2 Kings 18

CHAPTER XVIII

Hezekiah begins to reign; he removes the high places, breaks to

pieces the brazen serpent, and walks uprightly before God, 1-6.

He endeavours to shake off the Assyrian yoke, and defeats the

Philistines, 7, 8.

Shalmaneser comes up against Samaria, takes it, and carries the

people away into captivity, 9-12.

And then comes against Judah, and takes all the fenced cities,

13.

Hezekiah sends a message to him at Lachish to desist, with the

promise that he will pay him any tribute he chooses to impose;

in consequence of which Shalmaneser exacts three hundred

talents of silver, and thirty talents of gold; to pay which

Hezekiah is obliged to take all his own treasures, and those

belonging to the temple, 14-16.

The king of Assyria sends, notwithstanding, a great host against

Jerusalem; and his general, Rab-shakeh, delivers an insulting

and blasphemous message to Hezekiah, 17-35.

Hezekiah and his people are greatly afflicted at the words of

Rab-shakeh, 36, 37.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVIII

Verse 1. Now-in the third year of Hoshea] See the note on

2Ki 16:1, where this chronology is considered.

Verse 3. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord]

In 2Ch 29:1-36 of the second book of Chronicles, we have an

account of what this pious king did to restore the worship of God.

He caused the priests and Levites to cleanse the holy house, which

had been shut up by his father Ahaz, and had been polluted with

filth of various kinds; and this cleansing required no less than

sixteen days to accomplish it. As the passover, according to the

law, must be celebrated the fourteenth of the first month, and the

Levites could not get the temple cleansed before the sixteenth

day, he published the passover for the fourteenth of the second

month, and sent through all Judah and Israel to collect all the

men that feared God, that the passover might be celebrated in a

proper manner. The concourse was great, and the feast was

celebrated with great magnificence. When the people returned to

their respective cities and villages, they began to throw down the

idol altars, statues, images, and groves, and even to abolish the

high places; the consequence was that a spirit of piety began to

revive in the land, and a general reformation took place.

Verse 4. Brake in pieces the brazen serpent.] The history of

this may be seen in Nu 21:8, 9; see the notes there.

We find that this brazen serpent had become an object of

idolatry, and no doubt was supposed to possess, as a telesm or

amulet, extraordinary virtues, and that incense was burnt before

it which should have been burnt before the true God.

And he called it Nehushtan.] . Not one of the versions

has attempted to translate this word. Jarchi says, "He called it

Nechustan, through contempt, which is as much as to say, a brazen

serpent." Some have supposed that the word is compounded of

nachash, to divine, and tan, a serpent, so it

signifies the divining serpent; and the Targum states that it was

the people, not Hezekiah, that gave it this name. nachash

signifies to view, eye attentively, observe, to search, inquire

accurately, &c.; and hence is used to express divination, augury.

As a noun it signifies brass or copper, filth, verdigris, and

some sea animal, Am 9:3; see also Job 26:13, and Isa 26:1.

It is also frequently used for a serpent; and most probably for an

animal of the genus Simia, in Ge 3:1, where see the notes. This

has been contested by some, ridiculed by a few, and believed by

many. The objectors, because it signifies a serpent sometimes,

suppose it must have the same signification always! And one to

express his contempt and show his sense, has said, "Did Moses hang

up an ape on a pole?" I answer, No, no more than he hanged up you,

who ask the contemptible question. But this is of a piece with the

conduct of the people of Milan, who show you to this day the

brazen serpent which Moses hung up in the wilderness, and which

Hezekiah broke in pieces two thousand five hundred years ago!

Of serpents there is a great variety. Allowing that nachash

signifies a serpent, I may ask in my turn, What kind of a serpent

was it that tempted Eve? Of what species was that which Moses hung

up on the pole, and which Hezekiah broke to pieces? Who of the

wise men can answer these questions? Till this is done I assert,

that the word, Ge 3:1, &c., does

not signify a serpent of any kind; and that with a creature of

the genus Simia the whole account best agrees.

Verse 5. He trusted in the Lord] See the character of this good

king: 1. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; 2. He clave to the

Lord; 3. He was steady in his religion; he departed not from

following the Lord; 4. He kept God's commandments. And what were

the consequences? 1. The Lord was with him; 2. He prospered

whithersoever he went.

Verse 8. From the tower of the watchmen] See the same words,

2Ki 17:9. It seems a proverbial mode of expression: he reduced

every kind of fortification; nothing was able to stand before him.

Verse 9. In the fourth year] This history has been already

given, 2Ki 17:3, &c.

Verse 17. The king of Assyria sent Tartan, &c.] Calmet has very

justly remarked that these are not the names of persons, but of

offices. Tartan, tartan or tantan, as in the

parallel place in Isaiah, in the Greek version, signifies he who

presides over the gifts or tribute; chancellor of the exchequer.

Rabsaris] , the chief of the eunuchs. Rab-shakeh,

master or chief over the wine cellar; or he who had

the care of the king's drink.

From Lachish] It seems as if the Assyrian troops had been

worsted before Lachish, and were obliged to raise the siege,

from which they went and sat down before Libnah. While Sennacherib

was there with the Assyrian army, he heard that Tirhakah, king of

Ethiopia, had invaded the Assyrian territories. Being obliged

therefore to hasten, in order to succour his own dominions, he

sent a considerable force under the aforementioned officers

against Jerusalem, with a most fearful and bloody manifesto,

commanding Hezekiah to pay him tribute, to deliver up his kingdom

to him, and to submit, he and his people, to be carried away

captives into Assyria! This manifesto was accompanied with the

vilest insults, and the highest blasphemies. God interposed and

the evils threatened against others fell upon himself.

Manifestoes of this kind have seldom been honourable to the

senders. The conduct of Rab-shakeh was unfortunately copied by the

Duke of Brunswick, commander-in-chief of the allied army of the

centre, in the French revolution, who was then in the plains of

Champagne, August 27,1792, at the head of ninety thousand men,

Prussians, Austrians, and emigrants, on his way to Paris, which

in his manifesto he threatened to reduce to ashes! This was the

cause of the dreadful massacres which immediately took place. And

shortly after this time the blast of God fell upon him, for in

Sept. 20 of the same year, (three weeks after issuing the

manifesto,) almost all his army was destroyed by a fatal disease,

and himself obliged to retreat from the French territories with

shame and confusion. This, and some other injudicious steps taken

by the allies, were the cause of the ruin of the royal family of

France, and of enormities and calamities the most extensive,

disgraceful, and ruinous, that ever stained the page of history.

From all such revolutions God in mercy save mankind!

Conduit of the upper pool] The aqueduct that brought the water

from the upper or eastern reservoir, near to the valley of Kidron,

into the city. Probably they had seized on this in order to

distress the city.

The fuller's field.] The place where the washermen stretched out

their clothes to dry.

Verse 18. Called to the king] They wished him to come out that

they might get possession of his person.

Eliakim-over the household] What we would call lord chamberlain.

Shebna the scribe] The king's secretary.

Joah-the recorder.] The writer of the public annals.

Verse 19. What confidence is this] ma habbittachon

hazzeh. The words are excessively insulting: What little, foolish,

or unavailing cause of confidence is it, to which thou trustest? I

translate thus, because I consider the word bittachon as a

diminutive, intended to express the utmost contempt for

Hezekiah's God.

Verse 21. The staff of this bruised reed] Egypt had already been

greatly bruised and broken, through the wars carried on against it

by the Assyrians.

Verse 22. Whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken

away] This was artfully malicious. Many of the people sacrificed

to Jehovah on the high places; Hezekiah had removed them,

(2Ki 18:4,) because they were incentives to idolatry:

Rab-shakeh insinuates that by so doing he had offended Jehovah,

deprived the people of their religious rights, and he could

neither expect the blessing of God nor the cooperation of the

people.

Verse 23. I will deliver thee two thousand horses] Another

insult: Were I to give thee two thousand Assyrian horses, thou

couldst not find riders for them. How then canst thou think that

thou shalt be able to stand against even the smallest division of

my troops?

Verse 25. Am I now come up without the Lord] As Rab-shakeh saw

that the Jews placed the utmost confidence in God, he wished to

persuade them that by Hezekiah's conduct Jehovah had departed from

them, and was become ally to the king of Assyria, and therefore

they could not expect any help from that quarter.

Verse 26. Talk not with us in the Jews' language] The object of

this blasphemous caitiff was to stir up the people to sedition,

that the city and the king might be delivered into his hand.

Verse 27. That they may eat their own dung] That they may be

duly apprised, if they hold on Hezekiah's side, Jerusalem shall be

most straitly besieged, and they be reduced to such a state of

famine as to be obliged to eat their own excrements.

Verse 28. Hear the word of the great king-of Assyria] This was

all intended to cause the people to revolt from their allegiance

to their king.

Verse 32. Until I come and take you away] This was well

calculated to stir up a seditious spirit. Ye cannot be delivered;

your destruction, if ye resist, is inevitable; Sennacherib will do

with you, as he does with all the nations he conquers, lead you

captive into another land: but if you will surrender without

farther trouble, he will transport you into a land as good as your

own.

Verse 34. Where are the gods of Hamath] Sennacherib is greater

than any of the gods of the nations. The Assyrians have already

overthrown the gods of Hamath, Arpad, Hena, and Ivah; therefore,

Jehovah shall be like one of them, and shall not be able to

deliver Jerusalem out of the hand of my master.

The impudent blasphemy of this speech is without parallel.

Hezekiah treated it as he ought: it was not properly against him,

but against the LORD; therefore he refers the matter to Jehovah

himself, who punishes this blasphemy in the most signal manner.

Verse 36. Answer him not.] The blasphemy is too barefaced;

Jehovah is insulted, not you; let him avenge his own quarrel.

See the succeeding chapter.

Verse 37. Then came Eliakim-and Shebna-and Joah-to Hezekiah with

their clothes rent] It was the custom of the Hebrews, when they

heard any blasphemy, to rend their clothes, because this was the

greatest of crimes, as it immediately affected the majesty of God,

and it was right that a religious people should have in the utmost

abhorrence every insult offered to the object of their religious

worship. These three ambassadors lay the matter before the king as

God's representative; he lays it before the prophet, as God's

minister; and the prophet lays it before God, as the people's

mediator.

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