Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 19 2019 - 2 Kings 18:17-37 – Sennacherib threatens Jerusalem

Hezekiah's attempt to buy off the Assyrian threat using all the gold and silver from the temple and from his palace treasury had failed. Sennacherib, "king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem" (v.17).

The two great powers in the Middle East were Egypt, to the south-west of Judah, and Assyria to the north-east. The northern kingdom of Israel had acted as a buffer between Judah and the Assyrian empire, but this had now been swept away. The tiny kingdom of Judah was now sandwiched between and threatened by these two great empires.

The Assyrian commander called Hezekiah to a meeting with him. Hezekiah sent his court officials to meet with him.

The Assyrian field commander delivers the king of Assyria's message, asking how Judah can hope to stand against the might of Assyria? He mocks those who turn to Egypt for help; Egypt is a "splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it!" (v.22). And if Hezekiah is hoping to depend on the Lord his God, why has he pulled down the high places and altars where the Lord was worshipped? (v.22). This accusation shows the Assyrian's ignorance of the Lord's commandments concerning worship and of the idolatrous use of the high places. Hezekiah's destruction of these sites was evidence of his devotion to the Lord and to his word. The field commander concludes by declaring that the Lord himself has sent the Assyrians to march against Jerusalem and destroy it.

The commander had been speaking in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. Hezekiah's representatives asked him to speak in Aramaic, the language of the Assyrian empire, similar to but significantly different from Hebrew. Clearly these court officials understood Aramaic, but they did not want other Jews who had come to listen understanding the threats of the Assyrians. The commander contemptuously responds that the message is for all those in Jerusalem. If they do not submit to Assyria, the city will soon be under siege and all of its inhabitants will be without food to eat or fresh water to drink.

So the commander continues to address the common people in Hebrew. He tells them not to trust Hezekiah. The Lord will not deliver them from Assyria any more than the gods of other nations have saved them. If they will only submit to Assyria, "Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig-tree and drink water from your own cistern" (v.31).

Judah and Jerusalem seem helpless before the power of Assyria. They can see how other nations, including the northern kingdom of Israel, have fallen before Assyria's attack. What should they do? What would you do in such a situation? Have you ever faced a threatening situation that seems ready to overwhelm you and you are helpless to prevent it – and faithfulness to God seems to be of no help? Have you faced situations where everyone around you is urging you to take a particular decision or to go in a particular direction that would demand compromising your faith or letting go of your trust in God? What can you do in such situations? – What should you do in such situations?

Lord, we sometimes seem to face situations which threaten to defeat us and even, it seems, destroy us – situations where even our faith in you seems to be of little help. Thank you that no situation can defeat you. Lord Jesus, thank you that all of our sin and rebellion, all of Satan's threats and temptations, even death itself could not defeat you. Sometimes we do not know how we will get through situations, but you know. By your Spirit, help us to know that you are always with us and that we are, and shall be, more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.

Peter Misselbrook