A Just Judgment

2 Kings 20:12-19

The King of Babylon sent friendly envoys to Judah at a moment when Hezekiah had gotten ill and recovered. We will talk about this issue in Week IV Bible study video, and see how Hezekiah should have put his guard up. But let us consider for today Isaiah’s question and rebuke to Hezekiah.

A Prophet’s Rebuke. In today’s bible reading, we see Isaiah coming to Hezekiah to rebuke him about what he had done–showing off Judah’s wealth to the envoys of Babylon. This is one important factor that we will repeatedly see in the narratives of Israel and Judah’s kings. God’s prophets serve as their checks and balances; so that the kings of Israel and Judah would not be above the law but rather under it. We may not appreciate how important this fact is in the development of accountable politics; but in a culture of the Ancient Near East where kings are considered infallible divine representatives and often exercise a totalitarian rule, the kings of Judah are placed under the Law and are accountable to God. Those of us who are placed in positions of authority will do well to remember this. That as the kings of Israel did not have autonomous power but were placed under God’s Law; we too are to be accountable in the way we lead others.

A Test from the Lord. The coming of the envoys of Babylon was in fact a test from the LORD (see 2 Chr 32:31b), probably to test if Hezekiah would fully rely on God for deliverance; or if he would begin to take matters into his own hands. Hezekiah’s exhibiting all the wealth of the nation was probably because he had wanted the king of Babylon to take an interest in forging a coalition with Judah, to fight Assyria as a common enemy. Hezekiah had allowed the pride in his heart to dictate his action, and it would cost the nation dearly.

But this was not God’s intention for Judah. As Hezekiah himself had acknowledged, Israel’s defeat under Assyria was not because it lacked military strength but rather because they were unfaithful to God (2 Chr 29:6-9). So this means that Judah’s deliverance or defeat would likewise not depend on the military or financial strengths of the nation, but on God’s sole providence. And because Hezekiah acted not in covenantal faithfulness but rather a strategy borne out of self-sufficiency, God was rightly displeased. We too, fail time and again in acknowledging that our whole lives need to be a testament of faith; of total reliance on Him alone. Let us therefore introspect our own hearts, to see if there is any self-sufficient work that we are still doing that is detached from God’s provision and deliverance; and let us repent.

A Just Judgment. The punishment would follow the sin; and because Hezekiah showed everything in his palace, and that there was nothing among his treasures that he did not show (20:15), so the judgment would be a plunder of everything that the King of Babylon had seen – “everything in your palace... will be carried off to Babylon” (20:17). This was a prophecy of Judah’s exile to Babylon, which would happen some 100 years later.