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(1) Went into the house of the Lord.—To humble himself before Jehovah and pray for help. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 32:20.)
(2) And he sent Eliakim . . .—See the Note on 2 Kings 3:12; and comp. 2 Kings 13:14; 2 Kings 22:14; Jeremiah 37:3. Knobel (on Isaiah) remarks that this distinguished embassy speaks for the high estimation in which the prophet stood.
The elders of the priests—i.e., the heads of the sacerdotal caste (próceres, not senes).
(3) Rebuke.—Rather, chastisement (Hosea 5:9). The verb means to give judgment, punish, &c. It occurs in the next verse, “will reprove the words,” or rather, punish for the words.
Blasphemy.—Comp. Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 5:24, where the cognate verb is used; and Nehemiah 9:18; Nehemiah 9:26, where the noun “provocations” is almost identical.
The children are come . . .—With this proverb, expressive of the utter collapse of all human resources, comp. the similar language of Hosea (Hosea 13:13).
(4) It may be.—The old commentator Clericus well remarks: “Non est dubitantis sed sperantis.”
And will reprove the words.—See Note on 2 Kings 19:3. The LXX. and Vulg. read, “and to rebuke with the words which the Lord,” &c, but the Syriac and Targum agree with the Authorised Version as regards the construction.
Lift up.—Heavenwards (2 Chronicles 32:2). Or we might compare the phrase “to lift up the voice” (Genesis 27:38), and render, “to utter” (Numbers 23:7.)
Thy prayer.—A prayer.
The remnant that are left.—The existing (or, present) remnant. Sennacherib had captured most of the strong cities of Judah, and “the daughter of Zion was left as a hut in a vineyard” (Isaiah 1:8). (Comp. Note on 2 Chronicles 32:1.)
(5) So the servants . . .—This verse merely resumes the narrative in a somewhat simple and artless fashion.
(6) The servants.—Or, attendants. The word is rather more special in sense than servant, denoting Apparently personal attendant. Delitzsch renders “squires.”. (Comp. 2 Kings 4:12; 2 Kings 5:20; 2 Kings 8:4; Exodus 33:11; Judges 7:10; 2 Samuel 9:9; 1 Kings 20:15.)
Blasphemed.—Not the same root as in 2 Kings 19:3. (Psalms 44:16; Isaiah 51:7; Numbers 15:30.)
(7) Behold, I will send a blast upon him.—Behold, I am about to put a spirit within him. “ ‘A spirit’ is probably not to be understood personally (comp. 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Kings 22:21 seq.), but in the weaker sense of impulse, inclination. (Comp. Isaiah 19:14; Isaiah 29:10; Numbers 5:14; Hosea 4:12; Zechariah 13:2.) The two senses are, however, very closely connected” (Cheyne, on Isaiah 37:7). In fact, it may be doubted whether Hebrew thought was conscious of any distinction between them. The prophets believed that all acts and events—even the ruthless barbarities of Assyrian conquerors—were “Jehovah’s work.” The lowly wisdom of the peasant, as well as the art of good government, was a Divine inspiration (Isaiah 28:26; Isaiah 28:29; Isaiah 11:2).
And he shall hear . . . return.—To be closely connected with the preceding words. In consequence of the spirit of despondency or fear with which Jehovah will inspire him, he will hastily retire upon hearing ill news. The “rumour” or report intended is presently specified (2 Kings 19:9); “for though Sennacherib made one more attempt to bring about the surrender of Jerusalem, his courage must have left him when it failed, and the thought of retreat must have suggested itself, the execution of which was only accelerated by the blow which fell upon his army” (Keil and Thenius).
(8) So Rab-shakeh returned.—This takes up the narrative from 2 Kings 18:37. It is not said, but is probably to be understood, that Tartan and Rabsaris and the “great host” (2 Kings 18:17) departed with him, having been foiled of their purpose.
Libnah.—See Note on 2 Kings 8:22. The great King had taken Lachish. (See Note on 2 Chronicles 32:9.) Its position is not yet determined. Schrader thinks it may be Tell-es-Sâfieh, west of Lachish, and north north-west of Eleutheropolis; in which case Sennacherib had already begun his retreat.
(9) Heard say of Tirhakah.—For the construction, comp. Psalms 2:7; Psalms 3:2.
Tirhakah.—Called in Egyptian inscriptions Taharka, in Assyrian Tarqû; the Ταρακὺς of Manetho, and Teapxwws of Strabo. He was the last king of the 25th, or Ethiopian (Cushite) dynasty, and son of Shabataka the son of Shabaka (2 Kings 17:4). Sennacherib does not name Tirhakah, but calls him “the king of Meluhhu,” i.e., Meroë. The two successors of Sennacherib had further wars with Tirhakah. Esarhaddon, according to notices in the annals of Assurbanipal, conquered Tirhakah, “king of Mizraim and Cush, and divided Egypt between a number of vassal kings. A list of twenty names is preserved, beginning with” Necho king of Memphis and Sais.” This was Esarhaddon’s tenth expedition (circ. 671 B.C. ). Tirhakah, however, invaded Egypt once more, for “he despised the might of Asshur, Istar, and the great gods my lords, and trusted to his own power.” This led to Assurbanipal’s first expedition, which was directed against Egypt. Ewald and Knobel suppose that Isaiah 18:0 refers to an embassy from Tirhakah asking the co-operation of Judah against the common foe. If it be alleged that Shabataka was still nominal king of Egypt, we may regard Tirhakah as commanding in his father’s name. But Egyptian chronology is too uncertain to be allowed much weight in the question.
(10) Let not thy God . . . deceive thee.—Through prophets, or dreams, or any other recognised medium of communication.
(10-13) Sennacherib’s second message repeats the arguments of 2 Kings 18:29-35.
(11) All lands, by destroying them utterly.—All the countries, by putting them under the ban, i.e., solemnly devoting all that lived in them to extermination.
(12) My fathers.—Sargon his father founded the dynasty; but he speaks of his predecessors generally as his “fathers.”
Gozan.—2 Kings 17:6.
Haran.—Also a west Aramean town, mentioned by Tiglath Pileser I. (circ. 1120 B.C. ) Shalmaneser II. speaks of its conquest. It had a famous sanctuary of the moon god Sin. (See Genesis 11:31.)
Rezeph.—The Assyrian Raçappa, a town of Mesopotamia, often mentioned in the inscriptions.
The children of Eden.—Schrader identifies this community with Bît-Adini (“the house of Eden”), often mentioned by Assurnâçirpal and Shalmaneser II. The latter records his defeat of Ahuni, “son of Eden,” a phrase which exactly corresponds to “the children (sons) of Eden” here. It lay on both banks of the middle Euphrates, between the present Bâlis and Birejik.
Thelasar.—Heb., Tĕlassar, the Assyrian Tul-Assuri (“Mound of Assur”). More than one place bore the name.
(13) The king.—Comp. 2 Kings 18:34, from which, as well as from the sequence of thought in 2 Kings 19:12-13 here, it is clear that “king” is here used as a synonym of local god. (Comp. Amos 5:26; Psalms 5:2 : “My King, and my God.”)
(14) The letter.—The Hebrew word is plural, like the Latin litterae. The first “it” is plural, the second singular. 2 Kings 19:10-13 may be regarded as embodying the substance of the letter, which the envoys first delivered orally, and then presented the letter to authenticate it. But perhaps the contents of the letter were not preserved in the Hebrew annals.
Spread it before the Lord.—Commentators have taken offence at this act, as if it betokened some heathenish conception of Jehovah. “Très-naïvement, pour que Dieu la lût aussi” (Reuss). But one who could think of his God as having “made heaven and earth,” and as the only God, would not be likely to imagine Him ignorant of the contents of a letter until it had been laid before Him in His sanctuary. Hezekiall’s act was a solemn and perfectly natural indication to his ministers and people that he had put the matter into the hands of Jehovah.
(15) Which dwellest between the cherubims.—Rather, which sittest above the cherubim, or, the cherub-throned. (Comp. Exodus 25:22; 1 Samuel 4:4; Psalms 18:10; Ezekiel 1:26.)
Thou art the God.—With emphasis on Thou. Thou art the true God, thou alone, unto all the kingdoms, &c.
Thou hast made.—Thou it was that madest. The thought is, And therefore Thou art—the only God for all the kingdoms (comp. Isaiah 40:18 seq.), and “the only ruler of princes.”
(16) Bow down thine ear, and hear.—Not so much my prayer as the words of Sennacherib.
Open, Lord, thine eyes, and see.—Referring, as Thenius says, to Sennacherib’s letter; not, however, as if Jehovah’s eyes were closed before this prayer. To treat the figurative language of the Old Testament in such a manner does violence to common sense. “Bow thine ear,” “Open thine eyes,” in Hezekiah’s mouth simply meant “Intervene actively between me and my enemy;” although, no doubt, such expressions originally conveyed the actual thoughts of the Israelites about God.
Which hath sent him.—Rather, which he hath sent. The “words” are regarded as a single whole, a message.
The living God.—In contrast with the lifeless idols of Hamath, Arpad, &c.
(17) Of a truth.—It is even as Sennacherib boasteth.
Destroyed.—Rather, laid waste. Perhaps put under the ban—the expression of 2 Kings 19:11—should be read.
Their lands.—Heb., their land, referring to each conquered country.
(18) And have cast (put) their gods into the fire.—Comp. 1 Chronicles 14:12. The Assyrian’s emphatic question, “Where are the gods?” implied their annihilation.
For they were no gods.—This idea is common in the latter half of the Book of Isaiah. The question has been raised whether the compiler of Kings has not made Hezekiah express a stricter monotheism than had been attained by the religious thought of his days. But if, as Kuenen alleges, no such definite statement of this belief is to be found in Isaiah and Micah (but comp. Isaiah 2:18-21; Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 10:10 seq.) we may still point to the words of a third prophet of that age—namely, Amos the herdman of Tekoah. (Comp. Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8; Amos 9:6-7.) “To Amos . . . the doctrine of creation is full of practical meaning. ‘He that formed the mountains and created the wind, that declareth unto man what is His thought, that maketh the morning darkness and treadeth on the high places of the earth, Jehovah, the God of hosts is His name.’ This supreme God cannot be thought of as having no interest or purpose beyond Israel. It was He that brought Israel out of Egypt, but it was He too who brought the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir. Every movement of history is Jehovah’s work. It is not Asshur but Jehovah who has created the Assyrian empire; He has a purpose of His own in raising up the vast overwhelming strength, and suspending it as a threat of imminent destruction over Israel and the surrounding nations. To Amos, therefore, the question is not what Jehovah as king of Israel will do for His people against the Assyrian, but what the Sovereign of the world designs to effect by the terrible instrument He has created” (Robertson Smith). We do not think, however, that the utterance of Hezekiah on this occasion was necessarily recorded in writing at the time. The prayer may well be a free composition put into the king’s mouth by the author of this narrative.
(20) Then Isaiah . . .—The prophet, as Hezekiah’s trusted adviser, may have counselled the king to “go up into the house of the Lord,” or, at least, would be cognisant of his intention in the matter.
Against.—Hebrew text, in regard to. . . . touching.
I have heard.—The verb has fallen out in Isaiah 37:21.
(21) This is the word . . .—The prophecy which follows is well characterised by Cheyne as one “of striking interest, and both in form and matter stamped with the mark of Isaiah.”
Concerning him.—Or, against him.
The virgin the daughter of Zion.—A poetic personification of place. Zion here, as Jerusalem in the next line, is regarded as mother of the people dwelling there. (Comp. 2 Samuel 20:19.) The term Virgin naturally denotes the inviolable security of the citadel of Jehovah.
Hath shaken her head at thee.—Or, hath nodded behind thee. (Comp. Psalms 22:8.) The people of Jerusalem nod in scorn at the retiring envoys of Sennacherib.
(22) On high—i.e., towards heaven (Isaiah 40:26). (Comp. Isaiah 14:13-14.)
The Holy One of Israel.—A favourite expression of Isaiah’s, in whose book it occurs twenty-seven times, and only five times elsewhere in the Old Testameut (Psalms 71:22; Psalms 78:41; Psalms 89:19; Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:5).
(23) The multitude.—The reading of the Hebrew margin, of many MSS., Isaiah, and all the versions. The Hebrew text has “with the chariotry of my chariotry”—obviously a scribe’s error.
I am come up . . . mountains.—I (emphatic) have ascended lofty mountains. Such boasts are common in the Assyrian inscriptions.
To the sides of Lebanon.—Thenius explains: “the spurs of the Lebanon—i.e., the strongholds of Judæa, which Sennacherib had already captured.” “Lebanon, as the northern bulwark of the land of Israel, is used as a representative or symbol for the whole country (Zechariah 11:1)” (Cheyne). The language is similar in Isaiah 14:13.
And will cut down . . .—Or, and I will fell the tallest cedars thereof, the choicest firs thereof. Cedars and firs in Isaiah’s language symbolise “kings, princes, and nobles, all that is highest and most stately” (Birks), or “the most puissant defenders” (Thenius). (See Isaiah 2:13; Isaiah 10:33-34.)
The lodgings of his borders.—Or, the furthest lodging thereof—i.e., Mount Zion or Jerusalem. Isaiah has height for lodging, either a scribe’s error or an editor’s correction.
Carmel—i.e., pleasure-garden or park (Isaiah 10:18). The royal palace and grounds appear to be meant. Thenius compares “the house of the forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7:2).
(24) I have digged and drunk strange waters.—Scarcity of water has hitherto been no bar to my advance. In foreign and hostile lands, where the fountains and cisterns have been stopped and covered in (2 Chronicles 32:3), I have digged new wells.
And with the sole . . . places.—Rather, and I will dry up with the sole of my feet all the Nile arms of Mâçôr—i.e., Lower Egypt. (Comp. Isaiah 19:5 seq.) Neither mountains nor rivers avail to stop my progress. As the style is poetical, perhaps it would be correct to take the perfects, which in 2 Kings 19:23-24 alternate with imperfects, in a future sense: “I—I will ascend lofty mountains . . . I will dig and drink strange waters” the latter in the arid desert that lies between Egypt and Palestine (the Et-Tîh). Otherwise, both perfects and imperfects may mark what is habitual: “I ascend . . . I dig.”
(25) Hast thou not heard . . .?—Hast thou not heard? In the far past it I made; in the days of yore did I fashion it; now have I brought it to pass. The “it”—the thing long since foreordained by Jehovah—is defined by the words: “that thou shouldest be to lay waste,” &c. (Comp. Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 46:10-11; Isaiah 10:5-15.)
(26) Of small power.—Literally, short-handed. (Comp. Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 59:1.) Keil compares the well-known title of Artaxerxes I., Longimanus, the “long-handed,” as if that epithet meant far-reaching in power. Thenius says that a frightened man draws in his arms (?)
As the grass . . .—The as may better be omitted. They were field growth and green herbage; grass of the roofs and blasting before stalk. The sense seems imperfect, unless we supply the idea of withering away, as in Psalms 37:2; Psalms 90:5-6; Psalms 129:6; Isaiah 40:0 (5, 7. Instead of the word blasting the parallel text (Isaiah 37:27) has field—a difference of one letter. Thenius adopts this, and corrects stalk into east wind, no great change in the Hebrew. We thus get the appropriate expression: and a field before the east wind.
(27) But I know thy abode . . .—Literally, and thy down sitting, and thy going out, and thy coming in I know. Clearly something has fallen out at the opening of the sentence. Probably the words before me is thine uprising have been omitted by some copyist, owing to their resemblance to the words which end the last verse. So Wellhausen. (See Psalms 139:2.) The thought thus expressed is this: I know all thy plans and thy doings; I see also thy present rebellion against me. What thou hast hitherto done was done because I willed it: now I will check thee.
(28) Because thy rage . . . is come up.—Literally, Because of thy rage . . . and of thy self confidence (Isaiah 32:9; Isaiah 32:11; Isaiah 32:18) which hath come up. Or else the construction is changed: Because of thy rage . . . and because that thy self-confidence is come up . . .
I will put my hook . . . lips.—Comp. the Note on 2 Chronicles 33:11, where this threat is shown to be no mere figure of speech. Keil’s remark, however, is also to the purpose: “The metaphor is taken from wild animals, which are thus held in check—the ring in the nose of lions (Ezekiel 19:4), and other wild beasts (Ezekiel 29:4; Isaiah 30:28), the bridle in the mouth of intractable horses” (Psalms 32:9). This agrees with “I will turn thee back,” &c. (With this last comp. 2 Kings 18:24).
(29) And this shall be a sign unto thee.—The prophet now addresses Hezekiah.
A sign.—Rather, the sign; namely, of the truth of this prophetic word. “The sign consists in the foretelling of natural and nearer events, which serve to accredit the proper prediction. The purport of it is that this and the next year the country will be still occupied by the enemy, so that men cannot sow and reap as usual, but must live on that which grows without sowing. In the third year, they will again be able to cultivate their fields and vineyards, and reap the fruits of them” (Keil). The prophecy was probably uttered in the autumn, so that only one full year from that time would be lost to husbandry.
Ye shall eat.—Or, eat ye.
Such things as grow of themselves.—The Hebrew is a single word, sâphîah, “the after-growth” (Cheyne; see Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11).
That which springeth of the same.—Again one word in the Hebrew, sâhîsh, or as in Isaiah, shâhîs probably synonymous with the preceding term, “after-shoot,” i.e., the growth from old roots left in the ground.
(30) The remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah.—Rather, the survival (survivors) of the house of Judah that are left. (Comp. Isaiah 11:11-16.)
Shall yet again take root.—Literally, shall add root, i.e., shall take firmer root, like a tree after a storm. The figure naturally follows on the language of 2 Kings 19:29. It is thoroughly in the style of Isaiah. (Comp. Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 27:6.)
(31)A remnant.—Isaiah’s favourite doctrine of the remnant (Isaiah 4:2-3; Isaiah 10:20-21).
They that escape.—A survival.
Out of Jerusalem.—The ravaged land was to be newly stocked from thence.
The zeal (jealousy) of the Lord of hosts shall do this.—Another of the phrases of Isaiah. (See Isaiah 10:7.) (The word hosts, wanting in the common Hebrew text, is found in many MSS., and all the versions).
(32) Into this city.—Or, unto this city. Sennacherib shall not come hither to make his intended attack.
Nor shoot an arrow there (at it).—In open assault.
Nor come before it with shield.—As a storming party advances to the walls under cover of their shields.
Nor cast a bank against it.—In regular siege. Comp. 2 Samuel 20:15; Habakkuk 1:10). The incidents of warfare here specified may be seen represented on the Assyrian sculptures from Khorsâbad and elsewhere.
(32-34) This may be, as Mr. Cheyne supposes, an after addition to the original prophecy. Isaiah may have spoken it a little later, in which case it was quite natural for an editor to append it here, as belonging to the same crisis. But it seems better to see here a return to the subject of the king of Assyria, after the parenthetic address to Hezekiah. The repetition of 2 Kings 19:28 in 2 Kings 19:33 favours this view.
(33) He came.—So the versions and Isaiah, rightly. The Heb. text here has “he cometh,” or “shall come.” With the thought comp. 2 Kings 19:28 : “I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.”
And shall not come into this city.—And unto this city he shall not come (2 Kings 19:32).
(34) For I will defend.—And I will cover (with a shield). (Comp. Isaiah 31:5; Isaiah 38:6; 2 Kings 20:6.)
For my servant David’s sake.—See 1 Kings 11:12-13, and the promise in 2 Samuel 7:0.
(35-37) THE CATASTROPHE. SENNACHERIB’S RETREAT, AND HIS “VIOLENT END.
(35) And it came to pass (in) that night.—This definition of time is wanting in the parallel text; but it is implied by the phrase in the morning (Isaiah 37:36; 2 Kings 19:35). The night intended can hardly be the one which followed the day when the prophecy was spoken (see 2 Kings 19:29). The expression “in that night,” may perhaps be compared with the prophetic “in that day,” and understood to. mean simply “in that memorable night which was the occasion of this catastrophe.” (Theuius sees in this clause an indication that the present section was derived from another source, probably from the one used by the chronicler in 2 Chronicles 32:20-23. Reuss thinks this confirmed by the fact that neither the prediction in 2 Kings 19:7, nor that of 2 Kings 19:21-34, speaks of so great and so immediate an overthrow.)
The angel of the Lord went out.—The destroying angel, who smote the firstborn of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12-13; Exodus 12:23), and smote Israel after David’s census (2 Samuel 24:15-17). These passages undoubtedly favour the view that the Assyrian army was devastated by pestilence, as Josephus asserts. Others have suggested the agency of a simoom, a storm with lightning, an earthquake, &c. In any case a supernatural causation is involved not only in the immense number slain, and that in one night (Psalms 91:6), but in the coincidence of the event with the predictions of Isaiah, and with the crisis in the history of the true religion:
“Vuolsi così colà dove si puote
Ciò che si vuole; e più non dimandare.”
In the camp of the Assyrians.—Where this was is not said. That it was not before Jerusalem appears from 2 Kings 19:32-33; and the well-known narrative of Herodotus (ii. 141) fixes Egypt, the land of plagues, as the scene of the catastrophe. “Of the details of the catastrophe, which the Bible narrative is content to characterise as the act of God, the Assyrian monuments contain no record, because the issue of the campaign gave them nothing to boast of; but an Egyptian account, preserved by Herodotus, though full of fabulous circumstances, shows that in Egypt, as well as in Judæa, it was recognised as a direct intervention of Divine power. The disaster did not break the power of the great king, who continued to reign for twenty years, and waged many other victorious wars. But none the less it must have been a very grave blow, the effects of which were felt throughout the empire, and permanently modified the imperial policy; for in the following year Chaldæa was again in revolt, and to the end of his reign Sennacherib never renewed his attack upon Judah” (Robertson Smith).
And when they arose early.—The few who were spared found, not sick and dying, but corpses, all around them. (Comp. Exodus 12:33 : “They said, we be all dead men.”)
(36) Departed, and went.—Broke up camp, and marched. There should be a stop at returned.
And dwelt at Nineveh.—Or, and he abode in Nineveh, implying that he did not again invade the west. Sennacherib records five subsequent expeditions to the east, north, and south of his dominions, but these obviously were nothing to the peoples of Palestine. (See Notes on 2 Kings 20:12.)
Nineveh.—The capital of Assyria, now marked by large mounds on the east bank of the Tigris, opposite Mosul. (The Arabic version has “the king of Mosul,” instead of “the king of Assyria.”) It is usually called Ninua in the inscriptions; sometimes Ninâ, seldom Ninû (Greek, Nîvos.)
(37) And it came to pass.—Twenty years afterwards.
Nisroch.—This name appears to be corrupt. The LXX. gives Νεσεραχ and Μεσορὰχ; Josephus, ἐν Αράσαη, “in Araskè,” as if the name were that of the temple rather than the god. The Hebrew version of Tobit (1:21) gives Dagon as the god. Dagon (Da-kan, Da-gan-nu) was worshipped at an early date in Babylonia, and later in Assyria; but no stress can be laid on the evidence of a late version of an Apochryphon. Wellhausen thinks the original reading of the LXX. must have been Άσσαρὰχ, which seems to involve the name of Asshur, the supreme god of the Assyrians.
Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him.—The Assyrian monuments are silent on the subject of the death of Sennacherib. For Adrammelech, see the Note on 2 Kings 17:31. Sharezer, in Assyrian, Sar-uçur, “protect the king,” is only part of a name. The other half is found in Abydenus (apud Eusebius), who records that Sennacherib was slain by his son Adramelos, and succeeded by Nergilos (i.e., Nergal), who was slain by Axerdis (Esarhaddon). From this it appears that the full name was Nergal-sar-uçur, “Nergal protect the king!” (the Greek Neriglissar.) (See Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13.)
And they escaped into the land of Armenia.—Ararat, the Assyrian Urartu, was the name of the great plain through which the Araxes flowed. The battle in which Esarhaddon defeated his brothers was fought somewhere in Little Armenia, near the Euphrates, according to Schrader, who gives a fragment of an inscription apparently relating thereto.
Esarhaddon.—The Assyrian Assur-aha-iddina, “Asshur gave a brother,” who reigned 681-668 B.C.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19