Hezekiah reverses the work of his father, Ahaz. As a result, the two kingdoms reunite under Hezekiah, who gathers people from “Beersheba even to Dan” to his Passover (2 Chronicles 30:6). In Hezekiah’s reign, the Davidic line experiences another renewal, as under Joash (2 Kings 11).
“Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign . . . .” (2 Kings 18:1-19:37).
Hezekiah is the polar opposite of his father Ahaz (cf. 16:2). He is the most David-like king since David (v. 3; cmp. v. 7 with 1 Samuel 18:14), ready to battle the Goliath-bully, Sennacherib. He keeps the Mosaic law (v. 6). He even removes the high places (v. 4), and, like a new and better Adam, crushes the serpent fetish Nehushtan (v. 4).
IN THE WAY OF ISRAEL?
As soon as he’s threatened by Assyria, though, he plunders the temple and pays off the Assyrians (vv. 15-16). They are not satisfied, and return to demand that the city surrender (v. 17). The Rabshakeh speaks to the men on the wall, in a speech that is intricate and shrewd. Some of the Rabshakeh’s advice echoes the message of the prophets. He begins with the question of trust (vv. 19-, 20-21), emphasizing, as the prophets do, that Egypt is unreliable. He also offers a theological challenge, pointing out that Hezekiah has destroyed places of worship, which must displease God. Besides, Assyria has already conquered the people of Yahweh to the north. The speech ends with the audacious claim that Sennacherib, rather than Hezekiah, is doing the Lord’s will, and that the Assyrian king will be a new Moses and new Solomon to lead Judah to green pastures and beside the still waters. His last argument goes too far: Yahweh, he says, is simply incapable of standing against Assyria. Yahweh never lets that kind of challenge go unanswered.
TO THE TEMPLE
Hezekiah tears his robes at the blasphemy of the Rabshakeh (19:1), and he turns to Yahweh instead of relying on his wealth. For the first time in Kings, we see a king using the temple the way it’s supposed to be used – as a house of prayer (19:1, 14). Hezekiah also sends to Isaiah, who promises that Yahweh will send panic through the Assyrian camp by a rumor (v. 7). The threats that Hezekiah has “heard” will be undone by what Sennacherib “hears.” Rabshakeh sends a letter renewing the threats of his previous speech, warning against trust in Egypt and threatening to carry out a war of utter destruction (19:11). Again, Hezekiah responds with prayer, echoing Solomon’s temple dedication prayer in his request that Yahweh would “open His eyes” and “incline His ears” and respond to Assyria’s blasphemies (v. 16; cf. 1 Kings 8).
In Isaiah’s second prophecy, he presents a picture of Jerusalem taunting the Assyrians (v. 21), returning mockery to Assyria’s mockery. Whatever Sennacherib’s threats, Isaiah prophesies that Zion will remain a virgin (v. 21), unviolated by the Gentile army. Sennacherib has raised his eyes and voice to challenge Yahweh, claiming to rival Yahweh in his ability to divide the waters of Egypt (v. 24) and to cut cedars (v. 23; cf. Psalm 29). For this pride, he will be thrown down. Yahweh claims that Assyria’s power is completely dependent on His (v. 25), but threatens to capture Assyria and lead him away like a beast (v. 28). Judah is not grass that withers, but a deeply rooted, fruitful plant (vv. 29-31), and she will triumph over Assyria without firing a shot.
The result is a Passover/resurrection event. At night, Yahweh sends His angel of death to destroys 185,000 in the Assyrian camp, driving Sennacherib home to a ignominious end. The Passover that destroys Assyria is new life for Judah, and the “third year” promise of deliverance points to the “third day” resurrection of Jesus. The tree was threatened with destruction, but survived. Jerusalem was dead; but behold, she lives.