The Babylonian Exile #2

Assyria, like a great river, swept southward into Judah, having overwhelmed Syria and the ten northern tribes. Earlier, Hezekiah, Judah’s king, had revolted against Assyria’s rule and now the nation was feeling the fury of Assyria. Isaiah had prophesied of this advance into Judah saying, “… and it shall sweep onward into Judah it shall overflow and pass through, it shall reach even unto the neck and the stretching out of its wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel” (Isa. 8:8). That time had come. Jerusalem was a beleaguered city, the sole survivor of Judah’s fortified cities. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, had sent Rabshakah to “finish the job” — defeat Jerusalem and totally overwhelm the land. He spoke contemptuously of God and Hezekiah, and boasted of the “invincible” power of his king and country. He called for Judah’s unconditional surrender. Hezekiah was distraught. He appealed to Isaiah the prophet for his prayers to Jehovah for help and then went to the temple and poured out an anguished plea for help from Jehovah (2 Kings 19:1-19).

God heard the prayers of Hezekiah, and Isaiah and the prophet reported God’s words to Hezekiah. Jehovah would, because of Assyria’s pride and arrogance, “put a hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back into the way by which thou camest” (2 Kings 19:28). God promised Hezekiah concerning the Assyrian king: “He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, neither shall he come before it with shield, nor cast up a mound against it” (2 Kings 19:32). God promised the king of Assyria would return into his own land and that he would be slain (2 Kings 19:35). As God promised so God delivered: “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of Jehovah went forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred four score and five thousand” (2 Kings 19:35). God’s words came true. The waters of the great river had covered them and reached to the neck. But the head survived: Assyria was decisively and ingloriously defeated. Jerusalem was still intact!

Hezekiah’s relief and joy of deliverance was short lived. His own life was on the line by sickness and Isaiah was sent to him with this message: “Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die and not live” (Isa. 38:1). How grieved he was! His city had been delivered from destruction, but he must die. He wept sorely and begged God to spare his life (Isa. 38:1). Now God commanded Isaiah to return to Hezekiah with a jubilant message: God heard his prayer, would spare his life, and granted him a fifteen year extension to it (Isa. 38:14). Isaiah gave a sign to Hezekiah: the day would be lengthened by ten steps on the sun dial (Isa. 38:8). Hezekiah was providentially healed, but that message was confirmed by a miracle that the day was lengthened ten steps!

The king of Babylon heard of this marvel. The effects of the lengthening of a day in Jerusalem brought the lengthening of the day worldwide (2 Chron. 32:31). He heard of Hezekiah’s recovery and sent a note of congratulations to Hezekiah along with presents from the king. The flattery of this attention produced a wrongful pride in Hezekiah. He showed the king’s messenger all his treasures and his kingdom. Once more Isaiah is commissioned to address Hezekiah. In summation, Hezekiah was told that because of his pride, “Behold the days are coming when all that is in thy house, and what thy fathers have laid up in store until this day shall be carried to Babylon: nothing should be left, saith Jehovah. And of thy sons that shalt issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isa. 39:6-7). Hezekiah humbly submitted to the edict of God (Isa. 39:8). This prophecy of a future devastation to the king was predicted about 700 B.C. It would be more than 110 years before the prophecy would be fully completed, but it would come for Jehovah had spoken and God cannot lie.

It is true that Isaiah’s prophecy of looting and making exiles was spoken of Hezekiah regarding his family, but Micah, a prophet who was contemporaneous with Isaiah, predicted the same fate for Zion (Mic. 4:10). However, Micah adds an encouraging note for the nation, not recorded by Isaiah. Micah wrote, “Be in pain and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail; for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and shall dwell in the field, and shall come even unto Babylon: there shalt thou be rescued; there will Jehovah redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies” (Mic. 4:10). In these two prophecies we find the prediction of a future exile into Babylonian captivity. The prophecies further predicted Judah’s return from that exile 100 years before the exile even began.

When Isaiah and Micah prophesied, Assyria was the great fear among nations. Babylon was a minor player. Yet God knew the future and knew that Babylon would rise to its zenith in the coming centuries, and caused His prophets to state many prophecies that predicted not only that nation’s rise, but the fortunes of His people during that period. But those prophecies and the fulfillment of them have served to show through many centuries and to untold millions that “thy word is true from the beginning.”

Jim McDonald