CRITICAL NOTES.] Hezekiah's reign commenced and carried through four chapters in marked contrast with corresponding portion (2 Kings 18-20). The writer of Kings fixes on civil affairs—the two invasions of Sennacherib and on the embassy of Merodach-baladan, related at length, passing lightly and hastily over Hezekiah's reformation (ch. 2Ch ), the author of Chron. gives a full account of this latter in three chapters (29-31), compressing into one
(31) the whole that he has to say of the civil history of the reign. Thus chs. 29 to 31 of 2 Chron. contain matter which is almost wholly new; while ch. 32. is little more than a brief summary of what the writer of Kings has related fully in the three chapters which he has devoted to this reign [Speak. Com.].
2Ch ,—H.'s good beginning and restoration of worship. Zech., possibly the person given Isa 8:2. Right, his father's idolatry revolting to him; he began restoration at once. 2Ch 29:3. Opened doors closed by his father (ch. 2Ch 28:24); repaired, lit. made them strong, damaged by Ahaz (cf. 2Ki 18:16). 2Ch 29:4. East street, probably open space before eastern gate. Sanctify, Levitical purity (1Ch 15:12-13). Filth, stains of idolatry. 2Ch 29:6. Fathers, Ahaz and his contemporaries. Turned back, not looking towards rising sun, as Eze 8:16, with their faces from the Temple; but, figuratively, for neglecting and despising God. 2Ch 29:7. Acts of Ahaz. 2Ch 29:8. Punishment for these acts in expressions which are new and have no parallel in the rest of Chron., one which Hez. might naturally use, for it had occurred in a prophecy of Micah (2Ch 6:16), his contemporary and monitor (Jer 26:18), which was probably uttered towards the close of Ahaz's reign. In Jeremiah phrase becomes common (Jer 18:16; Jer 19:8; Jer 25:9, &c.) [Speak. Com.]. 2Ch 29:9. Cf. ch. 2Ch 28:6-8. 2Ch 29:10. Purpose of H. 2Ch 29:11. Sons, affectionate, hearty appeal to priests and Levites. Negligent, remiss; burn, make any fire offering generally.
2Ch .—The Temple cleansed. Fourteen chiefs undertake to collect and prepare their brethren. 2Ch 29:15. At commandment of king, "in the business (matters) of the Lord," prescribed by law (Exo 19:22; Lev 11:44). 2Ch 29:16. Priests only entered the house of the Lord. Whatever found there unclean they brought into the outer court, where Levites took it from them to carry beyond boundary of Temple. Kidron (ch. 2Ch 30:14; 2Ki 23:12). 2Ch 29:17. Work began first day with purification of courts and reached porch eighth day. Then eight days more to cleanse Temple; sixteen altogether. 2Ch 29:18. Altar, great brazen, before porch. 2Ch 29:19. Cast away (ch. 2Ch 28:24; 2Ki 16:14).
2Ch .—Hez.'s sin-offering. Early next day H. went with princes, without waiting to assemble representatives of the nation. 2Ch 29:21. Seven, number of covenant. Kingdom, i.e., for sins of kings and predecessors; sanctuary, for sins of priests; Judah, for sins of the nation. 2Ch 29:22. Blood expiates, and Levitical rites duly observed in shedding it. 2Ch 29:23. Sin-offering; hands (Lev 1:4; Lev 4:15; Lev 4:24). 2Ch 29:24. All Israel repeated twice, for sanctuary belonged to all Israel, and invitation given for northern tribes to take part in Passover (ch. 2Ch 30:1). "Northern kingdom in a state of anarchy. Four Assyrian invasions had swept over it within thirty-five years. Hoshea, contemporary of Hez., not an independent ruler. Hence Hez. invited revolted tribes to return, if not to their old temporal, to their old spiritual allegiance. To prepare the way for this return, he included ‘all Israel' in expiatory sacrifice" [Speak. Com.]. 2Ch 29:25. Cf. 1Ch 16:4; 1Ch 23:5; 1Ch 29:29. Trumpets, cf. Num 10:8; 1Ch 15:24; 2Ch 5:12.
2Ch .—Hez.'s burnt-offering. Consumed on altar, only fat for sin-offering (Lev 4:19). A sound of instruments heard when old worship recommenced. Sang, some anthem for the occasion. All bowed (2Ch 29:29) in solemn worship. At invitation of king a great number of thank-offerings presented.
2Ch .—Order of service completed. Flaying of victims not a priestly function, but a work of the offerer (Lev 1:6) at first, afterwards on public occasions by Levites, as here. 2Ch 29:34. Upright, i.e., displayed more alacrity than priests; perhaps tainted by idolatry, and looked coldly on reforms of Hez. 2Ch 29:35. Another reason which prevented priests from flaying to completion, was the great demand upon their time by the work to be done. 2Ch 29:36. No small joy at opening of newly consecrated Temple. Prepared the people's minds, or it could not have been done so heartily and immediately.
HEZEKIAH'S REFORMS IN THE TEMPLE.—2Ch
The reign of H. (726-697) culminating point of interest in history of kings of Judah. Whether or not contemporary prophecies foretelling the birth of a Divine Heir to the throne, contained any reference to the son of Ahaz, then a mere child, it is certain that no other Prince since the death of David could so well have answered to them (Hezekiah, Jehovah strengthens). In point of fact, he was the centre of the highest prophetic influence which had appeared since Elijah [Stanley].
I. The work itself was well chosen. Methods for extirpating idolatry and accomplishing thorough reformation given in detail.
1. God's work chosen first. Temple, sacred work. Needful to strengthen and defend his empire, but no work for God can prosper without friendship with God. H. might have done many useful works, become a benefactor to his people, but saw re-opening of fellowship with God most required for nations and individuals. "Seek first the kingdom of God, &c." (a) This in opposition to past example. He did not follow the example of a wicked father, nor listen to the voice of a corrupt court, &c., but did "that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God." (b) This as a promise of future usefulness. Chose out a work of his own, opened doors, repaired and cleansed the Temple. He pursues work in perplexity, difficulty, and peril.
2. God's work deliberately chosen. "It is in mine heart" (2Ch ). He begins in right way, and at right end; shows in what consists true wisdom and wise government. A happy opening, an encouraging pledge of his whole course. A course which begins with God, will be one of usefulness and triumph.
II. The spirit in Which the work was performed was commendable. No compromise; no half-measures; no delay. "In the first year of his reign" he began and delayed not.
1. In personal consecration (2Ch ). All reformation begins here. Outward work done from life within. Everything depends upon our relation to God, that is, there is a strong moral link between our estimate of God and success.
2. In tracing historical relationship. He looks back, reads providence, and finds his work. We cannot work efficiently without a survey of the field, and an insight into present requirements. We have incentives to work when we see need of its performance, and feel called to perform it. "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
3. In the strength of deep conviction. Convinced of sin and bitter fruits of idolatry, he determines to reverse policy of his father; announced his resolution at beginning of his reign, and waited not for consolidation of his rule. Courage and determination characterise all earnest reformers.
4. In seeking co-operation from others. Desired help from the ministry (2Ch ). "Sanctify yourselves." By legal rites, specially by penitence, faith and fresh obedience. We should be sensible of our own, and the sins of our fathers; earnestly cleanse ourselves, and co-operate for reformation of others. Let each man, therefore, do what he can, but remember that the secret of social development is combination—that the best social system is that in which organisation for the common good is made most complete and most efficient.
THE LEVITES ENLISTED TO HELP.—2Ch
The response to H.'s appeal given by Levites in united, hearty service. "Then the Levites arose." Notice—
I. The method in which they rendered help.
1. They were united. "They gathered their brethren and worked altogether."
2. They worked in orderly arrangement. Began with outer courts—those of priests and people; they proceeded to inner. But as Levites could not enter the Temple, sweepings were brought by priests to porch, and then carried to Kidron. No hurry; no disorder. "All things done decently and in order."
II. The rule by which they were guided. As "commandment of the king," but with a desire to obey God's word. "Let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them" (Exo ; cf. 1Ch 25:5; 2Ch 30:12).
III. The report which they made. The house, the altar, and the vessels all cleansed and ready for use. Glad themselves, they came to gladden the king, not to seek reward, nor boast of care and trouble. Happy those who can report successful work. But never failure! To open and repair the door, to light the lamps and sweep the floor acceptable to God.-Let each resolve, "It is in mine heart" (2Ch ).
"Do not, for one repulse, forego the purpose
That you resolved to effect" [Shakes.].
PRAISE AND WORSHIP.—2Ch
In sixteen days the burnt-offering began; songs were heard, the trumpet rent the place, and all hearts quivered with joy. Observe two points—
I. They were old words that the people sang. Moreover H. the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord, with the words of David and Asaph the seer. What do we want with new words, new hymns, new forms of praise? The time is coming—would it could hasten its longed-for advent—when there will be only one book in the Church. At present the number has been reduced in many instances to two, and one of them we do not want. The time will come when the Bible will be the only hymn book in the house of God. What hymns like the hymns of the Bible? What devotional language like the devotional language of the Psalms? What finer teachers could we have than David, Asaph, and Isaiah, and the mighty minstrels and prophets of Israel? The people had the words all ready. If we want to sing we need not wait for some man to make words for us; so long as the Psalms are before us we may begin our song at once.
II. Not only were the words old, the enthusiasm was new. "And they sang praises with gladness," literally with exultation, with rapture. Religion is nothing if not enthusiastic. Praise without exultation is but a skeleton form. The whole place in which Christians are assembled for worship should vibrate, tingle again because of the mighty, gracious, holy song. Here we have the changeable and the permanent—the permanent in "the words of David and of Asaph the seer;" and the changeable or capable of increase and variation is the gladness, the enthusiasm, the transport, the holy rapture. Nor was it merely vocal in the sense of displaying musical gymnastic skill, for the people having sung with rapture as if they had not space enough to sing in, as if they would split the overarching heaven with their cry, "they bowed their heads and worshipped." The look was upward, downward; wild with an infinite rationalistic joy, and subdued because of a sense of the majesty of heaven [Dr. Parker].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2Ch . Notice—I. A mother's influence in the training of Hezekiah. "His mother's name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah." 2Ch 29:1. Probably the Zechariah whose influence for good was signally owned of God in the reign of Uzziah (ch. 2Ch 26:5). Perhaps Abijah was neglected by her husband, surrounded by greatest difficulties, for every corner of Judah full of idols; yet she attended to duty, felt the solemnity of her trust, and wonderfully succeeded. II. The sovereign grace of God in the conversion of Hezekiah. A wicked father, a corrupt court, and an idolatrous country, yet Hezekiah chosen and qualified in youth for the throne, and became one of the best three kings of the Jews. "All except David, Ezekias, and Josias were defective, for they forsook the law of the Most Highest; even the kings of Judah failed" (Sir 49:4). This encouragement to parents. God delights in miracles of grace; saves children of unchristian parents, and crowns with honour the faithfulness of godly parents. III. The great work which God performs in the youth of Hezekiah. Only 20 or 25 years old when he began to reign, no common character, no ordinary piety in one so young. The work begun and begun rightly, as soon as seated on the throne; accomplished splendidly by the providence of God. "The Lord was with him, and he prospered whithersoever he went forth."
2Ch . I. A description of apostasy. Mark the order of departure. Trespassed, going beyond; forsaken him; then turning away their faces from the habitation; God forsaken, worship forsaken; finally "turned their backs" entirely and choosing idolatry, the source of all misery. II. The fearful evils which follow exposed to God's wrath manifest—
1. In the invasion and devastation of land, "upon Judah and Jerusalem."
2. In the fall and mourning of families, "our fathers have fallen by the sword."
3. In the evils of foreign captivity, "our sons, daughters, and wives are in captivity."
4. In the disgrace to which they were reduced. Former prosperity and glory fled, now a byeword and hissing, &c. III. The source to which these evils are traced. Hezekiah had discernment to ascribe national calamities to right cause. God caused them on account of their sins. Others, servants or ministers of a moral providence. Men, forces of nature no power at all except given from above. Hence (a) no ground for violence and petty reprisals. Keep down anger against mere agents; (b) The necessity of forming correct estimates of outward vicissitudes, and (c) of learning to discover and submit to God's will the great rule of the universe. As Wordsworth—
"One adequate support,
For the calamities of mortal life,
Exists—one only, an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, however
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power,
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good."
2Ch . My sons. A fatherly king. With what gentle, paternal eloquence Hezekiah addressed the men on whose co-operation he relied. A pastoral king: a most shepherdly heart was the heart of king Hezekiah. There is a fatherliness that does not depend on age. Hezekiah not an old man, spoke not from under a crown of hoary hairs; but a father because of his capacity of love, unselfish solicitude, patriotic aspiration. There are young pastors, born shepherds; in earliest conscious life they seem to be made to care for others. The pastor is a man who can carry all men. You cannot make pastors, kings, or fathers. Men may bear the nominal functions, but here an entail sanctioned by heaven. Have not some men a right to accost us as sons? Is there not a touch which means solicitude, brotherhood, unity, mutual understanding? The words come to Hezekiah as he needs them; they are his servants, wait upon him. Thus he talks with healthy frankness, tender appreciation, and majestic familiarity which cannot be trifled with [Dr. Parker].
CONSECRATION AND SACRIFICES.—2Ch
I. Sacrifices expiatory. Sin-offerings to atone and make worshipper acceptable to God. Unusually comprehensive, embracing four kinds, and seven of each kind, for sins conscious and unconscious.
II. Sacrifices for all classes. "For the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah"—i.e., for king or royal house, ministers of the sanctuary, and the people of Judah generally. "Atonement for all Israel" as well as Judah (2Ch ).
III. Sacrifices dedicatory. After sin-offering, the burnt-offering presented, an expression of self-dedication to God. This a natural order—acceptance, gratitude, and self-consecration. "Now that you have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices" (2Ch ). Sacrifices abundant, generous, and appropriate.
IV. Sacrifices accompanied with symbolic rites.
1. Laying on of hands, confessing guilt.
2. Instruments of music expressing gladness.
3. Bowing of heads denoting reverence and adoration. The solemnities of the day memorable, typical, surprising, and a proof of God's presence. "For the thing was done suddenly."
MUSIC AND CHRISTIAN SERVICE.—2Ch
This scene beautiful and suggestive. Old life forsaken; new forms of worship resumed, fresh sacrifices presented, and monarch and people working together with gladness and rejoicing.
I. Christian service begins with fresh demands upon our life. "Now ye have consecrated yourselves, come near." Once far off; now sin forsaken; and all dedicated to God. Near in faith and fellowship, in purpose and daily life. Fresh demands upon time, talents, and efforts. Sacrifices not to self and world, but to God and his cause. Self-surrender, represented by burnt-offerings, perpetually needful. Will and life given to another. "Present your bodies a living sacrifice."
II. Christian service is a joyful service when these demands are satisfied. "The congregation brought in sacrifices and thank-offerings." No joy in appropriating to self and withholding from God what is due. No happy life except in self-devotion to God and in doing good to others. To live in, and to be of no service to the world, a terrible thing. "The liberal soul (lit., the soul of blessing; i.e., that blesses others) shall be made fat" (satisfied and gladdened) (Pro ). Always a re-active influence in temporal and spiritual matters; action and reciprocal influence the law of the universe. Withhold it, will tend to poverty of spirit; "give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, &c."
"The truly generous is the truly wise,
And he who loves not others lives unblest."
III. This joyful service is the strength of Christian life. Joy from duty not mere luxury or excitement, but help, strength to more perfect work. Whatever God is for us—life, light, love, and strength—it is that we may be the same for others. This is Nehemiah's gospel. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Joy creates enthusiasm, elevates above despair and opposition, and develops all our resources. As bodies expand through heat, so the soul is enlarged, and effort prompted under the genial influence of joy.
God prepares in nature and in providence. Men gradually fitted and appointed for their work. Our duty to watch and enter upon work when discovered.
I. God seen in removing difficulties in the work. Idolatry prevalent, and nation corrupted. The people indisposed, and officials reluctant; the work itself great and perhaps thought impossible by many.
II. God seen in helping on the work to completion. "The service of the Lord was set in order." Not only difficulties removed, but strength given to finish. If priests could not be found, Levites were ready (2Ch ). No delay, no excuse given. Early in the king's reign the work began, expeditiously was it finished, "for the thing was done suddenly." The people seen gathered together. God gave them "a free heart" and they worked willingly. "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes."
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2Ch . The thoroughness of the work done, the readiness and number of those who engaged in it, the method in which they proceeded (2Ch 29:15), and the delights that spring from its completion.
2Ch . On triple division of musical Levites, see 1Ch 25:1-6; 2Ch 5:12. When God has a work to do, he raises up men to do it. But first in rank and position not always fit for service and most willing to enter it.
2Ch ; 2Ch 29:30; 2Ch 29:32-34. Popular generosity and cold officialism. The "free heart" of the people a contrast to the negligence of officials. A reflection seems to be cast upon their dilatoriness and negligence in sanctifying themselves (ch. 2Ch 30:15), of which they were afterwards ashamed "Generosity may sometimes confuse officialism, so that people may sometimes get ahead of the Levites" [Dr. Parker]. Priests should be examples to others, never be satisfied with worldly emoluments, grossed in earthly affairs, and forget the demands of the, people and the duties of their calling. The higher the position, the greater should be the readiness to work.
"In persons grafted in a serious trust,
Negligence is a crime."
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 29
2Ch . Door opening. To cleanse the sanctuary is to pray. When Hezekiah opened the doors, by that very act he worshipped; when Hezekiah repaired the doors of the house of the Lord, he wrought a wondrous work upon the heart that was sore by reason of its long-continued need and painful solitude. To repair the building is to worship the living God; to give a cup of cold water to a disciple for Christ's sake is to oblige herein [Dr. Parker].
2Ch . Energy. Energy of character has always a power to evoke energy in others. It acts through sympathy, one of the most influential of human agencies. The zealous, energetic man unconsciously carries others along with him. His example is contagious and compels imitation. He exercises a sort of electric power through every fibre—flows into the nature of those about him and makes them give out sparks of fire [Smiles].
2Ch . Order. Order is the best manager of time; for unless work is properly arranged time is lost; and once lost it is gone for ever. Order illustrates many important subjects. Thus obedience to the moral and material law is order. Regard for the rights and obligations of all is order. Virtue is order. The world began with order, chaos prevailed before the establishment of order [Smiles].
2Ch . Instruments. Music has a most humanising effect. The cultivation of the art has a most favourable influence upon public morals. It furnishes a source of pleasure in every family. It gives home a new attraction. It makes social intercourse more cheerful. Father Mathew followed up his temperance movement by a singing movement. He promoted the establishment of musical clubs all over Ireland, for he felt that, as he had taken the people's whisky from them, he must give them some wholesome stimulus in its stead. He gave them music. Singing classes were established, to refine the taste, soften the manners, and humanise the mass of the Irish people. But we fear that the example set by Father Mathew has already been forgotten [Smiles].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 29". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany