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2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33 – Hezekiah

Summary

Hezekiah purifies the temple, renews temple worship, invites the defeated northern Israelites to a renewed celebration of the Passover, and defends Jerusalem against Sennacherib's invading army.

Analysis

No king, other than David or Solomon, receives as much space in the Chronicler's presentation as Hezekiah. Hezekiah's importance for the Chronicler can be attributed to his crucial place in the history of Israel. David and Solomon had presided over an Israel united around the Jerusalem temple. The division of the kingdom that followed had ended in the destruction of the north by Assyria and the utter apostasy of the south under Ahaz. But now there was a new king in Jerusalem, a good king, faithful to God and eager to restore the temple. With the collapse of the non-Davidic kingship in Israel, the restoration of a united Israel worshiping in Jerusalem was once again possible. The Chronicler develops his narrative of the restoration in four steps:

  • 29:1-26. For the Chronicler, the first step must be the restoration of the temple, and so he depicts Hezekiah setting about this task as soon as possible, "in the first year of his reign, in the first month" (v. 3). When he "opened the doors" of the temple (v. 3) he symbolically began the process of undoing the apostasy of his father, Ahaz (28:24). The rest of that process takes place in three phases: the literal cleansing of the temple (vv. 4-19), the rededication of the altar (vv. 20-30), and the restoration of the regular rounds of temple worship (vv. 31-36).
  • 30:1-31:1. Hezekiah's reform of the Passover is crucial for the Chronicler's concerns. The traditional meaning of the festival--a commemoration of God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt--becomes the occasion for inviting the northerners back to Jerusalem in a circular letter addressed to "all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan," that is, traditionally, from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the land (v. 5). This speech serves, with Abijah's plea in 2 Chronicles 13, as a frame around the period of the divided monarchy.
  • 31:2-21. Hezekiah reorganizes the cult and plans for the support of the clergy, as had David and Solomon before him. These first three stages dealing with Hezekiah's religious reforms are dealt with in a single verse (18:4) in 2 Kings that emphasizes Hezekiah's political activity as seen in the discussion of Sennacherib's invasion.
  • 32:1-33. Sennacherib's invasion is recast by omitting Hezekiah's surrender, his trust in foreign alliances, the stripping of the temple, and Isaiah's rebuke (2 Kings 18-20), and by stressing the efficacy of Hezekiah's prayer in averting disaster. The account closes with the Chronicler's familiar indications of blessing: wealth, building projects, and general prosperity.

2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33

Reign of Hezekiah

29Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old; he reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 2He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his ancestor David had done.

The Temple Cleansed

3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. 4He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east. 5He said to them, ‘Listen to me, Levites! Sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and carry out the filth from the holy place. 6For our ancestors have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God; they have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the dwelling of the Lord, and turned their backs. 7They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps, and have not offered incense or made burnt-offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. 8Therefore the wrath of the Lord came upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9Our fathers have fallen by the sword and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence to minister to him, and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.’

12 Then the Levites arose, Mahath son of Amasai, and Joel son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; and of the sons of Merari, Kish son of Abdi, and Azariah son of Jehallelel; and of the Gershonites, Joah son of Zimmah, and Eden son of Joah; 13and of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel; and of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14and of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. 15They gathered their brothers, sanctified themselves, and went in as the king had commanded, by the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord. 16The priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and they brought out all the unclean things that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord; and the Levites took them and carried them out to the Wadi Kidron. 17They began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord; then for eight days they sanctified the house of the Lord, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. 18Then they went inside to King Hezekiah and said, ‘We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt-offering and all its utensils, and the table for the rows of bread and all its utensils. 19All the utensils that King Ahaz repudiated during his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and sanctified; see, they are in front of the altar of the Lord.’

Temple Worship Restored

20 Then King Hezekiah rose early, assembled the officials of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord. 21They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin-offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. He commanded the priests the descendants of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the Lord. 22So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood and dashed it against the altar; they slaughtered the rams and their blood was dashed against the altar; they also slaughtered the lambs and their blood was dashed against the altar. 23Then the male goats for the sin-offering were brought to the king and the assembly; they laid their hands on them, 24and the priests slaughtered them and made a sin-offering with their blood at the altar, to make atonement for all Israel. For the king commanded that the burnt-offering and the sin-offering should be made for all Israel.

25 He stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of the prophet Nathan, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets. 26The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27Then Hezekiah commanded that the burnt-offering be offered on the altar. When the burnt-offering began, the song to the Lord began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of King David of Israel. 28The whole assembly worshipped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished. 29When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshipped. 30King Hezekiah and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of the seer Asaph. They sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshipped.

31 Then Hezekiah said, ‘You have now consecrated yourselves to the Lord; come near, bring sacrifices and thank-offerings to the house of the Lord.’ The assembly brought sacrifices and thank-offerings; and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt-offerings. 32The number of the burnt-offerings that the assembly brought was seventy bulls, one hundred rams, and two hundred lambs; all these were for a burnt-offering to the Lord. 33The consecrated offerings were six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep. 34But the priests were too few and could not skin all the burnt-offerings, so, until other priests had sanctified themselves, their kindred, the Levites, helped them until the work was finished—for the Levites were more conscientious* than the priests in sanctifying themselves. 35Besides the great number of burnt-offerings there was the fat of the offerings of well-being, and there were the drink-offerings for the burnt-offerings. Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored. 36And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people; for the thing had come about suddenly.

The Great Passover

30Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover to the Lord the God of Israel. 2For the king and his officials and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the passover in the second month 3(for they could not keep it at its proper time because the priests had not sanctified themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem). 4The plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. 5So they decreed the making of a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the passover to the Lord the God of Israel, at Jerusalem; for they had not kept it in great numbers as prescribed. 6So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his officials, as the king had commanded, saying, ‘O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7Do not be like your ancestors and your kindred, who were faithless to the Lord God of their ancestors, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8Do not now be stiff-necked as your ancestors were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has sanctified for ever, and serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9For as you return to the Lord, your kindred and your children will find compassion with their captors, and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.’

10 So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun; but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. 11Only a few from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the officials commanded by the word of the Lord.

13 Many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the festival of unleavened bread in the second month, a very large assembly. 14They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for offering incense they took away and threw into the Wadi Kidron. 15They slaughtered the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed, and they sanctified themselves and brought burnt-offerings into the house of the Lord. 16They took their accustomed posts according to the law of Moses the man of God; the priests dashed the blood that they received* from the hands of the Levites. 17For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had to slaughter the passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to make it holy to the Lord. 18For a multitude of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the passover otherwise than as prescribed. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘The good Lord pardon all 19who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.’ 20The Lord heard Hezekiah, and healed the people. 21The people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the festival of unleavened bread for seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, accompanied by loud instruments for the Lord. 22Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So the people ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing offerings of well-being and giving thanks to the Lord the God of their ancestors.

23 Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the festival for another seven days; so they kept it for another seven days with gladness. 24For King Hezekiah of Judah gave the assembly a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep for offerings, and the officials gave the assembly a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep. The priests sanctified themselves in great numbers. 25The whole assembly of Judah, the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the resident aliens who came out of the land of Israel, and the resident aliens who lived in Judah, rejoiced. 26There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon son of King David of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27Then the priests and the Levites stood up and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; their prayer came to his holy dwelling in heaven.

Pagan Shrines Destroyed

31Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah and broke down the pillars, hewed down the sacred poles,* and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, and in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the people of Israel returned to their cities, all to their individual properties.

2 Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, everyone according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being, to minister in the gates of the camp of the Lord and to give thanks and praise. 3The contribution of the king from his own possessions was for the burnt-offerings: the burnt-offerings of morning and evening, and the burnt-offerings for the sabbaths, the new moons, and the appointed festivals, as it is written in the law of the Lord. 4He commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the law of the Lord. 5As soon as the word spread, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. 6The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been consecrated to the Lord their God, and laid them in heaps. 7In the third month they began to pile up the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. 8When Hezekiah and the officials came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord and his people Israel. 9Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites about the heaps. 10The chief priest Azariah, who was of the house of Zadok, answered him, ‘Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and have plenty to spare; for the Lord has blessed his people, so that we have this great supply left over.’

Reorganization of Priests and Levites

11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare store-chambers in the house of the Lord; and they prepared them. 12Faithfully they brought in the contributions, the tithes and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with his brother Shimei as second; 13while Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismachiah, Mahath, and Benaiah were overseers assisting Conaniah and his brother Shimei, by the appointment of King Hezekiah and of Azariah the chief officer of the house of God. 14Kore son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the east gate, was in charge of the freewill-offerings to God, to apportion the contribution reserved for the Lord and the most holy offerings. 15Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah were faithfully assisting him in the cities of the priests, to distribute the portions to their kindred, old and young alike, by divisions, 16except those enrolled by genealogy, males from three years old and upwards, all who entered the house of the Lord as the duty of each day required, for their service according to their offices, by their divisions. 17The enrolment of the priests was according to their ancestral houses; that of the Levites from twenty years old and upwards was according to their offices, by their divisions. 18The priests were enrolled with all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, the whole multitude; for they were faithful in keeping themselves holy. 19And for the descendants of Aaron, the priests, who were in the fields of common land belonging to their towns, town by town, the people designated by name were to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to everyone among the Levites who was enrolled.

20 Hezekiah did this throughout all Judah; he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God, and in accordance with the law and the commandments, to seek his God, he did with all his heart; and he prospered.

Sennacherib’s Invasion

32After these things and these acts of faithfulness, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself. 2When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem, 3he planned with his officers and his warriors to stop the flow of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. 4A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the wadi that flowed through the land, saying, ‘Why should the Assyrian kings come and find water in abundance?’ 5Hezekiah* set to work resolutely and built up the entire wall that was broken down, and raised towers on it,* and outside it he built another wall; he also strengthened the Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. 6He appointed combat commanders over the people, and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, 7‘Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him. 8With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ The people were encouraged by the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.

9 After this, while King Sennacherib of Assyria was at Lachish with all his forces, he sent his servants to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah of Judah and to all the people of Judah that were in Jerusalem, saying, 10‘Thus says King Sennacherib of Assyria: On what are you relying, that you undergo the siege of Jerusalem? 11Is not Hezekiah misleading you, handing you over to die by famine and by thirst, when he tells you, “The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria”? 12Was it not this same Hezekiah who took away his high places and his altars and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, “Before one altar you shall worship, and upon it you shall make your offerings”? 13Do you not know what I and my ancestors have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to save their lands out of my hand? 14Who among all the gods of those nations that my ancestors utterly destroyed was able to save his people from my hand, that your God should be able to save you from my hand? 15Now therefore do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to save his people from my hand or from the hand of my ancestors. How much less will your God save you out of my hand!’

16 His servants said still more against the Lord God and against his servant Hezekiah. 17He also wrote letters to throw contempt on the Lord the God of Israel and to speak against him, saying, ‘Just as the gods of the nations in other lands did not rescue their people from my hands, so the God of Hezekiah will not rescue his people from my hand.’ 18They shouted it with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, in order that they might take the city. 19They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as if he were like the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of human hands.

Sennacherib’s Defeat and Death

20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed because of this and cried to heaven. 21And the Lord sent an angel who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in disgrace to his own land. When he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. 22So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of King Sennacherib of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies; he gave them rest* on every side. 23Many brought gifts to the Lord in Jerusalem and precious things to King Hezekiah of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onwards.

Hezekiah’s Sickness

24 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. 25But Hezekiah did not respond according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem. 26Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah’s Prosperity and Achievements

27 Hezekiah had very great riches and honour; and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly objects; 28storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds.* 29He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance; for God had given him very great possessions. 30This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31So also in the matter of the envoys of the officials of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.

32 Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his good deeds, are written in the vision of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 33Hezekiah slept with his ancestors, and they buried him on the ascent to the tombs of the descendants of David; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. His son Manasseh succeeded him.

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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