In the previous post, “Introduction to Isaiah,” I discussed how the book of Isaiah is broken down into three parts. Remember, this is a look at Isaiah as a literary masterpiece. The first part is Chapters 1-35, written as a drama with the theme being Judgement. Israel is on trial as the defendant. God is Judge. The heavens and the earth are witnesses. Now in the second part are Chapters 36-39.
Isaiah begins in Chapter 36: 1 explaining the period he is writing about. Isaiah’s writings were 740-686 BC but he tells us in this chapter and verse, “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” This event happened in the year 701 BC. We are given this information in the books of 2Kings 18: 17-37 and 2Chronicles 32:9-19 as well as Isaiah chapter 36. King Sennacherib sends word by his field commander to King Hezekiah, through his secretary and son to the palace administrator Shebna and Joah son of Asaph the recorder.
In his message (2 Kings 18:19-36 ), Sennacherib belittles Hezekiah. But more importantly he tries to intimidate Hezekiah by dismissing the God of Israel, 2 Kings 18:35, “Who of all the gods of all these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
Hezekiah becomes ill and Isaiah receives a message from the Lord to tell Hezekiah he will die ch 38:1. Hezekiah prays and the Lord adds 15 years to his life. This was before Sennacherib arrives in Jerusalem. Isaiah 38:6 tells us “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.” He wrote about Hezekiah’s illness and recovery in 38:10-22.
In chapter 39 envoys were sent to Jerusalem from Babylon. Hezekiah foolishly gives them a tour of all his treasures. The Lord tells Hezekiah through Isaiah that his people will all be captured and taken to Babylon. Hezekiah accepts the Judgment of the Lord in the last verse of chapter 39. The Lord has punished Israel for her apostasy. This event is also chronicled in Lord Byron’s, English poet and playwright (1788-1824, in “The Destruction of Sennacherib.”
Next, we move to part three which theme is Grace given to us in the form of poetry. Chapters 40 through the end of Isaiah gives us more of the history of what is happening. After Babylon, Persia’s king Cyrus will let all the captive go home, rebuild, and pay taxes to Persia. We learn the details in this poetic framework.
This post is open for discussion for anyone wanting expand on or critique it. I hope I have summarized the historical framework of chapters 36-39 in a way it can be understood clearly.
© Phyllis Weeks Rogers 3/9/18