2 Kings 18
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
III. History of the Kingdom of Judah From the Destruction of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes to the Babylonian Captivity - 2 Kings 18-25

At the time when the kingdom of the ten tribes was destroyed, Judah found itself in a state of dependence upon the imperial power of Assyria, into which it had been brought by the ungodly policy of Ahaz. But three years before the expedition of Salmanasar against Samaria, the pious Hezekiah had ascended the throne of his ancestor David in Jerusalem, and had set on foot with strength and zeal the healing of Judah's wounds, by exterminating idolatry and by restoring the legal worship of Jehovah. As Hezekiah was devoted to the Lord his God with undivided heart and trusted firmly in Him, the Lord also acknowledged him and his undertakings. When Sennacherib had overrun Judah with a powerful army after the revolt of Hezekiah, and had summoned the capital to surrender, the Lord heard the prayer of His faithful servant Hezekiah and saved Judah and Jerusalem from the threatening destruction by the miraculous destruction of the forces of the proud Sennacherib (2 Kings 18 and 19), whereby the power of Assyria was so weakened that Judah had no longer much more to fear from it, although it did chastise Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11.). Nevertheless this deliverance, through and in the time of Hezekiah, was merely a postponement of the judgment with which Judah had been threatened by the prophets (Isaiah and Micah), of the destruction of the kingdom and the banishment of its inhabitants. Apostasy from the living God and moral corruption had struck such deep and firm roots in the nation, that the idolatry, outwardly suppressed by Hezekiah, broke out again openly immediately after his death; and that in a still stronger degree, since his son and successor Manasseh not only restored all the abominations of idolatry which his father had rooted out, but even built altars to idols in the courts of the temple of Jehovah, and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood from one end to the other (2 Kings 21), and thereby filled up the measure of sins, so that the Lord had to announce through His prophets to the godless king and people His decree to destroy Jerusalem and cast out the remaining portion of the people of His inheritance among the heathen, and to show the severity of His judgments in the fact that Manasseh was led away captive by the officers of the Assyrian king. And even though Manasseh himself renounced all gross idolatry and restored the legal worship in the temple after his release and return to Jerusalem, as the result of this chastisement, this alteration in the king's mind exerted no lasting influence upon the people generally, and was completely neutralized by his successor Amon, who did not walk in the way of Jehovah, but merely worshipped his father's idols. In this state of things even the God-fearing Josiah, with all the stringency with which he exterminated idolatry, more especially after the discovery of the book of the law, was unable to effect any true change of heart or sincere conversion of the people to their God, and could only wipe out the outward signs and traces of idolatry, and establish the external supremacy of the worship of Jehovah. The people, with their carnal security, imagined that they had done quite enough for God by restoring the outward and legal form of worship, and that they were now quite sure of the divine protection; and did not hearken to the voice of the prophets, who predicted the speedy coming of the judgments of God. Josiah had warded off the bursting forth of these judgments for thirty years, through his humiliation before God and the reforms which he introduced; but towards the end of his reign the Lord began to put away Judah from before His face for the sake of Manasseh's sins, and to reject the city which He had chosen that His name might dwell there (2 Kings 22-23:27). Necho king of Egypt advanced to extend his sway to the Euphrates and overthrow the Assyrian empire. Josiah marched to meet him, for the purpose of preventing the extension of his power into Syria. A battle was fought at Megiddo, the Judaean army was defeated, Josiah fell in the battle, and with him the last hope of the sinking state (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:23-24). In Jerusalem Jehoahaz was made king by the people; but after a reign of three months he was taken prisoner by Necho at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and led away to Egypt, where he died. Eliakim, the elder son of Josiah, was appointed by Necho as Egyptian vassal-king in Jerusalem, under the name of Jehoiakim. He was devoted to idolatry, and through his love of show (Jeremiah 22:13.) still further ruined the kingdom, which was already exhausted by the tribute to be paid to Egypt. In the fourth year of his reign Pharaoh-Necho succumbed at Carchemish to the Chaldaean power, which was rising under Nebuchadnezzar upon the ruins of the Assyrian kingdom. At the same time Jeremiah proclaimed to the incorrigible nation that the Lord of Sabaoth would deliver Judah with all the surrounding nations into the hand of His servant Nebuchadnezzar, that the land of Judah would be laid waste and the people serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jeremiah 25). Nebuchadnezzar appeared in Judah immediately afterwards to follow up his victory over Necho, took Jerusalem, made Jehoiakim his subject, and carried away Daniel, with many of the leading young men, to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1). But after some years Jehoiakim revolted; whereupon Nebuchadnezzar sent fresh troops against Jerusalem to besiege the city, and after defeating Jehoiachin, who had in the meantime followed his father upon the throne, led away into captivity to Babylon, along with the kernel of the nation, nobles, warriors, craftsmen, and smiths, and set upon the throne Mattaniah, the only remaining son of Josiah, under the name of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:2-17). But when he also formed an alliance with Pharaoh-Hophra in the ninth year of his reign, and revolted from the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar advanced immediately with all his forces, besieged Jerusalem, and having taken the city and destroyed it, put an end to the kingdom of Judah by slaying Zedekiah and his sons, and carrying away all the people that were left, with the exception of a very small remnant of cultivators of the soil (2 Kings 24:18-25:26), a hundred and thirty-four years after the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes.

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.
Length and character of Hezekiah's reign.

(Note: On comparing the account of Hezekiah's reign given in our books (2 Kings 18-20) with that in 2 Chronicles 29-32, the different plans of these two historical works are at once apparent. The prophetic author of our books first of all describes quite briefly the character of the king's reign (2 Kings 18:1-8), and then gives an elaborate description of the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib and of his attempt to get Jerusalem into his power, together with the destruction of the proud Assyrian force and Sennacherib's hasty return to Nineveh and death (2 Kings 18:13-19, 2 Kings 18:37); and finally, he also gives a circumstantial account of Hezekiah's illness and recovery, and also of the arrival of the Babylonian embassy in Jerusalem, and of Hezekiah's conduct on that occasion (2 Kings 20). The chronicler, on the other hand, has fixed his chief attention upon the religious reformation carried out by Hezekiah, and therefore first of all describes most elaborately the purification of the temple from all idolatrous abominations, the restoration of the Jehovah-cultus and the feast of passover, to which Hezekiah invited all the people, not only the subjects of his own kingdom, but the remnant of the ten tribes also (2 Chronicles 29-31); and then simply gives in 2 Kings 32 the most summary account of the attack made by Sennacherib upon Jerusalem and the destruction of his army, of the sickness and recovery of Hezekiah, and of his great riches, the Babylonian embassy being touched upon in only the most casual manner. The historical character of the elaborate accounts given in the Chronicles of Hezekiah's reform of worship and his celebration of the passover, which Thenius follows De Wette and Gramberg in throwing doubt upon, has been most successfully defended by Bertheau as well as others. - On the disputed question, in what year of Hezekiah's reign the solemn passover instituted by him fell, see the thorough discussion of it by C. P. Caspari (Beitrr. z. Einleit. in d. B. Jesaia, pp. 109ff.), and our Commentary on the Chronicles, which has yet to appear.)

2 Kings 18:1, 2 Kings 18:2. In the third year of Hoshea of Israel, Hezekiah became king over Judah, when he was twenty-five years old. According to 2 Kings 18:9, 2 Kings 18:10, the fourth and sixth years of Hezekiah corresponded to the seventh and ninth of Hoshea; consequently his first year apparently ran parallel to the fourth of Hoshea, so that Josephus (Ant. ix. 13, 1) represents him as having ascended the throne in the fourth year of Hoshea's reign. But there is no necessity for this alteration. If we assume that the commencement of his reign took place towards the close of the third year of Hoshea, the fourth and sixth years of his reign coincided for the most part with the sixth and ninth years of Hoshea's reign. The name הזקיּה or הזקיּהוּ (2 Kings 18:9, 2 Kings 18:13, etc.) is given in its complete form יהזקיּהוּ, "whom Jehovah strengthens," in 2 Chronicles 29ff. and Isaiah 1:1; and והזקיּה in Hosea 1:1 and Micah 1:1. On his age when he ascended the throne, see the Comm. on 2 Kings 16:2. The name of his mother, אבי, is a strongly contracted form of אבי (2 Chronicles 29:1).

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.
As ruler Hezekiah walked in the footsteps of his ancestor David. He removed the high places and the other objects of idolatrous worship, trusted in Jehovah, and adhered firmly to Him without wavering; therefore the Lord made all his undertakings prosper. הבּמות, המּצּבית, and האשׁרה (see at 1 Kings 14:23) embrace all the objects of idolatrous worship, which had been introduced into Jerusalem and Judah in the reigns of the former kings, and more especially in that of Ahaz. The singular האשׁרה is used in a collective sense equals האשׁרים (2 Chronicles 31:1). The only other idol that is specially mentioned is the brazen serpent which Moses made in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-9), and which the people with their leaning to idolatry had turned in the course of time into an object of idolatrous worship. The words, "to this day were the children of Israel burning incense to it," do not mean that this took place without interruption from the time of Moses down to that of Hezekiah, but simply, that it occurred at intervals, and that the idolatry carried on with this idol lasted till the time of Hezekiah, namely, till this king broke in pieces the brazen serpent, because of the idolatry that was associated with it. For further remarks on the meaning of this symbol, see the Comm. on Numbers 21:8-9. The people called (ויּקרא, one called) this serpent נחשׁתּן, i.e., a brazen thing. This epithet does not involve anything contemptuous, as the earlier commentators supposed, nor the idea of "Brass-god" (Ewald).

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.
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.
The verdict, "after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah," refers to Hezekiah's confidence in God (בּטח), in which he had no equal, whereas in the case of Josiah his conscientious adherence to the Mosaic law is extolled in the same words (2 Kings 23:25); so that there is no ground for saying that there is a contradiction between our verse and 2 Kings 23:25 (Thenius).

For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
בּיי ידבּק: he adhered faithfully to Jehovah (דּבק as in 1 Kings 11:2), and departed not from Him, i.e., he never gave himself up to idolatry.

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.
The Lord therefore gave him success in all his undertakings (השׂכּיל, see at 1 Kings 2:3), and even in his rebellion against the king of Assyria, whom he no longer served, i.e., to whom he paid no more tribute. It was through Ahaz that Judah had been brought into dependence upon Assyria; and Hezekiah released himself from this, by refusing to pay any more tribute, probably after the departure of Salmanasar from Palestine, and possibly not till after the death of that king. Sennacherib therefore made war upon Hezekiah to subjugate Judah to himself again (see 2 Kings 18:13.).

He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
Hezekiah smote the Philistines to Gaza, and their territory from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city, i.e., all the towns from the least to the greatest (see at 2 Kings 17:9). He thus chastised these enemies for their invasion of Judah in the time of Ahaz, wrested from them the cities which they had taken at that time (2 Chronicles 28:18), and laid waste all their country to Gaza, i.e., Ghuzzeh, the most southerly of the chief cities of Philistia (see at Joshua 13:3). This probably took place after the defeat of Sennacherib (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:22-23).

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.
In 2 Kings 18:9-12 the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes by Salmanasar, which has already been related according to the annals of the kingdom of Israel in 2 Kings 17:3-6, is related once more according to the annals of the kingdom of Judah, in which this catastrophe is also introduced as an event that was memorable in relation to all the covenant-nation.

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.
Sennacherib invades Judah and threatens Jerusalem.

(Note: We have a parallel and elaborate account of this campaign of Sennacherib and his defeat (2 Kings 18:13-19:37), and also of Hezekiah's sickness and recovery and the arrival of the Babylonian embassy in Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:1-19), in Isaiah 36-39, and a brief extract, with certain not unimportant supplements, in 2 Chronicles 32. These three narratives, as is now generally admitted, are drawn independently of one another from a collection of the prophecies of Isaiah, which was received into the annals of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 32:32), and serve to confirm and complete one another.)

- Sennacherib, סנחריב (Sanchērı̄bh), Σενναχηρίμ (lxx), Σεναχήριβος (Joseph.), Σαναχάριβος (Herodot.), whose name has not yet been deciphered with certainty upon the Assyrian monuments or clearly explained (see J. Brandis uber den histor. Gewinn aus der Entzifferung der assyr. Inschriften, pp. 103ff., and M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Assurs, p. 37), was the successor of Salmanasar (Sargina according to the monuments). He is called βασιλεὺς Ἀραβίων τε καὶ Ἀσσυρίων by Herodotus (ii. 141), and reigned, according to Berosus, eighteen years. He took all the fortified cities in Judah (יפּשׂם, with the masculine suffix instead of the feminine: cf. Ewald, 184, c.). The כּל, all, is not to be pressed; for, beside the strongly fortified capital Jerusalem, he had not yet taken the fortified cities of Lachish and Libnah (2 Kings 18:17 and 2 Kings 19:8) at the time, when, according to 2 Kings 18:14., he sent a division of his army against Jerusalem, and summoned Hezekiah to surrender that city. According to Herodotus (l.c.), the real object of his campaign was Egypt, which is also apparent from 2 Kings 19:24, and is confirmed by Isaiah 10:24; for which reason Tirhaka marched against him (2 Kings 19:8; cf. M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Assurs, pp. 171, 172).

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.
On the report of Sennacherib's approach, Hezekiah made provision at once for the safety of Jerusalem. He had the city fortified more strongly, and the fountain of the upper Gihon and the brook near the city stopped up (see at 2 Kings 18:17), to cut off the supply of water from the besiegers, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 32:2-8, and confirmed by Isaiah 22:8-11. In the meantime Sennacherib had pressed forward to Lachish, i.e., Um Lakis, in the plain of Judah, on the south-west of Jerusalem, seven hours to the west of Eleutheropolis on the road to Egypt (see at Joshua 10:3); so that Hezekiah, having doubts as to the possibility of a successful resistance, sent ambassadors to negotiate with him, and promised to pay him as much tribute as he might demand if he would withdraw. The confession "I have sinned" is not to be pressed, inasmuch as it was forced from Hezekiah by the pressure of distress. Since Asshur had made Judah tributary by faithless conduct on the part of Tiglath-pileser towards Ahaz, there was nothing really wrong in the shaking off of this yoke by the refusal to pay any further tribute. But Hezekiah certainly did wrong, when, after taking the first step, he was alarmed at the disastrous consequences, and sought to purchase once more the peace which he himself had broken, by a fresh submission and renewal of the payment of tribute. This false step on the part of the pious king, which arose from a temporary weakness of faith, was nevertheless turned into a blessing through the pride of Sennacherib and the covenant-faithfulness of the Lord towards him and his kingdom. Sennacherib demanded the enormous sum of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (more than two and a half million thalers, or 375,000); and Hezekiah not only gave him all the gold and silver found in the treasures of the temple and palace, but had the gold plates with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:3) removed, to send them to the king of Assyria. האמנות, lit., the supports, i.e., the posts, of the doors.

These negotiations with Sennacherib on the part of Hezekiah are passed over both in the book of Isaiah and also in the Chronicles, because they had no further influence upon the future progress of the war.

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.
For though Sennacherib did indeed take the money, he did not depart, as he had no doubt promised, but, emboldened still further by this submissiveness, sent a detachment of his army against Jerusalem, and summoned Hezekiah to surrender the capital. "He sent Tartan, Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh." Rabshakeh only is mentioned in Isaiah, as the chief speaker in the negotiations which follow, although in Isaiah 37:6 and Isaiah 37:24 allusion is evidently made to the other two. Tartan had no doubt the chief command, since he is not only mentioned first here, but conducted the siege of Ashdod, according to Isaiah 20:1. The three names are probably only official names, or titles of the offices held by the persons mentioned. For רב־סריס means princeps eunuchorum, and רבשׁקה chief cup-bearer. תּרתּן is explained by Hitzig on Isaiah 20:1 as derived from the Persian tr-tan, "high person or vertex of the body," and in Jeremiah 39:3 as "body-guard;" but this is hardly correct, as the other two titles are Semitic. These generals took up their station with their army "at the conduit of the upper pool, which ran by the road of the fuller's field," i.e., the conduit which flowed from the upper pool - according to 2 Chronicles 32:30, the basin of the upper Gihon (Birket el Mamilla) - into the lower pool (Birket es Sultn: see at 1 Kings 1:33). According to Isaiah 7:3, this conduit was in existence as early as the time of Ahaz. The "end" of it is probably the locality in which the conduit began at the upper pool or Gihon, or where it first issued from it. This conduit which led from the upper Gihon into the lower, and which is called in 2 Chronicles 32:30 "the outflow of the upper Gihon," Hezekiah stopped up, and conducted the water downwards, i.e., the underground, towards the west into the city of David; that is to say, he conducted the water of the upper Gihon, which had previously flowed along the western side of the city outside the wall into the lower Gihon and so away down the valley of Ben-hinnom, into the city itself by means of a subterranean channel,

(Note: We may get some idea of the works connected with this aqueduct from the description of the "sealed fountain" of the Solomon's pool at Ain Saleh in Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerus. ii. pp. 857ff., Dritte Wanderung.)

that he might retain this water for the use of the city in the event of a siege of Jerusalem, and keep it from the besiegers.

This water was probably collected in the cistern (הבּרכה) which Hezekiah made, i.e., order to be constructed (2 Kings 20:20), or the reservoir "between the two walls for the waters of the old pool," mentioned in Isaiah 22:11, i.e., most probably the reservoir still existing at some distance to the east of the Joppa gate on the western side of the road which leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the so-called "pool of Hezekiah," which the natives call Birket el Hamman, "Bathing-pool," because it supplies a bath in the neighbourhood, or B. el Batrak, "Patriarch's pool" (see Robinson, Pal. i. p. 487, and Fresh Researches into the Topography of Jerusalem, pp. 111ff.), since this is still fed by a conduit from the Mamilla pool (see E. G. Schultz, Jerusalem, p. 31, and Tobler, Denkbltter, pp. 44ff.).

(Note: The identity of the ברכה, which Hezekiah constructed as a reservoir for the overflow of the upper Gihon that was conducted into the city (2 Kings 20:20), with the present "pool of Hezekiah" is indeed very probable, but not quite certain. For in very recent times, on digging the foundation for the Evangelical church built on the northern slope of Zion, they lighted upon a large well-preserved arched channel, which was partly cut in the rock, and, where this was not the case, built in level layers and coated within with a hard cement about an inch thick and covered with large stones (Robinson, New Inquiries as to the Topography of Jerusalem, p. 113, and Bibl. Res. p. 318), and which might possibly be connected with the channel made by Hezekiah to conduct the water of the upper Gihon into the city, although this channel does not open into the pool of Hezekiah, and the walls, some remains of which are still preserved, may belong to a later age. The arguments adduced by Thenius in support of the assumption that the "lower" or "old pool" mentioned in Isaiah 22:9 and Isaiah 22:11 is different from the lower Gihon-pool, and to be sought for in the Tyropoeon, are inconclusive. It by no means follows from the expression, "which lies by the road of the fuller's field," i.e., by the road which runs past the fuller's field, that there was another upper pool in Jerusalem beside the upper pool (Gihon); but this additional clause simply serves to define more precisely the spot by the conduit mentioned where the Assyrian army took its stand; and it by no means follows from the words of Isaiah 22:11, "a gathering of waters have ye made between the two walls for the waters of the old pool," that this gathering of waters was made in the Tyropoeon, and that this "old pool," as distinguished from the lower pool (Isaiah 22:9), was an upper pool, which was above the king's pool mentioned in Nehemiah 3:15. For even if החמתים בין occurs in 2 Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 39:4; Jeremiah 52:7, in connection with a locality on the south-east side of the city, the Old Testament says nothing about two pools in the Tyropoeon at the south-east corner of Jerusalem, but simply mentions a fountain gate, which probably derived its name from the present fountain of the Virgin, and the king's pool, also called Shelach in Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15, which was no doubt fed from that fountain like the present Siloam, and watered the royal gardens. (Compare Rob. Pal. i. pp. 565ff., and Bibl. Res. p. 189, and Tobler, Die Siloah-quelle u. der Oelberg, pp. 1ff.). The two walls, between which Hezekiah placed the reservoir, may very well be the northern wall of Zion and the one which surrounded the lower city (Acra) on the north-west, according to which the words in Isaiah 22:11 would admirably suit the "pool of Hezekiah." Again, Hezekiah did not wait till the departure of Sennacherib before he built this conduit, which is also mentioned in Wis. 48:17, as Knobel supposes (on Isaiah 22:11), but he made it when he first invaded Judah, before the appearance of the Assyrian troops in front of Jerusalem, when he made the defensive preparations noticed at v. 14, as is evident from 2 Chronicles 32:3-4, compared with 2 Kings 18:30, since the stopping up of the fountain outside the city, to withdraw the water from the Assyrians, is expressly mentioned in 2 Kings 18:3, 2 Kings 18:4 among the measures of defence; and in the concluding notices concerning Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:20, and 2 Chronicles 32:30, there is also a brief allusion to this work, without any precise indication of the time when he had executed it.)

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.
Hezekiah considered it beneath his dignity to negotiate personally with the generals of Sennacherib. He sent three of his leading ministers out to the front of the city: Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, the captain of the castle, who had only received the appointment to this office a short time before in Shebna's place (Isaiah 22:20-21); Shebna, who was still secretary of state (ספר: see at 2 Samuel 8:17); and Joach the son of Asaph, the chancellor (מזכּיר: see at 2 Samuel 8:16).

Rabshakeh made a speech to these three (2 Kings 18:19-25), in which he tried to show that Hezekiah's confidence that he would be able to resist the might of the king of Assyria was perfectly vain, since neither Egypt (2 Kings 18:21), nor his God (2 Kings 18:22), nor his forces (2 Kings 18:23), would be able to defend him.

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?
"The great king:" the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian kings all assumed this title (cf. Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37), because kings of conquered lands were subject to them as vassals (see at Isaiah 10:8). "What is this confidence that thou cherishest?" i.e., how vain or worthless is this confidence!

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?
"Thou sayest ... it is only a lip-word...: counsel and might for battle;" i.e., if thou speakest of counsel and might for battle, that is only שׂפתים דּבר, a word that merely comes from the lips, not from the heart, the seat of the understanding, i.e., a foolish and inconsiderate saying (cf. Proverbs 14:23; Job 11:2). - עמרתּ is to be preferred to the אמרתּי of Isaiah as the more original of the two. עתּה, now, sc. we will see on whom thou didst rely, when thou didst rebel 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.
On Egypt? "that broken reed, which runs into the hand of any one who would lean upon it (thinking it whole), and pierces it through." This figure, which is repeated in Ezekiel 29:6-7, is so far suitably chosen, that the Nile, representing Egypt, is rich in reeds. What Rabshakeh says of Egypt here, Isaiah had already earnestly impressed upon his people (Isaiah 30:3-5), to warn them against trusting in the support of Egypt, from which one party in the nation expected help against Assyria.

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?
Hezekiah (and Judah) had a stronger ground of confidence in Jehovah his God. Even this Rabshakeh tried to shake, availing himself very skilfully, from his heathen point of view, of the reform which Hezekiah had made in the worship, and representing the abolition of the altars on the high places as an infringement upon the reverence that ought to be shown to God. "And if ye say, We trust in Jehovah our God, (I:say:) is it not He whose high places and altars Hezekiah has taken away and has said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar (in the temple) in Jerusalem?" Instead of האמרוּ כּי, according to which Rabshakeh turned to the deputies, we have in Isaiah 7:7 תאמר כּי, according to which the words are addressed to Hezekiah, as in 2 Kings 18:20. האמרוּ is preferred by Thenius, Knobel, and others, because in what follows Hezekiah is addressed in the third person. but the very circumstance that האמרוּ is apparently more suitable favours the originality of תאמר, according to which the king is still addressed in the person of his ambassadors, and Rabshakeh only speaks directly to the ambassadors when this argument is answered. The attack upon the confidence which the Judaeans placed in their God commences with הוּא הלוא. The opinion of Thenius, that the second clause of the verse is a continuation of the words supposed to be spoken by the Judaeans who trusted in God, and that the apodosis does not follow till 2 Kings 18:23, is quite a mistake. The ambassadors of Hezekiah could not regard the high places and idolatrous altars that had been abolished as altars of Jehovah; and the apodosis could not commence with ועתּה.

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.
Still less could Hezekiah rely upon his military resources. נא התערב: enter, I pray thee, (into contest) with my lord, and I will give thee 2000 horses, if thou canst set the horsemen upon them. The meaning, of course, is not that Hezekiah could not raise 2000 soldiers in all, but that he could not produce so many men who were able to fight as horsemen. "How then wilt thou turn back a single one of the smallest lieutenants of my lord?" פל את־פּני השׁיב, to repulse a person's face, means generally to turn away a person with his petition (1 Kings 2:16-17), here to repulse an assailant. אחד פּחת is one pasha; although אחד hguo, which is grammatically subordinate to פּחת, is in the construct state, that the genitives which follow may be connected (for this subordination of אחד see Ewald, 286, a.). פּחה (see at 1 Kings 10:15), lit., under-vicegerent, i.e., administrator of a province under a satrap, in military states also a subordinate officer. ותּבטח: and so (with thy military force so small) thou trustest in Egypt וגו לרכב, so far as war-chariots and horsemen are concerned.

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.
After Rabshakeh had thus, as he imagined, taken away every ground of confidence from Hezekiah, he added still further, that the Assyrian king himself had also not come without Jehovah, but had been summoned by Him to effect the destruction of Judah. It is possible that some report may have reached his ears of the predictions of the prophets, who had represented the Assyrian invasion as a judgment from the Lord, and these he used for his own purposes. Instead of הזּה המּקום על, against this place, i.e., Jerusalem, we have הזּאת הארץ על in Isaiah, - a reading which owes its origin simply to the endeavour to bring the two clauses into exact conformity to one another.

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.
It was very conceivable that Rabshakeh's boasting might make an impression upon the people; the ambassadors of Hezekiah therefore interrupted him with the request that he would speak to them in Aramaean, as they understood that language, and not in Jewish, on account of the people who were standing upon the wall. ארמית was the language spoken in Syria, Babylonia, and probably also in the province of Assyria, and may possibly have been Rabshakeh's mother-tongue, even if the court language of the Assyrian kings was an Aryan dialect. With the close affinity between the Aramaean and the Hebrew, the latter could not be unknown to Rabshakeh, so that he made use of it, just as the Aramaean language was intelligible to the ministers of Hezekiah, whereas the people in Jerusalem understood only יהוּדיה, Jewish, i.e., the Hebrew language spoken in the kingdom of Judah. It is evident from the last clause of the verse that the negotiations were carried on in the neighbourhood of the city wall of Jerusalem.

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?
But Rabshakeh rejected this proposal with the scornful remark, that his commission was not to speak to Hezekiah and his ambassadors only, but rather to the people upon the wall. The variation of the preposition על and אל in אדניך על אדני, to thy lord (Hezekiah), and אליך, to thee (Eliakim as chief speaker), is avoided in the text of Isaiah. על is frequently used for אל, in the later usage of the language, in the sense of to or at. In the words "who sit upon the wall to eat their dung and drink their urine," Rabshakeh points to the horrors which a siege of Jerusalem would entail upon the inhabitants. For חריהם equals חראיהם, excrementa sua, and שׁיניהם, urinas suas, the Masoretes have substituted the euphemisms צואתם, going forth, and רגליהם מימי, water of their feet.

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:
ויּעמוד: not, he stood up, raised himself (Ges.), or came forward (Then.), but he stationed himself, assumed an attitude calculated for effect, and spoke to the people with a loud voice in the Jewish language, telling them to listen to the king of Assyria and not to be led astray by Hezekiah, i.e., to be persuaded to defend the city any longer, since neither Hezekiah nor Jehovah could defend them from the might of Sennacherib. אל־ישּׁיא: let not Hezekiah deceive you, sc. by pretending to be able to defend or save Jerusalem. In מיּדו, "out of his (the Assyrian's) hand," the speaker ceases to speak in the name of his king. On the construction of the passive תּנּתן with את־העיר, see Ewald, 277, d., although in the instance before us he proposes to expunge the את after Isaiah 36:15.

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.
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:
"Make peace with me and come out to me (sc., out of your walls, i.e., surrender to me), and ye shall eat every one his vine, ... till I come and bring you into a land like your own land..." בּרכה is used here to signify peace as the concentration of weal and blessing. The imperative ועכלוּ expresses the consequence of what goes before (vid., Ewald, 347, b.). To eat his vine and fig-tree and to drink the water of his well is a figure denoting the quiet and undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of his own possession (cf. 1 Kings 5:5). Even in the event of their yielding, the Assyrian would transport the Jewish people into another land, according to the standing custom of Asiatic conquerors in ancient times (for proofs see Hengstenberg, De rebus Tyriis, pp. 51, 52). To make the people contented with this thought, the boaster promised that the king of Assyria would carry them into a land which was quite as fruitful and glorious as the land of Canaan. The description of it as a land with corn and new wine, etc., recalls the picture of the land of Canaan in Deuteronomy 8:8 and Deuteronomy 33:28. יצהר זית is the olive-tree which yields good oil, in distinction from the wild olive-tree. וגו וחיוּ: and ye shall live and not die, i.e., no harm shall befall you from me (Thenius). This passage is abridged in Isaiah 36:17.

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.
Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
Even Jehovah could not deliver them any more than Hezekiah. As a proof of this, Rabshakeh enumerated a number of cities and lands which the king of Assyria had conquered, without their gods' being able to offer any resistance to his power. "Where are the gods of Hamath, etc., that they might have delivered Samaria out of my hand?" Instead of הצּילוּ כּי we have הץ וכי and that they might have, which loosens the connection somewhat more between this clause and the preceding one, and makes it more independent. "Where are they?" is equivalent to they are gone, have perished (cf. 2 Kings 19:18); and "that they might have delivered" is equivalent to they have not delivered. The subject to הצּילוּ כּי is הגּוים אלהי, which includes the God of Samaria. Sennacherib regards himself as being as it were one with his predecessors, as the representative of the might of Assyria, so that he attributes to himself the conquests of cities and lands which his ancestors had made. The cities and lands enumerated in 2 Kings 18:34 have been mentioned already in 2 Kings 17:24 as conquered territories, from which colonists had been transplanted to Samaria, with the exception of Arpad and Hena. ארפּד, which is also mentioned in 2 Kings 19:13; Isaiah 10:9; Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 37:13, and Jeremiah 49:23, in connection with Hamath, was certainly situated in the neighbourhood of that city, and still exists, so far as the name is concerned, in the large village of rfd, Arfd (mentioned by Maraszid, i. 47), in northern Syria in the district of Azz, which was seven hours to the north of Haleb, according to Abulf. Tab. Syr. ed. Khler, p. 23, and Niebuhr, Reise, ii. p. 414 (see Roediger, Addenda ad Ges. thes. p. 112). הנע, Hena, which is also combined with 'Ivvah in 2 Kings 19:13 and Isaiah 37:13, is probably the city of 'nt Ana, on the Euphrates, mentioned by Abulf., and עוּה is most likely the same as עוּא in 2 Kings 17:24. The names ועוּה הנע are omitted from the text of Isaiah in consequence of the abridgment of Rabshakeh's address.

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?
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?
2 Kings 18:35 contains the conclusion drawn from the facts already adduced: "which of all the gods of the lands are they who have delivered their land out of my hand, that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" i.e., as not one of the gods of the lands named have been able to rescue his land from Assyria, Jehovah also will not be able to defend Jerusalem.

But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
The people were quite silent at this address ("the people," העם, to whom Rabshakeh had wished to address himself); for Hezekiah had forbidden them to make any answer, not only to prevent Rabshakeh from saying anything further, but that the ambassadors of Sennacherib might be left in complete uncertainty as to the impression made by their words. The deputies of Hezekiah returned to the king with their clothes rent as a sign of grief at the words of the Assyrian, by which not only Hezekiah, but still more Jehovah, had been blasphemed, and reported what they had heard.

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.
Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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