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In the New Testament, tension remains between the former “Northern Kingdom” and “Southern Kingdom,” although the names have changed. The Judeans in the south argue that only they maintain God’s law, and that the Samaritans in the north are no longer God’s people. Of course, the Samaritans believe the opposite. This argument started because of Assyria’s deportation practices. Although the religion of the Lord remained active in the Northern Kingdom after the Assyrian conquest, the importing of people from all over the East caused the religion to be combined with alien, pagan practices.

18 During the third year of Hoshea (Elah’s son and the last king of Israel), Hezekiah (Ahaz’s son) inherited the throne in Judah. Hezekiah was 25 when he inherited the throne. His reign in Jerusalem lasted 29 years. His mother was Abi (Zechariah’s daughter). He did what was good in the Eternal’s eyes, and he walked the same righteous path as his ancestor, David.

He tore down all of the wicked high places and demolished all the holy pillars and the sacred pole. He shattered the bronze serpent that Moses had crafted because the Israelites burned incense to honor it.[a] The bronze serpent was named, “the bronze thing.”[b] Hezekiah put his trust in the Eternal One, Israel’s God. Before and after his righteous reign, no other king ever compared to him in Judah. He embraced the Eternal, and he did not abandon the righteous path. He obeyed all the sacred laws that the Eternal had given to Moses. The Eternal One was with Hezekiah, and His blessings covered him everywhere he went. Hezekiah defied Assyria’s king and refused to humble himself before him, unlike his father, Ahaz. He conquered the Philistines all the way to Gaza, taking everything from imposing lookout towers to large fortified cities.

During King Hezekiah’s fourth year, which was the seventh year of Hoshea (king of Israel and Elah’s son), Shalmaneser, Assyria’s king, waged war against Samaria and attacked it with full force. 10 After three years, during Hezekiah’s sixth year in Judah and Hoshea’s ninth year as king of Israel, they took possession of Samaria. 11 Assyria’s king transported the Israelites to Assyria as exiles. He forced them to live in Halah on the Habor (the river of Gozan) and in the cities of the Medes. 12 This took place because they did not obey the warning of the Eternal their God. Instead they transgressed both the sacred covenant He had made with them and everything Moses, the servant of the Eternal, had commanded. They would not listen to the sacred laws, much less obey them.

The Assyrian King Sennacherib invades Judah at the end of the 8th century. In 701 b.c., he reaches Jerusalem and sets himself against King Hezekiah. In one of his royal documents are words describing Hezekiah’s situation: “like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem, his royal city, I penned him.” Hezekiah is desperate and consults Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah tells Hezekiah to trust God entirely.

The story is phenomenal! God sends an angelic warrior to the Assyrian camp and 185,000 Assyrians from the royal army are killed. The Greek historian Herodotus also mentions this story and says that multitudes of rats brought a divine omen and disease to the Assyrian camp. The writer of the book of Kings clearly encourages his reader to see this event as God’s hand favoring Judah over Assyria.

13 During King Hezekiah’s 14th year, Sennacherib, Assyria’s king, attacked and captured all of Judah’s fortified cities. 14 Hezekiah (Judah’s king) sent a message to Sennacherib at Lachish.

Hezekiah’s Message: I confess that what I have done is wrong! Please leave now, and I will personally pay the penalty of my own actions.

Assyria’s king demanded 11 tons of silver and one ton of gold from Hezekiah, king of Judah. 15 Hezekiah gathered up all the silver he could find in the Eternal’s temple and in the palace treasuries; and he gave it to Assyria’s king, just as he had demanded. 16 He even stripped the gold off the Eternal’s temple doors and doorposts that he had gilded, and he handed it over to Assyria’s king.

17 Assyria’s king then dispatched a large army to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The army was led by three senior military officers, Tartan, Rab-saris, and Rabshakeh, from Lachish. They came to Jerusalem and waited by the channel of the upper pool. (The channel is on the main route to the fuller’s field.) 18 They called out to the king; but instead of the king coming out to meet them, Eliakim (Hilkiah’s son) the palace administrator, Shebnah the lawyer, and Joah (Asaph’s son) the reporter to the king and the people approached them.

Rabshakeh: 19 Go back and tell Hezekiah that this is the message of Assyria’s mighty king: “What is the basis of your confidence? 20 You are a big talker, saying, ‘I have everything I need for war—guidance and might.’ But to whom do you turn now that you have turned against me? 21 You turn to a broken reed, Egypt. If a man leans on a broken reed, it stabs his palm. It is the same with Egypt’s Pharaoh and all who lean on him. 22 But you profess to me, ‘We put our faith in the Eternal One our God.’ Is it not His high places and altars that Hezekiah has torn down? Did not Hezekiah tell Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Worship at this place in Jerusalem’?”

23 Make a deal with my master, Assyria’s king, and you will receive 2,000 horses from me. I hope you have enough riders for them. 24 How can you turn away a governor—even the least of my master’s governors—and lean on Egypt instead for horsemen and chariots? 25 Do you think I have come here to destroy this land without the Eternal’s permission? He is the One who told me, “Go destroy it! I’ll support you.

Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah (to Rabshakeh): 26 This needs to be a private conversation. Please speak to your servants in a different tongue—Aramaic—for we understand it and do not need you to speak to us in Judean. That way everyone on the walls won’t be able to understand you.

Rabshakeh: 27 How arrogant and foolish of you! Do you think I have been sent here by my king to talk to only you and your king? I am to speak to everyone. Soon you and these men on the walls will surely be doomed to fill your bellies with your own dung and quench your thirst with your own urine.

28 (loudly in Judean) Listen to what Assyria’s mighty king has to say! 29 He says, “Do not trust in Hezekiah. He cannot save you from me! 30 Do not allow Hezekiah to deceive you into trusting the Eternal when he says, ‘The Eternal One will save us, and our city will not be handed over to Assyria’s king.’” 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah. Assyria’s king says, “Let there be peace between us. Join me now, and fill your bellies with food from your own vineyards and orchards and drink from your own pools. 32 Then I will come and lead you to a land similar to your own—a land of plentiful grain, new wine, bread, vineyards, olive orchards, and honey. This is a place where you will live in peace and not worry about a premature death. Do not listen to Hezekiah when he lies to you, saying, ‘The Eternal will save us.’ 33 Have any of the gods of other nations ever saved their lands from Assyria’s king? Is there a single nation that has survived him? 34 Where are Hamath’s gods and Arpad’s gods? Where are Sepharvaim’s gods, Hena’s gods, and Ivvah’s gods? Did they save Samaria from me? 35 Are there any gods in any land that have saved their lands from me? No, there is not a single one. So do you really think that the Eternal will be any different? Do you really think He can save you, Jerusalem, from me?”

36 Everyone listening was quiet and did not reply with a single word, because the king had given them the command, “Don’t speak a single word to him.” 37 Eliakim (Hilkiah’s son) the palace administrator, Shebna the lawyer, and Joah (Asaph’s son) the reporter approached Hezekiah and tore their garments. Then they recited every word Rabshakeh had spoken to them.

Footnotes

  1. 18:4 Numbers 21:9
  2. 18:4 Hebrew, Nehushtan

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