Posts Tagged ‘Judah’

In Defense of Hezekiah

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “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 will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

2 Kings 20:16–19

This always stuck me as a callous response to the prophecy that Jerusalem would be sacked and Hezekiah’s children would be taken into captivity. “Hey, that’s too bad but in the fifteen more years I’m alive there will be peace, so, cool!” But maybe that’s not what Hezekiah meant.

Chapter 20 ends with Hezekiah’s death and chapter 21 begins: Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign… Do the math. Hezekiah was given fifteen more years to live (2 Ki. 20:6) and his son who reigned in his place was only twelve years old. So when Isaiah told Hezekiah “some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away” he told it to a childless (or at least son-less) king. God promised not only to heal Hezekiah but also to give him children.

And it wasn’t just fifteen years later that Hezekiah’s children were taken away. Though Manasseh was only twelve when he took the throne, according to verse 6, “he burned his son as an offering.” Twelve year olds don’t have sons. Also, verse 1 says “he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem” and the promised destruction didn’t happen in his lifetime. Nor in the lifetime of his son Josiah, who instituted some great reforms in Judah. It wasn’t till after Josiah’s death that his son Jehoahaz was taken away by Pharaoh Neco to Egypt.

It doesn’t appear that Hezekiah had any way of knowing how long after his days God’s curse would fall but he did have an idea that it wouldn’t be too soon. God healed him and gave him fifteen more years of life. He promised that Hezekiah would have sons and they would reign also before they were carried off. He had hope so perhaps his response to Isaiah’s prophecy isn’t as callous as it appears.

What about the other thing Hezekiah did? When “Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick” (2 Ki. 20:12), Hezekiah welcomed him and showed him all the stuff of the king of Judah. Isaiah asked about this and then announces that curse about everything being carried off. Did Hezekiah screw up by showing Merdoach-baladan around the capital city? Maybe not. What Hezekiah did was proper court courtesy when an important person showed him a kindness. Maybe the curse that followed was not because Hezekiah showed him the stuff but maybe it was God’s way of explaining what would happen after Hezekiah was gone.

God didn’t judge Judah for having and showing riches. “Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him” (2 Kings 23:26). It wasn’t Hezekiah’s fault and it wasn’t Josiah’s fault, it was Manasseh’s fault. God used a visit by a foreign royal to explain what foreigners would do to Jerusalem, not to reprimand Hezekiah.