Hezekiah’s Life and Death

A study of King Hezekiah’s life is one that can be greatly beneficial for us.

In his life we can see a man of great accomplishment: He restored the Passover observance immediately upon ascending to the throne. He undid all the idol worship that his father Ahaz had promoted throughout the land. He withstood the pressure to submit to Assyria. He rerouted the Gihon spring into what we now call Hezekiah’s Tunnel. He accomplished so much. In fact, “He succeeded in everything he undertook (2 Chron 32:30).”

The foundation for these many accomplishments was a faith in the LORD. One of the reasons I think it is beneficial to study the life of Hezekiah is to see Hezekiah’s sin, the time his pride directed his trust away from the LORD and toward himself.

Yes, it’s possible for a godly person to fall in that way and to be restored. So often people think that being godly means never sinning or wavering in faith. However, we see from the life of Hezekiah that even godly men at times lose their way. That’s not to excuse anyone’s sin, but it is to say that we need to be careful in the way we define godly. And the definition isn’t “being perfect.”

Godliness deals with the heart. Certainly, the more God matures us toward godliness, the less we should sin. However, the focus of godliness is on the heart’s desire to obey and trust the LORD. Notice that God mercifully restored Hezekiah when he repented. And, in spite of his sin, he is described as a good king.

Turning Back Time

As I have surveyed the life of Hezekiah, I have drawn details from 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. To have the most complete understanding of Hezekiah’s life, using all three sources is necessary. Though at times, trying to get a handle on how the details are presented in the three sources can be confusing.

For example, when we look at Isaiah 38-39, it might be natural to assume that chronologically, chapters 38 and 39 occur after chapters 36 and 37. After all, that’s how it’s written, right? Well, there are a few indicators in those chapters, 38 and 39, that suggest that the correct chronology of Isaiah is 38, 39, 36, 37.

Here is the best one: 38:6 – “I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria.” This promise of protection and deliverance clearly occurred before the angel of the LORD defeated the Assyrian army and before Sennacherib broke camp and returned to Nineveh, both of which were already detailed in Isaiah chapter 37.

So, let’s “turn back time” and review Isaiah 38-39, which actually took place before the things we have already discussed. As you will see, these chapters actually give some explanation of why chapters 36 and 37 occurred.

All three records – 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 38 – say that Hezekiah was ill and at the point of death. And they all record Hezekiah’s prayer, which resulted in the LORD mercifully restoring Hezekiah’s health. In response to Hezekiah’s prayer the LORD said three things would occur:
1. Hezekiah would go up to the Temple three days later,
2. The LORD would add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, and
3. The LORD would deliver Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem from Assyria.

In contrast to his father’s rejection of a sign from the LORD (Isa. 7:11-12), upon hearing of his restoration and 15-year life extension, Hezekiah asked for a sign. Isaiah inquired as to which Hezekiah would prefer as a sign from the LORD, that the sun would move forward or backward.

Hezekiah realized that the shadow of the sun moving forward may not be a clear sign. After all, the sun naturally moves forward. So, he asked for the shadow of the sun to move backward. In other words, he asked for time to be turned back.

Here is the LORD‘s response: “I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.” It isn’t clear how this was done, but God, who put all things in motion, is able to reverse things and still keep all things in order. Don’t forget, during the days of Joshua the sun had already stood still over Gibeon (Joshua 10:13). It’s not something that happens every day, or even often, but God, as it pleases Him, does what appears to be impossible to us. “So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down (Isa. 38:8).”

Interestingly, the account of Hezekiah’s punitive illness in 2 Chronicles is abbreviated, apparently for the purpose of highlighting the reason for both his condition and the perilous situation of Jerusalem – his pride.

Once again, the chronology can be confusing. By the order of presentation in 2 Chronicles 32:24-25, one may get the impression that the LORD healed Hezekiah and still his heart was proud. However, like we did in sorting out chapters 36-38 of Isaiah, we need to examine the complete presentation. In doing this we will see that as a result of Hezekiah’s pride, the LORD‘s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chr 32:26), which clearly occurred before the LORD restored Hezekiah. As was pointed out above, one of the elements of Hezekiah’s restoration was that the LORD would deliver Hezekiah and Jerusalem from Assyria.

It shouldn’t surprise the reader that Hezekiah struggled with pride. The elements were clearly in place for pride to be a potential problem: In addition to being the king, he had very great riches, built many buildings and villages, and acquired great numbers of flocks and herds. “He succeeded in everything he undertook (2 Chron 32:30).” Hezekiah started out well, restoring Passover and removing the high places, but his wealth and success created a proud heart in him.

Thankfully, the LORD knows how to bring about humility. And in Hezekiah’s case, a punitive illness and potential destruction of Jerusalem were the LORD‘s instruments of merciful correction in Hezekiah’s life.

That is the back story to the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.

The order of events as I understand it is:
1. Hezekiah was proud
2. God sent Assyria and a punitive illness as a form of discipline
3. Hezekiah repented
4. God restored Hezekiah
5. God delivered Hezekiah and Jerusalem from the Assyrian threat.

Credit to Whom Credit is Due

I have learned so much while studying the life of Hezekiah. I know that some would quickly dismiss the life of Hezekiah as “boring old history.” But in reality, it is anything but boring. I have been fascinated to see once again, God’s hand at work in the lives of his chosen ones.

Here’s one of the things God showed me during my study of the life of Hezekiah:

In today’s terminology, Hezekiah would be described as a go-getter, a doer not a dreamer, a real nose to the grindstone kind of guy. And all those descriptions would be accurate because Hezekiah was clearly a man on a mission – in every sense of that phrase.

I was excited to see that Hezekiah didn’t cautiously get himself adjusted to his new position as king. No, he got down to business, God’s business, right away. The temple was more than non-functional; it was, in fact, a disaster. Hezekiah’s father had essentially disassembled the holy instruments and remodeled the temple to something unrecognizable by biblical standards.

Second Chronicles 29 gets into the description of Hezekiah’s actions as quickly as Hezekiah apparently did: It gives us two verses of introduction to the new king, then verse three tells us that in the first month of the first year of His reign, Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple and began the repairs and consecration. But, since verse three is a summary statement, it might be easy to underestimate the quickness with which Hezekiah actually got to work. It is from 2 Chronicles 29:17 we learn that it was on the first day of Hezekiah’s first month in office that the consecration began. Wow! Talk about a quick starter.

The process of consecration was more than saying a quick hocus-pocus formula, splashing a little holy water and poof things were back in order. No, it was a physical process of removing and replacing all the unclean things that were found in the temple of the LORD and replacing them with the proper instruments. All of those unclean items were brought out to the temple courtyard, and from there the Levites carried them into the Kidron Valley for disposal.

After 16 days of hard labor at an apparently feverish pitch, the temple had been restored and was ready for re-dedication. Early the next morning, King Hezekiah, accompanied by the city officials, made his way to the temple to make a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary and for Judah. The animals were sacrificed in their particular order, and the sanctuary was restored.

Clearly, this is only a summary of that day’s activities; and it’s intentionally brief so that I can get to the main point of this post, which is this: Without question, King Hezekiah labored diligently, both in a personal sense and as a leader of leaders. His efforts were clearly honored by the LORD, but notice how the chapter ends: “So the service of the temple of the LORD was reestablished. Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly (2 Chronicles 29:35-36).”

They rejoiced at what God had done. Yes, Hezekiah led the restoration labors and God got the credit.

Now, some will think I’m making much ado about nothing. But, I’m really not, and here’s why: In the circles I come from, it is quite common to hear of a man (and his wife) who went somewhere and started with nothing, and after a lifetime of labor, there stands a church, usually a large church, that wasn’t there when they arrived so many years prior.

Upon his retirement, the accolades generally follow this pattern: “Brother Church Builder came out here when he and the misses were barely old enough to get married. They started with just a handful of people, married the young, buried the old, and faithfully preached the gospel. They gave their lives here, and now, all these years later, look at the church that Brother Church Builder built.”

I’m sure that such kind words are never intended to rob God of His credit, but my question is this: Do they?

Like Father, Like Son?

It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “like father, like son.” And by that, they are saying that they aren’t surprised in the behavior of the son because it is assumed he will behave like his father. Usually, this is meant in a negative sense, though it is possible to intend something positive.

Another way of saying the same thing is, “fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Sometimes an additional caveat is offered: “…unless it’s planted on a hill.” But that caveat is generally intended as dry humor or a very rare exception.

Clearly every colloquial saying can’t be measured for its accuracy in all situations – after all, they are simply intended as general truths – but this particular one gives me concern because it dismisses the sovereign work of God in any of our lives.

Here’s a biblical example:

I’ve prepared a chart comparing/contrasting the lives of Ahaz and Hezekiah, both kings of Judah. While there are many more points that could be compared, I have limited this to 10 points.

1. Ahaz became king at 20 years of age and reigned 16 years in Jerusalem (2 Kgs 16:2, 2 Chr 28:1).
Hezekiah became king at 25 years of age and reigned 29 years in Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18:2, 2 Chr 29:1).

2. Ahaz: “Unlike David, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God ( 2Kgs 16:2, 2 Chr 28:1).
Hezekiah: Like David, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD (2 Kgs 18:3, 2 Chr 29:2).

3. Ahaz’s wickedness is compared to the Kings of Israel (2 Kgs 16:3, 2 Chr 28:2).
Hezekiah’s righteousness is contrasted with the Kings of Judah (2 Kgs 18:5).

4. Ahaz’s Wicked Actions Described:
A. Sacrificed his sons in the fire [to Molech] (2 Kgs 16:3, 2 Chr 28:3);
B. Spread idolatry throughout Judah (2 Kgs 16:4, 2 Chr 28:4, 24-25);
C. Pilfered and rearranged the Temple furnishings (2 Chr 28:10-18).
Hezekiah’s Righteous Actions Described:
A. Removed the high places (2 Kgs 18:4);
B. Broke the pillars (2 Kgs 18:4);
C. Cut down the Asherah (2 Kgs 18:4);
D. Broke in pieces the bronze serpent (2 Kgs 18:4).

5. Ahaz’s Enemies:
A. Rezin, King of Aram [Damascus] (2 Kgs 16:5, 2 Chr 28:5-8);
B. Pekah, King of Israel (2 Kgs 16:5, 2 Chr 28:5-8);
C. Philistines (2 Chr 28:18).
Hezekiah’s Enemies:
A. Assyria ( 2 Kgs 18:7, 2 Chr 32:1);
B. Philistines (2 Kgs 18:8).

6. Prophet in the Story of Ahaz: Oded (2 Chr 28:9).
Prophet in the Story of Hezekiah: Isaiah (2 Kgs 19:5-7, 20-34; 2 Chr 32:20-21).

7. Assyrian Leader During Ahaz’s Life: Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kgs 16:7, 2 Chr 28:20).
Assyrian Leader During Hezekiah’s Life: Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18:13, 2 Chr 32:1).

8. Ahaz’s View Toward Assyria: “I am your vassal, come and save me… (2 Kgs 16:7)”.
Hezekiah’s View Toward Assyria: “He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him (2 Kgs 18:7).”

9. Ahaz was buried in the City of David (2 Kgs 16:20), but not in the tombs of the kings of Israel (2 Chr 28:27).
Hezekiah “was buried on the hill where the tombs of David’s descendants are (2 Chr 32:33).”

10. Summary of Ahaz’s Life: “In his time of trouble, King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the LORD (2 Chr 28:22).”
Summary of Hezekiah’s Life: “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly (2 Chr 31:21).”

A father and son could not have been more different than Ahaz and Hezekiah. Perhaps Ahaz was planted on a hill, or better, let’s recognize God’s sovereign work in Hezekiah’s life and pray for the same in our own lives.

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