IN TIMES OF CRISIS SATAN USES MANY CRAFTY ARGUMENTS TO TRY TO UNDERMINE OUR FAITH
This historical scene in Judah is set in opposition to the preceding account of the Fall of Samaria in Israel. Once again we have a crisis facing God’s covenant people with a severe threat from Assyria against the Promised Land. Will history repeat itself? The difference is that Judah has a righteous king in Hezekiah who is commended for his faith after the pattern of David. Yet despite his overall righteous reign, he initially caves when confronted by superior military force. As the enemy lays siege to Jerusalem, the various arguments are presented to seek to undermine the faith of God’s people.
William Barnes: We now come to the final section of 1-2 Kings, a section which can perhaps simply be entitled, “Judah Alone.” For Israel, the northern kingdom, has now irrevocably disappeared from the scene. After the stirring sermon of chapter 17 describing the reasons for its fate, we know that Israel was doomed by its continued preoccupation with idolatry and religious syncretism. We also suspect that Judah will eventually be subjected to the same fate, unless something dramatically different takes place. And sure enough, with the onset of the reign of good King Hezekiah (chs 18–20), the dramatic turnaround we are seeking seems indeed on the horizon. This will, however, prove to be only a delay in the demise of the southern kingdom, as Hezekiah himself will come to recognize (see 20:19). In fact, even good King Josiah (22:1–23:30), the great-grandson of Hezekiah and probably the “hero” of the Deuteronomistic History, will not succeed in halting permanently the seemingly inevitable course of this tragic history (see 22:15–20). Inevitably doomed, yet always containing a glimmer of hope—that is Judah’s nature in the final section of 1-2 Kings.
Peter Pett: The story of Hezekiah is portrayed as of one who was victorious on every hand, and who eventually stood up against the great king of Assyria, emerging weakened and battered, but triumphant. In some ways it can be seen as similar to the story of David against Goliath. Both dealt with those who ‘defied the living God’ (2 Kings 19:6), and both emphasised the weak facing the strong and overcoming them in the power of YHWH. Indeed that is one of the themes of these chapters, the effective power of YHWH, for great emphasis is laid on the impossibility of anyone successfully defying the king of Assyria, apart, of course, from YHWH.
I. (:1-8) HEZEKIAH’S RIGHTEOUS REIGN IN THE SOUTH –
A. (:1-2) Selected Touchpoints
1. When Did He Reign?
“Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea,
the son of Elah king of Israel,”
2. Who Was His Father?
“that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king.”
3. How Old Was He When He Began to Reign?
“He was twenty-five years old when he became king,”
4. How Long Did He Reign?
“and he reigned twenty-nine years”
MacArthur: The 29 years given here indicate only those years after his co-regency with Ahaz was over, when he was the actual sovereign. During Hezekiah’s reign, the prophets Isaiah (19:2; Is 1:1; 37:21) and Micah (Mic 1:1) continued to minister in Judah.
5. Over Which Kingdom Did He Reign?
6. Who Was His Mother?
“and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.”
Robert Rayburn: Hezekiah was the son of the wicked king Ahaz. Under what influences he came to repudiate his father’s perspective and program we are not told. But it seems clear, even more so in Chronicles than in Kings, that we are to look to his mother. He had a godly mother and she made all the difference to her son and so to Judah as a kingdom.
B. (:3-6) Moral Evaluation
1. (:3) Summary Evaluation
“And he did right in the sight of the LORD,
according to all that his father David had done.”
Dale Ralph Davis: So David reigns again! It was almost too much to hope for. Think of Hezekiah’s reign in light of Judah’s previous 150 years. Godly Jehoshaphat’s stupid marriage alliances with Ahab’s family not only guaranteed wicked kings (Jehoram, Ahaziah) to Judah but nearly wiped out the Davidic dynasty (Athaliah). Kings followed who were doing ‘what was right’ but never getting extreme about it (Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham). Then with Ahaz (ch. 16) it looks like Judah is plunging into the pit. How amazing that after Ahaz we have David redivivus.
2. (:4) Significant Reforms
a. Eradicate the Idolatrous Worship Centers
“He removed the high places
and broke down the sacred pillars
and cut down the Asherah.”
Peter Pett: Internally Hezekiah was determined to bring Judah back to the true worship of YHWH. He removed the syncretistic high places, broke the pillars which represented Baal, and cut down the Asherah images (or wooden poles) which represented the mother goddess of the Canaanites.
b. Demolish the Bronze Serpent
“He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.”
David Guzik: God’s people must likewise be on guard against idolatry today. There are many dangers of idolatry in the modern church:
• Making leaders idols.
• Making education an idol.
• Making human eloquence an idol.
• Making customs and habits of ministry an idol.
• Making forms of worship an idol.
Chuck Smith: “What does it Mean When People Start Worshipping Relics or Idols?”
A. They have lost their consciousness of God’s presence.
1. In reality He is always there, “for in Him we live.” “Where can I flee from thy presence?”
– We are not always aware of Him.
B. Somehow within we are trying to recapture that which was lost.
1. The day we felt God’s presence and power.
2. That time when God’s joy filled our lives.
3. How did we ever lose it?
– The cares of this life;
– the deceitfulness of riches,
– the lust for other things.
Biblical Illustrator: That a blind veneration for the past is always an obstacle in the path of progress. An intelligent regard for the past is, of course, a help and not a hindrance in the direction of all true advance. But a clinging to customs, institutions, modes of thought and worship, and a refusal to surrender them for no other reason than that they have existed for centuries–this is an unintelligent attachment to the past, and has often obstructed progress. Right across the path of Hezekiah, in his endeavours to purify the religious life of Ins people, stood this blind veneration for the brasen serpent. They could have given no intelligent account of their burning incense to this image; only, it had long ago been a medium of healing influence; and as, doubtless, their fathers had burnt incense to it, why should not they? But Hezekiah rose above the superstition which blinded his countrymen.
3. (:5-6) Steadfast Faith, Loyalty and Obedience
a. (:5) Steadfast Faith
“He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel;
so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”
MacArthur: The most noble quality of Hezekiah (in dramatic contrast to his father, Ahaz) was that he relied on the Lord as his exclusive hope in every situation. What distinguished him from all other kings of Judah (after the division of the kingdom) was his firm trust in the Lord during a severe national crisis (18:17 – 19:34). Despite troublesome events, Hezekiah clung tightly to the Lord, faithfully following Him and obeying His commands (v. 6). As a result, the Lord was with him and gave him success (v. 7).
b. (:6a) Loyalty
“For he clung to the LORD;
he did not depart from following Him,”
Constable: Regarding his faith, Hezekiah was the greatest Judahite king (v. 5). He did not depart from Yahweh later in life (v. 6).
c. (:6b) Obedience
“but kept His commandments,
which the LORD had commanded Moses.”
R. D. Patterson: While the writer of Kings concentrates on the political events of Hezekiah’s reign, the author of Chronicles gives supplemental information as to Hezekiah’s continuing reformation. Hezekiah’s spiritual concern brought about a cleansing of the temple, thus undoing the evil deeds of Ahaz (2 Chron 29:3-19). This was followed by a reconstruction and rededication of the temple (2 Chron 29:20-36), accomplished with proper sacrifices (vv. 20-24), with sincere worship (vv. 25-30), and with glad service to God (vv. 31-36). Hezekiah’s further reforms included the reinstitution of the Passover (2 Chron 30), an observation performed with careful forethought (vv. 1-12) and in accordance with the divine command, tempered with mercy (vv. 13-22) and with protracted festivity (vv. 23-27). The author of Chronicles tells of still later iconoclastic purges in which all the people of Israel participated (2 Chron 31:1) and of Hezekiah’s further attention to spiritual details and provisions (2 Chron 31:2-19), closing with the notice that Hezekiah characteristically lived out his life in utter devotion to God and so was successful in all that he did (2 Chron 31:20-21).
C. (:7-8) Divine Blessing
1. (:7a) General Prosperity
a. Blessed with the Presence of the Lord
“And the LORD was with him;”
b. Blessed with Overall Prosperity
“wherever he went he prospered.”
2. (:7b) Breaking Away from Assyria
“And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.”
3. (:8) Victories over the Philistines
“He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory,
from watchtower to fortified city.”
II. (:9-16) HISTORY THREATENS TO REPEAT ITSELF –
A. (:9-12) Review of Israel’s Fall from Shalmaneser and Deportation to Assyria
1. (:9) Siege of Samaria
“Now it came about 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.”
MacArthur: These verses [9-12] flash back to the time just before Israel’s destruction and captivity to give a summary of the fall of Samaria (more fully narrated in 17:5-23) as a graphic reminder of the Assyrian power and the threat they still were to Judah. This review sets the scene for the siege of Jerusalem with its reminder of Israel’s apostasy against which Hezekiah’s faith in the Lord was a bright contrast.
Constable: Verses 9-12 serve a double purpose. They relate the Assyrian defeat of Samaria to Hezekiah’s reign, and they explain again the spiritual reason for that defeat (v. 12).
2. (:10) Capture of Samaria
“And at the end of three years they captured it;
in the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea
king of Israel, Samaria was captured.”
3. (:11) Deportation to Assyria
“Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away into exile to Assyria,
and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan,
and in the cities of the Medes,”
4. (:12) Fatal Flaw = Transgressing the Covenant
“because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God,
but transgressed His covenant,
even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded;
they would neither listen, nor do it.”
Peter Pett: And what happened to Samaria was because they did not obey the voice of YHWH their God, but transgressed His covenant, that is, did not hear or do all that Moses His servant commanded. This again is in contrast with the fact that Hezekiah did cleave to YHWH, and did keep His commandments which He had commanded Moses (2 Kings 18:6). Thus the basis of Jerusalem’s deliverance is made clear.
B. (:13-16) Reality of Judah’s Imminent Threat from Sennacherib of Assyria
1. (:13) Faith Does Not Mean No Attacks
“Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah,
Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.”
2. (:14-16) Faith Does Not Mean We Never Cave
“Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, ‘I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.’ So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house. 16 At that time Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.”
R. D. Patterson: Hezekiah’s generosity served only to whet Sennacherib’s appetite. Doubtless he reasoned that these could only be a token payment; surely immense stores of wealth must lie hidden within the fortified walls of Jerusalem. Accordingly, as he continued operations in the Lachish area and laid plans for the capture of Ekron, Sennacherib sent a strong contingent under the direction of senior members of his staff to place Jerusalem under siege.
Peter Pett: In order to obtain the required gold Hezekiah had to strip the pillars (and possibly the doorposts, the word occurs nowhere else) of the Temple because all his limited amount of gold had been used for the purpose of honouring YHWH. Both the references to the silver and the gold would suggest that Hezekiah was finding it hard to achieve the required level of tribute, which may well have contributed to Sennacherib’s dissatisfaction with the situation. We must remember that as a result of the circumstances of the invasion Hezekiah had limited opportunities for exacting taxes in order to supplement what was in the treasuries.
Dale Ralph Davis: So the trust and obedience verses 1–8 speak of are what Hezekiah came to have as a result of the whole Assyrian threat. True, verses 1–8 specify some of Hezekiah’s initial reforms; but primarily they are giving an evaluation of Hezekiah’s total reign not of a particular failure. There is no conflict between an overall trend of faith that nevertheless experiences lapses of faith. Sometimes faith has its ‘wobblies’—and they can be severe.
III. (:17-25) ENGAGING THE ENEMY EXPOSES GOD’S PEOPLE TO CRAFTY ARGUMENTS –
A. (:17-18) Confrontation at Jerusalem
1. (:17) Key Leaders of Assyria
“Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they went up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway of the fuller’s field.”
Constable: “Rabshakeh” was an Assyrian title equivalent to commander-in-chief of the army. Whitcomb defined the titles of the various Assyrian officers mentioned in verse 17 as follows: “Tartan” (“Field Marshal” or “Second In Rank”; cf. Isa. 20:1), “Rab-saris” (“Chief Eunuch”; cf. Jer. 39:3), and “Rabshakeh” (“Chief Officer”).
Whitcomb: The location of the confrontation was significant: “the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field” (II Kings 18:17). It was here, on the high ground overlooking the city from the northwest, where laundrymen (fullers) found sufficient water for their trade, that Isaiah had challenged wicked Ahaz thirty-three years earlier with a divine alternative: either trust Jehovah or face the Assyrians (Isa. 7:3-17). Ahaz, on behalf of his people, made his decision, and God’s warning was now being fulfilled.
2. (:18) Key Leaders of Judah
“When they called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, came out to them.”
B. (:19-25) Crafty Arguments of the Enemy
1. (:19-20) Questioning Your Confidence for Deliverance
“Then Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say now to Hezekiah, Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, What is this confidence that you have?’
You say (but they are only empty words), ‘I have counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me?”
2. (:21) Questioning the Strength of Your Allies to Deliver You
“Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him.”
3. (:22) Questioning the Ability of Your God to Deliver You
“But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem ‘?”
MacArthur: The Rabshakeh mistakenly thought Hezekiah’s reforms in removing idols from all over the land and reestablishing central worship in Jerusalem (18:4; 2Ch 31:1) had removed opportunities to worship the Lord, and thus cut back on honoring Judah’s God, thereby displeasing Him and forfeiting His help in war. That all worship should center in Solomon’s temple was utterly foreign to the polytheistic Assyrians.
Constable: The Rabshakeh used six arguments to persuade Hezekiah to surrender:
1. Egypt was an undependable ally (vv. 19-21).
2. The altars to Yahweh throughout the land had been removed (v. 22).
3. The Assyrian army was overwhelmingly large and powerful (vv. 23- 24).
4. Yahweh had told Sennacherib to attack Jerusalem (v. 25).
5. Conditions for the Israelites would be paradisiacal if they surrendered (vv. 31-32).
6. No other god was able to save the nations that the Assyrians had attacked (vv. 33-35).
4. (:23) Offering a Mockery of a Peace Treaty
“Now therefore, come, make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them.”
5. (:24) Questioning Your Ability to Survive Even the Slightest Attack
“How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants, and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?”
Dale Ralph Davis: But it is sad when an Assyrian has to teach you how flimsy and foolish and fragile is the object of your trust. It’s sad when an Assyrian can divine that you trust Egypt more than Yahweh. It’s sad when an Assyrian can expose your folly rather than your faith.
6. (:25) Questioning Which Side Your God is Really on
“Have I now come up without the LORD’s approval against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.’”
IV. (:26-35) ENGAGING THE ENEMY EXPOSES GOD’S LEADERS TO MOCKERY, ATTACK AND HUMILIATION – CONTRADICTING FAITH
A. (:26-27) Public Forum for Interaction
1. (:26) Judah Prefers Limiting Negotiations to the Leadership
“Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, ‘Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean, in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.’”
Peter Pett: This was probably not a plea based on their fear of the people’s response. It would hardly have been wise to make the request in this way if that was so, as the reply given could only have been expected. Rather it was a firm affirmation that they did not need to be treated like barbarians as though they could not understand Aramaic, as in fact they could speak it quite adequately. Thus they were requesting that negotiation take place in the diplomatic language recognized by all and that they be treated as intellectual equals in the negotiations. Such things were for negotiators, not for common people. In a sense it was a question. Were these serious negotiations, or were they just propaganda? They soon received their answer.
2. (:27) Assyria Prefers Attacking the Leaders via Public Propaganda
“But Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?’”
Peter Pett: His crude way of putting things stands in contrast to the dignified attempt of the three Judaean negotiators to keep things on a high level. There may in all this well be an intended contrast, stressing the polite diplomacy of Judah, and the arrogant and crude diplomacy of Assyria. Judah are clearly gentlemen, whereas Assyria are merely bullies.
B. (:28-35) Propaganda Designed to Humiliate Hezekiah and Force Surrender –
Don’t Trust the Words of Hezekiah
1. (:28-30) You Can’t Trust Hezekiah
“Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, saying, ‘Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 Thus says the king, Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; 30 nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’”
– Hezekiah can’t deliver you
– the Lord can’t deliver you
2. (:31-32a) You Can Trust Cutting a Sweetheart Deal with Assyria
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern, 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die.’”
3. (:32b-35) You Should Learn a Lesson from History
“But do not listen to Hezekiah, when he misleads you, saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ 33 Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? 35 Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
Dale Ralph Davis: And it is a telling argument; it can claim history as its witness. Off the top of his head the Rabshakeh names half a dozen hopeless cases. The Assyrian steamroller flattens every land in its path. No divinity has been able to protect its people from the invincible hosts of the god Assur (cf. v. 35a). And then the Rabshakeh said something asinine (v. 35b). By a leap of faith and defect of logic he assumes that Yahweh is simply another generic deity of a minuscule kingdom who is no match for a world-class empire. Something snapped somewhere when he said that. He had stepped over a line. He had gone too far. It was the beginning of the end.
(:36-37) EPILOGUE – RESPONSE = DESPERATION BUT NOT SURRENDER
A. (:36) Desperate People – They Still Obey Hezekiah and Stay Silent
“But the people were silent and answered him not a word,
for the king’s commandment was, ‘Do not answer him.’”
Paul House: The people remain silent because Hezekiah has anticipated such tactics and commanded them to do so. Too, they may not trust the speaker. Of course, the Assyrian line would be hard to sell anyway, since their reputation has preceded the invasion and other Judahite cities lie in ruins. While Hezekiah’s officials report back to him, the Assyrians wait, the defenders wait, and the reader waits.
B. (:37) Desperate Leaders – They Display Their Anguish But Don’t Demand Surrender
“Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household,
and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder,
came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of Rabshakeh.”
David Guzik: Though they were silent, they were still deeply affected by this attack. They had the same experience Paul described in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. Things were hard, but the battle was not yet lost.
Dale Ralph Davis: After the Rabshakeh ceased his bluster all was quiet. The king’s orders were to give no response. The Rabshakeh stands there expectantly, but Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah turn and walk off. With robes ripped in anguish they come and report all to Hezekiah. The fortunes of Judah will change soon but don’t rush from chapter 18 too quickly. Let the scene of verses 36–37 sink into your soul. It’s quite authentic. Do not the affairs of Yahweh’s people in this world often look just that bleak?