2 Kings 20-22
Hezekiah is ill, and Isaiah tells him to get his affairs in order. But after Hezekiah whines and cries, Yahweh relents and tells Isaiah to pass on the message that King Hez can live another 15 years. Isaiah makes an ointment from figs, spreads it on the boil and Hezekiah recovers! (v 7) But Hezekiah is a skeptic, and wants proof that he will be cured, so Isaiah arranges for the sun to move 10 degrees backwards on the sundial.
This is so silly on so many levels. First, the idea that Yahweh the megalomaniacal mass murderer could be moved by mere whining. Second, here we go again with the prophets and their magic potions – faith-healing hasn’t changed much in the last millennium. Third, more magic tricks – every good prophet has to have a few up his sleeve – funny that they have largely disappeared since the invention of the camera. And most of all, boils are caused by bacterial infections, preventable with basic hygiene and treatable with antibiotics, which is why they are rarely fatal anymore in developed countries. If Yahweh were really omnipotent, he could have done some real good here by upgrading public health practices and advancing medical care.
Soon afterward, Hezekiah offers visiting envoys from Babylon a tour of the palace. He might as well have taken a family of foxes on a tour of the henhouse – we know where this is headed. And he dies at the end of the chapter, with no mention of how long he lived after Isaiah predicted 15 more years.
Manassah takes over as king of Judah, and he undoes all his father Hezekiah had accomplished – he rebuilds the pagan shrines, the altars to Baal, and the Asherah poles. (Ever stop to wonder why these pagan gods seem to be so much more appealing than Yahweh, that so many people turn to them?) Manassah “sacrificed his own son in the fire. He practiced sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord’s sight, arousing his anger.” (v 6 NLT) Can’t get much more evil than that!
Well that finishes it for Yahweh – he is done like dinner with these hopeless Israelites. He vows “I will wipe away the people of Jerusalem as one wipes a dish and turns it upside down. Then I will reject even the remnant of my own people who are left, and I will hand them over as plunder for their enemies.” (v 13-14) But Yahweh doesn’t make good on his threat in this chapter – it just continues on with 2 more kings (who are also evil – well, what did you expect at this point?).
As we spiral down toward the end, Josiah becomes king, and he tries again to restore the temple. Amid the restoration, the high priest finds an old scroll, which turns out to be the Book of Law (believed by some scholars/apologists to be the Book of Deuteronomy – see Deuteronomy 31:26). Josiah despairs when he reads it, and calls upon the prophetess Huldah to confirm that the disasters it predicts will come true – and of course she does. But Yahweh takes pity on Josiah for his loyalty and promises to delay the divine retribution until after Josiah’s death (and note that he promises a peaceful death). Tell me, would you find it a comfort to hear that your country will be destroyed; but not until after you’re gone – so that you won’t be part of the fallout, but your children and grandchildren will? Didn’t think so….