on 2-kings 20 :20
The rest of the acts of Hezekiah - See the parallel places in Isaiah and in 2 Chronicles. this latter book, 2 Chronicles 32:24-33, we find several particulars that are not inserted here; especially concerning his pride, the increase of his riches, his storehouses of corn, wine, and oil; his stalls for all manner of beasts; his cities, flocks, and herds, in abundance; and the bringing the upper water course of Gihon to the west side of the city of David, by which he brought a plentiful supply of water into that city, etc., etc., etc.
On the subject of the Babylonian embassy I may say a few words. However we may endeavor to excuse Hezekiah, it is certain that he made an exhibition of his riches and power in a spirit of great vanity; and that this did displease the Lord. It was also ruinous to Judea: when those foreigners had seen such a profusion of wealth, such princely establishments, and such a fruitful land, it was natural for them to conceive the wish that they had such treasures, and from that to covet the very treasures they saw. They made their report to their king and countrymen, and the desire to possess the Jewish wealth became general; and in consequence of this there is little doubt that the conquest of Jerusalem was projected. History is not barren in such instances: the same kind of cause has produced similar effects. Take two or three notable instances.
When the barbarous Goth and Vandal nations saw the pleasant and fruitful plains and hills of Italy, and the vast treasures of the Roman people, the abundance of the necessaries, conveniences, comforts, and luxuries of life, which met their eyes in every direction; they were never at rest till their swords put them in possession of the whole, and brought the mistress of the world to irretrievable ruin.
Vortigern, a British king, unhappily invited the Saxons, in 445, to assist him against his rebellious subjects: they came, saw the land that it was good, and in the end took possession of it, having driven out, or into the mountains of Wales, all the original Britons.
The Danes, in the ninth century, made some inroads into England, found the land better than their own, and never rested till they established themselves in this country, and, after having ruled it for a considerable time, were at last, with the utmost difficulty, driven out.
These nations had only to see a better land in order to covet it, and their exertions were not wanting in order to possess it.
How far other nations, since those times, have imitated the most foolish and impolitic conduct of the Jewish king, and how far their conduct may have been or may yet be marked with the same consequences, the pages of impartial history have shown and will show: God's ways are all equal, and the judge of all the earth will do right. But we need not wonder, after this, that the Jews fell into the hands of the Babylonians, for this was the political consequence of their own conduct: nor could it be otherwise, the circumstances of both nations considered, unless God, by a miraculous interposition, had saved them; and this it was inconsistent with his justice to do, because they had, in their pride and vanity, offended against him. To be lifted up with pride and vain glory in the possession of any blessings, is the most direct way to lose them; as it induces God, who dispensed them for our benefit, to resume them, because that which was designed for our good, through our own perversity becomes our bane.
1. I have intimated, in the note on 2 Kings 20:11, that the shadow was brought back on the dial of Ahaz by means of refraction. On this subject some farther observations may not be improper.
2. Any person may easily convince himself of the effect of refraction by this simple experiment: Place a vessel on the floor, and put a piece of coin on the bottom, close to that part of the vessel which is farthest off from yourself; then move back till you find that the edge of the vessel next to yourself fairly covers the coin, and that it is now entirely out of sight. Stand exactly in that position, and let a person pour water gently into the vessel, and you will soon find the coin to reappear, and to be entirely in sight when the vessel is full, though neither it nor you have changed your positions in the least.
By the refracting power of the atmosphere we have several minutes more of the solar light each day than we should otherwise have.
"The atmosphere refracts the sun's rays so as to bring him in sight every clear day, before he rises in the horizon, and to keep him in view for some minutes after he is really set below it. For at some times of the year we see the sun ten minutes longer above the horizon than he would be if there were no refractions, and above six minutes every day at a mean rate." - Ferguson.
And it is entirely owing to refraction that we have any morning or evening twilight; without this power in the atmosphere, the heavens would be as black as ebony in the absence of the sun; and at his rising we should pass in a moment from the deepest darkness into the brightest light; and at his setting, from the most intense light to the most profound darkness, which in a few days would be sufficient to destroy the visual organs of all the animals in air, earth, or sea.
That the rays of light can be supernaturally refracted, and the sun appear to be where he actually is not, we have a most remarkable instance in Kepler. Some Hollanders, who wintered in Nova Zembla in the year 1596, were surprised to find that after a continual night of three months, the sun began to rise seventeen days sooner than (according to computation deduced from the altitude of the pole, observed to be seventy-six degrees) he should have done; which can only be accounted for by a miracle, or by an extraordinary refraction of the sun's rays passing through the cold dense air in that climate. At that time the sun, as Kepler computes, was almost five degrees below the horizon when he appeared; and consequently the refraction of his rays was about nine times stronger than it is with us.
3. Now this might be all purely natural, though it was extraordinary, and it proves the possibility of what I have conjectured, even on natural principles; but the foretelling of this, and leaving the going back or forward to the choice of the king, and the thing occurring in the place and time when and where it was predicted, shows that it was supernatural and miraculous, though the means were purely natural. Yet in that climate, (Lat. thirty-one degrees fifty minutes north, and Long. thirty-five degrees twenty-five minutes east), where vapors to produce an extraordinary refraction of the solar rays could not be expected, the collecting or producing them heightens and ascertains the miracle. "But why contend that the thing was done by refraction? Could not God as easily have caused the sun, or rather the earth, to turn back, as to have produced this extraordinary and miraculous refraction?" I answer, Yes. But it is much more consistent with the wisdom and perfections of God to perform a work or accomplish an end by simple means, than by those that are complex; and had it been done in the other way, it would have required a miracle to invert and a miracle to restore; and a strong convulsion on the earth's surface to bring it ten degrees suddenly back, and to take it the same suddenly forward. The miracle, according to my supposition, was performed on the atmosphere, and without in the least disturbing even that; whereas, on the other supposition, it could not have been done without suspending or interrupting the laws of the solar system, and this without gaining a hair's breadth in credulity or conviction more by such stupendous interpositions than might be effected by the agency of clouds and vapors. The point to be gained was the bringing back the shadow on the dial ten degrees: this might have been gained by the means I have here described, as well as by the other; and these means being much more simple, were more worthy the Divine choice than those which are more complex, and could not have been used without producing the necessity of working at least double or treble miracles.
on 2-kings 20 :20
Consult the marginal references.
on 2-kings 20 :20