Hezekiah and Isaiah
2 Kings 18:1-19; Isaiah 36-39
King Hezekiah, one of the most faithful kings of Judah, and the prophet Isaiah were contemporaries and faithful men of God. They lived in a time where the nation of Judah had suffered through long periods of unfaithfulness, and the revival of faith experienced during Hezekiah's reign was short-lived and incomplete as far as the population was concerned.
The Assyrian empire had overrun Syria and Israel. With the start
of the reign of Sargon II, Assyria had conquered Samaria, the capital of Israel.
His son, Sennacherib, then attacked Judah. His campaign in 701 BC failed due to
God's intervention. The righteousness of king Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet
were instrumental in Sennacherib's downfall.
Hezekiah's Early Reign
(2 Kings. 18:1-12)
Following the evil reign of Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah, Judah had four good kings. However, they had not tear down their high places that had been used to worship idols.
The next king, Ahaz, who was Hezekiah's father, was evil. He
became so degraded that he even sacrificed children as burnt offerings to pagan
Hezekiah, however, did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and Judah prospered during his reign (2 Kings 18:1-8). He tore down the high places so they could only be used again if they were rebuilt. In fact, the people had even turned the bronze serpent that God had told Moses to make seven centuries before into an idol. So Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent (vs. 4).
God blessed Hezekiah so that he was able to break the Assyrian
domination and defeat the Philistines as well (vs. 7,8). While the long
faithless kingdom of Israel (Samaria) to the north was destroyed at this time,
Judah to the south was spared 2 Kings 18:9-12).
God blesses those who obey him (see also Matthew 6:24; 7:7-11). Blessings come to the faithful in many ways; physical as well as spiritual. Many mistakenly consider the physical as more important than the spiritual (Matthew 6:19-21). Faith is living righteously; trusting that God will give what is necessary; and being content (Philippians 4:11-13).
The Proverb writer said that righteousness exalts a nation
(Proverbs 14:34). That was true for Judah and it is true for our own nation
today. But sin is a disgrace and will ultimately weaken and destroy a nation.
Those that live by faith have a good example in Hezekiah.
Sennacherib's Invasion (701 B.C.)
(2 Kings 18:13-19; Isaiah 36 and 37)
When Sennacherib invaded Judah, Hezekiah paid tribute to him, hoping to avoid a siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:14). Sennacherib, however, sent a large army to besiege Jerusalem in spite of the bribe attempt. He promised to deport the Jews to a "good" land, saying they had no hope. It was a beautiful piece of propaganda. Sennacherib first explained that it was hopeless to resist because their ally Egypt could not help them (2 Kings 18:20,21). He continued by stating that God would not help, since Hezekiah had torn down the high places, failing to understand that the high places had been torn down to please Jehovah (2 Kings 18:22). He then mocked Judah's military by saying that the warriors of Judah could not ride war horses, even if Assyria provided them (2 Kings 18:23). He then claimed that God had sent the Assyrians to destroy Judah (2 Kings 18:25). He reminded them that sieges meant food would become scarce and that they would starve (2 Kings 18:27). Sennacherib suggested that God could not save Jerusalem anymore than the gods of the other nations had saved their people (2 Kings 18:33). Finally, he painted a very rosy (an false) picture of how idyllic it would be to become Assyria's slaves (2 Kings 18:31,32).
Hezekiah sought God's help. Isaiah prophesied that the Assyrians would hear that Pharaoh Tirhakah was going to fight the Assyrians and return to Assyria (2 Kings 19:7-9). Assyrian records show that Sennacherib defeated Tirhakah at the battle of Eltekan in 701 B.C. Sennacherib subsequently sent a letter stating that God could not stop Assyria from conquering Jerusalem. Hezekiah "spread the letter before the Lord" and prayed for deliverance (2 Kings 19:14). Go responded through Isaiah that the Assyrian army would be destroyed (2 Kings 19:32-34).
It was that very night that the angel of the Lord struck the Assyrians that night, killing 185,000 (2 Kings 19:35). As prophesied, Sennacherib returned to Nineveh where he was killed by two of his sons; this happened 20 years later. We in the Chicago area can travel to the University of Chicago and visit the Oriental Institute, a museum with many ancient artifacts on display, and see an ancient Assyrian record where Sennacherib boasts "I have shut up Hezekiah like a bird in a cage." Unfortunately for Sennacherib, his "caged bird" had a powerful God who delivered the captive. The Assyrian record is silent about the defeat at Jerusalem (ancient kings did not like their failures recorded).
We serve a God who is the ruler of all nations (Psalm 113:3,4;
115:1-9). Do not put your hope in the hopeless. Put it in the throne of the true
and eternal Kings. He is also a God who loves and protects his faithful people,
then and today (Psalm 37:27,28; 2 Timothy 4:17,18; 1:12; 1 Peter 1:5).
Hezekiah became mortally ill, and without God's intervention he knew he would die (Isaiah 38:1). He wept and prayed for recovery. (Isaiah 38:2,3) God granted him an additional 15 years of life (Isaiah 38:4,5). This reminds us of how God hears the prayers of righteous people (James 5:16; 1 John 3:22). We need to live according to God's word and be confident of the purpose and power of prayer offered according to the Lord's will..
Hezekiah showed the treasures of his kingdom to the Babylonian king's envoys (Isaiah 39:1,2). That was a mistake. Hezekiah was righteous, but not perfect. The Babylonians evidently decided that one day those treasures would be theirs. God was displeased. Through Isaiah, God informed Hezekiah that his treasures would be carried to Babylon, along with some of his descendants (Isaiah 39:5,6).
What had led Hezekiah to show the treasures to the Babylonians? The answer was pride at his wealth. Many are too preoccupied with materialism and that often brings disaster ("He who dies with the most toys wins") How foolish! (2 Chronicles 32:31)!
Realize the value of your faith. And prove that you esteem it
highly by your actions in putting spiritual things first (1 Peter 1:7).
As Sennacherib's envoys of old, often the world mocks God. "Don't be so foolish as to depend on God." The envoys sought to destroy the people's morale and trust. But there was strong leadership in Hezekiah and Isaiah and others. The envoys failed, and Sennacherib's boasting proved empty. So will the boasts of the world against God today. As Jesus said, "Believe in God, believe also in Me."
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 12.3; March 2005