The angel of the LORD went out (Isaiah 37:36)

INTRODUCTION: This post is about a pompous Assyrian king who blasphemes and reproaches the LORD, and who then encounters the angel of the LORD. Those who blaspheme and reproach the LORD will, sooner or later, have to deal with the angel of the LORD.

In Isaiah 36-37, we find Isaiah’s account of the failed Assyrian invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, the Assyrian king. Or rather, “the great king,” as he calls himself. (This incident is recorded three times in the Old Testament: here in Isaiah, and also in the two history books of 2 Kings 18-19 and in 2 Chronicles 32.) The biblical narrative has a stunning conclusion as what seemed to be certain victory is switched into a crushing defeat.

When Sennacherib king of Assyria sends his spokesman, Rabshakeh, to meet King Hezekiah’s officials, the Assyrians are overflowing with confidence and contempt. Their army has rolled down from Nineveh in conquest and has reached as far as Jerusalem with little resistance. Kingdoms with their pagan gods have fallen like dominoes, and Sennacherib sees no reason Judah and Jerusalem will be any different. Yes, it is true that the Assyrians have heard of the God of Israel, the LORD, but the king of Assyria views YHWH as no different than the gods of wood and stone. Why would anyone have confidence or put their trust in a God you cannot see? And so, Sennacherib sends Rabshakeh to terrify Judah and to blaspheme the LORD and to urge Hezekiah to surrender. Clearly, Sennacherib is the great king.


As Rabshakeh meets Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah by the upper pool (Isaiah 36:2), his intimidation guns are blazing. The Assyrian spokesman is skilled at taunt and blasphemy.

“What is this confidence?” (36:4). You are outnumbered and you will be overwhelmed. Face it, you are doomed. You have no reason for any confidence.

“On whom do you rely?” (36:5). Look around you. There is no one who can rescue you from the great king of Assyria. Do not rely on your army or on the cleverness of your king. And surely you are not relying on the LORD to protect you!

“We trust in the LORD our God” (36:7). You have got to be kidding! Where do you see the LORD? And besides, the LORD is the one who told us to come up against Judah in the first place, and now you are trusting Him to protect you from the great king? No way!

“Do not let Hezekiah deceive you” (36:14). He thinks that his God is going to help you, but he is dreaming, and he is trying to deceive you. You don’t have a chance.

“Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD” (36:15). You would be foolish to trust in the LORD. If you let Hezekiah trick you and deceive you, the great king of Assyria will come into Jerusalem and kill you. The LORD is not to be trusted.

“Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us (36:18).’” None of the other gods have been able to deliver their people, so why would you think that YHWH will help you. The LORD is just like the other gods. He is powerless and useless, but Sennacherib is the great king. Give up, for the LORD cannot help you.

Rabshakeh has already crossed the line and his doom is already sealed. Certainly, the LORD has heard enough from this blasphemer about his pipsqueak king, But Rabshakeh has more reproach and contempt to pour out.

“Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria (37:10).’ Did the gods of those (pagan) nations deliver them?” (37:12). Now not only is Rabshakeh saying that the LORD cannot defend Jerusalem against the king of Assyria, but he is also accusing the LORD of deceiving His people. He blasphemes God by accusing the God who cannot lie of deception. Rabshakeh declares trust in the LORD to be foolish and compares the LORD to the powerless pagan gods of the nations.

Up to this point, the LORD has been patient and has allowed the Assyrians to rant and to blaspheme against Him, but when Hezekiah prays to the LORD and asks Him to “deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God” (37:20), the LORD moves in power to destroy the upstart king.

“For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake” (Isaiah 37:35).


The LORD will not long tolerate blasphemies against His name or open contempt from evil people. He will bring a just recompense and He will bring it swiftly. Sennacherib’s arrogant blasphemy against the LORD has sealed his destiny. Like the proud questioning of Pharaoh before him (Exodus 5:2) and like the blasphemous rants of the beast at the end of the age (Daniel 7:8, 11, 25; 11:36; Revelation 13:5, 6), so Sennacherib has reproached and blasphemed the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 37:23). Therefore, as the LORD destroyed Pharaoh for his arrogance, and as He will destroy the beast for his blasphemies (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20), so the LORD recompenses Sennacherib for his arrogance and his raging against the LORD (Isaiah 37:28-29).

“Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out” (2 Kings 19:35). We have met the angel of the LORD before in the Old Testament. He spoke to Hagar and to Abraham. He met Joshua as he was preparing to conquer Jericho. He spoke to Gideon and to Manoah. He fed Elijah when the prophet was discouraged. And now, “the angel of the LORD went out.” He is the mysterious figure who seems to be God, although He also appears to be somehow separate from God. He speaks as the LORD, with all the authority of the LORD, yet He somehow is not the LORD. And here we see “that the angel of the LORD went out.” With all the authority and power of the LORD, He rises up to take vengeance (Psalm 94:1-2) on the Assyrians. It is one against the entire Assyrian army, and the Assyrians are vastly outmatched. The angel of the LORD brings divine judgment on Sennacherib for his arrogance and his blasphemies against the living God. “The angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians” (Isaiah 37:36). With his armies decimated and himself humiliated, Sennacherib returns to Nineveh where he is killed by his own sons in a pagan temple. So much for the great king of Assyria.


In our walk through this world, the believer can feel attacked by the world and overwhelmed by the perceived forces arrayed against us. There are times when, like Hezekiah, the voices of evil people and the whispers of doubts in our head can threaten to undo us, and our faith can waver. In those times, remember God’s power. Remember that you are the Lord’s delight and that He has promised to be your shield and defender. Remember that He is with you like a dread champion (Jeremiah 20:11). Remember that, like Hezekiah, you can call upon the Lord, and He will hear you. Remember that “He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). We are given this story to remind us that the LORD, He is God (1 Kings 18:39), and He is always with us. When the Rabshakehs in your life begin to taunt and blaspheme the living God, turn to the LORD and cry out to Him.

SDG                 rmb                 12/9/2021                   #467

A tale of two threats (Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 36-37)

Would you rather be the person who feels great fear in the face of small threats or the person who feels little fear in the face of great threats? Our Bible study today in the book of Isaiah will look at this question as we examine the lives of two of the kings of Judah who reigned in Jerusalem long before Jesus was born.


The prophecy of Isaiah contains some of the most vivid foreshadows of our Lord Jesus Christ in all the Old Testament, as well as many passages of prose of great beauty and power, but it contains only a few narrative sections in its sixty-six chapters. In those narrative chapters, however, are the stories of King Ahaz and King Hezekiah. These two kings are implicitly compared to one another, Hezekiah being the righteous king who evidently loves and serves the LORD and drives out wickedness, and Ahaz being unrighteous, a king who worships foreign gods and engages in idolatry and immorality and leads Judah into deep sin. Hezekiah walks closely with the LORD, while Ahaz ignores and despises the LORD.


            If life went along exactly as we wanted it to go and if we were always more than competent to overpower any and every threat from the outside, then I suppose that the approach of either king would work, and maybe Ahaz would be okay. But you and I live in a world where things often go very differently from what we wanted and where threats are both common and often overwhelming. And, it turns out, Ahaz and Hezekiah lived in that kind of a world, too. Because King Ahaz had chosen a lifestyle of idolatry and disobedience and of despising the LORD, he was terrified when faced with a small threat. On the other hand, when King Hezekiah was faced with a vastly greater threat, because he trusted in the LORD and knew of the LORD’s power to save and deliver, he expresses no fear. Instead, Hezekiah seeks the LORD and cries out to Him in prayer, and he is delivered.


            In Isaiah 7, we read of the threat that came upon King Ahaz. “Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it but could not yet mount an attack against it (Isaiah 7:1).” How will King Ahaz respond to this threat? “The heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind (7:2).” So, both the king and his people are completely distraught by these two armies. This response might make sense, until we examine the situation. First, the reign of Pekah king of Israel was noteworthy because of all the cities and territory that he lost to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). By that time in their history, Israel was weak and disorganized and had no army to speak of at all. In fact, in about ten years Israel would be carried away into exile by Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria. Pekah was no threat. Second, we read in 7:1 that these two armies “could not mount an attack against Jerusalem.” Whether they were incompetent or cowardly is not clear, but the fact that they could not even manage to mount the attack is rather pitiful. Finally, we read the LORD’s assessment of the situation: “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands (7:4).” The LORD speaks to Ahaz about the two invading armies with derision and tells Ahaz that there is no need to fear.

            THE POINT: Ahaz faced a trivial threat, but “his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” Because King Ahaz chose to disobey and despise the LORD, any and every threat was a terrifying threat.


            We turn now to Isaiah 36 to read of the danger facing King Hezekiah. “Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them (36:1).” This has a haunting ring to it, since only a few years earlier Shalmaneser king of Assyria had destroyed Samaria and taken Israel into exile. And this current Assyrian king has already taken all the fortified cities of Judah and now he approaches Jerusalem “with a great army (36:2).” The Rabshakeh speaks for “the great king, the king of Assyria,” and taunts Hezekiah’s trust in the LORD and warns of the destruction that will come if they do not surrender. The spokesman then tells of all the victories Assyria has already won; Hamath and Arpad, Sepharvaim and Samaria, and says, “Their gods did not deliver their lands. How will the LORD deliver you out of my hand?” Oh, this threat is real, and it is serious. What will King Hezekiah do?

            Hezekiah’s response is a model for anyone who is facing a threat that is way beyond their ability. Because this man walked with the LORD and sought the LORD regularly as part of his lifestyle, he was ready when he needed to cry out to the LORD in distress. Notice that, despite this overwhelming threat, Hezekiah never expresses fear. You will search the text in vain to find words of fear from King Hezekiah. “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it (the words of the Rabshakeh), he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD (37:1).” WOW! What a response! But that’s just for starters. Then the king sent a contingent to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz confessing that he was overwhelmed, and he needed the LORD to help. He also mentioned that the king of Assyria had mocked the living God. Isaiah says, “Do not be afraid. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land (Isaiah 37:6-7).” You need to read the full story yourself in Isaiah 36-37, but in the end, “the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when the people arose in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies (37:36).” So, Sennacherib went home.

            THE POINT: King Hezekiah faced an overwhelming threat, one that he could never handle on his own, but he responded with courage and trust and prayer because he walked closely with the LORD. Because King Hezekiah chose to obey and honor the LORD, even a tremendous threat was not a cause for fear. Because Hezekiah’s confidence was in the LORD, even the great threats of man produced no fear.


            When you were not a follower of Jesus, you feared what the pagans feared, and you had no promise of any protection from the Lord. You were like Ahaz, and small threats produced big fears. But now, you walk with the Lord and you have all the promises of the Scripture to secure your confidence. Like Hezekiah, you are among the company of the redeemed and you can say with Jeremiah, “The LORD is with me like a dread champion (Jeremiah 20:11).” And if the Lord is with us, we are “not to fear what the people fear, nor be in dread (Isaiah 8:12).” Like Hezekiah, we make the Lord our fear, and we make Him our dread (Isaiah 8:13) and we trust our great God and cry out to Him when threats arise.

SDG                 rmb                 12/05/2020