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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 32

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-33

XVII

THE REIGN OF HEZEKIAH

2 Kings 18:7-20:21; 2 Chronicles 32:1-33

In the preceding chapter we have briefly considered the first six years of the reign of Hezekiah noting particularly the great religious reformation wrought by him.


Now we are going to consider the reign of Hezekiah after the Northern Kingdom was destroyed. The first thing for us to do is to get clearly before our minds the prevalent political relations of the time. Syria which had been a powerful factor, has gone out of sight, and Assyria with its capital at Nineveh was now the great northern power. We have seen that Assyrian power destroy the Northern Kingdom and in the days of Ahaz we have seen an alliance between Assyria and Ahaz. Ahaz appealed to the Assyrian king to help him against Israel and Syria. Now when the Assyrian king, for his own purpose, entered into this alliance and destroyed both Syria and Israel, he naturally wanted Judah also, and we have seen that Ahaz became tributary to the Assyrian king. Ahaz king of Judah was the father of Hezekiah who inherited from this wicked father this subordination to the Assyrian king paying tribute to him. Now, on the south, Egypt, which had varied fortunes from be-fore the days of Abraham, was once more a great world power; so we see the little kingdom of Judah, with Hezekiah at the head of it, as a grain of corn between an upper and a nether millstone. Judah lies right in the path between Egypt and Assyria. The Assyrian king wanted Judah, not only to guarantee the safety of his possessions in the Northern Kingdom, but also as a base from which to strike his rival, the kingdom of Egypt, and the king of Egypt wanted Judah as a base for striking the king of Assyria. That is the political relation, except that Just now was rising at Babylon a power that would absorb Assyria. It had not come largely to the front yet, but it was coming fast, and when it did come to the front as the world power there was no Assyria, and the two powers then were Egypt and Babylon, and Egypt and Babylon bad Judah in between them. Now that is a glance at the chief political relations.


Subordinate political relations are these: Philistia, of course, never altogether conquered, was there as a thorn in the side of Judah. Edom, or Esau, to the south, was also a thorn in the side of Judah. And various governments of Arabia – the Ishmaelitish descendants – were ready at any time to strike a blow at Judah. In the same way Moab and Ammon descendants of Lot to the east of the Dead Sea, were ready to strike at Judah. Then there was Tyre and Phoenicia, another great world power, which had been for a long time, ever since the days of Hiram and even before Hiram’s time, and the later history of Judah will have much to do with Phoenicia and not on the friendly terms that it had with Phoenicia in the days of David and Solomon.


Now the next thing to look at is the religious status at the time Hezekiah came to the throne. From the beginning the religious status in the Northern Kingdom was bad, and going all the time from bad to worse until purely on religious grounds, turning away from Jehovah, that nation was wiped out, but before it was wiped out, through the marriage of the daughter of Jezebel the queen of the Israelitish kingdom to the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah – through that marriage various religious evils came into the Southern Kingdom. Now when Ahaz, a descendant of that unrighteous marriage, came to the throne, he, on becoming tributary to the king of Assyria, became tributary in religion as well as in territory and in political suzerainty. He adopted the gods of the people. We have then this picture: All of the high places where stone pillars and wooden images called "Asherim" were worshiped that had never been abated by the kings of Judah before Hezekiah’s time. The worship of Jehovah had ceased in its songs, particularly the Davidic psalter. The door of the Temple was closed. The altar of sacrifice was removed, and the altar of a heathen god was put in its place. All of the regular servants that conducted the religious worship were either degraded from office or persuaded or compelled to become the officiating ministers at the altars of the false religion. Not merely was this so, but Ahaz had erected in the valley of Hinnom an image of Molech, the Ammonite god, and a hideous fellow he was. It was a hollow iron image with a furnace under the bottom of it and with iron arms extended, and when that furnace heated this image red hot they would worship their god by laying naked babies in the arms of that image, and to drown their cries they would beat drums and make all kinds of noise. Ahaz burned one or two of his babies that way.


Now from this valley of Hinnom we get the New Testament idea of the eternal hell, Gehenna. On account of the desecration through the worship of Molech in that valley a later curse made it the ground in which the refuse from the city was dumped and burned, and as the refuse never ceased accumulating, the decaying meats, the rotting bones, the off-scourings, fire had to be kept burning all the time, and wherever there are rotting meats there will be worms; so it became an eternal fire, and an undying worm in that valley which suggested or foreshadowed the description of the real, final hell, Gehenna, in which soul and body are destroyed, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.


Not only was this true, but they had adopted methods of ascertaining the future, sorcery, witchcraft, and in order to get a clear view of either the political or religious situation of the time we must study the contemporary prophets. I give here a passage on that idea of the religious condition from Isaiah 8. He is prophesying concerning this very period: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living, should any seek unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." The old Mosaic law had taken cognizance of the disposition of the people to make inquisition concerning the future from the alleged spirits of the dead. Just as in modern times people through rappings and mediums and trances try to find out the state of their own departed and their own prospects in the future world. It is an awful offense against God.


In addition to this is another innovation, and I am not right sure that I or anybody else fully understands the significance of it. Ahaz had constructed on the Temple steps that led up to the platform on which a shadow would fall from the sun, a dial, and it has been conjectured by many intelligent commentators that, through that shadow and that dial, he worshiped the signs of the Zodiac. The dial was put there by Ahaz. We find that Dr. Thirtle of England, in a new book entitled, Old Testament Problems, attributes an entire section of the Psalms to an incident in Hezekiah’s life connected with this dial of Ahaz.


Just now we want to understand, not only the religious forms of worship, but also the moral condition of the people, and here again we get our best information from the prophets. Passages in Hosea give the immoralities of the contemporary Northern Kingdom, but having also some references to Judah, and likewise in Joel and in Amos, and considerable in Micah. Micah comes in largely in the history of Hezekiah and from his prophecy and Isaiah we find out the fearful religious and moral decadence of the people. But turning aside from other prophets, let us, as an example, consider the picture given of the times by Isaiah. In the first five chapters of Isaiah we have a summary of that condition, religious and moral, during all the period from Uzziah to Hezekiah. That is a part of the book that used this language: "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. I have smitten them until the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint, and from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is nothing but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores." Then he gives a description of the leading women of the country. We know that from the women in high society we may get an idea of the depravity of the times. A picture of the ladies of any period is always very helpful to an understanding of that period. Here it is: "The daughters of Zion are haughty, and they walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet." We have read about the old woman That has rings on her fingers, And bells on her toes, So that she makes music Wherever she goes. These women of Judah had tinkling anklets so that every step was a jingle like a cowboy’s inch-in-diameter spurs with the tags hanging to them. Isaiah goes on: "Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and Jehovah will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, and the cauls, and the crescents; the pendants, and the bracelets, and the mufflers; the head-tires, and the ankle chains, and the sashes, and the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the rings and the nose-jewels; the festival robes, and the mantles, and the shawls, and the satchels; the hand-mirrors, and the fine linens, and the turbans, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a robe, a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty." Now wherever that is the case among the ladies of the upper class that land is sick. We may get a view of the men from the prophetic woes denounced by Isaiah. I read these woes to U. S. Senator Coke of Waco (found in Isaiah 5). He asked me to copy for him the one relating to monopoly on land as containing a suggestion that he had never had from any other direction before and that he wanted to use.


Now that picture of woes gives us a conception of the moral condition of the time when Hezekiah began to reign. Idols on every hill, the Temple of God closed, no inquirers at the oracle of God, but looking out for witches and spirit rappers, mediums, and appealing to the dead. That was the awful state of affairs. Now when Hezekiah, the son of the wicked king came, he was more commended of God than any other king in the dynasty of David until Jesus came. It is expressly said that there was none like him before and none like him after, and that he sought the Lord with his whole heart, and when it came to political relations his policy was not diplomacy but obedience to Jehovah. Once or twice in his life he was led to turn somewhat from that but came back quickly to his old original policy, and the best diplomacy in the world is to be true to God and the principles of righteousness. Bismarck startled all the diplomats of Europe by simply telling the truth and announcing in plain language the policy of Germany. None of them believed it. They said, "Of course, he is telling a lie. All diplomats lie," and he couldn’t possibly have startled them more than by using absolute candor.


Hezekiah was not only a righteous king, but he was a great poet. Isaiah preserves one of his grand poems at full length, found in Isaiah 38. Not only was he a literary genius but he revived literature. In his day there was a constellation of literary geniuses. He revived all of the great psalter of David, and particularly did he exercise himself to put in order the canon of the Scripture up to his time. A sample is found in Proverbs 25; here we have this statement: "These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah copied out." Now from Proverbs 25 on, all the books of Proverbs was compiled in the days of Hezekiah, and we find in another reference that which we have briefly considered in a preceding chapter, that in the same way he revised the psalms of the first two books of the psalter. The psalms of David are divided into five books. The first two books of the psalms were used as songs in the Temple in the days of Hezekiah, and the book entitled Problems of the Old Testament, by Dr. Thirtle of England, brings out more light on the days of Hezekiah and his reign than all the commentaries ever written by other men put together. It is an essential contribution to biblical literature. It explains as no other book explains, what are called the songs of degrees in the psalter. But I would have the reader take with more than a grain of salt what Dr. Thirtle’s book says of the Cyrus references in the prophecy of Isaiah.


Now taking up our lesson proper, the chief events of the reign of Hezekiah, let us study them seriatim.


In 2 Kings 18:7 it says that he rebelled against the king of Assyria. Ahaz, in order to strengthen and protect himself against the coalition of Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Damascus, had appealed to Tiglath-Pileser the king of Assyria for protection. In order to secure that protection from the Assyrian king, Ahaz had to pay a large tribute annually, so that when Hezekiah came to the throne, there was no question but that he had also to pay annual tribute to the king of Assyria to preserve the integrity of his realm. Then he waged a successful war against the Philistines, the old enemies of Israel. They had been gaining in strength for some time. The kingdom of Israel had been somewhat weakened and now Hezekiah attacked them and completely defeated them. Why he did this we are not sure. Probably he did it in order to bring them to unite with him and the other kingdoms in throwing off the yoke of Assyria. It is certain from secular history that Hezekiah seized one of the kings of Philistia and shut him up in prison at Jerusalem because he was friendly to the king of Assyria. We find this in Sennacherib’s own account of his relationship with the Philistines. But Hezekiah could not withstand Sennacherib’s first invasion, and therefore he became tributary to Assyria, taking the treasures of the Temple, and cutting off the gold from the doors and pillars of the Temple, he gave them to the king of Assyria.


Now we come to consider the crisis in the life of Hezekiah; his sickness, recovery, and songs, 2 Kings 20:1-11. We don’t know Just when this occurred, but probably somewhere about 711 or 710 B.C. He had been reigning about fourteen years. "Sick unto death," it says. And from what we see later in , 2 Kings 20:7, there was a boil upon him. Bennett, in his book on the diseases of the Bible, says that it was a carbuncle. Some have maintained that it was a cancer. Thirtle believed that it was a form of leprosy. The same Hebrew word is used to describe it as is used to describe the boils on the people of Egypt. There are certain kinds of boils that appear with leprosy. So we are not sure just what the trouble was, but it was something serious. The word comes to Hezekiah, "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die and not live." Hezekiah felt the effect of these words. It was a staggering blow. It meant that he would be cut off in the middle of his days; it meant that there would be no heir left to the throne of David; it meant that the splendid religious reformation would die out and be lost; it meant that in this critical period of Israel’s life the throne would be vacant, and then what would become of the kingdom? Is it any wonder that he turned his face toward the wall and prayed? Now, what is his argument? It is this: that since he had been righteous, since he had obeyed Jehovah, since he had been true, he therefore ought to live to a ripe old age. Hezekiah thought that he was entitled to a long life, and he was in terrible gloom and despair. He presents that argument in his prayer: "Remember now, O Lord I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." The Lord heard that prayer, and as Isaiah was departing and in the midst of the city, the Lord said unto him, "Isaiah, turn again, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake." That was such a gracious promise to Hezekiah, he could hardly believe it. "In three days you will go up to the house of Jehovah." Hezekiah says, "What sign will there be to assure me?" So Isaiah makes the statement that the sign shall be that the shadow of the dial of Ahaz will go forward ten or backward ten steps or degrees. And Hezekiah replies, "It is nothing for it to go forward ten steps, it will naturally go that way as the sun goes down." "All right," says Isaiah, "the shadow of the steps shall go backward ten degrees." No doubt Hezekiah could see this dial from the window of his palace. Ahaz set this sundial near his palace and evidently some sort of a pillar was arranged, so that the shadow would be cast on so many steps. We do not know how many there were, but there were more than twenty, and as the sun rose it would cast its shadow upon those steps and mark periods of time. As the sun set in the evening the shadow would be cast in a different way, and each step would mark a period of time.


Now if the shadow on those steps was sent backward, that would be a sign sufficient. How could it be possible for the shadow to be thrown backward, as if the sun were rising instead of setting? It can be explained by the laws of refraction, but it was a miracle just the same. Hezekiah saw it and doubtless he was in the Temple worshiping Jehovah in three days. Now let us consider the visitors or the ambassadors from Babylon. The record says, "At that time Merodachbaladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick." The real object was to see the condition of his kingdom, to find out Hezekiah’s strength, to find out what treasures he had, and if possible to secure his co-operation in a league against Assyria, for Babylon at this time was nearly independent of Assyria, and was seeking to throw off her yoke entirely. There is no question but what that was the real object. We arc told that Hezekiah showed them all his treasures, and they were well pleased. Isaiah didn’t like it and he said, "You are very courteous to them because they have come so far. They didn’t come from such a great distance; you may make a league now but before very long the king of Babylon shall come and take your descendants, and all your treasures and people, your children, and shall carry them away." This was, of course, fulfilled literally within almost a hundred years.


Hezekiah accumulates great wealth and engages in many building enterprises: "Hezekiah had exceeding riches and honor." He built him treasuries for all his riches, storehouses for the increase of corn and wine, etc., stalls for beasts and flocks, provided him cities and had possession of flocks and beasts in abundance, strengthened and improved the water works around about Jerusalem making more direct the connection between the waters of Sihon and the city of David. All this indicates that Hezekiah was something like Solomon in his prosperity, wealth and enterprises, as well as in name, fame and honor.


Now we come to the revolt against Assyria and the invasion of Judah by the Assyrian king. As we have already noted, "He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not." Somewhere about this time Hezekiah made up his mind no longer to pay tribute but to throw off the yoke of Assyria, and of course that means that the king of Assyria would at once take steps to bring him back into subjection. It means also that other nations besides Hezekiah’s would throw off the yoke, and Assyria makes a swift march to Palestine along the coast down to Philistia, and there gains a great victory over the Philistines. We see that from his situation there in Philistia he sent an army and captured all the cities and villages of Judah except Jerusalem, and in Sennacherib’s own record we have this statement: "But Hezekiah of Judah, who had not submitted to my yoke – forty-six of his fenced cities and fortresses, and small towns in their vicinity without number, by breaking them out with battering rams, and the bows of . . . and the strokes of axes and hammers, I besieged and took 200,150 persons, – small and great, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, large cattle, small cattle, without number, I brought forth from the midst of them, and counted as spoil. As for Hezekiah himself, like a bird in a cage, in Jerusalem, his royal city, I shut him up. I threw up forts against him, and whoever would come out of the gates of the city I turned back. As for Hezekiah himself the fear of the glory of my sovereignty overwhelmed him; and the Arabs and his other allies, whom he had brought to strengthen Jerusalem, the city of his royal residence, deserted him. Thirty talents of gold, and eight hundred talents of silver, . . . great stores of lapis-lazuli,. couches of ivory, arm-chairs of ivory [covered] with elephant’s hide, ivory tusks, ussu wood, and the like, an immense treasure, and his daughters, his palace women, men singers, women singers, to Nineveh, my royal city, I made him bring, and for the delivery of the tribute, and rendering homage, he sent his ambassador."


Allowing for the boastfulness of the Assyrian, there is still a great difference between the account of Sennacherib and the sacred writer. In some respects however, they supplement each other.


The Bible account says, "And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold." The difference in the quantity of silver may be accounted for by a difference in the size of the talent. The sacred writer omits the other items including the deportation of over 200,000 inhabitants. He merely says that he came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them. Thus we find fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in an earlier chapter. Assyria is God’s hired razor that will shave all the cities of Judah except Jerusalem, and will overwhelm it and overflow it right up to the neck, leaving Jerusalem alone (Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:7-8).


Hezekiah takes great precautions against the onslaught of the Assyrian. When he saw that Sennacherib had come he at once began to strengthen Jerusalem; to see that the water supply was made good. He cut off all the outward sources of water and brought them within the walls of the city, reorganized the army, stirred up his people and made them ready for the attack of the Assyrians. That was a terrible time. The Assyrians were near and what did that mean? The Assyrian with his invincible host! The people would be in a panic all around the country, the strangers and stragglers would come into the city, soldiers would come from there and the couriers would come from the Philistine Plain, and the whole people was in a state of turmoil and anguish.


Very soon word comes that they are coming up the defiles, and quickly the large army of Assyria appears before the walls of Jerusalem, and the choice valleys around are filled with foreign soldiers. Sennacherib sends three of his officers, one of whom was a great diplomat. Hezekiah is within his palace) Isaiah within his home, the army is before the city walls, and three messengers of Hezekiah are at the wall to hear the chief of the officers sent by Sennacherib Rabshakeh. He is an Assyrian, he has been trained in her schools, he knows three languages, he is a master in the art of diplomacy, and here is a great opportunity for him to try his skill; he stands before the walls and makes his speech. Hezekiah’s men give him no answer. They have Isaiah’s words that Jerusalem should be saved. He had prophesied two or three times that the Assyrian would be destroyed, before he could make his onslaught on Jerusalem.


The officers of Jerusalem said to Rabshakeh, "Don’t talk to us in the Jews’ language; talk to us in the Syrian language," but Rabshakeh pays no attention to this; he cries out to the shrinking people in the Hebrew language, showing that he is a skilled diplomat and master of several languages. He says to them, "Hearken not to Hezekiah; for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make your peace with me, and come out to me, and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one of the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and of honey." That is a fine stroke of diplomatic reasoning to induce them to surrender. It would have its effect on the multitude. The ambassadors on the walls went back weeping and told Hezekiah. Hezekiah rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, and went to the house of Jehovah. Then he sent for the prophet. What does he say? "This is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of contumely: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth." Faith has come to its trying moment and it seems as if it were going to fail. How many a man’s faith has sustained him till the crisis comes and then fails him. Isaiah has been prophesying for years that the Assyrian shall be destroyed. He says, "It is all right. I will put a spirit in him [Sennacherib], and he will hear a rumor and will leave Jerusalem and go out to his own land," He will hear something about the condition of his empire somewhere else and he will start for home. That has been done more than once. Charlemagne once left his campaign in Spain and hurried home because of a rumor that he had heard. Napoleon did this three times ostensibly because of a rumor. He pretended to have retreated from Moscow because he had heard a rumor from Paris.


Sennacherib finds that his schemes fail and that Hezekiah will not surrender. He learns also that Tirhakah, the king of Ethiopia, is coming up against him, and he sends a letter to Hezekiah, "Now there is no use in your trusting in Jehovah. You had better surrender and save your people." Hezekiah takes the letter into the house of God and lays it upon the altar before the Lord. He prays to God, he has faith, he has been buoyed up by Isaiah, that masterful spirit. It is a critical period. Isaiah now speaks one of his fearful prophecies against him: "Woe unto thee that spoilest, and thou was not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they deal not treacherously with thee: when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee." A critical moment in the life of Hezekiah is on, one of the turning points in the history is before us. Isaiah is still prophesying that Israel will be saved and Assyria shall be destroyed. What is the result? Sennacherib with his large army retreats from Jerusalem, is marching toward Egypt to meet Tirhakah who is advancing against him with a large army. He advances toward that awful stretch of country near Pelusium, a place of disease and death, where whole armies have been destroyed by pestilences or overwhelmed in the sands of the desert. The account says an angel of the Lord in one night blew a blast of death over his army, and in the morning 185,000 lay dead, and the rest hurried with Sennacherib at their head, back to Assyria. This is one of the great events of history, and one of the victories of faith. Psalms 46-48 were probably written in commemoration of this event: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." Beautiful and precious psalms are they. Israel is saved, the Assyrian army is destroyed, one of the turning points in the history of God’s people, and in the history of the world has been passed, and all because of one man’s faith) one man who believed in God and was steadfast in his faith.

QUESTIONS

1. What were Judah’s chief political relations at the fall of the Northern Kingdom?

2. What subordinate political relations?

3. What was religious status in the time of Hezekiah?

4. What New Testament reference to this time? Explain fully.

5. What was their method of ascertaining the future and what prophetic proof?

6. What says the author here about the dial of Ahaz?

7. Where do we find a summary of the condition, religious and moral, from Uzziah to Hezekiah and what conditions therein described?

8. What was Hezekiah’s policy? Illustrate.

9. What literary accomplishments of Hezekiah?

10. What book on this section commended?

11. What were Hezekiah’s first successes in war?

12. What was his disease, how cured and was it a "faith cure’"?

13. What is the meaning of "Set thy house in order"?

14. Is it right to crave to live?

15. Is it right to ask a token of God and what difference between faith and assurance?

16. What scheme of BerodachBeladan and what condition that made the success of the scheme possible?

17. What was Isaiah’s rebuke to Hezekiah and what was his prophecy concerning Judah?

18. What were precautions of Hezekiah against Sennacherib’s second invasion?

19. What were Hezekiah’s building enterprises?

20. What was Rabshakeh’s message and what the reply?

21. What was Rabshakeh’s further insolence and what despair of Hezekiah’s ministers?

22. What did Hezekiah do and what result?

23. What was Sennacherib’s next step and Hezekiah’s response?

24. What was God’s answer to Hezekiah and the fulfilment?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Chronicles 32". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-chronicles-32.html.
 
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