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2 Kings: Chapter 18

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1In the third year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, Hezekiah son of King Ahaz of Judah began to reign. 2He was twenty‐five years old when he began to reign; he reigned twenty‐nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi daughter of Zechariah. 3He did what was right in the sight of the LORD just as his ancestor David had done. 4He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole. a Syr Vg: Heb them He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan. 5He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him. 6For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. 7The LORD was with him; wherever he went, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. 8He attacked the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

9In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up against Samaria, besieged it, 10and at the end of three years, took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of King Hoshea of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria, settled them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God but transgressed his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded; they neither listened nor obeyed.

13In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 14King Hezekiah 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.” The king of Assyria demanded of King Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king's house. 16At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the doorposts that King Hezekiah of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. 17The king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller's Field. 18When they called for the king, there came out to them Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder.

19The Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? 20Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? 21See, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 22But if you say to me, ‘We rely on the LORD our God,’ is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? 23Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 24How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master's servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.”

26Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 27But the Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?”

28Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. 30Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ 31Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree, and drink water from your own cistern, 32until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and honey, that you may live and not die. Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, The LORD will deliver us. 33Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered its land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 35Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’ ”

36But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king's command was, “Do not answer him.” 37Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

Notes:

a Syr Vg: Heb them

Text Commentary view alone

18.1–12 : Hezekiah

(727/715–698/687 BCE; the data are unclear). Hezekiah is one of the kings for whom the authors have unqualified praise‐a second David, who did what is right in the sight of the Lord and reformed Judean worship. He at last removed the high places (v. 4; cf. 1 Kings 15.14; 22.43; 2 Kings 12.3; 14.4; 15.4,35 ), taking action even against ancient relics like Moses’ bronze serpent (Num 21.4–9 ) that had become focal points for idolatry.

5–6 :

Hezekiah was incomparable not least in his trust in the LORD, which evidenced itself in the way that he held fast to God throughout his life, keeping the law of Moses (in contrast to Solomon, who in his old age “held fast” to foreign wives, 1 Kings 11.2 , and broke this law).

7 :

Similar as he was to David, he was utterly dissimilar to Ahaz, for he would not continue to serve the king of Assyria.

9–12 :

The reiteration of 17.1–6 reminds us of the context in which Hezekiah pursued this bold policy.

18.1–19.37 : The Assyrian assault on Judah

(see Map on p. 564 HB ). Many commentators have suspected that this section is a combination of two originally separate versions of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, now forming a unified narrative.

18.13–16 :

In 701 the Assyrian king Sennacherib (705–681 BCE) invaded Judah. 18.13–20.19 is repeated in Isa 36–39 with some additions and deletions; see Isa 36–39n. Hezekiah's first response to the crisis is to raid the house of the Lord (cf. 1 Kings 14.25; 15.18; 2 Kings 12.18; 16.8 ). This apparently regrettable lapse in trust is a disappointing prologue to what will turn out to be Hezekiah's finest hour. Sennacherib's own account of the invasion reports that forty‐six of the fortified cities of Judah and countless small villages were taken, while Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem “like a bird in a cage.”

14 :

Lachish (see 16.18–20n. ), which had been captured, was the location of the Assyrian headquarters. A talent weighed about 34 kg (75 lb).

17 :

The king of Assyria attempts to punish Judah, as he had punished Israel, for lack of payment of tribute, and decides (for reasons undisclosed in the narrative) that payment is not enough. While Jerusalem's gates remain closed to him, he continues to regard Hezekiah as a rebel. The Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh were high Assyrian officials. The upper pool, see Isa 7.3n.

19–25 :

The issue at the heart of the speech is “trust” (cf. 18.5 , the verbal idea being repeated in vv. 19–22,24 ), whether in Pharaoh or the LORD. Hezekiah had attempted to form an alliance with Egypt (v. 21; see Isa 30.1–7n.; 31.1–3 ), but Pharaoh is weak, unable to offer any genuine support (v. 21 ). Since it is the LORD's high places and altars that have been removed (v. 22 ), he is also unlikely to help. The Rabshakeh knows of Hezekiah's reform (v. 22 ) and claims that the LORD is on the Assyrian side (v. 25; cf. Isa 10.5–11 ).

26–27 :

Hezekiah's officials are anxious that the people who are on the wall should not hear these powerful arguments, and they ask the Assyrian to speak in Aramaic, the language of international diplomacy, rather than in Hebrew, called here the language of Judah (cf. Isa 19.18 ).

31–32 :

Surrender will mean escape from the horrors of a long siege (cf. v. 27 ). Although the people will be taken into exile, they will find themselves in a new “promised land” like their own (cf. Deut 8.7–9 ).

34 :

Other cities conquered by the Assyrians are listed; see Map above. Hena and Ivvah are textually suspect (cf. Isa 36.19 ).

19.1–13 :

Hezekiah consults the prophet Isaiah on this day of great humiliation and powerlessness (v. 3 ) and receives comfort.

2 :

Sackcloth, see 6.30–31n.

8 :

Libnah, see 8.22n.

9 :

Tirhakah of Ethiopia was not Pharaoh of Egypt until ca. 690 BCE, but was old enough in 701 to command the Egyptian forces.

10–13 :

Sennacherib compounds his sin of blasphemy by committing it a second time. The argument is subtly different on this occasion. Now it is not Hezekiah who is deceiving the people ( 18.29 ), but Hezekiah who is deceived by the God in whom he trusts ( 19.10 ).

12–13 :

More cities conquered by the Assyrians; see 18.34n. and Map on p. 564 HB . The city may also be read as a place name, “Lair.”

14–19 :

Hezekiah prays and reaffirms that the LORD, enthroned above the cherubim in the Temple (see 1 Kings 6.23–28n. ), is God alone, creator of heaven and earth. That all the kingdoms of the earth should know the difference between God and the gods, Hezekiah now asks that Jerusalem be delivered.

20–37 :

A second prophecy from Isaiah brings God's response to Hezekiah's prayer.

21 :

Virgin daughter Zion, see Isa 37.22n. The judgment of the all‐knowing God will come upon Assyria. Sennacherib will withdraw from Jerusalem before the army encamped outside the city can take any military action against it (v. 32 ). Recovery in Judah will be slow, but certain: The people will be able to survive (v. 29 ) because of the crops that spring up from what is already in the ground; and “in the third year” it will be possible to resume normal agricultural practice.

35–36 :

Sennacherib's own records are silent about the circumstances under which the assault upon Jerusalem concluded, leaving the city unscathed, in contrast to the details these records provide about the capitulation of other kings in the region. The biblical text relates a mysterious reversal suffered by the Assyrians while Jerusalem lay at their mercy. Some commentators suggest that natural causes, such as plague, may lie behind the reference to the action of the angel of the Lord.

37 :

The names of Sennacherib's assassins are not found in Mesopotamian records, which are sketchy and not entirely consistent with each other. Nisroch, either a scribal error or an otherwise unknown Assyrian deity. Ararat, a region in Armenia.

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