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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for 2 Kings 20

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God Extends Hezekiah’s Life

A. Hezekiah’s recovery.

1. (2Ki 20:1) Isaiah’s announcement to Hezekiah.

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’ ”

a. In those days: This happened at the time of the Assyrian invasion of Judah, because Jerusalem had not been delivered from the Assyrian threat yet (2 Kings 20:6). The events of this chapter are also recorded in Isaiah 38.

i. “Interpreters agree that the events described in chapters 38 and 39 preceded the invasion of 701 b.c... Many date these events in 703 b.c., but the evidence more strongly suggests a date of about 712 b.c.” (Wolf, commentary on Isaiah)

b. Was sick and near death: We are not told how Hezekiah became sick. It may have been through something obvious to all, or it may have been through something known only to God. However Hezekiah became sick, it was certainly permitted by the Lord.

c. Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live: God was remarkably kind to Hezekiah, telling him that his death was near. Not all people are given the time to set your house in order.

i. We know from comparing 2 Kings 18:2 with 2 Kings 20:6 that Hezekiah was 39 years old when he learned he would soon die.

ii. “Such threatenings, though absolutely expressed, have ofttimes secret conditions, which God reserves in his own breast.” (Poole)

2. (2Ki 20:2-3) Hezekiah’s prayer.

Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

a. He turned his face toward the wall: This shows how earnest Hezekiah was in his prayer. He directed his prayer in privacy to God, and not to any man.

i. “Turning his face to the wall, thereby both dismissing Isaiah and entering into solitary confinement with God, Hezekiah poured out his heart to the Lord.” (Patterson and Austel)

b. Remember now, O Lord: To our ears, Hezekiah’s prayer might almost sound ungodly. In it, his focus is on self-justification and his own merits. It is pretty much as if Hezekiah prayed, “Lord, I’ve been such a good boy and You aren’t being fair to me. Remember what a good boy I’ve been and rescue me.”

i. But under the Old Covenant, this was a valid principle on which to approach God. Passages like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 show that under the Old Covenant, blessing and cursing was sent by God on the basis of obedience or disobedience. On that principle, David could write in Psalm 15: Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1-2)

ii. But under the New Covenant, we are blessed on the principle of faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:13-14). Hezekiah’s principle of prayer isn’t fitting for a Christian today. We pray in the name of Jesus (John 16:23-24), not in the name of who we are or what we have done.

iii. “We come across similar pleas again and again in the prayers of God’s children of old. The Psalms abound with them. But we do not find them in the New Testament. The Church bases its pleas on Christ’s righteousness.” (Bultema)

c. And Hezekiah wept bitterly: Hezekiah lived under the Old Covenant, and at that time there was not a confident assurance of the glory in the life beyond. Instead, Jesus brought life and immortality came to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). Also, under the Old Covenant Hezekiah would have regarded this as evidence that God was very displeased with him.

i. “But why should a saint be fond of life, or afraid of death, since to him it is as his father’s horse, to carry him to his father’s house?” (Trapp)

3. (2Ki 20:4-7) Isaiah brings God’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer.

And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.” ’ ” Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

a. I will add to your days fifteen years: In response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God granted Hezekiah fifteen years more.

i. “Hezekiah was granted an added fifteen years; since he died c. 686 b.c. this promise can be dated from about the time of the siege of Jerusalem. His recovery was also symbolic of the recovery of Jerusalem.” (Wiseman)

ii. Because Hezekiah recovered, was God’s word (You shall die and not live, 2 Kings 20:1) proved false? No; first, Hezekiah did in fact die – just not as soon as God first announced. Second, when God announces judgment it is almost always an invitation to repent and to receive mercy.

iii. “Hezekiah, though but a little prince, suddenly found himself a wealthy man, having moreover one thing in his treasury which could not have been discovered among the riches of any other living man, namely, a writ from the Court of Heaven, that he should live fifteen years.... This great prosperity was a great temptation, far more difficult to endure than Rabshakeh’s letter, and all the ills which invasion brought upon the land.” (Spurgeon)

b. I have heard your prayer: Hezekiah’s prayer was important. By all indications, if Hezekiah had not made his passionate prayer, then his life would not have been extended. This is another demonstration of the principle that prayer matters.

i. In fact, God gave two gifts to Hezekiah. First, He gave the gift of an extended life. Second, He gave the gift of knowing he only had fifteen years left. If he were wise, this would still give King Hezekiah the motivation to walk right with God and to set his house in order.

c. I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David: This promise was in accord with the Lord’s previous prophecies of deliverance, and dates this chapter as being before God destroyed the Assyrian army (Isaiah 37:36-37).

i. The connection of the two promises indicates that one would confirm the other. When Hezekiah recovered his health, he could know that God would also deliver him from the Assyrians.

d. Take a lump of figs: Apparently, God used this medical treatment to bring Hezekiah’s healing. God can, and often does, bring healing through medical treatments, and apart from an unusual direction from God, medical treatment should never be rejected in the name of faith.

3. (2Ki 20:8-11) God’s sign to Hezekiah: the retreating shadow.

And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?” Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.” So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

a. What is the sign that the Lord will heal me: Hezekiah wanted a sign, and a sign that would allow him to go up to the house of the Lord. This was because he could not, and would not go up to the house of the Lord until he was healed, so the two were connected.

i. “Hezekiah quite properly asks for a sign to assure himself of his recovery. His hypocritical father, in mock modesty, refused to ask for a sign.” (Knapp)

b. This is the sign... that the Lord will do this thing which He has spoken: God showed even more mercy to Hezekiah. God was under no obligation to give this sign. In fact, God would have been justified in saying, “I said it and you believe it. How dare you not take My word for true?” But in real love, God gave Hezekiah more than he needed or deserved.

i. God shows the same mercy to us. It should be enough for God to simply say to us, “I love you.” But God did so much to demonstrate His love to us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

c. Shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees? God promised to do something completely miraculous for the confirming sign. He promised to make the shadow on the sundial move backward instead of forward.

i. This was a wonderfully appropriate sign for Hezekiah. By bringing the shadow of the sundial move backward, it gave more time in a day – just as God gave Hezekiah more time.

ii. “It was a miracle, whatever way we take it. God could have reversed the revolution of the earth, had He seen fit to do so – for he is a poor clockmaker even, who cannot turn the hands of his own workmanship backward; or He could have caused the phenomenon by the ordinary law of refraction.” (Knapp)

iii. “Certainly there is no need to postulate any reversal of the earth’s rotation or receding of the sun. The fact that the miracle was felt only ‘in the land’ (i.e. Judah; cf. 2 Chronicles 32:31) makes such solutions most dubious.” (Patterson and Austel)

iv. No matter how the miracle happened, 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 tells us that Hezekiah did not respond rightly to this gift of healing: In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the LORD; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, 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 reception of the Babylonian envoys.

1. (2Ki 20:12-13) Hezekiah bares the riches of his kingdom – out of pride.

At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures; the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory; all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.

a. At that time: This was after the miraculous recovery of Hezekiah. The Lord was good enough to give King Hezekiah 15 years more of life; but it was up to Hezekiah if those years would be lived in wisdom and to the glory of God.

b. King of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered: Apparently this was a gesture of kindness from the king of Babylon, showing concern to Hezekiah as fellow royalty.

i. “The sun – which was their god – had honoured Hezekiah; therefore they were sent to honour him too with a visit and a present.” (Trapp)

ii. “Sending letters and a gift by envoys was the normal Babylonian diplomatic procedure.” (Wiseman)

c. Berodach-Baladan: His presence shows that this was more than a courtesy call. This was an attempt to bring the kingdom of Judah on to the side of the Babylonians against the Assyrians.

i. “According to Josephus (Ant. X.2.2.) the purpose of the visit was to secure Hezekiah as an ally against an anti-Assyrian coalition.” (Wiseman)

ii. “The real reason of the visit was political; Babylon desired to throw off the yoke of Assyria. What nation was more likely to help them than the one at the hands of which Assyria had been so completely defeated? Babylon sought alliance with Judah against Assyria.” (Morgan)

d. And Hezekiah was pleased with them: We can imagine that this was flattering for King Hezekiah. After all, Judah was a lowly nation with little power, and Babylon was a junior superpower. To receive this notice and recognition from the king of Babylon must have really made Hezekiah feel he was important.

e. Showed them the house of his treasures. We can imagine Hezekiah wanting to please these envoys from Babylon, and wanting to show them that they had good reason to be impressed with him and his kingdom. So he did everything he could to impress them, and showed them the very best riches of the royal household – and he showed them everything (There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them).

i. As the coming rebuke from Isaiah will demonstrate, this was nothing but proud foolishness on Hezekiah’s part. He was in the dangerous place of wanting to please and impress man, especially ungodly men.

ii. “It was not spiritual pride, as with his great-grandfather Uzziah; but worldly pride – ‘the pride of life,’ we might say. It was his precious things, his armor, his treasures, his house, his dominion, etc., that he showed the ambassadors from Babylon.” (Knapp)

iii. Hezekiah faced – and failed under – a temptation common to many, especially those in ministry – the temptation of success. Many men who stand strong against the temptations of failure and weakness fail under the temptations of success and strength. Think about the extent of Hezekiah’s success:

· He was godly
· He was victorious
· He was healed
· He had experienced a miracle
· He had been promised a long life
· He had connection to a great prophet
· He had seen a remarkable sign
· He was wealthy
· He was famous
· He was praised and honored
· He was honored by God

iv. Nevertheless, he sinned greatly after this great gift of fifteen more years of life and the deliverance of Jerusalem. We might say that Hezekiah sinned in at least five ways:

· Pride, in that he was proud of the honors the Babylonians brought.
· Ingratitude, in that he took honor to himself that really belonged to God.
· Abusing the gifts given to him, where he took the gifts and favors to his own honor and gratification of his lusts (2 Chronicles 32:25-26).
· Carnal confidence, in that he trusted in the league he had made with the King of Babylon.
· Missing opportunity, in that he had a great opportunity to testify to the Babylonian envoys about the greatness of God and the Lord’s blessing on Judah. Instead, he glorified himself.

v. “Why did he not show these learned heathen God’s house? ‘Every whit’ of which showeth ‘His glory’ (Psalm 29:9, margin). There he could have explained to them the meaning of the brazen altar, and the sacrifices offered thereon; and who can tell what the results might not have been in the souls of these idolaters?” (Knapp)

2. (2Ki 20:14-18) Isaiah brings a rebuke from God to Hezekiah.

Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” So Hezekiah said, “They came from a far country, from Babylon.” And he said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ”

a. What did these men say, and from where did they come to you? Isaiah probably already knew the answer to these questions. It was likely that his questions were guided by God to allow Hezekiah the opportunity to answer honestly (which he did) and to see his error himself (which he apparently did not).

b. They have seen all that is in my house: There is the flavor that Hezekiah was proud to tell Isaiah this. He was like a small-town boy who was awed by the attention of a big-city man. “Isaiah, you should have seen how impressed those Babylonians were by all I have. They really know we are something here in Judah!” Hezekiah’s pride and inflated ego seemed to make him blind.

c. All that is in your house... shall be carried to Babylon: Hezekiah thought that this display of wealth would impress the Babylonians. All it did was show them what the kings of Judah had and what they could get from them. One day the kings of Babylon would come and take it all away. This was fulfilled in 2 Kings 24:10-13 and 2 Kings 25:11-17, under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

i. “This was proudly and foolishly done; for now gold-thirsty Babylon knew where to have her draught, where to fetch a fat and fit booty.” (Trapp)

ii. It would be more than a hundred years before Babylon carried away the royal treasures of Judah, but they did come, just as Isaiah prophesied. This prophecy is so remarkably accurate that many skeptics insist – without grounds other than unbelief – a later “Isaiah” must have written it after the fact.

d. And they shall take away some of your sons... and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon: Worse than taking the material riches of the kings of Judah, the king of Babylon would take the sons of the king of Judah – his true riches!

i. One fulfillment of this was the taking of Daniel and his companions into captivity. Daniel was one of the king’s descendants taken into the palace of the king of Babylon (Daniel 1:1-4). Because of this promise of God through Isaiah, many think that Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs when they were taken to serve in the palace.

ii. Clarke on the word eunuchs: “Perhaps this means no more than that they should become household servants to the kings of Babylon. See the fulfillment, 2 Kings 24:13-15, and Daniel 1:1-3.”

3. (2Ki 20:19-21) Hezekiah’s curious reaction and the end of his reign.

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah; all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city; are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place.

a. The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good! This was a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announced coming judgment, and all he could respond with was relief that it would not happen in his lifetime.

i. In this, Hezekiah showed himself to be almost the exact opposite of an “others-centered” person. He was almost totally self-centered. All he cares about is his own personal comfort and success.

b. How he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city: This was an amazing engineering feat. He built an aqueduct to insure fresh water inside the city walls even during sieges. It was more than 650 yards long through solid rock, begun on each end and meeting in the middle. It can still be seen today and it empties into the pool of Siloam.

i. “This tunnel, found in 1880, was cut for 643 metres to cover a direct distance of 332 metres to enable the defenders to fetch water within the protective walls even during a siege.” (Wiseman)

ii. “An inscription in cursive Hebrew of the early eighth century b.c. details the work:” ‘When (the tunnel) was driven through while (the quarrymen were swinging their) axes, each man towards the other and, while there was still 3 cubits to be cut through (there was heard) the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was a crevice (?) on the right... and when the tunnel was (finally) driven through, the quarrymen hewed each towards the others, axe against axe. Then the waters flowed from the Spring to the Pool for 1,200 cubits and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits.’” (Wiseman)

c. So Hezekiah rested with his fathers: There is no doubt that Hezekiah started out as a godly king, and overall his reign was one of outstanding godliness (2 Kings 18:3-7). Yet his beginning was much better than his end; Hezekiah did not finish well. God gave Hezekiah the gift of 15 more years of life, but the added years did not make him a better or a more godly man.

i. Time or age doesn’t necessarily make us any better. Consider that time does nothing but pass away. We sometimes say, “time will tell,” “time will heal,” or “time will bring out the potential in me.” But time will do nothing of the sort! Time will only come and go. It is only how we use time that matters. Hezekiah didn’t make good use of the extra time the Lord gave him.

ii. “Hezekiah was buried on the sloping hill where the tombs of David’s descendants were cut (2 Chronicles 32:33). This was because the royal Iron Age burial caves north of the city were full by this time and hereafter no Judean king was buried in the rock-hewn caves there.” (Wiseman)

© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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