A Theological Point: Hezekiah’s God versus Sennacherib’s god

October 8, 2008

I was reading through the book of Kings the other day (no I wasn’t), because I do it on a regular basis (no I don’t), and noticed about ten different interesting points (only one).

Truth: I was visiting one of Ryan’s classes and they were going through Kings and I happened to stumble upon something interesting. We were discussing Hezekiah, and as I was skimming for a second I noticed an interesting little parallel in the text where Hezekiah is surrounded by Sennacherib’s forces. But a bit of background information might help: Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, has come to Jerusalem with his army to capture and destroy the place. He surrounds the city and sends letters and gives speeches about how he is going to destroy Judah and all these other things. Hezekiah then goes to God, God delivers Judah and kills Sennacherib, and we’re done.

Now what caught my eye was in this huge chunk of scripture that I’m about to quote because I want you to read it for fun; it’s from 2 Kings 19:

Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then Hezekiah went up to the Lord’s temple and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah prayed before the Lord: “Lord God of Israel, who is enthroned on the cherubs! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the sky and the earth. Pay attention, Lord, and hear! Open your eyes, Lord, and observe! Listen to the message Sennacherib sent and how he taunts the living God! It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands. They have burned the gods of the nations, for they are not really gods, but only the product of human hands manufactured from wood and stone. That is why the Assyrians could destroy them. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power, so that all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you, Lord, are the only God.”

Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I have heard your prayer concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria. This is what the Lord says about him:

“The virgin daughter Zion
despises you, she makes fun of you;
Daughter Jerusalem
shakes her head after you.
Whom have you taunted and hurled insults at?
At whom have you shouted,
and looked so arrogantly?
At the Holy One of Israel!
Through your messengers you taunted the sovereign master,
‘With my many chariots
I climbed up the high mountains,
the slopes of Lebanon.
I cut down its tall cedars,
and its best evergreens.
I invaded its most remote regions,
its thickest woods.
I dug wells and drank
water in foreign lands.
With the soles of my feet I dried up
all the rivers of Egypt.’
 Certainly you must have heard!
Long ago I worked it out,
In ancient times I planned it;
and now I am bringing it to pass.
The plan is this:
Fortified cities will crash
into heaps of ruins.
Their residents are powerless,
they are terrified and ashamed.
They are as short-lived as plants in the field,
or green vegetation.
They are as short-lived as grass on the rooftops
when it is scorched by the east wind.
I know where you live,
and everything you do.
Because you rage against me,
and the uproar you create has reached my ears;
I will put my hook in your nose,
and my bridle between your lips,
and I will lead you back the way
you came.”
 This will be your confirmation that I have spoken the truth: This year you will eat what grows wild, and next year what grows on its own from that. But in the third year you will plant seed and harvest crops; you will plant vines and consume their produce. Those who remain in Judah will take root in the ground and bear fruit.

For a remnant will leave Jerusalem;
survivors will come out of Mount Zion.
The intense devotion of the sovereign Lord to his people will accomplish this.
So this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:
“He will not enter this city,
nor will he shoot an arrow here.
He will not attack it with his shield-carrying warriors,
nor will he build siege works against it.
He will go back the way he came.
He will not enter this city,” says the Lord.
I will shield this city and rescue it for the sake of my reputation and because of my promise to David my servant.’”

That very night the Lord’s messenger went out and killed 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. When they got up early the next morning, there were all the corpses. So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and went on his way. He went home and stayed in Nineveh. One day, as he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword. They escaped to the land of Ararat; his son Esarhaddon replaced him as king.

And end quote.

So what I thought was so interesting is that Judah is surrounded by an huge army, and Hezekiah goes to the temple of the Lord and comes before God. He talks with Him, tries to figure out what to do, still surrounded by thousands of his enemies and by hundreds of frightened Israelites. Then God delivers him, killing over 185,000 men, forcing Sennacherib to leave. And where does Sennacherib go? To the temple of his god Nisroch, and there, surrounded by thousands of Assyrians who are not frightened, in the very city and temple that Sennacherib owns, he is cut down by his own two sons.

The king of a tiny nation, surrounded by a massive army, is kept safe in the temple of his God,

And the king of a giant nation that has destroyed king and gods alike, isn’t even safe from his own sons in the temple of his god.

 

 

And the story surrounds poetry.

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Prophets in Kings

May 22, 2008

Just a quick post on prophets in the book (“books” for those of us who can not reconcile the fact that I and II Kings are really just one book…).

First of all, prophets and their prophecies–specifically the fulfillment of their prophecies–seem to litter the book.  Here are the prophecies which I found to be given and fulfilled within Kings:

  • I Kings 13:26 fulfills I Kings 13:22
  • I Kings 14:18 fulfills I Kings 14:12
  • I Kings 15:29 fulfills I Kings 14:10
  • I Kings 16:12 fulfills I Kings 16:3
  • I Kings 17:16 fulfills I Kings 17:14
  • I Kings 22:38 fulfills I Kings 21:21
  • II Kings 1:17 fulfills II Kings 1:4
  • II Kings 7:16 fulfills II Kings 7:1
  • II Kings 9:26; 10:17 fulfill I Kings 19:17
  • II Kings 23:16 fulfills I Kings 13:2
  • II Kings 24:2 fulfills II Kings 21:13-14

Though there may be others I have missed, I have only spotted two fulfillments of prophecies given outside of Kings:

  • I Kings 2:27 fulfills I Samuel 2:33
  • I Kings 16:34 fulfills Joshua 6:26

With all the prophecy/prophet emphasis noted above I am let to ask two questions: 1) Why is there so little prophetic involvement in the life and times of Solomon (chps. 1-11)?  And 2) Why does the author of Kings place such a large emphasis on the prophets?  Here is my stab at an answer to these questions:

1) The author of Kings uses the temple building/Solomonic era as one of the litmus tests which will    clarify the outcome of the book for the reader.  To illustrate: when Solomon builds his temple God offers him an ultimatum:

“Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations.  Then I will allow your dynasty to rule over Israel permanently, just as I promised your father David…But if your or your sons ever turn away from me…then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and Israle will be mocked and ridiculed among the nations.” -I Kings 9:4-7

If in fact there is a divine ultimatum being issued here, then it sets the reader up over the course of the book with a clear guide by which he or she will be able to judge the actions of the following kings (cf. II Kings 25:9).

2) The answer to the second question (regarding the heavy emphasis on prophets) is that their function within the book is to declare the current state of things in view of God’s ultimatum (above).  Their role, as ones who remind God’s people of God’s standard, is central to the book, because it taps in to one of the central questions to the book: How will God’s people perform according to God’s ultimatum? 

Ultimately the outcome of the prophets’ involvement in Kings is the explanation of the demise of Israel/Judah (though there remains a point of light in II KIngs 25:27-30) and the establishment of God’s position on his people’s actions throughout the monarchy period. 

 


Elisha, Elijah and Entering the Land

May 13, 2008

Reading in the beginning of II Kings, I noticed this pattern:
Elijah, on his way out of the land goes from Gilgal to Bethel (II Kings 2:1-2), Bethel to Jericho (II Kings 2:4), Jericho to cross the Jordan (II Kings 2:6).

Elisha, on his way back in to the land, goes across the Jordan (II Kings 2:13) to Jericho (II Kings 2:18), Jericho to Bethel (II Kings 2:23), Bethel to Samaria vis Mt. Carmel (2:25).

The Israelites, on their way in to the land, go across the Jordan (Josh 3:1ff), battle at Jericho (5:13ff), battle at Ai–“which” it says “is located near Beth Aven, east of Bethel” (7:2)–and from Ai they return to their camp at Gilgal (10:8 ) which they established earlier (5:10). 

Though it is a somewhat loose ordering, I’m wondering at the similarity between these passages.  The funciton of the Elijah-Elisha connection is obvious (substantiating Elisha as Elijah’s replacement, especially his request for double Elijah’s spirit).  The question I am left with, which you can perhaps answer is, “Why the apparent connection between Elijah-Elisha and the Joshua account of entering the land?”