Monday, August 5, 2013

2 Kings 20:1-22:20


Good King Hezekiah, having instituted thoroughgoing religious reforms in Judah, and having successfully withstood an Assyrian seige, now falls ill. Informed that his illness is fatal, Hezekiah prays to YHWH. He is granted an additional 15 years of life. (Personally, I don't think I'd care to know the year in which I will die). The prophet Isaiah prescribes a poultice of figs. I wonder if this treatement would have been effective without the prophet's say-so.  Isaiah also gives Hezekiah a sign: the shadow on a sundial retreats ten intervals. The sun stood still for Joshua. For Hezekiah it moves backward.

When Hezekiah is visited by Babylonian officials, he shows off the wealth of his palace. This must have been a mistake. Isaiah warns that Hezekiah's offspring will lose the palace to the Babylonians. Hezekiah takes it as good news, though. At least there will be peace and prosperity in his own time.

As good as Hezekiah was, his son and successor Manasseh is bad. Ahab bad. He undoes all of his father's reforms. He builds altars for Baal and poles for Asherah, consults with mediums, makes his son pass through the fire, and in general does anything at all that will piss YHWH off. So YHWH vows to wipe Jerusalem like a dish and turn it upside down. That's how bad Manasseh is.

2 Chronicles 33 tells the story a little differently. Manasseh is still bad but a brief exile in Babylon improves his attitude and teaches him that YHWH is God, indeed. The Bible is not just one book and doesn't have a single point of view.

After Manasseh's long reign, his son Amon takes the throne briefly. He's no good. His servants kill him. "The people of the land" kill the servants and put Manasseh's 8 year old son, Josiah, on the throne.

When it comes to reforms, Josiah makes Hezekiah look like a slacker. The reforms begins when the priest Hilkiah finds the Book of the Law in the temple. This is probably an early edition of the book of Deuteronomy. Some skeptics suggest that Hilkiah didn't find the book so much as manufacture it. When the book (with its promised blessings and threatened curses) is read to the king, he sends messengers to consult with a prophet named Huldah (a female leader, teacher, and speaker of God's word who instructs men). She prophesies that the curses in the book will come to pass but, in deference to Josiah's piety, they will be delayed a generation.

Next: 2 Kings 23-25

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