Reign of Ahaz The growing threat of Assyria was also affecting political decisions in Judah. Second Kings 16 describes the reign of Ahaz, the son of King Jotham whom he succeeded on the throne of Judah. Ahaz reigned for sixteen years beginning at age twenty, but he “did not that which was fight in the sight of the Lord his God, like David his father” (vs. 2).
Ahaz was so evil that he began to walk in the ways of the
kings Israel. He participated in human sacrifices and we
learn from II Chronicles 28, that he made molten images to Baal,
offered sacrifices, and burned incense under every green tree in the
land. Second Chronicles 28:3 reports that he was even more abominable than the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the children of Israel. Which is another way of saying that Ahaz was worse than the Canaanites whom Joshua had been commanded to destroy.
Second Chronicles records some activities of Ahaz which
are not included in II Kings. Verse 5 says that God delivered
him into the hand of the king of Assyria. We also read in verse 10 that
following a battle with Pekah, the king of Israel, a prophet of God named Obed rebuked Pekah and his elders when they attempted to keep captives from Judah and Jerusalem as slaves. The elders of Israel obeyed the prophet, verse 14 says and “left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation.”
Alliance with Assyria In verse 16 we read, “At that time did king Ahaz send unto the king of Assyria to help him.” At this point we
need to return to II Kings 16 for additional details about
this very important event. Second Kings 16:5 says that “Rezin king of
Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war, and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him.
This united front of Israel and Syria which was besieging Jerusalem
was Ahaz’s motivation for seeking an unwise alliance with the Assyrians. He took the silver and gold from the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and sent these treasures to Assyria as a bribe for the king. Tiglath-pileser was impressed and went to war against Damascus, killing Rezin the king. He also captured several cities of Israel and took many of them as captives.
It was about this time that Hoshea conspired against Pekah, probably
motivated by Ms loss to the Assyrians. He was, however, too weak to
oppose the Assyrians. Hoshea became a vassal king, and was forced to pay tribute to Assyria as his predecessors had.
Ahaz and Isaiah According to Isaiah 7:3, God instructed the
prophet to take his son Shear-jashub and to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field. Isaiah
took Ahaz a message of consolation, informing him that in a short time the monarchs of both Syria and Israel would be eliminated. Ahaz, how-ever, had already made a commitment to Assyria which would change the course of history.
To back up His promise of deliverance from Rezin and Pekah,
God offered Ahaz a sign. “Ask any sign you want,” is the gist of verse
11. Ahaz, in false piety, refused a sign from God. In reality, he did not
want a reason for changing his plans. It was in response to this refusal that Isaiah spoke the words of verse 14ff:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a
virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name
Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know
to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child
shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land
that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
Matthew 1:23 provides the real interpretation of this verse
because it is quoted by Matthew as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. In that quotation, the Greek word parthenos is used, which cannot be translated in any other way than virgin. Since in Matthew 1:23, the Holy Spirit has given us the accurate translation of Isaiah 7:14, it is impossible to accept any view that translates the Hebrew word almah in any other way than “virgin. The sign given to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14
was fulfilled in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the virgin conceived,
virgin born, Son of God.
The agreement that Ahaz made with Tiglath-pileser would have
dire consequences for Judah. Second Chronicles 28 describes how the Edomites, and then the Philistines, devastated Judah because Ahaz “transgressed sore against the Lord” (vs. 19). Finally Tiglath-pileser came, but afflicted him rather than strengthening him. Verse 21 says “he helped him not.”
LIII SIEGE OF TWO CITIES
The king of Assyria continued to be very aggressive toward the
two kingdoms. At the request of Ahaz, and in consideration of his generous tribute payments, he moved from his victory in Damascus down into Israel. While Tiglath-pileser was still at Damascus, Ahaz had gone up to greet him. While there, he admired an elaborate pagan altar and sent some of his priests to make a replica and place it in the temple at Jerusalem. Not only did he offer sacrifices on it, but he also dismantled some of the worship objects in the temple that had been constructed by Solomon, making God’s temple a place of heathen worship. Verse 18 says he did these things ‘for the king of Assyria.”
End of the Divided Kingdom By the time of the events recorded in 11 Kings 17, Tiglath-pileser had passed from the scene and Shalmanezer V was king of Assyria. The king of Israel, Hoshea, whom you recall had become a vassal to Assyria, decided it was time to rebel and he did so by refusing to send the customary tribute to Assyria and sought an alliance with Egypt. It was a bad move on Hoshea’s part.
The king of Assyria captured Hoshea and put him in prison. Then
he besieged the city of Samaria for three years, from 725 to 722 B.C. In 722, the city was taken. Verse 6 says he “carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Harbor by the liver of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”
This verse brings to a close the history of the nation of Israel and
ends the 209 year period of the divided kingdom. Although the Assyrians were accustomed to conquest, as they expanded their campaigns throughout the known world, they did not have enough troops to occupy every city or nation they defeated. Down
through history, even until World War 11, this has been the major difficulty experienced by conquering ages; namely, how to keep conquered nations under control. The Assyrians had an answer. They mixed up the population in the cities they conquered.
Origin of the Samaritans Second Kings 17:24ff is a summary of this military tactic as it was used by the Assyrians in Samaria:
And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and
from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from
Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria
instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed
Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.
The king moved the wealthy and influential people of Israel to
other conquered areas and took those from other nations and moved
them into Samaria. The result was a new mixed race of people who
became known as the Samaritans. From 722 B.C. forward, even down to the time of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in John 4, the inhabitants of the land of Samaria were a hated people. They were mixed genetically and religiously (see II Kings 17:26-34). Therefore, the full-blooded Jews who lived in the south had nothing to do with
them. There was as little contact as possible between the two nations. It was for this reason that the Lord Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan, because when the fellow Jews of the injured man passed him by it was a Samaritan, a member of this hated race, that finally showed compassion and loving-kindness on the Jew who had been attacked.
God’s Indictment Against Israel In Second Kings 17:7-18, God fists the reasons why He allowed the Assyrians to disperse the nation of Israel. They feared other gods; they walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord-had driven out; they did things secretly which were not right; they built high places; they set for themselves sacred pillars; they served idols. The Lord gave them many warnings through the prophets, saying, “Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments, “ but they did not listen. They stiffened their necks. They followed vanity and went after all the heathen gods that surrounded them. They forsook the commandments of the Lord and made molten images, especially the two calves.
They worshiped all the host of heaven (astrology) and served Baal. They made their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire; that is, they offered their own children as human sacrifices. They practiced divination and enchantments. In the end, the Lord was angry with Israel (vs. 18) and removed them from s sight. None was left except the tribe of Judah. So, in the year 722 B.C., the period of the divided kingdom ended and the period known as Judah Alone began.
Hezekiah’s Good Works Ahaz, king of Judah, died in the year 715 B.C. and his son Hezekiah inherited the throne, although they had actually had a co-regency since 728. Unlike his father, Hezekiah was a godly king and brought about many important reforms in Judah. He removed the high places, cut-down the images, and cut down the brazen serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness because it had now become an idol (II Kings 18:4).
Hezekiah rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve
him. This was not received well by Shalmanezer who had profited by
his invasion and conquest of Israel. His appetite for riches had also
been whetted by the wealth that had flowed into his coffers because of Ahaz’s submission to his predecessor and consistent payment of tribute. In retaliation, after his conquest of Israel, he continued to move south, taking various cities in Judah.
Finally realizing that the very center of his kingdom, Jerusalem, was in jeopardy, Hezekiah began a construction program which would
preserve the integrity of the city if it came under siege. Second Chronicles 32 records that he sent men throughout the land to stop up the springs of water so that there would be no fresh water for an invading army. Then, for their personal use, he ordered a tunnel dug out to the Pool of Siloam. The passageway went underground for 1200 cubits so that when the gates of Jerusalem were shut, they could go through the tunnel without being observed by the Assyrians and obtain fresh water from the pool, and bring it back underground into the city. The pool of Siloam was camouflaged from above so that the Assyrians did not even know it was there.
On the wall of the tunnel was one of the oldest extant samples of
Hebrew writing, dating from 701 B.C., describing how the tunnel was a masterful feat of engineering. One group of men began on each end and they met in the middle. The inscription, called the Siloam inscription, was discovered and cut from the rock in the tunnel so it is now preserved in the museum in Israel. It records the feat and the fact that the tunnel was 1200 cubits long. Since we know it measures 1800 feet, we have contemporary evidence that a cubit equaled 18 inches.
Siege of Jerusalem By that time Shalrnanezer had died and Sennacherib had become king of Assyria. We read in II Kings 18:13: “Now in the fourteenth year cherib of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them. “ The year was 701. In a state of panic, Hezekiah sent money, silver, and treasure, to the king of Assyria; everything that he could find in the house of the Lord. He even took the gold from the doors of the temple and from the doorposts which had been overlaid with gold leaf. It only served to whet Sennacherib’s appetite even more and he laid siege to Jerusalem. The account of the siege is recorded in 11 Kings 18. The messenger sent from Sennacherib to Hezekiah was named Rab-shakek (probably a title) and his taunt is quoted in verse 19ff. Isaiah 36 and 37 also records these events, since Isaiah’s period of greatest activity and influence occurred during Hezekiah’s reign.
Jerusalem was shut up tight against the hordes of Assyrians
encamped outside the wall. Many of the city’s inhabitants were sitting
on top of the wall watching the events outside. No military activity
was taking place because Sennacherib had sent his messenger to try to negotiate a peaceful surrender with Hezekiah. That would have been to his advantage because he was in a hurry to conquer the remaining cities of Judah and return to Assyria as soon as possible. Because he did not want to be involved in a long siege, Rab-shakeh gave a compelling speech, filled with propaganda, to entice the people of Jerusalem to surrender. I will summarize his arguments.
“What good has it done you to look to Egypt for support?
Their military system is so weak it is Eke a reed that if a
man leans on it, it will break and its sharp end will pierce
his hand. Or, if you are trusting in the Lord your God, is it not He whose high places and altars Hezekiah has taken away?” Rab-shakeh did not understand that what Hezekiah had removed was the Baal objects. His reforms actually opened the way for the power of God to work miraculously in behalf of Jerusalem.
Rab-shakeh continued: “Make a bargain with my master. I will
give you 2000 horses if you are able to set riders on them.” What he
meant was, even if I gave you 2000 horses you would not have enough men to ride them and fight against us. “You are so weak militarily you do not have enough people to repulse even one official of my master’s servants. “ Then he resorted to blasphemy (vs. 25), “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. “ Rab-shakeh used every psychological ploy he could think of to discourage the people of Jerusalem. In fact, his taunts had so much effect on the people sitting on the wall that Eliakim, Hezekiah’s representative, asked Rab-shakeh to: “Please speak in Aramaic because the elders understood it and not in Judean (or Hebrew) because of au the people on the wall.”
Rab-shakeh replied to that (vs. 27): “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?” I am to speak to all, he said, because you people are doomed to eat your own dung and drink your own urine. Meaning that by besieging the city they will force it to run out of food and water. It was a terrible thing for the people to hear. Then he added:
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.
Trust in us and surrender to us, he said, and you will each have
your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern. But
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.
Rab-shakeh concluded by reminding them that there was no god
that had ever delivered his people from attack by the Assyrians, so why should they think their God would do any better. That taunt had so much impact on the people and the elders, that they went to Hezekiah with their clothes tom. They were convinced that Rab-shakeh spoke the truth and that they did not stand a chance of holding out against such an Assyrian siege.
Second Kings 19:1 records that when Hezekiah heard
their report, he rent his clothes, and covered himself with
prayer sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. “ After pleading
his case before the Lord, he sent messengers to Isaiah who returned a very comforting message from Jehovah to Hezekiah. Because the servants of Sennacherib have blasphemed Me, the Lord said, I am going to send a rumor that will cause him to return home. There he will fall by the sword in his own land. The fulfillment of that prophecy is recorded in 19:37. In the meantime Sennacherib, who was fighting against Libna, sent messengers once again to meet with Hezekiah. They carried a letter which reiterated some of the salient points of the previous taunts. After reading the letter, Hezekiah went into the temple and spread it out before the Lord. In effect he prayed, “These men of Assyria have blasphemed You and I pray, Lord, deliver us from their hand.” Again Isaiah sent to him, saying (vs. 20), “That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.”
What a tremendous promise this was. Reading through to
verse 32, we can see that Isaiah told Hezekiah that the
king of Assyria would not come to the city, or even shoot an
arrow inside it. Hezekiah’s heart must have been relieved and
comforted at the hearing of those words. Their fulfillment is recorded
in verse 35 where we read that “the angel of the Lord went out, and
smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and fourscore and
five thousand [185,000].”
Sennacherib, unsuccessful in his attempt to capture Jerusalem, returned home and lived at Nineveh until 681 B.C. In that year the earlier prophecy was fulfilled, as recorded in verse 37. As he was worshiping in the house of his god, two men killed him and Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.
Sennacherib’s Version Prior to his assassination, Sennacherib recorded many of his activities on an artifact known as the Taylor prism, also called the Prism of Sennacherib. It can be seen in either the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago or the British Museum. It is a clay cylinder containing an account of Sennacherib’s eight campaigns. It includes the capture and destruction of the city of Babylon in 689 B.C., and Its expedition down the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea toward Egypt in 701. He gives the number of Palestinean cities captured, and carefully fists all of the spoil; that he took. But in regard to Jerusalem, observe what he said: “I shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird. “
He gives no reason for not having captured Jerusalem, nor does he
mention a disaster having befallen any of his army, which caused his
hasty retreat without having gained a victory.
This was nothing less than the hand of God. Sennacherib was the
most powerful monarch in the world at that time, and there is absolutely no logical reason why he could not have captured Jerusalem. Typical of the monarchs of his day, he did not record the negative aspects of his campaigns. He mentions the siege, shutting Hezekiah up “like a bird in a cage. “ But he did not capture him. This is a tremendous piece of extant evidence underpinning and substantiating the biblical account of
Hezekiah’s Last Years The remaining years of Hezekiah’s life are recorded in 11 Kings 20. He became extremely ill and the Lord said to him through Isaiah, “Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live “ (vs. 1). Hezekiah tearfully pleaded for an extension of Its life and the Lord replied, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee. “ He promised to add fifteen years to his life and to save Jerusalem from the Assyrians ‘for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. “ Isaiah then instructed him to place a lump of figs on the boil that was killing him and he would be healed.
Hezekiah, doubting, asked for a sign that he would be healed
within three days. In response, Isaiah gave him a choice: “shalt the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?” He was referring to the sundial in which case it is easy for the shadow to go forward, Hezekiah reasoned, so let it return backward. God complied with this request, and for the second time, He intervened in the movement of the physical universe just as He had done to honor the prayer of J Joshua. Hezekiah later acted foolishly by displaying all Ws treasure to emissaries from Babylon. As a result, Isaiah prophesied to him (vs. 17) that the day was coming when all that his fathers had laid up in store would be carried away to Babylon.
LIV JUDAH’S FINAL YEARS
After Hezekiah’s death, a new evil and idolatrous period began
in the nation of Judah. Manasseh, who succeeded his father, Hezekiah, began a reign of terror. This depraved monarch ruled for fifty-five years until 642 B.C. and then was succeeded by his son Amon, who reigned just two years until 640 B.C. Manasseh was the most evil of all the kings to sit on the throne of his ancestor David, and his reign marked the beginning of Judah’s final downfall. Right down until the end (and even beyond), the Lord continued to send His prophets to warn His people in an attempt to call them back to repentance before it was too late.
Before continuing with the historical events of these years, it is
necessary to enumerate the prophets who were active after the fall of
Samaria in 722 B.C. until the end of the Old Testament era in approximately 400 B.C.
Later Old Testament Prophets
Date Prophet Prophesied Historical Setting
(pre-exilic) to _
650 B.C. Nahum Nineveh Manasseh in Judah;
Ashur-banipal in Assyria
640 Zephaniah Judah Josiah in Judah
627-580 Jeremiah Judah Josiah to Zedekiah, kings;
and Gedaliah, governor in Judah
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon
609 Habakkuk Judah Josiah and Jehoahaz, Judah
Necho (Egypt) defeated by Assyria
605-536 Daniel Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar to Cyrus the Persian
597-570 Ezekiel Jews in Jehoiachin and Zedekiah in Judah
exile Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon
520 Haggai Returned Zerubbabel, governor of Judah
exiles Darius I of Persia
520 Zechariah “ “ Same as above
432-400 Malachi “ “ Probably Nehemiah, governor of Judah,
and Darius II of Persia _
Reign of Manasseh For a complete perspective on the monarchy of Manasseh, we must look both at II Kings 21 and II Chronicles 33. We will begin with II Kings 21.
Manasseh reigned for fifty-five years and committed evil in the
sight of the Lord like “the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” (vs. 2) Scripture says he was worse than the Canaanites whom Joshua drove out. He erected altars to Baal. He made the Asherah; these were the wooden idols representing female deities, many with six and eight breasts symbolizing fertility, just as Ahab the king of Israel had done. What tragedy to read that a king of David’s lineage is being compared to the evil king Ahab of the northern kingdom. Manasseh worshiped all the hosts of heaven. In today’s language, he practiced astrology. He erected heathen altars in the house of the Lord. He made his sons to pass through the fire; he was offering his own sons as human sacrifices. He practiced witchcraft, used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He was involved in occult practices, many of which survive to our own day but which God condemned centuries before in Deuteronomy 18:9-12. Verse 16 sums up his life by saying that “Manasseh shed much innocent blood.“ Tradition records that he martyred Isaiah by placing him in a hollow log and having it sawed in half.