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The Hezekiah (Heb: Chizkiyahu) narrative in II Kings (chapters 17 – 20) and Isaiah (36 – 39) concludes on a dissonant and haunting confrontation between King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah has just shown his kingdom's wealth to messengers of Brodach Baladan, King of Babylonia. Isaiah asks Hezekiah about his guests, and when Hezekiah tells him where they are from, Isaiah proclaims:

Behold, days are coming and everything in your house and what your ancestors have collected until this day will be carried off to Babylonia, nothing will remain saith the Lord. And the children that you will beget will be taken to be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylonia. And Hezekiah responded to Isaiah, the word of the Lord that you have spoken is good, insomuch as there will be peace and truth in my days. (II Kings 20:17-18, JPS translation).

This prophecy of doom is devastating and perplexing. Does Isaiah mean to say that Hezekiah is literally responsible for the future exile and destruction at the hands of Babylonians? If so, what did he do wrong? How should Hezekiah have known it was bad to receive foreign emissaries from Babylonia?

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My guess: pride. It seems to be the fall of many men. (Again, just a guess.) –  Richard Nov 1 '11 at 11:38
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When asking Tanakh questions it probably makes sense to use the JPS translation as you have. I'll try to remember that. –  Jon Ericson Nov 1 '11 at 20:13
    
I had a similar question and stumbled across this sermon by Spurgeon. It will help you understand.... spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs704.pdf –  user329 Dec 14 '11 at 15:47
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3 Answers

Hezekiah's Sin

Did Hezekiah sin in this matter? Quite simply, yes. God would not come and pronounce judgment on him in response if he had not sinned. But what was his sin? What ought he to have done instead? The OP wrongly insinuates that his sin was to receive the Babylonians; rather it was the manner in which he received them.

Joel Beeke and James La Belle write in Living Zealously, p. 52:

From the account in 2 Chronicles 32:24-31, it appears that Hezekiah's success and prosperity had made him somewhat proud. His zeal was wrongly motivated by a concern that these foreigners and their king would think him worthy of their honor and gifts because of his great riches. His zeal should rather have been regulated by his concern for the emissaries' souls and God's honor; then Hezekiah would not have shown off his worldly good but thought only about telling them about the true God of all creation, who by His almighty power had healed him of the very sickness that motivated their coming to see him.

2 Chronicles 32:24-26 reads,

About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime.

And verse 31:

However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.

Was Hezekiah Responsible for the Exile?

Yes, Hezekiah was partly responsible for the exile. However, the history of Israel's rebellion precedes him and follows him; thus it would be an error to assign the sole responsibility to him. Reading Jeremiah and the other prophets, demonstrates that many other people are also blamed, such as King Zedekiah.

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As the king goes, so goes the country. Hezekiah was a man who lived for the flesh with no concern over the future... and so was his kingdom.

08085 שׁמע shama‘ , hear, hearken, obey,...

13 And Hezekiah hearkened <08085> unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.

16 And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear <08085>the word of the LORD.

I have noted the Strong's numbers above to demonstrate that Isaiah had changed his normal introduction of "Thus sayeth the Lord" to "Hear". Isaiah is telling us that Hezekiah had not only heard but obeyed men rather than God. This subtle change tells us that it was wrong for Hezekiah to listen to men rather than God, and the showing of the possessions was simply the outcome of his deeper disobedience.

Hezekiah's response to God's punishment is instructive of his heart attitude:

19 Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?

God had spelled out horrible long term consequences, but Hezekiah thinks it is a good word since things will be OK in his day. Hezekiah is not listed in the rolls of the faithful because it cannot be said of him:

Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

Hezekiah was blind to the future and lived for the moment.

God had warned many years ago that they should hearken unto him:

Le 26:14 But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; Le 26:18 And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. Le 26:21 And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. Le 26:27 And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;

So Hezekiah was without excuse though he was merely the federal representative of the people. They were in the same heart condition.

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@Richard A bit of reading of some commentators on the subject does indicate that pride is the cause.

A significant emissary was visiting King Hezekiah and it appears that by showing the Babylonians everything he had, Hezekiah was trying to impress them - putting stock in his relationship with them, over his relationship with God. He should have shown more discretion about his possessions, prompting Isaiah's chilling prophecy.

It's safe to say that the Babylonian exile wasn't caused by this act of stupidity since Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekial are chock-full of Israel's condition at the time and their repeated rejection of God's sovereignty. Israel was collectively responsible for its exile.

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thank you for your answer. Could you provide some textual support for this assumption? What verses imply that King Hezekiah was putting stock in his relationship with the Babylonian empire? What verses imply that Hezekiah wasn't putting stock in God? What prophecies in Isaiah might have informed the reader and/or Hezekiah that this was a bad thing to do? –  Amichai Nov 1 '11 at 15:51
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