A King With a Good Heart
“Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. … He did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that David his father did. … He trusted in Jehovah God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him” (2 Kings 18:1-5).
by George Eldridge
Hezekiah’s devotion to Jehovah is an example even to spiritual Israelites. He cleansed the land of ungodly worship. “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves … He clave to Jehovah and … kept His commandments” (2 Kings 18:4,6). This kind of zeal is an exhortation by example to any of the disciples of Christ. As king, it was Hezekiah’s responsibility to properly lead Israel. As fathers, mothers, teachers, or leaders, we can take to heart Hezekiah’s example of zeal in fulfilling his responsibility. Typical Lessons Also In addition to an example of godly zeal, the life and experiences of Hezekiah also have symbolic meaning for us. One example of this is the invasion of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, and the miraculous deliverance by the hand of God (Isaiah chapters 36, 37).
Many students of the Bible agree that this deliverance in Hezekiah’s day is a picture of the deliverance of Israel in the final conflict of this Gospel Age. Ezekiel, in chapter 38, calls this episode the attack of Gog, while John, in Revelation 17:14, takes the spiritual view and calls it the war of the ten kings and the beast against the Lamb and those with him, who are the called, chosen, and faithful.
Isaiah omits the events in Hezekiah’s reign leading up to this dramatic event. However, 2 Kings 18, 19, and 2 Chronicles 29-32 give these important details. Hezekiah was the son of a wicked king, Ahaz, who had closed the temple, mutilated its vessels, and engaged in idolatrous heathen rites. Hezekiah shared the throne with his father for some time before becoming sole monarch. During this time the condition of the nation must have grieved his righteous heart. When he had the authority, he determined to turn the nation back to the worship of God. The first thing that he did was to open the doors of the temple as a beginning of his cleansing work (2 Chronicles 29:3).
We are told in the New Testament that the antitypical temple is the Church, the Body of Christ, of which Jesus is the Head. “Ye are … built upon the foundation of the apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21). “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Hezekiah had grown up in a period of great unrest. The surrounding nations battled one another for control, with Judea right in the middle. Assyria aimed to control of all of western Asia, and Sennacherib’s sights were set on Judea as a trophy. Hezekiah reopened the temple and summoned the priests and the Levites. He ordered them to sanctify themselves and the temple. They did this by ending the heathen rites and disposing of all their trappings, throwing them into the brook Kidron (2 Chronicles 29:16).
Ahaz had permitted unclean, unholy, and sinful heathen rites in order to ingratiate himself with the nations threatening his country. Hezekiah cleansed all of this. Perhaps this pictures a cleansing in Israel, discarding the Talmud’s superfluous additions and regulations and all that is connected to the Jewish rejection of Christ.
Hezekiah was aware of the capture of the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyria not many years earlier. He says, in 2 Chronicles 29:10, “Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us.”
Judah had suffered great distress because of their disobedience and apostasy, and Hezekiah desired total commitment to God in order to turn the nation to Him. The priests and Levites began to sanctify themselves on the first day of the first month (Nisan). On the sixteenth day they reported to Hezekiah that not only the temple, but the sacred vessels as well, had been restored and sanctified. Hezekiah rose up early, gathered the rulers of the city, and going to the temple, he brought seven bullocks, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom, for the temple, and for Judah. This was not the Day of Atonement ordered by God to be kept on the tenth day of the seventh month, but a special celebration for atonement for all Israel.
This continued with the entire congregation worshipping with songs of praise. Then Hezekiah told the people to bring their sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of God. Whereupon the people brought so many animals for burnt offerings that the priests could not handle the slaying, and the Levites had to help them.
This account in 2 Chronicles 29 concludes with verse 36. “And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.” The Assyrian invasion and the miraculous deliverance by God’s hand would follow this “preparing of the people.” Perhaps this represents that God intends to get His people in the right heart condition to trust Him in the final conflict.
2 Chronicles 30 records Hezekiah’s declaration to keep the Passover. The ordained date for keeping it was Nisan 14, but the temple had not been sanctified until Nisan 16 (2 Chronicles 29:17). Hezekiah took counsel with his princes and congregation. He declared that the Passover would be kept on the 10th day of the second month. In Numbers 9:5-11, we have the word of God as to the proper date to keep the Passover — Nisan 14.
However, verses 6 and 7 tell us that certain men who were defiled by coming in contact with a dead body were unclean for seven days. God told Moses that in such a case of uncleanness, these unclean ones could keep the Passover in the second month on the 14th day. Hezekiah perhaps drew from this that postponing the Passover to the second month was appropriate.
However, the fact that the priests and Levites had not finished cleansing and sanctifying the temple was not, technically, a legal reason defined in Numbers for delaying a Passover. The legal reason was contact with a dead body.
In Jesus’ parable about a householder who planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, sending his servants to receive the fruits, the husbandmen beat his servants, stoned another, and killed another. Then he sent his son, saying they will reverence him. But the caretakers said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and … seize his inheritance.” They knew he was the son and heir. When Jesus spoke this parable, the Pharisees and chief priests perceived that Jesus spake of them (Matthew 21:33-38).
Perhaps this is part of the intended connection for Hezekiah deferring the Passover to the second month. It may picture the time when Israel will recognize their guilt in rejecting and killing the heir, God’s Son, their Messiah. By this means they had become defiled by contact with a dead body.
Some Still Unclean
2 Chronicles 30:15 says that they killed the Passover on day 14 of month two. “The priests and the Levites were ashamed,” perhaps because of a feeling of inadequacy. This may relate to the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10 (ASV), “They shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.”
Many of the people at this great Passover were not sanctified, so the Levites had charge of killing the lambs for them. Hezekiah prayed to God to pardon everyone, and God harkened to Hezekiah. He “healed the people” (2 Chronicles 30:20). God showed grace, as He will toward Israel when they begin to approach him with repentance. After the Passover the people went into the cities, broke all the images, cut down the groves, and threw down the high places until they had destroyed them all. All the trappings of idolatry had to go. Antitypically, all that is in opposition to the truth with Christ as the center, must go. All false worship will be done away with.
Restoration Work Continued
Thereafter, Hezekiah restored the temple back to its purity (2 Chronicles 31:2-11). Hezekiah sought God “with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21). Then, in 2 Chronicles 32:1, came the threat of Sennacherib. Perhaps Israel prospering before this invasion is indicated in Ezekiel 38:11,12, a people “That dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates … which have gotten cattle and goods [wealth], that dwell in the midst of the land.”
Assyria had earlier captured the northern kingdom and taken many captives, under an Assyrian King Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3-6). Now Sennacherib, having taken surrounding nations, set his sights on Judea. He took “all the defenced cities of Judah” (Isaiah 36:1). He sent one of his high officials, Rabshakeh, to Jerusalem with a message to surrender, boasting that none of the nations had withstood them.
Hezekiah was deeply troubled and sent for Isaiah. The prophet’s closeness to the king has led some commentators to believe that he was of royal blood, and rabbinical tradition claims that he was King Amaziah’s nephew. Perhaps Isaiah indicates for us the presence and counsel of the Ancient Worthies to guide Israel in their peril. “When the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes” (Micah 5:5, with margin).
Isaiah said, “Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (Isaiah 37:6,7).
God intervened. Sennacherib would not come into the city nor even shoot an arrow into the city, so thorough was God’s deliverance. “I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (Isaiah 37:35). This reference to David pictures Christ, who will make Israel’s deliverance possible.
In the meantime, there was a political faction in Judea that demanded a league with Egypt (Western Christian nations), with the view of obtaining chariots and horses (symbols of today’s armaments, Isaiah 31:1-3). Isaiah’s indignation at this was hot. Egypt was too weak and faithless to help. Their faithlessness and disloyalty is shown in Ezekiel 29:6-7, “and all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. When they took hold of thee … thou didst break … when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and made their loins be at a stand.”
Isaiah 37:36 says, “Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrian a hundred fourscore and five thousand [185,000]: and when they awoke in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”
This miraculous deliverance pictures Israel’s future deliverance, described by Ezekiel. “At the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD … my fury shall come up in my face … And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man’s sword shall be against his brother … Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:18, 21-23).