REPENTANCE, HUMILITY AND CONSECRATION PROMOTE AN INCLUSIVE SPIRIT OF UNIFIED CORPORATE WORSHIP THAT ISSUES IN GREAT JOY
Iain Duguid: The end of the northern kingdom resulted in both the rapid increase in Judah’s population due to the influx of refugees and also the opportunity to call those in the north back to worship at the Jerusalem temple. Thus far, temple cleansing and restoration had involved those in Jerusalem: king, priests and Levites, and “officials of the city.” But the “sin offering with their blood” was to “make atonement for all Israel” (2 Chron. 29:24). Now Hezekiah made arrangements for a Passover celebration involving “all Israel and Judah” (30:1). He continued to provide leadership, but again communal involvement in decision making and implementation was to the fore (Hb. qahal [“assembly”] occurs thirteen times in chs. 29–30: 29:23, 28, 31, 32; 30:2, 4, 13, 17, 23, 24 [2x], 25 [2x]).
David Whitcomb: Hezekiah began to reign when he was 25 years old (2 Chronicles 29:1). From the scant evidence we have, it appears that Hezekiah began a co-regency with his father Ahaz in 729 B.C. That would have coincided with the third year of the reign of King Hoshea in Israel. Seven years later (722 B.C.), God finally sent Assyria to destroy Israel and scatter many of the people to distant lands. The seven years after that intervention by God, (715 B.C.) Ahaz died and Hezekiah was the sole king of Judah.
Andrew Hill: Hezekiah’s festival may be outlined in three broad movements:
– the assembling of large numbers of Israelites making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (30:13, 17-18),
– the cleansing and consecration rituals (30:14-16, 19), and
– the “sacrifice” of joyful praise extended over a two-week period (30:21-27).
The reference to the size of the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the festival is significant not so much for the sake of the sheer numbers as its composition of people from all over Judah and Israel (30:13). The inclusion of worshipers from the northern tribes speaks to the theme of “reunification” under King Hezekiah (cf. 30:18).
J.A. Thompson: With the restoration of the temple now achieved, Hezekiah undertook strenuous efforts to reunite “all Israel,” both south and north, in national worship, which the Chronicle centered on the observance of the Passover. It is the dominant theme of the early part of the chapter (vv. 1-13) and is prominent in the latter section of chap. 30 (note specially 30:25; 31:1) but is present also in the central section of the chapter, which deals with the celebration itself. Hezekiah is portrayed here as a second Solomon (v. 26), and the celebration of the Passover is a watershed between the disruption of Israel after Solomon’s death and a return to the spiritual conditions that existed in Solomon’s day.
I. (:1-9) CORPORATE WORSHIP SHOULD BE INCLUSIVE OF ALL WHO REPENT AND SEEK GOD –
THE INVITATION TO CELEBRATE THE PASSOVER EXTENDED TO THE NORTHERN KINGDOM
A. (:1) Gracious Invitation to Celebrate the Passover
“Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.”
Raymond Dillard: This verse is a summary statement introducing the entire narrative (Rudolph, 299). The oral proclamation was accompanied by letters (cf. Esth 1:22).
Mark Boda: The Passover is understood merely as the introduction to the subsequent Festival of Unleavened Bread, which ran for the following seven days (see Exod 12-13; 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Lev 23; Deut 16:1-17). In Torah legislation the Passover lamb is chosen on the 10th day of the first month, sacrificed on the 14th day, and eaten in an evening meal as the 15th day of the month began. The Festival of Unleavened Bread then ran from the 15th to the 21st day of the first month.
B. (:2-5) Game Planning the Passover Invitation
Raymond Dillard: The law allowed for a delayed observance of Passover in the second month for those who had become unclean through contact with a corpse or for those who had been on a journey (Num 9:9–11). The actions of Hezekiah appear to depend on an interpretive extension of these provisions to cover those ritually unclean for any reason (“the priests had not sanctified themselves,” 30:3) and those journeying from the Northern Kingdom or who had not made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (“the people had not assembled themselves,” 30:3; cf. 30:17–18); exceptional provisos for individuals have been generalized to apply to the entire nation. The celebration of Passover at the time of Hezekiah thus provides a good example of intrabiblical legal interpretation. The apostasy under Ahaz presumably had left the priesthood in disarray, perhaps almost nonfunctioning, but at least in a ceremonially unacceptable state.
Mark Boda: Before revealing the process for the proclamation of the festival (30:5-10a), the Chronicler describes the process that led to the reinstitution of the festival (30:2-4). The decision was reached between Hezekiah, his officials, and “all the community of Jerusalem”. The latter evidences not only the democratizing tone of the Chronicler’s account but also his emphasis on Jerusalem’s leadership role in the worship of Judah. The reason a decision had to be made, according to the Chronicler, was because the first month – the time when the festivals were required to be celebrated – had already passed. The Chronicler explained this anomaly by appealing to the lack of qualified priests to carry on the services (29:34) and the lack of people to form an assembly. It was decided to celebrate Passover one month later than usual, in the second month, a provision that appears dependent on the legislation in Numbers 9:1-14. Second Chronicles 30:4 again emphasizes the unanimity of both king and “all the people” on this issue.
1. (:2-3) Exceptional Circumstances Dictated Unusual Timing
“For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, 3 since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem.”
2. (:4) Executive
Decision Supported by the People
“Thus the thing was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly.”
3. (:5) Expansive Communication Logistics
“So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed.”
C. (:6-9) Gracious Call to Return to their Gracious and Compassionate God
“And the couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah
with the letters from the hand of the king and his princes,
even according to the command of the king, saying,”
Andrew Hill: The actual text of Hezekiah’s letter is summarized in the second section of the unit (30:6-9). Curiously, the letter is summarized in the second section of the unit (30:6-9). Curiously, the letter itself does not mention the Passover celebration – although this is the theme of the entire pericope. The so-called “Passover letter” is sent “throughout Israel and Judah” as Hezekiah seeks to reunite the tribes in the aftermath of the Assyrian conquest and annexation of the northern kingdom. The reference to “Ephraim and Manasseh” (a word pair often used for the northern kingdom of Israel, cf. 34:9) is inserted almost as a point of clarification or special emphasis.
James Barker: The Revival Under King Hezekiah
1. TURN FROM YOUR BACKSLIDING (vs. 6)
2. TURN FROM YOUR TRESPASSES (vs. 7)
3. TURN FROM YOUR STUBBORNNESS (vs. 8)
1. (:6b) Welcoming — Offer of Restoration of God’s Favor
a. If You Return to God – Who is the God of the Patriarchs
“O sons of Israel, return to the LORD God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,”
b. God Will Return to You – Who Are the Escaped Remnant
“that He may return to those of you
who escaped and are left from the hand of the kings of Assyria.”
Raymond Dillard: In referring to the “kings” of Assyria, the author probably intends more than the destruction in 722 B.C. at the hands of Shalmaneser V and Sargon II, but also all other Assyrian intrusions against the Northern Kingdom, at least from the time of Tiglath-pileser III (28:16–21; 1 Chr 5:26), and perhaps even as far back as Shalmaneser III.
J.A. Thompson: The designation “you who are left, who have escaped” would have conveyed simultaneously a sense of fear often experienced by those who have just had a narrow escape and also a sense of gratitude that God had delivered them. They should have identified easily with those escapees from Egypt who first celebrated the Passover, as should the Chronicler’s own audience of postexilic Judah.
Mark Boda: The Chronicler identifies repentance in worship practice as essential to the experience of the presence of Yahweh, as well as to the safe return of ore exiles from captivity. This raise the profile of the Temple and its worship in the Chronicler’s day, placing the lives of the exiles at stake.
2. (:7) Warning — Object Lesson of Past Judgment for Apostasy
“And do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD God of their fathers, so that He made them a horror, as you see.”
Andrew Hill: In addition to calling the people to repentance, Hezekiah’s letter admonishes the Israelites to cease being “unfaithful” (30:7) and “stiff-necked” (30:8) like their ancestors. The time to break with the past is long overdue. Hezekiah’s letter holds out hope to those who have escaped the wrath of God meted out through Assyrian kings by offering them the possibility of reunion with those exiled in Mesopotamia to return to the worship of God in the Jerusalem sanctuary (30:9). The appeal to the Lord, who “is gracious and compassionate” (30:9), seems to allude once again to Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, beseeching God to induce Israel’s conquerors to show mercy on his people should they sin and be overtaken by their enemies (cf. 1 Kings 8:50).
3. (:8) Warning — Opposition to God Brings His Wrath
“Now do not stiffen your neck like your fathers, but yield to the LORD and enter His sanctuary which He has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that His burning anger may turn away from you.”
4. (:9) Welcoming — Opportunity to Experience God’s Gracious Compassion
a. Based on the Condition of Returning to the Lord
“For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons
will find compassion before those who led them captive,
and will return to this land.”
b. Based on the Character of the Lord
“For the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate,
and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”
David Whitcomb: This is the heart of a person who truly loves God, trusts God, and desires to worship God. He knows that the so-called people of God had abandoned God in favor of the little, make-believe gods of their world. His heart aches for professing flowers of Jesus to worship Him as His perfect character requires. He challenges people to come clean of their sin, restore fellowship with God, and worship Him.
II. (:10-12) CORPORATE WORSHIP THAT IS INCLUSIVE REQUIRES HEARTS OF HUMILITY AND HEARTS OF SOLIDARITY/SUBMISSION –
THE MIXED RESPONSE TO THE INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN WORSHIP AT THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM
Andrew Hill: Predictably, Hezekiah’s invitation to renew festival worship in the reopened Jerusalem temple receives a mixed response (30:10-12). The scornful reception given to his couriers may hav
e been life-threatening, perhaps explaining why the heralds to not traverse the entire northern kingdom with their message (cf. 30:5). The majority of Israelites in the regions of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Zebulun spurn the invitation, while others from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humble themselves before the Lord and make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (30:10-11). The overwhelming response of those in the kingdom of Judah to obey the king is a remarkable demonstration of solidarity and is attributed to the “hand of God” on the people (30:12).
A. (:10a) Message from Judah Communicated to Israel
“So the couriers passed from city to city
through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun,”
B. (:10b-11) Mixed Response by Israel
1. (:10b) Negative = Mocking
“but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.”
David Guzik: We note there was no rational argument against the invitation; it was all opposed with simple laughter and mocking. For the frivolous and simple-minded, these replace serious thought.
2. (:11) Positive = Hearts of Humility
“Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun
humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.”
C. (:12) Motivated Response of Hearts of Solidarity and Submission by Judah
“The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart
to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.”
III. (:13-22) CORPORATE WORSHIP REQUIRES PURIFICATION AND PROPITIATION (APPROACHING GOD ON THE BASIS OF THE FORGIVENESS AND ACCESS ONLY HE CAN PROVIDE) —
THE CELEBRATION OF THE PASSOVER AND FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
August Konkel: Among the challenges facing Hezekiah in observing the Passover was the problem of the impurity of the city. The first task of the assembled multitude was to remove all the foreign cult objects, which were properly disposed of in the Kidron Valley, where they could be burned (v. 14). A second problem was the failure of the priestly leaders to be properly prepared for the great number of people who had come (v. 15). The problem may have been the consecration of those officials who had come from outside the city and had not been a part of the earlier purification (29:15, 34). Once again the response of the people had outstripped that of the professional clerics, to the great shame of the latter. The priests and Levites had to offer the appropriate burnt offerings before they could take their place in the ceremony. The biggest problem was the impurity of the large number of pilgrims who had traveled great distances from foreign lands and did not have an opportunity to receive the proper purification ceremonies (30:13, 17). This rendered them unfit to perform the sacrifice that they had come to observe. The normal practice was that each person would slaughter his own sacrifice; manipulation of the blood was handled by the priests (vv. 15-16). The ritually unclean state of the pilgrims rendered them unfit to participate in the ceremony for which they had come, a point made very clear in the Passover provisions. This was a perpetual problem in observing the festivals in the Second Temple period.
A. (:13-19) Purification from Idolatry and Sin
1. (:13) People Gathered together for the Feast
“Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very large assembly.”
Raymond Dillard: The nation is to “celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (30:12, 13); earlier they were to “celebrate the Passover” (30:1, 2, 5). As elsewhere in both the OT and NT, the two festivals were so closely associated that the entire celebration could be denominated by either designation.
2. (:14) Purification from Idolatry
“And they arose and removed the altars which were in Jerusalem;
they also removed all the incense altars
and cast them into the brook Kidron.”
Iain Duguid: Removal of all signs of pagan worship in Jerusalem was required; “turning” to the Lord involved “turning” from all that was “faithless” (vv. 6–8). The priests and Levites had cleansed the temple and its precincts of all signs of Ahaz’s “faithless” activity (29:16, 18–19), and now the “many people” did the same for the city (cf. 28:24).
Frederick Mabie: In parallel with the earlier actions taken by the assembly of priests and Levites (cf. 29:15-17), the assembly of Judeans and Israelites takes tangible steps in their return to God by removing and destroying items of idolatry and syncretism throughout Jerusalem, most of which had been built by Ahaz (cf. 28:24-25). The destruction of such elements during Hezekiah’s reign is similar to purges directed by Asa (cf. 14:3; 15:16), Joash (cf. 23:17), and Josiah (cf. 34:3-7) in Judah as well as Jehu in the northern kingdom (cf. 2Ki 10:18-28).
3. (:15a) Passover Lambs Slaughtered
“Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs
on the fourteenth of the second month.”
Andrew Hill: The rituals associated with the Passover are the focus of the Chronicler’s report in 30:15-20. The Passover animals are killed by the worshipers in keeping with the prescriptions for the feast in Exodus, except for those who are ritually impure and hence unfit to perform the task (30:15, 17; cf. Ex. 12:21). The zeal coupled with the appropriate actions of the people in observing the Passover shame the priests and Levites. The religious leaders in charge of instructing the people in the law of Moses and in mediating the sacrificial worship of Israel are outdone by a righteous laity (who presumably have not been taught the Torah for some time by a negligent and corrupt priesthood under King Ahaz). Shortly thereafter the priests and the Levites are consecrated, so they too are careful to follow the prescriptions of the Mosaic law in discharging their duties as mediators of the Passover (2 Chron. 30:16).
4. (:15b) Purification of the Priests and Levites
“And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves
and consecrated themselves,
and brought burnt offering
s to the house of the LORD.”
5. (:16-17) Priests Applying the Blood
“And they stood at their stations after their custom, according to the law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood which they received from the hand of the Levites. 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites were over the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was unclean, in order to consecrate them to the LORD.”
6. (:18-19) Pardon Requested Due to Unusual Circumstances
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler makes an important theological observation that intent of heart and acts of repentance, when combined with intercessory prayer, override the letter of the law when it comes to the worship of God (30:18-19; cf. Isa. 1:15-19; Mic. 6:8).
a. Some Participants Still Ritually Unclean
“For a multitude of the people, even many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed.”
b. Seeking God with the Heart Trumps Purification Rules
“For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying,
‘May the good LORD pardon 19 everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.’”
Iain Duguid: The phrase “good Lord” occurs only here in the OT but probably alludes to the refrain found often in Psalms and cited when David established worship before the ark, when Solomon dedicated the temple, and again at the dedication of the second temple: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (1 Chron. 16:34; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:3; Ezra 3:11; Pss. 106:1; 107:1; etc.).
J.A. Thompson: Most of the people from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Issachar were not ritually purified, due either to ignorance or lack of time. Although God’s law was binding, there also was some flexibility in extraordinary circumstances. Hezekiah offered a special prayer on their behalf, asking that God would pardon all those who hearts were ready to seek God even if they were ritually unclean according to the ceremonial purification laws of the sanctuary. Prayer was effective in overriding purely ritual considerations according to the Chronicler. For all his concern with the cult and its personnel, the Chronicler was not content with a religion of mere external correctness but delighted in the one who “sets his heart on seeking God.” In hearing Hezekiah and healing the people, God was answering Solomon’s prayer as he promised in 7:14.
L.M. Grant: The ordinance of the Passover required that those who were defiled by a dead body could not eat of the Passover until they were sanctified from this (Numbers 9:9). Because of some being defiled at the time of the Passover in Numbers, God had made an allowance for them the keep the Passover in the second month (Numbers 9:10-11). However, since it was the second month that Hezekiah arranged the Passover, and there were large numbers from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun who had not been purified, yet they were allowed to eat the Passover, though it was contrary to the Word of God. This was a marked exception, and Hezekiah prayed for them, that the Lord would provide atonement for this infraction of the law. The Lord accepted this prayer and healed all the people (vv.19-20). In explanation of this, would it not have been cruel to refuse their participation in the Passover after having invited them to come from so far for this purpose, and after these people had shown such faith as to come to God’s centre in order to honour the Lord? This was the exception of pure grace.
B. (:20) Propitiation and Healing
“So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”
C. (:21) Praise Celebration
“And the sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments to the LORD.”
D. (:22a) Pastoral Encouragement
“Then Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites
who showed good insight in the things of the LORD.”
E. (:22b) Particulars of Participating in the Feast
1. Eating for the Appointed Seven Days
“So they ate for the appointed seven days,”
2. Sacrificing Offerings
“sacrificing peace offerings”
3. Giving Thanks
“and giving thanks to the LORD God of their fathers.”
IV. (:23-27) THE EXTENSION OF THE CELEBRATION ACCOMPANIED WITH GREAT JOY
A. (:23) Celebration Extended for Additional Seven Days
“Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate the feast another seven days,
so they celebrated the seven days with joy.”
B. (:24) Consecration Commitment
1. Consecration Commitment from Hezekiah
“For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly
1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep,”
2. Consecration Commitment from the Princes
“and the princes had contributed to the assembly
1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep;”
3. Consecration Commitment from the Priests
“and a large number of priests consecrated themselves.”
C. (:25-26) Community Joy
1. (:25) Great Joy on the Part of All Participants
a. Participants from Judah – People and Religious Leaders
“And all the assembly of Judah rejoiced,
with the priests and the Levites,” p>
b. Participants from Israel
“and all the assembly that came from Israel, both the sojourners who came from the land of Israel and those living in Judah.”
2. (:26) Great Joy Focused in Jerusalem
“So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.”
Mark Boda: The comparison in 30:26 to Solomon’s reign makes explicit what has been implicit throughout chapters 29-30 – that is, that Hezekiah is the second Solomon, uniting the tribes both north and south around the Temple in Jerusalem. Dillard (1987:242-243) argues that in this chapter not only is Hezekiah linked to Solomon by being the first king to reunite the nation at the Temple since his forefather (ch 7), by holding an extended two-week celebration (ch 7), and by praying before the assembly (ch 6), but also throughout chapter 30 the vocabulary of God’s speech to Solomon in 7:14 is used, a speech that identified for the Chronicler the normative vocabulary of response by Israel and Yahweh:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves. . .”
The Chronicler presented Hezekiah and his generation as an example of the kind of community that fulfills Yahweh’s agenda.
D. (:27) Consummated Blessing of the People
“Then the Levitical priests arose and blessed the people;
and their voice was heard
and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.”