Here begins the last part of 2 Kings. It is about the history of Judah, the two tribes realm. This history is mainly determined by the kings Hezekiah and Josiah. The LORD has provided by each of them for a period of revival.
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, that is 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.
1 - 8 Hezekiah Becomes King of Judah
1 Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places and broke down the [sacred] pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. 5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor [among those] who were before him. 6 For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8 He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.
Only a few years after Hezekiah becomes king, the ten tribes are deported from the land of Israel. What remains is the history of the two tribes. As has already been mentioned, the two tribes did not have let themselves be warned by what happened to the ten tribes. Nevertheless, it will take some time before for the two tribes also fall will the curtain and be taken away into exile. The two tribes remain the object of God’s grace for quite some time. In the remaining time that the two tribes live in the land, we get to see some special evidences of that grace.
The first proof is that God gives to an ungodly king, Ahaz, a God-fearing son, Hezekiah. In it we see the care of God for a remnant. The name of the mother of Hezekiah is mentioned. She is 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 completely failed with Ahaz.
Hezekiah is a king upon whom the LORD looks down with joy, and who reminds him of David, the man after his heart. The first acts of Hezekiah’s reign to be noted are things that have to do with idolatry. He takes away and destroys what has seized the hearts of the people, and by which the LORD is forgotten and despised. This also includes the bronze serpent. The bronze serpent was once a blessing by the grace of God. It has been a God-given means to be healed for every member of the people who had been bitten by a poisonous serpent 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 has become an object of worship instead of God. As if the bronze serpent, that piece of metal, had given the 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 lies in his faithfulness. Verses 5-6 give an impressive testimony to this. There we read that “he trusted in the LORD” in a way that is 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 performance bears witness of his faithfulness to the LORD, submitting himself to what the LORD has said to Moses. The word that the LORD has spoken many centuries before, is 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 from Hezekiah that “the LORD was with him” and that “wherever he went he prospered”. Because he trusts in God, he puts an end to the connection with the king of Assyria. Every human support is a denial of trust in the LORD. The consequence of his breaking off of contacts with the king of Assyria was that he defeats the Philistines. The Philistines are allies of Assyria and are a great threat to Israel because of their claim to the land.
9 - 12 Israel Carried Away into Exile
9 Now in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it. 10 At the end of three years they captured it; in the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was captured. 11 Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12 because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant, [even] all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded; they would neither listen nor do [it].
These verses repeat a part of the history of Israel and Hoshea (2Kgs 17:4-8). One possible reason is that the writer wants to show the contrast between Hoshea and Hezekiah. Hoshea has not taken the LORD into account, while Hezekiah fully trusts in the LORD. Israel did not listen to “all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded”, which Hezekiah exactly does (verse 6).
13 - 16 Hezekiah Pays Sanherib Tribute
13 Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. 14 Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 Hezekiah gave [him] all the silver which was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house. 16 At that time Hezekiah cut off [the gold from] the doors of the temple of the LORD, and [from] the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
The historian passes over ten years of the reign of Hezekiah and takes us to the fourteenth year of his reign. It seems that in the years that have passed, his confidence in faith has slowly declined, so we must now hear that he is bowing before the king of Assyria who is threatening him. His trust in God seems to have disappeared.
Hezekiah subjects to the king of Assyria and has forgotten the LORD. He has left the way of faith. When he says to the king of Assyria, “I have done wrong,” he is actually saying that his right way for the LORD is a wrong way. It is not the LORD Who is standing before him any more, but he sees things in the light of the king of Assyria. It is a sin of Hezekiah to say so.
To buy off the threat, Hezekiah proposes to the king of Assyria that he will pay what is imposed on him. The sum is determined. To pay it Hezekiah takes all the silver of the temple and of his own treasures. It is an action due to lack of faith. Hezekiah also cuts off the gold from the temple doors and doorposts to pay for what is imposed on him by the king of Assyria.
17 - 37 Bluster Against the LORD
17 Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they went up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway of the fuller’s field. 18 When they called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, came out to them. 19 Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have? 20 You say (but [they are] only empty words), ‘[I have] counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me? 21 Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, [even] on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 22 But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? 23 Now therefore, come, make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 24 How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants, and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25 Have I now come up without the LORD’s approval against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.’”‘“ 26 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, “Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand [it]; and do not speak with us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 27 But Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, [and] not to the men who sit on the wall, [doomed] to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?” 28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 Thus says the king, ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; 30 nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, “Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern, 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die.” But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” 33 Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? 35 Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’” 36 But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s commandment was, “Do not answer him.” 37 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
The word “then”, which begins with verse 17, makes it clear that the enormous tribute given by Hezekiah to the king of Assyria has helped nothing. The king of Assyria continues to rob. He breaks the covenant Hezekiah made with him. He sends high officers with a large army to Jerusalem.
The place where the enemy comes (verse 17b) is the place where Isaiah has previously met king Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah (Isa 7:3). Isaiah has his little son with him on that occasion. There Ahaz is shown a way out, but he refuses to accept it in faith. At that place of water and a fuller’s field a promise is given. Water speaks of cleansing and the fuller’s field of cleansing of clothing. The name of the son of Isaiah, Shear-jashub, means ‘a rest will repent’. There is also talk about the birth of the Messiah. This is where the enemy comes up with a message that puts Hezekiah to the test.
Hezekiah sent a delegation to hear what the men of Assyria want (verse 18). It becomes a one-sided conversation. In verse 19, the commander begins an impressive speech with much rhetoric. There is a lot of what is true in this and there is also a lot of falsehood. Everything he says is meant to frighten Hezekiah and the men of Judah.
He begins by presenting the king of Assyria as “the great king”. The question in verse 20 is a penetrating and justified question. In verse 21 Hezekiah must hear from the mouth of a heathen that his trust is not in the LORD, but in an earthly king. This is a correct and sad observation. Egypt is not to rely on. The LORD himself compares Egypt to a broken reed (Eze 29:6-7).
But, the commander goes on, if Hezekiah would say that he trusts in the LORD, this also means nothing (verse 22). Hezekiah may have taken away the high places, but what has that yielded? Has this brought any good to the people? Are they grateful for that? The commander tries to create discord between Hezekiah and the people, because the people hear everything the commander says.
Another argument for breaking the resistance is to point out the weakness of Hezekiah’s army (verses 23-24). His whole army is nothing. 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 is a reference to a command of the LORD which the commander would have to come up (verse 25). He says that without any faith. At the same time there is truth in it, because the Assyrians are God’s rod of discipline for His people. This statement will therefore turn against him, because while he says what is true, he does nothing to change his relationship with God.
It seems that the commander is silent for a moment to see how his words are reacted to. Hezekiah’s delegation also reacts (verse 26), but without any resistance. They give no sign of trust in the all-powerful God, the God of His people. Their reaction is one of fear. They do not want the people to hear this, because it will only discourage them more. But that is precisely the intention of the commander.
The reaction elicits another tirade from the commander. Encouraged by what the delegation has said in their fear, he speaks to all the people who are there. They should listen carefully to his words, otherwise they will, together with the leaders of the people, feed themselves with their own excrements and quench their thirst with their own urine (verse 27). When he has painted this picture in front of them, the commander, in Judean and with a loud voice, starts again with the representation of “the great king” (verse 28; cf. verse 19).
The people must understand well that Hezekiah is a worthless and misleading king. Hezekiah is powerless, as is the LORD, to whom Hezekiah refers (verses 29-30). No, it is 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 will eat the delicious fruits of their own vine and fig tree and drink water from their own well (verse 31).
The commander, clever and misleading as he is, makes it very attractive to surrender by presenting the country where he will lead God’s people as the same country they now live in (verse 32). Faith will see this immediately. That land is not the land of God; for his temple is not there, where he cistern. It all seems to look beautiful, but the LORD is not there. Let us also hold on to what God has given and not exchange it for false promises.
The deeds he mentions (verses 33-35) are right, but he commits folly to lower the LORD to an idol. The LORD is for him as one of the idols of the other countries. This foolish and low view will therefore ultimately lead to his insulting downfall.
The reaction of Hezekiah’s delegation to this second speech by the commander is one of silence (verse 36). They remain 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 is silent in faith. The promise has brought them into deep dismay. With torn clothes they go to Hezekiah and tell him what the commander said (verse 37).