2 Kings 18:13-19:37
The Assyrian King Sennacherib invades Judah at the end of the 8th century. In 701 b.c., he reaches Jerusalem and sets himself against King Hezekiah. In one of his royal documents are words describing Hezekiah’s situation: “like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem, his royal city, I penned him.” Hezekiah is desperate and consults Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah tells Hezekiah to trust God entirely.
The story is phenomenal! God sends an angelic warrior to the Assyrian camp and 185,000 Assyrians from the royal army are killed. The Greek historian Herodotus also mentions this story and says that multitudes of rats brought a divine omen and disease to the Assyrian camp. The writer of the book of Kings clearly encourages his reader to see this event as God’s hand favoring Judah over Assyria.
13 During King Hezekiah’s 14th year, Sennacherib, Assyria’s king, attacked and captured all of Judah’s fortified cities. 14 Hezekiah (Judah’s king) sent a message to Sennacherib at Lachish.
Hezekiah’s Message: I confess that what I have done is wrong! Please leave now, and I will personally pay the penalty of my own actions.
Assyria’s king demanded 11 tons of silver and one ton of gold from Hezekiah, king of Judah. 15 Hezekiah gathered up all the silver he could find in the Eternal’s temple and in the palace treasuries; and he gave it to Assyria’s king, just as he had demanded. 16 He even stripped the gold off the Eternal’s temple doors and doorposts that he had gilded, and he handed it over to Assyria’s king.
17 Assyria’s king then dispatched a large army to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The army was led by three senior military officers, Tartan, Rab-saris, and Rabshakeh, from Lachish. They came to Jerusalem and waited by the channel of the upper pool. (The channel is on the main route to the fuller’s field.) 18 They called out to the king; but instead of the king coming out to meet them, Eliakim (Hilkiah’s son) the palace administrator, Shebnah the lawyer, and Joah (Asaph’s son) the reporter to the king and the people approached them.
Rabshakeh: 19 Go back and tell Hezekiah that this is the message of Assyria’s mighty king: “What is the basis of your confidence? 20 You are a big talker, saying, ‘I have everything I need for war—guidance and might.’ But to whom do you turn now that you have turned against me? 21 You turn to a broken reed, Egypt. If a man leans on a broken reed, it stabs his palm. It is the same with Egypt’s Pharaoh and all who lean on him. 22 But you profess to me, ‘We put our faith in the Eternal One our God.’ Is it not His high places and altars that Hezekiah has torn down? Did not Hezekiah tell Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Worship at this place in Jerusalem’?”
23 Make a deal with my master, Assyria’s king, and you will receive 2,000 horses from me. I hope you have enough riders for them. 24 How can you turn away a governor—even the least of my master’s governors—and lean on Egypt instead for horsemen and chariots? 25 Do you think I have come here to destroy this land without the Eternal’s permission? He is the One who told me, “Go destroy it! I’ll support you.”
Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah (to Rabshakeh): 26 This needs to be a private conversation. Please speak to your servants in a different tongue—Aramaic—for we understand it and do not need you to speak to us in Judean. That way everyone on the walls won’t be able to understand you.
Rabshakeh: 27 How arrogant and foolish of you! Do you think I have been sent here by my king to talk to only you and your king? I am to speak to everyone. Soon you and these men on the walls will surely be doomed to fill your bellies with your own dung and quench your thirst with your own urine.
28 (loudly in Judean) Listen to what Assyria’s mighty king has to say! 29 He says, “Do not trust in Hezekiah. He cannot save you from me! 30 Do not allow Hezekiah to deceive you into trusting the Eternal when he says, ‘The Eternal One will save us, and our city will not be handed over to Assyria’s king.’” 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah. Assyria’s king says, “Let there be peace between us. Join me now, and fill your bellies with food from your own vineyards and orchards and drink from your own pools. 32 Then I will come and lead you to a land similar to your own—a land of plentiful grain, new wine, bread, vineyards, olive orchards, and honey. This is a place where you will live in peace and not worry about a premature death. Do not listen to Hezekiah when he lies to you, saying, ‘The Eternal will save us.’ 33 Have any of the gods of other nations ever saved their lands from Assyria’s king? Is there a single nation that has survived him? 34 Where are Hamath’s gods and Arpad’s gods? Where are Sepharvaim’s gods, Hena’s gods, and Ivvah’s gods? Did they save Samaria from me? 35 Are there any gods in any land that have saved their lands from me? No, there is not a single one. So do you really think that the Eternal will be any different? Do you really think He can save you, Jerusalem, from me?”
36 Everyone listening was quiet and did not reply with a single word, because the king had given them the command, “Don’t speak a single word to him.” 37 Eliakim (Hilkiah’s son) the palace administrator, Shebna the lawyer, and Joah (Asaph’s son) the reporter approached Hezekiah and tore their garments. Then they recited every word Rabshakeh had spoken to them.
19 King Hezekiah tore his clothes after he heard what had been said. He then covered himself with sackcloth and entered the Eternal’s temple. 2 Hezekiah dispatched the palace administrator, Eliakim, along with Shebna the lawyer and the priest-elders, to go meet with the prophet Isaiah (Amoz’s son). Eliakim, Shebna, and the elders all went wearing sackcloth.
Eliakim, Shebna, and the Elders (to Isaiah): 3 This is Hezekiah’s message: “Today is filled with hours of sorrow, pain, anxiety, and reproof. Children are ready to be born, but there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the Eternal One your God will disprove the words of Rabshakeh, whom Assyria’s king has sent to taunt the living God. So pray hard that your God, the Eternal One, will rebuke those words and save His few children who remain.”
5 King Hezekiah’s servants approached Isaiah, 6 and Isaiah spoke to them.
Isaiah: Go back and tell your master, “This is the Eternal’s urgent message: ‘Have no fear of the blasphemy which the servants of Assyria’s kings have spoken. They are merely empty words. 7 I am going to infect Assyria’s king with a spirit, and he will hear a rumor and go back to his homeland. There I will cause him to die by the sword.’”
8 Rabshakeh returned to the Assyrian king who was now battling against the city of Libnah because he had heard that the king had abandoned Lachish.
9-10 Sennacherib then received word about Tirhakah, Cush’s king: “He is preparing to fight you.” So Sennacherib sent a message again to Hezekiah.
Sennacherib’s Message: Hezekiah, king of Judah, I warn you not to be fooled by your God, on whom you rely, when He says, “Jerusalem will not be conquered by Assyria’s king.” 11 Surely you have heard about how the kings of Assyria demolished all the nations completely—every last one of them. Do you really think you will be rescued? 12 Were the people of those nations saved by their gods when my fathers attacked? Were Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and Eden’s sons in Telassar ever rescued? No! 13 And what happened to the kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim’s city, Hena, and Ivvah?”
14 Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers, read it, and then placed it before the Eternal in His temple.
Hezekiah (praying to the Lord): 15 O Eternal One, Israel’s God, who sits above the winged guardians, You alone are God of all the kingdoms on earth, the One who made heaven and earth. 16 Eternal One, open up Your ears and Your eyes so You may hear and see. Listen to the words Sennacherib uses to reject the living God. 17 Eternal One, I certainly know that the Assyrian kings have destroyed the nations and lands. 18 I know how they have thrown the gods of the nations into the flames of the fire and destroyed them, but those gods were created out of wood and stones by men. 19 Eternal One, our True God, I pray You save us now from Sennacherib’s conquest—the fate that all the other nations have suffered—so that every nation on earth will know that You alone, Eternal One, are God.
20 Isaiah (Amoz’s son) sent a message to Hezekiah.
Isaiah’s Message: This is the message of the Eternal One, Israel’s God: “Because you have come to Me about Assyria’s king, Sennacherib, I have heard every word you have prayed.”
21 This is the Eternal’s message against Sennacherib:
“She has abhorred and ridiculed you,
Zion’s virgin daughter.
She has ridiculed you behind your back,
22 Whom have you rebuked and spoken blasphemies against?
Whom do you speak loudly against?
And arrogantly lift up your eyes
against the Holy One, Israel’s God?
23 Your messengers have been your vessels of rebuke against the Lord;
you have spoken, ‘In the company of my countless chariots,
I arrived at the mountain heights.
At the most distant lands of Lebanon,
I chopped down the tallest cedars
and the finest-looking cypress trees.
I went to its most distant resting place,
in its deepest forest.
24 I made wells in the ground
and quenched my thirst with foreign waters;
With the bottom of my feet I soaked up
every last drop of Egypt’s rivers.’
25 Don’t you know?
I did this thing a long time ago;
From the beginning, I planned it.
I have now done it,
So that you might cause strong cities
to turn into piles of rubble.
26 Those who lived there were weak;
they were distressed and humiliated.
They became like the grass that grows in the field
and also like the green herb,
Just like grass that grows on the roofs of houses
but is burned by the sun before it gets too high and thick.
27 But I am aware of everything you do—
when you sit down, when you go out, when you return—
and I am aware of your fury against Me.
28 Because you have raged against Me,
because your arrogance has flooded My ears,
I am going to insert My hook into your nose
and harness your lips with My bridle,
And I will send you back in the direction
from which you came.
29 “This will be the sign for you: for the first year, you will feast on what grows on its own; for the second year, you will feast on what grows from the original source; and for the third year, you will prepare the soil, gather, plant vineyards, and feast on their fruit. 30 Whatever is left of Judah’s house will again spread its roots down into the soil and grow upward with fruit. 31 A remnant will depart from Jerusalem; survivors will depart from Mount Zion. This will all be accomplished by the intense passion of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies.”
32 This is the Eternal’s message regarding Assyria’s king: “He will not approach this city, nor will he shoot an arrow toward it. He will not approach it with a shield in hand or construct a ramp against it. 33 He will go back the same way he came, and he will not approach this city.” This is the Eternal’s message. 34 “I will defend this city in order to preserve it for My own honor and for the honor of David, My servant.”
35 That night one of the Eternal One’s heavenly messengers invaded the Assyrian camp and struck 185,000 men. When they woke up the next morning, the camp was filled with corpses. 36 Assyria’s king, Sennacherib, went away and returned to his own land, Nineveh.
37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god, Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword. Then they fled to Ararat. Sennacherib’s son, Esarhaddon, then inherited the throne.
The last words of Paul to his Ephesian disciples are emotional, inspiring, but unbelievably arrogant. Who would place himself on a pedestal and encourage everyone to be more like him? It sounds like a cult of personality, but it is not. Paul understands that the gospel must be incarnate; it is more than a set of ideas, so someone must demonstrate how to walk the path of faith. He calls them to watch him carefully and emulate his behavior: watch how I treat people, how I eat, what I say, the way I give; and do likewise. If all believers could possess the same boldness to say, “do as I do,” then the world would be a better place. Believers would not just speak the good news; they would live the good news.
21 Cos was our next stop, and the next day, Rhodes, and the next, Patara. 2 We found another ship in Patara that would take us south and east toward Phoenicia. 3 We saw Cyprus to our left and sailed on to Syria, landing at Tyre where the ship had cargo to unload. 4 We found the disciples there and stayed with them for seven days. The Spirit moved them to tell Paul not to go on to Jerusalem; 5 but the day came for our departure, and the whole community of disciples, including wives and children, escorted us outside the city. We knelt down together on the beach, prayed together, said farewell, and then parted company— 6 the disciples returning to their homes, we sailing on. 7 From Tyre we docked at Ptolemais where we met with the believers and spent a day with them. 8 Then we moved on to Caesarea. In Caesarea we stayed with Philip the evangelist, one of the seven.[a] 9 His four virgin daughters lived with him, each having the gift of prophecy. 10 While we were with them, another gifted prophet named Agabus came north from Judea. 11 He took Paul’s belt and used it to bind his own feet and hands.
Agabus: This is a message from the Holy Spirit: unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem will in this way bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the outsiders.
Paul is a man of great mystery. This persecutor-turned-preacher seems more like a character from pages of fiction than the instigator of the spread of Christianity. He becomes what he once despised and willingly suffers on behalf of his new Savior. Paul is accused of many things, but he is no fool. He fully understands what is waiting for him in Jerusalem: persecution, suffering, and ultimately death. His friends beg him not to return to this holy city, but Paul is called to live in the footsteps of the One who was crucified—He who was destined to suffer yet called for no drugs. His suffering served a greater purpose, and Paul never loses sight of this spiritual reality because he is living in the kingdom of God.
The masses hope for a gospel that makes them happy, healthy, and wealthy. Jesus said the way of life is a hard road, with only a few on it. Ironically this hard road ends in life. The easy, broad street—which may be paved with good intentions—always leads to death and destruction.
12 Now we all joined in imploring Paul—we, his companions, and Philip and his daughters, everyone present—begging him not to go one step closer to the city.
Paul: 13 Please, you’re breaking my heart with your tears! I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m fully prepared to be bound, and more—to die for the name of Jesus, the King.
14 We realized our persuasion was fruitless, so we stopped pleading with him and simply said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
15 So we knew what we were getting into as we prepared to ascend the foothills toward Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and led us to the home of Mnason, a Cypriot and one of the first disciples, with whom we stayed. 17 We continued on to Jerusalem and were welcomed warmly by the brothers there.
1 Praise the Eternal!
Write new songs; sing them to Him with all your might!
Gather with His faithful followers in joyful praise;
2 Let all of Israel celebrate their Maker, their God, their friend;
let the children of Zion find great joy in their true King.
3 So let the music begin; praise His name—dance and sing
to the rhythm of the tambourine, and to the tune of the harp.
4 For the Eternal is listening, and nothing pleases Him more than His people;
He raises up the poor and endows them with His salvation.
5 Let His faithful followers erupt in praise,
singing triumphantly wherever they are, even as they lie down for sleep in the evening.
6 With the name of God and praise in their mouths,
with a two-edged sword in their hands,
7 Let them take revenge on all nations who deny God.
Let them punish the peoples.
8 Kings and nobles will be locked up,
and their freedom will be bound in iron shackles.
9 This judgment against them, decreed by a holy God, will be carried out.
It’s an honor for all His faithful followers to serve Him.
Praise the Eternal!
8 Whispered gossip is like a delicious first course:
it is devoured with pleasure and penetrates deeply.