Here is, I. The formidable design of Sennacherib against Hezekiah’s kingdom, and the vigorous attempt he made upon it. This Sennacherib was now, as Nebuchadnezzar was afterwards, the terror and scourge and great oppressor of that part of the world. He aimed to raise a boundless monarchy for himself upon the ruins of all his neighbours. His predecessor Shalmaneser had lately made himself master of the kingdom of Israel, and carried the ten tribes captives. Sennacherib thought, in like manner, to win Judah for himself. Pride and ambition put men upon grasping at universal dominion. It is observable that, just about this time, Rome, a city which afterwards came to reign more than any other had done over the kings of the earth, was built by Romulus. Sennacherib invaded Judah immediately after the reformation of it and the re-establishment of religion in it: After these things he entered into Judah, 2 Chron. 32:1. 1. It was well ordered by the divine Providence that he did not give them this disturbance before the reformation was finished and established, as it might then have put a stop to it. 2. Perhaps he intended to chastise Hezekiah for destroying that idolatry to which he himself was devoted. He looked upon Hezekiah as profane in what he had done, and as having thrown himself out of the divine protection. He accordingly considered him as one who might easily be made a prey of. 3. God ordered it at this time that he might have an opportunity of showing himself strong on the behalf of this returning reforming people. He brought this trouble upon them that he might have the honour, and might put on them the honour, of their deliverance. After these things, and the establishment thereof, one would have expected to hear of nothing but perfect peace, and that none durst meddle with a people thus qualified for the divine favour; yet the next news we hear is that a threatening destroying army enters the country, and is ready to lay all waste. We may be in the way of our duty and yet meet with trouble and danger. God orders it so for the trial of our confidence in him and the manifestation of his care concerning us. The little opposition which Sennacherib met with in entering Judah induced him to imagine that all was his own. He thought to win all the fenced cities (2 Chron. 32:1), and purposed to fight against Jerusalem, 2 Chron. 32:2. See 2 Kgs. 18:7, 13.
II. The preparation which Hezekiah prudently made against this storm that threatened him: He took counsel with his princes what he should do, what measures he should take, 2 Chron. 32:3. With their advice he provided, 1. That the country should give him a cold reception, for he took care that he should find no water in it (and then his army must perish for thirst), or at least that there should be a scarcity of water, by which his army would be weakened and unfitted for service. A powerful army, if it want water but a few days, will be but a heap of dry dust. All hands were set immediately to work to stop up the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, turning that (it is probable) into the city by pipes under-ground. Such as this is the policy commonly practised now-a-days of destroying the forage before an invading army. 2. That the city should give him a warm reception. In order to this he repaired the wall, raised towers, and made darts (or, as it is in the margin, swords or weapons) and shields in abundance (2 Chron. 32:5), and appointed captains, 2 Chron. 32:6. Note, Those that trust God with their safety must yet use proper means for their safety, otherwise they tempt him, and do not trust him. God will provide, but so must we also.
III. The encouragement which he gave to his people to depend upon God in this distress. He gathered them together in a broad open street, and spoke comfortably to them, 2 Chron. 32:6. He was himself undaunted, being confident the invasion would issue well. He was not like his father, who had much guilt to terrify him and no faith to encourage him, so that, in a time of public danger, his heart was moved, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind, and then no marvel that the heart of his people was so too, Isa. 7:2. With what he said he put life into his people, his captains especially, and spoke to their heart, as the word is. 1. He endeavoured to keep down their fears: “Be strong and courageous; do not think of surrendering the city or capitulating, but resolve to hold it out to the last man; do not think of losing the city, nor of falling into the enemy’s hand; there is no danger. Let the soldiers be bold and brave, make good their posts, stand to their arms, and fight manfully, and let the citizens encourage them to do so: Be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria.” The prophet had thus encouraged them from God (Isa. 10:24): Be not afraid of the Assyrians; and here the king from him. Now it was that the sinners in Zion were afraid (Isa. 33:14), but the righteous dwelt on high (Isa. 33:15, 16) and meditated on terror so as to conquer it. See Isa. 33:18; which refers to what is recorded here. 2. He endeavoured to keep up their faith, in order to the silencing and suppressing of their fears. “Sennacherib has a multitude with him, and yet there are more with us than with him; for we have God with us, and how many do you reckon him for? With our enemy is an arm of flesh, which he trusts to; but with us is the Lord, whose power is irresistible, our God, whose promise is inviolable, a God in covenant with us, to help us, and to fight our battles, not only to help us to fight them, but to fight them for us if he please:” and so he did here. Note, A believing confidence in God will raise us above the prevailing fear of man. He that feareth the fury of the oppressor forgetteth the Lord his Maker, Isa. 51:12, 13. It is probable that Hezekiah said more to this purport, and that the people rested themselves upon what he said, not merely upon his word, but on the things he said concerning the presence of God with them and his power to relieve them, the belief of which made them easy. Let the good subjects and soldiers of Jesus Christ rest thus upon his word, and boldly say, Since God is for us, who can be against us?