Hezekiah, who is discussed in this chapter and the next three chapters, is the God-fearing son of an ungodly father. By the providence of God he has escaped that his father sacrifices him to the idols (2Chr 28:3). In Hezekiah we have a wonderful example of a revival. He shows the energy of faith, while in a later revival under Josiah in the last chapters of 2 Chronicles we will see a deep respect for the Scriptures.
The history of Hezekiah is a striking example of revivals that have also taken place in the history of Christianity. But it is not so much an example of a revival which is about the conversion of sinners, but about the conversion of Christians, of lukewarm, sleepy Christians who are awakened again. We see these revivals in the reformation of the sixteenth century and the reveille of the nineteenth century. In the reformation of the sixteenth century the emphasis is on the preaching of the Word of God. We see that, in picture, especially with Josia. In the revival of the nineteenth century the emphasis is on the worship of the Father and the Son because of the work of the Son on the cross. We see that, in picture, especially in Hezekiah.
In the history of Hezekiah the house of God is central. We see
1. the cleansing of the house of God (2 Chronicles 29);
2. the participating in the house of God (2 Chronicles 30);
3. the provisions for the house of God (2 Chronicles 31);
4. the protection of the house of God (2 Chronicles 32).
In the revival under Hezekiah we can distinguish seven phases:
1. The reopening of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:3).
2. The consecration of the Levites and priests (2 Chronicles 29:5-15).
3. The cleansing of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:16-19).
4. The sacrifices required for the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:20-30).
5. Additional sacrifices as an expression of the joy of Hezekiah and the whole people (2 Chronicles 29:31-35).
6. The celebration of the Passover (2 Chronicles 30).
7. The cleansing of the whole country (2 Chronicles 31).
1 - 3 Hezekiah Becomes King
1 Hezekiah became king [when he was] twenty-five years old; and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name [was] Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.
With the reign of Hezekiah, a time of blessing for the people begins that will last twenty-nine years (verse 1). The grace of God underlies this time, in which He undoubtedly allowed the mother of Hezekiah to play an important role. Her name, Abijah, means ‘Yahweh is my Father’. She is the daughter of Zechariah, which means “Yahweh remembers”. These names show the spiritual atmosphere in which Hezekiah has been raised.
The result is that Hezekiah “did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done” (verse 2). The life of Hezekiah reminds in everything of the life of David, the man after the heart of God. Hizkia immediately shows what his heart goes out to. The first thing he does is to open again the doors of the house of the LORD (verse 3), which his father Ahaz closed (2Chr 28:24). A decisive testimony of a newly converted person is a wonderful testimony of the authenticity of conversion (cf. Acts 9:20; Col 1:6).
Hezekiah not only opens the doors, but also repairs them. He doesn’t, so to speak, throw the whole thing open so everyone can walk in easily, but also gives the doors their function again. A door should open for those who have a right to enter and should remain closed for those who are not allowed to enter. We can apply this to the service of the church, the house of God now. All those who belong to the church may participate in the service of the church. Those who do not belong to the church or members of the church who do not judge sin in their lives may not participate in it.
4 - 15 Consecration of Levites and Priests
4 He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. 5 Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 6 For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned [their] backs. 7 They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. 8 Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9 For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His burning anger may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.” 12 Then the Levites arose: Mahath, the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah, from the sons of the Kohathites; and from the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and from the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah; 13 and from the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel; and from the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14 and from the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; and from the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. 15 They assembled their brothers, consecrated themselves, and went in to cleanse the house of the LORD, according to the commandment of the king by the words of the LORD.
After opening and repairing the doors, Hezekiah brings in the priests and the Levites and gathers them into the square on the east (verse 4). Opened and repaired doors include a consecrated priesthood and Levitehood. The doors of God’s house can be open, but not for the flesh or the natural man, for they cannot serve there. Only the believer in his character of priest and servant (Levite) may enter. The fact that they are on the square on the east means that they are on the side where the sun rises. It is the side that speaks of a new day, a new beginning, of hope for the future.
The events that then take place in this chapter can be summarized as follows:
1. First the Levites start working (verses 5-15),
2. then the priests (verse 16).
3. Together they do the work, which they finish on the sixteenth day of the first month (verse 17).
4. They report the result to Hezekiah (verses 18-19),
5. who then arranges the festive inauguration of the temple (verses 20-36).
When the priests and the Levites have gathered, Hezekiah addresses the Levites (verse 5). They must begin to consecrate themselves and then they must consecrate the house of the LORD. Consecration means to separate or detach from general use and to give it a special purpose. So the Levites must first become aware that their service is especially dedicated to the LORD and that this also applies to the house of the LORD. Because present uncleanness stands in the way of consecration, the uncleanness must be removed.
This also applies to our lives and to the church. We cannot live holy lives if there is uncleanness in our lives. This uncleanness must first be removed from our hearts and lives by confession and self-judgment. Then we are fit to be used by the Lord in His service.
Hezekiah tells how it was possible that uncleanness could have entered the sanctuary. It is due to the unfaithfulness of “our fathers” (verse 6). They have forsaken the LORD, so that they have had no eye for his dwelling place. They have lived with their backs to the LORD (cf. Eze 8:16; Jer 32:33). Other things have filled their field of vision. When there is no longer any contact with the Lord, the church as His dwelling place also disappears from our interest. We will no longer have an eye for that.
It is not only the case that there is no longer an eye for God’s dwelling place, but their actions were aimed at rendering God’s dwelling place unusable. First, the doors of the porch are shut (verse 7). When doors are shut, this means that worshippers are excluded. He points out that the lamps are put our, which means that the light of the Word and the Spirit does not shine. Also the incense they have not burned, that is to say that there is no prayer (Psa 141:2). If no more burnt offering is offered to the God of Israel, it means that the Person and the work of Christ are forgotten as the only basis to approach God.
We can make an application to our body, for the body of the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19). If we “cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2Cor 7:1),
1. the doors of the entrance to God open again,
2. the lamps of the testimony to the outside are put on again,
3. the incense of prayer rises again and
4. the burnt offerings of worship are brought again.
All this is the result of a revival in our personal lives.
Hezekiah is aware that because of the condition of God’s house “the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem” (verse 8). He acknowledges that the LORD had to surrender Judah and Jerusalem to be “an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing”. Does this not also apply to Christianity? Because of the great unfaithfulness of Christians and the frequent and far-reaching deviation from God’s Word, has not Christianity also become an object of hissing? Instead of attracting people, people are divested. The many quarrels, allowing sinful teachings and practices and seeking earthly and worldly things instead of God’s things are all things that have destroyed the church of God as a testimony to Him.
Many have been killed by the sword (verse 9). Others, the weak, the vulnerable, have been in captivity (2Chr 28:8). All deviations from God’s Word and the forsaking of His temple cause great losses of members of God’s people. Today we see local churches bursting apart by imposing on the church innovations that find no ground in God’s Word. We must return to God’s Word.
Hezekiah wants to make a covenant with the LORD (verse 10). Ahaz has gone so far, that every bond with God has been cut through. Hezekiah restores that bond. He does so according to a purpose of his heart. The heart of Hezekiah is directed toward this; he is fully directed toward the LORD and His will. Here he turns again to the Levites, whom he now calls “my sons” (verse 11). By this he emphasizes the privilege that they may serve as ‘sons of the king’ the LORD. He reminds them that the LORD has chosen them “to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense” (cf. Num 8:14; Deu 33:10).
Hezekiah’s words are heard. From the three families of the Levites – Kahath, Merari and Gerson – men stand up (verse 12), as well as from the three families of the singers – Asaf, Heman and Jeduthun (verses 13-14). The Levites also include their brothers (verse 15). They come “according to the commandment of the king”, which is based on the higher authority of “the words of the LORD”, that is the Word of God. The king’s commandment is already binding; by listening to it, they also act according to the will of God. Before starting work, they first consecrate themselves. Only then do they start working with the temple. This is also the right order: first be on guard for yourselves and then for all the flock (Acts 20:28; 1Tim 4:16).
16 - 19 The Consecration of the Temple
16 So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse [it], and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the LORD they brought out to the court of the house of the LORD. Then the Levites received [it] to carry out to the Kidron valley. 17 Now they began the consecration on the first [day] of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they entered the porch of the LORD. Then they consecrated the house of the LORD in eight days, and finished on the sixteenth day of the first month. 18 Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all of its utensils, and the table of showbread with all of its utensils. 19 Moreover, all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness, we have prepared and consecrated; and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.”
Then the temple is cleansed (verse 16). Anything that is contrary to what God has said is removed. All objects for the service must be cleansed and rectified. In great diligence Hezekiah continues in an explosion of zeal. He also works radically. The dirt is brought to the brook in the Kidron valley to make sure it will be gone. If it was buried in a field, there is a chance that it will be excavated again (cf. 2Chr 15:16; 2Kgs 23:12).
They start inside, in the house, and end in the porch (verse 17). God always works from inside to outside and not, as man often does, from outside to inside. God is not satisfied with a beautiful appearance. He is concerned with an appearance that is a reflection of the inner. God begins with what is closest to Him (Eze 9:6; 1Pet 4:17a). We also see this in the book of Revelation, where first the local churches are judged (Revelation 2-3) and then in the following chapters the world and Israel (Revelation 6-19).
When the priests have cleansed the house of the LORD, they come to the king to report (verse 18). He gave them the assignment and they carried it out. They have cleansed the whole house of the LORD. They mention two objects in particular: the altar of burnt offering with all the accompanying utensils and the table of showbread with all the accompanying utensils.
That the burnt offering altar has been cleaned means that the daily burnt offering can be brought again. The burnt offering represents the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross which is in its entirety to the glory of God. On that basis God can dwell with His people (Exo 29:38-46). The cleansing of the table of showbread means that the people are again presented in their unity to God, a unity based on the work of His Son. For us it is the unity of the church that is connected with the Lord Jesus. That consciousness returns when the church is cleansed of uncleanness.
The Levites also tell of “all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness” (verse 19). They “have prepared and consecrated” them and placed them “before the altar of the LORD”. They have made the old usable again and put it where it belongs. Placing it before the altar speaks of the fact that we always connect rediscovered truths about the house of God with Christ and His work on the cross. The characteristic of a revival is that the old, “what was from the beginning” (1Jn 1:1), is restored, and not that anything new is created. After the cleansing has been completed, the house does not remain empty (cf. Mt 12:44), but is filled with what is of God.
20 - 36 Rededication of the Temple
20 Then King Hezekiah arose early and assembled the princes of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. 21 They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom, the sanctuary, and Judah. And he ordered the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer [them] on the altar of the LORD. 22 So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. They also slaughtered the rams and sprinkled the blood on the altar; they slaughtered the lambs also and sprinkled the blood on the altar. 23 Then they brought the male goats of the sin offering before the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them. 24 The priests slaughtered them and purged the altar with their blood to atone for all Israel, for the king ordered the burnt offering and the sin offering for all Israel. 25 He then stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with harps and with lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the LORD through His prophets. 26 The Levites stood with the [musical] instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27 Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, [accompanied] by the instruments of David, king of Israel. 28 While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this [continued] until the burnt offering was finished. 29 Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. 30 Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped. 31 Then Hezekiah said, “Now [that] you have consecrated yourselves to the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those who were willing [brought] burnt offerings. 32 The number of the burnt offerings which the assembly brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD. 33 The consecrated things were 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. 34 But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was completed and until the [other] priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests. 35 There [were] also many burnt offerings with the fat of the peace offerings and with the libations for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the LORD was established [again]. 36 Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly.
The day after the cleansing Hezekiah arises early (verse 20). It will be a long day, full of activities. When the Levites and priests have done their work, it is the turn of “the princes of the city”. Hezekiah gathers them to go to the temple. They all willingly go along and bring sacrifices at the house of the LORD (verse 21). What is happening here is, as it were, a new dedication of the temple service, as it happened by Solomon (2Chr 5:6), a temple service that has been so neglected since then.
Three times seven animals are offered as burnt offering, bulls, rams and lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering. The various kinds of burnt offerings speak of different aspects of the work of the Lord Jesus as a burnt offering (Lev 1:1-17), while the number seven speaks of the perfection of that work. The fact that it is three times seven indicates that the triune God is involved in this work: the Father has given the Son, the Son has given Himself and has done everything in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The sin offering of seven male goat is for the reconciliation of the king and the princes (“the kingdom”), the priests (“the sanctuary”) and the people (“Judah”). The number seven indicates perfection. The sins are many and the period in which they were committed is long. The sin offering is with a view to the past, the burnt offering is with a view to the future. They are sacrifices for the whole people, not just for the few who are present. The unity of the people may not have been visible to the people for two centuries, but for God and Hezekiah this unity does exist. Everything happens in the awareness of the unity of God’s people.
The blood of the bulls, rams and lambs is collected by the priests and sprinkled on the altar (verse 22). The chronicler emphasizes the blood of each of the animals by mentioning their blood separately. It speaks of God’s special appreciation of the blood. Blood covers the sins and works reconciliation. “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22b).
What happens to the animals for the sin offering is described in even more detail and therefore more emphatically (verse 23). The chronicler involves the reader in every handling. The reader watches as “they brought the male goats of the sin offering”. The eyes of both the king and the assembly are on the goats for the sin offering. Then the involvement becomes even greater, because both the king and the entire assembly lay their hands on the sin offering. By this act they make themselves one with the sin offering (Lev 4:4,15,24,29; 16:21), by which, so to speak, their sins switch over to the sin offering.
Then the priests come into action (verse 24a). They alone are authorized to slaughter the male goats. For us, believers of the church, all of whom are priests, it means that we must have a priestly mind to be able to empathize with the death that Christ had to die for the sins of His people, the church. The blood of the sin offering is offered on the altar, as is the blood of the burnt offering. Blood is life and is therefore only for God (Lev 17:11).
The blood of sacrifice is for reconciliation, which is to cover the sins of the people, so that the people do not have to die, but can stay alive. The New Testament teaches that the blood not only covers the sins, but also takes away the sins, it cleanses from sins (1Jn 1:7b). In the Old Testament the covering is done in view of the perfect sacrifice that would still be made, while in the New Testament the sacrifice is actually made (cf. Rom 3:25-26).
Hezekiah has understood that atonement cannot be limited to a part of God’s people (verse 24b). It is not only for Judah, but “for all Israel” as it says twice. In the next chapter we will see more details about this, where the celebration of the Passover is concerned. We too must remember that the work of Christ is not only for those with whom we come together, but that it is accomplished for all who belong to the church.
Now that the sacrifices have been brought and the relationship with the LORD has been restored on the right basis, there is room for expressions of joy (verse 25). Hezekiah also works here according to the commandment given “according to the command … from the LORD through His prophets” and which was executed by David. In verses 25-30 it says four times that Hezekiah does something in accordance with what David has done or said. This indicates that Hezekiah does not organize a new religion or an adapted religion. He acts according to what God has previously revealed to David. He goes back to what is from the beginning.
For the expressions of joy the Levites are stationed with instruments of David (verse 26). The priests are given trumpets. When they all stand in place and have the instruments ready, Hezekiah orders to offer the burnt offering on the altar. At the same time as the sacrifice is brought, the song for the LORD is started under the accompaniment of the instruments of David, the king of Israel (verse 27).
This gives a wonderful picture of the service we are allowed to perform as a holy priesthood. As soon as we occupy ourselves with the Lord Jesus and His work and tell God about it, it is inevitable that our hearts will spring up with joy. Communion with the Father and the Son gives complete joy (1Jn 1:3b-4). Then there is worship, what we see in the people who worship (verse 28). This worship is not an emotion of the moment, but remains after the sacrifice is made (verse 29).
Then Hezekiah and the officials order the Levites to make new expressions of joy (verse 30). These expressions are not newly invented, but old expressions that are experienced in a new way. In the same way we can regularly sing the same songs. Our feelings will, if all goes well, always be new, always fresh. The more we engage with Christ and His work, the more our worship will deepen. We will often use the same words to express our worship, but which reflect still deeper feelings.
After the necessary sacrifices come the voluntary sacrifices (verse 31). They are a real representation of the state of the hearts. It is the climax of the revival, in which also sacrifices and thank offerings are brought. The thanksgiving is a peace offering, that is a meal offering in which is participated by God and the priest and every member of the people who is pure (Lev 3:11,16; 7:11-12,19,31). The joy that is enjoyed is expressed in the sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15). In addition, there are, as it were automatically, voluntary burnt offerings, which express worship.
All sacrifices and consecrated things brought are counted (verses 32-33). For God, every sacrifice counts. Compared to the sacrifices Solomon brought, Hezekiah brings little. But a revival is a return to the principles of God and not to the circumstances of the beginning. We should not compare the time of Hezekiah and what he does with the time of Solomon, but with the time of his father Ahaz.
Unfortunately, many priests do not show up (verse 34). In a revival not everyone participates. However, a revival does not depend on the number that participates. It is only a handful. Not the quantity, but the quality is characteristic for a revival.
Because there are too few priests, they are unable to skin all the burnt offerings. To skin means that the inner, the inward, becomes visible. In the burnt offering it speaks of the inner feelings of the Lord Jesus that are present with Him as He accomplishes the work to the glory of God. What He feels within, we can read in the book of Psalms.
There are not many Christians today who are able to “skin the burnt offering”. But fortunately there are Levites. They help the priests. They did so until the other priests had also cleansed themselves. In this way God provides for the shortage of priests. He makes sure that the priestly service can continue.
The Levites can be seen as a picture of the teachers the Lord Jesus gave to teach His church. Through their teaching the believers are helped to gain a better understanding of and insight into the Lord Jesus and His work and what the results are (Eph 4:11-13).
The burnt offerings also include the fat of the peace offerings (verse 35). Just like blood, fat is only for God. Fat speaks of energy, the best. In His life on earth Christ has used all His energy to glorify God. Everything He has is for His God. He does so with joy, of which the libation speaks. The libation is a sacrifice of wine that is poured over the main offering. Wine represents joy (Jdg 9:13).
With this, the service of the house of God is restored. Hezekiah and all the people rejoice over this (verse 36). Their joy is especially for God, for what has happened has been brought about by Him. No one has been able to think of or process this. The situation is hopeless. The people are completely lost under the leadership of Ahaz. What has now happened under Hezekiah has been done by God, completely suddenly. To Him be the honor!