Series: Thru the Bible
King Hezekiah – Revelations of God’s heart Pt. 2
Scriptures covered: 2Kings 18:9-37; 2Chron. 31:1-32:23
We left off last week with the many of the Israelites from greater Israel as well as those within King Hezekiah’s rule in Judah all being so moved to heart devotion before the Lord that they found themselves further moved to destroy anything that remained of their former lives of faithlessness towards God.
The things they once loved, they now found themselves hating! Salvation had truly come to Israel!
2Chron. 31:1-21, “(1) When all this was completed, all Israel who had attended went out to the cities of Judah and broke up the sacred pillars, chopped down the Asherah poles, and tore down the high places and altars throughout Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, to the last one. Then all the Israelites returned to their cities, each to his own possession.”
“(2) Hezekiah reestablished the divisions of the priests and Levites for the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, for ministry, for giving thanks, and for praise in the gates of the camp of the LORD, each division corresponding to his service among the priests and Levites.”
Leading by example
“(3) The king contributed from his own possessions for the regular morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings of the Sabbaths, of the New Moons, and of the appointed feasts, as written in the law of the LORD.”
Financial support for the ministers
“(4) He told the people who lived in Jerusalem to give a contribution for the priests and Levites so that they could devote their energy to the law of the LORD.”
I find it humorous that several rogue sects of the Christian faith have made the claims that the Old Testament has nothing to do with the New, and that the giving practices of the Old Testament, passed away at the cross. These people reveal such an amazing amount of ignorance of the New Testament they claim to hold to highly.
Everything we just read, and everything we are about to read is echoed in the New Testament BECAUSE the Apostles of the Lamb who alone had ecclesiastical authority to establish church doctrine due to their life affiliation with Jesus during His life and ministry but also due to the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit upon them to lead the early church into the trust.
These ministers of the Old Covenant were given full support in order that they may be free to devote their energies to the Law of the Lord. Let’s read how the early church did the EXACT same thing following their example…
Acts 6:1-7, “(1) In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. (2) Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to wait on tables. (3) Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. (4) But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry.” (5) The proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte from Antioch. (6) They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. (7) So the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”
Picking back up in verse 5 of 2Chron. 31
“(5) When the word spread, the Israelites gave liberally of the best of the grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field, and they brought an abundant tenth of everything. (6) As for the Israelites and Judahites who lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought a tenth of the cattle and sheep, and a tenth of the dedicated things that were consecrated to the LORD their God. They gathered them into large piles.”
If you remember, in the first month of Abib, (and the first month of his reign) King Hezekiah began reform by preparing the priests and repairing the temple.
In the second month they observed and celebrated the late Passover on the 14th of the month and then even to the point of extending their rejoicing and observance before the Lord an additional week.
Now in the third month, they began to provide for the priests with not only a tithe but an ABUNDANT tithe.
The giving was so abundant that all of the ministers had more than enough and plenty was left over besides.
THIS is the kind of giving that honors God as 2Cor. 9 says, “…God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].” [Prov. 22:9.] Now that verse in 2 Cor. 9 is specifically addressing a collection which was above the tithe, taken up not for the local church ministers, but for the saints in Jerusalem who were experiencing lack, but the principle is the same. God is not only pleased and unwilling to do without this type of giving if it is for the poor, God is unwilling to do without this type of giving period!
“(7) In the third month they began building up the piles, and they finished in the seventh month. (8) When Hezekiah and his officials came and viewed the piles, they praised the LORD and His people Israel. (9) Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the piles. (10) Azariah, the chief priest of the household of Zadok, answered him, “Since they began bringing the offering to the LORD’s temple, we eat and are satisfied and there is plenty left over because the LORD has blessed His people; this abundance is what is left over.”
(11) Hezekiah told them to prepare chambers in the LORD’s temple, and they prepared them. (12) The offering, the tenth, and the dedicated things were brought faithfully. Conaniah the Levite was the officer in charge of them, and his brother Shimei was second.
(13) Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismachiah, Mahath, and Benaiah were deputies under the authority of Conaniah and his brother Shimei by appointment of King Hezekiah and of Azariah the ruler of God’s temple.
(14) Kore son of Imnah the Levite, the keeper of the East Gate, was over the freewill offerings to God to distribute the contribution to the LORD and the consecrated things.
(15) Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah in the cities of the priests were to faithfully distribute it under his authority to their brothers by divisions, whether large or small.
(16) In addition, they distributed it to males registered by genealogy three years old and above; to all who would enter the LORD’s temple for their daily duty, for their service in their responsibilities according to their divisions.
(17) They distributed also to those recorded by genealogy of the priests by their ancestral families and the Levites 20 years old and above, by their responsibilities in their divisions;
(18) to those registered by genealogy–with all their infants, wives, sons, and daughters–of the whole assembly (for they had faithfully consecrated themselves as holy);
(19) and to the descendants of Aaron, the priests, in the common fields of their cities, in each and every city.
There were men who were registered by name to distribute a portion to every male among the priests and to every Levite recorded by genealogy.
(20) Hezekiah did this throughout all Judah. He did what was good and upright and true before the LORD his God. (21) He was diligent in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple, in the law and in the commandment, in order to seek his God, and he prospered.”
Now let’s unpack this…
This is the first time in some time these Levites and Priests were being compensated and that is not without reason. According to all we have read, this is the first time in a long time they were doing fulfilling their office.
Now first and foremost, the Levities who were called and dedicated to the work of ministering to the priesthood were blessed and provided for financially. Doing this work WAS their full time occupation and a man is worthy of his hire -[2Tim. 5:17-18] God Himself set the price of his hire at 10% of the increase of all Israelites.
Part of the ministry the Levites provided in addition to physical labor done in support of the priests was to give financially to the priest for their support. This was essentially a tithe of the tithe. So the Levites paid to the priests the top 10% off all the increase they received from all of Israel.
It is interesting to note that the priesthood was always a considerably smaller group of people than the Levites. The Priests were the descendants of a single family of Levites, whereas the tribe of Levi comprised of ALL of the families of Levi.
What does that mean and why does it matter? God places a premium on the care of His ministers. They are WELL compensated because farmers tend to food and livestock which have to do with the concerns of this life – as do the occupations of blacksmiths, lawyers, school teachers, tradesman and the like. Ministers however, deal with the concerns of both this life and the life to come. The work of a plumber while important is temporary. The work of a minister is eternal. God calls on us to place value where value truly lies!
So each of the 12 tribes gave 10% of their increase to the single tribe of Levi. 10% times 12 tribes equals 120% of the average increase in Israel.This effectively made Levi the richest tribe in Israel for their increase was 20% higher than the average tribe. Out of that 120%, 10% was given to a single family, making that family the richest in all of Israel.
Am I claiming that ministers should be multi-millionaires – no! All I’m doing is placing a fine edge on God’s economy which is most often easily breezed over because typically no one does the math. This is why Paul told Timothy that a minister who does his work well and is skillful in God’s word is worthy of twice the average man’s income. Being worthy of it and getting it are two different things. Paul was not creating a “law” to determine the average man’s income and then make certain that ministers who fit the above description get precisely double that figure – it was simply a statement of the value of the person and their work.
So, after the provisions for the levites and priests were complete, there was a surplus of provisions which were then stored and distributed by officials appointed for the work throughout the year.
We often do not remember (or perhaps even worse, never realized) that God ordained two tithings.
The first was appropriated to the Levites (Num.18:21).
The second, being the tenth of what remained, was brought to Jerusalem or was converted into money, and the owner, on arriving in the capital, purchased sheep, bread, and oil…etc. (Deut. 14:22,23) and eaten with the Priest and the Levite in the presence of the Lord. This was done for two consecutive years, followed by the third year during which this second tithing was distributed to the Levite AND the poor. (Deut. 14:28, 29).
Further comparisons with New Covenant giving
Paul, in the New Testament repeats this basic process as God’s intended support for New Testament ministers in 1 Corinthians 9. Of course, the evil hearts of this generation strain at a gnat by claiming that in order for this to be true then we need to bring our ministers a couple of cows, some sheep and goats at the end of the fiscal year. These people not only miss the point of the tithe, they are being deliberately perverse in their disrespect to God and the ministers He has appointed and called. There are, perhaps, still places in the world where this would be not only acceptable, but the most obvious and simple fulfillment of these words. In a society where hard good are not the “increase” for the giver, it should not be the tithe to the minister either. If your increase is measured in dollars, then so should the giving you offer to the ministers. If you live in an agrarian society, where barter is the norm, then give a tenth of what was your personal increase OR sell it for money.
Many cold hearted people who call themselves believers see this as too strenuous a tax on their life-style and attempt to point to Paul’s waving of this right as the standard for ministers under the New Covenant. I even know some ministers who PRIDE themselves on not being paid – the sad emphasis is their pride. Paul only did this out of practical considerations that the gospel not be hindered and was therefore a unique situation – the exception to the established rule and command of Jesus.
This heart, and mindset against giving in the modern church is a sad thing indeed and if often more true in denominational and semi-small church congregations than in large, institutionalized churches which seem to always have a surplus.
When people under the Old Covenant of condemnation and death, whose hearts are still spiritually dark and dead – have more generosity and joy in giving abundantly to their ministers than those who claim to have new hearts and are alive to God under the New Covenant of forgiveness and grace do – it seriously calls into question if they know God at all as they claim!
What these “christians” claim is the standard was in reality a decision Paul made in regard to the most carnal church in the New Testament – the Corinthian church…and he did this to keep from being an offense to these ungrateful and uncharitable “believers”. This is what he actually said in context…
1Cor. 9:1-14, “(1) Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? (2) If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (3) My defense to those who examine me is this: (4) Don’t we have the right to eat and drink? (5) Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife, like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? (6) Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? (7) Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock? (8) Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? (9) For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? (10) Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. (11) If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? (12) If others share this authority over you, don’t we even more? However, we have not used this authority; instead we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ. (13) Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? (14) In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.”
Later he nearly repented for doing this, honestly wondering if by pandering to the lowest common denominator among those in this church he had actually hurt their spiritual growth.
2Cor. 12:11-13, “(11) I have become a fool; you forced it on me. I ought to have been recommended by you, since I am in no way inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. (12) The signs of an apostle were performed among you in all endurance–not only signs but also wonders and miracles. (13) So in what way were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I personally did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!”
But I want you to see what giving with the right heart, even under the New Covenant, does for the gospel and God’s people.
2Cor. 9:6-15, “(6) Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. (7) Each person should do as he has decided in his heart–not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. (9) As it is written: He has scattered; He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. (10) Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, (11) as you are enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. (12) For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. (13) Through the proof of this service, they will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others. (14) And in their prayers for you they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God on you. (15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”
And so it was among the people under the Old Covenant.
The Fall of Israel (restated)
“(9) In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Israel’s King Hoshea son of Elah, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and besieged it. (10) The Assyrians captured it at the end of three years.
In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Israel’s King Hoshea, Samaria was captured. (11) The king of Assyria deported the Israelites to Assyria and put them in Halah and by the Habor, Gozan’s river, and in the cities of the Medes, (12) because they did not listen to the voice of the LORD their God but violated His covenant–all He had commanded Moses the servant of the LORD. They did not listen, and they did not obey.”
Sennacherib, King of Assyria attacks Judah
What we are about to read is 14 years into King Hezekiah’s reign.
“(13) In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” [date supported by Isa. 36:1]
Though I could have breezed by it without anyone probably picking up on it, this passage is one of the most thorny in all of scripture due to a minor dating issue.
If you remember, Ahaz appointed Hezekiah as his co-regent before his death. This is said to have happened somewhere around 729-728 B.C., but Hezekiah’s official reign as sole regent began at the death of his father in 716 B.C. However, here in 2Kings 18:13 it has Hezekiah’s 14th year as sole ruler as the year Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them which according to Assyrian calendars was in 701B.C. Fourteen years from 716B.C. (the date of Hezekiah’s instatement as King of Judah) would be 702B.C. so we have a possible discrepancy of one year. To me this is a super-minor issue. Collaborating a single calendar from antiquity presents problems all it’s own, when one attempts to compare them with the calendars of neighboring nations the problem is only compounded. So a discrepancy of only 1 year (which may only be a fraction of one year) is more of an attestation than a discrepancy in my view.
“(14) So Hezekiah king of Judah sent word to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me. Whatever you demand from me, I will pay.”
The king of Assyria demanded from King Hezekiah of Judah 11 tons of silver and one ton of gold. (15) So Hezekiah gave him all the silver found in the LORD’s temple and in the treasuries of the king’s palace. (16) At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s sanctuary and from the doorposts he had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.”
This was clearly a misstep of Hezekiah – a proof of wavering faith. We do not know what was in his mind to do this, though in the end he recovered his way and faith and did what was right – trusting the Lord.
I agree with David Guzik that, knowing this King’s good heart, he simply was taking into account all that had gone before with Assyria. All of Israel has been attacked and many taken captive and even the outskirts of Judah had been successfully attacked. It is quite likely that Hezekiah may have thought that the sins of his father Ahaz had caught up with he and Judah and they were finally going to get what was coming, and so sought to buy peace rather than seek and ask God.
On a natural and historical note, the mention of Lachish is important. According to Guzik,
“Lachish was thirty miles south-west of Jerusalem. Archaeologists have discovered a pit there with the remains of about 1,500 casualties of Sennachaerib’s attack. In the British Museum, you can see the Assyrian carving depicting their siege of the city of Lachish, which was an important fortress city of Judah.
“An interesting wall relief taken from the excavation of Sennacherib’s royal palace in Nineveh is persevered in the British Museum. It portrays the Assyrian king on a portable throne in his military camp outside Lachish. Prisoners of war are marching by on foot, and all the booty from the city is being displayed on ox-wagons.” (Dilday)
“(17) Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rab-saris, and the Rabshakeh, along with a massive army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They advanced and came to Jerusalem, and they took their position by the aqueduct of the upper pool, which is by the highway to the Fuller’s Field. (18) Then they called for the king, but Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, Shebnah the court secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the court historian, came out to them.
(19) Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Tell Hezekiah this is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: ‘What are you relying on? (20) You think mere words are strategy and strength for war. What are you now relying on so that you have rebelled against me? (21) Look, you now trust in Egypt, the stalk of this splintered reed, which if a man leans on it will go into his palm and pierce it. This is how Pharaoh king of Egypt is to all who trust in him. (22) Suppose you say to me: We trust in the LORD our God. Isn’t He the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem: You must worship at this altar in Jerusalem?’ (23) “So now make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria. I’ll give you 2,000 horses if you’re able to supply riders for them! (24) How then can you drive back a single officer among the least of my master’s servants and trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? (25) Have I attacked this place to destroy it without the LORD’s approval? The LORD said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it.'”
(26) Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, Shebnah, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak with us in Hebrew within earshot of the people on the wall.” (27) But the Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words? Hasn’t he also sent me to the men who sit on the wall, destined with you to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
(28) The Rabshakeh stood and called out loudly in Hebrew. Then he spoke: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. (29) This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you; he can’t deliver you from my hand. (30) Don’t let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD by saying: Certainly the LORD will deliver us! This city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’ (31) “Don’t listen to Hezekiah, for this is what the king of Assyria says: ‘Make peace with me and surrender to me. Then every one of you may eat from his own vine and his own fig tree, and every one may drink water from his own cistern (32) until I come and take you away to a land like your own land–a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey–so that you may live and not die. But don’t listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying: The LORD will deliver us.
(33) Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land from the power of the king of Assyria?
(34) Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad?
Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?
Have they delivered Samaria from my hand?
(35) Who among all the gods of the lands has delivered his land from my power?
So how is the LORD to deliver Jerusalem?'”
(36) But the people kept silent; they answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Don’t answer him.”
(37) Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the court secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the court historian, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and reported to him the words of the Rabshakeh.”
“(1) After these faithful deeds [14 years after], Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them.
(2) Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he planned war on Jerusalem, (3) so he consulted with his officials and his warriors about stopping up the waters of the springs that were outside the city, and they helped him.
(4) Many people gathered and stopped up all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land; they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?”
(5) Then Hezekiah strengthened his position by rebuilding the entire broken-down wall and heightening the towers and the other outside wall. He repaired the supporting terraces of the city of David, and made an abundance of weapons and shields. (6) He set military commanders over the people and gathered the people in the square of the city gate. Then he encouraged them, saying, (7) “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before all the multitude with him, for there are more with us than with him. (8) He has only human strength, but we have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.”
So the people relied on the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.
“(9) After this, while Sennacherib king of Assyria with all his armed forces besieged Lachish, he sent his servants to Jerusalem against King Hezekiah of Judah and against all those of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, (10) “This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says:
‘What are you trusting in, you who remain under the siege of Jerusalem? (11) Isn’t Hezekiah misleading you to give you over to death by famine and thirst when he says, “The LORD our God will deliver us from the power of the king of Assyria”?
(12) Didn’t Hezekiah himself remove His high places and His altars and say to Judah and Jerusalem: “You must worship before one altar, and you must burn incense on it”?
(13) “‘Don’t you know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands?
Have any of the national gods of the lands been able to deliver their land from my power?
(14) Who among all the gods of these nations that my fathers utterly destroyed was able to deliver his people from my power, that your God should be able to do the same for you?
(15) So now, don’t let Hezekiah deceive you, and don’t let him mislead you like this. Don’t believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my power or the power of my fathers. How much less will your gods deliver you from my power!'”
(16) His servants said more against the LORD God and against His servant Hezekiah. (17) He also wrote letters to mock the LORD God of Israel, saying against Him: Just like the national gods of the lands that did not deliver their people from my power, so Hezekiah’s God will not deliver His people from my power.
(18) Then they called out loudly in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall to frighten and discourage them in order that he might capture the city. (19) They spoke against the God of Jerusalem like they had spoken against the gods of the peoples of the land, which were made by human hands.
(20) King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed about this and cried out to heaven, (21) and the LORD sent an angel who annihilated every brave warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned with shame to his land. He went to the temple of his god, and there some of his own children cut him down with the sword.
(22) So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the power of King Sennacherib of Assyria and from the power of all others. He gave them rest on every side.
(23) Many were bringing an offering to the LORD to Jerusalem and valuable gifts to King Hezekiah of Judah, and he was exalted in the eyes of all the nations after that.”
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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