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1. Hezekiah’s goodness 18:1-12
Hezekiah began reigning as his father Ahaz’s vice-regent in 729 B.C. and ruled as such for 14 years. In 715 B.C. he began his sole rule over Judah that lasted until 697 B.C. (18 years). He then reigned with his son Manasseh who served as his vice-regent for 11 more years (697-686 B.C.). His 29-year reign (2 Kings 18:2) was from 715-686 B.C. [Note: See J. Barton Payne, "The Relationship of the Reign of Ahaz to the Accession of Hezekiah," Bibliotheca Sacra 125:501 (1969):40-52; and Andrew Steinmann, "The Chronology of 2 Kings 15-18," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30:4 (December 1987):391-97.]
The writer recorded that only three other kings did right as David had done: Asa (1 Kings 15:11), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:3), and Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-2). These were the other three of Judah’s four reforming kings. The only other king, beside Hezekiah, that the writer said removed the high places (2 Kings 18:4), was Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:6). Someone must have rebuilt them after Hezekiah removed them. Nehushtan (2 Kings 18:4) was the name that someone had given to Moses’ bronze serpent. This word in Hebrew sounds similar to the Hebrew words for bronze, snake, and unclean thing. The Israelites had come to worship the object that had been a symbol of Yahweh’s healing grace.
Regarding his faith, Hezekiah was the greatest Judahite king (2 Kings 18:5). He did not depart from Yahweh later in life (2 Kings 18:6). Consequently God’s blessing rested on him (2 Kings 18:7; cf. 2 Chronicles 29-31). His rebellion against Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:7) precipitated Assyria’s invasion of Judah (2 Kings 18:3 to 2 Kings 19:36). This was a reversal of his father Ahaz’s policy of allying with Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-9). God gave him consistent victory over the Philistines (2 Kings 18:8).
2 Kings 18:9-12 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 (2 Kings 18:12). Hezekiah’s fourth year (2 Kings 18:9) was 725 B.C., the fourth year of his coregency with Ahaz.
2. Sennacherib’s challenge to Hezekiah 18:13-37
Samaria’s conqueror, Shalmaneser V, died in 722 B.C. shortly after his conquest. His successor, Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), carried out the deportation of the Israelites. The king who followed him was Sennacherib (705-681 B.C., 2 Kings 18:13). Hezekiah’s fourteenth year (2 Kings 18:13) as sole ruler over Judah was 701 B.C.
Sennacherib’s inscriptions claim that he conquered 46 strong cities of Hezekiah, plus many villages. In preparation for his siege of Jerusalem, the Assyrian king set up his headquarters at Lachish, 28 miles to the southwest of Jerusalem. Hezekiah had joined an alliance with Phoenicia, Philistia, and Egypt to resist Assyria. He admitted to Sennacherib that this was a mistake (2 Kings 18:14). Hezekiah offered to pay whatever Sennacherib would take to avoid a siege of Jerusalem. Sennacherib demanded about 11 tons of silver and one ton of gold, which Hezekiah paid. He did so by stripping the palace and temple that the king had previously re-overlaid to glorify Yahweh (2 Kings 18:16).
"In Judah silver appears to have been more valuable than gold." [Note: Wiseman, p. 274.]
Sennacherib accepted the ransom but would not abandon his goal of taking Judah’s capital. The upper pool (2 Kings 18:17) was the pool at the Gihon spring on Jerusalem’s east side. From this pool water ran down into the Kidron Valley to a field where the people did their laundry. This was close to the wall of Jerusalem and was a busy area. Rabshakeh stood at the very spot where Isaiah had stood when he warned King Ahaz against making an alliance with Assyria (cf. Isaiah 7:3-9). Hezekiah sent three of his officials to negotiate with the three representatives that Sennacherib had sent.
"Rabshakeh" was an Assyrian title equivalent to commander-in-chief of the army. The commander assumed Hezekiah was trusting in his Egyptian alliance and that Judah’s gods were no better than those of the other nations. He said that even if the Assyrians provided 2,000 horses for Hezekiah, perhaps what Egypt might have contributed, Judah could not win. The commander’s claim that Yahweh had sent Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:25) may or may not have been true (cf. Isaiah 45:1-6).
Because many Judahites were hearing the negotiations taking place and would have become fearful as a result, Hezekiah’s officials asked that they proceed in the Aramaic language. Only the educated leaders of Israel understood Aramaic (2 Kings 18:26).
"Aramaic was the language of international diplomacy and . . . the normal medium of communication in such a situation." [Note: Auld, p. 240.]
However, the Assyrians wanted all the people to know that surrender would be better than resistance. The commander’s references to the inability of the gods of Samaria would have been especially intimidating since many in Israel had worshipped Yahweh (2 Kings 18:35).
The writer recorded this lengthy incident in Kings because it shows the central issues Judah faced. Would she trust in Yahweh or herself? God’s enemies challenged Him again (cf. Exodus 7-11; 1 Samuel 17). Isaiah also recorded these events (2 Kings 18:13, 2 Kings 17:1 to 2 Kings 20:17) in Isaiah 36:1 to Isaiah 38:8 and Isaiah 39:1-8, as did the writer of Chronicles in 2 Chronicles 32:1-23.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany