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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 20

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3295. B.C. 709.

Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery, 2 Kings 20:1-7 . The sign given him, 2 Kings 20:8-11 . He shows the Babylonians all his treasures, 2 Kings 20:12 , 2 Kings 20:13 . The Babylonish captivity foretold, 2 Kings 20:14-19 . He dies, 2Ki 20:20 , 2 Kings 20:21 .

Verse 1

2 Kings 20:1. In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death That is, in the same year in which the king of Assyria invaded Judea; for Hezekiah reigned in all twenty-nine years, and surviving this sickness fifteen years, it must have happened in his fourteenth year, which was the year in which Sennacherib invaded him. It appears, however, from 2 Kings 20:6, in which God promises to deliver him and Jerusalem out of the hand of the king of Assyria, that it took place before that deliverance; but the sacred historian thought proper to place it after that event, that he might not interrupt the story of Sennacherib. Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order, &c. Make thy will, and settle the affairs of thy family and kingdom. This he the rather presses upon him, because the state of his kingdom peculiarly required it, for it is plain Hezekiah had not, as yet, any son; Manasseh, his heir and successor, not being born till three years after this time; compare 2Ki 20:6 with 2 Kings 21:1. Thou shalt die, and not live Thy disease is mortal in its kind, and will be so in effect, if God do not by a miracle prevent it. Such threatenings, though expressed absolutely, have often secret conditions.

Verse 2

2 Kings 20:2. Then he turned his face to the wall As he lay in his bed. He could not retire to his closet; but he retired as well as he could; he turned from the company to converse with God. When we cannot be so private as we would in our devotions, nor perform them with the usual outward expressions of reverence and solemnity, yet we must not, therefore, omit them, but compose and address ourselves to them as well as we can.

Verse 3

2 Kings 20:3. Remember how I have walked before thee in truth Sincerely, with an honest mind. I am not conscious to myself of any exorbitances, for which thou art wont to shorten men’s days. And Hezekiah wept sore “Under the law, long life and uninterrupted health were promised as the rewards of obedience, and premature death was denounced as a punishment; see Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:33; and Deuteronomy 30:16. When we reflect on this, we need not be surprised at the sorrow which this good king expressed at his approaching dissolution. He looked upon it as a punishment, and consequently as a mark of the divine displeasure. Other reasons too might strongly operate upon a good mind. The suddenness of this terrible and unexpected denunciation; the unsettled state both of his public and domestic affairs; and the natural dread of death inherent in the human mind, which might in this case possibly be augmented from a sense of his own defects, and from a thorough persuasion that God was displeased at him, by cutting him off in such a manner, in the very flower of his age, and when his kingdom and family particularly required his best assistance. However, be the reasons what they might, it behooves us certainly to judge with great candour of a prince, whose character is so good as that of Hezekiah: and, perhaps, blessed as we are, with a clearer knowledge of a future state than Hezekiah enjoyed, there are but few who can look upon death, awful as it is even to the best, without some degree of very serious concern.” Dodd.

Verses 4-5

2 Kings 20:4-5. Afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court Namely, of the king’s palace. This is mentioned to show God’s great readiness to hear the prayers of his children. Thus saith the God of thy father David

I am mindful of my promise made to David and his house, and will make it good in thy person. I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears Prayer addressed to God with fervency and affection, is in a special manner pleasing to him; and when offered in faith, and for things which he, in his word, hath encouraged or authorized us to ask, shall be heard and answered. I will heal thee Diseases are God’s servants; as they go where he sends them, so they come when he remands them, Matthew 8:8-9. On the third day thou shalt go up to the house of the Lord To give him solemn praise for his mercy. That he was able to go up so soon as the third day, showed the cure to be miraculous.

Verse 6

2 Kings 20:6. I will add to thy days fifteen years Beyond what thou dost now expect, and beyond the time thou wouldst live if I left thee to the force of thy disease. We have not an instance of any other who was told beforehand just how long he should live. God has wisely kept us at uncertainties, that we may be always ready.

Verse 7

2 Kings 20:7. Take a lump of figs Though the deliverance was certainly promised, yet means must be used, and those suitable. The figs would help to ripen the bile, and bring it to a head, that the matter of the disease might be discharged that way. This means, however, would have been altogether insufficient of itself to effect so sudden and complete a cure, without the co-operation of the divine power, to which the king’s restoration to health is chiefly to be ascribed.

Verse 8

2 Kings 20:8. Hezekiah said to Isaiah Or rather, had said; for it is evident this was said before his recovery, though his recovery be mentioned before it. What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me? He asks a sign, not because he distrusted the divine promise, but for the strengthening of his faith, which otherwise might have been shaken by the greatness of his danger, and by the contradiction between this and the prophet’s former message.

Verse 10

2 Kings 20:10. It is a light thing for the sun to go down Namely, in an instant: for that motion of the sun is natural as to the kind of it, though miraculous for the swiftness of it; but the motion backward would be both ways miraculous.

Verse 11

2 Kings 20:11. Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord Being moved by God’s Spirit, first to offer him this sign, and then to pray for it. And he brought the shadow ten degrees backward “The dial in use among the Jews,” says Dr. Dodd, “was a kind of stairs; the time of the day was distinguished, not by lines, but by steps, here called degrees; and the shade of the sun moved forward a new degree every half hour. The Jewish doctors and the ancient Christian fathers were of opinion, that the sun actually went backward. They endeavour to support this opinion by showing that Merodach-baladan was incited, by the view of this miracle, to send his messengers to Hezekiah, see 2 Chronicles 32:31; and, as a further confirmation, they add, that it is really taken notice of by Herodotus, in his Euterpe, chap. 142, where he expressly asserts, that the Egyptians had observed strange alterations in the motions of the sun, it having arisen four times out of its usual course. Though this observation should be allowed to be true, yet from hence we are under no necessity to admit that the sun itself, or the earth, was retrograde, that is to say, that either of them went backward; all that the Scriptures require of us is, to admit the fact of the shadow’s going backward; and this may be accounted for without supposing any uncommon motion, either in the sun or in the earth. Nothing more was required to effect this phenomenon, than a reflection of the sun’s rays, and this might have been caused by an alteration in the density of the atmosphere. To this it may be added, that the original mentions nothing of the sun, but only of its beams or shadow; and how its beams might be inflected by a change made in the atmosphere, may easily be conceived by any person conversant in natural philosophy. This endeavour to account for the phenomenon, by no means lessens the miracle; for we assign the alteration of the atmosphere to the immediate and extraordinary operation of Providence, and every extraordinary interposition of Providence is essentially and properly a miracle. Let it further be observed, we by no means offer this solution in exclusion of others; and if any one thinks that the miracle can be better accounted for in any other way, we shall very readily subscribe to that opinion. Liberum de eo judicium lectori committo, says Vitringa.” See note on Joshua 10:12-13.

Verse 12

2 Kings 20:12. Berodach-baladan He seems to have been the king of Assyria’s viceroy in Babylon; and, upon the terrible slaughter in the Assyrian host, and the death of Sennacherib, and the differences among his sons, to have usurped 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 to Hezekiah Congratulating him on his happy restoration to health, and assuring him of his esteem and friendship. According to 2 Chronicles 32:31, one end he had in view in doing this was, that he might inquire of, or concerning, the wonder done in the land, namely, the shadow going back on the dial of Ahaz. And it is probable another was, that he might obtain assistance from Hezekiah against the king of Assyria, their common enemy.

Verse 13

2 Kings 20:13. Hezekiah hearkened unto them, &c. He was so pleased, or rather, transported with joy, at the honour the king of Babylon had done him, that he not only gave his ambassadors a gracious audience, and granted them a league and amity, but ordered his officers to show them all the rarities and precious things which he had in his treasures, with his spices, costly ointments, and the house of his armour For though his country had been lamentably harassed and plundered by the king of Assyria, and he had endeavoured to appease him with large sums of money and other gifts; yet he had reserved much gold and silver, and many curiosities and valuable things, which he and his fathers had gathered in Jerusalem. Besides, no doubt, he had got considerable spoils out of the Assyrian camp. Also many presents had been sent him since the stroke from heaven on Sennacherib’s army, and his own miraculous recovery from sickness, and the astonishing sign which God had previously given him of it. There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, which Hezekiah showed them not In this he was influenced by pride of heart and vain ostentation, (2 Chronicles 32:25-26,) being lifted up, it seems, by the great honour God had done him, in working such glorious miracles for his sake, and by the great respect rendered to him by divers princes, and now by this great Babylonian monarch. So hard a matter it is even for a good man to be high and humble. Although no particular mention is made of Hezekiah’s showing these strangers the temple, yet, as it was by far the most sumptuous and splendid building in Jerusalem, and the greatest curiosity in his dominions, there can be no doubt but it was shown them, as far as it was permitted to heathen, who were not proselytes to the Jewish religion, to see it; but whether he took any pains to make them acquainted with the great Being who was worshipped there, and who, by his almighty power, had wrought the miracles which had excited their attention, or with his laws, and the ordinances of his service, may well be doubted. Although, certainly, he had a very fair opportunity of doing this, and of demonstrating to them the unreasonableness and folly of idolatry in all its branches, and especially of their worship of the sun, which the late miracle had shown to be no more than the creature and servant of the God of Israel.

Verses 14-15

2 Kings 20:14-15. Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country A vain-glorious expression, intimating the great honour which he had from all parts, far and near. Even from Babylon That potent monarchy; which he mentions to magnify his own honour and happiness. What have they seen in thy house? He asks, not because he was ignorant of it, but in order that, from Hezekiah’s answer, he might take occasion of delivering God’s message to him.

Verse 16

2 Kings 20:16. Isaiah said, Hear the word of the Lord Hear what his judgment is of this, and how wide his thoughts are from thy thoughts! Thou wast transported when the messengers of the king of Babylon arrived; to thy eye it appeared the most favourable conjuncture that could have happened to thee; thou madest a parade of all thy riches, and of thy armoury, to induce them to enter into an alliance with thee against the king of Assyria. Thou thoughtest if thou couldest secure their friendship and alliance, thou wouldest be safe; even safer than in putting thy trust in the Lord God of Israel. But hear the word of the Lord; see the foolishness of thy thoughts: This very nation, in whom thou thinkest to find security, is the nation that shall take away all these treasures, and carry away thy sons into captivity.

Verse 17

2 Kings 20:17. Behold, the days come, &c. So small was the power of the Babylonians at this time, in respect of their mighty neighbour, the king of Assyria, whom the Jews stood in perpetual fear of, that nothing could seem more improbable than that the Babylonians should carry away the inhabitants of Jerusalem captive. But the divine providence ruleth over all, and sees from the beginning to the end; and, accordingly, in about a hundred and twenty-five years after, the event proved that the word of the Lord stands fast for ever, and that what he speaks shall surely come to pass. Thus short-sighted is human policy! Thus does our ruin often arise from that in which we most place our confidence!

Verse 18

2 Kings 20:18. And of thy sons, &c. Thy grand-children, who are often called sons. They shall be eunuchs, &c. They shall be servants to that heathen monarch, whereby both their bodies will be subject to slavery, and their souls exposed to the peril of idolatry, and all sorts of wickedness. This was a very sore judgment, and by it God would teach the world the great evil of sin; yea, even of those sins which are generally esteemed but small or venial.

Verse 19

2 Kings 20:19. Good is the word of the Lord I heartily submit to this sentence, as being most just and merciful. All true penitents, when they are under divine rebukes, call them not only just, but good: not only submit to, but accept of the punishment of their iniquity. So Hezekiah did, and by this it appeared he was indeed humbled for the pride of his heart. Undoubtedly it was most grievous to him to hear of the calamities that should befall his children; but, notwithstanding, with a truly penitent and pious mind, he pronounced the sentence good, as coming from that Being who not only does nothing but what is right, but nothing but what is tempered with mercy and goodness, even when he punishes; and therefore a resigned submission to his will is highly reasonable and proper, and our absolute duty.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-kings-20.html. 1857.
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