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This chapter prosecutes the history of Hezekiah. He is visited by sickness; he seeks to God in his affliction: receives a gracious answer in the lengthening of his life. His prayer: the Lord's answer. His death; and successor in the kingdom.
2 Kings 20:1
It appears by the calculation of Hezekiah's life, that this sickness followed soon after his deliverance from Sennacherib. So quick is the transition from joy to sorrow in this world. The chambers of both are very near each other. Observe how gracious the Lord is in sending him notice of his approaching end. It was an earnest prayer of David that he might be taught to number his days, and to know their length. Psalms 39:4 .
Hezekiah had learnt by experience the efficacy of prayer, and he therefore hath recourse to it again. But what I wish the Reader to notice with me in this prayer of the king of Judah is, that he turned towards the wall. He could not go up to the temple, to the mercy-seat, but like another Jonah he looked towards it. Jesus was all along typified by the mercy-seat in the Old Testament scripture, and by the temple. And the church, in reference to views of Jesus saith, he looketh from behind the wall, showing himself through the lattice. Song of Solomon 2:9 ; Jonah 2:4 . What a delightful thought it is, that the same precious faith in Christ marked all the Old Testament saints. Some have thought that Hezekiah dreaded death. But certainly there is nothing in the prayer which implies as much. Neither doth the king pray for life or death. The subject of his petition is for God's remembrance of him. And the argument be makes use of is, not taking pride in his integrity, but humbly begging to be remembered for his faith in God's covenant grace and mercy, and what is that but redemption in Christ?
How delightful are those gracious answers of a most gracious God! not that there was any change in the divine mind, but that the Lord, having in his providence induced a state which, under grace, shall lead his people to pray, he prepares their minds by this for his fore-determined answers of mercy. And observe how the Lord exceeds in gift what Hezekiah asked in prayer. He desired but to be remembered. And the Lord not only spares him from the effect of this sickness, but adds fifteen years to his life. Hence I have often thought that the apostle Paul intended to encourage wrestling petitioners at a throne of grace to ask for somewhat more than the promise seems to hold forth, as if a believer could never get to the bottom of the promise, when he said, Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Philippians 3:20 .
We can hardly say on this occasion which to admire most, the want of faith in Hezekiah, in asking a sign, or the abundant grace of the Lord in granting one by way of confirming his sacred word. Surely, Hezekiah, it was enough that the Lord promised. But, alas are we not all incredulous and unbelieving upon a thousand less occasions? I stay not to attempt explaining how this sign was accomplished. Subjects of mere curiosity, or amusement, come not within the design of this humble Commentary. I venture, however, to tell the Reader that the 15 Songs of degrees, as they are stilled, which we meet with in the book of the Psalms from the 120th (Psalms 120:0 ) to 134th, (Psalms 134:0 ) have been conjectured, by some to have reference to the degrees in the sun's shade on this occasion and the lengthening the king's life. But I only mention it; I presume not to add a single thought upon the subject.
It is conjectured by some that as the Babylonians worshipped the sun, the respect paid Hezekiah in the going back of the sun fifteen degrees, as before related, (for either they had heard of it or seen it) made the king of Babylon conceive very highly of Hezekiah. But be the motive whatsoever it might, how poor a figure did Hezekiah in truth make, however he might seem in the eyes of idolaters in his foolish ostentation of his treasures. Had he told them of his wonderful and miraculous cure, had he preached to them of the God of his fathers; - had he showed them the word of God, and the miracles shown his people, this would have been suitable indeed, and highly becoming. But Reader! pause and enquire are there not many vain characters like Hezekiah, even among the people of Jesus! What parlor shall we go in, among those who profess godliness where Jesus and his salvation is made the topic of discourse! How is it, Reader, that there should be a culpable shyness even among gracious souls in speaking of the best things one with another, or in awakened souls in telling to the unawakened, like these Babylonians, of the wonders of salvation by Jesus!
Reader! observe how men's punishments rise out of their very sins. Thy backslidings shall correct thee. How little did Hezekiah think that such events should follow. Oh! with what caution ought we to walk through this mutable state of things around us! If the Reader wishes to see the accomplishment of this prophecy of Isaiah, let him turn to the history of the Babylonish captivity about 100 years after. Daniel 1:2-3 , etc.
Here we arrive to the conclusion of Hezekiah's history and his life together. This indeed makes the sum total in the arithmetic of every man's life. In the 2d book of the Chronicles, indeed, we have a much more circumstantial account of Hezekiah. I refer the Reader therefore to the whole of what is there contained in 2 Chronicles 29:0 and three following chapters.
READER! what a series of delightful instructions open to our view, in looking at Hezekiah on his supposed death-bed. The greatest favorites of heaven are exposed, in common with others, to the humiliation of the grave. But oh! how different their state! and who is it hath made it so, Even thee, thou blessed, blessed Jesus. It is thou which hast converted the chambers of the grave into chambers of peace and safety. By thy death thou hast overcome death. And by thy finished salvation thou hast delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hail! O thou glorious, great I AM, who art the resurrection and the life.
Reader! let you and I listen to the sweet, swan-like note of the dying Hezekiah. He laments that he shall see the Lord no more in the land of the living; that he shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. But Reader! you and I know that, when believers exchange by death the outward courts of God's house for the inner temple of his glory, we shall see Jesus as he is; we shall awake up after his likeness, and be with him forever. We leave, indeed, the inhabitants of the world when we drop off this earthly tabernacle. But is this matter of regret, to exchange this world for the upper; earth for heaven; sinners for saints; and evil men for angels and the spirits of just men made perfect? Chiefly, thou precious Lord Jesus, independent of every other, and indeed to the exclusion of every other, thy presence alone is better than life itself. Thy person, thy salvation, thy glory, and the heaven of heavens, thou givest to the souls of thy people; what a happy exchange do they make that die in thee, O Lord Jesus? Oh! for faith in lively exercise, when thou shall give the signal for my departure; when that solemn, glorious hour shall come, and I hear thy precious voice; The master is come and calleth for thee. Oh! for faith to mount up with holy joy and rapture inconceivable, and like the patriarch of old, may the last and most precious word that shall hang upon my dying lips be Jesus, as I utter the same words as he did; Into thine hands I commend my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, thou God of truth.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26