We have here a general account of the reign of Hezekiah. It appears, by comparing his age with his father’s, that he was born when his father was about eleven or twelve years old, divine Providence so ordering that he might be of full age, and fit for business, when the measure of his father’s iniquity should be full. Here is,
I. His great piety, which was the more wonderful because his father was very wicked and vile, one of the worst of the kings, yet he was one of the best, which may intimate to us that what good there is in any is not of nature, but of grace, free grace, sovereign grace, which, contrary to nature, grafts into the good olive that which was wild by nature (Rom. 11:24), and also that grace gets over the greatest difficulties and disadvantages: Ahaz, it is likely, gave his son a bad education as well as a bad example; Urijah his priest perhaps had the tuition of him; his attendants and companions, we may suppose, were such as were addicted to idolatry; and yet Hezekiah became eminently good. When God’s grace will work what can hinder it?
1. He was a genuine son of David, who had a great many degenerate ones (2 Kgs. 18:3): He did that which was right, according to all that David his father did, with whom the covenant was made, and therefore he was entitled to the benefit of it. We have read of some of them who did that which was right, but not like David, 2 Kgs. 14:3. They did not love God’s ordinances, nor cleave to them, as he did; but Hezekiah was a second David, had such a love for God’s word, and God’s house, as he had. Let us not be frightened with an apprehension of the continual decay of virtue, as if, when times and men are bad, they must needs, of course, grow worse and worse; that does not follow, for, after many bad kings, God raised up one that was like David himself.
2. He was a zealous reformer of his kingdom, and as we find (2 Chron. 29:3) he began betimes to be so, fell to work as soon as ever he came to the crown, and lost no time. He found his kingdom very corrupt, the people in all things too superstitious. They had always been so, but in the last reign worse than ever. By the influence of his wicked father, a deluge of idolatry had overspread the land; his spirit was stirred against this idolatry, we may suppose (as Paul’s at Athens), while his father lived, and therefore, as soon as ever he had power in his hands, he set himself to abolish it (2 Kgs. 18:4), though, considering how the people were wedded to it, he might think it could not be done without opposition. (1.) The images and the groves were downright idolatrous and of heathenish original. These he broke and destroyed. Though his own father had set them up, and shown an affection for them, yet he would not protect them. We must never dishonour God in honour to our earthly parents. (2.) The high places, though they had sometimes been used by the prophets upon special occasions and had been hitherto connived at by the good kings, were nevertheless an affront to the temple and a breach of the law which required them to worship there only, and, being from under the inspection of the priests, gave opportunity for the introducing of idolatrous usages. Hezekiah therefore, who made God’s word his rule, not the example of his predecessors, removed them, made a law for the removal of them, the demolishing of the chapels, tabernacles, and altars there erected, and the suppressing of the use of them, which law was put in execution with vigour; and, it is probable, the terrible judgments which the kingdom of Israel was now under for their idolatry made Hezekiah the more zealous and the people the more willing to comply with him. It is well when our neighbours’ harms are our warnings. (3.) The brazen serpent was originally of divine institution, and yet, because it had been abused to idolatry, he broke it to pieces. The children of Israel had brought that with them to Canaan; where they set it up we are not told, but, it seems, it had been carefully preserved, as a memorial of God’s goodness to their fathers in the wilderness and a traditional evidence of the truth of that story, Num. 21:9; for the encouragement of the sick to apply to God for a cure and of penitent sinners to apply to him for mercy. But in process of time, when they began to worship the creature more than the Creator, those that would not worship images borrowed from the heathen, as some of their neighbours did, were drawn in by the tempter to burn incense to the brazen serpent, because that was made by order from God himself and had been an instrument of good to them. But Hezekiah, in his pious zeal for God’s honour, not only forbade the people to worship it, but, that it might never be so abused any more, he showed the people that it was Nehushtan, nothing else but a piece of brass, and that therefore it was an idle wicked thing to burn incense to it; he then broke it to pieces, that is, as bishop Patrick expounds it, ground it to powder, which he scattered in the air, that no fragment of it might remain. If any think that the just honour of the brazen serpent was hereby diminished they will find it abundantly made up again, John 3:14; where our Saviour makes it a type of himself. Good things, when idolized, are better parted with than kept.
3. Herein he was a nonesuch, 2 Kgs. 18:5. None of all the kings of Judah were like him, either before or after him. Two things he was eminent for in his reformation:—(1.) Courage and confidence in God. In abolishing idolatry, there was danger of disobliging his subjects, and provoking them to rebel; but he trusted in the Lord God of Israel to bear him out in what he did and save him from harm. A firm belief of God’s all-sufficiency to protect and reward us will conduce much to make us sincere, bold, and vigorous, in the way of our duty, like Hezekiah. When he came to the crown he found his kingdom compassed with enemies, but he did not seek for succour to foreign aids, as his father did, but trusted in the God of Israel to be the keeper of Israel. (2.) Constancy and perseverance in his duty. For this there was none like him, that he clave to the Lord with a fixed resolution and never departed from following him, 2 Kgs. 18:6. Some of his predecessors that began well fell off: but he, like Caleb, followed the Lord fully. He not only abolished all idolatrous usages, but kept God’s commandments, and in every thing made conscience of his duty.
II. His great prosperity, 2 Kgs. 18:7, 8. He was with God, and then God was with him, and, having the special presence of God with him, he prospered whithersoever he went, had wonderful success in all his enterprises, in his wars, his buildings, and especially his reformation, for that good work was carried on with less difficulty than he could have expected. Those that do God’s work with an eye to his glory, and with confidence in his strength, may expect to prosper in it. Great is the truth and will prevail. Finding himself successful, 1. He threw off the yoke of the king of Assyria, which his father had basely submitted to. This is called rebelling against him, because so the king of Assyria called it; but it was really an asserting of the just rights of his crown, which it was not in the power of Ahaz to alienate. If it was imprudent to make this bold struggle so soon, yet I see not that it was, as some think, unjust; when he had thrown out the idolatry of the nations he might well throw off the yoke of their oppression. The surest way to liberty is to serve God. 2. He made a vigorous attack upon the Philistines, and smote them even unto Gaza, both the country villages and the fortified town, the tower of the watchmen and the fenced cities, reducing those places which they had made themselves masters of in his father’s time, 2 Chron. 28:18. When he had purged out the corruptions his father had brought in he might expect to recover the possessions his father had lost. Of his victories over the Philistines Isaiah prophesied, Isa. 14:28-32