Isaiah 36-39 provides a historical interlude involving the Prophet Isaiah and the Judean King, Hezekiah. These four chapters also comprise the fifth major division in the Book of Isaiah. The previous four divisions include: I. The LORD is the Holy One of Israel (1-12); II. Oracles Against the Nations (13-23); III. The Little Apocalypse (24-27); and IV. Judgment and Salvation (28-35).
Chapters 36-39 are divided as follows: A. King Hezekiah is Delivered from King Sennacherib (36-37); B. King Hezekiah is Delivered from Illness (38); and C. King Hezekiah’s Self-Confidence Leads to the Future Exile of Judah (39). The four chapters duplicate almost verbatim 2 Kings 18:13–20:19 (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:1–23).
Chapters 36-37 contain a narrative concerning the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian army under the command of King Sennacherib (701 B.C.). The chapters also describe the LORD’s glorious deliverance of His holy city.
Prior to attacking Jerusalem, King Sennacherib of Assyria sent his military commander, the Rabshakeh, to threaten, ridicule, and intimidate King Hezekiah and the Judean people. Three of Hezekiah’s top officials—Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah—met with Sennacherib’s military commander (36:1-3).
The message delivered to King Hezekiah was twofold: First, Judah cannot depend on Egypt for help against the Assyrians (36:4–6). Second, Judah cannot depend upon God (36:7–12, 18–21). Therefore, Judah should surrender (36:13–17).
Hezekiah initially grieved and tore his clothes and dressed in sackcloth (36:22). He then approached the Prophet Isaiah and begged him to intercede and ask God for help (37:2-4). Isaiah’s responded and told Hezekiah that King Sennacherib would experience death and defeat (37:5-7).
Following this, Sennacherib informed Hezekiah that he and Judah would be destroyed (37:8-13). Hezekiah then prayed to the LORD for deliverance (37:14-20; 2 Kings 19:14-19). His prayer is worth noting.
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods, but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”
The LORD condemned Sennacherib because of his pride (37:21-28). Sennacherib would be led back to Assyria with a hook in his nose and a bit in his mouth (37:29).
It is at this same time that the LORD consoled and comforted King Hezekiah. The LORD promised the king that the land would soon enjoy abundant crops (37:30–32), and the Assyrians would never enter Jerusalem (37:33–35). The LORD would defend the city and His people. That very night, the LORD’s angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian troops. Sennacherib fled back to Assyria where his sons eventually killed him (37:36-38).
Even when circumstances and situations seem darkest, we must remember that the LORD is sovereign and providential. He is in control of our lives.
Soli deo Gloria!