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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 18

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

Hezekiah, [ Chizqiyaah (H2396) (see 2 Kings 18:9-10), and Yªchizqiyaahuw, Jehezekiah (see similar variations of other proper names: cf. Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 37:1 with Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 27:20: cf. 1 Chronicles 15:20 with 1 Chronicles 15:18: cf. Zechariah 1:1 with Isaiah 8:2)]

Began to reign.

Verse 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.

Twenty and five years old. According to this statement (cf. 2 Kings 16:2), he must have been born when his father Ahaz was no more than eleven years old. Paternity at an age so early is not unprecedented in the warm climates of the south, where the human frame is matured sooner than in our northern regions. But the case admits of solution in a different way. It was customary for the later kings of Israel to assume their son and heir into partnership in the government during their lives; and as Hezekiah began to reign in the third year of Hoshea (2 Kings 18:1), and Hoshea in the twelfth year of Ahaz (2 Kings 17:1), it is evident that Hezekiah began to reign in the fourteenth year of Ahaz his father, and so reigned two or three years before his father's death. So that at the beginning of his reign in conjunction with his father, he might be only 22 or 23, and Ahaz a few years older than the common calculation makes him. Or the case may be solved thus-Since the ancient writers in the computation of time take notice of the year they mention, whether finished or newly begun, so Ahaz might be near 21 years old at the beginning of his reign, and near seventeen years older at his death; while, on the other hand, Hezekiah, when he began to reign, might be just entering into his 25th year, and so Ahaz would be nearly 14 years old when his son Hezekiah was born-no uncommon age for a young man to become a father in southern latitudes.

His mother's name also was Abi, [ 'Abiy (H21), and 'Abiyaah (H29) (2 Chronicles 29:1), Abijah; Septuagint, Abou].

The daughter of Zachariah [ Zªkaryaah (H2148) = Zªkaryaahuw (H2148), Zechariah (2 Chronicles 29:1); probably the person mentioned, Isaiah 8:2; Septuagint, Vatican, thugateer Zachariou; Alexandrine, zangchaiou].

Verse 3

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

He removed the high places ..) - i:e., pillars or altars of stone (Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3; Deuteronomy 16:22) erected on the summit of hills or any kind of eminence for unlawful and frequently idolatrous purposes (2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4; Ezekiel 6:6). There were high places at Beth-el (2 Kings 23:15), Beersheba (Amos 8:14), Moriah (2 Samuel 24:8), Gilead (Hosea 12:11; Hosea 5:1; Hosea 6:8), Ramah, Olivet (2 Kings 23:13), Carmel (1 Kings 18:30), Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4). Although Hezekiah seems to have sent his royal proclamations through the northern kingdom of Israel, now desolate, and retaining but a small remnant of people (see 2 Chronicles 30:1-27), it was only "the high places" in Judah his royal authority could be effective in removing. The great extent to which idolatry on high places was carried in the reign of his father Ahaz appears from 2 Kings 16:4: cf. Jeremiah 32:35. The methods adopted by this good king for extirpating idolatry, and accomplishing a thorough reformation in religion, are fully detailed, 2 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 31:19. But they are here indicated very briefly, and in a sort of passing allusion.

Cut down the groves, [ haa-'Asheeraah (H842) (singular)] - the Asherah, probably a wooden statue of Ashtereth, or Astarte. When the image is spoken of as to be destroyed or burned, the word used is always "cut down."

Brake in pieces the brasen serpent. The preservation of this remarkable relic of antiquity (Numbers 21:5-9) might, like the pot of manna and Aaron's rod, have remained an interesting and instructive monument of the divine goodness and mercy to the Israelites in the wilderness; and it must have required the exercise of no small courage and resolution to destroy it. But in the progress of degeneracy it had become an object of idolatrous worship; and as the interests of true religion rendered its demolition necessary, Hezekiah, by taking this bold step, consulted both the glory of God and the good of his country.

Unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it. It is not to be supposed that this superstitious reverence had been paid to it ever since the time of Moses-for such idolatry would not have been tolerated either by David or by Solomon in the early part of his reign; by Ass or Jehoshaphat, had they been aware of such a folly. But the probability is, that the introduction of this superstition does not date earlier than the time when the family of Ahab, by their alliance with the throne of Judah, exercised a pernicious influence in paving the way for all kinds of idolatry. Hence, it is said "the children of Israel did burn incense to it" - i:e., the people of the northern as well as the southern kingdom. It is possible, however, as some think, that its origin may have arisen out of a misapprehension of Moses' language (Numbers 21:8).

Serpent-worship, how revolting soever it may appear, was an extensively diffused form of idolatry, and it would obtain an easier reception in Israel, that many of the neighbouring nations, such as the Egyptians and Phoenicians, adored idol gods in the form of serpents as the emblems of health and immortality. Among the numerous hypotheses advanced to account for the origin of this singular reverence, not the least likely is, that it arose from vague and distorted rumours of the miraculous healing of the Israelites in the wilderness; and the image of a serpent became the deified symbol of something good and beneficent.

Thus cerastes (horned snake) was sacred to Ammon, an Egyptian deity; and the venomous naia-haj was regarded as an emblem of Cneph, their good deity. The Phoenicians, too, considered the serpent a good demon; and so did the Romans, among whom the sign of AEsculapius was a serpent. Besides, the tutelary protectors of countries and cities were worshipped under the figure of serpents; and the sculptured representation or picture of two serpents at the entrance was a sign that a place was consecrated (Tit. Livii,`Epitome,' lib. 11:; Ovid, 'Metamorph.,' lib. 15:; 'Fab.,' 50:; Persius, 'Satir.,' 1:, 5: 113; Eusebius, 'De Praep. Evang.,' lib. 1:, cap. 10:; Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egyptians,' 2:, 134; 4:, 395; 5:, 64,238; Marsham. 'Canonical Chronology,' pp. 148, 149; Witsius, 'AEgyptiaca,' 1:, 852).

The prevalence of ophiolatry in Egypt, Phoenicia, Syria, and Assyria, could scarcely fail to arrest the attention and impress the minds of the Hebrew people, until in times of ignorance and idolatry, they adopted the same superstition; and although the brasen serpent in the wilderness had no symbolic import, but was merely an external sign, selected probably for the general ground of removing all ideas of the natural accomplishment of the cure, yet the tradition concerning the animal the sight of which had restored the wounded Hebrews, and the reverence felt for it by the neighbouring nations, naturally produced similar sentiments in the minds of the Israelites, until admiration for a venerable relic of antiquity, combined with the contagion of contemporary usages, had, in the degenerate times of the monarchy, gradually led to the worship of the brasen serpent.

And he called it Nehushtan - i:e., a mere piece of brass [ nªchoshet (H5178), brass, copper; Septuagint, Neesthan].

Verse 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.

He trusted in the Lord God of Israel - without invoking the aid or purchasing the succour of foreign auxiliaries, like Asa (1 Kings 15:18-19) and Ahaz, (2 Kings 16:17; Isaiah 7:1.)

Was none like him among all the kings of Judah - of course, David and Solomon are excepted, they having had the sovereignty of the whole country. In the petty kingdom of Judah, Josiah alone had a similar testimony borne to him (2 Kings 23:25). But even he was surpassed by Hezekiah, who set about a national reformation at the beginning of his reign, which Josiah did not. The pious character and the excellent course of Hezekiah were prompted, among other secondary influences by a sense of the calamities his father's wicked career had brought on the country, as well as by the counsels of Isaiah. Dean Stanley ('Lectures on the Jewish Church,'

xxxviii.) says (on the authority of Justin, 'Dial. 100: Tryph.;' Tertull, 'Adv. Marc.,' 5:, 9; Pearson, 'On the Creed,'

p. 112) that 'there is a strong Jewish tradition that Hezekiah applied to himself not only the predictions of Isaiah, foretelling the birth of a divine heir to the throne, but the 20th and 110th Psalms.'

Verse 6

For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

The Lord was with him; and he prospered wheresoever he went forth. Since the inglorious reign of Ahaz, Judah had continued to groan under the Assyrian yoke, when, consequent upon the religious reformation Hezekiah inaugurated, the physical as well as the moral energies of the people were roused, and in particular the agricultural prosperity of the country returned (see the notes at 2 Chronicles 30:12; 31:511 ), which was only interrupted for a brief space in the 14th year of his reign. His subjects enjoyed undisturbed, the fruit of the vine only excepted (Isaiah 5:11-12), the abundant produce of the country (Isaiah 7:15; Isaiah 7:21-25).

He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not - i:e., the yearly tribute his father had stipulated to pay, he, with imprudent haste withheld. Pursuing the policy of a truly theocratic sovereign, he was, through the divine blessing which rested on his government, raised to a position of great public and national strength. Shalmaneser had withdrawn from Palestine, being engaged in a war with Tyre, or probably was dead; and assuming, consequently, that full independent sovereignty which God had settled on the house of David, he both shook off the Assyrian yoke, and, by an energetic movement against the Philistines, recovered from that people the territory which they had taken from his father Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18). Besides the revived activity and moral vigour of the people of Judah, connected with the material prosperity of the country, and the religious reforms carried on by Hezekiah, and which, doubtless, was the primary motive that encouraged him to shake off the Assyrian yoke, it is necessary to take into account the secret influence of Egypt upon the councils of that king. It must have appeared an object of the greatest importance to the Egyptian monarchs to fortify their country against the encroachments of Assyria, by securing the aid of an allied power on their Asiatic frontier; and it must have pressed itself on the mind of the Hebrew ruler as no less desirable for his interests to be supported on the south by the friendly co-operation of so potent and so contiguous a kingdom as Egypt. Since such an alliance seemed, in a political view, subservient to their mutual advantage, there is abundant evidence that the idea was earnestly and repeatedly advocated by the emissaries of Egypt in the court of Hezekiah, and so favourably entertained by a large and influential party of his councillors, that at length the policy was adopted at Jerusalem.

Hezekiah, from the intermediate position of his small kingdom, could not hope, humanly speaking, to maintain an absolute independence; but he resolved to change his master, and on a comparative estimate of the benefits derivable from a connection with one of the great rival powers, expediency dictated a preference of Egypt. It was a hazardous step-one sure to be resented by the haughty despot of Assyria as an insult as well as rebellion, and to be followed by an invasion of Judah, which, as the debatable land between the antagonistic kingdoms of the north and the south would henceforth be the continual scene of war and calamitous desolation. The time appeared favourable, for Sargon, the conqueror of Samaria, was dead, and his son, Sennacherib, a young untried prince, had recently ascended the throne of Assyria. Against this resolution of the king and court of Judah, Isaiah all along raised a decided and earnest protest (Isaiah 30:1-5; Isaiah 31:1-3).

Whether he doubted that Egypt was capable, in her then distracted state, so soon after the usurpation of the Ethiopian So, or Shebek, to be a useful ally to his country, and was inclined therefore to prefer a continued submission to Assyria, cannot be gathered from his writings. In counseling Hezekiah, he did not advocate either revolt or submission; he proceeded upon a principle entirely different from that of ordinary politics-that of urging an unwavering faith in the protection of the Divine King and Head of the nation, by an immediate and universal reestablishment of the worship and law of God. This step he recommended to the king as in the first instance the most becoming as theocratic ruler, and the most certain of realizing the fulfillment of the promises made to his people. Acting in this way, the prophet assured him he would find that, with the divine favour, "one would chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight;" whereas, without help from above, all his military preparations and strategic manoeuvres would not secure the deliverance of his kingdom. The remonstrances of Isaiah were unavailing; for though Hezekiah was a good and pious, he was a weak man, liable to be swayed by powerful councils, and through their ascendant influence he not only revolted from Assyria, but formed a defensive league with Egypt. All the consequences, which Isaiah had predicted followed, when "he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not."

Verse 8

He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it - (see the notes at 2 Kings 17:6.)

Verse 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.

At the end of three years they took it - not Hebrews 1:1-14:e., Shalmaneser. The change of expression is remarkable, and can only be accounted for by the circumstance that Shalmaneser, having been called to Assyria by a rebellion in his capital, left his army before the walls of Samaria, intending to return; but he having died, the successful usurper, Sargon, who became king, repaired to Syria, and prosecuting the siege of Samaria with new vigour, reduced it at the end of the third year (see the notes at 2 Kings 17:6). Standing on a steep eminence in an extensive plain, environed by hills, it possessed advantages for resisting a siege, and holding out against vigorous assaults three times as long as that which exhausted the resources of Jerusalem (see Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 241; Van de Velde, 1:, pp. 376, 377).

Verses 11-12

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:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

In the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah. The numerals, it is thought, are corrupt in the present Hebrew text. Dr. Hinck's ('Chronological Appendix to his Paper on the Assyrio-Babylonian Characters,' vol. 22:, 'Transactions Royal Irish Academy') proposes to read, 'the fifth,' instead of "the fourteenth year" of Hezekiah as the date of Sennacherib's invasion. G. Rawlinson, on the other hand ('Ancient Monarchies,' 2:, p. 434), is of opinion that if Sargon took Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign, he must now have been in his 27th year, and suggests that the verse should run thus-`Now, in the 27th year of king Hezekiah,' instead of, "in the 14th year."

Sennacherib - the son and successor of Shalmaneser. This warlike prince, among the many expeditions in which he engaged, invaded Syria with an immense army, directing his attack in the first instance upon Phoenicia, many of the petty sovereigns of which had revolted at the time of his accession. Having reduced them all in succession, and received tribute from their cities, he pressed southward against Egypt; and the first place at which he stopped in this southern route was the Philistine city of Ekron, the inhabitants of which, having allied themselves with Shebek of Egypt, had expelled their king, Padi, who was rather inclined to lean upon Assyria. The Ekronites invoked the aid of Hezekiah, who, acceding to their request, involved himself in the responsibilities of the revolt, and took Padi a prisoner to Jerusalem. Sennacherib determined to support his faithful dependent; and it was partly to liberate and restore Padi to his royal position in Ekron, partly to punish Hezekiah, that, after having reduced the Ekronite rebels, the Assyrian king prepared to invade Judaea.

All the fenced cities of Judah - not absolutely the whole of them, for besides the capital, some strong fortresses held out against the invader (2 Kings 18:17; 2 Kings 19:8). The following account of Sennacherib's invasion of Judah, and the remarkable destruction of his army, is repeated almost verbatim in 2 Chronicles 32:1-33 and Isa. 36:37 . Whether engrossed by domestic affairs, or influenced by contempt for the ruler of so petty a kingdom as Judah, the king of Assyria bore the revolt of Hezekiah for a long time, all the while, however, nursing his wrath to keep it warm. In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign he resolved to avenge the insult of the rebellious vassal in Judah. The expedition seems to have been directed against Egypt, the conquest of which was long a leading object of ambition with the Assyrian monarchs; but the invasion of Judah necessarily preceded, that country being the key to Egypt, the highway through which the conquerors from Upper Asia had to pass, and having at this time formed a league of mutual defense with Egypt (2 Kings 18:24).

Moreover, it was now laid completely open by the transplantation of Israel to Assyria, the whole of Galilee and Samaria having become provinces of the empire. The names of the principal of these cities are enumerated by Micah (Micah 1:11-16) - namely, Saphir, lying between Ashdod and Eleutheropolis (Eusebius and Jerome, 'Onomast.,' Saphir: cf. Robinson, 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 370); Zaanan, or Zenan (Joshua 15:37) [Septuagint, Sennaar]; Beth-esel, or azel (Zechariah 14:5), near Shaphir and Zaanan; Maroth, or Maarath (Joshua 15:59), between these towns and Jerusalem; Lachish (Um Lakis); Moreshoth, situated in the direction of Gath; Achzib, between Keilah and Mareshah (Joshua 15:44); Mareshah, situated in the low country of Judah (Joshua 15:44); Adullam, near Mareshah (cf. Isaiah 24:1-12).

Overrunning Palestine, Sennacherib laid siege to the fortress of Lachish, which lay seven Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, and therefore southwest of Jerusalem on the way to Egypt. Among the interesting illustrations of sacred history furnished by the recent Assyrian excavations, is a series of bas-reliefs, representing the siege of a town [`a fenced town,' among 'the uttermost cities of Judah' (Joshua 15:39) (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 388; also 'Outlines of Assyrian History,' p. 36). Sir H. Rawlinson there maintains that the Lachish intended was a place called Al...ku in the inscriptions, situated on the shore of the Mediterranean between Gaza and Rhinocolura; but his opinion has no supporters], which the inscription on the sculpture shows to be Lachish, and the figure of a king, whose name is given on the same inscription as Sennacherib, seated on his throne, in royal attire, surrounded by the principal officers of his army, and some prisoners of note before him being tortured; others, according to the barbarous usages of pagandom, being flayed alive. The legend sculptured over the head of the king ran thus: 'Sennacherib, the mighty king, king of the country of Assyria, sitting on the throne of Judgment before the city of Lachish (Lakhisha), I give permission for its slaughter' ('Nineveh and Babylon,' pp. 149, 152, 153). This is Mr. Layard's translation. Dr. Hincks' varies a little from it; and though not essentially different, is considered to express more truly the meaning of the inscription over the king's head-`Sennacherib, king of men, king of Assyria, having sat down on a throne ... the suppliants of Lachish before him.' This minute confirmation of the truth of the Bible narrative is given not only by the name Lachish, which is contained in the inscription, but from the physiognomy of the captives brought before the king, which is unmistakeably Jewish.

Verse 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.

Judah sent to ... Lachish, saying ... that which thou puttest on me will I bear. Disappointed in his expectations of aid from Egypt, and feeling himself unable to resist so mighty a conqueror, who was menacing Jerusalem itself, Hezekiah made his submission. The payment of 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold (351,000 pounds sterling), brought a temporary respite; but in raising the imposed tribute, which he appears to have been under great pressure to pay at once, he was obliged not only to drain all the treasures of the palace and temple, but even to strip the doors and pillars of the sacred edifice of the gold that adorned them. A most important inscription, being the annals of Sennacherib (Sanki-rib), was discovered by Mr. Layard upon a bull at the grand entrance of the palace of Kouyunjik. Among other military expeditions he undertook, he describes minutely his invasion of Syria, mentioning the towns of Phoenicia and Judah he reduced and made tributary.

Then follows an account of his attack on Hezekiah, which is recorded in the following terms: 'Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms, and by the might of my power, I took forty-six of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. And from these places I captured and carried off as spoil 200,150 people, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mares, donkeys and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude. And Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape. Then upon this Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and be sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem, with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and various treasures, a rich and immense booty [the treasures of his palace, his sons and daughters, his men-servants and maid-servants, I carried captive].

All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government, Hezekiah having sent them by way of tribute, and as a token of submission to my power.' This is the translation of Sir H. Rawlinson. It had been translated at the same time by other three Assyrian scholars, whose translations, executed independently, were all of them found to be substantially the same. This record, which is written in the boastful style of the Assyrian monarchs, is given in full, in order that it may be compared with the narrative of the sacred historian; and it is interesting, as well as instructive, to observe how closely the register of the conqueror approaches to the account of Scripture; the few points of divergence, which can be satisfactorily accounted for, serving only to increase the weight and value of its testimony. The same amount of gold is stated in both, while that of the silver, as given in Sennacherib's register, exceeds the sum stated in the sacred narrative by five hundred talents. But this difference may be reconciled by supposing that the inspired historian recorded the actual amount of silver coinage, while Sennacherib included the additional weight of silver that Hezekiah gave from 'the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house.'

In the characteristic manner of these royal inscriptions, which were designed for the glorification of the king's military prowess, Sennacherib represents this large amount of treasure as spoil taken from the enemy, instead of tribute received in accordance with a treaty of peace. The mention of 'casting banks and building towers' against the walls of the city; the close imprisonment of the king and his people in the beleaguered city, as birds in a cage; the great and general consternation and tumult of the inhabitants; and the reckless despair of some, together with the misgivings of Hezekiah, and his eventual resolution to send an embassy to the Assyrian monarch at Lachish, suing for terms of submission-these and other points which are specified in Sennacherib's inscription, are all alluded to by Isaiah in his historical account of the crisis (Isaiah 22:1-13; Isaiah 29:1-4; Isaiah 36:2; Isaiah 37:8). As to the sons and daughters of Hezekiah, and the servants of his palace, which are said to have been carried captive to Nineveh, in a clause of the inscription, which, though omitted by Sir H. Rawlinson, is contained in the translation of Mr. Fox Talbot, it may have been a loose statement of the Ninevite historiographer; or, if it have any foundation, it may be accounted for on the supposition that, having been sojourning in some of the fenced cities at the time of the siege, they were involved in the general fate of the inhabitants.

In short, the native annals of Sennacherib, so far as they relate to his famous expedition against Hezekiah, accord in all essential points, even down to the most important of the details, with the Scriptural record of the event. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of such a discovery, which is not only full of interest, as being, to use the words of Mr. Layard, 'one of the most remarkable coincidences of historic testimony on record,' but which, in this instance, as in several analogous ones, has furnished a most welcome corroborative, because independent, proof of the truth and accuracy of the sacred narrative (see Layard's 'Nineveh and Babylon,' pp. 143-145; Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:, p. 434; also his 'Bampton Lectures,' p. 141; Gosse, 'Assyria,' pp. 37, 60, 61; Bonom 'Nineveh and its Palaces,' p. 71).

Verses 15-16

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

And the king of Assyria sent. The Hebrew copulative does not always indicate that the sentence which it commences records events that follow in immediate succession. There is sometimes a long interval of time between the subjects described in verses connected by this conjunction (see the notes at Genesis 1:2; Exodus 3:1, etc.) Here it serves to introduce the expedition of Sennacherib into Syria, which took place some years-two or more-after the first. It is, indeed, denied (Vance Smith, 'Prophecies on Nineveh and the Assyrians,' General Introduction, sec. 4) that there were two invasions; and the theory has been pronounced inconsistent with the sacred narrative. But the first expedition was marked by circumstances special and distinctive.

(1) Hezekiah was sore pressed, and prompted by overwhelming fears to make his submission.

(2) He sent an embassy to Lachish to Sennacherib, to solicit terms of forgiveness; and on promise of paying a largely increased tribute to the Assyrian monarch as his lord-paramount, he was received as a dependent vassal. (3) It cannot be supposed that immediately after having publicly condoned the king of Judah, Sennacherib could be so base and perfidious as to invest Jerusalem with an army.

(4) Sennacherib himself says in his record of this campaign, that the tribute was sent by Hezekiah to him at Nineveh. To that city, therefore, he had returned.

In the second expedition there was no collision between the Assyrians and the Jews. The events related in the following verses took place during Sennacherib's second campaign in Syria. Intelligence having reached him that Hezekiah had negotiated a new league with Egypt, he determined to treat Jerusalem as his father had done to Samaria. But his principal object was to weaken or crush Egypt, as the more formidable enemy (Herodotus, b. 2:, ch. 141:), and therefore he marched directly southward through Palestine, along the coast route, without turning aside to attack Jerusalem, to Lachish and Libnah, which belonged apparently at that time to Egypt.

Lachish - (see the notes at 2 Kings 18:14.) It was a town in Judah (2 Kings 10:3), and strongly fortified (2 Chronicles 11:5-9; Jeremiah 34:7). Its site has not been ascertained; but assuming it to have been near Libnah, it was at the southwestern extremity of Palestine. Sennacherib himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him (2 Chronicles 32:9). He had probably lain encamped there with his army for a considerable time, and had made advanced progress with the works, preparatory to the regular siege of that fortress (see reference to the operations on Ninevite slab, 2 Kings 18:14), when, finding that Hezekiah did not send to tender his homage as formerly, he despatched a large force (cf. Isaiah 36:2), under the command of three superior officers, against Jerusalem and its rebellious sovereign.

Tartan - general (Isaiah 20:1).

Rabsaris - chief of the eunuchs.

Rab-shakeh - chief cup-bearer. The office of cup-bearer is one of great dignity, and according to Oriental usages, has often been held by a person of high military command. [ Rabshaaqeeh (H7262), chief butler; Sakas, the Persian name for butler, adopted by Xenophon; Septuagint, Rapsakees. He is the only Assyrian officer mentioned by Isaiah (Isaiah 36:2), because he was the only speaker. So Rab-Maag (H7248), chief of the Magi (Jeremiah 39:3).]

These were the great officers employed in delivering Sennacherib's insulting message to Hezekiah. On the walls of the palace of Sennacherib, at Khorsabad, certain figures have been identified with the officers of that sovereign mentioned in Scripture. In particular, the figures of Rab-shakeh, Rabsaris, and Tartan appear as full-length portraits of the persons holding those offices in the reign of Sennacherib, and probably the very individuals sent on this embassy.

With a great host against Jerusalem. Engaged in a campaign of three years in Egypt, Sennacherib was forced by the king of Ethiopia to retreat, and discharging his rage against Jerusalem, sent an immense army to summon it to surrender (see the notes at 2 Chronicles 32:3)).

They went up, and came to Jerusalem. From the southern boundary of the Holy Land the march to Jerusalem must have been a continuous ascent.

They came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool ... - the conduit which went from the reservoir of the Upper Gihon (Birket el-Mamilla) to the lower pool-the Birket es-Sultan.

The high way of the fuller's field - the public road which passed by that district which had been assigned them for carrying on their business without the city, on account of the unpleasant smell. The Assyrian troops, having come from the southwest, would approach Jerusalem by the upper pool (cf. Isaiah 7:3).

Verse 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.

When they had called to the king - Hezekiah did not make a personal appearance, but commissioned his three principal ministers to meet the Assyrian deputies at a conference outside the city walls.

Eliakim - lately promoted to be master of the royal household, prefect or chamberlain of the palace (Isaiah 22:20-24).

Shebna - removed for his pride, presumption, and unconstitutional politics-for a contrast is evidently implied between him and his predecessor, who is called "a servant of Yahweh" (Isaiah 22:15) - through the influence of Isaiah, from that office, though still [ hacopeer (H5608)] the private royal secretary.

Joah ... the recorder, [ hamazkiyr (H2142)] - i:e., the keeper of the chronicles-an important office in Eastern countries.

Verse 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?

Rab-shakeh said. It appears from 2 Kings 18:26; 2 Kings 18:28 that this man spoke in the Hebrew tongue, whence, as well as from the tenor of some remarks that he made, several eminent writers have supposed that he was a renegade Jew, an apostate captive of Israel. The insolent tone he assumed appears surprising. But this boasting, both as to matter and manner, his highly coloured picture of his master's powers, and the impossibility of Hezekiah making any effective resistance, heightened by all the arguments and figures which an Oriental imagination could suggest, has been paralleled in all, except the blasphemy, by other messages of defiance sent on similar occasions in the history of the East.

Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria. This title (cf. Isaiah 36:4; also Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 10:, ch.

i., sec. 2; Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:, p. 328) was given to the king of Assyria not only from the vast extent of his empire, but because he was king of princes or viceroys (Isaiah 10:8; Hosea 8:10), and king of kings (Ezekiel 26:8; Daniel 2:37). "The king of Assyria" [ 'Ashuwr (H804)]. Assyria proper was bounded on the north by Armenia, the Gordiaean mountains, and especially by mount Niphates; on the south by Persia; on the east by Media, particularly mount Choatres and Zagros; and on the west by Mesopotamia and the river Tigris. It corresponded nearly to the modern Koordistan. But the Assyrian empire was vastly more extensive; and though its limits varied at different periods, it may be described as embracing all the nations and countries between the Mediterranean on the west and the Indus on the east-between the steppes of Scythia on the north and the Indian Ocean on the south. [The Septuagint has here: Basileus Assurioon, king of the Assyrians; Herodotus styles him, Sanacheribos basileus Arabioon te kai Assurioon, referring to the extensive range of the Assyrian power.]

What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? [ Mah (H4100)] - What, used to express contempt (cf. 1 Kings 9:13), 'What is this confidence?' i:e., the ground of confidence, referring tauntingly to the fortifications Hezekiah had erected round Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:6), and to his expectations of aid from Egypt (cf. Isaiah 30:7).

Verse 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?

Thou sayest (but they are ... vain words), [ dªbar (H1697) sªpaatayim (H8193)] - but it is a word of lips, mere lip-talk or rhodomontade, an empty, foolish bluster, which in the relative circumstances of Judah versus Assyria is ridiculous arrogance.

I have counsel and strength for the war - I have adequate resources for a war, both in military force and military skill to use it.

Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? If this scene had occurred immediately after Hezekiah's submission, the accusation must have been groundless, or founded on vague suspicion of his Egyptian leanings. But from the course of Rab-shakeh's upbraiding charges, it appears that the Assyrians must have had spies who furnished them with secret intelligence as to the nature of the frequent communications that passed between the courts of Jerusalem and Memphis, and that it was in consequence of such information the second expedition was resolved upon.

Verse 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.

Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, [ haqaaneh (H7070) haaraatsuwts (H7533), broken papyrus; Septuagint, teen kalamineen teen tethlasmeneen, bruised, shattered reed; Vulgate, quassatus calamus]. The metaphor is founded upon the nature of a reed, which being slender and brittle, is liable to be easily broken, while the sharp jagged point of the stump is apt to pierce the hand of one that leans upon it. The metaphor admirably represents the idea which Rab-shakeh wished to convey, of an ally who was not only weak and unable to contribute much substantial succour, but would prove eventually "a thorn in the flesh" of the king who joined in a friendly league with him; and it was all the more appropriate and significant in this case, as the papyrus reeds, which grew so luxuriantly on the banks of the Nile, formed a characteristic production of Egypt, rendering the reference to that country unmistakeable, even had the name of Pharaoh not been expressly mentioned at the close of the sentence. Moreover, Egypt had been weakened by Sargon, father of Sennacherib, (Isaiah 20:1-6.)

Verse 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?

But if ye say unto me, We trust in the Lord our God. In the former the address was directed to Hezekiah, through his deputies. Here they or the people generally are spoken to. [But the Septuagint has the singular, hoti eipas pros eme.]

Is not that he whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away ... The meaning of the Assyrian diplomatist was, that in carrying out his meditated scheme of rebellion against his liege lord, Hezekiah could not expect any aid or protection from Yahweh, the national Guardian or tutelary Deity of the Hebrews, having forfeited all claims to His favour by the sacrilegious demolition of His sanctuaries. Rabshakeh alluded, in this part of his speech, to the measures of religious reform which Hezekiah had prosecuted, erroneously supposing, however, that these had been designed to exterminate, rather than to promote, the worship of Yahweh (2 Kings 18:4; 2 Chronicles 29:16).

Verse 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.

Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges, [ hit`aareb (H6148), has, among other significations, that of giving security, or a pledge. But in Hithpael, with 'et (H854) following, it denotes-`to enter into a contest,' That is the meaning here-`enter the lists with my lord the king of Assyria;' and so the Septuagint has: michtheete too kurioo mou basilei Assurioon].

And I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able ... to set riders upon them. The challenge referred to Hezekiah's competency to furnish not two thousand fighting men-that he might readily have done-but two thousand cavalry soldiers. The Jews were deficient in this 'arm,' their mountainous country not being suited to the use of war-chariots, and a constitutional king was bound by the Mosaic law not to multiply horses for himself (Deuteronomy 17:16), nor to traffic with Egypt for the purchase of those animals for war, to which purpose the Jews would have almost exclusively applied them. In Egypt, a flat and fertile country, horses were, we learn from sacred as well as from classical writers, extensively bred and employed in war-chariots (cf. Exodus 14:9; Exodus 15:19; 1 Kings 10:26; 1 Kings 10:28). But they were prohibited to the Jews as symbolical of military prowess and self confidence (Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:17; Proverbs 21:31). Nevertheless that people frequently evinced a strong desire to obtain horses; perhaps the numerous and influential party in the court of Jerusalem who advocated the Egyptian alliance might have been solicitous at that crisis to procure a stock of them from Egypt, in order to cope on equal terms with an Assyrian army, which was always strong in this department (Isaiah 31:1; Hos. 16:3 ); but the commerce seems to have been discouraged or absolutely prohibited by the good king Hezekiah, thus affording some foundation for the taunt of Rab-shakeh, that the Jews had neither horses nor horsemen.

Verse 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?

How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, [ pachat (H6346) 'achad (H259)] - one officer or sub-lieutenant (see on this foreign word, pachat], 1 Kings 10:15; 1 Kings 20:24: cf. 2 Chronicles 9:14; Ezekiel 23:6; Ezekiel 23:12; Ezekiel 23:23). It is difficult to determine whether Pechah here denotes, in its proper Syrian sense, one of the tributary princes who brought his contingent of troops to the immense army of Sennacherib, or it is used in a loose, general way, as a name for a military officer of any grade. Perhaps the latter is the correct view.

Verse 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.

Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? ... This particular remark forms the foundation on which the Jewish writers, followed by Procopius, rest their conjecture that Rab-shakeh was a renegade Israelite, as it seems to imply that he was acquainted with the predictions of Isaiah respecting the judgments which God was about to inflict upon the Hebrews through the instrumentality of the Assyrians. But there is no certain evidence of the truth of this hypothesis. The language of Rab-shakeh might have been only bluster. Perhaps he may have been encouraged by some false prophet, who pretended to have had a revelation to him upon this matter; or he might have inferred that he was sent on a mission of judicial punishment to the Hebrews from the successes he had met with.

Verse 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.

Then said Eliakim ... Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language [ 'Araamiyt (H762)] - the Aramaic, the language spoken in the country north and east of Palestine, and also the common dialect of Mesopotamia. It must, therefore, have been known to the Assyrian officers. Besides, it had a close affinity to their own language (cf. 2 Kings 5:5-7), and to the Hebrew also, although it was an unknown tongue to the common people. In the Old Testament, this north Semitic or Aramaean tongue is called in our version Syrian (see the notes at Genesis 31:47), and but rarely Chaldee (2 Kings 1:4). From the narrative before us, it appears that this language was the medium of communication between the Assyrians and the Jews, as in later times the Persians employed it in their public edicts (Ezra 4:7).

Talk not with us in the Jews' language, [ Yªhuwdiyt (H3066)] - the Jewish language, because the ten tribes, who also spoke Hebrew, had been transplanted to Assyria, and none were left who spoke that language but the people of Judah. Apprehending that this blaspheming harangue would produce the effect of exciting alarm and tumult among the people, they made the mild and reasonable suggestion that, since the conference was exclusively with the heads of the Jewish government, Rab-shakeh would communicate his proposals in the Syrian language.

Verse 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?

But Rab-shakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master? ... His object was to stir and terrify the populace into immediate submission, and with that view, turning to the crowd which was congregated on the walls, he represented to them, by coarse, but graphic terms, in their own Hebrew tongue, the extreme privations to which, in spite of the delusive assurances of Hezekiah, they would inevitably be reduced by Sennacherib during a protracted siege (2 Chronicles 32:11). The result is mentioned as if it had been the purpose and design of the siege.

Verses 28-29

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: No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying ... - (see the notes at 2 Chronicles 32:3, etc.) The measures adopted to fortify Jerusalem were subsequent to Hezekiah's miraculous recovery, as well as the divine promise of deliverance he then received. Both of these circumstances seem to have been reported to the Assyrians, and there is a direct allusion to them in these words of Rab-shakeh.

Verse 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:

Make an agreement with me by a present [ `Aasuw (H6213) 'itiy (H8540) bªraakaah (H1293)] - Make to me a blessing; i:e., make peace with me.

And come out to me - issue from your barricaded walls, and surrender your city.

And then sat ye every man of his own vine ... After capitulating, you shall be allowed to enjoy liberty and the comforts of home, until the return of the Assyrian army from Egypt, when you shall be removed, conformably to the favourite policy pursued in ancient times toward a vanquished nation, to the region beyond the Tigris and the Euphrates, the pleasant and fertile land of the conqueror.

Verse 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.

A land like your own The elevated table lands of Iran the extensive highlands of Western Asia are marked A land like your own. The elevated table-lands of Iran, the extensive highlands of Western Asia, are marked by very different degrees of climate, so that as the soil is naturally rich, the produce is consequently as varied as it is abundant. While in the plains and lowlands, which languish under an almost tropical heat, a vast variety of aromatic herbs are grown, besides the vine, the olive, the fig tree, in the cooler temperature of the hills there is raised grain, and grain of various kinds, with cotton and flax, etc. Accordingly, 'among the objects of tribute brought to the Egyptians from the Naharaina, are represented on the monuments, grain, bread, palm-wine, wine, honey, incense, and conserve of dates' ('Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 425). Herodotus (b. 1:, ch. cxciii.) says that the fig, the grape, and the olive oil are not produced in Assyria; but his account refers to the plains and low country, which belongs rather to Babylonia than Assyria (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:, pp. 210, 213; Goose, 'Assyria,' Philippians 1:2). Thus it appears that there was a really good ground for likening the climate and produce of Assyria to that of Palestine.

Hearken not unto Hezekiah ... The Lord will deliver us. It is evident from the strain of the following interrogations that Rab-shakeh regarded Yahweh as a mere local deity, possessing no higher title to honour, and no greater extent of power, than the tutelary deities of the countries and cities which had fallen before the victorious sword of the Assyrians.

Verse 33

Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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?

Where are the gods of Hamath, [ Chªmaat (H2574); Septuagint, Pou estin ho Theos Aimath?] - now Hamah, a large city of Syria, lying on both sides of the Orontes, a little beyond the northern boundary of Palestine. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, being founded by the Phoenicians (Genesis 10:18; Num. 12:21; Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3), called by the Greeks Epiphania. It was the populous and flourishing metropolis of a petty kingdom of the same name, extending over the whole valley of the Orontes, from the source of that river to Antioch, with the great plain eastward (Amos 6:2).

Arpad, [ 'Arpaad (H774); Septuagint, Vatican, Arfad; Alexandrine, Arfat; also a Syrian city not far from Hamath; and hence, they are generally mentioned in conjunction (2 Kings 19:13; Jeremiah 49:23). But the site of Arpad has not been identified.]

Where are the gods of Sepharvaim - (see the notes at 2 Kings 17:24.)

Hena, [ Heena` (H2012); Septuagint, Ana] - a town of Northern Syria, or, as some say, of Mesopotamia, on a ford of time Euphrates; site unascertained.

Ivah - or Ava (2 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 19:13; Isaiah 37:13) [ `Iwaah (H5755); Septuagint, Aba]; unknown. Its inhabitants were transplanted to colonize Samaria.

Verse 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?

Who are they among all the gods ... that have delivered their country. The boastful and blasphemous tone of this caitiff's speech, which, in the concluding part of it, is an artful piece of mob oratory, here reaches its climax. He spoke of Yahweh as a pagan, and as the representative of a despot whose head was turned by his hitherto unbroken course of brilliant conquests. A towering pride exalted him in his own estimation above all other power, divine as well as human.

That the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand. If the tutelary deities of those extensive and powerful kingdoms have not been able to defend them from the overwhelming might of my arms, how very improbable is it that Yahweh, the god of so small a state, should deliver his people! It has been pertinently observed that the speaker, in this vaunting conclusion, contradicts what he had said, 2 Kings 18:25, as to his having been commissioned to "go up against the land" of the Hebrews, "and destroy it."

Verse 36

But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.

But the people held their peace - i:e., the people on the walls, to whom the speech of Rab-shakeh was addressed.

And answered him not a word - lest they should have been drawn into an altercation, and words or arguments might have been used which would have exasperated the Assyrians and afforded to Sennacherib a pretext, upon which he was too ready to seize, for provoking immediate hostilities.

For the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. It was a most prudent counsel; because had they entered into a discussion of the topics embraced in Rab-shakeh's speech, the Jews might have betrayed their fears, or afforded the wily enemy some advantage; while, by their calm and steady obedience to the command of Hezekiah, they would demonstrate, in presence of their Assyrian invaders, their devoted allegiance to their sovereign, and the hopelessness of all attempts to seduce them into defection from the cause of their king and country.

Verse 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.

Then came Eliakim ... to Hezekiah, with their clothes rent. The rending of a portion of the outer garment was a common and very significant token of grief and dismay among the Jews, as other Eastern people. On the present occasion the act was expressive of both these emotions-grief at the gravity of the national crisis, dismay at the daring blasphemies of the Assyrian.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-kings-18.html. 1871-8.
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