The Effect of Sennacherib’s Anticipated Destruction in Isaianic Prophecy -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 34:1 (Nov 1971)
Article: The Effect of Sennacherib’s Anticipated Destruction in Isaianic Prophecy
Author: J. Barton Payne


The Effect of Sennacherib’s Anticipated Destruction in Isaianic Prophecy

J. Barton Payne

The following study concerns a particular subject or theme of biblical prediction which appears primarily in chapters 29 to 35 of the Book of Isaiah. It traces the effects of the destruction of Sennacherib’s host, as these were foreseen by the prophet, including divine vindication for the righteous, corresponding warnings for the ungodly, movements toward repentance among those so convicted, and resultant blessings from the Lord. Interspersed within Isaiah 29–35 are also to be found blocks of direct preaching and historical comment as well as predictions about other matters. From the Sennacherib prophecies, however, whose fulfillment is subject to close historical control, may be drawn principles of prophetic interpretation that are applicable to the whole gamut of biblical prediction, whether already accomplished or still awaiting fulfillment.

Sennacherib’s attack upon Judah in 701 B.C. occupies a major place in the prophecies of Isaiah. Anticipations of it commence before the death of Uzziah in 739 (as recorded in 6:1); and reflections upon it persist down to the prophet’s closing words in chapter 66, near the end of the reign of Hezekiah in 697 (cf. verse 6).1 It bulks larger in Isaiah’s thinking than does even the final collapse of the southern kingdom in 586. The latter event involves some 51 verses of Isaianic prediction;2 and its discussion

ceases entirely after the oracle of 27:10–11, which foretells that the fortified city formed by God—presumably Jerusalem—is to become deserted and forsaken. The events of Judah’s suffering in 701, however, occupy some 56 verses,3 and this is to count only the verses dealing with Sennacherib’s anticipated advance; some 62 additional verses dealing with his subsequent destruction are not included.4

Predictions of the Assyrian attack begin as early as Isaiah 5:26 with the oracle that Yahweh “will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss for them from the end of the earth; and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.” In reference to the Assyrians, Leupold comm...

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