2 KINGS 18

Beloved Brethren and Sisters in Christ Jesus, in the first reading this morning we begin the history of King Hezekiah. He was one of the three great kings of Israel-David, Hezekiah, and Josiah. His outstanding characteristic was trust in God, as we see from verses 5-6 of this 18th chapter.

"He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses."

His one recorded failure, when his heart was lifted up and he showed his treasures to the Babylonian ambassadors, was a result not of too little faith, nor actually of too much, but of presumption upon that faith-familiarity.

Because of great privileges and promises and prominence in God's purpose, we remember that Paul had to have a thorn in the flesh to humble and to handicap him, lest he should be overmuch lifted up. Hezekiah, we find, had great power and great blessing and great favour with God for his zeal and his faithfulness. The flesh being what it is, he was carried away.

There is a tremendous lesson here. We are never safe. We must always be prayerfully on our guard against the deceptiveness of the flesh, for the more progress we make in the Truth, the more we are liable to this lifting up like Hezekiah, and there must be a humbling.

The chronology of this period of the kings of Judah and Israel is quite difficult to harmonize-both within the Scripture itself and with the Assyrian record of the times. Much is made in the world of the accuracy of the Assyrian record-the so-called eponyms, or lists of years and events, tied in with the eclipses and so on. And also of the archeological inscriptions that have been found concerning these times and these events.

But as soon as we actually look into these eponyms, we find scholars vary greatly in interpreting them. They are nowhere near the clear and continuous chronological record they are made out to be. And they are far from dependable. As for the inscriptions that have been found, the Assyrians were notoriously liars and boasters, apart from the general errors of the flesh. So, we are far safer in following the Scriptural picture and accommodating the history of man to it, rather than the other way around.

This record beginning in 2nd Kings 18-20 about Hezekiah is clearly not all in chronological order, nor intended to be. Chapters 18 and 19 are a continuous record, except that some items are mentioned in them that refer back or forward in general summaries, like the summary in verses 2-8 of the whole reign of Hezekiah, which is given at the beginning, and the death of Sennacherib in 19:37 which was actually twenty years later than these events.

Also, it is not clear where time gaps occur. There does appear to be a gap, apparently of 12 years, between verses 16 and 17 of this chapter, between two separate Assyrian invasions.

Chronology itself is not too important, except to the extent that it helps us to get clear the relationship of events to each other, and the period in a man's life and development when he does certain things, as in what period of Hezekiah's life his heart was lifted up, and what relation this had to the deliverance from the Assyrians.

His sickness and his presumption are recorded at the end in both Chronicles and in Isaiah. But clearly they are not meant to be at the end chronologically by the dates that are given in connection with them. *

1 Now it came to pass in the 3rd year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel [Ben Elah Melech Yisroel], that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah [ Chizkiyah Ben Achaz Melech Yehudah] began to reign.

The history of Hezekiah fills eleven chapters of Scripture-quite a lot in relation to the other kings. They are 2nd Kings 18-20, 2nd Chronicles 29-32-almost exclusively about his religious reforms-and Isaiah 36-39.

The history of Hezekiah fills eleven chapters of Scripture-quite a lot in relation to the other kings. They are 2nd Kings 18-20, 2nd Chronicles 29-32-almost exclusively about his religious reforms-and Isaiah 36-39.

Putting all these together, this seems to be the most likely order of events: First, the great reformation and Passover and clearing of the land of all idols and the re-establishment of the true worship of Yahweh in his first year.

Second, the siege and fall of Samaria-the northern kingdom-and the carrying away captive of the ten tribes in his fourth through sixth years; it was a three-year siege.

Third, the first invasion of Judah by the Assyrians in Hezekiah's 14th year. Hezekiah at this time stripped the gold and treasures from the temple and buys off the Assyrians for a period. The Assyrians claim that they took away at this time 200,000 people as captives. The Assyrian account of the ransom corresponds generally to the Scriptural account.

The fourth in order, following this first invasion and their buying off, was Hezekiah's sickness and recovery, still in the same year as this invasion-the 14th year of his reign. Both are dated in the Scriptures to that year. At this time 15 years were added to his life. The next item-the embassy from Babylon and Hezekiah's presumption, very soon after his sickness, and as a result of it and the events connected with it.

And finally, another Assyrian invasion twelve years later in Hezekiah's 26th year. At this time, Hezekiah resists, and the Assyrian host is destroyed, and Jerusalem is delivered. Judah is given a 105-year new lease on life to 608BC, when Necho of Egypt deposes Jehoahaz after the death of Josiah, the last good king, and sets up a puppet Jehoiakim, and Judah's independence ends forever (the kingdom of Judah).

Hezekiah's supreme act of faith-defying the vast army of Assyria, when it was right in his land and at his gate, seems clearly to have occurred near the end of his life, long after his sickness and his lifting up of his heart. This fits best both with the Bible record and with the Assyrian record.

...It should be noted all the way through that Isaiah, although not mentioned until near the end of Hezekiah's reign in connection with the resisting of the Assyrians, was actually very prominent and active all the way through, not only in Hezekiah's reign but in the three reigns preceding him. Isaiah's own book records his dealings with Hezekiah's father-the wicked Ahaz, to whom he made the great prophecy of the virgin bearing the Son and his name being Emanuel-God with us.

Isaiah was clearly a major factor in Hezekiah's faith and zeal and reforms. Also, the prophet Micah is prophesying at this time, as well as Hosea in the northern kingdom. Jeremiah records in chapter 26 that Hezekiah and the men of Judah hearkened to Micah, when he warned them that because of the land's wickedness Zion would be plowed as a field. *

2 He was 25 years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned 29 years [shanah] in [Yerushalayim]. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah [Shem immo also was Avi Bat Zecharyah].

3 And he did that which was right [yashar] in the sight of Yahweh, according to all that David his father [Dovid Aviv] did.

This is not said of any other. *

4 He removed the high places, and brake the images [smashed the matzevot], and cut down the groves [Asherah], and brake in pieces the brasen serpent [nachash nechoshet] that Moses [Moshe] had made: for unto those days the children of Israel [yamim the Bnei Yisroel] did burn incense [ketoret] to it: and he called it [Nechushtan].

This was a system of local worship and sacrifice-long tolerated but never approved and usually becoming centers of idolatry and corruption. He broke down all the images in the land. And he even broke up the brazen serpent, which Moses had made, because it had become an object of idolatry.

Verse 4 records briefly what is given in great detail in 2nd Chronicles 29-31. *

Figuration of the Death of Christ

Consider that the cross, as a structure of wood, was in Roman times on a par with the modern gallows, and could only be used figuratively of the doctrine involved in the death of Christ. It occurs in Paul's letters, not as a literal expression-though having its origin in a literal occurrence.

It cannot be that the cross itself, the actual framework upon which Christ was cruelly impaled by the Jews and Romans, had any vitality or place in the preaching of the apostles. Otherwise, the Roman Catholics are right in their superstitious deference to the structural form, and in their devout appreciation of "the wood of the true cross," which has been distributed in ship loads among the million worshippers of the beast.

Unless we put the cross in its proper place, as the symbolical expression of the great doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, in its absolute truth, it becomes an idol, whether clasped in material form with the devotions of the benighted Catholic, or cherished as a spiritual ideal with the undiscerning enthusiasm of "evangelical religion."

The brazen serpent, elevated in the wilderness for the cure of believing, serpent-bitten Israelites, was a legitimate object of regard, when accepted as a divine appointment for good; but when, afterwards, the children of Israel degenerated to the idolatrous worship of it, Hezekiah, with divine approbation, "brake it in pieces," calling it contemptuously "a piece of brass" (2 Kings 18:4).

So weeping, as the expression of an intelligently broken and contrite heart, is an acceptable sacrifice to God; but when put in the place of truth and righteousness, it became a cause of offence in Israel, as we read:

"And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with goodwill at your hands" (Malachi 2:13).

The religious outcry about "the cross" of the present day, is in the same category of perverted truth, and is doubtless as displeasing to the Almighty, as the excessive and irrational zeal of the Jews for the sacrifices and feasts of the law, while neglecting the "weightier matters" with which they were associated.

The Christadelphian, March 1898

6 For he clave to Yahweh, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which Yahweh commanded Moses.

Hezekiah removed the high places

The mortification and humiliation of the flesh is the low, small gateway into the Kingdom of God-never pomp and show.

Hezekiah was a very good king. He had great zeal, for he rooted out all idol worship in the land. He had much faith, for he stood up against the mighty host of Assyria, when all nations were falling before it. And he was very careful to be obedient to all God's commands.

He was the greatest of all the kings of Judah. And God wrought on his behalf one of the greatest deliverances recorded in scripture. The most powerful nation on earth, Assyria, came to destroy Judah in its sweeping march of conquest. Hezekiah put his faith in God, and defied the Assyrians-2 Chron. 32.

...And the Lord sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour,... Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, ... And many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth."

A glorious reign, with a fitting climax. A mighty delivery in the sight of all nations, so that all nations sought his favour.

Bro Growcott - Strength and weakness

7 And Yahweh was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria [Melech Ashur], and served him not.

This rebelling against Assyria, when he came to the throne, he found it a tributary, because of his father's subservience. This appears to be his course and his purpose throughout.

The first time the Assyrian king came to punish him for his rebellion, he submitted and paid an enormous tribute. We do not know the reason that he gave in upon this occasion, whether his faith failed or whether the people or his leading men would not support him in his resistance. It seems clear throughout and from the writings of Micah and Isaiah that all the initiative for faith and resistance depended upon Hezekiah himself, and that there was very little depth of faith in the generality of the people around him.

On the occasion of this first invasion in his 14th year, Shebna seems to have been the chief officer under the king, as we see in Isaiah 22, and he was not a good or faithful man. He was probably a leftover from the previous administration. Isaiah condemns him and says that he will be replaced by Eliakim, who was a faithful man and a type of Christ. This is the chapter in which we read of the key of the house of David and so on.

Chapter 22 of Isaiah is generally applied to this time, and we note of two things in it. It refers to the preparations that Hezekiah made for the siege; this is, what he did with the water courses, which pins it down at the time. And also it refers to the condition of the people, which was very unsatisfactory in God's sight. So we can clearly get a picture of this first invasion and the difficulties that he faced and the kind of men that he had in control. *

Bro Growcott

10 And at the end of 3 years they took it: even in the 6th year of Hezekiah, that is the 9th year of Hoshea king of Israel [Melech Yisroel], Samaria was taken [Shomron was captured].

11 And the king of Assyria [Melech Ashur] did carry away Israel unto Assyria [Yisroel into Golus in Assyria], and put them in Halah and in Habor [Chalach and in Chavor] by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:

12 Because they obeyed not the voice of Yahweh their Elohim, but transgressed His covenant [Brit], and all that Moses the servant [Moshe Eved] of Yahweh commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.

They had, as a whole, scorned God's last plea to them through Hezekiah. We could say that it was providential on God's part that they be given this last opportunity. Hezekiah took very great pains to send the message throughout the whole northern kingdom.

In the natural course of things, Judah would have suffered the same fate at the same time. But, it is clear that Hezekiah's efforts and reforms and mediation for the nation deferred the wrath of God, which had already very strongly begun to be manifested among them. *

13 Now in the 14th year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.

Eight years after the fall of Samaria in Hezekiah's 14th year, Sennacherib came against Judah. Hezekiah had inherited a kingdom already under tribute to Assyria. He may have accepted the situation at first, until he could reform and rebuild the nation and build up their spirit of resistance, so God would be with them. Or, he may have rebelled from the beginning and this was the Assyrian's first opportunity to come against him.

It does not appear from the Assyrian record that Sennacherib was the supreme ruler at this time, but his father Sargon was still alive and the emperor or king, according to the most likely chronology. The term king in Scripture was not so restrictively used as today. We find a similar relationship where Belshazzar is called the king of Babylon, even though his father was still alive and was still the chief ruler.

The Assyrian records that have been discovered in the past century or so give remarkable confirmation to the general reality and historicalness of this Bible account, though details are often difficult to reconcile, primarily we believe because of the errors of the Assyrian scribes rather than otherwise.

Until recent discoveries, the Bible had been for 2000 years the only record of any kind of all these events, which men regarded as legend.

Bro Growcott

"Their King from Jerusalem I brought out, and on a throne of royalty over them I seated. Tribute payable to my majesty I fixed upon him. And Hezekiah, King of Judah, who had not bowed down at my feet; forty-six of his strong cities, his castles, and the smaller towns in their neighbourhood, beyond number, with warlike engines . . . I attacked and captured.

200,150 people, small and great, male and female, horses, mares, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep without number, from the midst of them, I carried off and distributed them as a spoil. He himself, like a bird in a cage, inside Jerusalem, his royal city I shut; siege-towers against him I constructed.

The exit of the great gate of his city, to divide it he had given command. His cities which I plundered I cut off, and to Mitinti, King of Ashdod; Padiah, King of Ekron; and Izmi-Bel, King of Gaza, I gave them. I diminished his kingdom. Beyond the former scale of their yearly gifts, their tribute and gifts to my majesty I augmented and imposed upon them.

He himself, Hezekiah, the fearful splendour of my majesty had overwhelmed him. The workmen, soldiers, and builders, whom for the fortification of Jerusalem, his royal city, he had collected within it, now carried tribute, and with thirty talents of gold, 800 talents of silver; woven cloth, scarlet, embroidered; precious stones of large size, couches of ivory, movable thrones of ivory, skins of buffaloes, teeth of buffaloes, dan wood, ku wood, a great measure of every kind, and his daughters, and the male and female inmates of his palace, male slaves and female slaves, unto Nineveh, my royal city, after me he sent; and to pay tribute and do homage he sent his envoy."


The Christadelphian, Dec 1888

36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.

Hezekiah commanded silence on the part of all his people in the presence of these blasphemous words. But he was greatly perturbed. He knew the overpowering strength of the Assyrian host, to which Sennacherib's ambassadors appealed; and he knew that what they said about Hezekiah's in ability to muster even two decent cavalry regiments, was true. But he dared not to surrender.

Visible Hand of God Ch 30