And so in the matter of the 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. 2 Chronicles 32:31 (ESV)
Hezekiah failed because God left him to himself.
Here was the great King Hezekiah, alone, without God’s support: a vain man who betrayed his pride to envoys of the country that would one day destroy the Kingdom. The lesson here is plain: What good is in a man’s heart if God does not uphold it?
How then will we stand in temptation?
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (ESV)
We have no strength in ourselves. As William Gurnall writes, all our strength is fetched without doors (from outside of ourselves):
Reason Second. The second reason may be taken from the absolute necessity of this act of faith above others, to support the Christian in the hour of temptation. All the Christian’s strength and comfort is fetched without doors, and he hath none to send of his errand but faith; this goes to heaven and knocks God up, as he in the parable his neighbor at midnight for bread: therefore, when faith fails, and the soul hath none to go to market for supplies, there must needs be a poor house kept in the meantime. Now faith is never quite laid up till the soul denies, or at least questions, the power of God. Indeed, when the Christian disputes the will of God, whispering within its own bosom, will he pardon? Will he save? This may make faith go haltingly to the throne of grace, but not knock the soul off from seeking the face of God. Even then faith on the power of God will bear it company thither: ‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean;’ if thou wilt, thou canst pardon, thou canst purge. But when the soul concludes he cannot pardon, cannot save, this shoots faith to the heart, so that the soul falls at the foot of Satan, not able more to resist; now it grows more listless to duty, indifferent whether it pray or not, as one that sees the well dry breaks or throws away his pitcher.
William Gurnal, The Christian in Complete Armor.
Here then is the moral, if you will, of the story: We will fail, absolutely if we do not seek strength to flee temptation. The strength comes only from the Lord and may be had only by faith. Faith must exercise prayer to lay of the promise. And so, a man without prayer will fail.
Moreover, we cannot rely upon a mountain of prayer from a week ago. Just as we cannot stay full by eating once a month, so we cannot lay hold of the strength of God without a constant seeking after God. Jesus himself was praying up until the moment of his arrest.
Interesting that this same verb abandon is used of someone else who did not fail when left alone:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1 (ESV)
What was he doing when they came for him? What did he do when God forsook him?
One final note: Consider how willing God was to relent from wrath when Hezekiah sinned:
24 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and he answered him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26 But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. 2 Chronicles 32:24–26 (ESV)
He is a God who loves to show grace. The Father is such a fountain of grace that he gave his Son and sent the Spirit to that we may be reconciled onto him.
The comments, below, of Matthew Henry are especially good.
31. in the business of the ambassadors who sent … to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, &c.—They brought a present (2Ch 32:23; see on 2Ki 20:12,13), and a letter of congratulation on his recovery, in which particular enquiries were made about the miracle of the sun’s retrocession—a natural phenomenon that could not fail to excite great interest and curiosity at Babylon, where astronomy was so much studied. At the same time, there is reason to believe that they proposed a defensive league against the Assyrians.
God left him, to try him, &c.—Hezekiah’s offense was not so much in the display of his military stores and treasures, as in not giving to God the glory both of the miracle and of his recovery, and thus leading those heathen ambassadors to know Him.
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 2 Ch 32:31.
II. His sin and his repentance for it, which were also more largely related, 2 Ki. 20:12, etc. Yet several things are here observed concerning his sin which we had not there. 1. The occasion of it was the king of Babylon’s sending an honourable embassy to him to congratulate him on his recovery. But here it is added that they came to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land (v. 31), either the destruction of the Assyrian army or the going back of the sun. The Assyrians were their enemies; they came to enquire concerning their fall, that they might triumph in it. The sun was their god; they came to enquire concerning the favour he had shown to Hezekiah, that they might honour him whom their god honoured, v. 31. These miracles were wrought to alarm and awaken a stupid careless world, and turn them from dumb and lame idols to the living God; and men were startled by them, but not converted till a greater wonder was done in that land, in the appearing of Jesus Christ, Mt. 2:1, 2. 2.
God left him to himself in it, to try him, v. 31. God, by the power of his almighty grace, could have prevented the sin; but he permitted it for wise and holy ends, that, by this trial and his weakness in it, he might know, that is, it might be known (a usual Hebraism), what was in his heart, that he was not so perfect in grace as he thought he was, but had his follies and infirmities as other men. God left him to himself to be proud of his wealth, to keep him from being proud of his holiness.
It is good for us to know ourselves, and our own weakness and sinfulness, that we may not be conceited or self-confident, but may always think meanly of ourselves and live in a dependence upon divine grace. We know not the corruption of our own hearts, nor what we shall do if God leave us to ourselves. Lord, lead us not into temptation.
3. His sin was the his heart was lifted up, v. 25. He was proud of the honour God had put upon him in so many instances, the honour his neighbours did him in bringing him presents, and now that the king of Babylon should send an embassy to him to caress and court him: this exalted him above measure.
When Hezekiah had destroyed other idolatries he began to idolize himself. O what need have great men, and good men, and useful men, to study their own infirmities and follies, and their obligations to free grace, that they may never think highly of themselves, and to beg earnestly of God that he will hide pride from them and always keep them humble!
4. The aggravation of his sin was the he made so bad a return to God for his favours to him, making even those favours the food and fuel of his pride (v. 25): He rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him. Note, It is justly expected that those who have received mercy from God should study to make some suitable returns for the mercies they have received; and, if they do not, their ingratitude will certainly be charged upon them. Though we cannot render an equivalent, or the payment of a debt, we must render the acknowledgment of a favour. What shall I render that may be so accepted? Ps. 116:12. 5. The divine displeasure he was under for this sin; though it was but a heart-sin, and the overt-act seemed not only innocent but civil (the showing of his treasures to a friend), yet wrath came upon him and his kingdom for it, v. 25. Note, Pride is a sin that God hates as much as any, and particularly in his own people. Those that exalt themselves must expect to be abased, and put under humbling providences. Wrath came on David for his pride in numbering the people. 6. His repentance for this sin: He humbled himself for the pride of his heart. Note, (1.) Though God may, for wise and holy ends, suffer his people to fall into sin, yet he will not suffer them to lie still in it; they shall not be utterly cast down. (2.) Heart-sins are to be repented of, though they go no further. (3.) Self-humiliation is a necessary branch of repentance. (4.) Pride of heart, by which we have lifted up ourselves, is a sin for which we ought in a special manner to humble ourselves. (5.) People ought to mourn for the sins of their rulers. The inhabitants of Jerusalem humbled themselves with Hezekiah, because they either knew that they also had been guilty of the same sin, or at least feared that they might share in the punishment. When David, in his pride, numbered the people, they all smarted for his sin. 7. The reprieve granted thereupon. The wrath came not in his days. While he lived the country had peace and truth prevailed; so much does repentance avail to put by, or at least to put off, the tokens of God’s anger.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2 Ch 32:24–33.
27–31 Hezekiah’s wealth once again reflects the concern of the author to effect parallels with David and Solomon; see Notes above, 27.a.* and 29.a.* Riches and building programs are among the tokens of divine favor; Hezekiah’s tunnel was a monumental undertaking, a task requiring the grace and favor of God; see 32:2–5.
צלח “succeed” (32:30), is another term characteristic of the Chronicler’s theology of immediate retribution. In saying that Hezekiah succeeded in all that he did, the Chronicler is emphasizing only one part of the attitude taken to the Babylonian emissaries in the earlier two accounts (2 Kgs 20:17–19 // Isa 39:6–8). In the earlier accounts Hezekiah’s display was a harbinger of a day when the Babylonians would carry away Judah’s wealth and royal household, though Hezekiah would have peace and security during his reign. The Chronicler regards this testing as successful, focusing only on its positive outcome.
The Chronicler has also modified somewhat the reason for the visit of the Babylonians. In Kings and Isaiah they come with congratulations for his recovery from illness; the Chronicler presents instead an earlier visit of the magi inquiring about wonders in the heavens (cf. Matt 2:1–2), i.e., the widely known Babylonian interest in astrology prompted an inquiry regarding the declination of the sun (2 Kgs 20:10–11 // Isa 38:7–8). The more probable and pressing reason for the visit was cooperation between Merodach-baladan and Hezekiah in opening a two-front war on the Assyrians at the time of Sennacherib’s accession, a strategy well attested in biblical history (16:1–3; 28:16–21; Isa 7). This cooperation with Babylon against Assyria may also explain why Manasseh was punished there by the Assyrians (33:11) and why Josiah sought to block the Egyptian advance (35:20–21). A. Shinan and Y. Zakowitch (“Midrash on Scripture and Midrash within Scripture,” Scripta Hieroslymitana 31  268–69) see Hezekiah as having failed the test: the Babylonians came prompted by the glory of God, while Hezekiah was interested only in his own grandeur and failed God’s test.
Raymond B. Dillard, vol. 15, 2 Chronicles, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 259-60.
Ver. 31.—Howbeit; literally, and thus. The italic type dispensed with, the verse may be rendered, And thus with or among the ambassadors of the princes … God left him to, etc. The princes. This plural may be the pluralis excellentiæ, and designate the king himself, who doubtless issued the official command to the messengers to visit Hezekiah with gifts, etc., but not necessarily so. The word may betray the inquiries and curiosity of the princes of Babylon, under the king, the expression of which led to the embassy, so to call it.
2 Chronicles, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 384.
32:31 The Chronicler’s assertion that God “left Hezekiah” in order to “test” him has significant theological implications. God wants genuine character and faithfulness in his people, and he will expose them to trials in order to train and shape them. The path of sanctification is not an easy one (cf. Gen 22:1).
J. A. Thompson, vol. 9, 1, 2 Chronicles, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 366.
III. ITS CAUSE. “Jehovah left Hezekiah to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” 1. The fact stated. “Jehovah left Hezekiah.” (1) He did not warn Hezekiah by sending Isaiah to him before the Babylonian ambassadors had arrived at Jerusalem, or before the evil had been done. God is under no obligation to his intelligent creatures, or even regenerate children, to adopt special means to warn them of approaching danger in the shape of temptation, seeing that the faculties they possess, aided by the light of natural and revealed truth, should suffice to apprize them of the imminence of peril. (2) He did not supernaturally enlighten Hezekiah, either as to the secret designs of the ambassadors or as to the disastrous consequences that should in after-years result from the false step he was about to take. The former Hezekiah should have suspected—Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes; knowledge of the latter was not requisite for determining the course of action which duty prescribed. (3) He did not exceptionally reinforce Hezekiah in the moment of trial, so as to prevent him from falling. Had Hezekiah sought grace, he would have got it; Jehovah was under no obligation to extend it unasked. 2. The reason given. “That he might know all that was in his [Hezekiah’s] heart.” The heart the proper seat of religion (Deut. 30:6; 1 Kings 8:58; Jer. 32:39; Ezek. 11:19). The character of the heart in every instance known to God (ch. 6:30; 1 Kings 8:39; Ps. 7:9: 139:1–4; Jer. 17:10; Luke 16:15). Yet this character not always visible to others or even to one’s self (Jer. 17:9). Hence God is wont, when his wisdom deems it necessary, to withhold reinforcements of grace from the individual, that this discovery—the unsuspected character of the heart—may be thereby brought to the light. So Christ dealt with Peter (Luke 22:31, 32).
LESSONS. 1. The danger of flattery. 2. The sin of ostentation. 3. The feebleness of good men when left by God. 4. The necessity of having the heart right in religion. 5. The certainty that God tries all.—W.
2 Chronicles, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 401-02.
Ver. 31.—Hezekiah’s mistake. I. ITS OCCASION. “In connection with the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon.” 1. The senders of this embassy. “The princes of Babylon;” more particularly Berodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:12); or Merodach-Baladan (Isa. 39:1)—undoubtedly the correct form, “Merodach has given a son.” Three bearers of this name in the cuneiform inscriptions. The first, a king of South Chaldea and son of Jakin, with whom Tiglath-Pileser II. had warlike dealings (G. Smith, ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ p. 256); the second, also a son of Jakin and King of the Chaldeans, whom Sargon defeated, dethroning him and burning his city of Dur-jakin, B.C. 710–9 (‘Records,’ etc., vii. 46–49); and the third, a King of Babylonia, whom Sennacherib overthrew in the vicinity of Kish (‘Records,’ etc., i. 25; G. Smith, ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ p. 297). The Merodach-Baladan who sent ambassadors to Hezekiah was not the first, unless all three were the same person, but the son and successor of the first (Schrader). The sole question is whether the second and the third were the same, and, if not, which of them it was that despatched envoys to Hezekiah. Schrader distinguishes the two because the Bible describes Hezekiah’s Merodach-Baladan as the son of Baladan; while the monuments designate Sargon’s as the son of Jakin (‘Die Keilinschriften,’ p. 342); but Sayce (‘Fresh Light,’ p. 135) identifies the two, and explains “the son of Baladan” (2 Kings 20:12; Isa. 39:1) as due to the error of a copyist, like “Berodach” for “Merodach.” An absolute decision is meanwhile impossible. 2. The date of the embassy. (1) The sacred narrative appears to connect it with Hezekiah’s sickness, and this again with Sennacherib’s invasion (Ewald, Schrader, Delitzsch). But if Hezekiah’s sickness occurred after the invasion, the arrival of the ambassadors must have taken place before it, as otherwise he could not have shown them the treasures of the palace which, prior to their coming, had been despoiled to appease Sennacherib. (2) Hence the opinion has gained ground that, as Hezekiah’s sickness must have occurred about the time of Sargon’s invasion of Judæa, the mission of Merodach-Baladan must be placed in connection with that event, and that both the sickness and the mission should be dated about B.C. 712–10 (Sayce, Cheyne, Driver). 3. The pretext of this embassy. (1) Friendship. To congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery from what had seemed a fatal malady (2 Kings 20:12). A proper thing for friends and acquaintances, especially if Christian, to do—to congratulate each other on restored health, provided always such congratualations be sincere, not like those of Joab to Amasa (2 Sam. 20:9), but like those the patriarch of Uz received from his friends (Job 42:11). (2) Scientific research. To inquire of Hezekiah concerning the wonder that was done in the land (ch. 32:31). According to the view taken of the date of this embassy, the wonder referred to will be the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, or, what is more probable, the miraculous phenomenon connected with the step-clock of Ahaz (Delitzsch, Kell, Stanley). There is, however, no ground for thinking that either of these formed the real reason. 4. The object of this embassy. Political. Perhaps (1) with an eye to future expeditions, “to investigate a little more closely the condition of the forces of Judah” (Ewald); but also (2) with a view to present needs, to concert measures against the King of Assyria by forming a league between Babylon and the Palestinian states (Sayce, Rawlinson).
2 Chronicles, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 400-01.
2 Chronicles 32:31 (BHS/WHM 4.2)
31וְכֵ֞ן בִּמְלִיצֵ֣י׀ שָׂרֵ֣י בָּבֶ֗ל הַֽמְשַׁלְּחִ֤ים עָלָיו֙ לִדְרֹ֗שׁ הַמּוֹפֵת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָיָ֣ה בָאָ֔רֶץ עֲזָב֖וֹ הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים לְנַ֨סּוֹתֹ֔ו לָדַ֖עַת כָּל־בִּלְבָבֽוֹ׃
And thus, and also. NIV translates this as a disjunctive, “But when” — contrasting the action in the matter of the envoys, where Hezekiah failed; with the stopping up of the springs, where he had acted wisely.
In narrative, ו+“non-verb” (disjunctive) clauses have one main function—to show that a particular situation or event is not consecutive to the preceding one. Instead, they may give background information necessary to understanding the events in a narrative, or describe parallel or contrasting situations or actions. Disjunctive clauses can be nominal or verbal. In narrative, they often have participial predicates or qatal. Qatal in these clauses commonly refers to events that preceded the main narrative (“flashbacks”), or to background conditions that underlie and help explain the narrative.
Frederic Clarke Putnam, Hebrew Bible Insert: A Student’s Guide to the Syntax of Biblical Hebrew (Quakertown, PA: Stylus Publishing, 2002), 43-44.
This sentence occurs in a general summary of several events concerning Hezekiah; it does not directly connect with the immediately preceding or following sentence.
בִּמְלִיצֵ֣י׀ שָׂרֵ֣י בָּבֶ֗ל
In the sending of envoys of the rulers of Babylon. Beth here functions temporally, at the time of the sending. “Indicates a time frame in which an event or state of affairs needs to be positioned”(Christo Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, Jan Kroeze et al., A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, electronic ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 281).
To make inquiry of him (Hezekiah).
Article plus the piel particle of the verb which has an interesting range of meanings:
8938 שָׁלַח (šā∙lǎḥ): v.; ≡ Str 7971; TWOT 2394—1. LN 15.34–15.74 (qal) send out, dispatch, i.e., have an object leave an area by linear motion to another place, usually for a purpose (1Ki 5:28); (qal pass.) be sent (Ge 32:19[EB 18]; 1Ki 14:6; Jer 49:14; Eze 3:5; 23:40b+); (nif) be sent (Est 3:13+); (piel) send away (Ge 8:7); (pual) be sent away (Ge 44:3; Pr 17:11; Isa 50:1; Da 10:11; Ob 1+); (hif) send out, cause a messenger or entity to go out (Ex 8:17[EB 21]; Lev 26:22; 2Ki 15:37; Eze 14:13; Am 8:11+), note: this can refer to an event happening, see also domain LN 13.104–13.163; 2. LN 16 (qal) reach out, stretch out, i.e., the non-linear movement of a limb extending from a source (Ex 4:4); (qal pass.) be stretched out (Eze 2:9+); (piel) extend (Pr 31:20), note: the extension of the hand often refers taking an action, either in violence or help; 3. LN 37.127–37.138 (qal pass.) be set free, i.e., be released from the control of another (Ge 49:21+); (piel) let go, release (Lev 14:7); 4. LN 15.245 (qal) shoot, hurl, i.e., make a missile fly through the air, not under its own power (Ps 18:15[EB 14]); 5. LN 15.1–15.17 (piel) let stray, i.e., allow an object to wander to another area (Ex 22:4[EB 5]); 6. LN 23.188–23.196 (piel) let grow, i.e., have something become larger or longer (Eze 44:20), note: referring here to hair; 7. LN 68.34–68.57 (piel) end, stop, i.e., have an activity end or cease (Job 39:3); 8. LN 34.66–34.78 (piel) give a child in marriage, formally, send out, i.e., arrange a wedding for a child (Jdg 12:9); 9. LN 34.66–34.78 (piel) divorce, formally, send away, i.e., no longer be in a socially recognized marriage relationship (Dt 21:14); 10. LN 19.43–19.54 (pual) be thrust, i.e., pertaining to a pressing, pushing motion propelling oneself or another object (Jdg 5:15; Job 18:8; Isa 16:2+); 11. LN 35.54–35.56 (pual) be abandoned, desert, forsake, be left alone, i.e., not have attendance or care of an object, which may include physically leaving an area (Pr 29:15; Isa 27:10+), note: further study may yield more domains
James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). Interestingly, the typical piel uses of the verb don’t exactly match the context, the translators all taking the verb to mean something along of the lines of ask/inquire.
Of him, unto him: a Metaphorical locative (Christo Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, Jan Kroeze et al., A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, electronic ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 291).
To seek, inquire, ask about the sign/wonder.
The infinitive construct with the lamed:
Rem. 1. The original meaning of the לְ is most plainly seen in those infinitives with לְ which expressly state a purpose (hence as the equivalent of a final clause), e.g. Gn 11:5 and the Lord came down, לִרְאֹתאֶת־הָעִיר to see the city; also with a change of subject, e.g. 2 S 12:10 and thou hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite לִֽהְיוֹתלְךָלְאִשָּׁה to be (i.e. that she may be) thy wife; cf. Gn 28:4, Jer 38:26 (לָמוּת).—If there is a special emphasis on the infinitive with לְ, it is placed, with its complement, before the governing verb, e.g. Gn 42:9, 47:4, Nu 22:20, Jos 2:3, 1 S 16:2 with בּוֹא; Ju 15:10, 1 S 17:25 with עָלָה.
Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley, 2d English ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 348.
The purpose of coming was to ask about the sign.
אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָיָ֣ה בָאָ֔רֶץ
Which was in the land, i.e., the sign which had taken place. Note the accent over land:
4.2.4. Zaqef parvum (qaton) ( ֔ ) and magnum (gadol) ( ֕ ) are forms of the same accent; they mark the major division of the major “halves” separated by ˓aṯnaḥ, and occasionally supersede ˓aṯnaḥ as the principal verse divider. Words with zaqef may also have a conjunctive accent, especially munach, but this reflects cantillation—the zaqef predominates, separating the word from the following.
Frederic Clarke Putnam, Hebrew Bible Insert: A Student’s Guide to the Syntax of Biblical Hebrew (Quakertown, PA: Stylus Publishing, 2002), 51-52.
Abandoned him, left him.
The Elohim: not the covenant name. Compare usage in 32:25-26, where the covenant name is used to refer to the wrath and relenting of the Lord. Not sure what weight to place upon this fact.
God abandoned him, God left him.
To put him to the test to know. See the remark concerning the infinitive construct with the lamed: Indicates purpose of the finite verb: God abandoned him to test him to learn/know/discern.
All that was in his heart. Here the beth is locative.