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THE REIGN OF HEZEKIAH IN JUDAH
In Judah the reign of Hezekiah provided a refreshing relief to the tendency of departure from God. It was during his reign that Assyria took Samaria into captivity, but Hezekiah's faith and obedience to God preserved Judah from the same fate at that time. Jotham had been a good king, but Ahaz his son was just the opposite. Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz, but he stands in beautiful contrast to his father. He was 25 years old when taking the throne of Judah, and he reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother's name is told us also (v.2).
How good to see that he removed the high places (v.4). Other kings before him had nor done this. But even though Solomon had introduced the worship in high places, Hezekiah by his judgment of the high places plainly declared his disagreement with Solomon. Solomon's reign was illustrious, but this gives no right to others to follow him in his acts of disobedience to God. Hezekiah destroyed every vestige of idolatry from Judah, breaking down the sacred pillars, cutting down the wooden image, and breaking to pieces the bronze serpent Moses had made (v.4). Why did he do this? Was it not right for Moses to make that serpent? Yes, Moses was right in making it, but he did not make it as an object of worship, and Judah had debased it to this end, burning incense to it. He called it "Nehushtan," meaning merely "a bit of bronze."
The simplicity of Hezekiah's faith in the Lord God of Israel was such that no king, either before or after him, was to be compared to him (v.5). He held fast to the Lord, putting His interests first, keeping His commandments as declared in the law of Moses (v.6). Therefore of course the Lord was with him, making him prosper in every undertaking. Also by the power of God he was able to do what the king of Israel could not do. He rebelled against the king of Assyria rather than serving him (v.7). He also subdued the Philistines as far as their city of Gaza (v.8).
Verses 9-11 refer to what we have already read in connection with Hoshea, king of Israel. It was in the fourth year of Hezekiah that the king of Assyria began his siege of Samaria, taking the city captive in Hezekiah's sixth year. Thus the larger part of the nation Israel was taken into captivity while Judah and Benjamin were preserved by having the most faithful king reigning over them at the time. Verse 12 repeats the reason for the captivity of the ten tribes. They did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed His covenant conveyed to them through Moses. Not only did they not do what was commanded them: would not listen.
Eight years later, however, the king of Assyria attacked and captured the fortified cities of Judah, though not including Jerusalem (v.13). We do not read that Hezekiah appealed to the Lord at this time, so this may have been a time when his faith wavered, for he told the king of Assyria, "I have done wrong." At least he showed a submissive spirit and was willing to pay tribute to Assyria. He was assessed 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold. In order to pay this he took all the silver from the house of the Lord and from his own house and stripped the gold from the doors of the temple and from the pillars. This would be humiliating to him, and we cannot but wonder if this might not have been avoided if he had earnestly sought the Lord's intervention, as he did later, when the Lord miraculously intervened to deliver Jerusalem and send the king of Assyria away in humiliating defeat (ch.19:35).
The tribute Hezekiah sent to the king of Assyria was, he found, no guarantee of his protection from attack. Hezekiah might have kept the gold and silver and still not be defeated by Assyria, as he found by experience in trusting the Lord. The king of Assyria proved himself treacherous in sending a great army against Jerusalem (v.17).
If we compare verse 2 with verse 13, it becomes evident that it was at about this time that Hezekiah's sickness threatened his death, for he reigned 29 years, and 15 of those years were added to his life after his illness. But it was in the 14 th year of his reign that Sennacherib came against Judah.
The leader of the Assyrian army (called the Rabshakeh) called from outside Jerusalem for a consultation with Hezekiah, who sent three of his trusted men to hear what the Rabshakeh had to say. Of course the city was protected by walls and barred gates. The Rabshakeh then declared that "the great king, the king, of Assyria" demanded to know where the confidence of Judah was placed, accusing Judah of speaking "mere words" in saying they had plans and power for war. It may be a question whether Judah had actually said this or not, but he asked, "in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?" He assumed Judah might have enlisted Egypt for help, as Israel had done before (ch.17:4). But Hezekiah had not expressed any confidence in Egypt.
Rather, as the king of Assyria considered likely, Hezekiah's trust was in the Lord God. But he says that Hezekiah had acted in opposition to the Lord, for he had taken away the high places which the king of Assyria considered necessary in the worship of the God of Israel (v.22). He did not realise that the very fact of Hezekiah's removal of the high places was evidence of his trust in the living God.
The Rabshakeh offered then a bribe of 2000 horses if Judah would pledge allegiance to the king of Assyria (v.23). He adds to this the warning that they would not be able to repel one captain of the Assyrians, though they put their trust in Egypt. Thus, he knew how to appeal to both their greed and to their fear. More than this, he wanted them to think that even the Lord was against them, for he tells them that the Lord told him to go against the land and destroy it (v.25). Thus, in common with many religious men today, he did not hesitate to use the Lord's name deceitfully.
The three servants of Hezekiah asked the Rabshakeh to speak in the Aramean language, rather than expose the common people to his words in Hebrew (v.26). They should have realised their request would be futile, and indeed it only encouraged the Rabshakeh to speak more loudly to all the people on the wall, urging them to hear the words of the great king of Assyria (v 28). If he could not persuade the leaders of the people, he would do his utmost to weaken the people themselves. Did he think he would persuade them not to trust in the Lord?
Rabshakeh, in speaking to the men of Judah, accused Hezekiah of deceiving his own people by his confidence that the Lord would deliver them. Would the Lord deliver Jerusalem? Yes! Assyria found very soon that the Lord whom they claimed sent them against Jerusalem was a God of awesome power and judgment and would judge them for their deceitful claim of representing Him, though He delayed His intervention for a time as a test to Hezekiah's faith (ch.19:35).
Thus, the Rabshakeh urged the people, "Do not listen to Hezekiah" (v.31). Rather, he wants them to listen to the king of Assyria, who demanded a present from them to make peace, and bow to his authority, so that for a time they could remain in their own places, eating every one from his own vine and his own fig tree, and drinking from his own cistern. But for how long? "Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land" (v.32). He was telling them they would be just as well off in his land as they would be in Jerusalem. If this was so, why take them away? People may tell us we would be just as well off if we left the Assembly of God and went to a denomination, as though the denomination was like God's assembly. Can we depend on the Lord or not? The Rabshakeh urged them not to listen to Hezekiah's word that the Lord would deliver them. How many arguments there are to undermine faith!
He tried hard to direct their minds away from the Lord to other things, such as the gods of the nations (v.37). Had any of them been able to deliver a nation from the hand of the king of Assyria? What of the gods of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? And what of Samaria? (vv.33-34). All of these had fallen to the bondage of Assyria. The answer is simple. None of those nations was depending an the only true God. But Hezekiah honestly sought the grace and guidance of the God of all the earth. The Rabshakeh argued that since none among all the gods of the nations had been able to deliver those nations from Assyria, how could Hezekiah expect the Lord to deliver him? (v.35).
However, the people did not question him or argue with him. They answered nothing, for Hezekiah had so instructed them (v.36). Thus the whole matter was left in God's hand. They could wait His time to intervene as He saw fit. Eliakim, Shebna and Joah brought to Hezekiah the report of what the Rabshakeh had said. They did so in a spirit of self-judgment, with their clothes torn, not in bitter animosity, nor in any spirit of self-confidence, but rather in the lowly humility that realised they had no power of their own, and were instead concerned that God Himself would intervene on their behalf.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14