Isaiah 39:8-- Hezekiah's good example?

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Puritan Board Senior
After God pronounces the consequence of Hezekiah's sin on his nation and children, Isaiah relays:

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” (Isaiah 39:8)​

These words occur after previously receiving word from God that he would die of his sickness to which he cried out to God for mercy, God answering him and granting him fifteen more years.

Calvin praises Hezekiah's response in 39:8 as one of faith:

Good is the word of Jehovah From this reply we learn, that Hezekiah was not a stubborn or obstinately haughty man, since he listened patiently to the Prophet's reproof, though he was little moved by it at the commencement. When he is informed that the Lord is angry, he unhesitatingly acknowledges his guilt, and confesses that he is justly punished. Having heard the judgment of God, he does not argue or contend with the Prophet, but conducts himself with gentleness and modesty, and thus holds out to us an example of genuine submissiveness and obedience.​

While I agree with Calvin that our response to God's chastisement should be in patience and submissiveness, it seems to me that Hezekiah effectively said, "at least this bad stuff won't happen to me." Did he not learn that he should cry out to God in prayer, as he did when he was dying? Does he not remember that God in His mercy changed the course of history, as it were, in response to Hezekiah's prayer about his death? Does he not remember how David interceded for his son with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:22) or his nation when he numbered them (2 Sam. 24:10)? Shouldn't Hezekiah's response been one of intercession?

I have a difficult time affirming with Calvin here that this was a response of faith. Rather, it seems to display a callousness and regression on Hezekiah's part.


Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner

You may find this sermon from D. A. Carson on Hezekiah useful. I listened to it about 5 years ago, and, from what I recall, he took the same view as yourself.

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
2 Chronicles 32:31 gives a little added insight: "And so in the matter of envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart."

I can't say for sure, but this feels to me like it is not talking about a one-time stumble into sin (as if Hezekiah inexplicably got proud when the Babylonian envoys arrived) but rather like an ongoing character flaw. The humility that had arisen in his sickness did not last, and Hezekiah became somewhat self-centered again later in life. This supports the view that Hezekiah's "the word you have spoken is good" is a selfish thought, as you suggest.

In addition, the extreme idolatry of Manasseh suggests that Hezekiah might not have been a very caring father. It is no surprise that a king who says "this is good" when informed that his sons will be carried away and made eunuchs ends up with a son who is disobedient and refuses to follow in the father's faith. Again, it's hard to say with certainty that there's a connection, but I can't help speculating.

Happily, God did lead Hezekiah into many moments of true repentance and humility, and even blessed Manasseh with repentance later in life. But I too think Hezekiah's comment reflects some amount of selfishness. Maybe not a lot, but some.
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Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
There a a number of things that could be proposed, including that the events are presented in reverse-chronological order in order to make a theological point. In which case, the response in ch.39 (which still shows faith) is evidence of faith that might not be as robust as that shown in ch.38. I'm not saying this is the case, but that the text says "At that time," which is somewhat less specific than "After this," or some other sign of successive historical-narrative.

It certainly is possible to read this as a sign of faith-declension, but I don't think that's absolutely the case. On the successive-narrative perspective, Hezekiah could still be flush with encouragement taken from the previous answer to prayer. His short-sighted welcome and boasting may not be as blameable as would be the case if he were looking at the time for earthly allies. I think he welcomed the delegation from Babylon naively, as if they were the ones looking for allies.

In that case, the rebuke is for his lack of prayerful foresight and earthly caution or suspicion. The princes of the earth are fickle allies, and often have ulterior motives for seeking alliance with the church. Now, Hezekiah is told that this naivete will backfire. He does not rail, but kisses the rod; being thankful that in his days it will not occur.

Hezekiah may also recognize, being familiar with Isaiah's preaching overall, that this judgment is in conformity with the doom that is only being delayed against this nation. An exile is coming, and it is only a matter of time. How much time is known only to the LORD, and from the standpoint of the people further delay may be introduced.

I'm with Calvin, generally.

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Matthew Poole says the following on 2 Kings 20:19:

Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days? which speaks not as if he were careless and unconcerned for his posterity, (which neither the common inclinations and affections of nature in all men, nor that singular piety and charity which was eminent and manifest in Hezekiah, can suffer us to believe,) or for the church and people of God, for whose welfare he was so solicitous and industrious in the whole course of his life; but because it was a singular favour that this judgment did not immediately follow his sin, the cause of it, but was suspended for a longer time.
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