In 2 Chronicles 28-31, King Ahaz provided a dark background for the brightness of King Hezekiah. In accord with 2 Chronicles more broadly, the Chronicler here noted that each king’s level of affiliation with the temple was a gauge of his overall leadership.
In parallel with the previous royal introductions, in 2 Chronicles 28 the author set out the general evaluation of Ahaz: “He did not do what was right in the LORD’s sight like his forefather David, for he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Chron 28:1-2). The Lord justly responded to Ahaz’s rebellion, handing the king and Judah over to their enemies, namely, Aram, Israel, Edom, the Philistines, and the Assyrians (2 Chron 28:3-27; Isaiah 7). The Lord allowed each to dominate Judah because of Ahaz’s unfaithfulness (2 Chron 28:19-21). Ahaz sacrificed to the gods of those who had defeated him (leading the entire nation into apostasy) and plundered the Lord’s temple in the process (2 Chron 28:22-25).
What is the message for the Chronicler’s audience? No matter what success the Persians enjoy from their gods, Israel must remain devoted to the Lord alone. While it would not be difficult for one to excel Ahaz’s level of loyalty, Hezekiah went far beyond the faithfulness of his father. Of Hezekiah the Chronicler said, “He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done” (2 Chron 29:2). Not without precedent, the Chronicler immediately evaluated Hezekiah in relation to a temple-centered reign: “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the LORD’s temple and repaired them” (2 Chron 29:3). Hezekiah commanded the Levites to consecrate themselves and remove the detestable things from the holy place (2 Chron 29:5). In Hezekiah’s mind, the demise of Judah’s military and political strength was the direct consequence of unfaithfulness to the Lord (2 Chron 29:6; Ps 94:1-7). Hezekiah led Judah to renew temple worship, including sin offerings, burnt offerings, and musical worship—all under the administration of the Levites (2 Chron 29:12-35). Hezekiah led Israel to observe the Passover, sending couriers to exhort the people, saying, “Serve the LORD your God so that He may turn His fierce wrath away from you, for when you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land” (2 Chron 30:8b-9a). After the seven-day observation of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which normally followed the Passover (Exodus 12), “the whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy” (2 Chron 30:23). Hezekiah’s spiritual devotion prompted great repentance among the people and the king reconstituted worship practices at the temple (2 Chron 31:1-4; Ps 92:12-14). Hezekiah “was diligent in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple, in the law and in the commandment, in order to seek his God, and he prospered” (2 Chron 31:21).
But the Chronicler went on to note that Hezekiah’s reforms were temporary. The Lord removed Israel from the Promised Land because in the days following Hezekiah, they were unfaithful to Him just as they had been in the days before Hezekiah. Though the Chronicler described with high praise Hezekiah’s temple reforms and Passover celebration, these temple-centered practices were not finally effective in dealing with Israel’s sin problem. In the storyline of Scripture, Jesus took up the Passover celebration and reshaped it in light of His death and resurrection. Jesus’ death would finally and completely satisfy God’s wrath against the sin of His people and secure them residence in Heaven. Just before Jesus was arrested, He ate the Passover with His disciples. He told them to eat of the bread that now represented His body and to drink of the cup that represented His blood (Matt 26:28//Mark 14:24//Luke 22:20).