The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Know Your Bible Lesson 24: Assyria Attacks Judah

KYB 24

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

As we start this new lesson, the northern kingdom of Israel has been destroyed by the terrifying Assyrian army, and now that same army is attacking Judah under the leadership of King Sennacherib. Why? Because our new king Hezekiah has stopped paying tribute to Assyria. From Hezekiah’s point of view, he’s tired of being pushed around by a bully. From Sennacherib’s point of view, some pipsqueak in Judah is daring to defy the authority of an emperor. So now Sennacherib has come to grind Hezekiah and all of the people of Judah into the dirt.

As we learned in our last lesson, Hezekiah has gone to great lengths to ignite a spiritual revival in his kingdom, earning him a double smiley on our chart of kings.

Hezekiah

He sincerely cares about pleasing Yahweh and Yahweh has been greatly blessing him in return. So naturally Hezekiah assumed Yahweh would back him up in throwing off the shackles of Assyria’s oppression. Have you ever waited for God to defend you in a crisis only to feel like He never showed up? This is how Hezekiah feels as Sennacherib’s massive army floods into Judah and starts sieging two of his key fortified cities: Lachish and Jerusalem.

Now when he heard that Sennacherib was coming, Hezekiah tried to scrape up a few of his own defenses. He pep talked his army, and then had them go out and stop up all the springs of water around Jerusalem. But why? Isn’t he cutting off his own water supply by doing this? Well, soon Sennacherib would be surrounding the city and cutting off the water anyway. But if Hezekiah makes water hard to find, then Sennacherib’s army might have a harder time trying to camp around the city long enough to pull off a successful siege. Remember that the goal of a siege is to cut off all of the supplies into a city until the people trapped inside are starving, weak, and too terrified to put up a good fight. But to do this, you have to have supplies for your own men who are camping outside of the city, and of course water is one of those critical supplies.

Hezekiah’s preparations might help people stay busy and not think about how afraid they are, but these preparations are far from sufficient. Sennacherib is too well-equipped to be deterred by a shortage of water. He attacks ruthlessly, and he is winning. News reaches Jerusalem that fortified cities are being conquered. It looks like Yahweh isn’t coming after all. Hezekiah panics and sends a message to Sennacherib, offering to pay him any sum of money if he will just withdraw. Sennacherib answers by demanding an exorbitant fee. It’s so great that Hezekiah has to use up all the treasures in the Temple and his palace, plus strip some of the gold off of the Temple just to meet Sennacherib’s demands. But the bribe doesn’t work. Sennacherib takes all of the money, but he doesn’t call off his army. Instead, he sends a massive group of men to surround Jerusalem and lay siege to it. Then he sends one of his officers to the front of the city gate to deliver a haughty message. Hezekiah sends a few of his officials out of the city to hear what the message is. As the officials venture outside to meet with their opponents, people are watching from the top of the city’s castle like walls to hear what Sennacherib’s officer has to say.

“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me? On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!

But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in Yahweh our God!’ But isn’t He the One who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down His shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?

I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without Yahweh’s direction? Yahweh Himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’” (Isa. 36:8-10)

Sennacherib has obviously done his homework and has come up with an excellent speech to psych out the people of Judah. First, he knows that Hezekiah has an alliance with the pharaoh of Egypt. So he mocks Egypt’s strength as utterly pathetic. Second, he’s heard about the spiritual revival in Israel. He doesn’t quite understand what went on, for he thinks that Hezekiah tried to exalt himself as greater than Yahweh by tearing down a bunch of worship shrines in Judah. He doesn’t understand that those worship shrines were for idol gods and that Yahweh has said that His Temple is the only acceptable place for people to bring their sacrifices.

Now since Sennacherib knows these people put their faith in a God named Yahweh, he lies and says that Yahweh has already prophesied that He will hand Judah over to the Assyrian army. Yahweh has not said this, but the people listening are so scared that they’ll believe anything. Hezekiah’s men know that everyone’s listening, so they ask Sennacherib’s man to please stop talking in Hebrew.

“Please speak to us in Aramaic, for we understand it well. Don’t speak in Hebrew, for the people on the wall will hear.” (Isa. 36:11)

Of course the officer doesn’t agree to their request because he wants everyone to hear what he’s saying—that’s why he’s talking at the top of his lungs in a language these foreigners can understand.

“Do you think my master sent this message only to you and your master? He wants all the people to hear it, for when we put this city under siege, they will suffer along with you. They will be so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.” (Isa. 36:12)

Yuck! And yet Sennacherib’s officer isn’t exaggerating, for this is the sort of horrific activity desperate people resort to during sieges. Everyone is scared out of their wits as they listen to this super confident warrior and see the massive army that is surrounding the city. Looking up at all the frightened faces peering down at him from on top of the city walls, the Assyrian officer shouts:

“Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in Yahweh by saying, ‘Yahweh will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’

Don’t listen to Hezekiah! But listen to what the king of Assyria is offering: ‘Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards.

Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘Yahweh will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that Yahweh can rescue Jerusalem from me?’” (Isa. 36:13-20)

Notice all the references to gods. Remember that there were no atheists in the Bible. Today we have reached new heights of idiocy by going around trying to argue that everything in existence just sort of happened for no rhyme or reason. Today we have groups of atheists posting banners that deny the reality of God and throwing hissy fits whenever someone mentions the existence of a supernatural being. These people would be mocked to no end if they lived in Bible times. We don’t find anyone in the Old or New Testament doubting the existence of deities. There was no question in their minds that gods existed—they just got confused about who those gods were.

Since every nation was believed to have gods protecting it, you couldn’t hope to conquer a nation unless your gods were stronger than the local gods. As Sennacherib reflects on all the victories he’s had, it’s quite obvious to him that the gods of Assyria are undefeatable. Surely they’ll make short work of this Yahweh he’s been hearing about. But of course it would be much more convenient if the people would just surrender and come out, and this is why he offers them a chance to come peaceably. After all, he’s got other things he’d rather be doing than park around Jerusalem for years waiting to starve everyone out.

What does Hezekiah do when his men return with Sennacherib’s threats jotted down on a scroll? He has a meltdown, of course. It’s time to tear the tunic, put on some sackcloth, and run to the Temple to pray. Desperate for some word from Yahweh, he also sends out some sackcloth wearing messengers to find the prophet Isaiah.

They told Isaiah, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. But perhaps Yahweh your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff, sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!” (Isa. 37:3-5)

This is exactly what we do today, isn’t it? When trouble comes, we go and ask the “super spiritual” people to pray for us, acting as if their prayers have greater power than our own. Yet is God really ignoring Hezekiah’s distress? Of course not. We never need to ask God to notice us. Instead, we need to have more confidence that He never looks away from us.

Isaiah replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what Yahweh says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against Me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I Myself will move against the king, and he will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’” (Isa. 37:6-7)

Ah, good! This is an encouraging report. Many eyes are peeking over the top of Jerusalem’s walls to see when the Assyrians will start packing up. All the army tents are still there but they see Sennacherib’s officer leave—the one who had been shouting all those scary messages. The officer needs new orders, so he goes to find his boss who has moved on to assaulting another fortified city in Judah named Libnah. Things are going well for Assyria at Libnah when Sennacherib receives word that the king of Cush has mustered his army together and is planning to attack Sennacherib’s empire while its king is distracted elsewhere. This is highly irksome. Sennacherib will have to pull his men out of Judah temporarily so he can go crush this new troublemaker. Fully aware that his retreat will be interpreted as a victory by Hezekiah, Sennacherib sends another nastygram to Hezekiah before giving his men the order to retreat. Perhaps Hezekiah will panic and surrender before Sennacherib has to pull out.

“Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?” (Isa. 37:10-13)

The psych out works. Any confidence Hezekiah might have been regaining after Isaiah’s first message is instantly lost when he receives the new threat. He’s terrified all over again. Sennacherib is right—Assyria is unstoppable. Jerusalem will surely be destroyed.

Taking the letter into the Temple of God, Hezekiah spreads it out so that Yahweh can clearly see it with His big God eyes (the things we humans do) and then he prays:

“Almighty Yahweh, God of Israel, You are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Give ear, Yahweh, and hear; open Your eyes, Yahweh, and see; listen to all the words of Sennacherib which he has sent to mock, reproach, insult and defy the living God!” (Isa. 37:16-17)

Notice how Hezekiah describes Yahweh’s throne as being between cherubim. This imagery comes from the Ark of the Covenant, which Yahweh Himself designed and instructed His people to build back in Period 2.

Ark

Because he’s not the high priest, Hezekiah has never personally seen the Ark in an uncovered state. But he knows what it looks like because he’s no doubt heard it described and seen it sketched, plus he’s heard Yahweh’s original description of it which is recorded in Exodus 25. An image of God’s golden box with its two golden cherubim on top is a very powerful image in the minds of devout Jews, and Yahweh taught His people to think of His Presence as dwelling right between those two reverent looking angels.

Notice how Hezekiah calls Yahweh the living God—this is to distinguish Him from all those dumb idols who really aren’t alive at all. Notice how he says “You alone created the heavens and the earth.” Hezekiah is pouring out the reverent language here, reminding himself of just how powerful God is. Surely He is big enough to take care of some scrawny human and his massive army of grasshoppers, right?

“It is true, Yahweh, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them, for they were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands! Now, O Yahweh our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that You alone, O Yahweh, are God.” (Isa. 37:18-20)

Hezekiah is essentially appealing to God’s ego here. Moses did the same thing back in Period 2 when Yahweh threatened to exterminate all of Israel in the desert because of their incessant whining:

Then Moses said to Yahweh, “But then the Egyptians will hear about it! By Your power You brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that You, Yahweh, are with these people and that You, Yahweh, have been seen face to face, that Your cloud stays over them, and that You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If You put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about You will say, ‘Yahweh was not able to bring these people into the land He promised them on oath, so He slaughtered them in the wilderness.” (Num. 14:13-16)

Now here in Period 5, Hezekiah is urging God to rescue Judah for the sake of His own glory. “Rescue us so that the whole world will know You are God!” he prays. Of course he’s far more interested in sparing his own personal neck than he is in seeing the world spiritually awakened. We humans are selfish—we can’t help it. We’re also born manipulators—constantly trying to use God’s own pride against Him as we pretend to be interested only in His personal welfare. But in real life, is Yahweh’s esteem so frail that He needs to impress a bunch of idolatrous people? Is He really threatened by the idea of humans slandering His great Name? Of course not. He has already invented a very satisfying way of dealing with people who refuse to revere Him. He simply transports them to a place called Hell. There He tortures them for an eternity because they dared to defy Him for one little blip in time.

God is His own first priority and He always gets what He wants. So today when we try to leverage God’s ego against Him by promising to give Him extra praise or money or service in exchange for certain blessings, He sees our offers for the nasty little things that they are. As we mature, we really need to get away from these attempts to bribe God into doing things our way and acting like we’re only concerned for His reputation or glory when in reality we’re concerned about ourselves. Honesty is what God wants from us. And though our honest truth is often not very admirable, it will take us much farther in the faith than a bunch of hypocritical acts.

Now Yahweh understands the predicament Hezekiah is in and He knew all about the letter before it was spread out before Him in His Temple. He now sends another message to Hezekiah through His prophet Isaiah.

This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, Yahweh has spoken this word against him:

“The virgin daughter of Zion despises you and laughs at you. The daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head in derision as you flee.

Whom have you been defying and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice? At whom did you look with such haughty eyes? It was the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have defied Yahweh. You have said, ‘With my many chariots I have conquered the highest mountains— yes, the remotest peaks of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars and its finest cypress trees. I have reached its farthest heights and explored its deepest forests. I have dug wells in many foreign lands and refreshed myself with their water. With the sole of my foot, I stopped up all the rivers of Egypt!’

But have you not heard? I decided this long ago. Long ago I planned it, and now I am making it happen. I planned for you to crush fortified cities into heaps of rubble. That is why their people have so little power and are so frightened and confused. They are as weak as grass, as easily trampled as tender green shoots. They are like grass sprouting on a housetop, scorched before it can grow lush and tall.” (Isa. 37:21-27)

So then, does Yahweh think this attack on Judah is some terrible crisis? No. In fact, He’s caused it. Notice how He takes full responsibility for all the carnage that’s been happening on the sacred soil of the Promised Land:

“I decided this long ago. Long ago I planned it, and now I am making it happen. I planned for you to crush fortified cities into heaps of rubble. That is why their people have so little power and are so frightened and confused.”

God’s sovereignty is one of the central themes of the Bible, and yet it is one that most Christians today completely miss. Don’t be one of them. In the Bible, we find God taking full credit for everything that happens in this world—the good, the bad, and the ugly. We find Him teaching us that nothing happens down here without His intimate involvement, direction and approval. And yet today in the Church, you will find many preachers and teachers who tell you that God never does evil. Oh, really? Well how exactly do we define evil? Is it not evil for children to be slammed into the ground like baseball bats until they are crushed to death? Isn’t it evil for pregnant women to be cut open with swords, for people to be sexually assaulted, publicly degraded and violently molested? Because we find God announcing that He is going to cause all of these things to happen in the Bible. We find Him announcing such events far in advance of when they happen, and describing just how horrific they will be when they actually do happen. Over and over again we find God taking the credit for horribly atrocious acts, and then claiming that such acts bring great glory and honor to His Name. Yet today many will tell you that it’s blasphemous to suggest that God would ever do evil. Well, it’s not blasphemous, it’s biblical. In Period 2, God gave His people hundreds of laws. He listed off many specific crimes that He defined as wrong and even said such things were deserving of the death penalty. Then we find Him intentionally committing those same acts Himself and yet saying that they are good and right because He is the One doing them. Is this hypocrisy? No, it’s what it means to be a Sovereign King. God lives above His own laws.

A RECAP

Let’s pause a moment to review some of the key principles God has been revealing to us about Himself:

  1. While His Character is consistently good, His actions are completely unpredictable.
  2. God is a Sovereign Ruler and He is intimately involved in everything that happens in this world—including evil, pain, and horrible suffering.
  3. While He gives us laws and demands that we obey them, He Himself does not abide by those laws. He does whatever He wants and then says that anything He does is good simply because He is the One doing it.
  4. God uses deception to further His own personal agenda. He frequently changes His mind. Sometimes the results are positive—such as when He decides to hold back punishment and be merciful. Other times the results are shocking—like when He reveals that He is not the only God in existence or that the old rules for salvation no longer apply.
  5. God is extremely jealous. He hates it when our souls worship other things in His place.
  6. God is obsessed with glorifying Himself.
  7. God’s power and wisdom are limitless. Nothing else in existence can begin to compare or compete with Him.

Whew! It’s getting tough, isn’t it? Ever since we’ve started getting into those prophetic books which are clumped together at the end of the Old Testament, things have really started to get intense, for we’ve been hearing a lot more of God speaking in the first person. The quickest way to get to know someone is to listen to him talking about himself and God has been talking to us a lot in these prophetic books.

Now not everything we’ve learned has been tough to deal with. By now we’ve learned a lot of very positive principles as well.

  1. God dearly loves human beings simply because He wants to. We don’t have to earn His love—He heaps it upon us from the day He first brings us into being.
  2. God goes to great lengths to develop a personal relationship with each and every one of us.
  3. No one is unimportant to God. No soul is ever overlooked or forgotten.
  4. God judges us by our soul’s response to Him, not by our external behavior. As long as we sincerely desire to please Him, He will never reject us, no matter how badly we mess up.
  5. No sin is unforgivable if we are willing to repent.
  6. God is extremely easy to please.
  7. God is faithful, merciful, patient, gentle, and kind.

When we combine these two lists, we start to get the picture of a very complex, extremely passionate Being. This is why we say that God is awesome—because really contemplating who He is fills our souls with awe and makes our jaws gape in speechless wonder. All this and we haven’t even reached the New Testament yet. Wow.

HEZEKIAH

Now let’s get back to our frantic king who is reading through the message Isaiah has sent him. Continuing His speech to the haughty Sennacherib, Yahweh says:

“But I know you well—where you stay and when you come and go. I know the way you have raged against Me. And because of your raging against Me and your arrogance, which I have heard for Myself, I will put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth. I will make you return by the same road on which you came.” (Isa. 37:28-29)

Earlier God promised that He would drive Assyria out of Judah and chop down Sennacherib with a sword. That was before more news came that Sennacherib was attacking another one of Judah’s fortified cities. And when Hezekiah peeks over the city wall, he sees that Sennacherib’s men are still surrounding the city with their sea of tents. The siege is still happening. Nothing has changed. When is Yahweh going to come through on His promises?

Therefore, this is what Yahweh says concerning the king of Assyria: “His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it. They will not march outside its gates with their shields nor build banks of earth against its walls. The king will return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He will not enter this city.  I will defend and protect this city for the sake of My own honor and for the sake of My servant David.” (Isa. 37:33-35)

How does it honor God to keep Jerusalem standing? Because if Sennacherib takes it down, he’ll think it proves that the Assyrian gods are stronger than Yahweh. But if he is defeated, then he and his men will be forced to conclude that Yahweh is more powerful than their gods—at least for the moment. Remember that God loves all people and is always looking for opportunities to turn hearts in His direction. There are hundreds of thousands of Assyrian soldiers currently surrounding Jerusalem. Most if not all of them are on their way to Hell because they are worshiping the false gods of Assyria instead of the one true God. Many of them probably think they are doing the smart thing since the Assyrian gods appear to be so powerful. But all of that is about to change.

Night falls and Yahweh still hasn’t done bumpkus to fulfill His fancy promises. Ever feel like God takes forever to do what He says? It’s not your imagination. Here’s another principle we can add to our list of key insights about God: a lot of time often passes between the time that God says He’s going to do something and the time He actually gets around to doing it. Sometimes He takes so long that the people He originally spoke to have been dead for many years before He ever fulfills His promises. This is hardly an insight that makes our souls want to sing and dance, but it has to be faced nonetheless if we’re going to mature.

The next morning comes. No doubt Hezekiah tossed and turned all night. Is God ever going to get rid of the Assyrians?

Meanwhile, outside of the city, the Assyrian soldiers are waking up to, ready to start another day of horsing around as they wait for the orders to start breaking down the city’s gates. But wait a second—something’s wrong. Terribly wrong. Some of the soldiers aren’t waking up. Some of them are just lying on the ground all stiff and rigid, almost as if they were—dead?! Yes, they are dead! But how?! A body count starts—ten, twenty, fifty…a hundred…five hundred…five thousand…one hundred thousand…this is a massacre! How did it happen? No one heard a sound! There’s no evidence of violence! It must have been the God of the Jews! He must have sent some kind of angel of death to slay all the men in their sleep! Indeed He did, and as the Assyrians flee in terror, they leave 185,000 corpses behind.

Well, so much for boasting. Sennacherib returns to his capital city of Nineveh to recover his pride. This is the same city that the prophet Jonah preached against about a century ago. There was a spiritual revival back then, and the people revered Yahweh for a while. But those days are long over. The Assyrians are back to worshiping their demonic idols and Sennacherib has a particular fancy for the god Nisroch.

One day while Sennacherib was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria. (Isa. 37:38)

What was that Yahweh had said about killing Sennacherib with a sword and protecting the city of Jerusalem? We can check both of those prophecies off of our list. They’ve been fulfilled. The people in Judah are recovering from all the violence, and everyone’s breathing a big sigh of relief…everyone except the king.

HEZEKIAH’S ILLNESS

Hezekiah isn’t feeling so well. In fact he’s deathly ill and when Isaiah comes to confirm that God has said the king is about to die, Hezekiah sinks into a major pity party.

“O Yahweh, I beg You to remember how faithful I have been to You. I have served You with my whole heart, walking in Your truth, and have always done what is right in Your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (Isa. 38:3)

When we come face to face with death, we often lose sight of what truly matters. Hezekiah is about to go on to his eternal reward, yet he begs God to let him stay longer in a crummy world where there is sorrow, suffering, and sackcloth. Well, God is kind. He understands how blind and ignorant we humans are and how little we trust that God really has our best interests at heart. So He sends Isaiah back to the palace to assure that the king will get better. In fact, God will add fifteen years to his life. Furthering his demonstration of how little he trusts God, Hezekiah asks for a sign. God is in a very patient mood so He gives Hezekiah a choice.

Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you that Yahweh will do what He’s said: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?”

Hezekiah replied, “It is easy for the shadow to move forward ten steps. So let the shadow turn backward ten steps instead.” (2 Ki. 20:9-10)

The focus here is on a shadow which slowly extends down a stairway as the sun moves across the sky. God offers to make the shadow miraculously leap forward or backwards by ten steps. Neither one is natural, but since the shadow never shrinks during the day, Hezekiah decides it would be super-miraculous if the edge of the shadow suddenly shrank back ten steps instead of suddenly extending. God agrees and the edge of the shadow instantly shrinks back by ten steps—something that could only happen if the sun were to rapidly move backwards in the sky. And then just as God promised, Hezekiah recovers. Well, how nice.

So how does Hezekiah spend his extra years? Well, the reports are mixed. The author of Chronicles tells us that he became proud and squandered the gift God had given him, so God’s wrath broke out against Judah for awhile until Hezekiah repented. The author of Kings doesn’t give us any information, and neither does Isaiah. But all three accounts tell us about one more event: the sudden visit of some messengers from the king of Babylon.

The news of Hezekiah’s illness has spread abroad and the king of Babylon has sent him some “get well” wishes. Babylon is the capital of what used to be Babylonia—a nation which Assyria has devoured. The Babylonians share Judah’s hatred of the oppressive Assyrians, so Hezekiah greets his visitors with open arms and gives them a grand tour of his kingdom which Yahweh is once again blessing. This displeases Isaiah, who comes to the king with another message:

“Hear the word of Yahweh the God of hosts: ‘The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,’ says Yahweh. ‘And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” (Isa. 39:5-7)

This is very distressing news. Men aren’t born as eunuchs naturally—they become eunuchs when some merciless man with a knife castrates them. We expect Hezekiah to be horrified at this news. What a surprise when he just smiles calmly instead.

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of Yahweh which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime.” (Isa. 39:8)

Well, how selfish. But then again, what will panicking do? This is a very odd way to end a discussion of a good king, and yet all three of our authors just drop us here and we don’t hear any more about Hezekiah. Isaiah moves on to other prophecies while Kings and Chronicles introduce the next king of Judah: Hezekiah’s twelve-year-old son named Manasseh. Twelve is a very young age to start ruling. How will Manasseh handle the sudden transition from child to king? Not well at all.

UP NEXT: Know Your Bible Lesson 25: Reasons to Hope
Click here for the series homepage.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: