Envoys from Bavel ~ Yesha’yahu 39:1-8

In my last post, we learned about Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22. In this post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39:1-8.

1 M’rodakh-Bal’adan the son of Bal’adan, king of Bavel, heard that Hizkiyahu had been ill and had recovered, so he sent a letter and a gift to him.

Following the destruction of Ashur, Bavel emerges as the new world power. This is an important transition because it will be Bavel who will ultimately carry the Jews into captivity. M’rodakh-Bal’adan was king of Bavel, at this time a province of the Ashurim Empire. In 703 BCE, Sancheriv, to whom M’rodakh-Bal’adan had been a constant irritant looking for opportunities to revolt, removed him. Even after his removal from Bavel, M’rodakh-Bal’adan went to Elam and continued to plot against Ashur until his death. The letters and a gift that he sent to Hizkiyahu were part of a strategy to get Hizkiyahu to join with him in a rebellious alliance.

2 Hizkiyahu was pleased with the gifts and showed the messengers all of the building where he kept his treasures, including the silver, gold, spices and precious oils; also all of the building where he kept his armor; and everything in his treasury — there was nothing in his palace or in his entire domain that Hizkiyahu did not show them.

Hizkiyahu responded positively to M’rodakh-Bal’adan, showing him the wealth of his kingdom as well as the strength of his armaments. What in the world was Hizkiyahu thinking? Even I know that was a pretty dumb thing to do. Let’s read on and learn just how tragic it proved to be.

3 Then Yesha‘yahu the prophet came to King Hizkiyahu and asked him, “What did these men say? Where did they come from?” Hizkiyahu answered, “They came to me from a distant country, Bavel.” 4 Yesha‘yahu asked, “What have they seen in your palace?” “They have seen everything in my palace,” said Hizkiyahu. “There isn’t a thing among my treasures that I haven’t shown them.”

In Luke 2:19,51, when Miryam, mother of Yeshua, was given revelation and insight, she treasured those things in her heart. If Adonai gives you treasured revelation, you don’t need to spout it out to everyone immediately. If Adonai gives you insight and glorious truths, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to treasure them in your heart.

5 Yesha‘yahu said to Hizkiyahu, “Hear what Adonai-Tzva’ot says: 6 ‘The day will come when everything in your palace, along with everything your ancestors stored up until today, will be carried off to Bavel. Nothing will be left,’ says Adonai. 7 ‘They will carry off some of your descendants, your own offspring; and they will be made eunuchs serving in the palace of the king of Bavel.”

Adonai through the prophet Yesah’yahu expressed his great displeasure with Hizkiyahu. The king’s actions demonstrated that he was trusting foreign nations like Bavel for his protection rather than Adonai. Adonai’s punishment would take away the wealth that Hizkiyahu had been showing off to M’rodakh-Bal’adan. Another part of the punishment was that some of the king’s descendants would be taken away and would become eunuchs in Bavel. Bavelim records indicate that a number of the Bavelim king’s advisers were eunuchs.

8 Hizkiyahu said to Yesha‘yahu, “The word of Adonai which you have just told me is good”; because he thought, “At least peace and truth will continue during my lifetime.” ~ Isaiah 39:1-8 (CJB)

The announced punishment implied that it would happen in a future generation. Hizkiyahu’s selfish relief does not speak well for him. The reference likely refers to the turbulent end of the Davidic dynasty in Y’hudah and specifically to the events surrounding the exile and removal of the last king, Tzidkiyahu (see 2 Kings 25:7).

In my next post, we begin to learn about Comfort for God’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11.

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Hizkiyahu’s Poem ~ Yesha’hayu 38:9-22

In my last post, we learned of Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38:1-8. In this post, we examine Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22.

9 After Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah had been ill and had recovered, he wrote the following:

The introduction to Hizkiyahu’s poem states that it was written after he had been sick and had recovered. In this respect, the poem is like the thanksgiving songs in Psalms. In the first part of this poem, Hizkiyahu spoke as if he were going to die, but from the second half of the poem, it is clear that it was written after he was healed.

10 “I once said: ‘In the prime of life I am going off to the gates of Sh’ol. I am being deprived of living out the full span of my life.’

Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the ancient concept of an underworld.

11 “I said, ‘I will never again see Yah, Yah in the land of the living; I will look on human beings no more or be with those who live in this world.

Hizkiyahu does not view Yah (a name of God) as an afterlife experience. The land of the living refers to this world and leaves open the question about Hizkiyahu’s belief in the afterlife.

12 My home is uprooted and taken away from me like a shepherd’s tent. Like a weaver, I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom. Between day and night, you could finish me off. 13 I try to be strong like a lion till morning, but still, my illness breaks all my bones – between day and night you could finish me off.

This verse has several metaphors. The shepherd frequently moved from place to place and therefore could break camp quickly. The weaver working on a horizontal loom had the threads and material stretched on bars between stakes. When it had to be moved, the bars could be pulled off the stakes and rolled up. When the weaver finished a piece of cloth, the threads connecting the material to the loom had to be cut. The weaving of Hizkiyahu’s life had been completed, and he was now to be cut loose from the land of the living.

14 I make little chattering sounds like a swallow; I moan aloud like a dove, My eyes are weary with looking upward. Adonai, I am overwhelmed; guarantee my life!’

Hizkiyahu moans sound like the chirping of a bird.

15 “What is there that I can say? He has spoken to me and acted! I will go humbly all my years, remembering how bitter I was. 16 Adonai, by these things people live; in all these is the life of my spirit. You’re restoring my health and giving me life –

God had spoken, and King Hizkiyahu had been delivered from premature death.

In the fifteen additional years, he was given, Hizkiyahu made two terrible mistakes. In addition to providing the Bavelim reason to attack Y’hudah (see 39:5-8), he fathered a son named Manasseh – the worst king in Y’hudah‘s history. It was Manasseh who finally brought down the judgment of God upon Y’hudah.

I believe Hizkiyahu’s story is recorded to show us that there is both a perfect and permissible will of God. Therefore, the best way to pray is to pray as Yeshua did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, let not my will but yours be done.” ~ Luke 22:42 (CJB)

17 though instead of peace, I felt very bitter. You desired my life and preserved it from the nothingness pit; for you threw all my sins behind your back.

Hizkiyahu‘s bitterness refers back to his mournful reaction to news of his impending death. This bitterness is what led him to seek God in prayer and ultimately to God’s relenting from His death sentence. The king referred to the grave as the nothingness pit. After all, in the grave, the body rots and turns to dust.

18 “Sh’ol cannot thank you; death cannot praise you; those descending to the pit cannot hope for your truth.

Here Sh’ol and death are personified. The implication, as made clear by the phrase those descending to the pit, is that the dead can no longer have hope or praise God.

19 The living, the living – they can thank you, as I do today; fathers will make their children know about your faithfulness.

Adonai benefits from keeping His saints alive. The living can praise Him, and they can share that praise with the following generations.

20 Adonai is ready to save me; hence, we will make our stringed instruments sound all the days of our life in the house of Adonai.”

Hizkiyahu sang this song of deliverance after being given fifteen additional years to live on earth. We have been given not fifteen years, but all of eternity – not to live on earth, but eternal life with Yeshua heaven. How much more significant, then, should our song of deliverance be!

21 Then Yesha‘yahu said, “Have them take a fig-plaster and apply it to the inflammation, and he will recover.” 22 Hizkiyahu asked, “What sign will there be that I will be able to go up to the house of Adonai?” ~ Isaiah 38:9-22 (CJB)

These last two verses are an appendix that fills in some facts from earlier in the story. Apparently, Hizkiyahu had a skin disease, perhaps a boil that was causing his body temperature to rise dangerously. Here, we see that, while God performed the miracle of moving the clock backward, He also used a common medicinal substance of the day to heal Hizkiyahu. Medicine doesn’t heal. Miracles don’t heal. Our immune systems don’t heal. It is God who heals. And He can use medicine, miracles, our bodies, or a combination of all three to do His will.

In my next post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39.

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Hizkiyahu’s Illness ~ Yesha’hayu 38:1-8

In my last post, we concluded our mini-series of Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 4 in Yesha’hayu 37:30-38. In this post, we learn of Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38:1-8.

This post is deliberately short as I did not want to break up Hizikiyahu’s Poem beginning in verse 9.

1 Around this time Hizkiyahu became ill to the point of death. Yesha‘yahu the prophet, the son of Amotz, came and said to him, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not live.’” 2 Hizkiyahu turned his face toward the wall and prayed to Adonai: 3 “I plead with you, Adonai, remember now how I have lived before you truly and wholeheartedly, and how I have done what you see as good.” And he cried bitter tears. 4 Then the word of Adonai came to Yesha‘yahu: 5 “Go and tell Hizkiyahu that this is what Adonai, the God of David, your ancestor, says: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; therefore I will add fifteen years to your life.

Adonai heard the prayer of Hizkiyahu and increased his lifespan by 15 years. Hizkiyahu was the descendant of David, who had been promised a son on the throne in Yerushalayim forever. Hizkiyahu may not have had an heir at this time (his heir, Manasseh, was 12 years old when Hizkiyahu died; see 2 Kings 21:1). This meant that if he died before the fifteen-year extension, the Davidic dynasty would come to an end.

6 Also, I will rescue you and this city from the power of the king of Ashur; I will defend this city.

The reference to the deliverance of the city from the king of Ashur may indicate that this episode took place during the Ashurim threat described in chapters 36-37.

7 The sign for you from Adonai that Adonai will do what he said is 8 that I will cause the shadow of the sundial, which has started going down on the sundial of Achaz, to go backward ten intervals.’” So, the sun went back ten intervals of the distance it had already gone down.” ~ Isaiah 38:1-8 (CJB)

Hizkiyahu’s sign brings to mind the sign offered to his father Achaz in chapter 7. While Achaz was not interested in receiving a sign, probably because he had other plans in mind, Hizkiyahu did not try to refuse the sign. Their contrasting responses reveal the difference between Achaz, who trusted in other nations, and Hizkiyahu, who believed in Adonai.

The return of the sun’s shadow on the sundial indicated a lengthening of the day that would be comparable to Adonai’s lengthening of the life of Hizkiyahu. The parallel account in 2 Kings 20:9-11 indicates that Hizkiyahu was allowed to choose whether the shadow would go forward or back. Hizkiyahu chose the latter since he considered that the more difficult feat.

In my next post, we begin to examine Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22.

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Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 4 ~ Yesha’hayu 37:30-38

In my last post, we continued t learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 37:21-29. In this post, we conclude our mini-series of Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 4 in Yesha’hayu 37:30-38.

Adonai directed these words to Hizkiyahu, king of Y’hudah, to show him that the future would see a turn for the better for Adonai’s people.

30 “‘This will be the sign for you [people of Isra’el]: this year, you will eat the grain that grows of itself; the second year, you will eat what grows from that; but in the third year, you will sow, reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

Because of the siege by Ashur, the people were penned up behind the walls of Yerushalayim and had not been able to plant their crops. Adonai’s promise to His people is that they would eat the fruit of their land, that they wouldn’t be carried away captive.

31 “‘Meanwhile, the remnant of the house of Y’hudah that has escaped will again take root downward and bear fruit upward; 32 for a remnant will go out from Yerushalayim, those escaping will go out from Mount Tziyon. The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this.’

Now the prophecy speaks of a metaphorical harvest of the surviving remnant of the people of Adonai. The future will see the remnant become productive.

33 “Therefore this is what Adonai says concerning the king of Ashur: “‘He will not come to this city or even shoot an arrow there; he will not confront it with a shield or erect earthworks against it. 34 “‘By the way he came he will return; he will not come to this city,’ says Adonai. 35 ‘For I will defend this city and save it, both for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.’”

Wow, what a promise and comfort! Adonai announced that Sancheriv would fail at his attempt to take the city. He would not even begin the assault but would return to Ashur. Adonai would do this for His glory and because of the promise He had made to David. Adonai promised David that “your house and your kingdom will be made secure forever before you; your throne will be set up forever.” ~ 2 Samuel 7:16 (CJB)

,36 Then the angel of Adonai went out and struck down 185,000 men in the camp of Ashur. Early the next morning, there they were, all of them, corpses – dead. 37 So Sancheriv king of Ashur left, went and returned to live in Ninveh.

One hundred eighty-five thousand Ashurim were wiped out in one evening by the angel of the Adonai – an incredible, monumental victory. Adonai’s ways are beyond even our wildest imaginations.

38 One day, as he was worshipping in the temple of Nisrokh, his god, his sons Adramelekh and Shar’etzer struck him with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. So, his son Esar-Hadon took his place as king. ~ Isaiah 37:21-38 (CJB)

Nisrokh was an unknown Ashurim god or, more likely; the name was given by the Hebrews to a god known by another name. Ararat was a region located around Lake Van north of Ashur. It was known in antiquity as Urartu and was a long-standing foe of Ashur, thus a likely place for the murderous sons of Sancheriv to escape. While Adramelekh and Shar’etzer are not known by name, Esar-Hadon is known to have succeeded his father Sancheriv after the king’s death in 683 BCE. It appears that almost 20 years passed from the time Sancheriv withdrew from Yerushalayim in 701 BCE to the time when he died at the hands of his sons. [1]

It was a fitting, although tragic end to this one who worshiped idols created by man instead of the Creator of the universe.

In my next post, we begin to examine Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.

Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’hayu 37:21-29

In my last post, we continued t learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10. In this post, we continue in our mini-series of Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 37:21-29.

21 Then Yesha‘yahu, the son of Amotz, sent this message to Hizkiyahu: “Adonai the God of Isra’el says: ‘You prayed to me against Sancheriv king of Ashur.’

Adonai responded to Hizkiyahu through His divinely chosen prophet Yesha‘yahu. Yesha‘yahu spoke in the name of Adonai. I don’t know about you, but I’ve only experienced one-time in my walk with Yeshua when I spoke out in a situation a message that I believed was from the Lord and it was very unsettling for me, although it was well-received with the person I shared it.

22 Here is Adonai’s answer concerning him: “‘The virgin daughter of Tziyon despises you; she laughs you to scorn. The daughter of Yerushalayim shakes her head at you.

As we have seen earlier, daughter of Tziyon is a personification of Tziyon, the holiest location in Y’hudah. This reminds the reader of the intimate relationship Adonai enjoyed with His people. The response was addressed to none other than Sancheriv, so the use of this title for Adonai’s people shows from the start how important they were to Him.

23 Whom have you taunted and insulted? Against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted your eyes? The Holy One of Isra’el!

Sancheriv was accustomed to serving powerless gods who could neither see, hear, nor speak (Psalm 135:15-17). Here, however, he had come up against the Holy One of Isra’el, the Creator rather than the created. His taunts and insults were nothing more than idol threats.

24 “‘Through your servants you taunted Adonai. You said, “With my many chariots I have ascended the mountain heights even in the far reaches of the L’vanon. I cut down its tall cedars and its best cypress trees. I reached its remotest heights and its best forests. 25 I dug [wells] and drank the water. The soles of my [soldiers’] feet dried up all the rivers of Egypt.”

L’vanon’s cedar forests were well known throughout the ancient Near East. Sancheriv had boasted that he was able to travel to Egypt. These are allusions to the Ashurim’s self-proclaimed capability to overcome any physical obstacle in their path of conquest.

26 “‘Haven’t you heard? Long ago I made it; in antiquity I produced it; and now I am making it happen: you are turning fortified cities into heaps of ruins, 27 while their inhabitants, shorn of power, are disheartened and ashamed, weak as grass, frail as plants, like grass on the rooftops or grain scorched by the east wind.

Now Adonai revealed to Sancheriv the true nature of things. Sancheriv had boasted of his achievements, but Adonai announced that he had done nothing without divine design. Sancheriv’s victories had come about only because Adonai had willed it.

28 “‘But I know when you sit when you leave when you enter — and when you rage against me.

In language reminiscent of Psalm 139, Adonai asserted His extensive knowledge of the Ashurim king. All the while the Ashurim thought it was their might and ingenuity that enabled them to devour any nation at will, they were only able to do so by Adonai’s permission (see Isaiah 10:5-6).

29 And because of your rage against me, because of your pride that has reached my ears, I am putting my hook in your nose and my bridle on your lips; and I will make you return by the way on which you came.

It was Ashurim practice to put a hook in the nose or the mouth of captives as they carried them into exile. Adonai told Sancheriv that he would be subjected to this brutal and degrading treatment. [1]

In my next post, we conclude our mini-series in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 4 in Yesha’yahu 37:1-38.

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[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’hayu 37:11-20

In my last post, we begin a new mini-series on Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10. In this post, we continue to learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 37:11-20.

11  You have heard what the kings of Ashur have done to all lands — they have completely destroyed them. So how will you be delivered?12  Have the gods of the nations delivered them? No, my ancestors destroyed them — Gozan, Haran, Retzef, and the people of ‘Eden who were in Tel’asar. 13  Where is the king of Hamat? the king of Arpad? the king of the city of S’farvayim, of Hena and ‘Ivah?’”

Verses 11-13 repeat the thrust of the threat we saw in Yesha’yahu 36:18-20. Sancheriv again told Hizkiyahu that he should not trust Adonai. After all, the gods of other nations and cities conquered by Ashur in the past had been unable to help them.

14  Hizkiyahu took the letter from the messengers’ hands and read it. Then Hizkiyahu went up to the house of Adonai and spread it out before Adonai. 15  This is the prayer that Hizkiyahu prayed to Adonai:

Hizkiyahu took this threatening letter to the house of the Adonai and spread it out before Him. That’s always a good thing to do with threatening letters that come your way or bills too big to pay. Just spread them out and say, Adonai, help!” Logically and militarily, Yerushalayim was no match for Ashur. But that didn’t stop Hizkiyahu from calling out to the only One who could save them.

16  “Adonai-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el, who dwells above the k’ruvim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth.

Hizkiyahu addressed his prayer to Adonai-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el whom he described as enthroned above the k’ruvim. The k’ruvim were among the most powerful of Adonai’s heavenly creatures and are often represented at places close to the divine presence. In particular, this refers to the two k’ruvim whose wings covered the ark of the covenant as it rested in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple. Hizkiyahu appealed to Adonai as the One who made the heavens and the earth – the One who is sovereign over all the kingdoms on earth, not just Y’hudah – since Sancheriv had mocked Adonai as a mere local deity.

17  Turn your ear, Adonai, and hear! Open your eyes, Adonai, and see! Hear all the words that Sancheriv sent to taunt the living God. 18  It is true that the kings of Ashur have laid waste all the countries and their lands 19  and have thrown their gods into the fire. For those were nongods, merely the products of people’s hands, wood, and stone; this is why they could destroy them. 20  Now, therefore, Adonai our God, save us from his power— so that all the kingdoms on earth will know that you are Adonai – you only.”

Sancheriv had dared to compare the Adonai to mere idols and suggested that he would defeat Adonai’s people as quickly as he had defeated the gods of the other countries. This is a prayer that produces power because the motivation was not for Hizkiyahu‘s protection but Adonai’s glorification. If Y’hudah should be defeated, then the nations, and in particular Ashur, would believe that Adonai was just like the false gods of all the other nations.

21  Then Yesha‘yahu, the son of Amotz, sent this message to Hizkiyahu: “Adonai the God of Isra’el says: ‘You prayed to me against Sancheriv king of Ashur.’ 22  Here is Adonai’s answer concerning him: “‘The virgin daughter of Tziyon despises you; she laughs you to scorn. The daughter of Yerushalayim shakes her head at you. ~ Isaiah 37:11-22 (CJB)

Adonai responded to Hizkiyahu through His divinely chosen prophet, Yesha’yahu. As Yesha’yahu spoke, he spoke in the name of Adonai.

Daughter Tziyon is a personification of Tziyon, the holiest location in Y’hudah. This reminds the reader of the intimate relationship Adonai enjoyed with His people. The response was addressed to none other than Sancheriv, so the use of this title for Adonai’s people shows from the start how important they were to Adonai.

In my next post, we continue to unpack this exciting encounter in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 37:21-38.

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Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 ~Yesha’hayu 37:1-10

In my last post, we completed the examination of The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22. In this post, we begin a new mini-series on Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10.

1 On hearing it, King Hizkiyahu tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and entered the house of Adonai.

It was the report from Hizkiyahu’s officials (see Yesha’yahu 36:22). Hizkiyahu assumed a posture of mourning when he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth. He did not turn to a foreign nation like Egypt for help, but he turned to Adonai.

When things are looking bad, the best place for us to be is in the house of the Adonai with the people of Adonai. The enemy will do everything possible to discourage us from coming to the house of the Adonai. But Hizkiyahu knew that was exactly where he needed to be.

2 He sent Elyakim, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and the leading cohanim, covered with sackcloth, to Yesha‘yahu the prophet, the son of Amotz. 3 They said to him, “This is what Hizkiyahu says: ‘Today is a day of trouble, rebuke, and disgrace. Children are ready to be born, but there is no strength to bring them to birth. 4 Maybe Adonai your God will hear the words of Rav-Shakeh, whom his master the king of Ashur has sent to taunt the living God, and will rebuke the message which Adonai your God has heard. So pray for the remnant that is left.’”

Hizkiyahu sent a message to Yesha’yahu, saying, Rav-Shakeh has been troubling us, threatening us, and blaspheming Adonai. The time has come to stand -but we have no strength.” Do you ever feel that way? You know it’s a time to be strong, to stand up, to stand fast – and yet you feel drained? Let’s see how Yesha’yahu handled it on behalf of Hizkiyahu.

Hizkiyahu then sent two of his delegation to elicit prayers on behalf of the nation from the prophet Yesha’yahu. One of the primary roles of a prophet was to provide intercessory prayer. The first mention of a prophet in the Bible links the office with prayer (Genesis 20:7). Most of the prophets, beginning with Moshe (Exodus 33) and Sh’mu’el (1 Samuel 12:23), demonstrated the critical role of prayer in their work.

5 When King Hizkiyahu’s servants came to Yesha‘yahu, 6 he said to them, “Tell your master that this is what Adonai says: ‘Don’t be afraid of the words you heard the servants of the king of Ashur use to insult me.

Yesha’yahu assured King Hizkiyahu through his men that Adonai would remedy the threat presented by the Ashurim army. Adonai took the Ashurim challenge personally. The king had shown trust in the Adonai by approaching Yesha’yahu, His servant, to pray.

Of Yeshua, Yesha’yahu would prophesy, Adonai Elohim has given Me the ability to speak as a man well taught, so that I, with My words, know how to sustain the weary. Each morning He awakens My ear to hear like those who are taught.” Isaiah 50:4 (CJB). Do we have a sure word for the fearful people around us? We will if we wake morning by morning to wait on the Adonai. Start your day in prayer.

7 I will put a spirit in him that will make him hear a rumor and return to his own land; then I will cause him to die by the sword in his own land.’”

Adonai would send a spirit of deception to Rav-Shakeh so he would hear and believe a falsehood that would cause him to retreat. The fact that Adonai would send such a spirit evokes the memory of the evil spirit Adonai sent to torment Sha’ul (1 Samuel 16:14) and the deceiving spirit Adonai used to deceive King Achav (1 Kings 22:22).

8 Rav-Shakeh returned and, having heard that the king of Ashur had left Lakhish, found him making war with Livnah.

When Rav-Shakeh had traveled to Yerushalayim, the Ashurim king and his army were at Lakhish, but when Rav-Shakeh returned, the king was at Livnah, a town about eight miles northeast of Lakhish. Sennacheriv had completed the capture of Lakhish and had moved on to the next city on what seemed to be an unstoppable march toward Yerushalayim.

9 Then he heard it said that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia was on his way to fight him. On hearing this, the king of Ashur sent messengers to Hizkiyahu, after ordering them,

Tirhakah, at this point in history (701 BCE) may have been the crown prince of Egypt. He became pharaoh of all Egypt in 690 BCE and ruled until 664 BCE. [1]

10 “This is what you are to say to Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah: ‘Don’t let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, “Yerushalayim will not be handed over to the power of the king of Ashur.”Isaiah 37:1-10 (CJB)

The rumor of Tirhakah’s advance on his rear flank caused Sennacheriv to retreat from his march on Yerushalayim, but before he left, he sent a message to warn Hizkiyahu that his departure was only temporary.

In my next post, we continue to unpack this exciting encounter in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 37:11-20.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.

The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’hayu 36:1-10

In my last post, we learn of The Joy of the Redeemed in Yesha’hayu 35:1-10. In this post, we learn The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 361-10.

The Ashurim had been swallowing up the territory between Nineveh, the capital city of Ashur, and Yerushalayim, the capital city of Y’hudah. They had already defeated Isra’el’s ten northern tribes. With the Ashurim forces only ten miles from Yerushalayim, it looked as though Yerushalayim, a relatively small and weak city, would be defeated, as well. But Adonai had promised that He would bring about deliverance. And this is the story of that deliverance.

1 It was in the fourteenth year of King Hizkiyahu that Sancheriv king of Ashur advanced against all the fortified cities of Y’hudah and captured them.

The Ashurim had defeated the northern kingdom of Isra’el in 722 BCE and put Y’hudah in a position where they had to pay an annual tribute to keep the Ashurim from attacking them. In 703 BCE Sancheriv succeeded his father Sargon on the throne of Ashur. Many nations, including Y’hudah, seized upon this succession in leadership as an opportunity to rebel against Ashur. After taking care of rebellions in other parts of his empire, Sancheriv turned his attention to Y’hudah in 701 BCE. He quickly took many of the smaller fortified cities on the way to Yerushalayim. For accounts of this confrontation, see 2 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 32.

Hizkiyahu, king of Y’hudah, was a very godly man. Being a man, he had the vulnerability and weakness common to all men. Earlier, he had tried to appease the Ashurim by stripping the gold and silver from the doors of the temple and giving it to Sancheriv. But he found the same thing that you and I see. That is, appeasing the devil never works because he always wants more.

2 From Lakhish the king of Ashur sent Rav-Shakeh to Hizkiyahu in Yerushalayim with a large army. He positioned himself by the aqueduct from the Upper Pool, which is by the road to the Launderers’ Field.

Lakhish was a critical garrison city about 30 miles west of Yerushalayim. It guarded the road that led to Yerushalayim. The king of Ashur, along with his armies, was still at Lakhish when he sent one of his chief officials, the Rav-Shakeh to present an ultimatum to Yerushalayim. Rav-Shakeh stood at the same place where Yesha’yahu had confronted Achaz at an earlier time (see Isaiah 7:3).

3 Elyakim, the son of Hilkiyahu, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and Yo’ach, the son of Asaf, the foreign minister, went out to meet him.

All three of these gentlemen were high ranking officials in Hizkiyahu’s government.

4 Rav-Shakeh addressed them: “Tell Hizkiyahu: ‘Here is what the great king, the king of Ashur, says: “What makes you so confident? 5 I say: do mere words constitute strategy and strength for battle? In whom, then, are you trusting when you rebel against me like this?

The purpose of Rav-Shakeh’s speech was to try to get Hizkiyahu to surrender. He questioned the basis of Hizkiyahu’s refusal in attempting to undermine the foundations of his confidence. He first asked whether the people of Y’hudah were militarily prepared to counter the Ashurim threat.

6 Look! Relying on Egypt is like using a broken stick as a staff – when you lean on it, it punctures your hand. That’s what Pharaoh king of Egypt is like for anyone who puts his trust in him.

Rav-Shakeh then undermined any confidence the nation of Y’hudah might have in Egypt as an ally. He used the metaphor of a splintered reed of a staff. A staff was something a person leaned on for support. However, this staff was made out of a reed that could not support a person’s weight. Indeed, Adonai through Yeshayahu had been making the same point. Egypt was not an ally that could be trusted.

7 But if you tell me, ‘We trust in Adonai our God,’ then isn’t He the one whose high places and altars Hizkiyahu has removed, telling Y’hudah and Yerushalayim, ‘You must worship before this altar’?

Finally, Rav-Shakeh questioned whether Adonai would protect Hizkiyahu. Indeed, the removal of all altars except the one on Mount Tziyon conformed with the law of centralization in Deuteronomy 12. The alters Hizkiyahu removed were altars of false gods. Rav-Shakeh’s argument shows that he did not understand the religion of Y’hudah. Therefore Rav-Shakeh was speaking ignorantly.

8 All right, then, make a wager with my lord, the king of Ashur: I will give you two thousand horses if you can find enough riders for them.

Rav-Shakeh then taunted Y’hudah by offering them 2,000 horses, suggesting that they could not find riders for them.

9 How then can you repulse even one of my master’s lowest-ranked army officers? Yet you are relying on Egypt for chariots and riders! 10 Do you think I have come up to this land to destroy it without Adonai’s approval? Adonai said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it!’” ~ Isaiah 36:1-10 (CJB)

Rav-Shakeh continues, saying, “The Egyptians won’t help you. The Lord won’t help you. You can’t even ride horses. And besides that, He sent us to destroy you.”  His statement reflects ancient Near Eastern pagan theology. The Ashurim believed that the God of Isra’el was a real deity, though perhaps not a strong one. Rav-Shakeh claimed that Y’hudah’sGod had ordered the nation’s destruction. Adonai did use foreign nations on occasion to punish His people, but in this case, Rav-Shakeh was wrong, as further developments of the confrontation between Ashur and Isra’el would indicate.

In my next post, we continue to learn that The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Joy of the Redeemed ~ Yesha’hayu 35:1-10

In my last post, we explored A Prophecy Against the Nations in Yesha’yahu 34:1-17. In this post, we learn of The Joy of the Redeemed in Yesha’hayu 35:1-10.

Chapter 35 is a mirror image of chapter 34, where Adonai announced that He would turn the nations into a wilderness. In chapter 35, He proclaimed that He would transform the people of Adonai from a wilderness into a garden. The principle of both chapters is that Adonai’s people should trust Him, not the nations.

1 The desert and the dry land will be glad; the ‘Aravah will rejoice and blossom like the lily.

In Romans 8, Sha’ul tells us that all creation is groaning, waiting for the day of redemption. In other words, even the earth realizes it’s in a fallen state. But when Yeshua comes back, everything will be made right once again.

Recall that the ‘Aravah is the desert area south of the Dead Sea. Scientists tell us that the deserts on our planet are expanding at an alarming rate. Ten thousand square miles of desert are being added in North Africa alone each year. But when the kingdom comes, the desert shall suddenly rejoice and blossom like a lily.

How can this be? It is suggested by some scientists that there will be another shift of the axis. If the earth is made straight again, much of the polar ice caps will melt, adding incredible amounts of water and causing evaporation and the reemergence of a water canopy surrounding the planet. Fossil evidence indicates that the earth at one time was uniformly temperate. Scientists suggest that this could happen again. [1] This is an interesting theory, but I don’t think it is connected to “global warming” per se.

2 It will burst into flower, will rejoice with joy and singing, will be given the glory of the L’vanon, the splendor of Karmel and the Sharon. They will see the glory of Adonai, the splendor of our God.

With the elimination of Edom, regions north of that land are freed from oppression and are restored to fertility and prosperity. L’vanon, Karmel, and Sharon were regions especially lush in vegetation.

3 Strengthen your drooping arms, and steady your tottering knees. 4 Say to the fainthearted, “Be strong and unafraid! Here is your God; He will come with a vengeance; with God’s retribution He will come and save you.”

Adonai will save His people from the godless nations that oppress them. Adonai’s retribution refers to the punishment due to the wicked and the reward due to the righteous.

How are we to strengthen people who feel weak or fearful? We are to tell them Yeshua is coming back. The way to enhance people – whether yourself or others – is to say, “Fear not. Be strong. Yeshua will come and save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped; 6 then the lame man will leap like a deer, and the mute person’s tongue will sing. For in the desert, springs will burst forth, streams of water in the ‘Aravah; 7 the sandy mirage will become a pool, the thirsty ground springs of water. The haunts where jackals lie down will become a marsh filled with reeds and papyrus.

In the Kingdom, the healing ministry that Yeshua began on earth will be gloriously completed. Elsewhere in Yesha’yahu, these physical disabilities (blind, deaf, and lame) are metaphors for spiritual shortcomings (29:18; 42:18-19; 43:8). They have been physically dead to godliness, but in the future, they will come alive. Not only will the lame walk, but they will leap like a deer. Not only will the mute speak, but they will sing for joy. A similar transformation is described with the language of nature. The parched ground will flow with water.

8 A highway will be there, a way, called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not pass over it, but it will be for those whom He guides – fools will not stray along it.

In the Kingdom Age, the Way of Holiness shall be established. Everyone will walk together in love and righteousness as the Prince of Peace reigns. Even the most foolish of us will not miss the cutoff or take a wrong turn on this glorious highway of wholeness and rightness.

9 No lion or other beast of prey will be there, traveling on it. They will not be found there, but the redeemed will go there.

HaSatan will be bound at this time. Thus, we will not even hear a growl from the roaring lion of 1 Kefa 5:8.

10 Those ransomed by Adonai will return and come with singing to Tziyon, on their heads will be everlasting joy. They will acquire gladness and joy, while sorrow and sighing will flee. ~ Isaiah 35:1-10 (CJB)

The road described in verse 8 will be safe, and it will lead to Tziyon, where Adonai makes His presence known to His people.

Somewhere we got the mistaken idea that holiness is joyless. Here, however, we see that, as we cruise down the Way of Holiness, everlasting joy will replace heaviness and gladness will replace sadness.

In my next post, we begin to learn that The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 36.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

A Prophecy Against the Nations ~ Yesha’yahu 34:1-17

In my last post, we wrapped up A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 33:14-24. In this post, we explore A Prophecy Against the Nations in Yesha’yahu 34:1-17.

In Yesha’yahu 34, we see a picture of the Great Tribulation, specifically the battle of Har-Megiddo.

1 Come close, you nations, and listen! Pay close attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and everything in it; the world, with all it produces.

The first thing I noticed in this verse was the pluralization of the nation. Adonai is not just the God of Israel. He is the Adonai of the whole world, so He calls on all the nations to hear Him when He speaks. That includes all of us.

2 For Adonai is angry at every nation, furious with all their armies; He has completely destroyed them, handed them over to slaughter. (emphasis added.) 3 Their slain will be thrown out; the stench will rise from their corpses; the mountains will flow with their blood.

Revelation 14:20 tells us that, at the battle of Har-Megiddo, the blood will flow as high as a horse’s bridle. Jeremiah 30 calls this the time of Ya’akov’s trouble, for, in the Tribulation, the nation of Isra’el and all the earth will be shaken to its core in preparation for the coming of the King.

4 The whole host of heaven will decompose, the heavens themselves be rolled up like a scroll; all their array will wither away like a withering grape-leaf that falls from a vine or a withered fig from a fig tree.

Adonai’s warring activity has cosmic implications. The ancient nations thought of the stars as representing their gods. This image in Yesha’yahu of the whole panorama of the sky being rolled up like a parchment scroll is unique in the Hebrew Bible. In Revelation 6:14 we read: “The sky receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place.”

5 ‘For my sword has drunk its fill in heaven; now it descends on Edom to judge them, the people I have doomed to destruction.’

Since verses 1-4 are concerned with Adonai’s punishment of the nations, it may be that the description of Edom as a sacrificial victim is simply an example of what will happen to them all. Indeed Edom serves in many cases as Israel’s prototype “enemy.”

6 There is a sword that belongs to Adonai. It is filled with blood, gorged with fat, filled with the blood of lambs and goats, gorged with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For Adonai has a sacrifice in Botzrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. 7 The wild oxen will fall with them, the young bulls with the strong, mature ones. Their land will be drunk with blood, and their dust made greasy with fat.

Botzrah is the capital of ancient Edom, present-day Saudi Arabia. Edom is the area where Esau settled. The language of sacrifice is explicit in these verses.

8 For Adonai has a day of vengeance, a year of requital for fighting with Tziyon.

Edom had a reputation for taking advantage of Isra’el whenever Isra’el was weak.

9 Its streams will be changed to tar, its dust to sulfur, its land burning tar 10 that will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever. In all generations, it will lie waste; no one will pass through it ever again.

Although often mentioned as a sealant material for boats, boiling tar appears in Old Babylonian texts as a form of punishment. Coupled with the foul smell of burning sulfur, both elements being available in the region of the Dead Sea, they could easily be associated with Adonai’s wrath. This punishment is similar to that He had brought against Sodom and Gomorrah.

For years, Bible scholars wondered how an area could burn forever. Now we know – for if a bomb or some other device ignited the vast oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, they would burn forever. Whether a bomb ignites them or they are ignited supernaturally, they will indeed burn. [1]

11 Horned owl and hawk will possess it, screech owl and raven will live there; he will stretch over it the measuring line of confusion and the plumbline of the empty void.

The symbol for utter destruction here is that birds best known as inhabiting and scavenging desolate places have settled in ruins.

12 Of its nobles, none will be called to be king, and all its princes will be nothing.

Edom’s kingship was ancient, predating that of Isra’el, but Adonai will bring that institution to an end since He is bringing the nation itself to a close.

13 Thorns will overgrow its palaces, nettles, and thistles its fortresses; it will become a lair for jackals, an enclosure for ostriches. 14 Wildcats and hyenas will meet there, and billy-goats call to each other; Lilit [the night monster] will lurk there and find herself a place to rest. 15 There the hoot owl will nest, lay her eggs, hatch and gather her young in its shade. There the vultures will assemble, every one with its mate.

The prophecy is that of a city becoming a wilderness. Not only will the public buildings of the nation be overgrown out of neglect, but wild animals – a number of which were considered unclean – will make their homes among the ruins.

16 Consult the book of Adonai and read it: not one of these will be missing, none will be lacking a mate. For by His own mouth He gave the order, and by His Spirit, He brought them together. 17 It is He who cast the lot for them, His hand measured out their shares. They will possess it forever, and live there through all generations.” ~ Isaiah 34:1-17 (CJB)

The meaning of the book of Adonai is unknown. It may be a reference to a heavenly scroll, but if so, it is hard to know how the hearer could refer to this document. The appeal to a scroll could be a rhetorical device to emphasize the certainty of Edom’s destruction and its transformation into a haunt for wild animals.

In my next post, we explore The Joy of the Redeemed in Yesha’hayu 35:1-10.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.