The Word Made Fresh
1In the third year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, Hezekiah son of King Ahaz of Judah began his reign. 2He was twenty-five when his reign began, and he ruled Judah for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother was Abi, daughter of Zechariah. 3He followed the laws of the LORD just as his forefather David had done. 4He removed the hilltop shrines, broke down the columns and the Asherah pole. He also shattered the bronze serpent Moses had made, because the people had begun to make offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan.
5He placed his trust in the LORD, the God of Israel, more than all the kings of Judah who followed or preceded him, 6clinging firmly to the LORD and steadfastly keeping the commandments the LORD had given Moses. 7The LORD was with him wherever he went and made him prosper in all he did. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and refused to obey him. 8He defeated the Philistines from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city.
9During the fourth year of his reign (the seventh year of king Hoshea son of Elah of Israel) King Shalmaneser of Assyria besieged Samaria. 10In his sixth year (Hoshea’s ninth), Samaria fell. 11The king of Assyria carried the people away and settled them in Halah and Habor on the Gozan river and in the cities of the Medes, 12all because they disobeyed the word of the LORD their God and paid no attention to the instructions Moses had given.
13In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s rule, King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked the walled cities of Judah and took them. 14Hezekiah sent word to the king of Assyria at Lachish saying, “I have acted wrongly. I will pay whatever you demand.” The king of Assyria demanded eleven tons of silver and a ton of gold. 15Hezekiah gave him all the silver to be found in the temple and in the king’s treasuries. 16He stripped the gold from the temple doors and from the door frames he had overlaid with gold and gave all of it to the king of Assyria.
17Then the king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his administrative head and his field general with a huge army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They halted beside the aqueduct of the upper pool on the road to Fuller’s Field. 18They summoned King Hezekiah, and he sent Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and his secretary Shebnah, and his royal records keeper Joah son of Asaph.
19The supreme commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah that the great king of Assyria says this: ‘Why are you so confident? 20Do you think you can talk your way out of this? On whom are you relying, to give you the confidence to resist me? 21I know you are depending on Egypt, that shattered excuse for a staff that will pierce the hand of whoever leans on it. That’s what everyone who relies on Pharaoh discovers about him. 22And if you claim to depend on the LORD your God, didn’t you remove that god’s hilltop shrines and altars? Didn’t you tell Judah and Jerusalem they can only worship at the altar in Jerusalem?’ 23Very well. Make a wager with my master the king of Assyria. I’ll give you two thousand horses if you have enough men to ride them. 24How do you expect to hold off any one of my master’s servants if you have to rely on Egypt for chariots and cavalry? 25And do you really think that I have come to destroy you without the LORD? The LORD told me to attack this land and conquer it.”
26Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah replied, “Please speak to us in Aramaic. We understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew within hearing of the people on the city wall.”
27But the supreme commander replied, “Do you think my lord sent me to speak only to you and your lord and not to the people on the wall? They are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine.” 28Then he stood up and called out in the language of Judah, “Hear what the great king of Assyria says: 29‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot save you!’ 30Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to rely on the LORD. He’ll tell you that the LORD will save you and you will escape from the hand of the king of Assyria. 31Don’t listen to him! This is what the king of Assyria says: ‘Make peace with me. Come out to me, and every one of you will be allowed to eat the fruit of your own vineyard and your own fig tree, and drink water from your own well 32until I arrange for you to be transferred to another land, a land like your own, with grain and wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honeycombs, and you will live. You won’t have to die! Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tells you the LORD will rescue you. 33Have any of the gods of the other nations succeeded in rescuing them from the king of Assyria? 34What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim and Hena and Ivvah? Did they rescue Samaria from me? 35Name one god of one land who has rescued that land from me to make you think the LORD will save Jerusalem from me?’”
36But the people did not reply because the king had ordered them not to respond to the supreme commander of the Assyrians. 37Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah returned to Hezekiah with their clothing torn and told him everything the supreme commander of the Assyrians had said.
1-8: Finally in Judah we have a king like David. His name is Hezekiah, son of Ahaz. Hezekiah removes all the pagan altars and totem poles. He also smashes the bronze serpent Moses had made in the wilderness, a regrettable loss of a valuable artifact, but one which had unfortunately become a false idol. He is faithful to the LORD in every way and is therefore blessed. He resists the mighty Assyrian Empire. He pushes back the Philistines.
9-12: The fate of Israel and Samaria is repeated, as it now relates to the reign of Hezekiah.
13-18: About five years after the fall of Samaria, the new Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib, invades Judah. Hezekiah sues for peace, but the Assyrians demand more than he can pay. He sends them everything he can; he even strips the temple bare, but still it does not satisfy Sennacherib. He sends an army to the walls of Jerusalem. The Assyrian envoys summon Hezekiah and he sends his own envoys – Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah – out to talk to them.
19-25: The Rabshakeh (the supreme commander of the Assyria forces) speaks to them in Hebrew. He belittles their attempts to resist. He charges that they have made an alliance with Egypt, which is worthless, he says. He probably assumes Hezekiah has sought help from Egypt because that is what King Hoshea of Samaria had done. He even claims to have come at the behest of the LORD, the God of Israel.
26-27: They beg the Assyrian commander to negotiate in Aramaic, but he is interested in intimidating the people listening from the walls. They need to know that they are doomed, he says, and paints a doleful picture of what will become of them.
28-35: Then he calls out to the people on the walls of Jerusalem. He warns them not to let Hezekiah persuade them that they can somehow be victorious over Sennacherib. He invites them to surrender; he will leave them in peace, he says, until he comes and takes them to a wonderful land where they will live happily ever after. He makes a convincing argument: how can they expect their God to rescue them when none of the other gods have helped their lands against the king of Assyria? Remember, Hezekiah has put a stop to their popular but unauthorized worship on the high places, and many of the people no doubt feel a loss.
36-37: Still, the people for their part remain silent, at the king’s command. Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah return to Hezekiah to relay the Rabshakeh’s message. They are not at all optimistic about the future.
Hezekiah has his back to the wall. What do you think he will do? If he is really as good a man as we have been told at the beginning of the chapter, where do you think he’ll turn for help? Read on and learn a valuable lesson.