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.
Verse 1. - Hezekiah. The Ezekias (as by margin) of Matthew 1:9. Five and twenty years old. We have been told (2 Chronicles 28:1) that Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years. So that, if these numbers be correct, and the numbers of our verse correct, Hezekiah must have been born when his father was only eleven years old. Of which all that can be said is, with Keil, that such a thing was not impossible and not unknown. It is far more probable, however, that one of the determining figures is wrong, but we have nothing to guide us to say which. Abijah. The parallel spells this name "Abi," omitting the final he, and dagesh in yod. Zechariah. This may, perhaps, have been the Zechariah whose name accompanies the mention of the name of "Uriah the priest" in Isaiah 8:2, where we may be surprised to find Uriah called a "faithful witness," when we remember his associations with Ahaz, as told in our foregoing chapter. Some refer our Zechariah, however, to him of 2 Chronicles 26:5.
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.
Verse 3. - In the first month; i.e. Nisan, the first month of the calendar year (see vers. 2, 13, 15 of next chapter), not simply the first month of the new king's reign. And repaired them. This repairing of Hezekiah was, unhappily, subsequently undone of his own hands (2 Kings 18:14-16).
And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street,
Verse 4. - The east street; Hebrew, הַמִּזְרָח לִרְחוב. This word, rendered here "street," occurs forty-two times, and is always rendered by the same English word, except three times, when it appears as "broad places," or "ways." Probably it should always be translated thus, its meaning and its manifest preponderant use being "an open space" (2 Chronicles 32:6). So Revised Version: Into the broad place on the east, i.e. an open area east of the temple.
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.
Verse 5. - Sanctify... yourselves; Hebrew, הִתְקַדְּשׁוּ. Note the absence of any such direction in 1 Chronicles 13, and see 2 Chronicles 15:11-14, with our note on ver. 12 in particular. The filthiness; Hebrew, אֶת־הַגְּדִּה. This word occurs twenty-seven times, and is rendered "separation" fifteen times, "flowers" twice, "put apart" three times, "uncleanness" or "filthiness" six times, and "menstruous" once. The term, therefore, is among the strongest that could be used, and glances probably at the abominations, of whatsoever sort, that Ahaz's idolatries had entailed (comp. ver. 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.
Verse 7. - This verse is the answering echo of 2 Chronicles 28:24.
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.
Verse 8. - Wherefore the wrath. As illustrated by the defeats and humiliations suffered at the hands of Pekah and Hazael, the Philistines and Edomites, and the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser. To trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing. Three words, carrying each a volume of meaning, and charged with the most powerful and painful of reminiscence (Deuteronomy 28:25, 28, 32 [observe our ver. 9], 37, 46, 65, 66). The Hebrew word for "hissing" (שְׁרֵקָה) occurs, besides, five times in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 19:8; 25:9, 18; 29:18; 51:37), and once in the contemporary Prophet Micah (Micah 6:16; comp. Jeremiah 26:18).
For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.
Verse 9. - (See 2 Chronicles 28:5, 8, 17.)
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.
Verse 10. - To make a covenant; Hebrew, לִכְרות בְּרְית (see 2 Chronicles 15:12, and our note there).
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.
Verse 11. - Be not now negligent; Hebrew, אַל־תִּשָּׂלוּ. This verb in kal (supposing it the same verb) occurs but five times (Job 3:26; Job 12:6; Psalm 122:6; Jeremiah 12:1; Lamentations 1:5), the radical idea of it being the safety of ease or security rather than any absolute safety. In niph. it is found only in this place and in 2 Kings 4:28, where the rendering of the Authorized Version, "Do not deceive me," will easily yield the same essential idea. The derivative adjective (שֶׁלֵו) occurs eight times, and always has the same flavour about it (1 Chronicles 4:40; Job 16:12; Job 20:20; Job 21:23; Psalm 73:12; Jeremiah 49:31; Ezekiel 23:42; Zechariah 7:7). And the derivative nouns (שֶׁלֶו and שַׁלְוָה) occur nine times, and, at any rate, in almost every instance evidently carrying the same fundamental idea (Psalm 30:6; Psalm 122:7; Proverbs 1:32; Proverbs 17:1; Jeremiah 22:21; Ezekiel 16:49; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:21, 24). Our Authorized Version, therefore, sufficiently reproduces the thought of Hezekiah, though perhaps this would more exactly come out of the rendering, "Be not now at ease," i.e. sacrifice ease and self-indulgence, etc. To serve him... that ye should minister. The same verb is used in both these places; so Revised Version, To minister unto him, and that ye should be his ministers.
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:
Verse 12. - Then the Levites arose. This verse gives two apiece of the three divisions or "families" - Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, "sons of Levi" (1 Chronicles 6:1, 2, 16-20; 1 Chronicles 23:6, 7, 12, 21, 24; comp. Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16). Though some of the names of this and the following two verses are known, they do not designate, of course, the same persons. Through many a generation of Levites, the same names were, no doubt intentionally, reproduced.
And of the sons of Elizaphan; Shimri, and Jeiel: and of the sons of Asaph; Zechariah, and Mattaniah:
Verse 13. - Elizaphan (Exodus 6:22). He was chief of the Kohathites in the time of Moses (Numbers 3:30; comp. 1 Chronicles 15:8). This family, though we do not read why, seems always to have retained a separate existence.
And of the sons of Heman; Jehiel, and Shimei: and of the sons of Jeduthun; Shemaiah, and Uzziel.
Verse 14. - Asaph (former verse), Heman, Jeduthun. These were the chiefs of the singers and musicians (see, again, 1 Chronicles 6:31-33, 39; 1 Chronicles 25:1-7; 2 Chronicles 5:12).
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.
Verse 15. - By the words of the Lord. The Hebrew here (בְּדִבְרֵי יְהוָה) may possibly mean, "in the business of Jehovah," upon which King Hezekiah was now intent. But it is not by any means needful so to understand it. The words or commands of the Lord are such as are written in Exodus 19:22; Leviticus 11:44.
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.
Verse 16. - The inner part. That is to say, only the priests were warranted to enter inside the temple, while the Levites' sphere of work and service lay in the courts and round about the temple. Kidron, as we have seen (note 2 Chronicles 27:3), lay on the east of the temple mount.
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.
Verse 17. - They began... to sanctify. This is not the hithpael conjugation (ver. 5), and the whole verse probably purports to speak only of the sanctification of things, not of the self-sanctifying of the official persons, which, whether it occupied longer or shorter time, had been already done. The sanctifying of all outside, then, to the threshold, or porch, took eight days. So, manifestly, should be rendered, in the van here found, and. The sanctifying of the interior occupied another eight days, and the legitimate feast-day of the Passover, viz. the fourteenth day of Nisan, became overlapped by two days. Nevertheless, many may have observed the Passover on its strict date.
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.
Verse 18. - This and the following verse purport to say that, while all "filthiness" had been swept out and away to Kidron's dark waters, all that had been polluted of the proper furniture of the temple and its worship had now been cleansed and sanctified by those who had been entrusted with the work, and likewise that things misplaced and removed had been replaced, also after cleansing and sanctifying. This is the happy report that the priests bring now to Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 28:24 2Kings 16:14).
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.
Verse 20. - The rulers of the city are its chief citizens - Hebrew, שָׂרֵי הָעִיר (2 Chronicles 24:17; 2 Chronicles 30:1-4) - who bring contributions of sacrificial victims, the word being generally rendered "princes,"
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.
Verse 21. - There is diversity of opinion, whether the seven bullocks (פָרִים), seven rams (אֵילִים), seven lambs (כְבָשִׁים) were burnt offering (עולָה), or, with the seven he-goats (צְפִירֵי עִזּים), were sin offering (חַטָּאת). Some think (as, for instance, Canon Rawlinson) that they were sin offering, as the account of the offering of them (ver. 22) takes priority for them over the he-goats; others (as Bertheau, Professor J. G. Murphy, etc.), that they were certainly burnt offering. It scarcely appears as though much stress can be laid upon what is apparently the chief reason of Canon Rawlinson's opinion, in face of the immediate language of the last sentence of our ver. 24, "for the king commended the burnt offering and the sin offering for all Israel." The fact of no mention of burnt offering in our present verse, and of the natural construction of the description, "for a sin offering for the kingdom," etc., as applying to all that had preceded, seems the better argument, and all that is necessary, unless something moderately decisive be forthcoming to rebut it. The solution of all, however, is probably to our hand in Ezra 8:35, which is a very close and significant parallel to our present verse. The first mention of the sacrifice of פָרִים, or "young bullocks" is found in Exodus 24:5, and afterwards in Exodus 29:1, 3; Leviticus 4:3, etc.; Leviticus 8:2, 14, etc. The first mention of the sacrifice of אֵילִים is Genesis 22:13; and, after, Exodus 29:15-18, 19-21, etc.; Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 8:2, 22, etc. The first mention of the sacrifices of the כְבָשִׁים is Exodus 12:3-7, and, after, Exodus 29:38, etc. The first mention of the sacrifice of צְפִירֵי עִזּים is the present passage; and, after, Ezra 8:25. But the mention of sacrifices of goats is found in Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 3:12, and often besides. For the kingdom; i.e. probably for "all that are in authority," viz. the king and rulers, the Hebrew word (מַמְלָכָה) designating here those exercising dominion (1 Kings 11:11; 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Samuel 28:17) rather than the country under dominion (Joshua 10:2; 1 Samuel 27:5). It is, however, possible that allusion to the whole kingdom of Judah and Israel is made here. For the sanctuary; i.e. those who officiated in holy things. For Judah; i.e. for all the people.
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.
Verse 22. - Received... sprinkled. The sprinkling of the blood marked the expiation (Leviticus 4:7, 18, 30; Leviticus 5:9; Leviticus 8:14, 15; Hebrews 9:12-14, 19-22).
And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them:
Verse 23. - The he-goats for the sin offering. No preposition "for" is found in the Hebrew text, and the previous noun is in the construct state, שְׂעַירֵי. Laid their hands. This signified the supposed laying of sins - the sins of the people - on the head of the animal (Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 4:4, etc.).
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.
Verse 24. - They made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar; Revised Version, and they made a sin offering with their blood. etc.; Hebrew, piel future of חָמָא. The piel conjugation occurs in all fourteen times - seven times rendered "cleanse;" twice, "purify;" twice, "offer for sin;" once, "purge;" once, as here, "make reconciliation;" and once (Genesis 31:39, "I bare the loss of it"), to "bear loss." This last instance, being the very first occurrence of the word in this conjugation, beautifully harmonizes with the simple and most elementary idea of the doctrine or facts underlying the word. To make... atonement; Hebrew, לְכַפֵד, piel infinitive. This word, which in the one kal occurrence of it (Genesis 6:14) means "to pitch, or cover with pitch," occurs in piel eighty-six times, and is rendered "atone" or "make atonement" sixty-six times, seven times "reconcile" or "make reconciliation," the other renderings being such as "pacify," "purge," "forgive," "cleanse," "be merciful," "put it off," i.e. "expiate" (margin). We are so distinctly twice told that these sacrifices were for all Israel, that it may be taken for granted that the desire of Hezekiah was to include the northern kingdom - with which, under Hoshea, in subjection to the Assyrian king, times were now very hard and ominous of the end - in the benefits of the expiatory offerings now made (so see vers. 5, 6, 10-12 of next chapter).
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.
Verse 25. - (See 1 Chronicles 16:4; 1 Chronicles 21; 1 Chronicles 23:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1, 6; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 5:12.)
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.
Verse 27. - Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering. This verse and the following, with graphic brevity, purport to describe the actual consummating of the preparations rehearsed before, and, as seems most probable, in the significance of the last clause of Ezra 8:35, already referred to. The whole of the burnt offering was burnt on the altar, but of the sin offering the "fat" alone (Leviticus 4:19).
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.
Verse 29. - Bowed; Hebrew, כָּרְעוּ. Of the force and forcibleness of the verb here employed an idea may be obtained from comparison of Genesis 49:9; Numbers 24:9; Judges 5:27; Judges 7:6; 1 Kings 19:18. Worshipped; Hebrew, יִשְׁתַּחֲווּ. This verb, on the other hand, proclaims the force, not of the posture of the body merely, but rather of the mind, in the rising degrees of respect, reverence, allegiance, and the worship of profound adoration paid to him, who is "God over all, blessed for evermore." The scene imaged in this description is indeed splint-stirring, in a high degree.
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.
Verse 30. - With the words of David, and of Asaph. We can scarcely exclude from our thought the impression that loving human reverence for their own past religious helpers of song and music, and enthusiasm for the memory of them, were here glanced at. The king's and the princes supplementary (moreover) injunction and instruction to the Levites as to what words they should put on their lips. Asaph the seer. This is the only place in which Asaph is thus distinctly named seer, but it is contained virtually in 1 Chronicles 25:2; and for the substantive title given to two colleagues, see 1 Chronicles 25:5; 2 Chronicles 35:15. The princes (see their growing prominence in 2 Chronicles 24:17; 2 Chronicles 28:21; 2 Chronicles 30:2, 6, 12, 24; 2 Chronicles 32:3).
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.
Verse 31. - Ye have consecrated yourselves. The Hebrew text is (with the margin of both Authorized and Revised Versions), "have filled your hands to Jehovah." Our somewhat awkward and somewhat misleading reproduction in English of the Hebrew text is, nevertheless, on the whole defensible. The phrase occurs some seventeen times (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9, 29, 33, 35; Exodus 32:29; Leviticus 8:33; Leviticus 16:32; Leviticus 21:10; Numbers 3:3; Judges 17:5, 12; 1 Kings 13:33; 1 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 13:9; Ezekiel 43:26), and in some of these instances is most conveniently represented by the rendering "consecrate." The plural noun הַמִּלֻאִים, or חַמִּלוּאִיִם, is found thirteen times, in three of which places it is spoken of "stones to be set," as e.g. "for" or "in the ephod" (Exodus 25:7; Exodus 35:9, 27; 1 Chronicles 29:2); and in the other ten, of "consecration," as e.g. "a ram of consecration," "the ram of Aaron's consecration" (Exodus 29:22, 26, 27, 31, 34; Leviticus 7:37; Leviticus 8:22, 28, 29, 31, 33). Some think our text, "Now ye have consecrated yourselves," glances at the sacrifices of a propitiatory sort, which had just been completed; others, that the reference is by anticipation - to the fact that the people invited to draw near had, in an honourable, holy, and sincerely devoted way, armed themselves with worthy offerings. The sacrifices and thank offerings were sacrifices "of thank offerings," in the nature of the peace offerings (Leviticus 7:11-21, 29-36). The burnt offerings marked the "free heart," inasmuch as there was nothing of them reserved from the consuming of the altar for use. As many as were of a free heart; Hebrew, וְכָל־נְרִיב לֵב. Among some sixty occurrences of this word, in its verb, noun, or (as hero) adjective form, perhaps the most touching and beautifully expressive is that of Psalm 60:12, "Uphold me with thy free Spirit." Sacrifices; Hebrew, זְבָחִים. This is the plural of זֶבַח- a word that expresses the generic idea, as e.g. the feast of sacrifice; again, the act of slaying and sacrificing a victim; again, the victim itself; again, those kinds of sacrifices that were expiatory or eucharistic, but not holocaustic (Leviticus 7:12). Thank offerings; Hebrew, תּודות. This word occurs about thirty-two times; in about two-thirds of that number denoting the spiritual acts of giving of thanks, even when accompanied by the figurative idea of "sacrifices" (Psalm 56:13; Psalm 107:22; Psalm 116:17), the genuine adoring praise or thanksgiving constituting the sacrifice; and in the other third denoting strictly sacrificial offerings, as several times in Leviticus (Leviticus 7:12; 22:29) and here. Our 2 Chronicles 33:16 classifies these with "peace offerings" (שְׁלָמִים), as do many other passages with "burnt offerings" generally (Judges 20:26; Judges 21:4; 1 Samuel 13:9; 2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 16:1; 1 Chronicles 21:26).
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.
Verse 32. - This verse manifestly purports to gauge in some degree the amount of free. heartedness present in the nation.
And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep.
Verse 33. - The consecrated things; Hebrew, הַקָּדַשִׁים. Not the word just discussed in ver. 31; these are the thank offering sacrifices.
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.
Verse 34. - Originally, the worshipper who was moved to sacrifice was enjoined to slay, flay, and cut in pieces the victim (Leviticus 1:2-6). Later the Levites performed these duties, and on great public occasions, at any rate, the priests themselves. The simple tale of this verse speaks volumes of the state of the ecclesiastical profession and of the ecclesiastical heart at this very time. Into the dishonoured sepulchre already two or three unsuspected and apparently unacknowledged chinks had let in reproving light as to this, and very lately the almost unavoidable inferences respecting Urijah (see note on our ver. 1, and on 2 Chronicles 28:24, compared with 2 Kings 16:10-16) served the same purpose. How true to nature and to history, both secular and ecclesiastical also, the superiority, in sincerity and life and preparation for work, of the subordinates (the Levites), to those who fed on dignity rather than maintained it, in the highest sense, by religious life and conscientious practice!
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.
Verse 35. - And the drink offerings for every burnt offering. The "drink offerings" (גֻסָכִים) have not been mentioned before in this chapter. Of these libations of wine and oil, the most particular account is given in Numbers 15:5-10, 24). The first scriptural mention of them occurs in Genesis 35:14; followed by Exodus 29:40, 41; Exodus 30:9; Leviticus 23:13, 18, 37; Numbers 6:15, 17, etc.
And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.
Verse 36. - (Comp. Proverbs 16:1.)