The Second Book of Kings
Chapter Eighteen.

2-Kings. Chapter 18.
Brit-Am Commentary to 2-Kings. Chapter 18.

Hezekiah Reigns in Judah; the Bronze Serpent
Shalmaneser and Sennacherib.
Sennacherib versus Judah.



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2 Kings 18
Hezekiah Reigns in Judah; the Bronze Serpent

2 Kings 18:
 [2-Kings 18:1] Now it came to pass in the third year of
Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.
The name "Hezekiah" is "Hezeki-Yah" i.e. "God will Strengthen" or "Strength of God".
Hezekiah began to reign over Judah during the time of Hoshea who was the last monarch of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

 [2-Kings 18:2] He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.

The mother of Hezekiah called here "Abi" is given as "Abiyah" in 2-Chronciles 29:1.

 [2-Kings 18:3]  And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.

 [2-Kings 18:4]  He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image [Asherah] and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.

The bronze serpent in Hebrew is "nachash ha-nachoshet" i.e. serpent [nachash] of bronze [ha-nachoshet]. This is a play on words.
The word for serpent or snake in Hebrew is "nachash". The word for copper or bronze is "nachoshet" from the same word-root.
The Comentary "Me-am Loaz brings an opinion that Hezekiah melt the serpent down to a lump of metal and then in denigration gave it the name "nechustan". "Nechustan" could be a diminutive meaning "little snake" or "little piece of copper" and/or it could be "Nechush-tan"
i.e. "diminished", "worn out",  "exhausted". Anyway we have here a play on words with the one word root "N-Ch-Sh" forming different Hebrew words and all of them being applied to this bronze artifice.
I would not be surprised to find that one or other of the commentaries has managed to go deeper into this matter, to explore thoroughly all the different words and meanings the word-root ""N-Ch-Sh" lends itself to and to show the common denominator underlying them all.

Incidentally another word in Hebrew for serpent is "seraph" translated in 21:8 as "fiery serpent". The Hebrew "seraph" gave rise to the English word "serpent".
Moses had made the bronze serpent at the command of the Almighty:

Numbers 21:
4 Then they journeyed from Mount
Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ?Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.? 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ?We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.? So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, ?Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.? 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Even though Moses had made the bronze serpent by Divine Commandment because it had become an object of idolatrous adoration
King Hezekiah had it destroyed.

The Greeks borrowed a great deal of their mythology from the Ancient Hebrews as did other ancient peoples.
See the articles by John Salverda on the Brit-Am web-site:

On the figures borrowed by the Greeks is the bronze serpent.

Rod of

The rod of Asclepius (sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius)... is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. The name of the symbol derives from its early and widespread association with Asclepius, the son of Apollo, who was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. His attributes, the snake and the staff, sometimes depicted separately in antiquity, are combined in this symbol.[2] Hippocrates himself was a worshipper of Asclepius.[3]

The rod of
Asclepius is the dominant symbol for healthcare professionals and associations in the United States. One survey found that 62% of healthcare professionals used the rod of Asclepius, while 76% of commercial healthcare organizations used the caduceus.

The caduceus, the traditional symbol of Hermes featuring two snakes around an often winged staff, is often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine, especially in the United States of America.

 [2-Kings 18:5]  He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him.

 [2-Kings 18:6]  For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.

 [2-Kings 18:7]  The LORD was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.

 [2-Kings 18:8]  He subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

Shalmaneser and Sennacherib.

 [2-Kings 18:9]  Now it came to pass in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it.

 [2-Kings 18:10]  And at the end of three years they took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is, the ninth year of
Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.

Hoshea in Hebrew is rendered as Hosea. Hoshea or Hosea was the last king of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea is also the name of the first of the ten "Minor Prophets". The Prophet Hosea was from the Tribe of Reuben.  The Book of Hosea is concerned mainly with the Ten tribes and their destiny.
We are now preparing a work based on this book.
Brit-Am works for the sake of the Ten Tribes.
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 [2-Kings 18:11]  Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria, and put them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes,

 [2-Kings 18:12]  because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant and all that Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded; and they would neither hear nor do them.

This is a repeat in shortened form of the account in chapter 17.
The Commentary Me'am Loez says that the account is repeated here to emphasize the difference between the fates of Judah and the Ten Tribes. It may be that Judah was also culpable and deserved to be exiled and lost like the Ten Tribes were. The Almighty had mercy and for reasons of his own saved Judah from a similar fate in the time of Hezekiah as explained further down in this chapter.

Shalmaneser began the siege on Samaria (Shomron) and Sargon evidently brought it to a close.
The Ten Tribes were exiled and lost.
There was a Divine Purpose in this.
The Purpose of Exile and Loss of Identity

Despite the fact that there was a reason for what happened to the Ten Tribes it was also a punishment.
They had sinned.
They were punished.
Being exiled and losing awareness of their Hebrew origins was part of the punishment.
The future Redemption is dependent at least in part on repentance and rectification.

 [2-Kings 18:13]  And in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.

Sennacherib came up against the Kingdom of Judah.
In an inscription Sennacherib speaks of capturing forty-six fenced cities and of carrying away to Assyria 200,150 people from the region of Judah. There are verses that suggest only a remnant escaped the Assyrian Captivity (2-Kings 19:30).  Jewish tradition relates that due to Sennacherib capturing "all the fenced cities" a large portion of the Kingdom of "Judah" including most of Simeon also went into the Assyrian exile. These were lost together with the northern Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. .The sources (e.g. Midrash Seder Olam) emphasize that those lost to Judah encompassed the overwhelming majority of the people of Simeon. On the other hand those who DID REMAIN belonged mostly to Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. In Biblical terminology the term "Judah" is always applied to those of Judah and the other Tribes who remained "Jewish" in the religious sense.

The captives of Sennacherib included not only most of  Simeon but also many from Judah and the other Tribes. These all joined the Ten Tribes and were counted as part of them. For all we know they may well have comprised the majority of Judah?
Assuming that Sennacherib was not lying when he claimed to have taken more than 200,000 into Exile then this number by standards of the time must have included a good portion of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah.
Nevertheless in Biblical terms "Judah" means the Jews i.e. descendants of inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah who remained while "Israel" usually (but not always) refers to the Ten Tribes including those of Judah who joined them.

Sennacherib versus Judah.

The following section of 2-Kings chapter 18 and after it in 2-Kings chapter 19 is repeated in Isaiah 36 and 37.
The Brit-Am Summary of Isaiah 36 is pertinent here.

Isaiah (ch.36) describes the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib the King of Assyria. Sennacherib sent Rabshakeh to speak to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Rabshakeh by tradition was a renegade Jew possibly the brother or half-brother of King Hezekiah himself' Likewise in WW11 the Royal Family of Britain was patriotic and their relatives on the Continent (such as the mother of Prince Philip in Greece who hid Jews in her residence) were pro-Jewish but there was one possible exception whom the Nazis hoped to exploit. Rabshakeh stood before the walls of Jerusalem and called out in Hebrew for the city to surrender. Rabshakeh accused the rebellious Jews of relying on Pharaoh of Egypt for help. He described Egypt as a broken cane (reed) that would cut into the hand of anyone trying to support themselves on it (36:6). King Hezekiah had undertaken to uproot idolatry as well as wrong religious practices (such as not worshipping in the Temple but at high places) that were not necessarily idolatrous but neither were they "Kosher". Rabshakeh accuses King Hezekiah of being wrong in this matter and bringing the wrath of the Almighty down on the people (36:7). Rabshakeh threatens the city of Jerusalem with destruction (36:10). The servants of Hezekiah ask Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic which they understood and not in Hebrew so as not to dishearten the people (36:11). Rabshakeh refuses since that is precisely what he wants (36:12), to dishearten the people and undermine their morale. Rabshakeh threatens the people with death and famine. He offers them the chance of surrendering and being transferred to another place where they can rehabilitate themselves in agricultural settlements (36:17).

We continue below with our commentary to 2-Kings 18. We have added a few points that we did not mention in the Brit-Am Commentary to Isaiah 36..

Shalmaneser had begun the siege of Samaria. Sargon replaced Shalmaneser and later claimed to have completed the conquest of Samaria and deported its inhabitants. In our opinion Sargon-2 conventionally dated 722-705 BCE and Sargon of Akkad (dated 2270-2215 BCE) may actually have been one and the same person. Our impression is that events and deeds attributed to Sargon of Akkad really belong to "Sargon-2". It was the Assyrian way to ascribe their own edicts and events to distant ancestors or to former monarchs of long ago.

Sargon-2 was slain in ca. 705 by the Cimmerians in Cilicia (southeast Turkey northern Syria) which had once been settled by contingents from Dan and Judah. The Cimmerians themselves were either Israelite Exiles who had broken the yoke of Assyria or their confederates.

Sennacherib was the son of Sargon. Upon the death of his father many Assyrian provinces were in a state of rebellion or close to it.
Sennacherib was occupied at first in bringing the eastern sections of the Empire into line before turning towards Judah and the south.

 [2-Kings 18:14]  Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, 'I have done wrong; turn away from me; whatever you impose on me I will pay.' And the king of Assyria assessed Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.

 [2-Kings 18:15]  So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king's house.

Sennacherib claimed:
# Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape... Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and he sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty... All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government.

Sennacherib mentions 30 talents of gold just like the Bible.
He also mentioned taking into captivity many from Judah.
The Biblical account says that first Sennacherib received the booty, then he continued the siege. An angel came down to smote the army of Sennacherib
killing 185,000 warriors.
Sennacherib does not mention this but he did retreat and some type of supernatural disaster to his armies is indicated by other sources, as we shall see in chapter 37.

 [2-Kings 18:16]  At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
 [2-Kings 18:17]  Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the
Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh from Lachish, with a great army against Jerusalem, to King Hezekiah. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they had come up, they went and stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, which was on the highway to the Fuller's Field.

 [2-Kings 18:18]  And when they had called to the king,
Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joash the son of Asaph, the recorder, came out to them.

 [2-Kings 18:19]  Then the
Rabshakeh said to them, 'Say now to Hezekiah, 'Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: 'What confidence is this in which you trust'

 [2-Kings 18:20]  You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?

 [2-Kings 18:21]  Now look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.

 [2-Kings 18:22]  But if you say to me, 'We trust in the LORD our God,' is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, 'You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?'''

 [2-Kings 18:23] Now therefore, I urge you, give a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand
horses'if you are able on your part to put riders on them!

 [2-Kings 18:24] How then will you repel one captain of the least of my
master's servants, and put your trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen'

 [2-Kings 18:25] Have I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it' The LORD said to me, 'Go up against this land, and destroy it.''

 [2-Kings 18:26]  Then
Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, 'Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.'

 [2-Kings 18:27]  But the
Rabshakeh said to them, 'Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, who will eat and drink their own waste with you''

 [2-Kings 18:28]  Then the
Rabshakeh stood and called out with a loud voice in Hebrew, and spoke, saying, 'Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria!

 [2-Kings 18:29]  Thus says the king: 'Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you from his hand;

 [2-Kings 18:30]  nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, 'The LORD will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.''

 [2-Kings 18:31]  Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: 'Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern;

 [2-Kings 18:32] until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive groves and honey, that you may live and not die. But do not listen to Hezekiah, lest he persuade you, saying, 'The LORD will deliver us.'

 [2-Kings 18:33]  Has any of the gods of the nations at all delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria?

 [2-Kings 18:34]  Where are the gods of
Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim and Hena and Ivah' Indeed, have they delivered Samaria from my hand?

 [2-Kings 18:35]  Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?''

 [2-Kings 18:36]  But the people held their peace and answered him not a word; for the
king's commandment was, 'Do not answer him.'

 [2-Kings 18:37]  Then
Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

After the Death of Solomon:
The Divided Kingdom

The Divided Kingdom
Source of Map:

2-Kings ch.17
2-Kings Contents
2-Kings ch.19