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2 Kings 18

Hezekiah King of Judah (18:1-16)

17-18 After capturing Judah’s fortified cities (verse 13), Sennacherib set his sights on seizing Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s bribe did not work (verse 14). After exacting all that silver and gold from Hezekiah, Sennacherib was greedy for more, and assumed there were yet greater stores of silver and gold remaining in Jerusalem.

According to 2 Chronicles 32:1-8, Hezekiah and his officers responded to Sennacherib’s invasion by blocking off the water from the springs outside the city—except, of course, the water coming inside the city via aqueducts. There was no point in providing water for Sennacherib’s army! In addition, Hezekiah had Jerusalem’s walls repaired and an outer wall built; he also made a large number of weapons and shields.

Then Hezekiah said to the people, “Do not be afraid . . . for there is a greater power with us than with [Sennacherib] . . . with us is the LORD; He will help us” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8). In this way, Hezekiah encouraged the people of Jerusalem (see 1 John 4:4).

Before attacking Jerusalem, Sennacherib ordered his chief officers to try and persuade the people of the city to surrender. Hezekiah sent three of his own officials out to talk with Sennacherib’s men (verse 18).

19-25 Sennacherib’s field commander then made a long speech to the effect that Hezekiah could not possibly resist the will of the great king, Sennacherib. It was futile for Hezekiah to depend on Egypt; the king of Egypt could not help (verse 21). It was futile for Hezekiah to depend on the Lord; why should the Lord help Hezekiah when it was Hezekiah himself who had removed the high places and altars outside Jerusalem where the Lord was worshiped! (verse 22). It was also futile for Hezekiah to depend upon his army; even if Sennacherib gave him two thousand horses, Hezekiah wouldn’t have enough horsemen to ride them! (verse 23). Finally, as if all this were not enough to prove the futility of Hezekiah’s cause, the chief commander added that it was Hezekiah’s own Lord who had told Sennacherib to destroy Judah (verse 25)—a totally false statement, of course.

26-27 Hezekiah’s three officials responded to this speech by asking Sennacherib’s field commander to speak in Aramaic71 rather than in Hebrew (the common language of Israel); they were afraid that if the people in Jerusalem within hearing distance heard any more such talk they would lose heart and surrender—which, of course, was what the field commander was hoping for.

The field commander ignored the request of Hezekiah’s officials and continued to speak in the hearing of the people sitting on the city wall. They would be the ones bearing the brunt of the attack, so they should hear what he had to say. He suggested that a siege of the city would cause such a severe famine that the people would resort to eating their own bodily waste (verse 27).

28-37 The commander then spoke directly to the people on the wall. He told them not to listen to Hezekiah but to surrender—to make peace and come out (verse 31). He promised that those who lived outside Jerusalem could return to their houses—until, that is, he came to take them into exile; but even in exile they would be living in a good and prosperous land. Therefore, they should choose life, not death (verse 32). If they trusted in Hezekiah and the Lord, they would die; if they trusted in the great king of Assyria, they would live. What a reversal of the choices Moses had once offered the people of Israel! (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Finally the commander began to belittle the Lord of Israel, as if He was just like the gods of all the other nations Sennacherib had defeated (2 Chronicles 32:19). If all these other gods couldn’t save their lands the Lord of Israel! He alone is the God from Sennacherib, how could the Lord be who saves. The people remained silent expected to save Jerusalem? (verse 35).

How little the commander knew about the Lord of Israel! He alone is the God who saves. The people remained silent (verse 36); the commander’s attempt to How little the commander knew about persuade them to surrender had failed.

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