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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 20

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-21



"In those days was Hezekiah sick and near death" (v.1). This took place about the time that Assyria captured the fortified cities of Judah (ch.18:13), for Hezekiah had reigned 14 years at that time. Since he reigned 29 years in Jerusalem altogether, then the 15 added years began at the time of the invasion of the king of Assyria. God is wise in the way He has these things reported. If He had intertwined the history of Hezekiah's sickness with the attack of the king of Assyria, we likely would not give due regard to each of these occasions. Being reported separately, there are no complications to detract our attention from either.

When Hezekiah became sick, Isaiah was sent by the Lord to tell him, "Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live." (v.1). This was a shock to the godly king and he wept bitterly, crying to God from his bed to tell Him to remember Hezekiah's walk of faith and devotion to God (vv.2-3). Hezekiah did not want to die and he felt he deserved to live longer. But did he think that God had forgotten his devotion to Him? Did God not know everything concerning the entire situation? If he had died then, he would have been with the Lord and would have been relieved of the many distressing exercises of heart that tried his faith severely. Indeed, if he had died when the Lord told him to, he would have been the only king of Israel or Judah having a really bright end. Even Jotham, his grandfather, who was generally faithful to God, failed in his allowing the high places of worship to continue (ch.15:34-35). Hezekiah removed all these high places (ch.18:4), as did Josiah later (ch.23:13), for Manasseh had rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed (ch.21:3).

As Isaiah was leaving after delivering his message, the word of the Lord came to him, "Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord" (vv.4-5). More than this, God would add 15 years to his life. He would deliver him and Jerusalem from the hand of the king of Assyria. This itself shows that this sickness of Hezekiah took place before Jerusalem was delivered from Assyria's attack. The Lord would defend the city, not even for Hezekiah's sake, but for His own sake and for the sake of David His servant (v.6).

The Lord, however, did not heal Hezekiah apart from a natural remedy. Isaiah ordered that a lump of figs should be placed on Hezekiah's boil, and he recovered (v.7). God had made the figs and He knew they would be effective in this case. If one would demand that God should heal him, yet refuse a natural remedy, this would not be faith healing, for faith gives God credit for supplying whatever means of healing He sees fit.

God showed compassion to His servant Hezekiah by granting him healing, with the promise of 15 added years. But we have serious lessons to learn from this history. Was the word of the Lord not enough for Hezekiah to rely upon? No! He asked Isaiah to give him a sign to confirm God's promise that he would go up to the house of the Lord the third day (v.8). Are we also like Hezekiah and the nobleman of John 4:46-53, to whom the Lord said, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe"? (v.48). Yet nevertheless the Lord would grant Hezekiah his desire for a sign.

Isaiah gave Hezekiah a choice: would the shadow go forward ten degrees or backward ten degrees? Actually either way this would be an amazing miracle, but Hezekiah thought it an easy thing for the shadow to go forward since it would do so in time anyway, but not 10 degrees at once. So Hezekiah asked that the shadow go backwards. Isaiah prayed to the Lord for this and the shadow went backward 10 degrees, as the sundial bore witness.

We are reminded in this of Joshua's long day, when the sun stood still "for about a whole day" (Joshua 10:12-13). It is reported that scientists have calculated that a whole day is missing in the world's history, and that after Joshua's time there was a discrepancy of ten degrees less than one day, but after the time of the kings of Israel this became exactly one day. Wonderful are the ways of God!

However, this sign had a deeper significance than appears on the surface. God was virtually stopping time to have Hezekiah live 15 years longer. Would we want time reversed in our lives? If God gave us time to live some years over again, would we do better than before? Hezekiah found through experience that things don't work that way. For in his added 15 years he spoiled the devotedness of his testimony for God, as we see soon after.

Babylon is then introduced into the history. At that time Babylon was part of the Assyrian Empire, but later took control of Assyria so as to become a greater power than Assyria had been. But at this time the king of Babylon was very friendly toward Hezekiah, and sent messengers with letters and a present to Hezekiah because he heard Hezekiah had been sick.

Hezekiah, apparently flattered by the attention, showed no caution in responding to the messengers. He showed them the house of his treasures, his silver and gold, spices and precious ointments and all his armoury, as well as everything else that evidenced his wealth. Why did he do this? Apparently in order to impress them with how much he had. They must have stayed some days at Jerusalem to see all that he had to show them.

2 Chronicles 32:25 comments on this occasion, "Hezekiah did not repay according to the favour, shown him, for his heart was lifted up, therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem. Thus pride in his wealth caused him to make this fateful blunder.

Isaiah came and asked Hezekiah what the messengers had said and where they came from. He answered that they came from a far country, Babylon. It may be the king of Babylon was already contemplating rebellion against Assyria and was looking for other nations who might help to further his cause. But Hezekiah, godly man as he was, forgot to inquire of God as to these men. He was not swayed by the lion-like rage of Assyria, but was deceived by the serpent character of Babylon, its friendly, flattering appeal. How we need to be on our guard in both cases, and take every matter to the Lord.

Isaiah then inquired as to what these messengers had seen in Hezekiah's house, and the answer was that they had seen everything (v.15). Did Hezekiah think it was commendable that he had showed his treasures to men of whom he had no previous knowledge? If so, Isaiah's message for him from he Lord would be a shock, "the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, says the Lord" (v.17). Besides this, some of Hezekiah's sons would become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Thus Judah would be humiliated and Hezekiah's sons would be humiliated.

Hezekiah's response to this message at least indicated that he was submissive to God's word, for he said that word was good. But he added "Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?" Is this not too limited a viewpoint? Did he have no real concern for the days of his successors in Judah? In the New Testament both Paul and Peter were deeply concerned about the conditions in the Church of God after their departure (2 Timothy 4:5-6: 2 Peter 1:13-15). Should we not also be concerned about those who follow after us? We wonder therefore if Hezekiah was not sufficiently impressed with the seriousness of his failure. Yet2 Chronicles 32:26; 2 Chronicles 32:26 tells us that Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, so that the captivity of Judah did not take place in his days.

Verse 20 speaks of other acts of Hezekiah being recorded in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah, specially of his bringing water into the city by means of a tunnel (or aqueduct). This emphasises the positive character of goodness on Hezekiah's part. The supply of water reminds us of the great spiritual necessity of the ministry of the Word of God. If our reputation includes such positive good done for the people of God, this is worthwhile. But little is said to Hezekiah's credit in the last 15 years of his reign. We may well wonder if he afterwards felt it might have been better for him to die when God first told him to. At his death his son Manasseh took the throne.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-kings-20.html. 1897-1910.
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