Bible Study 10.3.11, 10.6.11, 10.9.11 For Worship 10.16.11

Bible Study 10.3.11, 10.6.11, 10.9.11 For Worship 10.16.11

II Kings 18-20; II Chronicles 29-32

18:1  In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.

2  He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.

3  And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.

4  He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehushtan.

5  He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel; so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.

6  For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses.

7  And the LORD was with him; wherever he went forth, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and would not serve him.

8  He smote the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

9  In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it

10  and at the end of three years he took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.

11  The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and put them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes,

12  because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded; they neither listened nor obeyed.

13  In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.

14  And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.

15  And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house.

16  At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.

17  And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller’s Field.

18  And when they called for the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder.

19  And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this confidence of yours?

20  Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me?

21  Behold, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him.

22  But if you say to me, “We rely on the LORD our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?

23  Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders upon them.

24  How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?

25  Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.'”

26  Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah, said to the Rabshakeh, “Pray, speak to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.”

27  But the Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?”

28  Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria!

29  Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand.

30  Do not let Hezekiah make you to rely on the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

31  Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat of his own vine, and every one of his own fig tree, and every one of you will drink the water of his own cistern;

32  until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, The LORD will deliver us.

33  Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

34  Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?

35  Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?'”

36  But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.”

37  Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

19:1  When King Hezekiah heard it, he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.

2  And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz.

3  They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth.

4  It may be that the LORD your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.”

5  When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah,

6  Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me.

7  Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.'”

8  The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he heard that the king had left Lachish.

9  And when the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, “Behold, he has set out to fight against you,” he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying,

10  “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.

11  Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. And shall you be delivered?

12  Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations which my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar?

13  Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?'”

14  Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.

15  And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD the God of Israel, who art enthroned above the cherubim, thou art the God, thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.

16  Incline thy ear, O LORD, and hear; open thy eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.

17  Of a truth, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands,

18  and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone; therefore they were destroyed.

19  So now, O LORD our God, save us, I beseech thee, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou, O LORD, art God alone.”

20  Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.

21  This is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning him: “She despises you, she scorns you — the virgin daughter of Zion; she wags her head behind you — the daughter of Jerusalem.

22  “Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel!

23  By your messengers you have mocked the LORD, and you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its farthest retreat, its densest forest.

24  I dug wells and drank foreign waters, and I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt.’

25  “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into heaps of ruins,

26  while their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded, and have become like plants of the field, and like tender grass, like grass on the housetops; blighted before it is grown?

27  “But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me.

28  Because you have raged against me and your arrogance has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.

29  “And this shall be the sign for you: this year you shall eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs of the same; then in the third year sow, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.

30  And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward;

31  for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD will do this.

32  “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.

33  By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, says the LORD.

34  For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

35  And that night the angel of the LORD went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

36  Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went home, and dwelt at Nineveh.

37  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, slew him with the sword, and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.

20:1  In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order; for you shall die, you shall not recover.'”

2  Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying,

3  “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in thy sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4  And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him:

5  “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.

6  And I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.”

7  And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”

8  And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD on the third day?”

9  And Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?”

10  And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps; rather let the shadow go back ten steps.”

11  And Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD; and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz.

12  At that time Merodachbaladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah; for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.

13  And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

14  Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And whence did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.”

15  He said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

16  Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD:

17  Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD.

18  And some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

19  Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

20  The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

21  And Hezekiah slept with his fathers; and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.

COMMENTARY

The two passages identified as our scripture are very long, so we will limit our study to II Kings chapters 18 – 20 – the story of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was born in c. 739 BC, the son of King Ahaz and Abijah during the prophetic career of the Prophet Isaiah.  Many Jewish and Christian scholars believe that Isaiah was foreshadowing the birth of Hezekiah, rather than the Messiah in Isaiah 7:10  Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,

11  “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”

12  But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”

13  And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?

14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

By the time of Hezekiah the Judean Kingdom was coming into its own.  Judea had been overshadowed by the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and all of a sudden in 720 BCE King Sargon of Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom taking a portion of its population into exile.  Many people from the Northern Kingdom fled to Judah, where they brought skills and new economic vitality to the Southern Kingdom.  The Central Highlands of Israel had been an economic backwater until the royal house of the Northern Kingdom began to realize the economic potential of cultivating vineyards and olive groves.  The Central Highlands are ideal for the cultivation of these two crops, and when olives are pressed into olive oil, and grapes are made into wine they become exportable products.  The Northern Kingdom began a lucrative trade in olive oil and wine under King Ahab.  (That is why the story of Naboth’s vineyard is so symbolic and important.)  The new prosperity of the Northern Kingdom made it a tempting prize in the political movements of the Fertile Crescent.  Israel withstood the aggression of its neighbors until 720 BCE, when the Assyrian army rolled over everyone in the Eastern and Western Fertile Crescent.  Assyria had the first professional army that included soldiers who not only made their living solely from warfare, but they were specialists:  some were charioteers, some archers, some sappers, some infantry, some cavalry.  Since they were in constant training or warfare, they were good, and when the Assyrian Army came over the horizon it was blitzkrieg.

When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom refugees from the North came to Judah bringing with them the Elohist narrative of the Hebrew Scriptures.  (See the JEPD narratives within the Old Testament.)  The refugees from the North also brought the know how to begin commercial production of grapes and olives, so that soon the Judean Monarchy had a thriving olive oil and wine export business started.  Of course the lucrative trade that grew up made Judah a tempting target.  So the Assyrians began putting pressure for tribute upon Judah and when Hezekiah refused, Sennacherib, King of Assyria invaded Judah in 701 BCE.  Hezekiah had taken on as a royal advisor, a priest by the name of Isaiah, who had advised the King to build a new, stronger wall for Jerusalem as well as a water tunnel to bring the water of the Gihon Spring inside the City.  “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” can still be explored today by adventurous tourists, who walk for about a third of a mile through a shaft about knee deep in water.  The Tunnel was begun as an emergency project in some places following a natural fissure in the rock, in other places carved out with hammers and chisels. The tunnel was a spectacular achievement that allowed Jerusalem to withstand the Assyrian siege, while much of the rest of the Kingdom was being reduced by the Assyrian Army.

The lifting of the siege of Jerusalem is cloaked in mystery.  Some Assyrian documents suggest that Sennacherib left the siege of Jerusalem, because of revolt back in Nineveh his capital.  The account in the Hebrew Scriptures claims the Angel of Death swept through the Assyrian Camp killing a goodly portion of their army.  Some commentators believe some form of plague, perhaps bubonic plague was the cause of the demise of the Assyrian Army.  And maybe through a coincidence, or perhaps synergy, both events happened in close proximity saving Hezekiah and his Kingdom.

Hezekiah was credited by the prophetic party, Isaiah, Micah, ultimately Jeremiah for having reformed the Temple.  Before Hezekiah all manner of foreign Gods were worshipped on the high places of Judah and in the Temple.  The Asherah were poles utilized in the worship of the fertility goddess Astarte, who was worshipped with ritual prostitutes almost guaranteeing the popularity of the cult.  The “pillars” mentioned in verse four were usually associated with the worship of Baal, the god of prosperity and wealth – always a popular god even down to our present day.  Hezekiah took steps to limit the worship of all gods except Yahweh.  Even the “Nahustan,” a bronze serpent supposedly made by Moses in the desert to heal the bite of poisonous snakes, (see Numbers 21:4-9) was taken and broken, because many people were supposedly worshipping the image.


 

The prophetic school believed that Hezekiah was saved from an illness because of his attempts to reform religious observance in Judah.  (See II Kings 20:1-9)  But the prophetic school still needed to find a cause for the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.  So in II Kings 20:12-21 Hezekiah makes an error in judgment by showing off his treasure storehouse to representatives from the King of Babylon.  Chapter 20 also contains the curious statement of Hezekiah in verse 19.  After being warned by Isaiah that showing off his treasure room to the Babylonians will result in the conquest of Jerusalem and the carrying off of the Judean population into slavery, Hezekiah responded:  “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

Hezekiah sounded almost like Neville Chamberlain at Munich.  So what if others will suffer later, it’s alright, because I will have peace in my time.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. Who was King in Israel, when Hezekiah became King in Judah?

2. What did Hezekiah do that was accounted as right in the eyes of the Lord?

3. What was the name of Moses’ bronze serpent?

4. What tribute was demanded of Hezekiah by Assyria?

5. Who did the King of Assyria send to demand the surrender of Jerusalem?

6. In what language did the Assyrian delegation address the Judean delegation and why?

7. What “deal” does the Assyrian representative offer to the defenders of Jerusalem?

8. How does Hezekiah respond to the Assyrian demands?

9. Who delivered a word of hope to Hezekiah?

10. Why do the Assyrians withdraw from the siege of Jerusalem?

11. What sign does the Lord give to Hezekiah that he will recover from his illness?

12. What error in judgment does Hezekiah make at the end of his reign?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. What false gods do you see being worshipped in our culture?

2. Do you see any consequences of this idolatry?

3. Can you think of any modern parallels to Hezekiah’s paying tribute to the Assyrians?

4. Can you think of any modern examples of siege warfare?

5. Who suffers in a siege?

6. What do you think lifted the siege of Jerusalem?

7. Can you think of any examples of “miraculous” events in modern warfare?

8. What seems to have been Hezekiah’s life threatening illness?

9. Have you ever recovered from a life threatening illness?

10. Can you think of any modern examples Hezekiah’s attitude in response to Isaiah’s word that Judah will ultimately be destroyed?  “It’s o.k. At least I will enjoy peace in my time.”

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