Hope in the Southern Kingdom
“In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. . . . And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:1–3).- 2 Kings 18:1–12; 2 Chronicles 30
Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC, and today’s passage informs us that this same year was the “fourth year of King Hezekiah” (2 Kings 18:9–12). The reference is to King Hezekiah of Judah, who became the sole king over the southern kingdom after a period of co-regency with his father, King Ahaz (16:20).
We have seen that Ahaz was one of the worst kings of Judah. His thoroughgoing idolatry—to the point of human sacrifice—and unauthorized temple remodeling earned him the condemnation of the inspired author of 2 Kings (16:1–19). Given that the kings of Israel and Judah tended to continue in the sins of their fathers, we might expect Hezekiah to have been as bad as Ahaz or worse. But that was not so. In fact, Hezekiah was one of the best kings of Judah. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (18:1–3). When things seemed that they could not get any worse for God’s people after Ahaz’s evil and the fall of Israel, God provided Hezekiah as a ray of hope in the kingdom of Judah. He was not done with David’s line or His people.
Hezekiah purged Judah of its idolatrous shrines. The extent to which Judah had declined is seen in that the people had been worshiping the bronze serpent of Moses, which was originally given for their healing. Hezekiah destroyed even this artifact to restore the pure worship of God (v. 4; see Num. 21:4–9). Second Chronicles 29 reveals that Hezekiah cleansed the temple, restoring it to what it was supposed to be after many years of Ahaz’s forbidden renovations. Hezekiah was such a good king that the author of 2 Kings uses some hyperbole to describe his fidelity, telling us that there was no king like Hezekiah before or after him (2 Kings 18:5). The author does not intend for us to take this as literally true, for he says essentially the same thing about a later king of Judah, Josiah (23:25). He uses such language to catch our attention and show us just how incredible Hezekiah actually was in the history of Judah’s kings.
Reformation under Hezekiah extended to a particularly festive celebration of the Passover that included some of the Israelites in the north who had not been exiled to Assyria (2 Chron. 30). And what was the result of Hezekiah’s faithfulness? “The LORD was with [Hezekiah]; wherever he went out, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:7). No matter how far the people of God might fall, the Lord will always bless us when we return to Him.
Hezekiah’s reformation shows us that the Lord will receive and bless His people even after a great fall when they repent and dedicate themselves anew to His covenant. We do not know what shape this blessing will take in every case, but we do know that the Lord will not refuse to forgive those who repent, and He will even add blessings besides. Let us never be afraid to return to the Lord. He is eager to forgive and to bless all who come to Him.
Passages for Further Study