The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Kings

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2 Kings 18

2Ki 18:1

Hezekiah began reigning in approx 715 BC (there are some issues and problems with the chronology of this OT period) and ruled for 29 years.

Regarding his faith Hezekiah was the greatest king of Judah (v 5). He did not depart from Yahweh later in life (v 6). Consequently God's blessing rested on him (v 7; cf 2Ch 29 -- 31). His rebellion against Sennacherib (v 7) precipitated Assyria's invasion of Judah (2Ki 18:3 -- 19:36). This was a reversal of his father Ahaz's policy of allying with Assyria (2Ki 16:7-9).

Hezekiah as a type of the Messiah:
  1. A child of promise ("Immanuel"), his great work was prophesied beforehand.
  2. He came to a nation estranged from God.
  3. He cleansed the temple of God, and sanctified the priests for renewed worship.
  4. He called worshipers from the north and from Jerusalem to keep a new Passover.
  5. Even the defiled were accepted through his faith and merits and prayers.
  6. He offered sacrifices for himself and for the people.
  7. He provided living water ("Siloam", Hezekiah's Conduit) to a people ready to perish.
  8. He was afflicted with an incurable sickness (possibly leprosy –- the "sin-disease"), and was in danger of dying without a "seed".
  9. But by a mighty manifestation of the Glory of the Lord, he was miraculously healed on the third day.
  10. The great Invading Adversary was destroyed, and Israel was saved, through his faith.
  11. Afterward, the Land was freed from its enemies, the captives and exiles were restored...
  12. ...And the king was acknowledged as the Anointed of Yahweh by all nations.

2Ki 18:4

ASHERAH: See Lesson, Asherah.


Nehushtan = 'of copper; a brazen thing'. It was a name of contempt given to the actual serpent Moses had made in the wilderness (Num 21:8), and which Hezekiah now destroyed because the children of Israel began to regard it as an idol and "burn incense to it." The lapse of nearly one thousand years had invested the "brazen serpent" with a mysterious sanctity; and in order to impress upon the people its worthlessness, Hezekiah called it, in contempt, "Nehushtan," a brazen thing, a mere piece of brass. There is a big lesson for us here. As human being we also have this desire to invest actual objects with sanctity. Would you throw away something as precious as that in order to stop it from being a temptation to you? Some would say, 'You can't throw that away; it is part of our heritage ... etc, etc', but Hezekiah here was a man of purpose for God.

Serpent figures crafted from copper alloy or bronze have been found throughout the ANE. Some fine examples have been recovered on plaques with deities or as independent figurines. To date, the most exquisitely wrought of these serpentine figures is the copper alloy snake with gold foil overlay found at Timna in 1972. These objects have been assumed to be cultic images and the appearance of the serpent in artwork in the hands of a god or goddess would seem to confirm this. The serpent appears to have been a stock religious character in Syria-Palestine from the middle of the 2nd millennium through the 1st millennium BC, often appearing on pottery or pendants of various types, more attested than in bronze.

The most famous bronze serpent, however, is the one called Nehushtan which originated in the incident described in Num 21:8,9. As time went by, the bronze serpent came to acquire, in the minds of some, the status of a "god" in its own right -- perhaps by a sort of borrowing from other cultures in the Land of Palestine. Hundreds of years later, Hezekiah is recorded as having destroyed it (2Ki 18:4). The name Nehushtan was given to the object by Hezekiah; it clearly is a play on the words bronze/copper (nechoshet) and serpent (nachash). [HAW suggests that it is a combination word -- made up of "nachash" (serpent) and "Leviathan": ie, nachash-leviathan, condensed to "Nechushthan": WIsa 279.] Others have suggested that the deity came to represent the little known Horon and was related to the Greek Asclepius who was represented by a snake symbol.

"Superstition makes everything of the ordinance; infidelity, profanity, and mysticism make nothing of the ordinance; while faith uses it according to divine appointment" (CHM). And when it has ceased having any good use, and even when its retention may be a snare, the ordinance or object -- ie, in this case the brazen serpent -- may be disposed of.

2Ki 18:5

NO ONE LIKE HIM AMONG ALL THE KINGS OF JUDAH: "Most apparent contradictions are easily resolved by a careful reading of the passages in question in their contexts, and by clearly defining what is, and what is not, said. For example, it is written of both Hezekiah and Josiah that 'after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him' (2Ki 18:5; 23:25). As these statements read, they appear contradictory until it is noted in what respect 'after him was none like him... nor any that were before him.' It will be seen that Hezekiah was commended because he trusted, and Josiah because he turned to the LORD. Since mutually exclusive statements are not made, the two statements are not contradictory. The problem is resolved by merely noting precisely what the records do say" (WS 238).

2Ki 18:9

HEZEKIAH'S FOURTH YEAR: Prob the 4th year of Hezekiah's coregency with Ahaz, c 725 BC. Samaria's conqueror, Shalmaneser V, died in 722 BC shortly after his conquest. His successor, Sargon II (722-705 BC), carried out the deportation of the Israelites. The king who followed him was Sennacherib (705-681 BC, v 13).

2Ki 18:13

IN THE FOURTEENTH YEAR OF KING HEZEKIAH'S REIGN: In ct to the dating of v 9, this would appear to be Hezekiah's 14th year as sole ruler, c 701 BC.

Sennacherib's inscriptions claim that he conquered 46 strong cities of Hezekiah plus many villages, and deported (according to his records) over 200,000 captives to Babylon (Mic 4:10; Psa 137:1-4; 79:11; 106:47). (Other refugees may have fled to Egypt: Isa 19:18,20.)

In preparation for his siege of Jerusalem the Assyrian king set up his headquarters at Lachish, 28 miles to the southwest.

Sennacherib's armies included "all nations" (ie, Arabs and others, round about): Psa 47:3; 79:6; 118:10. Hence the mentions of Edom (Psa 137:7; Amo 1:11; Oba 1:10,13) and Moab (Isa 25:10,11; Amo 2:1-3; cp esp Psa 83).

2Ki 18:14

Hezekiah had joined an alliance with Phoenicia, Philistia, and Egypt to resist Assyria. He admitted to Sennacherib that this was a mistake (v 14). Hezekiah offered to pay whatever Sennacherib would take to avoid a siege of Jerusalem. Sennacherib demanded about 11 tons of silver and one ton of gold, which Hezekiah paid. He did so by stripping the palace and temple that the king had previously re-overlaid to glorify Yahweh (v 16). (Was this policy really Hezekiah's choice, or was it more or less forced upon him -- perhaps while he was deathly ill -- by some poor advisors? Cp Isa 28:15,18; 29:15,16; 30:10,11; 59:5-8.

2Ki 18:17

THE KING OF ASSYRIA SENT HIS SUPREME COMMANDER, HIS CHIEF OFFICER AND HIS FIELD COMMANDER WITH A LARGE ARMY... TO... JERUSALEM: Many fled Jerusalem in front of the advancing army (Isa 30:15-17), but were captured (cp Isa 22:3,4) or wandered aimlessly (Psa 107:40).

FIELD COMMANDER: "Rabshakeh" (as in AV: the word literally means: "chief cup-bearer") is a title that seems about equivalent to field commander.

LACHISH: A strongly fortified city of Judah about 30 mi sw of Jerusalem (Jos 15:39; 2Ch 11:9).

THEY CAME UP TO JERUSALEM AND STOPPED AT THE AQUEDUCT OF THE UPPER POOL, ON THE ROAD TO THE WASHERMAN'S FIELD: The place where the Assyrian commander took his stand near Jerusalem was the same place where Isaiah had stood when he urged Ahaz to trust God a number of years earlier (cp Isa 7:3). It was because Ahaz failed to trust God earlier that the Assyrian official stood there now (cp Isa 8:5-8). The very nation that Ahaz had trusted proved to be the greatest threat to her safety only one generation later. Father and son both faced a threat of destruction, both recognized the inadequacy of their own strength, but one trusted man and suffered defeat -- whereas the other trusted God and enjoyed deliverance.

2Ki 18:18


2Ki 18:21

LOOK NOW, YOU ARE DEPENDING ON EGYPT, THAT SPLINTERED REED OF A STAFF, WHICH PIERCES A MAN'S HAND AND WOUNDS HIM IF HE LEANS ON IT! SUCH IS PHARAOH KING OF EGYPT TO ALL WHO DEPEND ON HIM: He knew that some of the Judean nobles had put their trust in Egypt and had sent ambassadors there to make a treaty (cp Isa 30:1-7). But he also knew, better than those officials, that Egypt was not only an unreliable ally but a dangerous one, an opinion Isaiah shared (cp Isa 20; 28:15; Eze 29:6). Sennacherib had already defeated the Egyptians, who for the first and last time had unsuccessfully come to the aid of the Philistines, at Eltekeh northwest of Lachish.

The concept of Egypt as a bruised or broken reed also occurs in Eze 29:6,7.

2Ki 18:22

AND IF YOU SAY TO ME, "WE ARE DEPENDING ON THE LORD OUR GOD" -- ISN'T HE THE ONE WHOSE HIGH PLACES AND ALTARS HEZEKIAH REMOVED, SAYING TO JUDAH AND JERUSALEM, "YOU MUST WORSHIP BEFORE THIS ALTAR IN JERUSALEM"?: The Rabshakeh knew about Hezekiah's religious reforms in which he had removed many of the altars from the land (cp 2Ki 18:1-7; 2Ch 29 -- 31). Evidently the commander believed that removing altars would antagonize Yahweh, but Hezekiah was really purifying Yahweh worship. Or perhaps he knew better, but didn't care -- since many of the Judeans believed that the removal of those altars was a bad thing anyway, and it was to those people that the Rabshakeh was evidently appealing.

2Ki 18:25

FURTHERMORE, HAVE I COME TO ATTACK AND DESTROY THIS PLACE WITHOUT WORD FROM THE LORD? THE LORD HIMSELF TOLD ME TO MARCH AGAINST THIS COUNTRY AND DESTROY IT: Perhaps the commander was referring to Isa 10:5,6, Isaiah's prophecy that God would send Assyria against His people. Alternatively, he may have just been claiming divine authorization for Sennacherib's invasion when there was none. It was not unusual for ANE conquerors to claim that the god of the invaded people had joined the invader.

2Ki 18:26

PLEASE SPEAK TO YOUR SERVANTS IN ARAMAIC: Aramaic was the common language of diplomacy; politicians normally conducted diplomatic talks in that language. (It did not become the common language in Israel until many years later.) The Rabshakeh, however, spoke to the kings' officials in the common Hebrew that all the people understood. He probably did this so all the people, not just the king's officials, would understand his message. He may also have been intending it as an insult to the king's officials: by using Hebrew the commander was also implying that they did not know Aramaic, ie, that they were unlearned.

2Ki 18:27

WHO, LIKE YOU, WILL HAVE TO EAT THEIR OWN FILTH AND DRINK THEIR OWN URINE: He sought to picture in the most disgusting terms the horrors of the coming siege -- a form of propaganda.

2Ki 18:29

DO NOT LET HEZEKIAH DECEIVE YOU: Apparently Rabshakeh knew of Hezekiah's speech of exhortation to Judah (2Ch 32:7,8).

2Ki 18:31

'Be my servants!' Rabshakeh the Assyrian cried out to the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem: 'Make an agreement... seek my favor with presents, come out to me... and then you will really live! You will eat of the vine and the fig tree, and you will drink waters of your own cistern. And some day I'll take you away to a land of grain fields gently rustling in the cool breezes! Do you honestly want to starve and die on these bare Judean hills?' In like manner the siren-song of a materialistic world calls us down from the walls of faith, freely to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Pleasurable it may be, but only for a time. Freedom it will never be; man was not created to be free, but only to choose which of two masters he will serve. He who commits sin is the servant of sin (Joh 8:34), and whatever fleeting enjoyment he experiences will be with the fear of a deserter and the greed of a slave. The "Rabshakeh" still cries out, "Serve me!" and the faithful still respond, with faithful Hezekiah, "Our eyes wait upon the Lord!" (Psa 123:2).

2Ki 18:33

Vv 33-35: These words clearly outline the issue: it is a confrontation between the gods of the Assyrians and the God of Israel, and thus a challenge to the supremacy of Yahweh (cp Exo 7 -- 11; 1Sa 17).

2Ki 18:34

HAMATH: A Hittite city on the Orontes River (Isa 10:9).

ARPAD: Taken by Tiglath-pileser 740 BC; suppressed by Sargon 720 BC; near Hamath.

SEPHARVAIM: A city east of Euphrates River, near Babylon.

SAMARIA: Northern Kingdom, Israel, captured by Assyrians in immediate past.

2Ki 18:37

WITH THEIR CLOTHES TORN: Expressing grief and dismay, at the blasphemy of Rabshakeh: cp Mat 26:65; Acts 14:14.

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