Today we pick up the narrative of 2 Kings. Assyria has already begun their plundering of Israel (15:29), and Jotham king of Judah has died and left the throne to his son Ahaz. That is where we begin today (16:1). Ahaz was a very wicked king (v. 2), even sacrificing his son to the Canaanite deity Molech (v. 3) which God forbade in Deuteronomy 12:31. We see that Ahaz is like the kings of Israel regarding more than just worshiping false gods: he turns to foreign nations to help him rather than God (vv. 7-8). Even worse, he changes God’s commanded design for worship within the Temple (vv. 10-18).
Chapter 17 begins with the reign of Hoshea in Israel (17:1). He had murdered Pekah to take the throne of Israel (15:30). He would be the last king of Israel. He became a servant of Assyria (v. 3), yet appealed to Egypt for help to break the yoke of Assyria (v. 4). Because of this, Hoshea is taken captive (v. 4), and Assyria besieged Samaria (v. 5), resulting in the fall of Israel (v. 6), as predicted by the prophet Hosea.
But it is not just the king of Israel who is punished. All of Israel was found guilty by God of worshiping false gods (vv. 7-12) despite the fact that He led them out of Egypt (v. 7) and sent His prophets to warn them (v. 13). This was also prophesied by the prophet Hosea. But Israel would not repent (v. 14). They forsook YHWH and became like ay other nation (vv. 15-17). Therefore, God forsook them, and kept for Himself only Judah (v. 18). But as we saw in Hosea and Amos, Judah was going to share in the punishment (v. 19). But for now, it was Israel’s turn, who from the very beginning turned their backs on YHWH (v. 21) and did not repent (v. 22). So He removed them from their inheritance in the land (v. 23).
As was Assyria’s custom, they integrated Israel with all the other nations they conquered – taking Israel from their land and resettling the land with other conquered peoples (v. 24). This is the beginning of the mixed breeding of the Samaritans of Jesus’s day. The Assyrians, however, were very sensitive to pleasing the gods of these conquered lands, and they treat YHWH no differently (vv. 27-28). But this resulted in a syncretistic society, where YHWH was worshiped alongside the gods of the nations (vv. 29-33). Note in verses 34-40, we see the demise of Israel recounted. The idea is that the foreign nations that settled Israel are no different than Israel was.
Chapter 18 begins the reign of Hezekiah in Judah (18:1). He is righteous like David (v. 3), even destroying the high places and leading Judah out of idol worship (v. 4). Note that he even destroyed the bronze serpent Moses made (see Num 21:8-9) because it led the people away from YHWH. In verse 5, Hezekiah receives high praise. He was a whole-hearted follower of YHWH (v. 6). And YHWH prospered him, and Judah, during his reign (vv. 7-8).
In verse 13, we see that Sennacherib, son of Shalmaneser, came against Judah as his father had against Israel (see vv. 9-12). Hezekiah offers to pay tribute to Sennacherib to stave off defeat (v. 14). To pay, he has to use the precious metals from the Temple (vv. 15-16). However, the Assyrians believe that Hezekiah, like Hoshea, has turned to Egypt for help against Assyria (v. 21). We see Assyria’s misunderstanding of Judah’s religion as they mistake the high places for the place of YHWH worship (v. 22). In verse 23, we see that Judah’s army is no match for Assyria’s.
In verse 25, we see another usual Assyrian tactic. They would tell the nations they came against that those nations’ own gods wanted them to surrender to Assyria. Here, they are saying (lying!) that YHWH wants Judah to surrender to Assyria. In verses 28-29, the Assyrian envoy tries to convince all the Judahites within earshot that Hezekiah cannot save them. In verses 30-31, they are trying to convince the people that YHWH has delivered them into Assyria’s hand. No other god has saved any other nation (vv. 33-35). We will see that YHWH is not like other gods (see Ex 15:11).
Psalm 73 is a Psalm that speaks about God’s eventual judgment of the wicked, though they may prosper for a time. This seems appropriate in light of what we have seen about the Northern Kingdom in the past few weeks. The Psalm starts with a declaration of God’s goodness to Israel (73:1). The Palmist then equates Israel with those “pure in heart.” The Psalmist then speaks of his own difficulty with reconciling this fact with the fact that the wicked seem to prosper (vv. 2-3). In fact, they seem to prosper in this world more than others (vv. 4-5)!
In verses 6-9, the Psalmist describes their wickedness: pride and violence (v. 6), gluttony and foolishness (v. 7), hateful and threatening speech (v. 8), and blasphemy (v. 9). But if they prosper, then God must find no fault in all of this (v. 10). Doesn’t He see; doesn’t He know (v. 11) that the wicked prosper (v. 12) over the righteous (vv. 13-14)? If the Psalmist verbalized this, Israel would realize that God has betrayed them (v. 15)!
These thoughts wearied the Psalmist, until he turned his eyes to God (vv. 16-17). God allows these people to be judged by their own sin (v. 18). Prosperity in this world, along with the wicked, is fleeting (vv. 19-20). The Psalmist was ignorantly seeing with earthly eyes (vv. 21-22). God is with Him (v. 23). God is with him in this life, and will be with Him in the world to come (v. 24). The Psalmist realizes his treasure is in heaven, not the world (v. 25). Even though he will die physically, God is his forever (v. 26). The wicked will perish in the world to come (v. 27). Knowing this, the Psalmist will seek to be close to God in this life, that others may know of Him (v. 28).