SPIRITUAL REVIVAL REQUIRES CONVICTED REPENTANCE, CLEANSING OF GOD’S TEMPLE AND COMMITMENT TO JOYFULLY WORSHIP WHOLEHEARTEDLY
J.A. Thompson: The Chronicler had a deep interest in Hezekiah. He devoted more space to his account of Hezekiah’s reign than he did to any king of Judah other than David and Solomon (chaps. 29-32). But is interest is different from that of 2 Kings 18-20. The Book of Kings devotes only a single verse to Hezekiah’s religious reform, concentrating rather on political and military affairs. Here the account of the reform occupies three chapters (29-31) that deal with the rehabilitation of the temple (chap. 29), the celebration of the Passover by “all Israel” (chap. 30), and the renewal of regular worship (chap. 31). The remaining chapter on Hezekiah’s reign refers to the deliverance of Hezekiah from Sennacherib, king of Assyria, and Hezekiah’s sickness, pride, success, and death. Hezekiah is presented as the king most like David and Solomon (29:2, 11-14; 30:18-20, 26). The Chronicler had great hopes of a united Israel once again under a Davidic king and united around the temple of the Lord, other unauthorized places of worship being abandoned.
Iain Duguid: Hezekiah acted early in his reign to restore the temple and its worship. In a context of major external change, his priority was the worship of God. . . The process involved four steps:
(1) after opening the doors (cf. 28:24), Hezekiah charged the priests and Levites to “consecrate [ritually cleanse] yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord” (29:3–11);
(2) in willing obedience they completed the twofold consecration (vv. 12–19);
(3) Hezekiah and city officials brought animals that were sacrificed, “making atonement for all Israel” (vv. 20–24), accompanied by the restored Levitical music as burnt offerings were made (vv. 25–30); and finally,
(4) with the consecration of the Levites completed, “the assembly” participated in the offerings (vv. 31–35a).
In this way “the service of the house of the Lord was restored,” and all “rejoiced” (vv. 35b–36). All steps were necessary: personnel, building, and cleansed utensils were the prelude to the worship’s functioning as intended. The dramatic restoration happened “suddenly,” due to God’s grace (v. 36).
John Schultz: It is a most amazing fact that Hezekiah, who grew up in the polluted atmosphere of Ahaz’ palace, developed such an intimate fellowship with God.
Raymond Dillard: Hezekiah’s reinstitution of legitimate temple worship early during his reign is described in four steps:
(1) the instruction and ritual purification of the priests and Levites (29:3–15);
(2) the purification of the temple and its precincts (29:16–19);
(3) the rededication of the temple (29:20–30);
(4) the participation of the populace (29:31–36).
August Konkel: Outline:
Summary of Hezekiah’s Reign 29:1-2
Exhortation to Restoration 29:3-11
Restoration of the Sanctuary 29:12-19
Rededication of the Temple 29:20-30
Sacrifices of Praise 29:31-36
(:1-2) PROLOGUE – OPENING SUMMARY OF HIS REIGN
A. (:1a) Age and Duration of Reign
“Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old;
and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.”
Pulpit Commentary: [Regarding Hezekiah’s age at time of his ascension] —
We have been told (2Ch. 28:1) that Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years. So that, if these numbers be correct, and the numbers of our verse correct, Hezekiah must have been born when his father was only eleven years old. Of which all that can be said is . . . that such a thing was not impossible and not unknown. It is far more probably, however, that one of the determining figures is wrong, but we have nothing to guide us to say which.
B. (:1b) Identification of His Mother
“And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.”
C. (:2) Moral Evaluation
“And he did right in the sight of the LORD,
according to all that his father David had done.”
I. (:3-11) CALL TO CONSECRATION
Andrew Hill: Hezekiah’s invitation to purify the temple (29:3-11) is dominated by a royal speech (29:5-11) directed to the priests and Levites (29:4). Like King Solomon (cf. 2:1), the proper worship of Yahweh is an immediate priority for Hezekiah as he initiates the cleansing of the temple in his first month of rule and celebrates the religious festivals in his second (cf. 30:2). The act of reopening the temple doors shut up by King Ahaz (28:24) and repairing them is a symbolic gesture indicating the temple is once again serviceable for worship (29:3). Hezekiah assembles the priests and Levites outside the still defiled sanctuary in a square to the east of the temple precinct (29:4) – perhaps the square adjacent the Water Gate (cf. Neh. 8:1).
The king’s speech to the priests and Levites contains two injunctions: a call to the religious leadership to “consecrate” themselves and an instruction to them to “remove all defilement from the sanctuary” (29:5). The term “consecrate” (qds) means to make holy by setting apart someone or something exclusively for the service of God (cf. Ex. 28:41; 29:1; 30:30). The word “defilement” (niddah) is used generally of ritual impurity, although here the writer probably has the pollution of idol worship in mind.
August Konkel: The speech of Hezekiah uses the vocabulary of exile to describe the failure of the nation. The people have abandoned the Lord as in the days of
the separation under Rehoboam (2 Chron 12:1; cf. 13:10). The wrath of God had come upon Judah and Jerusalem, putting them in the same situation as the people in the north. It is the desire of Hezekiah to reverse this situation, but he is dependent on the religious leaders to make it possible. Renewal of the covenant requires the revitalization of the temple as the central symbol of the divine rule. Only the Levites can care for the temple, and only the priests can enter it to burn incense.
A. (:3-4) Priority of Worship
1. (:3) Access to Worship at the Temple
“In the first year of his reign, in the first month,
he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.”
2. (:4) Assembling the Worship Leaders
“And he brought in the priests and the Levites,
and gathered them into the square on the east.”
Iain Duguid: Door opening and repairing was a powerful expression of Hezekiah’s leadership in desiring to serve the Lord, but as king he could not enter. The work now had to be done by “the priests and Levites,” directed by the king.
B. (:5-11) Preparation for Worship
Iain Duguid: The rationale includes three points (vv. 6–10), each introduced by a marker:
(1) “For our fathers have been unfaithful” (maʻal; cf. 28:19, 22), leading to God’s “wrath” (29:6–8; as it had for the north, 28:13);
(2) “For behold,” the results are before “your own eyes” in the deaths and captives (29:8, 9); and
(3) “Now” Hezekiah himself pledges loyalty to the Lord so that “his fierce anger may turn away” (v. 10).
Frederick Mabie: Hezekiah’s speech also functions as a rallying call to faithfulness in the light of the disastrous (albeit covenantal) consequences of unfaithfulness. (Recall that speeches are a key facet of the Chronicler’s means of expressing theological points of emphasis [cf. 13:4-12].) Hezekiah’s focused commitment to restore Judah to faithfulness and nullify God’s righteous anger against his people rises to the level of a covenant (v. 10). Later, Hezekiah will convene an assembly of Judean officials (cf. vv. 20-31) and finally the whole community (cf. 30:1-27) for worship and dedication at the Jerusalem temple.
1. (:5) Consecration of People and Place
“Then he said to them, ‘Listen to me, O Levites.”
a. Consecrate Yourselves
“Consecrate yourselves now,”
b. Consecrate the House of God
“and consecrate the house of the LORD,
the God of your fathers,”
c. Clean Out the Holy Place
“and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place.’”
2. (:6-7) Confession of National Culpability = Convicted Repentance
“For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. 7 They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.”
David Guzik: Poole suggests that the idea of turning the back to God could also be understood literally, because according to 2 Kings 16, in the days of Ahaz the altar was moved and its replacement was directed to the east, in the manner of pagan altars instead of toward the west as God commanded. The idea was therefore that under this dangerous innovation, one had to literally turn his back to the temple and the ark of God to stand before the altar.
Andrew Hill: The rest of the royal address rehearses the neglect of the temple by Hezekiah’s predecessors (29:6-8). The depth of Judah’s apostasy under Ahaz is underscored in the fivefold emphasis on their wicked deeds:
– doing evil,
– forsaking God,
– turning their faces away from the temple, and
– turning their backs on Yahweh (29:6).
It is for this reason that Yahweh’s wrath fell on Judah, resulting in costly losses in battle and the exile of many citizens of Judah (29:9; cf. 28:5-8).
J.A. Thompson: Hezekiah did not excuse himself or his generation when he described the sins of their fathers. Rather, he asserted that the nation must acknowledge its corporate guilt and take steps to rectify what had been done. Admitting that one’s nation and cultural heritage have turned away from God is not easy, but true repentance must place the glory of God above national and family pride.
3. (:8-9) Captivity Justified
“Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9 “For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.”
4. (:10) Covenant Required
“Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His burning anger may turn away from us.”
5. (:11) Calling to Temple Service = a Privilege
“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you
to stand before Him,
to minister to Him, and
to be His ministers and burn incense.”
II. (:12-19) COMPLETION OF CONSECRATION
A. (:12-14) List of Worship Leaders
“Then the Levites arose:”
Andrew Hill: The name list serves both to memorialize the contributions of key leaders in Israelite history and to remind the present audience that God’s work is accomplished through the cooperative efforts of faithful individuals.
David Guzik: These were men who had been complicit in the neglect and disgrace of the temple. Yet the Chronicler rightly noted these men by name, because when they were exhorted by King Hezekiah to do what was right in cleansing and restoring the temple, they did it.
1. (:12a) Sons of Kohathites
“Mahath, the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah,
from the sons of the Kohathites;”
2. (:12b) Sons of Merari
“and from the sons of Merari,
Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel;”
3. (:12c) Sons of Gershonites
“and from the Gershonites,
Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah;”
4. (:13a) Sons of Elizaphan
“and from the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel;”
5. (:13b) Sons of Asaph
“and from the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah;”
6. (:14a) Sons of Heman
“and from the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei;”
7. (:14b) Sons of Jeduthun
“and from the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel.”
Raymond Dillard: The list of fourteen Levites is composed of (1) two representatives from each of the three Levitical families—Kohath, Merari, and Gershon; (2) two representatives from the great Kohathite family of Elizaphan; and (3) two representatives from each division of the singer—Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. When compared with the list in 1 Chr 15:5–10, the Levitical singers have replaced Hebron and Uzziel, perhaps reflecting a growing influence on the part of the musical families (Petersen, Prophecy, 81). The family of Elizaphan had achieved sufficient importance as to be virtually a fourth Levitical clan, though in fact a subclan of Kohath (Num 3:30; 1 Chr 15:8).
Iain Duguid: The naming of seven groups may signify wholeness, all groups responding to Hezekiah’s charge, “Do not now be negligent” (2 Chron. 29:11; cf. “seven” four times in v. 21).
B. (:15) Performance of Consecration
1. Consecration of People
“And they assembled their brothers, consecrated themselves,”
2. Consecration of Place
“and went in to cleanse the house of the LORD,”
3. Commandment of God Communicated by the King
“according to the commandment of the king
by the words of the LORD.”
C. (:16-17) Purification of the Temple = Cleansing of God’s Temple
Raymond Dillard: The purification of the temple required two weeks, one week in the outer courts and another in the building itself. The term interior ( ) may broadly refer to the interior of the temple (cf. 29:18) or more narrowly to the Most Holy Place (cf. 4:22; 1 Chr 28:11; 1 Kgs 6:27, 7:12, 50). It is not altogether clear in this case which is intended. The Levites were responsible for the inventory of the temple implements being taken in or out of the building (1 Chr 9:28), implying that they did not ordinarily enter the interior of the sanctuary; on the other hand, the Chronicler may be seeking to illustrate careful observance of the laws restricting access to the Most Holy Place to priests (5:4–11).
John Schultz: This is one of the most impressive descriptions of a national spiritual revival in the Old Testament. It was, first of all, brought about by the king’s personal initiative, which worked inspirational upon the priests and Levites who were to do the actual work. Ultimately, it affected the relationship with God of the whole nation.
Before anything positive could be done, the old system had to be destroyed. Ahaz had defiled the temple by his idol worship. The temple must be purified before it could be restored to its proper service.
1. (:16) Purification Process
“So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the LORD they brought out to the court of the house of the LORD. Then the Levites received it to carry out to the Kidron valley.”
2. (:17) Purification Timeline
“Now they began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they entered the porch of the LORD. Then they consecrated the house of the LORD in eight days, and finished on the sixteenth day of the first month.”
Frederick Mabie: The process of the cleansing of the temple and its altar and related items (cf. vv. 18-19) takes two sets of eight days. Cleansing begins from the outside and progressively works toward areas of increasing holiness. The time required for the purification of the temple complex and the purification of sufficient priests necessitates a delay in the subsequent Passover celebration organized by Hezekiah (cf. 30:2-3, 15).
D. (:18-19) Preparation Work Completed
“Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, ‘We have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all of its utensils, and the table of showbread with all of its utensils. 19 Moreover, all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness, we have prepared and consecrated; and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.’”
Iain Duguid: Finally (vv. 18–19) the Levites spoke of completion as they reported to the king. “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord. . . . All the utensils . . . we have made ready and conse
crated.” The scene is set for the “altar of the Lord” to be used again for offerings.
III. (:20-30) CEREMONY OF TEMPLE SACRIFICES REINSTITUTED
Andrew Hill: The ceremony for the consecration of the temple is a multifaceted event.
(1) The initial phase addresses the issues of sin and purification in the community (29:20-24).
(2) The next phase features burnt offerings signifying the dedication of the religious and civic leaders and the sanctuary to the service of God (29:25-30). The burnt-offering ritual is accompanied by instrumental and choral music from the Levitical musicians and concludes with prostration in reverent worship (29:29-30). There is some question as to whether the sin offering and burnt offering are sequential or simultaneous events.
(3) The final stage includes participation by the assembly of people from Jerusalem and Judah (representing “all Israel”) through additional burnt offerings and thank offerings (29:31-36).
A. (:20-24) Applying the Blood of Sacrifice to Purify the Altar
“Then King Hezekiah arose early and assembled the princes of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. 21 And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom, the sanctuary, and Judah. And he ordered the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD. 22 So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. They also slaughtered the rams and sprinkled the blood on the altar; they slaughtered the lambs also and sprinkled the blood on the altar. 23 Then they brought the male goats of the sin offering before the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them. 24 And the priests slaughtered them and purged the altar with their blood to atone for all Israel, for the king ordered the burnt offering and the sin offering for all Israel.”
Frederick Mabie: All together, these elements of the Israelite sacrificial system portray the forgiveness of sin, reconciliation, and atonement made available by God. Note that the sacrificial offerings are accompanied by (and followed by) singing and music (cf. vv. 25-30). The final movement of Hezekiah’s temple rededication ceremony (cf. vv. 31-35) includes additional burnt offerings (vv. 31-32, 35), thank offerings (v. 31), peace/fellowship offerings (v. 35), and drink offerings (v. 35).
August Konkel: The animals divide into two groups: the bulls, rams, and sheep are for the burnt offering, and the male goats are for the purification offering. It is a linguistic error to call the latter a “sin offering” (Milgrom 1983: 67-68). Rather, this is a purification offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary, and for Judah (v. 21 NIV mg.; also in vv. 23-24). The purification appears to include temple artifacts, such as the utensils laid before the altar (cf. vv. 18-19). The king is distinguished from the people in the purification offering, a distinction followed consistently by the Chronicler. The king represents the royal house, and the assembly represents the people of Judah (v. 23). The temple personnel are a third group purified by the offerings. Later the Chronicler will specify that the purification offering is for all Israel (v. 24). All Israel cannot be the equivalent of Judah (Williamson 1977a: 126-27). The emphatic repetition of the king’s command indicates that a wider group of people must be included than that originally envisioned by the priests (v. 21). The Chronicler is emphasizing the inclusion of the total population, without regard for the former divisions.
Keil: “All Israel” [v. 24] are probably not only all the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah, but Israelites in general (the twelve tribes), for whom the temple in Jerusalem was the only lawful sanctuary.
B. (:25-30) Accompanying the Burnt Offering with Musical Celebration =
Commitment to Joyfully Worship Wholeheartedly
“He then stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with harps, and with lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the LORD through His prophets. 26 And the Levites stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27 Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel. 28 While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. 29 Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. 30 Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.”
IV. (:31-35A) COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN THE ABUNDANT OFFERINGS
A. (:31-33) Abundance of Offerings
“Then Hezekiah answered and said, ‘Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.’ And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those who were willing brought burnt offerings. And the number of the burnt offerings which the assembly brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD. 33 And the consecrated things were 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep.”
B. (:34) Shortage of Priests
“But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was completed, and until the other priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests.”
C. (:35a) Abundance of Offerings
“And there were also many burnt offerings
with the fat of the peace offerings
and with the libations for the burnt offerings.”
J.A. Thompson: Now that the “whole assembly” had dedicated themselves to the Lord verbally, it was time for them to express their faith by bringing sacrifices. The Hebrew idiom for “dedicated yourselves” is “you have filled your hand.” It is ordinarily used for priestly investiture (13:9), but here it applies to the whole assembly and not just to the priests. The same idiom is used in this wider sense in 1 Chr 29:5. The word for “sacrifices” here (zebahim) probably refers to fellowship offerings in general (v. 35) of which thank offerings form a subgroup (Lev 7:11-18). The responsiveness
of the people recalls events at the time of Moses, David, and Solomon (Exod 36:6-7; 1 Chr 29:1, 5-9; 2 Chr 7:7). Here was a pattern to be followed by the Chronicler’s postexilic audience.
August Konkel: This celebration has a character distinct from the prior ritual, as expressed by the different kinds of sacrifices. Instead of burnt offerings and purification offerings, the people are asked to offer sacrifices and praise offerings (v. 31), offerings that are eaten by their owners as part of a thanksgiving meal. These are often qualified as peace offerings or offerings of well-being. The Chronicler goes out of his way to show surprise and delight at the spontaneity of the great number of devoted praise offerings consumed as part of the thanksgiving festivities (vs. 33).
(:35b-36) EPILOGUE – RESTORATION OF WORSHIP COMPLETED
A. (:35b) Report of Restoration of Worship
“Thus the service of the house of the LORD was established again.”
B. (:36) Response to Restoration of Worship
“Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly.”
Iain Duguid: The speed of restoration was evidence that, while the king had given the lead and the people, Levites, and priests had responded, this was all God’s enabling provision. The solid basis for “rejoicing” (cf. 29:30: “gladness”) is not human willingness but the grace of God that enables all.
Frederick Mabie: In the afterglow of the ceremony culminating in a consecrated and functioning temple for God’s people (v. 35), there is a deep-seated atmosphere of gratefulness. As reflected at the beginning of the account (v. 3), the quickness in which the temple is reopened, consecrated, and dedicated is an added measure of great joy celebrated by the king and the community as a whole.
Martin Selman: Two consequences followed from these offerings. The first was to acknowledge that only God had made it all possible (2 Chronicles 29:36; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:18). The second was that everyone rejoiced (2 Chronicles 29:36), in complete contrast with the situation with which they had begun.