In the third year of Hoshea's reign in Israel, Ahaz's son Hezekiah rules as king in Judah.
Unlike his father, Hezekiah is a good king. In fact, he's an uncommonly good king.
Beginning at age twenty-five, he reigns twenty-nine more years, during which time he removes the sacred poles, pillars, and high places.
He also destroys the bronze serpent Moses had used (in a good, divinely-sanctioned way) in Numbers to help save the Israelites from fiery, flying serpent attacks. The serpent was called Nehushtan.
None of the kings of Judah were like Hezekiah in righteousness and piety before or after him.
He keeps all God's commandments, follows the ways of Moses, rebels against Assyria, and fights the Philistines.
In the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, the King of Assyria, Shalmaneser (he finally gets a name in this chapter), besieges Samaria and destroys it.
In the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign, the Israelites of the northern kingdom are sent into exile as punishment for ignoring God's laws as given to Moses.
In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, Sennacherib, the new Assyrian King, decides to invade Judah. He captures all the fortified cities.
Hezekiah asks Sennacherib to lay off, saying that he'll take whatever penalty the Assyrians want him to pay.
Sennacherib wants Hezekiah to give him three hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold. Hezekiah agrees to pay up, stripping gold and treasure from the Temple.
But Sennacherib sends a massive army with his envoy, the Rabshakeh, to Jerusalem to collect the tribute.
They meet Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah (Hezekiah's envoys) at a pool.
An Unsavory Meal
The Rabshakeh boasts and mocks them, sending a message from Sennacherib.
He says that no one can resist the king. They shouldn't think that making an alliance with Egypt (which they've done) can help them.
He challenges them to find horsemen to saddle two thousand of the Assyrians' own horses and fight. Relying on the Lord won't help, he says, since the Lord commanded Sennacherib to attack.
The nervous trio of messengers ask the Rabshakeh to speak to them in Aramaic and not Hebrew so that the people in Jerusalem won't understand what is being said.
The Rabshakeh says that everyone—the people along with the king and the royalty—are doomed to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine when the Assyrians starve out the city. Um, ew.
He calls out to the people in Hebrew, saying that reliance on Hezekiah won't help them. They should surrender to the Assyrians and let them take them away to Assyria with them, which is a nice place. God, says the Rabshakeh, won't help them either. None of the other nations' gods could save people from the Assyrians.
The people and the three messengers say nothing in response (which is what Hezekiah told them to do) and the trio return to Hezekiah, tearing their clothes and telling him what the Rabshakeh said.