Isaiah 37: Sennacherib’s Defeat & Death

Before we review chapter 37, it should be mentioned that chapters 36 and 37 of Isaiah are nearly identical to chapters 18 & 19 of II Kings. According to Hailey’s commentary on Isaiah, the evidence is strong that these chapters were authored by Isaiah rather than the compiler of Kings.

Last chapter we dealt with the weakness of God’s people in the face of earthly strength. Now let’s have a look at how the events unfold after Sennacherib’s threat through the Rabshakeh.

This lengthy chapter is divided into four parts:

1. Verses 1-7: Hezekiah turns to Isaiah

2. Verses 8-20: Hezekiah’s faith

3. Verses 21-35: God’s scathing words of dominance through Isaiah

4. Verses 36-38: 185,000 dead soldiers and Sennacherib’s death

1. Verses 1-7: Hezekiah turns to Isaiah

In this passage, we see Hezekiah’s great fear at the Rabshakeh’s words from Sennacherib. Hezekiah is turning to Isaiah because he wants Isaiah to pray that God will rebuke Sennacherib for his blasphemous words. From chapter 36, we will remember how Sennacherib had said through the Rabshakeh that Hezekiah’s God could not save them.

Hezekiah is righteous to turn to Isaiah to pray that God would deliver the righteous remnant from this dangerous threat. Hezekiah has fear of defeat, yet He still believes that God has the power to save His people from Sennacherib. Indeed, Isaiah’s encouragement to Hezekiah is strong as he says the following of Sennacherib in verse 7: “Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”

2. Verses 8-20: Hezekiah’s faith

When the Rabshakeh returns to Sennacherib, Sennacherib is already fighting against a nation called Libnah. Sennacherib then hears that Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia is seeking to make war with him as well. Not wanting to wage war on yet another front, Sennacherib instead sends messengers to Hezekiah with more threats and proud boasting.

Instead attacking Jerusalem, Sennacherib is trying to get God’s people to surrender without any fighting taking place. Sennacherib’s relenting to attack at the news Tirhakah attacking him could very well be the effect of the spirit and rumor that Isaiah spoke of in verse 7.

Starting in verse 14, we have Hezekiah’s prayer to the Lord to deliver them. It is an encouraging prayer because we can see that Hezekiah:

– Has great reverence for God and belief in His power

– Knows that the idols in the land are not gods, but are wood and stone, the work of men’s hands

– Has faith that God can save them from Sennacherib, despite Sennacherib’s dominance of the surrounding nations

3. Verses 21-35: God’s scathing words of dominance through Isaiah

After Hezekiah’s prayer, Isaiah relays the Word of the Lord to Hezekiah. In this passage, we see God’s endearing love for and protection of His people. We also see God reminding Sennacherib that He is indeed God and that His power was at work long before Sennacherib.

Mocking Sennacherib’s boasts, God tells him that He formed the very land Sennacherib is boasting about defeating. Verses 26 & 27 show that Sennacherib’s power is not even Sennacherib’s power, but that it is all at the direction of Almighty God. Sennacherib does not even comprehend the breadth of God’s dominance over him, such is His ignorance, faith in himself and lack of belief.

God further shows His dominance over Sennacherib by likening him to a bull or donkey that He can easily control. Sennacherib never really even has a chance at success against God’s people.

God then assuages Hezekiah’s fear with the assurance that the city of Jerusalem will be protected and that Sennacherib will go back the way he came. God would not tolerate this blasphemy from Sennacherib and saved Jerusalem “…For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”

4. Verses 36-38: 185,000 dead soldiers and Sennacherib’s death

If there was any question whose power is at rule, these verses settle it. The scripture says that “…the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.”

We are not given any other details about the manner of death; only that it happened supernaturally and during the night. The effect was devastating enough to send Sennacherib back home to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. While he is worshipping his idol there, his son’s come in and kill him with the sword, taking advantage of him at this weak point. The foretelling that Sennacherib would die by the sword in his own land from verse 7 came true. Truly a sad ending to the blasphemer Sennacherib.

A great blesson to learn from this chapter is found in the contrast evident in the two sides: Hezekiah in Jerusalem prayed to God for deliverance and his pure faith rested only in God. Contrarily, Sennacherib boasted in his earthly power, which we know from verse 26 he only had because God gave it to him. Also consider the two places of worship. When Hezekiah prayed to God in the house of the Lord, God heard his prayer and delivered then from Sennacherib’s threats, sustaining life for His people. When Sennacherib prayed to his idol Nisroch, he was murdered there by his own sons.

There are so many reasons and examples of how and why God is God in the Bible. I urge you to take encouragement from this story of Hezekiah and Sennacherib to go to God in times of trouble in your own life. If we are faithful, patient and believe that God can save us, it will all be done according to His righteous will and power.

Praise God!

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