XI. THE END OF JUDAH#The Books of Kings end, as they began, with the people of the Lord in a single kingdom, Judah, centered on the capital, Jerusalem, and the Solomonic Temple. The reigns of two reformer kings, both praised, are recounted at length: Hezekiah (chaps. 18–20) and Josiah (22:1–23:30). Each is followed by shorter accounts of two kings who are condemned: Manasseh and Amon (chap. 21) and Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim (23:31–24:7). The book ends with the last days of Judah under Jehoiachin and Zedekiah and the beginning of the Babylonian exile.
Reign of Hezekiah.
1In the third year of Hoshea, son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah, became king. 2He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi, daughter of Zechariah.
3He did what was right in the Lord’s sight, just as David his father had done. 4It was he who removed the high places, shattered the pillars, cut down the asherah,#Asherah: see note on Ex 34:13. Nehushtan: the name nehushtan contains several wordplays in Hebrew. It recalls the word “serpent” (nahash), the word “bronze” (nehoshet), and the word “to read omens” (nihesh). The sentence is also unclear about who named the bronze serpent “Nehushtan”—whether Moses when he made it, or the people when they venerated it, or Hezekiah when he destroyed it. and smashed the bronze serpent Moses had made, because up to that time the Israelites were burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)#a. [18:4] Ex 23:24; 34:13; Nm 21:4–9; Dt 12:2; Wis 16:5–7; Jn 3:14. 5He put his trust in the Lord, the God of Israel; and neither before nor after him was there anyone like him among all the kings of Judah. 6Hezekiah held fast to the Lord and never turned away from following him, but observed the commandments the Lord had given Moses. 7The Lord was with him, and he succeeded in all he set out to do. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8It was he who struck the Philistines as far as Gaza, and all its territory from guard post to garrisoned town.
9#The correlations between the reigns of Hezekiah and Hoshea in vv. 9–10 conflict with other biblical data and with the date for the fall of Samaria, 722/721 B.C. (see note on 16:1–20). Since Sennacherib’s invasion in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah (v. 13) took place in 701, Hezekiah cannot have been on the throne twenty years earlier. Various solutions have been proposed: scribal errors in writing the numbers; a Hezekian co-regency with his father Ahaz beginning in 729; etc. None of the solutions has won a consensus among historians. In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea, son of Elah, king of Israel, Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, attacked Samaria and laid siege to it, 10#b. [18:10–11] 2 Kgs 17:5–6; Tb 1:2. and after three years they captured it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11The king of Assyria then deported the Israelites to Assyria and led them off to Halah, and the Habor, a river of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes. 12This happened because they did not obey the Lord, their God, but violated his covenant; they did not obey nor do all that Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded.#c. [18:12] 2 Kgs 17:6–23; Ex 24:7.
Sennacherib and Hezekiah.
13#This material is found also in Is 36–39, with one long addition (Is 38:9–20) and only a few other changes. In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria,#Sennacherib succeeded Sargon II as king of Assyria. His Judean campaign was waged in 701 B.C. See notes on 16:1–20 and 18:9. attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.#d. [18:13–19:36] Sir 48:18–21. 14Hezekiah, king of Judah, sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Leave me, and whatever you impose on me I will bear.” The king of Assyria exacted three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold from Hezekiah, king of Judah. 15Hezekiah gave him all the funds there were in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house. 16At the same time, Hezekiah removed the nave doors and the uprights of the house of the Lord, which the king of Judah had ordered to be overlaid with gold, and gave them to the king of Assyria.#e. [18:16] 1 Kgs 6:31–35.
17The king of Assyria sent the general, the lord chamberlain, and the commander#General, the lord chamberlain…commander: the text lists three major functionaries by their Assyrian titles, of which only the first, more nearly “lord lieutenant,” is military in origin; the commander was technically the king’s chief butler. from Lachish with a great army to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They went up and came to Jerusalem, to the conduit of the upper pool on the highway of the fuller’s field, where they took their stand. 18They called for the king, but Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, the master of the palace, came out, along with Shebnah the scribe and the chancellor Joah, son of Asaph.#f. [18:18] Is 22:15–25.
19The commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this trust of yours? 20Do you think mere words substitute for strategy and might in war? In whom, then, do you place your trust, that you rebel against me? 21Do you trust in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it? That is what Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is to all who trust in him.#g. [18:21] Is 30:1–7; 31:1–3; Ez 29:6–7. 22Or do you people say to me, “It is in the Lord our God we trust!”? Is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, commanding Judah and Jerusalem, “Worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?’
23“Now, make a wager with my lord, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses if you are able to put riders on them. 24How then can you turn back even a captain, one of the least servants of my lord, trusting, as you do, in Egypt for chariots and horses? 25Did I come up to destroy this place without the Lord? The Lord himself said to me: Go up and destroy that land!”
26Then Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah said to the commander: “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic; we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within earshot of the people who are on the wall.” 27But the commander replied: “Was it to your lord and to you that my lord sent me to speak these words? Was it not rather to those sitting on the wall, who, with you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their urine?”#Excrement…urine: the reference is to the famine that results from a prolonged siege (compare 6:24–25; Dt 28:53–57). For public reading, ancient tradition (e.g., the Qere reading of the Masoretic text) softened the terms to “eat their own waste and drink their own bodies’ water.”
28Then the commander stepped forward and cried out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, “Listen to the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29Thus says the king: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he cannot rescue you from my hand. 30And do not let Hezekiah induce you to trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us, and this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’ 31Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: Make peace with me, and surrender to me! Eat, each of you, from your vine, each from your own fig tree. Drink water, each from your own well, 32until I arrive and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of rich olives and honey. Live, and do not die! And do not listen to Hezekiah when he would incite you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us.’ 33Has any of the gods of the nations ever rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria? 34Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did they indeed rescue Samaria from my power?#Did they indeed…power?: some time after the fall of Samaria in 722/721 B.C., Hamath, Arpad, and other small states in the region formed an anti-Assyrian coalition. If the coalition had succeeded, it could have broken Assyrian control over the whole region, including Samaria, and allowed the kingdom of Israel to free itself. When Assyria crushed the coalition, it also crushed Israel’s hopes for liberation. 35Which of the gods for all these lands ever rescued his land from my power? Will the Lord then rescue Jerusalem from my power?” 36But the people remained silent and did not answer at all, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.”
37Then the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, Shebnah the scribe, and the chancellor Joah, son of Asaph, came to Hezekiah with their garments torn, and reported to him the words of the commander.