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Passage: 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33

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.