18:1 – Hezekiah – son of Ahaz. He reigned for 29 years (715-687 BC) over Judah (10 years the throne was shared with his son Manasseh) doing what was right before the LORD as his father David had done (18:3; for a paralleled alternate account of the reign of Hosea see Isaiah 36:1-39:8). He carried out religious reforms by removing the high places, smashing the sacred stones, cutting down the Asherah poles (18:4), repairing the Temple of the LORD, appointing priests, and celebrating Passover with both Judah and Israel (2 Chron.29-31).
18:4 – Nehushtan the bronze snake Moses had made in Numbers 21:4-9 was kept until the reign of Hezekiah and was being worshipped until he had it destroyed. Why did Judah keep it? The name Nehushtan is thought to come from combining the Hebrew words for ‘snake’ (nahash) and ‘bronze’ (nehoshet)– (see Hobbs WBC 252; Konkel NIVAC 599).
18:7 – Why should Hezekiah bring about the possible turmoil of Judah through reforms and his rebellion against Assyria? Because he trusted the LORD (18:5-6).
18:9-12 – Why is their repetition of the material presented already in 2 Kings 17:1-6? It may be to remind the reader of the consequences of disobedience to the word of the LORD in light of the imminent invasion by Assyria. Will Judah go into exile as Israel? Will Judah trust in the LORD in the face of seemingly impossible odds?
18:13 – In 701 BC Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah (after having finally settled its four year struggle against Babylon…though this would prove only temporary). He had just previously conquered Tyre and replaced its king, as well as conquering numerous other cities and nations. He is reported to have conquered 46 walled cities of Judah and many other smaller towns as well as deported 200,000 Judahites and surrounded Jerusalem (see Pritchard ANEP 371-373).
18:14-16 – While Hezekiah paid Sennacherib approximately one ton of gold and 30 tons of silver from the Temple treasuries, he also reinforced the walls of Jerusalem and built a water aqueduct system in order to preserve the city in case of siege (2 Chron.32:1-5, 30).
18:21 – What does it mean for Egypt to be a splintering staff of reed? (Isa.36:6; Eze.29:6-7)
18:22-25 – Is the field commander (the Rabsheka) of Assyria correct about the LORD?
18:26-28 – Why did the Rabsheka speak in Hebrew instead of Aramiac? He did this in order for those on the walls of Jerusalem to hear and understand the intimidating propaganda of Assyria.
18:29-35 – Why does the Rabsheka say, “Do not let Hezekiah…” and “Do not listen to Hezekiah…”?
18:31-32 – Assyria makes promises to Judah which the LORD will fulfill, but does so in order to usurp the place of the LORD towards the people.
19:1 – What is Hezekiah’s response to the threats? He needs a word from the LORD.
19:6-7 – The word of the LORD through Isaiah is both clear and concrete—Sennacherib will die for his blasphemy and Jerusalem will not be besieged and taken (19:8 demonstrates the first part of the LORD’s answer already coming to pass).
19:14-19 – What is the main thrust of Hezekiah’s prayer? He prays that there might be a universal confession of the LORD as God alone.
19:21-28 – A dirge or lament against Assyria (much like the one found in Isa.10:5-19). The LORD will lead Assyria by His own “hook” in their “nose” because of their treatment of Him and His people (see Amos 4:2).
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
“The Destruction of Sennacherib” is reprinted from Works. George Gordon Byron. London: John Murray, 1832.