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The gemara in חולין on 6b / 7a (apologies, on mobile so can't provide link) discusses how the copper snake of Moshe should have been destroyed by earlier Kings (specifically referring to those kings who were righteous and aware of the issue), as it was being used for avodah zarah, but it was left to חזקיה as מקום הניחו אבותיו להתגדר בו. If there was a genuine avodah zara issue going on, how could it be intentionally left for חזקיה to fix? If there wasn't an issue, in what sense have the earlier Kings left a place להתגדר?

I am assuming that מקום הניחו לו means that it was intentionally left for later generations, based on Rashi Chullin 7a -

מקום הניחו - כשיבאו בנינו אחרינו אם לא ימצאו מה לתקן במה יגדל שמם When our children come after us, if they don't find anything to fix, how will their name become great?

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    Are you asking how could it be that previous generations weren't perfect? If you accept that then what is surprising about their having left you room for improvement? – Double AA Jul 21 at 16:12
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    The snake was a mitzvah object created by Moshe. Even though destroying it was the right thing to do under the circumstances, I can see them being reluctant to do it. – Heshy Jul 21 at 16:20
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    @DoubleAA I think he is understanding "מקום הניחו אבותיו להתגדר בו" as meaning they intentionally left to him (or any other future generation) the opportunity of fixing the problem. Moshe Steinberg, if this is your understanding of "מקום הניחו אבותיו להתגדר בו", you should edit that into the question. – Tamir Evan Jul 21 at 16:57
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    Previous generations struggled with the desire for avodah zarah the same way we struggle with the desire for forbidden sexual relations. Chazekeia's father was an out-and-out idol worshipper who closed down the Beit HaMikdash and installed an altar to Moloch in the courtyard.....is it surprising he would not stop idol worship? – Josh K Jul 21 at 17:57
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    The general approach to this question is either that 1) Chizkiyahu realized the enormity of the problem and his predecessors did not (Maharsha), 2) the view of Tosafos (ad loc.) who says the previous leaders were of the mistaken opinion that it was forbidden to destroy it since it was originally created by Divine command, or 3) a hybrid interpretation that it normally would be forbidden to destroy, but Chizkiyahu realized that the seriousness of the situation necessitated radical action. – Fred Jul 21 at 18:41

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