Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XXIX.
HEZEKIAH (chaps, 29-32.; 2 Kings 18-20); Chap. 29.
LENGTH AND SPIRIT OF THE REIGN. THE SOLEMN PURGATION AND HALLOWING OF THE TEMPLE.
(1) Hezekiah.—Heb., Yĕhizqîyāhu, as if “Strong is Iahu.” 2 Kings writes Hizkîyāh, “My strength is Iah;” Isaiah 27, sqq., Hizkîyāhu. The annals of Sennacherib present the form Hazakiyahu.
Abijan.—2 Kings has the shortened form Abi. (This verse closely corresponds with 2Kings 18:2.)
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.(2) And he did.—The verse is identical with 2Kings 18:3.
He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.THE KING CHARGES THE LÉVITES, AND THEY CLEANSE THE HOUSE OF GOD
Opened the doors.—Which his father had closed (chap. 28:24).
And repaired them.—By overlaying them with metal—bronze or gold-leaf (2Kings 18:16).
And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street,(4) Brought in.—Caused to come.
The east Street.—The eastern square or open space of the East. (Comp. Ezra 10:9; Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 8:3; Nehemiah 8:16.) The place of meeting was probably an open area in front of the eastern gate of the sacred enclosure.
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.(5) Hear me.—2Chronicles 15:2; 2Chronicles 20:15.
Sanctify the house.—By removing all symbols of idolatry.
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.(6) Trespassed.—Dealt unfaithfully.
Turned their backs.—Literally, gave neck (nathan ‘ōreph); a phrase here used as equivalent to turned neck (pānāh ‘ōreph), Jeremiah 2:27, et al. The ordinary meaning is “to put to flight,” as in Psalm 18:41. It is clear from the next verse that the description is meant to apply to Ahaz and his generation.
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.(7) The porch.—Of the holy place, or nave of the Temple; the only entrance to the two holy chambers.
Put out the lamps.—Of the great golden stand, in the holy place.
Have not burned incense.—On the golden altar. Literally, And incense they have not burned, and burnt offering they have not offered in the sanctuary. The sanctuary is not the holy place, or larger chamber of the Temple, but it includes the whole sacred precincts, courts as well as buildings. The burnt offerings presented on the new Syrian altar of Ahaz (2Kings 16:15) are here counted as nought, because they were irregular. (Comp. also 2Kings 16:14.)
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.(8) The wrath . . . was (i.e., fell) upon Judah.—The phrase of 2Chronicles 24:18. (Comp. 2Chronicles 19:2; 2Chronicles 19:10.)
Delivered them to trouble . . .—Rather, made them a horror, an astonishment, and a hissing. The language is Deuteronomic. (Comp. Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 28:37 : “Thou shalt become a horror . . . an astonishment.” Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 25:18 : “I will make them an astonishment and a hissing,” et al.)
As ye see with your (own) eyes.—For ye behold the disastrous results of the invasions of Aram and Israel, of Edom and the Philistines, and of the appeal to Assyria (2 Chronicles 28).
For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.(9) For.—And. (See 2Chronicles 28:5-6; 2Chronicles 28:8; 2Chronicles 28:17 for what is here stated.)
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.(10) Now it is in mine heart.—See for this phrase and construction 1Chronicles 22:7; 1Chronicles 28:2; 2Chronicles 6:7.
To make a covenant with.—The preposition is for. (See Note on 2Chronicles 21:7.)
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.(11) My sons.—A condescending term from the king; just as my father was a term of respect (2Kings 2:12; 2Kings 5:13; 2Kings 13:14).
Be not now negligent.—The Niphal form of the verb shalah (“to be at ease”) occurs nowhere else. The margin is incorrect.
To stand before him, (in order) to serve him, is the construction.
And that ye should minister.—Literally, And to become to him ministers and thurifers.
The thoughts and the style of the royal address make it evident enough that it is a free composition, in the well-known manner of ancient historians.
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:(12-14) The names of the Levites who received the royal charge.
(12) Mahath the son of Amasai.—The verse enumerates two members of each of the three great Levitical subtribes—Kohath, Merari, and Gershon. Mahath and Eden recur (2Chronicles 31:13; 2Chronicles 31:15). Kish ben Abdi and Joah ben Zimmah occurred (1Chronicles 6:21; 1Chronicles 6:44). They appear to be family rather than personal names.
And of the sons of Elizaphan; Shimri, and Jeiel: and of the sons of Asaph; Zechariah, and Mattaniah:(13) The sons of Elizaphan.—Or, Elzaphan, ben Uzziel ben Kohath (Exodus 6:18), who was prince of the bnê Kohath in the time of Moses (Numbers 3:30). Two of this leading house and two of the Gershonite Asaphites were also present.
And of the sons of Heman; Jehiel, and Shimei: and of the sons of Jeduthun; Shemaiah, and Uzziel.(14) And of the sons of Heman.—Two Levites of each of the remaining musical guilds—the Kohathite Hemanites and the Merarite bnê Jeduthun (Ethan)—are finally named, making up, with the preceding pairs, a total of seven pairs, or fourteen principal men of the Levitical order. (Comp. 1Chronicles 6:18-32.)
Jehiel.—Repeated (2Chronicles 31:13).
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.(15) They gathered their brethren.—As chiefs, or heads of houses, they had the requisite authority. The families mostly concerned would naturally be those residing in Jerusalem.
According to the commandment of the king, by the words of the Lord—i.e., through the words of Jehovah; a mandate based on the words of Jehovah, as recorded in the written Law. Comp. 1Chronicles 25:5, and 2Chronicles 30:12. Also 2Chronicles 29:25, below: “For by the hand of Jehovah was the commandment” (Note).
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.(16) The priests went into the inner part.—Ezekiel 41:3. The interior of the Temple proper is meant, which the Levites might not enter, but only the priests, according to the legal rule.
Took.—Received it; from the hands of the priests (qibb ̓ēl a late word).
Abroad.—Outside (of the Temple precincts).
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.(17) The time the work took. Beginning on the 1st of Nisan with the purification of the courts, they had cleansed them by the 8th of the month, and “came to the porch of the Lord,” i.e., to the entry of the holy place. The following eight days were spent in cleansing the two holy chambers, and by the 16th of Nisan the work of purification was done.
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.(18) They went in.—Heb., into the interior (pĕnîmah, “inner part” 2Chronicles 29:16) of the palace.
The altar of burnt offering.—Which Ahaz appears to have superseded (2Kings 16:14-15), besides removing it from its legal position.
And the shewbread table.—Literally, the table of the pile (of sacred cakes). Only one table is here mentioned. (Comp. 1Chronicles 28:16; 2Chronicles 4:8; 2Chronicles 4:19.) The metal work of all the sacred apparatus would be greatly tarnished, if only from neglect, apart from wanton ill usage.
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.(19) Cast away.—The same word as “cast off” in 2Chronicles 11:14. The vessels so treated were the brazer altar, the brazen sea, and the lavers on the stands (2Kings 16:14; 2Kings 16:17).
In his transgression.—Unfaithfulness, or apostasy.
Have we prepared.—Ordered aright, put to rights. (H ̓̓ēkannû, i.e., hăkînônû, 1Chronicles 29:16 here only.)
The altar of the Lord.—The brazen altar in the; court.
Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD.THE CONSECRATION SACRIFICES (2Chronicles 29:20-30).
(20) Rose early.—Comp. Psalm 5:3 : “Early in the j morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee.”
Gathered the rulers of the city.—Hezekiah assembled the chief men of Jerusalem, because there was no time to send out a general summons to the country, as he wished to proceed at once with the sacrifices of expiation.
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.(21) Seven bullocks . . . rams . . . lambs.—For a burnt offering (‘ôlah). See the legal prescriptions respecting the sin offering (Leviticus 4). On the present extraordinary occasion, an extraordinary sacrifice was offered. Balak and Balaam offered seven bullocks and seven rams as a burnt offering (Numbers 23:1-2, seq.).
And seven he goats, for a sin offering.—Comp. Ezra 6:17; Ezra 8:35; and Leviticus 4:23; Leviticus 4:28; also 2Chronicles 29:23. The reigning house and the sanctuary and the people had all contracted defilement during the late period of idolatry.
The priests the sons of Aaron to offer.—In careful accordance with the rule of the Torah.
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.(22) Received the blood.—Caught it in bowls of sprinkling (Numbers 8:14).
Likewise, when.—And they slaughtered the rams . . . and they slaughtered the lambs. The three clauses of the verse are symmetrical. The repetition is a mark of the writer’s anxiety to show how carefully the legitimate ritual was observed in each instance.
And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them:(23) Brought forth.—Rather, brought near—viz., to the altar.
He goats.—Se ‘îrîm (“hairy ones”). A different term—çëphîrê ‘izzîm, “spring-bucks of goats”—was used in 2Chronicles 29:21. This latter is properly an Aramean word, and only found in late Heb., se ’îrîm being the classical term.
Laid their hands upon them.—Comp. Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 3:2; Leviticus 4:4, from which it appears that the person offering laid his hand upon the head of the victim, whether he were making a burnt offering or a thank-offering or a sin-offering.
The natural fitness of the ceremony in the case of expiatory sacrifices is obvious. “The king and the congregation” performed it, in the present instance, on behalf of the entire nation.
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.(24) Made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar.—Literally, made sin offering of their blood. (Comp. Leviticus 9:15.) The meaning may be seen by reference to Leviticus 4:30, seq. The priest dipped his finger in the blood of the victim and touched the horns of the altar with it, and then poured the blood at the base of the altar.
For the king commanded . . . Israel.—For for all Israel the king had commanded the burnt offering and the sin offering; or, for “For all Israel,” said the king, “is the burnt offering and the sin offering.” The expression all Israel includes the northern kingdom. (Comp. Hezekiah’s invitation to its people to attend the Passover, 2Chronicles 30:1.)
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.(25) He set.—Stationed, appointed. Hezekiah restored the ancient choral worship as established by David (1Chronicles 23:5; 1Chronicles 23:25).
Psalteries.—Nĕbālîm, a kind of harp; Greek, νάβλα. νάβλίον.
Harps.—Kinnôrôth. Greek, κινύρα, a sort of lyre, or cittern, or guitar.
Gad . . . Nathan.—1Chronicles 29:29. This is the only place where the institution of the Levitical minstrelsy is ascribed to the injunctions of prophets; but the thing is probable in itself, considering that no important step, whether in civil or ecclesiastical matters, would be likely to be taken by an Israelite king without consulting the Divine will by means of the royal prophets, as we know, from the cuneiform documents, was the uniform practice with the Assyrian and Babylonian sovereigns. Moreover, prophecy was intimately connected with music. (See on 1Chronicles 25:1.)
For so was . . .—For by the hand of Jehovah was the commandment; to wit, by the hand of his prophets. David’s command was obeyed because it was Divine, having emanated from the prophets who represented Jehovah. (Comp. 2Chronicles 29:15, supra.)
And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.(26) The instruments of David.—See on 1Chronicles 23:5. The writer’s interest in the musical portion of the Temple ritual receives one more illustration in these verses.
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.(27) Commanded to offer the burnt offering . . . altar.—These words are repeated from 2Chronicles 29:21, because all that comes between is descriptive of the preparations made for the due performance of the sacrifice. When the victims had been slain, flayed, and cut up, and the altar had been sprinkled with their blood, and when the Levitical musicians had taken their places, instruments in hand, everything was ready, and the sacrifice was ordered to begin. “And at the time when the burnt offering began, the song of Jehovah” (i.e., the chant of the Levites with its musical accompaniment) “began, and the clarions; and that under the lead of the instruments of David king of Israel,” i.e., the harps and lyres were dominant throughout, and the clarions subordinate to their music. Or we may render: “And that at the side of (i.e., along with) the instruments of David king of Israel.” The phrase is ‘al-yĕdê, “upon the hands.” (Comp. 1Chronicles 25:2-3; 1Chronicles 25:6.) The LXX. omits the needless “and that” (wĕ); the Syriac renders: “And when the burnt offerings began to be offered, Hezekiah began to chant the praises of the Lord, as from the mouth of David king of Israel.” The Vulgate also is very free.
And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.(28) Worshipped.—Were worshipping. LXX. προσεκύνει.
The singers.—Heb., the song. So we might say “the music was playing;” or even “the song was singing,” i.e., being sung.
The trumpeters sounded.—And the clarions were blowing (literally, clarioning). The participle is masculine, although the noun is properly feminine, because here the word “clarions” really stands for the clarion-players. So in modern orchestras they speak of “the violins,” or “the ‘cellos,” meaning the players on those instruments.
And all this.—Literally, the whole, until the burnt offering was finished.
This passage is highly interesting for the light it throws upon the mode in which the worship of the second Temple was conducted in the fourth century B.C., the probable age of the chronicler; and no doubt also in the times here treated of, for the Temple ritual would naturally be a matter of immemorial tradition. (Comp. 2Chronicles 7:5-6.)
And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped.(29) Of offering.—Scil., the burnt offering, as the verb implies.
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.(30) With the words of David, and of Asaph.—Heb., in the words. This appears to mean that the singing (2Chronicles 29:28) consisted in chanting Davidic and Asaphite psalms, and it is usually so explained. But the expression “in the words of David and of Asaph” may be compared with “in the words of Jehovah,” 2Chronicles 29:15, and “in the command of David and Gad the king’s seer,” 2Chronicles 29:25; and so may be understood to assert merely that the singing was in accordance with the arrangements of David and Asaph. (1Chronicles 25:1-2; 1Chronicles 25:9.)
With gladness.—Literally, unto exultation—i.e., rapturously.
And they bowed their heads.—When the song was ended (2Chronicles 29:29).
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.THE CONSECRATION COMPLETED BY ADDITIONAL SACRIFICES
Ye have consecrated . . .—Literally, ye have filled your hand for Jehovah, a phrase used of the consecration of priests (Leviticus 7:37). Here it is addressed to the whole assembly, as the following words prove (unless the text be unsound). The congregation, as well as the sacerdotal order, had consecrated themselves anew to Jehovah, by their presence and participation in the previous solemnities. Others suppose that these words are spoken to the priests only, and that then the king turns to the congregation with the words “Come near,” &c. (There should be a semicolon after “the Lord.”)
Sacrifices and thank offerings (zebahîn we thôdôth).—The first word means “thank-offerings” ( = zébahîm shelamîm); the second, a peculiar species of thank-offering, apparently accompanied by a special kind of psalms called tôdôth (“thanksgivings”). “Sacrifices and thank-offerings” therefore means “sacrifices, that is, thank-offerings.” (See Leviticus 7:12; Leviticus 7:16, for the three kinds of thank-offerings.)
Burnt offerings were a token of greater self-denial and disinterestedness than thank-offerings, because they were wholly consumed on the altar, whereas the worshippers feasted upon the latter.
And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep.(33) The consecrated things.—That is, the victims for the thank-offerings. (2Chronicles 35:13.)
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.(34) Flay all the burnt offerings.—In private offerings this was done by the worshipper himself (Leviticus 1:6). In national sacrifices it appears to have been the duty of the priests.
Did help them.—See margin; and Ezra 6:22.
Until the other priests had sanctified.—Began to sanctify themselves, as a body.
For the Levites . . . in heart.—The priests, as a class, were probably more deeply involved in the corruption of the last reign.
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.(35) And also the burnt offerings were in abundance.—Another reason why the Levites helped the priests: the latter were so much occupied with the actual service of the altar.
And the drink offerings.—Numbers 15:1-16.
And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.(36) And Hezekiah rejoiced.—So of David and his people (1Chronicles 29:9; 1Chronicles 29:22). (Comp. also 2Chronicles 7:10.)
That God had prepared.—In the Hebrew the article is used instead of the relative: a construction characteristic of the chronicler (1Chronicles 26:28). Render: “And Hezekiah rejoiced . . . over that which God had set in order for the people,” viz., the long-suspended ordinances of the Temple worship (1Chronicles 12:39; 1Chronicles 15:1). Perhaps, however, lā‘ām, “for the people,” is the mere accusative after the verb, and the sense is “rejoiced because God had prepared the people” (2Samuel 3:30).
For the thing . . . suddenly.—Literally, for on a sudden happened the matter. “On a sudden,” be-pith’om, here only; elsewhere simply pith’om. Comp. the synonymous règa’ and be-règa’ (Psalm 6:10; Job 21:13). The hand of God was seen in the speed with which the revolution was effected, and the sudden turn of the princes and people from indifference to glad alacrity. (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:12.)