Hezekiah's attempt to appease Assyria

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Jack K, Jul 7, 2017.

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  1. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I'm trying to understand a Bible passage, and I wonder what folks here think.

    Next week at Bible camp, one lesson I plan to teach will focus on the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem and how the Lord saved the city. I'm wondering what to make of Hezekiah's attempts to appease Assyria prior to the siege. The detail is found in 2 Kings 18:13-16.

    In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me. Whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of 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 treasuries of the king's house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the doorposts that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.​

    In the past, I've mentioned this part of the account only to show how dire the situation must have been, based on Hezekiah's level of worry. But now I'm wondering if Hezekiah also deserves at least some mild criticism. I see two alternate ways to look at his actions:

    1. They show a disappointing lack of faith in the Lord. He should not be trusting in negotiations and payoffs, especially when temple treasures are at stake. It appears he also was putting some faith in Egypt, and we know Isaiah spoke against that. Hezekiah should be trusting solely in the Lord. (Happily, he eventually came around to that.)

    2. His actions show appropriate prudence. Faith in the Lord does not necessarily mean one stops using the usual tactics available. It was prudent and dutiful for Hezekiah to do all he could by usual means. There's nothing faithless about that.

    So, which is the better way to look at this incident?
  2. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    It appears to me that the first assessment is correct. Hezekiah was a man like we are - subject to failings in faith. Even a man whose life can be summarized as faithful (18:1-8) can still fall short. That is why we all need grace; none of us is immune to temptation, or a tower of strength. So we can still honor Hezekiah as a strong believer in general, while acknowledging his failings. The Bible is very open about the failings of its "heroes" (e.g. Abraham, David, Moses, etc.). That is yet another reason for us to accept it as true - it does not pull any punches.
  3. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I think your option 1. is the corect one. I don't believe he was ever rebuked in the Bible for his action, but the stripping the gold of the Temple is always a bad thing. I didn't see his "fault" mentioned in 2 Chronicles, which is not surprising since many of the failings of the kings were whitewashed in Chronicles.
  4. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Jack, I concur with the above thoughts as well. Another tidbit in there, that may draw out another truth, is that not only did he give the king the gold from the temple, but he also even stripped the doors of the gold--the gold that he himself had overlaid when he first took office (2Chron.29:3). Are we past hope when we now fail where we used to succeed? Also, giving all that stuff didn't do a thing, the king of Assyria didn't back down but even made his attack stronger.
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Hezekiah had things backwards. He trusted riches, then God. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear which object of trust was the victor.

    So yes, definitely 1. ;)
  6. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I've been thinking this way myself. It makes a great teaching point: even when we're a person of faith, we need to work at living by faith every day in every situation, and much of the time it won't be easy. We don't just exercise faith once; we learn faith over a lifetime, generally with failings along the way.

    But... I hesitate to make too much of this when the passage barely gives me a hint that the writer might be critical of Hezekiah. And the condensed version of the account in Isaiah 36 leaves out these details entirely, when one would think that would be a good place to include them if they're an example of placing one's faith in the wrong things, which Isaiah is often concerned about in the first half of his book.

    If you were trying to teach from the text, would you be comfortable making it a fairly prominent teaching point?
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    A look at Is.39 (and 2Ki.20:12ff) shows a far less dramatic display of honor to a heathen (Babylonian) king; which is nonetheless rebuked by God, and a curse leveled--to be realized at some future date.

    It would be safe, I think, to take the will of God expressed in this case somewhat further along in Hezekiah's life; add it to the rebuke given to his father, Ahaz, in Is.7; and put it all in the pattern of God's direction to Israel not to enter alliances with the nations.

    Ex.23:32-33, with regard to the inhabitants of the land
    32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
    33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.
    (cf. Ex.34:12,15; Dt.7:2; Josh.9; Jdg.2:2)

    36 Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.
    37 Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them

    7 And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
    8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand.
    9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

    Is.30:1-5 (ESV)
    1 “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
    “who carry out a plan, but not mine,
    and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
    that they may add sin to sin;
    2 who set out to go down to Egypt,
    without asking for my direction,
    to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
    and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
    3 Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
    and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
    4 For though his officials are at Zoan
    and his envoys reach Hanes,
    5 everyone comes to shame
    through a people that cannot profit them,
    that brings neither help nor profit,
    but shame and disgrace.”
    I think the 2Chron.16 passage is most pertinent. Hezekiah's actions smack of too much pragmatism and reliance on himself and his resources, before looking to God as a last-resort. God obviously doesn't need the gold upon the Temple doors; but these were given him in honor and obedience. This is an age of symbols and signs. To give them away in desperation is a sign that the steward on the throne doesn't believe in Israel's divine King willing to defend his own honor and treasury.
  8. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Thanks. That's helpful. The principle that the king should avoid foreign alliances and payoffs does seem to be supported in other places where Scripture speaks of this time period, in particular.
  9. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I don't know that "whitewashed" is how I would describe what the Chronicler is doing. The Chronicler assumes that the reader knows what it is in the earlier accounts. Kings was asking the question, "How did it come to this?" Chronicles was asking, "Is there any hope for us? Are we even still God's people?" This is why Kings emphasizes the more sordid side of things, whereas Chronicles emphasizes the better side. I don't think Chronicles was trying to pull a fast one on anyone (not claiming that this is what you're saying, Ed, but your word "whitewashed" could have that connotation).
  10. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I was a little loose with my "whitewashed" comment. I do not think that the Chronicler was being deceptive. The people just got back from a 70-year judgment and needed to look ahead. Ezra and Nehemiah were intent on staying positive and future-oriented, and The Chronicler (was he a little earlier?) reflected that same attitude. Am I close?

    Thanks for the correction.

  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Ed, yes, I think we are getting at the same thing. I just didn't like the term "whitewashed."
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    While not strictly relevant to the OP, here is a sermon on Hezekiah that we may find edifying.
  13. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The focus of Chronicles is the Temple, i.e. priestly mediation (it's literally central to the two parts, and occupies a huge amount of available column-inches), which is made possible and supported by the mediatorial king, who is supported in turn by the priesthood. This is one reason why Chronicles puts such emphasis on the ways in which the good kings did good. The Temple itself is almost a "character" in Chronicles; and this emphasis finds its fulfillment in Christ (and particularly in John's gospel).

    The mediatorial prophets also appear in force; the ones mentioned in Chronicles are often supplemental to the ones already mentioned in the books of Samuel/Kings (sometimes referred to as 4-books of Kings) and in Chronicles repeatedly identified as keepers of sacred (as opposed to the secular) records of the kingdom.

    Consider Ahijah the Shilonite: his interaction with Jeroboam is recounted in detail or mentioned in 1Ki.11, 12, 14, & 15, in accord with one or two incidents; but he's listed beside Nathan and Iddo in 2Chr.9:29, and almost nothing more is said about him.

    Elisha interacts with Jehoshaphat and Jehoram (ben Ahab) in 2Ki.3:14, the incident is not found in 2Chr. However, the rebuke of Jahu son of Hanani is mentioned in 2Chr.19:2, after Jehshaphat came back from helping Ahab (ch.18); and is not mentioned in 2Ki. 2Chr.20 contains a great defense of Judah by the Lord's help (not mentioned in 2Ki), including the Word of the Lord to Jahaziel. The end of that ch also mentions a Word from the prophet Eliezer.

    There's a letter from Elijah to Jehoram (ben Jehoshaphat) 2Chr.21:12. Jehoshaphat's father Asa is addressed by Azariah the son of Oded, 2Chr.15:1. Asa is rebuked (for a treaty with Syria) by Hanani, 2Chr.16:7-9.
    The reason for all these references is to show how Chronicles aims at emphasizing the full mediatorial panoply of Judah; and so makes additional mentions of king-and-prophet interaction.

    The post-exilic record of Chronicles and its Temple-motif fits with the post-exilic restoration of the Temple (N.B. Haggai; cf. Ezr.3:12). The restoration was a big deal.
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