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Monday, 1 May 2023

Lessons in humility

 The final chapters of II Chronicles recount the reigns of the various kings, most of whom are fairly unforgettable. However, Hezekiah’s nearly 30-year reign was noteworthy, as explained in this extract from the Bible Lens in last week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson: 

Thirteenth ruler of Judah, Hezekiah reigned for nearly thirty years at the end of the eighth and beginning of the seventh centuries BC.  He was known as a wise and pious king who exercised great military skill, defeating the Philistines and resisting Assyrian aggression through divine guidance (see 18:7, 8II Chronicles 32:9–22). Even more significant, he restored worship of the one God, destroyed pagan shrines throughout the kingdom, and renovated the Temple at Jerusalem (see II Chronicles, chaps. 29–31). For these reasons, some sources compare him to his revered predecessor, King David.

Isaiah’s charge to Hezekiah to put his house in order may indicate that he had no heir as yet. But God promises him 15 more years of life (see II Kings 20:6), and his son Manasseh is born during that time. 

In turning his face to the wall, Hezekiah assumes an attitude of humble prayer. Commentaries contrast this demeanor with that of wilful King Ahab, who turned his face in displeasure at being denied a vineyard he wanted (see I Kings 21:1–4).

The Bible Lesson also included a passage from Isaiah 38:9, 17–19

The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: . . . Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day.

The Bible Lens shares this background information:

Hezekiah’s moving petition to God and subsequent healing is narrated in verses 1–8 and II Kings 20:1–7 (citation 13)and also mentioned in II Chronicles 32:24. His song of thanksgiving, however, appears only in Isaiah’s account. Where the other records place the king’s cure in the context of surrounding political events, this passage—using language similar to many psalms—highlights Hezekiah’s change of thought from lament to praise.

Joyce Voysey

After Hezekiah’s passing (II Chronicles 32: 33), his twelve-year-old son Manasseh took over the rule of Judah for the next 55 years. Manasseh seems to have had to learn his lessons through adversity. At the beginning of his reign, he “reared up altars for Baalim” (ibid verse 3) and “used witchcraft …and wizards” (verse 6). However, he got himself back on track following the harrowing experience of being captured by the king of Assyria and carried off to Babylon. It was at this point that he “humbled himself greatly…and prayed” (vv. 12-13) and was subsequently returned to his home in Jerusalem.

At Manasseh’s passing, his twenty-two-year-old son Amon was crowned king, only to soon be assassinated and replaced by his son, eight-year-old Josiah.

Something of note took place during Josiah’s thirty-year reign. During a massive clean-up, the priest Hilkiah “found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses” (II Chron. 34: 14). At this point, the king’s men approached the prophetess Huldah, who assures them that Josiah’s innate goodness will stand him in good stead. See II Chron. 34: 22-28. When this document was read out, Josiah was truly humbled and “made a covenant … to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments … with all his heart, and with all his soul…” (v. 31).

However, things went quickly downhill after Josiah’s unfortunate death in battle. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, captured the new king Jehoiakim, replaced him with his brother Zedekiah, and destroyed Jerusalem. So, the people of Judah were captives in far-away Babylon until the Persians defeated Babylon and Cyrus king of Persia paved the way for a new era. Long-time blog readers may remember reading about Cyrus on the site some years ago. 

Julie Swannell

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