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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

2 Kings 20

Verses 1-11

Second Kings - Chapter 20 AND Second Chronicles - Chapter 32

Hezekiah’s Illness - 2 Kings 20:1-11

The chronology of this event of Hezekiah’s illness is of significance to the understanding of the behavior of Hezekiah during the invasion of Sennacherib, as was suggested in foregoing comments. The only actual reference to the time is simply the words, "In those days." But it is not difficult to determine when "those days" were. In 2 Kings 18:13 it is learned that Sennacherib came into Judah in Hezekiah’s fourteenth year. 2 Kings 18:2 states that Hezekiah reigned a total of twenty-nine years. Inasmuch then as fifteen years were added to Hezekiah’s life (see 2 Kings 20:6) it is easily deduced that his illness was in his fourteenth year, the year of Sennacherib’s invasion.

It is, then, also likely that the sickness of Hezekiah occurred between the time of Sennacherib’s initial invasion, when Hezekiah attempted to pay him off and get him to leave (2 Kings 18:13-16), and his second threat, when Hezekiah defied him (2 Chronicles 32:1-8). Doubtless Hezekiah chafed under a sore conscience because he had abused the temple and exercised no faith in the Lord by his initial action. It may be he felt that his illness and impending death was God’s judgment for his lapse in regard to the tribute to Sennacherib. Therefore when he was miraculously restored to health he zealously led his people to place their hope and faith in the Lord to deliver them from the Assyrians.

The message of Isaiah from the Lord to Hezekiah was very blunt, "Set your house in order, for you are about to die." Hezekiah was only thirty-nine years of age, his people needed leadership against a terrible foe already in the land, and the king would like to make amends for his weakness of faith in the first instance of his dealing with Sennacherib. So he prayed to live, turning his face to the wall and weeping bitterly. It would be bad to die with an error against the Lord uncorrected. He asked the Lord to take into account his former righteous walk, in the days of the revival and reformation. He had trusted in the Lord and had a perfect heart toward Him. The Lord had commended his acts as good in His sight.

The text of Hezekiah’s prayer on this occasion is related by Isaiah in his prophecy (Isaiah 38:9-20). In these verses, written by the king after his recovery, he reveals his thoughts in his supplication from his bed. One can see the bitterness of a soul when facing death, having failed the Lord. It should remind one of the importance to always seek to do aright in the Christian walk (Ephesians 5:8-10). Hezekiah rejoiced in the Lord’s restoration and determined to use his prolonged life to serve the Lord in a better way.

Isaiah had only gone as far as the middle of the palace court when the Lord turned him back to the king’s bedchamber. He was to inform him that the Lord had heard his prayer, had seen his tears of repentance, and would therefore extend his life for fifteen more years. So complete would be his recovery that, whereas death had been imminent, and his life should have ended by the third day, he would instead be strong enough to rise on the third day and go to the temple to worship the Lord and fulfill the vows he made on his "deathbed".

The Lord would use these added years of Hezekiah to deliver the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah from the Assyrians, for He would defend it for His own sake and for that of David, with whom he had made covenant. These words of Isaiah, from the Lord to Hezekiah, further provide a forceful argument that this sickness of the king occurred before the destruction of Sennacherib, although it is recounted in the Scriptures afterward. Had the city already been delivered these words would have been meaningless.

The Lord often uses means to heal the sick, and He did so in this case. (Cf. Mr 8:22-26). Hezekiah’s malady was a boil, probably what is known as a carbuncle, a cluster of risings, filled with corruption, very painful and feverish, and capable of so poisoning the body as to bring on death. A cake of figs was to be laid on the boil to draw out the corruption and precipitate healing, though of course there could have been no healing apart from the Lord’s intervention. The boil had progressed to the point there was no physical hope for the king’s recovery.

Perhaps Hezekiah remembered that Isaiah had offered his father, Ahaz, a sign as the assurance of God’s word (Isaiah 7:10-16). So he asked for a sign, though his father had refused a sign. (He got the sign of the virgin born Savior anyway.) Isaiah gave Hezekiah choice of a sign, that the shadow on the sundial go down ten degrees (about twenty minutes) or go back a like number. Hezekiah thought, inasmuch as the shadow is going forward all the time anyway, the greater miracle would be its turning backward. So Isaiah called on the Lord, who made the shadow go back on the dial. Scholars say it was not an ordinary sundial as known today, but a stairway so constructed as to show the hour by the shadow falling across it from the sun’s rays.

2 Kings 20:12-19

Babylonian Embassy – Commentary on 2 Kings 20:12-19 AND 2 Chronicles 32:23-31

The summary account of Chronicles again presents the overall aspect of events in the career of King Hezekiah. His illness is presented casually to show the reason for the bringing of presents to him and gifts to the Lord’s house. It is also tied to the infraction with reference to the Babylonian embassy, as indeed it should be, but the primary motive seems to show the far-reaching effects on Judah. This would be of special importance to those who were living on the other side of the effects from Hezekiah, after they had occurred, and were recording them from that vantage point.

It is in the Kings account that the details of the Babylonian visit are given. The king of Babylon sent his servants with congratulatory letters to Hezekiah when he learned of his miraculous recovery and his resistance to the Assyrian king. No doubt the Babylonian king wanted the allied support of Hezekiah against their common enemy, the Assyrians. Hezekiah was flattered by these things and treated his visitors to a tour of all his treasures. They were admitted to his storehouses of gold, silver, precious stones. They were shown the precious ointment and spices, probably that used in the temple service and reserved for sacred purposes. He also showed them his house of armor. In fact, it is stated, there was nothing in all his house or dominion they were not shown.

When the visitors were departed the Lord sent Isaiah to the king with some very pertinent questions and a message of rebuke. The first were, "What did they say?" and "Where are they from" Hezekiah was frank to answer that they were from a far away country, implying that they could pose no threat to Judah. He admitted when asked, "What have they seen in your house?" that he had showed them everything.

This last question, "What have they seen in your house?" is a good one for all Christians to consider. Every day someone sees your house, or you. What do they see in you? Do you demonstrate the Lord’s blessings by your life? Or does pride fill one so full he does not respond as he should, and falls into the error of Hezekiah? It is a sobering thought (Titus 2:7).

What could this embassy have seen which they obviously did not see? They did not see the humility of the Lord in Hezekiah, though he had been so blessed of Him.

They did not see the beauty of the temple for its spiritual significance, but only its material richness. They were not introduced to Isaiah, God’s spokesman and preacher, who could have told them the way to salvation.

Is this not the way it is so much of the time in the lives of nominal Christians today? The Chronicles in reference to this says, "But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up."

The Lord had a prophetic message for Hezekiah showing the effects of his pride and vanity. days would come when the Babylonians would return.

They would take away to Babylon everything Hezekiah had shown them. Nothing would be left. Of Hezekiah’s own sons, or descendants, they would take and make eunuchs to serve them in their country. This happened about a hundred fifty years later, in the fourth generation from Hezekiah.

Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, pillaged the palace and temple, took the young princes (for example, Daniel and the three Hebrew children) and made them eunuchs to serve him in his government. This will be revealed in the closing chapters of Second Kings and Second Chronicles, and in the Book of Daniel.

Hezekiah again showed his David-like character by humbling himself and admitting the righteousness of God. He was thankful that the nation would remain faithful enough in his days that these predictions would only occur in a future time of apostasy. The Chronicles account tells of Hezekiah’s material accomplishments, in riches, possessions, and the welfare of the city of Jerusalem. It explains that the Lord left Hezekiah in the hands of the Babylonian embassy that he might be tried to show him the fickleness of his heart. In other words, God did not interfere with Hezekiah’s exercise of his own will in the matter. Men always fall into error when God is left out of their plans (1 Corinthians 9:27).

2 Kings 20:20-21

Death of Hezekiah, Commentary on 2 Kings 20:20-21 AND 2 Chronicles 32:32-33

The Kings account comes to a more abrupt conclusion of Hezekiah’s life than does that of Chronicles. Mention is made again of the pool he built in Jerusalem to contain water brought into the city from the spring of Gihon. The conduit still runs under the wall of the old city and still brings water to the ancient pool. Neither of the accounts give any details of Hezekiah’s last fifteen years, which the Lord granted him when he prayed for his life. Some of the things studied above in the Chronicles summary were descriptive of his prosperity and fame which came to him after the destruction of Sennacherib.

The Chronicles passage speaks of "the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness." Reference is made to the writings of Isaiah the son of Amoz and the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. These would seem to refer to the inspired prophecy of Isaiah and the canonical books known today as First and Second Kings. The prophecies and historical data of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, belong to the late reign of Uzziah’s grandfather, the reign of Ahaz his father, and to his own reign. The student can learn much from a study of these chapters in connection with the reign of Hezekiah. With reference to the Books of King it is well to remember that they were written long before the Chronicles and must have been well known to the Levitical compilers of the Chronicles.

Lessons to emphasize include 1) Believers suffer remorse of conscience for acts of faithlessness on their part (Hebrews 10:26-27); 2) all healing is divine, but God expects believers to use the means at hand to accomplish it as well; 3) there is enough of self in most people that they succumb to the flattery of the world, if they ignore the Lord’s will; 4) generations to follow may suffer as a result of mistakes of careless service of the Lord; 5) pertinent parallels from other of the Scriptures should always be considered in one’s study of the Bible.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-20.html. 1985.