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Bible: What Does Isaiah 36-39 Teach Us About Hezekiah? Summary Questions: Chapters 1-39
The Prophet Isaiah
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The Hezekiah Pericope (Isaiah 36-39)
Isaiah sets the scene—time, characters, and events—leading up to a faith-challenging encounter (v. 1).
The chief of staff in King Sennacherib's army meets with Israelite leaders in Jerusalem to discuss terms of surrender and tribute.
However, he must first convince them to cease trusting in outside forces for salvation (e.g., Egypt, Yahweh) [vv. 2-10].
"The Rabshakeh" initially rationalizes that Israel is trusting in something (specifically, Egypt) which both he and they realize is vain (see Is. 30:1-7; 31:1-3).
Then he argues against Israel's trust in the LORD (v. 7), positing that it, too, is futile, since no other nation's gods had been able to withstand the Assyrian army (see 37:18-20).
Therefore, he suggests that they make the reasonable choice: side withAssyria, and do not turn away the king's messenger (vv. 8-9).
The Rabshakeh even claims in their presence that he has God's permission to destroy Jerusalem (v. 10).
Jerusalem's leaders do not wish the "people on the wall" to hear the Assyrian's terms, so they ask him to speak to them in Aramaic, not Hebrew (v. 11).
[Aramaic was the diplomatic language at this time in Israel's history].
But the chief negotiator brazenly proclaims his message to them in Hebrew, trying to persuade them, in effect, to surrender and receive all their heart's desires from the king of Assyria(vv. 13-17).
The leaders, under Hezekiah's orders to keep silent, leave the Rabshakeh's presence and deliver his words to the king (vv. 21-22).
Hezekiah responds properly to Assyria's threat; he visits the temple of God, concerned only that the name/reputation/majesty of the LORD be not impugned (v. 1).
That, more than his own survival, holds sway in his prayer.
Although he does pray, "Save us," the king's utmost desire remains that Yahweh's name should become known worldwide (see 37:20).
He calls upon the prophet's help for this same purpose, asking him to pray for the remnant (v. 4).
Isaiah assures Hezekiah that he need not fear, for God will see to Sennacherib's fall (vv. 6-7). The king of Assyria sends another message to Hezekiah via the Rabshakeh.
This one practically repeats the main point of the first, except for mentioning a few more places of conquest under Sennacherib’s belt (vv. 10-13).
In response, Hezekiah fervently prays, acknowledging, first of all, the sovereign creatorship of his God (vv. 14-16).
The king also honestly faces another reality: he does not minimize the menace before him (vv. 18-19).
Isaiah returns with Yahweh's response to the king's prayer (v. 21).
Even the “daughter of Jerusalem” has such confidence in God's protection that she can laugh at Sennacherib (v. 22).
Using rhetorical questions to highlight His sovereignty and power, Yahweh seeks to humiliate the king of Assyria (v. 23).
Though he thinks that he has accomplished great feats by his own power, the prideful king needs divine instruction to understand that Yahweh had purposely made Assyria a conquering nation (vv. 24-27).
Therefore, God resolves to treat raging Assyriaas it has treated other nations (vv. 28-29).
The LORD then gives Hezekiah a sign—a three-year plan—regarding how to survive (v. 30).
On the one hand, God's zeal will rescue a remnant from Jerusalem; afterwards, the city and her people will prosper (vv. 31-32).
On the other hand, the king of Assyriawill not conquer the city, but the LORD’s angel will slaughter his one hundred eighty-five thousand-man army (v. 36).
When Sennacherib returns to Nineveh (vv. 33-35), his own sons will then assassinate him in the temple of his god (vv. 37-38).
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In those days, Hezekiah contracts a sickness (caused possibly by a cancerous boil).
After Isaiah informs him that he should prepare for death, the king pleads with Yahweh to sustain him and prolong his life (vv. 1-3).
Hearing his plea, God graciously grants the king fifteen more years as well as protection from Assyria (vv. 4-6).
[Note: Hezekiah fathers the wicked Manasseh during those last fifteen years.
Yet this latter king later repents of his many sins].
A miraculous sign from Yahweh seals this promise (vv. 7-8). [Why such a display?]
In poetic fashion, the king records his feelings both during and after this great trial (vv. 9-20).
After lamenting his anticipated "early" departure (v. 10), he grieves that he would never again be able to enjoy relationships (v. 11).
Hezekiah likens his death to the removal of a shepherd's tent and to the "cutting" of cloth from a loom (v. 12).
In his bitterness of soul Hezekiah blames God, comparing Him to a lion breaking his body (v. 13; cf. Lamentations 3).
His agony and desolation are almost palpable (v. 14).
Then reaching a point of acceptance, the king resolves to "walk carefully" (v. 15).
[Did this acceptance occur before or after God's promise to restore his health?
What are "these things" referring to in verse sixteen?].
Only by experiencing great bitterness does Hezekiah come to know peace (v. 17a).
Learning to accept "these things" of life by faith is what produced this desired state of mind.
Salvation from his sins causes him, as a living man, to give thanks and praise God continually (vv. 17b-20).
Isaiah's narration finally resumes, delineating how God would heal Hezekiah (v. 21) and recording the king's desire for a sign (v. 22; see 1 Kings 20:5ff).
Merodach-Baladan, King of Babylon
Enter Babylon through Merodach-Baladan's diplomatic gesture of good wishes to a recently recovered Hezekiah (v. 1).
The king foolishly (as it turned out) reveals his great wealth to the Babylonian envoys (v. 2).
Isaiah learns of this meeting and questions Hezekiah about the origin and purpose of the visitors (v. 3).
After he acquires the facts, the prophet delivers a sobering word of prophecy to the king (vv. 5-7), who curiously (even flippantly) responds to the bad news (v. 8).
[Why did Hezekiah display such a cavalier attitude toward Israel's future?
He did not seem to care at all about his people's welfare so long as his own time in power prospered.
The NKJV renders Hezekiah's words as a question instead of a statement in 2 Kings 20:19].
So ends Isaiah 1-39, which focused primarily upon Israel's relation to Assyria.
Summary Questions (Chapters 1-39)
1. Upon what does God insist in 1:18?
2. What character trait that God hates does Isaiah emphasize in Chapter 2?
3. According to Isaiah 3:13-15, what human element, when missing or inadequate, causes disastrous results in society?
4. To what period of time does Isaiah refer when he writes "in that day" (4:2)?
5. In the parable of Isaiah 5, as what part of creation did Yahweh describe Israel?
6. Whom does Isaiah see in his vision in chapter 6?
7. Do you think the Immanuel prophecy of chapter seven has any relation to Isaiah's son in chapter 8?
8. What are the most recognizable Messianic passages in this early section of Isaiah?
9. How could sin be found in a perfect being, such as Lucifer (Is. 14)?
10. What does God's judgment upon the nations surrounding Israel suggest (chapters 13-23)?
11. What will be some characteristics of the Messianic reign (chapters 32, 35)?
12. What was Ephraim's blatant sin, according to chapter 28?
13. Which conquering nation would subjugate Ephraim?
14. What nation did not profit Israel when the people of God trusted in it?
15. What disaster will one day befall the land of Israel?
16. Did the Rabshakeh's offer (Chapter 36) seem plausible? Why or why not?
17. Who is the Angel of the LORD (chapter 37)?
18. Why did God grant Hezekiah fifteen more years (chapter 38)?
19. What was the language of diplomacy in Hezekiah’s time (36:11)?
20. Name the nations which Yahweh/Isaiah addressed in His/his woes (28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1).
21. Who were the main Assyrian characters/leaders during Hezekiah’s reign?
22. Who or what is Leviathan (27:1)?
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