Kings of Israel and Judah (5) – King Hezekiah
We now come to my last of the categories of king identified in “Kings of Israel and Judah (1) – Introduction” – a good king who started and ended well, yet made mistakes along the way.
We are again spoiled for choice but here I have selected King Hezekiah, of which a lot is written about him and, to get the full story, we need to check out three different Bible passages:
- 2Kings 18 – 20
- 2Chronicles 28 – 32
- Isaiah 36 – 39
We are left in no doubt concerning his good throughout credentials, when we read: “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses” 2Kings 18:3-6.
We are told: “in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem” 2Kings 18:1-2. Regarding Hoshea, he was the last king of Israel, which ended up taken into captivity by the Assyrians. As for Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, he was a bad king and an important part of what Hezekiah did was to reverse that evil legacy by removing idolatry and restoring the true worship of YHWH, according to the Law and pertaining to the Temple. Looking throughout his reign, Hezekiah not only brought Judah (and some in Israel too) back to following the true God, but he governed well, including completing many beneficial public works projects, and God blessed his endeavours.
The big test for Hezekiah was concerning Assyria, which having conquered Israel then set its sights on Judah. It appeared Hezekiah was in two minds – stopping paying tribute to the king of Assyria and, as things looked ominous, paying it again (including robbing the Temple of its treasures). But that was not enough and, having taken towns on Judah, the Assyrian king sought to do the same with Jerusalem, his envoys making clear their king’s demands to Hezekiah’s representatives (including in a letter) and then shouting them out to the people in the City. For Hezekiah, not only was this a serious threat which he was not able to counter, but it was an insult to YHWH God. He laid the letter out before Him and prayed. Isaiah the prophet paid an important part here and also later. After Hezekiah had prayed, Isaiah informed him that God had heard his prayer, and the answer came quickly and spectacularly. 185,000 of King Sennacherib’s army were killed by the Angel or the Lord, and soon after that Sennacherib was killed by his sons.
Sadly, after this, with peace and prosperity restored, Hezekiah grew proud and Isaiah came to him with a word from the Lord, to put his house in order and that he will die. And Hezekiah repented and God reversed His decision, adding 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, confirming this with a remarkable miracle, which in effect was planet Earth rotating backwards for a period. But he was not done with his foolishness, for he gave the emissaries of the King of Babylon (on a good will visit) a guided tour of all his riches, only to be told (again by Isaiah) that all this (and some of descendants) will one day be taken captive by Babylon – which some 100 years later did happen.
Regarding Hezekiah, notwithstanding lapses (of which there were a number), he was a good king, indeed one of the best. There are many lessons we can take from the story of Hezekiah, such as the importance of God’s glory and prayer and the need to live humbly before Him, not taking anything for granted. Concerning his end, we read: “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead” 2Chronicles 32:32,33.