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This chapter contains the account of Hezekiah, and his good reign. His destruction of idolatry. A further account of the captivity of the people of Israel. The chapter, after this, returns to the relation of the history of Hezekiah. Jerusalem is besieged by Sennacherib.
The Reader should carefully keep in view, in order to have a clear apprehension of those historical parts of the Bible, that the history of the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, is so incorporated in one and the same chapter, that, unless properly attended to, an ordinary Reader will find himself frequently at a loss to distinguish. In the preceding chapter we were called upon to notice the history of Israel, and there we read the end of it, as a kingdom, in Samaria being taken, and the people carried away captive. We are now led to the history of Judah, and Hezekiah, the good king, is brought before us in the account of his reign. One of the most interesting remarks in the opening of his history is, that notwithstanding the worthlessness of his fathers, Ahaz, and Urijah, the piety of Hezekiah felt no check. The Holy Ghost places him in the highest rank. No king in Judah ever equaled him. But while we pay all due respect to so illustrious a character, let us not fail to keep in view the cause. Is it not God that worketh in his people, both to will and to do of his good pleasure? Holy Spirit! to thee, would I look, as the first predisposing cause of all grace. We bless thee, Lord, for the gift. And we bless thee that thou hast given us to discover thy gracious hand in it. And we desire that all the glory may he thine. The destruction of the brazen serpent, may perhaps need some little explanation. It was Moses that erected it: it was of divine appointment: and it had a blessed reference to Jesus. See Numbers 21:7-9 . compared with John 3:14-15 . But I refer the Reader for observations on this to the Commentary on Numbers 21:0 . In process of time, the children of Israel, forgetting that it was only typical, and as a commemoration of mercies, made it an idol of worship. Hezekiah, therefore, brake it in pieces, proving thereby, that it was Nehushtan, that is nothing but brass. - How delightful an account that is; the Lord was with Hezekiah, and prospered him. Blessed Jesus! remember thy sweet promise of being always with thy people. Oh! what a cluster of promises to this effect, hast thou given in those words. Reader, pray turn to them: Matthew 28:20 ; John 14:26; John 14:26 .
This is a kind of parenthesis to what went before, and what follows: for it repeats what the former chapter related, the capture of Samaria; and is no further connected with the history of Judah, than as it shows, from the success the king of Assyria had obtained over Israel, it opened, as he thought, an easier way to the destruction of Judah.
This Sennacherib must have been the successor to Shalmaneser. And perhaps his victory over Samaria prompted him to suppose, that he should be conqueror of Jerusalem. And though it is said the Lord prospered Hezekiah whithersoever he went, yet we find the Lord was pleased; in the opening of this siege, to give Sennacherib a temporary triumph, with a vi e w to a more signal display of his own Almighty power, in the salvation of his servant, and his people. Reader! it is one of the Lord's usual plans of mercy, for the exercise of his peoples faith, and for the manifestation of his own grace and love, to let us see what poor creatures we are, and should forever remain, but for him. Poor Hezekiah needed this lesson, it seems; for when the Lord permitted this enemy to triumph a little, instead of looking to the Lord, he made a pitiful compromise, and bought off the foe with a present. Alas! what poor creatures we are!
Hezekiah is soon taught what a base wretch he had to do with, who not only took Hezekiah's gold, and then turned against him, with more force, in the perfidy of his heart, but even charged Hezekiah with robbery, for taking the gold to give him from the house of the Lord. The Reader will do no violence to the scripture of this history, if he spiritualizes the whole of this blasphemer's speech, as the language of the devil, in his temptations of our poor nature. Doth he not in effect say the same thing, and pretend, when he transforms himself into an angel of light, that he hath his commission from the Lord?
The modest request of Hezekiah's servants to speak in the Syrian language, meeting with such contempt, may serve to teach us how confident of success the blasphemer was. And it only serves to heighten the triumph of Hezekiah the more. It is hardly possible to determine whether this second speech of Rab-shakeh exceeded most in lies or blasphemy. He might perhaps, with truth, laugh at the king of Judah's military preparation, or his dependence upon Egypt. An arm of flesh is a poor security, at the best of times. But his trust in the God of the armies of heaven, for this impious wretch to defy! what an awful instance of the most arrant blasphemy was this! And to charge Hezekiah with destroying the altars of God, when in truth, the pious king had been only throwing down the altars of idolatry, in honor of the true God, was as base a falsehood. But Reader! what awful characters do such men afford, who come forward to oppose God, and his people. Here was a new Pharaoh started up, to the terror of God's people, for a season, but principally, and finally for the display of God's glory. Pause in like manner over all the temporary triumphs of the ungodly. Upon every occasion of this sort whether as it refers to your own history, or to the circumstances of the church of Jesus, I love to read Psalms 37:0 .
How delightful it is to do as the servants of Hezekiah did upon various trials; keep silence. In your patience (saith our dear Lord) possess ye your souls. The rented garment and the sprinkled ashes, were tokens of real sorrow. In the gospel it is the broken and the contrite heart, sprinkled with the blood of Christ.
THERE are many improving observations which arise out of this chapter. In the first place, I would call upon the Reader to remark with me, that though Hezekiah is said to have been the best of all the kings of Judah, yet Hezekiah was not without his afflictions. We see in the very midst of attempting the reformation of the people, and the abolishing of idols, the Lord permits an idolatrous prince not only to come against him, but for a time to succeed. Reader! it is so, it must he so, in the life of grace. Faith must be exercised, that it may be more precious than gold that perisheth, Jesus saith, as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Lord! I would say in answer, spare not thy rebukes, nor suffer thy child to be spoiled for want of the rod, when thy wisdom seeth it necessary. But oh thou, most blessed Lord, give me the penetrating eye to discover, under all the frowns of thy providence, the sweet smiles of thy love. And let my faith be always alive, in full exercise, to be looking forward to that happy period, when thy child shall leave the school of learning, to rest in thy bosom in the full enjoyment of the knowledge and perfect love of thee, forever.
I would learn, in the next place, from the trial of good king Hezekiah, that, as this world is not the believer's home, so his security from trial is never over, until he arrives safe at his Father's house. My soul, was it not a precious mercy in the Lord, to take off Hezekiah's mind from all confidence in creatures, when he was thus feelingly taught to put no confidence in princes? Poor Hezekiah thought to buy the friendship of the king of Assyria with a present, and therefore sent him the silver and the gold which he had for this purpose. It is very true the children of God consider, or ought to consider, gold, silver, and precious stones, as objects of no value; and would gladly part with them, if this would make carnal men less angry. But, the Lord will not allow any temporizing. How often would my soul have purchased peace with the wicked at almost any rate, if I might enjoy Jesus unmolested! But this is the believers motto: If any will live godly in Christ Jesus he shall suffer persecution. This should wave in the standard of the Christian in his holy war. Dearest, blessed Jesus! hast thou said; in the world ye shall have tribulation? And hath my foolish heart, in order to stand fair with the world, sought a shelter from it? Oh! my Lord, henceforth let the world frown, so thou but smile: let the Rab-shakehs of the present hour utter their reproaches, and pour forth all their contempt, so thou but grant me that unspeakable blessing: In me ye shall have peace. By faith in thee I shall overcome the world; and from confidence in thee I shall rejoice; and my joy no man take from me.
In the last place, Reader, let you and I learn from this interesting chapter, to hold our peace, and in our patience to possess our souls, when for a moment the ungodly seem to triumph. It is but a seeming triumph, and like the crackling of thorns under the pot. Yes! blessed Jesus! my soul would wait at thy footstool in silence, and in patient waiting would I be found. I know there is One at the mercy-seat, whom the Father heareth alway. There I rest my ground of acceptance only in Jesus. He will plead my cause, and bring me forth in the path of righteousness, for his name's sake. Oh! the relief my soul feels, even in the waiting. Heavenly Lord thou hast fulfilled, thou wilt fulfil that promise: He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany