Hezekiah’s rule as king of Judah

Chapter 18

Hezekiah’s rule as king of Judah

v1 Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, began to rule as king of *Judah. He did so in the 3rd year of Hoshea’s rule. Hoshea (Elah’s son) was king of *Israel. v2 Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became the king. He ruled in Jerusalem for 29 years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. v3 Hezekiah did what pleased the *Lord. So Hezekiah was like his *ancestor, David. v4 Hezekiah removed the places where people *worshipped on the high hills. He broke the images that people had made out of stone. And he cut down the images of the female god called Asherah. He broke in pieces the snake that Moses had made of bronze (brown metal). [Its name was Nehushtan.] Until Hezekiah destroyed it, the *Israelites used to burn *incense to give honour to it.

v5 Hezekiah trusted in the *Lord God of *Israel. *Judah never had another king like him. They never had one before that time and they never had one after it. v6 Hezekiah obeyed the *Lord. He did not stop obeying the *Lord. Hezekiah obeyed the commands that the *Lord had given to Moses. v7 The *Lord was with Hezekiah. Hezekiah had success in everything that he did. He *rebelled against the king of Assyria. He refused to serve that king. v8 Hezekiah defeated the people in Philistia. He defeated them from the smallest village to the largest city. That included Gaza and its territory.

Hezekiah’s father Ahaz was among the worst kings. Hezekiah was among the best kings. Ahaz was a bad model for his son. But Hezekiah did not behave like Ahaz. Instead, Hezekiah behaved like his *ancestor David. Hezekiah had seen all the trouble that Ahaz’s *rebellion against God caused (2 Chronicles 29:8-9). And so Hezekiah decided to be completely loyal to God.

Hezekiah made the *kingdom better. He removed the images of male and female gods. He removed the places where people *worshipped on the high hills. Hezekiah even broke the metal snake that Moses had made. In Numbers 21:8-9, we see that God ordered Moses to make that metal snake. God told people to look at it. Then God cured them after the snakes had bitten them. Jesus said that the metal snake was like himself. It showed how he came to rescue people (John 3:14-15; John 12:32). But in Hezekiah’s day, people gave honour to the metal snake itself. They did not give honour to God. So Hezekiah destroyed the metal snake. We should not give honour to any images. We should not even give honour to images of the cross. (The cross is the sign of the Christian religion. It has the same shape as the wooden cross where Jesus died. So what happened on the cross is very important to Christians. But they must be careful to give honour to Jesus himself, and not to any image, model or sign.)

Hezekiah did not only make changes in religion. He made political changes as well. His father, Ahaz, had given control over *Judah to Assyria (16:7). But Hezekiah refused to serve the king of Assyria. That decision caused serious trouble, as we shall see below. Hezekiah also defeated the people in Philistia.

v9 The 4th year of Hezekiah’s rule was the 7th year of Hoshea’s rule. Hoshea (Elah’s son) was ruling over *Israel. In that year, Assyria’s king Shalmaneser went into *Israel. And his army surrounded Samaria city. v10 At the end of 3 years, Assyria’s army *captured Samaria. It did so in the 6th year of Hezekiah’s rule. (Hezekiah was ruling over *Judah.) It was the 9th year of Hoshea’s rule over *Israel.v11 Assyria’s king forced the *Israelites to go to Assyria. He made some *Israelites live in Halah. And he made some other *Israelites live in Gozan near the Habor river. And some *Israelites had to live in the cities in Media. v12 That all happened because they had not obeyed the *Lord their God. They did not obey the *covenant that he had made with them. They did not obey what Moses, the *Lord’s servant, had ordered them to do. They did not listen and they did not obey.

v13 Assyria’s King Sennacherib attacked all the cities in *Judah that had strong defences. That happened in the 14th year during King Hezekiah’s rule. People had made strong defences in those cities. But Sennacherib *captured them. v14 So King Hezekiah of *Judah sent a message to the king of Assyria, who was at Lachish. ‘I have done a wrong thing. Please stop your attack. I will pay whatever you ask.’ So the king of Assyria made this demand. Hezekiah must send him 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. v15 So Hezekiah sent to him all the silver from the *Lord’s *temple. And Hezekiah sent all the silver from the royal palace.

v16 Formerly, King Hezekiah of *Judah had used gold to make the *Lord’s *temple beautiful. He had covered the doors and their sides with gold. But then he took off that gold and he sent it to the king of Assyria.

In verses 9-12, the writer repeats what he described in 2 Kings 17:3-8. This information helps us to understand why *Judah’s inhabitants did not continue to give honour to *idols. They saw what had happened to *Israel. Those *idols did not save *Israel. And this information also helps us to understand why *Judah was so weak. Previously, the kings of Assyria had to attack *Israel before they could attack *Judah. But now *Israel did not exist, and Assyria controlled its land completely.

King Sennacherib was ready to attack *Judah. He took control of all the important towns on the border. Or he took control of most towns there. The towns that had strong defences were the ones on the border.

King Hezekiah was desperate. He could see that, without the protection of the border towns, Jerusalem was very weak. So he offered to pay a large sum of money to make peace. The king of Assyria asked for a considerable amount of silver and gold.

Hezekiah did not only take money from the safe place where the government kept its valuable things. He took it from the *Lord’s *temple as well. That decision should surprise us. Hezekiah was very loyal to the *Lord. We would not expect such a man to take things from the *Lord’s *temple for any purpose. And especially, we would not expect him to take back things that he himself had given to the *Lord.

Bible teachers disagree about whether Hezekiah should have done this. Some teachers say that Hezekiah’s situation was very desperate. Unless he paid, the King of Assyria would destroy both the city and the *temple. Hezekiah only took these things so that he could save much more important things, especially the *temple.

Other teachers say that Hezekiah was not really trusting God. When Hezekiah was successful, it was easy for him to serve God. But when the situation became serious, Hezekiah became weak. During his successful early years, Hezekiah made many great changes in *Judah. But although he changed people’s actions, perhaps their belief in God remained weak.

However, Hezekiah’s plan to pay the king of Assyria to go away failed. The king of Assyria took the silver and gold. But then, as we shall see below, he did not leave *Judah. There was no peace. The king of Assyria wanted to destroy *Judah completely, as he had already done to *Israel.

Assyria opposes Hezekiah’s rule

v17 Assyria’s king sent his 3 chief officials with a large army from Lachish. They went to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. When the officials reached Jerusalem, they stopped. They were on the road to the washerman’s field (a place where people washed their clothes). They stopped by the ditch that brings water from the upper pool. v18 The officials asked to speak to the king. Eliakim, Shebna and Joah went out to meet them. Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, had control over the palace. Shebna was the *secretary. Joah, Asaph’s son, wrote down the records.

v19 One official, the army commander, said this to those 3 men. ‘Tell this to Hezekiah. “This is what the great king of Assyria says. He says: You are much too confident. v20 You say that you have plans and military power. In fact, all that you have are words. You are trying to *rebel against me. But you are just imagining that anyone would help you. v21 You are expecting the king of Egypt to help you. That would be as if you were leaning on a tall grass. And the grass had a sharp point. The point would only cut into your hand and it would damage your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is like that. He does that to everyone who depends on him. v22 You may say that you depend on the *Lord, your God. But Hezekiah has removed the places where people *worshipped God on the high hills. And he has removed God’s *altars. Hezekiah has said that his people must only give honour to God at the *altar in Jerusalem. That is what my master said.

v23 Now make an agreement with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2000 horses if you can find 2000 men to ride them. v24 You could not defeat the least important one among my master’s officials. But you expect the king of Egypt to send horses and *chariots to you! v25 I have come to attack this place. I have come to destroy it. But I and my army are not acting alone. We will have the *Lord’s help. The *Lord told me to march into this country to attack it. And he told me to destroy it.” ’

v26 Then Eliakim [Hilkiah’s son], Shebna and Joah replied to him. They said, ‘Please speak to us in the *Aramaic language. We understand it. Do not speak Hebrew (the language that the *Israelites spoke). We do not want the people who are sitting on the wall to hear this.’

v27 The army commander replied with these words. ‘My master did not send me to say these things to you and your master only. He sent me to tell the people who are sitting on the wall. Like you, they will have to eat their own excrement (the solid waste product from the body). And they will have to drink their own urine (the liquid waste product from the body).’

Although the king of Assyria accepted Hezekiah’s money, Assyria’s king did not take his own army away. Instead, Assyria’s king sent three chief officials to persuade the people in *Judah to give up their resistance. Assyria’s king did not want the nation called *Judah to continue to exist. He wanted to take its inhabitants away to Assyria. There they would live with people from other nations.

So these three chief officials came to Jerusalem with a large army. They brought this message to Hezekiah. The people in *Judah had said that they had military strength. But those were just words. Really, *Judah’s army was weak. The people in *Judah thought that the king of Egypt would help them to fight Assyria. But Assyria’s king laughed at that idea. He compared the king of Egypt to a broken walking stick. A man who depends on such a stick would only hurt himself. So if the people in *Judah trusted Egypt, they would only damage themselves. Therefore, Assyria’s king said that the people in *Judah could not trust either their own army or Egypt’s army. But that was not all. Assyria’s king tried to prove that God was supporting him and not Hezekiah. Hezekiah had destroyed the places where the people *worshipped. So they could not trust God to help them.

The official tried to persuade *Judah’s officials and its people to oppose Hezekiah. He tried to show them that *Judah’s situation was hopeless.

Then the official reminded them how weak *Judah’s army was. If he gave *Judah 2000 horses, *Judah’s army would be unable to find 2000 men to ride on them. Even Assyria’s weakest officials would be powerful enough to defeat *Judah’s army. Then, he said that God had told him to attack the country. Perhaps he had heard about the *prophecies that Isaiah and Micah had given.

Hezekiah’s officials asked the army commander from Assyria to speak in the *Aramaic language. (Politicians spoke *Aramaic.) They asked him not to speak Hebrew (the language that the people spoke in *Judah). Then the ordinary people would not understand what he was saying. But the commander said that his message was for everybody. He wanted to make the people oppose their king.

The commander was behaving like the devil. The devil wants to make people oppose God. The devil made Adam and Eve doubt God. He asked them, ‘Did God really say that?’ He told them, ‘You will be like God.’ (Genesis 3:1-5).

v28 Then the army commander shouted to the people in Hebrew (the language that the people spoke in *Judah). ‘Listen to what the great king of Assyria says. v29 He says this. “Do not let Hezekiah lie to you. Hezekiah cannot save you from my control. v30 He wants you to trust in the *Lord. But do not allow him to persuade you. Hezekiah says: ‘The *Lord will certainly rescue us.’ He says: ‘The king of Assyria will not *capture the city.’ v31 But do not listen to Hezekiah.”

This is what the king of Assyria says. “Make *peace with me. Come out to me. You will each eat *grapes from your own vines (plants on which *grapes grow). You will eat figs from your own trees. (Figs are small sweet fruits, which are full of seeds.) You will drink water from your own wells. v32 Then I will come to take you to a country that is like your own country. There will be corn to make bread. And there will be fields where *grapes grow. From the *grapes, you will get wine. It is a country where there are *olive trees and honey.

Choose life, not death! Do not listen to Hezekiah. He is not telling the truth to you. He says: ‘The *Lord will rescue us.’ v33 No other god has saved his own nation from the king of Assyria. v34 The gods that people *worship in Hamath and Arpad have not come to help. Neither have the gods that people *worship in Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah. The gods in Samaria did not help the people in Samaria to escape from me. v35 None among those gods has been able to rescue his country from me. So surely the *Lord cannot rescue Jerusalem from me!” ’

v36 But the people kept quiet. They said nothing, because the king (Hezekiah) had told them not to answer the commander from Assyria.

v37 Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah went to Hezekiah. [Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, had control over the palace. Shebna was the *secretary. Joah, Asaph’s son, wrote down the records.] They had torn their clothes. They told Hezekiah what the army commander had said.

The army commander continued to oppose Hezekiah. He told the people not to believe Hezekiah. On behalf of Assyria’s king, the commander promised *peace and wealth to the people, if they obeyed him. He told them to choose life, not death. No other god had rescued its nation from Assyria’s army. And the commander told the people that the *Lord would not be able to do it. The people did not answer the commander.

Notice this. The leader used the same words that Moses had used in Deuteronomy 30:19. Moses told his people that they could have life. That would happen if they obeyed God’s *commandments.

The army commander made a serious mistake. He thought that God was like other (false) gods. The devil wants us to think that God is not very great. The devil also promises good things to us. But God alone can give really good things to us.