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4. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the 2 brazen serpent that Moses had made : for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
II. The State of the Kingdom when Hezekiah Began to Reign. The condition of Judah when Hezekiah ascended the throne was sad in the extreme. The political situation was humiliating. The kingdom had been invaded by the Edomites, and many people carried away captives. The king of Assyria distressed the kingdom, and the temple and the palace were robbed of their treasures to buy him off. And the kingdom was expected to pay a large annual tribute to Assyria. Ahaz, with a daring impiety, had closed the temple altogether, broke up its sacred vessels, altered or removed part of its costly furniture, and marked his full adoption of polytheistic worship by setting up altars “in every corner of Jerusalem," as well as throughout the land. The Jews still commemorate by a yearly fast this time of affliction. — Green. Pride and oppression had developed themselves in an habitual disregard of justice, and a lawless violence towards the mass of the community. The numerous members of the royal family and the nobility monopolized the administration of justice, and encroached even on the power of the king. The cominon citizen, the peasant, and the shepherd trembled before them. The priests had caught the contagion of corruption, and even among the prophets a large proportion abused their office to the most selfish and dishonorable ends. Public feeling was roused against the fearless and upright among the order, till a persecution like that of Jezebel's days seemed imminent, and the servants of God had to hide for their lives. Still more: while the body of the people was thus impoverished, the rich selfish and oppressive, the judges corrupt, and heathen superstition invading all ranks, the State was torn by rival factions. — Geikie.
III. A Great Revival of Religion. — Vers. 4-6. FIRST, — ITS WORK OF DESTROYING EVIL.
4. He removed the high places. From 2 Chron. 31: 1 we learn that this was the fruit of opening the house of God and holding a great religious meeting for 14 days. The spirit of the more religious part of the nation was roused, and enthusiastic bands of men, excited by a week of devotional exercise, poured forth from Jerusalem in all directions over the surrounding country, bent on obliterating all traces of the idolatrous, and even of the questionable rites which had long prevailed in the land. “ All Israel that were present" at the great Passover “ went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin - in Ephraim also and Manasseh — until they had utterly destroyed them.” – Lange. For high places, see Lesson IV. Here they included not only the idolatrous, but those in which the true God was falsely worshipped. They were the rural centres for the worship of Jehovah, standing in the place of the later synagogues, and had hitherto been winked at, even by the best kings. Images. These were, no doubt, originally memorial pillars or stones, erected to commemorate some divine manifestation, and with no thought of idolatry (see Gen. 31:13; 35: 14, 20; 28: 18). But the Canaanites erected pillars, which were also statues or images, to their god Baal in the same places, or used the old pillars for Baal worship. Groves. These were wooden pillars to Ashtoreth, as the “images" were stone pillars to Baal. Some of them may have been effigies of that goddess, and all were consecrated to her impure and revolting worship. Brake in pieces. Because the symbol of salvation became a means of idolatry. The brazen serpent. The origin of this serpent, as a symbol by which the Israelites, bitten by the fiery serpents in the wilderness, were cured, may be found in Num. 21:4-9. It was probably preserved first in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple. The preservation of this remarkable relic of antiquity might, like the pot of manna and Aaron's rod, have remained an interesting and instructive monument of divine goodness and mercy to the Israelites in the wilderness, and it must have required the exercise of no small courage and resolution to destroy it. But in the progress of degeneracy it had become an object of idolatrous worship; and as the interests of true religion rendered its demolition necessary, Hezekiah, by taking this bold step, consulted both the glory of God and the good of his country. – 7., F. and B. For unto those days. The time of Hezekiah. It does not mean that this took place without interruption from the time of Moses down to that of Hezekiah, but simply that it occurred at intervals, and that the idolatry carried on with this idol lasted till the time of Hezekiah. – Keil. Did burn incense to it. As to an
5. He trusted 1 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.
6. For he clave 3 to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
7. And the LORD was 4 with him; and he 5 prospered whithersoever he went forth : and he rebelled 6 against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
8. He 7 smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the 8 tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
12 Kings 19: 10. Job 13:15. Ps. 13: 5. ? 2 Kings 23: 25. 3 Deut. 10: 20. Josh. 23: 8. 42 Chron. 15:2,
5 1 Sam. 18:5, 14. Ps. 60: 12. 6 2 Kings 16: 7. 1 Chron. 4:41. Isa. 14:29. 2 Kings 17.9. idol. The remembrance of the old cures wrought might induce those bitten by venomous reptiles to seek help in this quarter. — Cook. A superstitious belief in the hidden powers of an object through which such wonders were once done would naturally be associated with this brazen symbol. And he called it Nehushtan. Rather, “ And it was called Nehushtan.” This was its popular name down to the time of its destruction. The people called it, not “the serpent” (nahash), but “the brass,” or “the brass thing” (nehushtan). Probably they did not like to call it “the serpent” on account of the dark associations which were attached to that reptile (Gen. 3:1-15; Isa. 27: 1; Ps. 91:13, etc.). — Cook.
SECOND, - THE WORK OF BUILDING UP THE Good. Hezekiah not only destroyed the idols and overthrew age-long wrongs, but, well knowing that this alone was not enough, he built up good institutions in the place of the bad ones removed. Three chapters in 2 Chron. are devoted to this reform (2 Chron. 29-31).
(1) He opened and restored the house of God.
(3) He organized the ministry of the priests, and encouraged those who taught the people.
(4) He re-established the services of divine worship.
(6) The offerings to the Lord were free and abundant, for the temple service and for the priests.
over, which lasted fourteen days.
5. He trusted in the Lord. His service was not a mere outward service, but a service of the heart, and all his good works were the fruit of his faith. Whatsoever church or school labors and trusts as Hezekiah did, will see like results in the revival of God's work. So that after him was none like him. Said also of Josiah (2 Kings 23:25). Each was first in his own work and method of reformation. Or probably the phrase was proverbial, and was not taken to mean more than we mean when we say that a king was one of singular piety. - Cook.
6. For he clave to the Lord. Many other kings good at first had fallen away, but Hezekiah persevered to the end. Kept his commandments. He obeyed both the moral and ceremonial laws. He trained his people in the religious service and in morality. This is the natural result of a revival. I never have known a revival of religion which was not also a revival of morality. — P.
IV. The State of the Kingdom, as a Result of this Revival. - Vers. 7, 8. 7. And the Lord was with him. There are always two elements in true success, — the human and the divine. There is always something needed beyond energy and talent. God has control of all the things connected with us, many of which are as far beyond our control as the march of the stars through the sky. Verses 5 and 6 gave Hezekiah's side. Now we learn that God, with his infinite power, was with him to make all things work together for his good. He rebelled against the king of Assyria. He refused to pay the tribute which the king lom under his father Ahaz had paid (2 Kings 16:8). The revolt may be safely placed about the third year of Hezekiah (B.C. 724). - Wm. Smith.
8. He smote the Philistines. His warlike enemies on the south-west. Even unto Gaza. As far as Gaza, the last town in the south-west of Palestine, on the frontier toward Egypt. — Bib. Dic. From the tower of the watchmen. The smallest place, which contained only a watch-tower in the fields. To the fenced city. The fortified city; the largest and strongest of the Philistine towns. The reign of Hezekiah is the culminating point of interest in the history of the kings of Judah. He gives the first distinct example of an
9. And 1 it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.
10. And at the end of three years they took it : even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is, ? the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.
II. And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in 3 Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes :
12. Because 4 they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
12 Kings 17:3.
2 Kings 17:6.
$ Chron. 5:26.
+ 2 Kings 17:7. Dan. 9:6, 10.
attempt to collect the sacred books of his country. By his orders a large part (Prov. 25: 1) of the Proverbs of Solomon - to which Jewish tradition adds the prophecies of Isaiah, the book of Ecclesiastes, and the Canticles — were written out and preserved. The palace at Jerusalem was a storehouse of gold, silver, and jewels; the porch of the palace was once more hung with splendid shields ( 2 Chron. 32: 27). Towers and enclosures sprang up for the vast herds and flocks of the pastoral districts. The vineyards, olive-yards, and cornfields were again cultivated. The towers and fortifications of Jerusalem, the supply of water to the town, both by aqueduct from without and by a reservoir hewn out of the solid rock, were for centuries connected with his name. “Peace and truth” were the watchwords of his reign. — Stanley.
V. The End of the Kingdom of Israel. - Vers. 9-12. In these verses the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser, which has been related according to the annals of the kingdom of Israel in chap. 17: 3-6, is related once more according to the annals of the kingdom of Judah, in which this catastrophe is also introduced as an event that was memorable in relation to all the covenant-nation. - Keil.
9. Fourth year of king Hezekiah. Sometime in B.C. 723. Shalmaneser king of Assyria. He reigned B.C. 727-722. This war against Israel was begun by him, but he was succeeded by Sargon before the final victory. Hence it is not said in ver. 1o that Shalmaneser took Samaria, but “they took it.” This agrees with the Assyrian inscriptions, which say that Sargon captured Samaria in B.C. 721, the first year of his reign.
10. At the end of three years. B.C. 721.
II. The king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria. At first Sargon carried off from Samaria no more than 27,280 prisoners (Ancient Monarchies, vol. ii., p. 410). But there is reason to believe that later in his reign he effected the wholesale depor. tation here mentioned. - Cook. Put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan. Rather," on the Habor, the river of Gozan." The great affluent of the Euphrates, the western Khabour, is no doubt intended. Halah and Gozan were regions in Mesopota. mia. This was the end of the kingdom of Israel. The people never returned to become a kingdom again. “The lost ten tribes" have often been sought for; but (1) some returned to Judea at the close of the Babylonish captivity; (2) some united with the Jews of the dispersion, - those scattered over various countries, but living as Jews; (3) the others were probably absorbed into the surrounding nations, and were no longer distinctively Jews.
12. Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord. The writer proceeds to assign the reasons for which God suffered the Israelites to be deprived of their land and carried into captivity. He finds them (1) in their idolatries; (2) in their rejection of the law; and (3) in their disregard of the warning voices of prophets and seers, whom God had raised up from time to time in order to recall them, if possible, from their evil ways. — Cook. These Israelites, of the kingdom of Israel, were so confirmed in sin, so hardened against every good influence, that there was no possible hope of their reformation. God did everything possible for their salvation. He taught them his law, he gave them religious institutions, he disciplined them with sorrow, he blessed them with prosperity, he rewarded their obedience, he worked miracles for them, he sent them prophets to warn and to teach and guide, he bore long and patiently with them; but it was all in vain. They grew worse and worse, and at last they met their final and hopeless doom. — P.
LIBRARY REFERENCES. On the light thrown by the Assyrian inscriptions upon Bible history, see Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies, vol. ii., and his Herodotus, vol. i. ; Geo. Smith's Assyrian Discoveries ; Rawlinson's Historical Illustrations of Scripture; and Prof. Birks' Com. on Isaiah, Appendix III. For the ultimate fate of "the ten tribes,” see Bible Commentary, 2 Kings 17: 23, Note B.
LESSONS FROM A GREAT REVIVAL. 1. A young man may become good, even though his father be bad. Grace can overcome all the disadvantages and difficulties of such parentage.
2. Hezekiah's mother is mentioned, because a good mother is the greatest power toward making a good son. Nothing else is known of her; but this is enough, to be the mother and have the training of so great and good a son.
3. The first need both of the individual and of the nation, when in a state of disaster and adversity, is a revival of true religion.
4. A revival begins in the individual heart, and from that extends to the community.
5. There is a divine and a human instrumentality in every work of grace. Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, and the Lord was with him.
6. Every revival, both in the individual and in the community, is connected with the use of means.
7. There are two processes. First, the destruction of the evil, the repenting of sin, putting away bad habits, bad institutions, bad business, reforming abuses, casting out the idols of the heart. Second, the implanting of the good, repairing churches, new attention to divine institutions, using the means of grace, restoring religious meetings, better teaching, preaching, and singing, setting all the people to work, religious enthusiasm, and perseverance in all.
8. The result of more religion is greater prosperity. The nation that seeks first the kingdom of God shall have temporal blessings in addition.
9. Those who will not be revived, but continue in sin, must inevitably perish.
10. But God makes the way of transgressors hard, by doing everything possible to persuade them to repent and be saved. They must trample on his love, his wonders of grace, the influences of his spirit, his works of providence, his discipline, in order to go on in sin.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. There will be little time in this lesson for more than a brief glance at the Intervening History of more than a century between this and our last lesson in the Kings. Look at the table of Old Testament chronology for this brief review. READ THE LESSON over not only in 2 Kings but in 2 Chronicles, and look at some of the chapters of Isaiah which belong to this period.
The SUBJECT is, --- A GREAT REVIVAL AND ITS LESSONS.
I. GooD KING HEZEKIAH (vers. 1-3). The influences from his mother, the prophets, the Spirit of God, and the sad warning from the state of the kingdom, which helped the young king to be good, are the like influences around us.
II. THE STATE OF THE KINGDOM WHEN HE BEGAN TO REIGN. Read the results of the wickedness of Ahaz, seen in the sad condition of the kingdom, in 2 Kings 16:3, 8, 17; 2 Chron. 28:4-6, 17-25; 29:6-9. There was both spiritual and worldly desolation. Great was the need of revival.
III. THE GREAT REVIVAL (vers. 4-6). Note the human and divine influences at work. Note also the two processes, - the negative and the positive, the destroying evil, and the implanting of good. True reform is always more upbuilding than destructive. The evil institutions destroyed must be replaced by good institutions.
Illustration. Cutting down weeds, ploughing, picking up the stones, removing roots and stumps, – these alone will never make a fruitful field. There must be the sowing of good seed, or there can be no harvest.
Illustration. Once risen into this divine white-heat of temper, were it only for a season and not again, the nation is thenceforth considerable through all its remaining history. I believe nations are benefited for ages by being thrown once into divine whiteheat in this manner. - Carlyle on The Reformation.
Mark also the means used, -- the new interest in the house of God, the cleansing of the church, renewed services, new interest in the ministry, meetings, the service of song, prayer, instruction, contributions, and active work on the part of the people. It is the same in every revival.
IV. THE REVIVAL FOLLOWED BY NATIONAL PROSPERITY (vers. 7, 8). The work which true religion does in a community lies at the basis of prosperity. Religion cultivates industry, economy, energy, honesty, temperance, which tend to prosperity, and destroy the vices which bring poverty and ruin. Most of all, it brings the blessing of God.
V. THE END OF UNREPENTANT SINNERS (vers. 9–12). The kingdom of Israel was not finally destroyed till there was no hope of making it a good nation. Dwell on the influences with which God surrounds the sinner, and draws him to a better life. God does all that is possible to save men from ruin. What hinderances men have to overcome in order to lose their souls, - Bibles, Sabbaths, conscience, the Holy Spirit, God's providence, friends, teachers, a mother's prayers ! But "he that hardeneth his neck shall be suddenly cut off," and that without remedy.
Illustration. In Retsch's illustrations of Goethe's Faust, there is one plate where angels are dropping roses upon the demons who are contending for Faust's soul, and every rose falls like molten metal, burning and blistering wherever it touches.
Illustration. Men take the blessed fruits and grains God has made, and turn them into intoxicating drinks which ruin body and soul.
LESSON IX. — Nov. 29.
TIME. — B.C. 713. In the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign, seven or eight years after the end of the kingdom of Israel.
PLACE. — Jerusalem, the kingdom of Judah.
CORRESPONDING BIBLE HISTORY. - Isaiah, chaps. 38, 39; and 2 Chronicles 32: 24-33.
PROPHETS. - Isaiah, Nahum, and Micah.
ASSYRIAN CHRONOLOGY. -- The chronology of the Assyrian inscriptions, as arranged by Prof. Rawlinson and M. Oppert, in connection with the Scripture narrative (for no dates from a certain era are given in the inscriptions), regards Shalmaneser IV. as reigning B.C. 727-721; Sargon, B.C. 721-704; and Sennacherib, B.C. 704-680. This would place the invasion of Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13, etc.) in the very last of Hezekiah's reign, after the promise of deliverance from Syria. Prof. T. R. Birks, of Cambridge, Eng., suggests that as Shalmaneser III. is not mentioned in the inscriptions, he and Sargon are the same person. Sargon means king de facto, or usurper, and is a title; so that the king's name was Shalmaneser Sargon (B.C. 729-714) the 15 years of Sargon covering those attributed to Shalmaneser, and beginning in 729. This is confirmed in many ways, and completely reconciles the inscriptions with Scripture, which in three different books reports the campaign of Sennacherib as in the 14th year of Hezekiah, or B.C. 713.
PRONUNCIATIONS. - A'móz; Băl'ădăn; Běrö'dăch-băl'ădăn; Isai'ah (Iza'yăh); Sär'gon; Sěnnách'ěrib or Sěnnáche'rib; Shălmăne'sěr.
INTRODUCTION. One-half of Hezekiah's reign has passed away. The religious reformation has been bearing its fruits, and doubtless the accumulation of riches, and the works of peace, described in 2 Chron. 32: 27-30, were begun during this period. Then came the terrible invasion of Sennacherib from Assyria. Hezekiah endeavored to ward it off by sending to the Assyrian king an immense tribute of 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold; nearly a million and a quarter of dollars. But it was not long before he sent his armies, a mighty host, and besieged Jerusalem. In answer to Hezekiah's earnest prayer, God sent his angels and smote in one night 185,000 of them. It was probably during this siege, or not long after the deliverance, that Hezekiah's sickness occurred. 1. In 1those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah
12 Chron. 32: 24, etc. Isa. 38: 1, etc.
EXPLANATORY. I. Hezekiah's Sickness. - Ver. 1. 1. In those days. About the time of the invasion of Sennacherib. That it did not occur after the departure of the Assyrians, but !