2 KINGS CHAPTER 18.
The First Part of Hezekiah’s Reign.
HEZEKIAH KING OVER JUDAH. — V. 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. The apparent difficulty with regard to the dates at this period is readily solved by remembering that the years of the two kings do not run exactly parallel. “If we assume that Hezekiah’s accession took place near the end of Hoshea’s third year, then his fourth and sixth years correspond, for the most part, with the sixth and ninth of Hoshea.” (Keil.) V. 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 (or Abijah, 2 Chron. 29, 1), the daughter of Zachariah. V. 3. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David, his father, did. Instead of patterning after his wicked father, Hezekiah, most likely under the influence of a pious mother, took the example of his illustrious ancestor, the founder of the dynasty, before him. V. 4. He removed the high places, something which even the sincere believers before him had not accomplished, and brake the images, the stone statues erected to idols, and cut down the groves, the wooden Asherah idols or Astarte columns 1 Kings 14, 23, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, Num. 21, 5-9, which the people, in the course of the years, had made an object of idolatrous veneration; for unto those days the children of Israel, from time to time, as the passion for idolatry took hold of the nation, did burn incense to it. And he called it Nehushtan, a contemptuous name, meaning “a piece of brass.” This story is a fine illustration of the relic-worship which is still found, especially in the Roman Church. V. 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. He was distinguished by a most unusual amount of confidence and firmness of faith. V. 6. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him, never became guilty of idolatry, but kept His commandments which the Lord commanded Moses. V. 7. And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth, he was fortunate in all his undertakings. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. The wicked Ahaz placed his kingdom in the power of Assyria; Hezekiah, faithful to Jehovah, declared Judah to be an independent nation. V. 8. He smote the Philistines, the ancient enemy of Judah on the west, even unto Gaza and the borders thereof, the southernmost of their city-states, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city, the smallest hamlet as well as the most strongly fortified town. When any person, especially, however, a mighty ruler, clings to the Lord with all faithfulness and does not forsake His ways, this is a great mercy of God.
THE ASSYRIAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST SAMARIA AND JERUSALEM. — V. 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. V. 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. V. 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, v. 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. Cp. chap. 17, 5-8. The account is here repeated because the catastrophe which overtook Israel was of great importance to the entire covenant people and probably aided Hezekiah in carrying out his reforms, since the people continually had the warning example of their northern neighbors before them. V. 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, all the fortified towns outside of Jerusalem, his purpose being to leave behind him conquered territory as he advanced against Egypt. V. 14. And Hezekiah, King of Judah, sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, a city some fifteen hours southwest of Jerusalem, on the way to Egypt, against which Sennacherib (or Sargon, as the inscriptions have his real name) was then encamped, saying, I have offended, he acknowledged that he had acted foolishly in not submitting to the invaders. Return from me; that which thou puttest on me, namely, in the form of ransom- or tribute-money, will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah, king of Judah, three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold, a sum which would amount to at least $2,000,000 in modern money. V. 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. V. 16. At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the Temple of the Lord, which he himself had put on the door-casings, 2 Chron. 29, 3, and from the pillars which Hezekiah, king of Judah, had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. It was a very heavy tribute and drained the resources of Hezekiah. It was a momentary weakness of Hezekiah, which caused him even to enter into negotiations with the enemy; for the Lord was well able to preserve Judah, as the subsequent events showed. The strongest test of faith in God comes on the darkest days; it is then that the heart must cling to Him to the exclusion of everything else.
THE ASSYRIAN EXPEDITION AGAINST JERUSALEM. — V. 17. And the king of Assyria, intending to take Jerusalem in spite of the heavy ransom-money which he had received, sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh, three of his highest civil and military officers, from Lachish, where his advance was still checked, to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem, they appeared before the city with their army. 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. The upper pool, or reservoir, of the city of Jerusalem was that of Gihon, 2 Chron. 32, 30; 1 Kings 1, 33; Is. 7, 3, toward the west. Hezekiah had filled up the surface canal, which, in case of a siege, could easily have been dammed by the enemies, and had constructed a tunnel which brought the water to a reservoir inside the walls, chap. 20, 20. 4) So the Assyrian officers stood on an elevation near the western wall of the city. V. 18. And when they had called to the king, announcing to the soldiers on the wall that they had a message for Hezekiah, there came out to them Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, the master of the palace, and Shebna, the scribe, the secretary of state, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, the chancellor of the kingdom, three of the king’s chief officers. V. 19. And Babshakeh, the spokesman for the Assyrian delegation, said unto them, Speak ye now to Rezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, the entire message being held in an arrogant and haughty tone, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? V. 20. Thou sayest, in a form of idle talking, (but they are but vain words, literally, “a mere word of the lips,”) I have counsel and strength for the war. The mere idea of withstanding the power of the Assyrians was to them the height of foolishness. Now, on whom dost thou trust that thou rebellest against me? V. 21. Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, that was the only explanation which the Assyrians could think of, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it, it would give way immediately under even a slight weight. So is Pharaoh, king of Egypt, unto all that trust on him, any one depending upon him would do so to his own harm. V. 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? The argument is that God would surely not be with one who had destroyed all the places of worship throughout the country and confined the worship of the people to a single place, but with the Assyrian king, who had taken possession of the country, whose success showed that he was right. V. 23. Now, therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to, make a bargain with, 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. It was an expression of supreme contempt: Even if I should furnish you the horses for cavalry, you have not even that many men. V. 24. How, then, wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, Hezekiah’s whole army, so they mockingly assert, would not be able to put to flight one of the Assyrian officers commanding the smallest number of soldiers, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? V. 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. It was a bold lie: So far from their being justified in relying upon Jehovah, the Assyrians say, He was rather on their own side, having commissioned them to destroy Jerusalem. The object of this bold speech was, of course, to break down the morale of the city’s inhabitants, many of whom heard the message. V. 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, which the common soldiers and the people on the wall could not understand; for we understand it; and talk not with us in the Jews’ language in the ears of the people that are on the wall. V. 27. But Rabshakeh said unto them, still with the object of influencing the people, 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, to cause them to bow in submission, that they may eat their own dung and drink their own piss with you, the intimation being that the city would soon reach this point of distress that the inhabitants would eventually resort to their own excrements for food. V. 28. Then Rabshakeh stood, deliberately approaching and facing the wall, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, who has so many tributary vassals, the king of Assyria: v. 29. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you; for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his, the Assyrian king’s, hand; v. 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. V. 31. Hearken not to Hezekiah; for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, literally, “Make with me a blessing,” that is, by seeking his favor and a peaceful solution of the difficulty, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine and every one of his fig-tree, an expression denoting the perfect enjoyment of the most ideal conditions of peace which he herewith offered to the people, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern, v.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, the description, a mere bit of imagination, being like that of Canaan at its best, Deut. 8, 8; 33, 28, that ye may live and not die; and hearken not unto Hezekiah when he persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. V. 33. Hath any of the gods of the nations, of all the conquered heathen countries, delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? V. 34. Where are the gods of Hamath and of Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? These were the provinces toward the north and east which had been conquered by the Assyrian forces, chap. 17, 24. Have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? V. 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? He means to say, of course, that Jehovah, the God of such an insignificant nation, would not be able to deliver Judah out of the hand of the Assyrian king. All this was intended to intimidate the people and cause them to yield. V. 36. But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word; he found none who would have been willing to discuss his proposal; for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not, his delegates were merely to report on the contents of the message. V. 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, their great grief and sorrow being not only on account of the message, but also on account of the insults to the king and the blasphemies of Jehovah which they had heard, and told him the words of Rabshakeh. The proud children of this world delight in defying the Word and will of God, in blaspheming the Lord. But those who trust in the Savior will not let such speeches make them waver in their confidence, for the last word will be on the side of the Lord.