RIGHTEOUS HEZEKIAH HOLDS ON AT THE END OF HIS REIGN AS HIS LIFE IS MIRACULOUSLY EXTENDED AND HIS VANITY IS PROPHETICALLY CHASTIZED
Hezekiah goes into the record books as one of the greatest of the kings of Judah. By his own testimony he “walked before God in truth and with a whole heart, and did what is good in God’s sight.” But his last days were not without peril and extreme drama. After being instructed by the prophet to put his house in order and prepare to die, his effectual prayer secured him an additional 15 years on this earth (debatable whether that was a blessing or a snare). Puffed up with an inflated sense of his own importance, he foolishly displays all of the kingdom’s riches to the visiting emissaries from Babylon. Subsequently the prophet Isaiah pronounces future judgment upon the southern kingdom as the culmination of Judah’s history of unfaithfulness.
Dale Ralph Davis: The chapter provides two pictures of Hezekiah. In one he walks by faith (vv. 1–11); in the other he walks by sight (vv. 12–19). In the first section he seems to believe ‘Yahweh is all you need’, while in the second he seems to say, ‘I’m not so sure about that.’
Time and circumstance, v. 1a
Coming of prophet, v. 1b
Message (death), v. 1c
Hezekiah’s response, vv. 2–3 (prayer)
Message (deliverance), vv. 4–6
(Fulfillment, v. 7)
Hezekiah’s response, vv. 8–11 (sign)
Time and circumstance, vv. 12–13
Coming of prophet, v. 14a
+ questions and answers, vv. 14b–15
Message (exile), vv. 16–18
Hezekiah’s response, v. 19
Iain Provan: It seems that the veiled threats in 2 Kings 16–17 with regard to Judah have come to nothing. Jerusalem has not suffered the same fate as Samaria. Yet the Davidic promise has been cited in 2 Kings 16–19, not in relation to a wicked king, but in relation to the most pious king Judah has had (19:34). This creates the impression that in these days of accumulated sin, even a good king requires God’s special grace if the kingdom is to survive. It brings into question, therefore, whether Judah may expect in the future, under apostate kings, the kind of special treatment it has received in the past (1 Kgs. 15:4; 2 Kgs. 8:19). Is the protection of Jerusalem to go on forever? Second Kings 20 hints that it will not.
I. (:1-11) HEZEKIAH HEALED
A. (:1-3) Reacting to the Pronouncement of Imminent Death
1. (:1a) Mortal Illness
“In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill.”
How do you respond in the face of a serious health crisis?
Constable: refers to the year Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem (701 B.C.) since Hezekiah died 15 years later in 686 B.C.
R. D. Patterson: In the light of chronological difficulties, it therefore seems best to take the phrase “in those days” to be a general statement referring to some time in the reign of Hezekiah. If so, the events of chapter 20 (cf. Isa 38-39) probably belong chronologically before those of 18:7b – 19:37), these latter verses being recorded beforehand simply as the example par excellence of Hezekiah’s trust in God (cf. 18:7a). If Young is correct, that Isaiah’s prophecy in chapters 36-39 forms the basis for the text in Kings, and that the events of Isaiah 36-37 (cf. 2 Kings 18:7b – 19:37), though occurring later, are given first to round off his discussion dealing with the Assyrian period of his ministry before moving on to the Babylonian period (Isa 40-66, introduced by chs. 38-39), then the author of Kings may be following the thematic order of Isaiah. If so, there is a double reason for the present order in Kings, neither of which is caused by chronological considerations.
In those critical days, then, when Sargon was moving toward Ashdod to deal with the western rebels (among whom Hezekiah himself had been somewhat implicated), Isaiah delivered God’s message to a sick Hezekiah. It was time for Hezekiah to put his house in order; for as things stood, he would surely die. Hezekiah needed to be certain that not only were the affairs of state in order, but that he and his house were on proper terms with God.
2. (:1b) Prophetic Pronouncement
“And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’”
Peter Pett: But with Assyria threatening there was no successor yet old enough to take the throne It is understandable therefore why Hezekiah would be so distressed. Looking from the divine point of view we might suggest that God had brought this on Hezekiah in order to make him consider what the situation was and prepare him for it. For this verse with its subsequent narrative is quite remarkable. It demonstrates that even ‘the word of YHWH’ can be reversed by repentance. Here indeed is a prophetic word which will be so altered. What seems to be a situation which cannot be altered, is thus altered through prayer. The same was in fact always true of God’s judgments (compare Jonah and Nineveh, and Ahab and Israel – 1 Kings 21:27-29).
Guzik: We know from comparing 2 Kings 18:2 with 2 Kings 20:6 that Hezekiah was 39 years old when he learned he would soon die.
3. (:2-3a) Desperate Plea
“Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 ‘Remember now, O LORD, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight.’”
How did Hezekiah receive this dramatic news?
Biblical Illustrator: Hezekiah’s plea that he had lived a good life was an argument that prevailed with God. It is worthy of remark that the prayers recorded in the Old Testament are full of argument. Men approach God with reasons. They tell Him why He should grant their requests. Evidently they think Divine wisdom “easy to be entreated.” They recount mercies past as a reason for expecting renewed favours. They speak of His goodness. Of their great needs they make a plea. By the littleness and brevity of life they lay claim to mercy. So Hezekiah did not hesitate to find in his past life reasons for its continuance.
R. D. Patterson: Hezekiah was a man of faith. Turning his face to the wall, thereby both dismissing Isaiah and entering into solitary communion with God, Hezekiah poured out his heart to his lord. Hezekiah reminded God of his faithfulness, both in his personal conduct and in his righteous deeds, and of his wholehearted devotion to God. Hezekiah then wept bitterly. God knew the yearning of his heart that he did not express. In accordance with God’s own promises, Hezekiah had a right to expect a longer life than that which appeared to be forthcoming (cf. Exod 20:12; Deut 5:29; 30:16). So much was true. But Hezekiah’s concerns were deeper than any personal desire for added years. This is clear from the Lord’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer (vv. 5-6). What would become of that nation? His reforms were barely yet in progress. What would become of Judah? There was so much more to be done. Deeper still, he would die without a male heir, for no son had yet been born to him, What, then, would become of the house of David? The program and person of God were at stake, and Hezekiah believed that somehow he was vitally involved in them. How could it end like this?
4. (:3b) Bitter Grief
“And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”
Not exactly the response advocated by Tim McGraw in “Live Like You Were Dying”
“I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
When a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
And talkin’ ’bout the options
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”
I asked him
“When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”
And he said
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”
B. (:4-6) Receiving the Merciful Good News
1. (:4-6a) Good News of Personal Healing
“And it came about before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 ‘Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add fifteen years to your life,’”
2. (:6b) Good News of National Deliverance
“and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”
Adam Clarke: This is the first and only man who was ever informed of the term of his life. And was this a privilege! Surely no. If Hezekiah was attached to life, as he appears to have been, how must his mind be affected to mark the sinking years! He knew he was to die at the end of fifteen years; and how must he feel at the end of every year, when he saw that so much was cut off from life? He must necessarily feel a thousand deaths in fearing one. I believe there would be nothing wanting to complete the misery of men, except the place of torment, were they informed of the precise time in which their lives must terminate. God, in his abundant mercy, has hidden this from their eyes.
C. (:7) Recovering by Means of a Simple Treatment
“Then Isaiah said, ‘Take a cake of figs.’
And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.”
Whitcomb: With his faith confirmed by the sign of the retreating shadow, Hezekiah gladly submitted to a fig poultice treatment on his deadly boil. The “cake of figs” did not heal him, but was a physical token of the work that God was doing, even as Jesus on one occasion put wet clay on the eyes of a blind man while healing him (John 9:6).
D. (:8-11) Ratifying (Confirming) His Healing by a Miraculous Sign
1. (:8) Seeking a Sign
“Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?’”
William Barnes: Hezekiah’s demand for a “sign” here is meant to be sharply contrasted with his father Ahaz’s overly “pious” refusal to seek one (Isa 7:10–12), a fact that explains Isaiah’s exasperated response to that king in Isa 7:13–14.
2. (:9) Setting the Stage
“And Isaiah said, ‘This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?’”
Peter Pett: Assur, chief god of Assyria, was associated with the sun, and presided over gods and goddesses associated with the moon and stars. The Assyrians worshipped ‘the host of heaven’. Thus by demonstrating His power over the activity of the sun YHWH was indicating quite clearly why Hezekiah had nothing to fear. Not only would he heal Hezekiah who would thus be able to intercede in the house of YHWH, but through his intercession He would bring victory to Judah by driving back the one who claimed to have behind him the light of the sun.
3. (:10) Selecting the Spectacular
“So Hezekiah answered, ‘It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.’”
Donald Wiseman: A sign to authenticate a prophet’s word that it is God who is acting is not uncommon. It was natural (‘a light thing’ mt) for the shadow to move forward, so this reversal of the natural order by regression would be more significant and less unmistakable than a rapid advance. The degrees or steps have best been interpreted as ‘upper chamber’ or ‘sundial’.
4. (:11) Switching the Shadow
“And Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.”
Dummelow: Probably a platform surrounded by steps and surmounted by a pillar, the shadow of which fell upon a smaller or larger number of the steps according as the sun mounted or declined in the sky.
II. (:12-19) HEZEKIAH HUMBLED
A. (:12) Foreign Delegation
“At that time Berodach-baladan a son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.”
B. (:13) Full Disclosure
“And Hezekiah listened to them, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and the house of his armor and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them.”
Guzik: We can imagine that this was flattering for King Hezekiah. After all, Judah was a lowly nation with little power, and Babylon was a junior superpower. To receive this notice and recognition from the king of Babylon must have really made Hezekiah feel he was important.
Biblical Illustrator: Further, we see that pride led Hezekiah to miss a grand opportunity of glorifying God. Here were heathens in his presence. He might have spoken of what wonders God had wrought for him: of the deliverance effected, of the health restored. He might have led them up to the temple to see the purity of the Divine worship. He might have told them of the laws of Moses and of their beneficent tendencies; of the traditions, history, and sacred proverbs his scribes had copied out. Nothing of the kind did he. He let slip a chance that came but seldom, and thus neglected to glorify his God. Alas! many have imitated him.
C. (:14-19) Forensic Dialogue
1. (:14-15) Three Investigative Questions
Isaiah comes to investigate the crime committed by Hezekiah;
a. (:14a) What Did They Say?
How could you be deceived so easily?
“Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, ‘What did these men say,’”
b. (:14B) Where Did They Come From?
Why didn’t you perceive the threat?
“’and from where have they come to you?’ And Hezekiah said, ‘They have come from a far country, from Babylon.’”
c. (:15) What Did They See?
How bad was the damage?
“And he said, ‘What have they seen in your house’” So Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them.’”
R. D. Patterson: Hezekiah had been foolish. Not only would the extent of Jerusalem’s wealth now be known and desired by all (cf. Sennacherib’s demands in 18:13-16), but one day this same Babylon would invade the land and carry off its populace and all its treasures (v. 17). Yes, even Hezekiah’s own descendants would be taken captive and employed in the service of a Babylonian king (v. 18; cf. 24:12-16; 2 Chron 33:11; Dan 1:3-5). Quite out of keeping with his righteous character, Hezekiah’s folly would prove to be a contributing factor in the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies (Lev 26:33; Deut 28:64-67; 30:3). Hezekiah’s experience remains a stern warning to all the perils of pride (cf. Prov 16:5, 18; 28:25-26; 29:23).
2. (:16-18) Divine Judgment
“Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the LORD. 17 Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 18 And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
Peter Pett: This stripping away from Judah of all that it possessed has been a theme of Kings. The prophetic author clearly wanted to bring home the lesson of the temporary nature of earthly possessions.
Guzik: Hezekiah faced – and failed under – a temptation common to many, especially those in ministry – the temptation of success. Many men who stand strong against the temptations of failure and weakness fail under the temptations of success and strength. Think about the extent of Hezekiah’s success:
• He was godly.
• He was victorious.
• He was healed.
• He had experienced a miracle.
• He had been promised a long life.
• He had connection to a great prophet.
• He had seen a remarkable sign.
• He was wealthy.
• He was famous.
• He was praised and honored.
• He was honored by God.
Dale Ralph Davis: So flattery can be fulfilling and plots are thrilling—and all of it idolatrous. You cannot, Isaiah would say, lean on Yahweh’s arm (cf. Isa. 33:2) and on Babylon’s arm (here) or on Egypt’s arm (Isa. 30:1–5; 31:1–3). Hence both the stockpiles Hezekiah boasts of and the sons he fathers will be carted off; both possessions and people are destined for Babylon.
3. (:19) Response of the Rebuked
“Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Is it not so, if there shall be peace and truth in my days?’”
Constable: In pride, as a result of his healing, Hezekiah evidently wished to impress his Babylonian visitors with his wealth and power (cf. 2 Chron. 32:25, 31). Isaiah prophesied that Babylon would take Judah into captivity one day (vv. 17-18). While Hezekiah would have been sorry to hear this prophecy, he evidently accepted it as the Lord’s will for Judah and was glad it would not happen in his lifetime (v. 19).
Dale Ralph Davis: What then do we see here in verses 12–19? We see a king who finds it hard to be steadfast. We see a king who seems to do better in sickness (vv. 1–11) than in health (vv. 12–19), who perhaps handles blight better than blessing. This is the king of 18:1–8, who trusted Yahweh (18:5), and yet seems to think Yahweh needed a little help from Babylon. How fragile our faithfulness; how changing our consistency; how easily our faith can fade.
(:20-21) EPILOGUE – CONCLUSION OF REIGN OF HEZEKIAH
A. (:20) Recorded Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?”
Constable: Hezekiah’s 1,777-foot long tunnel (v. 20) was a noteworthy accomplishment. It brought water from the Gihon spring outside the city wall, under the wall of Jerusalem, and into the city, specifically to the pool of Siloam. This made Jerusalem much more self-sufficient in times of invasion than it would have been otherwise.
B. (:21a) Death and Burial
“So Hezekiah slept with his fathers,”
Donald Wiseman: Hezekiah was buried on the sloping hill where the tombs of David’s descendants were cut (2 Chr. 32:33). This was because the royal Iron Age burial caves north of the city were full by this time and hereafter no Judean kings were buried in the rock-hewn caves there.
C. (:21b) Succession
“and Manasseh his son became king in his place.”