Hezekiah’s Folly

Each time I read through the scriptural accounts of the life of Hezekiah, I am both challenged and convicted by the testimony of this godly king of Judah.  The impact of his life in the history of God’s people as detailed in three extended accounts within the OT (2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, and Isaiah 36-39) is extraordinary.  Hezekiah is clearly an exemplary king under whose leadership Judah experienced the favor and blessing of God. Since the division of the kingdom into Judah and Israel over 200 years earlier, no king had served God with greater devotion and passion than Hezekiah.  According to 2 Kings 18, he “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.”  Even surpassing Asa and Jehoshaphat in commitment to Yahweh, Hezekiah “trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.”

Indeed, Hezekiah’s kingship was unparalleled in the history of Judea, serving as a reminder of the reign of King David and perhaps even foreshadowing a greater king to come. He restored temple worship, was the first to remove the high places, and even destroyed the bronze serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness – as it had become an object of worship. When facing certain defeat at the hands of the mighty Sennacherib of Assyria, Hezekiah trusted God (albeit, after an initial capitulation to the demands of this pagan ruler) and experienced one of the most dramatic deliverances in Israel’s history. Finally, in the midst of a critical illness with an accompanying pronouncement of sure and imminent death, Hezekiah’s prayer moved the God of heaven to heal his sickness and add fifteen years to his life.  Moreover, as confirmation that the LORD would fulfill his promised healing, Hezekiah was given a miraculous sign through the unnatural movement of a shadow.  Surely, Hezekiah would serve as a role model of faith and obedience for generations to follow!

Yet in the end Hezekiah suffered from the most basic and deadly of human sins—pride and self-centeredness. When approached by envoys from pagan Babylon, Hezekiah not only welcomed them, but he showed them his treasure house – foolishly revealing the extent of his wealth to a nation intent on conquest and plunder. The one whose faith in Yahweh had stood so firm against the mighty assault from Assyria now foolishly drew attention to himself as if he was somehow responsible for the deliverance and corresponding prosperity that he and Judah now enjoyed. The same Hezekiah who previously cried out, “So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his [Sennacherib’s] hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone” (2 Kings 19:19), now appears more concerned that the kingdoms of the earth know of Hezekiah’s prominence than of Yahweh’s glory.  Notice the record of Hezekiah’s pride as he was quick to show the Babylonian envoys “all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (2 Kings 20:13). While he previously boasted only in the power of his God, Hezekiah now sought to impress others with his own earthly treasures.

In what is certainly a tragic twist of irony, Hezekiah’s foolhardy display of self-centeredness mirrors the very attitude previously evidenced by Sennacherib – one which was quickly and decidedly condemned by God.  Note the words of this powerful and egotistical king of Assyria: “With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its farthest lodging place, its most fruitful forest. 24 I dug wells and drank foreign waters, and I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt” (2 Kings 19:23-24). While we’re not surprised by the arrogant words of this ungodly pagan ruler, the prideful display by one of Judah’s most celebrated kings leaves us with a sobering challenge. Like Hezekiah, we are all prone to seek attention and accolades for ourselves. The insidious sin of pride can rear its ugly head in many ways – even camouflaged under the banner of ministry or service for Christ. The flight from spiritual prosperity to self-promotion is all too often full with Christian passengers vying for first class.  The elation that accompanies God’s good hand of blessing can quickly degenerate into an attitude of self-centeredness if we take our eyes off the One from whom all blessings flow. The last chapter in the life of Hezekiah is a sobering reminder that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18).  There is no room for arrogance, egotism, or self-aggrandizing in the life of the spirit-led servant of the Lord (Eph 4:1-3; Phil 2:3; 1 Pet 5:5).  May we who serve Christ not repeat Hezekiah’s folly but rather make our boast in the Lord (2 Cor 10:17-18) – the One ‘from whom and through whom and to whom are all things’ (Rom 11:36).

About Al Huss
I am a professor of New Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA

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