1Hezekiah became king of Judah at the age of 25, and he ruled in Jerusalem for 29 years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2Following the example of his ancestor King David, he did what was pleasing to the LORD.
The Purification of the Temple
3In the first month of the year after Hezekiah became king, he re-opened the gates of the Temple and had them repaired. 4He assembled a group of priests and Levites in the east courtyard of the Temple 5and spoke to them there. He said, “You Levites are to consecrate yourselves and purify the Temple of the LORD, the God of your ancestors. Remove from the Temple everything that defiles it. 6Our ancestors were unfaithful to the LORD our God and did what was displeasing to him. They abandoned him and turned their backs on the place where he dwells. 7They closed the doors of the Temple, let the lamps go out, and failed to burn incense or offer burnt offerings in the Temple of the God of Israel. 8Because of this the LORD has been angry with Judah and Jerusalem, and what he has done to them has shocked and frightened everyone. You know this very well. 9Our fathers were killed in battle, and our wives and children have been taken away as prisoners.
10“I have now decided to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, so that he will no longer be angry with us. 11My sons, do not lose any time. You are the ones that the LORD has chosen to burn incense to him and to lead the people in worshipping him.”
15These men assembled their fellow-Levites, and they all made themselves ritually clean. Then, as the king had commanded them to do, they began to make the Temple ritually clean, according to the Law of the LORD.16The priests went inside the Temple to purify it, and they carried out into the temple courtyard everything that was ritually unclean. From there the Levites took it all outside the city to the valley of the Kidron.
17The work was begun on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day they had finished it all, including the entrance room to the Temple. Then they worked for the next eight days, until the sixteenth of the month, preparing the Temple for worship.
The Temple is Rededicated
18The Levites made the following report to King Hezekiah: “We have completed the ritual purification of the whole Temple, including the altar for burnt offerings, the table for the sacred bread, and all their equipment. 19We have also brought back all the equipment which King Ahaz took away during those years he was unfaithful to God, and we have rededicated it. It is all in front of the LORD's altar.”
20Without delay King Hezekiah assembled the leading men of the city, and together they went to the Temple. 21As an offering to take away the sins of the royal family and of the people of Judah and to purify the Temple, they took seven bulls, seven sheep, seven lambs, and seven goats. The king told the priests, who were descendants of Aaron, to offer the animals as sacrifices on the altar. 22The priests killed the bulls first, then the sheep, and then the lambs, and sprinkled the blood of each sacrifice on the altar. 23Finally they took the goats to the king and to the other worshippers, who laid their hands on them. 24Then the priests killed the goats and poured their blood on the altar as a sacrifice to take away the sin of all the people, for the king had commanded burnt offerings and sin offerings to be made for all Israel.
25The king followed the instructions that the LORD had given to King David through Gad, the king's prophet, and through the prophet Nathan; he stationed Levites in the Temple, with harps and cymbals, 26instruments like those that King David had used. The priests also stood there with trumpets. 27Hezekiah gave the order for the burnt offering to be presented; and as the offering began, the people sang praise to the LORD, and the musicians began to play the trumpets and all the other instruments. 28Everyone who was there joined in worship, and the singing and the rest of the music continued until all the sacrifices had been burnt. 29Then King Hezekiah and all the people knelt down and worshipped God. 30The king and the leaders of the nation told the Levites to sing to the LORD the songs of praise that were written by David and by Asaph the prophet. So everyone sang with great joy as they knelt and worshipped God.
31Hezekiah said to the people, “Now that you are ritually clean, bring sacrifices as offerings of thanksgiving to the LORD.” They obeyed, and some of them also voluntarily brought animals to be sacrificed as burnt offerings. 32They brought seventy bulls, 100 sheep, and 200 lambs as burnt offerings for the LORD; 33they also brought 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep as sacrifices for the people to eat. 34Since there were not enough priests to kill all these animals, the Levites helped them until the work was finished. By then more priests had made themselves ritually clean. (The Levites were more faithful in keeping ritually clean than the priests were.) 35In addition to offering the sacrifices that were burnt whole, the priests were responsible for burning the fat that was offered from the sacrifices which the people ate, and for pouring out the wine that was presented with the burnt offerings.
And so worship in the Temple was begun again. 36King Hezekiah and the people were happy, because God had helped them to do all this so quickly.
Preparations for Passover
1-3The people had not been able to celebrate the Passover Festival at the proper time, in the first month, because not enough priests were ritually clean and not many people had assembled in Jerusalem. So King Hezekiah, his officials, and the people of Jerusalem agreed to celebrate it in the second month, and the king sent word to all the people of Israel and Judah. He took special care to send letters to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD, the God of Israel. 4The king and the people were pleased with their plan, 5so they invited all the Israelites, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, to come together in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover according to the Law, in larger numbers than ever before. 6Messengers went out at the command of the king and his officials through all Judah and Israel with the following invitation:
“People of Israel, you have survived the Assyrian conquest of the land. Now return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he will return to you. 7Do not be like your ancestors and your fellow-Israelites who were unfaithful to the LORD their God. As you can see, he punished them severely. 8Do not be stubborn as they were, but obey the LORD. Come to the Temple in Jerusalem, which the LORD your God has made holy for ever, and worship him so that he will no longer be angry with you. 9If you return to the LORD, then those who have taken your relatives away as prisoners will take pity on them and let them come back home. The LORD your God is kind and merciful, and if you return to him, he will accept you.”
10The messengers went to every city in the territory of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far north as the tribe of Zebulun, but people laughed at them and ridiculed them. 11Still, there were some from the tribes of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun who were willing to come to Jerusalem. 12God was also at work in Judah and united the people in their determination to obey his will by following the commands of the king and his officials.
Passover is Celebrated
13A great number of people gathered in Jerusalem in the second month to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 14They took all the altars that had been used in Jerusalem for offering sacrifices and burning incense and threw them into the valley of the Kidron. 15And on the fourteenth day of the month they killed the lambs for the Passover sacrifice. The priests and Levites who were not ritually clean were so ashamed that they dedicated themselves to the LORD, and now they could sacrifice burnt offerings in the Temple. 16They took their places in the Temple according to the instructions in the Law of Moses, the man of God. The Levites gave the blood of the sacrifices to the priests, who sprinkled it on the altar. 17Because many of the people were not ritually clean, they could not kill the Passover lambs, so the Levites did it for them, and dedicated the lambs to the LORD. 18In addition, many of those who had come from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not performed the ritual of purification, and so they were observing Passover improperly. King Hezekiah offered this prayer for them: 19“O LORD, the God of our ancestors, in your goodness forgive those who are worshipping you with all their heart, even though they are not ritually clean.” 20The LORD answered Hezekiah's prayer; he forgave the people and did not harm them. 21For seven days the people who had gathered in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread with great joy, and day after day the Levites and the priests praised the LORD with all their strength.22Hezekiah praised the Levites for their skill in conducting the worship of the LORD.
A Second Celebration
After the seven days during which they offered sacrifices in praise of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, 23they all decided to celebrate for another seven days. So they celebrated with joy. 24King Hezekiah contributed 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for the people to kill and eat, and the officials gave them another thousand bulls and 10,000 sheep. A large number of priests went through the ritual of purification. 25So everyone was happy — the people of Judah, the priests, the Levites, the people who had come from the north, and the foreigners who had settled permanently in Israel and Judah. 26The city of Jerusalem was filled with joy, because nothing like this had happened since the days of King Solomon, the son of David. 27The priests and the Levites asked the LORD's blessing on the people. In his home in heaven God heard their prayers and accepted them.
Hezekiah Reforms Religious Life
1After the festival ended, all the people of Israel went to every city in Judah and broke the stone pillars, cut down the symbols of the goddess Asherah, and destroyed the altars and the pagan places of worship. They did the same thing throughout the rest of Judah, and the territories of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh; then they all returned home.