Monday

08 October 2007

"In the third year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, Hezekiah son of King Ahaz of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem... He did what was right in the sight of the LORD just as his ancestor David had done". (v.1-3)

Background

This rather difficult passage tells of a time when the land was divided into two kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah in the south, with Jerusalem as its capital. Hezekiah was one of the most highly regarded of the kings of Judah because of his religious and political reforms, which are described in some detail in verses 5 to 8. His relatively long reign (29 years) would be seen by many as vindication of his faithfulness to God.

It is likely that Hezekiah's reforms were not solely motivated by religious considerations. The kingdom faced a serious threat from the expanding Assyrian empire, and by unifying the people and securing the borders they would be stronger in the face of the enemy.

In the verses omitted from our reading, we are told how the King of Assyria, Sennacherib, conquered Israel and then attacked Judah. Having captured several cities, he then sent officials to try to persuade Hezekiah to surrender.

When the passage resumes, one of these officials, the 'Rabshakeh' (a senior military officer) boasts of Assyria's past conquests and makes an appeal to the people to abandon Hezekiah' cause. But they are not convinced, and remain silent and loyal to their king.

To Ponder

Hezekiah's reforms may not have been entirely selfless. Do you ever find yourself doing the right thing, but for mixed motives?

To what extent should we remain loyal to those in positions of leadership, even if they are flawed individuals?

Bible notes author: Revd Jonathan Kerry

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