2 Chronicles 32 – God Protects Jerusalem
A. God protects Jerusalem from the Assyrians.
1. (1) Sennacherib’s attack.
After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself.
a. After these deeds of faithfulness: Our tendency is to think that when we are genuinely faithful to God we will be immune from attack. The experience of Hezekiah and countless other men and women of God tell us otherwise.
i. “It would seem to be a strange answer of God to the faithfulness of His child, that a strong foe should at the moment invade the kingdom; and yet how often the experience of the people of God is of this nature.” (Morgan)
ii. Adam Clarke had another perspective: “God did not permit the pious prince to be disturbed till he had completed the reformation which he had begun.”
b. Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah: This was part of his larger campaign in the region, including the conquest of the northern tribes organized as the kingdom of Israel.
i. We might say that the Chronicler is not telling us the complete story here. He does not include what we learn from 2 Kings 18:13-16, that Hezekiah unwisely and unsuccessfully tried to satisfy Sennacherib with gold and treasures from the temple. It didn’t work, and after conquering nearly all the fortified cities of Judah, the king of Assyria prepared to set a siege against Jerusalem.
ii. “He clearly expects the reader to be familiar with 2 Kings 18-20, but, whereas the Chronicler normally adapts sections of earlier Scripture, here everything has been amplified and summarized in order to concentrate on the theme of Yahweh’s supremacy.” (Selman)
2. (2-8) Hezekiah prepares against the coming attack and siege of the Assyrians.
And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that his purpose was to make war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside; also he repaired the Millo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying, “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
a. To stop the water from the springs outside the city: This was done in preparation for the coming siege, and possibly in connection with the tunnel that Hezekiah directed to be cut to keep the water supply secure within the city (2 Chronicles 32:30).
i. “Jerusalem’s water supply was vulnerable to any attack, since it was totally dependent on two springs, Gihon in the Kidron valley and En-Rogel two miles to the south.” (Selman)
ii. “No doubt the Assyrian army suffered much through this, as a Christian army did eighteen hundred years after this. When the crusaders came, in a. D. 1099, to besiege Jerusalem, the people of the city stopped up the wells, so that the Christian army was reduced to the greatest necessities and distress.” (Clarke)
b. He strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers: This and the other preparations reflect how serious the threat was and how diligent Hezekiah was to defend Jerusalem and Judah.
i. “Part of a wall which could well be Hezekiah’s has been uncovered on the western hill. At seven metres thick, it is the thickest Iron Age wall known in Palestine, and was presumably designed to withstand powerful Assyrian battering rams.” (Selman)
c. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed: Hezekiah understood that the defense of Israel did not depend only on walls and towers and shields and water supplies; it also depended on the strength, courage, and determination of their soldiers.
i. For there are more with us than with him: “We have more power than they have. (These words he quotes from the prophet Elisha, 2 Kings 6:16.) This was soon proved to be true by the slaughter made by the angel of the Lord in the Assyrian camp.” (Clarke)
ii. But with us is the LORD our God: “The import of ‘Immanuel,’ by which name Christ now began to be known amongst them.” (Trapp)
3. (9-19) Sennacherib’s propaganda campaign.
After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem (but he and all the forces with him laid siege against Lachish), to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria: ‘In what do you trust, that you remain under siege in Jerusalem? Does not Hezekiah persuade you to give yourselves over to die by famine and by thirst, saying, “The LORD our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria”? Has not the same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, “You shall worship before one altar and burn incense on it”? Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands in any way able to deliver their lands out of my hand? Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed that could deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or persuade you like this, and do not believe him; for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?’” Furthermore, his servants spoke against the LORD God and against His servant Hezekiah. He also wrote letters to revile the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, “As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand.” Then they called out with a loud voice in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten them and trouble them, that they might take the city. And they spoke against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth; the work of men’s hands.
a. Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem: While the bulk of his army was busy at Lachish, Sennacherib sent some men to Jerusalem to prepare for the siege, especially with psychological combat.
i. The mention of Lachish is important historically. Lachish was thirty miles south-west of Jerusalem. Archaeologists have discovered a pit there with the remains of about 1,500 casualties of Sennacherib’s attack. In the British Museum, you can see the Assyrian carving depicting their siege of the city of Lachish, which was an important fortress city of Judah.
ii. “An interesting wall relief taken from the excavation of Sennacherib’s royal palace in Nineveh is preserved in the British Museum. It portrays the Assyrian king on a portable throne in his military camp outside Lachish. Prisoners of war are marching by on foot, and all the booty from the city is being displayed on ox-wagons.” (Dilday)
b. In what do you trust, that you remain under siege in Jerusalem? These servants of Sennacherib (known as the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh in 2 Kings 18:17) tried to shake the trust Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem had in the LORD.
i. We might wish that Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, and that this is what the Assyrians mocked. Instead, Hezekiah put his hope in an alliance with Egypt, and the Assyrians wanted him to lose confidence in that alliance.
ii. It was a great temptation for Hezekiah during this time to make a defensive alliance with Egypt, which seemed to be the only nation strong enough to protect Judah against the mighty Assyrians. As a prophet, Isaiah did everything he could to discourage Hezekiah and the leaders of Judah from putting their trust in Egypt (Isaiah 19:11-17, 20:1-6, 30:1-7). The LORD wanted Judah to trust Him instead of Egypt.
c. Has not the same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars: The Assyrian accuser knew that King Hezekiah had implemented broad reforms in Judah, including the removal of the high places (2 Kings 18:3-4). Yet in the Assyrian’s thinking, Hezekiah’s reforms had really displeased God, so he should not expect help from the LORD God of Israel. The Assyrian would say, “Look at all the places there used to be where people would worship the LORD God of Israel. Now, since Hezekiah came in, there is only one place. More is always better, so the LORD God of Israel must be pretty sore at Hezekiah!”
i. The enemy of our souls has an amazing way of discouraging our obedience. If Hezekiah was not careful, this argument of the Assyrian would start to make sense, when really it was demonic logic through and through.
ii. “The theological misunderstanding shown by the field commander at this point argues for the authenticity of the speech, which many critics have dubbed a free creation by the author of the narrative.” (Grogan, Isaiah Commentary)
d. Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? The Assyrian’s speech was intended to destroy their trust in God. His message was simple and brilliant in its Satanic logic: “The gods of other nations have not been able to protect them against us. Your God is just like one of them, and can’t protect you either.”
i. For anyone who had the spiritual understanding to see it, Judah could have started planning the victory party right then, when the Assyrian wrote so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand. It was one thing to speak against Judah, its people and leaders. It was another thing altogether to mock the LORD God of Israel this way, and count Him as “just another god.”
4. (20-23) Hezekiah’s prayer and victory.
Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven. Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there. Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. And many brought gifts to the LORD at Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter.
a. King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven: We learn more about this powerful and beautiful prayer in 2 Kings 19:1-5. Hezekiah and Isaiah went into the House of the LORD and prayed humbly and passionately, and God heard from heaven.
i. “It was the indignity done to Jehovah that stirred these two holy men to the heart.… Oh that we were possessed with a similar zeal for God, so that we might look at sin as it affects Him, and lament over the awful wrongs which are continually being perpetrated against his holy, loving nature! What an argument this would give us in prayer!” (Meyer)
ii. Isaiah the prophet brought assurance of the answer to this prayer to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19:6-7.
b. And the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor: With a simple and powerful strike, God destroyed this mighty army in one night. 185,000 died at the hand of the angel of the LORD (2 Kings 19:35). Against all odds, and against every expectation except the expectation of faith, the Assyrian army was turned back without having even shot an arrow into Jerusalem. The unstoppable was stopped, the undefeated was defeated.
i. The prophet Hosea made this same prediction: Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen. (Hosea 1:7)
ii. “Herodotus, the Greek historian, recorded that one night Sennacherib’s army camp was infested with mice (or rats) that destroyed the arrows and shield-thongs of the soldiers. He probably got this tradition from Egyptian sources, and it could well be a somewhat garbled version of the event recorded here.” (Grogan)
iii. Some have speculated that there was a natural means that the angel used. “This has been thought to be a bacillary dysentery which had a three-day incubation period.” (Wiseman)
iv. “There was never a more conspicuous and glorious deliverance than when the angel of God wrought for Israel against Assyria. ” (Meyer)
v. “This event ranks, in fact, with Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea as one of the two greatest examples of the Lord’s intervention to save his people.” (Payne)
c. So he returned shamefaced to his own land: The shame seems to have left his face rather quickly. After this retreat from Judah, Sennacherib commissioned a record, which is preserved in the spectacular Annals of Sennacherib (the Taylor Prism), which can be seen in the British Museum. It shows how full of pride Sennacherib’s heart still was, even if he could not claim he conquered Jerusalem.
i. “I attacked Hezekiah of Judah who had not subjected himself to me, and took forty-six fortresses, forts and small cities. I carried away captive 200,150 people, big and small, both male and female, a multitude of horses, young bulls, asses, camels, and oxen. Hezekiah himself I locked up in Jerusalem like a bird in its cage. I put up banks against the city. I separated his cities whose inhabitants I had taken prisoners from his realm and gave them to Mitiniti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Zilbel, king of Gaza and thus diminished his country. And I added another tax to the one imposed on him earlier.” (Cited in Bultema, commentary on Isaiah)
ii. “The Biblical account concludes with the much debated statement that the Assyrian army was struck down in some way during the night with considerable loss of life, following which the siege was called off.… The Assyrian Annals tacitly agree with the Biblical version by making no claim that Jerusalem was taken, only describing tribute from Hezekiah.” (T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum)
iii. “God spared Sennacherib, not in mercy, but in wrath, reserving to him a more dreadful and shameful death by the hands of his own children.” (Poole)
d. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there: Some 20 years after he returned, his own sons killed him. Perhaps Sennacherib thought he had escaped the judgment of God, but he hadn’t. He met the bitter end of death at the end of swords held by his own sons.
i. An old Jewish legend – and nothing more than a legend – says how it was that Sennacherib’s sons came to kill him. Sennacherib was troubled at how God seemed to bless the Jews so much, and tried to find out why. Someone told him it was because Abraham had loved God so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son to the LORD. Sennacherib thought he would be even more favored by God, and decided to kill two of his sons in sacrifice to the LORD, becoming even more blessed than Abraham and his descendants. But his two sons learned of the plan, and killed him before he could kill them, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD.
ii. He was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter: “They saw that God was his friend, and would undertake for him; and they did not wish to have such a man for their enemy.” (Clarke)
B. The remainder of Hezekiah’s reign.
1. (24-26) Hezekiah is humbled and God relents.
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the LORD; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
a. In those days: This happened at the time of the Assyrian invasion of Judah because Jerusalem had not been delivered from the Assyrian threat yet (2 Kings 20:6). The events of this chapter are also recorded in Isaiah 38.
i. “Interpreters agree that the events described in chapters 38 and 39 preceded the invasion of 701 B.C….. Many date these events in 703 B.C., but the evidence more strongly suggests a date of about 712 B.C.” (Wolf, commentary on Isaiah)
b. Was sick and near death: We are not told how Hezekiah became sick. It may have been through something obvious to all, or it may have been through something known only to God. However Hezekiah became sick, it was certainly permitted by the LORD.
c. He spoke to him and gave him a sign: This sign – the sign of the retreating sundial – is recorded in 2 Kings 20:8-11.
d. Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him: Sadly, Hezekiah did not receive this miracle with the gratitude that he should have. Yet he did humble himself for the pride of his heart, and was saved a greater judgment.
i. “All which probably raised in him too great an opinion of himself, as if these things were done, if not by his power, yet, at least, for his piety and virtues. And instead of walking humbly with God, and giving the glory all entirely to him, he took the honour to himself, and vain-gloriously showed his riches and precious treasures to the Babylonish ambassadors.” (Poole)
2. (27-33) The summation of the reign of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah had very great riches and honor. And he made himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of desirable items; storehouses for the harvest of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of livestock, and folds for flocks. Moreover he provided cities for himself, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance; for God had given him very much property. This same Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works. However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, indeed they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. So Hezekiah rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the upper tombs of the sons of David; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem honored him at his death. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place.
a. Hezekiah had very great riches and honor.… God had given him very much property: Hezekiah often generously used these great riches for good (2 Chronicles 31:3), but sometimes he managed his and the kingdom’s wealth foolishly (2 Kings 20:12-21).
b. Brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David: This tunnel was an amazing engineering feat. He built an aqueduct to insure fresh water inside the city walls even during sieges. It was more than 650 yards long through solid rock, begun on each end and meeting in the middle. It can still be seen today and it empties into the pool of Siloam.
i. “This tunnel, found in 1880, was cut for 643 metres to cover a direct distance of 332 metres to enable the defenders to fetch water within the protective walls even during a siege.” (Wiseman)
ii. “An inscription in cursive Hebrew of the early eighth century B.C. details the work: ‘When (the tunnel) was driven through while (the quarrymen were swinging their) axes, each man towards the other and, while there was still 3 cubits to be cut through (there was heard) the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was a crevice (?) on the right…and when the tunnel was (finally) driven through, the quarrymen hewed each towards the others, axe against axe. Then the waters flowed from the Spring to the Pool for 1,200 cubits and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits.’” (Wiseman)
c. However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon: This unfortunate chapter in the life of Hezekiah is recorded in 2 Kings 20:12-21. He was flattered by the visit of the ambassadors from this up-and-coming world power, and showed them the riches of the kingdom – riches which they later took by siege and war.
i. “It was not spiritual pride, as with his great-grandfather Uzziah; but worldly pride – ‘the pride of life,’ we might say. It was his precious things, his armor, his treasures, his house, his dominion, etc., that he showed the ambassadors from Babylon.” (Knapp)
ii. In this case Hezekiah faced – and failed under – a temptation common to many, especially those in ministry – the temptation of success. Many men who stand strong against the temptations of failure and weakness fail under the temptations of success and strength.
d. So Hezekiah rested with his fathers: There is no doubt that Hezekiah started out as a godly king, and overall his reign was one of outstanding godliness. Yet his beginning was much better than his end; Hezekiah did not finish well. God gave Hezekiah the gift of 15 more years of life (2 Kings 20:6), but the added years did not make him a better or a more godly man.
i. Time or age doesn’t necessarily make us any better. Consider that time does nothing but pass away. We sometimes say, “time will tell,” “time will heal,” or “time will bring out the potential in me.” But time will do nothing of the sort! Time will only come and go. It is only how we use time that matters. Hezekiah didn’t make good use of the extra time the LORD gave him.
ii. “Hezekiah was buried on the sloping hill where the tombs of David’s descendants were cut (2 Chronicles 32:33). This was because the royal Iron Age burial caves north of the city were full by this time and hereafter no Judean king was buried in the rock-hewn caves there.” (Wiseman)
iii. “Notwithstanding the lapses of the latter days, the reign was most remarkable, especially when it is remembered how fearful was the condition into which the nation had come at this time.” (Morgan)