2 Kings 19-20: Peace and prosperity in the days of the King

II Kings 19:

1  As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore 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 point of 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 that 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 make him fall by the sword in his own land.’”

 

Hezekiah’s hope is high – “It may be that your Christ heard all the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the Father, and will rebuke the words that your Christ has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left” (a more Christocentric translation of the Hebrew).  He knows that the Son has heard these mocking words of blasphemy from Rabshakeh, and that the Father as His witness would rebuke these same words (c.f. John 8:18).  Isaiah thus prays for a spirit of fear to be placed in the heart of this Assyrian king, despite the prideful man’s many victories against neighbouring nations for these nations too have relied on their gods to deliver them, but to no avail:

 

8  The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he heard that the king had left Lachish. 9  Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “Behold, he has set out to fight against you.” So he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying, 10  “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust 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, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? 12  Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 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 is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16  Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17  Truly, 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 not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19  So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

 

It is refreshing to see a king lying prostrate before the King of the heavens – the LORD who is enthroned above the cherubim, above the mercy seat in the house of the LORD before which Hezekiah prayed (Exodus 25:22).  The kings of Assyria have rightly cast the gods of these nations into the fire, “for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands”.  Is that not the same pandemic facing the world today?  Let us therefore wait on the true LORD to save us from the false leaders of this world, so that the glory of God may be revealed for all to see and be shamed!

 

Thus says the LORD through Isaiah:

 

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 lifted your eyes to the heights?

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 lodging place,

its most fruitful 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 complacency 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.

 

These words of judgment against Sennacherib are staunch reminders of how Sennacherib could even potentially achieve victory against Israel to begin with – because the LORD allows it (v.25) – the LORD’s plan from days of old, that is to save men from their sins by the sacrifice of His divine Son (Genesis 3:15).  The Holy One of Israel is not pleased (c.f. Isaiah 41) – for He is the Christ, the remnant of the house of Judah who shall take root downward and bear fruit upward (c.f. Psalm 1).  “The zeal of the LORD will do this”.  Indeed, it is this same zeal of the LORD that the one remnant Jesus Christ indeed took root in the international church and bore fruit for the Gentiles to feed from Him (Romans 11).

 

29  “And this shall be the sign for you: this year 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 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, declares the LORD. 34  For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

 

Thus, the messenger of the LORD Jesus Christ went out to strike down many men in the Assyrian camps, pushing Sennacherib back home to Nineveh, worshipping his false god Nisroch (the great eagle) when he should have hid under His wings (c.f. Ezekiel 1:10).  Yet, his demise is akin to the demise of those conspiring kings of Israel – being struck down by Adrammelech (splendor of the king) and Sharezer (prince of fire) only to pave way to Esarhaddon (victor), the irony that his son is named after one of the idols Adrammelech.  This does not bode well for the royal family of Assyria has they increasingly ignore the might and presence of Christ Jesus, hence their eventual ruin:

 

35  And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36  Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. 37  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

 

II Kings 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  “Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your 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 leader 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.”

 

Thus, on the third day, the son of God is given life (v.5) – fifteen years of more life for the purpose of seeing Jerusalem redeemed from the hand of the king of Assyria.  Yet, this life is not eternal, and is a reminder that Hezekiah serves only as a shadow and reminder to the Christ who shall rise again to achieve an eternal peace in New Jerusalem.  Thus Hezekiah recovers from a cake of sweet figs (1 Samuel 30:12)  contrary to the fig tree without figs, which offends Christ (Mark 11:13-14; sign of peace and prosperity – c.f. 1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).

 

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 shall be 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 called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.

 

This event is also recorded in Isaiah 38.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

 

He cried unto the Lord by special warrant and direction, and God brought the sun back ten degrees, which appeared to Hezekiah (for the sign was intended for him) by the going back of the shadow upon the dial of Ahaz, which, it is likely, he could see through his chamber-window; and the same was observed upon all other dials, even in Babylon, 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. Whether this retrograde motion of the sun was gradual or per saltum–suddenly–whether it went back at the same pace that it used to go forward, which would make the day ten hours longer than usual–or whether it darted back on a sudden, and, after continuing a little while, was restored again to its usual place, so that no change was made in the state of the heavenly bodies (as the learned bishop Patrick thinks)–we are not told; but this work of wonder shows the power of God in heaven as well as on earth, the great notice he takes of prayer, and the great favour he bears to his chosen. The most plausible idolatry of the heathen was theirs that worshipped the sun; yet that was hereby convicted of the most egregious folly and absurdity, for by this it appeared that their god was under the check of the God of Israel. Dr. Lightfoot suggests that the fifteen songs of degrees (Ps. cxx., &c.) might perhaps be so called because selected by Hezekiah to be sung to his stringed instruments (Isa. xxxviii. 20) in remembrance of the degrees on the dial which the sun went back and the fifteen years added to his life; and he observes how much of these psalms is applicable to Jerusalem’s distress and deliverance and Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery.

 

12  At that time Merodach-baladan 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 from where 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.”

 

Yet, in spite of Hezekiah’s recovery, he opens his house to the man ominously entitled Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan – meaning death who has given a son.  The son of death therefore takes Hezekiah to Sheol, and Isaiah pronounces the inevitable judgment on Israel:

 

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 shall be 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 that 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 place.

 

Yet, Hezekiah is not the promised son of Psalms 1-2.  He is but a faint (though incredibly influential and powerful) shadow, who brought temporary prosperity to Israel.  This is, however, not enough.  Note the LORD tested him through the son of death, these Babylonians, only to reveal Hezekiah’s flawed heart – the narrative showing a king whose life is marked by peace and security in his days.  This prophecy, however, would ring different in relation to Christ – whose peace and security in His days would be everlasting.  Perhaps this is why Hezekiah believes “the word of the LORD that you have spoken is good” (v.19) – for if only this were true also for Christ, then the eternal God-man would be able to bring far more peace and security than a sinful man like Hezekiah.  If Hezekiah, a tainted picture of what would otherwise be a glorious truth, a man reborn only to not make return according to the benefit done to him, could nonetheless bring temporal peace and prosperity – what more can the glorious Christ, the sinless God-man and Redeemer of Hezekiah, give to the future of Israel?  Yet, until then, we ponder on the life of Hezekiah as he points us towards the God whom he put his faith in (2 Chronicles 32:25-31):

 

25  But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26  But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

 

27  And Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; 28  storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. 29  He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. 30  This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31  And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.

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2 Kings 19-20: Peace and prosperity in the days of the King

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