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In the previous chapters the faithfulness of Hezekiah is shown. There we see his religious reforms. In this chapter we see his political performance. Here also come the tests. There are three of them:
1. the invasion of Sennacherib;
2. his disease to the verge of death;
3. the embassy of Babel.
In the first and second tests he remains standing, but in the third test he fails.
The history described in this chapter also occurs in 2 Kings 18-20 and in Isaiah 36-39. There the events are described in much more detail, while here we have a summary.
Measures of Hezekiah Against Sennacherib
The previous chapters have described events that bring joy to both the LORD and His people. In those chapters Hezekiah’s faithfulness to its domestic policy has been demonstrated. He has cleansed the temple, city, and land of idolatry and provided facilities to ensure that God’s service is maintained in His house and land.
After all these events, the stage changes. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, appears on the stage, that is, in the land of God (2Chr 32:1). He invades Judah. Sennacherib is the king of a rapidly growing empire. The Assyrian army occupied Samaria and the northern part of Israel from the fourth to the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign (2Kgs 18:9-12). Now he enters Judah. After the proofs of Hezekiah’s faithfulness, we see that in Sennacherib he is confronted with the powers of darkness.
This does not happen because God must discipline His people, because the people are dedicated to Him. God has another purpose with this invasion and that is to test the faith of Hezekiah. It is always beautiful when dedication to the Lord and His house comes, as evidenced by the removal from our lives of things that prevent it. But the life of faith also has other aspects than our service in the house of God. One of those aspects is that we live in a hostile world. We are being put to the test by the world. Then it becomes clear how we react to attacks from the enemy that come at us from outside.
Sennacherib sets his sights on the cities of Judah and he also sets his sights on Jerusalem (2Chr 32:2). When Hezekiah notices this, he consults with his officers and his warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs which are outside the city (2Chr 32:3). The first measure he takes against Sennacherib’s attack concerns the water supply. His first concern is that of drinking water. They work with all their might to cut off the springs and the stream, i.e. to hide them (2Chr 32:4). The water should not come into the hands of the Assyrians, but should remain at the disposal of the inhabitants of the city (2Chr 32:30). Water speaks of the Word of God in its cleansing and invigorating power. This is the first thing you need to have at your disposal in times of testing.
If the water supply is secured, it will give Hezekiah courage to take the next step. This concerns the restoration of the walls, the strengthening of the Millo and the making of weapons and shields (2Chr 32:5). All these elements have to do with defense. The walls are a static, immobile defensive belt; the weapons and shields speak of a dynamic, mobile defense.
We can apply this as follows. There are rock-solid certainties in our faith, such as salvation through faith in Christ and the eternal salvation that comes with it. When the enemy attacks, we must always draw back behind the ‘wall’. However, the enemy also attacks when we seek the will of the Lord. Then we must use ‘the shield of faith’. This means that we say that we entrust ourselves to Him Who is never mistaken, even though sometimes we do not know what to do or why we have ended up in a certain situation. The abundance of weapons and shields speaks of the abundance of defenses against enemy attacks.
After Hezekiah himself has taken courage, he also speaks to the hearts of the military officers he has appointed over the people (2Chr 32:6). Speaking to the heart means speaking to comfort (cf. Rth 2:13). He calls them together in the square at the city gate. He speaks to them insistently: “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed” (2Chr 32:7; cf. Deu 31:23; Jos 1:9). They do not need to be impressed by the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him.
The enemy can seem powerful when they compare it to themselves. But they should not do that. They have to look at who are with them. Those who are with them cannot be seen with the natural eye. The heavenly hosts under the command of the LORD of the hosts are perceivable only through the eye of faith. Hezekiah sees them, just like Elisha sees them, while his servant only sees the powerful enemy. Elisha then says: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2Kgs 6:16), words spoken here by Hezekiah to the military officers.
Hezekiah also points out that Sennacherib relies on nothing but “an arm of flesh” (2Chr 32:8; cf. Jer 17:5). With this he indicates that the power (the arm) of Sennacherib is no more than ‘flesh’, that is to say weak and transient. Then he points out that on the side of Israel stands the LORD as the mighty Helper and Warrior. What can an insignificant man do against the Almighty God? Compared to Him, the power of Sennacherib disappears into nothingness.
How powerful words are is shown by the fact that the people “relied on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah”. Words are not value-free or neutral. Exchanges of words did result in violent confrontations. We can do both good and evil with words, promoting as well as ruining a work of the Lord. It is important that we as believers speak words that do good, words which benefits the other, something that encourages (Zec 1:13). That is how Hezekiah speaks.
Sennacherib Insults the LORD
Hezekiah has just finished his preparations and the servants from Sennacherib come to Jerusalem (2Chr 32:9). They speak the words of Sennacherib (2Chr 32:10a). These are very different words from the ones Hezekiah has spoken. Hezekiah supported the people of God with his words (2Chr 32:8), but Sennacherib wants to undermine and take away the trust of the people in Hezekiah and the LORD by his words (2Chr 32:10b). If he can erode their confidence, they will lose courage and become an easy prey for him.
Sennacherib reminds the people through his servants, that Hezekiah surrenders them by his policy, to die by hunger and by thirst (2Chr 32:11). Hezekiah deceives them by making them believe that the LORD their God will save them from his hand. What a folly of Hezekiah! They see with their own eyes what Hezekiah did with “His high places and His altars” (2Chr 32:12), don’t they? Hezekiah has taken them all away and the LORD has not put a stop to it. Then it must be clear to them what a worthless God that is, Who cannot even stand up for Himself? Here we see that for the foolish unbelief of Sennacherib the LORD is no more than one of the many idols that the people have served.
Sennacherib wants to incite the people by pointing out to them what Hezekiah has taken from them and that he has limited their religion to one altar. But Sennacherib knows nothing of the hidden sources that the faith knows. Even today, people of the world and even in Christianity will say that it makes no sense being faithful to God and His Word. According to Sennacherib, serving the one God is meaningless. By the way, to him God is nothing more than an idol, from whom his altars have been taken away. But even though God’s power is not openly present at this time, Judah must know from his own history how God has always stood up for his people against powerful enemies.
In prideful, haughty language Sennacherib asks if they don’t know what he and his fathers have done with other peoples (2Chr 32:13). He brags asking the next question and that is whether the gods of those peoples were able to prevent him from conquering those countries. In his third question, he argues that none of the gods of the countries that his fathers banned managed to save his people from his hand. Therefore, as he brags, their God will not succeed in saving His people from his hand (2Chr 32:14). Here Sennacherib not only reduces God to an idol, but he speaks in contempt of Him as one of the slightest idols.
After this list of facts, the conclusion may be clear (2Chr 32:15). The people should not be deceived by Hezekiah and not be inspired by what he says. Hezekiah is a liar. They should not believe him. The facts are clear, aren’t they? He points out once again – he doesn’t tire of repeating it – that no one god has managed to protect his people and kingdom against the attacks of the Assyrians. All these peoples have been conquered by them. If those gods did not succeed, then certainly not their God.
The chronicler leaves it at this as far as the words that Sennacherib addressed to the people are concerned. His servants have spoken still other words “against the LORD God and against His servant Hezekiah” (2Chr 32:16; 2Kgs 18:19-35). Again and again Sennacherib in his arrogance slanders the God of heaven and earth by comparing Him to his handmade gods of wood and stone. He also slanders His servant. He calls Hezekiah a deceiver. This is also said of the Lord Jesus (Jn 7:12; Mt 27:63). It is an honor for Hezekiah to share as a companion of God in the reproach that the enemy inflicts upon Him (cf. Psa 69:10; Lk 10:16).
If the desired effect of his words is not achieved, Sennacherib tries to get the people down by means of letters (2Chr 32:17). These letters contain the same story. He repeats it again and again. Always saying the same thing does well in politics. The people will be brainwashed by it and will finally accept the lie as truth.
Sennacherib insults “the LORD God of Israel” by continuing to repeat that “the God of Hezekiah” will not be able to save them from his hand, nor will the gods of other nations. His servants support the message of the letter by loudly calling out their threats to the people of Judah (2Chr 32:18). They want to break the resistance of the people through intimidation and then take the city.
2Chr 32:19 summarizes how Sennacherib spoke about God. His conception of God will be fatal to him. The effect is the opposite of the goal Sennacherib has with his mocking language. The insult of the opponents makes God turn against these enemies, just as the prayer of His people makes Him work for His people.
The LORD Delivers Hezekiah and Jerusalem
In 2Chr 32:20 we see two people praying (cf. Mt 18:19). They cry out to heaven, while the threat of the enemy on earth is great. By doing so they look beyond the threatening, to Him Who stands above every threat. On one side two people praying, on the other side an enormous army. The two gain the victory, because on the side of those two is the LORD.
Prayer is heard immediately (2Chr 32:21). In a nutshell, the chronicler tells us what the LORD does. He sends “an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria”. Can it be simpler? Can it be more radical? The simplicity makes it great. The radicality makes it so that the problem is solved. What a great encouragement this is for the prayer meeting and the prayer.
Sennacherib drips off like a beaten dog. He is openly disgraced. When he comes home, the fool enters his god’s house to bow down before him. There he undergoes, over which he has insulted the LORD. His god cannot save him from the sword that kills him there while he is lying before that god. To complete his embarrassment it is mentioned that the sword is being handled by “some of his own children”. God uses what he has produced to judge him. Thus will God deal with all braggers.
“So the LORD saved” (2Chr 32:22). “So” means through judgment. Salvation is pure and only God’s work. There was no human hand involved. Also the consequence, “guided … on every side”, is His work. The LORD is honored for this, as is his representative Hezekiah (2Chr 32:23). Hezekiah is a type of the Lord Jesus in His office in the kingdom of peace (cf. Rev 21:24). So it is always with kings when they reign well. Then they will be overloaded with honor and wealth by the kings of the nations.
Hezekiah gets ill (2Chr 32:24). He fell ill “in those days,” that is, in the days when the king of Assyria challenged him. His illness is a new test, but a test that drives him out in prayer to the LORD. The LORD speaks to him and promises healing, as we know from the description in 2 Kings, where we are also told about the miracle sign (2Kgs 20:1-11).
In this one verse the chronicler summarizes the illness and healing of Hezekiah. He emphasizes the interest the LORD has in him and his circumstances. While Hezekiah is powerless in the face of the enemy and is close to death in his illness, he knows he is supported by God’s care.
After his healing he fails (2Chr 32:25). He does not remain dependent. He forgets that he owes everything to the LORD, both his healing and his prosperity. He exalts himself because of his treasures and becomes proud. Pride is the primal sin. Even a God-fearing man like Hezekiah can become entangled in this sin. He has disposed of the idolatry from the land, but now he becomes his own idol. By this the LORD is put on a side track.
His pride causes wrath on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah sees his sin and humbles “the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2Chr 32:26). Thus God for the days of Hezekiah refrains from bringing His wrath upon them.
Prosperity and Death of Hezekiah
The treasures and possessions of Hezekiah are measured broadly (2Chr 32:27-29). He owes all this to God. They are a reflection of the splendor of the great Son of David. Hezekiah takes care of safe places for all the treasures, so that the precious does not get into the hands of the enemy.
Spiritually, it means that he is careful not to give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine (Mt 7:6; Mt 15:26). All the treasures of God’s Word, the whole counsel of God, are for the whole church (Acts 20:27) and for no one else. The same goes for the water supply that Hezekiah secures when Jerusalem is threatened by Sennacherib (2Chr 32:30; 2Chr 32:2-4). He has prosperity in all his work.
Then comes the test of God leaving him (2Chr 32:31). The reason is the visit from Babylon. God leaves Hezekiah to see how he deals with this visit. Will he give Him the honor of the wonder they come to ask him about? God can sometimes leave a believer to himself, to withdraw from him. He knows what is in the heart of the believer, as He knows it of the people (Deu 8:2). But it has to come to light and Hezekiah has to see for himself. Hezekiah must know that pride lurks in his heart. He has seen this and humbled himself therefore (2Chr 32:26).
God sometimes has to teach us a lesson. With this in mind, we may pray: “Do not lead us into temptation” (Mt 6:13a). If we fail, it is our fault; if we remain standing, it is God’s grace. It is the same as being lost and being saved.
The chronicler has reached the end of what he wants to tell his readers about Hezekiah. What else Hezekiah has done, especially his “deeds of devotion” (2Chr 35:26), is described in the vision of Isaiah and in the books of the kings of Judah and Israel (2Chr 32:32; Isaiah 36-39). The vision of Isaiah refers to the book of Isaiah (Isa 1:1).
Although Hezekiah failed in the test at the end of his life, his life as a whole was characterized by piety, fear of God. This is also reflected in his burial. That he is buried “in the upper section” is more than just a description of the location. It indicates that his way was a way up, a way up to the LORD.
At his death, “all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem honored him”. They will remember his favors. How good it is to remember at the funerals of leaders what the Lord has given to His people through them.
The son who succeeds Hezekiah, Manasseh, is a very different ‘leader’.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Chronicles 32". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13