2 Kings 20
In this chapter we have,
I. Hezekiah's sickness, and his recovery from that, in answer to
prayer, in performance of a promise, in the use of means, and confirmed
with a sign,
2 Kings 20:1-11.
II. Hezekiah's sin, and his recovery from that,
2 Kings 20:12-19.
In both of these, Isaiah was God's messenger to him.
III. The conclusion of his reign,
2 Kings 20:20,21.
|Hezekiah's Sickness and Recovery.
||B. C. 713.|
1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet
Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith
the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not
2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the
3 I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before
thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which
is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
4 And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the
middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus
saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy
prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the
third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will
deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of
Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for
my servant David's sake.
7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid
it on the boil, and he recovered.
8 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that
the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of
the LORD the third day?
9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that
the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow
go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?
10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to
go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten
11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought
the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the
dial of Ahaz.
The historian, having shown us blaspheming Sennacherib destroyed in the
midst of the prospects of life, here shows us praying Hezekiah
delivered in the midst of the prospects of death--the days of the former
shortened, of the latter prolonged.
I. Here is Hezekiah's sickness. In those days, that is, in the
same year in which the king of Assyria besieged Jerusalem; for he
reigning reigned? in all twenty-nine years, and surviving this
fifteen years, this must be in his fourteenth year, and so was that,
2 Kings 18:13.
Some think it was at the time that the Assyrian army was besieging the
city or preparing for it, because God promises
(2 Kings 20:6):
I will defend the city, which promise was afterwards repeated,
when the danger came to be most imminent,
2 Kings 19:34.
Others think it was soon after the defeat of Sennacherib; and then it
shows us the uncertainty of all our comforts in this world. Hezekiah,
in the midst of his triumphs in the favour of God, and over the forces
of his enemies, is seized with sickness, and under the arrest of death.
We must therefore always rejoice with trembling. It should seem he was
sick of the plague, for we read of the boil or plague-sore,
2 Kings 20:7.
The same disease which was killing to the Assyrians was trying to him;
God took it from him, and put it upon his enemies. Neither greatness
nor goodness can exempt us from sickness, from sore and mortal
sicknesses. Hezekiah, lately favoured of heaven above most men, yet is
sick unto death--in the midst of his days (under forty) and yet sick
and dying; and perhaps he was the more apprehensive of its being fatal
to him because his father died when he was about his age, two or three
years younger. "In the midst of life we are in death."
II. Warning brought him to prepare for death. It is brought by Isaiah,
who had been twice, as stated in the former chapter, a messenger of
good tidings to him. We cannot expect to receive from God's prophets
any other than what they have received from the Lord, and we must
welcome that, be it pleasing or unpleasing. The prophet tells him,
1. That his disease is mortal, and, if he be not recovered by a
miracle of mercy, will certainly be fatal: Thou shalt die, and not
2. That therefore he must, with all speed, get ready for death: Set
thy house in order. This we should feel highly concerned to do when
we are in health, but are most loudly called to do when we come to be
sick. Set the heart in order by renewed acts of repentance, and faith,
and resignation to God, with cheerful farewells to this world and
welcomes to another; and, if not done before (which is the best and
wisest course), set the house in order, make thy will, settle thy
estate, put thy affairs in the best posture thou canst, for the ease of
those that shall come after thee. Isaiah speaks not to Hezekiah of his
kingdom, only of his house. David, being a prophet, had
authority to appoint who should reign after him, but other kings did
not pretend to bequeath their crowns as part of their goods and
III. His prayer hereupon: He prayed unto the Lord,
2 Kings 20:2.
Is any sick? Let him be prayed for, let him be prayed with, and let him
pray. Hezekiah had found, as recorded in the foregoing chapter, that
it was not in vain to wait upon God, but that the prayers of faith
bring in answers of peace; therefore will he call upon God as long
as he lives. Happy experiences of the prevalency of prayer are
engagements and encouragements to continue instant in prayer. He had
now received the sentence of death within himself, and, if it was
reversible, it must be reversed by prayer. When God purposes mercy he
will, for this, be enquired of,
We have not if we ask not, or ask amiss. If the sentence was
irreversible, yet prayer is one of the best preparations for death,
because by it we fetch in strength and grace from God to enable us to
finish well. Observe,
1. The circumstances of this prayer.
(1.) He turned his face to the wall, probably as he lay in his
bed. This he did perhaps for privacy; he could not retire to his closet
as he used to do, but he retired as well as he could, turned from the
company that were about him, to converse with God. When we cannot be so
private as we would be in our devotions, nor perform them with the
usual outward expressions of reverence and solemnity, yet we must not
therefore omit them, but compose ourselves to them as well as we can.
Or, as some think, he turned his face towards the temple, to show how
willingly he would have gone up thither, to pray this prayer (as he
2 Kings 19:1,14),
if he had been able, and remembering what encouragements were given to
all the prayers that should be made in or towards that house. Christ is
our temple; to him we must have an eye in all our prayers, for no man,
no service, comes to the Father but by him.
(2.) He wept sorely. Some gather from this that he was unwilling
to die. It is in the nature of man to have some dread of the separation
of soul and body, and it was not strange if the Old-Testament saints,
to whom another world was but darkly revealed, were not so willing to
leave this as Paul and other New-Testament saints were. There was also
something peculiar in Hezekiah's case: he was now in the midst of his
usefulness, had begun a good work of reformation, which he feared
would, through the corruption of the people, fall to the ground, if he
should die. If this was before the defeat of the Assyrian army, as
some think, he might therefore be loth to die, because his kingdom was
in imminent danger of being ruined. However, it does not appear that he
had now any son: Manasseh, that succeeded him, was not born till three
years after; and, if he should die childless, both the peace of his
kingdom and the promise to David would be in danger. But perhaps these
were only tears of importunity, and expressions of a lively affection
in prayer. Jacob wept and made supplication; and our blessed Saviour,
though most willing to die, yet offered up strong cries, with tears, to
him whom he knew to be able to save him,
Let Hezekiah's prayer interpret his tears, and in that we find
nothing that intimates him to have been under any of that fear of death
which has either bondage or torment.
2. The prayer itself: "Remember now, O Lord! how I have walked
before thee in truth; and either spare me to live, that I may
continue thus to walk, if, if my work be done, receive me to that glory
which thou hast prepared for those that have thus walked." Observe
(1.) The description of Hezekiah's piety. He had had his conversation
in the world with right intentions ("I have walked before thee, as
under thy eye and with an eye ever towards thee"), from a right
principle ("in truth, and with an upright heart"), and by a
right rule--"I have done that which is good in thy sight."
(2.) The comfort he now had in reflecting upon it; it made his sick-bed
easy. Note, The testimony of conscience for us that we have walked with
God in our integrity will be much our support and rejoicing when we
come to look death in the face,
2 Corinthians 1:12.
(3.) The humble mention he makes of it to God. Lord, remember it
now; not as if God needed to be put in mind of any thing by us (he
is greater than our hearts, and knows all things), or as if the reward
were of debt, and might be demanded as due (it is Christ's
righteousness only that is the purchase of mercy and grace); but our
own sincerity may be pleaded as the condition of the covenant which God
has wrought in us: "It is the work of thy own hands. Lord, own it."
Hezekiah does not pray, "Lord, spare me," or, "Lord, take me; God's
will be done;" but, Lord, remember me; whether I live or die, let me
IV. The answer which God immediately gave to this prayer of Hezekiah.
The prophet had got but to the middle court when he was sent back with
another message to Hezekiah
(2 Kings 20:4,5),
to tell him that he should recover; not that there is with God yea and
nay, or that he ever says and unsays; but upon Hezekiah's prayer, which
he foresaw and which his Spirit inclined him to, God did that for him
which otherwise he would not have done. God here calls Hezekiah the
captain of his people, to intimate that he would reprieve him for
his people's sake, because, in this time of war, they could ill spare
such a captain: he calls himself the God of David, to intimate
that he would reprieve him out of a regard to the covenant made with
David and the promise that he would always ordain a lamp for him. In
1. God honours his prayers by the notice he takes of them and the
reference he has to them in this message: I have heard thy prayers,
I have seen thy tears. Prayers that have much life and affection in
them are in a special manner pleasing to God.
2. God exceeds his prayers; he only begged that God would remember his
integrity, but God here promises
(1.) To restore him from his illness: I will heal thee. Diseases
are his servants; as they go where he sends them, so they come when he
I am the Lord that healeth thee,
(2.) To restore him to such a degree of health that on the third day
he should go up to the house of the Lord, to return thanks. God
knew Hezekiah's heart, how dearly he loved the habitation of God's
house and the place where his honour dwelt, and that as soon as he was
well he would go to attend on public ordinances; thitherward he turned
his face when he was sick, and thitherward he would turn his feet when
he was recovered; and therefore, because nothing would please him
better, he promises him this, Let my soul live, and it shall praise
thee. The man whom Christ healed was soon after found in the
(3.) To add fifteen years to his life. This would not bring him to be
an old man; it would reach but to fifty-four or fifty-five; yet that
was longer than he had lately expected to live. His lease was renewed,
which he thought was expiring. We have not the instance of any other
that was told before-hand just how long he should live; that good man
no doubt made a good use of it; but God has wisely kept us at
uncertainties, that we may be always ready.
(4.) To deliver Jerusalem from the king of Assyria,
2 Kings 20:6.
This was the thing which Hezekiah's heart was upon a much as his own
recovery, and therefore the promise of this is here repeated. If this
was after the raising of the siege, yet there was cause to fear
Sennacherib's rallying again. "No," says God, "I will defend this
V. The means which were to be used for his recovery,
2 Kings 20:7.
Isaiah was his physician. He ordered an outward application, a very
cheap and common thing: "Lay a lump of figs to the boil, to
ripen it and bring it to a head, that the matter of the disease may be
discharged that way." This might contribute something to the cure, and
yet, considering to what a height the disease had come, and how
suddenly it was checked, the cure was no less than miraculous. Note,
1. It is our duty, when we are sick, to make use of such means as are
proper to help nature, else we do not trust God, but tempt him.
2. Plain and ordinary medicines must not be despised, for many such
God has graciously made serviceable to man, in consideration of the
3. What God appoints he will bless and make effectual.
VI. The sign which was given for the encouragement of his faith.
1. He begged it, not in any distrust of the power or promise of God, or
as if he staggered at that, but because he looked upon the things
promised to be very great things and worthy to be so confirmed, and
because it had been usual with God thus to glorify himself and favour
his people; and he remembered how much God was displeased with his
father for refusing to ask a sign,
Observe, Hezekiah asked What is the sign, not that I shall go up
to the thrones of judgment or up to the gate, but up to the house of
the Lord? He desired to recover that he might glorify God in the
gates of the daughter of Zion. It is not worth while to live for
any other purpose than to serve God.
2. It was put to his choice whether the sun should go back or go
forward; for it was equal to Omnipotence, and it would be the more
likely to confirm his faith if he chose that which he thought the more
difficult of the two. Perhaps to this that of this prophet may refer
Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work
of my hands command you me. It is supposed that the degrees were
half hours, and that it was just noon when the proposal was made, and
the question is, "Shall the sun go back to its place at seven in the
morning or forward to its place at five in the evening?"
3. He humbly desired the sun might go back ten degrees, because, though
either would be a great miracle, yet, it being the natural course of
the sun to go forward, its going back would seem more strange, and
would be more significant of Hezekiah's returning to the days of his
and the lengthening out of the day of his life. It was accordingly
done, upon the prayer of Isaiah
(2 Kings 20:11):
He cried unto the Lord by special warrant and direction, and God
brought the sun back ten degrees, which appeared to Hezekiah (for the
sign was intended for him) by the going back of the shadow upon the
dial of Ahaz, which, it is likely, he could see through his
chamber-window; and the same was observed upon all other dials, even in
2 Chronicles 32:31.
Whether this retrograde motion of the sun was gradual or per
saltum--suddenly--whether it went back at the same pace that it
used to go forward, which would make the day ten hours longer than
usual--or whether it darted back on a sudden, and, after continuing a
little while, was restored again to its usual place, so that no change
was made in the state of the heavenly bodies (as the learned bishop
Patrick thinks)--we are not told; but this work of wonder shows the
power of God in heaven as well as on earth, the great notice he takes
of prayer, and the great favour he bears to his chosen. The most
plausible idolatry of the heathen was theirs that worshipped the sun;
yet that was hereby convicted of the most egregious folly and
absurdity, for by this it appeared that their god was under the check
of the God of Israel. Dr. Lightfoot suggests that the fifteen songs of
&c.) might perhaps be so called because selected by
Hezekiah to be sung to his stringed instruments
in remembrance of the degrees on the dial which the sun went back and
the fifteen years added to his life; and he observes how much of these
psalms is applicable to Jerusalem's distress and deliverance and
Hezekiah's sickness and recovery.
|Hezekiah's Piety and Death.
||B. C. 713.|
12 At that time Berodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of
Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had
heard that Hezekiah had been sick.
13 And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and showed them all the
house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the
spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his
armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was
nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah
showed them not.
14 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said
unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto
thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even
15 And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And
Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have
they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not
16 And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.
17 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house,
and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day,
shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the
18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt
beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the
palace of the king of Babylon.
19 Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the
LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if
peace and truth be in my days?
20 And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and
how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the
city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the
kings of Judah?
21 And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son
reigned in his stead.
I. An embassy sent to Hezekiah by the king of Babylon, to congratulate
him on his recovery,
2 Kings 20:12.
The kings of Babylon had hitherto been only deputies and tributaries to
the kings of Assyria, and Nineveh was the royal city. We find Babylon
subject to the king of Assyria,
2 Kings 17:24.
But this king of Babylon began to set up for himself, and by degrees
things were so changed that Assyria became subject to the kings of
Babylon. This king of Babylon sent to compliment Hezekiah, and
ingratiate himself with him upon a double account.
1. Upon the account of religion. The Babylonians worshipped the sun,
and, perceiving what honour their god had done to Hezekiah, in going
back for his sake, they thought themselves obliged to do honour to him
likewise. It is good having those our friends whom we perceive to be
the favourites of heaven.
2. Upon the account of civil interest. If the king of Babylon was now
mediating a revolt from the king of Assyria, it was policy to get
Hezekiah into his interest, in answer to whose prayers, and for whose
protection, heaven had given that fatal blow to the king of Assyria. He
found himself obliged to Hezekiah, and his God, for the weakening of
the Assyrian forces, and had reason to think he could not have a more
powerful and valuable ally than one that had so good an interest in the
upper world. He therefore made his court to him with all possible
respect by ambassadors, letters, and a present.
II. The kind entertainment Hezekiah gave to these ambassadors,
2 Kings 20:13.
It was his duty to be civil to them, and receive them with the respect
due to ambassadors; but he exceeded, and was courteous to a fault.
1. He was too fond of them. He hearkened unto them. Though they
were idolaters, yet he became intimate with them, was forward to come
into a confederacy with the king their master, and granted them all
they came for. He was more open and free than he should have been, and
stood not so much upon his guard. What reason had he that was in
covenant with God so eagerly to catch at an alliance with a heathen
prince, or to value himself at all upon his respectful notice? What
honour could this embassy add to one whom God had so highly favoured,
that he should please himself so much with it?
2. He was too fond of showing them his palace, his treasures, and his
magazines, that they might see, and might report to their master, what
a great king he was, and how well worthy of the honour their master did
him. It is not said that he showed them the temple, the book of the
law, and the manner of his worship, that he might proselyte them to the
true religion, which he had now a fair opportunity of doing; but in
compliment to them, lest he should affront them, he waived that, and
showed them the rich furniture of his closet, that house of his
precious things, the wealth he had heaped up since the king of Assyria
had emptied his coffers, his silver, and gold, and spices. All
the valuable things he had he showed them, either himself or by his
officers. And what harm was there in this? What is more commonly, and
(as we think) more innocently, done, than to show strangers the riches
and rarities of a country--to show our friends our houses and their
furniture, our gardens, stables, and libraries? But if we do this in
the pride of our hearts, as Hezekiah did, to gain applause from men,
and not giving praise to God, it turns into sin to us, as it did to
III. The examination of Hezekiah concerning this matter,
2 Kings 20:14,15.
Isaiah, who had often been his comforter, is now his reprover. The
blessed Spirit is both,
Ministers must be both, as there is occasion. Isaiah spoke in God's
name, and therefore called him to account as one having authority: "Who
are these? Whence come they? What is their business? What have they
seen?" Hezekiah not only submitted to the examination (did not ask him,
"Why should you concern yourself and question me about this affair?"),
but made an ingenuous confession: There is nothing among my
treasures that I have not shown them. Why then did he not bring
them to Isaiah, and show him to them who was without doubt the best
treasure he had in his dominions, and who by his prayers and prophecies
had been instrumental in all those wonders which these ambassadors came
to enquire into? I hope Hezekiah had the same value for Isaiah now that
he had in his distress; but it would have become him to show it by
bringing these ambassadors to him in the first place, which might have
prevented the false step he took.
IV. The sentence passed upon him for his pride and vanity, and the too
great relish he had of the things of the world, after that intimate
acquaintance he had so lately been admitted into with divine things.
The sentence is
(2 Kings 20:17,18),
1. That the treasures he was so proud of should hereafter become a
prey, and his family should be robbed of them all. It is just with God
to take that from us which we make the matter of our pride and in which
we put our confidence.
2. That the king of Babylon, with whom he was so fond of an alliance,
should be the enemy that should make a prey of them. Not that it was
for this sin that that judgment should be brought upon them: the sins
of Manasseh, his idolatries and murders, were the cause of that
calamity; but it is now foretold to Hezekiah, to convince him of the
folly of his pride and of the value he had for the king of Babylon, and
to make him ashamed of it. Hezekiah was fond of assisting the king of
Babylon to rise, and to reduce the exorbitant power of the kings of
Assyria; but he is told that the snake he is cherishing will ere long
sting the bosom that cherishes it, and that his royal seed shall become
the king of Babylon's slave (which was fulfilled,
&c.), than which there could not be any thing more mortifying to
Hezekiah to think of. Babylon will be the ruin of those that are fond
of Babylon. Wise therefore and happy are those that come out from
V. Hezekiah's humble and patient submission to this sentence,
2 Kings 20:19.
Observe how he argues himself into this submission.
1. He lays it down for a truth that "good is the word of the
Lord, even this word, though a threatening; for every word of his
is so. It is not only just, but good; for, as he does no wrong to any,
so he means no hurt to good men. It is good; for he will bring good out
of it, and do me good by the foresight of it." We should believe this
concerning every providence, that it is good, is working for good.
2. He takes notice of that in this word which was good, that he should
not live to see this evil, much less to share in it. He makes the best
of the bad: "Is it not good? Yes, certainly it is, and better than I
(1.) True penitents, when they are under divine rebukes, call them not
only just, but good; not only submit to the punishment of their
iniquity, but accept of it. So Hezekiah did, and by this it appeared
that he was indeed humbled for the pride of his heart.
(2.) When at any time we are under dark dispensations, or have dark
prospects, public or personal, we must take notice of what is
for us as well as what is against us, that we may by
thanksgiving honour God, and may in our patience possess our own souls.
(3.) As to public affairs, it is good, and we are bound to think it
so, if peace and truth be in our days. That is,
[1.] Whatever else we want, it is good if we have peace and truth, if
we have the true religion professed and protected, Bibles and
ministers, and enjoy these in peace, not terrified with the alarms of
war or persecution.
[2.] Whatever trouble may come when we are gone, it is good if all be
well in our days. Not that we should be unconcerned for posterity; it
is a grief to foresee evils: but we should own that the deferring of
judgments is a great favour in general, and to have them deferred so
long as what we may die in peace is a particular favour to us, for
charity begins at home. We know not how we shall bear the trial, and
therefore have reason to think it well if we may but get safely to
heaven before it comes.
Lastly, Here is the conclusion of Hezekiah's life and story,
2 Kings 20:20,21.
2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33
much more is recorded of Hezekiah's work of reformation than in this
book of Kings; and it seems that in the civil chronicles, not now
extant, there were many things recorded of his might and the good
offices he did for Jerusalem, particularly his bringing water by pipes
into the city. To have water in plenty, without striving for it and
without being terrified with the noise of archers in the drawing of it,
to have it at hand and convenient for us, is to be reckoned a great
mercy; for the want of water would be a great calamity. But here this
historian leaves him asleep with his fathers, and a son in his
throne that proved very untoward; for parents cannot give grace to
their children. Wicked Ahaz was the son of a godly father and the
father of a godly son; holy Hezekiah was the son of a wicked father and
the father of a wicked son. When the land was not reformed, as it
should have been, by a good reign, it was plagued and ripened for ruin
by a bad one; yet then tried again with a good one, that it might
appear how loth God was to cut off his people.