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Bible: What Does 2 Kings 16-18 Teach Us About Ahaz, the Assyrian Captivity, and King Hezekiah?
Ahaz, King of Judah
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Ahaz's Unrighteous Reign
An oddity occurs in Judah: an unrighteous king, Ahaz, ascends the throne.
This ruler behaves as do the kings of Israel, offering his own child as a sacrifice (a pagan ritual) as well as maintaining false places for sacrificial services (vv. 1-4).
Sensing an opportunity to capture Jerusalem, the kings of Syria and Israel besiege his realm.
God, however, does not yet allow the city's downfall, but does enable Syria to take the town of Elath from Judah (vv. 5-6).
Ahaz turns to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria for help, sending him much silver and gold as a present (v. 7).
Assyria assaults Damascus, captures many Syrians, and kills their king (vv. 8-9).
While visiting the king of Assyria in Damascus, Ahaz notices a certain altar.
He admires its workmanship so much that he sends its specifications to Urijah the priest, and orders him to build one just like it (vv. 10-11).
When the king returns to Jerusalem, he worships at this new altar, offering a variety of sacrifices (vv. 12-13).
This new arrangement so pleases Ahaz that he commands Urijah to make all the public sacrifices on it, while securing the temple's bronze altar for his own private use (vv. 14-16).
The king also changes the structuring of other temple objects, such as the panels of the carts and the Sea, and removes a Sabbath pavilion and the king's outer entrance from the temple (vv. 17-18).
A more complete personal history appears in Chronicles (vv. 19-20).
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2 Kings 17
Hoshea becomes the last king of Israel before the Assyrian captivity.
After having paid tribute to Shalmaneser V for years, this not-so-evil ruler attempts to conspire with So king of Egypt against Sargon king of Assyria.
His failure to overthrow the Assyrian brings him imprisonment (vv. 1-4).
After besieging Samaria for three years, Assyria finally breaks through and takes Israel into captivity (vv. 5-6).
The sacred historian does not hesitate to explain why such a catastrophe had come to pass: God's people had turned from Him to fear other gods (v. 7), walk in other, worldly statutes (v. 8), and secretly practice false sacrifice, serving idols (vv. 9-12).
Despite continual prophetic warnings to repent of their evil ways and return to the Law, Israel (as well as Judah) rejects God's covenant and His instruction, and becomes like the nations in his rebellion (vv. 13-15).
When Yahweh finally removes the people from His sight, idolatry, Baal worship, and heathenish practices dominate their lifestyle (vv. 16-18).
[Judah also disobeys God, so the LORD rejects him as well as Israel, bringing plunderers upon both of them (vv. 19-20).
Israel loved Jeroboam's ways; therefore, God brought them all captive to Assyria (vv. 21-23)].
Sargon resettles many other conquered peoples in Samaria to replace the Israelites (v. 24).
When God sends lions against these unbelievers, they quickly petition the king to find an Israelite priest who would teach them the "rituals of the God of the land" (vv. 25-27).
Thus, the LORD has a witness among the heathen, and the latter begin to ''fear" Him (v. 28). Nevertheless, these people remain idolaters, placing their own gods and priests in the high places of the Samaritans (vv. 29-31).
Yahweh becomes just one more god among many in their pantheon of deities (vv. 32-33).
This respect for the true God does not last long, however; for they desist in practicing the Law by the time the historian pens these words (v. 34).
He reiterates the instruction the LORD gave Israel regarding their need to be absolutely loyal to Him and Him alone.
The great Savior, Yahweh, is the only God whom they should worship; only His law should they obey, and only His covenant should they not forget (vv. 35-39).
Although the nations fear Yahweh, they do not forsake their own images and rituals (vv. 40-41).
Hezekiah, King of Judah
2 Kings 18
Hezekiah, one of Judah's most righteous kings, ascends the throne, bringing a brief respite from judgment to that tribe.
For twenty-nine years he orchestrates a major reformation, destroying all manner of idols, including Nehushtan, Moses' bronze serpent (vv. 1-4).
Hezekiah's extraordinary trust in Yahweh and obedience to His commandments enable him to withstand Assyrian pressure and subdue the Philistines (vv. 5-8).
Four years into his reign, the king watches Assyrian forces besiege Samaria; three years later, he learns of the city's overthrow and the exile of disobedient Israel into captivity (vv. 9-12).
Hezekiah escapes the fury of Assyria until his fourteenth year when Sennacherib begins to capture Judah's fortified cities (v. 13).
Recognizing that he must have done something wrong—what the sin was the author does not reveal—the king submits to the Assyrian and pays him tribute, emptying the temple and his own house of their treasuries of gold and silver (vv. 14-16).
Sennacherib, King of Assyria
The Language of Diplomacy
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Sennacherib, thinking that he has Hezekiah positioned exactly where he wants him, sends an impressive delegation of ambassadors and a mighty army against Jerusalem.
His Assyrian trio meets with the city's top officials at the "aqueduct from the upper pool" (vv. 17-18).
Assyria's governor/chief of staff, the spokesman, endeavors to convince them to surrender without a fight, first by ridiculing their supposed trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen, and then mocking their reliance upon Yahweh (whose influence he must have seen as diminished) [vv. 19-22].
He not only speaks condescendingly to them about the size of Judah's armed forces, but also argues with false humility about his own position in the Assyrian government (vv. 23-24).
This blasphemous "Rabshakeh" even claims revelation from Yahweh to destroy Jerusalem (v. 25)!
Judah's officials ask him to speak to them in the language of diplomacy, Aramaic, not in Hebrew, the common tongue (v. 26).
Assyria's spokesman arrogantly retorts, in essence, "I'll speak to all of you men, condemned to starvation, as I well please; you are in no position to negotiate with me" (v. 27).
Screaming in Hebrew, the governor delivers a passionate spiel to the people on the wall, presenting (from a human perspective) cogent and reasonable arguments for why they should surrender:
(1) Puny Hezekiah cannot save you (v. 29).
(2) His trust in God cannot deliver you from Assyrian power (v. 30).
(3) The king of Assyria is mercifully offering you so much in return for your submission to his lordship (vv. 31-32).
(4) No other god has defeated Assyria; he says, in essence, “What makes you believe that Jerusalem's deity will do any better?” (vv. 33-35).
In accordance with Hezekiah's command, the people hold their peace; nevertheless, after listening to the Rabshakeh's speech, Judah's officials appear before the king, grieving (vv. 36-37).
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