Rulers of Israel and Judah: A Timeline of I and II Kings


“The Good Book” site, based in the UK, features a neat resource for those who appreciate history, particularly the history of the kings of Israel and Judah (1050 – 586 BC). The following graphic lists all the kings in chronological order – both before the kingdom was divided (Saul, David, Solomon), and after the kingdom was divided in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The names of the kings are color-coded based on whether they did right in the eyes of the Lord, mostly did what was right, or did evil. The prophets and the dates of their ministries are also listed beside the appropriate column (Israel or Judah), along with Scripture references where the various characters are mentioned. 

kingsinfo

 

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The Scepter Shall Not Depart From Judah UNTIL…


Sometimes a whole lot of meaning is packed into one word. This is the case with the word “until,” where it appears in Genesis 49 in one of the earliest prophecies in Scripture.

Jacob, later named “Israel” (Genesis 49:2), was the grandson of Abraham, and he knew that he was about to die. So he gathered his 12 sons to bless them (verse 28) and to tell them what would “befall [them] in the last days” (verse 1). When it was Judah’s turn to be blessed, Jacob proclaimed the coming of Jesus in Israel’s last days (see also Hebrews 1:1-2, 9:26):

Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).

The word “until” speaks volumes here. For many centuries, Judah’s tribe would hold onto the giving of the law and the scepter, which is defined in Strong’s Concordance as a staff of authority for ruling. However, Judah’s hold on the scepter and the law was only temporary. Shiloh (Jesus) was coming! He was to take over this scepter, and the people of God would be gathered to Him to obey Him.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah…until Shiloh comes=

The scepter will depart from Judah when Shiloh comes.

In David’s time, we see that God still referred to Judah as His scepter (Psalm 60:7, 108:8). Then after David and Solomon reigned, there was a split between the 10 northern tribes of Israel and the tribe of Judah, also known as the house of David (I Kings 11:29-36, 12:16-20). In 722 BC, the 10 northern tribes were defeated and captured by Assyria, and for the most part they remained scattered among the nations.

In 586 BC, Judah was also defeated and captured by Babylon. However, after Medo-Persia defeated Babylon (Isaiah 13, Daniel 5-6) in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great allowed the people of Judah to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC (Ezra 1:1-8, Isaiah 45:1-8). Zerubbabel, who led them, was from the lineage of David and appeared in the genealogies of Jesus (Matthew 1:12-13, Luke 3:27). During the next few centuries, Judah had rulers among themselves even while they were under Persia, Greece, Syria, and the Romans. By the time Jesus came, the people of Judah were submitted to the rule and the law of the Sanhedrin (e.g. John 18:31).

As Jacob prophesied, the scepter remained with Judah all the way up until Jesus came. The coming of Jesus is one of the reasons, and the greatest reason, why Judah was preserved and kept intact while the 10 tribes were not. In Revelation 5:5, it’s significant that Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (see Genesis 49:9, quoted above). 

Christian Zionism, dispensationalism, and the Hebrew Roots Movement would nearly (or outright) have us believe that the scepter has not passed from Judah to Jesus. According to these movements, Jesus is not the center of prophecy; national Israel is. According to these movements, the plans, purposes, and promises of God do not belong primarily to Jesus and His followers, but to national Israel and/or the Jewish people. According to these movements, Jews are God’s chosen people (whether they love Jesus or hate Him), but Jesus and His followers are not God’s chosen people (or this is true of us only in a secondary sense). According to these movements, Torah (the law of Moses) is often preeminent, being at least as important as the law of Christ and His teachings.

Jesus has come, and the scepter is in His hands. To Jesus belongs the obedience of God’s people. He is the Desire of All Nations (Haggai 2:7), the One who has gathered “together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11:52), and the One who draws all people to Himself (John 12:32). He is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6; 7:22).

The law, the covenant(s), and the priesthood were transferred out of Judah’s hand 2000 years ago, and there’s no handing back of the baton to Judah/Israel. All the types and shadows of the old covenant find their reality and fulfillment in Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

“The Diaspora & Aliyah of Judah-Israel (Fulfilled)” by Steve Thomas


The following article is an excellent analysis and critique of a key idea promoted by Christian Zionists (and dispensationalists). This idea is that Old Testament prophecies concerning a regathering of Judah/Israel to the land were not fulfilled under Ezra and Nehemiah, but rather have been fulfilled since Israel became a nation in 1948 (some 2600 years after these prophecies were given). Steve Thomas shows that this idea does not stand up to the light of Scripture or history. Steve lives in the United Kingdom and moderates a Facebook group called “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths Biblically, One at a Time,” where this article was posted two weeks ago.

The Multinational Dispersal & Return: Christian Zionist Presumptions

Presumption 1.) It is presumed that the 70 year exile of the people of Judah (605-536BC) in Babylon, up to the time of Nehemiah’s return in c. 445 BC was

a.) in only one nation Babylon,

b.) in just one direction East of Israel

Presumption 2.) Upon the 1st is based a 2nd – That as the Babylonian captivity did not fulfil these two  basic criteria, a far greater dispersion (Diaspora) must be intended within the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel & Zechariah. In contrast to the Babylonian exile, they say, these prophecies define the location of the Diaspora as:

a.) nations (plural),

b.) all points of the compass – especially to the north.

Presumption 3.) Upon this 2nd is based the 3rd – That the steady migration of Jewish people to Israel, in the 20th & 21st centuries, must necessarily therefore be the prophetic fulfilment of the promises given forth in the following 4 primary dispersion-retrieval passages, as the former exile fails to meet the necessary criteria:

=> Jeremiah 3:18   In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

=> Jeremiah 16: 14-15  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”

=> Zechariah 2: 6-8  “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. 7 Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. 8  For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

=> Isaiah 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.”

A RESPONSE

The Bible record of the Diaspora shows that, contrary to CZM [Christian Zionism] assumptions detailed above, the historical dispersion was definitely multinational, and was certainly multi-directional:

EVIDENCE 1. => Jeremiah 44:1 “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros…”

Pathros was situated in southern Egypt, in the region of Aswan, south of today’s Cairo:

http://www.world-guides.com/images/egypt/egypt_map1.jpg

^This^ was written during the exile, in the time of Gedaliah’s governorship of Jerusalem (Jer 40:5), following the 586BC destruction of the temple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gedaliah

EVIDENCE 2. The following map, from an encyclopaedia of Egypt showing equivalent modern nations, shows the extent of the Diaspora at the time of Esther – from India to Ethiopia:

http://encyclopediaegypt.com/israel/persia.jpg

=> Esther 8: 9   “Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are FROM INDIA UNTO ETHIOPIA, an **hundred twenty and seven provinces**, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.”

The book of Esther is set in the 7th year+ of the reign of the Persian King Xerxes (479BC), in Shushan, 200 miles east of Babylon. This places these events during the exile of Judah, some 35 years prior to Nehemiah’s return.

From this evidence it is clear that, far from the Diaspora being to one nation, in one direction, it proves to be well over 100 international provinces, to all four points of the compass.

Source

FURTHER EVIDENCE – provided within the prophecies themselves

1.) The nations surrounding Babylon were all part of the Chaldean empire during the captivity of Judah:

=> Jeremiah 25:11  “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

2.) Zechariah 2:6-8 (above) defines the dispersion as encompassing: 

a.) Babylon

b.) the land of the north

c.) the nations (plural).

3.) Jeremiah similarly defines the location and extent of the captivity:

a.) Babylon

b.) for 70 years

c.) the nations (plural):

=> “‘For thus says the LORD, that after seventy years are accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place’; ‘And I will be found of you, says the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place where I caused you to be carried away captive’; ‘Hear therefore the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon’” (Jeremiah 29:10,14,20).

This evidence removes all doubt as to the multinational and multi-directional nature of the Babylonian captivity, being the only captivity detailed in these pre-exilic and exilic prophecies.

NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE

The Book of Acts describes the gathered Jewish community – resident in Jerusalem and gathered from the Diaspora – identifying their places of origin. The list of locations matches the Diaspora destinations predicted in Isaiah 11:11 (above) from which God said he would gather the children of Judah-Israel. These are comprehensively summarised at Pentecost, being “out of every nation under heaven.” Whether this is emphatic hyperbole, or not, it serves to complete the evidence – that the Diaspora was certainly as full as possibly necessary to fulfil criteria given within the prophecies of dispersion & retrieval:

=> Acts 2:5-11 “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of **every nation** under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7   And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

We see that ^these^ locations perfectly match the very places listed in Isaiah 11 – please do see the following maps of the dispersion of Judah under Chaldean Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar and his successors to Belshazzar) and subsequently in the Medo-Persian Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus and his successors, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes et al.):

Isaiah 11: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Map_achaemenid_empire_en.png

 

Acts 2: http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/files/2014/06/Pentecost-in-Jerusalem-Map.jpg

Other maps relating to the Acts 2 list:

http://www.travellinkturkey.com/images/auxilary/phrygia.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontus#mediaviewer/File:1stMithritadicwar89BC.png

http://www.talentshare.org/~mm9n/articles/Paul/Image19.gif

CONCLUSION

When presented with ^this^ conclusive evidence, Christian Zionist & Messianic protagonists generally forego the opportunity to respond to the ‘evaporation’ of those initial presumptions listed at the top of this post. When shown the evidence, I have not yet encountered a CZ enthusiast who admits that, “OK, the Babylonian captivity was, after all, many nations, and multiple directions; and those who suggest otherwise do seem to be unfortunately mistaken.” Instead, they tend to ‘move swiftly on,’ reverting to a couple of further arguments in favour of a modern Diaspora & Aliyah:

Presumption 4.)   It is said that, “the OT prophecies must have had a *double meaning*. Sure – they referred to the Babylonian exile in the near term (and well done for pointing that out in such detail, etc.), but today’s events are the *bigger* picture in view – the final and greater intended dual fulfilment.” Strangely, no evidence from within the prophetic texts is then presented to support this response, if challenged. It appears to be a case of prophetic guesswork – the 4th uncorroborated presumption.

Which leaves us wondering what the modern Christian Zionist theory is actually based upon. Certainly the details of the captivity, the people involved, the timing, and the location, are very precise, and given to the people at the time to show them the direction of travel intended by God. The return to the land was intended to prepare for the coming of Messiah – the prophecies of His advent being interspersed amongst the return prophecies, as God’s intended end in view.

Presumption 5.)    When it is pointed out that no post-exilic OT prophecies of another, later return can be found, and none are given in the New Testament (other than the final ingathering of the elect on the Day of the Lord,) this is brushed aside. It is said that “Israel *needs* to be back in the land for Zechariah 14 to occur” etc., which is another story, but not a proof that the Aliyah prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah can be transferred across millennia or responsibly replicated to today’s calendar without any biblical precedent. Ironically, the protagonists of this eschatology generally like to present their position as a literal reading of the bible.

Presumption 6.) Finally, the 6th presumption is called upon, when faced with the logical collapse of the previous five. It is said that, “such a global phenomenon as the Jewish repatriation of 20th and 21st century Zionism is so profound and large-scale, that it cannot be anything other than the work of God.”

But we know that nations and empires do come and go, by the wit and will of men. Organised campaigns have great power to effect enormous political change; to raise ethnic solidarity across the continents and the centuries. Just thinking of the power of the Soviet Union to coalesce and disperse populations; The modern democratic ideology; Globalisation; Nationalisms of other people groups like Kurds, Palestinians, Albanians, Kosovans and Serbs, ethnic Russians in modern Soviet satellites, the international Chinese community, Brits abroad, Irish and Scottish nationalism  etc.

It may be for instance, that the Jewish identity is intended by God to remain intact, but for the purpose of displaying the evidence and veracity of biblical history – to authenticate the bible narrative – to remind the world to take the bible seriously as the largely FULFILLED Word of God. There are several reasons that Israel might exist today – not least, the possibility that a counterfeit Kingdom of God is in view. After all, even Christian Zionists themselves propose that an antichrist kingdom will prevail in Jerusalem in coming days, so this is not too farfetched an idea…

Whichever way we take this – basing an eschatology on a set of disproven assumptions, then continuing to hold to this once they have been exposed, would seem to be to somewhat irrational. Various psychological and emotional responses come into play to defend a belief so strongly held, in the discomfort of ‘cognitive dissonance’. Evidence is compiled to bolster a preconceived ‘confirmation bias’ that persists over and against contrary evidence, no matter the strength and validity of the counter-evidence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

SUMMARY

Finally, a 7th presumption is presented, more in the way of a ‘threat’: It is said by CZM enthusiasts, “If God is not going to be faithful to Israel – in bringing the nation back again – how do you know for sure, as a Christian, that God will remain faithful to you?”

This is a poor argument, and easily resolved. The opposite is in fact the case. Having seen the comprehensive evidence above, how does the CZM enthusiast – in claiming that the prophetic fulfilments recorded within the very bible itself are *not* the intended completion of those anticipations – then go on to have confidence that *anything* will happen according to these unfulfilled aspirations? Especially aspirations that to all intents and purposes are widely expected within the CZM movement to conclude in a sinister covenant with the Jewish people, under a satanic regime in Jerusalem, ruled by an antichrist devil-man, in defiance of the Almighty.

Far better, is it not, to accept the well-attested faithfulness of God in:

1.) the fulfilment of the promises to the Fathers in the initial entry to the land (Joshua 21:43-45)

2.) the completion of the promises of exile and return to the people of Judah in the 6th and 5th centuries BC (Ezra 2:70),

3.) the Messianic deliverance in the New Covenant by Jesus,

4.) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his people at Pentecost, and

5.) the Word of the Lord going forth from Zion in the Great Gospel Commission?

6.) the remaining, future, final return of Christ in glory to gather his saints from the four winds into the eternal kingdom (Mark 13:27).***

HalleluYAH! Yes indeed God *IS* faithful to his promises and his people – and we can prove it, with biblical evidence, every step of the way!

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*** Adam’s note: I believe that Mark 13 (The Olivet Discourse), and parallel accounts in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, were fulfilled in the first century AD (my study on this topic can be seen here).

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Related Post: Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel

Isaiah 17:12-14 Is Addressed To the Enemies of Judah


Our previous post, “The Bible does not teach that Damascus, Syria is about to be destroyed,” concluded that Isaiah 17:1-6 was fulfilled during the days of the Assyrian empire, even during Isaiah’s own day. In this post we will study the final eight verses of Isaiah 17, and propose that Isaiah 17 is essentially a three-part prophecy which covers:

1. how Assyria defeated Damascus and Syria in 732 BC (verses 1-3)
2. how Assyria defeated the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC (verses 4-11)
3. how Assyria attempted to defeat Judah and Jerusalem in 701 BC, but miserably failed when God miraculously intervened (verses 12-14).

A Review of Isaiah 17:1-6

Here’s a summary of what we covered in the previous post:

  • Amos, a contemporary of Isaiah, prophesied that Damascus was to be punished and defeated, and that the people of Syria would be taken captive to Kir.
  • Isaiah 7 – 8 tell us that Syria (led by king Rezin) and Israel (led by king Pekah) conspired together in an attempt to destroy Judah and Jerusalem. Isaiah foretold that both Syria and Israel would be soundly defeated by Assyria.
  • Isaiah 17 again foretold that both Syria and Israel were about to be defeated, and that Damascus would lose its kingdom and be turned into a ruinous heap.
  • II Kings 16 shows Syria and Israel coming together to attack Judah and Jerusalem. This is followed by the king of Assyria conquering Damascus, killing Rezin (their king), and taking the people of Damascus captive to Kir.
  • Isaiah 17:4 uses the phrase “in that day” to describe when Israel would be defeated. We know that Israel was destroyed in 722 BC, and that it was at the hand of Assyria. “In that day” was a reference to the defeat of Syria and Damascus foretold in verses 1-3. So if Isaiah 17:4-11 was fulfilled when the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria, then Isaiah 17:1-3 was also fulfilled around the same time.
  • We have the testimony of Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria that he destroyed 591 cities in the 16 districts of Damascus in 732 BC, and other secular testimonies that Damascus ceased to be a kingdom at this time in history (as foretold in Isaiah 17:3).

When Isaiah turned his attention from Syria (verses 1-3) to Israel, he predicted that Jacob’s glory would fade away, his flesh would grow thin, and Jacob would be like an olive tree which had only a few olives in the top branches of the tree (verses 4-6). In 722 BC Assyria struck a fatal blow to the 10 northern tribes of Israel, and they were all carried off to captivity in stages. One way to understand the few remaining olives is to consider that this left only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to the south, along with the pivotal city of Jerusalem. It could also be a reference to just a few citizens of Israel being left behind, or possibly escaping. The imagery of flesh growing thin may have also been a reference to famine caused by Assyria’s three-year siege from 725 – 722 BC (see II Kings 17:3-6).

The manner in which the Assyrians carried off their captives was humiliating and fairly gruesome. The captives had to march naked, even for hundreds of miles, linked together with string and fishhooks pierced through their lower lips (PG-rated photo at link). Amos predicted that this would come upon Israel:

“The Lord God has sworn by His holiness: ‘Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. You will go out through broken walls, each one straight ahead of her, and you will be cast into Harmon,’ says the Lord” (Amos 4:2-3).

Isaiah 17:7-11

Isaiah goes on to predict the aftermath of Israel’s fall to Assyria:

In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; He will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there will be desolation. Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; In the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow” (Isaiah 17:7-11).

What a picture of heartache and futility for the captives of Israel, but also a picture of lessons learned. They would finally see the uselessness of their idols and altars made to other gods, and they would see how true and worthy God was. The Pulpit Commentary (published in 1890) notes that during Josiah’s reign “offerings of money were made for the temple service by ‘men of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel,’ which the Levites collected and brought to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 34:9)” from the captives. Yet their former cities were forsaken, and their efforts at creating a harvest would yield only “a heap of ruins.” This expression, incidentally, was also used to describe the fate of Damascus (verse 1).

Isaiah 17:12-14

Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us” (Isaiah 17:12-14).

Here are a couple of questions to ask regarding these final verses of Isaiah 17:

1. Who are the “many people” and “the rushing…nations” spoken of here?
2. Who is Isaiah speaking of when he says “us“?

In the previous post, we saw Syria and Israel forming a coalition to attack Judah (Isaiah 7-8), and Isaiah predicting in detail that they would both be overwhelmed by Assyria. Recall that Isaiah described Assyria as “the waters of the river, strong and mighty” (Isaiah 8:7). This imagery was significant because Israel had “refused the waters of Shiloah that flow softly” (Isaiah 8:6). This was a reference (see Nehemiah 3:15) to the stream of water flowing from the Kidron Valley toward the temple in Jerusalem, the center of worship. Isaiah goes on to describe Assyria in terms of a violent, massive body of water: “He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. He will pass through Judah, he will overflow and pass over, he will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:7-8).

This indicates that Isaiah is now prophesying against the same entity, Assyria, in this final portion of Isaiah 17. Assyria was an empire made up of many nations, which often had to do Assyria’s bidding “or else.” Just like in Isaiah 8, Assyria was pictured as “rushing like the rushing of mighty waters…the rushing of many waters” (Isaiah 17:12, 13).  Assyria would have already had its way with Syria and Israel, so who were they to seek to plunder and rob next (verse 14)? Isaiah includes himself when he says “us.” He’s referring to his own people, and Jewish tradition has it that Isaiah was from Judah. The overall scheme of his book was also “concerning Judah and Israel” (Isaiah 1:1). Assyria would attempt to attack Judah.

This being the case, how and when were the prophecies of verses 12-14 fulfilled? Numerous older commentators are in consensus that Isaiah’s words played out when Sennacherib, another king of Assyria, came against Judah to attack it in 701 BC. This is the opinion of Albert Barnes (1834), Adam Clarke (1831), John Gill (1763), the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary (1882), and The Pulpit Commentary (1890). Matthew Henry (1710), John Wesley (1765), and the Geneva Study Bible (1599) also at least identify Assyria as the attacking army (Source: commentaries on verse 12, verse 13, verse 14). We can see the story of Sennacherib’s attack and resounding defeat in II Kings 18-19, II Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-37.

In these three accounts we see that Hezekiah, who had much favor from the Lord, rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. In the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria besieged Samaria, finished off the northern kingdom of Israel three years later, and deported the people of Israel to the cities of the Medes and elsewhere. A decade later, Assyria captured the fortified cities of Judah, causing Hezekiah to strip the silver and gold from the temple in Jerusalem and give it to Sennacherib, who had then become king of Assyria. Sennacherib then sent a great army against Jerusalem, believing that he would take this city too. He taunted and even bribed the people of Judah with many words, saying things like this:

Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands in any way able to deliver their lands out of my hand? Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed that could deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or persuade you like this, and do not believe him; for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?” (II Chron. 19:13-15).

Isaiah and Hezekiah prayed and cried out to God together (II Chron. 19:20). Hezekiah specifically prayed these words: “…Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone” (II Kings 19:7-9). God’s response was amazing:

And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians 185,000; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat” (II Kings 19:35-37, Isaiah 37:36-38).

This is how God miraculously intervened when Judah was under threat by the most powerful army in the world at that time. It happened in the middle of the night, just like Isaiah 17:14 predicted. “Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more.” Not only did Sennacherib depart, but he was chased for a long distance. Herodotus, the Greek historian known as “The Father of History,” records that when he retreated from Judah “the Egyptians pursued the army of Sennacherib and slew vast numbers” (The Histories 2:141). Isaiah 17:13 predicted that the surviving Assyrians would “be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind.” The result of these events was that God was glorified, just as Hezekiah had prayed:

Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. And many brought gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter” (II Chron. 32:22-23).

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Isaiah 17 contains fascinating examples of prophecies given and prophecies fulfilled. The way in which they were fulfilled is richer than any futile speculation about how Isaiah 17 might be fulfilled in our own future.