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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 18

 

 

Verses 1-37


Hezekiah and Sennacherib

This chapter describes the reign of Hezekiah of Judah, his religious reforms, and the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who sent one of his officers to demand the surrender of Jerusalem.

1. Now it came to pass, etc.] The northern kingdom having been destroyed, the history is henceforward confined to the events connected with Judah only.

2. Twenty and five years old] Probably an error, for if Ahaz was only 36 at his death (2 Kings 16:2) his son could scarcely be 25.

4. He removed the high places] cp. 2 Kings 18:22. This was the first attempt to put an end to the provincial shrines which had co-existed with the Temple as seats of worship from the time of Solomon onward: see 1 Kings 14:23; 1 Kings 15:14; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4; Though dedicated to the service of the Lord, the rites conducted at them were peculiarly liable to corruption, and the interests of true religion were now seen to require their abolition. But the religious reform here described cannot have been very thorough, for the 'high places' built by Solomon for his foreign wives were not destroyed until the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 23:13); and Isaiah, in prophecies belonging to this reign, alludes to graven and molten images as being still objects of adoration (Isaiah 30:22; Isaiah 31:7). The brasen serpent] see Numbers 21:9. Nothing is recorded of its history since the time of Moses. Nehushtan] It is not clear whether this was the name ('the Brasen') by which it was known when an object of worship, or a term of contempt ('a mere piece of brass') applied to it when marked for destruction.

5. None like him] The same praise is given to Josiah (2 Kings 23:25).

7. The Lord was with him] Though Hezekiah, in consequence of pursuing a mistaken policy, experienced great calamities in the course of his reign, yet his fidelity to the Lord had its reward in a signal overthrow of the same Assyrian power that within Hezekiah's lifetime had destroyed the much stronger kingdom of Israel.

He rebelled] It may be inferred from Isaiah 14:28-32 that Hezekiah at the beginning of his reign received from the Philistines a proposal urging him to join a movement against Assyria, but that Isaiah, confident that the Lord would protect Zion, sought to dissuade him from accepting it. Probably Isaiah's counsel prevailed, and the king continued for a time to be a vassal of Assyria. But when in 705 Sargon was succeeded by Sennacherib, several of the vassal states again attempted to regain their independence; and with a view to obtaining Hezekiah's help, envoys were sent to Judah (about 703) by Merodach Baladan of Babylon (see 2 Kings 20:12.) and by the Ethiopians (Isaiah 18), the latter probably on behalf of the king of Egypt. At the Judaean court the hope of an Egyptian alliance exercised a strong attraction (see Isaiah 30, 31), but it was opposed by Isaiah, who continued to advocate confidence in the Lord, the promotion of social and religious reforms, and abstention from foreign entanglements. Eventually those who supported the alliance with Egypt prevailed; and in 701 Hezekiah, in cooperation with a section of the Philistines, rebelled against Assyria.

8. Smote the Philistines] probably such as remained loyal to Assyria.

9. Shalmaneser.. came up] 2 Kings 18:9-12 repeat in brief the account of the capture of Samaria already given in 2 Kings 17:5.

11. The cities of the Medes] Media was the mountainous district S. of the Caspian.

13. In the fourteenth year] The Assyrian invasion here described took place in 701, and therefore according to this v. Hezekiah's accession was in 714 but 2 Kings 18:10 states that Samaria, which fell in 722, was captured in Hezekiah's 'sixth' year, which makes 727 the date of his accession. The section 2 Kings 18:13, 2 Kings 18:17-37 recurs in Isaiah 36:1-22.

Sennacherib] succeeded Sargon in 705. The beginning of his reign was much disturbed, and his first campaign was against the Babylonian prince, Merodach Baladan, whom he drove from his capital. This was followed by an invasion of the Cassi, a people of Elam; and then in 701 he undertook the expedition against Judah and the other Palestinian states, which is described in the text.

Against all the fenced cities] Sennacherib in his inscriptions relates that he captured fortysix cities of Judah and deported more than 200,000 of the inhabitants. Hezekiah himself was besieged in his capital and compelled to tender submission, as recorded in 2 Kings 18:14.

14. Lachish] The place at this time was being besieged by Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:9). Three hundred talents] According to the inscriptions the fine was 800 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, besides other treasures.

17. The king of Assyria sent] It is probable that the surrender, described in 2 Kings 18:14, was expected by the Jews to secure their city from further molestation; but Sennacherib was moving towards Egypt, and doubtless thought it dangerous to leave so strong a fortress in other hands than his own. The consequent demand for its capitulation, here recorded, exposed Sennacherib to the charge of breaking his covenant: see Isaiah 33:8.

Tartan.. Rabsaris.. Rab-shakeh] the titles of military officers, meaning respectively 'commander-in-chief,' 'chief of the princes,' and 'chief of the captains.' The conduit of the upper pool] This pool has been identified by some with the modern Birket Mamilla, situated W. of the city; but more probably it is the pool of Siloam, near the S. end of Mt. Zion, to which the conduit here mentioned carried water from the spring of Gahon in the Kidron valley (see on 1 Kings 1:33).

18. Shebna] Shebna, who, from his name, was probably a foreigner, had previously occupied the position now filled by Eliakim (Isaiah 22:15), and seems to have advocated reliance upon the support of Egypt, a policy which Isaiah had opposed. When Hezekiah was compelled to make submission to the Assyrian king, Shebna naturally fell into disgrace and was degraded to an inferior office, Eliakim being promoted in his room.

21. This bruised reed] For a similar contemptuous estimate of Egypt cp. Ezekiel 29:6.

Pharaoh] This was probably Shabako, the successor of So (2 Kings 17:3). The inability of Egypt to help those who trusted it, as shown in the case of Hoshea of Israel (see 2 Kings 17:4-6), was again displayed by the defeat of an Egyptian army at Eltekeh, which had come to relieve Ekron, one of the Philistine towns besieged by Sennacherib. It was this success which left the Assyrian king free to invade Judah, as described in 2 Kings 18:13.

22. Whose high places, etc.] Rabshakeh thought that such sacrilege was calculated to provoke the anger of the Lord, whereas Hezekiah's action really conduced to religious purity: see on 2 Kings 18:4.

23. Give pledges] RM 'make a wager.'

24. Put thy trust.. horsemen] For reliance upon. Egypt for a supply of horses see Isaiah 31:1-3.

25. Am I now come up without the Lord?] He might have regarded his capture of the Judsean cities, described in 2 Kings 19:13, as an indication that the Lord had given them up into his hand because of Hezekiah's action in removing the high places.

26. The Syrian language] i.e. Aramean, a language which served as the principal medium of intercourse between the various nationalities in the East. This would be intelligible to the state officials both of Assyria and Judah, but unfamiliar to the bulk of the citizens of Jerusalem; and so Eliakim, who desired to keep both the threats and promises of the Assyrian officer from the multitude, wished the conference to be conducted in it.

27. That they may eat, etc.] The garrison had taken up their position on the ramparts, with all the extremities of starvation before them; and Rabshakeh now appealed from the king and his advisers to the rank and file of his army (in violation of all honourable usage).

31. Come out] i.e. capitulate, before incurring the further calamities of a protracted siege.

34. Hamath, etc.] For most of the towns here named see on 2 Kings 17:24. Arpad has been identified with some ruins NW. of Aleppo.

35. That the Lord should deliver, etc.] The Assyrian argued that the national god of a little state like Judah would not be able to defend His people more effectually than the deities of other nations, subdued by the Assyrians, had done. He had to learn that the God of the Jews was also the Lord of all the earth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/2-kings-18.html. 1909.

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Monday, December 16th, 2019
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