleys.
Dry and barren land
will flow with springs
    and become a lake.
19 I will fill the desert
    with all kinds of trees—
cedars, acacias, and myrtles;
olive and cypress trees;
    fir trees and pines.
20 Everyone will see this
    and know that I,
the holy Lord God of Israel,
    created it all.

Idols Are Useless

21 I am the Lord,
    the King of Israel!
Come argue your case with me.
    Present your evidence.
22 Come near me, you idols.[x]
Tell us about the past,
    and we will think about it.
Tell us about the future,
so we will know
    what is going to happen.
23 Prove that you are gods
by making your predictions
    come true.
Do something good or evil,
so we can be amazed
    and terrified.[y]
24 You idols are nothing,
    and you are powerless.[z]
To worship you
    would be disgusting.

25 I, the Lord, appointed a ruler
    in the north;
now he comes from the east
    to honor my name.
He tramples[aa] kings like mud,
    as potters trample clay.[ab]
26 Did any of you idols predict
    what would happen?
Did any of you get it right?
None of you told about this
    or even spoke a word.
27 I was the first to tell
the people of Jerusalem,
    “Look, it’s happening!”[ac]
I was the one who announced
    this good news to Zion.

28 None of these idols
are able to give advice
    or answer questions.
29 They are nothing,[ad]
    and they can do nothing—
they are less
    than a passing breeze.

Footnotes

  1. 36.7 worship: Hezekiah actually had torn down the places where idols were worshiped, and he had told the people to worship the Lord at the one place of worship in Jerusalem. But the Assyrian leader was confused and thought these were also places where the Lord was supposed to be worshiped.
  2. 37.9 Ethiopia: See the note at 11.11.
  3. 37.16 winged creatures: Two winged creatures made of gold were on the top of the sacred chest and were symbols of the Lord’s throne on earth (see Exodus 25.18; 2 Samuel 6.2).
  4. 37.21,22 Hezekiah, you prayed. . . Assyria: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 37.27 tender young grass. . . matures: The Standard Hebrew Text; the Dead Sea Scrolls and some Hebrew manuscripts “tender young grass, growing on a flat roof and scorched by the heat.” Many of the houses had roofs made of packed earth. Grass would sometimes grow on the roof, but would die quickly because of the sun and hot winds.
  6. 37.29 I will put. . . your mouth: This is how the Assyrians treated their prisoners, and now the Lord will treat Sennacherib the same way.
  7. 37.38 Esarhaddon became king: He ruled Assyria 681-669 B.C.
  8. 38.8 steps: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 8.
  9. 38.13 of me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 13.
  10. 38.14 help me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 14.
  11. 38.15 There’s. . . me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  12. 38.16 Your. . . me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  13. 38.17 deep pit: The world of the dead, as in verse 18.
  14. 38.19 about your faithfulness: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  15. 40.9 There. . . can: Or “City of Jerusalem, you have good news. Shout it as loud as you can.”
  16. 40.13 the Lord: Or “the Lord’s Spirit.”
  17. 40.20 Or. . . chosen: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. Two kinds of idols seem to be described: bronze idols covered with gold (verse 19) and wooden idols (verse 20).
  18. 40.21 Isn’t. . . world: Or “Hasn’t it been clear since the time of creation?”
  19. 41.2 ruler from the east: Probably Cyrus (see 44.28; 45.1; 48.14).
  20. 41.2 Who puts. . . power: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  21. 41.7 and other workers: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  22. 41.15 I will let. . . sharp spikes: In ancient times a heavy object was sometimes dragged over wheat or barley to separate the grain from the husk. This was called threshing.
  23. 41.15 mountain and hill: These stand for the power and pride of Israel’s enemies.
  24. 41.22 Come near. . . idols: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  25. 41.23 and terrified: Or “when we see it.”
  26. 41.24 powerless: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  27. 41.25 tramples: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  28. 41.25 trample clay: This was done to soften the clay and make it easier to shape.
  29. 41.27 Look. . . happening: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  30. 41.29 nothing: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

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