Hezekiah and the Siege of Jerusalem
A Bit of Bible History
Most of the time in the Old Testament, Israel wasn’t one of the major players in the Middle East, this privilege fell to Egypt in the South and Assyria (Different from Syria), and Babylon to the North. At the time of our story, it was Assyria and Egypt who were vying to be the superpower of the time with Israel stuck in the middle.
However, since the death of Solomon, the people of Israel had been having their own issues which resulted in splitting in to 2 countries, Israel to the north (who had the capital of Samaria) and Judah to the south (who had the capital city of Jerusalem). In 2 Kings 17, Samaria had been defeated by Sennacharib of Assyria and the people of Israel had been dispersed through out the Assyrian Empire and other ethnic groups brought to the land of Israel.
The Story (Alternatively, read 2 Kings 18 & 19)
As we pick up the story, Hezekiah was the king of Judah, and by all accounts was one of the best kings since David. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, by removing pagan shrines, smashing sacred pillars and cutting down the Asherah poles. Hezekiah also broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it.
However, Hezekiah refused to pay tribute (usually gold or something equally valuable) to King Sennacherib of Assyria and so Sennacharib responded by attacking towns of Judah and conquering them. Although God was on Hezekiah’s side. Sennacharib still attacked, showing that although God is with us, this does not mean that everything always goes well. After seeing what was happening to the surrounding area, Hezekiah agrees to pay the tribute, but Sennacharib rejects the offer and continues to siege Jerusalem.
Representatives of Sennacharib and Hezekiah meet, and Hezekiah is told not to put his trust in Egypt by Sennacharib, which has parallels with Isaiah’s words of warning. However, Sennacharib also says that no one can stand in his way, and that the people of Israel are foolish to say ‘The Lord will rescue us’ because other nations’ gods have not come to their rescue.
Hezekiah’s response is to come before God with humility and repentance, and hearing a word from the prophet Isaiah. God promises Hezekiah that God will force Sennacharib to return to Assyria to deal with issues there, which then happens. However, twice Sennacharib returns to Judah to finish the job. Hezekiah once again prays to God and says, “Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
That night, the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Sennacharib escaped and went back to Assyria, where he was later killed in the temple of his god by his own sons. Judah never became part of the Assyrian Empire.
Lessons from the Story
Trust in God – Although it is translated in different ways, the Hebrew word for ‘Trust’ in the original text, ‘batach’ is used 9 times in this story, when it has only been used 3 times from Genesis to this chapter in the rest of the history texts of the Bible.
The characteristic of Hezekiah and his people was that he trusted in God in the most difficult of circumstances, standing firm and trusting God and His word.
God can seem to delay – In the story, God promised that Sennacharib would return home and the people of Israel would be saved, but Sennacharib returned twice. However, part of trusting God is trusting his timing. 2 Peter 3:8-9 says, “With the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you.”
We see that he will act for the sake of His glory in all the nations. He will act though for the sake of His glory in all the nations. “Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” 2 Kings 19:19. This is the foundation and purpose of world mission. This has been the plan of God from the beginning. This is the promise to Abraham, fulfilled through Jesus (Hezekiah is anticipating it without knowing in this story), now to be worked out in His church and to be the prime objective in our lives. “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” John Piper.
There is some truth in criticism of God’s people from the world – On the one hand, Sennacharib was wrong to suggest that the people should trust in him, but he did have some legitimate criticisms of the way they were handling the situation (i.e. Egypt).
- Are there any idols that you find yourself trusting in?
- How can we encourage each other to trust God more?
- Share stories of trust from your own lives, does that help you to trust in God more?
- Is ‘His glory in all the nations of the world’ is our focus in our daily lives?
- Are there any criticisms brought against the church that we could use?
- How do we discern what is valid criticism?
 This would later cause tensions with the Israelites, as the people who were imported into the land would be known as Samaritans.
 John Piper, “Let The Nations Be Glad”.