James Gray - Concise Bible 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 18:1-20:21
JUDAH UNDER HEZEKIAH
A SUMMARY OF THE REIGN (2 Kings 18:1-8)
For a more extensive history of this good reign compare 2 Chronicles 29-32, and also Isaiah 36-39. In the first eight verses we have the usual summary like that of Ahaz (16:1-4), after which follows in detail the chief events of the reign. The summary contains the age and period of the king (2 Kings 18:1-2); his attitude toward the true worship (2 Kings 18:3-4); a reference to the spirit animating his life and conduct (2 Kings 18:5-6); and in consequence the successes attained over foreign enemies (2 Kings 18:7-8).
Note his enviable distinction (2 Kings 18:5) and the cause of it (2 Kings 18:4).
SENNACHERIB’S INVASION (2 Kings 18:13-35)
The intervening verses (2 Kings 18:9-12) recapitulating Israel’s captivity are probably inserted for the sake of contrast. Had the kings of Israel been as faithful to Jehovah as this king of Judah was, that calamity would not have overtaken them as it did not overtake him.
Sennacherib is on a tour of conquest against Egypt, Assyria’s great rival for world dominion, and takes Jerusalem en route. At first Hezekiah tries to make terms (2 Kings 18:13-16), which Sennacherib accepts and then wantonly disregards. While he proceeds on Egypt he detaches a force to attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17).
The language of Rabshakeh is insulting throughout. His claim to be acting for Jehovah (2 Kings 18:25) is pure assumption as the event shows. Eliakim’s protest (2 Kings 18:26) was a blunder in that it encouraged him to greater boldness in seeking to influence the rank and file (2 Kings 18:28-35).
THE APPEAL TO JEHOVAH (2 Kings 19:1-37)
Rabshakeh did not commence the siege immediately, but joined the main army again at Libnah (2 Kings 19:18), to which place Sennacherib retired on the approach of the Egyptian king (2 Kings 19:9). Another attempt is made to move Hezekiah, this time by a letter, but as before he appealed to Jehovah through the prophet, he now does so directly through his own prayer (2 Kings 19:14-19), and is answered through the prophet (2 Kings 19:20-34).
This answer contains (1) a rebuke of Sennacherib’s boast (2 Kings 19:21-24); (2) a refutation of his self-assertion (2 Kings 19:25-28); (3) an encouragement to Judah and Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:29-31); and (4) the divine decree in regard to the crisis (2 Kings 19:32-34).
The execution of the decree brings to mind such modern parallels as the destruction of the Spanish Armada by the storm, and the breaking up of the French army before Moscow when in one memorable night, twenty thousand horses perished of frost.
HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS AND RECOVERY (2 Kings 20:1-11)
It seemed to the king that he must have displeased God to be cut off in early manhood (see Proverbs 10:27), hence his words (2 Kings 20:3).
Figs were the ordinary remedy for boils (2 Kings 20:7) but the prophet did not order their application until he was assured of the divine help. It was God, and not the figs that healed, just as is always the case in every remedy for bodily ills.
It does not seem wrong for Hezekiah to ask a sign in view of Isaiah’s words to Ahaz (Isaiah 7:11).
The reversal of the shadow on the sundial (2 Kings 20:11) only can be regarded either as a miracle or myth, and as far as the true believer in the Bible is concerned, the former is accepted without seeking impossible explanations.
AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE (2 Kings 20:12-21)
Babylon at this time was trying to free herself from Assyrian supremacy, and when Sennacherib suffered so serious a calamity seemed an opportune moment for a forward movement. This doubtless reveals the reason for this embassy to Hezekiah with whom it was hoped to form an alliance. It also explains the latter’s object in showing them his riches and strength (2 Kings 20:13), which was not only a political blunder but an act of unbelief towards God. Hence the rebuke (2 Kings 20:16-18). Instead of help from Babylon that nation would at length prove Judah’s ruin. This would not be on account of Hezekiah’s fault alone, but because the whole nation had incurred guilt similar to his, and would continue to do so even in a greater degree.
1. Have you read the parallel Scriptures in this case?
2. Rehearse the four outline facts constituting the summary of this reign.
3. What special form of idolatry is here mentioned?
4. What two strong nations were rivals for world dominion at this time?
5. Analyze Jehovah’s answer to Sennacherib’s boast.
6. What practical lessons are here taught about divine healing?
7. Give what appears to be the true reason for the Babylonian embassy.