The kingdom of Assyria had now grown considerable, though we never read of it till the last reign. Such changes there are in the affairs of nations and families: those that have been despicable become formidable, and those, on the contrary, are brought low that have made a great noise and figure. We have here an account,
I. Of the success of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, against Israel, his besieging Samaria (2 Kgs. 18:9), taking it (2 Kgs. 18:10), and carrying the people into captivity (2 Kgs. 18:11), with the reason why God brought this judgment upon them (2 Kgs. 18:12): Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God. This was related more largely in the foregoing chapter, but it is here repeated, 1. As that which stirred up Hezekiah and his people to purge out idolatry with so much zeal, because they saw the ruin which it brought upon Israel. When their neighbour’s house was on fire, and their own in danger, it was time to cast away the accursed thing. 2. As that which Hezekiah much lamented, but had not strength to prevent. Though the ten tribes had revolted from, and often been vexatious to, the house of David, no longer ago than in his father’s reign, yet being of the seed of Israel he could not be glad at their calamities. 3. As that which laid Hezekiah and his kingdom open to the king of Assyria, and made it much more easy for him to invade the land. It is said of the ten tribes here that they would neither hear God’s commandments nor do them, 2 Kgs. 18:12. Many will be content to give God the hearing that will give him no more (Ezek. 33:31), but these, being resolved not to do their duty, did not care to hear of it.
II. Of the attempt of Sennacherib, the succeeding king of Assyria, against Judah, in which he was encouraged by his predecessor’s success against Israel, whose honours he would vie with and whose victories he would push forward. The descent he made upon Judah was a great calamity to that kingdom, by which God would try the faith of Hezekiah and chastise the people, who are called a hypocritical nation (Isa. 10:6), because they did not comply with Hezekiah’s reformation, nor willingly part with their idols, but kept them up in their hearts, and perhaps in their houses, though their high places were removed. Even times of reformation may prove troublesome times, made so by those that oppose it, and then the blame is laid upon the reformers. This calamity will appear great upon Hezekiah if we consider, 1. How much he lost of his country, 2 Kgs. 18:13. The king of Assyria took all or most of the fenced cities of Judah, the frontier-towns and the garrisons, and then all the rest fell into his hands of course. The confusion which the country was put into by this invasion is described by the prophet, Isa. 10:28-31. 2. How dearly he paid for his peace. He saw Jerusalem itself in danger of falling into the enemies’ hand, as Samaria had done, and was willing to purchase its safety at the expense, (1.) Of a mean submission: “I have offended in denying the usual tribute, and am ready to make satisfaction as shall be demanded,” 2 Kgs. 18:14. Where was Hezekiah’s courage? Where his confidence in God? Why did he not advise with Isaiah before he sent this crouching message? (2.) Of a vast sum of money-300 talents of silver and thirty of gold (above 200,000l.), not to be paid annually, but as a present ransom. To raise this sum, he was forced not only to empty the public treasures (2 Kgs. 18:15), but to take the golden plates off from the doors of the temple, and from the pillars, 2 Kgs. 18:16. Though the temple sanctified the gold which he had dedicated, yet, the necessity being urgent, he thought he might make as bold with that as his father David (whom he took for his pattern) did with the show-bread, and that it was neither impious nor imprudent to give a part for the preservation of the whole. His father Ahaz had plundered the temple in contempt of it, 2 Chron. 28:24. He had repaid with interest what his father took; and now, with all due reverence, he only begged leave to borrow it again in an exigency and for a greater good, with a resolution to restore it in full as soon as he should be in a capacity to do so.