April 26 Reading: II Kings 18-19 Commentary
“O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see…Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone” (II Kings 19:15-16, 19)
II Kings 18 – Hezekiah: King of Judah
“Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem….And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done” (vv. 1-3).
Hezekiah’s bio begins like all the other godly kings. However, his life exuded a much deeper level of godliness. All the other godly kings had only done so much. Hezekiah seems to have gone all the way in his relationship with the Lord. We know that because:
1. Unlike all the other godly kings, he destroyed all the high places of worship, broke down the sacred pillars, and cut down all the wooden images (v. 4).
2. He also broke into pieces “the bronze serpent that Moses had made” in Numbers 21. God had instructed Moses to make that serpent and put it on a pole for the people to see. When the people looked at it, they were healed from the plague God had sent as punishment for their complaining. Evidently, over the years, people burned incense and worshipped it (v. 4).
3. He held fast to the Lord and did not depart from him. In fact, he was so godly that “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him” (v. 6).
4. He stood up to the king of Assyria and refused to serve him (v. 7). Additionally, he conquered the Philistines, thus making Judah a power in the region.
The Power of Assyria
God was with Hezekiah and prospered him (v. 6). And he went with Hezekiah through one of the most dangerous times for Judah thus far, the coming forces of the king of Assyria.
The kingdom of Assyria was on the move. They’d grown in power in recent years and expanded their kingdom by conquering territory. Their king Shalmaneser had gone up against Samaria in Israel and besieged it for three years. In the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign in Judah, they captured the city and carried all Israel away to Assyria (vv. 9-12).
Eight years later, a new leader reigned in Assyria. His name was Sennacherib. And he had his eyes set on Judah. He invaded the land and took many of the fortified cities (v. 13).
In desperation, Hezekiah tried to appease Sennacherib by paying him tribute (v. 14). Sennacherib assessed Judah an amount to pay, which Hezekiah did. To do so, he had to strip the temple and the king’s house of all the gold and silver he could find (vv. 15-16).
However, this tribute only increased Sennacherib’s desire for more. He sent his massive army and some high ranking officials to confront Hezekiah at Jerusalem (vv. 17-18).
Upon arrival, one of Sennacherib’s officials, Rabshakeh stepped forward to speak with three of Hezekiah’s officials, “Eliakim…who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joah…the recorder” (v. 18).
Rabshakeh’s words were harsh and meant to discourage. He said to the three men and all the people:
“Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: ‘What confidence is this in which you trust? You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?'”
“…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 said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’?” (vv. 19-22).
Rabshakeh continued his praise for Sennacherib and mocking of the Lord:
“Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you from his hand; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us’ This city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ “
“…Do not listen to Hezekiah, lest he persuade you, saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations at all delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”
“Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (vv. 28-35).
Upon hearing this, the people did not respond (v. 36). But Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah tore their clothes and reported all these words to Hezekiah (v. 37).
II Kings 19 – God Responds to Sennacherib
When King Hezekiah heard the words of Rabshakeh from his officials, he tore his clothes and covered himself in sackcloth (v. 1). This was a sign of grief or sorrowful repentance. But in this moment of fear, anguish and doubt, who did Hezekiah turn to? He “went into the house of the Lord” (v. 1).
The role of the prophets in the Old Testament was to bring the word of the Lord to the people, whether good or bad. In Hezekiah’s day, one man that God used in this role was the prophet Isaiah (see Isa. 36-39 for more on this story). Hezekiah sent his officials to him now to hear the word of the Lord concerning this event. Hezekiah hoped that Isaiah would lift up a prayer to the Lord on the people’s behalf (v. 7).
When Isaiah heard the threats from the king of Assyria, he told Hezekiah’s officials these encouraging words:
“Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” ‘ “ (vv. 6-7).
Rabshakeh was not done bullying Hezekiah on behalf of Sennacherib king of Assyria. Even though the king was getting distracted with other nations (v. 9), he had not lost sight of Jerusalem. So Rabshakeh sent another letter via messenger to Hezekiah threatening more warfare and mocking the God who could not protect them against the might of Assyria (vv. 10-13).
When Hezekiah received the letter, he read it. Then he went into the temple and spread the letter out before the Lord. And in his moment of desperation, he prayed one of the most dynamic prayers in the entire Bible:
“O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.
Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them.
Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone” (vv. 15-19).
God heard Hezekiah’s prayer. He sent word to Hezekiah through Isaiah the prophet (vv. 21-34). Sennacherib had blasphemed and reproached God. In his pride, he thought God could not take care of His people. God not only heard these boasts, but knew about the inward thoughts of the Assyrian king (vv. 22-23, 27-28).
In the end, Isaiah told Hezekiah that God would win. Isaiah ended his encouragement to Hezekiah by saying,
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return; and he shall not come into this city,’ says the Lord. ‘For I will defend this city, to save it or My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ “ (vv. 32-34).
God saved Jerusalem and Hezekiah in a way not seen since the days of the Hebrews in Egypt when the Passover angel swept through the land (see Ex. 12):
“And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead” (v. 35).
God protected his people. Sennacharib returned to Nineveh in Assyria a defeated leader. And later, while he was “…worshipping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons…struck him down with the sword” (v. 37).
Questions to Consider:
Even things that are generally considered good can be become idols in our lives. Nothing should come between us and God.
In Numbers 21, the people sinned and were bitten by poisonous snakes. God told Moses to create a bronze snake and put it on a pole. If the people looked at it, they lived. Sadly, the bronze snake that was once an object of good later become an idol the people worshipped (II Kings 18). What idols do you need to tear down in your life?
Hezekiah prayed to God even though God knew the situation he faced. Would God have acted without Hezekiah’s prayer? Absolutely. But Hezekiah showed his complete submission to and dependence on God for help. Do your prayers reflect that in your life?
What other points would you want to know about in our II Kings 18-19 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.