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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

2 Kings 18

III. History of the Kingdom of Judah From the Destruction of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes to the Babylonian Captivity - 2 Kings 18-25

At the time when the kingdom of the ten tribes was destroyed, Judah found itself in a state of dependence upon the imperial power of Assyria, into which it had been brought by the ungodly policy of Ahaz. But three years before the expedition of Salmanasar against Samaria, the pious Hezekiah had ascended the throne of his ancestor David in Jerusalem, and had set on foot with strength and zeal the healing of Judah's wounds, by exterminating idolatry and by restoring the legal worship of Jehovah. As Hezekiah was devoted to the Lord his God with undivided heart and trusted firmly in Him, the Lord also acknowledged him and his undertakings. When Sennacherib had overrun Judah with a powerful army after the revolt of Hezekiah, and had summoned the capital to surrender, the Lord heard the prayer of His faithful servant Hezekiah and saved Judah and Jerusalem from the threatening destruction by the miraculous destruction of the forces of the proud Sennacherib (2 Kings 18 and 19), whereby the power of Assyria was so weakened that Judah had no longer much more to fear from it, although it did chastise Manasseh ( 2 Chronicles 33:11.). Nevertheless this deliverance, through and in the time of Hezekiah, was merely a postponement of the judgment with which Judah had been threatened by the prophets (Isaiah and Micah), of the destruction of the kingdom and the banishment of its inhabitants. Apostasy from the living God and moral corruption had struck such deep and firm roots in the nation, that the idolatry, outwardly suppressed by Hezekiah, broke out again openly immediately after his death; and that in a still stronger degree, since his son and successor Manasseh not only restored all the abominations of idolatry which his father had rooted out, but even built altars to idols in the courts of the temple of Jehovah, and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood from one end to the other (2 Kings 21), and thereby filled up the measure of sins, so that the Lord had to announce through His prophets to the godless king and people His decree to destroy Jerusalem and cast out the remaining portion of the people of His inheritance among the heathen, and to show the severity of His judgments in the fact that Manasseh was led away captive by the officers of the Assyrian king. And even though Manasseh himself renounced all gross idolatry and restored the legal worship in the temple after his release and return to Jerusalem, as the result of this chastisement, this alteration in the king's mind exerted no lasting influence upon the people generally, and was completely neutralized by his successor Amon, who did not walk in the way of Jehovah, but merely worshipped his father's idols. In this state of things even the God-fearing Josiah, with all the stringency with which he exterminated idolatry, more especially after the discovery of the book of the law, was unable to effect any true change of heart or sincere conversion of the people to their God, and could only wipe out the outward signs and traces of idolatry, and establish the external supremacy of the worship of Jehovah. The people, with their carnal security, imagined that they had done quite enough for God by restoring the outward and legal form of worship, and that they were now quite sure of the divine protection; and did not hearken to the voice of the prophets, who predicted the speedy coming of the judgments of God. Josiah had warded off the bursting forth of these judgments for thirty years, through his humiliation before God and the reforms which he introduced; but towards the end of his reign the Lord began to put away Judah from before His face for the sake of Manasseh's sins, and to reject the city which He had chosen that His name might dwell there (2 Kings 22-23:27). Necho king of Egypt advanced to extend his sway to the Euphrates and overthrow the Assyrian empire. Josiah marched to meet him, for the purpose of preventing the extension of his power into Syria. A battle was fought at Megiddo, the Judaean army was defeated, Josiah fell in the battle, and with him the last hope of the sinking state (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:23-24). In Jerusalem Jehoahaz was made king by the people; but after a reign of three months he was taken prisoner by Necho at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and led away to Egypt, where he died. Eliakim, the elder son of Josiah, was appointed by Necho as Egyptian vassal-king in Jerusalem, under the name of Jehoiakim. He was devoted to idolatry, and through his love of show (Jeremiah 22:13.) still further ruined the kingdom, which was already exhausted by the tribute to be paid to Egypt. In the fourth year of his reign Pharaoh-Necho succumbed at Carchemish to the Chaldaean power, which was rising under Nebuchadnezzar upon the ruins of the Assyrian kingdom. At the same time Jeremiah proclaimed to the incorrigible nation that the Lord of Sabaoth would deliver Judah with all the surrounding nations into the hand of His servant Nebuchadnezzar, that the land of Judah would be laid waste and the people serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jer 25). Nebuchadnezzar appeared in Judah immediately afterwards to follow up his victory over Necho, took Jerusalem, made Jehoiakim his subject, and carried away Daniel, with many of the leading young men, to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1). But after some years Jehoiakim revolted; whereupon Nebuchadnezzar sent fresh troops against Jerusalem to besiege the city, and after defeating Jehoiachin, who had in the meantime followed his father upon the throne, led away into captivity to Babylon, along with the kernel of the nation, nobles, warriors, craftsmen, and smiths, and set upon the throne Mattaniah, the only remaining son of Josiah, under the name of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:2-17). But when he also formed an alliance with Pharaoh-Hophra in the ninth year of his reign, and revolted from the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar advanced immediately with all his forces, besieged Jerusalem, and having taken the city and destroyed it, put an end to the kingdom of Judah by slaying Zedekiah and his sons, and carrying away all the people that were left, with the exception of a very small remnant of cultivators of the soil (2 Kings 24:18-25:26), a hundred and thirty-four years after the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes.

Verses 1-8

2 Kings 18:1-2

Length and character of Hezekiah's reign.

As ruler Hezekiah walked in the footsteps of his ancestor David. He removed the high places and the other objects of idolatrous worship, trusted in Jehovah, and adhered firmly to Him without wavering; therefore the Lord made all his undertakings prosper. &#הבּמות המּצּבית , and האשׁרה (see at 1 Kings 14:23) embrace all the objects of idolatrous worship, which had been introduced into Jerusalem and Judah in the reigns of the former kings, and more especially in that of Ahaz. The singular האשׁרה is used in a collective sense = האשׁרים (2 Chronicles 31:1). The only other idol that is specially mentioned is the brazen serpent which Moses made in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-9), and which the people with their leaning to idolatry had turned in the course of time into an object of idolatrous worship. The words, “to this day were the children of Israel burning incense to it,” do not mean that this took place without interruption from the time of Moses down to that of Hezekiah, but simply, that it occurred at intervals, and that the idolatry carried on with this idol lasted till the time of Hezekiah, namely, till this king broke in pieces the brazen serpent, because of the idolatry that was associated with it. For further remarks on the meaning of this symbol, see the Comm. on Numbers 21:8-9. The people called ( ויּקרא , one called) this serpent נחשׁתּן , i.e., a brazen thing. This epithet does not involve anything contemptuous, as the earlier commentators supposed, nor the idea of “Brass-god” (Ewald).

2 Kings 18:5

The verdict, “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah,” refers to Hezekiah's confidence in God ( בּטח ), in which he had no equal, whereas in the case of Josiah his conscientious adherence to the Mosaic law is extolled in the same words (2 Kings 23:25); so that there is no ground for saying that there is a contradiction between our verse and 2 Kings 23:25 (Thenius).

2 Kings 18:6

בּיי ידבּק : he adhered faithfully to Jehovah ( דּבק as in 1 Kings 11:2), and departed not from Him, i.e., he never gave himself up to idolatry.

2 Kings 18:7

The Lord therefore gave him success in all his undertakings ( השׂכּיל , see at 1 Kings 2:3), and even in his rebellion against the king of Assyria, whom he no longer served, i.e., to whom he paid no more tribute. It was through Ahaz that Judah had been brought into dependence upon Assyria; and Hezekiah released himself from this, by refusing to pay any more tribute, probably after the departure of Salmanasar from Palestine, and possibly not till after the death of that king. Sennacherib therefore made war upon Hezekiah to subjugate Judah to himself again (see 2 Kings 18:13.).

2 Kings 18:8

Hezekiah smote the Philistines to Gaza, and their territory from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city, i.e., all the towns from the least to the greatest (see at 2 Kings 17:9). He thus chastised these enemies for their invasion of Judah in the time of Ahaz, wrested from them the cities which they had taken at that time (2 Chronicles 28:18), and laid waste all their country to Gaza, i.e., Ghuzzeh, the most southerly of the chief cities of Philistia (see at Joshua 13:3). This probably took place after the defeat of Sennacherib (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:22-23).

Verses 9-12

In 2 Kings 18:9-12 the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes by Salmanasar, which has already been related according to the annals of the kingdom of Israel in 2 Kings 17:3-6, is related once more according to the annals of the kingdom of Judah, in which this catastrophe is also introduced as an event that was memorable in relation to all the covenant-nation.

Verses 13-37

Sennacherib invades Judah and threatens Jerusalem.

On the report of Sennacherib's approach, Hezekiah made provision at once for the safety of Jerusalem. He had the city fortified more strongly, and the fountain of the upper Gihon and the brook near the city stopped up (see at 2 Kings 18:17), to cut off the supply of water from the besiegers, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 32:2-8, and confirmed by Isaiah 22:8-11. In the meantime Sennacherib had pressed forward to Lachish, i.e., Um Lakis, in the plain of Judah, on the south-west of Jerusalem, seven hours to the west of Eleutheropolis on the road to Egypt (see at Joshua 10:3); so that Hezekiah, having doubts as to the possibility of a successful resistance, sent ambassadors to negotiate with him, and promised to pay him as much tribute as he might demand if he would withdraw. The confession “I have sinned” is not to be pressed, inasmuch as it was forced from Hezekiah by the pressure of distress. Since Asshur had made Judah tributary by faithless conduct on the part of Tiglath-pileser towards Ahaz, there was nothing really wrong in the shaking off of this yoke by the refusal to pay any further tribute. But Hezekiah certainly did wrong, when, after taking the first step, he was alarmed at the disastrous consequences, and sought to purchase once more the peace which he himself had broken, by a fresh submission and renewal of the payment of tribute. This false step on the part of the pious king, which arose from a temporary weakness of faith, was nevertheless turned into a blessing through the pride of Sennacherib and the covenant-faithfulness of the Lord towards him and his kingdom. Sennacherib demanded the enormous sum of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (more than two and a half million thalers, or £375,000); and Hezekiah not only gave him all the gold and silver found in the treasures of the temple and palace, but had the gold plates with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:3) removed, to send them to the king of Assyria. האמנות , lit., the supports, i.e., the posts, of the doors.

These negotiations with Sennacherib on the part of Hezekiah are passed over both in the book of Isaiah and also in the Chronicles, because they had no further influence upon the future progress of the war.

2 Kings 18:17

For though Sennacherib did indeed take the money, he did not depart, as he had no doubt promised, but, emboldened still further by this submissiveness, sent a detachment of his army against Jerusalem, and summoned Hezekiah to surrender the capital. “He sent Tartan, Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh.” Rabshakeh only is mentioned in Isaiah, as the chief speaker in the negotiations which follow, although in Isaiah 37:6 and Isaiah 37:24 allusion is evidently made to the other two. Tartan had no doubt the chief command, since he is not only mentioned first here, but conducted the siege of Ashdod, according to Isaiah 20:1. The three names are probably only official names, or titles of the offices held by the persons mentioned. For רב־סריס means princeps eunuchorum , and רבשׁקה chief cup-bearer. תּרתּן is explained by Hitzig on Isaiah 20:1 as derived from the Persian târ-tan, “high person or vertex of the body,” and in Jeremiah 39:3 as “body-guard;” but this is hardly correct, as the other two titles are Semitic. These generals took up their station with their army “at the conduit of the upper pool, which ran by the road of the fuller's field,” i.e., the conduit which flowed from the upper pool - according to 2 Chronicles 32:30, the basin of the upper Gihon (Birket el Mamilla) - into the lower pool (Birket es Sultân: see at 1 Kings 1:33). According to Isaiah 7:3, this conduit was in existence as early as the time of Ahaz. The “end” of it is probably the locality in which the conduit began at the upper pool or Gihon, or where it first issued from it. This conduit which led from the upper Gihon into the lower, and which is called in 2 Chronicles 32:30 “the outflow of the upper Gihon,” Hezekiah stopped up, and conducted the water downwards, i.e., the underground, towards the west into the city of David; that is to say, he conducted the water of the upper Gihon, which had previously flowed along the western side of the city outside the wall into the lower Gihon and so away down the valley of Ben-hinnom, into the city itself by means of a subterranean channel,

Hezekiah considered it beneath his dignity to negotiate personally with the generals of Sennacherib. He sent three of his leading ministers out to the front of the city: Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, the captain of the castle, who had only received the appointment to this office a short time before in Shebna's place (Isaiah 22:20-21); Shebna, who was still secretary of state ( ספר : see at 2 Samuel 8:17); and Joach the son of Asaph, the chancellor ( מזכּיר : see at 2 Samuel 8:16).

Rabshakeh made a speech to these three (2 Kings 18:19-25), in which he tried to show that Hezekiah's confidence that he would be able to resist the might of the king of Assyria was perfectly vain, since neither Egypt (2 Kings 18:21), nor his God (2 Kings 18:22), nor his forces (2 Kings 18:23), would be able to defend him.

2 Kings 18:19

“The great king:” the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian kings all assumed this title (cf. Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37), because kings of conquered lands were subject to them as vassals (see at Isaiah 10:8). “What is this confidence that thou cherishest?” i.e., how vain or worthless is this confidence!

2 Kings 18:20

“Thou sayest ... it is only a lip-word...: counsel and might for battle;” i.e., if thou speakest of counsel and might for battle, that is only שׂפתים דּבר , a word that merely comes from the lips, not from the heart, the seat of the understanding, i.e., a foolish and inconsiderate saying (cf. Proverbs 14:23; Job 11:2). - עמרתּ is to be preferred to the אמרתּי of Isaiah as the more original of the two. עתּה , now, sc. we will see on whom thou didst rely, when thou didst rebel against me.

2 Kings 18:21

On Egypt? “that broken reed, which runs into the hand of any one who would lean upon it (thinking it whole), and pierces it through.” This figure, which is repeated in Ezekiel 29:6-7, is so far suitably chosen, that the Nile, representing Egypt, is rich in reeds. What Rabshakeh says of Egypt here, Isaiah had already earnestly impressed upon his people (Isaiah 30:3-5), to warn them against trusting in the support of Egypt, from which one party in the nation expected help against Assyria.

2 Kings 18:22

Hezekiah (and Judah) had a stronger ground of confidence in Jehovah his God. Even this Rabshakeh tried to shake, availing himself very skilfully, from his heathen point of view, of the reform which Hezekiah had made in the worship, and representing the abolition of the altars on the high places as an infringement upon the reverence that ought to be shown to God. “And if ye say, We trust in Jehovah our God, (I say:) is it not He whose high places and altars Hezekiah has taken away and has said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar (in the temple) in Jerusalem?” Instead of האמרוּ כּי , according to which Rabshakeh turned to the deputies, we have in Isaiah 7:7 תאמר כּי , according to which the words are addressed to Hezekiah, as in 2 Kings 18:20. האמרוּ is preferred by Thenius, Knobel, and others, because in what follows Hezekiah is addressed in the third person. but the very circumstance that האמרוּ is apparently more suitable favours the originality of תאמר , according to which the king is still addressed in the person of his ambassadors, and Rabshakeh only speaks directly to the ambassadors when this argument is answered. The attack upon the confidence which the Judaeans placed in their God commences with הוּא הלוא . The opinion of Thenius, that the second clause of the verse is a continuation of the words supposed to be spoken by the Judaeans who trusted in God, and that the apodosis does not follow till 2 Kings 18:23, is quite a mistake. The ambassadors of Hezekiah could not regard the high places and idolatrous altars that had been abolished as altars of Jehovah; and the apodosis could not commence with ועתּה .

2 Kings 18:23-24

Still less could Hezekiah rely upon his military resources. נא התערב : enter, I pray thee, (into contest) with my lord, and I will give thee 2000 horses, if thou canst set the horsemen upon them. The meaning, of course, is not that Hezekiah could not raise 2000 soldiers in all, but that he could not produce so many men who were able to fight as horsemen. “How then wilt thou turn back a single one of the smallest lieutenants of my lord?” פל את־פּני השׁיב , to repulse a person's face, means generally to turn away a person with his petition (1 Kings 2:16-17), here to repulse an assailant. אחד פּחת is one pasha; although אחד hguo , which is grammatically subordinate to פּחת , is in the construct state, that the genitives which follow may be connected (for this subordination of אחד see Ewald, §286, a.). פּחה (see at 1 Kings 10:15), lit., under-vicegerent, i.e., administrator of a province under a satrap, in military states also a subordinate officer. ותּבטח : and so (with thy military force so small) thou trustest in Egypt וגו לרכב , so far as war-chariots and horsemen are concerned.

2 Kings 18:25

After Rabshakeh had thus, as he imagined, taken away every ground of confidence from Hezekiah, he added still further, that the Assyrian king himself had also not come without Jehovah, but had been summoned by Him to effect the destruction of Judah. It is possible that some report may have reached his ears of the predictions of the prophets, who had represented the Assyrian invasion as a judgment from the Lord, and these he used for his own purposes. Instead of הזּה המּקום על , against this place, i.e., Jerusalem, we have הזּאת הארץ על in Isaiah, - a reading which owes its origin simply to the endeavour to bring the two clauses into exact conformity to one another.

2 Kings 18:26-37

It was very conceivable that Rabshakeh's boasting might make an impression upon the people; the ambassadors of Hezekiah therefore interrupted him with the request that he would speak to them in Aramaean, as they understood that language, and not in Jewish, on account of the people who were standing upon the wall. ארמית was the language spoken in Syria, Babylonia, and probably also in the province of Assyria, and may possibly have been Rabshakeh's mother-tongue, even if the court language of the Assyrian kings was an Aryan dialect. With the close affinity between the Aramaean and the Hebrew, the latter could not be unknown to Rabshakeh, so that he made use of it, just as the Aramaean language was intelligible to the ministers of Hezekiah, whereas the people in Jerusalem understood only יהוּדיה , Jewish, i.e., the Hebrew language spoken in the kingdom of Judah. It is evident from the last clause of the verse that the negotiations were carried on in the neighbourhood of the city wall of Jerusalem.

2 Kings 18:27

But Rabshakeh rejected this proposal with the scornful remark, that his commission was not to speak to Hezekiah and his ambassadors only, but rather to the people upon the wall. The variation of the preposition על and אל in אדניך על אדני , to thy lord (Hezekiah), and אליך , to thee (Eliakim as chief speaker), is avoided in the text of Isaiah. על is frequently used for אל , in the later usage of the language, in the sense of to or at. In the words “who sit upon the wall to eat their dung and drink their urine,” Rabshakeh points to the horrors which a siege of Jerusalem would entail upon the inhabitants. For &#חריהם חראיהם , excrementa sua , and שׁיניהם , urinas suas , the Masoretes have substituted the euphemisms צואתם , going forth, and רגליהם מימי , water of their feet.

2 Kings 18:28-30

ויּעמוד : not, he stood up, raised himself (Ges.), or came forward (Then.), but he stationed himself, assumed an attitude calculated for effect, and spoke to the people with a loud voice in the Jewish language, telling them to listen to the king of Assyria and not to be led astray by Hezekiah, i.e., to be persuaded to defend the city any longer, since neither Hezekiah nor Jehovah could defend them from the might of Sennacherib. אל־ישּׁיא : let not Hezekiah deceive you, sc. by pretending to be able to defend or save Jerusalem. In מיּדו , “out of his (the Assyrian's) hand,” the speaker ceases to speak in the name of his king. On the construction of the passive תּנּתן with את־העיר , see Ewald, §277, d., although in the instance before us he proposes to expunge the את after Isaiah 36:15.

2 Kings 18:31-32

“Make peace with me and come out to me (sc., out of your walls, i.e., surrender to me), and ye shall eat every one his vine, ... till I come and bring you into a land like your own land...” בּרכה is used here to signify peace as the concentration of weal and blessing. The imperative ועכלוּ expresses the consequence of what goes before (vid., Ewald, §347, b.). To eat his vine and fig-tree and to drink the water of his well is a figure denoting the quiet and undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of his own possession (cf. 1 Kings 5:5). Even in the event of their yielding, the Assyrian would transport the Jewish people into another land, according to the standing custom of Asiatic conquerors in ancient times (for proofs see Hengstenberg, De rebus Tyriis, pp. 51, 52). To make the people contented with this thought, the boaster promised that the king of Assyria would carry them into a land which was quite as fruitful and glorious as the land of Canaan. The description of it as a land with corn and new wine, etc., recalls the picture of the land of Canaan in Deuteronomy 8:8 and Deuteronomy 33:28. יצהר זית is the olive-tree which yields good oil, in distinction from the wild olive-tree. וגו וחיוּ : and ye shall live and not die, i.e., no harm shall befall you from me (Thenius). This passage is abridged in Isaiah 36:17.

2 Kings 18:33-34

Even Jehovah could not deliver them any more than Hezekiah. As a proof of this, Rabshakeh enumerated a number of cities and lands which the king of Assyria had conquered, without their gods' being able to offer any resistance to his power. “Where are the gods of Hamath, etc., that they might have delivered Samaria out of my hand?” Instead of הצּילוּ כּי we have הץ וכי and that they might have, which loosens the connection somewhat more between this clause and the preceding one, and makes it more independent. “Where are they?” is equivalent to they are gone, have perished (cf. 2 Kings 19:18); and “that they might have delivered” is equivalent to they have not delivered. The subject to הצּילוּ כּי is הגּוים אלהי , which includes the God of Samaria. Sennacherib regards himself as being as it were one with his predecessors, as the representative of the might of Assyria, so that he attributes to himself the conquests of cities and lands which his ancestors had made. The cities and lands enumerated in 2 Kings 18:34 have been mentioned already in 2 Kings 17:24 as conquered territories, from which colonists had been transplanted to Samaria, with the exception of Arpad and Hena. ארפּד , which is also mentioned in 2 Kings 19:13; Isaiah 10:9; Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 37:13, and Jeremiah 49:23, in connection with Hamath, was certainly situated in the neighbourhood of that city, and still exists, so far as the name is concerned, in the large village of rfâd, Arfâd (mentioned by Maraszid, i. 47), in northern Syria in the district of Azâz, which was seven hours to the north of Haleb, according to Abulf. Tab. Syr. ed. Köhler, p. 23, and Niebuhr, Reise, ii. p. 414 (see Roediger, Addenda ad Ges. thes. p. 112). הנע , Hena, which is also combined with 'Ivvah in 2 Kings 19:13 and Isaiah 37:13, is probably the city of 'ânt Ana, on the Euphrates, mentioned by Abulf., and עוּה is most likely the same as עוּא in 2 Kings 17:24. The names ועוּה הנע are omitted from the text of Isaiah in consequence of the abridgment of Rabshakeh's address.

2 Kings 18:35

2 Kings 18:35 contains the conclusion drawn from the facts already adduced: “which of all the gods of the lands are they who have delivered their land out of my hand, that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” i.e., as not one of the gods of the lands named have been able to rescue his land from Assyria, Jehovah also will not be able to defend Jerusalem.

2 Kings 18:36-37

The people were quite silent at this address (“the people,” העם , to whom Rabshakeh had wished to address himself); for Hezekiah had forbidden them to make any answer, not only to prevent Rabshakeh from saying anything further, but that the ambassadors of Sennacherib might be left in complete uncertainty as to the impression made by their words. The deputies of Hezekiah returned to the king with their clothes rent as a sign of grief at the words of the Assyrian, by which not only Hezekiah, but still more Jehovah, had been blasphemed, and reported what they had heard.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.