Scriptures

2 Kings 19

Introduction

‘When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, ‘This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. It may be that the LORD your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.’ When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’ 2 Kings 19:1-7

Jerusalem’s Deliverance Foretold

In his earlier years, Hezekiah had heavily relied on an alliance with Egypt, 2 Kings 18:19-25, even though Isaiah had warned him over and over again that he must rely on God to protect Judah, 2 Chronicles 32:9-19. The situation he finds himself in here is extreme and so he now turns to Isaiah.

It appears that the message which Rabshakeh told Eliakim and Shebna not only deeply discouraged them, 2 Kings 18:28-37, but also deeply discouraged Hezekiah. This is seen in the tearing of his clothes and wearing sackcloth.

Notice that Hezekiah refers to the Lord as ‘your God’, he doesn’t say ‘my God’ or ‘our God’, however, we mustn’t mistake this as a lack of faith on Hezekiah’s part, it was more of a confession that he hadn’t been as faithful as he should have been.

This is the first mention of Isaiah in Kings, but we do know that Isaiah himself had prophesied even in the days of Hezekiah’s father Ahaz, Isaiah 7:10-17, but that ruler had shunned Isaiah’s warnings. Isaiah tells him if they don’t get help from God, then Judah would fall into the hands of the Assyrians, Isaiah 37:1-13.

There are four things the Lord said here.

1. Do not be afraid and listen.

2. He would hear a certain report.

We are not told where he would hear this certain report from or what the certain report was.

3. He would return to his own land.

The prophets were telling Hezekiah that God would spare a remnant of His people. Because the Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been taken into Assyrian captivity, 2 Kings 17:5-6, the rest of God’s people remained, Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, remained in the Southern Kingdom.

It is clear that Hezekiah believed that Judah was that remnant, however as we know, Judah was going to be taken into captivity by the Babylonian. The remnant, therefore, were a few from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and a few from the other tribes which were taken to Assyria.

4. In that land he would fall by the sword.

The result of his hearing this certain report would be his return to his own land, where he would be killed.

‘When the field commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish, he withdrew and found the king fighting against Libnah. Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush, was marching out to fight against him. So he again sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: ‘Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?’ 2 Kings 19:8-13

Rabshakeh, the Sennacherib’s commander of his army, left Lachish and found Sennacherib fighting against Libnah. Tirhakah, the king of Cush, that is Egypt, wanted to come to Hezekiah’s rescue, unfortunately Sennacherib sent another dispatch of soldiers to Hezekiah, saying that Egypt wasn’t going to help them. They must have seen how vast an army Sennacherib had with him.

Sennacherib then offers Hezekiah a choice, those living in Jerusalem could swap living in captivity for death. It would have been so easy to surrender to Sennacherib and his army, but Hezekiah stood firm in his faith that God would deliver them.

Hezekiah’s Prayer

‘Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. ‘It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.’ 2 Kings 19:14-19

After receiving the letter from the messengers, Hezekiah goes to the temple and prays. Notice that God is over all the kingdoms of the earth, this tells us that God wasn’t just concerned about Israel as a nation, but all nations throughout the earth, Isaiah 37:14-20 / Jonah 1:1-2 / Jonah 4:11 / John 3:16.

God obviously doesn’t have physical eyes and ears, these are used as metaphors, so that we can relate to God in human terms, John 4:24.

Hezekiah knows that the Assyrian gods were not real gods, they were made of wood and stone and made by humans. Hezekiah says there is a clear distinction between these man made gods and the living God of Israel, it was God who created Israel and He was working in and through them.

Isaiah Prophesies Sennacherib’s Fall

‘Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him: ‘Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord. And you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest parts, the finest of its forests. I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’ ‘Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. ‘But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.’ ‘This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah: ‘This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. ‘The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. ‘Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’ 2 Kings 19:20-34

What the Lord says about Sennacherib is clearly a rebuke which would have hit hard in the arrogant heart of Sennacherib, Isaiah 37:21-38.

Sennacherib, who was so arrogant and full of pride had been ridiculing Judah because their army, who were hiding behind the walls of Jerusalem was so small compared to his. The way God felt towards Sennacherib and his army should have been the way Judah felt towards them.

Notice that Sennacherib’s views against Judah were actually viewed as against the God of all creation. He is the Holy One of Israel, Isaiah 5:24 / Isaiah 30:12. God says He will turn Sennacherib back to where he came from, Isaiah 10:12-19. When this prophecy was fulfilled, Judah would then know that God was still with them.

Judah has obviously been trapped inside the city walls of Jerusalem for some time and as a result they haven’t been able to plant any food in the fields. However, as these words were being spoken, plants that grow by themselves, would provide the food they needed, when the Assyrian army had left.

This harvesting of these self growing plants would continue into the second year, because of what was happening and in the third year, they would be able to get back to farming on their own. Those who survived in Jerusalem would be the remnant of Israel that would repopulate the land.

Why did God make these promises to Hezekiah? Simply because of God’s own sake and for the sake of David, 2 Samuel 7:10-16. In other words, because God promised David that the Messiah, who would sit on David’s throne, would come through him.

‘That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.’ 2 Kings 19:35-37

If these verses don’t put the fear of God in people I don’t know what will. Here we find the angel of the Lord, Genesis 16:7 / Exodus 3:2 / Zechariah 1:12, that is just one angel totally wiping out one hundred and eighty-five thousand, of God’s enemies in just one night.

God decided enough was enough and sent his angel to deal with the Assyrian army. We know it happened all in one night because in the morning, when the people woke up, they saw all the dead bodies.

Sennacherib returned to Nineveh but notice the text doesn’t tell us he was killed immediately, according to Assyrian history, he was killed around twenty years after he returned to Nineveh.

He was killed by his sons, Adrammelek and Sharezer, 2 Chronicles 32:20-21. They flee to Ararat and Esarhaddon another son of Sennacherib now becomes king of Assyria.

Annals Of Sennacherib

In the British Museum we can see ‘the Annals of Sennacherib’ also called ‘the Taylor Prism.’ Sennacherib, 705-681 B.C., was an Assyrian king noted for his campaigns against Judah. The prism was found at Nineveh in 1830. The best-known passage on this prism describes that because Hezekiah had not submitted to the Assyrian ‘yoke,’

Sennacherib laid siege to forty-six fortified Judean cities, deported 200,150 people, and shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem ‘like a caged bird.’

It reads, ‘As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I lay siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps, and battering-rams brought thus near to the walls combined with the attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as sapper work. I drove out of them 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage.’

The prism tacitly agrees with the Biblical version by making no claim that Jerusalem was taken, Isaiah 36-37 / 2 Kings 18-19. The Greek historian Herodotus tells of ‘field mice’ eating ‘leather handles, quivers and bow strings’ of the Assyrian army.

Go To 2 Kings 20

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1 Peter 5:7

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