Offerings of a Good King
“Ye have consecrated yourselves unto Jehovah, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of Jehovah” (2 Chronicles 29:31, scriptures from the RVIC).
By David Rice
The reign of Hezekiah was a turning point in Israel’s history. His father Ahaz had led Israel astray. He had “sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus … But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:23). Hezekiah restored Israel to the worship of Jehovah. “In the first year of his reign, in the first month [he] opened the doors of the house of Jehovah, and repaired them” (2 Chronicles 29:3). He then urged the priests and Levites to “now sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of Jehovah, the God of your fathers” (verse 5).
Hezekiah was a good king. He was not without mistakes, just as we who walk the way of Christ are not without mistakes. Hezekiah was 25 when he began his sole reign, which continued for 29 years, but earlier he had served as coregent with his father, Ahaz. This experience would have given Hezekiah time to consider the circumstances affecting Israel. When he became sole ruler, he was prepared to effect change.
Hezekiah’s reforms were earnest and thorough. He had the temple cleansed, idols removed, the spiritual leaders of his people sanctified, and proper offerings to Jehovah resumed on a restored altar. Hezekiah reigned at a time when the northern 10 tribe kingdom had previously been conquered by Assyria, so he “sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover unto Jehovah God of Israel. For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the Passover in the second month” (2 Chronicles 30:1, 2).
The Millennial Kingdom in Picture
This was a remarkable transformation in Israel’s worship of God. This experience forms a prophetic picture of the restoration of Israel to faith at the outset of the Millennial Kingdom. The Passover lamb represents Jesus. Israel will recognize him as Messiah, and as their ransom, after God’s deliverance of Israel from the last attack by their enemies.
Assyria was the power of the middle east in Hezekiah’s day. The prophecy of Micah 5:5, about God’s deliverance of Israel, speaks of this threat, and God’s deliverance of Israel from it. “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 of men.” The term “shepherd” was used in Semitic languages as an idiom for “king.” For as a shepherd rules his flock, so a king rules his people. The seven kings refer to the Church class in glory, having been developed through the seven stages of the Gospel Age. The eight princes refer to the Ancient Worthies, who appear following the seven parts of the Gospel Age (thus “eight”). The Church, with Christ, will intervene from above and the Ancient Worthies will explain the intervention to Israel here below.
The result is described in another prophecy about the same future experience, Zechariah 12:9, 10. “It shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon (unto, ASV) me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son.”
After this decisive and earnest repentance of Israel, they will be humbled and thankful. Then they will be prepared to become a helpful and refreshing influence among mankind. “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from Jehovah, as the showers upon the grass” (Micah 5:7).
As part of Hezekiah’s reforms, he “and his princes” urged all Israelites “to keep the Passover in the second month” (2 Chronicles 30:2). The princes, the Ancient Worthies, will lead Israel to give thanks and honor to Jesus, represented by keeping the Passover. However, note that it was kept “in the second month.” The second month Passover was introduced centuries earlier in Numbers 9:6-11. It was an allowance for those “defiled” or “in a journey afar off ” during the first month, to keep Passover on a second occasion (Numbers 9:6, 10). Mankind, defiled by the curse, on a journey away from God, who thus do not observe the benefits of Christ during the first opportunity, the Gospel Age, will observe it on the second opportunity, the Millennial Age.
In the Hezekiah narrative, observing Passover in month two well fits Israel’s national appreciation of Jesus as their Passover, their redeemer, during the second age of redemption.
The two ages of redemption, the Gospel Age and the Millennial Age, are sometimes distinguished by the numbers 7 and 14. As mentioned earlier, the Gospel Age Church is developed during the seven stages of this age. This number is reflected also in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, whose seven days are symbolic of the Gospel Age. During that feast, 7 lambs were to be offered daily (Numbers 28:18-24). Whereas, during the Feast of Tabernacles, which pictures the Millennial Age, 14 lambs were to be offered daily (Numbers 29:12-32, Zechariah 14:16).1
(1) Editor: Sheba (seven) is the word for oath. So the number seven is sometimes connected with the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, that God bound with His oath.
The number 14, a double of 7, is used in other places also where the second age of redemption is indicated. Ezekiel’s famous Temple vision found in the last nine chapters closing his book was given on “the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten” (Ezekiel 40:1). Paul’s journey to Rome speaks of a 14-day storm, representing the closing troubles of the Gospel Age harvest, introducing the Kingdom (Acts 27:27). King Jesus, who will rule in that Kingdom, is identified by the three sets of 14 generations enumerated in Matthew 1:17. God’s deliverance of Israel from Sennacherib in the 14th year of Hezekiah is a picture of God’s deliverance of Israel at the outset of the kingdom.
Thus, it is noteworthy that respecting Hezekiah’s reforms, 14 individuals are named among the Levites to gather and sanctify others. “Then the Levites arose, Mahath … Joel … Merari … Azariah … Joah … Eden … Shimri … Jeiel … Zechariah … Mattaniah … Jehiel … Shimei … Shemaiah … Uzziel” (2 Chronicles 29:12-14).
A further indication that the reforms of Hezekiah speak about the establishment of God’s Kingdom is the time these reforms were initiated, “the first year … the first month” (2 Chronicles 29:3). In other places, the beginning of a new period marks the beginning of a new age in God’s Plan. For example, after fashioning the materials for the Tabernacle, Moses inspected the work and concluded “they had done it as Jehovah had commanded” (Exodus 39:43). But God instructed them to wait before setting up the Tabernacle until “the first day of the first month” (Exodus 40:2,17). The opening of a new year in this case was a fitting time to represent the beginning of the Gospel Age.
In Genesis 8:13, the destructive flood waters of Noah’s day were at last gone from the earth, representing the end of the curse of sin and death upon mankind. The date was “the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month” (Genesis 8:13). The opening of the new year in this case represented the beginning of the Kingdom, the second age of redemption. The reforms of Hezekiah in the first month and first year of his reign represent the same.
The Offerings Given by Hezekiah
“Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of Jehovah, and the altar of Burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof ” (2 Chronicles 29:18). With the offering work complete, offerings upon the altar could now be resumed.
“Hezekiah … said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto Jehovah … And the congregation brought in sacrifices and Thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart Burnt offerings” (2 Chronicles 29:31). Thank offerings are mentioned here in particular. Israel, after their national recognition of Jesus, will be partly in mourning, when they realize that for 2000 years they had rejected the very King of Glory himself. Jesus Christ, Jesus the anointed, is Jesus their Messiah. But they will also be in thankful appreciation for the mercy of God, and of Christ, reclaiming Israel, raising the Ancient Worthies to lead, direct, and inform them. What better token of praise, appreciation, and devotion, than to present Thank offerings to God.
It appears that Thank offerings comprised the large majority of offerings. In verse 32, “the number of the burnt offerings, which the congregation brought, was 70 bullocks, 100 rams, and 200 lambs: all these were for a burnt offering to Jehovah.” Although this seems a large number of sacrifices, verse 33 adds, “And the consecrated things were 600 oxen and 3000 sheep” — many times surmounting the number of Burnt offerings.2
(2) It seems that the 600 oxen and 3000 sheep were Thank offerings, as distinguished from the Burnt offerings. Verse 31 speaks of “sacrifices and thank offerings.” Then it enumerates the Burnt offerings, which were sacrifices wholly consumed on the altar: 70 bullocks, 100 rams, and 200 lambs. Verse 33 then describes “the consecrated things” as 600 oxen and 3000 sheep, distinguishing them from the Burnt offerings.
Three Kinds of Offerings
There were three basic kinds of offerings in the Law: Burnt offerings, Sin offerings, and Peace offerings. In addition, there were Trespass offerings, which were a kind of Sin offering. And there were Thank offerings, which were a kind of Peace offering. All of these are described in detail in Leviticus chapters 1 through 7. (There were also meal offerings, and drink offerings, which accompanied the animal sacrifices.)
A Burnt offering was the fundamental offering. It provided atonement (Leviticus 1:4). Burnt offerings were specified to be placed directly “in order upon the wood” of the altar (Leviticus 1:8). Peace offerings, by contrast, were placed “upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood” (Leviticus 3:5). Thus God’s acceptance of a Peace offering depends upon a previous Burnt offering.
A Burnt offering, providing atonement, directly on the wood, reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus that brings atonement to all. Jesus died directly on the wood of the cross. That sacrifice accomplished universal redemption for both Israelites and Gentiles. For Jews under the Law, Jesus’ death on the cross accepted “the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). For all mankind, including Gentiles who constitute the majority of mankind, Jesus “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).3
Jesus’ ransom sacrifice was represented annually in the Passover lamb, but also daily in the two lambs of a Burnt offering, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, every day of the year (Numbers 28:3, 4). In fulfillment of this, Jesus was put on the cross in the morning, and died in the afternoon. He suffered six hours on the cross, atoning for the sin of the world that endures for 6000 years. A Burnt offering could be of the herd or the flock (cattle, goats, or sheep), but always required to be a male (Leviticus 1:3).4
(3) Thus the two crosses on the Chart of the Ages, one on the level of Adam, another on the level of Israel.
(4) Male livestock are considered more valuable, perhaps in part because they can father more offspring.
Sin offerings, which also provided atonement (Leviticus 4:20), differ somewhat from Burnt offerings. One purpose of Sin offerings was to recognize and atone for ongoing sins, either of an individual or, as on the day of atonement, collectively for the nation. We all receive a dying, condemned life from father Adam, and the Ransom recovers us from this curse. However, having a propensity for sin because of our fallen condition, we also must concern ourselves with wayward choices and conduct that we are more or less responsible for. To account for this culpability are Sin offerings.
Jesus died for the sin of Adam on Calvary’s cross. However, Jesus became a Sin offering for us beginning with his baptism at Jordan. As part of offering himself, he suffered in various ways during his ministry. He was unjustly persecuted by his adversaries, but he also suffered in serving, teaching, healing, and instructing his many followers. By these experiences he “learned” the depths of obedience “by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). He has been rewarded with glory, honor, and immortality, and as our King and Priest — Melchizedek — he “abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3). From Jesus’ exalted priestly office he now assists us, his followers. He cleanses us from sin. Not only the curse lifted by his Ransom, but we are cleansed from the poor and wayward choices we sometimes make.
Likewise we, who hope to be with Christ as “priests of God and of Christ … a thousand years,” learn obedience by the things that we suffer, in order to assist mankind, and recover them from poor choices they may make in their walk up the “highway … of holiness” (Revelation 20:6, Isaiah 35:8). The redemption merit involved comes from Christ. But the sanctified ability of saints also will assist mankind in the kingdom. This ability is achieved through personal trial and experience.
Thank offerings, so numerously comprising Hezekiah’s “consecrated” offerings (2 Chronicles 29:33), are part of the class termed Peace offerings. Peace offerings are not thus named because they bring peace, but because they are predicated upon having already attained peace with God. Notice in Hezekiah’s offerings that there were first Burnt offerings, in this case representing Israel’s future appreciation of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, their Messiah. He has brought them atonement. When in God’s due time the blood of Christ is applied for mankind, in order to lift the curse passed on from Eden, then all repentant ones may have peace with God. That peace will lead to thanks, appreciation, and devotion.
With respect to the present Gospel Age, Paul indicates this same order in Romans 4:25 through 5:2. Jesus “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (5:1).” Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” Now, having attained peace, reconciliation, an opportunity opens for us. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand [our heavenly calling], and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (verse 2).
For Israel and mankind in the kingdom, achieving reconciliation through the redemption of Christ on the cross (the Burnt offering, directly on the wood), the peace this will allow them to devote themselves to God, Jesus, godliness, and holiness, in order to attain everlasting life on earth.
In 2 Chronicles 29:31, the Israelites, in picture, brought Burnt offerings to express their appreciation for redemption. They brought these in abundance: 70 bullocks, 100 rams, 200 lamb. This describes how, in the Kingdom, Israel will be abundantly appreciative, and humbled, regretting their past blindness. Then, in effusive, appreciative gratitude, they will bring “Thank offerings … 600 oxen and 3000 sheep” (verses 31, 33).
Six hundred oxen — perhaps appreciating the lifting of 6000 years of sin and death. Three thousand sheep — perhaps appreciating the redemption Christ brought to them on Calvary’s cross as the lamb of God.