Good morning! Though we’ve been cruising through various kings, and bouncing between Judah and Israel multiple times in a chapter, today’s passage (2 Kings 18-20) slows down to focus on Hezekiah, the king in Judah at the time that Israel falls, who then fends off an assault by the same Assyrians on Jerusalem.
After Hezekiah is introduced to us as the best king of Judah (according to this writing), we hear again about the Assyrian attacks against Israel that toppled Samaria and led the people into exile. Some years later, the Assyrian king goes to attack Judah next, extorting payment from them under penalty of attack. When Hezekiah declines to fully consent to Assyrian rule, the Rabshakeh (something like an Assyrian press secretary) issues a challenge in Hebrew so that all the people can understand. First, he suggests that it’s the Hebrews’ own God who has sent the Assyrians against Judah and given such success. Then he promises the people food and bounty in Syria if only they will surrender. And finally, he threatens that Hezekiah’s righteous appeals to the God of Israel will be no more successful than the appeals to the gods of other lands.
Hezekiah’s response is to begin rituals of mourning, and then consult the prophet Isaiah with a plea for divine mercy. Isaiah proclaims God’s decree: the Assyrians will turn away because of trouble in the homeland, and their king would die there. After receiving a threatening Assyrian letter, Hezekiah prays again in the temple to God for victory, proof that Israel’s God is more than the empty idols of other nations. Isaiah sends God’s reply, a poetic prophecy declaring that Assyria’s success was part of God’s plan, but now its arrogance will make God turn against the nation. Hezekiah is not to worry, because God will defend Judah and Jerusalem. The next thing we hear, God’s angel kills nearly two hundred thousand Assyrian soldiers and the Assyrian king is assassinated by his sons.
We see several other episodes from Hezekiah’s life to round out his biblical biography. Once he is gravely sick and hears that he’s about to die, but his fervent prayer changes God’s mind and will make the illness abate. Isaiah proves God’s intention to follow through with this promise when his prayer causes the sun moves backward in the sky at Isaiah’s request. Hezekiah’s illness is an opportunity for Babylonian envoys to come and spy out all the realm of Judah. Isaiah warns that within a generation, Babylon will have taken captive Hezekiah’s own descendants and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Hezekiah chooses not to worry about what will happen after he’s gone, and the chapter closes with mention of his legacy in improving the water supply to Jerusalem. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Kings 21-23. Thanks for reading!