Lesson 11 | Sabbath, 17 March 2018
“Nothing more quickly inspires faith than the exercise of faith. The king of Judah had prepared for the coming storm; and now, confident that the prophecy against the Assyrians would be fulfilled, he stayed his soul upon God. ‘And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah.’ 2 Chronicles 32:8. What though the armies of Assyria, fresh from the conquest of the greatest nations of earth, and triumphant over Samaria in Israel, should now turn their forces against Judah? What though they should boast, ‘As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?’ Isaiah 10:10, 11. Judah had nothing to fear; for their trust was in Jehovah….
“With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps account with the nations. While His mercy is tendered, with calls to repentance, this account remains open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath begins. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. Mercy no longer pleads in their behalf.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 351, 352, 364.
Assyrian attacks against Judah
1. What military campaign did the Assyrian King Sennacherib undertake in B.C. 701 against the kingdom of Judah? What threat did his general Rabshakeh make?
2 Kings 18:13, 29-31 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…. 29Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: 30Neither 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. 31Hearken 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.
“The long-expected crisis finally came. The forces of Assyria, advancing from triumph to triumph, appeared in Judea. Confident of victory, the leaders divided their forces into two armies, one of which was to meet the Egyptian army to the southward, while the other was to besiege Jerusalem.
“Judah’s only hope was now in God. All possible help from Egypt had been cut off, and no other nations were near to lend a friendly hand.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 352.
2. Did the intimidating speech of Rabshakeh plant seeds of doubt against only King Hezekiah, or did it go far beyond that?
2 Kings 18:34, 35 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? 35Who 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?
“The Assyrian officers, sure of the strength of their disciplined forces, arranged for a conference with the chief men of Judah, during which they insolently demanded the surrender of the city. This demand was accompanied by blasphemous revilings against the God of the Hebrews. Because of the weakness and apostasy of Israel and Judah, the name of God was no longer feared among the nations, but had become a subject for continual reproach. See Isaiah 52:5.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 352.
Effects on the king and the people
3. Did the Jewish people try to argue with the Assyrian general when they heard his horrible threats? How were King Hezekiah’s officers affected?
2 Kings 18:36, 37 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not. 37Then 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.
“To these taunts the children of Judah ‘answered him not a word.’ The conference was at an end. The Jewish representatives returned to Hezekiah ‘with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.’ Verses 21, 22. The king, upon learning of the blasphemous challenge, ‘rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord.’ 2 Kings 19:1.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 354.
4. How did King Hezekiah feel about these terrible threats against his people? Nevertheless, what wise decision did he make?
2 Kings 19:1-4 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. 2And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. 4It may be the Lord thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.
“A messenger was dispatched to Isaiah to inform him of the outcome of the conference. ‘This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy,’ was the word the king sent….
“ ‘For this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to Heaven.’ 2 Chronicles 32:20.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 354.
5. What immediate, comforting answer did the prophet send to King Hezekiah through the messengers? However, what further blasphemy against God was spoken by the cruel, menacing enemies?
2 Kings 19:5-7, 10-13 So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land…. 10Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? 12Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?
Second appeal to God
6. Where did King Hezekiah again seek for help? What clear answer did the Lord give His servant regarding the proud Assyrians?
2 Kings 19:14, 15, 20-22 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth…. 20Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. 21This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. 22Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.
“When the king of Judah received the taunting letter, he took it into the temple and ‘spread it before the Lord’ and prayed with strong faith for help from heaven, that the nations of earth might know that the God of the Hebrews still lived and reigned. Verse 14. The honor of Jehovah was at stake; He alone could bring deliverance.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 355.
7. What prevailed–the force of Assyrian arms, or the word of God that they had blasphemed? How did the terrible crisis end? What great encouragement can God’s people today find in this experience?
2 Kings 19:32-37 Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. 33By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. 34For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. 35And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 36So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia.
“The land of Judah had been laid waste by the army of occupation, but God had promised to provide miraculously for the needs of the people….
“Tidings of this terrible judgment upon the army that had been sent to take Jerusalem, soon reached Sennacherib, who was still guarding the approach to Judea from Egypt. Stricken with fear, the Assyrian king hasted to depart and ‘returned with shame of face to his own land.’ Verse 21. But he had not long to reign. In harmony with the prophecy that had been uttered concerning his sudden end, he was assassinated by those of his own home, ‘and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.’ Isaiah 37:38.
“The God of the Hebrews had prevailed over the proud Assyrian. The honor of Jehovah was vindicated in the eyes of the surrounding nations. In Jerusalem the hearts of the people were filled with holy joy. Their earnest entreaties for deliverance had been mingled with confession of sin and with many tears. In their great need they had trusted wholly in the power of God to save, and He had not failed them. Now the temple courts resounded with songs of solemn praise.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 360-362.
For additional study
- 2 Kings, chapters 18, 19
- 2 Chronicles, chapter 32
- Isaiah, chapters 36, 37
- Prophets and Kings, Chapter 30 (“Deliverance from Assyria”), pp. 349-366.
“… The rulers of Assyria, instead of using their unusual blessings for the benefit of mankind, became the scourge of many lands. Merciless, with no thought of God or their fellow men, they pursued the fixed policy of causing all nations to acknowledge the supremacy of the gods of Nineveh, whom they exalted above the Most High. God had sent Jonah to them with a message of warning, and for a season they humbled themselves before the Lord of hosts and sought forgiveness. But soon they turned again to idol worship and to the conquest of the world….
“The pride of Assyria and its fall are to serve as an object lesson to the end of time. Of the nations of earth today who in arrogance and pride array themselves against Him, God inquires, ‘To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth.’ Verse 18.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 363, 366.