The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Kings

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2 Kings 20

2Ki 20:1

2Ki 20: The events of this chapter predate those of the Assyrian invasion.

" 'Thou shalt die, and not live!' This solemn, terrifying message must have been received by King Hezekiah with fear. It was not merely the end of life, but the fact that he had not provided a seed for the throne of David, as was the responsibility of the monarch. The line of David was threatened by the neglect of Hezekiah. He was 'sick unto death,' a physical malady that was in a very virulent and incurable form, implying the living death of leprosy (v 7). It typified the cause of mortality in mankind: the 'law of sin and death' which afflicts all mankind, and from which there is no cure apart from the divine redemption. It was clearly 'a sign' (2Ch 32:34), foreshadowing the death and resurrection of the Lord.

"It was this condition that drove the king to prayer (v 3). He was without a successor, and his death would weaken the attitude of the people in resistance of the Sin-power Sennacherib. It would mean the end of all hopes to establish the fullness of the divine worship (cp Isa 38:9-20). But a wondrous answer was received: vv 4-6; it answered the five-fold blessing of grace. Within three days he would be restored, as Christ came from the darkness of the earth in three days. Hezekiah's miraculous restoration was hailed by the nations round about. Congratulations were received from Merodach-Baladan, but Hezekiah's folly in sharing such things with Babylon was condemned by Isaiah: vv 14,15. The king was shown the folly of putting confidence in the flesh, and thereby strengthened the instrument of divine punishment against his people. Thus, though typical of the Lord Jesus, he did not manifest the purity and righteousness of Yahshua, in whose great strength we trust" (GEM).

IN THOSE DAYS HEZEKIAH BECAME ILL: "In those days" (v 1) refers to the year Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem (701 BC), since Hezekiah died 15 years later in 686 BC.

PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER: Setting one's life in order is a significant thing in the service of God: Gen 22:9; Exo 26:17; 39:37; 40;4,23; Lev 1:7,8,12; 6:12; 24:8; 1Ki 18:33; 2Ki 20:1; 2Ch 13:11; 29:35; Eze 41:6; Acts 18:23; 1Co 11:34; 14:40; Tit 1:5.

Do we just muddle through life, or is there some order and structure to our worship and devotion to the Father? For example, do we have a strategy to ensure that we read Scripture regularly and pray regularly?

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE; YOU WILL NOT RECOVER: But sometimes what God announced through His prophets seemed inevitable, but when His people prayed it became negotiable (cp Gen 32:26; Exo 32:7-14; Jam 4:2).

2Ki 20:3

Hezekiah's prayer was answered immediately. Why was this? We know that God hears (and answers) prayers that are voiced "according to his will" (1Jo 5:14); we have to conclude, therefore, that what Hezekiah asked was according to God's will. Psa 102, for example, is a prayer of a man in dire straits. Maybe this is that prayer of Hezekiah. If so, it is instructive, because the Psalmist prays for the fulfilment of God's plan with Zion rather than seeking his own deliverance.

2Ki 20:5

THE GOD OF YOUR FATHER DAVID: God sent His answer to Hezekiah's prayer back to him through Isaiah (cp 2Ki 20:4). The LORD identified Himself as the God of David, his forefather. Perhaps the reference to David helped Hezekiah remember God's promises to David about the perpetuity of his dynasty (2Sa 7). This reminded the king that God would remain faithful and care for His people.

2Ki 20:6

FIFTEEN YEARS: Perhaps related to the 15 songs of degrees (Psa 120-134).

I WILL DEFEND THIS CITY: Cp Psa 121:2-8; 124:1-3,6; 125:2; 126:2,3; 127:1.

2Ki 20:7

Instances of signs that accompany healings: 2Ki 2:20-22; 4:41; 20:7.

2Ki 20:8

2Ki 20:8.

HEZEKIAH HAD ASKED ISAIAH, "WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN THAT THE LORD WILL HEAL ME AND THAT I WILL GO UP TO THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD ON THE THIRD DAY FROM NOW?": Hezekiah asks for a sign that he will in fact go back to the temple in three days. Rather than an indication of unbelief, his request should be viewed against the background of his father Ahaz's refusal of a sign in Isa 7:12. Isaiah gladly offers Hezekiah a choice of signs (v 9).

I WILL GO UP TO THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD: This is consistent with Hezekiah's previously-shown zeal for the house of the LORD (2Ch 29:3; cp Psa 122:1,9; 134:1,2).

2Ki 20:9

Vv 9-11: The rare word used consistently for "steps" or "degrees" here is "ma'alah" -- also sw used in titles "Songs of DEGREES"!

2Ki 20:11

TEN STEPS: Or "ten degrees". Possible miraculous event? See Lesson, 360-day year.

At this point, insert Hezekiah's song of praise and thanksgiving (Isa 38:9-20).

THE STAIRWAY OF AHAZ: Evidently an exterior stairway that led to his upper room on the roof of the palace, where Ahaz had erected altars (2Ki 23:12). This stairway was probably not built as a sundial, but it served that purpose as the sun cast its shadow on more or fewer steps depending on the time of day. That stairway may have been constructed as a sundial, or a different stairway constructed for that purpose could be in view. Evidently Hezekiah could see it from his sickbed. The passing away of daylight on the stairway symbolized the passing away of Hezekiah's life, and the return of sunlight represented the restoration of life.

At this point, insert Hezekiah's song of praise and thanksgiving (Isa 38:9-20).

2Ki 20:12

MERODACH-BALADAN: Lit, "the god Marduk has given a son". He raised Babylon to a position from which it threatened and eventually overthrew Assyrian dominance in the ancient Near East (cp Isa 21:1-10). He was the first king of Babylon, and he led that nation during two periods: c 721-710 BC and c 703-702 BC. In 710 BC Sargon, another Babylonian leader, ousted him, but in 702 BC the Assyrians defeated him. After this defeat, he continued to foment revolt against Assyria in the Fertile Crescent. This seems to have been his motivation for cultivating Hezekiah's friendship by sending letters and a present when he heard of Hezekiah's recovery.

2Ki 20:13

HEZEKIAH RECEIVED THE MESSENGERS AND SHOWED THEM ALL THAT WAS IN HIS STOREHOUSES -- THE SILVER, THE GOLD, THE SPICES AND THE FINE OIL -- HIS ARMORY AND EVERYTHING FOUND AMONG HIS TREASURES. THERE WAS NOTHING IN HIS PALACE OR IN ALL HIS KINGDOM THAT HEZEKIAH DID NOT SHOW THEM: Hezekiah received Merodach-baladan warmly since he had expressed sympathy toward him and because the Babylonians shared Judah's antagonism toward Assyria. But showing the Babylonians all of his wealth and military resources went beyond what Hezekiah needed to do for such a friendly visitor. It expressed a desire to share these resources with an ally who might help Judah oppose Assyria. Thus Hezekiah's act demonstrated trust in Babylon and reliance on her for safety.

"Here was a ready-made opportunity for Hezekiah to glorify God before the pagan Babylonians, to tell of his greatness and of his grace. Instead, he succumbed to the temptation to glorify himself and to prove to the Chaldeans that he was a worthy partner for any sort of coalition they might have in mind. There is no indication that they were interested in such an alliance, however. Much more likely they simply wished to encourage someone whom they viewed as a petty kinglet without making any commitment on their part" (Oswalt).

This visit constituted a divine test of Hezekiah's heart. 2Ch 32:31 reads, "And even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land [namely Hezekiah's recovery], God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart."

2Ki 20:14

Vv 14,15: God's Spirit and Hezekiah's failure to trust the Lord undoubtedly moved Isaiah to confront Hezekiah. First, the prophet asked about the visit of the Babylonian ambassadors and what Hezekiah had done with them. Hezekiah told the truth and put his actions in the best light, but he did not relate what the envoys had said or explain his motive. He put the best possible light on his actions. Nevertheless he put his own neck in the noose by answering Isaiah's simple questions as he did (cp Gal 6:7).

2Ki 20:17

THE TIME WILL SURELY COME WHEN EVERYTHING IN YOUR PALACE, AND ALL THAT YOUR FATHERS HAVE STORED UP UNTIL THIS DAY, WILL BE CARRIED OFF TO BABYLON. NOTHING WILL BE LEFT, SAYS THE LORD: This happened finally in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem (cp 2Ki 24:13; 25:13-15; 2Ch 36:18; Jer 20:5). Isaiah's mention of Babylon as the enemy undoubtedly shocked Hezekiah because at this time Assyria was the great threat to Judah.

This one sin of Hezekiah's did not doom Judah to Babylonian captivity. However, it illustrates the pride that the whole nation and its leaders manifested that ultimately resulted in the captivity.

2Ki 20:18

AND SOME OF YOUR DESCENDANTS, YOUR OWN FLESH AND BLOOD, THAT WILL BE BORN TO YOU, WILL BE TAKEN AWAY, AND THEY WILL BECOME EUNUCHS IN THE PALACE OF THE KING OF BABYLON: Some of Hezekiah's descendants would also be taken captive to Babylon. (It is very probable that at the time of the events in Isa 36 -- 39 Hezekiah had no children. His son, Manasseh, began reigning when he was 12 years old, and Hezekiah died a year later, in 686 BC. Thus Isaiah's announcement here may have sparked a hope of some descendants in Hezekiah's mind. As usual, God's promise of judgment contained some hope: cp with Psa 127:3-5; Psa 128.) This became true of the king's physical descendants: his son Manasseh (2Ch 33:11), King Jehoiachin (2Ki 24:12), King Zedekiah (2Ki 25:7), and Daniel and companions (Dan 1:3). It also became true of many of Hezekiah's people, his "children" in that sense, when Nebuchadnezzar carried three deportations of Judahites off to Babylon (cp 2Ki 24:12-16; 2Ch 33:11; Dan 1:3,4,6).

2Ki 20:19

THE WORD OF THE LORD YOU HAVE SPOKEN IS GOOD: A humble acknowledgment of the preeminence of God's will (cp 2Ch 32:26).

THERE WILL BE PEACE AND SECURITY IN MY LIFETIME: Which, after all, is all that any man can aspire to! For Hezekiah's ardent desire for peace, cp Psa 120:6,7; 122:6,7; 125:5; 128:6.

2Ki 20:20

HOW HE MADE THE POOL AND THE TUNNEL BY WHICH HE BROUGHT WATER INTO THE CITY: Hezekiah's 1,777 foot long tunnel was a noteworthy accomplishment. It brought water from the Gihon spring outside the city wall, under the wall of Jerusalem, and into the city, specifically to the pool of Siloam. This made Jerusalem much more self-sufficient in times of invasion than it would have been otherwise.

See Lesson, Hezekiah's tunnel.

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