As the Old Testament tells the history, Hezekiah was the 13th king after David and the 11th king of Judah: David, then Solomon, then Rehoboam (who was king at the time of the split between Judah and Israel, and became the first king of Judah), then Abijah, then Asa, then Jehoshaphat, Joram, Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and finally Hezekiah. Hezekiah reigned from 715 B.C. to 687 B.C.
King Uzziah was a successful king, but at the end of his career he came into conflict with the temple priests. Whether the description of the conflict that we see in 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 is accurate is debatable, for it is clear that, as king, David had the right to offer sacrifice and to use the Urim and Thummim. (See 1 Samuel 23:9-12; 24:7-8; and 2 Samuel 24:25. The Urim and Thummim were attached to the ephod mentioned in 1 Samuel 23 and 24.) In addition, David tells us that he was given the Melchizedek priesthood (Psalm 110:4). There can be little doubt that the king of Israel was originally a priest-king. (See 1 Chronicles 29:23, which says that Solomon sat on “the throne of the Lord.”) So it seems likely that Uzziah was not doing anything improper when he made offering in the temple. If so, then the story in chapter 29, that Uzziah was stricken with leprosy because he dared to act as a priest in the temple, was written or edited later to justify excluding the king from priesthood functions. (Notice that 2 Kings 15:1-5 gives a different reason for Uzziah’s (Azariah’s) leprosy.)
Jotham was also a good king, but Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, was wicked, “for he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree” (2 Chronicles 28:2-4).
In these chapters (including the chapters not assigned), we see Hezekiah order that the temple be cleansed and that proper worship be reinstituted (29) and reinstitute the Passover celebration by a national celebration, though at a date later than appointed (30). We see the details of the religious reform that Hezekiah began (31), and the attack of the Assyrians, stopped by the miraculous salvation of Jerusalem (32). We also see Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh’s, wicked reign, followed by his repentance and good reign, and then by his son, Amon’s, wicked reign, which ended in his assassination by his own servants (33). Finally, we read about a new reformation under Josiah (34).
This chapter expands considerably on the story told in 2 Kings 18:1-3. Why might the author of Kings have left the cleansing of the temple out of his story? Why might the author of Chronicles have included it?
Verse 3: What does it mean to say that Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple? (See 2 Chronicles 28:24.)
Verses 5-8: Why did Hezekiah say that the temple needed to be sanctified?
A more literal translation of the end of verse 6 is: “Our fathers [.?.?.] turn round their faces from the tabernacle of Jehovah, and gave neck.” Why does the writer use the tabernacle here as the symbol of the temple? The word for the neck could also be used to mean “the back.” In Hebrew to give neck could mean to flee in fear (as in Exodus 23:27), to turn one’s back on someone (as in 2 Samuel 22:41), or to apostatize (as in 2 Chronicles 29:6, and Jeremiah 2:27 and 32:33). What does the metaphor suggest to you in this verse?
A more literal translation of part of verse 8 is “He [the Lord] hath delivered them to be a horror, an astonishment, and an amazement,” or as the Anchor Bible translation has it, “he made them a terror, a horror, and a mockery.” How does that change the meaning of the verse? To whom were they a terror, horror, and mockery? What does it mean to be a terror, horror, or mockery to someone else? How might we become a horror, terror, or mockery? Why might we become one? Is that something we do by choice or something that happens beyond our control?
Verse 11: Why does Hezekiah call the Levites his sons?
Verse 34: One explanation of the difference between priests and Levites is that those called priests were Levites descended from Zadok, high priest at the time of Solomon. Among the Levites, Zadok’s descendants had the responsibility for temple ritual. Why might the Levites have been more “upright in heart” than the priests?
Verse 36: What does it mean to say that “God had prepared the people”? For what? How?
Verse 1: Why does the writer say that Hezekiah wrote to all Judah (2 tribes) and to Israel (10 tribes), and to Ephraim and Manasseh? Why include the latter two? Weren’t they included when he wrote to Judah and Israel? What is strange about Hezekiah writing to all of Israel?
Verse 3: Why had people ceased to keep Passover?
Verse 9: A good deal of the northern kingdom had already been conquered by the Assyrians and the inhabitants taken captive. Hezekiah promises that if the Israelites will restore the temple and resume temple worship, the Lord will bring the captives back. Why was temple worship so important to Hezekiah? What happened in ancient temple worship? Did he think restoring the temple would reunite Israel and Judah?
Verses 10-12: From what tribes are those who come to this Passover feast? What does that tell us?
Verses 18-20: What is going on here? (Cf. Numbers 9:1-14.)
Verse 22: This verse may also explain the difference between the priests and the Levites, for it speaks of the Levites as teaching the Law. (Compare 2 Chronicles 17:8-9.) It appears that we now have two ecclesiastical authorities, those who taught and those who officiated in the temple. Is that comparable to our teachers and priests? Might this be the origin of the later difficulties between the temple priests and the Pharisees?
Verse 25: Traditionally it has been assumed that the “strangers” were converts to Judaism.
Verses 1-8: Anticipating Sennacharib’s attack, what does Hezekiah do? (See also verse 30.) What lesson is this for us?
Verses 9-20: What are Sennecharib’s tactics? How effective do you think they would be against the people of Jerusalem?
Verse 21: Compare 2 Kings 19:35. What happened to Sennecharib’s army? Who are “they that came forth out of his own bowels”? What image is the writer using? Why is it significant that he was assassinated in “the house of his god”?
In this chapter we see another restoration of the temple by a new king. How would you describe the cycle of restoration and apostasy that we have seen in the last several readings? Has prosperity been an important part of this cycle, as it was for the people of the Book of Mormon? What seems to cause pride in Israel and Judah? Why is the leadership of these two groups so crucial to whether the groups remain in apostasy or repent?
Verse 3: Refer to verse 1 and calculate how old Josiah was when he began these reforms. What does that suggest?
Verses 4-5: What does it mean that the altars were broken down in Josiah’s presence? Why does he strew the ashes of the idolatrous vessels on the graves of those who had worshiped idols and why does he burn the bones of the dead idolatrous priests on their own altars?
Verse 8: How long did it take Josiah to purge idolatry from Judah?
Verses 14-15, 18-21: How do you think the book of the Law (perhaps the first five books of the Old Testament, the sacred scripture of this period; perhaps only Deuteronomy or parts of it) had been lost? Was it lost, or is this evidence of its construction and presentation to Israel as something recently discovered? (Some contemporary scholars argue for the latter.) We saw that the Levites were teaching from the scriptures in 2 Chronicles 17:8-9. How long has it been since then? Why did Josiah tear his clothes in mourning when he found out about the book and its contents?
Verse 22: Jeremiah was a prophet at the same time. Why do you think they went to Huldah instead of Jeremiah?
Verse 23: In all of the other verses, Josiah is referred to as “the king.” Why is he referred to here as “the man”?
Verses 24-25: What does the Lord say will happen to Israel because it has not kept the Law? Can’t they plead ignorance: “We didn’t even know what the Law was. That is why we didn’t keep it!” Is the Lord punishing them for sinning in ignorance?
Verses 26-28: What does the Lord promise Josiah? How is Josiah different from Israel? Does that answer the questions for verses 24-25?
Verse 28: Given the violent death that Josiah suffers (2 Chronicles 35:23-24), how can we make sense of the promise that he will be gathered (or “harvested”) to the grave in peace?
Verses 29-33: Does Josiah get the people of Jerusalem to repent? If so, why does the Lord’s curse come on them anyway?
Verse 33: Does Josiah cleanse only Judah? How many of Israel seem to have made the covenant? How do you think he made all of the Israelites serve the Lord? Is it significant that the chapter ends by saying “all his days they departed not from following the Lord” (my italics)? What is the writer suggesting and what does that suggest about Israel under Josiah?
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