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.
Verse 1. - 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. There can scarcely be any doubt of this synchronism, which is in close accordance with the dates in vers. 9,10 of this chapter, and agrees well with the Assyrian inscriptions. Hezekiah's accession may be placed almost certainly in B.C. 727.
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.
Verse 2. - Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign (on the difficulties connected with this statement, and the best mode of meeting them, see the comment upon 2 Kings 16:1); and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. So Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:3. § 1), and the author of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 29:1). He reigned fourteen years before his severe illness, and fifteen afterwards. His mother's name also was Abi. Abi, "my father," is scarcely a possible name. We must, therefore, correct Kings by Chronicles, and regard her true name as Abijah, which menus "Jehovah is my father" (compare "Abiel"). The daughter of Zachariah. Perhaps the Zechariah of Isaiah 8:2.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
Verse 3. - And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. Such unqualified praise is only assigned to two other kings of Judah - Asa (1 Kings 15:11) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:2). It is curious that all three were the sons of wicked fathers. Hezekiah was probably, at an early age, Brought under the influence of Isaiah, who was on familiar terms with his father Ahaz (Isaiah 7:3-16), and would be likely to do all that lay in his power to turn Hezekiah from his father's evil ways, and to foster all the germs of good in his character.
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.
Verse 4. - He removed the high places. This was a comparatively late step in Hezekiah's religious reformation. He began, as we learn from Chronicles (2 Chronicles 29:3, 17), "in the first year of his reign, the first month, and the first day," by reopening the temple, which Ahaz had shut up, removing from it all the "filthiness" which Ahaz had allowed to accumulate (2 Chronicles 29:5), gathering together the priests and Levites and exhorting them (2 Chronicles 29:4-11), restoring and renewing the vessels which Ahaz had cut in pieces (2 Chronicles 29:19), and then re-establishing the temple-worship with all due solemnity (2 Chronicles 29:20-35). He next resolved on holding a grand Passover-festival, in the second month, as it had not been possible to keep it in the first (2 Chronicles 30:2, 3), and invited thereto, not only his own subjects, but the Israelites of the neighboring kingdom who were not yet carried off, but were still under the rule of Hoshea (2 Chronicles 30:10, 11, 18). It was not until this festival was over that the removal of the high places was taken in hand. Then, in a fit of zeal, which no doubt the king encouraged, a multitude of those who had kept the feast went forth from Jerusalem, first into the cities of Judah and Benjamin, and then into several of the cities of Israel, and "brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars... and utterly destroyed them all" (see 2 Chronicles 31:1). And brake the images, and cut down the groves; literally, the grove, according to the present text; but, as all the versions have the plural, Thenius thinks אֲשֵׁרָה should be changed into אֲשֵׁרִים. Keil and Bahr, on the contrary, would retain the singular, but understand it "collectively." That idolatry was practiced at some of the high places seems clear from this place, as well as from 1 Kings 14:23. And brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made (see Numbers 21:9). Difficulties are raised with respect to this statement. Some argue that the serpent, having served its purpose, would have been left hanging at the place where it was set up in the wilderness; others, that Moses would have destroyed it, lest the Israelites should make it an idol; others, again, that it was not likely to have lasted seven hundred years from the Exodus, even if it was brought into Palestine and taken care cf. It is supposed, therefore, that an imitation of the original serpent had been made by the Jews in the reign of Ahaz, had been called "the serpent Of Moses," and was now destroyed. But there is no sufficient reason for any of these suppositions. Considering what the serpent typified (John 3:14), it is not surprising that Moses should have been instructed to preserve it with the furniture of the tabernacle, or that, when once attached to that structure, it should have been preserved as a religious relic for seven hundred years. Many Egyptian figures in bronze now exist which are from three thousand to four thousand years old. The statement of the writer of Kings, that Hezekiah did now destroy "the serpent that Moses had made," is of more weight than a thousand speculations concerning what is likely, or not likely, to have happened. For unto these days the children of Israel did burn incense to it. Not, certainly, "from Moses' time to Hezekiah's," but from a date left vague and undetermined to the time when Hezekiah took his religious reformation in hand. Hezekiah found the practice continuing; the writer is not concerned to say - perhaps does net know - when it began. He implies, however, that it was of long standing. Serpent-worship was widely spread in the East, and there was more excuse for directing religious regard toward this serpent than toward any other. And he called it Nehushtan; rather, and it was called Nehushtan. יקרא is a singular with indefinite subject ("one called"), equivalent to "they called," or "it was called" (comp. Genesis 25:26; Genesis 38:29, 30). Nehushtan is not from נחשׁ "serpent," but from נחשׁת, "brass," and means "the little brass thing," ן being a diminutive, expression of tenderness.
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.
Verse 5. - He trusted in the Lord God of Israel. Unlike Hoshea (see homiletics on 2 Kings 17:1-4), unlike Ahaz (2 Kings 16:7-10), Hezekiah discarded trust in man, and - it may be after some hesitation - put his trust wholly in God. This was exactly what God required as the condition on which he would give his aid (Isaiah 30:1-7), and what no previous king since the Assyrian troubles began could bring himself to do. So that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. It has been concluded from this statement that, "when the merits of the kings were summed up after the fall of the monarchy, Hezekiah was, by a deliberate judgment, put at the very top" (Stanley 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 397); but, as exactly the same words are used of Josiah in 2 Kings 23:25, the true conclusion would seem to be rather that Hezekiah and Josiah were selected from the rest, and placed upon a par, above all the others. At first sight there may seem to be contradiction between the two passages, since absolute pre-eminence over all the other kings is ascribed to Hezekiah in one of them, to Josiah in the other; but the context shows that the pre-eminence is not the same in the two cases. To Hezekiah is ascribed pre-eminence in trust; to Josiah, pre-eminence in an exact observance of the Law: one excels in faith, the other in works; Josiah's whole life is one of activity, Hezekiah's great merit lies in his being content, in the crisis of his fate, to "stand still, and see the salvation of God."
For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 6. - For he clave to the Lord - rather, and he clave to the Lord; i.e. he persevered through the whole of his life; he did not fall into sins at the last, like Asa and Azariah (see 2 Chronicles 16:7-12; 2 Chronicles 26.' 16-21) - and departed not from following him. The writer probably considers "the princes of Judah" answerable for the embassy to Egypt mentioned in Isaiah 30:4, and excuses Hezekiah's ostentatious display of his treasures to the ambassadors of Merodach-Baladan (2 Kings 20:13) as a weakness, not an actual breach of obedience. 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.
Verse 7. - And the Lord was with him. Of no other King of Judah or Israel is this said, except only of David (2 Samuel 5:10). It was the promise made to Moses (Exodus 3:12), repeated to Joshua (Joshua 1:5, 7), and by implication given in them to all those who would rule his people faithfully (comp. 2 Chronicles 15:2). And he prospered whithersoever he went forth; rather, in all his goings - in cunctis ad quae procedebat (Vulgate). Hezekiah's prosperity is enlarged upon by the writer of Chronicles, who says (2 Chronicles 32:27-30), "And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honor: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, add for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels; storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.... And Hezekiah prospered in all his works." Many brought presents to him to Jerusalem, and he was magnified in the sight of all the surrounding nations (see 2 Chronicles 32:23). And he rebelled against the King of Assyria, and served him not. Hezekiah's "rebellion" probably took place at the very commencement of his reign, B.C. 727, in the year that Shalmaneser ascended the throne. Most likely it consisted simply in his withholding his tribute, and neither going in person nor sending representatives to Nineveh, to congratulate the new monarch on his accession. This would be understood as an assertion of independence. That it was not at once resented must be ascribed to Shalmaneser's difficulties with Samaria and with Tyre, which were more pressing, as they lay nearer to Assyria. Before these were over, Sargon usurped the crown. There is reason to believe that he made at least one expedition against Hezekiah; but the date of it is uncertain. Rebellion met him on all sides, and had to be crushed near home before he could venture to deal with it on the remote outskirts of his empire. Meanwhile Hezekiah strengthened himself and built up a considerable power.
He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
Verse 8. - He smote the Philistines. Hezekiah's Philistine war seems to have followed on an attempt which Sargon made to bring the whole country under the Assyrian dominion. Sargon attacked Philistia in B.C. 720, made Gaza and the other towns subject, and committed the custody of them to tributary kings, in whom he had confidence. But opposition soon manifested itself. Sargon's creatures were expelled - Akhimiti from Ash-clod, Padi from Ekron. Hezekiah assisted in this war of independence, attacked Sargon's viceroys, and helped the cities to free themselves. About the year B.C. 711 Sargon speaks of a league against Assyria, to which the parties were Philistia, Judaea, Edom, and Moab ('Eponym Canon,' p. 130). The Philistines, whom Hezekiah "smote," must be regarded as Assyrian partisans, whom he chastised in the interests of the national party. He did not seek conquests in Philistia for himself. Even unto Gaza. Gaza seems to have remained faithful to Assyria from its capture in B.C. 720. And the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen unto the fenced city. (On this expression, see the comment upon 2 Kings 17:9.)
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.
Verses 9-12. - THE PUNISHMENT OF SAMARIA FOR DISOBEDIENCE. In contrast with Hezekiah's piety and consequent prosperity, the author places the disobedience (ver. 12) and consequent extinction of the sister kingdom (vers. 9-11), which Belonged to Hezekiah's earlier years, and was an event of the greatest importance to him, since it made his dominions conterminous with those of Assyria, and exposed his northern frontier to attack at any moment from the Assyrian forces. According to all probable human calculation, the fall of Samaria should have been followed at once by an attack on Judaea; and but for the change of dynasty, and troubles on all sides which ensued thereupon, this would naturally have taken place. As it was, Judaea was allowed a Breathing-space, during which she strengthened her power in Philistia (see the comment on the preceding verse), and otherwise prepared herself to resist attack (see 2 Chronicles 33:3-6; Isaiah 22:8-11). Verse 9. - 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. Hezekiah Began to reign before Hoshea had completed his third year (ver. 1). His first year thus ran parallel with part of Hoshea's third and part of his fourth; his fourth with part of Hoshea's sixth and part of his seventh; his sixth with part of Hoshea's eighth and part of his ninth. That Shalmaneser King of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it (see the comment on 2 Kings 17:4, 5).
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.
Verse 10. - And at the end of three years they took it. The expression, "at the end of three years," does not show that the three years were complete. On the contrary, as the siege Began in Hezekiah's fourth year, probably in the spring, and was over in his sixth, say, by the autumn, the entire duration was not more than two years and a half. The plural verb, יִלְכְּדֻהָ, "they took it," is remarkable, since it would have seemed more natural to write יִלְכְּדָהּ, "he took it" - and so the LXX., the Vulgate, and the Syriac - but the writer seems to have known that Shalmaneser did not take it, but died during the siege, the capture falling into the first year of Sargon (see the 'Eponym Canon,' pp. 65, 66). Even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea King of Israel (see the comment on ver. 9), Samaria was taken (comp. 2 Kings 17:6).
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:
Verse 11. - And the King of Assyria - i.e. Sargon - did carry away Israel unto Assyria - the empire, not the country - and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Modes (see the comment on 2 Kings 17:6).
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.
Verse 12. - 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 (compare the expanded version of this statement in 2 Kings 17:7-23). The sin of Samaria may be summed up under three heads:
(2) breach of the covenant; and
(3) disregard of Moses, and the other "servants of the Lord."
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.
Verses 13-16. - FIRST EXPEDITION OF SENNACHERIB AGAINST HEZEKIAH. The writer now, as is his manner, omitting as comparatively unimportant all Hezekiah's dealings with Sargon, which were without positive result, proceeds to give a brief account of Sennacherib's first expedition against him, and of its unfortunate, if not disgraceful, issue:
(1) the capture of all the important cities except Jerusalem;
(2) the submission of Hezekiah to any terms which Sennacherib chose to impose; and
(3) the purchase of peace by the payment of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold out of the treasures of the temple and of the royal palace. The narrative obtains copious illustration from the inscriptions of Sennacherib. Verse 13. - Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah did Sennacherib King of Assyria come up. It is impossible to accept this note of time as genuine without rejecting altogether the authority of the Assyrian inscriptions. Sargon took Samaria in his first year, B.C. 722, and then had a reign of between seventeen and eighteen years, for fifteen of which we have his annals. He certainly did not associate Sennacherib with him on the throne, nor did the latter exercise any authority at all until B.C. 705, when, "on the 12th of Ab (July), he the throne ascended" ('Eponym Canon,' p. 67). Sennacherib places his first expedition against Hezekiah in his fourth year, B.C. 701. Thus, according to the Assyrian records, which are very ample, and of which we have the actual originals, twenty years intervened between the capture of Samaria and the attack of Sennacherib on Hezekiah; according to the present passage, compared with vers. 9, 10, eight years only intervened. No contradiction can be more absolute. It has been proposed to alter the date from "the fourteenth year" to "the twenty-sixth year; ' but it seems most probable that the original writer inserted no date, but simply said, "And Sennacherib, King of Assyria, came up," etc., just as he had said, without a date, "Pul the King of Assyria came up against the land" (2 Kings 15:19); and "against him (Hoshea) came up Shalmaneser" (2 Kings 17:3); and, with a very vague date, if it may be called a date, "In the days of Pekah King of Israel came Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria" (2 Kings 15:29. Comp. also 2 Kings 24:1, 11). Later on, a redactor - perhaps the same who inserted the whole series of synchronisms - introduced the words, "In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah," having obtained the number from 2 Kings 20:6, which he assumed to belong to the time of Sennacherib's attack. Against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. Sennacherib himself says, "And of Hezekiah of Judah, who did not submit to my yoke, forty-six strong cities, fortresses, and smaller cities round about them without number, by the march of my troops... by the force of battering-rams, mining, and missiles, I besieged, I captured" ('Eponym Canon,' p. 134, lines 6-12. Comp. also 2 Chronicles 32:1 and Isaiah 36:1).
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.
Verse 14. - And Hezekiah King of Judah sent to the King of Assyria to Lachish, saying. (On the position of Lachish, see the comment upon 2 Kings 14:19.) A bas-relief in the British Museum is thought to represent Sennacherib at the siege of Lachish. He is seated on a highly ornamented throne, and is engaged in receiving prisoners. The city is represented as strongly fortified, and as attacked with sealing-ladders and battering-rams. The surrender is taking place, and the captives of importance are being conducted from one of the tower-gates to the presence of the conqueror. An accompanying inscription is to the following effect: "Sennacherib, the great king, the King of Assyria, sitting on the throne of judgment before the city of Lakhisha (Lachish). I give permission for its destruction." It would seem that while Sennacherib was personally engaged in this siege, a portion of his army had invested Jerusalem, and were pressing the siege (see Isaiah 22:1-7). I have offended; return from me. The tone of the submission is abject. In vain had Isaiah counseled resistance, and promised deliverance if trust were placed in God (Isaiah 8:9-15; Isaiah 10:24-26; Isaiah 14:24, 25). When the siege commenced, all was dismay within the walls - it was "a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity (Isaiah 22:5). Some of the rulers fled (Isaiah 22:3); others gave themselves up for lost, and resolved on "a short life and a merry one" (Isaiah 22:13). Hezekiah found no encouragement to resist in any of his counselors except Isaiah, and was therefore driven to despair - acknowledged himself in the wrong for rebelling, and besought Sennacherib to "return from him" - i.e. in retire and withdraw his troops. That which thou puttest on me will I bear. Whatever burden Sennacherib chooses to put upon him, Hezekiah says he will bear, be it tribute, be it cession of territory, be it indignity of any sort or kind. He makes no reservation; but of course he assumes that the terms about to be offered him will be such as, according in the usages of war at the time, would be regarded as reasonable. And the King of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah King of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Sennacherib says that the payment made him by Hezekiah was thirty talents of gold and eight hundred talents of silver ('Records of the Past,' vol. 1. p. 39, line 34). He has, perhaps, exaggerated, or he may have counted in all the silver that he carried off from the whole of Judaea; or, possibly, the payment to purchase peace was eight hundred talents, the fixed tribute three hundred. We learn from Sennacherib's inscription that, besides making this money payment, Hezekiah had to consent to
(1) a cession of territory towards the south-west, which was apportioned between Gaza, Ekron, and Ash-deal;
(2) the surrender of an Assyrian vassal king, detained in Jerusalem; and
(3) the contribution to the harem at Nineveh of two if not more of his daughters.
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.
Verse 15. - 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. Ahaz had exhausted both these stores of wealth about thirty years previously (2 Kings 16:8), and there could not have been very much accumulation since. Hence the stripping of the metal-plating from off the temple doors (see the next verse).
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.
Verse 16. - 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. In the time of his great wealth and prosperity, Hezekiah, while engaged in restoring the temple (2 Chronicles 29:17-19), had adorned the pillars and doors of the sanctuary with a metal covering, which was probably gold, like Solomon's (1 Kings 6:20-22, 28, 30, 32). To make up the "thirty talents of gold" he was now obliged to undo his own work, and strip the doors and pillars bare. Sennacherib tells us that, besides the two large sums of gold and silver, Hezekiah sent him at this time "woven cloth, scarlet,' embroidered; precious stones of large size; couches of ivory; movable thrones of ivory; skins of buffaloes; horns of buffaloes; and two kinds of woods" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 1. p. 39, lines 34-37). It was customary to accompany the fixed tribute with the more precious products of each country.
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.
Verses 17-37. - SECOND EXPEDITION OF SENNACHERIB. This section and 2 Kings 19. form one continuous narrative, which can only have been divided on account of its great length (fifty-eight verses). The subject is one throughout, viz. Sennacherib's second expedition against Hezekiah. The narrative flows on without a break. It consists of
(1) an account of the embassy of Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:17-37; 2 Kings 19:1-8);
(2) an account of an insulting letter written by Sennacherib to Hezekiah, and of Hezekiah's "spreading it before the Lord" (2 Kings 19:9-14);
(3) the prayer of Hezekiah, and God's answer to it by the mouth of Isaiah (2 Kings 19:15-34);
(4) the destruction of Sennacherib's host, his flight to Nineveh, and his murder by two of his sons. The Assyrian inscriptions are absolutely silent with respect to this expedition and its result - it being a fixed rule with the historiographers of Assyria to pass over without notice all defeats and disasters. Verse 17. - And the King of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. Sennacherib appears, by his great inscription, to have returned to Nineveh, with his Judaean captives (more than two hundred thousand in number) and his rich booty, towards the close of the year B.C. 701. In the following year he was called into Babylonia, where troubles had broken out, and Hezekiah, left to himself, seems to have made up his mind to revolt, and to have called in the assistance of Egypt (Isaiah 30:4; 2 Kings 18:21). Sabatok was probably the nominal sovereign, but Tirhakah, who held his court at Meres, was lord paramount. An alliance was made; and hopes held out that, if Sennacherib again marched into Judaea, Hezekiah would receive effectual aid, especially in chariots and horsemen (ver. 24). Under these circumstances, Sennacherib made his second expedition, probably in B.C. 699. Regarding Egypt as his main enemy, and Judaea as of small account, he led his army by the ordinary route into the Philistian plain, pressing southward, while he detached a moderato force to hold Jerusalem in check, to threaten it, and, if an opportunity offered, to seize it. At the head of this force were three commanders, who seem to have borne, all of them, official titles; viz. the Tartan, or "commander-in-chief;" the Rabsaris, or "chief eunuch;" and the Rabshakeh, or "chief cupbearer." The Tartan was the highest of all the officials of the empire, and ranked next to the king. Sennacherib detached this force from Lachish, which seems to have revolted, and to have been undergoing a second siege. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool. It was, perhaps, this army which Isaiah saw in vision, advancing on Jerusalem from the pass of Michmash (Isaiah 10:28-32), and "shaking its hand" at the city from the northern plateau outside the walls - the traditional "camp of the Assyrians." At any rate, the "upper pool" and the" fuller's field" were in this direction (see the comment on Isaiah 7:3). Which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
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.
Verse 18. - And when they had called to the king - i.e., when they had announced that they had a message to deliver to the king - there came out to them; by Hezekiah's order, doubtless. Learning that they were three of Sennacherib's highest officials, he sent out to them three of the chief officers of his own court. Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household. Recently promoted to that high position, instead of Shebna, according to the prophecy (Isaiah 22:19-22), and perhaps by the influence of Isaiah. And Shebna the scribe; or, secretary - the official employed to draw up documents, such as treaties, protocols, despatches, and the like. He had been removed to this inferior position, to make room for Eliakim, but had not yet suffered, the banishment with which Isaiah (Isaiah 22:18) had threatened him. And Joah the son of Asaph the recorder; or, remembrancer - the person whose chief duty it probably was to chronicle events as they occurred, and finally to draw up the memoir of each reign at its close. (For another view, see the comment on 1 Kings 4:3.)
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?
Verse 19. - And Rabshakeh said unto them. Although the third in order of dignity, Rabshakeh took the word, probably because he was familiar with the Hebrew language, and could speak it fluently (see ver. 26). His being spokesman made him appear to be the chief ambassador, and made Isaiah, in the parallel passage (36.), pass over in silence the other two. Speak ye now to Hezekiah. It was a rude, almost an insulting commencement, to give Hezekiah no title - neither "the king," nor "King of Judah," nor even "your master," but to call him merely "Hezekiah." The same rudeness is persisted in throughout (vers. 22, 29, 30, 31, 32), and it is emphasized by the employment of some title or other, generally a lofty title, when Sennacherib is spoken cf. Sennacherib himself is less rude in his inscriptions (see the 'Eponym Canon,' pp. 133, line 45; 134, line 6; 136, lines 21, 15). Thus saith the great king, the King of Assyria. The "great king" - sarru rabu - was the ordinary title assumed by Assyrian monarchs. It passed from them to the Babylonians and the Persians. Sennacherib calls himself, on Bellino's cylinder," the great king, the powerful king, the King of Assyria, the king unrivalled, the pious monarch, the worshipper of the great gods, the protector of the just, the lover of the righteous, the noble warrior, the valiant hero, the first of all kings, the great punisher of unbelievers" (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 1. p. 25). What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? We may assume that Hezekiah had, at the beginning of the year, withheld his tribute. He had certainly not gone out to meet the "great king" as he approached his territories, to do homage, and place the forces of Judah at his disposal. On the contrary, he had taken up an attitude of hostility. He had fortified his capital (2 Chronicles 32:2-5); he had collected arms and soldiers, and had shut himself up in Jerusalem, having made every preparation for a siege. Sennacherib inquires why he has dared to do all this - on what strength does he rely? What is the ground of his 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?
Verse 20. - Thou sayest (but they are but vain words); literally, words of lips; i.e. words which the lips speak, without the heart having any conviction of their truth. We must suppose that Sennacherib has either heard from his spies that Hezekiah is speaking to the people as he represents him to be speaking, or conjectures what he is likely to say. According to the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8), what he did say was very different. He neither boasted of "counsel" nor of material "strength;" but simply said, "There be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles." I have counsel and strength for the war. Sennacherib imagines that Hezekiah's real trust is in the "fleshly arm" of Egypt, and in the counselors who have advised and brought about the alliance. And perhaps he is not far wrong. Hezekiah, it would seem, "halted between two opinions." He hoped for aid from Egypt; but, if it failed, then he hoped for the Divine help promised by Isaiah. 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.
Verse 21. - Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt. Sennacherib had good information. Hezekiah's embassy to Egypt (Isaiah 30:2-7) was known to him; and he rightly judged that Hezekiah was expecting aid from this quarter. This expectation he ridicules. What is Egypt but a "bruised reed"? The Nile bulrush (רצץ) has a goodly show; it rears itself aloft, and leeks strong and stately; but use it as a staff, lean upon it, and it snaps at once. Such is Pharaoh - nay, he is worse; he is a bruised reed, which can give no support at all, even for a moment. The Assyrian monarch was justified in his contempt. Egypt had never yet given any effectual support to the states attacked by Assyria Shebek gave no manner of aid to Hoshea, but allowed Samaria to be conquered in B.C. 722 without making the slightest effort on her behalf. In B.C. 720 he came to the aid of Gaza ('Eponym Canon,' p. 126), but Gaza was captured notwithstanding. In B.C. 711 either he or Sabatok undertook the protection of Ashdod, but with the same lack of success (ibid., pp. 130, 131). "Kings of Egypt" assisted the Ascalonites against Sennacherib himself in B.C. 701, and were again completely defeated (ibid., pp. 133, 134). Sargon calls the King of Egypt, whoso aid was invited by the Ashdedites (ibid., p. 130, line 37), "a monarch who could not save them." On which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it; i.e. trust in Egypt will not only bring a country no advantage, but it will bring positive injury. The sharp siliceous casing of a reed might run into the hand and give an ugly wound. So is Pharaoh King of Egypt unto all that trust on him. Sargon in one place (ibid., p. 130, line 36) speaks of a King of Egypt under the title of "Pharaoh."
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?
Verse 22. - But if ye say unto me, We trust in the Lord our God. Sennacherib had also heard of this second ground of trust, which Hezekiah had certainly put forward with great openness (2 Chronicles 32:8). No doubt he thought it purely fantastical and illusory. But he was not unaware that it might inspire a determined resistance. He therefore condescended to argue against reliance on it. Is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away? His counselors have suggested to Sennacherib a specious argument - How can Hezekiah confidently rely on the protection of the God of the land, Jehovah, when he has been employing himself for years in the destruction of this very God's high places and altars? Surely the God will not favor one who has been pulling down his places of worship! Putting out of sight the special requirements of the Jewish Law, the argument might well seem unanswerable. At any rate, it was calculated to have a certain effect on the minds of those who were attached to the high-place worship, and desired its continuance. And hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem. A weak argument, if addressed to Jews of Jerusalem only, but likely to have weight with the country Jews, if, as is probable, they had crowded into the city when the invasion began.
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.
Verse 23. - 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. "Pledge thyself," i.e. "to find the men, and I will pledge myself to find the horses." It is a strong expression of contempt for the military power of the Jews. They have not only no trained cavalry, but, were any one to furnish them with two thousand horses, they could not find the men to ride them. The Jewish army does, in fact, appear to have consisted of infantry and chariots only.
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?
Verse 24. - How then wilt thou turn away the face of - i.e. "repulse, "cause to retreat" - one captain of the least of my master's servants; literally, one governor - the word used is that which in modern times takes the form of "pasha," or "pacha." It properly applies to the rulers of provinces; but as these were expected to collect and command, upon occasions, the troops of their province, it has a secondary sense of "commander" or "captain." And put thy trust; rather, and thou puttest thy trust - in this extremity of weakness, so far as thine own forces are concerned, thou art so foolish as to put thy trust in Egypt, and to expect that her strength will make up for thine own impotence. Vain hope! (see ver. 21). On Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? or, chariots and chariot-men.
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.
Verse 25. - 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. The Assyrian monarchs constantly state that Asshur, their "great god," directs them to make war against this or that nation ('Records of the Past,' vol. 1. pp. 48, 60, 70, 71, 82, etc.), but not that the god of the country to be attacked does so. It is difficult to account for Sennacherib's very exceptional boast, "Jehovah said to me. Go up against this laud." Perhaps he identifies "Jehovah" with "Asshur." Perhaps he has heard of prophecies, uttered in the name of Jehovah, by Jewish prophets, which threatened the land with desolation at the hand of the Assyrians (e.g., Isaiah 7:17-24; Isaiah 10:5-12; Joel 2:1-11, etc.). Or he may have made the statement in mere bravado, as one that might frighten some, and at any rate could not be contradicted.
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.
Verse 26. - Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; literally, in the Aramaic language. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Assyrian were three cognate languages, closely allied, and very similar both in their grammatical forms and in their vocabularies, but still sufficiently different to be distinct languages, which were only intelligible to those who had learnt them. Rabshakeh had addressed the Jewish officials in Hebrew, probably as the language which they would best understand, if it were not even the only one that they would understand; not with the express "object of influencing the common people," as Bahr supposes. But the Jewish officials feared that the words uttered were influencing them. They proposed, therefore, that the further negotiations should be conducted in Aramaic, a tongue which they understood, and one which they supposed that Rabshakeh, as he knew Hebrew, would also know. Aramaic was spoken in most of the tract that lay between Assyria and Palestine, in Syria and Damascus certainly, in Upper Mesopotamia, along the line of the Euphrates, and perhaps as far as the Khabour river. For we understand it. It is not likely that the Jews of this time generally understood Aramaic; but high officials of the court, who might have to deal with embassies and negotiate treaties, found it necessary to understand it, just as such persons in our own country have to know French. And talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall. Besides the sentinels and other soldiers, there would probably be many idlers upon the wall, attracted by the unwonted spectacle of an ambassadorial cortege, and anxious to pick up intelligence. The loud voices of Orientals would be heard to a considerable distance.
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?
Verse 27. - 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? An intolerable speech on the part of an envoy, and one which might have justified an order to send an arrow through his head. Ambassadors are accredited by governments to governments, and the safe conduct granted to them is on the understanding that they will conduct themselves according to established usage. In no state of society can it have been allowable for envoys to intervene between the governors and the governed, and endeavor to stir up discontent among the latter. Yet this is what Rabshakeh did, and boasted of doing. Well might Isaiah say of such an arrogant and lawless aggressor, "He hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man" (see Isaiah 33:8). That they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? Rabshakeh means to say that the effect of the men "sitting on the wall," and continuing the defense of the town, will be to bring them to the last extremity of hunger and thirst, when they will be forced even to consume their own excrement (comp. 2 Kings 6:25-29).
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:
Verse 28. - Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with aloud voice in the Jews' language, and spake, saying. Rabshakeh had probably been sitting before. He now stood up to attract attention, and raised his voice to be the better heard. Still speaking Hebrew, and not Aramaic, he addressed himself directly to the people on the wall, soldiers and others, doing the very opposite to what he had been requested to do, and outraging all propriety. History scarcely presents any other instance of such coarse and barefaced effrontery, unless the affronts put upon a Danubian principality by the envoy of a "great Power" may be regarded as constituting a parallel. Hear the word of the great king, the King of Assyria. It is scarcely likely that Sennacherib had anticipated his envoy's action, much less directed it, and told him exactly what he was to say. But Rabshakeh thinks his words will have more effect if he represents them as those of his master.
Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:
Verse 29. - Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you. Rabshakeh and his master, no doubt, both of them thought Hezekiah's grounds of confidence would prove fallacious, and that all who should trust in them would find themselves "deceived." There were but two grounds that Hezekiah could possibly put forward:
(1) deliverance by human means - by his own armed strength and that of his allies;
(2) deliverance by supernatural means - by some great manifestation of miraculous power on the part of Jehovah. Rabshakeh thinks both equally impossible. The first, however, is too absurd for argument, and he therefore takes no further notice of it; but the second he proceeds to combat, in vers. 33-35. For he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand. Correct grammar requires "out of my hand;" but Rabshakeh forgets that he is professing to report the words of Sennacherib.
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.
Verse 30. - Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord. Rabshakeh seems to be aware that this is the argument which Hezekiah is, in point of fact, mainly urging. If at one time he had trusted in Egypt, that trust was now quite or well-nigh gone. The tone of his exhortations was that recorded in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:6-8), "He set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the King of Assyria, nor for all the multi-rude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him [see 2 Kings 6:16]; with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah King of Judah." Saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the King of Assyria. Hezekiah's was, in part, a general conviction that God would not forsake his people, who had recently turned to him, if not with absolute sincerity, yet at any rate with public confession of sin, and public acknowledgment of his mercies, and public profession of an intention to serve him; in part, probably, a special reliance on some definite prophecies of Isaiah, that the city should not be taken (see Isaiah 31:4-6; Isaiah 34:20-22).
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:
Verse 31. - Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the King of Assyria. Rabshakeh, before concluding, tries the effect of blandishments. The King of Assyria is no harsh lord, as he has been represented to them. He will be a kinder master than Hezekiah. Hezekiah condemns them to all the hardships of a siege; and then, if they survive it, to a wasted land, ruined homes, broken cisterns. Sennacherib, if they will but yield to him, promises them peace and prosperity, a time of quiet enjoyment in their own land, and then removal to another equally good, where they will "live and not die," be happy and not miserable. It will be observed that none but material inducements are held out to them. They are expected to barter freedom, independence, religious privileges, country, home, for the sake of creature comforts - for ease, quiet, and security. Setting aside the question whether they could count on the performance of the promises made them, it will be felt that they did well not to be tempted. Better vigorous national life, with any amount of hardship, struggle, and suffering, than the gilded chains of the most peaceful servitude. Make an agreement with me by a present - rather, make peace with me, or "make terms with me" (Knobel, Thenius, Keil, Bahr); in other words, give in your submission - and come out to me; i.e. quit the town, surrender it (see 1 Samuel 11:3; Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:17), place yourselves at my mercy, "and then" see what great things I will do for you." The tone, as Bahr says, is one of "wheedling" and cajolement. And then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree. Proverbial expressions for a peaceful, happy time (see 1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10), when there are no inroads, no ravages, no disturbances. Rabshakeh promises, in the name of Sennacherib, that they shall rest in their own land for a term - an indefinite term - in a blissful state of peace and quietness before any new resolution is taken about them. And drink ye every one the waters of his cistern; rather, of his well (בר). Every man who had a field or a vineyard was sure to have a well in it. Cisterns for the storage of rain-water were comparatively uncommon.
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.
Verse 32. - Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land. Rabshakeh did not dissemble the fact that they must look for a transplantation. Probably he felt that, if he did, he would not be believed. The transplantations had been too numerous and too recent, the examples of Samaria, Damascus, Hamath, Ashdod, etc., were too notorious, for it to be worth his while to pretend that Judaea would have any other fate. He therefore set himself the task of persuading the Jews that transplantation had nothing about it displeasing or even disagreeable - that, in fact, they were to be envied rather than pitied for being about to experience it. The King of Assyria, in the goodness of his paternal breast, would select for them a land as nearly as possible "like their own land" - a land teeming with corn and wine and oil, full of rich arable tracts, of vineyards and of olive-grounds, which would yield them those fruits of the earth to which they were accustomed, in abundance. What security they had that these promises would be fulfilled, he did not attempt to show them; much less did he explain to them why, if they were to gain rather than lose, it was worth while transplanting them at all; how that transplanted nations lost all spirit and patriotism, sank into apathy, and gave no trouble to their masters. A land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey (comp. Deuteronomy 8:8, 9, which has, no doubt, affected the language of the reporter, who gives the general tenor of Rabshakeh's speech, but could not have taken down or have remembered his exact words) that ye may live, and not die - as you win if you follow Hezekiah's advice - and [therefore] hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth - i.e., seeketh to persuade - you, saying, The Lord will deliver us (see the comment on ver. 30).
Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
Verse 33. - Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the King of Assyria? To Rabshakeh, and the Assyrians generally, this seemed a crushing and convincing, absolutely unanswerable, argument. It had all the force of what appeared to them a complete induction. As far back as they could remember, they had always been contending with different tribes and nations, each and all of whom had had gods in whom they trusted, and the result had been uniform - the gods had been unequal to the task of protecting their votaries against Assyria: how could it be imagined that Jehovah would prove an exception? If he was not exactly, as Knobel calls him, "the insignificant god of an insignificant people," yet how was he better or stronger than the others - than Chemosh, or Moloch, or Rim-moll, or Baal, or Ashima, or Khaldi, or Bel, or Merodach? What had he done for the Jews hitherto? Nothing remarkable, so far as the Assyrians knew; for their memories did not reach back so far as the time of Asa and the deliverance from Zerah, much less to the conquest of Canaan or the Exodus. He had not 'saved the trans-Jordanic tribes from Tiglath-pileser, or Samaria from his successors. Was it not madness to suppose that he would save Judaea from Sennacherib? A heathen reasoner could not see, could not be expected to see, the momentous difference; that the gods of the other countries were "no gods" (2 Kings 19:18), while Jehovah was "the Lord of the whole earth."
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?
Verse 34. - Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? Hamath and Arpad had been recently conquered (about B.C. 720) by Sargon (see the 'Epouym Canon,' pp. 126-128). Of the latter city but little is known, net even its site. We find it generally connected with Damascus (Jeremiah 49:23; ' Eponym Canon,' pp. 68, 126) and Hamath (2 Kings 19:13; Isaiah 10:9; Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 37:13; Jeremiah 49:23; ' Eponym Canon,' p. 126), and may conjecture that it lay between them, either in Coele-Syria or in the Anti-Libanus. (On Hamath, see the commentary upon 2 Kings 14:25; and for its special god, Ashima, see that on 2 Kings 17:30.) Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hens, and Ivah? (On the cities and gods of Sepharvaim and Ivah (or Ava), see the comment on 2 Kings 17:24 and
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?
Verse 35. - Who are they among all the gods of the countries - i.e., the countries with which Assyria had been at war - that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand? Produce an example of deliverance," Rabshakeh means to say, "before you speak of deliverance as probable, or even possible. If you cannot, relinquish the hope, and submit yourselves." Rabshakeh cannot conceive the idea that Jehovah is anything but a local god, on a par with all the other gods of the countries.
But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
Verse 36. - But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word. All Rabshakeh's efforts to produce open disaffection failed. Whatever impression his arguments may have made, no indication was given that they had produced any. If, then, he had hoped to bring about a mutiny, or even to create a disturbance, he was disappointed. For the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Hezekiah had either anticipated Rabshakeh's tactics, and given an order beforehand that no word should be uttered, or he had promptly met them by sending such an order, on learning Rabshakeh's proceedings, The latter is more probable, since such an outrageous course as that which Rabshakeh had pursued can scarcely have been expected.
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.
Verse 37. - 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. They had rent their clothes, not so much in grief or in alarm, as in horror at Rabshakeh's blasphemies. They were blasphemies, no doubt, arising from "invincible ignorance," and not intended as insults to the one Almighty Being who rules the earth, of whose existence Rabshakeh had probably no conception; but they struck on Jewish ears as insults to Jehovah, and therefore as dreadful and horrible (comp. Genesis 37:29; 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; Ezra 9:3, etc.). And told him the words of Rabshakeh; reported to him, i.e. as nearly as they could, all that Rabshakeh had said. The three envoys would supplement, and perhaps correct, one another; and Hezekiah would have conveyed to him a full and, on the whole, exact account of the message sent to him through Rabshakeh by the Assyrian king, and of Rabshakeh's method of enforcing it. The crisis of Hezekiah's life was reached. As he acted under it would be fixed his own fate, his character in the judgment of all future time, and the fate of his own country.