Isaiah 39:8-- Hezekiah's good example?

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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
After God pronounces the consequence of Hezekiah's sin on his nation and children, Isaiah relays:

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” (Isaiah 39:8)​

These words occur after previously receiving word from God that he would die of his sickness to which he cried out to God for mercy, God answering him and granting him fifteen more years.

Calvin praises Hezekiah's response in 39:8 as one of faith:

Good is the word of Jehovah From this reply we learn, that Hezekiah was not a stubborn or obstinately haughty man, since he listened patiently to the Prophet's reproof, though he was little moved by it at the commencement. When he is informed that the Lord is angry, he unhesitatingly acknowledges his guilt, and confesses that he is justly punished. Having heard the judgment of God, he does not argue or contend with the Prophet, but conducts himself with gentleness and modesty, and thus holds out to us an example of genuine submissiveness and obedience.​

While I agree with Calvin that our response to God's chastisement should be in patience and submissiveness, it seems to me that Hezekiah effectively said, "at least this bad stuff won't happen to me." Did he not learn that he should cry out to God in prayer, as he did when he was dying? Does he not remember that God in His mercy changed the course of history, as it were, in response to Hezekiah's prayer about his death? Does he not remember how David interceded for his son with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:22) or his nation when he numbered them (2 Sam. 24:10)? Shouldn't Hezekiah's response been one of intercession?

I have a difficult time affirming with Calvin here that this was a response of faith. Rather, it seems to display a callousness and regression on Hezekiah's part.

Thoughts?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner

You may find this sermon from D. A. Carson on Hezekiah useful. I listened to it about 5 years ago, and, from what I recall, he took the same view as yourself.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
2 Chronicles 32:31 gives a little added insight: "And so in the matter of envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart."

I can't say for sure, but this feels to me like it is not talking about a one-time stumble into sin (as if Hezekiah inexplicably got proud when the Babylonian envoys arrived) but rather like an ongoing character flaw. The humility that had arisen in his sickness did not last, and Hezekiah became somewhat self-centered again later in life. This supports the view that Hezekiah's "the word you have spoken is good" is a selfish thought, as you suggest.

In addition, the extreme idolatry of Manasseh suggests that Hezekiah might not have been a very caring father. It is no surprise that a king who says "this is good" when informed that his sons will be carried away and made eunuchs ends up with a son who is disobedient and refuses to follow in the father's faith. Again, it's hard to say with certainty that there's a connection, but I can't help speculating.

Happily, God did lead Hezekiah into many moments of true repentance and humility, and even blessed Manasseh with repentance later in life. But I too think Hezekiah's comment reflects some amount of selfishness. Maybe not a lot, but some.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
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There a a number of things that could be proposed, including that the events are presented in reverse-chronological order in order to make a theological point. In which case, the response in ch.39 (which still shows faith) is evidence of faith that might not be as robust as that shown in ch.38. I'm not saying this is the case, but that the text says "At that time," which is somewhat less specific than "After this," or some other sign of successive historical-narrative.

It certainly is possible to read this as a sign of faith-declension, but I don't think that's absolutely the case. On the successive-narrative perspective, Hezekiah could still be flush with encouragement taken from the previous answer to prayer. His short-sighted welcome and boasting may not be as blameable as would be the case if he were looking at the time for earthly allies. I think he welcomed the delegation from Babylon naively, as if they were the ones looking for allies.

In that case, the rebuke is for his lack of prayerful foresight and earthly caution or suspicion. The princes of the earth are fickle allies, and often have ulterior motives for seeking alliance with the church. Now, Hezekiah is told that this naivete will backfire. He does not rail, but kisses the rod; being thankful that in his days it will not occur.

Hezekiah may also recognize, being familiar with Isaiah's preaching overall, that this judgment is in conformity with the doom that is only being delayed against this nation. An exile is coming, and it is only a matter of time. How much time is known only to the LORD, and from the standpoint of the people further delay may be introduced.

I'm with Calvin, generally.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Matthew Poole says the following on 2 Kings 20:19:

Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days? which speaks not as if he were careless and unconcerned for his posterity, (which neither the common inclinations and affections of nature in all men, nor that singular piety and charity which was eminent and manifest in Hezekiah, can suffer us to believe,) or for the church and people of God, for whose welfare he was so solicitous and industrious in the whole course of his life; but because it was a singular favour that this judgment did not immediately follow his sin, the cause of it, but was suspended for a longer time.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I asked Ruben to reopen this thread because I read the chapter this week, and remembered the discussion.
I notice the progression of confidence in Hezekiah’s prayers in the previous chapters.
  1. He sends a messenger to request Isaiah to pray (in somewhat tentative language, even?)
  2. He goes into the house of God Himself and spreads out the matter and prays
  3. He turns his face to the wall in his own house and cries to God for a different outcome, even though Isaiah has been sent to him with a word from Lord.
In this last prayer he speaks about having lived ‘Coram Deo’ (38:3). All of which speaks to a sincere worship of and walk with God.

I am wondering though, more along the lines of what Jack said, if there was a degree of worldliness, of grasping after prestige and power via worldly alliances when we come to chapter 39. If Hezekiah’s head was turned by the attention paid to him by a merely temporal power -- and this plays into his satisfaction with a merely temporal peace, something gained in a worldly transitory way only for his own lifetime.

If so, it’s even astounding that the next chapter opens with hope for the future in God’s true Shepherd, despite all this. The grass withers, but God’s word is still going to rise up. Jesus never had his head turned by the offer of worldly power or glory (Matthew 4:8-10). Hezekiah was a good king, but he wasn’t the one who would achieve God’s purposes for Israel or the world.

Note that God had made a promise when he 'saw his tears' that He would shield the city. Hezekiah did not need the alliance with Babylon if he was trusting God's promise -- did he? (Some of this is Dr. Motyer's take.)

It also struck me personally that I will wind up being duped wherever I am dazzled by what is on offer in this world. Jesus was dazzled not with the prestige or power or glory, but with the hearts of the people he came to shepherd.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Is. 38:5, "Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years."

2 Ki.21:1, "Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzi-bah.'

Was Hezekiah childless when he was told, " Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live?"​

Is. 38:19 "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the [sons] shall make known thy truth."

Is.39:7, "7 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."

But not all the sons, and there would be descendants unto David from him. Hezekiah was not cut out of the line of Promise.​
"Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken."​
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Is. 38:5, "Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years."

2 Ki.21:1, "Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzi-bah.'

Was Hezekiah childless when he was told, " Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live?"​

Is. 38:19 "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the [sons] shall make known thy truth."

Is.39:7, "7 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."

But not all the sons, and there would be descendants unto David from him. Hezekiah was not cut out of the line of Promise.​
"Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken."​

I think I understand what you are saying. You are saying that Hezekiah wasn't ultimately content with a merely temporal peace because we can see his expressions of faith grasping past that. Also that he did take care to tell the truth to Manasseh. Is that correct?

I should clarify that I was not meaning to imply that Hezekiah did not care about God's promises. Just that even he, sincere believer that he was, and good king that he was, ultimately seems to have this flaw where he is unable to do the work of the 'Once and Future King' who is starting to emerge more clearly in this part of Isaiah, who is going to have to deal with all this failure of Israel's mission. It doesn't stop God -- who is unfailing in His purpose, but it feels like Hezekiah's aim in some sense, as a king, fell short? He yielded to a this-worldly-system pressure Jesus withstood.
And in keeping with that, it seems like his comment could be part of the attitude I have when I am not setting my heart on eternity -- I *could* actually content myself with some merely temporal outcome. It's a satisfaction that also 'falls short', like the aim. I don't think that undermines Hezekiah's faith and righteousness (or his truth speaking to his children, necessarily) -- I hope it does not undermine mine that I struggle. I am not going to accomplish any deliverance in the earth either, though.

I can see the flip side, that he could be expressing gratitude that God is being gracious in chastening. It just seems so much like what we actually do fall into when we yield to pressures like wanting this world's prestige or glory or security. We sometimes settle for it. (And Jesus Himself would not have said that. That was not His attitude as a King. He preferred to take the judgment himself and to secure peace for his children.)
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Right, I don't think Hezekiah was just resting in the fact of his own temporal peace and nevermind the future. I think Hezekiah is able to admit he was wrong, acknowledging the LORD is right to judge him and the people; and also is able to see that the same LORD had not failed to show him and the people mercy; nor would he fail to show them more mercy, mixed with his judgments. I think he thanks the LORD, and vows to teach his son his hope. Manasseh was both an infamous tyrant, doing evil and filling Jerusalem end to end with blood, 2Ki.21:2,16; and in the end--to our amazement, he turns back to God, 2Chr.33:12-13. His grandson Josiah becomes the greatest Reformer-king of God's people.

If my read is correct, then Hezekiah's greatest sorrow in ch.38 was that he did not have an heir when he was told he was about to die. The Promise might continue, but the throne would likely go to a brother, or to a nephew. When you have the sense of duty a godly king in David's line has--Hezekiah was carrying forward the hope--not having that heir must have felt like a failure of the first order. Had he not served the LORD "in truth and with a whole heart?"

We see what happened with the line after Josiah. His son Jehoahaz is taken away by Pharaoh, and he dies in Egypt. Jehoahaz' brother Eliakim/Jehoiachim became king, and carried on the line for a time, and then his son Jehoiachin carried it on. But he was taken off to Babylon (and in 2Ki.24 you might imagine the same fate overtook the line in him as happened to his uncle). Zedekiah, Jehoiachin's uncle comes to the throne, and before he is hauled off to Babylon (eventually to die there) his sons are killed in front of him, and he is blinded.

So, it looks like the line really does go extinct a few generations later; a clear judgment from God. Remember, these are the sons (grandsons) of Hezekiah. But were we paying attention to the words God told Hezekiah, that "OF thy sons--and you will beget sons--these will go off to be eunuchs (castrati?) in the palace of the king of Babylon." Whatever it looks like, the end is not the end.

Yes, Hezekiah did folly. He succumbed to a design, just as crafty in one sense as the craft of the Gibeonites, Jos.9. He should have sought divine counsel when the emissaries came to visit. Perhaps he thought of this visit as more akin to the Queen of Sheba's. He shouldn't have "shown off." By any objective measure, the kingdom was in no position to boast of its earthly glory. I think it is reasonable for him to be some thankful that his days will be remembered as ones of "peace and truth."
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Right, I don't think Hezekiah was just resting in the fact of his own temporal peace and nevermind the future. I think Hezekiah is able to admit he was wrong, acknowledging the LORD is right to judge him and the people; and also is able to see that the same LORD had not failed to show him and the people mercy; nor would he fail to show them more mercy, mixed with his judgments. I think he thanks the LORD, and vows to teach his son his hope. Manasseh was both an infamous tyrant, doing evil and filling Jerusalem end to end with blood, 2Ki.21:2,16; and in the end--to our amazement, he turns back to God, 2Chr.33:12-13. His grandson Josiah becomes the greatest Reformer-king of God's people.

If my read is correct, then Hezekiah's greatest sorrow in ch.38 was that he did not have an heir when he was told he was about to die. The Promise might continue, but the throne would likely go to a brother, or to a nephew. When you have the sense of duty a godly king in David's line has--Hezekiah was carrying forward the hope--not having that heir must have felt like a failure of the first order. Had he not served the LORD "in truth and with a whole heart?"

We see what happened with the line after Josiah. His son Jehoahaz is taken away by Pharaoh, and he dies in Egypt. Jehoahaz' brother Eliakim/Jehoiachim became king, and carried on the line for a time, and then his son Jehoiachin carried it on. But he was taken off to Babylon (and in 2Ki.24 you might imagine the same fate overtook the line in him as happened to his uncle). Zedekiah, Jehoiachin's uncle comes to the throne, and before he is hauled off to Babylon (eventually to die there) his sons are killed in front of him, and he is blinded.

So, it looks like the line really does go extinct a few generations later; a clear judgment from God. Remember, these are the sons (grandsons) of Hezekiah. But were we paying attention to the words God told Hezekiah, that "OF thy sons--and you will beget sons--these will go off to be eunuchs (castrati?) in the palace of the king of Babylon." Whatever it looks like, the end is not the end.

Yes, Hezekiah did folly. He succumbed to a design, just as crafty in one sense as the craft of the Gibeonites, Jos.9. He should have sought divine counsel when the emissaries came to visit. Perhaps he thought of this visit as more akin to the Queen of Sheba's. He shouldn't have "shown off." By any objective measure, the kingdom was in no position to boast of its earthly glory. I think it is reasonable for him to be some thankful that his days will be remembered as ones of "peace and truth."

Thank you Rev. Buchanan. I can see that, and you make it come very clear. He's being promised an incredible hope under the form of judgment. That's so very Isaiah -- the judgment is always the interim fulfillment of the promise of hope.

It's just that I see such a contrast with Jesus in this reaction, as well as in the act that was being chastened. And I can't help thinking that is a significant part this scene, in this section.
But even if I wind up tentatively holding that opinion, what you said enriches the mercy and hope of it all greatly.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Heidi,
Your point--that Hezekiah presents us a negative contrast as well as a positive comparison to Jesus--is not invalid.

Jesus succeeds where ordinary men fail; he supersedes where they function well.

Blessings.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Thank you Rev. Buchanan. Blessings to you too. It's a significant help (and gives me a lot to think about, that helps my faith) when you answer questions about Scripture; thank you.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
That will preach! Can I steal it? "Jesus succeeds where we fail, and supersedes where we do well."
I certainly didn't invent the concept of biblical typology. I believe it was the OT way of reading the OT: with reference to their messianic Hope. It was Jesus' way of revealing himself when he arrived, and how he taught his disciples to handle the Scriptures.

I don't know how to take the rewording. If "we" is a testament to today's Christian-in-the-pew's solidarity with the believers in the Bible, then yes. We fail with David, and with Peter; we take the land with Joshua and we build a Temple under Solomon.

But if "we" is just you and me in the course of my life, I'm a little less ready to sanction the idea that Jesus writes a good sermon where I don't; and his best is so much better than my best it's not even close. Or is it just a statement about ethics? Does he make all great decisions, but I can be counted on to make bad ones, and never the perfect one?

Or is it just morality? Jesus did live a perfectly moral life, which covers over 100% of my actions. I've never done well, not enough to count for anything. In which case I don't think the rewording is suitable.

All I have to say is be wise and theologically accurate, then, when presenting the idea. It isn't my property, so it can't be stealing; but MY meaning for the words has to do specifically and exclusively with the content of the Bible.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
So, it looks like the line really does go extinct a few generations later; a clear judgment from God.
Are you suggesting Hezekiah’s great grandson, Jehoiachin, did not have a biological son? I’m particularly interested because I’ve long struggled with the merging of the Matthew and Luke genealogies at Shealtiel (and Zerubbabel). One theory I’ve heard is that Jehoiachin had adopted Shealtiel as his son. So Shealtiel legally inherited the kingly line descended from Solomon, though was biologically from David’s other son, Nathan.

This may also help explain why Nehemiah and his brothers later had authority over Jerusalem rather than Zerubbabel’s son...?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So, it looks like the line really does go extinct a few generations later; a clear judgment from God.
Are you suggesting Hezekiah’s great grandson, Jehoiachin, did not have a biological son? I’m particularly interested because I’ve long struggled with the merging of the Matthew and Luke genealogies at Shealtiel (and Zerubbabel). One theory I’ve heard is that Jehoiachin had adopted Shealtiel as his son. So Shealtiel legally inherited the kingly line descended from Solomon, though was biologically from David’s other son, Nathan.

This may also help explain why Nehemiah and his brothers later had authority over Jerusalem rather than Zerubbabel’s son...?
I'm not suggesting that.

The simple answer to the question, whether Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah or Coniah) had sons is that they are listed in 1Chr.3:17-18, seven (or eight, depending on the translation) which were born in captivity. Interpreters are divided as to whether the "Zedekiah his son" of v16 is an 8th/9th son born before the captivity, or if the last man on the throne (succeeding Jehoiachin) is mentioned a second time there (after the previous v) to end the list of kings with his name.

Restating the final line of my paragraph you quote: " Whatever it looks like, the end is not the end."
 
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