2 KINGS CHAPTER 20.
The Last Part of Hezekiah’s Reign.
HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS. - V. 1. In those days, some time during the latter part of his reign, after he had ruled fourteen years, was Hezekiah sick unto death. He was then thirty-nine years old and in the prime of his life. And the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, came to him and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order, literally, “Command regarding thy house”; he was to take the steps ordinarily taken by a person expecting to die with reference to the disposal of his property and the management of his affairs; for thou shalt die, and not live, his illness was mortal unless some supernatural agency intervened. V.2. Then he turned his face to the wall, in order to commune with the Lord without interference and disturbance, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, v. 3. I beseech Thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before Thee, in his entire life and actions, in truth and with a perfect heart, his worship of Jehovah had been without hypocrisy, and he had earnestly opposed every form of idolatry, and have done that which is good in Thy sight. To die in the prime of life was to the believing Jews an indication of God’s special displeasure. Cp. Prov. 10, 27. And Hezekiah wept sore, deeply moved by this apparent sign of God’s displeasure. V. 4. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, he had not yet left the middle city, Mount Zion, where the royal palace was situated, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, v. 5. Turn again and tell Hezekiah, the captain of My people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David, thy father, to whom Hezekiah had clung with such firmness all his life, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears, both of which pleaded for an extension of life. Behold, I will heal thee; on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord, his health and strength being miraculously restored to him as in the case of the New Testament healings. V. 6. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, who had started on his expedition against Jerusalem in this year, chap. 18, 13; and I will defend this city for Mine own sake and for My servant David’s sake, chap. 19, 34. V. 7. And Isaiah, having returned to the palace according to the command of the Lord, said, Take a lump, a pressed mass, of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, the inflammation, ulcer, or carbuncle, which caused all the trouble; and he recovered, he revived immediately, the Lord gave him life and health. V.8. And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day? This question was probably asked before Isaiah called for the pressed figs, when he had announced to the king that lie would recover. Hezekiah was so anxious that he wanted an external sign to strengthen his faith in the prophet’s words. V. 9. And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He hath spoken shall the shadow, namely, on the shadow-measurer, or sun-dial, where the length of the shadow was a means of telling the time, go forward ten degrees or go back ten degrees? V. 10. And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees, if it would merely advance ten steps, this would not seem so very extraordinary; nay, but let the shadow return backwards ten degrees, returning through the space which it had already traversed. If we suppose the sun-dial to have consisted of a column surrounded with circular steps, the shadow at noon striking the highest step in the center, and in the morning and evening the lowest step on either side, we have some idea of how it worked. V. 11. And Isaiah, the prophet, cried unto the Lord; and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz. The miracle consisted either in a supernatural breaking of the light rays that struck the dial, or, more probably, in the fact that the sun actually returned degrees, as Isaiah has it, chap. 38, 8. Our God is the almighty Lord of the universe, having not only the laws of nature, but also the power over life and death, in His hand. And no matter what God does, it serves, in the final analysis, for the welfare of His children.
HEZEKIAH’S VANITY. — V. 12. At that time Berodach - baladan (or Merodach - baladan), the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, the first king of Babylon, then still under Assyrian supremacy, mentioned in sacred history, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah; for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. This was after the return of the Assyrian army, and the object of the embassy was not merely to congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery, but also to enter into friendly negotiations with a nation which had withstood the Assyrian power, 2 Chron. 32, 31. V. 13. And Hezekiah, flattered by this show of interest on the part of a great power, hearkened unto them, rejoicing on account of them and of the prospect of becoming allied with the mighty Babylonian nation, and showed them all the house of his precious things, used first of all for the storing of rare and costly spices and then for treasures of every kind, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, fine balsam-oil, manufactured from the products of the royal gardens, and all the house of his armor, in the house of the forest of Lebanon, 1 Kings 7, 2, and all that was found in his treasures; there was nothing in his house iior in all his dominion that Hezekiah showed them not. The presence of such rich treasures in Jerusalem is not surprising, for Hezekiah had not stripped the country bare in sending gifts to Sennacherib; besides, he may have gotten rich presents after the withdrawal of the Assyrian army. V. 14. Then came Isaiah, the prophet, unto King Hezekiah and said unto him, What said these men, and from whence came they unto thee? These questions were preparatory to calling the king to account, both for yielding to vanity and for entertaining the thought of entering into an alliance with Babylon. And Hezekiah, not realizing that he was on a wrong path, said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon. V. 15. And he, Isaiah, said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah, still not realizing that his heart was caught in vanity, answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them. V. 16. And Isaiah, in reproving the king for this show of weakness, said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord. V. 17. Behold, the clays come that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, in the form of treasures of every kind, shall be carried into Babylon; nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. The sin of vanity was to be punished by the taking away of the goods of which the king’s heart was proud. V. 18. And of thy sons, descendants in general, that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs, footmen, attendants, in the palace of the king of Babylon, reduced to a position of great humiliation, Dan. 1, 3. V. 19. Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, submitting meekly to the decree of the Lord, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. He accepted the reproof. And he said, as though to himself, Is it not good if peace and truth be in my days? He acknowledged the justice, the faithfulness, and the grace of Jehovah, although it was painful to him to know that the future would bring such evils, on account of which he did not wish to survive or see their execution. V. 20. And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made a pool and a conduit, and brought water into the city, the aqueduct which he constructed at the approach of the Assyrian army in order to insure drinking-water to the city in case of a prolonged siege, 2 Chron. 32, 30, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? V. 21. And Hezekiah slept with his fathers; and Manasseh, his son, reigned in his stead. Hezekiah died in the faith and was given the testimony that lie was a king after the heart of God. Blessed is he who, having departed from the way of strict probity, permits himself to be reproved by the Lord and returns to the ways which please the Master.