KING HEZEKIAH, PART 2

Through a quirk of our blog reading schedule, I get to do two days in a row! I’ll be looking at a couple episodes in the life of Hezekiah, one of the “good” kings of the southern kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah’s reign is documented in our OT reading of 2 Kings 18-20, as well as in 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39.

Today’s OT reading picks up 10 years after Assyria has destroyed the northern kingdom. The Assyrian army, led by Tiglath-Pileser’s grandson Sennacherib, is back in town with its sights on Judah. In a brilliant tactical move, the army marched to the west of Judah through Philistine territory, and then moved east to take Lachish and “all the fortified cities of Judah” (18:13) in the south, effectively cutting off Judah from Egypt’s help. The kingdom was in dire straights—Assyrian accounts note that 46 towns and 200,000+ captives were taken during this campaign (see the notes below), leaving Hezekiah “shut up like a caged bird.” Unfortunately, Hezekiah’s first move to sue for terms of peace did little to quell Assyria’s bloodlust (18:14-16).

But here’s where the narrative gets interesting. The Assyrian field commander’s boastful words don’t have the effect he intends. Instead, they send Hezekiah back to where he should be—under the wings of almighty God. God answers twice through Isaiah the prophet. And Hezekiah’s faith moves from “your God” (19:4) to “our God” (19:19). All this happens before the prophet’s words are fulfilled: Sennacherib receives a report that makes him want to return home (19:7 / 19:9); God defends the city in a spectacular fashion (19:34 / 19:35); Jerusalem is never conquered by Assyria (19:33); and Sennacherib himself is killed in his own country (19:7 / 19:37). Amazing!

Hezekiah’s example of faith is a nuanced one. His knee-jerk reaction to Judah’s predicament was not great. But he did seek the Lord when it really mattered, and God increased his faith because of it. And in the end, it wasn’t the size of Hezekiah’s faith that won the day, but rather the object of his faith—the one we have come to place our faith in as well.

Lord, thank you for the example of Hezekiah. Help me to trust you when things go sideways in my life, to know the depth of your love for me. Amen.

Notes:
Part of the decorations in the Sennacherib’s central palace in Ninevah commemorated his siege on Lachich. These “Lachish Reliefs” are now housed in the British Museum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lachish_reliefs. It’s interesting to note that the reliefs are so prominent in the palace, but also that there’s no mention of Jerusalem being taken, nor of any subsequent invasion of Judah by Sennacherib.  Three copies of Sennacherib’s historical records, written on clay “prisms,” also give an account of Sennacherib’s third campaign: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sennacherib's_Annals

by Erik Brommers, Elder

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