“We shall also have to raise up against him seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes of mankind.”
1. Why could the plan of the kings of Syria and Israel not succeed?
IN THE eighth century before Christ, sometime between the years 762 and 759, the king of Israel and the king of Syria started a war against the kingdom of Judah. They wanted to invade Jerusalem, remove Ahaz as king, and make another man king, perhaps someone who was not from King David’s family. (Isaiah 7:5, 6) But that plan could not succeed. Jehovah had promised that there would always be someone from David’s family ruling as king. And what Jehovah says always comes true.
2 At first, it seemed that Syria and Israel would win the war. In just one battle, Ahaz lost 120,000 soldiers! And his own son Maaseiah was killed. (2 Chronicles 28:6, 7) But Jehovah was watching. He remembered his promise to David, and He sent the prophet Isaiah with a very encouraging message.
3 Isaiah said: “Look! The maiden herself will actually become pregnant, and she is giving birth to a son, and she will certainly call his name Immanuel.” He added: “Before the boy will know how to reject the bad and choose the good, the ground of whose two kings you are feeling a sickening dread will be left entirely.” (Isaiah 7:14, 16) It is true that the first part of this prophecy applies to the birth of the Messiah. (Matthew 1:23) But the kings of Syria and Israel did not attack Judah in Jesus’ time, so the prophecy about Immanuel must have also had a fulfillment in Isaiah’s time. What was it?
4 Soon after Isaiah made that announcement, his wife became pregnant. Their son was named Maher-shalal-hash-baz. This child may have been the “Immanuel” whom Isaiah spoke about. * (See footnote.) In Bible times, a child might be given one name at birth, perhaps as a reminder of some special event, but be called by another name by his parents and relatives. (2 Samuel 12:24, 25) We cannot say that Jesus was ever called by the name Immanuel.
5. What foolish decision did King Ahaz make?
5 While Israel and Syria were focused on Judah, the nation of Assyria was also planning to conquer the region. Assyria was an aggressive nation that was becoming more and more powerful. According to Isaiah 8:3, 4, Assyria would conquer Syria and Israel before attacking Judah. Ahaz, the king of Judah, should have trusted in God’s word through Isaiah. Instead, he made a foolish agreement with the Assyrians. As a result, the Assyrians later became cruel rulers over Judah. (2 Kings 16:7-10) As a shepherd, or leader, of Judah, Ahaz should have protected his people. But he failed. We might ask ourselves, ‘When I have important decisions to make, do I put my trust in God or in men?’
When you have important decisions to make, do you put your trust in God or in men?
A NEW SHEPHERD ACTS DIFFERENTLY
6. How was Hezekiah different from Ahaz?
6 Ahaz died in the year 746 before Christ, and his son Hezekiah became king in his place. The people of Judah were now poor, and they had stopped worshipping Jehovah. What would be the first thing Hezekiah would do as king? Would he try to make the nation rich again? No. Hezekiah loved Jehovah and was a good shepherd of the nation. The first thing he did was to help the people to worship Jehovah again. When he understood what God wanted him to do, Hezekiah obeyed immediately. He set an excellent example for us!
7. Why did the Levites need the support of the new king?
7 The Levites had the serious responsibility of helping the people to worship Jehovah again. So Hezekiah met with the Levites and promised to support them. The faithful Levites at that meeting may have cried for joy when they heard the king say: “You are the ones whom Jehovah has chosen to stand before him to minister to him.” (2 Chronicles 29:11) The Levites had received a clear command to help the people worship the true God!
8. What else did Hezekiah do to help the people worship Jehovah again? What was the result?
8 Hezekiah invited all the people of Judah and Israel to a great Passover celebration. After the Passover, the people celebrated the Festival of Unfermented Cakes, which lasted seven days. They enjoyed the festival so much that they celebrated it for seven more days. The Bible tells us: “There came to be great rejoicing in Jerusalem, for from the days of Solomon the son of David the king of Israel there was none like this in Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 30:25, 26) That festival must have been very encouraging for all the people. We read at 2 Chronicles 31:1 that as soon as they finished the celebration, “they proceeded to break up the sacred pillars and cut down the sacred poles and pull down the high places and the altars.” The nation had returned to Jehovah. This helped them to be prepared for the troubles that would soon come.
THE KING PREPARES FOR TROUBLE
9. (a) How were the plans of Israel put to an end? (b) At first, what success did Sennacherib have in Judah?
9 Just as Isaiah had said, the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel and took the people away from their country as prisoners. This put an end to Israel’s possible plan to choose a king for Judah who was not from David’s family. But what were Assyria’s plans? They now came to conquer Judah. The Bible says: “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib the king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and proceeded to seize them.” Sennacherib conquered 46 cities of Judah. Imagine how you would have felt if you had lived in Jerusalem at that time. The Assyrian armies were quickly conquering Judah’s cities and getting closer and closer to your home!
10. Why might Micah’s prophecy have encouraged Hezekiah?
10 Hezekiah knew of the danger, but he did not panic and ask for the help of a pagan nation, as his unfaithful father, Ahaz, had done. Hezekiah trusted in Jehovah. (2 Chronicles 28:20, 21) He may have known of the words of the prophet Micah, who said about the enemy, “the Assyrian”: “We shall also have to raise up against him seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes of mankind. And they will actually shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword.” (Micah 5:5, 6) These words from Jehovah would have encouraged Hezekiah. They showed that Jehovah would use an unusual army to defeat the Assyrians.
11. When will the prophecy about seven shepherds and eight dukes have its most important fulfillment?
11 The prophecy about seven shepherds and eight dukes (“princes,” The New English Bible) would have its most important fulfillment after the birth of Jesus, the “ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times.” (Read Micah 5:1, 2.) In fact, this fulfillment is in the future, when an “Assyrian,” or enemy, attacks Jehovah’s servants. What army, led by his Son, will Jehovah use to defeat the enemy? We will answer this question later in the article. But first, let us see what we can learn from what Hezekiah did when the Assyrians attacked.
HEZEKIAH ACTS WISELY
12. What did Hezekiah and those with him do to protect God’s people?
12 When we feel that we cannot solve a problem, Jehovah is always willing to give us the help we need. But he does expect us to do all we can about the problem. Hezekiah did what he could. The Bible tells us that he got advice from “his princes and his mighty men,” and he decided “to stop up the waters of the springs that were outside the city.” Hezekiah also “took courage and built up all the broken-down wall and raised towers upon it, and on the outside another wall.” He even “made missiles in abundance and shields.” (2 Chronicles 32:3-5) During this time, Jehovah used Hezekiah, his princes, and the faithful prophets to protect and shepherd His people.
When we are in a difficult situation, Jehovah expects us to do all we can about the problem
13. What was the most important thing that Hezekiah did to prepare the people for the Assyrian attack? How did Hezekiah’s words help the people?
13 Next, Hezekiah did something that was even more important than protecting the waters of the springs or strengthening the city walls. Because he was a good shepherd, he gathered the people and encouraged them with the words: “Do not be afraid nor be terrified because of the king of Assyria and on account of all the crowd that is with him; for with us there are more than there are with him. With him there is an arm of flesh, but with us there is Jehovah our God to help us and to fight our battles.” Hezekiah reminded the people that Jehovah would fight for them. This helped them to have faith in God and to be brave. Hezekiah and his princes and mighty men, as well as the prophets Micah and Isaiah, showed that they were good shepherds, just as Jehovah had promised through his prophet.
14. What did Rabshakeh say? How did the people react?
14 The king of Assyria and his army set up camp at Lachish, southwest of Jerusalem. From there, he sent three messengers to Jerusalem to tell the people to surrender. The main messenger, known as Rabshakeh, spoke to the people of Jerusalem in their own language. First he tried to convince them not to listen to Hezekiah but to obey the Assyrians. Then he lied by promising to take them to a land where they could have a comfortable life. (Read 2 Kings 18:31, 32.) Rabshakeh also told them that the gods of other nations had not been able to protect their worshippers and that Jehovah would not be able to protect the Jews either. Wisely, the people chose to ignore these lies and false accusations. Today, Jehovah’s servants often follow their example.
15. What did the people of Jerusalem need to do? How did Jehovah save the city?
15 Of course, Hezekiah was upset. But instead of asking another nation for help, he asked for Jehovah’s help through Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah: “This is what Jehovah has said concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not come into this city nor will he shoot an arrow there.’” (2 Kings 19:32) All that the people of Jerusalem needed to do was to be brave and not give up. Jehovah would fight for them. And he did! “It came about on that night that the angel of Jehovah proceeded to go out and strike down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians.” (2 Kings 19:35) The people of Jerusalem were saved, not by what Hezekiah did to protect the city, but by Jehovah’s power.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
16. Who today are represented by (a) the people of Jerusalem (b) “the Assyrian” (c) the seven shepherds and eight dukes?
16 The prophecy about seven shepherds and eight dukes has its most important fulfillment in our time. In the past, the people of Jerusalem were attacked by the Assyrians. Soon, Jehovah’s people will again be attacked by an “Assyrian,” or enemy, that will try to destroy them. The Scriptures refer to that attack as well as the attack of ‘Gog of Magog,’ the attack of “the king of the north,” and the attack of “the kings of the earth.” (Ezekiel 38:2, 10-13; Daniel 11:40, 44, 45; Revelation 17:14; 19:19) Are these different attacks? We do not know. The Bible could be using different names to describe the same attack. What army does Micah’s prophecy say that Jehovah would use against this cruel enemy, called “the Assyrian”? A very unusual one. The Bible says that this army is made up of “seven shepherds” and “eight dukes,” or princes. (Micah 5:5) Who are they? They are the congregation elders. (1 Peter 5:2) Today, Jehovah is using many faithful elders to shepherd and to strengthen his people for the future attack of “the Assyrian.” * (See footnote.) Micah’s prophecy tells us that they will “shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword.” (Micah 5:6) One of the weapons they use to defeat the enemy is “the sword of the spirit,” God’s Word.
17. What four lessons can the elders learn from the account we have discussed?
17 Elders, you can learn some helpful lessons from what we have just discussed: (1) The best thing you can do to prepare for the future attack of “the Assyrian” is to strengthen your faith in God and help your brothers to do the same. (2) When “the Assyrian” attacks, you must be completely convinced that Jehovah will save us. (3) At that time, the direction that you receive from Jehovah’s organization may seem strange or unusual. But all of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether we agree with them or not, because obeying these instructions will save our lives. (4) If any are putting their trust in the education of this world, material things, or human organizations, they must change their way of thinking now. You must be ready to help any who may not be putting their complete trust in Jehovah.
If we are putting our trust in education, material things, or human organizations, we must change our way of thinking now
18. How can remembering this account help us in the future?
18 The time will come when we will seem to be as helpless as the people of Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s time. When that happens, Hezekiah’s words can help us to keep our faith strong. Let us remember that with our enemies “there is an arm of flesh, but with us there is Jehovah our God to help us and to fight our battles”!
^ par. 16 In the Bible, the number seven is often used to represent something that is complete. The number eight is one more than seven and can represent something that is abundant.