Sennacherib

Sennacherib king of Assyria was referred to as “the great king” (2 Kings 18:19), a title often used by the imperial rulers of Assyria, in order to intimidate and break the resistance of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This title was associated with the LORD in Psalms 47 and 95 where it says, “For the LORD most High is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2), and “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:3). It is likely the Assyrian rulers intentionally used the title “great king” to mock God and to elevate themselves above his authority.

Sennacherib sent a message to king Hezekiah in the Hebrew language and made sure it was read publicly so that everyone in Jerusalem would be aware of his contempt toward their God. It said, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria…Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?” (2 Kings 18:28-30,35).

Sennacherib implied that the LORD was unable to deliver Jerusalem out of his hand. In essence, saying that he was more powerful than God. Sennacherib’s claim revealed his arrogance, and his willingness to say anything in order to intimidate his adversary king Hezekiah. When Hezekiah turned to the LORD for a response, Isaiah told him, “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land: and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (2 Kings 19:6-7).

God wanted to demonstrate not only his ability to deliver his people from Sennacherib’s army, but also his sovereign control over all the kingdoms of the earth. Sennacherib’s position as king of Assyria was subject to God’s will. If he decided to remove Sennacherib from power, God could do it in an instant. It says in 2 Kings 19:36-37, “So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went and returned, and dwelt in Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sherezer his sons smote him with the sword.”

Invincible

God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib king of Assyria left a remnant of Jews in the Promised Land to continue God’s work (Isaiah 37:31). Psalm 76 was written as a testament to God’s miraculous defeat of an army that most, if not all, people at that time thought was invincible. This psalm begins with the statement, “In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel” (Psalm 76:1).

God’s demonstration of his power was a result of Hezekiah’s prayer (Isaiah 37:16-20) which concluded with the petition, “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only” (Isaiah 37:20). Hezekiah wanted God to show Sennacherib and the rest of the world that there was a God in heaven because Sennacherib had implied there wasn’t (Isaiah 36:18).

The psalmist referred to Sennacherib and his army as being stouthearted when he said, “The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep” (Psalm 76:5). The term stouthearted essentially means that a person has exalted himself above God (47/3820). Sennacherib claimed that no one could deliver a city from his army, not even the God of the Israelites (Isaiah 36:20). The Hebrew word translated spoiled in this verse is shalal, which means to drop or strip, and by implication, to plunder (7997) as one would an enemy that has been overtaken.

Sennacherib’s arrogant attitude was formulated through his empire’s success. For several decades, the Assyrians had been left unchecked. Even the northern kingdom of Israel fell into their hands because no one was willing to ask God for help. The Assyrian kings were known to be tyrants that terrorized their enemies into submission (Assyrian Campaigns against Israel and Judah), and yet, they were still only men who were no match for God. The psalmist declared, “Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).

What is often forgotten or ignored about God is his sovereign control of all circumstances. Men may think they are in control, when in actuality, God is working things out according to his will. God allowed the Assyrian empire to expand and to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel, but when Sennacherib approached Jerusalem, God said no and sent him back to Nineveh (Isaiah 37:37). Psalm 76:12 said of the LORD, “He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”

Rebellion

Survival of the kingdom of Judah was important to God because the Messiah was going to come from that tribe of the nation of Israel. Whereas the purpose of captivity was to disperse the northern kingdom of Israel throughout the world, God intended to keep the southern kingdom of Judah in tact. In order to do that, God had to convince the people of Judah that their natural instincts couldn’t be trusted. Only God knew what was best for them.

Isaiah referred to the people of Judah as rebellious children. Their tendency to turn away from God and rely on the advice of false prophets caused them to be broken and crushed by their own sin. Isaiah stated, “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me, and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin: that walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh and trust in the shadow of Egypt” (Isaiah 30:1-2).

Fear was the greatest enemy of God’s people. When they were confronted with difficult circumstances, they wanted to go back to Egypt, which represented to them the comfort of a familiar way of life. God wanted his people to do something that was completely against their nature, sit still (Isaiah 30:7). Otherwise, they would be broken beyond repair (Isaiah 30:14).

Isaiah conveyed a sharp contrast between God’s will and the people’s intuition to flee to Egypt when he said:

For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill. (Isaiah 30:15-17)

God wanted to prevent the people of Judah from making a big mistake, but he knew their rebellious nature would get the better of them. Therefore, he was determined to make a disastrous example of those who fled to Egypt when the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

In order for God’s children to survive, they had to learn to listen to him and do what he told them to do. Like little children receiving instructions from their parent, God expected his people to pay close attention to every word he said (Isaiah 30:21). Eventually, they would receive the benefit of God’s faithfulness “in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26).

Out of the darkness

God’s covenant with king David assured him that God would “stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Samuel 7:13). It is clear the kingdom promised to David was to be an eternal kingdom, but its location was not specified. The use of the term for ever implies that David’s throne would exist in heaven, and yet, in the time David lived, man did not have access to heaven. Therefore, David’s kingdom would have to transcend the barrier between heaven and earth.

Typically, in the times of the Old Testament, a king “‘reigned’ as the earthly representative of the god (or God) who was recognized as the real king” (4427). So, David’s throne was designated as the throne through which God would govern his people. It was a precursor to the throne of Jesus Christ. In order for David’s kingdom to be transferred to heaven, the Messiah, Jesus Christ had to be born and take possession of David’s throne.

After David’s kingdom was divided, the kingdom of Judah retained the rights to David’s throne. Through the course of time, Solomon’s descendants maintained possession of God’s kingdom until the death of Ahaziah, approximately ninety years later. “And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal…And Athaliah did reign over the land” (2 Kings 11:1,3).

Athaliah, the daughter of king Ahab and Jezebel, was a worshipper of Baal. Her position as queen of Judah indicated that Baal had taken over possession of God’s kingdom. This situation triggered a stipulation in God’s agreement with Solomon that he would cut off Israel out of the land if they “go and serve other gods, and worship them” (1 Kings 9:6). Nevertheless, God did not break his promise to David.

“Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stale him from among the kings sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain” (2 Kings 11:2). Even though Athaliah reigned over the land, she did not reign over God’s kingdom. In essence she was a puppet queen. God’s sovereignty did not rest in the position she held, but in the person who was God’s designated representative. Only David’s descendants had the authority to rule over God’s kingdom.

The land that Athaliah reigned over was “the temporal scene of human activity, experience, and history” (776). “All human rule is under God’s control” (4467). Consequently, Athaliah’s effort to destroy all the royal seed (2 Kings 11:1) was unsuccessful and she was removed from her position as queen (2 Kings 11:16).

 

 

God’s authority

God’s kingdom is ordered in such a way that all spiritual activity is governed by him (Romans 13:1). Even though Satan and the angels that follow him work contrary to God’s purposes, they do not work independent of his purposes. They are accountable to God for the results of their efforts (John 19:11).

It says in Psalm 82:1, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods.” God’s position of standing indicates he is exercising his authority. The gods he is judging are the principalities, and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, that promote evil on the earth. He asks them, “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2).

The Hebrew word translated accept in Psalm 82:2, nacah refers to the “undertaking of the responsibilities for sins of others by substitution or representation” (5375). Before Jesus died for the sins of the world, sacrifices had to be made to atone for sin. God’s accusation against these unjust judges is that they are accepting the sacrifices of the ungodly. In other words, they are answering or responding to the prayers of those that are hostile to God and his people (7563).

When God laid the foundations of the earth, everything conformed to his divinely appointed creation order. According to the LORD, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). But, after sin entered the world, man was corrupted and God’s order was ignored, so much so that God declared, “all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5).

God’s authority as Creator of the Universe gives him the right to alter the course of his creation and the responsibility to correct any problems that affect its operation. Originally, angels were given eternal life and were expected to dwell in heaven forever, but the rebellion of Satan caused things to change. Eventually, the work that Jesus did on the cross will eradicate sin completely and the earth will return to its divinely appointed order.

Even though Satan and his followers are still alive and active on the earth, they have been judged and condemned to death. God’s decision is recorded in Psalm 82:6-7. “I have said, Ye are gods: and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” It’s only a matter of time until Jesus comes to claim his inheritance.

 

The coup

Athaliah’s six year reign over the kingdom of Judah symbolized the failure of achieving a united kingdom. Jehoshaphat and Ahab’s marriage alliance did more to ruin the kingdoms of Judah and Israel than it did to strengthen them. The primary problem with the alliance was that the secular kingdom of Israel had the dominant role. The fact that Jehoram’s wife Athaliah ended up ruling the kingdom of Judah shows that she was like her mother Jezebel, determined to turn the people away from God.

While Athaliah was reigning, the temple was shut down, indicating there was no formal worship of God. Jehoiada probably remained in his position of priest to ensure that Joash, the son of Ahaziah, was not discovered and killed by Athaliah. Joash was the only descendent of king David. His death would mean the messianic line was cut off and God’s Savior unable to come forth.

Joash was kept in hinding until he was seven years old, presumably because he wasn’t able to be king until he was old enough to understand his responsibility. At the age of seven, Joash couldn’t think logically or reason as an adult, so his capacity to rule over the people was limited. No doubt, Johoiada the priest played a prominent role in running the kingdom until Joash reached adulthood.

When it was time for Joash to become king, Johoiada brought in bodyguards to protect him and armed the priests to make sure no one got near him in the temple. “Then they brought out the king’s son, and put upon him the crown, and gave him the Testimony, and made him king. And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, God save the king” (2 Chronicles 23:11).

Athaliah’s reaction showed that she viewed herself as the legitimate ruler of the kingdom of Judah. “When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came to the people into the house of the LORD…Then Athaliah rent her clothes, and said, Treason, Treason” (2 Chronicles 23:12-13).

Athaliah attained a position of power over the people of Judah, but she never gained their affection or loyalty. Her position as queen was obtained unlawfully and therefore, she had no authority to stop what was happening. “So they laid hands on her; and when she was come to the entering of the horse gate by the king’s house, they slew her there” (2 Chronicles 23:15).

Don’t listen

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom (2 Samuel 17:14)

The LORD does not just sit back and watch when his children get into trouble. Even though he was displeased with David’s sin, the LORD did not let Absalom come in and take over his kingdom. The LORD intervened in the situation and made an intentional effort to defeat or frustrate the advice that Absalom received from Ahithophel. The name Ahithophel means brother of folly (302). Ahithophel had teamed up with Absalom to create an unlawful alliance against David (2 Samuel 15:12). As one of David’s trusted advisors, Ahithophel knew David’s tactics and could undermine his efforts to escape Absalom’s  reach.

Absalom’s decision to listen to Hushai’s advice instead of Ahithophel’s made it possible for David to find out what Absalom was planning to do. During the interim while Absalom was gathering together the army, David and the people with him, crossed over the Jordan and got assistance from David’s allies. Therefore, David was strengthened and prepared to face Absalom by the time Absalom caught up with him.

Although God is good, it is possible for him to bring evil on someone that does not trust him. Absalom’s effort to take over as king was not ordained by God. Therefore, it was necessary for God to stop him. In order for the LORD to make things right, he directed Hushai to give Absalom counsel that was the opposite of what he should actually do. It was Absalom’s own choice to listen to Hushai that enabled the LORD to bring evil on him.

If Absalom had sought the LORD’s direction instead of relying on the counsel of men, things might have turned out differently. Ahithophel’s plan would have worked if Absalom had followed it, so there was a chance that Absalom could have been successful in taking over as king. The problem was that Absalom wasn’t concerned with who he listened to, all he wanted was for someone to tell him what to do.

The difference between David and Absalom was that David knew he had direct access to God. As the anointed king of Israel, David had a personal relationship with God. David had counselors, but he did not rely on them to tell him what to do. In the chain of command it was God, then David, and then everyone else. David knew who to listen to.