In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace.
At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
The 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. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. They called for the king; and Eliakimson of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.
The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
“This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?
“Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! How can you repulse one officerof the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.”
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”
But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
“Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us. Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.” Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said. (2 Kings 18:13-37)
Fear…we all grapple and struggle with it. It’s a daily occurrence for all of us whether we would like to admit or not. Big or small, whatever the object of our fear is, it has the power to completely change our minds and plans. The Lord does not cause us to be afraid, but he does give us wisdom, so there is a fine line between having discernment and a lapse of faith by fear. Some of us live in constant fear and some of us experience low level fear. No matter who we are when we give in to our fear and let it consume us, as it did Hezekiah, it can eventually lead to our destruction. We all know that fear can not live where faith resides which is why Peter started to sink into the water when Jesus told him to come out of that boat. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our trespasses…” He instructs us to pray, because He knows we will struggle everyday with our faith just as Peter did, and we will sin everyday because that’s what we do. It’s in our nature. King Hezekiah, out of fear of the king of Assyria, tried to pay him off so as to not get captured and relinquish control of Jerusalem even though Judah had already been seized. Is this an act of faith on Hezekiah’s part…no. Yet, it’s not so much important as is Hezekiah’s fear, but what events took place as a result.
Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:
“He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.
I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”
That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!
So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. (2 Kings 19:32-36)
Hezekiah prays and God promises to deliver Judah from the hands of the Assyrians through the prophet Isaiah. Doesn’t seem so bad right? Hezekiah humbled himself and cried out to the Lord and God spared Judah. Here’s where it all goes south. What precedes are the events after the King of Assyria is assassinated while residing in Nineveh.
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.” Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?” Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.” Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz. (2 Kings 20:1-11)
Sounds pretty amazing and inspiring doesn’t it? God makes a miracle happen. Hezekiah again cried out to the Lord and He extends Hezekiah’s life with an extra 15 years! He even makes a day longer than 24 hours as a sign to Hezekiah that He has followed through with His promise, but wait, not so fast, let’s look at the next passage once Hezekiah is healed…
At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. (2 Kings 20:12-13)
Who is it that immediately goes to see Hezekiah? BABYLON, not because they care about Hezekiah as is stated in 2 Kings but for far more nefarious reasons as shown in Chronicles. Here is the passage of the same account from above retold in Chronicles…
But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:31)
Chronicles reveals that the Babylonians could have cared less about Hezekiah and were more interested in the extended day that the Lord delivered. Babylon practiced a demonic movement called “Zoroastrianism” or “the worship of the stars”. Today referred to as “Astrology”. Not only this but Babylon certainly wanted information on the Assyrian Empire which they were looking to defeat. Who better to go to for “sensitive” intel than the king who, at one time, was under Assyrian rule? What does Hezekiah do when the Babylonians arrive? He “shows off” to them all his riches and obviously divulges all of his knowledge on the Assyrians… “There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them”. The “test” that God refers to in these passages was to see if Hezekiah would praise Him instead of praising himself. Hezekiah fails.
We have to think and understand how Hezekiah’s pride got the best of him. It was a result of God’s blessings. Even though our Lord does not cause us to sin we can still be blinded by the blessings we receive from Him. We can take these blessings and, because of our fallen sin nature, can pervert them and twist them into “our gains” rather than constantly reminding ourselves that… “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Yes, the truth Paul was conveying to the church at Philippi was that we should live a life serving our Lord and only death itself would be better than living for Him because we would be with Him, but shouldn’t “to die is gain” also apply to us “dying” to ourselves daily? I think so. Think about the miracles God blessed Hezekiah with. He killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers to prevent Judah’s ultimate takeover…He extended his life…he reversed time for him…he also blessed him financially. How easy would it be for you and me to succumb to pride just as Hezekiah did?
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (2 Kings 20:16-19)
Isaiah tells Hezekiah that Judah will one day be defeated and carried off in captivity to Babylon. Hezekiah doesn’t care. He sees the prophets’ warning as good news that he will be spared from this impending doom. The point here is to finish our journey strong. How many biblical figures started out doing what was right in the sight of the Lord but ended in failure? It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. The Bible repeats this theme to us over and over again. Do future generations suffer from the result of our sin? Absolutely…who was born within the “extended” period of 15 years God granted Hezekiah? Manasseh, who ended up being one of the most evil kings of them all. His evil life is a direct reflection of Hezekiah’s turning away from the Lord in the end. Would Manasseh have been an evil king if Hezekiah would have stayed the course? Interesting question. Our sin gives us temporary satisfaction, but ultimately has a negative impact on not only ourselves, but others around us as well both in the here and now and future generations to come. However, even though Manasseh was certainly an evil king, in the latter half of his reign he turned to God and was saved. Many people read the Old Testament and come to the conclusion that “God was so angry then” or “He was so fire and brimstone back then”, and they turn away from the Old Testament and live and breathe in the New Testament. I beg to differ. Manasseh’s rule and eventual conversion is a bright and shining example of just how merciful and loving our Lord was, is, and always will be.
In the end, Hezekiah is remembered for his faithfulness and sweeping reforms within the kingdom of Judah, but he will also always be remembered as the king who led Judah into the Babylonian captivity.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (James 4:6)