2 Kings 18
Benson Commentary
Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
2 Kings 18:1-2. In the third year of Hoshea, Hezekiah began to reign — Namely, in the third of those nine years, mentioned 2 Kings 17:1; of which see the note there, and below, 2 Kings 18:10. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign — To this it is objected, that Ahaz his father lived only thirty-six years, and therefore, according to this account, begat Hezekiah when he was but eleven years old, which seems incredible. Various explications of this difficulty have been given; but the most probable are, either, 1st, That some error in regard to the numerals has crept into the text, and that Hezekiah was not so old when he began to reign: or, 2d, That the sixteen years which Ahaz reigned are to be computed, not from the first beginning of his reign, when he reigned with his father, (as it is probable he did,) which was at the twentieth year of his age, but from the beginning of his reigning alone, in which case Ahaz would be as many years of age more than thirty-six when he died, as he had reigned with his father, before he came into the sole possession of the kingdom.

Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
2 Kings 18:4. He removed the high places — Which none of his predecessors had had the courage to attempt. But, it is likely, the dreadful judgments of God, executed upon the ten tribes, and the carrying them away captive for their superstition and idolatry, had been the means of mightily awakening both him and all the people, for the present, (while these calamities were fresh before their eyes,) to observe the law of God very strictly. “It was a great demonstration,” says Dr. Dodd, “of Hezekiah’s sincere piety and zeal toward God, that he began so soon to reform the corruption of religion, and did not stay till he had established himself in his throne. He might think, however,” and certainly very justly, “that the surest way to establish himself, was to establish the true worship of God; though he could not but foresee that he ran a great hazard in attempting the abolition of idolatry, which had been confirmed by so many years prescription,” 2 Chronicles 29:3-11. And brake in pieces the brazen serpent, which Moses had made — Though this serpent was made by Moses at God’s command, and was of singular use to the Israelites, and a special type of Christ; yet, the primary use of it having long since ceased, and being now abused to the purposes of superstition and idolatry, it was deservedly broken to pieces. And from this example we may infer, that all things which are made the occasions of superstition and idolatry, ought to be taken away. For unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it — This cannot be intended to signify, that all along, from the days of Moses, this brazen serpent was used as an object of religious worship. For certainly neither David, nor Solomon in the former part of his reign, would have suffered any such thing; nor can we suppose but that Asa and Jehoshaphat, when they rooted out idolatry, would also have extirpated this, if they had perceived any species of it in their days. The commencement of this superstition, therefore, must have been of later date, and probably since the time that Ahab’s family, being allied to the royal family in Judah by marriage, introduced all kinds of idolatry. As this brazen serpent had been kept from the days of Moses, merely in memory of a miracle wrought by Jehovah, just as the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded also were, it is likely that their burning incense or perfumes before it was at first designed in honour of the true God; but then, in the process of their superstition, they probably either worshipped the God of Israel, or, what is worse, some heathen god, under that image; imitating therein the practice of some of the neighbouring nations, as the Babylonians, Phenicians: Egyptians, who all worshipped one or more of their gods under the form of a serpent. Upon this account Hezekiah wisely chose rather to lose this memorial of God’s wonderful mercy to the Israelites, than to suffer it any longer to be abused to idolatry, and therefore destroyed it. It deserves to be remarked here, that notwithstanding it is so expressly recorded that Hezekiah brake it in pieces, yet the Roman Catholics pretend to show it entire in the church of St. Ambrose in Milan. And he called it Nehushtan — Or rather, Nechushtan, as it is in the Hebrew, that is, brass; as if he had said, How much soever this serpent might be formerly regarded and used by God, as a sign of his mercy and power, yet now it is nothing but a piece of mere brass, which can do you neither good nor hurt, and therefore is no fit object of your worship.

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.
2 Kings 18:5-6. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel — In abolishing idolatry, there was danger, as has been intimated, of disobliging his subjects, and provoking them to rebel; but he trusted in the Lord to bear him out, and defend him in what he did. When he came to the crown, he found his kingdom encompassed with enemies; but he did not apply to foreign and heathenish powers for aid or succour, as his father Ahaz had done, but trusted in the God of Israel to be the keeper of Israel, and to establish him in his kingdom. So that after him was none like him, &c. — If it be objected that the same is said of Josiah, (2 Kings 23:25,) it may be observed, that each of them excelled the other in several qualities or actions; Hezekiah in this, that he set upon the work of reformation with great expedition, even in the first year of his reign, (2 Chronicles 29:3,) which Josiah did not, and with no less resolution undertook to do that which none of his predecessors durst do, even to remove the high places; wherein Josiah only followed his example, 2 Kings 22:1-3. Nor any that were before him — That is, who had been kings only of Judah: for David and Solomon were kings of all Israel. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him — In the general course of his life, and especially in the matters of God’s worship. Several of his predecessors that began well, did not persevere; but he, like Caleb, followed the Lord fully, and not only abolished all idolatrous usages, but observed God’s commandments, and in every thing made conscience of doing his duty.

For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
2 Kings 18:7. The Lord was with him, and he prospered, &c. — He adhered to God and his service, and therefore God was with him; and, having the special presence of God with him, he had wonderful success in all his enterprises, in his wars, his buildings, and especially his reformation; which good work was carried on with less difficulty than he could have expected. Thus we have in him an instructive and encouraging example, teaching us that they who do God’s work with an eye to his glory, and with confidence in his strength, may expect to prosper in it: for great is the truth, and will prevail. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria — That is, he threw off that yoke of subjection to him to which his father had basely submitted, and re-assumed that full and independent sovereignty which God had settled in the house of David. This, though here called rebelling against him, was really no more than asserting the just rights of his crown. For his case differed much from that of Zedekiah, who is blamed for rebellion against the king of Babylon. Zedekiah had engaged himself by a solemn oath and covenant, which we do not read that Ahaz had done, much less had Hezekiah. Zedekiah had broke the covenant which himself had made; and God had actually given the dominion of the land and people to the king of Babylon, and commanded both Zedekiah and his subjects to submit to him. But God had not given any such dominion to the king of Assyria, nor had he commanded either Hezekiah or his people to be subject to him. And as to the word rebel here used, it means no more than to depart from that subjection which had been performed to another, which sometimes may be justly done, and certainly might in this case. Indeed, that Hezekiah did not sin in revolting from the king of Assyria seems evident, because God owned and assisted him in it, and did not at all reprove him for it in that message which he sent to him by Isaiah, nor afterward, though he did particularly reprove him for his vain-glory and ostentation, 2 Chronicles 32:25-26.

He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
2 Kings 18:8. He smote the Philistines even unto Gaza — And recovered from them what his father had lost, and more, 2 Chronicles 28:18. From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city — That is, all the country over, both the country villages and fortified towns. When he had purged out the corruptions which his father had brought in, he might expect to recover the possessions which his father had lost. These his victories over the Philistines had been foretold by Isaiah 14:28.

And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.
And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.
And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:
Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
2 Kings 18:13. Sennacherib king of Assyria — Who succeeded Shalmaneser, probably his son. He was encouraged to make this attempt against Judah by his predecessor’s success against Israel, whose honours he wished to emulate, and whose victories he would push forward. This invasion of Judah was a great calamity to that kingdom, by which God tried the faith of Hezekiah, and chastised the people, who are called a hypocritical nation, (Isaiah 10:6,) because they did not heartily concur with Hezekiah in effecting a reformation, nor willingly part with their idols; much less did they give up all their sins, and turn to God in true repentance. Against the fenced cities of Judah, and took them — That is, most of them: for that they were not all taken appears from 2 Kings 19:8. When he had made himself master of the frontier towns and garrisons, most of the others fell into his hands of course. By this success he was lifted up to his own greater and more shameful destruction, and an eminent occasion was afforded for the manifestation of God’s power and glory in that miraculous deliverance which he designed to effect for his people.

And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
2 Kings 18:14. Hezekiah sent to the king of Assyria, saying, I have offended — Namely, against thee, in revolting, and denying the usual tribute. I have given thee occasion to make war against me, of which I now repent, and am ready to make the satisfaction that shall be demanded. “Where,” says Henry: “was Hezekiah’s courage? Where his confidence in God? Why did he not advise with Isaiah, before he sent this sneaking message?” Three hundred talents of silver, and thirty talents of gold — About two hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling, a vast sum, not however to be paid annually, but as a present ransom. To raise this sum he was forced, not only to empty the public treasures, (2 Kings 18:15,) but to take the gold plates off from the doors of the temple, and from the pillars, being driven, as he judged, by hard necessity to make this use of these sacred things, to prevent the enemy from burning the city and temple. No doubt Hezekiah designed to restore this treasure in full, as soon as he should be able.

And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house.
At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
2 Kings 18:17. The king of Assyria sent Tartan — Having received the money, upon which he agreed to depart from Hezekiah and his land, he breaks his faith with him; thereby justifying his revolt, and preparing the way for his own destruction. They came and stood, &c. — They took up their headquarters, as we now speak, by the conduit or canal, into which water was derived from the upper fish-pond or pool, which was in the highway to the field where the fullers, after they had washed their clothes in that pool, were wont to spread them. This was a most unjust behaviour of the king of Assyria, since Hezekiah had paid the fine he had imposed on him.

And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
2 Kings 18:18. When they had called to the king — That is, had sent a message to him to come and treat with them; there went out to him Eliakim, &c. — Of whom see Isaiah 22:15; Isaiah 22:20.

And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?
2 Kings 18:19-20. Thus saith the great king, What confidence is this, &c. — What is it thou canst trust in to defend thee from my great power? Thou sayest — Either to thy people, to encourage them, or rather, within thy own heart. But, (or, surely,) they are vain words — Unprofitable, idle talk, without any effect: or they come not from thy heart; thou speakest this against thy knowledge. I have counsel and strength for the war — Counsel to contrive, strength, or courage, to execute; which two things are of greatest necessity and use in war. But the original words may be rendered, Thou speakest surely words of the lips; that is, thou encouragest thyself and thy people with words, but counsel and strength are for war — Are necessary for thy defence; neither of which thou hast within thyself, but must seek them from others, and where wilt thou find them? On whom, as it follows, dost thou trust?

Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.
2 Kings 18:21. Thou trustest upon this bruised reed — Sennacherib probably thought that Hezekiah depended on Egypt for help, and therefore represents the power of that kingdom to be as weak as the canes or reeds that grew on the banks of the Nile, (to which he seems to allude,) on which, if a man leaned, they brake, and the splinters ran into his hand. Such is Pharaoh, says he; a man gets no help, but mischief, by relying on him. Whoever trusts in man, leans on a broken reed; but God is the Rock of ages.

But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?
2 Kings 18:22. But if ye say, We trust in the Lord — His weak arguing here proceeds from his ignorance of that God in whom Hezekiah trusted, and of his law. Is not that he whose high places, &c., Hezekiah hath taken away? — Thereby robbing him of that worship and service which he had in those places. Thus he speaks boldly of those things which he understood not, calling that a crime which was a great virtue, and judging of the great God by their false and petty gods, and of God’s worship according to the vain fancies of the heathen, who measured piety by the multitude of altars.

Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
2 Kings 18:23-24. Now, therefore, give pledges to my lord the king — That is, give hostages to ensure thy future obedience and subjection. And I will deliver thee two thousand horses, &c. — There is so little likelihood of thy being able to withstand the power of my master, who has thousands of chariots and horses, that I challenge thee to produce two thousand skilful horsemen that know how to manage horses, and I will give thee two thousand horses for them. How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain, &c. — How wilt thou force him to turn his back to thee, and flee away from thee?

How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
2 Kings 18:25. Am I now come up without the Lord? — Without his consent and commission? The Lord hath said unto me, Go up against this land — They were vain, boasting words, without any foundation for them. He neither owned God’s word, nor regarded his providence; but he forged this to strike a terror into Hezekiah and the people.

Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.
2 Kings 18:26. Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language — It is probable Eliakim perceived the people to be terrified with his big words, and therefore requested him, in the name of the other commissioners sent to treat with him, to speak no longer in the Jews’ language, but in his own: for he was sent, not to treat with the people, but with them, who understood the Syrian tongue very well. In the ears of the people that are upon the wall — Upon which these officers stood; not being willing to put themselves into the power of such a barbarous and perfidious enemy by going out of the city.

But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
2 Kings 18:27-29. Hath he not sent me to the men, &c. — To tell them to what extremity and misery he will force them. Then Rab-shakeh cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language — That he might affright the people into a compliance with his proposal, which he perceived that Eliakim and his brethren endeavoured to prevent. Thus saith the king, &c. — Here he proclaims again, with the greatest assurance, the power of his king, and the weakness of Hezekiah; representing from thence, how they were deluded with empty promises if he persuaded them he should be able to defend them.

Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:
Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:
Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
2 Kings 18:30-31. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord — This was high presumption indeed, to endeavour to persuade them not to place their confidence in God, as if his master were stronger than God. Make an agreement with me by a present — To redeem yourselves from all the calamities of a close siege, and from that death and destruction which will certainly follow on them: or, according to the marginal reading, make with me a blessing, that is, a blessed peace, whereby you may be delivered out of your distressed and miserable condition, and may receive from me the blessings of protection and provision, which your king cannot afford you. Then eat ye every man of his own vine — Upon these terms I will give you no disturbance; but quietly suffer each of you to enjoy his own possessions.

Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:
Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us.
2 Kings 18:32. Until I take you away to a land like your own — That is, a fruitful and pleasant land. Because he could not conceal from them his intentions of transplanting them into another land, having already discovered these intentions in his dealing with the Israelites and other nations; he assures them they should be no losers by it, and should only change their place, but not their condition and comforts, which they should enjoy in that land no less than in their own.

Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
2 Kings 18:34-35. Where are the gods of Hamath and of Arpad? — These were cities or countries which the kings of Assyria had conquered, as were the other places here mentioned. And therefore Rab-shakeh argued that the gods of Assyria were more powerful than the gods of any other nation. Who are they, among all the gods of the countries, &c. — He desires them to produce an instance of one god that had been able to save his country, when his master invaded it. And by this he endeavours to persuade them, that it would be their wisdom to deliver up their city to him, insomuch as their God would not be able to preserve it, unless he could do more than any other god had done; which he concluded was unlikely.

Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
2 Kings 18:36. But the people held their peace — That is, both these three men, and the people that were with them upon the wall, especially the people to whom he had chiefly spoken, and from whom he expected an answer. For the king’s command was, Answer him not — This was wisely ordered, lest by their words they should betray their fears, or provoke their enemies to greater injuries or blasphemies, or give them some advantage or direction for their further proceedings; as also that by this instance of obedience and calmness, the king of Assyria might see the resolution of the people to cleave unto their king, and the vanity of his attempts to seduce them to a defection from him.

Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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