Today: [2 Kings Chapter Eighteen] Hezekiah Threatened by Sennecherib. In this chapter we meet king Hezekiah the son of Ahaz. If Ahaz was the most notorious and evil king in David’s line, Hezekiah was the most godly. He is the one king in the line of David who aggressively destroyed all the idols in the land and removed the high places. He reigned Judah during the time that Assyria took the northern kingdom into captivity from whence they never return. In time Assyria returns to take Judah and Hezekiah faces the greatest challenge of his life as the messenger of Sennecherib openly mocks him and his God before the city walls.
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[2Ki 18:1-37 KJV] 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.
Hezekiah’s name means “rooted (or strengthened) by Jehovah. It is unlikely his father being a pagan named him. His mother’s name is mentioned as curiously most of the mothers of significant kings in the south were named in the aftermath of the days of Queen Athaliah and Jezebel. His mothers name was Abi and apparently she was the daughter of the third king in Jehu’s line in the north. Hezekiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord and is the only king mentioned and described as being more like David than any other king before or after him. Finally a king in Judah removed the high places. He not only banned the idolatrous practices of the people but he physically destroyed the idols, and cut down the groves of sacred trees.
In addition he destroyed an artifact from Moses’ time that the people had worshipped for centuries. When Moses fashioned the brazen serpent in the wilderness the people worshipped it like an idol and burned incense to it. It was no small thing for Hezekiah to take an artifact dating to Moses’ time and actually made by Moses and destroy it. In fact it was for a time kept in the ark of the covenant so no doubt the priests in the temple had preserved the serpent down to Hezekiah’s day. When he destroyed it he also declared it was “Nehushtan” which means “copper” or “fetter”. The serpent that was used to bring miraculous healing to the people centuries before has now become a bondage and an occasion of idolatry before God’s people.
This idolizing of things past is common in Christian culture today. We idolize past moves of God and men of God to the point that we will resist any new thing God is doing that is not like the old. This was what Jesus referred to in his discussion of the old and new wineskins. The people associated with the former move of God always persecute and resist the new thing that God is doing. This is the same sin that the Nehushtan represents. We must be ready to embrace not only what God has done but what He is doing and what He is about to do. We cannot allow the testimony of the past to keep us from moving on in the purposes of God.
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.
The king of Assyria takes Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah. Eight years later Assyria returns and attacks the south. You will remember that it was Hezekiah’s wicked father Ahaz that originally hired Assyria against the northern kingdom. Now these choices create a backlash as Judah’s former ally put Hezekiah to tribute. Israel was taken into captivity because of the sins of the current king and the sins of the people. Hezekiah is dealing with the same problem not because of his personal transgression because he was a just and godly king. He is dealing with Assyria and under threat because of the sins of his father Ahaz. Sennacherib takes the fenced cities of Judah and Hezekiah appeals for peace. The king of Assyria demands a certain amount of gold which is so great that Hezekiah literally strips the temple down to its last bit of gold on it’s walls and artifacts. Unlike the kings before him Hezekiah not only takes the gold of the temple but the gold of the king’s house as well. Every king before Hezekiah would pillage the temple but leave the palace intact. Hezekiah does not hesitate to make personal sacrifices to see the encroachment of the Assyrians end.
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?
Even though Hezekiah goes to such great lengths to appease Sennecharib the king of Assyria sends a great army to confront him right at the gates of Jerusalem. One of the spokesmen of Assyria is Rabshakeh and he cries out loudly in Hebrew and mocks Hezekiah and mocks God as well. He directly appeals to the people of the city telling them their trust in God is wasted effort and that they will be destroyed if they resist. He blames the problem on Hezekiah suggesting that Hezekiah in removing the high places has brought judgment down on Jerusalem. Hezekiah in destroying the high places has rejected the policy of tolerance and syncretism that allowed the people to worship how they pleased and how they pleased. Remember that this policy began with Solomon and his idolatrous wives. Can you imagine the criticism Hezekiah would receive today in suggesting there was not only just one God but only one place and one legitimate manner in which He might be worshipped – according to the law of Moses?
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.
The emissaries of Assyria claim that the God of the Hebrews had sent them specifically to destroy Jerusalem. They understood that the southern kingdom considered the destruction of Samaria to be the hand of God. Therefore they imply that they are likewise the hand of God against Jerusalem and that in resisting Sennacherib they are a resisting God himself. The king of Assyria offers to give Hezekiah 2000 horses if he can but prove he has the men to put on them for the battle. This tells us what an awful state of affairs existed in Judah in that not even two thousand battle ready soldiers could be mustered to face a host of tens of thousands. To make matters worse it was well known that there was not one nation who could show they had successfully resisted Assyria. Their defeat then was inevitable. Hezekiah’s three diplomats upon hearing all of these threats and blasphemies rend their clothes and return to tell Hezekiah the terrible report of what they are facing.
What is interesting to note in the midst of this awful situation is what Hezekiah did and what he didn’t do. He did not rush out and throw himself prostrate before the armies of the Assyrians. Neither did he make an unwise boast in return to the threats hurled at them from the gates of Jerusalem. He did give tribute which was very costly to Hezekiah even from a personal standpoint. He did in fact what he could do and even though it was not enough to solve the problem he now is waiting upon God and trusting upon God. This is what our posture should be when we are threatened. Do what you can do. Don’t simply look up to heaven thinking only God can change things. There are things that you can do in any situation to bring resolution. Even if you fail or it isn’t enough at least you have made the effort and now that you have done your part God will do His part.
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