Monday of the 21st Week after Trinity: 2 Kings 20
20:1 – Isaiah’s declaration of Hezekiah’s impending death is delivered without qualification or condition. Nonetheless, because YHWH is a person, and not an abstract Fate operating in an impersonal manner, Hezekiah’s reaction, like that of the king of Nineveh in Jonah, is the appropriate one. It would be an act of deep disloyalty to YHWH to treat His decisions like laws of nature. We are invited to contrast Hezekiah’s indifference to the judgment threatened at the end of the chapter. When it concerns him himself, he fasts and prays; when it concerns his sons and the future of the kingdom after his death, he shrugs.
20:3 – Are we so stuck in the theological paradigm of “miserable sinner” Christianity that we do not have room in our systems for a prayer like this, in which Hezekiah’s pleads, not an imputed and alien righteousness, but his own loyalty to YHWH? Yet Isaiah does not rebuke Hezekiah’s apparent “self-righteousness,” but answers his prayer.
20:7 – The poultice of figs placed on the boil is a physical means by which this miraculous healing is effected. Cf. Naaman the Syrian, who “goes off in a rage” when told to wash in the Jordan, because he wanted Elisha to “wave his hand over” the leprosy instead. Cf. also Jesus’ healing of the man born blind, using mud.
20:9 – Hezekiah’s asks for a sign by which YHWH will confirm his promised miracle. Contrast the refusal of Ahaz to ask a sign in Isaiah 7:12. (Hezekiah’s sign is precisely for the shadow to go backward 10 degrees on “the sundial of Ahaz“. Ahaz and David are symbolic in this chapter of the kingdom of Judah’s evil and good influences, respectively.) Compare also the chastisement of Zacharias for asking a sign to confirm the promised conception and birth of John the Baptist.
20:14 – Hezekiah says that the men “came from a far country, from Babylon.” Presumably he believes that the Babylonians are so distant that his entanglement with them will never make a difference in Israel’s politics. Cf. the Gibeonites’ deception of the Israelites in Joshua 10. Leithart has suggested that Hezekiah’s “listening to” the Babylonians is an invitation to military alliance against Assyria.
20:15 – “There is nothing among all my treasures that I have not shown them.
(לא-היה דבר אשר לא-הראיתם)” This is a catchword phrase, resumed by Isaiah in his response: “nothing shall be left. (לא-יותר דבר)”
20:20 – Recall that Hezekiah was threatened by the Rabshakeh of Assyria, who delivered his speeches poignantly standing at the “aqueduct from the upper pool” — a way for the Assyrians to show that Jerusalem’s water supply was at their mercy. Apparently, the demonstration was not lost on Hezekiah, who ensured that this weakness was rectified by his building projects. Alternatively, it is possible that Hezekiah’s aqueduct and pool are the same as the ones the Rabshakeh threatened, so that we are to understand that they were not sufficient to save Jerusalem from Assyria, and that their failure was a reason for Hezekiah’s prayers to YHWH for deliverance.