Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1, 2. Hezekiah . . . began to reign. Twenty and five years
old--According to this statement (compare
he must have been born when his father Ahaz was no more than eleven
years old. Paternity at an age so early is not unprecedented in the
warm climates of the south, where the human frame is matured sooner
than in our northern regions. But the case admits of solution in a
different way. It was customary for the later kings of Israel to
assume their son and heir into partnership in the government during
their lives; and as Hezekiah began to reign in the third year of Hoshea
and Hoshea in the twelfth year of Ahaz
it is evident that Hezekiah began to reign in the fourteenth year of
Ahaz his father, and so reigned two or three years before his father's
death. So that, at the beginning of his reign in conjunction with his
father, he might be only twenty-two or twenty-three, and Ahaz a few
years older than the common calculation makes him. Or the case may be
solved thus: As the ancient writers, in the computation of time, take
notice of the year they mention, whether finished or newly begun, so
Ahaz might be near twenty-one years old at the beginning of his reign,
and near seventeen years older at his death; while, on the other hand,
Hezekiah, when he began to reign, might be just entering into his
twenty-fifth year, and so Ahaz would be near fourteen years old when
his son Hezekiah was born--no uncommon age for a young man to become a
father in southern latitudes [PATRICK].
4. He removed the high places and brake the images, &c.--The methods
adopted by this good king for extirpating idolatry, and accomplishing a
thorough reformation in religion, are fully detailed
(2Ch 20:3; 31:19).
But they are indicated very briefly, and in a sort of passing allusion.
brake in pieces the brazen serpent--The preservation of this remarkable
relic of antiquity
might, like the pot of manna and Aaron's rod, have remained an
interesting and instructive monument of the divine goodness and mercy
to the Israelites in the wilderness: and it must have required the
exercise of no small courage and resolution to destroy it. But in the
progress of degeneracy it had become an object of idolatrous worship
and as the interests of true religion rendered its demolition
necessary, Hezekiah, by taking this bold step, consulted both the glory
of God and the good of his country.
unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it--It is
not to be supposed that this superstitious reverence had been paid to
it ever since the time of Moses, for such idolatry would not have been
tolerated either by David or by Solomon in the early part of his reign,
by Asa or Jehoshaphat had they been aware of such a folly. But the
probability is, that the introduction of this superstition does not
date earlier than the time when the family of Ahab, by their alliance
with the throne of Judah, exercised a pernicious influence in paving
the way for all kinds of idolatry. It is possible, however, as some
think, that its origin may have arisen out of a misapprehension of
Serpent-worship, how revolting soever it may appear, was an extensively
diffused form of idolatry; and it would obtain an easier reception in
Israel because many of the neighboring nations, such as the Egyptians
and Phœnicians, adored idol gods in the form of serpents as the
emblems of health and immortality.
5, 6. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel--without invoking the aid or
purchasing the succor of foreign auxiliaries like Asa
(1Ki 15:18, 19)
so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah--Of
course David and Solomon are excepted, they having had the sovereignty
of the whole country. In the petty kingdom of Judah, Josiah alone had a
similar testimony borne to him
But even he was surpassed by Hezekiah, who set about a national
reformation at the beginning of his reign, which Josiah did not. The
pious character and the excellent course of Hezekiah was prompted,
among other secondary influences, by a sense of the calamities his
father's wicked career had brought on the country, as well as by the
counsels of Isaiah.
7, 8. he rebelled against the king of Assyria--that is, the yearly
tribute his father had stipulated to pay, he, with imprudent haste,
withdrew. Pursuing the policy of a truly theocratic sovereign, he was,
through the divine blessing which rested on his government, raised to a
position of great public and national strength. Shalmaneser had
withdrawn from Palestine, being engaged perhaps in a war with Tyre, or
probably he was dead. Assuming, consequently, that full independent
sovereignty which God had settled on the house of David, he both shook
off the Assyrian yoke, and, by an energetic movement against the
Philistines, recovered from that people the territory which they had
taken from his father Ahaz
13. Sennacherib--the son and successor of Shalmaneser.
all the fenced cities of Judah--not absolutely all of them; for,
besides the capital, some strong fortresses held out against the
The following account of Sennacherib's invasion of Judah and the
remarkable destruction of his army, is repeated almost verbatim in
and Isa 36:1-37:38.
The expedition seems to have been directed against Egypt, the conquest
of which was long a leading object of ambition with the Assyrian
monarchs. But the invasion of Judah necessarily preceded, that country
being the key to Egypt, the highway through which the conquerors from
Upper Asia had to pass. Judah had also at this time formed a league of
mutual defense with Egypt
Moreover, it was now laid completely open by the transplantation of
Israel to Assyria. Overrunning Palestine, Sennacherib laid siege to the
fortress of Lachish, which lay seven Roman miles from Eleutheropolis,
and therefore southwest of Jerusalem on the way to Egypt [ROBINSON]. Among the interesting illustrations of sacred
history furnished by the recent Assyrian excavations, is a series of
bas-reliefs, representing the siege of a town, which the inscription on
the sculpture shows to be Lachish, and the figure of a king, whose name
is given, on the same inscription, as Sennacherib. The legend,
sculptured over the head of the king, runs thus: "Sennacherib, the
mighty king, king of the country of Assyria, sitting on the throne of
judgment before the city of Lachish [Lakhisha], I give permission for
its slaughter" [Nineveh and Babylon]. This minute confirmation
of the truth of the Bible narrative is given not only by the name
Lachish, which is contained in the inscription, but from the
physiognomy of the captives brought before the king, which is
14-16. Hezekiah . . . sent to Lachish, saying,
. . . that which thou puttest on me will I
bear--Disappointed in his expectations of aid from Egypt, and
feeling himself unable to resist so mighty a conqueror who was menacing
Jerusalem itself, Hezekiah made his submission. The payment of 300
talents of silver, and 30 talents of gold--£351,000--brought a
temporary respite; but, in raising the imposed tribute, he was obliged
not only to drain all the treasures of the palace and the temple, but
even to strip the doors and pillars of the sacred edifice of the gold
that adorned them.
17. king of Assyria sent Tartan--general
Rab-saris--chief of the eunuchs.
Rab-shakeh--chief cupbearer. These were the great officers employed in
delivering Sennacherib's insulting message to Hezekiah. On the walls of
the palace of Sennacherib, at Khorsabad, certain figures have been
identified with the officers of that sovereign mentioned in Scripture.
In particular, the figures, Rab-shakeh, Rab-saris, and Tartan, appear as
full-length portraits of the persons holding those offices in the reign
of Sennacherib. Probably they represent the very individuals sent on
with a great host to Jerusalem--Engaged in a campaign of three
years in Egypt, Sennacherib was forced by the king of Ethiopia to
retreat, and discharging his rage against Jerusalem, he sent an immense
army to summon it to surrender.
the conduit of the upper pool--the conduit which went from the
reservoir of the Upper Gihon (Birket et Mamilla) to the lower pool, the
Birket es Sultan.
the highway of the fuller's field--the public road which passed by
that district, which had been assigned them for carrying on their
business without the city, on account of the unpleasant smell
18. when they had called to the king--Hezekiah did not make a
personal appearance, but commissioned his three principal ministers to
meet the Assyrian deputies at a conference outside the city walls.
Eliakim--lately promoted to be master of the royal household
Shebna--removed for his pride and presumption
from that office, though still royal secretary.
Joah . . . the recorder--that is, the keeper of the chronicles, an
important office in Eastern countries.
19. Rab-shakeh said--The insolent tone he assumed appears surprising.
But this boasting
both as to matter and manner, his highly colored picture of his
master's powers and resources, and the impossibility of Hezekiah making
any effective resistance, heightened by all the arguments and figures
which an Oriental imagination could suggest, has been paralleled in
all, except the blasphemy, by other messages of defiance sent on
similar occasions in the history of the East.
27. that they may eat, &c.--This was designed to show the dreadful
extremities to which, in the threatened siege, the people of Jerusalem
would be reduced.