2 Kings 19 Study Notes
19:1 Some have seen Hezekiah’s inactivity at this point as out of character. Two responses are proper. First, his seeking God and leading in repentance are very important actions. Second, this account was not structured to show Hezekiah’s activities. It instead aims to show his faith as the world around him was collapsing. By his grief Hezekiah was demonstrating how bad things were.
19:2-3 Royal officers and the leading priests were a very prestigious delegation. The writer used Hezekiah’s own words to Isaiah to reinforce how bad the situation was. The metaphor of failed childbirth powerfully demonstrated the Israelites’ helpless-ness.
19:4 The Assyrians’ insulting words about the Lord might arouse God, the only resource remaining, to action.
19:5-7 After more than a chapter of bad news, these verses describe the first of five steps of good news. The overall theme is that no matter how bad circumstances appeared, God could and would deliver. Isaiah’s response was that despite the Assyrian’s arrogance in insulting God, he would give the Assyrian king such a spirit—attitude or desire—that he would want to go to his own land where he would die.
19:8-9 Since Sennacherib left Lachish without returning, Lachish must have fallen about that time. Sennacherib was dealing with Libnah when he heard that Tirhakah of Egypt was coming. Tirhakah was the last pharaoh of the Cushite dynasty of Egypt. His power consisted of a small group of Egyptian royalty and nobility united with relatively effective Sudanese soldiers. Tirhakah’s army was defeated, and Egypt ceased to be a threat.
19:10-13 Rabshakeh again warned Hezekiah, and again the message dealt with overwhelming Assyrian power. The warning was supported by a list of conquered peoples whose gods had not helped them: Gozan, on the Habor tributary of the Euphrates River near Haran; Rezeph, northeast of Hamath on the trade route to the Euphrates; the Edenites (sometimes identified with the Aramean kingdom, Bit Adini, conquered by Assyria ca 855 BC), who like Telassar are unknown; Hamath, almost directly north of Damascus; Arpad, near the site of modern Aleppo; Sepharvaim and Hena, whose locations are unknown; and finally Ivvah, probably identical with Avva (17:31), whose gods are named but whose location is unknown. All of these sites were roughly on Assyria’s approach route to Palestine.
19:14 This time Hezekiah took his problem straight to his personal God.
19:15-16 Hezekiah’s prayer depicted God as the sole Creator God. Although the Lord had not yet acted, this prayer implied that he would act when the time was right.
19:17-19 The second step (see note at vv. 5-7) in the good news was recognizing that the gods conquered by the Assyrians were not gods. The gods of those nations were idols made by men. Hezekiah, being so close to Isaiah, must have been influenced by Isaiah’s teaching about idols (Is 40:18-20; 46:1-7). The intended impact of God’s deliverance was to provide a testimony to all the kingdoms of the earth.
19:20-24 God presented the third stage of good news (see note at vv. 5-7) by describing the true power structure of the universe. This recalls the revelation to Elisha’s servant (see note at 6:16-17).
19:21 First, the tables were turned to just the opposite of the Assyrians’ attitudes. In truth, Jerusalem, or Daughter Zion, was in a position to mock the Assyrians.
19:22 In contrast to the idols destroyed by Assyria, the Assyrians were now facing the only true God, the Holy One of Israel, whose power surpassed anything the Assyrians had experienced.
19:23-24 Then came the most amazing principle of Isaiah’s oracle. He admitted that the power of the Assyrian and his conquests were real. These verses use poetic figures of conquest, marching to the mountains of Lebanon and trampling the waters of many nations. No Assyrian court poet could have more effectively described the power and glory of Assyria in so few words.
19:25-26 Assyria had her way with surrounding nations for one reason: God ordained it.
19:27-28 The Assyrians were in God’s hand. This brings us to the fourth point (see note at vv. 5-7) of good news: God would lead the Assyrians back to their land by his hook in their nose just as he would handle a stubborn draft animal.
19:29 The year of Jubilee was a second consecutive Sabbath year, where fields were left fallow for two years (Lv 25:1-12). Many suspect that these commands were never consistently implemented. While possible, it is statistically unlikely that these two years under discussion would have coincided with the Jubilee. It is more likely that the author used these concepts and principles as metaphors to describe the recovery of the land from devastation. Just as in the Jubilee, it would take two years of work and living on volunteer growth (plants arising from stray seeds not planted by man) to restore the land. These words also suggest that the diminished population could survive on volunteer growth for two years. This message from Isaiah was both a sign, whose fulfillment proved God’s reliability, and a promise that volunteer growth would suffice for those two years.
19:30-31 This closing metaphor had three levels of meaning. First, the remnants of the agricultural crops would take root and grow, and that growth would be an encouraging sign to God’s people. Second, it promised that the remnant of the people would take root in the promised land, grow there, and survive this disaster. Third, this was a metaphor for the way in which God’s people survive and recover from physical and spiritual enemies when they are fulfilling God’s purposes.
19:35-36 The fifth and final step of good news (see note at vv. 5-7) was that God did send the Assyrians home. God miraculously damaged the Assyrian army so severely that they had to leave Judah. This apparently happened after the Assyrians had defeated the invading Egyptian army. All the events of this chapter probably took several weeks. Leaving Lachish, turning aside from Libnah, defeating the Egyptians, and then suffering a miraculous blow from God—perhaps a plague—would take some time.
19:37 The topic of these two chapters is God’s triumph over Sennacherib. Though the end actually came some ten or so years later, the Bible writer recorded the prophesied end of that account—Sennacherib’s death—before going on to begin another. Sennacherib had claimed that Hezekiah’s God could not save him. Hezekiah’s God did save him, but Sennacherib’s god could not—even in his own temple.