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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
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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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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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It wasn't Hezekiah directly, it was Manasseh. 2Kings21:10-12, 'The Lord spoke, 'because of Manasseh, I am bringing calamity on Israel.''

I feel that showing off his material goods got Babylon interested in them later. He did misstep by thinking of them as his, as opposed to him being a caretaker of Israel's things. And 'God's word is good because the nation will be safe in MY day anyway' (2k20:19) shows self-centeredness. One pastor said Hezekiah's lackadaisical attitude towards God was responsible for raising Manasseh to be so evil (which then is stated as the specific reason).

Notably, Isaiah did not say 'because you have done this...' Isaiah's words are presented much more in the manner of 'this will be the sign for you.'

Hezekiah didn't help matters. But no, it wasn't him that directly caused the king of Babylon to take Israel and her goods into captivity.

I do tho, wonder at the military strategy. You don't show enemies, or even distant friends, your fortifications. Or your desirables. That's what jumps out at me when I read the passage.

(Father, thank You for the goods You have given me. Please help me to see them as tools for furthering Your kingdom, as opposed to gifts for my own personal enjoyment. Especially: pride that they make me special. Yet also help me not be stressed they will be stolen. Guide my heart to the True Treasure, so I don't have to hide the things I have. I ask this in Your Sons Name.)

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  • I have up-voted your answer as I think it is a thoughtful analysis. It needs to reference the text a little more, maybe a quote or two. I hope you will not take this the wrong way - but this is not actually a 'religious' site, as such, and the prayer at the end is not suitable. It is far too personal. – Nigel J Nov 26 '17 at 0:47
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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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No, Hezekiah did not do anything wrong in showing his wealth to the Babylonian emissaries. I base this response to your question on three premises:

  1. The Bible says that Hezekiah did not stop following GOD for his
    entire reign. "For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him,..." (2 Kings 18:6) Here, I am very very hesitant to call someone such as this, "prideful" or "self-centered" when the bible hasn't clearly expressly or implicitly done so. In light of this, I began with the notion that this king was (is) indeed a better person than me (though we are both in Christ).
  2. The Bible says that there was no other King before or after Hezekiah who ever ruled over Judah that was as godly as
    Hezekiah. "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him." (2 Kings 18:5)
  3. After careful thought and examination, there is no explicit or inferred rebuke in Isaiah's words from GOD to Hezekiah that I can point to. (2 Kings 20:14-18)

There is only the questions of "who" ("whence came they to thee?") and "what", which Isaiah used to illustrate the coming tragedy that would befall Judah. Jesus Christ did the same thing when one of his disciples said to him "Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" (Mark 13:1). His response was; "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13:2). Just as the temple would not be destroyed because of any pride stemming from the disciple which pointed out the elegance of the temple, so it was with Judah and Hezekiah showing the emissaries the abundant riches which YHWH had blessed him with. GOD, through Isaiah, merely seems to be giving Hezekiah a glimpse of what the future holds for the kingdom of Judah. The fate of Judah depended on the faithfulness of the nation, not whether or not Hezekiah showed every part of the kingdom to someone else. It makes since that GOD might grant such a faithful King this type of blessing considering that HE was so pleased with Hezekiah's heart and devotion, HE had just extended the King's life by 15 years.

The King's response was not one of self-centeredness, but one which saw the good in the "here and now" despite the certain future of Judah because of the nation's sinfulness. This is what Christ spoke of when he said in Matthew 6:34 about tomorrow's evil. Instead, Hezekiah acknowledge the goodness that YHWH had brought during his own lifetime.

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    Keep in mind this is not a Christian site. Bringing up the New Testament in questions about the Hebrew Bible is anachronistic. – Dan Dec 24 '16 at 16:49
  • This is not an anti-Christian site either. It includes Hebrew and Christian hermeneutics. Since the claim of the NT is that it fulfills the Jewish scripture, and there is a belief that the OT is the NT concealed and the NT is the OT revealed, then it is not at all anachronistic. I have advocated in the past that the hermeneutic rules being applied be specified, but that has not been a popular suggestion. – Bob Jones Nov 25 '17 at 19:07

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