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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
The sacred writer, having now completed the history of the joint kingdom, and having east his glance forward over the religions history of the mixed race which replaced the Israelites in Samaria, proceeds to apply himself uuinterruptedly to the remaining history of the Jewish kingdom.
1Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
In the third year - If Hoshea ascended the throne toward the close of the 12th year of Ahaz 2 Kings 17:1, and if Ahaz reigned not much more than 15 years 2 Kings 16:2, the first of Hezekiah might synchronise in part with Hoshea's third year.
Hezekiah - The name given by our translators follows the Greek form, Ἐζεκίας Ezekias, rather than the Hebrew, which is Hizkiah. Its meaning is "strength of Yahweh."
2Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.
Twenty and five years old was he - This statement, combined with that of 2 Kings 16:2, would make it necessary that his father Ahaz should have married at the age of 10, and have had a child born to him when he was 11 years of age. This is not impossible; but its improbability is so great, that most commentators suggest a corruption in some of the numbers.
The Zachariah here mentioned was perhaps one of the "faithful witnesses" of Isaiah Isa 8:2.
3And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
He did that which was right ... - This is said without qualification of only three kings of Judah, Asa 1 Kings 15:11, Hezekiah, and Josiah 2 Kings 22:2. See some details of Hezekiah's acts at the commencement of his reign in 2 Chronicles 29, etc. It is thought that his reformation was preceded, and perhaps caused, by the prophecy of Micah recorded in Jeremiah 26:18; Micah 3:12.
4He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
He removed the high places - This religious reformation was effected in a violent and tumultuous manner (marginal reference). The "high places," though forbidden in the Law (Deuteronomy 12:2-4, Deuteronomy 12:11-14; compare Leviticus 26:30), had practically received the sanction of Samuel 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 9:12-14, David 2 Samuel 15:32, Solomon 1 Kings 3:4, and others, and had long been the favorite resorts of the mass of the people (see 1 Kings 3:2 note). They were the rural centers for the worship of Yahweh, standing in the place of the later synagogue;, and had hitherto been winked at, or rather regarded as legitimate, even by the best kings. Hezekiah's desecration of these time-honored sanctuaries must have been a rude shock to the feelings of numbers; and indications of the popular discontent may be traced in the appeal of Rab-shakeh 2 Kings 18:22, and in the strength of the reaction under Manasseh 2 Kings 21:2-9; 2 Chronicles 33:3-17.
The brasen serpent - See the marginal reference. Its history from the time when it was set up to the date of Hezekiah's reformation is a blank. The present passage favors the supposition that it had been brought by Solomon from Gibeon and placed in the temple, for it implies a long continued worship of the serpent by the Israelites generally, and not a mere recent worship of it by the Jews.
And he called it Nehushtan - Rather, "And it was called Nehushtan." The people called it, not "the serpent" נחשׁ nāchâsh, but "the brass," or "the brass thing" נחשׁתן nechûshtān. Probably they did not like to call it "the serpent," on account of the dark associations which were attached to that reptile (Genesis 3:1-15; Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 91:13; etc.).
5He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
After him was none like him - The same is said of Josiah (marginal reference). The phrase was probably proverbial, and was not taken to mean more than we mean when we say that such and such a king was one of singular piety.
6For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
Other good kings, as Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Joash, and Amaziah, had fallen away in their later years. Hezekiah remained firm to the last. The phrase "cleaving to God" is frequent in Deuteronomy, but rare elsewhere.
7And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
The Lord was with him - This had been said of no king since David (marginal reference). The phrase is very emphatic. The general prosperity of Hezekiah is set forth at some length by the author of Chronicles 2 Chronicles 32:23, 2 Chronicles 32:27-29. His great influence among the nations bordering on the northern kingdom, was the cause of the first expedition of Sennacherib against him, the Ekronites having expelled an Assyrian viceroy from their city, and delivered him to Hezekiah for safe keeping: an expedition which did not very long precede that of 2 Kings 18:13, which fell toward the close of Hezekiah's long reign.
8He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
Sargon had established the complete dominion of Assyria over the Philistines. Hence, the object of Hezekiah's Philistine campaign was not so much conquest as opposition to the Assyrian power. How successful it was is indicated in the Assyrian records by the number of towns in this quarter which Sennacherib recovered before he proceeded against Jerusalem.
9And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.
These verses repeat the account given in the marginal reference. The extreme importance of the event may account for the double insertion.
10And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.
11And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:
12Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
13Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
In the fourteenth year - This note of time, which places the invasion of Sennacherib eight years only after the capture of Samaria, is hopelessly at variance with the Assyrian dates for the two events, the first of which falls into the first of Sargon, and the second into the fourth of Sennacherib, twenty-one years later. We have therefore to choose between an entire rejection of the Assyrian chronological data, and an emendation of the present passage. Of the emendations proposed the simplest is to remove the note of time altogether, regarding it as having crept in from the margin.
Sennacherib - This is the Greek form of the Sinakhirib of the inscriptions, the son of Sargon, and his immediate successor in the monarchy. The death of Sargon (705 B.C.) had been followed by a number of revolts. Hezekiah also rebelled, invaded Philistia, and helped the national party in that country to throw off the Assyrian yoke.
From Sennacherib's inscriptions we learn that, having reduced Phoenicia, recovered Ascalon, and defeated an army of Egyptians and Ethiopians at Ekron, he marched against Jerusalem.
The fenced cities - Sennacherib reckons the number taken by him at "forty-six." He seems to have captured on his way to the holy city a vast number of small towns and villages, whose inhabitants he carried off to the number of 200, 000. Compare Isaiah 24:1-12. The ground occupied by his main host outside the modern Damascus gate was thenceforth known to the Jews as "the camp of the Assyrians." Details connected with the siege may be gathered from Isaiah 22 and Chronicles (marginal reference "s"). After a while Hezekiah resolved on submission. Sennacherib 2 Kings 18:14 had left his army to continue the siege, and gone in person to Lachish. The Jewish monarch sent his embassy to that town.
14And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
Return from me - Or "retire from me," i. e., "withdraw thy troops."
Three hundred talents ... - According to Sennacherib's own account, the terms of peace were as follows:
(1) A money payment to the amount of 800 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.
(2) the surrender of the Ekronite king.
(3) a cession of territory toward the west and the southwest, which was apportioned between the kings of Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza.
15And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house.
16At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
Ahaz had already exhausted the treasuries 2 Kings 16:8; Hezekiah was therefore compelled to undo his own work.
17And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
An interval of time must be placed between this verse and the last. Sennacherib, content with his successes, had returned to Nineveh with his spoil and his numerous captives. Hezekiah, left to himself, repented of his submission, and commenced negotiations with Egypt 2 Kings 18:21, 2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 30:2-6; Isaiah 31:1, which implied treason against his Assyrian suzerain. It was under these circumstances that Sennacherib appears to have made his second expedition into Palestine very soon after the first. Following the usual coast route he passed through Philistia on his way to Egypt, leaving Jerusalem on one side, despising so irony a state, and knowing that the submission of Egypt would involve that of her hangers-on. While, however, he was besieging Lachish on his way to encounter his main enemy, he determined to try the temper of the Jews by means of an embassy, which he accordingly sent.
Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh - None of these are proper names. "Tartan" was the ordinary title of an Assyrian general; "Rab-saris" is "chief eunuch," always a high officer of the Assyrian court; Rab-shakeh is probably "chief cup-bearer."
By the conduit of the upper pool - Possibly a conduit on the north side of the city near the "camp of the Assyrians." The spot was the same as that on which Isaiah had met Ahaz Isaiah 7:3.
18And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
When they had called to the king - The ambassadors summoned Hezekiah, as if their rank were equal to his. Careful of his dignity, he responds by sending officers of his court.
Eliakim ... which was over the household - Eliakim had been promoted to fill the place of Shebna Isaiah 22:20-22. He was a man of very high character. The comptroller of the household, whose position 1 Kings 4:6 must have been a subordinate one in the time of Solomon, appears to have now become the chief minister of the crown. On the "scribe" or secretary, and the "recorder," see the 1 Kings 4:3 note.
19And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?
The Rab-shakeh, the third in rank of the three Assyrian ambassadors, probably took the prominent part in the conference because he could speak Hebrews 2 Kings Hebrews 18:26, whereas the Tartan and the Rabsaris could not do so.
The great king - This title of the monarchs of Assyria is found in use as early as 1120 B.C. Like the title, "king of kings," the distinctive epithet "great" served to mark emphatically the vast difference between the numerous vassal monarchs and the suzerain of whom they held their crowns.
20Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
Hezekiah no doubt believed that in the "counsel" of Eliakim and Isaiah, and in the "strength" promised him by Egypt, he had resources which justified him in provoking a war.
Vain words - literally, as in margin, i. e., a mere word, to which the facts do not correspond.
21Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.
This bruised reed - The "tall reed of the Nile bulrush" fitly symbolized the land where it grew. Apparently strong and firm, it was quite unworthy of trust. Let a man lean upon it, and the rotten support instantly gave way, wounding the hand that stayed itself so insecurely. So it was with Egypt throughout the whole period of Jewish history (compare 2 Kings 17:4-6). Her actual practice was to pretend friendship, to hold out hopes of support, and then to fail in time of need.
22But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?
The destruction of numerous shrines and altars where Yahweh had been worshipped 2 Kings 18:4 seemed to the Rab-shakeh conduct calculated not to secure the favor, but to call forth the anger, of the god. At any rate, it was conduct which he knew had been distasteful to many of Hezekiah's subjects.
23Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
The phrase translated "give pledges," or "hostages" (margin) may perhaps be best understood as meaning "make an agreement." If you will "bind yourself to find the riders" (i. e., trained horsemen), we will "bind ourselves to furnish the horses." The suggestion implied that in all Judaea there were not 2000 men accustomed to serve as cavalry.
24How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
25Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
The Rab-shakeh probably tries the effect of a bold assertion, which had no basis of fact to rest upon.
26Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.
The Syrian language - i. e., Aramaic; probably the dialect of Damascus, a Semitic language nearly akin to their own, but suffciently different to be unintelligible to ordinary Jews
The people that are on the wall - The conference must have been held immediately outside the wall for the words of the speakers to have been audible.
27But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
That they may eat ... - "My master hath sent me," the Rab-shakeh seems to say, "to these men, whom I see stationed on the wall to defend the place and bear the last extremities of a prolonged siege - these men on whom its worst evils will fall, and who have therefore the greatest interest in avoiding it by a timely surrender." He expresses the evils by a strong coarse phrase, suited to the rude soldiery, and well calculated to rouse their feelings. The author of Chronicles has softened down the words 2 Chronicles 32:11.
28Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:
29Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:
There were two grounds, and two only, on which Hezekiah could rest his refusal to surrender,
(1) ability to resist by his own natural military strength and that of his allies; and
(2) expectation based upon the language of Isaiah Isa 30:31; Isaiah 31:4-9, of supernatural assistance from Yahweh.
The Rab-shakeh argues that both grounds of confidence are equally fallacious.
30Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
31Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:
Make an agreement ... - Rather, "Make peace with me." The word, which primarily means "blessing," and secondarily "a gift," has also the meaning, though more rarely, of "peace." Probably it acquired this meaning from the fact that a peace was commonly purchased by presents.
eat ... drink - A picture of a time of quiet and prosperity, a time when each man might enjoy the fruits of his land, without any fear of the spoiler's violence. The words are in contrast with the latter part of 2 Kings 18:27.
Cistern - Rather, "well" Deuteronomy 6:11. Each cultivator in Palestine has a "well" dug in some part of his ground, from which he draws water for his own use. "Cisterns," or reservoirs for rain-water, are comparatively rare.
32Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us.
33Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
The boast is natural. The Assyrians had had an uninterrupted career of success, and might well believe that their gods were more powerful than those of the nations with whom they had warred. It is not surprising that they did not understand that their successes hitherto had been allowed by the very God, Yahweh, against whom they were now boasting themselves.
34Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
Arpad was situated somewhere in southern Syria; but it is impossible to fix its exact position. Sargon mentions it in an inscription as joining with Hamath in an act of rebellion, which he chastised. It was probably the capture and destruction of these two cities on this occasion which caused them to be mentioned together here (and in 2 Kings 19:13, and again in Isaiah 10:9). Sennacherib adduces late examples of the inability of the nations' gods to protect their cities. On the other cities mentioned in this verse, see 2 Kings 17:24 notes.
35Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
36But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
37Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.