Take Care Not to Belittle the Name of Jehovah!
WHAT does the name of Jehovah mean to you? To Christians it is the name of the Father of Jesus Christ and is the greatest name in the universe. To ancient worshipers of Jehovah like King David and the prophets it was the name that called for the utmost reverence and exclusive devotion. But in this time millions do not have the good sense to show respect for that name, among these being many earthly rulers as well as leaders of world religions, even those of Christendom.
It is a most dangerous thing to hold the name of Jehovah in disrespect, and it is a fatal thing to belittle it. On the other hand, it results in marvelous rewards to hold the name in high respect, to recognize it as the name of the true God, the Creator, the Sovereign of heaven and earth. In fact, the name identifies God as the Purposer toward his creatures, who is not an absentee or unfeeling God, but one who hears and knows those who disrespect his name or belittle it, and who will repay them accordingly. Some will look into God’s Word to find what it says about his name and will respect it and give exclusive devotion to it. Others will be like kings of old who exalted themselves and found that belittling the name of Jehovah resulted in their ruin.
In previous issues we have discussed how King David showed outstanding zeal for the name and worship of Jehovah, and how God made a covenant with him for an everlasting kingdom in his line of descent. His son Solomon began his rule walking in the wisdom of Jehovah, this resulting in the greatest prosperity and happiness for his subjects that the world has ever known. However, in his old age Solomon left the exclusive worship of Jehovah and built places of false worship for the gods of his pagan wives. Because of the covenant that God had made with David for a lasting kingship in his line he told unfaithful Solomon that he would leave one tribe (Benjamin, loyal to Judah) to his son but would rip away the rest.—1 Ki. 11:1-13.
LOSS OF TEN TRIBES
In 997 B.C.E. Solomon’s son Rehoboam succeeded him. Rehoboam followed Solomon’s bad practices and oppressed the people. So ten tribes revolted under the leadership of Jeroboam, of the tribe of Ephraim. God would not permit King Rehoboam to fight to bring the ten tribes back under his dominion. Along with Judah and Benjamin, the Levites, who served in Jerusalem at Jehovah’s temple, remained loyal to David’s house, even though they would now get tithes from only two tribes instead of twelve. Also many from the ten tribes who feared and respected Jehovah went over to the territory of Judah to be true to Jehovah’s worship and to his royal house.—2 Chron. 11:13-17.
Jehovah had promised King Jeroboam that if he would keep worshiping Jehovah as David had done he would give Jeroboam’s line a lasting kingdom over the ten tribes. But he, like Rehoboam, failed to respect Jehovah’s word and name. He feared that regular worship by his subjects at Jehovah’s house in Judah’s territory in the city of Jerusalem would finally wean them back to the kingdom of David’s royal house. So he reasoned that a break with the royal house of David meant also a break with the worship of David’s God. He chose to set up golden-calf worship in defiance of Jehovah.
This was Babylonish false worship. In ancient Babylon the bull was a symbol of the storm god, Hadad. Nevertheless, Jeroboam made the golden calf the symbol of the god of Israel, setting up altars in two places, Dan and Bethel, to make it convenient for the Israelites to worship the calves and to prevent them from going to Jerusalem, about fifteen miles south of Bethel.—1 Ki. 12:1-33.
The capital of the northern kingdom, first at Shechem, was transferred to Tirzah and finally to Samaria, there to remain until the kingdom of Israel was overthrown. King Ahab, son of the founder of Samaria, made conditions worse when he married a Baal worshiper and built a temple and altar of Baal in this capital city. About thirty years later, King Jehu of Israel destroyed filthy, anti-Jehovah Baal worship from Israel, but worship of the calves continued.—1 Ki. 15:21, 33; 16:15-18; 2 Ki. 9:1 to 10:31.
FALSE WORSHIP BRINGS DOWNFALL
Calf-worshiping Israel had a turbulent history. Kingship changed hands many times. In the meantime Assyria was rising as a world power. An Assyrian king named Pul (or, Tiglath-pileser III) invaded Israel during Menahem’s reign, and in the days of the second king from Menahem, Pekah, Assyria took much territory away and carried many Israelites into exile to Assyria. Pekah’s assassin, Hoshea, became the last king of Samaria.—2 Ki. 15:17-30; 17:1, 2.
Finally Jehovah’s patience with the God-dishonoring kings of Israel ran out and he permitted Shalmaneser of Assyria to invade Israel and make King Hoshea his vassal. Hoshea appealed by letter to Egypt for help, causing the king of Assyria to move against Samaria to destroy it. The well-fortified city held out for three years. In 740 B.C.E. it fell. The records of King Sargon II, who is credited with taking the city, tell us that 27,290 Samaritan citizens were carried off captive and replaced by people from Babylon and other places.—2 Ki. 17:3-24.
While Jehovah was angry with his people for their failure to hold his name in high respect, yet he was against those who hated and belittled his name by attacking his people and in due time brought punishment on Assyria.
But what about the southern kingdom at Jerusalem, still ruled by the line of David’s kings? In the days of Uzziah or Azariah, Jerusalem’s eleventh king, Assyria began to invade the northern kingdom of Israel. Jehovah warned the kingdom of Judah not to make any alliances with Assyria for help against the enemies of Jerusalem. Isaiah the son of Amoz began to prophesy from the days of Uzziah into the rule of Hezekiah and he mentions Assyria and Assyrians forty-four times, far more than any other prophet in the Bible.—2 Ki. 15:17-19; Isa. 1:1.
In the face of this warning King Ahaz of Judah, Hezekiah’s father, made alliance with the king of Assyria for protection against the conspirators King Pekah of Israel and the king of Syria. Isaiah, in warning him against this, uttered a prophecy foretelling the virgin birth of the Messiah, Christ. He said:
“Jehovah himself will give you men a sign: Look! The maiden herself will actually become pregnant, and she is giving birth to a son, and she will certainly call his name Immanuel [=’With Us Is God’]. . . . before the boy will know how to reject the bad and choose the good, the ground of whose two kings [of Israel and of Syria] you are feeling a sickening dread will be left entirely. Jehovah will bring against you and against your people and against the house of your father days such as have not come since the day of Ephraim’s turning away from alongside Judah [in 997 B.C.E.], namely, the king of Assyria.”—Isa. 7:14-17.
The real danger, then, was the Second World Power, Assyria. (Isa. 7:18-20; 8:7, 8) In the sixth year of Hezekiah Samaria fell to Assyria, during the reign of King Sargon II, when Assyria reached the peak of its ascendancy. Isaiah foretold that Sargon would subjugate Egypt and Ethiopia and lead away captives. Secular history records that Sargon II levied tribute on Egypt, the previous dominant world power.—2 Ki. 18:9-12; Isa. 20:1-6.
Up till that time Babylon had been subject to Assyria, but during the rule of Sargon II a Chaldean named Merodach-baladan had himself proclaimed king of Babylon. Sargon fought an inconclusive battle against him, but years later Sargon drove out Merodach-baladan and had himself crowned as the ruler of Babylon. Sargon’s son Sennacherib succeeded him to the throne of Assyria and again the Babylonians revolted and set over themselves Merodach-baladan. King Sennacherib sought to unseat him.
SECOND WORLD POWER CHALLENGES JEHOVAH
Sennacherib’s father had captured Samaria. Now Sennacherib became anxious to add the city of Jerusalem to his trophies of war. In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, king of Judah, Sennacherib came against Jerusalem and King Hezekiah bought him off for the time by a large payment. Later, Sennacherib, while laying siege to Lachish, sent military commanders to Jerusalem to demand surrender of the city. But here Sennacherib made his gravest mistake. He belittled the name of Jehovah. His military commander Rabshakeh called out in hateful, insulting language to those on the walls of Jerusalem to quit trusting in King Hezekiah’s God, Jehovah, for, he said, no gods had been able to stand up against the conquering Sennacherib. Hezekiah turned in prayer to Jehovah God. Jehovah told Hezekiah through Isaiah that He would cause the king of Assyria to go back home, only to fall there by the sword.—2 Ki. 18:13 to 19:8.
On receiving Rabshakeh’s report, Sennacherib, now at Libnah, sent back messengers with letters that expressed extreme disrespect for Hezekiah’s God, Jehovah. King Hezekiah read the abusive letters of intimidation, spread the letters out in the temple before Jehovah and prayed: “And now, O Jehovah our God, save us, please, out of [Sennacherib’s] hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Jehovah, are God alone.”—2 Ki. 19:8-19.
Through Isaiah Jehovah assured Hezekiah that his prayer had been heard. Then Jehovah addressed himself to the boastful king of Assyria and said:
“The virgin [uncaptured] daughter of Zion has despised you, she has held you in derision. Behind you the daughter of Jerusalem has wagged her head. Whom have you taunted and spoken of abusively? And against whom have you lifted up your voice and do you raise your eyes on high? It is against the Holy One of Israel! By means of your messengers you have taunted Jehovah . . . because your exciting yourself against me and your roaring have come up into my ears. And I shall certainly put my hook in your nose and my bridle between your lips, and I shall indeed lead you back by the way by which you have come.”—2 Ki. 19:20-28.
Then Jehovah gave Hezekiah a sign to reassure him, saying that on account of Sennacherib’s invasion they would reap no crop that year; the second year they would not sow seed nor reap (it would be the sixth sabbath year of the Jubilee cycle—Lev. 25:1-12), but the third year they would peacefully go ahead and sow and reap a harvest. “For out of Jerusalem a remnant will go forth, and those who escape from Mount Zion. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this. And I shall certainly defend this city to save it for my own sake and for the sake of David my servant.”—2 Ki. 19:29, 31, 34.
BELITTLERS OF NAME HUMILIATED
Jehovah acted against the belittlers of his name: “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.” The humiliated King Sennacherib beat a hasty retreat back to his capital Nineveh, to the house of his false god Nisroch, there to be assassinated by his sons. As Sennacherib retreated northward the unravished “virgin daughter of Zion,” the “daughter of Jerusalem,” derided him and wagged her head after him. She rejoiced that her God Jehovah had vindicated his sovereignty over Assyria, the Second World Power, and had proved that he was the only God.—2 Ki. 19:32-37.
In the meantime Merodach-baladan of Babylon was still rebellious, seeking allies to help him overthrow the king of Assyria. He had heard of Hezekiah’s sickness in the fourteenth year of his reign, when a malignant boil was about to end Hezekiah’s life. But weeping King Hezekiah prayed to have his life spared at that time, primarily because he had no son, no successor to the throne, and the royal line of David through him was in danger of being broken. Jehovah mercifully promised to add fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah recovered, and in the third year afterwards had a son named Manasseh.—2 Ki. 20:12; 21:1; Isa. 38:1 to 39:1.
Merodach-baladan had sent messengers with letters and a gift to Hezekiah, who was pleased to receive them. Perhaps to impress the king of Babylon as a possible ally against the king of Assyria, Hezekiah showed the Babylonian messengers his properties and wealth. Upon hearing how Hezekiah had treated the messengers, Isaiah said: “Hear the word of Jehovah of armies, ‘Look! Days are coming, and all that is in your own house and that your forefathers have stored up down to this day will actually be carried to Babylon.’ ‘Nothing will be left,’ Jehovah has said. ‘And some of your own sons that will come forth from you, to whom you will become father, will themselves be taken and actually become court officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”—Isa. 39:1-7.
It may have been with regard to his dealings with the Babylonian messengers of Merodach-baladan that 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 refers, saying: “In those days Hezekiah fell sick to the point of dying, and he began to pray to Jehovah. So He talked to him and a portent He gave him. But according to the benefit rendered him Hezekiah made no return, for his heart became haughty and there came to be indignation against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. However, Hezekiah humbled himself for the haughtiness of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and Jehovah’s indignation did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”
The relations of King Sennacherib of Assyria with King Merodach-baladan of Babylon are described in the book Israel and Babylon, page 33:
Sennacherib’s first task was to conquer that “prop of evil deeds,” “that worker of wickedness,” as he quaintly describes him. Babylon was captured but Merodach-baladan escaped and fled. It was at this period, rather than at the time of his earlier conflict with Sargon, that Merodach-baladan sought to enlist help from Hezekiah of Judah as recorded in 2 Kings 20:12-19. Babylon, however, continued to give trouble with the readily granted aid of the Elamites, Merodach-baladan making yet another appearance, if not more than one, on the scene; she was finally crushed in 689, the city being levelled to the ground. Apparently Sennacherib had treated Babylon with great forbearance up to this time, and adopted this terrible policy in sheer despair. [Sidney] Smith thinks [in his book The First Campaign of Sennacherib] that a passage in the annals of Ashurbanipal may be interpreted to mean that Sennacherib was actually engaged in the reconstruction of Babylon when he was assassinated.—1925 edition, by W. L. Wardle, M.A., B.D., London, England.
Esar-haddon succeeded his assassinated father to the throne of Nineveh, capital of Assyria. (2 Ki. 19:37; Isa. 37:37, 38) It was he who rebuilt the city of Babylon and sent back to it the statue of its chief god, Bel-Merodach, besides restoring the temples of other deities. Ashurbanipal succeeded him, appointing a viceroy to rule Babylon. Nabopolassar the father of Nebuchadnezzar II was the last viceroy appointed by Assyria.—The International Standard Bible Encyclopædia, edition of 1955.
Assyria had already suffered a most humiliating defeat at the hand of Jehovah for belittling his name. Would Assyria, “the land of Nimrod,” be able to hold her position as Second World Power in the face of Jehovah’s prophecy that he would bring execution upon her for despising his name and for her bitter enmity against God’s people? She had been able to bring about the fall and destruction of Babylon, but she had not been able to capture Zion, “the town of the grand King.” (Mic. 5:6; Ps. 48:1, 2) How Assyria would have her judgment and how Jerusalem under the rule of the kings of David’s line would have a clash with Babylon will be discussed in the next issue of The Watchtower.
[Picture on page 568]
Assyrians, trusting in military might, foolishly belittle the name of Jehovah