The Need for a Better King
“In the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart” (2 Chron. 32:31).- 2 Kings 20:12–21; 2 Chronicles 32:27–31
In the course of revealing to Hezekiah that the king would recover from his illness, God also told him that He would deliver Hezekiah and Jerusalem from the king of Assyria (2 Kings 20:5–6). That tells us that Hezekiah’s illness and recovery happened before the Assyrian invasion of Judah described in 2 Kings 19. The author of 2 Kings does not tell the events in chronological order, but why?
The answer is that the author of 2 Kings wants to make a theological point to his audience. Hezekiah’s illness and recovery was the occasion for a visit from Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon. Upon hearing of the king of Judah’s restoration to health, Merodach-baladan sent emissaries to wish him well and to give him a gift (20:1–12). In the course of this visit, Hezekiah showed the king of Babylon the wealth of Judah stored up in Jerusalem’s treasuries (v. 13). This might seem innocuous to us until we understand the nature of ancient Near Eastern geopolitics. Remember that the various powers in the ancient world were regularly forming alliances against larger empires. Hezekiah’s opening of the treasuries of Judah to the inspection of Babylon was essentially a way of Hezekiah’s saying to Merodach-baladan: “Look at what I can offer you if I ever appeal to you for help against Assyria.” Second Chronicles 32:27–31 confirms this when it tells us that God allowed Hezekiah to meet with the envoys in order to test him. Hezekiah’s willingness to entertain the possibility of an alliance with another power showed a certain lack of faith on his part, for the prophets often warned the people of God not to trust in the help of other nations (Isa. 31:1).
Hezekiah was a good king, far better than most of the kings of Judah. Yet, he was not a perfect king. His trust in the Lord did waver somewhat. If such a righteous leader had difficulty leaning only on the Lord, what did that say about the likelihood that Judah as a whole would trust God after Hezekiah’s death? After all, Judah was filled with people far less godly than Hezekiah. So, it is no surprise that after this episode, the Lord told Hezekiah that Judah would go into exile just as Israel did (2 Kings 20:14–21). The reformation Hezekiah led could not last if even he, though holier than most, was willing to trust powers other than the Lord. The author of Kings tells this story last in order to show readers that as great as Hezekiah was, he could not be the promised Son of David to reign forever. A king even better than Hezekiah would be needed.
Whether we are reading about a good king such as Hezekiah or one of the evil kings of Judah or Israel, our study of the Old Testament Historical Books should drive us to recognize our need of Christ, the only true and perfect King. Other leaders in the church, in the government, and elsewhere will fail us even if they are relatively righteous overall. Only Jesus will never fail His people. Only He is worthy of unqualified adoration and service.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 35:20–27