Isaiah 36 Commentary


The historical record in this appendix is almost identical to that found in 2 Kings 18:13-20:19. There seem to be two main reasons for this appendix. First, it provides the background to Isaiah’s messages concerning Hezekiah and the Assyrians that have just been considered (Chapters 28-33). Second, it shows


how Babylon began to become involved in Judean affairs, and so provides a fitting introduction to the second part of the book.

The Assyrian attack (36:1-22)

Once Hezekiah was satisfied that he had military backing from Egypt, he took the bold step of rebelling against the overlord, Assyria. He declared his independence of Assyria by refusing to pay further tribute (cf. 30:1-2; 2 Kings 18:7b).

After dealing with rebellions elsewhere, the Assyrian army, under the new king Sennacherib, set out to attack Jerusalem. When Hezekiah heard that the enemy had conquered the Judean countryside and was approaching Jerusalem, he quickly prepared the city’s defences and cut off any water supply outside the city that might have been of use to the besieging armies (36:1; 2 Chron. 32:2-5).

Upon seeing the size of the Assyrian army, Hezekiah was sorry he had rebelled and offered to pay Sennacherib whatever amount he demanded (2 Kings 18:14-16). Sennacherib took a large sum of money, but then treacherously declared that he intended to punish Jerusalem anyway. He sent some of his chief officers to try to persuade Hezekiah to surrender, pointing out the uselessness of reliance on Egypt for help. In this the Assyrian officials agreed with the prophet Isaiah, though for different reasons (2-6).

The Assyrians went on to say that to depend on Yahweh was equally useless, as Yahweh was the one who had sent them to destroy Jerusalem. Their statements showed they had an inaccurate understanding of Judah’s religion, but they felt confident that neither Judah’s God nor Judah’s army could withstand them (7-10).

When they found that Jerusalem’s leaders were not willing to cooperate, the Assyrian officials turned to address the common people (11-12). They tried to win the people’s approval by promising good treatment for them if they deserted Hezekiah and surrendered unconditionally (13-17). They brought about their own undoing, however, by insulting Israel’s God. They claimed that Yahweh was no better than the gods of other nations that Assyria had conquered, and they challenged him to rescue Jerusalem from their crushing siege (18-20). In spite of the Assyrians’ promises and threats, the common people remained loyal to Hezekiah (21-22).

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