The Hezekiah Factor--Part 1
Aug 21, 2009
With so many new people beginning to read these weblogs, I thought it would be helpful to explain the Hezekiah Factor again.
Hebrews 1:2 tells us that God "made the ages" (aionas) through Jesus Christ. In other words, He created Time. Since a creator owns what he creates, 1 Tim. 1:17, literally translated, says that God is the "King of the Ages." Hence also He is Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). And so we find in the story of Hezekiah that God exercised His right as the Creator of Time to subordinate Time to His own will as He saw fit.
In 2 Kings 17 we are told how the Assyrians conquered the house of Israel and its capital, Samaria, and deported the remaining Israelites to "Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (2 Kings 17:6). This occurred in 721 B.C., which happened to be the 14th Jubilee dating from their Jordan crossing under Joshua. Recall that Israel was supposed to keep their land-rest years and Jubilees from the moment they entered Canaan (Lev. 25:2). There is no evidence that they ever kept a sabbath or a Jubilee prior to the Babylonian captivity.
So the fall of Samaria was their 14th Jubilee. Fourteen is the number of "release or deliverance," but instead of obtaining release for themselves, God released the land from their oppressive land practices. God had vowed to do this in Lev. 26:33 and 34, if Israel was disobedient:
(33) You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. (34) Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.
So in 721 B.C. Israel was fully deported to Assyria, and this began a long "seven times" of judgment (360 x 7 = 2,520 years). We read in 2 Kings 17:18,
(18) So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.
The timing of the fall of Samaria is crucial in understanding the Hezekiah Factor. The key is found in 2 Kings 18:10,
(10) At the end of three years they captured it [Samaria]; in the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was captured.
The Assyrians, however, were not content to conquer Israel. They also wanted to conquer Judah. So eight years later they began to conquer the walled cities of Judah. 2 Kings 18:13 says,
(13) Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.
From the sixth year of Hezekiah to his fourteenth year is eight years. Samaria fell in 721, so the Assyrians came to conquer Judah in 713. After deporting all the Judahites except the refugees in Jerusalem itself, they finally surrounded Jerusalem and demanded its surrender, saying,
(35) Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?
The next verse (19:1) gives us Hezekiah's response. The king tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and went to the temple. He then sent messengers to Isaiah, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Verse 3 tells us,
(3) And they said to him, Thus says Hezekiah, "This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver."
One might ask what "children" and birthing have to do with the situation. The answer is clear in the next chapter, as we will see. Isaiah sent a lengthy word back to Hezekiah that is recorded in 2 Kings 19:21-34. It was a word of deliverance. A sign of deliverance came with this word, and it is found in verse 29,
(29) Then this shall be the SIGN for you; you shall eat this year (713 B.C.) what grows of itself, in the second year (712 B.C.) what springs from the same, and in the third year (711 B.C.) sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.
In other words, Isaiah was giving Hezekiah the sign of Jubilee. In the 49th year, which is a Sabbath year, men were not to sow or reap, but were to eat what grows of itself (Lev. 25:5, 12). In the 50th year, which is the Year of Jubilee, it was the same. In the 51st year (i.e., "the third year") the people were allowed to sow and reap.
This Jubilee sign, however, was being given eight years after their calendar Jubilee (713), and the sign was to extend to their deliverance in the tenth year (711).
How could Isaiah lawfully give Hezekiah a Jubilee sign ten years late, after both Israel and Judah had failed to keep their Jubilee in 721 B.C.? The answer is given in the following chapter, which begins this way:
(1) In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live'."
The king then prayed for mercy, because he had no children to succeed him. The continuation of his lineage was important, because he was descended from David. His lineage was supposed to culminate in the birth of the Messiah. So while he was yet praying, and as Isaiah was walking through the middle court of Hezekiah's royal house, the Lord told the prophet to return and give him a revised word:
(5) . . . I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. (6) And I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria . . ."
So in this sign it would take until "the third day" for Hezekiah to be healed, even as it took "the third year" for Judah to be able to sow and reap their crops again.
Once again, however, the prophet gave Hezekiah a confirming sign.
(9) And Isaiah said, "This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He has spoken; shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?" (10) So Hezekiah answered, "It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, let the shadow turn backward ten steps." (11) And Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
This is a biblical reference to the famous sundial that Hezekiah's father had built. Each "step" was another "degree" (KJV) on the "dial of Ahaz." We need not discuss the technical aspects of sundials, nor is it even important to know how much time is represented by each "step." From the standpoint of prophecy, only the number TEN is significant. The clock was turned back ten steps, which prophesied a period of TEN YEARS.
In other words, God showed how He could give Jerusalem a Jubilee ten years late and still be right on time. The people had missed their Jubilee in 721, so God turned the clock back ten years, allowing them to keep it (i.e., be delivered) in 711. In other words, the year 711 on the calendar became the year 721 in LEGAL TIME, and so they received the Jubilee ten years late--but right on time!
God had already hinted of this manipulation of time in 19:33, saying to the king of Assyria,
(33) "By the way that he came, by the same he shall RETURN, and he shall not come to this city," declares the Lord.
The Assyrian army was destroyed, and the king "returned" home (19:36).
This is the first part of a series titled "The Hezekiah Factor." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones