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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Kings 18

Good reign of Hezekiah in Judah, Idolatry. (1-8) Sennacherib invades Judah. (9-16) Rabshakeh’s blasphemies. (17-37)

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Good reign of Hezekiah in Judah, Idolatry

1 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 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.

3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.

4 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.

5 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.

6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.

7 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.

8 He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.

Sennacherib invades Judah

9 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.

10 And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is in the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.

11 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:

12 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.

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.

16 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.

Rabshakeh’s blasphemies

17 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.

18 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.

19 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?

20 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?

21 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.

22 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?

23 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.

24 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?

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.

26 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.

27 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?

28 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:

29 Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:

30 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.

31 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:

32 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.

33 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

34 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?

35 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?

36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not.

37 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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Third, far advanced, as he was associated by his father in the last year of his reign, (C.) or three years before its termination. D.

Ver. 3. Good; opening the temple, celebrating the Passover with extraordinary magnificence, &c. He had invited people from all Israel, and at their return they broke many statues. Ezechias provided for the subsistence of the Levitical tribe, by ordering the laws to be put in execution in their favour. 2 Paral. xxix. and xxx.

Ver. 4. Groves. The people were now more obedient, being terrified at the chastisement of Israel, (C.) though Samaria was not taken till the sixth year of this good king; who carried his reform rather than most of his predecessors, (H.) in destroying the high places which had been unlawfully (C.) retained, as consecrated to the true God. See v. 22. H. — Yet Josias had still some to remove. M. — Nohestan; that is, their brass, or a little brass. So he called it in comtempt, because they had made a god of it. Ch. — Before, this image had been treated with due respect. When any relic or image becomes the occasion of abuse in the Catholic Church, it is thus taken away, or the error is otherwise corrected. See S. Aug. de C. x. 8. Ser. 14. de Verb. Ap. &c. W. — Some of the ancients assert, that Ezechias suppressed many books of Solomon, on account of similar abuses. But this seems not to be well attested. We know that he made a collection of some of some of his sentences. Prov. xxv. 1.

Ver. 5. Like him. Ezechias was remarkable for many excellent qualities. Yet we must not push these comparisons too far, contrary to the intention of the sacred writers. The same eulogium is given to Josias, (C. xxiii. 25.) and David seems to be preferred. C. xix. 34. These three are particularly commended. Eccli. xlix. 5. C. — Their virtues were certainly different in some respects. T.

Ver. 7. Wisely. Heb. “with success.” Syr. &c. “he was victorious wherever he went.” — Rebelled. The Assyrian assumed an undue authority in consequence of the words of Achaz, (C. xvi. 7.) and arrogated to himself the authority of doing what he pleased with the people, v. 32. Ezechias having formed various alliances, judged it necessary to make some resistance. Yet the prophet Isaias (xxx. 1.) complains of his applying to the Egyptians. C.

Ver. 8. City. Thus he punished them for their late invasion. 2 Par. xxviii. 18.

Ver. 9. Samaria. The same history is given, C. xvii. 3. C.

Ver. 11. By the rivers. Gozan was the name of the river, as above; (H.) so that Salien suspects it should be fluvii, “of the river.” M.

Ver. 13. Sennacherib’s expedition in Egypt and Asia are mentioned by Herodotus (ii. 141.) and Berosus, (Joseph. x. 1.) but they do not say that he passed farther then Pelusium, (C.) the frontier on the Egyptian side of Palestine. H. — These expeditions might have been performed in less than eight months, during the 14th year of Ezechias, who fell sick, perhaps soon after the ruin of Sennacherib’s army. C. xx. 1. Isaias (x. 28.) represents the Assyrian proceeding from Gabaa towards Egypt, and thence he ascended to attack the cities of Juda, (v. 25.) Manresa, (Mic. i. 15.) &c. While he was before Lachis, Ezechias, dreading the horrors of war, purchased a peace: but the tyrant soon after sent to require him to surrender at discretion; and in the mean time he went to besiege Lebna, where his envoys found him, having received no answer from the king of Juda. The haughty Assyrian being obliged to go to meet the king of Chus, sent insolent letters to Ezechias; but the latter was assured that all his menaces were to be despised, and on the same night that Sennacherib left Lebna, the angel destroyed 185,000 of his men. It is thought that the siege of Lachis did not take place till three years after Sennacherib had come into Palestine, and after he had spent that time in attacking Egypt, C. xix. 24. Joseph. x. 2. and 3. — He attempted afterwards to take the southern cities of Juda, in order to cut off all communication with Egypt; as Nabuchodonosor, Holofernes, and Eupator probably intended to do. Jer. xxiv. 7. Judith vi. and vii. 1 Mac. vi. 31. C. — Offended, and been imprudent. M. — Gold, so that the value of each was equal. D. — Josephus reads, “or thirty,” as if that quantity of gold would suffice. H. — The talent contains 3000 sicles. M. — The heart of Ezechias fainted at the approach of so great an army, though he had before made the greatest preparations. C. xx. 2. 2 Par. xxxii. 5. Eccli. xlviii. 19. T.

Ver. 16. On them. All must go to meet the exigencies of the state. Grot. Jur. ii. 5. — The doors of temples and palaces were frequently adorned with the most precious metals, as Homer describes the palace of Alcinous; (Odys. H.) and Tavernier (vii. 12.) speaks of some mosques in Persia, the doors of which are covered with plates of silver. See Joseph. Bel. vi. 6.

Ver. 17. Tharthan, or Thathania, (1 Esd. v. 3.) and in the Greek of Isa. xx. 1. means “the president of tributes,” or presents. The two other names denote “the chief eunuch,” and “the chief butler,” and are not proper names. These officers were sent at the head of a strong army to Jerusalem. — Field, by the torrent Cedron, to the east. There they defied the king, or perhaps endeavoured to persuade him to come out, that they might seize his person. C. They came in a military capacity, rather than as ambassadors.

Ver. 18. House. Josephus says, “procurator of the palace or kingdom.” H. — The house often refers to the temple, when placed without any explanation. Isai. xxii. 15. C. — Eliacim was prefect of the prætorium, (Salien) or grand master of the palace. He was richly dressed, and possessed a great authority over the people. — Scribe. See Judg. viii. 14. This Sobna, according to S. Jerom, is different from the one who was over the house in the days of Manasses, before Eliacim was restored to his office, (C.) unless he also was a different person. T. — The Jews say Sobna was deprived of his dignity, on account of his having betrayed the lower city to Sennacherib. See Isai. xxii. 21. — Recorder, or chancellor, &c. 2 K. viii. 16. C.

Ver. 20. Counsel. Heb. “Thou sayest (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for the war.” Prot. H. — You have vainly boasted. C. — Isai. xxvi. 5. C.

Ver. 21. Pierce it. He alludes to the reeds which grow on the Nile. See Delrio, adag. 210. Egypt had been already greatly harassed in the expedition of Sennacherib, so that no succour could be expected thence. C.

Ver. 22. Jerusalem. Many were perhaps displeased at this injunction, and Rabsaces endeavoured to excite them to revolt, and insinuates (C.) that the king had made God his enemy, (H.) and must expect punishment from him. Theod. in Isai. xxxvi. 5. He perhaps was ignorant that these altars were contrary to his law. M. — Yet the Jews say that Rabsaces was son of Isaias, (ap. S. Jer. bib.) or a Samaritan.

Ver. 23. Over. Josephus insinuates that it is a challenge to fight, and that Rabsaces was so confident of victory, that he made this contemptuous proposal, (H.) knowing that the subjects of Ezechias were not good horsemen, (C.) or that they were comparatively (H.) so few in number. M. — Heb. “agree, or give pledges to my master.”

Ver. 25. Destroy. Prosperity renders a man insolent, and the passions blind him. Rabsaces interprets success to be a sure proof of the divine approbation, and thus attempts to justify all the excesses of his master. C. — God only used Sennacherib as a rod to chastise his people. M. — The most wicked often represent themselves as the executioners of God’s will, and attribute their ambition to his decrees. H. — God did not order the Assyrians to destroy the land: he rather threatened to destroy them. Isai. xxxvii. 2 Par. xxxii. W.

Ver. 26. Syriac, or Chaldee language, which was spoken at the Assyrian court, 1 Esd. iv. 7. Dan. ii. 4. Rabsaces was acquainted with both the languages; as the Jews say he was an apostate, which they infer from this passage, and from the legates tearing their clothes when they heard him blaspheme; as t hey pretend this was only done when blasphemy came from the mouth of an Israelite. Grotius. — But these reasons are very weak. C. — The like was practised when any thing terrifying was heard, v. 37. H. — The reasons why the legates desire Rabsaces not to speak in a language which the common soldiers understood, was to prevent them from shewing their indignation by shooting at him, or out of fear, lest they should be induced to cause some sedition. M.

Ver. 27. With you. Insolent bravado! whence some have inferred the probability of pigeons’ dung being really eaten. (C. vi. 25.) C. — Rabsaces threatens them with all the horrors of famine, so that they shall eat such things, if they refuse to give up the city. M.

Ver. 29. My. Heb. and Vat. Sept. “his (Sennacherib’s) hand.” But the other reading of the Syriac, &c. is more natural. These words do not occur Isai. xxxvi. 14.

Ver. 31. Advantage. Heb. “make a blessing,” or present. C. — Chal. and Syr. “peace.”

Ver. 32. Till. Sennacherib will remove you to another country, but it will be as good as this. He requires you to surrender at discretion. C. — Deliver us. This will not be in his power, no more than it was in that of the other tutelary gods. M. — Infidels and heretics are very foolish thus to compare their delusions with God, and his holy religion. W.

Ver. 34. Emath, Emesa. — Arphad, or Arad, an island and city on the continent, (C.) near Tyre. — Of Ana, &c. , “of,” is not expressed in the Vulg. (H.) and it may be explained as if Ana and Ava were idols of Sepharvaim. M. — But they are commonly supposed to be cities. H. — Ana is probably a city (D.) built on both sides of the Euphrates, four days’ journey from Bagdat. Isaias does not specify these cities in the parallel passage, but they are found in the letter addressed to Ezechias, Isai. xxxvii. 13. — Samaria, or the inhabitants who had come from distant parts, and had perhaps revolted. We do not however find the Sennacherib had conquered them, nor does the pretend that all these conquests were made by himself. C. — He gives part of the honour to his ancestors. C. xix. 12. 2 Par. xxxii. 13. But he asserts that all the gods of the respective countries of Samaria, &c. had yielded to his superior force. H. — Strange infatuation in a man who looked upon the idols as gods! They are in effect nothing. 1 Cor. viii. 4. But as their votaries were of a different persuasion, ought they not to have acted and spoken consistently? Yet Suetonius (Caius, c. 5.) informs us, that “on the day when Germanicus died, the temples were stoned, the altars of the gods overturned, the domestic lares thrown out by some into the open air;” all to express their grief and indignation at the gods, for not preserving his life. H.

Ver. 36. The people. The three legates, (C.) Isai. xxxvi. 21. And they held their peace. H.

Ver. 37. Rent, as was customary on such dismal occasions. Joakim is reprehended for not shewing this mark of consternation, when he heard the dreadful predictions of Jeremias, xxxvi. 24. C.