2 Kings 18
New International Version
2 Kings 18
New International Version
Hezekiah King of Judah(A)(B)(C)
18 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah(D) son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years.(E) His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah.3 He did what was right(F) in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David(G) had done.4 He removed(H) the high places,(I) smashed the sacred stones(J) and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake(K) Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
5 Hezekiah trusted(L) in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.6 He held fast(M) to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.7 And the Lord was with him; he was successful(N) in whatever he undertook. He rebelled(O) against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.8 From watchtower to fortified city,(P) he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory.
9 In King Hezekiah’s fourth year,(Q) which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it.10 At the end of three years the Assyrians took it. So Samaria was captured in Hezekiah’s sixth year, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel.11 The king(R) of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the Medes.(S)12 This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant(T)—all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded.(U) They neither listened to the commands(V) nor carried them out.
13 In the fourteenth year(W) of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah(X) and captured them.14 So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish:(Y) “I have done wrong.(Z) Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.15 So Hezekiah gave(AA) him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace.
16 At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors(AB) and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem(AC)(AD)
17 The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander,(AE) his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool,(AF) on the road to the Washerman’s Field.18 They called for the king; and Eliakim(AG) son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna(AH) the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.
19 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence(AI) of yours?20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt,(AJ) that splintered reed of a staff,(AK) which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him.22 But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?
23 “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them!24 How can you repulse one officer(AL) of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen?25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord?(AM) The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”
26 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic,(AN) since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”
27 But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
28 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria!29 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive(AO) you. He cannot deliver you from my hand.30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
31 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree(AP) and drink water from your own cistern,(AQ)32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life(AR) and not death!
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’33 Has the god(AS) of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?34 Where are the gods of Hamath(AT) and Arpad?(AU) Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”(AV)
36 But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”
37 Then Eliakim(AW) son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn,(AX) and told him what the field commander had said.
- 2 Kings 18:1 : 18:2-4pp — 2Ch 29:1-2; 31:1
- 2 Kings 18:1 : 18:5-7pp — 2Ch 31:20-21
- 2 Kings 18:1 : 18:9-12pp — 2Ki 17:3-7
- 2 Kings 18:1 : Isa 1:1; Hos 1:1; Mic 1:1
- 2 Kings 18:2 : ver 13; Isa 38:5
- 2 Kings 18:3 : S 1Ki 14:8
- 2 Kings 18:3 : Isa 38:5
- 2 Kings 18:4 : 2Ch 31:1; Isa 36:7
- 2 Kings 18:4 : 2Ki 12:3; 21:3
- 2 Kings 18:4 : S Ex 23:24
- 2 Kings 18:4 : Nu 21:9
- 2 Kings 18:5 : ver 19; S 1Sa 7:3; 2Ki 19:10; Ps 21:7; 125:1; Pr 3:26
- 2 Kings 18:6 : Dt 10:20; S Dt 6:18
- 2 Kings 18:7 : S Ge 39:3; S Job 22:25
- 2 Kings 18:7 : 2Ki 24:1; Ezr 4:19; Isa 36:5
- 2 Kings 18:8 : 2Ki 17:9
- 2 Kings 18:9 : Isa 1:1; 36:1
- 2 Kings 18:11 : Isa 37:12
- 2 Kings 18:11 : Eze 16:39; 23:9
- 2 Kings 18:12 : S 2Ki 17:15
- 2 Kings 18:12 : 2Ki 21:8; Da 9:6, 10
- 2 Kings 18:12 : S 1Ki 9:6
- 2 Kings 18:13 : S ver 2
- 2 Kings 18:13 : Isa 1:7; Mic 1:9
- 2 Kings 18:14 : 2Ki 19:8
- 2 Kings 18:14 : Isa 24:5; 33:8
- 2 Kings 18:15 : S 1Ki 15:18; Isa 39:2
- 2 Kings 18:16 : 2Ch 29:3
- 2 Kings 18:17 : 18:13, 17-37pp — Isa 36:1-22
- 2 Kings 18:17 : 18:17-35pp — 2Ch 32:9-19
- 2 Kings 18:17 : Isa 20:1
- 2 Kings 18:17 : 2Ki 20:20; 2Ch 32:4, 30; Ne 2:14; Isa 22:9
- 2 Kings 18:18 : 2Ki 19:2; Isa 22:20; 36:3, 11, 22; 37:2
- 2 Kings 18:18 : ver 26, 37; Isa 22:15
- 2 Kings 18:19 : S ver 5; S Job 4:6
- 2 Kings 18:21 : Isa 20:5; 31:1; Eze 29:6
- 2 Kings 18:21 : 2Ki 24:7; Isa 20:6; 30:5, 7; Jer 25:19; 37:7; 46:2
- 2 Kings 18:24 : Isa 10:8
- 2 Kings 18:25 : 2Ki 19:6, 22; 24:3; 2Ch 35:21
- 2 Kings 18:26 : Ezr 4:7
- 2 Kings 18:29 : 2Ki 19:10
- 2 Kings 18:31 : S Nu 13:23; S 1Ki 4:25
- 2 Kings 18:31 : Jer 14:3; La 4:4
- 2 Kings 18:32 : Dt 30:19
- 2 Kings 18:33 : 2Ki 19:12
- 2 Kings 18:34 : S 2Ki 17:24; S Jer 49:23
- 2 Kings 18:34 : Isa 10:9
- 2 Kings 18:35 : Ps 2:1-2
- 2 Kings 18:37 : S ver 18; Isa 33:7; 36:3, 22
- 2 Kings 18:37 : S 2Ki 6:30
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on 2 Kings 18
When the prophet had condemned Ephriam for lies and deceit he comforted himself with this, that Judah yet "ruled with God, and was faithful with the Most Holy," Hos. 11:12. It was a very melancholy view which the last chapter gave us of the desolations of Israel; but this chapter shows us the affairs of Judah in a good posture at the same time, that it may appear God has not quite cast off the seed of Abraham, Rom. 11:1. Hezekiah is here upon the throne,
- I. Reforming his kingdom (v. 1-6).
- II. Prospering in all his undertakings (v. 7, 8), and this at the same time when the ten tribes were led captive (v. 9-12).
- III. Yet invaded by Sennacherib, the king of Assyria (v. 13).
- 1. His country put under contribution (v. 14-16).
- 2. Jerusalem besieged (v. 17).
- 3. God blasphemed, himself reviled, and his people solicited to revolt, in a virulent speech made by Rabshakeh (v. 18-37).
But how well it ended, and how much to the honour and comfort of our great reformer, we shall find in the next chapter.
We have here a general account of the reign of Hezekiah. It appears, by comparing his age with his father's, that he was born when his father was about eleven or twelve years old, divine Providence so ordering that he might be of full age, and fit for business, when the measure of his father's iniquity should be full. Here is,
- I. His great piety, which was the more wonderful because his father was very wicked and vile, one of the worst of the kings, yet he was one of the best, which may intimate to us that what good there is in any is not of nature, but of grace, free grace, sovereign grace, which, contrary to nature, grafts into the good olive that which was wild by nature (Rom. 11:24), and also that grace gets over the greatest difficulties and disadvantages: Ahaz, it is likely, gave his son a bad education as well as a bad example; Urijah his priest perhaps had the tuition of him; his attendants and companions, we may suppose, were such as were addicted to idolatry; and yet Hezekiah became eminently good. When God's grace will work what can hinder it?
- 1. He was a genuine son of David, who had a great many degenerate ones (v. 3): He didthat which was right, according to all that David his father did, with whom the covenant was made, and therefore he was entitled to the benefit of it. We have read of some of them who did that which was right, but not like David,ch. 14:3. They did not love God's ordinances, nor cleave to them, as he did; but Hezekiah was a second David, had such a love for God's word, and God's house, as he had. Let us not be frightened with an apprehension of the continual decay of virtue, as if, when times and men are bad, they must needs, of course, grow worse and worse; that does not follow, for, after many bad kings, God raised up one that was like David himself.
- 2. He was a zealous reformer of his kingdom, and as we find (2 Chr. 29:3) he began betimes to be so, fell to work as soon as ever he came to the crown, and lost no time. He found his kingdom very corrupt, the people in all things too superstitious. They had always been so, but in the last reign worse than ever. By the influence of his wicked father, a deluge of idolatry had overspread the land; his spirit was stirred against this idolatry, we may suppose (as Paul's at Athens), while his father lived, and therefore, as soon as ever he had power in his hands, he set himself to abolish it (v. 4), though, considering how the people were wedded to it, he might think it could not be done without opposition.
- (1.) The images and the groves were downright idolatrous and of heathenish original. These he broke and destroyed. Though his own father had set them up, and shown an affection for them, yet he would not protect them. We must never dishonour God in honour to our earthly parents.
- (2.) The high places, though they had sometimes been used by the prophets upon special occasions and had been hitherto connived at by the good kings, were nevertheless an affront to the temple and a breach of the law which required them to worship there only, and, being from under the inspection of the priests, gave opportunity for the introducing of idolatrous usages. Hezekiah therefore, who made God's word his rule, not the example of his predecessors, removed them, made a law for the removal of them, the demolishing of the chapels, tabernacles, and altars there erected, and the suppressing of the use of them, which law was put in execution with vigour; and, it is probable, the terrible judgments which the kingdom of Israel was now under for their idolatry made Hezekiah the more zealous and the people the more willing to comply with him. It is well when our neighbours' harms are our warnings.
- (3.) The brazen serpent was originally of divine institution, and yet, because it had been abused to idolatry, he broke it to pieces. The children of Israel had brought that with them to Canaan; where they set it up we are not told, but, it seems, it had been carefully preserved, as a memorial of God's goodness to their fathers in the wilderness and a traditional evidence of the truth of that story, Num. 21:9, for the encouragement of the sick to apply to God for a cure and of penitent sinners to apply to him for mercy. But in process of time, when they began to worship the creature more than the Creator, those that would not worship images borrowed from the heathen, as some of their neighbours did, were drawn in by the tempter to burn incense to the brazen serpent, because that was made by order from God himself and had been an instrument of good to them. But Hezekiah, in his pious zeal for God's honour, not only forbade the people to worship it, but, that it might never be so abused any more, he showed the people that it was Nehushtan, nothing else but apiece of brass, and that therefore it was an idle wicked thing to burn incense to it; he then broke it to pieces, that is, as bishop Patrick expounds it, ground it to powder, which he scattered in the air, that no fragment of it might remain. If any think that the just honour of the brazen serpent was hereby diminished they will find it abundantly made up again, Jn. 3:14, where our Saviour makes it a type of himself. Good things, when idolized, are better parted with than kept.
- 3. Herein he was a nonesuch, v. 5. None of all the kings of Judah were like him, eitherbefore or after him. Two things he was eminent for in his reformation:-
- (1.) Courage and confidence in God. In abolishing idolatry, there was danger of disobliging his subjects, and provoking them to rebel; but he trusted in the Lord God of Israel to bear him out in what he did and save him from harm. A firm belief of God's all-sufficiency to protect and reward us will conduce much to make us sincere, bold, and vigorous, in the way of our duty, like Hezekiah. When he came to the crown he found his kingdom compassed with enemies, but he did not seek for succour to foreign aids, as his father did, but trusted in the God of Israel to be the keeper of Israel.
- (2.) Constancy and perseverance in his duty. For this there was none like him, that he clave to the Lord with a fixed resolution and never departed from following him,v. 6. Some of his predecessors that began well fell off: but he, like Caleb, followed the Lord fully. He not only abolished all idolatrous usages, but kept God's commandments, and in every thing made conscience of his duty.
- II. His great prosperity, v. 7, 8. He was with God, and then God was with him, and, having the special presence of God with him, he prospered whithersoever he went, had wonderful success in all his enterprises, in his wars, his buildings, and especially his reformation, for that good work was carried on with less difficulty than he could have expected. Those that do God's work with an eye to his glory, and with confidence in his strength, may expect to prosper in it. Great is the truth and will prevail. Finding himself successful,
- 1. He threw off the yoke of the king of Assyria, which his father had basely submitted to. This is called rebelling against him, because so the king of Assyria called it; but it was really an asserting of the just rights of his crown, which it was not in the power of Ahaz to alienate. If it was imprudent to make this bold struggle so soon, yet I see not that it was, as some think, unjust; when he had thrown out the idolatry of the nations he might well throw off the yoke of their oppression. The surest way to liberty is to serve God.
- 2. He made a vigorous attack upon the Philistines, and smote them even unto Gaza, both the country villages and the fortified town, the tower of the watchmen and the fenced cities, reducing those places which they had made themselves masters of in his father's time, 2 Chr. 28:18. When he had purged out the corruptions his father had brought in he might expect to recover the possessions his father had lost. Of his victories over the Philistines Isaiah prophesied, Isa. 14:28, etc.
The kingdom of Assyria had now grown considerable, though we never read of it till the last reign. Such changes there are in the affairs of nations and families: those that have been despicable become formidable, and those, on the contrary, are brought low that have made a great noise and figure. We have here an account,
- I. Of the success of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, against Israel, his besieging Samaria (v. 9), taking it (v. 10), and carrying the people into captivity (v. 11), with the reason why God brought this judgment upon them (v. 12): Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord theirGod. This was related more largely in the foregoing chapter, but it is here repeated,
- 1. As that which stirred up Hezekiah and his people to purge out idolatry with so much zeal, because they saw the ruin which it brought upon Israel. When their neighbour's house was on fire, and their own in danger, it was time to cast away the accursed thing.
- 2. As that which Hezekiah much lamented, but had not strength to prevent. Though the ten tribes had revolted from, and often been vexatious to, the house of David, no longer ago than in his father's reign, yet being of the seed of Israel he could not be glad at their calamities.
- 3. As that which laid Hezekiah and his kingdom open to the king of Assyria, and made it much more easy for him to invade the land. It is said of the ten tribes here that they would neither hear God's commandments nor do them, v. 12. Many will be content to give God the hearing that will give him no more (Eze. 33:31), but these, being resolved not to do their duty, did not care to hear of it.
- II. Of the attempt of Sennacherib, the succeeding king of Assyria, against Judah, in which he was encouraged by his predecessor's success against Israel, whose honours he would vie with and whose victories he would push forward. The descent he made upon Judah was a great calamity to that kingdom, by which God would try the faith of Hezekiah and chastise the people, who are called a hypocritical nation (Isa. 10:6), because they did not comply with Hezekiah's reformation, nor willingly part with their idols, but kept them up in their hearts, and perhaps in their houses, though their high places were removed. Even times of reformation may prove troublesome times, made so by those that oppose it, and then the blame is laid upon the reformers. This calamity will appear great upon Hezekiah if we consider,
- 1. How much he lost of his country, v. 13. The king of Assyria took all or most of the fenced cities of Judah, the frontier-towns and the garrisons, and then all the rest fell into his hands of course. The confusion which the country was put into by this invasion is described by the prophet, Isa. 10:28-32.
- 2. How dearly he paid for his peace. He saw Jerusalem itself in danger of falling into the enemies' hand, as Samaria had done, and was willing to purchase its safety at the expense,
- (1.) Of a mean submission: "I have offended in denying the usual tribute, and am ready to make satisfaction as shall be demanded," v. 14. Where was Hezekiah's courage? Where his confidence in God? Why did he not advise with Isaiah before he sent this crouching message?
- (2.) Of a vast sum of money-300 talents of silver and thirty of gold (above 200,000l.), not to be paid annually, but as a present ransom. To raise this sum, he was forced not only to empty the public treasures (v. 15), but to take the golden plates off from the doors of the temple, and from the pillars, v. 16. Though the temple sanctified the gold which he had dedicated, yet, the necessity being urgent, he thought he might make as bold with that as his father David (whom he took for his pattern) did with the show-bread, and that it was neither impious nor imprudent to give a part for the preservation of the whole. His father Ahaz had plundered the temple in contempt of it, 2 Chr. 28:24. He had repaid with interest what his father took; and now, with all due reverence, he only begged leave to borrow it again in an exigency and for a greater good, with a resolution to restore it in full as soon as he should be in a capacity to do so.
- I. Jerusalem besieged by Sennacherib's army, v. 17. He sent three of his great generals with a great host against Jerusalem. Is this the great king, the king of Assyria? No, never call him so; he is a base, false, perfidious man, and worthy to be made infamous to all ages; let him never be named with honour that could do such a dishonourable thing as this, to take Hezekiah's money, which he gave him upon condition he should withdraw his army, and then, instead of quitting his country according to the agreement, to advance against his capital city, and not send him his money again either. Those are wicked men indeed, and, let them be ever so great, we will call them so, whose principle it is not to make their promises binding any further than is for their interest. Now Hezekiah had too much reason to repent his treaty with Sennacherib, which made him much the poorer and never the safer.
- II. Hezekiah, and his princes and people, railed upon by Rabshakeh, the chief speaker of the three generals, and one that had the most satirical genius. He was no doubt instructed what to say by Sennacherib, who intended hereby to pick a new quarrel with Hezekiah. He had promised, upon the receipt of Hezekiah's money, to withdraw his army, and therefore could not for shame make a forcible attack upon Jerusalem immediately; but he sent Rabshakeh to persuade Hezekiah to surrender it, and, if he should refuse, the refusal would serve him for a pretence (and a very poor one) to besiege it, and, if it hold out, to take it by storm. Rabshakeh had the impudence to desire audience of the king himself at the conduit of the upper pool, without the walls; but Hezekiah had the prudence to decline a personal treaty, and sent three commissioners (the prime ministers of state) to hear what he had to say, but with a charge to them not to answer that fool according to his folly (v. 36), for they could not convince him, but would certainly provoke him, and Hezekiah had learned of his father David to believe that God would hear when he, as a deaf man, heard not,Ps. 38:13-15. One interruption they gave him in his discourse, which was only to desire that he would speak to them now in the Syrian language, and they would consider what he said and report it to the king, and, if they did not give him a satisfactory answer, then he might appeal to the people, by speaking in the Jews' language,v. 26. This was a reasonable request, and agreeable to the custom of treaties, which is that the plenipotentiaries should settle matters between themselves before any thing be made public; but Hilkiah did not consider what an unreasonable man he had to deal with, else he would not have made this request, for it did but exasperate Rabshakeh, and make him the more rude and boisterous, v. 27. Against all the rules of decency and honour, instead of treating with the commissioners, he menaces the soldiery, persuades them to desert or mutiny, threatens if they hold out to reduce the to the last extremities of famine, and then goes on with his discourse, the scope of which is to persuade Hezekiah, and his princes and people, to surrender the city. Observe how, in order to do this,
- 1. He magnifies his master the king of Assyria. Once and again he calls him That great king,the king of Assyria,v. 19, 28. What an idol did he make of that prince whose creature he was! God is the great King, but Sennacherib was in his eye a little god, and he would possess them with the same veneration for him that he had, and thereby frighten them into a submission to him. But to those who by faith see the King of kings in his power and glory even the king of Assyria looks mean and little. What are the greatest of men when either they come to compare with God or God comes to contend with them? Ps. 82:6, 7.
- 2. He endeavours to make them believe that it will be much for their advantage to surrender. If they held out, they must expect no other than to eat their own dung, by reason of the want of provisions, which would be entirely cut off from them by the besiegers; but if they would capitulate, seek his favour with a present and cast themselves upon his mercy, he would give them very good treatment, v. 31. I wonder with what face Rabshakeh could speak of making an agreement with a present when his master had so lately broken the agreement Hezekiah made with him with that great present, v. 14. Can those expect to be trusted that have been so grossly perfidious? But, Ad populum phaleras-Gild the chain and the vulgar will let youbind them. He thought to soothe up all with a promise that if they would surrender upon discretion, though they must expect to be prisoners and captives, yet it would really be happy for them to be so. One would wonder he should ever think to prevail by such gross suggestions as these, but that the devil does thus impose upon sinners every day by his temptations. He will needs persuade them,
- (1.) That their imprisonment would be to their advantage, for they should eat every man of his own vine (v. 31); though the property of their estates would be vested in the conquerors, yet they should have the free use of them. But he does not explain it now to them as he would afterwards, that it must be understood just as much, and just as long, as the conqueror pleases.
- (2.) That their captivity would be much more to their advantage: I will takeyou away to a land like your own land; and what the better would they be for that, when they must have nothing in it to call their own?
- 3. That which he aims at especially is to convince them that it is to no purpose for them to stand it out: What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? So he insults over Hezekiah, v. 19. To the people he says (v. 29), "Let not Hezekiah deceive you into your own ruin, for he shallnot be able to deliver you; you must either bend or break." It were well if sinners would submit to the force of this argument, in making their peace with God-That it is therefore our wisdom to yield to him, because it is in vain to contend with him: what confidence is that which those trust in who stand it out against him? Are we stronger than he? Or what shall we get by setting briars and thorns before a consuming fire? But Hezekiah was not so helpless and defenceless as Rabshakeh would here represent him. Three things he supposes Hezekiah might trust to, and he endeavours to make out the insufficiency of these:-
- (1.) His own military preparations: Thousayest, I have counsel and strength for the war; and we find that so he had, 2 Chr. 32:3. But this Rabshakeh turns off with a slight: "They are but vain words; thou art an unequal match for us," v. 20. With the greatest haughtiness and disdain imaginable, he challenges him to produce 2000 men of all his people that know how to manage a horse, and will venture to give him 2000 horses if he can. He falsely insinuates that Hezekiah has no men, or none fit to be soldiers, v. 23. Thus he thinks to run him down with confidence and banter, and will lay him any wager that one captain of the least of his master's servants is able to baffle him and all his forces.
- (2.) His alliance with Egypt. He supposes that Hezekiah trusts to Egypt for chariots and horsemen (v. 24), because the king of Israel had done so, and of this confidence he truly says, It is a brokenreed (v. 21), it will not only fail a man when he leans on it and expects it to bear his weight, but it will run into his hand and pierce it, and rend his shoulder, as the prophet further illustrates this similitude, with application to Egypt, Eze. 29:6, 7. So is the king of Egypt, says he; and truly so had the king of Assyria been to Ahaz, who trusted in him, but he distressed him, andstrengthened him not,2 Chr. 28:20. Those that trust to any arm of flesh will find it no better than a broken reed; but God is the rock of ages.
- (3.) His interest in God and relation to him. This was indeed the confidence in which Hezekiah trusts, v. 22. He supported himself by depending on the power and promise of God; with this he encouraged himself and his people (v. 30): The Lord will surely deliver us, and again v. 32. This Rabshakeh was sensible was their great stay, and therefore he was most large in his endeavours to shake this, as David's enemies, who used all the arts they had to drive him from his confidence in God (Ps. 3:2; 11:1), and thus did Christ's enemies, Mt. 27:43. Three things Rabshakeh suggested to discourage their confidence in God, and they were all false:-
- [1.] That Hezekiah had forfeited God's protection, and thrown himself out of it, by destroying the high places and the altars,v. 22. Here he measures the God of Israel by the gods of the heathen, who delighted in the multitude of altars and temples, and concludes that Hezekiah has given a great offence to the God of Israel, in confining his people to one altar: thus is one of the best deeds he ever did in his life misconstrued as impious and profane, by one that did not, or would not, know the law of the God of Israel. If that be represented by ignorant and malicious men as evil and a provocation to God which is really good and pleasing to him, we must not think it strange. If this was to be sacrilegious, Hezekiah would ever be so.
- [2.] That God had given orders for the destruction of Jerusalem at this time (v. 25): Have I now come up without the Lord? This is all banter and rhodomontade. He did not himself think he had any commission from God to do what he did (by whom should he have it?) but he made this pretence to amuse and terrify the people thatwere on the wall. If he had any colour at all for what he said, it might be taken from the notice which perhaps he had had, by the writings of the prophets, of the hand of God in the destruction of the ten tribes, and he thought he had as good a warrant for the seizing of Jerusalem as of Samaria. Many that have fought against God have pretended commissions from him.
- [3.] That if Jehovah, the God of Israel, should undertake to protect them from the king of Assyria, yet he was notable to do it. With this blasphemy he concluded his speech (v. 33-35), comparing the God of Israel with the gods of the nations whom he had conquered and putting him upon the level with them, and concluding that because they could not defend and deliver their worshippers the God of Israel could not defend and deliver his. See here,
- First, His pride. When he conquered a city he reckoned himself to have conquered its gods, and valued himself mightily upon it. His high opinion of the idols made him have a high opinion of himself as too hard for them.
- Secondly, His profaneness. The God of Israel was not a local deity, but the God of the whole earth, the only living and true God, the ancient of days, and had often proved himself to be above all gods; yet he makes no more of him than of the upstart fictitious gods of Hamath and Arpad, unfairly arguing that the gods (as some now say the priests) of all religions are the same, and himself above them all. The tradition of the Jews is that Rabshakeh was an apostate Jew, which made him so ready in the Jews' language; if so, his ignorance of the God of Israel was the less excusable and his enmity the less strange, for apostates are commonly the most bitter and spiteful enemies, witness Julian. A great deal of art and management, it must be owned, there were in this speech of Rabshakeh, but, withal, a great deal of pride, malice, falsehood, and blasphemy. One grain of sincerity would have been worth all this wit and rhetoric.
- Lastly, We are told what the commissioners on Hezekiah's part did.
- 1. They held their peace, not for want of something to say both on God's behalf and Hezekiah's: they might easily and justly have upbraided him with his master's treachery and breach of faith, and have asked him, What religion encourages you to hope that such conduct will prosper? At least they might have given that grave hint which Ahab gave to Benhadad's like insolent demands-Let not him thatgirdeth on the harness boast as though he had put it off. But the king had commanded them not to answer him, and they observed their instructions. There is a time to keep silence, as well as a time to speak, and there are those to whom to offer any thing religious or rational is to cast pearls before swine. What can be said to a madman? It is probable that their silence made Rabshakeh yet more proud and secure, and so his heart was lifted up and hardened to his destruction.
- 2. They rent their clothes in detestation of his blasphemy and in grief for the despised afflicted condition of Jerusalem, the reproach of which was a burden to them.
- 3. They faithfully reported the matter to the king, their master, and told him the words of Rabshakeh, that he might consider what was to be done, what course they should take and what answer they should return to Rabshakeh's summons.
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2 Kings Chapter 18 was about the reign of Hezekiah, who was the king of Judah. He was the king of Ahaz, who began his reign in the third year of Hoshea, who ruled Israel. He did things that were pleasing to the Lord, such as tearing down the Asherah poles and destroying the bronze snakes that were made by Moses. He trusted in the Lord, and God was pleased with him.
In the seventh year of his reign, war in the land broke out as the king of Assyria laid siege on Samaria, capturing Hoshea and all the people of Israel. Seven years after this, the king of Assyria attacked Judah and was able to capture them. Hezekiah wrote a letter to the king of Assyria saying that he has done wrong.
He offered to pay whatever the king of Assyria wanted in exchange for his freedom. The king of Judah gave the king of Assyria hundreds of gold and silver pieces which were found in the treasuries as well as the temple which was dedicated for the Lord. The temple of God was stripped of all its gold, including that which covered the doors and frames.
Sennacherib then threatens Jerusalem. This was when the king of Assyria sent his commanders to speak to Hezekiah at Jerusalem. The commander was trying to win Jerusalem by giving them horses. However, Hezekiah was saying that they should worship the Lord.
The commander from Assyria was saying that he was sent by the Lord and did not march down without hearing the word of God. He told them not to listen to Hezekiah, who he accused of misleading them. However, the people remained silent and did not answer him. Those who heard the words of the commander reported this to Hezekiah with their clothes torn.
1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.
3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
7 And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
8 He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
9 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.
10 And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.
11 And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:
12 Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
13 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house.
16 At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
17 And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field.
18 And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
19 And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?
20 Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
21 Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.
22 But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?
23 Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
24 How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
25 Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
26 Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews’ language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.
27 But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:
29 Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:
30 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
31 Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:
32 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us.
33 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
34 Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
35 Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
37 Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
2 Kings 18 Bible Commentary
Good reign of Hezekiah in Judah, Idolatry. (1-8) Sennacherib invades Judah. (9-16) Rabshakeh's blasphemies. (17-37)
Commentary on 2 Kings 18:1-8
(Read 2 Kings 18:1-8)
Hezekiah was a true son of David. Some others did that which was right, but not like David. Let us not suppose that when times and men are bad, they must needs grow worse and worse; that does not follow: after many bad kings, God raised one up like David himself. The brazen serpent had been carefully preserved, as a memorial of God's goodness to their fathers in the wilderness; but it was idle and wicked to burn incense to it. All helps to devotion, not warranted by the word of God, interrupt the exercise of faith; they always lead to superstition and other dangerous evils. Human nature perverts every thing of this kind. True faith needs not such aids; the word of God, daily thought upon and prayed over, is all the outward help we need.
Commentary on 2 Kings 18:9-16
(Read 2 Kings 18:9-16)
The descent Sennacherib made upon Judah, was a great calamity to that kingdom, by which God would try the faith of Hezekiah, and chastise the people. The secret dislike, the hypocrisy, and lukewarmness of numbers, require correction; such trials purify the faith and hope of the upright, and bring them to simple dependence on God.
Commentary on 2 Kings 18:17-37
(Read 2 Kings 18:17-37)
Rabshakeh tries to convince the Jews, that it was to no purpose for them to stand it out. What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? It were well if sinners would submit to the force of this argument, in seeking peace with God. It is, therefore, our wisdom to yield to him, because it is in vain to contend with him: what confidence is that which those trust in who stand out against him? A great deal of art there is in this speech of Rabshakeh; but a great deal of pride, malice, falsehood, and blasphemy. Hezekiah's nobles held their peace. There is a time to keep silence, as well as a time to speak; and there are those to whom to offer any thing religious or rational, is to cast pearls before swine. Their silence made Rabshakeh yet more proud and secure. It is often best to leave such persons to rail and blaspheme; a decided expression of abhorrence is the best testimony against them. The matter must be left to the Lord, who has all hearts in his hands, committing ourselves unto him in humble submission, believing hope, and fervent prayer.
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- Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary (concise)
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- 2 Kings 18
Chapter 18 summary 2 kings
Suggestions for Teaching
2 Kings 18
Assyria conquers Israel and later threatens Hezekiah and the people of Judah
Invite students to respond to the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
What challenges or fears do you have?
How might those challenges or fears test your faith in the Lord?
Explain that 2 Kings 18–20 records the challenges and fears of Hezekiah, the king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Invite students to look for principles that can help them with their challenges and fears as they study these chapters.
Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from 2 Kings 18:3–8. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the good things Hezekiah did as king.
What words or phrases in verses 3–8 describe Hezekiah’s righteousness?
According to verse 7, what blessing did Hezekiah receive for trusting in the Lord and keeping His commandments?
What principle can we learn from these verses? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we trust in the Lord and keep His commandments, then He will be with us.)
In what ways do we benefit from having the Lord with us?
Summarize 2 Kings 18:9–12 by explaining that Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel—the 10 tribes who mostly lived in the regions of Samaria and Galilee—“because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant” (2 Kings 18:12).
Explain that about seven years after the Assyrian king Sargon (who succeeded Shalmaneser [see verse 9]) conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and carried the people away into captivity, Sennacherib succeeded him as the king (see 2 Kings 18:9–10, 13). Ask a student to read 2 Kings 18:13 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Sennacherib decided to do.
What did Sennacherib decide to do?
Draw the accompanying map on the board. Point out that Sennacherib planned to conquer Jerusalem—the capital of the kingdom of Judah. The Assyrian army appeared to be unstoppable. They had a reputation of viciously desolating the lands and torturing the people they conquered, thus inspiring fear in those who opposed them.
What thoughts or feelings would you have had if you had lived in Jerusalem and knew the Assyrian army was approaching?
Explain that the prophet Isaiah prophesied of the Assyrian invasion. Ask a few students to read Isaiah 10:28–32 aloud. After each verse is read, invite the class to report what Isaiah said would happen at each city. As students report on each city, cross it out on the map on the board to show that it would be conquered by the Assyrian army. Explain that the cities of Madmenah and Gebim (see verse 31) are not included on the map because we do not know where they were located.
Point out that the city of Nob was less than one mile (1.6 km) north of Jerusalem. This means that the Assyrian army came extremely close to Jerusalem.
What do you think it means in verse 32 that Sennacherib would “shake his hand against … Jerusalem”? (He would threaten it but not destroy it. Do not cross out Jerusalem on the map.)
Explain that as recorded in Isaiah 10:33–34, Isaiah compared the Assyrian army to a bough, or large branch, of a tree. Ask a student to read these verses aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Isaiah said would happen to the Assyrian army before it could conquer Jerusalem.
What did Isaiah say would happen to the Assyrian army?
Point out that the book of 2 Chronicles preserves important details about how Hezekiah led his people during this time. Invite a student to read 2 Chronicles 32:6–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Hezekiah told the people of Jerusalem.
How did Hezekiah demonstrate his faith in the Lord at this time?
Explain that just as Isaiah prophesied, the Assyrian army arrived outside of Jerusalem after conquering the cities along the way. One of the Assyrians’ strategies was to send negotiators to a city before their army would attack. The Assyrians used their reputation as brutal, ruthless warriors to intimidate cities and persuade them to surrender. Sennacherib sent negotiators to Jerusalem, where they were met by Hezekiah’s representatives.
Invite two students to come to the front of the class. Assign one to be Rab-shakeh (Sennacherib’s negotiator) and the other to be Eliakim (one of Hezekiah’s representatives). You may want to make name badges for the two students to wear.
Explain that the conversation between Rab-shakeh and Eliakim was witnessed by the people in Jerusalem, who were watching from atop the city walls (see 2 Kings 18:26). Invite the rest of the class to imagine they are like the people on the wall and can see the Assyrian army right outside their city as they listen to the conversation.
Ask the student representing Rab-shakeh to read 2 Kings 18:19–20 aloud. Invite the class to listen for the questions Rab-shakeh asked.
What questions did Rab-shakeh ask? What do you think his intention was?
Summarize 2 Kings 18:21–25 by explaining that Rab-shakeh then scoffed at Judah’s alliance with Egypt and mocked the Lord.
Ask the student representing Eliakim to read 2 Kings 18:26 aloud. Invite the class to listen for the request he made.
Why did Eliakim want Rab-shakeh to speak in Syrian? (So the people of Jerusalem would not be able to understand his threats.)
Invite the student representing Rab-shakeh to read 2 Kings 18:28–35 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Rab-shakeh’s response to this request.
What did Rab-shakeh say to try to convince the people of Jerusalem to surrender?
Thank the students who participated in the role play, and invite them to return to their seats.
How might Rab-shakeh’s words have persuaded some people in Jerusalem not to trust in the Lord?
In what situations might others try to sway us from trusting in the Lord?
2 Kings 19
Hezekiah asks the Lord to save Jerusalem, and an angel destroys the Assyrian army
Ask a student to read 2 Kings 19:1 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for Hezekiah’s response when he received news of Rab-shakeh’s threats.
Why do you think Hezekiah “rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth”?
Where did Hezekiah go?
Summarize 2 Kings 19:2–5 by explaining that Hezekiah sent messengers to inform the prophet Isaiah of the Assyrians’ threats, to seek his counsel, and to ask him to pray for the people.
Ask a student to read 2 Kings 19:6–7 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for Isaiah’s response.
How was Isaiah’s response similar to his prophecy in Isaiah 10?
Explain that Rab-shakeh then sent messengers to Hezekiah with another message. Ask a student to read 2 Kings 19:10–11. Invite the class to follow along, looking for Rab-shakeh’s message.
What choice did Hezekiah have to make? (Whether to believe Isaiah and trust in the Lord or believe Rab-shakeh and surrender to Assyria.)
What would you do if you had to make a difficult decision like this? Why?
Invite a few students to read 2 Kings 19:14–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Hezekiah did during this difficult time.
What did Hezekiah choose to do?
Ask students to read 2 Kings 19:20 silently, looking for evidence that the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer. Invite students to report what they find.
Summarize 2 Kings 19:21–34 by explaining that Isaiah again reassured Hezekiah that the Lord would defend Jerusalem against the Assyrian army.
Ask a student to read 2 Kings 19:32–37 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what happened to the Assyrian army and their king, Sennacherib.
What happened to the army during the night? What happened to Sennacherib?
What principles can we learn from this account? (Students may identify several principles, including the following: If we turn to the Lord, then He can help us overcome our fears and challenges.)
When have you turned to the Lord for help with a fear or challenge? How did the Lord help you? (You may want to share one of your own personal experiences.)
Point out that Hezekiah did three things to turn to the Lord: (1) he went to the temple (see 2 Kings 19:1); (2) he sought the counsel of the prophet (see 2 Kings 19:2–5); (3) he prayed to the Lord (see 2 Kings 19:14–19). Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how well they feel they are doing in each of those three areas and how they can improve.
2 Kings 20
The Lord extends Hezekiah’s life, and Hezekiah entertains Babylonian messengers
Explain that Hezekiah later faced another challenge. Ask students to read 2 Kings 20:1 silently, looking for the challenge Hezekiah faced.
What challenge did Hezekiah face?
Ask a student to read 2 Kings 20:2–6 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how Hezekiah responded to this challenge.
What did Hezekiah do? How was he blessed?
What principle can we learn from this account? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we exercise faith in the Lord, we can be healed according to His will. In rare circumstances the Lord in His mercy will extend the life of an individual in mortality.)
Summarize 2 Kings 20:7–20 by explaining that the Lord showed Hezekiah a sign to confirm that He would heal him. Later, Isaiah prophesied that Babylon would conquer the kingdom of Judah.
Invite students to ponder how they can apply the principles discussed in this lesson when they face their challenges or fears. Testify of these principles, and invite students to apply them in their lives.
Scripture Mastery Review
On the board, write the list of Basic Doctrines (see the appendix of this manual) and list several Old Testament scripture mastery passages. Consider using the references to the 10 passages that students have learned so far in this course. Invite students to draw lines from the references to the Basic Doctrines that relate to those verses. Then ask students to explain the connections they have made.
Chapter 18 introduces King Hezekiah of Judah, one of the godliest rulers of Judah since Solomon. As is the case with many kings of the time, he reigned with both his father and son in addition to reigning by himself. He reigned as coregent with his father Ahaz for 14 years (729–715 BC). He reigned alone for 18 years (715–697) and then as coregent with his son Manasseh for 11 years (697–686).
What is remarkable about Hezekiah is that, in direct contrast to King Hoshea of Israel, “he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done.” Only three other kings of Judah are given the same commendation: Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah. We know that Hezekiah destroyed pagan worship centers, removed idols, and even broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses had fashioned back during the exodus, for it had become an object of worship.
From the book of 2 Chronicles, we also learn that Hezekiah cleansed and re-consecrated the temple, and then reintroduced the sacred feasts and festivals that Judah had failed to observe. Hezekiah was so confident in the Lord that he rebelled against the Assyrians and successfully mounted attacks against the Philistines. As the idolatrous nation of Israel was being ransacked by the Assyrians, Judah was experiencing a revival under Hezekiah’s leadership.
Peace with Assyria would only last 14 years for Hezekiah, however. In 701 BC, the Assyrian King Sennacherib sweeps into Judah and overruns all of the fortified cities of Judah except for Jerusalem itself. (Note that the following section of 2 Kings 18:13-19:37 is also recorded in the Book of Isaiah [chaps. 36–37] with only minor changes.) What caused Sennacherib to launch this invasion?
Thomas L. Constable writes, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old Testament), that
Sennacherib was a less capable ruler than his father. During Sennacherib’s first four years on the throne he was occupied with controlling Babylon. During this time an alliance had formed in which cities of Phoenicia and Philistia as well as Egypt (under Shaboka) and Judah (under Hezekiah) joined together to resist Assyria. Certain that Sennacherib would try to put down this uprising, as Sargon had done, Hezekiah prepared for an Assyrian invasion by fortifying Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chron. 32:1–8).
Sure enough, once Sennacherib had dealt with the Babylonians, he turned his attention to the rebellion in the south. After rolling through most of Judah’s territory, he sets up a temporary headquarters in the Judean city of Lachish.
Hezekiah panics and pays off Sennacherib by emptying his royal treasury and even removing the gold plating on the doors of the temple. However, this ransom does not succeed. Sennacherib sends an army along with three of his highest ranking officers to send a message to Hezekiah. The message to Hezekiah is received by three of his ministers and is summarized as:
- Hezekiah was foolish to align with Egypt against Assyria, since Egypt is weak.
- The God of Judah was obviously upset with Hezekiah because Hezekiah had removed the high places in Judah against God’s wishes. God had thus commanded Assyria to conquer Judah. Paul R. House, in 8, 1, 2 Kings, The New American Commentary, adds, “This sort of propaganda about other countries’ deities abandoning their adherents was a standard Assyrian ploy when they invaded and conquered another nation. Cogan notes that the Assyrians routinely told their enemies that their gods were angry with them, that the gods had abandoned them, and that these gods counseled them to surrender to the Assyrians. It is not unusual, then, for the spokesman to try such tactics on Judahites. What the speaker has not grasped, however, is that he addresses monotheists committed to separatist Yahwism, not the typical polytheists he is used to manipulating.”
- The people of Jerusalem will suffer greatly from the siege and Hezekiah cannot protect them.
- If they will surrender, they will be moved peacefully to a distant land where they will be able to live their lives and prosper. (This is an interesting way to sell deportation.)
- None of the other gods of the nations Assyria has conquered have been able to withstand the king of Assyria (who serves the Assyrian god Assur). Why would they think Judah will be the first?
In chapter 19, verses 1-7, Hezekiah sends his ministers to the prophet Isaiah to get his counsel. Isaiah assures the ministers that God will send Sennacherib away and that he will eventually be killed by the sword in his own land.
In verses 8-13, Sennacherib sends a letter to Hezekiah warning him not to be deceived by his god into believing that Jerusalem will be protected from the Assyrian army. He then lists 9 other nations that have fallen to the Assyrians and repeats that none of those gods protected those nations.
Hezekiah receives the letter, goes to the temple, and prays to God. Hezekiah appeals to God’s honor and the fact that Sennacherib has mocked Him. Hezekiah understands that Yahweh is the only real God in existence, but Hezekiah asks God to prove this fact to the rest of world by saving Jerusalem.
The prophet Isaiah announces to Hezekiah that God has heard his prayer and that He will indeed save Jerusalem. In verses 21-28, God speaks to Sennacherib and the nation of Assyria directly. God reprimands Sennacherib for thinking that he can conquer Jerusalem and for dishonoring the Holy One of Israel. Even though Sennacherib believes that all of his military successes are due to his own power and prowess, God corrects him and states that He is the One who has orchestrated everything that has occurred from the beginning. Because of Sennacherib’s arrogance, God will ensure that Assyria is treated just like she has treated her enemies.
God then speaks to the people of Jerusalem and tells them that they will survive the devastation brought by Assyria. Thomas Constable explains the meaning of verses 29-31:
For two years the people of Jerusalem would be able to eat the produce of their land. It would not be stolen by the Assyrians who would have lived off the land if they had returned to besiege the capital. The Judeans had not been able to plant crops outside the city walls because of the Assyrians’ presence. But God promised that He would feed them for two years by causing the seed that had been sown naturally to grow up into an adequate crop. The third year people could return to their normal cycle of sowing and reaping.
This provision of multiplied food was further designed to illustrate God’s plan to multiply miraculously the people of Judah who had been reduced to small numbers. Sennacherib claimed to have taken 200,150 prisoners from Judah. However, though Judah seemingly might cease to be a nation through attrition, God promised to revive it. Like the crops, a remnant of people would take root … and bear fruit, that is, be established and prosperous. God’s zeal on behalf of His people would perform this (cf. Isa. 9:7).
Finally, in verses 32-34, God reveals the immediate fate of Jerusalem:
Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.
That night, the angel of the Lord strikes down the entire Assyrian army camped outside Jerusalem. Sennacherib returns to his capital, Nineveh, without defeating Hezekiah and Jerusalem. Some 20 years later, Sennacherib is murdered by his two oldest sons in the temple of the Assyrian god, Nisroch. They were attempting a coup because Sennacherib had chosen their younger brother to succeed him as king of Assyria. Everything God said would occur did occur.
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In chapter eighteen we now move back to the southern kingdom of Judah. Inasmuch as the northern kingdom has now been destroyed from the rest of the... from the rest of Second Kings on we'll be dealing actually with now the southern kingdom of Judah which still remains. And as we move south, we find that Hezekiah is coming to reign over Judah.
He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to the Lord and all that David his father did. And thus he removed the high places, he broke the images, he cut down the groves, he broke in pieces the brass serpent that Moses had made: for in those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan ( 2 Kings 18:2-4 ).
So as he took over as king, the first thing he did was to start removing the false idols and gods and worship centers that the people had created in Judah. Destroying them, getting rid of them in order that he might turn the people back to the true worship of the true and living God. And one of the interesting things, one of the things that the people had made an idol out of and were burning incense to was this brass serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness.
You remember when the children of Israel had murmured against the Lord, the Lord sent serpents into the land. And the serpents began to bite the people and they began to die from the result of the bites of these serpents. And Moses cried unto the Lord and the Lord told him to make a brass serpent and to put it on the pole in the midst of the camp. And whoever was bitten by the serpent, if he would look on the brass serpent, he would be healed of the bite and live.
Now Jesus uses that as a remarkable illustration to answer the question of an earnest Jewish leader who said to Him, "How can I be born again when I am old? Can I return the second time to my mother's womb?" And Jesus in answering the question, "How can I be born again?" said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" ( John 3:14 , John 3:15 ). So Jesus made reference to this brazen serpent in the wilderness, that it was going to be sort of like Him actually. Even as Moses raised up the serpent.
Now of course, brass is always a symbol of God's judgment, and the serpent was a symbol for sin. The people sinned against the Lord in murmuring against the Lord. So the brass serpent there on the pole in the wilderness was a symbol that their sin had been judged. And if they would just look at the provision that God made, the brass serpent on the pole, and believe in that provision, they would be healed of the bites of the serpents and live. Even so, Jesus Christ on the cross is a symbol of God's judgment against our sins. And if we'll just but look to Jesus Christ, the crucified Lord, we will be forgiven our sins and we will live. So I'm born again by believing on Christ, the fact that He bore my sins upon the cross.
But the people had taken now this brass serpent, and they made a little shrine and an altar, and they have began to worship it and burn incense to it. Now, whenever a man sets up an idol and begins to worship an idol, it tells that a couple of things about that man. Number one, it tells us that he has lost the consciousness of the presence of God. Whenever I have to have an idol, a worship center, that means I have lost the consciousness of God's presence. And I need something to remind me of God's presence. That's a sign of spiritual dullness.
Paul the apostle said, "I know that you men of Athens are very religious people. I've seen all of your gods that you have through town and all of the altars that you built, and I saw this one altar I was interested in it because it had the inscription, 'To the unknown God.'" He said, "That's the God I want to talk to you about. For He is the God who made the heaven and the earth and everything that is in them. And in Him we live, we move, we have our being" ( Acts 17:28 ). Paul didn't need any idol. He was so conscious of God's presence that he realized that he was totally surrounded by God. I live in Him. I move in Him. I have my being in Him. I cannot escape Him. He surrounds me all the time. That kind of consciousness you don't need a reminder. You don't need some little idol, some little trinket to remind you of His presence.
Man is so prone to want something to worship. Something I can see. Some object. And it is a sign that he has lost the consciousness. Something vital in his relationship with God. The consciousness of God's presence. But the second thing that an idol tells us is that somehow that man is longing to regain that which he lost. I want to be conscious of God's presence, and so I need this as a reminder because I'm longing for something that I have lost, the consciousness and the awareness of God.
And so the children of Israel have made an idol out of this brass serpent. They have made it an object of worship. They were burning incense to it. Again, that folly of "worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forevermore" ( Romans 1:25 ).
Hezekiah, when he came into the throne as the king, as he began to destroy all of the false worship centers, he took this brass serpent and he broke the thing in pieces and he said, "Nehushtan." Now the word Nehushtan means a thing of brass. It's no God; it's a thing of brass.
Oh, how we get attached to things. "Oh, I always like to sit in that particular portion of the church because there one night I felt the presence of God. Don't ever remove that pew, you know." And I'm only letting you know that the first of the month the pews are to be removed. We'll sell it to you if you want. But it's Nehushtan. It's a thing of wood and cloth. It's not of God. It's a thing of brass. It's no God. Nehushtan, a thing of brass.
It is interesting if you go to St. Andrews Cathedral in Milan, Italy today, you'll find in a beautiful case what they claim to be the glued together portion of that brass serpent. That's right. And again, prayers are being offered before it. But it's Nehushtan, a thing of brass. It's important that we recognize these things for what we are, that we don't put some kind of a magical, you know, spiritual aura around the thing. That's the place. That's the pulpit. That's the spot.
So Hezekiah initiated a tremendous religious reform.
And he trusted in the LORD the God of Israel; so that after him there was none among all of the kings of Judah that were like him. For he clave to the LORD, he stuck with the Lord and departed not from following him, but he kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him ( 2 Kings 18:5-7 );
When we get into Second Chronicles when Asa had come back from his victory over the huge force of the Ethiopian, the prophet met him and said, "The Lord is with you while you'll be with Him; and if you seek Him, He will be found of you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" ( 2 Chronicles 15:2 ).
Now Hezekiah was committed to the Lord. He obeyed the commandments of the Lord. He clave unto the Lord, and thus the Lord was with him. The inevitable consequence of commitment to the Lord. Not only was the Lord with him, but the Lord,
prospered him wherever he went: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and would not serve him ( 2 Kings 18:7 ).
Now the king of Assyria had come down to the area of the Philistines and he had actually smitten the city of Gaza and all of the little intermediary cities around there.
And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, that Shalmaneser the king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it: which was the sixth year of Hezekiah. And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel [as we've already covered] into the captivity because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant. And in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah Sennacherib the king of Assyria came against the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. And Hezekiah the king sent to the king of Assyria and saying, I have offended; return from me: that which you put on me I will bear ( 2 Kings 18:9-14 ).
In other words, he was offering to surrender unto Sennacherib. And so he laid upon Hezekiah a tribute of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
And Hezekiah gave him the silver that was there in the house of the LORD, the treasures of the king's house. And at that time he cut the gold from the doors of the temple and from the pillars which had been overlaid, he gave it to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria then sent a couple of fellows, emissaries, Tartan, Rabsaris and Rabshakeh to the king Hezekiah and they came with threats from the king of Assyria ( 2 Kings 18:15-17 ).
They came to the wall and Hezekiah's prime minister went out and these guys began to call up unto them and he said, they said to the...
Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak unto Hezekiah and say to him, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What is this confidence wherein you're trusting? You say, (but they are vain words), I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom do you trust, that you're rebelling against me? Now, behold, you're trusting upon the staff of the bruised reed, upon Egypt, which if even a man will lean upon it in his hand, it will pierce his hand: so Pharaoh the king of Egypt and all of those who trust in him. But if you say to me, We trust in Jehovah our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said unto Judah and Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 18:19-22 )?
Now that shows how, of course, little the people understood Jehovah God. He thought that all these high places and altars that were actually pagan altars that were built throughout the land were built unto Jehovah. How much people outside really misunderstand often our devotion of Jesus Christ, our worship of Him. And this guy is saying, you know, "You say you trust in Jehovah, but Hezekiah tore down all of His altars and all, and said you should worship only at this altar in Jerusalem." Wrong, he did not tear down the altars of Jehovah, but only the false pagan altars that were there in the land.
Now, he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do, pay us some money and we'll give you two thousand horses and see if you can find enough riders to put on them and we'll send the weakest captain that we have and he'll wipe you out." I mean, you know, really boasting and really threatening these people. And he said, "Tell you what, I'm come up against this place to destroy it because Jehovah told me to come." And so the guy is there blaspheming God and threatening the people, and these two guys on the wall said, "Hey fellows, don't talk to us in Hebrew. We understand the Assyrian language. Talk to us in Assyrian language and we will relay the message to Hezekiah."
And Rabshakeh said, No, king didn't send me to talk to the king but to these men who sit on the wall ( 2 Kings 18:27 ),
And he continued to talk in Hebrew. Now threatening all these guys that were sitting up there on the wall in their Hebrew tongue and saying, "Hey, don't listen to Hezekiah. He tells you the Lord can help you, don't believe it. You think that God can deliver you out of our hands? Where are the gods, you know, all of these nations, we've conquered all of them. Their gods were no value to them and your God will be no value to you." And really began to threaten the people there that were on the wall. And yet the people did not answer them because Hezekiah the king had commanded, "Don't answer them anything." So Hezekiah sent a message to Isaiah the prophet.
Now at this point in the King, it will be well if you want a good side assignment to read the book of Isaiah in conjunction with these new chapters, because Isaiah was an influential prophet at the time that Hezekiah was king. And thus, to really put it together, you need now to really get background on this period of history by reading Isaiah. And you'll understand better the prophecies of Isaiah with this particular background, realizing that Hezekiah was a good king and he was reigning at the time that Isaiah was a prophet. And Isaiah had a great influence, and Isaiah was really the prophet to whom Hezekiah sought for advice. "
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/2-kings-18.html. 2014.