1* When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his garments, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2He 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,
3“Thus says Hezekiah:
A day of distress and rebuke,
a day of disgrace is this day!
Children are due to come forth,
but the strength to give birth is lacking.* a
4Perhaps 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.”
5When the servants of King Hezekiah had come to Isaiah, 6he 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.b
7I 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.”
8When the commander, on his return, heard that the king of Assyria had withdrawn from Lachish, he found him besieging Libnah. 9The king of Assyria heard a report: “Tirhakah,* king of Ethiopia, has come out to fight against you.”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.’c 11You, 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? 12Did the gods of the nations whom my fathers destroyed deliver them—Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the Edenites in Telassar? 13Where are the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, or a king of the cities Sepharvaim, Hena or Ivvah?”
14Hezekiah 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, 15Hezekiah 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.*
17Incline your ear, LORD, and listen!
open your eyes, LORD, and see!
Hear all the words Sennacherib has sent
to taunt the living God.
18Truly, O LORD,
the kings of Assyria have laid waste
the nations and their lands.
19They gave their gods to the fire
—they were not gods at all,
but the work of human hands—
Wood and stone, they destroyed them.d
20Therefore, 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* 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! 22This is the word the LORD has spoken concerning him:e
She despises you, laughs you to scorn,
the virgin daughter Zion;
Behind you she wags her head,
23Whom 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!f
24Through 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.
25I myself dug wells
and drank foreign water;
Drying up all the rivers of Egypt
beneath the soles of my feet.’
26Have 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,g
27Their people powerless,
dismayed and distraught,
They are plants of the field,
thatch on the rooftops,
Grain scorched by the east wind.
28I know when you stand or sit,
when you come or go,
and how you rage against me.
29Because 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.h
30This shall be a sign* 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!
31The remaining survivors of the house of Judah
shall again strike root below
and bear fruit above.i
32For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant,
and from Mount Zion, survivors.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.j
33Therefore, 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.
34By the way he came he shall leave,
never coming as far as this city,
oracle of the LORD.
35I will shield and save this city
for my own sake and the sake of David my servant.”k
36Then 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!* l 37So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp, departed, returned home, and stayed in Nineveh.
38When 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.* His son Esarhaddon reigned in his place.
* [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.
e. [37:22] 2 Kgs 19:21.
k. [37:35] Is 31:5; 1 Kgs 15:4.