Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Third, far advanced, as he was associated by his father in the last year of his reign, (Calmet) or three years before its termination. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 3. Good; opening the temple, celebrating the Passover with extraordinary magnificence, &c. He had invited people from all Israel, and at their return they broke many statues. Ezechias provided for the subsistence of the Levitical tribe, by ordering the laws to be put in execution in their favour, 2 Paralipomenon xxix., and xxx.
Ver. 4. Groves. The people were now more obedient, being terrified at the chastisement of Israel, (Calmet) though Samaria was not taken till the sixth year of this good king; who carried his reform rather than most of his predecessors, (Haydock) in destroying the high places which had been unlawfully (Calmet) retained, as consecrated to the true God. See ver. 22. (Haydock) — Yet Josias had still some to remove. (Menochius) — Nohestan; that is, their brass, or a little brass. So he called it in comtempt, because they had made a god of it. (Challoner) — Before, this image had been treated with due respect. When any relic or image becomes the occasion of abuse in the Catholic Church, it is thus taken away, or the error is otherwise corrected. See St. Augustine, City of God x. 8., Ser. 14., de Verb. Ap., &c. (Worthington) — Some of the ancients assert, that Ezechias suppressed many books of Solomon, on account of similar abuses. But this seems not to be well attested. We know that he made a collection of some of some of his sentences, Proverbs xxv. 1.
Ver. 5. Like him. Ezechias was remarkable for many excellent qualities. Yet we must not push these comparisons too far, contrary to the intention of the sacred writers. The same eulogium is given to Josias, (chap. xxiii. 25.) and David seems to be preferred, chap. xix. 34. These three are particularly commended, Ecclesiasticus xlix. 5. (Calmet) — Their virtues were certainly different in some respects. (Tirinus)
Ver. 7. Wisely. Hebrew, “with success.” Syriac, &c., “he was victorious wherever he went.” — Rebelled. The Assyrian assumed an undue authority in consequence of the words of Achaz, (chap. xvi. 7.) and arrogated to himself the authority of doing what he pleased with the people, ver. 32. Ezechias having formed various alliances, judged it necessary to make some resistance. Yet the prophet Isaias (xxx. 1.) complains of his applying to the Egyptians. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. City. Thus he punished them for their late invasion, 2 Paralipomenon xxviii. 18.
Ver. 9. Samaria. The same history is given, chap. xvii. 3. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. By the rivers. Gozan was the name of the river, as above; (Haydock) so that Salien suspects it should be fluvii, “of the river.” (Menochius)
Ver. 13. Sennacherib’s expedition in Egypt and Asia are mentioned by Herodotus (ii. 141.) and Berosus, (Josephus, [Antiquities?] x. 1.) but they do not say that he passed farther then Pelusium, (Calmet) the frontier on the Egyptian side of Palestine. (Haydock) — These expeditions might have been performed in less than eight months, during the 14th year of Ezechias, who fell sick, perhaps soon after the ruin of Sennacherib’s army, chap. xx. 1. Isaias (x. 28.) represents the Assyrian proceeding from Gabaa towards Egypt, and thence he ascended to attack the cities of Juda, (ver. 25.) Manresa, (Micheas i. 15.) &c. While he was before Lachis, Ezechias, dreading the horrors of war, purchased a peace: but the tyrant soon after sent to require him to surrender at discretion; and in the mean time he went to besiege Lebna, where his envoys found him, having received no answer from the king of Juda. The haughty Assyrian being obliged to go to meet the king of Chus, sent insolent letters to Ezechias; but the latter was assured that all his menaces were to be despised, and on the same night that Sennacherib left Lebna, the angel destroyed 185,000 of his men. It is thought that the siege of Lachis did not take place till three years after Sennacherib had come into Palestine, and after he had spent that time in attacking Egypt, chap. xix. 24. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] x. 2., and 3.) — He attempted afterwards to take the southern cities of Juda, in order to cut off all communication with Egypt; as Nabuchodonosor, Holofernes, and Eupator probably intended to do, Jeremias xxiv. 7., Judith vi., and vii., and 1 Machabees vi. 31. (Calmet) — Offended, and been imprudent. (Menochius) — Gold, so that the value of each was equal. (Du Hamel) — Josephus reads, “or thirty,” as if that quantity of gold would suffice. (Haydock) — The talent contains 3000 sicles. (Menochius) — The heart of Ezechias fainted at the approach of so great an army, though he had before made the greatest preparations, chap. xx. 2., 2 Paralipomenon xxxii. 5., and Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 19. (Tirinus)
Ver. 16. On them. All must go to meet the exigencies of the state. (Grotius, Jur. ii. 5.) — The doors of temples and palaces were frequently adorned with the most precious metals, as Homer describes the palace of Alcinous; (Odyssey; H) and Tavernier (vii. 12.) speaks of some mosques in Persia, the doors of which are covered with plates of silver. See Josephus, Jewish Wars vi. 6.
Ver. 17. Tharthan, or Thathania, (1 Esdras v. 3.) and in the Greek of Isaias xx. 1., means “the president of tributes,” or presents. The two other names denote “the chief eunuch,” and “the chief butler,” and are not proper names. These officers were sent at the head of a strong army to Jerusalem. — Field, by the torrent Cedron, to the east. There they defied the king, or perhaps endeavoured to persuade him to come out, that they might seize his person. (Calmet) They came in a military capacity, rather than as ambassadors.
Ver. 18. House. Josephus says, “procurator of the palace or kingdom.” (Haydock) — The house often refers to the temple, when placed without any explanation, Isaias xxii. 15. (Calmet) — Eliacim was prefect of the prętorium, (Salien) or grand master of the palace. He was richly dressed, and possessed a great authority over the people. — Scribe. See Judges viii. 14. This Sobna, according to St. Jerome, is different from the one who was over the house in the days of Manasses, before Eliacim was restored to his office, (Calmet) unless he also was a different person. (Tirinus) — The Jews say Sobna was deprived of his dignity, on account of his having betrayed the lower city to Sennacherib. See Isaias xxii. 21. — Recorder, or chancellor, &c., 2 Kings viii. 16. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Counsel. Hebrew, “Thou sayest (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for the war.” (Protestants) (Haydock) — You have vainly boasted. (Calmet) — Isaias xxvi. 5. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Pierce it. He alludes to the reeds which grow on the Nile. See Delrio, adag. 210. Egypt had been already greatly harassed in the expedition of Sennacherib, so that no succour could be expected thence. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. Jerusalem. Many were perhaps displeased at this injunction, and Rabsaces endeavoured to excite them to revolt, and insinuates (Calmet) that the king had made God his enemy, (Haydock) and must expect punishment from him. (Theodoret, in Isaias xxxvi. 5.) He perhaps was ignorant that these altars were contrary to his law. (Menochius) — Yet the Jews say that Rabsaces was son of Isaias, (ap. St. Jerome, bib.) or a Samaritan.
Ver. 23. Over. Josephus insinuates that it is a challenge to fight, and that Rabsaces was so confident of victory, that he made this contemptuous proposal, (Haydock) knowing that the subjects of Ezechias were not good horsemen, (Calmet) or that they were comparatively (Haydock) so few in number. (Menochius) — Hebrew, “agree, or give pledges to my master.”
Ver. 25. Destroy. Prosperity renders a man insolent, and the passions blind him. Rabsaces interprets success to be a sure proof of the divine approbation, and thus attempts to justify all the excesses of his master. (Calmet) — God only used Sennacherib as a rod to chastise his people. (Menochius) — The most wicked often represent themselves as the executioners of God’s will, and attribute their ambition to his decrees. (Haydock) — God did not order the Assyrians to destroy the land: he rather threatened to destroy them, Isaias xxxvii., and 2 Paralipomenon xxxii. (Worthington)
Ver. 26. Syriac, or Chaldean language, which was spoken at the Assyrian court, 1 Esdras iv. 7., and Daniel ii. 4. Rabsaces was acquainted with both the languages; as the Jews say he was an apostate, which they infer from this passage, and from the legates tearing their clothes when they heard him blaspheme; as they pretend this was only done when blasphemy came from the mouth of an Israelite. (Grotius) — But these reasons are very weak. (Calmet) — The like was practised when any thing terrifying was heard, ver. 37. (Haydock) — The reasons why the legates desire Rabsaces not to speak in a language which the common soldiers understood, was to prevent them from shewing their indignation by shooting at him, or out of fear, lest they should be induced to cause some sedition. (Menochius)
Ver. 27. With you. Insolent bravado! whence some have inferred the probability of pigeons’ dung being really eaten, chap. vi. 25. (Calmet) — Rabsaces threatens them with all the horrors of famine, so that they shall eat such things, if they refuse to give up the city. (Menochius)
Ver. 29. My. Hebrew and Vatican Septuagint, “his (Sennacherib’s) hand.” But the other reading of the Syriac, &c., is more natural. These words do not occur [in] Isaias xxxvi. 14.
Ver. 31. Advantage. Hebrew, “make a blessing,” or present. (Calmet) — Chaldean and Syriac, “peace.”
Ver. 32. Till. Sennacherib will remove you to another country, but it will be as good as this. He requires you to surrender at discretion. (Calmet) — Deliver us. This will not be in his power, no more than it was in that of the other tutelary gods. (Menochius) — Infidels and heretics are very foolish thus to compare their delusions with God, and his holy religion. (Worthington)
Ver. 34. Emath, Emesa. — Arphad, or Arad, an island and city on the continent, (Calmet) near Tyre. — Of Ana, &c., “of,” is not expressed in the Vulgate, (Haydock) and it may be explained as if Ana and Ava were idols of Sepharvaim. (Menochius) — But they are commonly supposed to be cities. (Haydock) — Ana is probably a city (Du Hamel) built on both sides of the Euphrates, four days’ journey from Bagdat. Isaias does not specify these cities in the parallel passage, but they are found in the letter addressed to Ezechias, Isaias xxxvii. 13. — Samaria, or the inhabitants who had come from distant parts, and had perhaps revolted. We do not however find that Sennacherib had conquered them, nor does the pretend that all these conquests were made by himself. (Calmet) — He gives part of the honour to his ancestors, chap. xix. 12., and 2 Paralipomenon xxxii. 13. But he asserts that all the gods of the respective countries of Samaria, &c., had yielded to his superior force. (Haydock) — Strange infatuation in a man who looked upon the idols as gods! They are in effect nothing, 1 Corinthians viii. 4. But as their votaries were of a different persuasion, ought they not to have acted and spoken consistently? Yet Suetonius (Caius, c. 5.) informs us, that “on the day when Germanicus died, the temples were stoned, the altars of the gods overturned, the domestic lares thrown out by some into the open air;” all to express their grief and indignation at the gods, for not preserving his life. (Haydock)
Ver. 36. The people. The three legates, (Calmet) Isaias xxxvi. 21. And they held their peace. (Haydock)
Ver. 37. Rent, as was customary on such dismal occasions. Joakim is reprehended for not shewing this mark of consternation, when he heard the dreadful predictions of Jeremias, xxxvi. 24. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The reign of Ezechias: he abolisheth idolatry, and prospereth. Sennacherib cometh up against him: Rabsaces soliciteth the people to revolt; and blasphemeth the Lord.
1 In *the third year of Osee, the son of Ela, king of Israel, reigned** Ezechias, the son of Achaz, king of Juda.
2 He was five and twenty years old when he began to reign: and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem: the name of his mother was Abi, the daughter of Zacharias.
3 And he did that which was good before the Lord, according to all that David, his father, had done.
4 He destroyed the *high places, and broke the statues in pieces, and cut down the groves, and broke the brazen serpent, **which Moses had made: for till that time the children of Israel burnt incense to it: and he called its name Nohestan.
5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel: so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Juda, nor any of them that were before him:
6 And he stuck to the Lord, and departed not from his steps, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.
7 Wherefore the Lord also was with him, and in all things, to which he went forth, he behaved himself wisely. And he rebelled against the king of the Assyrians, and served him not.
8 He smote the Philistines as far as Gaza, and all their borders, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
9 *In the fourth year of king Ezechias, which was the seventh year of Osee, the son of Ela, king of Israel, Salmanasar, king of the Assyrians, came up to Samaria, and besieged it,
10 And took it. For after three years, in the sixth year of Ezechias, that is, in the ninth year of Osee, king of Israel, Samaria was taken:*
11 And the king of the Assyrians carried away Israel into Assyria, and placed them in Hala, and in Habor, by the rivers of Gozan, in the cities of the Medes:
12 Because they hearkened not to the voice of the Lord, their God, but transgressed his covenant: all that Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded, they would not hear, nor do.
13 *In the fourteenth year of king Ezechias, Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, came up against the fenced cities of Juda, and took them.
14 Then Ezechias, king of Juda, sent messengers to the king of the Assyrians, to Lachis, saying: I have offended, depart from me: and all that thou shalt put upon me, I will bear. And the king of the Assyrians put a tax upon Ezechias, king of Juda, of three hundred talents of silver, and thirty talents of gold.
15 And Ezechias gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the king’s treasures.
16 At that time Ezechias broke the doors of the temple of the Lord, and the plates of gold which he had fastened on them, and gave them to the king of the Assyrians.
17 And the king of the Assyrians sent Tharthan, and Rabsaris, and Rabsaces, from Lachis, to king Ezechias, with a strong army, to Jerusalem: and they went up and came to Jerusalem, and they stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the way of the fuller’s field.
18 And they called for the king: and there went out to them Eliacim, the son of Helcias, who was over the house, and Sobna, the scribe, and Joahe, the son of Asaph, the recorder.
19 And Rabsaces said to them: Speak to Ezechias: Thus saith the great king, the king of the Assyrians: What is this confidence, wherein thou trustest?
20 Perhaps thou hast taken counsel, to prepare thyself for battle. On whom dost thou trust, that thou darest to rebel?
21 Dost thou trust in Egypt, a staff of a broken reed, upon which if a man lean, it will break and go into his hand, and pierce it? so is Pharao, king of Egypt, to all that trust in him.
22 But if you say to me: We trust in the Lord, our God: is it not he, whose high places and altars Ezechias hath taken away: and hath commanded Juda and Jerusalem: You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?
23 Now, therefore, come over to my master, the king of the Assyrians, and I will give you two thousand horses, and see whether you be able to have riders for them.
24 And how can you stand against one lord of the least of my master’s servants? Dost thou trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
25 Is it without the will of the Lord that I am come up to this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me: Go up to this land, and destroy it.
26 Then Eliacim, the son of Helcias, and Sobna, and Joahe, said to Rabsaces: We pray thee, speak to us, thy servants, in Syriac: for we understand that tongue: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the hearing of the people that are upon the wall.
27 And Rabsaces answered them, saying: Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words, and not rather to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their urine with you?
28 Then Rabsaces stood, and cried out with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said: Hear the words of the great king, the king of the Assyrians.
29 Thus saith the king: Let not Ezechias deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of my hand.
30 Neither let him make you trust in the Lord, saying: The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of the Assyrians.
31 Do not hearken to Ezechias. For thus saith the king of the Assyrians: Do with me that which is for your advantage, and come out to me: and every man of you shall eat of his own vineyard, and of his own fig-tree: and you shall drink water of your own cisterns,
32 Till I come, and take you away, to a land, like to your own land, a fruitful land, and plentiful in wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olives, and oil, and honey, and you shall live, and not die. Hearken not to Ezechias, who deceiveth you, saying: The Lord will deliver us.
33 Have any of the gods of the nations delivered their land from the hand of the king of Assyria?
34 *Where is the god of Emath, and of Arphad? where is the god of Sepharvaim, of Ana, and of Ava? **have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?
35 Who are they among all the gods of the nations that have delivered their country out of my hand, that the Lord may deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for they had received commandment from the king that they should not answer him.
37 And Eliacim, the son of Helcias, who was over the house, and Sobna, the scribe, and Joahe, the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Ezechias, with their garments rent, and told him the words of Rabsaces.
1: 2 Paralipomenon xxviii. 27. and xxix. 1. — ** Year of the World 3277, Year before Christ 727.
4: Year of the World 3278. — ** Numbers xxi. 9.
9: 4 Kings xvii. 6.; Tobias i. 2.
10: Year of the World 3283.
13: 2 Paralipomenon xxxii. 1.; Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 20.; Isaias xxxvi. 1.
34: 4 Kings xix. 13.; Isaias x. 9. and xxxvii. 13. — ** 4 Kings xvii. 24.