Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
The following commentary covers Chapters 18 and 19.
Chapter 18 brings us to a rather different subject, namely, the relations of Judah with the Assyrian, who had become their oppressor through their unfaithfulness; and also their relationship with Babylon.
In order to set His dealings with His people in their true light, God raises up a faithful king, distinguished by this, that he puts his trust in Jehovah as no king had done since David until this period, and as none did after him until the captivity [See Note #1].
That which happened with respect to the brazen serpent shews us the tendency of the heart to idolatry. And how many things, to which man continues attached in a carnal way, remain hidden in the midst of so many blessings and chastenings This teaches us also how near-with such hearts as ours-is the remembrance of blessing, to idolatry of the symbols of blessing. Faith gets rid of these things; for God had given the brazen serpent, not to be a token of the remembrance after the cure, but in order to cure. Man preserved it by a very natural feeling; but this is not of God, and it soon became the instrument of Satan.
Hezekiah smites the Philistines, those inward and perpetual enemies of God's people, and in a great measure subdues them. It is after this that the king of Assyria comes up.
The king of Assyria had carried Israel away captive. His successor seeks to conquer Judah likewise. According to the prophet's expression, the waters of this river reached even to the neck. The power of the allied kings of Israel and Syria appears to have had some attraction for the people of Judah, who, on the other hand, despised the weakness of the house of David; for God was little in their thoughts. In this confederacy, favoured apparently by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, they proposed to set aside the house of David in favour of the son of Tabeal. There was an apparently well-conceived plan on the one side, and an imminent danger on the other. But these were not God's thoughts. In His mercy He would not yet put out the lamp of David's house. He sends the promise of Emmanuel, and exhorts the remnant to put their trust in Jehovah Himself. We shall examine this more in detail when we consider the prophecy of Isaiah. I only refer to it now, in order to elucidate the history and exhibit the condition of the people. Ahaz, who did not trust in Jehovah, was the instrument of fulfilling His purposes; but the Assyrian, in whose power he trusted, became through him the scourge of Judah.
But in order still to bless and preserve Jerusalem and Judah, God raises up Hezekiah, a godly and faithful king, who put his trust in Jehovah. Hezekiah is unable to repulse Sennacherib; so that the people are punished. He submits to Sennacherib, offering to pay whatever he demands; but whether the king's resources were insufficient, or that the king of Assyria, after having accepted the present which Hezekiah sent him, broke his engagement (compare Isaiah 33), Sennacherib, taking advantage of the king's apparent weakness, requires complete submission, both from the king and the kingdom, and invites the inhabitants of Jerusalem to come out of the city and place themselves under his command.
We see however, that even while blaspheming Jehovah, Sennacherib is conscious that he is in the presence of a principle and a power that he does not understand. The people, obedient to the king's commandment, make him no answer. Drawn elsewhere by tidings of the king of Ethiopia's attack, Sennacherib repeats in a letter his blasphemies and insults. Hezekiah lays all these things before Jehovah, and seeks His answer through the prophet Isaiah. The same night God smote the army of the Assyrians. Sennacherib returns to his own country, and dies there by the hand of his own sons.
Hezekiah is thus a type of the true Emmanuel, of Him before whom the Assyrian, the desolater of Israel, will fall. This is a very important history, as foreshadowing the events of the last days; but it will be studied more advantageously when examining the Book of Isaiah, which frequently applies it in this manner. It is but the general idea that needs to be touched upon here.
We shall see, farther on, that which characterised Josiah.