Ethical Issues in the Historical Books of Tanach;
JOSHUA, JUDGES, SAMUEL, KINGS (Nevi’im Rishonim)
These four books ostensibly are merely the history of Israel from the entry into the Promised Land until the destruction of the Temple and the temporary loss of independent statehood. In fact they are actually, in a specifically Jewish sense, the most deeply religious and spiritual books of the Bible. One does not have to be specifically Jewish to see or feel the religion and spirituality in the revelations of the prophetic writings or in the words of the Tehillim. They speak to all people, as evidenced by the fact that the Bible is still the world's bestseller and there are millions of non-Jews who regularly recite the Psalms. However, it is specifically and intrinsically Jewish to understand that G-d is revealed in the prosaic material, in the political, social and military events in the lives of ordinary men and women, kings and leaders that are described in the Nevim Rishonim. Here are described the ideology and religious thoughts in Judaism, while in Chronicles we have the purely historical.
A Halt in the Slide to Destruction and Exile
The text at the end of the previous chapter (29:36) tells us that, "Chizkiyahu and all the people rejoiced because of that which the Lord had prepared for the people; for the thing [of the Temple] was done suddenly"; Hashem had prepared their hearts to want to do this thing and it was sudden, both in that it took only 16 days to purify and consecrate the Temple and clean the country of idolatry but also that the change from the evil of Achaz the father to the piety of Chizkiyahu the son, was speedy and dramatic; remember that it was the very first year of the latter's reign.
It is true that the purification of the Temple had only begun at the beginning of Nissan so that its completion passed the 14th of that month, the appointed date of Chag HaPesach. Furthermore, the nation was ritually impure either because of avoda zara or because of non-observance of the laws of tum'a and therefore required time to purify themselves. So, contrary to the opinions of Chazal, Chizkiyahu made the second month of that year Nissan as well and called on all the tribes in both kingdoms, to ascend to Yerushalayim, to celebrate the Pesach that marks our beginning as the nation that serves G-d.
That that call is indeed meant as a further step up in the path of repentance and spirituality may be seen in the way Chizkiyahu phrased it. "Return unto the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yisrael [using that name instead of Yaakov, as did Moshe when he prayed for forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex. 32:13), as did Eliyhu when called on HaShem to show the people that He alone was G-d (Melachim Alef 18:36) and as did David when he blessed the people. Yaakov is the Jewish People at a lower spiritual level - destined to hold onto the (Ekev) heel, downtrodden, exiled or secondary - as compared to Yisrael - Yeshurun who has power with G-d and with men - realizing true potential]. Be not, as your fathers and your brothers who betrayed the G-d of their fathers" (6-8).
Despite all the years of idolatry and evil kings, they answered his call in a way that shows that their sins were nothing more that superficial and temporary; this is a phenomenon similar in essence to the teshuva movement that we are witnessing in our own time. The text shows their response to have been a massive demonstration of their deeply-rooted religious and spiritual loyalty." And there gathered a great multitude of people [from Efrayim, Menashe, Zevulun, Asher and from Judah] prepared to go to Yerushalayim to offer the Pesach. And they arose and took away the altars that were in the city and the altars for incense and cast them in to Nachal Kidron". There were many who had not even by then purified themselves, yet they brought [incorrectly] the Korban Pesach. Swept aside perhaps by the wave of teshuva, Chizkiyahu prayed for their forgiveness, even as Shlomo HaMelech had done at the consecration of the Temple. "If Your People sin against You; for there is no man that does not sin… Then if they return unto You with all their hearts and pray towards this House, then hear their prayers and supplications in Heaven and forgive Your people" (Melachim Alef 8:46-50).
So the people observed the Pesach for 7 days with great joy sang Hallel on every day, while the Kohanim sounded the musical instruments and trumpets. The text uses a singular and special phrase to describe the instruments: 'klei oz', lit. instruments of strength, to "ascribe strength to the Lord" (Tehilim 68:35) or "so that Honor and Majesty are before Him; Strength and gladness are in His place" (Divrei HaYamim Alef 16:27). Then some- thing unprecedented happened that puts the purification of the Temple and the observance of Pesach in a special light and show the spiritual and religious effects of Chizkiyahu's teshuva movement.
According to the Torah, every Jew fulfilled his Pesach obligation - the penalty for non- observance is Karet severance from the Jewish people - by coming to the Temple offering and eating the Pascal lamb, then on the morrow he may return home continuing to observe the ruling against chametz. The rest of the Chag. Then the people remained all 7 days of Chag HaPesach in Yerushalayim in praise and in simcha. But before they could go home, Chizkiyahu asked to remain another week and to add holiness and spiritual elevation to that which they already had done. "And the people agreed and made another 7 days of Simcha" (23). They brought sacrifice sand offerings, and the princes and leaders also brought their offerings. There were offerings of Toda and Sh'lamim, of thanks and peace offerings in which Heaven [through the portion burnt on the altar], and the Kohanim and their owners all are shared; Korban Peasach is known as Zevach Pesach, the family feast of Pesach."There had never been such great simcha in Yerushalayim since the days of Sholomo HaMelech"; alluding to the festivities made after the consecration of his Temple.
The simcha was really an
overflowing of kedusha, since after that the people broke down the remaining
altars to avoda zara, cut down the asheirot used in fertility rites, and
shattered the stone pillars used in individual worship. Truly as the text
concludes: "Then each person returned unto his inheritance and portion",both
literally to their villages and homes but also spiritually unto their
behavior as G-d's People.