Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
2 Kings 18:4
Nehushtan: a mere "piece of brass." So Hezekiah named the brazen serpent. He was bent on the work of national reformation. He saw that incense was being burnt to this brazen serpent; that was enough for him. Whatever it might have been to the people in the past, it was clearly a curse now, and had better be destroyed at once.
I. A blind veneration for the past is always an obstacle in the path of progress. There are multitudes who cling with unintelligent grasp to institutions and customs simply because they have come down to them from their fathers. If there be a tendency to worship the brazen serpent instead of the living God, then the truest wisdom is to grind it to powder.
II. Even that which has been ordained by God Himself for a blessing may be so misused as to become a curse. We see this in the case (1) of art and science; (2) of the weekly day of rest; (3) of the Bible; (4) of our sanctuaries.
III. Every symbol loses its significance and value in proportion as it is converted into an idol. The brazen serpent was a material token of the pitying mercy of God, a symbol of the Divine power, a reminder of the Divine holiness. But when the Jews began to worship it, its worth departed. And so it always is. (1) Every creed is a symbol, an attempt to express the truth of God in the words of man. Such words are valuable only as pointing to that which is more valuable than themselves. The claim of God is that we honour Him and truth, and burn no incense to mere confessions of faith. (2) The Sacraments also are symbols. Whenever they begin to be idolised, they lose much of their significance and value. (3) The Cross is the grandest symbol in all history. But it is not intended that we should rest in the outward circumstances of the Crucifixion. The looking to the Cross which brings salvation is a looking through the Cross to that which it reveals.
T. C. Finlayson, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 160.
References: 2 Kings 18:4.—W. Lindsay Alexander, Sermons, p. 260; T. R. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 236; W. Walters, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 237. 2 Kings 18:4, 2 Kings 18:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 960. 2 Kings 18:5.—Weekly Pulpit, vol. i., p. 3.
2 Kings 18:9-12I. In the time of David and Solomon, the small people of the Jews became a very powerful nation, respected and feared by all the kingdoms round. But when they fell into idolatry and forsook the true God and His law, all was changed. Idolatry brought sin; and sin brought bad passions, hatred, divisions, weakness, ruin. Elijah's warnings had been in vain, and Elisha's warnings also. At heart the Israelites liked Ahab's and Jezebel's idolatries better than the worship of the true God. And why? Because if they worshipped God and kept His laws, they must needs have been more or less good men, upright, just, merciful, cleanly and chaste livers; while, on the other hand, they might worship their idols and yet be as bad as they chose. They chose the worse part, and refused the better; and they were filled with the fruit of their own devices, as every unrepenting sinner surely will be.
II. The king of Assyria, we read, brought heathens from Assyria and settled them in the Holy Land, instead of the Israelites. From the Jewish priest that they asked for these poor people got some confused notion of the one true God, and they went on for several hundred years worshipping idols and the true God at the same time. But as time went on the Samaritans seem to have got rid of their old idolatry, and built themselves a temple on Mount Gerizim, and there worshipped they knew not what. But still they did their best, and their reward came at last.
III. When Jesus rested by Jacob's well, His heart yearned over these poor ignorant Samaritans and over the sinful woman who came to draw water at the well. For hundreds of years the Samaritans had felt after God, and in due time they found Him, for He came to them, and found them, and spoke with them face to face.
IV. All Christ asks of you is to receive Him when He comes to you, and to love, and thank, and try to be like Him, while for the rest, to whom little is given, of him shall little be required; and to him who uses what he has, be it little or much, more shall be given, and he shall have abundance.
C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 362.
Reference: 2 Kings 18:13-16.—H. B. Tristram, Sunday Magazine, 1873, p. 795.
2 Kings 18:36I. How strong must have been the temptation to answer the apostate Rabshakeh. And what rendered silence more difficult was the easiness of the answer which might have been given by reference to the mighty hand and to the outstretched arm by which Jehovah had rescued His people from the house of bondage. But the king's commandment was wise. No good could possibly have arisen from the verbal controversy which the apostate Rabshakeh tried to provoke. Angry passions might have been excited and inflamed, but Hezekiah knew that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." Let us learn wisdom from Hezekiah. When we find a man arguing, not for truth, but for victory; when, instead of approaching high and holy subjects with meekness and reverence, instead of showing kindness and tender-heartedness towards those whom he may think in error, he evinces bitterness, and wrath, and clamour, and evil-speaking, our wisdom is, though sorrowful, still to be silent.
II. We have the same instruction from still higher authority, even the example of Hezekiah's Lord. "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth." Instead of answering, He silenced His opponents, and in His reply, instead of entering into a discussion with them, exposed either their ignorance or their malice, and so in effect answered them not.
III. In all our religious investigations and inquiries the essential thing is to have an honest and good heart. When we seek for spiritual improvement, we must have recourse to self-examination and prayer. We must pray to God to give us an honest heart before we venture to inquire into the things of God.
W. F. Hook, Parish Sermons, p. 140.
References: 2 Kings 18:37.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 199. 2Ki 18—Parker, vol. viii., p. 279. 2Ki 18-19—E. H. Plumptre, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 437.
Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.
And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.
And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:
Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house.
At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?
Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.
But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?
Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.
But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:
Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:
Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:
Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us.
Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.