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Archive for the ‘2 Chronicles 32’ Category

(For more on the interpretation of these verses see the post below – The Story of the Babylonian Envoys).

Today we end our time of focusing on Hezekiah by over viewing 2 Chronicles 32:24-31 and the story of the visit of the Babylonian envoys.  But first we have to set the background, and this means first looking at . . .

Hezekiah’s greatness (background #1)

Last week, in 2 Chronicles 32:23, we saw that after the defeat of Assyria, “many brought . . . precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.” This is further expanded on in vs. 27-30:

“Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.”

We talked last week a bit about Hezekiah’s water tunnel. It goes from the Gihon spring outside the city, to the pool of Siloam inside the city, 1750 feet long. They dug through rock, starting at both ends and met in the middle. It was an amazing engineering feat.

There are also pottery impressions from jar handles that have Hezekiah’s royal seal on them. Many of these have been found. These were most likely used to store food items – which speaks to the abundance during his reign.

So Hezekiah was great and wealthy. He was exalted in the sight of the nations. And this is background to our story, because the Babylonians came due to his fame and they came bearing gifts as well.

Hezekiah’s recovery from sickness and a sign (background #2)

Chapter 32:24 says, “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign.”

Now, you understand that these stories of the kings of Judah that we have been looking at over the last year, are also told in other places, most prominently in 1 and 2 Kings, but in Hezekiah’s case also in Isaiah. And in these other places there are sometimes different stories or they vary in the level of detail they go into.

In this particular case:

  • in 2 Chronicles the story is covered in 1 verse
  • in 2 Kings there are 11 verses, and
  • in Isaiah there are 22 verses.

So, with this story, we will actually have to look at one of these other sources, because the writer of 2 Chronicles simply assumes that we know this story.

For today, here are the basics from 2 Kings 20:1-11:

  • Hezekiah is told by Isaiah that he will die from his illness
  • But he prays and weeps and God hears his prayer and promises to give him 15 more years of life.
  • And he is given a sign that this will happen – the shadow of the setting sun moved backwards “ten steps.”

This is an amazing story, and I encourage you to read the longer versions. But in 2 Chronicles this is all background (just one verse) for the story he wants to focus on, which is . . .

The visit of the Babylonian envoys

As the writer says in 2 Chronicles 32:31, these envoys “had been sent to Hezekiah to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land.” So he had to mention the healing and the sign.

But even though the visit of these envoys is his focus, again, he doesn’t tell the story! He just makes comments on it, assuming that we already know the story. So lets lay out the story from 2 Kings 20 along side the comments of the writer of 2 Chronicles in chapter 32.

2 Kings 20:12 tells us that envoys came from the king of Babylon. Babylon was still subservient to Assyria, but it was soon to be the next great world power. They had heard Hezekiah was sick and so they brought a gift to him.  2 Chronicles 32:31 comments, “And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes 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.” So there is more going on here than meets the eye. There is a spiritual or faith part; a test from God.

2 Kings 20:13; 15, Hezekiah showed them “all his treasure.” Everything he had he laid out before them. Notice the pronouns. In v. 13 – “his” is used 5 times in connection with his wealth; and in v. 15 – “my” is used 2 times in this way. 2 Chronicles 32:25 brings out what is only subtle in 2 Kings. “But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud.”

Think of all the benefit done to him:

  • God had delivered him from the Assyrians
  • God had healed him and given him an amazing sign
  • God had exalted him, including all his wealth

Yet here Hezekiah was, boasting before the envoys of all that “he” had. He got caught up in his own exaltation and forgot about God, who gave him all that he had. The writer of Chronicles makes this clear in 32:29. It says, “for God had given him very great possessions.”

2 Kings 20:14-18 goes on to tell us that Isaiah confronts Hezekiah and warns of coming judgment. Vs. 16-18: “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 2 Chronicles 32:25 says it this way, “therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.” This refers to Isaiah’s word of coming judgment.

But 2 Kings 20:14-15; 19 tell us that Hezekiah told the truth when confronted by Isaiah. And then after hearing of the judgment, Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” He accepts that what he has done is wrong and he submits to God’s rebuke and will. (See the similar response of Eli to a word of judgment – 2 Samuel 3:18).  2 Chronicles 32:26 says, “But 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.”

How many other kings imprisoned or killed the prophets who rebuked them? Yet because of his humility (his response to Isaiah and his change of heart) God had mercy on him and spared that generation from the coming judgment on Judah, for all their unfaithfulness throughout the centuries. The judgment was coming. It was just a matter of when at this point. And God put it off because of his repentance.

[Note on 2 Kings 20:19, “For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?'” The sense is not, ‘Oh good, someone else will bear my judgment.’ Rather, it is that judgment is inevitable, given Judah’s past sins (which he has added to) but that it is postponed for now. The tipping point had already been reached, and for now it is just a matter of whether God will be merciful to delay it, which God did. See the similar situation with Josiah in 2 Kings 22:15-20.]

Two lessons from our story

1. God tests us when times are good, not just when times are bad or there is a crisis. And these may well be more difficult tests, because we aren’t as alert as when there is a crisis going on, because we are not as focused.

What I’m really saying is that, the good times are themselves the test. What will we do when things are good; when we have an abundance?

Deuteronomy 8 talks about testing. It talks about having lots of food, herds and flocks, good houses, silver and gold. And it says, “Take care lest . . . your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God” – vs. 11-14. It says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” – v. 17. This is exactly what Hezekiah did.

Well, God also tests us when we have an abundance; when things are good. Like with Hezekiah, God wants to see what is in our heart (2 Chronicles 32:31). Is it “lifted up”? (Deuteronomy 8:14); is it “proud”? (2 Chronicles 32:25). Will we “make return according to the benefit done to”  us by giving glory to God? (2 Chronicles 32:25). Or do we think “my power” has “gotten me this wealth”? (Deuteronomy 8:17).

We see the results of pride in Hezekiah’s life and it is a warning to us, to respond differently. Let us not forget God in our good times or take credit for God’s gifts to us.

2. What to do when we fail a test. We all fail at times, sometimes horribly. When we stumble and fall, what should we do to get back up and moving forward again?

Well, “Hezekiah humbled himself” (2 Chronicles 32:26).

  • He received the rebuke of Isaiah (2 Kings 20:14-18). The prophet came to him and told him that what he did was wrong and he received it.
  • He confessed truthfully what he did (2 Kings 20:14-15). Yes, the envoys came and I showed them all of “my” stuff.
  • And he accepted the consequences (2 Kings 20:19) Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’” Even though it was a hard word. He accepted God’s discipline.

In all of this he showed a true change of heart. From pride to humility. He turned away from his sin. And that’s when the mercy came. So that, although he had fallen, he was able to recover and move forward, and he was remembered as a great and righteous king (2 Chronicles 32:32-33).

In the same way, when we fail, we must also humble ourselves:

  • We need to receive rebuke and correction from others. And this requires humility. We all have blind spots. But how many of us are humble enough to receive correction from someone else without being defensive or even hostile?
  • We need to confess our sins. We need to tell the truth about what we did, which takes humility.
  • And we need to accept the consequences of our actions. When we reap what we sow, we must not blame others, but rather in humility, take responsibility for what we have done.

We must show forth a true change of heart as well; we must turn from our sin. And this is when the mercy will flow for us. It is never too late for God’s mercy for those who repent. And when we repent, then we can get back up and move forward again with what God has for our lives. And we can be remembered as one who loved and served God.

These are lessons we learn from Hezekiah’s failure and from his recovery.

William Higgins

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This part of 2 Chronicles is subject to a wide variety of interpretations – with almost every commentator connecting it up with 2 Kings in a different way. It is my understanding that the whole of this is focused on the story of the visit of the Babylonian envoys – seen as a test from God.

This is the literary structure of the passage as I see it:

Background: 32:24 – “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign.”

A. Hezekiah’s heart: 32:25-26 – “But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But 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.”

B. Hezekiah’s greatness: 32:27-30 – “And Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds.  He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.”

`A. Hezekiah’s heart:  32:31 – “And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes 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.”

Here is my understanding of the logic of this arrangement. It is all designed to give commentary on the story of the envoys as a test from God.

Background: The writer  assumes that the reader knows this story of the healing and the sign, which is why it is only briefly mentioned. It has to be mentioned because this is why (or one reason why) the envoys came – 32:31. And their coming is what sets up the test for Hezekiah.

B. Hezekiah’s greatness: This middle section speaks to his exaltation in the sight of the nations. It is again, background to the story of the envoys, for Hezekiah’s greatness is what makes him worth visiting, and the envoys come bearing gifts in 2 Kings. This greatness and wealth is an essential part of the test of Hezekiah.

A & `A: Hezekiah’s heart: On both sides of the section on his greatness come the commentary on the visit of the envoys. This is a chiastic structure, focused on Hezekiah’s heart (mentioned in both sections), with the wealth and greatness in between, which is the source of the test of his heart.

Again in this case, as with the story of the healing and sign, the story of the envoys is assumed. It is not told. It is simply commented on to bring out the true meaning of what is going on.

Hezekiah failed because of his pride. He did not make return to God for all the benefit done to him.  This connects up with the story in 2 Kings 20 when he showed the Babylonians “all his treasure house” – v. 13.

This should not be seen as connected to the story of his healing, for as Isaiah 38:9-20 records, Hezekiah was grateful. He wrote a Psalm that gives thanks for the healing.

Rather, given that Deuteronomy 8 is most certainly in the background of this story (testing, wealth, lifted up heart, forgetting God, thinking that wealth is from one’s own hand) the focus is surely on the story of the envoys. Deuteronomy 8 speaks of testing and also talks about having lots of food, herds and flocks, good houses, silver and gold.  It says, “Take care lest . . . your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God” – vs. 11-14. It says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” – v. 17. This is exactly what Hezekiah did. The writer of 2 Chronicles simply makes explicit what is subtle in the pronouns used throughout the story in 2 Kings with reference to “his” treasures.

The wrath that comes connects up with Isaiah’s confrontation with Hezekiah about this. The humility spoken of in 2 Chronicles has to do with Hezekiah’s  allowing the prophet to confront him, and his speaking the truth to Isaiah about what happened. He also shows humility by accepting the word of the Lord of Isaiah. The delay of the wrath until the future fits perfectly with what Isaiah spoke – that it will come upon his sons in the future.

The second `A section finally explicitly mentions the incident of the Babylonian envoys and sums up – this was a test from God.

From the Chronicler’s point of view, Hezekiah initially failed, but then through humility he was able to recover. He received mercy.

William Higgins

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We are continuing to look at Hezekiah. Today we look at a time of crisis in Hezekiah’s reign, when Judah was invaded, and how God delivered them.

The story

It’s told in three different places: 2 Chronicles 32:1-23, 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37. Obviously it’s an important story. Our version, from 2 Chronicles, is the shortest and the most to the point. We will stick to how it’s told here, with a reference here and there to 2 Kings. We begin with –

The invasion of Judea. 32:1 says – “After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself.” This actually happens about 14 years later (701 BC), as we learn from 2 Kings 18:13. Our text simply says, “After these things.” The time period is compressed in our version.

So Hezekiah did all these acts of faithfulness, his religious reforms, and then here comes an enemy ready to attack. And not just any enemy. Assyria was the super-power in Hezekiah’s day. No army could stand before it, and it controlled the whole region.

32:2 says, “ . . . Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem . . ..” The dire situation became clear to him. Sennacherib didn’t just want to raid Judah and then get some tribute money to go away. He was set on the destruction of Judah.

By way of context – it was his predecessors that had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and had resettled them in various countries, so that they faded into history. They were no more. And if Sennacherib succeeded, Judah would suffer the same fate. This was an all out assault on the existence of the people of God. So . . .

Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem for battle. First, he dealt with the city’s water. 32:2-4 say, “ . . . he planned with his officers and his mighty men to stop the water of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the brook that flowed through the land, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?’”

Its not exactly clear what this refers to. The main spring near Jerusalem was the Gihon spring. We learn later, in 2 Chronicles 32:30, that Hezekiah dug a tunnel and rerouted the water from this spring into the city. Whether this is what is going on here or not isn’t clear. The point is that during siege warfare, when you can’t go outside your walls – water sources become an issue.

In his preparations he also focused on the walls. 32:5 says, “He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David.”

Finally, he also prepared the army. 32:5-6 say, “He also made weapons and shields in abundance. And he set combat commanders over the people.” Next . . .

Hezekiah encouraged the people.

32:6-8 say, he “. . . gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’”

Hezekiah is a real encourager. This comes out in several of the stories in 2 Chronicles. He is a realist, for sure. He’s telling them, ‘Yes, this is a big deal’ – the most powerful king in the world is here, with “all the horde that is with him;” his army.

But he is also a man of faith, and so he encourages them. The Assyrians only have the strength of the flesh. “There is more with us than with him.” He is looking at the reality of the spirit realm. He tells them that God is with us “to help us and to fight our battles.”

32:8 says, “And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” They received his words. But then comes

Sennacherib’s message:

  • He sought to instill fear – vs. 9; 11. During the siege, they said, “you will die by famine and thirst.” The more ‘earthy’ 2 Kings version says, they “will eat their own dung and . . . drink their own urine” – v. 27.
  • He slandered Hezekiah – v. 11-12; 15. He called him a deceiver. He said his religious reforms were an affront to God (tearing down altars), and he is now being punished. Sennacherib was seeking to get the people to turn on Hezekiah.
  • He proclaimed that God will not save them – v. 11, 13-15. This last verse says, “no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand!” This is the constant theme of the messagers and a letter he sent later (v. 17). Yahweh, your God, cannot save. Don’t trust in him.

This is psychological warfare for sure. The messengers spoke in Hebrew so that all in the city could hear the words, to frighten and intimidate them – v. 18. Sennacherib is trying to get them to give up even before the fight – v. 18.

This is also blasphemy. As 32:19 says, “And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of people’s hands.”

Hezekiah responded to all this with prayer. 32:20 says, “Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven.” This is Isaiah from the book of Isaiah in the Bible. They both offer up prayers to the Lord.

And God answered in an amazing way; a truly awesome . .

Deliverance and vindication. 32:21 says, “And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria.” Now, there was other fighting going on in Judea. But in the fight over Jerusalem no Judean soldier even had to lift a hand. God did all the fighting. Indeed, it only took one angel. And according to 2 Kings – 185,000 died among the Assyrians.

32:21 says, “So he returned with shame of face to his own land.” The mightiest king in the world; the one who boasted and taunted, went away humbled.

32:21 says, “And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword.” This is also time compressed (as we saw at the beginning of the story). This took place about 20 years later. But what a horrible fate. The one who would cut off the line of David, was himself cut off by his own sons.

32:22-23 end our story, “So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. And many brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.”

Sennachrib’s message was, ‘Yahweh cannot save.’ And, indeed, not no other gods had saved their people. But Yahweh, the true God, “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

God brought about a reversal: Hezekiah was weak and Sennacherib arrogant; but now Sennacherib is shamed and Hezekiah is empowered – “exalted in the sight of all nations.” But not only this, there is spiritual warfare going on here. The god of Sennacherib is humiliated, while the renown of Yahweh spread among the nations. He did what no other god could do!

Lessons on testing from this story

1. God allows us to be tested. And God allows this, even when we are faithful. As v. 1 says, “After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah . . ..” Hezekiah had done so much good, why such a hardship? We all ask this. And of course, we have to ask it now against the background of Jesus who had no sin, but was tested beyond what any of us will ever go through.

Testing does not necessarily mean that you have done wrong. God allows the faithful to be tested.

And we also learn that God allows us to go through hard testing. Here, their lives were on the line. And they had an arrogant tyrant boasting and taunting them and telling them to give up.

And we go through some really difficult times, which God allows. And Satan says to us, ‘be afraid, give up before the fight even begins, don’t trust in God, God won’t save you, despair.’

But we also learn – 2. What to do in a time of testing.

Take practical steps to address the situation – vs. 2-6. That is, use common sense and godly wisdom. Hezekiah worked on the water, the wall and the army of the city. Don’t rely on these (Isaiah 22:9-11). But if there are things you can do, do them.

– Receive encouragement – v. 7. Hezekiah encouraged his people (which is a reminder to each of us to encourage others in their times of testing). And the people received it. They needed to be told to, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed.” And we all need to hear this at times.

– Remember the truth – v. 8. Our God is the true God. And as Hezekiah said, God is “with us . . . to help us and to fight our battles.” Satan will deceive us and lie to us. But we have to keep the truth before us. Our God is real and he will help us.

– Pray – v. 20. The turning point is when Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed. Why is this key? Because God can sustain us and deliver from any trial. And so we too need to cry out to God in prayer in our times of crisis.

3. God is our great Savior. Sennacherib arrogantly proclaimed that our God cannot save. But our God can save. It took only one angel. Do you know how many angels God has? Myriads upon myriads. They are innumerable (Hebrews 12:22).

God saved Hezekiah, he has continued to save his people, and he still saves us and will continue to save us. God doesn’t change.

So whatever situation you are in, if you truly turn to God in prayer, know this:

  • God will be with you – v. 8
  • God will help you – v. 8
  • And God will deliver you – v. 8; 21

William Higgins

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