The civil unrest in Israel is summed up in the words of prophet Oded – “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven. And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God? Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” (v.9-11; and see v.19). Ahaz the son of Jotham walked “in the ways of the kings of Israel” (v.2) – yet, the LORD used Israel to enact judgment on Judah (v.5-8). It is therefore clear that the covenant made with the house of David, leading Judah, means that the Davidic lineage is held to a higher responsibility for upholding the promise of the Messiah – especially in the actions of the king. It does not matter in the same way that Israel is making metal images for the Baals; making offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burning one’s sons as an offering; for it is the house of David which should define the whole of Israel. If the king of Israel falls, the king of Judah should uphold the Christ-like example. This is why the level of civil unrest in this chapter outweighs all that had gone before it.
In response to Oded’s proclamation, Azariah (whom Jehovah helps), Berechiah (blessed by Jehovah), Jehizkiah (Jehovah strengthens) and Amasa (burden) complied with the words of the prophet (v.12-15), and grace was bestowed on the people of Israel, that they were brought to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. What shame, that the house of David forgot the Wisdom by Whom Solomon walked (Proverbs 8), He who upholds the true king of Israel; instead, the chiefs of Ephraim reminded Judah of this fundamental truth. Neither the king of Israel, nor the king of Judah, are the focus of this chapter – but the followers of Christ, the chiefs and the prophet and those who remember the grace of God. Even Ahaz’s petition to the king of Assyria for help has turned into an opportunity for Tiglath-pileser to exploit Judah’s predicament – all within the LORD’s allowance (v.19), to humble Judah, even so far as to remind Ahaz that he is but a shadow of the Elected King Jesus, and that the house of the LORD (v.21) is also but a shadow of the LORD’s heavenly dwelling, its portion bearing no significance if even the kings of Judah / Israel have forsaken its significance.
Yet, the LORD’s methods of humbling Ahaz have not been received with a circumcised heart, and Ahaz’s idolatry deepens as he sacrifices to the gods of the neighbouring nations – a king who does not even deserve to be buried in the tombs of the kings of Israel (v.27).
Yet, Hezekiah turned the tide back to Christ (v.2), following Christ the way his forefather David did. While Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the temple, shutting the doors of the temple and making himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem (chapter 28:22-24) – in blasphemy to the temple’s true purpose, Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them (v.3). He also re-initiated the Levitical order (v.4-11), re-confirming the role of the king of Judah in keeping this covenant with the LORD, whose steadfast love endures forever. The very fact that he prioritizes the reparation of the temple and the utter importance of the priests are both indicators that Hezekiah understands fully what Israel, as a nation, is in God’s eye – and their purpose as priesthood to other nations (Exodus 19:6), a role sorely forgotten time and time again. What the priests have done in v.12-19 are a renewal of what Ahaz the Christless king has done; just as Christ will renew our bodies, the temples of the LORD (1 Corinthians 6:19) through the renewal and resurrection of his own (John 2:21). The raping of Judah by its own and by the various nations (Edomites, Philistines, Assyrians, etc) is but a shadow of the crucifixion of Christ, before His glorious resurrection and renewal of His body in Hezekiah’s reformation. The sons of the anointed Kohathites, Merarites, Gershonites and the sons of Elizaphan (whom God protects), and of the sons of Asaph (collector), all special clans of the Levites (c.f. their roles in Numbers). These chosen Levites therefore cleaned the temple, and taking all uncleanness to the brook Kidron (v.16), the symbolic place of David’s flight (2 Samuel 15:23) and also the place of testing as Christ walked to the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1) – it is here that Christ was truly tested and made his decision to walk in accordance with the Father’s will, where our uncleanness was forever removed.
The beauty continues, as the temple restoration could not be complete without making a sevenfold sin offering for the kingdom, sanctuary and for Judah (v.21); the blood of the bulls, rams, lambs thrown against the altar (v.22) with the goats being the sin offering (in the manner of Leviticus 16:21 – the Day of Atonement). With sacrifice, comes worship – our first response to Christ’s work on the cross, not being one of working to gain his trust or to gain his love, but a response of His service towards us, His love for us. Worship (v.25-30) – to sing praises with gladness, the whole assembly worshipping (v.28) until the burnt offering was finished – the entire act edified as the kingdom truly rejoiced despite Ahaz’s idolatry in chapter 28. This worship in conjunction with the national burnt offering, the effective Day of Atonement, was immediately followed by thank offerings (v.31-36), so much that like the day of Solomon, overflowed beyond all expectations (c.f. 2 Chronicles 7:7).
Despite Manasseh’s attempt to unite Israel (v.1-9, 12) under the Passover, taking people back to the basics, back to the day when Israel could be called a large nomadic tribe (c.f. Exodus) no longer under the yoke of the Egyptians but now bondservants of the LORD, the invitation to unite was met with scorn (v.10). However, some humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem (v.11).
Because of the suddenness of the reformation of Hezekiah (chapter 29:36), the priests and the Levites were ashamed at the speed of which the humbled Christians acted (v.15, v.17; c.f. chapter 29:34). Yet, their consecration was set aside, for many had not cleansed themselves but rushed to be united with the house of David (v.18-19), rushed to set his heart to seek God (v.19). The people were thus healed (v.20), after a sequence of renewing the temple, of renewing the sacrifice, of renewing the worship, of uniting the circumcised in the heart under the banner of the Passover Lamb – all but a shadow of the unity and renewal we will receive on the day of the Wedding Supper (Revelation 19:6-9). Such rejoicing, that it extended beyond the 7 days for another 7 days (v.23), such unprecedented worship and healing – an indication of the everlasting healing by the leaves of the tree of life (Revelation 22:2) and such glorious everlasting Sabbath rest, for the first time typified from the time of Solomon (v.26), ending on the positive note:
“Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.” (v.27)