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2 KINGS CHAPTER 20
Hezekiah receiving a message of death, by prayer hath his life lengthened; for a sign the sun goeth backward, 2 Kings 20:1-11.
The king of Babylon’s ambassadors come to Hezekiah with letters and a present; he showeth them all his treasures, 2 Kings 20:12-15;
whereupon Isaiah foretelleth him the Babylonish captivity: he dieth; and Manasseh is king, 2 Kings 20:16-21.
In those days, i.e. in that year of the Assyrian invasion, as is manifest from hence, that that was in Hezekiah’s fourteenth year, 2 Kings 18:13, and God now added fifteen years more to him, 2 Kings 20:6; and yet Hezekiah reigned only twenty-nine years in all, 2 Kings 18:2. And this happened either, first, After the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. Or, secondly, Before it, as may be thought from 2 Kings 20:6, where he speaks of his deliverance from the king of Assyria as a future thing. It is true, that when Hezekiah received that insolent message from the Assyrian, he was in health, and went into the temple to pray, 2 Kings 19:14; but there might be time more than enough for this sickness and recovery between that threatening and this destruction of the Assyrian. Set thine house in order; take care to make thy will, and to settle the affair of thy family and kingdom; which he the rather presseth upon him, because the state of his kingdom required it; for it is plain that Hezekiah had not as yet any son, Manasseh his heir and successor not being born till three years after this time, by comparing this 2 Kings 20:6, with 2 Kings 21:1. For thou shalt die, and not live; according to the course of nature, and of thy disease, which is mortal in its kind, and will be so in effect, if God doth not miraculously prevent it. Such threatenings, though absolutely expressed, have ofttimes secret conditions, which God reserves in his own breast: see Jonah 3:4.
He turned his face to the wall; either because the temple lay that way; or rather, that by turning his face from the company he might intimate his desire of privacy, and so might with more freedom and fervency pour out his soul to God.
In truth, i.e. sincerely, with an honest mind, as the following words explain it. I have in some measure (human frailty excepted) kept the condition which thou didst require, 1 Kings 8:25, and therefore do humbly beg of thee that the promise made to David and to his posterity upon that condition may not fail in my person, for as yet thou hast not given me a son. See Poole "2 Kings 20:1". I am not conscious to myself of any gross exorbitances in the course of my life, for which thou usest to shorten men’s days, and cut off my life in thy displeasure, which by this sharp message thou threatenest to do.
Hezekiah wept sore; partly for that horror of death which is and was common to men, especially in the times of the Old Testament, when the grace of God in Christ was not so fully manifested as now it is; and principally for the distracted and miserable condition in which the church and state were then likely to be left, through the uncertainty of the succession to the crown, and the great proneness of the people to backslide to their false worship and evil practices; which he easily perceived, and which he knew would bring far worse calamities upon them if he were removed, as afterwards it came to pass.
Into the middle court, to wit, of the king’s palace; of which See Poole "1 Kings 7:8". Or, into the middle city, as it is in the Hebrew. For some observe that there were three cities, or three parts of this city; one called the city of David in Zion; another called Jebus, or Salem; and a third, which was betwixt these two parts, and united them all into one city, called Jerusalem. This is noted to show God’s great readiness to hear the sincere and fervent prayers of his children.
The God of David thy father; I am mindful of my promise made to David and his house, and will make it good in thy person.
On the third day; which shows that the cure was miraculous.
Thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord, to give me solemn praise for this mercy; which proves the perfection of the cure.
Fifteen years beyond what thou dost expect, and beyond what thou wouldst do if I should leave thee to the force of thy disease.
Out of the hand of the king of Assyria; this is added, either, first, Because he might otherwise fear the Assyrian’s return to this city, from which he was so shamefully repulsed. Or, secondly, Because this sickness happened before that great slaughter, 2 Kings 19:35; of which See Poole "2 Kings 20:1".
For mine own sake; to vindicate my glory against that insolent blasphemer.
Take a lump of figs: though the deliverance was certainly promised, yet means must be used, and those suitable; for this hath naturally a power of ripening and softening boils or sores, though that power was altogether insufficient to produce so sudden and so complete a cure. The boil seems to have been a plague-sore.
Hezekiah said; or rather, had said; for it is evident this was said before his recovery, though his recovery be mentioned before it; such transpositions being frequent in Scripture.
What shall be the sign? he asketh a sign, not because he distrusted it, but for the strengthening of his faith, which otherwise might be shaken by the greatness of his danger, and by the contradiction between this and his former message. Compare Judges 6:17,Judges 6:37,Judges 6:39; Isaiah 7:11.
To go down ten degrees, to wit, in an instant; for that course or motion of the sun is natural for the kind of it, though miraculous for the swiftness of it; but the other would be both ways miraculous.
Isaiah cried unto the Lord; being moved by God’s Spirit first to offer him this sign, and then to pray for it.
Ten degrees backward.
Quest. 1. What were these degrees?
Answ. Lines in the dial; but whether each of these lines or degrees noted an hour, or half an hour, or a quarter of an hour, is uncertain, and not very considerable in this case.
Quest. 2. What was it that went down? Answ. Either, first, The shadow alone went back without the sun; for God could so dispose of the light of the sun, by interposing clouds, or other things, so that the shadow should fall only upon those lines, and in that manner as God directed it. And whereas the sun is said to have gone down, that may be spoken according to appearance, as other passages of Scripture are understood; as when the moon is called one of the great lights, Genesis 1:0, though it be less than some of the stars; and when the sun is said to go down, Jeremiah 15:9, and to be turned into darkness, Joel 2:31. Or, secondly, The sun itself went back, and the shadow with it. This may seem most probable, first, By comparing this with Joshua 10:13, where the sun itself stood still. Secondly, Because it is said the sun itself returned, Isaiah 38:8; for which he here mentions
the shadow only, because the miracle was not so easily discovered in the sun as in the shadow of a dial. And though the sun may be elsewhere taken improperly, yet where the improper signification is unnecessary, the proper is and ought to be preferred before it. Thirdly, Because this miracle was noted by the Babylonians, who, having understood that it was done for Hezekiah’s sake, sent to inquire into the truth and manner of it, 2 Chronicles 32:31.
Object. If this had been done, the heathen historians and astronomers would have taken notice of it, which we do not find that they did.
Answ. So it is most probable they did, although those books be not now extant; which is not strange; this being confessed and bewailed, that so very few of the first and ancient writers are now left; Herodotus himself, the first, and father of the ancient historians, being long after this time. And yet it is observed, that there are some intimations of these things left, though mixed with fables, as many true histories were; as what the poets fabled of Jupiter’s making the night twice as long as it should have been, that he might enjoy Alcmena longer. Whether the sun or shadow went backward suddenly, or leisurely, and in the same time in which it had gone down, is a question of no great moment, the miracle being evident either way.
In the dial of Ahaz; which Ahaz had made in the king’s palace. This dial he mentions, because the truth of the miracle might be best and soonest discovered there; this dial possibly being visible out of the king’s chamber, or at least being near do it, and the degrees being most distinct and conspicuous in this dial; but the same thing was discerned by all other dials.
Berodach-baladan, called Merodach-baladan, Isaiah 39:1, whose name Josephus found in that famous Chaldean historian, Berosus. He seems to have been the king of Assyria’s viceroy in Babylon; and upon that terrible slaughter of one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian host, and the death of Sennacherib, and the differences among his sons, to have usurped an absolute sovereignty over Babylon; and either himself or his son destroyed the Assyrian monarchy, and translated the empire to Babylon.
Sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah; partly for the reasons mentioned 2 Chronicles 32:31; and partly to assure himself of the friendship and assistance of Hezekiah against the Assyrians, their common, and as yet powerful, enemy.
Hearkened unto them, i.e. granted their desires of a league and amity with them.
The silver and the gold, & c.; for though his country had lately been harassed by the Assyrians, yet he had reserved all his treasures and precious things which he and his fathers had gathered in Jerusalem. Besides, he had considerable spoils out of the Assyrian camp. Also he had many presents sent to him, 2 Chronicles 32:23, which doubtless were things of considerable worth.
Nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not; which he did through vain ostentation and pride of heart, 2 Chronicles 32:25,2 Chronicles 32:26, being lifted up by the great honour which God had done him, in working such glorious miracles for his sake, and by the great respects and presents rendered to him from divers princes and people, and now by this great Babylonian monarch. So hard a matter is it even for a good man to be high and humble.
They are come from a far country; a vain-glorious expression, intimating the great honour which he had from all parts, both far and near.
Even from Babylon, that great and potent monarchy; which he speaks to magnify his own honour and happiness.
What have they seen in thine house? he asketh, not that he was ignorant of it, but that from his answer he might take the occasion of delivering God’s message to him.
This judgment is denounced against him for his pride, which God exceedingly abhors; and for his ingratitude, whereby he took that honour to himself which he should have given entirely to God, and abused God’s gifts and favours to the gratification of his own lusts; of both which see 2 Chronicles 32:25,2 Chronicles 32:26; and for his carnal confidence in that league which he had now made with the king of Babylon, by which, it is probable, he thought his mountain to be so strong, that it could not be removed.
Which thou shalt beget, i.e. of thy grandchildren, who are oft called sons. They shall be servants to that heathen monarch, whereby both their bodies will be subject to slavery, and the lusts of their lords, and their souls exposed to the peril of idolatry, and all sorts of wickedness; which must needs be very grievous to so good a man as Hezekiah, and was indeed a very sore judgment; whereby God would teach the world the great evil of sin, yea, even of those sins which are generally esteemed but small and venial; for such were those sins of Hezekiah, noted upon 2 Kings 20:17.
Good is the word of the Lord: I heartily submit to this sentence, as being both just, because deserved and procured by mine and my people’s sins; and merciful, because the punishment is less than I have deserved.
Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days? which speaks not as if he were careless and unconcerned for his posterity, (which neither the common inclinations and affections of nature in all men, nor that singular piety and charity which was eminent and manifest in Hezekiah, can suffer us to believe,) or for the church and people of God, for whose welfare he was so solicitous and industrious in the whole course of his life; but because it was a singular favour that this judgment did not immediately follow his sin, the cause of it, but was suspended for a longer time.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30