Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.
The treatment of Hezekiah's reign by the author of Chronicles is in marked contrast with that followed in the Book of Kings. The writer of Kings describes mainly civil affairs; the author of Chronicles gives a full account of Hezekiah's religious reformation. 2 Chronicles 29-31 contain matter, therefore, which is almost wholly new.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.
He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.
By "the first month" is meant (compare 2 Chronicles 30:2-3) the month of Nisan, the first of the Jewish sacred year, not necessarily the first month of Hezekiah's reign.
And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street,
The east street - Rather, some open space before the eastern gate of the outer temple court is intended.
And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place.
Sanctify now yourselves - Compare the marginal reference. Hezekiah follows David's example, knowing, probably, that the priests had in the preceding time of idolatry contracted many defilements.
The "filthiness," or "uncleanness" 2 Chronicles 29:16, might consist, in part, of mere dust and dirt, in part, of idolatrous objects introduced by Ahaz before he finally shut up the temple 2 Kings 16:10-16.
For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs.
Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel.
Wherefore the wrath of the LORD was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes.
He hath delivered them to ... hissing - See 1 Kings 9:8 note. It was an expression which Hezekiah might naturally use, for it had occurred in a prophecy of Micah M1 Corinthians 6:16, his contemporary and monitor Jeremiah 26:18-19, which was probably uttered toward the close of the reign of Ahaz. In Jeremiah the phrase becomes common (marginal references).
For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.
Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us.
My sons, be not now negligent: for the LORD hath chosen you to stand before him, to serve him, and that ye should minister unto him, and burn incense.
Then the Levites arose, Mahath the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites: and of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehalelel: and of the Gershonites; Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah:
On the triple division of the Levites, see 1 Chronicles 23:6; and on the musical Levites, see 1 Chronicles 25:1-6.
And of the sons of Elizaphan; Shimri, and Jeiel: and of the sons of Asaph; Zechariah, and Mattaniah:
The descendants of Elizaphan - a grandson of Kohath Exodus 6:22, and chief of the Kohathites at the time of the census in the wilderness Numbers 3:30 - appear at all times to have formed a distinct branch of the Kohathites with special privileges 1 Chronicles 15:8.
And of the sons of Heman; Jehiel, and Shimei: and of the sons of Jeduthun; Shemaiah, and Uzziel.
And they gathered their brethren, and sanctified themselves, and came, according to the commandment of the king, by the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD.
By the words of the Lord - Rather, as suggested in the margin, "According to the commandment of the king in the business (or matters) of the Lord."
And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron.
The "inner part" means here, not the holy of holies in particular, but the interior generally. The priests alone might enter the temple building. The Levites might penetrate no further than the inner court.
Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the LORD: so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.
Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof.
Moreover all the vessels, which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression, have we prepared and sanctified, and, behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.
Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD.
And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he goats, for a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the LORD.
Hezekiah commenced his restoration of the Yahweh-worship with an unusually comprehensive sin-offering, embracing the four chief kinds of sacrificial animals, and seven animals of each kind: he intended to atone for the sins, both conscious and unconscious, of the king, the priests, the people of Judah, and the people of Israel. After the completion of these expiatory rites, he proceeded to the offering of the burnt-offering 2 Chronicles 29:27.
So they killed the bullocks, and the priests received the blood, and sprinkled it on the altar: likewise, when they had killed the rams, they sprinkled the blood upon the altar: they killed also the lambs, and they sprinkled the blood upon the altar.
And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them:
The he goats for the sin offering - Rather, "the he goats of the sin offering" - that portion of the Sin offering which had been reserved to the last.
And the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.
All lsrael - Hezekiah aimed at reuniting once more the whole people of Israel, if not into a single state, yet, at any rate, into a single religious communion. The northern kingdom was in a condition approaching to anarchy. The end was evidently approaching. Hoshea, the king contemporary with Hezekiah 2 Kings 18:1, ruled, not as an independent monarch, but as an Assyrian feudatory 2 Kings 17:3. Under these circumstances Hezekiah designed to invite the revolted tribes to return, if not to their old temporal, at least to their old spiritual, allegiance 2 Chronicles 30:5-10. In order, therefore, to prepare the way for this return, he included "all Israel" in the expiatory sacrifice, by which he prefaced his restoration of the old worship.
And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets.
And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.
And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.
All had hitherto been preparatory. Now Hezekiah gave orders that "the burnt offering" - i. e. the daily morning sacrifice - should be offered upon the brass altar in front of the porch, thus restoring and reinstituting the regular temple-service. A burst of music gave notice to the people of the moment when the old worship recommenced.
And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.
And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped.
Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.
Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the LORD. And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings.
Hezekiah addresses, not the priests, but the congregation: "Now that by the atoning sacrifice which has been offered for you, you are consecrated once more to be a holy people to the Lord, approach with confidence and offer your free-will offerings as of old."
Burnt offerings - The term thus translated is applied especially to those victims which were to be wholly consumed upon the altar. In the "sacrifices," or peace offerings generally, and the "thank offerings" - a particular kind of peace offering Leviticus 7:12) - the greater part of the victim belonged to, and was consumed by, the worshipper. Hence, to offer "burnt offerings," was indicative of a "free heart."
And the number of the burnt offerings, which the congregation brought, was threescore and ten bullocks, an hundred rams, and two hundred lambs: all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD.
And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep.
But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.
The Levites were more upright etc - See the marginal reference. Urijah, the high priest, had participated to some extent in the impieties of Ahaz 2 Kings 16:10-16. He and many of the priests may, therefore, have looked coldly on the reforming zeal of Hezekiah.
And also the burnt offerings were in abundance, with the fat of the peace offerings, and the drink offerings for every burnt offering. So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order.
And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.