2 Kings 20
(New International Version, ©2011)
1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
2 Kings 20:1 (King James Version)
Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
My mother, Maurine Edvenson Riskedahl (high school photo above), grew up in a family that saw a lot of sorrow. Several of her siblings died in infancy, hard-earned money was scammed from them for Oklahoma oil wells that never delivered (existed?), an Iowa farm was lost in the 30′s. And my mother’s mother fought a difficult battle for many years with multiple sclerosis. On New Year’s Day of the year my mother turned 13, each of the family members chose a year verse, as was their habit. The verse my mother’s mother chose for herself was 2 Kings 20:1 –“Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.”
My grandmother died that year just days after Christmas. She spoke her last words to her family, all gathered around her bedside, and the words pointed to joy: “I’ll be waiting for you just inside the Eastern Gate.”
I heard this story often as a child, and now that I am older, I think the verse is a wonderful year verse for each one of us. Is our house in order with the Lord? Are we keeping short accounts with friends and family, eager to forgive, averse to holding grudges? Are we regularly telling the ones we love how important they are to us? Are we giving our best to the Master with our time, our skills, our money? Are we taking time every day to praise and worship and thank the Lord for all His goodness to us? Do we show God’s grace and joy to those in our sphere of influence? Do we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance? Do we love with the love of Christ?
I never met my grandmother, of course. But that day will come. And when we meet, “just inside the Eastern Gate,” I will thank her for teaching me to prepare willingly and carefully not only for death, but also for eternal life in Heaven.
2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
“Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)” strikes me as a fitting song for such an unusual gift! Actually, God gave him two gifts: another 15 years to live, and the knowledge that he had only 15 more years, which, it seems to me, would be quite an incentive to live rightly.
Written and sung by Brian Doerksen.
7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.
Folk remedies from many cultures use a paste of figs to cure external inflammations, warts, and sores.
8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?”
9 Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
11 Then the prophet Isaiah called on the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
Envoys From Babylon
12 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. 13 Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
Ah, this is his pride.
14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”
“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.”
15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
19 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”
Ah, this shows his selfishness!
20 As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is a tunnel that was dug underneath the City of David in Jerusalem before 701 BC during the reign of Hezekiah. The tunnel is mentioned in 2 Kings 20:20 in the Bible.
The ancient city of Jerusalem, being on a mountain, is naturally defensible from almost all sides, but suffers from the drawback that its major source of fresh water, the Gihon spring, is on the side of the cliff overlooking the Kidron Valley. This presents a major military weakness as the city walls, if high enough to be defensible, must necessarily leave the Gihon spring outside, thus leaving the city without a fresh water supply in case of siege.
The Bible tells us that King Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem for an impending siege by the Assyrians, by “blocking the source of the waters of the upper Gihon, and leading them straight down on the west to the City of David” (2 Chronicles 32). The tunnel has been securely dated both by the written inscription found on its wall and by dating organic matter contained in the original plastering. It is one of the few intact, 8th century BC structures in the world that the public can not only visit, but enter and walk through.
The tunnel, leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam was designed as an aqueduct to provide Jerusalem with water during an impending siege by the Assyrians, led by Sennacherib. The curving tunnel is 533 m long, and by using a 30 cm (0.6%) gradient altitude difference between each end, conveyed water along its length from the spring to the pool.
According to the Siloam inscription, the tunnel was excavated by two teams, one starting at each end of the tunnel and then meeting in the middle. The inscription is partly unreadable at present, and may originally have conveyed more information than this. It is clear from the tunnel itself that several directional errors were made during its construction. Recent scholarship has discredited the idea that the tunnel may have been formed by substantially widening a pre-existing natural karst.
The difficult feat of making two teams digging from opposite ends meet far underground is now understood to have been accomplished by directing the two teams from above using sounds generated by hammering on the solid karst through which the tunnelers were digging.
Hezekiah’s tunnel, discovered in 1838 by the American biblical scholar Edward Robinson, can be walked through today from end to end.
21 Hezekiah rested with his ancestors. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.