Through the Bible: 2 Kings 16-20

This Week’s Readings

Monday, June 11: 2 Kings 1-5
Tuesday, June 12: 2 Kings 6-10
Wednesday, June 13: 2 Kings 11-15
Thursday, June 14: 2 Kings 16-20
Friday, June 14: 2 Kings 21-25

Next week we will read Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.

The overall year’s plan is here.

2 Kings 16

Elath, which Rezin captured, sits at the top of the Dead Sea close to the Jordan. Thus it is about 30 miles from Jerusalem.

The Arameans are the same as the Syrians. (Some translations have Rezin as the king of Syria and others as the king of Aram. Aram is the Hebrew word for Syria.) Their land is east of the Jordan, north of the Sea of Galilee. The land east of the Jordan between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea had already been taken by the Arameans (2 Kings 10:32-33), when Hazael was king, and thus Gad, Asher, and the half tribe of Manasseh had already lost their ancestral lands.

Ahaz turns to Assyria for deliverance from Rezin and Pekah, and in the end he turns to the religion of the Assyrians as well. The Scriptures don’t say that he was worshiping an Assyrian god, but he had a copy of the Assyrian altar made at the temple, and he set things up so the Assyrian king would be pleased.

We will see the contrast when the Assyrians run into Hezekiah, Ahaz’ son.

2 Kings 17

This chapter records the fall of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel. The three-year siege of Samaria began in 724 B.C. and ended in 721 B.C. King Hoshea was already in Assyrian captivity while this siege went on.

The first king of Israel, when the kingdom was united, was Saul, who began his reign c. 1020 B.C. The first king of the divided kingdom of Israel was Jeroboam, who began his reign c. 922 B.C. Thus, the ten tribes had a kingdom for 300 years total, 100 united with Judah and 200 split from them. Actually, it’s 98 years and 201 years for a total of 299 years, but I thought 100, 200, and 300 would be easier to remember. And since most of those dates, outside of the fall of Samaria, have a "c." for circa (meaning about or near), rounding by one or two years is not a stretch.

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylonia and Cuthah (two Babylonian cities), Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (probably all Syrian cities, but that’s only certain for Hamath), and he settled them in Samaria. These forced immigrants, along with Israelites left in the land are the ancestors of the Samaritans whom we read about in the Gospels 700 years later.

It’s ironic that the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, probably because of their "half-breed" status and because they were descendants of a nation that constantly worshiped idols and provoked God to wrath, but now, because of Jesus’ parable, the name "Samaritan" has become synonymous with kindness to strangers.

The last verse of this chapter gives you an idea of how long after the fact this history was written and also by whom it was written. The comments about how these Samaritans serve and don’t serve Yahweh make it probable that a scribe/historian in Judah is writing this part of the history, and he is at least two generations removed from the time of Samaria’s conquest because he’s able to comment on the behavior of the Samaritan’s grandchildren.

Judah began to fall about 120 years after the fall of Samaria, though they hung on as vassals of the Babylonian king (who had overthrown the power of Assyria by then). By the way, I’m getting all these dates from crivoice.org. I like lists of the Israelite and Judah kings that come with dates. Very helpful in picturing this history.

2 Kings 18

Jehoshophat had to break apart the bronze serpent that Moses had made to heal Israel from the poisonous snake bites they received in the desert. They had been worshiping it on and off since the exodus some 700 years earlier. (Solomon is said by the Scriptures, in 1 Kings 6:1, to have begun his reign 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt.)

It’s a little humorous that the Scripture adds here that the Israelites were calling it "Nehushtan." The note in the NASB (and several sites I checked online) says that Nehushtan means "piece of bronze."

Verse 5 says there was none like Jehoshaphat among the kings of Judah, not before or after him. This is not the only place you’ll read something like that. That’s because the sentence was written by a human historian who died at some point. He means, "Among the few other kings I’ve seen in my lifetime after Jehoshophat died, there have been no others as righteous as Jehoshaphat."

Later, after this historian died, another historian wrote about Josiah, and he said that Josiah was more righteous than any other that was before or after him (2 Kings 23:25). The person writing about Josiah was correct for all of Israel’s history, though, for after Josiah, Israel had no other righteous king at all.

The story of Assyria’s attack on Hezekiah and Jerusalem is told three times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Chronicles repeats the story, and it is in Isaiah as well, who is the prophet involved in this story. Perhaps it is important to God!

In this chapter, we find Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sending messengers to the gate, and Hezekiah gives excellent advice to his people: Don’t answer them.

I tell you based on 30 years of experience as a Christian that answering in such a situation is a waste of time and worse than a waste of time. The messengers of Sennacherib—or in our case, the messengers of satan and the world—are not going to listen to answers even if they’ve present arguments. Arguing with them, attempting to refute them … these are just opportunities for these people to present their blasphemies all over again or find new blasphemies and ignorant scoffing to spew.

They’re not listening to you, why waste your breath! If you must instruct your friends, or in Hezekiah’s case, the people on the wall, then do so after the deaf, blind, and careless scoffers leave. And they’ll leave faster if you don’t answer them.

On top of that, you can trust God that he will answer them. His answer to Sennacherib is powerful and doesn’t involve exchanging words at the wall.

I am not saying you should not try to help and convert those for whom there is hope. However, it is Jesus who said not to throw holy things to dogs and pearls to pigs. He was calling close-minded, hard-hearted, purposefully ignorant, careless people animals, and he was comparing their behavior to animals.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you become like him. (Prov. 26:4)

2 Kings 19

In verse 9, the king of Cush is the king of Ethiopia.

This is another great story to memorize and tell to kids. There is nothing that is too hard for God.

2 Kings 20

Speaking of there being nothing too hard for God. In this chapter, God causes the sun to go backwards in the sky (v. 11).

There have been numerous objections to this event by unbelievers. If the earth stopped rotating, the oceans would race across the planet, wiping out all life, and that’s in addition to all the problems of orbit and relation to the moon that such an event would cause.

God is the Creator. There is nothing too difficult for him, and laws of the universe are not out of his control.

Those of you who have experienced miracles from God, which I assume is most of the people who read this blog, know what it feels like. In some cases, the results are so obvious and so powerful that you just rejoice at God’s intervention or his answer to prayer. In many cases, though, you just look and think, "Did that just happen? No way. That did not happen." You doubt yourself, even if you just prayed for the miracle to happen. Then you start wondering if maybe it was just coincidence or if you didn’t understand what happened correctly.

From July, 2011 to May, 2012 I was in Nashville being treated for leukemia. I spent three of those months in the hospital (four stays, the longest being six weeks). During the most difficult of those times, we felt somewhat like we had text-a-miracle as an app on my wife’s iPhone. She would text, "Shammah’s blood pressure is down, if it’s not back up by tomorrow they’re putting him in ICU." Friends would pray. At the next check, it would be up. One prayer after another prayer after another.

I can imagine that ‘the shadow going backward ten steps’ was similar. It should have been a huge miracle, blowing their minds, but when the shadow began moving the wrong direction, it probably seemed as natural as sunset, even a little unbelievable, except for the strongly spiritual, like Isaiah.

People forget and explain away and doubt. If we could remember all God has done for us. If we all together trusted God enough to take risks, we’d have so many stories that we’d laugh at a skeptic’s suggestion that the sun moving backward in the sky couldn’t happen. It could happen without scoffers even knowing it happened.

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