Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Chronicles 32:1
Sennacherib's campaign against Judah and Jerusalem, and the annihilation of his whole army by the angel of the Lord. In 2 Kings 18 and 19, and Isa 36 and 37, we have two minute parallel accounts of this war, which threatened the existence of the kingdom of Judah, in both of which the course of this attack by the Assyrian world-power upon the kingdom of God is circumstantially narrated. The author of the Chronicle gives only a short narrative of the main events of the struggle; but, notwithstanding its brevity, supplies us with several not unessential additions to these detailed accounts. After stating that Sennacherib invaded Judah with the design of conquering the kingdom for himself (Ch2 32:1), the author of the Chronicle described the preparations which Hezekiah made for the defence of the capital in case it should be besieged (Ch2 32:2-8). Then we have an account of Sennacherib's attempts to get Jerusalem into his power, by sending his generals, who sought to induce the people to submit by boastful speeches, and by writing threatening letters to Hezekiah (Ch2 32:9-19); and, finally, of Hezekiah's prayer to God for help, and the answer to his prayer - the wonderful annihilation of the Assyrian army (Ch2 32:20-23). The purpose of the chronicler in narrating these events was a didactic one: he wishes to show how God the Lord helped the pious King Hezekiah in this danger to his kingdom, and humbled the presumption of Sennacherib confiding in the might of his powerful army. For this purpose, a brief rhetorical summary of the main events of the struggle and its issues was sufficient. As to the facts, see the commentary on 2 Kings 18f. and Isa. 36f.
The didactic and rhetorical character of the narrative is manifest in the very form of the introductory statement. Instead of the chronological statement of Kg2 18:13, we find the loose formula of connection: after these events and this fidelity (cf. Ch2 31:20), Sennacherib came (בּא) and entered into Judah (ביהוּדה ויּבא), and besieged the fenced cities, and thought (ויּאמר) to break (conquer) them for himself. He had already taken a number of them, and had advanced as far as Lachish in the south-west of Judah, when he made the attempt to get Jerusalem into his power; cf. Kg2 18:13.
Preparations of Hezekiah for the strengthening and defending of Jerusalem. - We find an account of this neither in 2 Kings 18 nor in Isa 36; but the fact is confirmed both by Isa 22:8-11, and by the remark Kg2 20:20 (cf. Ch2 32:30 of our chapter).
When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib advanced, and his face was to war against Jerusalem, i.e., that he purposed to capture Jerusalem, he consulted with his princes and his valiant men to cover the waters of the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him, brought much people together, and covered all the springs, and the brook which ran through the midst of the land. סתם does not denote to obstruct, but only to hide by covering and conducting the water into subterranean channels. The brook which flowed through the midst of the land is the Gihon, which was formed by the waters flowing from the springs, and was dried up by these springs being covered and the water diverted. For further information, see on Ch2 32:30. The object of this measure is stated in the words which follow: Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water? i.e., why should we provide them with much water, when they advance against the city and besiege it? The plural, kings of Assyria, is rhetorical, as in Ch2 28:16.
The fortification of Jerusalem. יתחזּק, he showed himself strong, courageous, as in Ch2 15:8; Ch2 23:1. And he built the whole wall which was broken, i.e., he strengthened it by building up the breaches and defective places; cf. Isa 22:9. The words על־המּגדּלות ויּעל are obscure, since the translation "he mounted on the towers" has no meaning. But if יעל be taken as a Hiph., "he caused to ascend upon the towers," the object is wanting; and if we supply walls, it is arbitrary, for we might just as well suppose it to be machines which he caused to be carried to the top of the towers for defence against the enemy (Ch2 26:15). The lxx have wholly omitted the words, and the translation of the Vulg., et exstruxit turres desuper, appears to be only a guess, but is yet perhaps correct, and presupposes the reading מגדּלות עליה ויּעל, "and brought up upon it towers," in favour of which Ewald also decides. This conjecture is in any case simpler than Bertheau's, that על ויעל is a false transcription of ועליה: "he built the whole wall, and towers upon it, and outside was the other wall," and is therefore to be preferred to it. The "other wall" enclosed the lower city (Acra). This, too, was not first built by Hezekiah; he only fortified it anew, for Isa 22:11 already speaks of two walls, between which a body of water had been introduced: see on Ch2 32:30. He fortified also the Millo of the city of David (see on Ch1 11:8), and supplied the fortifications with weapons (שׁלח, a weapon of defence; see on Joe 2:8) in multitude, and with shields; cf. Ch2 26:14.
And, moreover, he set captains of war over the people, i.e., the populace of Jerusalem, assembled them in the open space at the city gate (which gate is not stated; cf. Neh 8:1, Neh 8:16), and addressed them in encouraging words; cf. Ch2 30:22. On Ch2 32:7, cf. Ch2 20:15, Deu 31:6, etc. "For with us is more than with him." רב, quite general, the closer definition following in Ch2 32:8 : "With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is Jahve, our God, to help us." An arm of flesh = frail human power; cf. Isa 21:3 : their (the Egyptians') horses are flesh, not spirit; Jer 17:5; Psa 56:5. "And the people leaned themselves on (i.e., trusted in) the words of Hezekiah." These statements are not inconsistent with the account in Kg2 18:14-16, that Hezekiah began to negotiate with the Assyrian king Sennacherib when he had begun to take the fenced cities of the land unto Lachish, promised to pay him tribute, and actually paid the sum demanded, employing for that purpose even the sheet gold on the temple doors. These negotiations are passed over, not only in our narrative, but also in Isa 36, because they had no influence upon the after course and the issue of the war. Sennacherib was not induced to withdraw by the payment of the sum demanded, and soon after the receipt of it he sent a detachment from Lachish against Jerusalem, to summon the city to surrender. The fortification of Jerusalem which the Chronicle records began before these negotiations, and was continued while they were in progress.
2 Chronicles 32:9
The advance of an Assyrian army against Jerusalem, and the attempts of Sennacherib's generals to induce the population of the capital to submit by persuasive and threatening speeches, are very breifly narrated, in comparison with 2 Kings 18:17-36. In Ch2 32:9, neither the names of the Assyrian generals, nor the names of Hezekiah's ambassadors with whom they treated, are given; nor is the place where the negotiation was carried on mentioned. עבדיו, his servants, Sennacherib's generals. על־לך, while he himself lay near (or against) Lachish, and all the army of his kingdom with him. ממשׁלתּו, his dominion, i.e., army of his kingdom; cf. Jer 34:1.
Only the main ideas contained in the speech of these generals are reported; in Ch2 32:10-12 we have the attempt to shake the trust of the people in Hezekiah and in God (Kg2 18:19-22). וישׁבים is a continuation of the question, In what do ye trust, and why sit ye in the distress, in Jerusalem? מסּית as in Kg2 18:32 : Hezekiah seduces you, to give you over to death by hunger and thirst. This thought is much more coarsely expressed in Kg2 18:27. - On Ch2 32:12, cf. Kg2 18:22 : אחד מזבּח is the one altar of burnt-offering in the temple.
The description of Sennacherib's all-conquering power: cf. Kg2 18:35; Isa 36:20, and Isa 37:11-13. "Who is there among all the gods of these peoples, whom my fathers utterly destroyed, who could have delivered his people out of my hand, that your God should save you?" The idea is, that since the gods of the other peoples, which were mightier than your God, have not been able to save their peoples, how should your God be in a position to rescue you from my power? This idea is again repeated in Ch2 32:15, as a foundation for the exhortation not to let themselves be deceived and misled by Hezekiah, and not to believe his words, and that in an assertative form: "for not one god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people, ... much less then (כּי אף) your gods: they will not save you;" and this is done in order to emphasize strongly the blasphemy of the Assyrian generals against the Almighty God of Israel. To communicate more of these blasphemous speeches would in the chronicler's view be useless, and he therefore only remarks, in Ch2 32:16, "And yet more spake his (Sennacherib's) servants against God Jahve, and against His servant Hezekiah;" and then, in Ch2 32:17, that Sennacherib also wrote a letter of similar purport, and (Ch2 32:18) that his servants called with a loud voice in the Jews' speech to the people of Jerusalem upon the wall, to throw them into fear and terrify them, that they might take the city. What they called to the people is not stated, but by the infinit. וּלבהלם ליראם it is hinted, and thence we may gather that it was to the same effect as the blasphemous speeches above quoted (יראם, inf. Pi., as in Neh 6:19). - On comparing 2 Kings 18 and 19, it is clear that Sennacherib only sent the letter to Hezekiah after his general Rabshakeh had informed him of the fruitlessness of his efforts to induce the people of Jerusalem to submit by speeches, and the news of the advance of the Cushite king Tirhakah had arrived; while the calling aloud in the Jews' language to the people standing on the wall, on the part of his generals, took place in the first negotiation with the ambassadors of Hezekiah. The author of the Chronicle has arranged his narrative rhetorically, so as to make the various events form a climax: first, the speeches of the servants of Sennacherib; then the king's letter to Hezekiah to induce him and his counsellors to submit; and finally, the attempt to terrify the people in language intelligible to them. The conclusion is the statement, Ch2 32:19 : "They spake of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of the hands of man;" cf. Kg2 19:18.
2 Chronicles 32:20
Prayer of King Hezekiah and of the prophet Isaiah for the help of the Lord. - Ch2 32:20. The main contents of Hezekiah's prayer are communicated in Kg2 19:14-19 and Isa 37:15-19. There it is not expressly said that Isaiah also prayed, but it may be inferred from the statement in Kg2 19:2. and Isa 37:2. that Hezekiah sent a deputation to the prophet with the request that he would pray for the people. In answer Isaiah promised the ambassadors deliverance, as the word of the Lord. זאת על, on account of this, i.e., on account of the contempt shown for the God of Israel, which was emphatically dwelt upon both in the prayer of Hezekiah (Kg2 19:16) and in the word of Isaiah, v. 22ff.
The deliverance: cf. Kg2 19:35.; Isa 37:36. The number of Assyrians smitten by the angel of the Lord is not stated, as it was not of importance, the main fact being that the whole Assyrian host was annihilated, so that Sennacherib had to return with disgrace into his own land. This is what is signified by the rhetorical phrase: The angel of Jahve destroyed all the valiant warriors, and the leaders and princes of the king of Assyria, and he returned with shame of face (cf. Ezr 9:7; Psa 44:16) to his land, where his sons slew him in the temple. In regard to the facts, see on Kg2 19:37 and Isa 37:38. The Keth. מיציאו is an orthographical error for מיציאי, a contraction of מן and יציאי from יציא, a passive formation with intransitive signification: some of those who went forth from his own bowels, i.e., some of his sons; cf. the similar formation miyliydeey, Ch1 20:4.
Conclusion of this event. So the Lord helped, etc., מיּד־כּל, and out of the hand of all, sc. his enemies; but we need not on that account, with some manuscripts, bring איביו into the text. וינהלם, and protected them round about. נהל, to lead, guide, with the additional idea of care and protection (Psa 31:4; Isa 49:10; Isa 51:18); and consequently here, protect, defend. There is therefore no need of the conjecture להם ויּנח להם erut, which Berth. holds to be the original reading, without considering that, though מסּביב ויּנח is a current phrase with the chronicler (cf. Ch2 14:6; Ch2 15:15; Ch2 20:30; Ch1 22:18), the supposition that these words became וינהלם מס by an orthographical error is not at all probable.
Many brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to King Hezekiah. רבּים is not to be restricted to Israelites, but probably denotes chiefly neighbouring peoples, who by the destruction of the Assyrian army were also freed from this dreaded enemy. They, too, might feel impelled to show their reverence for the God of Israel, who had so wonderfully delivered His people by their gifts.
2 Chronicles 32:24
Hezekiah's sickness and recovery; his pride and his humiliation. - Ch2 32:24. As to the sickness of Hezekiah, and the miraculous sign by which the prophet Isaiah assured him of recovery, see the account in Kg2 20:1-11 and Isa 38. The Chronicle has only given us hints on this matter. ויּאמר and נתן refer to the same subject - God. Hezekiah prayed, and in consequence of his prayer God spake to him, sc. by the mouth of the prophet, and gave him a miraculous sign.
"But Hezekiah rendered not according to the benefit unto him, for his heart was proud." In his sickness he had promised to walk in humility all his days (Isa 38:15): yet he became proud after his recovery; and his pride showed itself especially in his showing all his treasures to the Babylonian embassy, in idle trust in them and in the resources at his command (cf. Kg2 20:12-15; Isa 39:1-4). "And there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem," which participated in the king's sentiments (cf. Ch2 19:10; Ch1 27:24). Isaiah proclaimed this wrath to him in the prophecy that all the treasures of the king would be carried away to Babylon, and that some of his sons should become courtiers of the king of Babylon (Kg2 20:16-18; Isa 39:5-7), to which we should perhaps also reckon the threatening prophecy in Mic 3:12.
Then Hezekiah humbled himself in his pride, and the wrath came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah (cf. Isa 39:8). The threatened judgment was postponed because of this humiliation, and broke over the royal house and the whole kingdom only at a later time in the Chaldean invasion.
2 Chronicles 32:27
Hezekiah's riches; concluding estimate of his reign; his death and burial. - Ch2 32:27. Like Jehoshaphat (Ch2 17:5; Ch2 18:1), Solomon (Ch2 1:12), and David (Ch1 29:28), Hezekiah attained to riches and glory, and made unto himself treasure-chambers for silver, gold, precious stones, and spices, shields, and all manner of splendid furniture. The מגנּים are named instead of weapons in general. The collection of them brings to recollection the כּליו בּית (Kg2 20:13 and Isa 39:2).
Storehouses also (magazines) for the agricultural produce, and stalls for all manner of cattle, and stalls for the herds, like David (Ch1 27:25.) and Uzziah (Ch2 26:10). מסכּנות is a transposition of מכנסות, storehouses, from כּנס, to heap up. "Cattle and cattle" = all kinds of cattle. ארות, synonymous with אריות (Ch2 9:5), stables or stalls for cattle. The word אורות, which occurs only here, must have the same signification, and be held to be a transposed form of that word.
And cities (?) made (procured) he for himself. ערים cannot in this connection denote the usual cities; it must mean either watch-towers (from עוּר, to watch) or dwelling-places for herds and cattle, since עיר, according to Kg2 17:9, is used of any enclosed place, from a watch-tower to a fenced city. רכוּשׁ, as in Ch2 31:3, of possessions in herds.
The same Hezekiah covered the upper outlet of the water Gihon, and brought it down westwards to the city of David, i.e., by a subterranean channel into the city of David (see on Ch2 32:3). The form ויישׁרם is Piel ויישּׁרם; the Keri is the same conjug., only contracted into ויּשּׁרם, as ויּבּשׁ for וייבּשׁ, the ו of the third person having amalgamated with the first radical, under the influence of the ו consec. With the last clause in Ch2 32:30 cf. Ch2 31:21; Ch1 29:23.
"And so (i.e., accordingly) in the case of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, ... God left him." וכן does not denote attamen; it never has an adversative meaning. Bertheau rightly translates, "and accordingly," with the further remark, that by וכן the account of Hezekiah's treatment of the Babylonian ambassadors, which could not be reckoned among his fortunate deeds, is brought into harmony with the remark that he prospered in all his undertakings. It was permitted by God that Hezekiah should on this occasion be lifted up, and should commit an iniquity which could not but bring misfortune with it; not in order that He might plunge him into misfortune, but to try him, and to humble him (cf. Ch2 32:26).
הסדים, pious deeds, as in Ch2 6:42. ישׂ הזון is the book of Isaiah's prophecies; see the Introduction.
Hezekiah was buried "on the height of the graves of the sons of David," perhaps because there was no longer room in the hereditary burying-place of the kings; so that for Hezekiah and the succeeding kings special graves had to be prepared in a higher place of the graves of the kings. "They did him honour in his death," by the burning of many spices, as we may conjecture (cf. Ch2 16:14; Ch2 21:19).