If you know anything about Old Testament kings, you know they fell into two categories. There were those who did what was right in the sight of the Lord and those who did not. In 2 Kings 18, Hezekiah was a good king of Judah who loved God. He also had a very powerful adversary who attacked the surrounding area until King Hezekiah was overcome with fear. Then his enemy offered a deal. For 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, Jerusalem could have peace. But Hezekiah learned some lessons the hard way that also apply to us today. Compromising with the enemy never quite works out the way we want.
Hezekiah Was Blessed
“The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.”2 Kings 18:7-8
At just 25 years old, Hezekiah became king of Judah. But he wasn’t just a good king; he was one of the best. He both served God and went about to systematically stamp out all idolatry in the land of Judah. He pulled down high places, broke sacred pillars, and even destroyed the bronze serpent which Moses had erected because the Israelites had turned it into a god. He pleased God, and God was with him. Militarily, he successfully stopped the Philistines as far as Gaza, and he didn’t initially cave against Syria. That is, until his enemy turned up the heat.
Assyria Conquers Almost Everything
While Hezekiah was successful at resisting the Assyrians for quite some time, King Sennacherib had a long game. He had conquered Samaria after a three-year siege and took all the people away as slaves to Assyria. Of course, the Bible gives the reason for his success against Israel in 2 Kings 18:12. “Because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed His covenant and all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded; and they would neither hear nor do them.”
Then Assyria came after Judah. After they had conquered every fortified city except Jerusalem, Hezekiah felt fear. He decided to make a deal. For a price determined by Sennacherib, Assyria would stop its siege and leave Hezekiah and Jerusalem in peace. It took all the wealth in the land and even stripping the gold from the doors and pillars in the house of the Lord to come up with Sennacherib’s price: 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.
Even After Hezekiah Pays, His Enemy Continues to Fight
But even after Hezekiah humbled himself in apology to Sennacherib for his rebellion and gave him the money requested, Assyria didn’t stop. In fact, his enemy just got bolder. Assyria sent an army to Jerusalem. A field captain, the Rabshakeh, led the troops right up to Jerusalem’s aqueduct and stopped. He then called for King Hezekiah. The captain was demonstrating his power over the water system, the very lifeline that would keep Jerusalem in the event of a siege. He could have ordered his troops to attack at any moment, but the Assyrians were also playing a mind game. They wanted Jerusalem to surrender without a fight.
When three of Hezekiah’s representatives came to hear, the captain gave them a message to pass along. He first derided the king for turning to Egypt for help. (Hezekiah in his fear had, in fact, been in talks with Egypt for a measure of protection.) Then the captain offered two thousand horses if Hezekiah would pledge to give up Jerusalem right then. Of course, it was only a suggestion meant to belittle Judah’s army. 2 Kings 18:23 says, “Now therefore, I urge you, give a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses — if you are able on your part to put riders on them!”
Assyria Insults God and Offers One More Deal
Finally, the captain insulted their very belief in God to protect them. He had interpreted Hezekiah’s take-down of the high places as a bad thing. After all, Judah now only had one place to worship God instead of many. Surely, he reasoned, their God would not be pleased with less instead of more. He lied and said, “Have 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’” (2 Kings 18:25).
Then the captain spoke directly to the people in Hebrew so that anyone who was near would hear. “Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you from his hand; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria’” (2 Kings 18:29-30).
After speaking of the futility of a fight, the captain brought one more sweet deal. If the people would just agree to surrender, there would be no fight that day. They would be allowed to stay peacefully in their lands until such time as the Assyrians came to take them away “…to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive groves and honey, that you may live and not die” (2 Kings 18:32). Yes, even his description of slavery was meant to entice.
Hezekiah Turns to the Lord
The three representatives obeyed King Hezekiah and did not answer a word to the Assyrian captain. Instead, they came back to their king with their clothes torn in mourning and told him everything the Rabshakeh had said. Then King Hezekiah did what he should have done from the beginning. He came to the house of the Lord and pleaded for help. Through the prophet Isaiah, God sent word that the field captain who blasphemed and insulted God would hear a rumor and would return to his land where he would die.
In fact, God would take out the Assyrian armies too. 2 Kings 19:36 says, “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.” After his defeat, King Sennacherib returned home to worship in the temple of his god Nisroch where his two sons murdered him to reign in his place.
King Hezekiah’s Lessons – And Ours
1. Obeying God Makes a Difference in the Fight
The first lesson we see from this story is that God makes a difference between those who hear and obey Him and those who do not. The Samarians were conquered because God was not with them. For King Hezekiah, his defeat was temporary until he called upon God to help him.
2. When the Enemy Can’t Legally Conquer, He Will Try to Make a Deal
Although Hezekiah had all the power of God behind him, Sennacherib’s pressure took Hezekiah’s eyes off God and onto the power of his enemy. Hezekiah listened to promises of peace and paid the price (both literally and figuratively).
3. The Enemy Promises but Doesn’t Deliver
But even after Hezekiah sacrificed all the wealth in the land including the gold from the house of the Lord, he did not see peace. The enemy was emboldened by Hezekiah’s fear and encroached deep into Jerusalem to stand over the water system of the city in an unspoken threat. The captain offered horses and peace for that day if the people would just agree to slavery at some undetermined time in the future. He even described the land of their bondage as a pleasant place where they could live and not die.
4. Once Hezekiah Cried Out to God, God Fought for Him
When Hezekiah turned to the Lord for help, God did not let him down. He brought vengeance on those who would blaspheme His name and would seek to bring harm to His people.
The Lesson for Christians of Today
As Christians, we have an enemy who is even more cunning than the king of Assyria. He knows we have the power of God behind us, so he will often pressure us and then offer a compromise for a release of that pressure.
Do you feel tired and worn out? Just take a break from Bible reading and prayer. Are your relationships strained and people can’t relate to you at work? Just stop talking about God all the time and do what everybody else does to fit in. Would you like the attacks of the enemy to stop? Just come to the bargaining table. I’m sure we can work out a deal.
But the devil’s promises are empty. The more you submit to them, the deeper into your territory he will come and the more he will threaten and bribe. He will make even the bondage of sin look pleasant. He will promise immediate relief for an unspecified future surrender that will take you far away from where you want to be. But for those who belong to God and are actively serving Him with our lives, the devil only has the power we give to him. If we will just cry out to God, He will fight for us. He will lay waste our enemies and comfort us in our fear.
Like to look closer at Scripture? Try The Three Levels of Sampson and Submission to God or Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.