Hezekiah’s Religious Reform

Acorus calamus

King Hezekiah was 25 years of age when became king of Judah. He reigned 29 years (715-686 B.C.). He father was Ahaz but unlike Ahaz, Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes. Isaiah was at his most influential during Hezekiah’s reign. During Hezekiah’s reign, the Northern Kingdom fell and its inhabitants were dispersed through Assyria.

Hezekiah was distinguished by his absolute confidence in God even under duress. Immediately after being crowned, King Hezekiah began religious reform. His purpose was to make a covenant with God so that God’s fierce anger would be turned away from the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 29:10). In the first month of his kingship, Hezekiah reopened and repaired the Temple doors. He gathered the priests and Levites and instructed them to purify and consecrate themselves. After the priest and Levites were consecrated, they clean out the Temple. Unclean furnishing and idolatrous items found in the temple were dumped into the Kidron Valley. Over a 16-day period, the priests purified the Temple and consecrated its altars and furnishings. The sacred anointing oil was used in the consecrations.

After the purification and consecrations, King Hezekiah provided bulls, rams, lambs, and goats as a sin offering for the people of Judah. While the offerings were made, Levites played music on cymbals, harps, and lyres and sang in the manner prescribed by King David. King Hezekiah, city officials, priest, Levites, and the entire assembly knelt down and worshipped God. After the sin offerings, the assembly brought sacrifices and thanks offerings to God. So many offerings were presented that the priest could not skin all of the animals. They had to enlist the Levites to assist them until more priests could be re-consecrated. Thus, Temple worship was reestablished under King Hezekiah.

When the Tabernacle was built, God prescribed ingredients to be used in the anointing (purifying and consecrating) oil. Five ingredients were named: myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia, and olive oil. The anointing oil was sacred and used only for anointing the priest and the Temple furnishing and accessories. In Chapter 4, cassia was described as an ingredient for the anointing oil in the Tabernacle. In this chapter, fragrant cane will be described as an ingredient in the Temple anointing oil. Isaiah (43:24) mentioned fragrant cane (calamus) declaring that the people of Judah no longer brought cane to God, probably meaning in the incense of sacrifice.

Fragrant Cane Plant

Most botanists and religious scholars associate the Biblical fragrant cane with the Acorus calamus variety calamus., called sweet cane and calamus. Although fragrant cane is a Bible plant, in 2012 it was not found in two popular Israeli plant databases: Online Flora of Israel and Wild Flowers of Israel. Probably most fragrant cane used in the Temple anointing oil came from India. It is found in moist soils and shallow water in ditches, marshes, river edges and ponds, marshes and ditches. Viewed from the top of water or moist soil, fragrant cane that looks like numerous plants may be a single interconnected rhizome (root). Although leaves and stems can be harvested, the rhizome is used to make perfumes and sacred oils (Motley, 1995). Fragrant cane is very expensive. During the reign of Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey was accused of extravagance because he importing fragrant cane reeds at extravagant expense.

Symbolism: Clarity

The fragrant cane plant is associated with many different concepts to include vigor, purification, wisdom, and clarity. The symbolism that reflects this Bible episode is clarity which includes focused perception, to free of confusion, and to make understandable. Under Ahaz’s reign, some of the priests of God’s temple likely remained at home and only practiced their faith with family and close friends. Others, like the priest Uriah (2 Kings 15:10-15), obeyed Ahaz and installed idol worship in the Temple. Probably both groups felt some degree of confusion, guilt, resentment, and shame (Psalm 97:7). These emotions would have clouded their thinking.

When Hezekiah became king, he required the priests to consecrate themselves in preparation for re-instituting worship of God in the Temple. For the priests consecration meant that the sacred anointing oil was applied to themselves and possibly their clothes. Then, the priests anointed each item in the Temple. Being anointed to God’s service would have focused the priest’s thoughts on God. Anointing the Temple furnishing and accessories over a 16-day period would have clarified the purpose and meaning of each item in the temple. Finally, performing the sacrifices reinforced the priests’ understanding of their role in Temple worship. Use of the anointing oil promoted clarity in the priests’ perceptions.

Today, people are prone to lose clarity of thought. We become anxious and distressed by what is occurring around us. As I write this chapter, the United States is in the process of presidential elections. Perhaps more than any other election, United States citizens are paying attention to what candidates say and do. This attention can be good if it clarifies our thoughts on candidates’ stands on issues important to us. At the same time, we need not get anxious about who to vote for or the decision-making process. God’s desire is to have us free from all anxiety and distressing care (1 Corinthians 7:32)

When we accept Christ we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. Christ’s anointing teaches us the truth on everything we need to know about ourselves and Christ, uncontaminated by a single lie (I John 2:26-27) Now, Christ is our safe place – the place where perceptions, understanding, and clarity abide. As we listen to candidates and persuasive leaders in any field, we need to remember and believe that Christ knows his sheep and they know him (John 10:1-6). Christ’s sheep will not follow a stranger’s voice. Christ sheep not only hear his voice but listen or obey his voice and words. St. John recorded that when Jesus used this figure of speech, his listeners did not understand what he was talking about.

Reflection. How is your clarity? Do you understand what Jesus was talking about in John 10:1-6?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at

Copyright September 9, 2012; carolyn a. roth


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