Hezekiah

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A king of Judah prepares to destroy a bronze serpent and an Asherah tree on the Temple grounds as he remembers how he had played in their shade as a child.
I have approached them slowly, with reverence, with regret. Each is an object of ultimate beauty. Each must be destroyed.

Author’s Notes

This event seems to involve several layers of storytelling. Some scholars doubt that Hezekiah destroyed the serpent. While some of his actions promoted the worship of only one god, he appears to have taken other steps to allow the worship of others to continue. Since Hezekiah was a powerful king and viewed favorably in later years, the writers and editors of the text may have created this story to connect the removal of the cults of Asherah and of snake worship with him.

The story of Moses’s creation of the snake seems doubtful. I wonder, if it were true, where it would have been kept in the centuries between the desert journeys and the creation of the Temple, and why both items would have been put there when the Temple was supposed to be strictly for the one god.

It makes more sense (assuming that the reader isn’t assuming the literal truthfulness of the Biblical text) to conjecture that, just as the Biblical writers may have created the story of the destruction of the serpent, they would have reached further back and created the origin story involving Moses.

Viewing the story as true, however, (as Elisheva would have done) brings us back to the emotions of that one man standing with his axe at the base of the serpent and of the tree. If he would have grown up all his life with these monuments in view, the need to destroy them must have been especially painful. It would have taken an exceptional sense of urgency (spurred, perhaps, by the echo of the voice of Moses within him) for him to proceed.

Questions

Have you ever had to destroy something that you loved? What reasons did you have? Was it replaced by something better? Was the destruction worthwhile?

If you had to do it again, would you do so?

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