Hezekiah removed the high places, tore down the pillars, and even destroyed the Bronze serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9). It had become an object of worship – an idol, probably because of the association of serpents with the “goddess” Asherah. Verses 6-7 tells us that Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord” and that the Lord was with him. He rebelled against the Assyrian king, and would not serve him. Verse 8 declares his many victories in battle over the Philistines. But verse 13 tells us that in the fourteenth year of his reign, Sennacherib took the fortified cities of Judah.
Hezekiah’s initial response was to bargain with the Assyrian king (verses 14-15), which at first seems effective. But Sennacherib tires of his further rebellion; and sends his Rabshakeh, or (chief cupbearer) to deliver his message. Eliakim tries to get him to speak to them in Aramaic, so that the people will not understand. But that is exactly what the Assyrian wants – they want the people to hear and be dismayed and frightened for their plight, in order to quash rebellion.
In verses 31-35, the cup-bearer, speaking for Sennacherib, tells them not to listen to Hezekiah, and even tells them that their God has sent the Assyrians Himself. Then he makes the mistake of comparing the Lord to the impotent “gods” of other lands, saying that he will not deliver Jerusalem out of Sennacherib’s hand.
Now residing in the private collection of Shlomo Moussaieff of London, a bulla (clay seal) was found bearing Hezekiah’s name. It reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of Ahaz], king of Judah.”
Archaeologists at the site of Beersheba unearthed a horned altar from the late 8th century B.C. made of hewn stones, with a serpent carved into one of the stones. More information on the site can be found in this article at BiblePlaces.com.
This link to the British Museum about the Sennacherib Relief details the siege and capture of Lachish by the Assyrian king. At the southwestern corner of Lachish, Sennacherib built a siege ramp and used archers, infantry, and siege machines. The Judeans constructed a counter-siege ramp. But it failed – Sennacherib conquered Lachish. Both of the actual ramps have been uncovered. The victory was important enough to Sennacherib to devote an entire wall at his palace to it. Had he been able to capture Jerusalem, that victory would undoubtedly have over-shadowed the one at Lachish.
Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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