Miracles Do Not Always Happen in Rapid Succession, ישעיהו לז:לא-לח / Isaiah 37:31-38

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Introduction to Isaiah 37:31-38

What we note about this historical account is that Sennacherib confronted the God of Israel and was defeated by God! It is ironic that Sennacherib was then in the temple of his god in his land and country, and he was slain while he was praying. Historians state that Sennacherib was killed by his son twenty years later from this point in time when Hezekiah went before the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem. When we read this text (Isaiah 36-37) we generally get the feeling that the Lord God struck the Assyrian army, Sennacherib and his army returned home, and then Sennacherib went into the temple of his god and was killed by his son where all of these things happened in rapid succession. Historically this is not the case, since Sennacherib’s death by the hand of his son happened 20 years later. This is a very important point to observe in the biblical text. Miracles do not always happen in rapid succession. Take for example, in the life of Abraham, the miracle of a son that would be born took a long time and a lot of faith and trust in the Lord. We note that in Parashat Vayera that when God told Abraham that he would have a son it was one year later that this happened. In addition to this, the miracles that happened frequently were during the Exodus and the 40-year journey (the deliverance from Egypt, mana, water from rock, clothes did not wear out, etc). After these things, if we look at a timeline of events, there is some considerable time between miracles from God. (Note that on average there was a 40 year to 80-year period before God moved to send a deliverer for Israel from the surrounding nations in the Tanakh.) Looking at the NT text, we see something very similar, there is an agglomeration of miracles during the life of Yeshua, but following these things, the miracles were spread out and sparse over many years. The record of these things in the text of the NT provides us with the illusion of rapid succession, that miracles come very frequently in the NT period and then end afterwards. I would challenge anyone to take a very close look at the timeline of events in biblical history at the frequency of miracles! The point is that because the bible is a collection of books, there is the appearance of miracles during only certain periods of time. Because of the appearance of miracles in certain periods, doctrines and theologies such as dispensationalism have been developed to explain this. The simple explanation is that miracles happen, but they do not always happen in rapid succession, sometimes they are spread out over years and years, just like we see here in Isaiah’s prophecy of Sennacherib’s death. Sennacherib did not die by the sword until 20 years later after the events in Isaiah 36-37. The point is the God that we serve is the same today as He was thousands of years ago, He is as powerful today as He was then, and He can work in the same powerful ways that He did in the past if He so chooses! To say that God does not do miracles today in the name of dispensationalism theology is to do so in great error and misunderstanding of the timeline of biblical history and the power of God. 

Scriptures that show that God never changes

  • For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
  • God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Bamidbar / Numbers 23:19)
  • The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
  • Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Tehillim / Psalm 102:25-27)
  • Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
  • Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)
  • Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)
  • Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” (Isaiah 44:6)
  • I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

Here the various references from the Scriptures describe the unchanging nature of God in heaven, that even if the heavens and the earth pass away the Lord God of Israel remains the same! The Lord God is everlasting to everlasting, and His Word is established forever! These things describe the power and eternality of God such that today even thousands of years later we can have faith and trust in the Lord God and in His willingness to keep us and protect us. This is very important as this approach to the scriptures and faith edifies and builds up and encourages and believes in the power of God. We note how this is what Paul discussed here in 2 Timothy 3:1-8.

2 Timothy 3:1–8  
3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 3:6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (KJV *3 Τοῦτο δὲ ⸀γίνωσκε,* ὅτι ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται καιροὶ χαλεποί· 2 ἔσονται γὰρ οἱ ἄνθρωποι φίλαυτοι φιλάργυροι ἀλαζόνες ὑπερήφανοι βλάσφημοι,* γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, ⸀ἀχάριστοι ἀνόσιοι 3 ⸂ἄστοργοι ἄσπονδοι⸃ διάβολοι ἀκρατεῖς ἀνήμεροι ἀφιλάγαθοι 4 προδόται προπετεῖς τετυφωμένοι,* φιλήδονοι μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι, 5 ἔχοντες μόρφωσιν εὐσεβείας τὴν δὲ δύναμιν αὐτῆς ἠρνημένοι·* καὶ τούτους ἀποτρέπου.* 6 Ἐκ τούτων γάρ εἰσιν οἱ ἐνδύνοντες εἰς τὰς οἰκίας καὶ ⸀αἰχμαλωτίζοντες γυναικάρια σεσωρευμένα ἁμαρτίαις,* ἀγόμενα ἐπιθυμίαις ⸆ ποικίλαις, 7 πάντοτε μανθάνοντα καὶ μηδέποτε εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν δυνάμενα.* 8 ὃν τρόπον δὲ Ἰάννης καὶ ⸀Ἰαμβρῆς ἀντέστησαν Μωϋσεῖ,* οὕτως καὶ οὗτοι ἀνθίστανται τῇ ἀληθείᾳ,* ἄνθρωποι κατεφθαρμένοι τὸν νοῦν, ἀδόκιμοι περὶ τὴν πίστιν.*)

What we note about Paul’s words here to Timothy is that many of these things that he writes about are the current state of this world. In fact, those who teach that God does not perform miracles today, or that somehow He has changed because we are no longer in “that” dispensation, this is the same as what Paul is saying here in 2 Timothy 3:5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” meaning that these men who teach these things refuse to believe in the power of God and in the power of living a godly life! The power of a godly life is the ability to live in a way that honors God and reflects His character, will and purpose. We note the intimacy of living a godly life, God’s Spirit comes and dwells in us and transforms us into the image of the Messiah. God’s Spirit gives us the love, wisdom, strength and gifts we need to serve God and others. God’s Word reveals His truth, commands, promises and plans for us. It guides, corrects, instructs and encourages us to walk in God’s holy and righteous ways. We note that when we believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that He will work in our lives in the same way he has done throughout the history of mankind, then we can establish our faith upon God’s faithfulness. The Lord God is faithful to His promises, His covenant, His people and His purpose. He never fails, forsakes or forgets us. He is always with us, for us and dwelling in us. This is the fulfillment of the promises of the Torah in our lives! This is the power of God in our lives, and so we build our faith in waiting upon the timeliness of the miracles that God will work in our lives. What we read here in Isaiah 36-37, even though from man’s perspective God delays His miracles, we can rest assured that what He does is in His timing, and this is sufficient! The Isaiah example reminds us that just because it appears that God is delaying His response to our requests, we should not be in doubt but be strengthened in our faith and trust in Him and patiently wait for Him to move in a powerful way!

MSS Hebrew Bible on Isaiah 37:31-32

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 37:31-32.

ספר ישעיה פרק לז
לא   וְיָסְפָה פְּלֵיטַת בֵּית-יְהוּדָה הַנִּשְׁאָרָה שֹׁרֶשׁ לְמָטָּה וְעָשָֹה פְרִי לְמָעְלָה: לב   כִּי מִירוּשָׁלַם תֵּצֵא שְׁאֵרִית וּפְלֵיטָה מֵהַר צִיּוֹן קִנְאַת יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶֹה-זֹּאת:       

Isaiah 37:31 states, “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: (וְיָסְפָה פְּלֵיטַת בֵּית-יְהוּדָה הַנִּשְׁאָרָה שֹׁרֶשׁ לְמָטָּה וְעָשָֹה פְרִי לְמָעְלָה)” Isaiah 37:32 “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this. (כִּי מִירוּשָׁלַם תֵּצֵא שְׁאֵרִית וּפְלֵיטָה מֵהַר צִיּוֹן קִנְאַת יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶֹה-זֹּאת)” Here Isaiah writes what God is speaking to him saying that Judah will again bear fruit and be deeply rooted. These are important things in our lives, to be deeply rooted in God’s Word and to bear fruit that brings glory to God. The idea is that when one is deeply rooted he will grow. The agricultural analogies are great for showing how we are to be a people who are deeply rooted in the Word of God and in His ways. This is reminiscent of what Isaiah said to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:3, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָה֮ אֶֽל־יְשַׁעְיָהוּ֒ צֵא־נָא֙ לִקְרַ֣את אָחָ֔ז אַתָּ֕ה וּשְׁאָ֖ר יָשׁ֣וּב בְּנֶ֑ךָ אֶל־קְצֵ֗ה תְּעָלַת֙ הַבְּרֵכָ֣ה הָעֶלְיוֹנָ֔ה אֶל־מְסִלַּ֖ת שְׂדֵ֥ה כוֹבֵֽס׃ where וּשְׁאָ֖ר יָשׁ֣וּב בְּנֶ֑ךָ “and a remnant will return your son” here Isaiah named his son a “remnant will return” to emphasize these things. Note the parallel in the previous chapters (Isaiah 10:20, 11:11, 11:16): 

ספר ישעיה פרק י
כ   וְהָיָה | בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֹא-יוֹסִיף עוֹד שְׁאָר יִשְֹרָאֵל וּפְלֵיטַת בֵּית-יַעֲקֹב לְהִשָּׁעֵן עַל-מַכֵּהוּ וְנִשְׁעַן עַל-יְהֹוָה קְדוֹשׁ יִשְֹרָאֵל בֶּאֱמֶת: 

Isaiah 10:20  
10:20 And it shall come to pass in that day, That the remnant of Israel, And such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, Shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; But shall stay upon the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, in truth. (KJV)

ספר ישעיה פרק יא
יא   וְהָיָה | בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יוֹסִיף אֲדֹנָי | שֵׁנִית יָדוֹ לִקְנוֹת אֶת-שְׁאָר עַמּוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׁאֵר מֵאַשּׁוּר וּמִמִּצְרַיִם וּמִפַּתְרוֹס וּמִכּוּשׁ וּמֵעֵילָם וּמִשִּׁנְעָר וּמֵחֲמָת וּמֵאִיֵּי הַיָּם:  

טז   וְהָיְתָה מְסִלָּה לִשְׁאָר עַמּוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׁאֵר מֵאַשּׁוּר כַּאֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה לְיִשְֹרָאֵל בְּיוֹם עֲלֹתוֹ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: 

Isaiah 11:11  
11:11 And it shall come to pass in that day, That the Lord shall set his hand again the second time To recover the remnant of his people, Which shall be left, from Assyria, And from Egypt, and from Pathros, And from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, And from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. (KJV)

11:16 And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, Which shall be left, from Assyria; Like as it was to Israel In the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt. (KJV)

Note the remnant of people, there is always a remnant of people who seek the Lord and who remain faithful, even today. Notice how the wide majority in Christianity today allows for gay clergy in the pulpit, all Christian denominations allow this, even the Mennonite denomination. From the Torah perspective, the Lord God brings destruction to those who are not faithful. The remnant is those who keep the faith and remain faithful. The idea of those who remain may be a reference to those who survive the Assyrian conquest. The Lord God through Isaiah says that through those who remain Judah will once again flourish. Isaiah says קִנְאַ֛ת יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֖וֹת תַּֽעֲשֶׂה־זֹּֽאת׃ “the jealousy of the Lord will do this.” We note that the other place this language appears is in Isaiah 9:6 with the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. 

ספר ישעיה פרק ט
ו    לְםַרְבֵּה [לְמַרְבֵּה] הַמִּשְֹרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין-קֵץ עַל-כִּסֵּא דָוִד וְעַל-מַמְלַכְתּוֹ לְהָכִין אֹתָהּ וּלְסַעֲדָהּ בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה מֵעַתָּה וְעַד-עוֹלָם קִנְאַת יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶֹה-זֹּאת

Isaiah 9:7  
9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice From henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (KJV)

We note how these things such as the zeal of the Lord is due to His great mercy and compassion on us. We note again this is what happens to those who blaspheme the name of God, just as Sennacherib was so arrogant to boast against God, he was then corrected in the error of his ways, and the Lord moved to save His people! The best option for anyone is to be on God’s side, to be repented of sin, to humble ourselves, and seek the God of Israel and His Son Yeshua the Messiah!

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 37:33-34.

ספר ישעיה פרק לז
לג   לָכֵן כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה אֶל-מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר לֹא יָבוֹא אֶל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְלֹא-יוֹרֶה שָׁם חֵץ וְלֹא-יְקַדְּמֶנָּה מָגֵן וְלֹא-יִשְׁפֹּךְ עָלֶיהָ סֹלְלָה: לד   בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר-בָּא בָּהּ יָשׁוּב וְאֶל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת לֹא יָבוֹא נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה: 

Isaiah 37:33 states, “Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. (לָכֵן כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה אֶל-מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר לֹא יָבוֹא אֶל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְלֹא-יוֹרֶה שָׁם חֵץ וְלֹא-יְקַדְּמֶנָּה מָגֵן וְלֹא-יִשְׁפֹּךְ עָלֶיהָ סֹלְלָה)” Isaiah 37:34 “By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. (בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר-בָּא בָּהּ יָשׁוּב וְאֶל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת לֹא יָבוֹא נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה)” Here God makes the promise that Sennacherib’s army will not have the opportunity to do anything, to shoot an arrow or raise a shield, the Lord God will move powerfully and the army will be defeated. The idea is that when the army arrives they would not have time to make preparations for the siege on the city because God will destroy them. We note that when an army would arrive they would begin making siege ramps, ladders, and battering rams, siege towers, etc all for the purpose of getting over the wall of the city and taking the city. Another option would be to take dirt and stone and pour out alongside the wall to build up a mound so the army could just go right on into the city. The idea here in Isaiah 37:33-34 is that the army would not even have the chance to do these things, because God will have prevented the army threatening the city. We note that Sennacherib came with his army and his orator Rabshakeh boasting of their power, the might, and their strength against God, Jerusalem, and Judah. It does not matter what Sennacherib has to say against God, the outcome of his actions, his prideful behavior and attitude will be defeated. The timeframe is irrelevant, as destruction will come either immediately or at a future time. These things reveal to us how we are to not behave like Sennacherib, we are to seek the God of Israel in humility, and believe in His Messiah Yeshua for the forgiveness of sins!

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 37:35.

ספר ישעיה פרק לז
לה   וְגַנּוֹתִי עַל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת לְהוֹשִׁיעָהּ לְמַעֲנִי וּלְמַעַן דָּוִד עַבְדִּי:       

Isaiah 37:35 states, “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. (וְגַנּוֹתִי עַל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת לְהוֹשִׁיעָהּ לְמַעֲנִי וּלְמַעַן דָּוִד עַבְדִּי)” We note the significance of this statement based from a Torah perspective. According to the Torah, God chose a place to establish His name among the Israelites after they entered the land of Canaan. This place is often referred to as the place that the Lord your God will choose (הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם) or the place that I will choose (הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אֶבְחַר). Several verses in the Torah speak of this:

Verses from the Torah on God Choosing the Place to Establish His Name

  • Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:5: But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go (כִּי אִם אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מִכׇל שִׁבְטֵיכֶם לָשׂוּם אֶת שְׁמו שָׁם לשיכנו תדרשו ובאת שמה).
  • Devarim / Deuteronomy 14:23: And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always (ו אכלת לפני יהוה אלהיך במקום אשר יבחר לשכן שמו שם מעשר דגנך תירשך ויצהרך ובכרת בקרך וצאנך למען תלמד ליראה את יהוה אלהיך כל הימים).
  • Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:6: But at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt (אבל במקום אשר יבחר יהוה אלהיך לשומ שמו שמ השחת הפשח בערב כבוא השמש מועד צאת ממעריץ).

The exact location of this place is not explicitly stated in the Torah, but later Jewish tradition identifies it with Jerusalem, and specifically with the Temple Mount, where Solomon built the first Temple and where the second Temple was later rebuilt. It is because of this that God will defend Jerusalem because this is the place in which He has placed His name. Ezekiel also reiterates these words from Isaiah 37:35 in Ezekiel 36:22. Ezekiel’s usage is in the Lord God delivering His people from exile and the reason that the Lord God delivered the people from the Assyrians here in Isaiah 37, and the exiles from Babylon in Ezekiel is due to His faithfulness to His people. This is the assurance that we have today, and the trust that we can believe in the God of Israel to save us just like He did so many years ago! Note also the relationship with repentance to deliverance, this is a significant aspect. The statement וּלְמַעַן דָּוִד עַבְדִּי “for the sake of my servant David” is important due to the promise that God made to David on the permanency of His throne and lineage. The preservation that God is making here is to prevent the utter destruction and the wiping out of Judah and Jerusalem. Here, Hezekiah is taken as a representative of David, and this is more than simply being a son of David. Hezekiah was a king of Judah who reigned from about 715 to 686 BC. He was the son of Ahaz and the great-grandson of Uzziah and he was a descendant of David. According to the Tanakh, Hezekiah was a righteous king who did what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord. He removed the high places, broke the pillars, cut down the Asherah, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made. He also trusted in the Lord and held fast to Him. He defended Jerusalem from the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib and prayed to God for deliverance. Hezekiah’s genealogy is recorded in several places in the Bible, such as 1 Chronicles 3:13-15, where he is listed as the son of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, and so on, until David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz. Another place is Matthew 1:9-10, where he is called Ezekias in Greek, and is listed as the father of Manasseh, the father of Amon, and so on, until Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Yeshua was born. The point is that the deliverance was more than just lineage, it was part of Hezekiah’s faithfulness and repentance. We note how the Lord God preserved His people so they would not simply be absorbed into the conquering nation. Just like in the exile to Babylon, the people returned to Israel such that their faith would be preserved, to survive the punishment for their sins and disobedience, and for the basis of the messianic revelation that is provide in the book of Isaiah concerning the Messiah Yeshua, so that the nation would be preserved and the King of kings could come into this world and do what He was needing to do in order to save us from our sins! It is in these powerful and mighty ways that God works to accomplish his will and plan for our lives.

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 37:36-38.

ספר ישעיה פרק לז
לו   וַיֵּצֵא | מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה וַיַּכֶּה בְּמַחֲנֵה אַשּׁוּר מֵאָה וּשְׁמֹנִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה אָלֶף וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ בַבֹּקֶר וְהִנֵּה כֻלָּם פְּגָרִים מֵתִים: לז   וַיִּסַּע וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב סַנְחֵרִיב מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּנִינְוֵה: לח   וַיְהִי הוּא מִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה בֵּית | נִסְרֹךְ אֱלֹהָיו וְאַדְרַמֶּלֶךְ וְשַֹרְאֶצֶר בָּנָיו הִכֻּהוּ בַחֶרֶב וְהֵמָּה נִמְלְטוּ אֶרֶץ אֲרָרָט וַיִּמְלֹךְ אֵסַר-חַדֹּן בְּנוֹ תַּחְתָּיו:

Isaiah 37:36 states, “Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (וַיֵּצֵא | מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה וַיַּכֶּה בְּמַחֲנֵה אַשּׁוּר מֵאָה וּשְׁמֹנִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה אָלֶף וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ בַבֹּקֶר וְהִנֵּה כֻלָּם פְּגָרִים מֵתִים)” Isaiah 37:37 “So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. (וַיִּסַּע וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב סַנְחֵרִיב מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּנִינְוֵה)” Isaiah 37:38 “And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (וַיְהִי הוּא מִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה בֵּית | נִסְרֹךְ אֱלֹהָיו וְאַדְרַמֶּלֶךְ וְשַֹרְאֶצֶר בָּנָיו הִכֻּהוּ בַחֶרֶב וְהֵמָּה נִמְלְטוּ אֶרֶץ אֲרָרָט וַיִּמְלֹךְ אֵסַר-חַדֹּן בְּנוֹ תַּחְתָּיו)” Here we see the outcome of the entire narrative, what God chose to do concerning the Assyrian army, He went forth and destroyed the camp and killed 185,000 soldiers by the morning. This led to the Assyrian king (Sennacherib) withdrawing from the city and returning to his own land. Note the string of verbs here וַיִּסַּע וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב סַנְחֵרִיב how Sennacherib “departed (וַיִּסַּע) and went (וַיֵּלֶךְ) and returned (וַיָּשָׁב)” emphasizing how hurriedly he departed and returned home. Isaiah 37:38 record’s the death of Sennacherib and note again that his death was some 20 years later. The point of this being recorded here is to demonstrate how God’s Word is true, that He kept his promise about Sennacherib. Also, this record also corresponds to the Assyrian historical records that he was murdered in the temple of his god by the hand of his son. The way the events are laid out in the Scripture suggest that there was a short time span, Sennacherib returned and then he was murdered, but the reality of this is that he returned and 20 years later he was killed. This illustrates again how miracles take time, and God’s promises also take time to come to their fulfillment. We take these things to build and maintain our faith in the God of Israel and His Messiah who are able to do all things. We should not take these things as a means to develop theologies that limit the power of God in our lives. The power of God in our lives is highly dependent upon whether we believe He is able to do what the Scriptures say He is able to do! Hezekiah believed and prayed for God to deliver him and his people from the Assyrians. If we don’t believe that God can deliver His people today under some theological construct that says we live now in a “different dispensation” then the Lord God is going to honor your belief and not work a miracle on your behalf. The point is that we are to be rich towards God from the sense of believing He can do all things regardless of the place, year, or time that we live! (Luke 12:20)

Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 37:31-38

The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the book of Isaiah and therefore is a valuable resource for continuing to study the book of Isaiah!

תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק לז:לא-לח
לא      וְיֹוסְפוּן מְשֵיזְבַיָא דְבֵית יְהוּדָה דְיִשתַאְרוּן כְאִילָן דִמשַלַח שֻרשֹוהִי לְרַע וּמרִים נֹופֵיה לְעֵילָא׃ לב      אְרֵי מִירוּשלַם יִפְקוּן שְאָר צַדִיקַיָא וְשֵיזָבַת מְקִימֵי אֹורָיתָא מִטוּרָא דְצִיֹון בְמֵימְרָא דַיוי ‭‬צְבָאֹות‭‬ תִתעְבֵיד דָא׃ לג      בְכֵין כִדנָן אְמַר יוי עַל מַלכָא דְאַתוּר לָא ייֵעֹול לְקַרתָא הָדָא וְלָא יַקשֵית תַמָן גִיר וְלָא יְקַדְמִנַה בִתרִיסִין וְלָא יִצבַר עֲלַה מִלֵיתָא׃ לד      בְאֹורחָא דַאְתָא בַה יְתוּב וּלקַרתָא הָדָא לָא יֵיעֹול אְמַר יוי׃ לה      וְאַגֵין עַל קַרתָא הָדָא לְמִפרְקַה בְדִיל מֵימְרִי וּבדִיל דָוִד עַבדִי׃ לו      וּנפַק מַלאְכָא דַיוי וּקטַל בְמַשרְיָת אַתוּרָאָה מְאָה וּתמָנַן וְחַמשָה אַלפִין וְאַקדִימוּ בְצַפרָא וְהָא כוּלְהֹון פַגרִין מָיְתִין׃ לז      וּנטַל וַאְזַל וְתָב סַנחֵרִיב מַלכָא דְאַתוּר וִיתֵיב בְנִינְוֵה׃ לח      וַהְוָה הוּא סָגֵיד בֵית נִסרֹוך טָעוּתֵיה וְאַדרַמַלַך וְשַראַצַר בְנֹוהִי קַטלוּהִי בְחַרבָא וְאִנוּן אִשתֵיזַבוּ לַאְרַע קַרדֹו וּמלַך אֵסַר חַדֹן בְרֵיה תְחֹותֹוהִי׃

Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 37:31-38
37:31 And again the escaped of the house of Judah that are left shall be like a tree which sends forth its roots downwards, and lifts its branches upwards. 37:32 For the remnant of the righteous shall go forth from Jerusalem, and the escaped of them that establish the law from mount Zion: by the WORD of the Lord of hosts shall this be done. 37:33 Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor shall he cast up a mound against it. 37:34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. 37:35 For I will defend this city to save it, for the sake of my WORD, and for the sake of David my servant. 37:36 Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and slew in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all of them dead corpses. 37:37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went away, and returned and dwelt at Nineveh. 37:38 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that Adramelech and Sharezer his sons slew him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Kardu: and Eserhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (TgJ)

Here The TgJ states, לא      וְיֹוסְפוּן מְשֵיזְבַיָא דְבֵית יְהוּדָה דְיִשתַאְרוּן כְאִילָן דִמשַלַח שֻרשֹוהִי לְרַע וּמרִים נֹופֵיה לְעֵילָא׃ 37:31 And again the escaped of the house of Judah that are left shall be like a tree which sends forth its roots downwards, and lifts its branches upwards. (TgJ) The TgJ draws an analogy to the tree that sends its roots down deep, this analogy is used at least twice in the Tanakh, in Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Tehillim / Psalm 1:31. Both verses describe the blessings of those who trust in the Lord and follow his ways. They are compared to trees that are always green, fruitful and prosperous, even in times of drought or heat. 

Jeremiah 17:7-8
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (NIV, בָּר֣וּךְ הַגֶּ֔בֶר אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְטַ֖ח בַּֽיהוָ֑ה וְהָיָ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה מִבְטַחֽוֹ׃ וְהָיָ֞ה כְּעֵ֣ץ׀ שָׁת֣וּל עַל־מַ֗יִם וְעַל־יוּבַל֙ יְשַׁלַּ֣ח שָֽׁרָשָׁ֔יו וְלֹ֤א יִרָא כִּֽי־יָבֹ֣א חֹ֔ם וְהָיָ֥ה עָלֵ֖הוּ רַֽעֲנָ֑ן וּבִשְׁנַ֤ת בַּצֹּ֙רֶת֙ לֹ֣א יִדְאָ֔ג וְלֹ֥א יָמִ֖ישׁ מֵעֲשׂ֥וֹת פֶּֽרִי׃)

Tehillim / Psalm 1:3 
“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (NIV, וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮ שָׁת֪וּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְיֹ֨ו׀ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתּ֗וֹ וְעָלֵ֥הוּ לֹֽא־יִבּ֑וֹל וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ׃)

The analogy of the tree speaks to the kind of people we are to be who are rooted in God’s word, and who trust with confidence in the Lord that He is with us, loves us, saves us, etc. What we are being told here is that the Lord expects us to walk in obedience with God and do all he says so that we will prosper in everything we do and everywhere we go (1 Kings 2:3). For example, a person who gives generously will prosper (Mishley / Proverbs 11:25). Those who trust in God will prosper (Mishley / Proverbs 28:25). There are quite a few scriptures that speak to God’s prospering us. 

Scripture that Speaks of God’s Prospering Us

  • God plans to prosper his people and not harm them, plans to give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God told Jacob to go back home and he would prosper (Bereshit / Genesis 32:9).
  • Obey God that we may live long and prosper (Devarim / Deuteronomy 5:33).
  • Walk in obedience with God and do all he says so that you will prosper in everything you do and everywhere you go (1 Kings 2:3).
  • You will prosper more, and then you will know that I am your Lord (Ezekiel 36:11).
  • God made his people prosper while they were in Egypt (Acts 13:17).

The key here is to live in obedience to the word of God, this means that we submit our lives to Him and His ways as opposed to our ways. This is the key to being blessed by God, to turn from sin, repent, seek the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua, and then strive to live for Him! This isn’t just a name it and claim it principle, a false doctrine in the church today, this is the principle of actually living our lives for the Lord! This takes time and is part of our lives, not just some theoretical metaphysical principle that is being taught in churches today! The Tanakh and the NT text have a lot to say about being blessed by God and how we recognize His blessings in our lives and how these things are coupled to our living out our faith and trust in the Lord! Trusting in the Lord is the key here where we make the Lord God our confidence (Jeremiah 17:7-8, Tehillim / Psalm 1:3, Tehillim / Psalm 34:8) This means that we rely upon Him and obey His commands following the guidance for life that is stated in the Scriptures. We are told according to the Psalmist that we are to delight in the Lord (Tehillim / Psalms 37:4 and Tehillim / Psalms 112:1). The Psalmist describes our finding joy and satisfaction in knowing the Lord and in serving Him. Delighting in the Lord means that we are seeking His will for our lives and seeking to live our lives for His glory above our own desires and interests. The Scriptures also speak of abiding in the Lord, that those who do this are blessed (see John 15:5 and James 1:25). Abiding means that we are living our lives according to His word and our actions, thoughts, and attitudes are shaped by the word of God. Notice how each of these things are interrelated and interdependent and require repentance, faith, humbleness, and submission to God’s word and mercy. When we do these things we find joy and peace in the Lord. We also need God’s help to do these things. 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 37:32, לב      אְרֵי מִירוּשלַם יִפְקוּן שְאָר צַדִיקַיָא וְשֵיזָבַת מְקִימֵי אֹורָיתָא מִטוּרָא דְצִיֹון בְמֵימְרָא דַיוי ‭‬צְבָאֹות‭‬ תִתעְבֵיד דָא׃ 37:32 For the remnant of the righteous shall go forth from Jerusalem, and the escaped of them that establish the law from mount Zion: by the WORD of the Lord of hosts shall this be done. (TgJ) Here Isaiah speaks of the zeal of the Lord where the zeal is the jealousy of God for His people, that there are to be no other gods before Him (Shemot / Exodus 20:1-5). Rashi states the following concerning this verse.

Rashi on Isaiah 37:32 Part 1
קנאת ה’ צבאות. שיקנא לשמו ולא מחמת זכות שבידכם למדנו שתמה זכות אבות:
the zeal of the Lord of Hosts that He will be zealous for His Name and not because of the merit you possess. We learn that the merit of the Patriarchs has been depleted.

Here the Rashi states that the merit of the patriarchs has run out. The merit of the patriarchs is a concept in Judaism that refers to the idea that God bestows blessings and protection on the Jewish people because of the righteousness and faithfulness of their ancestors, namely Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The term for this concept in Hebrew is zechut avot, which literally means “the merit of the fathers.” This concept is based on several biblical passages that show how God made promises and covenants with the patriarchs and their descendants, and how He remembered them in times of trouble. For example, in Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-3, God tells Abraham that He will make him a great nation and bless him. In Bereshit / Genesis 26:3-5, God repeats this promise to Isaac and says that He will do so “because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” In Shemot / Exodus 2:24, God hears the groaning of the Israelites in slavery and “remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” In Shemot / Exodus 32:13–14, after the sin of the golden calf, Moses appeals to God to spare the people by invoking the names of the patriarchs and their covenant. This idea of the merit of the patriarchs is also a theological statement which implies a relationship with God that is based on the grace of God and His love and not on merit alone earning salvation. This means that the people of God have a responsibility to keep the covenant of God and walk in His commands as His people just as our forefathers did. Because of this the merit of the patriarchs are often mentioned in the liturgy asking for God’s mercy and intervention. We note the NT usage in the bringing of God’s Messiah being the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and even as far back as to Adam and Eve in Bereshit / Genesis 3:15. Note how this concept of God’s promises to Abraham and his seed is also used by Paul according to Galatians 3:16. 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 37:33, לג      בְכֵין כִדנָן אְמַר יוי עַל מַלכָא דְאַתוּר לָא ייֵעֹול לְקַרתָא הָדָא וְלָא יַקשֵית תַמָן גִיר וְלָא יְקַדְמִנַה בִתרִיסִין וְלָא יִצבַר עֲלַה מִלֵיתָא׃ 37:33 Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor shall he cast up a mound against it. (TgJ) Here The Lord God makes a promise that Assyria will not come into Jerusalem nor shoot an arrow even. Rashi states the following concerning these things.

Rashi on Isaiah 37:33, Parts 1-3
ולא יקדמנה מגן. לא יערוך לפניך מגן כדמתרגם לפני קדם:
nor shall he advance upon it with a shield (Heb. יְקַדְּמֶנָּה.) He shall not set a shield before it, since the Aramaic of “before” is קֳדָם.
ולא ישפך עליה סוללה. לא יצבור עליה מליתא, אומר אני הוא ששופכין עפר וצוברין לפני החומה והמגדלות לבנות עליה כרכום:
nor shall he pile up a siege mound against it [Targum renders:] He should not pile up against it a landfill. I say that they pour out earth and pile it up against the walls and towers so that they can build a rampart.
סוללה. ע”ש שסוללים וכובשין אותה במקבות כדי שיתקשה ותרגומו מליתא על שם שעושין לו מתחילה שני מחיצות גדר קני’ ושופכים העפר ביניהם וכובשין אותו שם לאחר שמלאו את המחיצות ושמעתי שסותרין אותו זריקת האבנים גדולו’ שקורין פורייר”א בלע”ז אבל אין באבנים ל’ שפיכה ולא ל’ סלילה ואין ל’ התרגום נופל על פתרון זה:
a siege mound (סֹלְלָה) since it is trodden (סוֹלְלִים) and pressed down with sledge hammers in order that it harden. The Targum renders: מִלֵּיתָא, since they first make for it two walls of a fence of reeds and pour the earth between them and press it down there after they have filled (מִלְאוּ) the walls. And I heard that they interpret it as the throwing of huge stones, called perere in O.F., but the expression of piling up, lit., spilling, does not apply to stones, neither is the expression of pressing down, nor the rendering of the Targum, appropriately for this interpretation.

Rashi goes further saying that Assyria will not even set a shield before the city of Jerusalem. There will be no shield, no arrows, and no siege mound constructed against Jerusalem. They will not even build any kind of siege weaponry such as machines capable of throwing huge stones against the wall. This reminds us of the Roman siege of Jerusalem which threw large stones at Jerusalem’s walls back in 70 AD. The Roman army was led by Titus, surrounded the city with ballistas, catapults and battering rams, to breach the walls and towers. The primary siege weapon was the ballista, a missile firing weapon that launched either bolts or stones over large distances. The siege lasted for four months, from April to September, and resulted in the destruction of the city and the Second Temple. The Romans faced fierce resistance from the Jewish rebels, who also used captured siege weapons to counterattack. The Romans eventually broke through the walls of Jerusalem and stormed the Temple Mount, setting fire to the Temple and looting its treasures. The siege of Jerusalem was a decisive event in the history of Judaism which marked the end of Jewish sovereignty in Judea and the dispersion of the Jewish people. It also fulfilled some prophecies in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The siege is recorded in detail by the Jewish historian Josephus, who was an eyewitness and a participant in the war.

Isaiah goes on saying according to Isaiah 37:34-38, לד      בְאֹורחָא דַאְתָא בַה יְתוּב וּלקַרתָא הָדָא לָא יֵיעֹול אְמַר יוי׃ 37:34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. לה      וְאַגֵין עַל קַרתָא הָדָא לְמִפרְקַה בְדִיל מֵימְרִי וּבדִיל דָוִד עַבדִי׃ 37:35 For I will defend this city to save it, for the sake of my WORD, and for the sake of David my servant. לו      וּנפַק מַלאְכָא דַיוי וּקטַל בְמַשרְיָת אַתוּרָאָה מְאָה וּתמָנַן וְחַמשָה אַלפִין וְאַקדִימוּ בְצַפרָא וְהָא כוּלְהֹון פַגרִין מָיְתִין׃ 37:36 Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and slew in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all of them dead corpses. לז      וּנטַל וַאְזַל וְתָב סַנחֵרִיב מַלכָא דְאַתוּר וִיתֵיב בְנִינְוֵה׃ 37:37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went away, and returned and dwelt at Nineveh. לח      וַהְוָה הוּא סָגֵיד בֵית נִסרֹוך טָעוּתֵיה וְאַדרַמַלַך וְשַראַצַר בְנֹוהִי קַטלוּהִי בְחַרבָא וְאִנוּן אִשתֵיזַבוּ לַאְרַע קַרדֹו וּמלַך אֵסַר חַדֹן בְרֵיה תְחֹותֹוהִי׃37:38 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that Adramelech and Sharezer his sons slew him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Kardu: and Eserhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (TgJ)  Here is the finally to the narrative and the war with the Assyrian army. The Lord God sends His angel to destroy 185,000 men from the army and drive the entire army back to their country of origin. In addition, we are told that the king Sennacherib was killed by his son in the temple of Nisroch his god. These things were all in fulfillment of what God had stated through the prophet Isaiah. The Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 20:13 has the following to say concerning these things. 

Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 20:13
וַיִּחַר אַף אֱלֹהִים כִּי הוֹלֵךְ הוּא וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ ה’ (במדבר כב, כב), מַלְאָךְ שֶׁל רַחֲמִים הָיָה וְנַעֲשָׂה לוֹ לְשָׂטָן. (במדבר כב, כב): וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ, זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ שֶׁהַיּוֹצֵא לַדֶּרֶךְ צָרִיךְ שְׁנַיִם לְשַׁמְּשׁוֹ וְחוֹזְרִים וּמְשַׁמְּשִׁין זֶה לָזֶה. (במדבר כב, כג): וַתֵּרֶא הָאָתוֹן אֶת מַלְאַךְ ה’, וְכִי לֹא הָיָה יָכוֹל הַמַּלְאָךְ לִנְשׂף בּוֹ וְיוֹצִיא רוּחוֹ אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן שָׁלַף חַרְבּוֹ, וַהֲרֵי כְּתִיב בְּסַנְחֵרִיב (ישעיה לז, לו): וַיֵּצֵא מַלְאַךְ ה’ וַיַּכֶּה בְּמַחֲנֵה אַשּׁוּר, וּכְתִיב (ישעיה מ, כד): וְגַם נָשַׁף בָּהֶם, חַיֵּיהֶם, אֶלָּא כָּךְ אָמַר לוֹ: הַפֶּה נִתַּן לְיַעֲקֹב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית כז, כב): הַקֹּל קוֹל יַעֲקֹב וְהַיָּדַיִם יְדֵי עֵשָׂו, וּכְתִיב (בראשית כז, מ): וְעַל חַרְבְּךָ תִחְיֶה. וְהָאֻמּוֹת כֻּלָּם בַּחֶרֶב חַיֵּיהֶם, וְאַתָּה תַּחְלִיף [אמונת]) אֻמָּנוּתְךָ וְתָבוֹא עֲלֵיהֶם בְּשֶׁלָּהֶן, אַף אֲנִי אָבוֹא עָלֶיךָ בְּשֶׁלְּךָ, לְכָךְ כְּתִיב (במדבר כב, כג): וְחַרְבּוֹ שְׁלוּפָה בְּיָדוֹ.
13 (Numb. 22:22) “But God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took a stand [in the road as his adversary (satan)]”: He was an angel of mercy, but to [Balaam] he had become an adversary (satan). (Numb. 22:22, cont.) “And two of his servant boys were with him”: This is customary for one going out on the road. It is necessary for two to attend him. Then in turn they attend each other. (Numb. 22:23) “Now the she-ass saw the angel of the Lord [and a sword was drawn in his hand]”: Was not the angel able to breathe on him and take away his spirit unless he drew his sword? And look at what is written about Sennacherib (in II Kings 19:35 = Is. 37:36 // II Chron. 32:21.), “the angel of the Lord went out and smote [one hundred and eighty-five thousand] in the camp of Assyria.” It is also written (in Is. 40:24), “he blows on them and they wither.” However, he said to him, “[Skill with] the mouth was given to Jacob, as stated (in Gen. 27:22), ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ And it is written (in Gen. 27:40), ‘Upon your sword shall you live.’ All the nations all live by the sword. Now you are trading off your craft and coming against them with their [craft]. I also am coming against you with your own [craft].” Hence it is written (in Numb. 22:23) “and a sword was drawn in his hand.”

Here the Midrash parallels the story of Bilam (Bamidbar / Numbers 22) and the angel standing before Bilam and the angel that went into the Assyrian camp destroying 185,000 men. The conclusion of this midrash speaks of those who live by the sword. So, this reminds us of a NT event in Matthew 26:52 when Yeshua was being arrested, and one of the disciples (Peter) drew his sword to defend Yeshua. Yeshua said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. The meaning of this verse is that those who use violence will face violence. This is how the Assyrian army functioned, they lived by the sword and violence, and so they died by the hand of God in violence. Yeshua was teaching his followers not to resist his arrest or to fight against his enemies, but to trust in God’s plan and to follow his. Yeshua also healed the servant’s ear, showing his compassion and mercy for his opponents. This phrase “live by the sword, die by the sword” has become a proverb that is often used to warn against the consequences of violence and aggression. It implies that those who rely on force and weapons to achieve their goals will eventually meet a violent death themselves. It also suggests that violence breeds more violence, and that peace can only be achieved through peaceful means. This again draws us back to these concepts of trusting in the Lord and relying upon His mercy and grace. This should draw us back to Teshuvah (Repentance) and seeking the Lord by faith, to walk in His holy and righteous ways, and seeking His help by the presence of His Spirit in our lives to overcome this world just like Yeshua did, overcoming the world in victory! We too can be overcomers by faith and trusting in the Lord God Almighty and in His Messiah Yeshua!