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THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF HEZEKIAH
XII. HEZEKIAH (715-687 B.C.)
HEZEKIAH'S MOVE TO RESTORE THE TRUE WORSHIP
"Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old; and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. And he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, according to all that David his father had done. He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of Jehovah, and repaired them. And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together in the broad place on the east, and said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites; now sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of Jehovah, the God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of Jehovah, and turned their back. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and have put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt-offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Wherefore the wrath of Jehovah was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to be tossed to and fro, to be an astonishment, and a hissing, as ye see with your eyes. For, lo, our fathers are fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with Jehovah, the God of Israel, that his fierce anger may turn away from us. My sons, be not now negligent; for Jehovah hath chosen you to stand before him, to minister unto him, and that ye should be his ministers, and burn incense."
Practically all of this chapter is without parallel in Kings. It supplements the record of Hezekiah's extensive reforms that are mentioned there. We see here that his work was not merely negative, in such things as destroying the high places and cutting down the Asherim. He also did many positive things toward pointing Israel back to the true worship of God.
"Carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place" (2 Chronicles 29:5). "This was the accumulated dirt from years of neglect."
"They have not burned incense nor offered burnt-offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel" (2 Chronicles 29:7). But does not 2 Kings 16:14-16 state that Ahaz himself made offerings on that special altar? Yes, indeed; but there is no contradiction here. The Chronicler is merely telling us (and those Levites) that those sacrifices that Ahaz offered on an Assyrian altar, were, in no sense, offered unto the God of Israel, but were actually sacrifices to Assyrian gods. Note the underlined words in this paragraph.
"Jehovah hath chosen you (the Levites) to stand before him" (2 Chronicles 11). Here again we find an acute consciousness of the Law of God through Moses in the Pentateuch, especially in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, where the choice of the Levites and the sons of Aaron was first revealed. It is the proliferation of dozens of such references as these in Chronicles that sends the radical critics into frantic screams of "Midrash"!
This single chapter is a complete contradiction of the critical denials of it with abundant proof of the existence of the whole Pentateuch in the reign of Hezekiah, generations prior to Josiah and that fairy tale about the P Code.
It is the conviction of this writer that the author of whatever source was quoted by the Chronicler here (see our introduction for a list of these) had a complete copy of the Law of Moses (the whole Pentateuch) before him when he wrote down the events related in this chapter.
UNDENIABLE REFLECTIONS OF THE PENTATEUCH IN THIS CHAPTER
(1) "The wrath of Jehovah was upon Judah" (2 Chronicles 29:8). "This word (wrath) is used in Deuteronomy 28:25," where Moses had predicted this very disaster that befell Judah.
(2) "For Jehovah hath chosen you" (2 Chronicles 29:11). This is stated in Numbers 3:6,8:6, and in Deuteronomy 10:8.
(3) "They brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he-goats for a sin-offering for the kingdom" (2 Chronicles 29:21). The use of these animals for that purpose was authorized in Leviticus 1:3f; 14:20; and 16:24. "Seven victims were offered because seven was a sacred number."
(4) The use of seven victims instead of one in certain sacrifices was authorized in Numbers 28:11ff.
(5) "The priests received the blood and sprinkled it upon the altar" (2 Chronicles 29:22). The ritual for this action is found in the law of Moses in Exodus 29:16, and in Leviticus 1:5,11.
(6) "The king and the assembly laid their hands upon them (the sacrifices)" (2 Chronicles 29:23). This ceremony is described in Leviticus 1:4.
(7) "And they made a sin-offering with their blood upon the altar" (2 Chronicles 29:24) In Leviticus 4:25,34 is found the description of exactly how this was done.
(8) "Come near, ... and bring thank-offerings into the house of Jehovah" (2 Chronicles 29:31) "The thanksgiving here was for the joy over the renewal of the worship of Jehovah." Instructions for the offerings and ceremonies for such an occasion are found in Leviticus 7:12ff.
(9) "The burnt-offerings ... with the fat of the peace-offerings, and with the drink-offerings for every burnt-offering ... so the service for the house of Jehovah was set in order" (2 Chronicles 29:35). "The drink offerings were of wine and probably poured like the blood at the base of the altar." Very complete and detailed instructions for these sacrifices, including the drink-offerings, are found in Numbers 15:1-15.
Note here that Hezekiah followed instructions for the services of the house of Jehovah, instructions that are detailed in the Mosaic writings of the Pentateuch.
Before leaving this analysis, we must ask, "How do the critics attempt to get rid of such proof as this? Curtis has this succinct statement of their only answer.
It must be remembered that the writer was drawing largely upon his imagination, and evidently cared little about accuracy of detail.
To such so-called scholarship as this, we wish to say NO! It is the evil radical critics, seeking to destroy faith in the Word of God, who are drawing upon their imagination. The real Biblical Midrash is that imaginary P Code, that alleged discovery in the reign of Josiah, the Jehovist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Second, Third, or Twentieth ISAIAH, and all the rest of those fraudulent, imaginary, ephemeral and constantly changing "documents" invented by evil men and imposed upon believers under the guise of their being scholarly. And may it be said again that until all of those alleged documents (or any single one of them, for that matter) can be produced and scientifically evaluated, the truly intelligent person may safely reject them.
WITHIN SIXTEEN DAYS THE LEVITES CLEANSE THE TEMPLE
"Then the Levites arose, Mahath, the son of Amasai, 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, Shemri 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. And they gathered their brethren, and sanctified themselves, and went in, according to the commandment of the king by the words of Jehovah, to cleanse the house of Jehovah. And the priests went in unto the inner part of the house of Jehovah, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of Jehovah into the court of the house of Jehovah. And the Levites took it to carry it out abroad to the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of Jehovah; and they sanctified the house of Jehovah in eight days: and on the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end. Then they went in to Hezekiah the king within the palace, and said, We have cleansed all the house of Jehovah, and the altar of burnt-offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the table of showbread, with all the vessels thereof. Moreover all the vessels which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away when he trespassed, have we prepared and sanctified; and, behold, they are before the altar of Jehovah."
SIN-OFFERINGS WERE MADE FOR ALL ISRAEL
"Then Hezekiah the king arose early, and gathered the princes of the city, and went up to the house of Jehovah. 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 of Jehovah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of Jehovah. 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 upon the altar: they killed also the lambs, and sprinkled the blood upon the altar. And they brought near the he-goats for the sin offering before the king and the assembly; and they laid their hands upon them; and the priests killed them, and they made a sin-offering with their blood upon 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."
See our discussion above regarding the many reflections of the Pentateuch in this chapter, especially in this paragraph.
MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT OF THESE IMPRESSIVE CEREMONIES
"And he set the Levites in the house of Jehovah with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was of Jehovah by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering upon the altar. And when the burnt-offering began, the song of Jehovah began also, and the trumpets, and the instruments of David king of Israel. And all the assembly worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; and all this continued till the burnt-offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praises unto Jehovah with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and bowed their heads and worshipped."
"For the commandment was of Jehovah by his prophets" (2 Chronicles 29:25). This is the passage in the O.T. which is supposed to justify the use of mechanical instruments of music in the ancient worship of the Jews; but it should be observed that "the commandment" which is here said to have come from God is not specifically identified in this key sentence; and the Syriac and Arabic versions in this place do not support what is written here. Both those versions make "the commandment" which came of God through his prophets applicable exclusively to the order that the Levites should praise God; "And the Hebrew text certainly supports such a rendition." Note that there is a distinction made in this very passage between the instruments of David (2 Chronicles 29:26) and the song of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 29:27).
The importance of this is emphasized by the apparent contradiction which the ASV and other current versions make in this passage with the prophet Amos. The passage has no bearing whatever upon the question of the use of such instruments in Christian worship; but an investigation of it is important because the Word of God does not contradict itself; and if this passage stands as it appears here, what about the passages in Amos? This writer holds the passages in Amos to be correct, and this one to be mistranslated here. (See our Excursus on this subject at the end of Psalms II.)
The position which we have taken on this is very strongly supported by the fact that the Orthodox Hebrew religion has never allowed instruments of music in their worship; and, presumably, they know the Hebrew a lot better than modern critics.
"In the words of David, and of Asaph the seer" (2 Chronicles 29:30). This indicates that what we know as The Psalms were sung as hymns on this occasion.
ALL ISRAEL BRINGS ABUNDANT THANK-OFFERINGS TO JEHOVAH
"Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto Jehovah; come near and bring sacrifices and thank-offerings into the house of Jehovah. And the assembly brought in sacrifices and thank-offerings; and as many as were of a willing heart brought burnt-offerings. And the number of the burnt-offerings which the assembly brought was threescore and ten bullocks, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs; all these were for a burnt-offering unto Jehovah. And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep. But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt-offerings; wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till 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. 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 Jehovah was set in order. And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, because of that which God had prepared for the people: for this thing was done suddenly."
"The Levites were more upright ... than the priests" (2 Chronicles 29:34). That this opinion of the Levites might be, "A reflection of the Chronicler's personal bias," is unacceptable. The truth of what he said had already been demonstrated before all Israel in the subservience of the priest Urijah to king Ahaz (2 Kings 16:16).
"For the thing was done suddenly" (2 Chronicles 29:36). "This change from apostasy to loyalty to Jehovah took place almost immediately upon Hezekiah's accession to the throne. It was the result of a common impulse both of the king and of the people, apparently without any preparation (or delay)."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 29". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany