II Kings 17:
1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah began to reign in Samaria over Israel, and he reigned nine years. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him. 3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria. And Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. 5 Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it.
Note the increasing demise of Israel. Hoshea is anything but like the Hoshea, the son of Nun (c.f. book of Joshua). He does not bear the name Yeshua, nor is he the true salvation of Israel. Shalmaneser (which could be translated as chained), however, lives up to his true name. He is the one who shut up the king of Israel and bound him in prison. “Salvation” is thus bound up – symbolically, Israel is to be chained to Assyria for many decades, scattered throughout Halah, Habor, river of Gozan and in the cities of the Medes:
6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
This is not simply because the king of Israel walked in the ways of the previous kings of Israel – it was because the people of Israel sinned against the LORD, represented by the sinful king. Instead of being in awe of the LORD, they were in awe of other gods (c.f. 2 Peter 2:22) which they had been saved from back in Moses’, Aaron’s and Joshua’s day.
7 And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. 9 And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger, 12 and they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”
Yet, it is interesting that throughout this entire period of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, the LORD had consistently sent to the kings of Israel and kings of Judah prophets, seers, and men of God to remind the kings of them straying from the LORD. The role of these Spirit-filled men was to simply remind them to cling onto Christ and walk in Him as David had walked, to simply keep His commandments (v.13; c.f. 1 Kings 1:10-45; 11:29; 12:22; 13:1-29; 14:2-18; 16:7-12; 17:18-24; 18:22-36; 19:16; 20:13-38; 22:7; 2 Kings 1:9-13; 3:11; 4:7-42; 5:3-13; 6:6-15; 7:2-19; 8:2-11; 9:1-4; 13:19; 14:25). Instead of following Christ and being conformed to the image of God (Romans 8:29), “they went after false idols and became false” – conforming to the image of the false idol which they worshipped:
14 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. 15 They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. 16 And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.
19 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20 And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight.
Note that even Judah, although preserved (v.18), did not keep the commandments of the LORD and walked in the customs that Israel had introduced (v.19). Instead, once Israel was torn from the house of David, the house of righteousness, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, became king only to lead the majority of the kings of Israel (and sometimes of Judah) into sin (c.f. 1 Kings 13). The narrator here therefore culminates his summary of the history of Israel with v.21-23, the apex of the pride and fall of Israel:
21 When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD and made them commit great sin. 22 The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, 23 until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. 24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. 25 And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the LORD. Therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
However, despite the dispersion, the LORD’s efforts in destroying the Assyrians who did not fear the LORD (v.25); and even the Assyrian king eventually yielding to the LORD’s might by asking for one of the priests to teach the Assyrians how they should fear God, the reality was far different from the LORD’s plans. “Every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived” – even when the king of Assyria is beginning to fear the LORD, every nation still made their own gods, fearing no god but their own. Such staunch idolatry of the neighbouring nations is but another sign of Israel’s failure to walk with Christ and be His body (c.f. Exodus 19:6):
29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They also feared the LORD and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.
Every nation in which the Israelites lived, they did not witness nor were they fishers of men for Christ. Note these false idols:
- Babylon had Succoth-benoth (tents of daughters, the booths of prostitution);
- Cuth had Nergal (hero);
- Hamath had Ashima (crime/offence, Pan of the Greeks);
- Avvites had Nibhaz (to bark, a dog-headed man) and Tartak (prince of darkness, in the form of an ass);
- Sepharvaim had Adrammelech (splendor of the king, resembling Molech – male power of the sun) and Anammelech (image of the king – female power of the sun)
All also had the LORD, but also serving their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. What sadness, that each of these gods are still worshipped in some way, shape, or form today – yet, these are false idols, truly leading men to prostitution, as if they were worshipping a hero, as if their gods were splendors and images of the king – what lies! The future of Israel looks dim, as Christ the LORD, His Unseen Father and Their Holy Spirit – are all but one of many Gods feared but without the same intimate relationship the saints have thus far enjoyed:
34 To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the LORD, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 The LORD made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, 36 but you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 37 And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, 38 and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, 39 but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” 40 However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner.
41 So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.
II Kings 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 made offerings 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 that the LORD commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. 8 He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.
Despite the end of 2 Kings 17, as dim as the future of Israel seemed, the light enters into the darkness by way of Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, king of Judah. He is indeed the might of Jehovah, his mother called my father is the LORD. This typological Son of the Father unsurprisingly walks as David did, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD. He fully trusted not in himself, nor in the various idols listed in 2 Kings 17, but he trusted in the LORD, holding fast to Him and did not depart from Him. The bronze serpent, the type of Satan, was crucified on the cross (c.f. John 3:14) and lifted up by Moses, as a sign of the Son being lifted up and destroying the work of the evil one. Instead, they worshipped the one to be destroyed. Hezekiah fittingly should call it Nehushtan, a trifling thing of brass, for it is indeed but a piece of brass used to speak the gospel truth to the Israelites in the wilderness. Note his reform in the first year of his reign, in the first month (2 Chronicles 29:3-11):
“3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. 4 He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east 5 and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. 6 For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. 7 They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. 8 Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9 For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not now be negligent, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”
The work of King Ahaz is thus undone by the sevenfold sacrifice of bulls, rams, lambs, and male goats (2 Chronicles 29:21, 35-36), laying their hands on the scapegoat (2 Chronicles 29:23-24). However, despite His faithfulness, the Israelites continued to transgress the LORD’s covenant, neither listening nor obeying:
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.
Although the previous king of Assyria had understood the LORD’s protection over Israel (2 Kings 17:27-28), the onslaught of Assyria shall not cease until Israel returns to the LORD. Yet, they did not. Sennacherib (sin, the god) named after an idol, thus taunts Israel, despite Hezekiah following Christ’s burden by self-sacrificing himself to take whatever Sennacherib would impose on him (v.14):
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 that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. 17 And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rab-saris, 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 Washer’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.
The house of the LORD is thus stripped once again, yet the king of Assyria still sends his general, the chief of the Heads, and the chief cupbearer / of the princes (Tartan, Rabsaris, Rabshakeh) with a great army. What the narrator of 2 Kings, however, fails to record are the words of encouragement from Hezekiah in such times of difficulty:
“7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8
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 trust of yours? 20 Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? 21 Behold, you are trusting now in 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 trust in him. 22 But if you say to me, “We trust in 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 on them. 24 How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in 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.’”
What sarcasm and what lies (v.25) from this chief cupbearer / of the princes! Yet, these are words of irony – for it is the Assyrians who are doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine:
26 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah, said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, 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 trust in 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 each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each 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 lands have delivered their lands 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 torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.
Just as the end of 2 Kings 17 was dark, with Israel’s future entering its darkest time, so also these words of Sennacherib mark a dark period threatening the birth of the Messiah through Judah. If Israel is taken over, what hope can there be? “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand”? Yet, it is exactly this question, that Hezekiah shall cling onto the LORD even more than before – to anticipate that Messiah who will be the light shining into the darkest of nights.