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By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons) DD
The Reign Of Hezekiah, King Of Judah (29.1-32.33).
Nothing can be seen as more remarkable than the turnaround that took place when Hezekiah succeeded his father as King of Judah. He had bided his time whilst acting as co-regent with his father, and how his righteous heart must have been troubled, but at the time he was powerless to act. The reins were in his father’s hands. He could only watch his godless activities with horror. But as soon as the reins were in his own hands he began to turn things around. Probably a great deal of what lay behind his attitude, which was in such contrast to his father’s, must be laid at the door of his mother. She had probably ensured that he was surrounded by godly men, one of whom would have been Isaiah, who had shielded him from his father’s attitudes and his father’s associates. There must have been some reason why he was not contaminated by his father. Certainly we must recognise that he had not been brought up by his father’s associates.
Hezekiah is depicted by the Chronicler as another David/Solomon, and therefore as a pattern for the Messiah:
He was thus a model to the returnees from Exile of the restitution of the worship of YHWH in accordance with the procedures laid down by David, and a foretaste of the glory of the coming King..
We must probably see that when Hezekiah came to the throne things were ripe for change. The reign of Ahaz had been the first to come under Assyrian oppression, and they probably saw Ahaz as to blame. Assyrian troops had been stationed in their country for the first time and they did not like it. And prior to that they had suffered under the depradations of their neighbours, Philistia and Edom. Many would have felt that it was due to the fact that they had forsaken YHWH. Furthermore there was probably discontent at the foreign altars that had been introduced into the land. It was one thing secretly to worship local deities in the high places, it was quite another to openly promulgate foreign deities. Thus there was probably a groundswell of opinion willing to respond to Hezekiah’s reforms.
The Purifying Of The Temple (29.1-19).
Almost the first act of Hezekiah on coming to the throne was to restore the true worship of YHWH. And he set about it with zest. In the first month of his first year he ‘opened the doors of the house of YHWH and repaired them’. And at the same time he summoned the priests and Levites, who were no doubt persona non grata in the days of Ahaz. The very summons may well have made them feel uneasy. What was it that this new king wanted with them? They were soon to find out. For to their great relief and joy they heard themselves commanded to ‘sanctify’ (make holy) the house of YHWH, removing from it all that had rendered it unclean. Their hearts must have been thrilled and full of praise to God. Indeed it must have appeared almost unbelievable to them. For they had got used to the fact that no provision was made for them, and that their official position had been nullified. But now there was new hope, and diligently they set about purifying the Temple.
Note that in A Hezekiah reigned, and in the parallel reference is made back to Ahaz and his reign and the difference between them. In B Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of YHWH and in the parallel he learned that accordingly the house of YHWH had been cleansed. In C in the first year of his reign in the first month Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of YHWH and repaired them, and in the parallel on the first day of the first month they began to sanctify the house of YHWH. In D the priests and Levites were enjoined to carry forth the filthiness out of the house of YHWH, and in the parallel the priests brought out the uncleanness from the house of YHWH and the Levites disposed of it in the Brook Kidron. In E their fathers had turned away their faces from the house of YHWH, and in the parallel the Levites went in to cleanse the house of YHWH. In F they had not burned incense in the house of YHWH and in the parallel the priests are commanded to burn incense in the house of YHWH. Centrally in G the wrath of YHWH was on Judah for what they had done, and in the parallel Hezekiah’s aim was to turn away YHWH’s fierce anger from Judah.
2.29.1 ‘Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty five years old, and he reigned twenty nine years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.’
If Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned until he was thirty six, Hezekiah must have been born when Ahaz was eleven years old. Although unusual this is not impossible. He reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem a reign which stretched from 716/15 to 687/86 BC. It was a period when Assyria were largely involved elsewhere. It was this which enabled Hezekiah to form alliances against Assyria, something which nearly led to his downfall in 701 BC. The name of the Queen Mother was Abijah (Yah is my father) and it was probably she who was responsible for him growing up as a true worshipper of YHWH.
2 kings 18.1 has Hezekiah coming to the throne in Hoshea’s third year. This might indicate a co-regency with Ahaz of over six years.
2.29.2 ‘And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, in accordance with all that David his father had done.’
Hezekiah earned the enconium that he ‘did what was right in the eyes of YHWH in accordance with all that David his father had done’ (see 2 Kings 18.3). There could be no higher praise. The only previous king after Solomon to be spoken of appreciatively in terms of David was Jehoshaphat, of whom it was said, ‘he walked in the first ways of his father David’. Both were seen as models for the coming king, Jehoshaphat because of his concern for righteousness and justice, and Hezekiah because of his zeal for YHWH.
2.29.3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of YHWH, and repaired them.’
That this means in the first month of his reign is suggested by contrast with verse 17 which refers to the first day of the first month of the new year. In other words it was one of the first acts of his new reign. Knowing what we do of him this is in fact what we would expect. The failure of the people to worship YHWH would have lain deep on his heart, and what more natural in that first month of his reign than to go down to the Temple of YHWH and open its doors, following this up with an instruction to carry out the repair work which was clearly necessary. This referred, of course, to the doors of the Sanctuary which Ahaz had shut up (28.24) so that none could enter, for entry into the Temple court appears to have continued (2 Kings 16.13-15). It would have been an emotional moment. The true worship of YHWH, and the offering up of incense, was to recommence. The opening would probably have had to be carried out by Levites as it involved the Holy Place.
2.29.4-5 ‘And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the broad place on the east (the eastern square), and said to them, “Hear me, you Levites; now sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of YHWH, the God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place.”
He then called together the priests and Levites into the eastern square. This would be a square outside the Temple. Squares near the city gates were a regular feature of towns and cities at that time, where the people could congregate, and where strangers would wait hoping to be offered hospitality (see Judges 19.15). It may well have been the square near the Water Gate mentioned in Nehemiah 8.1, 3.
Once they had gathered he called on them to sanctify themselves, and then to sanctify the House of YHWH, removing from it all traces of idolatry (’the filthiness out of the holy place’). Sanctifying themselves would involve a period of waiting and washing their garments (Exodus 19.10), and possibly even themselves, abstaining from sexual activity (1 Samuel 21.5). They would also have to ensure that they were ritually ‘clean’, and had not been in contact with anything defiling. It may also have involved, especially in the case of the priests, offerings and sacrifices and the application of the blood to their persons (Exodus 29.1 ff). Notice that he addresses the priests and Levites as ‘Levites’. The priests were of course of the family of Levi.
‘Sanctifying the House of YHWH’ possibly involved the sprinkling on it of the blood of sacrifices and offerings, especially in this case of the sin offering. It would no doubt also involve a thorough cleaning of it to remove dust and dirt, and possibly other unwarranted things, which had found their way into the Temple. All idolatrous connections had to be removed, for such would have been brought into the house long before Ahaz finally closed its doors.
Today we are the Temple of YHWH (e.g. 2 Corinthians 6.16-20) and we should be equally concerned for the purification of YHWH’s Temple. It behoves us constantly to purify this holy place and remove from it all that could offend God, both by removing from it what is displeasing to God, and by cleansing ourselves in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1.7). It is only then that we can worship truly.
2.29.6 “For our fathers have trespassed, and done what was evil in the sight of YHWH our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of YHWH, and turned their backs.”
Hezekiah then pointed out to the priests and Levites the sad state of affairs. It is noteworthy that he did not put all the blame on his father, Ahaz. He was well aware that his father could not have done it without the support of many of the people, and especially the aristocrats. It was because the people in general had encouraged what Ahaz was doing that it had been possible. Their hearts had been hungry after idolatry, and freedom from the restrictions imposed by YHWH. We must remember this if we ever wonder why God punished the people in general for what appears at first hand to have been the sins of the few.
He recognised that it was ‘because our fathers have trespassed’ (literally ‘acted treacherously’), that the Temple was in the state it was. To some extent he must have had his tongue in his cheek because he would know that it was not only their fathers who had trespassed. It is true that they had commenced the problems, but the present people too were trespassing at that very moment. But he would be aware that he was more likely to be heard if he did not bring the blame too close to home. They had trespassed by forsaking YHWH and doing what was evil in His sight. They had turned their faces away from the habitation of YHWH and had turned their backs on Him, choosing rather to worship idols at the high places, idols who could neither see not hear. The blame lay squarely on the whole nation.
There would, of course, have been some who had remained faithful to YHWH, who would have been grieving over what had happened, and that would have included many of the priests and Levites who had personally lost by it. And there would be many more who would have been feeling uneasy, because of the miseries that their actions had brought on Judah. It was because of this that he could be successful in what he was doing. But he did not hesitate about bringing a charge against Judah as a whole. He recognised that, had they wanted, more protest could have been made.
2.29.7 “Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt-offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.”
Furthermore they had shut up the doors of the porch which opened the way into the Holy Place; they had put out the lamps which should have been continually burning in the Holy Place; they had failed to offer incense on the altar of incense in the Holy Place, and they had not offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place. This last possibly refers to the presenting of the blood before God in the Most Holy Place as burnt offerings would not be offered in the Holy Place. This may have occurred with the ram of burnt offering on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16.3, 5, 24. It did with the sin offering - Leviticus 16.14-15). Alternately the description ‘the holy place’ may have included the court in which was the altar of burnt offerings, and the idea may be that the daily offerings had ceased to be offered.
This is getting closer to putting the blame squarely on Ahaz and the leaders of Judah. The people themselves could not have done this, only those who were in authority. How far the priests and Levites were to blame we do not know. Possibly some had been willing to go along with the idolatrous worship at the high places.
‘To the God of Israel.’ Hezekiah now sees his kingdom as making up all Israel.
2.29.8-9 “For which reason the wrath of YHWH was on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has delivered them to be tossed to and fro, to be an astonishment, and a hissing, as you see with your eyes. For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.”
He then pointed out to the priests and Levites the consequences for Judah and Jerusalem which had resulted from Judah’s apostasy. They had come under the wrath of YHWH (His active antipathy to all sin), and they had consequently been tossed to and fro by one nation after another (Edom, Philistia, Samaria, Syria), and had become an astonishment and a hissing in the eyes of all, as the Law of Moses had warned (Deuteronomy 28.25, 37). They could be aware of this in that that their fathers had fallen by the sword, and their sons, daughters and wives had been taken into captivity. Ahaz’s reign had seen much bloodshed and the carrying away into slavery of many of the people. This reminds us that one of the aims of all invaders was to obtain slaves who could be utilised or sold on as they chose (see 28.8, 17; compare Amos 1.6).
The picture of a nation feeling tossed about to and fro and not being sure where the next blow is coming from, is very vivid, as is the idea of the nations watching in astonishment and hissing their agreement on what YHWH was doing. It is partly found in Deuteronomy 28.25, 37. For the idea of hissing see Micah 6.16. Thus the picture was firmly based on the Law and the prophets. Whilst the description echoes Jeremiah 29.18 this may be because both obtained the description from the same source, possibly the Book of the kings of Israel and Judah, based on the above references.
2.29.10 ‘Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with YHWH, the God of Israel, that his fierce anger may turn away from us.’
Hezekiah then pointed out that it was now in his heart to make a covenant with YHWH, the God of Israel, promising a return to and fulfilment of the covenant of Sinai, so that His fierce anger would turn away from them. In this lay the recognition that God’s anger was not because He was affronted, but was because they were not honouring the covenant. God’s concern always was with the restoration of true worship and the establishment of true righteousness.
2.29.11 ‘My sons, do not now be negligent, for YHWH has chosen you to stand before him, to minister to him, and that you should be his ministers, and burn incense.’
So he called on the priests and Levites (my sons) not to delay or be slack in carrying out his words. For had not YHWH chosen them to stand before Him and to serve Him in the Temple? Had He not appointed them to act as His ministers and burn incense on the altar of incense in the Holy Place? This was their unique responsibility and privilege.
2.29.12-14 ‘Then the Levites arose, Mahath, the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites. And of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehallelel. And of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah; and of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel; and of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; and of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel.’
It appears from verse 34, and confirmed here, that the priests were far less responsive to Hezekiah’s words than the Levites. This may well have been because some of the priests had been involved in the worship on the high places whilst the Levites had been sidelined. Whatever the reason it was the Levites other than the priests who mainly sprang into action. It is clear by this time that they were divided into seven courses. The first three were based on the sons of Levi, Kohath, Merari and Gershon. The Kohathites may have included priests, for some priests certainly sanctified themselves. The next three were based on the Levite chief singers appointed by David, Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun (see 1 Chronicles 25.1 ff.). These had replaced Hebron and Uzziel (1 Chronicles 15.9-10). This demonstrates how important the singers had become. The final course was based on Elizaphan (1 Chronicles 15.8), which was a sub-clan of the Kohathites which had clearly grown large enough to stand on its own.
These may have included priests (verse 15) but it is quite possible that the Chronicler only had details of the Levites who were involved and simply let the priests involved be unmentioned. He possibly wanted at this stage to bring out the zeal of the Levites. (We will discover shortly (verse 34) that the Levites were in fact more diligent than the priests in sanctifying themselves).
2.29.15 ‘And they gathered their brothers, and sanctified themselves, and went in, according to the commandment of the king by the words of YHWH, to cleanse the house of YHWH.’
Stirred by the king’s words ‘the Levites’ gathered their fellow Levites and duly sanctified themselves, possibly by waiting three days and washing their clothes and their bodies, and then they went into the Temple in accord with the king’s command in response to the words of YHWH so as ‘to cleanse the House of YHWH’. That this included both priests and Levites is clear from verse 16. Note the reference to ‘the words of YHWH’. These may have come to Hezekiah through a prophet or by a direct vision or dream. Or the idea may be that Hezekiah was following the injunctions of the Law and of David.
2.29.16 ‘And the priests went in to the inner part of the house of YHWH, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of YHWH into the court of the house of YHWH. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad to the brook Kidron.’
Only the priests could enter the Sanctuary proper. They thus ‘went into the inner part of the House of YHWH’ in order to cleanse it. And all the uncleanness that they found in the Temple of YHWH, probably signifying idolatrous objects, they brought into the court of the House of YHWH. This was in accordance with the command in verse 5. The Levites then took them over and carried them to the Brook Kidron into which they were presumably cast, possibly having first been burned to ashes (see 15.16; 30.14; 2 Kings 23.4, 6, 12).
2.29.17 ‘Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the porch of YHWH; and they sanctified the house of YHWH in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.’
Notice how this parallels the provision of a date in verse 3. There it had been the first month of Hezekiah’s reign. Now it was the sanctifying which began on the first day of the first month, that is of the month of Nisan, in other words on New Years Day. The process of sanctifying the court took eight days, after which the sanctifying of the Sanctuary took another eight days. Clearly, as well as the removal of idolatrous objects, elaborate rituals were involved, probably in the nature of sin offerings and even ritual washings. As a consequence of the length of time taken it was not possible to hold the Passover which would have commenced on the fourteenth of Nisan.
2.29.18 ‘Then they went in to Hezekiah the king within the palace, and said, “We have cleansed all the house of YHWH, and the altar of burnt-offering, with all its vessels, and the table of showbread, with all its vessels.”
Having successfully completed their work they went into the king’s palace and informed King Hezekiah that they had cleansed all the House of YHWH together with the altar of burnt-offering with all its accoutrements, and the Table of Showbread with all its vessels. What he had required had been accomplished.
2.29.19 “Furthermore all the vessels, which king Ahaz in his reign cast away when he trespassed, have we prepared and sanctified, and, behold, they are before the altar of YHWH.”
They then also informed him that they had traced all the vessels which Ahaz had cast away, presumably other than those he had cut up, and had prepared and sanctified them and placed them before the altar of YHWH. All was now complete. The Temple was again ‘holy’.
These vessels were probably most important to the Chronicler and his readers. They provided a link with the past, possibly with the days of Solomon himself (4.19-22; 1 Chronicles 28.14-17), and they also provided a link with the future (36.18; 2 Kings 25.14-15; Daniel 5.2-3, 23), and with the days of the returned exiles (Ezra 1.7-11). Through all the vicissitudes of the Temple it was the vessels which were spared and provided continuity. Whether they were in all cases the same vessels may be open to question, (Shishak and others may have carried away golden vessels) but they were almost certainly seen as that by the returned exiles.
The Rededication Of The Temple (29.20-29).
The Temple having been purified and sanctified Hezekiah then proceeded with what was presumably an act of rededication. Initially this involved the offering of multiple sin-offerings, a recognition that the stain of sin had to be removed. These were accompanied by burnt offerings which were offerings of dedication. And finally there was the singing of the Levites as they worshipped God in song. It was a time of gladness and song.
Note that in A the king and the princes commanded offerings on the altar of YHWH, and in the parallel an end was made of the offerings and the king and those with him bowed themselves and worshipped. In B the sin offerings were offered, and in the parallel worship continued until the burnt offering was finished. In C commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel, and in the parallel Hezekiah commanded the offering of the burnt offering, and the offering began. Centrally in D the Levites were set in the house of YHWH with their musical instruments in accordance with the command of David, and in the parallel the Levites stood there with the instruments of David, and the priests with their trumpets.
2.29.20 ‘Then Hezekiah the king arose early, and gathered the princes of the city, and went up to the house of YHWH.’
The passage commences with the gathering of the King and his Princes, in order to purify and dedicate the Temple, and ends in verse 29 with their worship, with the task accomplished. The King’s deep concern is revealed by his early rising, and he then gathered ‘the princes of the city’, the leading aristocrats, who no doubt had to arise equally early, and went up to the House of YHWH.. His concern was that sin offerings needed to be offered to remove the final stain from both the Temple, and the nation, and burnt offerings for its rededication. It is a reminder to us as God’s Temple (2 Corinthians 6.16 ff), that we too should constantly purify and rededicate ourselves to His service.
2.29.21 ‘And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs; and seven he-goats, for a sin-offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of YHWH.’
The seven bullocks, seven rams and seven lambs, although not described as such, were almost certainly burnt offerings whose purpose was that of dedication. It is the seven he-goats (see also verse 23) which were the sin-offerings. Note the more specific treatment for the he-goats described in verse 23. The purpose of the offerings was the rededication of Israel to YHWH and the offering of atonement for sin. All the offerings included an atonement element. But the more specific sin-offerings had to do specifically with the removal of sin.
Seven was, of course, the number of divine perfection. Thus a threefold seven with regard to the burnt offerings was underlining the divine completeness of the offerings. The idea may well have been in order to make up for the lack of daily burnt offerings under Ahaz (see verse 7). The sevenfold sin offerings indicated a divinely complete removal of sin.
It is open to question whether ‘for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah’ refers to all the offerings or only to the sin-offerings. The answer is probably that it referred to all. Ahaz had defiled his kingdom, he had defiled the sanctuary and he had defiled the nation of Judah, thus it was necessary both to offer sin-offerings for them, and to offer dedicatory offerings as well. It may be that the bullocks were in respect of the kingdom, the rams in respect of the sanctuary and the lambs in respect of the people.
‘And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of YHWH.’ This may refer to the sin-offerings which the priests alone could offer, or to the whole with the priests offering the sin offerings and presenting the blood of the burnt offerings. Alternately it may be that the priests offered the whole due to the exceptional situation. The conciseness of the narrative makes it difficult to determine who offered what.
But from what follows we are probably to see that the leaders of the people offered the burnt offerings on behalf of the people, after which ‘the priests received the blood and sprinkled it on the altar’, and the priests offered the sin-offerings after the leaders had laid hands on them transferring to them the sins of the people.
2.29.22 ‘So they killed the bullocks, and the priests received the blood, and sprinkled it on the altar; and they killed the rams, and sprinkled the blood on the altar; they killed also the lambs, and sprinkled the blood on the altar.’
The emphatic detail demonstrates that each set of offerings were seen as important. First the bullocks were killed, probably by the ‘princes’, and their blood was received by the priests in vessels suitable for the purpose, and sprinkled on the altar. Then the same was done for the rams and for the lambs. It was an act of worship and a rededication for the whole of ‘Judah’. The fact that hands were not laid on them confirms that these were burnt offerings and not sin offerings.
2.29.23 ‘And they brought near the he-goats for the sin-offering before the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them.’
Then the he-goats for the sin offerings were ‘brought near’ before the king and the assembly, and the king and the representatives of the assembly, presumably the tribal princes, laid their hands on them, identifying them as being for the sins of the people.
2.29.24 ‘And the priests killed them, and they made a sin-offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel, for the king commanded that the burnt-offering and the sin-offering should be made for all Israel.’
After the laying on of hands, the priests killed the he-goats and made a sin-offering with their blood on the altar making atonement for ‘all-Israel’. Note the identification of ‘Judah’ (verse 21) with all Israel here. The Chronicler regularly uses the term all Israel. He clearly saw those who lived in ‘Judah’ as representing all Israel, which was quite reasonable, for those of Israel whose hearts were dedicated to YHWH had removed to Judah (11.13-16; 14.9). Furthermore it appears at this stage that Hezekiah’s authority reached out into the northern territories (30.1, 5, 10-11, 18) even though some of them were in what were now Assyrian provinces (2 Kings 15.29; 17.6, 24; and Assyrian inscriptions).
Note the emphasis on the fact that all this was done at the king’s command, and the first reference to burnt offering, confirming what we have seen above. The Chronicler saw Hezekiah as a pattern for the Coming King, and was encouraging the returned exiles to look for such a King. It is not unlikely that many of them were sceptical about the idea of kings, given the history of Israel and Judah. Thus the Chronicler wanted to remind them of what a godly king could do.
2.29.25 ‘And he set the Levites in the house of YHWH with cymbals, with harps, and with lyres, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was of YHWH by his prophets.’
This is not necessarily in chronological order. The Levites were almost certainly set in place before the offerings were offered (verse 27). But the Chronicler had first wanted to emphasise the offerings which would rededicate and purify the Temple. Now he wants to bring out the part that the singers among the Levites played in the ceremony, and stresses that it was in accordance with the commandment of David, and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet. In other words, as they gathered with their cymbals, harps and lyres, they had divine sanction. This emphasis on the Levites is one of the Chronicler’s introductions as against 2 Kings, but we need not doubt that he obtained his information from reliable sources.
It is noteworthy that David is named among the prophets. Certainly his Psalms were seen as prophetic. See also 1 Chronicles 22.8; 28.4-7, 19 and compare Matthew 22.43; Mark 12.36; Acts 1.16. And this was why they were included in the Scriptures both by the Jews and by Jesus (Luke 24.44).
2.29.26 ‘And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.’
We learn here that the Levites were stood there in the Temple courts ‘with the instruments of David’, namely the cymbals, lyre and harp. These would not be his actual instruments, although it is just possible that one or two might have survived, but were the types of instrument that as a musician himself (2 Samuel 6.5) he introduced into Temple worship. See 1 Chronicles 23.3; 25.1-31. The priests had their regular trumpets. One of the Chronicler’s purposes may have been to confirm to the returnees from exile the God-appointed nature of the Levite singers.
2.29.27 ‘And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering on the altar. And when the burnt-offering began, the song of YHWH began also, and the trumpets, together with the instruments of David king of Israel.’
This probably refers to the burnt offering offered in earlier verses, this being an indication that when those offerings were offered, the singers began their music. Alternately it may refer to the commencement of the offering again of the daily burnt offering. Either way the burnt offering was accompanied by joyous and triumphant music.
2.29.28 ‘And all the assembly worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished.’
As a consequence of the offering of the dedicatory burnt offering the whole gathered assembly worshipped, whilst the singers sang and the trumpeters played. And all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. It was a time of great celebration. The ‘finishing’ may refer to the series of burnt offerings mentioned above, or to the time taken for the daily burnt offering to be consumed. Probably the former.
2.29.29 ‘And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshipped.’
The burnt offerings and the sin-offerings having been duly made, the king and all those who were present bowed themselves and worshipped. The Temple had been purified and dedicated and it was back to worship as usual.
This verse forms an inclusio with verse 20.
The Whole Assembly Bring Their Offerings and Sacrifices To YHWH In Great Abundance (29.30-36).
The official opening ceremony having been completed King Hezekiah now called on the whole assembly to bring their offerings and sacrifices to YHWH, which they did in great abundance. Many of these would be peace offerings (verse 35) and thank-offerings (verse 31b) of which all could participate so that the celebrations would have included a great feast. This was after all the time when the Feast of Unleavened Bread should have been celebrated. But what is emphasised by the Chronicler are the number of burnt offerings of which the people could not partake, offerings made solely to YHWH. These more specifically demonstrated the genuineness of their worship.
Indeed, the burnt offerings were so many that there was a shortage of priests, partly due to the fact that many of the priests had been slack in ‘sanctifying’ themselves. This may have indicated a general indolence among the priests, or it may suggest that many had been involved in the idolatrous worship at the idolatrous altars that Ahaz had set up, and were not so enthusiastic about the return to the old ways. This was in contrast with the Levites who had responded immediately. It behoves us all, when the work of God calls, to respond with diligence rather than lethargy.
Note that in A Hezekiah and the princes commanded praise and worship, and in the parallel Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had prepared for them. In B commanded the offering of sacrifices and thank-offerings, and in the parallel the offerings were in abundance. In C the assembly brought in sacrifices and thank-offering and burnt offerings from a willing heart, and in the parallel the burnt offerings were so many that there were insufficient priests. Centrally in D we have the number of burnt offerings, and in the parallel the number of consecrated things.
2.29.30 ‘Furthermore Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praises to YHWH with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.’
The initial celebrations having been completed Hezekiah, together with the rulers of the people, called on the Levites ‘to sing praises to YHWH with the words of David and of Asaph the seer’. This was in preparation for the great offering of sacrifices and offerings that was about to take place. It would seem that it had become customary for music to accompany the offering of sacrifices. And the Levites responded with alacrity, and sang praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshipped.
It will be noted that this is evidence that well before this time Psalms of David and Asaph had been gathered into a collection and were available for use in the Temple.
We saw in 1 Chronicles 25.1-6 that the singers were seen as having a ‘prophetic’ role. But it is noteworthy, as emphasised here, that it was on the whole only a secondary role carried into effect by utilising the ‘prophecies’ of David and Asaph (although see 20.14 ff.) It would, however, encourage the returnees as they recognised that they still had ‘prophets’ of a certain kind among them.
2.29.31a ‘Then Hezekiah answered and said, “Now you have consecrated yourselves to YHWH, come near and bring sacrifices and thank-offerings into the house of YHWH.”
Hezekiah then called on the whole assembly, who had by now ‘consecrated’ themselves to YHWH. Consecration (‘filling the hand’) was a term usually reserved for priestly consecration, but is used by the Chronicler in a wider sense (see 1 Chronicles 29.5). It may presumably refers to them sanctifying themselves and ensuring they were clean by three days waiting on God, washing their clothes in water and abstaining from sexual activity. As a consequence they were now able to bring sacrifices and thank-offerings into the House o YHWH. As these were not burnt offerings (verse 31b) they were presumably peace offerings as well as thanksgiving offerings, although they may have included sin offerings. Peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings were both offerings of which the offerer and his family and friends could partake.
2.29.31b ‘And the assembly brought in sacrifices and thank-offerings, and as many as were of a willing heart brought burnt-offerings.’
So the whole assembly brought in their peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings to YHWH, and those who were more devoted also freely of their own accord brought burnt offerings (which they could not partake of).
2.29.32 ‘And the number of the burnt-offerings which the assembly brought was seventy bullocks, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs. All these were for a burnt-offering to YHWH.’
The number of burnt offerings was assessed. As regularly with regard to numbers in those days they may be ‘symbolic’ rather than literal. ‘Seventy’ bullocks may indicate the divine completeness of what was offered. ‘A hundred’ rams may simply indicate ‘a good number of’ rams. Two hundred lambs then indicated roughly twice as many lambs. They are clearly round numbers for the number was not fixed by anyone but determined by the willingness of the offerers (verse 31b).
Today we would have little difficulty with assessing such numbers, but in ancient days counting was a skill possessed only by few. It was not taken for granted. Apart from low numbers counting was not required in daily life and whilst we take it for granted it is only because of the effort we put in over two years and more to make sure our children can count because it is one of the requirements of our society. It is unlikely that it was seen as of such import in Israelite families. They would be busy helping with the farming and watching the flocks and herds whose members they would know by name. They would not need to count.
2.29.33 ‘And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep.’
The consecrated things presumably point to the offerings which were not burnt offerings. They would be consumed at the Feast., and indeed would be needed to ensure that the Feast was a success. These consisted of six herds (hundred) of oxen and three large flocks (thousand) of sheep. There were therefore almost ten times more ‘consecrated things’ than there were burnt offerings.
2.29.34 ‘But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt-offerings, for which reason their brothers the Levites helped them, until the work was ended, and until the priests had sanctified themselves, for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.’
Because many of the priests had been dilatory in sanctifying themselves, there were not enough of them to skin the burnt offerings, which was seemingly at this stage seen as their responsibility. This may have been because of the special nature of the Feast, or because the offerings were seen as being offered on behalf of all the people, or because custom had altered who should take the responsibility. Initially it had been the offerer’s responsibility (Leviticus 1.5-6). But where offerings were on behalf of all the people, the priests as their representatives, would take on the responsibility. Furthermore, as it is made clear that great emphasis was being placed on the ‘holiness’ of those involved it may be that lay members were at this stage of the new reforms not seen as ‘holy’ enough to do so. But there were not enough priests available. Consequently the priests had to call on their brother Levites to assist them. This would
We are not told why the priest’s were dilatory. Possibly it was because they had become disheartened under Ahaz’ regime. But it was very much to the credit of the Levites that they were ready to step in. It is a reminder to us to be at all times in readiness spiritually for any task we may be called on to do.
2.29.35 ‘And also the burnt-offerings were in abundance, with the fat of the peace-offerings, and with the drink-offerings for every burnt-offering. So the service of the house of YHWH was set in order.’
Stress is now laid on the abundance of what was provided which were not partaken of by the people, and were consequently wholehearted offerings to YHWH. Thus the burnt offerings, of which the offerer’s could not partake, were in abundance, as was the fat of the peace offerings. And along with these were the drink offerings offered along with the burnt offerings. The consequence was that the service of the House of YHWH was set in order. All was restored to how it should be.
2.29.36 ‘And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, because of what God had prepared for the people, for the thing was done suddenly.’
The passage closes with an emphasis on the joy of Hezekiah and all the people at what had happened. They saw it as having been prepared for them by God. And what especially caused them to rejoice was that it had all been accomplished so suddenly. It seemed that the whole nation had, within a very short while, been turned round to the worship of YHWH. The outpouring of rejoicing was very similar to that which had occurred when the Temple was first built (see 7.10).
King Hezekiah Calls On Israel To Observe The Passover And The Feast Of Unleavened Bread In The Second Month Of The Year (30.1-15a).
Because of the condition of the Temple it had proved impossible to observe the Passover an the Feast of Unleavened Bread at the usual time in the first moon period of the year, the moon period of Nisan (Abib). Thus Hezekiah now called on the whole of Israel to observe it on the second moon period. This is the first actual mention of the Passover since the time of Joshua 5.10-11, although 30.26 may indicate that it was observed in the time of Solomon, and 2 Kings 23.22 refers to its observance in the days of the Judges.. However that may be, it is clear here that Passover was now centralised on the Temple rather than being observed in people’s homes, and probably had been for some time as Hezekiah clearly never considered the fact that it could be celebrated away from the Temple. This was in conformity with Deuteronomy 16.1-8.
Some have questioned whether the Chronicler called on genuine sources for his account, but the remarkable fact that it was observed on the second month of the year, including by those who were unclean, counts in favour of its authenticity. There is absolutely no reason why the Chronicler, with his concern for the punctilio of the cult, should have invented such a change, when, if he had invented the account, he could have placed it in the first month and spoken of all participants as clean. However, the observance of the Passover in the second month did have a precedent. In Numbers 9.9-12 provision was made for those who were unclean at the time of the Passover, or were on a long journey, to observe it instead in the second moon period.
It is true that 2 Kings 23.22 tells us concerning the Passover in the time of Josiah that ‘no such Passover had been kept since the days of the Judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah’. But this could reflect, firstly that Hezekiah’s Passover was irregular, which Josiah’s was not, and secondly that the writer in 2 Kings is trying to exalt Josiah. 2 Kings tends to place most emphasis on Josiah, whilst the Chronicler places it on Hezekiah.
Note the effort to involve all Israel from Dan to Beersheba, an indication that Hezekiah’s influence, if not his reign, extended far beyond Judah’s borders.
In A Hezekiah called all Israel and Judah to eat the Passover, and in the parallel they killed the Passover. In B the people assembled to keep the Feast of the Passover in the second month, and in the parallel they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month. In C what was to be done was right in the eyes of the King and all the assembly, and in the parallel the hand of God came on the whole assembly to do what the King had said. In D the decree went out from Beersheba to Dan to keep the Passover at Jerusalem, and in the parallel men came from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun to Jerusalem. In E the posts went out with letters from the king, and in the parallel the posts went from city to city. In F Hezekiah called on the people to turn to YHWH, and in the parallel he did the same. Centrally in G they were called on not to trespass like their fathers did, and in the parallel they were called on not to be stiff-necked like their fathers.
2.30.1 ‘And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of YHWH at Jerusalem, to keep the passover to YHWH, the God of Israel.’
Hezekiah sent out messengers to all Israel and Judah, and additionally sent letters to Ephraim and Manasseh. This may suggest that ‘all Israel’ meant all the Israelites living in Judah, the letters to Ephraim and Manasseh being extra. Sending by letter may have been seen as giving extra force to his call. Those outside ‘Judah’ may have required more persuasion, and more official notification. The call was for them to come to the house of YHWH in Jerusalem in order to keep the Passover to YHWH, the God of Israel. This last may reflect some of the content of the letters. YHWH was the God, not only of Judah, but of all Israel.
2.30.2 ‘For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the assembly in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second moon period.’
The Passover should have been observed in the first moon period of the year, the moon period of Nisan (ancient name Abib). But this had clearly not been possible, mainly because the Temple was still ‘unclean’. This demonstrates how bad things had become under Ahaz, for otherwise we might have expected some attempt having been made to hold what should have been seen as an important Feast. Yahwism had reached rock bottom. Indeed, the fact that Hezekiah as co-regent had presumably not dared to try to have the Feast observed while his father was alive, demonstrated his father’s hatred of Yahwism.
But now that Hezekiah was on the throne the situation had altered. Yet even he had been unable to get things ready in time for the Feast. Since his accession there had not been enough time. But he considered it so important that he had called together the leaders of Judah to see what could be done. And they had come to the conclusion that what they should do was delay the Feast for a month so that it would be held in the second month. There was precedent for this in the fact that in Numbers 9.9-12 provision had been made for those who were unclean at the time of the Passover, or were on a long journey, to observe the Passover in the second moon period instead. As the priests themselves had clearly been unclean in the first month (and many still were) this was presumably seen by the counsel as sufficient grounds for their decision.
Some have suggested that it also had another purpose. Jeroboam I had instituted at least one Feast one month after its equivalent in Judah (1 Kings 12.32-33), and the suggestion is that Hezekiah and his advisers wished to encourage Israelite participation by holding the Feast at the time which they were used to. But it seems unlikely that at such a time of zeal and dedication ‘unnecessary’ compromises should be made. But it is possible that it would ‘accidentally’ offer some encouragement to Israelites.
2.30.3 ‘For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem.’
We are now given further reasons why the Passover had had to be delayed. It was not only because the Temple had not been cleansed, but because the priests had not sanctified themselves in sufficient number, and because the people had got so used to the fact that there would be no Feast that they had not assembled at Jerusalem, as according to the Torah (the Law of Moses) they should have done..
2.30.4 ‘And the thing was right in the eyes of the king and of all the assembly.’
Both the king and the assembly (no doubt made up of those of the leaders who dwelt in and around Jerusalem, especially those at the king’s court) agreed that the action that they had decided on was the right one. It is an indication of Hezekiah’s determination that things had turned round so quickly.
2.30.5 ‘So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover to YHWH, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem. For they had not kept it in great numbers in such sort as it is written.’
Consequently a decree was made that proclamation be made throughout ‘all Israel’ from Beersheba in the extreme South, in the Negev, to Dan in the north. These were the old boundaries of the tribal lands (Judges 20.1; 1 Samuel 3.20; 2 Samuel 3.10; etc.), and it brings out the extent of Hezekiah’s influence. It may suggest that on the fall of Hoshea of Israel, or possibly some years after, the Assyrians had allowed Ahaz a further extension to his kingdom, in return, of course, for increased tribute. Ahaz as a voluntary tributary with no record of rebellion against his name would have been viewed with some favour, especially at a time when Egypt was proving troublesome and Philistia were causing aggravation to Sargon II, now king of Assyria. These activities may have been the result of Israel again withholding tribute, which we learn for Assyrian inscriptions resulted in 27,270 of its people being deported. Alternately Israel may have become an Assyrian province, whilst allowing religious access in order to bolster the religion of Yahwism which it appears from 2 Kings that Assyria were eager to do (for details see 2 Kings 17.24-41). This last may be supported by the fact that Israelites came from as far as Zebulun and Asher which themselves were in Assyrian provinces.
Whichever way it be it is clear that Hezekiah foresaw no difficulty in summoning such Israelites as were still within the old boundaries to Jerusalem in order to observe the Passover ‘to YHWH the God of Israel at Jerusalem’.
‘For they had not kept it in great numbers in such sort as it is written.’ This rather enigmatic phrase may simply refer to the fact that the Passover had not previously been observed with such large numbers. Or it may indicate that its observance had in the past been relatively poor. Hezekiah was thus to be seen as the one who brought the Passover back into its rightful place as a major Feast.
Alternately it may be indicating that this was the first time that it had been observed as a Feast at the Central Sanctuary, fulfilling the provisions in Deuteronomy 16.1-8 in contrast with the old way of celebrating it in people’s homes as at the Exodus.
2.30.6 ‘So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, “You children of Israel, turn again to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may return to the remnant who are escaped of you out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.”
We have here an indication of how kings of Judah proclaimed announcements to the people by sending men on horseback with letters addressed to the local leaders as sent from ‘the king and princes’, the latter probably the heads of the tribes and sub-tribes who would be at court. In this case the words were in accordance with the direct authority of the king.
They called on ‘the children of Israel’ (i.e. both Judah and Israel as the posts went throughout both) to turn again to YHWH from Whom they had cut themselves off by idol worship. It will be noted that YHWH is named as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob)’, the God Who had made His promises to their forefathers. Although in many cases they were their forefathers by adoption.
And he assured them that in response YHWH would turn to them as the remnant who had escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria, that is, as those who had not been removed from the land. It is apparent from what is said above that this message went to all the people of both Judah and Israel, although presumably not many men of Judah had been removed from Judah by Assyria at this time, even though they had turned from YHWH. There had not been a mass invasion of Judah by Assyria, although both Edom and Philistia had taken their people captive. But the taking of captives by Assyria was yet to come later in Hezekiah’s reign when he entered into association with others and withheld tribute. It may also include people taken captive in earlier Assyrian depredations (which would be why the kings of Assyria are in the plural).
2.30.7 “And do not be like your fathers, and like your brothers, who trespassed against YHWH, the God of their fathers, so that he gave them up to desolation, as you see.”
They were called on not to be like their fathers and brothers, who had trespassed against the God of their fathers (of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Could they not see for themselves the consequence of that trespass in that He had given them up to desolation? It was something that they could see simply by looking around them.
2.30.8 “Now do not be stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to YHWH, and enter into his sanctuary, which he has sanctified for ever, and serve YHWH your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.’
So they were not to be stiffnecked as their fathers had been, but were to yield to YHWH and join with their brothers in entering into the Sanctuary of YHWH, that Sanctuary which He had sanctified (set apart for His worship) ‘for ever’ (literally, ‘into the distant future’). There they were to ‘serve’ YHWH their God by fulfilling all that He required of them in the Torah, so that His fierce anger may turn away from them. To ‘serve’ YHWH included to fulfil the ritual requirements of the Torah.
2.30.9 “For if you turn again to YHWH, your brothers and your children will find compassion before those who led them captive, and will come again into this land. For YHWH your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”
Furthermore he promised that if they turned again to YHWH their brothers and their children who had been taken into captivity would find compassion in the eyes of those who had taken them captive, so that they would allow them to return to their own land. This included those who had been taken captive from Judah by Edom and Philistia. And this would happen because YHWH their God was full of unmerited love and favour, and was merciful, and, if they returned to Him, would not turn away His face from them.
It was, of course, a reminder to his readers of what YHWH had done for them in returning them from captivity in the days of Cyrus of Persia. They would be able to join with such captives with a feeling of deep sympathy, and with a sense of joy at what YHWH had done for them.
2.30.10 ‘So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even to Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.’
Hezekiah’s letters, with this message in it, was carried from city to city through the Israelite territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, and even as far as Zebulun. But many in what had once been Israel laughed them to scorn and mocked them. They had lost the fear of YHWH and were content with their idolatry. What was YHWH to them? It was a sad picture of how Israel had fallen.
2.30.11 ‘Nevertheless certain men of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.’
But it was not true of all. Some men of Asher and Manasseh and Zebulun, now living in Assyrian provinces, humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. Their hearts were hungry after YHWH. They remembered what once had been.
Taking the whole passage it is apparent that people came from Asher, Zebulun, Issachar (verse 18), Ephraim and Manasseh. The transjordanian tribes do not appear to have been represented, possibly because the Assyrian province established there was not willing to release any who remained, or possibly because they were no longer seen as Israel. They had never been strictly part of the land. It also has to be taken into account that many had been deported from there by earlier kings of Assyria (1 Chronicles 5.26; 2 Kings 15.29).
2.30.12 ‘Also on Judah came the hand of God to give them one heart, to do the commandment of the king and of the princes by the word of YHWH.’
But in Judah the response was wholehearted. The hand of God came on them to make them all willing and determined to obey the command of their king and their tribal leaders which was given by the word of YHWH. It might, of course, have been expected that this would be so. They had a deeper sense of loyalty towards Hezekiah their king, and were much more likely to be called to account for any failure to respond.
2.30.13 ‘And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second moon period, a very great assembly.’
As a consequence a great number of people assembled at Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second moon period of the year. And they formed ‘a very great assembly’. Note how the Feast of Passover and the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread were clearly seen as one Feast (compare verse 2). The two descriptions may reflect different sources.
2.30.14 ‘And they arose and took away the altars which were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense they took away, and cast them into the brook Kidron.’
Then prior to observing the Feast, they cleansed Jerusalem of its foreign altars of sacrifice, and its altars of incense, which had been used for the worship of false gods. They took them away and cast them into the River Kidron, possibly having ground them to pieces so as to make them more easily disposed of. Compare I Kings 15.11.
The Wadi Kidron (now named the Wadi-en-nar) is a torrent bed which commences north of Jerusalem, and passes the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives on its way to the Dead Sea, which it reaches by way of the wilderness of Judea. For much of the year it is dry and sun-baked, being filled with water only in the rainy season.
2.30.15a ‘Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second moon period.’
The passage ends with the triumphant statement that their purpose was accomplished. On the fourteenth day of the second moon period they killed the Passover, the Passover that should normally have been killed on the fourteenth day of the first moon period. But it was a triumph none-the-less. For as long as most of them could remember the Passover, the celebration of the great delivery from Egypt, had probably not been observed, except possibly by individual godly households.
A Detailed Account Of The Killing Of The Passover (30.15b-27).
There now follows a detailed account of the killing of the Passover and of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Normally the Passover lambs would have been slain by the offerer, but due to the fact that many of them had not ‘cleansed’ themselves some of the killing was carried out by the Levites, with the blood then passed in basins to the priests so that they could sprinkle it on the altar. Indeed, it was due to a dispensation from YHWH, at the request of Hezekiah, that those who were ‘unclean’ were able to participate at all.
It is stressed that the Feast was kept with great gladness, to the accompaniment of joyous music by the instrumentalists among the Levites, whilst King Hezekiah himself, together with the leaders of the people, provided the necessary offerings and sacrifices. It was a time of great joy for all.
Note that in A the PRIESTS AND LEVITES sanctified themselves and brought burnt offerings to the House of YHWH, and in the parallel the PRIESTS AND LEVITES blessed the people and were heard in YHWH’s holy habitation. In B the Priests and Levites stood in their place according to their order in accordance with the Law of Moses (there had been nothing like it for years), and in the parallel there was great joy in Jerusalem because since the time of David’s son Solomon there had been nothing like it. In C a great number from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun ate the Passover, and in the parallel the assembly who CAME OUT OF ISRAEL rejoiced, along with others. In D Hezekiah prayed for the people who ate the Passover while unclean and asked pardon for them, and in the parallel he provided a multitude of sacrifices. In E the people kept the Feast of Unleavened bread SEVEN DAYS with GREAT GLADNESS, and in the parallel they kept another SEVEN DAYS with GLADNESS. Centrally in F the Levites had understanding in the service of YHWH, and in the parallel they offered sacrifices of peace-offerings and made confession to YHWH.
2.30.15b ‘And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought burnt-offerings into the house of YHWH.’
This may indicate a resanctifying of the priests and Levites previously mentioned as sanctifying themselves (29.15), in readiness for the Feast, or it may indicate that further priests and Levites who now came in from the towns also sanctified themselves. The reason the priests and Levites were ashamed was probably because they had not been in a fit state to kill the Passover at the appropriate time, which they should have been. Thus they now set about sanctifying themselves and as a consequence were able again to bring burnt offerings into the House of YHWH. Things were getting back to normal after the apostasy in the time of Ahaz. It may be that the burnt offerings were a necessary part of their sanctification.
2.30.16 ‘And they stood in their place after their order, according to the law of Moses the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood which they received of the hand of the Levites.’
Then the priests and the Levites each stood in their appointed places ‘after their order’, that is in the places allotted for them by Moses. The Levites stood ready to receive the blood of the Passover sacrifices in basins, when the sacrifices were offered by the people, and these would then be handed to the priests who would sprinkle it on the altar.
2.30.17 ‘For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves. Therefore the Levites had the charge of killing the passovers for every one who was not clean, to sanctify them to YHWH.’
But because in this particular instance many who had brought Passover sacrifices had not sanctified themselves (usually they would not have been allowed to partake of the Passover in such a state) the Levites slew their sacrifices on their behalf, so that the sacrifices would be sanctified. In the case of those who were sanctified, they killed their sacrifices themselves. By this means all the Passover sacrifices were sanctified.
2.30.18-19 ‘For a great number of the people, even many of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it is written. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “The good YHWH pardon every one who sets his heart to seek God, YHWH, the God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.’
We are here provided with the reason for this departure from the norm. It was because a large number of the people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not had the opportunity of cleansing themselves (washing their clothes and avoiding anything that was seen as unclean) prior to the Passover due to the speed at which they had had to come to Jerusalem.
We know that later great care was taken over these preparations for Passover, with people arriving early for Passover so as to ensure that they were ‘clean’ in time for the Passover, and graves being painted white so that no one would inadvertently become unclean by contact with a grave.
Nevertheless, although they had not had opportunity to ensure that they were ‘clean’, these people from Israel did eat the Passover contrary to the instructions in the Torah about the necessity for being ‘clean’. But the situation was made possible by Hezekiah praying for them and asking ‘the good YHWH’ to pardon them for the failing to be cleansed according to the purification of the Sanctuary, because they had set their hearts to seek YHWH, the God of their fathers, after a long time away from Him.
2.30.20 ‘And YHWH heard Hezekiah, and healed the people.’
And YHWH heard Hezekiah’s prayer ‘and healed the people’. This probably means that He acted to make them ‘clean’ by divine fiat, and thus spared them from the need for chastening. There is no suggestion that any kind of plague had broken out on them.
2.30.21 ‘And the children of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread SEVEN DAYS WITH GREAT GLADNESS, and the Levites and the priests praised YHWH day by day, singing with loud instruments to YHWH.’
The gladness with which the seven day Feast of Unleavened Brad was celebrated is now stressed, and will continue to be stressed. It was a time of great joy and rejoicing. YHWH was again their God. The phrase ‘the children of Israel’ includes both Israel and Judah all seen as one. And along with their rejoicing the priests and Levites praised YHWH day by day, singing and loudly playing their instruments.
2.30.22a ‘And Hezekiah spoke in a heartfelt way to all the Levites who had good understanding in the service of YHWH.’
That Hezekiah was deeply moved at the singing and playing of instruments comes out in that he now spoke in a heartfelt way to these musicians, that is, all the Levites who had good understanding in the service of YHWH. His heart was opened to YHWH, and he commended those who were leading the worship. There was nothing nominal about his participation.
2.30.22b ‘So they ate throughout the feast for the seven days, offering sacrifices of peace-offerings, and making confession to YHWH, the God of their fathers.’
So all who were present ate throughout the Feast for the seven days, offering peace-offerings (which would be the source of the food as well as being offered in worship to YHWH), and ‘making confession’ to the God of their fathers, that is, honouring Him and confessing Him as their Lord and their God.
2.30.23 ‘And the whole assembly took counsel to keep another seven days; and they kept another SEVEN DAYS WITH GLADNESS.’
When the end of the seven days was approaching so enthusiastic were the participants that they gathered together and determined to continue for another seven days. This was in line with the way in which a similar thing had happened at the original consecration of the Temple (compare 7.8-9). Rather than hurrying back to their farms they wanted to be involved in further worship. Revival was in the air, and they observed another seven days with gladness. The whole of Israel was being carried along on a wave of exhilaration.
2.30.24 ‘For Hezekiah king of Judah gave to the assembly for offerings a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave to the assembly a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep; and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.’
This extension was made possible because Hezekiah and his ‘princes’ contributed further bullocks and sheep over and above what had already been offered. And these too were offered and participated of by the whole assembly, a process requiring the sanctifying of a great number of priests.
The numbers probably indicate a large herd of bullocks and seven large flocks of sheep supplied by Hezekiah himself, and a further large herd of bullocks and ten large flocks of sheep contributed by the princes. It is doubtful if they were specifically counted, and ‘a thousand’ regularly indicates a large indefinite number (compare ‘the cattle on a thousand hills’).
2.30.25 ‘And all the assembly of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the assembly who came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and who dwelt in Judah, rejoiced.’
The whole assembly rejoiced together. They included the people of Judah, the priests and Levites, all who had gathered out of Israel, and all those of Israel who had previously settled in Judah in the days of Rehoboam (11.13-17) and Asa (15.9).
2.30.26 ‘So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.’
So Jerusalem was filled with joy because of what had occurred, for nothing like it had previously occurred in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon, the son of David, the King of Israel. This may have in mind the celebrations at the inauguration of the Temple, or it may contain memories of hat life was like in Solomon’s time. There seems to be some attempt in this to compare Hezekiah with Solomon. The great days were here again.
2.30.27 ‘Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy habitation, even to heaven.’
This would appear to refer to the end of the Feast. At this point the priests and Levites arose and blessed the people, probably in the words of the blessing in Numbers 6.22-27. And YHWH heard their voice, for their prayer came up to His holy habitation, even to Heaven. YHWH’s seal was clearly on what had happened resulting in His blessing falling on all Israel.
The Regular Temple Offerings Are Re-established, the Priests And Levites Are Appointed By Their Courses And Full Provision Is Made For Their Maintenance In Accordance With The Torah (31.1-21).
Now that Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread had been celebrated en masse for the first time since the old days, there was the necessity to once again organise the regular Temple offerings and the priests and Levites into their courses, and to ensure their provision. The bad days of Ahaz were being set aside and Temple worship was beginning anew. Hezekiah consequently harked back to David’s organisation of the priestly and Levite courses and organised them again in a similar way. To a certain extent Hezekiah was being presented as the new David.
The Idolatrous Altars Are Destroyed And Temple Worship Is Renewed (30.1-6).
The catch phrase ‘the Cities of Judah’ is used as an inclusio for this first subsection. It opens with the idolatrous altars erected by Ahaz being removed from the cities of Judah, and closes with those who dwelt in the cities of Judah bringing their tithes to YHWH. In between the priests and Levites were arranged in their courses, and the regular Temple offerings were re-established.
Note that in A ‘all Israel’ went to the CITIES OF JUDAH and removed everything that was idolatrous, and in the parallel the children of Israel and Judah who dwelt in THE CITIES OF JUDAH brought in their tithes which were consecrated to YHWH their God. In B the priests and Levites were appointed for service, and in the parallel they were provided for by the firstfruits and the tithe. Centrally in C the king’s PORTION was provided for all the major burnt offerings, and in the parallel the people provided the PORTION of the priests and Levites so that they might give themselves to the Law of YHWH.
2.31.1 ‘Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, and broke in pieces the pillars, and hewed down the Asherim, and broke down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.’
In 30.14 Jerusalem itself had been cleansed of its ‘foreign’ altars. Now it was time for the same to be done throughout the cities of Judah. We are, of course, to read ‘cities of Judah’ in its widest sense of the whole of Hezekiah’s realm. This cleansing was carried out by ‘all Israel’, that is the peoples of both Judah and Israel who were present at the Feast. All were at one in the enterprise. The Baal pillars were broken down, the Asherah poles/images were hewn down, and the high places and altars were destroyed throughout Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh. This having been accomplished they all returned to their lands in their own cities. For this verse compare 2 Kings 18.4.
2.31.2 ‘And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, both the priests and the Levites, for burnt-offerings and for peace-offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the camp of YHWH.’
Hezekiah then set about re-establishing the courses of the priests and Levites in accordance with the pattern set by David. As we know, having had their service previously dispensed with, at least as far as the Temple was concerned, they were in disarray and needed reorganising. Now Hezekiah prepared them for their different kinds of service, the offering of burnt offerings and peace offerings as far as the priests were concerned, and the giving of thanks and praise as the responsibility of the Levite musicians.
Note the interesting phrase ‘the gates of the camp of YHWH’. This interesting phrase pictures the Divine Warrior (Isaiah 59.16 ff) as once more being over His people, and sees the Temple and its courtyards as His ‘camp’. This helps to explain why in the next chapter Sennacherib and the Assyrians are defeated.
2.31.3 ‘He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt-offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt-offerings, and the burnt-offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of YHWH.’
Hezekiah also provided ‘the king’s portion’ from his own substance for the morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, and the burnt offerings for the New Moons (which opened each moon period) and set Feasts. What was written in the Torah of YHWH was the type of offerings (Numbers 28-29) which had to be offered, not the king’s responsibility for them. But like David and Solomon before him he made full provision, otherwise initially they would not have been offered.
2.31.4 ‘Moreover he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the law of YHWH.’
He then gave commandment to the people of Jerusalem to pay to the priests and Levites ‘their portion’, that is, the firstfruits and the tithes in accordance with the Torah. This would make provision for the priests and Levites so that they could concentrate their attention on doing all that was required by the Torah (Instruction) of YHWH. This would include all the ordinances laid down by David. The ‘portion’ is explained in the following verse.
2.31.5 ‘And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel gave in abundance the first-fruits of grain, new wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things they brought in abundantly.
For the enthusiasm of the people was such that as soon as the commandment came from Hezekiah, the ‘children of Israel’ of Jerusalem were the first to set aside the firstfruits of their produce for the priests (Exodus 23.19; Numbers 18.12-13; Deuteronomy 26.2; Leviticus 2.11-12), and then the tenth part of their produce (the tithe) for the Levites (who would give one tenth of it to the priests) (Numbers 18.21), as required by the Torah. These were for the upkeep of the Levites and the priests. And they set it aside ‘abundantly’. There was no attempt to scrimp on the offerings. Some of the grain would be available immediately (the barley harvest would have matured a little while before, and the wheat harvest would be maturing). The new wine and the oil would mature a little later. The honey could be wild honey, or a syrup-like product from fruits. Thus provision for the priests and Levites began to pour in.
This would then be followed by firstfruits and tithes of these products from the rest of Judah and Israel. Thus the provision would continue to stream in.
2.31.6 ‘And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of dedicated things which were consecrated to YHWH their God, and laid them by heaps.’
The children of Israel and Judah (thus all the Israelites) who dwelt in the cities of Judah also (as well as what was described previously) brought in their tithe of oxen and sheep (Leviticus 27.30-33). The meaning of ‘the tithe of dedicated things which were consecrated to YHWH their God’ is difficult to assess. It may especially indicate things voluntarily dedicated to YHWH, which they then consecrated as an act of devotion and love prior to bringing it to the Temple to offer up, with one tenth of what was dedicated going to the Levites. The idea of excess voluntary giving would fit the passage nicely. Some, however, associate it with the heave offerings given to the priests which were described as ‘all the hallowed things of the children of Israel’ in Numbers 18.8. But these do not appear to fit the context. The meaning would have been clear to the Chronicler’s readers. All the firstfruits and tithes which were brought in were then piled in heaps.
We can compare how at the Exodus the people poured gifts into the Tabernacle on its construction (Exodus 36.2-7) and also into the Temple (1 Chronicles 29.6-9). At such times the hearts of the people were specially moved. Here it was in gratitude that YHWH had restored their Temple. The children of Israel in this case would be all those who had emigrated from the northern kingdom at various times (10.17; 11.16; 30.25).
Over A Period Of Four Moon Periods The Firstfruits And the Tithes Were Accumulated And Piled in Heaps Because There Was Too Much For The Priests And Levites To Eat (31.7-10).
From the third moon period (new moon to new moon), when the firstfruits and tithes of grain were brought in at the Feast of Sevens to the seventh moon period when the firstfruits and tithes of the wine and olive oil and summer fruits were brought in at the Feast of Tabernacles, the firstfruits and tithes continued to pile up in heaps because it was too much for the priests and Levites and their families to eat.
Note that in A they began to lay the foundation of the heaps of tithes, and in the parallel we are given the result since they started bringing them. In B Hezekiah and the princes saw the heaps and blessed YHWH and in the parallel Hezekiah asked concerning them.
2.31.7 ‘In the third moon period they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh moon period.’
The third and seventh moon periods (months) were periods in which the Feast of Sevens and the Feast of Tabernacles were held. The people would bring in to the Temple as they came for the Feasts the firstfruits and tithes of all their produce and cattle. As we have already seen much of this was piled in heaps because it was not needed by the priests and Levites.
2.31.8 ‘And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed YHWH, and his people Israel.’
The giving was so large that when Hezekiah and his princes came they saw the size of the heaps and ‘blessed YHWH and His people Israel’, the former for making His people so generous, the latter because they were so generous. Note the continued use of ‘Israel’ to denote the whole people.
2.31.9 ‘Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.’
Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and Levites concerning the heaps. This suggests that the heaps were so large that he could not credit that it had all come from the people. But he was soon to learn otherwise.
2.31.10 ‘And Azariah the chief priest, of the house of Zadok, answered him and said, “Since the people began to bring the oblations into the house of YHWH, we have eaten and had enough, and have left plenty, for YHWH has blessed his people; and what is left is this great store.’
For Azariah, the Zadokite Chief Priest, presumably the High Priest, explained to him that since the people had begun to bring their offerings and tithes to the House of YHWH both priests and Levites had all had enough to eat and more, so that the heaps, which were what remained, were plenteous. This was because YHWH had blessed His people greatly. As a consequence this great store had been left.
It is possible that this Azariah was the one mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6.13, but if so there were gaps in the High Priests named after him. He was probably not the one who rebuked King Uzziah in 26.17, who is not mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6.
Hezekiah Arranges For The Storage Of The Huge Surplus In Rooms In The House Of YHWH And Sets Over Them His Appointees From Among The Levites. Details Are Then Given Of Those Who Will Benefit From the Tithes (31.11-21).
This subsection describes the storing of the tithes, the names of those appointed over them who would ensure their fair distribution, and details concerning who were to benefit from the tithes.
Note that in A Hezekiah commanded the preparation of the store chambers for the offerings, and in the parallel every work that he began he did with all his heart and prospered. In B the oblations, tithes and dedicated things were brought in faithfully, and in the parallel Hezekiah wrought what was faithful. In C we are given the names of those who were over the allocations to the priests, and in the parallel men were named who would give portions to the priests in the cities. In D we are provided with the details of those on duty who benefited from the offerings, including children three and over, and in the parallel the details of the children and others who benefited. Centrally in E we have the priests and Levites themselves who benefited.
2.31.11 ‘Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of YHWH, and they prepared them.’
On seeing the heaps of produce brought as tithes for the Levites and priests Hezekiah commanded that rooms be prepared in the House of YHWH for the purpose of storing them. And the rooms were consequently prepared.
2.31.12a ‘And they brought in the oblations and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully.’
Then the oblations and tithes and dedicated things were brought into the storage rooms and dealt with faithfully.
2.31.12b-13 ‘And over them Conaniah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was second. and Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Conaniah and Shimei his brother, by the appointment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.’
Responsibility for them was then handed over to Conaniah the Levite, assisted by Shimei his brother, who was his second-in-command. These two had under them as overseers for the purpose Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, all good Israelite names. This was all by appointment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah, the ruler of the House of God (see verse 10). They would presumably be responsible for distributions of tithes to the Levites.
2.31.14 ‘And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the gatekeeper at the east gate, was over the freewill-offerings of God, to distribute the oblations of YHWH, and the most holy things.’
Distribution to the priests of the oblations of YHWH and of the most holy things (the heave offerings), which were for the priests, was put into the hands of Kore the son of Imnah the Levite.
2.31.15 ‘And under him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their office of trust, to give to their brothers by courses, as well to the great as to the small,’
He was assisted in the distribution by Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, who dwelt in the cities of the priests, and held an office of trust to give their priestly brothers by their courses, treating all equally, and distributing fairly to both great and small.
2.31.16 ‘Besides those who were reckoned by genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even every one who entered into the house of YHWH, as the duty of every day required, for their service in their offices according to their courses,’
Oblations and the most holy things were also distributed to the priests on duty, who apparently had with them in the Temple compound their sons from three years old and upwards, who entered into the House of YHWH. All were recorded in their genealogies of males. As they fulfilled their duties day by day in the House of YHWH they received their distributions for performing their services in their courses in accordance with their offices. It appears that these young boys had services to perform in the Temple, and this may have included the Levites.
2.31.17 ‘And those who were reckoned by genealogy of the priests by their fathers’ houses, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their offices by their courses,’
Also included in the distributions were the priests who could demonstrate their genealogies by their fathers’ houses, and the Levites from twenty years old and upwards in their offices by their courses.
2.31.18 ‘And those who were reckoned by genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation, for in their office of trust they sanctified themselves in holiness.’
Distribution was also made to the families of the priests and Levites by genealogy. This included their little ones, their wives, their sons and their daughters, who were also responsible to keep themselves holy as a matter of trust.
2.31.19 ‘Also for the sons of Aaron the priests, who were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every city, there were men who were mentioned by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all who were reckoned by genealogy among the Levites.’
Finally portions were given to all the priestly males who worked the fields in the suburbs of their cities, in every city. These were given by men who were mentioned by name (see verse 15). And a similar thing occurred with the Levites.
It will be apparent from the above that the tithes were widely distributed among numerous priests and Levites and their families. Presumably during the time of Ahaz these had been lacking.
2.31.20 ‘And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and he wrought what was good and right and faithful before YHWH his God.’
It is clear above that Hezekiah made provision for all the priests and Levites ‘throughout all Judah’. This probably indicated literally all priests and Levites because those who had been in Israel at the time of the division had seemingly moved to Judah (11.13). Thus there were no Levitical priests or Levites in Israel. This determined activity of Hezekiah would especially appeal to the Chronicler who clearly had a deep concern about such things. Thus he sums it up by saying that Hezekiah wrought what was good and right and faithful before YHWH his God. He had ensured the satisfactory conduct of the worship of YHWH.
2.31.21 ‘And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.’
Furthermore he did it with heart and soul. Indeed, whatever service he began in the House of God, and in whatever way he sought to obey the Torah and the commandments, he did it with all his heart. And the consequence was that he prospered.
Sennacherib Invades Judah, Challenges God And Has His Army Destroyed By God Bringing Victory To Judah/Israel (32.1-23).
This remarkable story, which occurred in 701 BC according to Assyrian records, is given in much greater detail in 2 Kings 18.13-19.37 and in Isaiah 36-37. But the Chronicler abbreviates it, ignoring the hints of multiple invasions, and even the paying of tribute, and rather stresses Sennacherib’s challenge that no god can deliver out of his hand (repeated five times in different ways), before demonstrating how YHWH did so. It is thus a tribute to the greatness of YHWH.
In view of his presentation of Hezekiah as almost the perfect king after David it comes as a surprise that such an invasion should take place. On the other hand, the Chronicler does not try to conceal the fact. His opening words ‘after these things and this faithfulness’ deliberately bring out the contrast. Even the faithful Hezekiah is not safe from invasion. But the account is written in such a way as to bring out that because of his faithfulness YHWH delivered him. To a faithful king God shows Himself faithful. He also then introduces us t the fact that Hezekiah is not so perfect after all (verse 25).
What he and the other writers do gloss over are the sufferings of Judah. It was true that Jerusalem escaped the terrible aftermaths of a siege, but the remainder of Judah was not so lucky. As Sennacherib advanced he took city after city, and we can only imagine what vengeance he wreaked. In his own account of the invasions he declares that ‘forty six cities of Judah I besieged and took, and shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird in Jerusalem.’ But whilst this confirms the fact that Jerusalem was never subdued, it also brings out at what a cost it was to Judah in terms of slaughter, rapine, and misery. Judah, if not Jerusalem, was ravaged. But the aim is not to give a full account of history (although to some extent that is done), but to demonstrate the triumph of God.
The account is divided up into four subsections:
Sennacherib Invades Judah And Hezekiah Attempts To Remove The Water Supply (32.1-4).
The account commences with the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, and his intention to take the fortified cities of Judah, and this in spite of the faithfulness of Hezekiah. But the Chronicler will justify this by bringing out the fact that YHWH delivered Jerusalem. He ignores the terrible sufferings of Judah, which to us are a reminder of the evil that is in the world, and of the fact that God does often allow His people to suffer before delivering them.
This opening subsection stresses the attempts to restrict the water that would be available to the Assyrian army. In such hot countries a good supply of water was a necessity for invading armies, and its lack could cause dissension and intense suffering to the invaders. Hezekiah appears to have laid great stress on water supplies, for he would also build a remarkable tunnel which would bring water into Jerusalem, a tunnel which is still accessible today. But this last is ignored by the Chronicler. Perhaps he did not realise its significance.
Note that in A Sennacherib encamped against the fortified cities and thought to win them for himself, and in the parallel Hezekiah strengthened the fortifications and prepared an abundance of weapons. In B Hezekiah and his advisers decided to stop up the waters outside Jerusalem, and in the parallel the people did so.
2.32.1 ‘After these things, and this faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fortified cities, and thought to win them for himself.’
It is unexpected that faithfulness results in invasion, but the Chronicler can write in the knowledge of God’s later deliverance. Furthermore he tones down the impact by speaking only of Sennacherib ‘encamping against the cities of Judah’. As the people would have fled into these cities on the approach of the invaders it gives the impression that they were safe behind strong walls. The truth was very different. The cities were taken, and severe reprisals would have been carried out against those who had sought refuge within them. It brings out that history is cruel, and that even in deliverance God’s people can suffer dreadfully. But that was not the Chronicler’s intent. He wanted only by inference to present the idea of deliverance.
2.32.2-3 ‘And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the springs which were outside the city, and they helped him.’
On the approach of Sennacherib Hezekiah spoke with his advisers, and planned to restrict the water supply available to Sennacherib’s army around Jerusalem. They planned to block the springs that were outside the city and could thus supply water to their enemies, and this is what they proceeded to do. This is clearly seen as an indication of Hezekiah’s enterprise, counting in his favour. Isaiah, on the other hand, deprecated the fact that whilst they did such things they failed to trust in YHWH as they should (Isaiah 22.9-11). It was good to take precautions, but not if it removed their recognition of their dependence on YHWH.
2.32.4 ‘So there were gathered much people together, and they stopped all the springs, and the wadi which flowed through the midst of the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?”
The people rallied to Hezekiah’s call and gathered together and went out and stopped up the springs and blocked the wadi which ran through the midst of the land, seeking to deny water to the troops of the kings of Assyria. No armies could linger long without water. Evidence of attempts to block canals around this time have been discovered.
2.32.5 ‘And he took courage, and built up all the wall which was broken down, and raised it up to the towers, and the other wall outside, and strengthened Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance.’
To start building up the walls and raising up the towers was an open act of defiance. They had presumably been breached in the days of Ahaz and left like that as a token of submission and non-resistance.. It indicated Hezekiah’s determination to fight and not to yield, This is why it took courage. Once he had done this he had made it clear to Sennacherib that he would have no easy victory. That Hezekiah had a history of resistance comes out in 2 Kings 18.32 where the people on the wall were told that they would be carried away captive. The Assyrians worked to a graded plan. If a king yielded he was called on to pay tribute (as Ahaz had done). If he rebelled and had to be again subdued the tribute required was much heavier (see 2 Kings 18.13-16). But if he then again rebelled the land was made into an Assyrian province and the people were carried away captive. This was the fate that awaited Jerusalem.
Having Prepared The People For War Hezekiah Encouraged Them With A Battle Address Promising Them That YHWH Was With Them (32.6-8).
Many of the people may well have been fearful at the thought of the mighty Assyrian army approaching Jerusalem. So Hezekiah divided them up and set captains of war over them, giving them stomach for the fight. Then he made a Battle Speech based partly on Joshua 1, and called on them not to be fearful, but to recognise that the One Who was with them (YHWH) was greater than all that Sennacherib could throw at them. Sennacherib had a strong army, but it was only human, while on their side was YHWH their God Who was there to help them and fight their battles.
Note that in A Hezekiah gathered his people and spoke in a heartfelt way to them, and in the parallel the people rested on his words. In B he calls on his people to be strong and of good courage, and in the parallel he explains that this is because YHWH is with them to fight their battles.
2.32.6 ‘And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the broad place at the gate of the city, and spoke in a heartfelt way to them, saying,’
Having made it as difficult as they could for the Assyrians to find water, the people were now mobilised, and captains of war were set over them. This would give them a sense of purpose and help to nerve them for what lay ahead. Hezekiah then gathered them together in the square in front of the city gate and spoke to them from the heart.
2.32.7a “Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude which is with him.”
His words were patterned on Deuteronomy 31.7; Joshua 1.9. These words were regularly called on when there was a need to encourage the people so that there is no reason to deny them to Hezekiah here. Here he applied them to their fear of Sennacherib and his large army. The army was still probably investing other cities of Judah but news of what was going on would have filtered through to Jerusalem. We know from his inscriptions that Sennacherib took a good while in subduing Lachish.
2.32.7b-8a “For there is a greater with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is YHWH our God to help us, and to fight our battles.”
Hezekiah then stressed that the odds were on their side. Compare 2 Kings 6.16. Sennacherib had a mere human army with which to carry out his plans, whilst Judah had YHWH to fight for them. The arm of flesh was challenging the arm of YHWH, and it was ‘no contest’.
We not doubt have here only a summary of what Hezekiah said, but it is clear that his words were very effective.
2.32.8b ‘And the people rested themselves on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.’
For as a consequence of his words the people took courage, and confidently trusted in the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah. As they remembered past times when YHWH had delivered His people, and recognised the source of Hezekiah’s words in Scripture, they gained in confidence that God could do it again.
It is noteworthy that the Chronicler makes no mention of the possibility of Egyptian help (2 Kings 18.20-25). To him that was irrelevant. The issue lay between YHWH and the might and power of Sennacherib, and Sennacherib would come off worse.
Sennacherib Attempts To Woo The People By Declaring That No God Could Deliver Out Of His Hand (32.9-19).
In some ways the invasion had become a battle of words. On the one hand we had Hezekiah’s speech encouraging the people. Now we have Sennacherib’s attempt to undermine their confidence. He sends his messengers to discourage Judah. His thesis is simply this, ‘None of the gods of the nations had been able to deliver their people out of his hand, why should Judah think that their God was any different?’ This message is put over in a number of different ways, but the theme of each is the same. This is brought out in the chiasmus.
It will be noted that the Chronicler, like his counterparts, is not interested in the history of the invasion. There is no description of the advancing armies pillaging. raping and looting throughout the land. There is no description of the 46 cities that Sennacherib besieged one by one and took with great cruelty and loss of life, nor of the people of Judah who were taken away into exile (Sennacherib claimed that they numbered 200,150, but that was probably an exaggeration and the number is suspect) there is only a brief mention of the siege of Lachish, the taking of which is depicted in great detail on walls at Nineveh as a triumph for Sennacherib. The concentration is on the battle for Jerusalem. Here was the final crunch that would determine who was the greatest. And the very fact that the taking of Lachish (Judah’s second largest city) was depicted was proof positive that Jerusalem was not taken. The only boast Sennacherib could make was that he had ‘shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird in Jerusalem’. What he could not boast was that he had taken it.
One lesson we learn from this is that even though God intervenes, He very often does not do it until the last minute. He allows men to undergo the miseries of a sin-cursed world as a reminder of how terrible sin is. It is only then that He reveals His power. Note the highlighted words in the analysis that follows. Hezekiah declares that ‘YHWH our God will deliver us out of the hand of the Assyrians’. And four times in different ways Sennacherib declares that God will be unable to do so. This is the Chronicler’s emphasis, that YHWH did what was ‘impossible’ for the sake of his servant Hezekiah and for His people’s sake.
Note that in A sent his servants to speak to Hezekiah and Judah, and in the parallel his servants did speak with them. In B Hezekiah said, ‘God will deliver us out of the hands of the King of Assyria, and in the parallel Sennacherib said that God would not deliver them out of his hand. In C Sennacherib claimed that Hezekiah had misbehaved towards God, and in the parallel he spoke against both God and Hezekiah. In D Sennacherib said the gods of the nations had not been able to deliver them out of his hand, and in the parallel he said no god had done so. Centrally in E he challenged whether any god, even Israel’s God, could deliver out of his hand. Note also the central theme, stressed five times, that God could not deliver out of his hand.
2.32.9 ‘After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem, (now he was before Lachish, and all his power with him), to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were at Jerusalem, saying,’
Having successfully advanced through the land, and being in process of besieging Lachish, Judah’s second largest city with his huge army, Sennacherib sent high powered messengers to Jerusalem to try to persuade them to surrender. These would be accompanied by a fairly large force which would surround Jerusalem. It was a show of strength designed to frighten them into submission.
Lachish was eventually taken and commemorated in Sennacherib’s palace with a mural over fifteen meters (fifty feet) long. He had to give the impression that he had conquered Judah. And Lachish was an impressive city. But it is historical evidence of the fact that he had failed to capture Jerusalem.
2.32.10 “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, On what do you trust, that you abide the siege in Jerusalem?”
The messengers, which included three of Sennacherib’s top ministers (2 Kings 18.17), came to Jerusalem and stood below the walls of Jerusalem and yelled up at the large numbers of people crowding the walls. Their message was simple On what were these foolish people basing their hopes of deliverance? On what did they trust that they would remain in Jerusalem and endure the siege?
All knew what a siege meant. Inside the city there would be extreme hunger as the supplies began to dry up; disease as a consequence of the cramped and dirty conditions; and the ever present danger of plague. Many would die in untold misery crying out for help. And finally there would be defeat when they had reached a point beyond endurance, or when the walls were breached, followed by the consequent slaughter and revenge that always followed a long siege, a time when the invaders were free to rampage and pillage. All could be avoided by surrender. All that they would then have to endure was being taken into captivity and settled in another land to serve their Assyrian masters.
Refugees from before the Assyrian invasion would have flocked to Jerusalem telling stories of how the Assyrians were wreaking havoc and mayhem throughout the land. Thus the people would be in no doubt of what lay in front of them. It says much for Hezekiah’s powers of persuasion and for their trust in God that they continued their resistance.
2.32.11 “Does not Hezekiah persuade you, to give you over to die by famine and by thirst, saying, ‘YHWH OUR GOD WILL DELIVER US OUT OF THE HAND OF THE KING OF ASSYRIA?’ ”
The Assyrian messengers were well aware of how peoples in the past had trusted in their gods for deliverance, only to see their cities fall into the hands of the Assyrians. And as verse 12 reveals they were well informed concerning what had been taking place in Judah in the recent past, and concerning the theological ideas in which they trusted. So they called on the people not to be deceived by them. Let them not listen to Hezekiah as he said that YHWH would deliver them out of the hand of the king of Assyria. All he was doing was giving them over to die by famine and thirst (a regular feature of sieges).
In this verse, as we can see, we have Hezekiah’s positive affirmation that ‘YHWH our God WILL deliver us out of the hand of the King of Assyria.’ This is countered by a direct denial in verse 17, and in between are three statements stressing that the gods of the nations had not delivered their nations out of Assyrian hands. This is all building up to the statement in verse 19 that ‘they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth which are the work of men’s hands’. What Hezekiah counted on, and what Sennacherib overlooked, was that the living God was involved.
2.32.12 “Has not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, You shall worship before one altar, and on it shall you burn incense?”
The Assyrians now played what they probably thought of as their trump card, based on intelligence that they had received.. They pointed out that Hezekiah had taken away the multitudinous high places and altars of YHWH and had commanded Judah and Jerusalem to worship before only one altar, and burn incense on it. In their eyes this was incomprehensible. In their view the more altars you erected for a god, and the more high places you had, the better a god would be pleased. They thus saw this as an act of Hezekiah seeking to control the worship of God. and as something that would have displeased YHWH. They could not conceive that in fact it could be a requirement of God. And they hoped that the people of Jerusalem would recognise how their God had been insulted. Instead, unwittingly, they were bringing home to the people that Hezekiah had done what was pleasing to YHWH, and thus boosting their confidence rather than derailing it.
2.32.13 “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands? Were the gods of the nations of the lands in any way able to deliver their land out of my hand?”
The Assyrian deputation now asked them to consider what Sennacherib and his father had done to the nations, and put to them three questions:
2.32.14 “Who was there among all the gods of those nations which my fathers utterly destroyed, who could deliver his people out of my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of my hand?”
Speaking through his deputation Sennacherib asked them to consider the facts. He and his fathers had utterly destroyed many nations. Who then was there among the gods of all those nations who had been able to deliver their nations out of the hands of the Assyrian? Why then should they think that their God could deliver them out of Assyrian hands?
2.32.15 “Now therefore do not let Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you after this manner, neither believe you him; for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of my hand, and out of the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand?”
So the deputation called on the people not to let Hezekiah deceive them, or persuade them in any way. Nor were they to believe him whatever he promised. For no god of any of the nations had been able to deliver his people out of Assyrian hands. How much less then would their local God deliver them out of his hand?
2.32.16 ‘And his servants spoke yet more against YHWH God, and against his servant Hezekiah.’
The Chronicler then points out that the messengers continued to speak even yet more against YHWH, and against His servant Hezekiah, although he does not give the details. ‘Against YHWH and against His servant Hezekiah.’ Compare ‘Against YHWH and his Anointed’ (Psalm 2.2). The words have Messianic overtones. Here was another David.
Note the description ‘His servant Hezekiah’. They no doubt thought that like the other kings of the nations Hezekiah was particularly the servant of God, acting as priest king between Him and the people. Let them but discredit him and the resistance of the people would collapse.
2.32.17 ‘He also wrote letters, to rail on YHWH, the God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of the lands, which have not delivered their people out of my hand, so will the God of Hezekiah not deliver his people out of my hand.’
The Chronicler is telescoping the accounts of the two visits to Jerusalem by the messengers mentioned in 2 Kings 18.17 ff. This letter from Sennacherib commences the second visit. Having failed to bring Jerusalem into submission with the first visit Sennacherib sends personal letters which ‘rail on YHWH the God of Israel and speak against Him’. He avers that just as the gods of the nations had not delivered their people out of his hands, so would the God of Hezekiah not be able to deliver His people out of his hands. This renewed attempt to bring them to submission suggests that Sennacherib was already aware of problems elsewhere which needed his attention. He was thus in a hurry.
2.32.18 ‘And they cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten them, and to trouble them, that they might take the city.’
Bringing Sennacherib’s letters, the messengers , no doubt having delivered them, again stood below the walls and in the Jews’ own language, the language of Judah (note that at this stage it was not yet called Hebrew), they called to the people in order to frighten them and trouble them. Their purpose was thereby to bring the city into submission. The general language of the area was Aramaic, but that would not have been understandable to many of the people on the walls, which was why they deliberately used the language of the people on the wall.
2.32.19 ‘And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem, as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men’s hands.’
And the Chronicler adds contemptuously, they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men’s hands. This, of course, was for the consumption of his own readers. He wanted them to realise why what he is about to describe did happen. It was because the messengers and Sennacherib had underestimated the God Whom they were dealing with. God was the living God. He was not the work of men’s hands. Note the contrast between Sennacherib’s repeated ‘my hand’ (verses 11, 13, 14,17 15) and ‘men’s hands’ here. His hand had prevailed because he was only opposing what had been made by men’s hands. It was a different matter now he was facing YHWH.
As A Consequence Of The Intercession Of Hezekiah And Isaiah An Angel Of YHWH Smites The Camp Of Assyria, And Sennacherib And The Assyrians Return Home Empty Handed Whilst YHWH And Hezekiah Are Plied With Gifts By The Nations. In The End Sennacherib Receives His Death Sentence At The Hands Of His Sons (32.20-23).
In response to the intercession of Hezekiah (the priest after the order of Melchizedek - Psalm 110.4) and of Isaiah the Prophet, YHWH’s avenging angel smote the camp of Assyria. We can compare for this action the smiting of the firstborn of Egypt by the avenging angel in Exodus 12. YHWH was delivering His people once again. We can also compare the smiting of the people of Judah by the avenging angel in 1 Chronicles 21.14-15, putting Hezekiah in a favourable light in contrast to David. As a consequence the army of Assyria withdrew, and Sennacherib returned shamefaced to his own land, where he was finally (some years later) assassinated, whilst the nations plied YHWH and Hezekiah with gifts.
Note that in A Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed and cried to Heaven, and in the parallel it resulted in many bringing gifts to YHWH and to Hezekiah, and exaltation in the sight of all the nations from then on. In B YHWH sent His angel to cut off the people in the camp of the king of Assyria, and in the parallel Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem were thereby delivered. In C Sennacherib returned shamefaced to his own land, and in the parallel his own god was unable to deliver him from the hands of his own sons.
2.32.20 ‘And Hezekiah the king, and Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz, prayed because of this, and cried to heaven.’
As a consequence of the danger that now threatened both Hezekiah and Isaiah the son of Amoz, the prophet, interceded with YHWH and prayed and ‘cried to Heaven’. This intercession of Hezekiah reminds us that he was a priest after the order of Melchizedek the one time king of Jerusalem (Genesis 14). Compare Psalm 110.4. David had received this heritage when he captured Jerusalem and became its king. Thereby he had also become its king-priest of the order of Melchizedek, which was now necessarily only an intercessory priesthood. This is the first mention of Isaiah the prophet in Chronicles. But it makes clear that he had been active in the background. The Chronicler had, however, wanted to underline Hezekiah’s role.
2.32.21a ‘And YHWH sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains, in the camp of the king of Assyria.’
The intercession of Hezekiah and Isaiah prevailed. YHWH sent an angel to smite the camp of the Philistines, who ‘cut off’ all the mighty men of valour, together with the leaders and the captains, in the camp of the king of Assyria. We are given no further information, but it is probable that a devastating plague (1 Chronicles 21.14) decimated the army, reducing it to a minimum. This avenging angel reminds us of the angel of death who slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt when YHWH was delivering His people from Egypt (Exodus 12). It appeared to signal a new beginning for the nation, although sadly that was soon to be cut short. It also reminds us of the avenging angel which David had to avert by deep repentance and offering sacrifices at the threshingfloor of Ornan (1 Chronicles 21.14-18), putting Hezekiah in a good light compared with David. But in both cases the avenging angel caused Jerusalem to be spared.
2.32.21b ‘So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, those who came forth from his own bowels slew him there with the sword.’
As a consequence of the decimation of his army Sennacherib had no choice but to withdraw and return shamefaced to his own land. The ‘shame of face’ is no doubt depicted as arising out of his own belittling of YHWH. Now he too was belittled. But in fact when he did arrive in Assyria he caused a large mural to be set up depicting his capture of Lachish, making the best out of a bad situation, and seeking to give the impression that he had been victorious, as indeed to some extent he had. And in his annals he boasted that he had ‘shut Hezekiah up like a caged bird in Jerusalem’. But nothing could hide the fact that he had failed to take Jerusalem.
What is then described took place much later, but is mentioned in order to bring out YHWH’s complete vindication. For the man who had boasted that no gods could deliver out of his hand. was assassinated by two of his own sons, who slew him with the sword in the house of his own god, something confirmed in Assyrian records. His god had proved unable to save him from the hands of his assassins.
2.32.22 ‘Thus YHWH saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side.’
This then was the way in which YHWH saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, the one thing that Sennacherib had said that He would be unable to do. In similar ways also He saved them from the hands of all others, and guided them on every side. From then on they had peace, for Assyria was now for a while taken up with its own problems of succession.
2.32.23 ‘And many brought gifts to YHWH to Jerusalem, and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from then on.’
The news of what YHWH had done to the Assyrian army soon got around (Herodotus and Josephus both bear witness to some unusual event that struck the Assyrian army), and those who had suffered under the Assyrians, or had been next in line to suffer, brought gifts to YHWH in Jerusalem as a token of appreciation, and necessarily when visiting a reigning monarch, also brought him ‘precious things’. It would have been a slight if they had not done so. And as a consequence of his victory (for that was how it would be seen) he was exalted in the eyes of ‘all nations’ in the area from then on. Jerusalem alone had withstood the Assyrian menace and had caused it to withdraw.
Hezekiah’s Mortal Sickness And His Delivery And Its Consequences (23.24-26).
Chronologically this sickness occurred well before Sennacherib’s invasion in 701 BC. Hezekiah became mortally ill and was dying. But he prayed to YHWH, Who promised him further years of life and gave him a remarkable sign as proof that he would recover. But instead of being more faithful to YHWH and walking humbly before Him, his heart was lifted up and he entered into association with the king of Babylon, and in his pride he showed all his treasures to the embassy from Babylon (verse 31; 2 Kings 20.1-19; Isaiah 38-39). He was trying to become a major player on the world scene and by doing so came under the wrath of YHWH, and brought it also on Judah and Jerusalem. He did, however, subsequently humble himself so that the outcome of the wrath of YHWH did not occur until after his death.
The very brief references to these events confirm that the Chronicler expects his readers to have read more of the detail, either in 2 Kings or Isaiah, or both.
Note that in A death did not come on Hezekiah in spite of his mortal sickness, and in the parallel YHWH’s wrath did not come on Hezekiah n spite of his deserving. In B Hezekiah’s heart was lifted up in pride, and in the parallel he humbled himself from the pride of his heart. Centrally in C the wrath of YHWH came on him, and on Judah and Jerusalem.
2.32.24 ‘In those days Hezekiah was sick even to death: and he prayed to YHWH, and he spoke to him, and gave him a sign.’
Some time prior to the Assyrian invasion Hezekiah fell sick with a mortal sickness. But he prayed to YHWH, and YHWH spoke to him and gave him a remarkable sign that he would recover, it was that the sun would go back 10 steps on the sun dial of Ahaz, which was an upper chamber designed so that the steps acted as a sun dial (2 Kings 20.11). The sun did go back 10 steps, and Hezekiah eventually recovered.
2.32.25 ‘But Hezekiah did not make return in accordance with the benefit done to him, for his heart was lifted up. Therefore there was wrath on him, and on Judah and Jerusalem.’
But sadly, instead of having his faith fully set on YHWH as a consequence of the amazing sign and the fact of his recovery from a mortal disease, he revealed his self-pride. For when the king of Babylon sent messengers to him to enquire about his sickness, instead of giving glory to God and sending them on their way recognising how good YHWH had been to him, he boastfully showed them all his treasures, including his weaponry for his own self-aggrandisement. He saw himself as a ‘world player’ ready to enter into alliances against Assyria with godless nations. This aroused God’s wrath (antipathy to sin) so that God determined that Judah would be punished for his folly in terms of an invasion by Babylon, although not in Hezekiah’s own day (Isaiah 39).
But it was this alliance with Babylon which also had the consequence of bringing Assyria against Judah, presumably because he had withheld tribute. This was why Judah suffered under the Assyrian invasion even though in the end Jerusalem was spared because Hezekiah humbled himself before God. Thus God’s wrath had two prongs to it, although as we shall see the Chronicler seeks to play the second prong down.
2.32.26 ‘Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of YHWH did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.’
Notice in verse 25 that the wrath was upon Hezekiah, Judah and Jerusalem. Here it is emphasised that Hezekiah and Jerusalem (although not Judah) were spared the initial consequences of that wrath because he humbled himself before YHWH. Jerusalem would not, however, be spared in the long run. They would suffer at the hands of a Babylon which now knew how rich Judah was.
Thus as with David and Solomon, having exalted Hezekiah, he now brought him down to earth. He was not quite the perfect king he had appeared to be. Judah would suffer for his pride in the long run.
The Glory Of Hezekiah (23.27-29).
Having brought out Hezekiah’s failure, the Chronicler now demonstrates that the favour of YHWH was upon him in spite of it. He was wealthy from every angle; in silver, gold and precious stones; in spices and shields and vessels; in produce and domestic animals; and in cities and flocks and herds. God had given him very much substance. God does not guarantee that His people will be rich in substance today (although very often that can be the result of righteous living) but He does promise ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’, and ‘peace which passes all understanding’.
Note that in A Hezekiah had great riches an power, and in the parallel God had given him much substance. In B Hezekiah provided treasuries for himself to contain his wealth, and in the parallel he provided himself with cities and much cattle. In C he provides storehouse for his produce, and in the parallel he provides stalls for his domestic animals and folds for his flocks.
2.32.27a ‘And Hezekiah had very great riches and honour.’
The Chronicler introduces this subsection with a description of both Hezekiah’s riches, and his honour. Both were typical in the Chronicler’s eyes of the ‘good king’. Compare David (1 Chronicles 27.25-31), Solomon (1.14-17; 9.13-28), and Jehoshaphat (17.5, 11; 18.1). His wealth is now expanded on, but nothing further is said about his honour. That has already been made clear with respect to the visit of the Babylonians, and the response to the humiliation of the Assyrians. It was in fact because he was ‘honoured’ that he fell into sinful pride. This last has already been dealt with in verse 25 and will be dealt with again in verse 31.
2.23.27b ‘And he provided for himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of goodly vessels,’
In order to house his vast wealth he provided for himself treasuries. These were to contain his silver and gold and precious stones, together with rich spices, war shields and all manner of valuable vessels.
2.32.28 ‘Store-houses also for the increase of grain and new wine and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and flocks in folds.’
He also built storehouses to hold the grain, new wine and olive oil which were produced in good quantities yearly, and stalls to hold his different domestic animals and folds for his flocks. The royal lands were proving highly productive and providing the royal household with what it needed. Olive oil was a regular export from Judah.
2.32.29 ‘Moreover he provided for himself cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance; for God had given him very much substance.’
Not only did he build treasuries, but he also built cities. This again was the sign of a king with whom YHWH was pleased (8.3-6; 11.5-12; 14.6-7; 16.6; 17.12-13). And he also had flocks and herds in abundance. And it was all because God had given him ‘very much substance’. Apart from the brutal incursion of the Assyrians which would have devastated the land, Judah prospered more and more under his rule.
Final Summary Of His Reign (32.30-33).
The Chronicler now summarises Hezekiah’s reign both as regards his achievements and his greatest failure. Initially reference is made to one of his long term achievements as regards Jerusalem, the provision of a safe water supply protected from the gaze of besiegers. He then emphasises his general successes before moving on to his being tested by God in regard to the approach made to him by the princes of Babylon. Had he trusted wholly in YHWH he would not have failed. The account of his life then finishes with details of the source from which more of his achievements can be discovered, and an assurance that he was buried in the sepulchres of the sons of David, and was honoured by his people in his death.
Note that in A Hezekiah brought water into the city of David, and in the parallel he was buried in the sepulchres of the sons of David. In B all his works prospered, and in the parallel all the good he had done was recorded in the Vision of Isaiah the prophet. Central in C is the one weak point in the Chronicle’s eyes, his dealings with the Babylonian ambassadors.
2.32.30a ‘This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper spring of the waters of Gihon, and brought them straight down on the west side of the city of David.’
We have already learned of the way that Hezekiah and his people sought to protect the water supplies near Jerusalem and hide them from the enemy (32.3-4), now we learn of his greatest achievement in this regard which would benefit Jerusalem for centuries to come. He diverted the spring of the waters of Gihon, which was to the east of the city in the Kidron Valley, disguising the entry to the spring, and dug a tunnel below Jerusalem so that the waters would gather on the west side of the city of David in the Pool of Siloam, and be available to the inhabitants when besieged. This feat is now known as ‘Hezekiah’s tunnel’. It replaced the Warren shaft through which David’s men entered the city when they took it from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5.8), and an irrigation channel attributed to the Solomonic period (Ecclesiastes 2.6).
Note On Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
The tunnel extended that which led to the Warren Shaft and is around 540 metres (1,780 feet) long. Tunnellers commenced at each end and met in the middle. An inscription (with gaps) was discovered in the tunnel and reads ‘--- was being dug out. It was cut in the following manner --- axes, each man towards his fellow, and while there were still 3 cubits to be cut through, the voice of one man calling to the other was heard, showing that he was deviating to the right. When the tunnel was driven through, the excavators met man to man, axe to axe, and the water flowed for 1,200 cubits (1800 feet) from the spring to the pool. The height of the rock above the heads of the excavators was 100 cubits.’ It is possible to walk through the tunnel (something I have done) and to see the diversion which was necessary and on the whole it is two metres (six foot six) high, although at times it is necessary to stoop. In parts it is only 50 centimetres ( one foot eight inches) wide. Considering the tools and instruments that they had it is a remarkable piece of engineering.
End of note.
2.32.30b ‘And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.’
Having described his major piece of engineering the Chronicler now adds that he ‘prospered in all his works’. That is that what he did, he did well and was successful because YHWH was with him.
2.32.31 However, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder which was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.’
His only large scale failure arose when Babylonian ambassadors arrived from the princes of Babylon who wanted to enquire concerning his recovery and the amazing sign that had accompanied it (verse 24). At that time God ‘left him to himself’ in order to test him to see what he would do, in order that He might know what was in his heart. Sadly, as we know, he failed the test, something which had repercussions for centuries to come. The Babylonians never forgot the riches that he had shown them.
There is a reminder in this that although God forgave him and saved him from the Assyrian menace, his sin nevertheless had continuing repercussions for his descendants. It is a reminder to us that even forgiven sin can have its consequences.
2.32.32 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his good deeds, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz, in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.’
In the usual epitaph to a king’s reign ‘the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and his good deeds’ are referred to. He is the only king of whom this is said, although something similar will later be said of Josiah. He was clearly seen as an exceptional king. And we learn that this extra information is to be found in the Vision of Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz which is found in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel, which were probably the official court annals. This Vision of Isaiah probably has nothing to do with the Book of Isaiah, apart from authorship.
2.32.33 ‘And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the ascent (ma‘aleh) of the sepulchres of the sons of David, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned instead of him.’
In the usual fashion Hezekiah is described as having ‘slept with his fathers’, in other words as having joined them in death. And he was buried in ‘the ascent of the sepulchres of David.’ This may be because the sepulchres of David were by now filled so that new sepulchres were to be built on an ascent above them. Or it may mean the most important of the sepulchres of David, indicating that he was appointed supreme place. Or it may signify the upper layer of the sepulchres of David, if provision had been made for an upper and lower layer in which bodies were placed. Whichever it is it may well indicate special treatment because of his importance.
It is further stated that the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. This may well indicate a large funeral bonfire (16.14; Jeremiah 34.5; contrast 21.19) and the use of many exotic spices (16.14). He was greatly admired and honoured in his death. ‘And Manasseh his son reigned instead of him.’
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