Got to Have Hope

Explore the Bible Series

February 20, 2011


Background Passage: II Kings 18:1-20:21 (II Chronicles 29:-32:3)

Lesson Passage: II Kings 18:28-32; 19:5-7, 15-19




Perhaps a brief summary of Assyrian history may prove helpful in understanding this lesson; therefore, I offer this little introductory review (See various entries in The Holman Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, and The Oxford History of the Biblical World).


Tiglath-pileser III (c.744-727 B.C.): Called Pul, in II Kings, this Assyrian leader subdued much of Samaria, during the reign of Pekah, and he forced King Ahaz of Judah into vassalage.


Shalmaneser V (c. 726-722 B.C.): Successor to Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser laid siege to Israel during the reign of Hoshea, a king who refused to pay tribute to the Assyrians.  It proves difficult to determine whether Israel fell to Shalmaneser or to his successor, Sargon.


Sargon II (c. 721-705 B.C.): Assyria’s glory may have reached its apex during the reign of this king, son of Tiglath-pileser and brother of Shalmaneser.  He was an accomplished warrior, successfully defeating the Babylonians, Israelites, Medians, Cappadocians and Armenians, the Egyptians, and Arabians.  It also seems that Assyrian architecture reached its crest in the public works programs initiated by Sargon, especially the renovation of the ancient city of Nineveh.  


Sennacherib (c. 704-681 B.C.): Son and successor to Sargon, Sennacherib solidified his father’s claims on Israel and sought to extend Assyrian influence over Judah.  At first, Hezekiah tried to appease his assailant, but our lesson passage records that divine intervention delivered Judah from the iron hand of Sennacherib.  Some years after the failed attempt to destroy Judah, Sennacherib’s sons assassinated their father.


Esarhaddon (c. 681-669 B.C.): Esarhaddon subdued the Babylonians and built a magnificent palace near Susa. He began his governance of Assyria during the reign of Hezekiah, but he also threatened the sovereignty of King Manasseh, son of Hezekiah


Ashurbanipal (c. 669-627 B.C.): The last monarch of Assyria, Ashurbanipal governed his country after the death of his father, Esarhaddon. Today he is best known for founding a massive library that contained more than 20,000 clay tablets.  His name only appears once in the Bible (Ezra 4:10), but his reign spanned the careers of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah.






Lesson Outline:


I.       The Integrity of King Hezekiah of Judah (18:1-12)

A.    The background of Hezekiah (vv. 1-2): Ahaz, father of Hezekiah, was an evil king who celebrated the most dreadful pagan practices of his day, and Hezekiah’s mother, Abi, may have come from a righteous family.  Perhaps Abi had a good influence on her son, and he became the most honorable king since David. 

B.     The king’s virtuous conduct (vv. 3-8): Hezekiah destroyed the trappings of Baal worship and other forms of pagan worship, and he obeyed the teachings of Moses. 

C.     The rising threat of the Assyrians (vv. 9-12): The ascension of Shalmaneser V (ruled 726-722 B.C.) signaled a very aggressive period in Assyrian history.  The death of Tiglath-pileser III emboldened the new king strengthen his hold on Samaria as well as other kingdoms in the region. Judah would not be immune to this belligerence.


II.    Judah’s Confrontation with Assyria (18:13-19:37)

A.    Assyria’s elaborate insult toward Judah (18:13-37): Fourteen years into his reign, Hezekiah met greatest trail of his monarchy.  At first, he tried to appease the Assyrians by paying tribute to his assailants, including much of the treasures of the Temple.  The Assyrian king responded by commissioning three emissaries to insult and threaten Judah.  Hezekiah met the messengers at Lachish, one of the highly fortified cities of Judah. They mocked Judah’s alliance with Egypt, and, above all, ridiculed Hezekiah’s trust in Jehovah.  The messengers baited Judah to war and sought to intimidate the population.

B.     Isaiah comforted Hezekiah (19:1-7): Assyria’s threat, of course, troubled the king. He humbled himself before the Lord, and called on the people to pray.  Some of the king’s servants sought the counsel of the Prophet Isaiah, and the Lord’s prophet assured the king that Judah would not fall to her enemies.  Instead, Isaiah promised, Sennacherib’s troops would return to Assyria, and the evil monarch would die in his own land.

C.     Sennacherib’s continued threats (19:8-13): When his initial threats did not buckle Hezekiah’s faith, Shalmaneser sent a messenger to embellish the accounts of Assyria’s military prowess.

D.    Hezekiah’s prayer (19:14-19): After this second threat, Hezekiah took his concerns directly to the Lord.  He went to the Temple and laid the problem before God.  Earnestly, he prayed that the Lord might vindicate his people and let the people know that Jehovah, alone, is God.

E.     Isaiah’s prophecy (19:20-37): God, speaking through the prophet, took offense at the mockery of Sennacherib.  God took personally the ridicule of his people, and Isaiah pledged ruin would befall the Assyrian king.  In fact, Isaiah observed the hand of God in the military successes of the Assyrians. They had risen to power as part of Jehovah’s sovereign design, even though these pagans did not recognize the hand of the Lord in their affairs. The Lord promised to provide for Judah’s physical needs, and, in time, he would bring a violent end to the life and reign of Sennacherib.  The Assyrians never attacked Jerusalem because the Lord, according to the text, defended the city.  Just as Isaiah predicted, as the Assyrian army approached the city, an angel struck the troops and thousands died.  According to various historical accounts, about twenty years after the defeat in Judah (c. 701 B.C.), the sons of Sennacherib murdered their father, and Esarhaddon ruled in his place (c. 681 B.C.).


III. The Last Years of Hezekiah’s Reign (20:1-21)

A.    The king’s grave illness (vv. 1-11): We do not know the nature of Hezekiah’s malady, but the illness threatened his life; indeed, Isaiah told the king that he would die.  Verse seven indicates that the illness related to a boil, and Isaiah required that the king’s servants apply a fig cake as a kind of poultice to relieve the king’s pain. Hezekiah prayed earnestly, and the Lord granted him fifteen more years.  As a sign of the Lord’s miraculous intervention, the sundial reversed ten “steps  (The Reformation Study Bible says this refers to the marks on a sundial).

B.     The visit of the Babylonian emissaries (vv. 12-21): Hezekiah lived long enough to witness the early development of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, under the leadership of Merodach-baladan (ruled 721-703).  The Assyrians still held the advantage, and, for some time, they dominated the Babylonian monarch.  However, political changes loomed on the historical horizon, and Isaiah foresaw Babylonian ascendancy. Envoys from Babylon visited Hezekiah, and their mission seemed peaceful; nevertheless, Hezekiah foolishly revealed the most intimate details about his kingdom, and Isaiah scolded the king for his folly.  In fact, the prophet presaged a time when Babylonians would raze Jerusalem and carry off the population and treasures of Judah.