Hezekiah of Judah
1-4In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz began his rule over Judah. He was twenty-five years old when he became king and he ruled for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. In God’s opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David. He got rid of the local fertility shrines, smashed the phallic stone monuments, and cut down the sex-and-religion Asherah groves. As a final stroke he pulverized the ancient bronze serpent that Moses had made; at that time the Israelites had taken up the practice of sacrificing to it—they had even dignified it with a name, Nehushtan (The Old Serpent).
5-6Hezekiah put his whole trust in the God of Israel. There was no king quite like him, either before or after. He held fast to God—never loosened his grip—and obeyed to the letter everything God had commanded Moses. And God, for his part, held fast to him through all his adventures.
7-8He revolted against the king of Assyria; he refused to serve him one more day. And he drove back the Philistines, whether in sentry outposts or fortress cities, all the way to Gaza and its borders.
9-11In the fourth year of Hezekiah and the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria attacked Samaria. He threw a siege around it and after three years captured it. It was in the sixth year of Hezekiah and the ninth year of Hoshea that Samaria fell to Assyria. The king of Assyria took Israel into exile and relocated them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River, and in towns of the Medes.
12All this happened because they wouldn’t listen to the voice of their God and treated his covenant with careless contempt. They refused either to listen or do a word of what Moses, the servant of God, commanded.
13-14In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the outlying fortress cities of Judah and captured them. King Hezekiah sent a message to the king of Assyria at his headquarters in Lachish: “I’ve done wrong; I admit it. Pull back your army; I’ll pay whatever tribute you set.”
14-16The king of Assyria demanded tribute from Hezekiah king of Judah—eleven tons of silver and a ton of gold. Hezekiah turned over all the silver he could find in The Temple of God and in the palace treasuries. Hezekiah even took down the doors of The Temple of God and the doorposts that he had overlaid with gold and gave them to the king of Assyria.
17So the king of Assyria sent his top three military chiefs (the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh) from Lachish with a strong military force to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool on the road to the laundry commons.
18They called loudly for the king. Eliakim son of Hilkiah who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the royal secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the court historian went out to meet them.
19-22The third officer, the Rabshakeh, was spokesman. He said, “Tell Hezekiah: A message from The Great King, the king of Assyria: You’re living in a world of make-believe, of pious fantasy. Do you think that mere words are any substitute for military strategy and troops? Now that you’ve revolted against me, who can you expect to help you? You thought Egypt would, but Egypt’s nothing but a paper tiger—one puff of wind and she collapses; Pharaoh king of Egypt is nothing but bluff and bluster. Or are you going to tell me, ‘We rely on God’? But Hezekiah has just eliminated most of the people’s access to God by getting rid of all the local God-shrines, ordering everyone in Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship at the Jerusalem altar only.’
23-24“So be reasonable. Make a deal with my master, the king of Assyria. I’ll give you two thousand horses if you think you can provide riders for them. You can’t do it? Well, then, how do you think you’re going to turn back even one raw buck private from my master’s troops? How long are you going to hold on to that figment of your imagination, these hoped-for Egyptian chariots and horses?
25“Do you think I’ve come up here to destroy this country without the express approval of God? The fact is that God expressly ordered me, ‘Attack and destroy this country!’”
26Eliakim son of Hilkiah and Shebna and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please, speak to us in the Aramaic language. We understand Aramaic. Don’t speak in Hebrew—everyone crowded on the city wall can hear you.”
27But the Rabshakeh said, “We weren’t sent with a private message to your master and you; this is public—a message to everyone within earshot. After all, they’re involved in this as well as you; if you don’t come to terms, they’ll be eating their own turds and drinking their own pee right along with you.”
28-32Then he stepped forward and spoke in Hebrew loud enough for everyone to hear, “Listen carefully to the words of The Great King, the king of Assyria: Don’t let Hezekiah fool you; he can’t save you. And don’t let Hezekiah give you that line about trusting in God, telling you, ‘God will save us—this city will never be abandoned to the king of Assyria.’ Don’t listen to Hezekiah—he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Listen to the king of Assyria—deal with me and live the good life; I’ll guarantee everyone your own plot of ground—a garden and a well! I’ll take you to a land sweeter by far than this one, a land of grain and wine, bread and vineyards, olive orchards and honey. You only live once—so live, really live!
32-35“No. Don’t listen to Hezekiah. Don’t listen to his lies, telling you ‘God will save us.’ Has there ever been a god anywhere who delivered anyone from the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? And Samaria—did their gods save them? Can you name a god who saved anyone anywhere from me, the king of Assyria? So what makes you think that God can save Jerusalem from me?”
36The people were silent. No one spoke a word for the king had ordered, “Don’t anyone say a word—not one word!”
37Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, and Shebna the royal secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the court historian went back to Hezekiah. They had ripped their robes in despair; they reported to Hezekiah the speech of the Rabshakeh.
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