An Approaching Concern
“Thus saith Jehovah concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it” (Isaiah 37:33).
By David Rice
This text is God’s assurance, through the prophet Isaiah, that when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, surrounded Jerusalem, God would deliver Hezekiah and the Israelites so remarkably, that without a counter offensive by Israel, the enemy would be defeated. “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (Isaiah 37:35).
So it happened. “Then the angel of Jehovah went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians 185,000 … in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (Isaiah 37:36). In the aftermath Sennacherib “departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh,” and some time later “his sons smote him with the sword” (Isaiah 37:37, 38).1
This experience was a renowned deliverance of Israel by Jehovah. Assyria had taken other cities as they approached Jerusalem, and presumably Israel had battled the enemy, but unsuccessfully. The might of Assyria was too great for them, but not for Jehovah. In the final victory, the angel of God delivered Israel. The army of Hezekiah did not fight in that closing episode.
(1) An editor supplies the following quotation from the Greek historian Herodotus, about Sennacherib’s experience. “Sennacherib, king of the Arabians and Assyrians, marched a large army against Egypt … [an Egyptian priest] took with him such of the Egyptians as were willing to follow him, and encamped in Pelusium, for here the entrance into Egypt is … When they arrived there, a number of field mice, pouring in upon their enemies, devoured their quivers and their bows, and moreover, the handles of their shields; so that on the next day, when they fled bereft of their arms, many of them fell” (Herodotus ii.141, Henry Cary editor, London, Covent Garden: George Bell & Sons, 1875). A credible explanation as to how the angel of Jehovah worked. Rats and ice can be carriers of the Black Plague, which works within hours.
A Picture of Israel’s Final Conflict
This experience in the days of Isaiah, Sennacherib, and Hezekiah is widely considered a picture of the impending deliverance of Israel at the close of the present Harvest of the Gospel Age. Consistent with this is the fact that the next chapter, Isaiah 38, speaks about another problem Hezekiah had at the same time. Hezekiah had a severe boil that threatened his life. “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death” (Isaiah 38:1, 21). This infection represents the infection of sin that would take modern Israelites to the grave, irrespective of the enemy without.
At first Isaiah was not hopeful of Hezekiah’s recovery. “Thus saith Jehovah, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (Isaiah 38:1). Death would be the normal course for the systemic disease of sin. But Hezekiah prayed earnestly for God’s assistance, and his pleas were heard by God. “Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto Jehovah … Remember now, O Jehovah, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (verses 2, 3).
God heard this desperate cry. He respected the faith of Hezekiah, cured his disease, and extended his life. The method of effecting the cure is mentioned in verse 21: “For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover.” The poultice of figs drew out the infection, and Hezekiah’s life was spared. This suggests something prophetic about how the systemic disease of sin will be cured in Israel. Figs often represent Israelites. In this case we suggest they represent the good figs, the Ancient Worthies, men and women of exceptional faith from the Old Testament, raised back to life to serve as leaders of Israel in the Kingdom. Though some Ancient Worthies were not of Israelite stock, when raised to serve as leaders of Israel in the Kingdom, they will be identified as “Israelite” by faith. They will point Israel to the source of their deliverance, the son of God, their Messiah, Jesus. This will lead to national repentance and remediation for the sin that otherwise condemns them, as with all people since the time of Adam.
Zechariah 12:10 describes this time. “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” John 19:37 also refers to this, “Another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.” Young’s Literal Translation says, “They shall look to him,” that is, to Christ, with appreciation and reverence.
Isaiah 38:5, 6 shows that the deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib, and the healing of Hezekiah, were experiences that occurred about the same time. “I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.”
The Sign of the Dial of Ahaz
Isaiah gave Hezekiah a sign of the coming deliverance that is significant. “This shall be a sign unto thee from Jehovah, that Jehovah will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down” (Isaiah 38:7, 8).
The shadow of 10 degrees, or perhaps steps on a stairway as other translations suggest (NIV, NASB), represents the shadow of God’s judgment against Israel during most of the Gospel Age when Israel was unfavored because they had rejected Jesus. Their disfavor was expressed through the dominance of the “10 toes” of Daniel 2, the “10 horns” of Daniel 7, and is indicated here in the shadow covering “10 degrees.”
This shadow of God’s judgment has been removed in modern times. After two World Wars, Israel became an independent nation, out from the shadow of European nations. That is a sign, or evidence, that God will also deliver Israel from their future extremity. The time allotted for Israel to be controlled by Gentile powers has now passed.
Micah Chapter Five
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah. He also spoke about God’s deliverance of Israel in the same distress mentioned in Isaiah 36, 37, and 38. “This man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight princes of men” (Micah 5:5, with margin). The word shepherd is a Semitic idiom for a ruler or king, for as a shepherd rules his flock, so a king rules his people. In other words, at this time Jesus will raise seven kings (the glorified Church) and eight princes (the Ancient Worthies) to intervene on Israel’s behalf. Israel will not need to fight in this battle. God, through Jesus, the Church, and the Ancient Worthies, will repulse the invader by divine overruling.
The numbers seven and eight are meaningful here. The number seven fits nicely for the Church class, as the Church is depicted in Revelation as seven Churches through the Gospel Age. Seven is also the number linked to the oath-bound Abrahamic covenant, for the word “oath” is similar to the word “seven” in Hebrew. Seven expresses completeness, and when one bound himself with an oath, he was “completely” committed to the agreement. Note that in Genesis 21:28-32, “Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves” to seal the covenant made with a local king.
The number eight takes us beyond the seven “days” of the Gospel Age into the “eighth” day, the Kingdom of God, when the Ancient Worthies will lead Israel and mankind back to God. The sum of these — seven and eight — is fifteen. This number appears also in Isaiah’s prophecy about the deliverance of Israel. Recall the episode, mentioned above, where Hezekiah was cured from a deadly boil. When Isaiah gave Hezekiah the good news that God would heal him, Isaiah said on behalf of God, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (Isaiah 38:5).
This healing from sin will come to Israel when they recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and weep for him, and mourn for him, as expressed in Zechariah 12:10. “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon [unto, ASV] me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
The verse before this, Zechariah 12:9, shows that God will deliver Israel from their attacking enemies (just as Hezekiah was delivered from Sennacherib’s threat). “It shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” According to Micah 5:5, that deliverance comes through the Church and Ancient Worthies. The latter class evidently will explain to Israel the source of their deliverance, leading to national repentance.
Thereafter, the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom, under the rule of the Church and the teachings of the Ancient Worthies, will cleanse each from the influence of sin, to healing and life — suggested by the numbers 7 and 8 — which sum to 15, the number of years Hezekiah’s life was extended.
The Kingdom Represented in Noah’s Day
The same numbers, 7 and 8, but in this case 7 x 8, also appear in the passage about Noah and the flood, in a context that also represents life in the Kingdom for mankind. We know from 1 Peter 3:20, 21, that redemption in the ark from the deadly waters of the flood represents redemption in Christ in the Gospel Age for those who are baptized into Christ. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21).
Ultimately the flood waters were gone, representing the time when the curse upon mankind will be lifted. Noah beheld that the Flood waters were dissipated was on the first day of a new year (Genesis 8:13). This new beginning at the opening of a new year, represents a new beginning at the opening of a new age in God’s Plan, the Kingdom of God for mankind. (See Exodus 40:2,17, where another new year beginning seems to represent the opening of another age, the Gospel Age.)
Although Noah saw that the flood “waters were dried up from off the earth,” those on the ark did not leave the ark. They remained on the ark until “the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month” (Genesis 8:14), when “the ground was dry.” Evidently, though the waters were gone — a picture of the curse removed — the effects remained. It was still muddy, representing that when the curse is removed in the Kingdom, mankind will still be suffering the residual effects of sin. Removing those will be the purpose of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. Until mankind is perfected, they will need to rely on the ark of redemption, remaining in Christ, while Jesus and the Church, as priests for mankind, cleanse people from the effects of sin.
At last mankind will be perfected and whole, thankful for the work of Christ, but then able to stand before God perfect and whole. They will leave the ark of redemption, always thankful for it, but no longer requiring its protection. Noah and his family left the ark on day 27 of month two. Thus, after the waters were gone, they remained for 30 + 26, or 56 more days. This number also reflects 7 and 8, not as a sum, but as a product of the two numbers (7 x 8 = 56). This also suggests the assistance of the Church (7) and the Ancient Worthies (8) to lift the world out of sin.
Waste the Land of Assyria
In Micah 5:6, the seven kings and eight princes “shall waste the land of Assyria … when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.” This again suggests that God will prevail against Israel’s enemies through the Church from above, with the Ancient Worthies below directing and advising Israel of Messiah’s deliverance. As Hezekiah’s men did not fight in their deliverance, so it seems Israel will not fight in their final deliverance.
Micah 5:7 describes Israel’s influence toward others thereafter, not as a victorious fighting force, but as a sweet refreshing influence for mankind. “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.”
The influence of Israel will be “as a dew from Jehovah,” which quietly waits to greet and bless the world in the freshness of the morning when they recognize peace, grace, and kindness emanating from the delivered, chastened, and reformed Israelites.2
(2) Micah 5:8 begins a new section of the prophecy, recognized in the King James version with a paragraph marker. This section connects back to Micah 4:13, which speaks of the time Israel did fight and “thresh” attacking enemies, as in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Micah 5:9 continues the thought, “Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries.” Verse 10 then takes us to the time when Israel’s military strength will be necessary no more.
It may take some time for troubles elsewhere to diminish, for the winter to pass, and mankind to turn their attention upward to God. But gradually it will become apparent that God has intervened, and that blessings are available to those meek enough to seek them.
“Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem … Jehovah shall be king over all the earth … And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts” (Zechariah 14:8, 9, 16). “The Inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before Jehovah” (Zechariah 8:21, 22).
Categories: 2023 Issues, 2023-March/April, David Rice