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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: Did Hezekiah Convince God to Allow Him to Live Fifteen Extra Years?

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Did Hezekiah Convince God to Allow Him to Live Fifteen Extra Years?

Does God Know Everything? – Question 26

The Bible says that the Lord instructed the prophet Isaiah to tell King Hezekiah of Judah that he was going to die. We read about this in Second Kings.

In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’” (2 Kings 20:1 HCSB)

Hezekiah was told that he was about to die. This word came from the Lord Himself. Yet, Hezekiah pleaded for his life. The Lord then responded to his prayer and told him that he would live an additional fifteen years. The Bible says,

Isaiah hadn’t gone as far as the middle courtyard when the LORD spoke his word to him: “Go back and say to Hezekiah, leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD God of your ancestor David says: I’ve heard your prayer. I’ve seen your tears. Now I’m going to heal you. The day after tomorrow you will go to the LORD’s temple. I’ll give you 15 more years to live. I’ll rescue you and defend this city from the control of the king of Assyria for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” (2 Kings 20:4-6 God’s Word)

God then allowed Hezekiah to live another fifteen years as He had promised. The Lord also promised Hezekiah that He would deliver him from the control of the Assyrians. As always, God’s promises came true. Hezekiah lived another fifteen years and the people of Jerusalem were not placed under the control of Assyria during that time.

Interestingly, during that period two significant things occurred which would have long-term consequences for the kingdom of Judah.

First, Hezekiah unwisely showed off his wealth to the envoys of Babylon. He was then told that his descendants would one day serve in the palace of the king of Babylon. Scripture records that this took place some one hundred years later.

Also during that last fifteen years of his life, Hezekiah fathered a son who would succeed him as king over Judah. His name was Manasseh. Unfortunately, Manasseh was one of the worst kings in Judah’s history. He brought untold misery to the people with his idolatrous practices. Indeed, his evil deeds stopped the worship of the Lord, the true God. Therefore, the extra fifteen years which Hezekiah was granted became disastrous to the nation.

Did God Change His Plan?

However, the question here concerns God’s plan and Hezekiah’s request. It has been argued that God actually changed His plan because of the prayer of Hezekiah. Is this what the Bible teaches? There are a number of views as to what in fact occurred.

Option 1: God Altered His Plan Because of Prayer

There are those who believe that God adjusts and alters His plan as circumstances change. He does not have one set plan. Therefore, when God announced that Hezekiah was going to die through the prophet Isaiah, this was not meant to be some unalterable decree. This was His initial plan but it certainly was subject to change. Indeed, the prayer of Hezekiah made the Lord change His mind and thus change His plans. This, it is argued, is another indication that prayer can change how God behaves towards us. At times, He will change His plans based upon our requests. This episode is an example of this taking place.

Option 2: God’s Word to Hezekiah Was Not a Decree

It is possible to read the word of the Lord to Hezekiah as something other than a decree. In expressing what He was about to do, God did not say that He had determined Hezekiah was to die. Furthermore, there is no statement in this passage that God changed His mind after Hezekiah prayed. Hezekiah’s prayer was answered because God had committed Himself to David.

In fact, in answering Hezekiah’s prayer the Lord emphasized that He did this for the sake of David and the promises made to him. There was a problem. Hezekiah did not have an heir to the throne. Thus, to fulfill the promises to David, that one of his heirs would be the Messiah of Israel, Hezekiah was allowed to live another fifteen years. Scripture emphasizes that God always keeps His promises. Centuries earlier, Moses wrote the following.

Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today (Deuteronomy 4:37-38 NIV).

As mentioned, during those fifteen years he fathered a son, Manasseh, who would become heir to the throne. God kept His promise.

Why then tell Hezekiah he was about to die? The best answer seems to be that the initial words of Isaiah to the king were for the purpose of humbling him. The heart of Hezekiah had been swelled with pride. In actuality, God did not change anything. The length of Hezekiah’s life, like the rest of us, had already been determined by God. The psalmist wrote,

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16 NIV)

This is another indication that the Lord is in complete control of everything.

How Could God Know He Would Live Exactly Fifteen More Years?

There are a couple of other things in this account which open theism must answer. The fact that God specifically said that Hezekiah would live another fifteen years actually argues against the beliefs of open theism. The statement of the Lord is significant. If God does not know the future then how could He guarantee that Hezekiah would live exactly that long? How could He know Hezekiah would live fifteen years, no more, no less, if God does not know the future? There are seemingly innumerable things which could have happened to Hezekiah during those fifteen years given the view of open theism that humans are absolutely free to do what they wish. Indeed, he could have been accidentally killed, murdered, developed a terminal illness or took his own life. How then could God know he would survive exactly that long? According to open theism He could not guarantee this to Hezekiah. Yet, this is exactly what happened.

How Could God Know Hezekiah Would Have Descendants Who Would Serve in Babylon?

There is something else which needs to be answered. How could God tell King Hezekiah that his descendants would one day serve in the palace of Babylon if the future is open? This especially problematic if Hezekiah did not have any descendants at that time. How could God be certain this would occur?

The answer seems obvious to both of these questions. The God of the Bible knows the future exhaustively. Therefore, He could make these promises to Hezekiah; promises which came true exactly as given.

Summary – Question 26
Did Hezekiah Convince God to Allow Him to Live Fifteen Extra Years?

The Bible records an incident where Isaiah the prophet told King Hezekiah of Judah that he was about to die. At that time, Hezekiah had been sick. Isaiah told him that sickness would be fatal. Hezekiah then prayed to the Lord asking Him if he could live longer. Isaiah the prophet then told the king that the Lord would give him an additional fifteen years to live. As promised, Hezekiah did live another fifteen years.

This has been used by open theists as an example that the future is uncertain. God has one plan but the prayer of Hezekiah made God change His plans. He supposedly reacts to our needs and changes His plan accordingly.

Yet there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that God alters or amends His plans because of humans. He does not seek our counsel when making His decisions. To the contrary, Scripture is clear that God makes His own decisions without asking the advice of anyone. He does not take our advice and He certainly does not need our advice.

There is also an historical footnote to this episode. During the extra fifteen years of Hezekiah’s life he showed the Babylonians the treasures which were contained in the temple. Some one hundred years later these same Babylonians would come and destroy the city and the temple and take its treasures.

In addition, Hezekiah conceived a son, an heir to the throne in those last fifteen years. Before this took place, the Lord told Hezekiah that his descendant would actually serve in the court of Babylon. Again, this occurred exactly as the Lord has predicted.

These events are problems for those who hold to open theism. Indeed, they actually prove the case against the open view.

First, there is the question as to how the Lord could know that Hezekiah would live exactly fifteen more years. If the future is open, how could the Lord make such a specific prediction? How did the Lord know Hezekiah would not be murdered, or accidentally killed? If the future is open, then He could not know this.

Furthermore, how would the Lord know that Hezekiah would have a son and that his heirs would one day serve in the court of Babylon? This last prediction was not fulfilled until one hundred years later. During that time, how many choices did human beings make which could have altered this prediction?

Indeed, there were literally millions of choices made by humans during that period which could have affected the prediction. How then, was the Lord able to make it with certainty? The only answer is that the God of the Bible exhaustively knows the future. Otherwise this prediction does not make any sense. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that this passage actually argues against open theism.

Did the Lord Actually Regret That He Made Saul King of Israel? ← Prior Section
Did God Change His Mind as to What He Was to Do with the People of Nineveh? Next Section →
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