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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 18

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


The sacred writer, having now completed the history of the joint kingdom, and having east his glance forward over the religions history of the mixed race which replaced the Israelites in Samaria, proceeds to apply himself uuinterruptedly to the remaining history of the Jewish kingdom.

Verse 1

In the third year - If Hoshea ascended the throne toward the close of the 12th year of Ahaz 2 Kings 17:1, and if Ahaz reigned not much more than 15 years 2 Kings 16:2, the first of Hezekiah might synchronise in part with Hoshea’s third year.

Hezekiah - The name given by our translators follows the Greek form, Ἐζεκίας Ezekias, rather than the Hebrew, which is Hizkiah. Its meaning is “strength of Yahweh.”

Verse 2

Twenty and five years old was he - This statement, combined with that of 2 Kings 16:2, would make it necessary that his father Ahaz should have married at the age of 10, and have had a child born to him when he was 11 years of age. This is not impossible; but its improbability is so great, that most commentators suggest a corruption in some of the numbers.

The Zachariah here mentioned was perhaps one of the “faithful witnesses” of Isaiah Isaiah 8:2.

Verse 3

He did that which was right ... - This is said without qualification of only three kings of Judah, Asa 1 Kings 15:11, Hezekiah, and Josiah 2 Kings 22:2. See some details of Hezekiah’s acts at the commencement of his reign in 2 Chronicles 29:0, etc. It is thought that his reformation was preceded, and perhaps caused, by the prophecy of Micah recorded in Jeremiah 26:18; Micah 3:12.

Verse 4

He removed the high places - This religious reformation was effected in a violent and tumultuous manner (marginal reference). The “high places,” though forbidden in the Law (Deuteronomy 12:2-4, Deuteronomy 12:11-14; compare Leviticus 26:30), had practically received the sanction of Samuel 1Sa 7:10; 1 Samuel 9:12-14, David 2 Samuel 15:32, Solomon 1 Kings 3:4, and others, and had long been the favorite resorts of the mass of the people (see 1 Kings 3:2 note). They were the rural centers for the worship of Yahweh, standing in the place of the later synagogue;, and had hitherto been winked at, or rather regarded as legitimate, even by the best kings. Hezekiah’s desecration of these time-honored sanctuaries must have been a rude shock to the feelings of numbers; and indications of the popular discontent may be traced in the appeal of Rab-shakeh 2 Kings 18:22, and in the strength of the reaction under Manasseh 2 Kings 21:2-9; 2 Chronicles 33:3-17.

The brasen serpent - See the marginal reference. Its history from the time when it was set up to the date of Hezekiah’s reformation is a blank. The present passage favors the supposition that it had been brought by Solomon from Gibeon and placed in the temple, for it implies a long continued worship of the serpent by the Israelites generally, and not a mere recent worship of it by the Jews.

And he called it Nehushtan - Rather, “And it was called Nehushtan.” The people called it, not “the serpent” נחשׁ nāchâsh, but “the brass,” or “the brass thing” נחשׁתן nechûshtān. Probably they did not like to call it “the serpent,” on account of the dark associations which were attached to that reptile (Genesis 3:1-15; Isaiah 27:1; Psalms 91:13; etc.).

Verse 5

After him was none like him - The same is said of Josiah (marginal reference). The phrase was probably proverbial, and was not taken to mean more than we mean when we say that such and such a king was one of singular piety.

Verse 6

Other good kings, as Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Joash, and Amaziah, had fallen away in their later years. Hezekiah remained firm to the last. The phrase “cleaving to God” is frequent in Deuteronomy, but rare elsewhere.

Verse 7

The Lord was with him - This had been said of no king since David (marginal reference). The phrase is very emphatic. The general prosperity of Hezekiah is set forth at some length by the author of Chronicles 2 Chronicles 32:23, 2 Chronicles 32:27-29. His great influence among the nations bordering on the northern kingdom, was the cause of the first expedition of Sennacherib against him, the Ekronites having expelled an Assyrian viceroy from their city, and delivered him to Hezekiah for safe keeping: an expedition which did not very long precede that of 2 Kings 18:13, which fell toward the close of Hezekiah’s long reign.

Verse 8

Sargon had established the complete dominion of Assyria over the Philistines. Hence, the object of Hezekiah’s Philistine campaign was not so much conquest as opposition to the Assyrian power. How successful it was is indicated in the Assyrian records by the number of towns in this quarter which Sennacherib recovered before he proceeded against Jerusalem.

Verses 9-12

These verses repeat the account given in the marginal reference. The extreme importance of the event may account for the double insertion.

Verse 13

In the fourteenth year - This note of time, which places the invasion of Sennacherib eight years only after the capture of Samaria, is hopelessly at variance with the Assyrian dates for the two events, the first of which falls into the first of Sargon, and the second into the fourth of Sennacherib, twenty-one years later. We have therefore to choose between an entire rejection of the Assyrian chronological data, and an emendation of the present passage. Of the emendations proposed the simplest is to remove the note of time altogether, regarding it as having crept in from the margin.

Sennacherib - This is the Greek form of the Sinakhirib of the inscriptions, the son of Sargon, and his immediate successor in the monarchy. The death of Sargon (705 B.C.) had been followed by a number of revolts. Hezekiah also rebelled, invaded Philistia, and helped the national party in that country to throw off the Assyrian yoke.

From Sennacherib’s inscriptions we learn that, having reduced Phoenicia, recovered Ascalon, and defeated an army of Egyptians and Ethiopians at Ekron, he marched against Jerusalem.

The fenced cities - Sennacherib reckons the number taken by him at “forty-six.” He seems to have captured on his way to the holy city a vast number of small towns and villages, whose inhabitants he carried off to the number of 200, 000. Compare Isaiah 24:1-12. The ground occupied by his main host outside the modern Damascus gate was thenceforth known to the Jews as “the camp of the Assyrians.” Details connected with the siege may be gathered from Isaiah 22:0 and Chronicles (marginal reference “s”). After a while Hezekiah resolved on submission. Sennacherib 2 Kings 18:14 had left his army to continue the siege, and gone in person to Lachish. The Jewish monarch sent his embassy to that town.

Verse 14

Return from me - Or “retire from me,” i. e., “withdraw thy troops.”

Three hundred talents ... - According to Sennacherib’s own account, the terms of peace were as follows:

(1) A money payment to the amount of 800 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.

(2) the surrender of the Ekronite king.

(3) a cession of territory toward the west and the southwest, which was apportioned between the kings of Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza.

Verse 16

Ahaz had already exhausted the treasuries 2 Kings 16:8; Hezekiah was therefore compelled to undo his own work.

Verse 17

An interval of time must be placed between this verse and the last. Sennacherib, content with his successes, had returned to Nineveh with his spoil and his numerous captives. Hezekiah, left to himself, repented of his submission, and commenced negotiations with Egypt 2Ki 18:21, 2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 30:2-6; Isaiah 31:1, which implied treason against his Assyrian suzerain. It was under these circumstances that Sennacherib appears to have made his second expedition into Palestine very soon after the first. Following the usual coast route he passed through Philistia on his way to Egypt, leaving Jerusalem on one side, despising so irony a state, and knowing that the submission of Egypt would involve that of her hangers-on. While, however, he was besieging Lachish on his way to encounter his main enemy, he determined to try the temper of the Jews by means of an embassy, which he accordingly sent.

Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh - None of these are proper names. “Tartan” was the ordinary title of an Assyrian general; “Rab-saris” is “chief eunuch,” always a high officer of the Assyrian court; Rab-shakeh is probably “chief cup-bearer.”

By the conduit of the upper pool - Possibly a conduit on the north side of the city near the “camp of the Assyrians.” The spot was the same as that on which Isaiah had met Ahaz Isaiah 7:3.

Verse 18

When they had called to the king - The ambassadors summoned Hezekiah, as if their rank were equal to his. Careful of his dignity, he responds by sending officers of his court.

Eliakim ... which was over the household - Eliakim had been promoted to fill the place of Shebna Isaiah 22:20-22. He was a man of very high character. The comptroller of the household, whose position 1 Kings 4:6 must have been a subordinate one in the time of Solomon, appears to have now become the chief minister of the crown. On the “scribe” or secretary, and the “recorder,” see the 1 Kings 4:3 note.

Verse 19

The Rab-shakeh, the third in rank of the three Assyrian ambassadors, probably took the prominent part in the conference because he could speak Hebrew 2 Kings 18:26, whereas the Tartan and the Rabsaris could not do so.

The great king - This title of the monarchs of Assyria is found in use as early as 1120 B.C. Like the title, “king of kings,” the distinctive epithet “great” served to mark emphatically the vast difference between the numerous vassal monarchs and the suzerain of whom they held their crowns.

Verse 20

Hezekiah no doubt believed that in the “counsel” of Eliakim and Isaiah, and in the “strength” promised him by Egypt, he had resources which justified him in provoking a war.

Vain words - literally, as in margin, i. e., a mere word, to which the facts do not correspond.

Verse 21

This bruised reed - The “tall reed of the Nile bulrush” fitly symbolized the land where it grew. Apparently strong and firm, it was quite unworthy of trust. Let a man lean upon it, and the rotten support instantly gave way, wounding the hand that stayed itself so insecurely. So it was with Egypt throughout the whole period of Jewish history (compare 2 Kings 17:4-6). Her actual practice was to pretend friendship, to hold out hopes of support, and then to fail in time of need.

Verse 22

The destruction of numerous shrines and altars where Yahweh had been worshipped 2 Kings 18:4 seemed to the Rab-shakeh conduct calculated not to secure the favor, but to call forth the anger, of the god. At any rate, it was conduct which he knew had been distasteful to many of Hezekiah’s subjects.

Verse 23

The phrase translated “give pledges,” or “hostages” (margin) may perhaps be best understood as meaning “make an agreement.” If you will “bind yourself to find the riders” (i. e., trained horsemen), we will “bind ourselves to furnish the horses.” The suggestion implied that in all Judaea there were not 2000 men accustomed to serve as cavalry.

Verse 25

The Rab-shakeh probably tries the effect of a bold assertion, which had no basis of fact to rest upon.

Verse 26

The Syrian language - i. e., Aramaic; probably the dialect of Damascus, a Semitic language nearly akin to their own, but suffciently different to be unintelligible to ordinary Jews

The people that are on the wall - The conference must have been held immediately outside the wall for the words of the speakers to have been audible.

Verse 27

That they may eat ... - “My master hath sent me,” the Rab-shakeh seems to say, “to these men, whom I see stationed on the wall to defend the place and bear the last extremities of a prolonged siege - these men on whom its worst evils will fall, and who have therefore the greatest interest in avoiding it by a timely surrender.” He expresses the evils by a strong coarse phrase, suited to the rude soldiery, and well calculated to rouse their feelings. The author of Chronicles has softened down the words 2 Chronicles 32:11.

Verses 29-30

There were two grounds, and two only, on which Hezekiah could rest his refusal to surrender,

(1) ability to resist by his own natural military strength and that of his allies; and

(2) expectation based upon the language of Isaiah Isaiah 30:31; Isaiah 31:4-9, of supernatural assistance from Yahweh.

The Rab-shakeh argues that both grounds of confidence are equally fallacious.

Verse 31

Make an agreement ... - Rather, “Make peace with me.” The word, which primarily means “blessing,” and secondarily “a gift,” has also the meaning, though more rarely, of “peace.” Probably it acquired this meaning from the fact that a peace was commonly purchased by presents.

eat ... drink - A picture of a time of quiet and prosperity, a time when each man might enjoy the fruits of his land, without any fear of the spoiler’s violence. The words are in contrast with the latter part of 2 Kings 18:27.

Cistern - Rather, “well” Deuteronomy 6:11. Each cultivator in Palestine has a “well” dug in some part of his ground, from which he draws water for his own use. “Cisterns,” or reservoirs for rain-water, are comparatively rare.

Verse 33

The boast is natural. The Assyrians had had an uninterrupted career of success, and might well believe that their gods were more powerful than those of the nations with whom they had warred. It is not surprising that they did not understand that their successes hitherto had been allowed by the very God, Yahweh, against whom they were now boasting themselves.

Verse 34

Arpad was situated somewhere in southern Syria; but it is impossible to fix its exact position. Sargon mentions it in an inscription as joining with Hamath in an act of rebellion, which he chastised. It was probably the capture and destruction of these two cities on this occasion which caused them to be mentioned together here (and in 2 Kings 19:13, and again in Isaiah 10:9). Sennacherib adduces late examples of the inability of the nations’ gods to protect their cities. On the other cities mentioned in this verse, see 2 Kings 17:24 notes.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/2-kings-18.html. 1870.
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