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The beginning of the last part of 2 Kings is about the history of Judah, the kingdom of the two tribes. This history is mainly determined by the kings Hezekiah and Josiah. The LORD has provided a period of revival by each of them.
The history of Hezekiah can be found three times in Scripture: in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39. The fact that his history is told three times does not mean that we read the same story three times. It is not just a repetition. The history in Isaiah largely corresponds with what we find here, but in 2 Chronicles it is often different. In 2 Chronicles the priestly side is described, while here we have the historical events. In Isaiah history is described from a prophetic perspective.
In 2 Chronicles it is mainly about the restoration of the temple and the celebration of the Passover. Both events take place in the early days of the reign of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings and Isaiah it is more about events that take place in the second half of his reign.
In Isaiah this history gets its prophetic meaning. Isaiah 36-39 closes the first part of the book, with Assyria as the great enemy. This is also what will happen in the end time. The extermination of the king of Assyria, the king of the north, will be done by the LORD Himself, the Lord Jesus. Thereby He will deliver His people and thereafter the people will be in the realm of peace under the rule of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. The direct lesson is that there can be trust in the Lord Jesus in the most difficult circumstances.
Hezekiah Becomes King of Judah
Only a few years after Hezekiah became king, the ten tribes were carried away into exile from the land of Israel. What remains is the history of the two tribes. As has already been mentioned, the two tribes took no notice of the warning of judgment by what had happened to the ten tribes. Nevertheless, it took some time before the curtain also fell on them and they were taken away into exile. The two tribes continued to be the object of God’s grace for quite some time. We get to see some special evidences of that grace from the period of time that the two tribes remained in the land.
The first proof is that God gave Ahaz, an ungodly king, a God-fearing son, Hezekiah. In this we see God’s care for a remnant. The name of Hezekiah’s mother is mentioned. She was called Abi, which means ‘my father’. She knew in the LORD a Father who helped her to raise her son Hezekiah, in the fear of the LORD, a fear that was completely lacking in Ahaz.
Hezekiah was a king upon whom the LORD looked down with joy, and who reminded him of David, the man after His own heart. The first acts of Hezekiah’s reign to be noted were things concerning idolatry. He took away and destroyed what had seized the hearts of the people, and by which the LORD was forgotten and despised. This included the bronze serpent, which was once a blessing by the grace of God. It had been a God-given means for everyone who had been bitten by a poisonous serpent, to be healed when he looked at it (Num 21:9).
That is not to say that the bronze serpent gave healing. A person was healed only when he looked at the serpent in obedience to what God had said. So someone only looked if he believed in what God had said. However, the bronze serpent had become an object of worship instead of God. As if the bronze serpent, that piece of metal, had given salvation.
It can also be the same with wearing a cross. The cross brings salvation to anyone who believes that Christ died there for him (Jn 3:14-16). But whoever wears a wooden cross and pays homage to it, shows that for him this cross is a mascot. That must be destroyed. This is also what Hezekiah does with the Nehushtan. He shatters this idolatrous image.
The strength of Hezekiah’s actions lay in his faithfulness. 2Kgs 18:5-6 give an impressive testimony to this. There we read that “he trusted in the LORD” in a way that was unique “among all the kings of Judah”. He “clung to the LORD”, another beautiful expression. “He did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.”
His whole manner of life bears witness of his faithfulness to the LORD, submitting himself to what the LORD had said to Moses. The word that the LORD had spoken many centuries before, was for Hezekiah the absolute measure for his behavior. The same applies to us. We, who also live in an end time, are reminded of “the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior [spoken] by your apostles” (2Pet 3:2; Jude 1:17).
It should come as no surprise then that we read of Hezekiah that “the LORD was with him” and that “wherever he went he prospered”. Because he trusted in God, he put an end to the alliance with the king of Assyria. Every human support is a denial of trust in the LORD. The consequence of breaking off his contacts with the king of Assyria was that he defeated the Philistines. The Philistines were allies of Assyria and were a great threat to Israel because of their claim to the land.
Israel Carried Away Into Exile
These verses repeat a part of the history of Israel and Hoshea (2Kgs 17:4-8). One possible reason is that the writer wanted to show the contrast between Hoshea and Hezekiah. Hoshea did not take the LORD into account, while Hezekiah fully trusted in the LORD. Israel did not listen to “all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded”, which Hezekiah followed exactly (2Kgs 18:6).
Hezekiah Pays Sanherib Tribute
The historian passes over ten years and takes us to the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign. It seems that in the years that had passed, his confidence in God had slowly declined, so we must now hear that he was bowing before the king of Assyria who was threatening him. His trust in God seems to have disappeared.
Hezekiah became subject to the king of Assyria and forgot the LORD. He left the way of faith. When he said to the king of Assyria, “I have done wrong”, he was actually saying that his right way before the LORD was a wrong way. It is not the LORD Who was standing before him anymore, but he saw things in the light of the king of Assyria. It was a sin of Hezekiah to say so.
To buy off the threat, Hezekiah proposed to pay what the king of Assyria demanded from him. To pay for the sum determined, Hezekiah took all the silver of the temple and of his own treasures, an action due to lack of faith. Hezekiah also cut off the gold from the temple doors and doorposts to pay for what was imposed on him by the king of Assyria.
Bluster Against the LORD
The word “then”, which begins with 2Kgs 18:17, makes it clear that the enormous tribute given by Hezekiah to the king of Assyria had been of no use. The king of Assyria continued to rob, even breaking the covenant Hezekiah had made with him. He sent high ranking officers with a large army to Jerusalem.
The place where the enemy gathered (2Kgs 18:17b) was the place where Isaiah had previously met king Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father (Isa 7:3). Isaiah had his little son with him on that occasion. There Ahaz was shown a way out, but he refused to accept it in faith. A promise was given at that place of water and a fuller’s field. Water speaks of cleansing, and the fuller’s field of washing of clothes. The name of the son of Isaiah, Shear-jashub, means ‘a rest will repent’. There was also mention of the birth of the Messiah at this place. This is where the enemy came up with a message that put Hezekiah to the test.
Hezekiah sent a delegation to hear what the men of Assyria wanted (2Kgs 18:18). It became a one-sided conversation. In 2Kgs 18:19, the commander began an impressive speech with much rhetoric. There was a lot of truth in this but also a lot of falsehoods. Everything he said was meant to frighten Hezekiah and the men of Judah.
He began by presenting the king of Assyria as “the great king”. The question in 2Kgs 18:20 is a penetrating and justified question. In 2Kgs 18:21 Hezekiah had to hear from the mouth of a heathen that his trust was not in the LORD, but in an earthly king. This was a correct and sad observation. Egypt was not to be relied on. The LORD himself compares Egypt to a broken reed (Eze 29:6-7).
But, the commander went on, that if Hezekiah would say that he trusted in the LORD, it also meant nothing (2Kgs 18:22). Hezekiah may have taken away the high places, but what had that yielded? Had that brought any good to the people? Were they grateful for that? The commander tried to create discord between Hezekiah and the people, because the people were able to hear everything the commander said.
Another argument for breaking the resistance was to point out the weakness of Hezekiah’s army (2Kgs 18:23-24); he had none to speak of. Hezekiah would not even be able to supply the horsemen for two thousand horses if the king of Assyria gave them to him.
Another argument to impress the men of Judah was a reference to a command from the LORD, for the commander to come up and destroy the land (2Kgs 18:25). He said that without any faith, but at the same time there was truth in it, because the Assyrians were God’s rod of discipline for His people. This statement would turn against him, because while he said what was true, he did nothing to change his relationship with God.
It seems that the commander was silent for a moment to see how the people reacted to his words. Hezekiah’s delegation did react (2Kgs 18:26), but without any resistance. They gave no sign of trust in the all-powerful God, the God of His people. Their reaction was one of fear. They did not want the people to have heard this, because it would only discourage them more. But that was precisely the intention of the commander.
The reaction elicited another tirade from the commander. Encouraged by what the delegation had said in their fear, he spoke to all the people who were there. They were exhorted to listen carefully to his words, otherwise, together with their leaders, they would feed themselves with their own excrements and quench their thirst with their own urine (2Kgs 18:27). When he had painted this picture in front of them, the commander, in Judean and with a loud voice, started again with the representation of “the great king” (2Kgs 18:28; cf. 2Kgs 18:19).
The people had to understand well that Hezekiah was a worthless and misleading king. Hezekiah was powerless, as was the LORD, to whom Hezekiah referred (2Kgs 18:29-30). No, it was better for them to surrender to the king of Assyria. Instead of feeding on their excrement and quenching their thirst with their own urine, they would eat the delicious fruits of their own vine and fig tree and drink water from their own well (2Kgs 18:31).
The commander, clever and misleading as he was, made it very attractive to surrender by presenting the country where he would lead God’s people, as the same as their own (2Kgs 18:32). Faith would see immediately that that land was not the land of God; for his temple was not there, where He dwells. It all seemed to look beautiful, but the LORD was not there. Let us also hold on to what God has given and not exchange it for false promises.
The deeds he mentioned (2Kgs 18:33-35) were right, but he committed folly to lower the LORD to an idol. He regarded the LORD as one of the idols of the other countries. This foolish and low view would therefore ultimately lead to his disgraced downfall.
The reaction of Hezekiah’s delegation to this second speech by the commander was one of silence (2Kgs 18:36). They remained silent because Hezekiah had told them to. It is sometimes good and important not to respond to certain statements. Silence sometimes speaks more clearly and louder than speaking. Not that the mission was silent because of their faith. The threat had brought them into deep dismay. They tore their clothes and went to Hezekiah to tell him what the commander had said (2Kgs 18:37).
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 Kings 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13