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2 KINGS 20
THE RECOVERY OF HEZEKIAH FROM A FATAL ILLNESS
This chapter, along with its parallel in Isa. 38 and Isa. 39, is one of the most difficult in the O.T. "Due to the variations in the duplicate texts, and even more to the complex historical problems, no other section of Kings has produced more critical debate."F1 We cannot allow in a work of this kind sufficient space for a thorough discussion of all the questions. We shall note here a few of the problems that concern scholars.
Regarding the date of Hezekiah's fatal sickness, capable scholars have dated it at several points between 713 and 701 B.C.. Some say it connected with the invasion of Sargon, and some with that of Sennacherib, some with his alleged first invasion, and others with his so-called second invasion!
And then, there is the business of the shadow going backwards upon the sun-dial. What we get on that from many of the commentators is an anthology of why men do NOT believe it! We don't allow any explanations of unbelief, since our Lord has already explained "unbelief' as the result, not of education, nor of intelligence, but as appearing, "because their deeds are evil" (John 3:19).
This wonder is very similar to the great miracle at Beth-horon in the time of Joshua. We pray that some unbelievers will be shocked to know that there is a genuine, undeniable, and very reasonable scientific explanation of both wonders.
Another great fact in the chapter is that, although God Himself had diagnosed Hezekiah's illness as fatal, terminal, and "unto death," Hezekiah did NOT hesitate to pray God for his own recovery. What an admonition there is in this for Christians whose physicians have "given up on them," and who are confronted with what is called "a terminal illness." This writer knows of at least one person who fully recovered from such an illness.
(Now, for the further explanation of this writer's conviction regarding this chapter, the reader is referred to Vol. 1 of my series on the major prophets (Isaiah), pp. 347-354, also pp. 355-361, and Vol. 1 (Joshua) of my series on the historical books, pp. 110-113, where a recovery from inoperable cancer of the trachea is reported, and where the scientific explanation of the shadow's moving backwards on the sun-dial is included.)
One other thought which we wish to register here is that death is, by no means, the worst thing that can happen to a person! Hezekiah would have been much better to have meekly accepted the Divine verdict on his illness, because three years later, during the extension of his life, Manasseh was born to him, and that ruler was the very worst of all the kings of Judah!
The report in this chapter of the letter and present from Berodach-baladan (2 Kings 20:12) to Hezekiah is more fully reported in Isa. 39, where the name of the same Babylonian ruler is spelled Merodach-balladan. (See my comment there, Vol. 1 (Isaiah), pp. 355-361.)
The mention of this Babylonian king gives no help in determining the date of Hezekiah's sickness, because, "He was twice king, in 722-710 B.C. and again in 703-702 B.C."F2
Still another portion of this chapter is of very great importance, namely, the great prophecy of Isaiah that Babylon (not Assyria) would destroy Jerusalem, deport its people, and rob the treasures which Hezekiah had foolishly displayed for that embassy from Babylon. Of course, the radical critics who foolishly reject all prophecy, a priori, promptly refer to this prophecy as having been "added to the text not long after 597 B.C."F3 Any evidence of such a thing? Certainly not!
As a matter of fact, there are a number of other prophecies that Israel would be "plucked off their land" and removed from Palestine, such as Deut. 28:63-64; 1 Kings 14:15; Amos 5:27; and in every one of these, although not specifically stated, it is clear enough that only Babylon could have been intended in all of them as the place where God would punish Israel. From such facts as these, it is evident that getting rid of predictive prophecy cannot be achieved by canceling a single text here and there. The only way would be to remove the whole Bible. But of course, that is exactly the evil intention of those who would deny predictive prophecy.
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.