From the fourth to the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign the northern kingdom was in trouble. Sargon finally destroyed Samaria and deported the people to Assyria. Hezekiah became ill, probably from a carbuncle, and almost died; but God granted him a fifteen-year extension of life (
2. One of the covenanters with Nehemiah (
HEZEKIAH hĕz’ ə kī’ ə (חִזְקִיָּ֥ה; LXX ̔Εζεκίας, G1614, meaning Yahweh has strengthened). Hezekiah was a descendant of David and king of Judah. Three accounts are given of his reign (
The twenty-nine year reign of Hezekiah is best dated in the three decades 716/15 to 687/86 b.c. The extensive research on the chronology of this period by E. R. Thiele (pp. 118-140) reflects some difficulties in interpreting the dating systems during OT times and await further analysis. By adopting the above dates for Hezekiah, the interpretation of the Biblical data and its synchronization with the chronologies of Syria, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt seem to offer the best solution to the difficulties in the light of present knowledge. Based on this chronology, some of the important events during the lifetime of Hezekiah can be dated as follows:
740—Birth of Hezekiah
736—Ahaz began co-regency with Jotham
732—Damascus capitulated to Assyria
—Hoshea replaced Pekah in Samaria
727—Shalmaneser V became king of Assyria
723—Samaria conquered by Assyria
722—Sargon became king of Assyria
716/15—Ahaz died, Hezekiah became king
711—Ashdod conquered by Sargon II
705—Sennacherib became king of Assyria
701—Hezekiah’s sickness, fifteen-year extension
—Deliverance from Assyrian pressure
—Merodach-baladan congratulated Hezekiah
697—Manasseh made co-regent with Hezekiah
689—Babylon destroyed by Sennacherib
688—Sennacherib failed in his second threat to conquer Jerusalem
Assyrian supremacy in the.
The reign of Hezekiah can be understood better in the light of the international pressure that the Assyrian kings brought to bear upon Judah during the life of Hezekiah.
Judah emerged as the strongest power in the heart of Pal. under Uzziah during the decade from 750 to 740 b.c. Israel had enjoyed its greatest peak of economic and political prosperity under who died in 753 b.c. During the following three decades, revolutions and dynastic changes occurred repeatedly until Samaria capitulated to the Assyrians in 723 b.c. The aggressive westward move of Tiglath-pileser, who ruled Assyria from 745-727 b.c., was temporarily halted by a coalition in northern Syria c. 743 b.c. in which Azariah (Uzziah), king of Judah, participated in a battle at Arpad. Since Menahem, the king of Israel, paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrians did not advance southward so that Uzziah was able to maintain an anti-Assyrian policy. Jotham continued this policy but likely was replaced by Ahaz because the latter adopted a pro-Assyrian policy in 736/35 b.c. At the same time, Pekah in Samaria and Rezin in Damascus formed an alliance to resist Assyrian aggression. Ahaz triumphed in his Assyrian alliance even when the two kings of the N temporarily invaded Judah. The political involvement of Ahaz, who met the Assyrian king in Damascus when Rezin and Pekah were both dethroned, brought idolatory and paganism into the Temple where God alone was to be worshiped.
By 723 b.c. Shalmaneser V invaded Israel and conquered Samaria. Sargon II, 722-705 b.c., advanced southward along the Mediterranean coast conquering Ashdod in 711 b.c. When Sennacherib came to the Assyrian throne in 705 b.c., he began the conquest of numerous cities on the coastal plain, boasting that he subjected forty-six walled cities. Although he threatened Hezekiah repeatedly, he never succeeded in conquering Jerusalem. In 701 b.c., Sennacherib’s plans were abruptly terminated when he had to return to suppress a Babylonian rebellion. After destroying Babylon in 689 b.c., he may have made another attempt to suppress Hezekiah. Sennacherib never claims in his records to have conquered Jerusalem. In 681 b.c. Sennacherib was killed by two of his sons and succeeded by another son named Esarhaddon.
Hezekiah’s religious and political policies.
Religiously and politically, Hezekiah faced a kingdom in need of extensive reforms. Under Ahaz, who had defied the warnings and advice by Isaiah, idolatry had been promoted to an unprecedented degree through his alliance with Assyria. Hezekiah was not interested in currying the favor of the Assyrian kings either politically or religiously.
Hezekiah reacted drastically to the idolatrous conditions that prevailed in Judah and Jerusalem. Being keenly aware that the Israelites were God’s covenant people, he provided leadership as king in initiating a reform program to honor God in accordance with the Mosaic revelation.
The Temple in Jerusalem was reopened. The Levites were given the responsibility for repairing and renovating it so that God could again be properly worshiped. All the things associated with idolatry were removed to the brook Kidron, whereas the vessels that had been desecrated were sanctified for the Temple to be used by the priests and Levites in their ministries. The initiation of sacrifices was accompanied by musical groups employing harps, cymbals, and lyres as had been the custom in David’s time. Burnt offerings were accompanied by liturgical singing in which psalms of David and Asaph were used by the participants.
With Israel having been reduced to the status of an Assyrian province, Hezekiah took advantage of the opportunity to invite the Israelites from the northern tribes to join in the celebration of the passover in Jerusalem. Many responded to Hezekiah’s invitation. Except for observing the Passover a month late to allow adequate time for preparation, the religious leaders under Hezekiah carefully followed the Mosaic instructions. The joyfulness of the celebration of this Passover had been previously exceeded only at the time when the Temple had been dedicated under Solomon.
Throughout Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh there were signs of religious reformation in the destruction of idols. Pillars, Asherim, high places, and altars were demolished throughout the land. Hezekiah himself exemplified his concern by destroying the bronze serpent, which Moses had erected in the wilderness (
Hezekiah, like David, provided leadership in organizing the priests and Levites for the regular religious services. The tithe was reinstituted and allotted to the religious leaders who devoted themselves to the service of God in accordance with the law. So generous were the contributions that all the priests and Levites had sufficient support to engage in their religious responsibilities. Plans were made to observe the feasts and seasons regularly according to the order prescribed in the law of Moses. As a whole, the religious reformation under Hezekiah was a decided success.
From the political and military perspective, Hezekiah provided equally strong leadership to Judah. When Sargon II advanced into the Philistine area and captured Ashdod, international tension developed. Isaiah dramatically warned Hezekiah and his people not to interfere with the Ashdod siege lest Jerusalem become directly involved and attacked by the Assyrians (
During this time, Hezekiah made extensive preparation in anticipation of Assyrian aggression. As part of his defense program he built fortifications around Jerusalem, stimulated craftsmen in the production of shields and weapons, and organized his fighting forces under combat commanders.
Realizing the importance of an adequate water supply, Hezekiah constructed a tunnel extending 1,777 ft. through solid rock from the spring of Gihon to the Siloam pool. The city wall was extended to enclose this vital source of water. In the area surrounding Jerusalem other sources of water were cut off as far as possible, so that the invading Assyrians would not be able to utilize them to their own advantage.
Having led his people in extensive religious and military reforms to prepare his people for the impending threat of the Assyrians, Hezekiah exemplified before his people an attitude of confidence in God. Boldly he assured them that God would sustain them to withstand the enemy who was dependent on “an arm of flesh” (
The Assyrian threat.
The scriptural accounts of the relationships between Judah and Assyria during the Hezekiah-Sennacherib era, the extension of Hezekiah’s life, and Judah’s contacts with Babylon are quite extensive and detailed, but they are not necessarily in chronological order. Exact time sequence is often omitted. Although a number of problems await solution it seems probable that the Biblical and secular accounts can be reasonably integrated by allowing for the sequence of developments in the following order.
In 705 b.c., Sennacherib faced numerous rebellions when he succeeded Sargon as king of Assyria. Babylon rebelled under Merodach-baladan, who by 702 b.c. abandoned his throne to Bel-ibni. Nationalism surged in Egypt under Shabako, an Ethiopian king who founded the twenty-fifth dynasty c. 710 b.c. Having forced Merodach-baladan into exile, Sennacherib turned westward to subdue Phoenicia and other coastal resistance centers, advancing to the maritime plain W of Jerusalem. By 701 b.c., he boasted about conquering forty-six walled cities and taking 200,000 captives.
From Hezekiah he exacted a heavy tribute in silver and gold and then sent representatives to Jerusalem to intimidate the king and his people (
With the Assyrian exit from Pal., the surrounding cities and nations expressed their congratulations to Hezekiah with abundant gifts (
Very likely it was in 701 b.c. that Hezekiah was seriously ill. Although warned by Isaiah to prepare for death, Hezekiah’s prayer was answered in the extension of his life for a fifteen-year period as well as the promise of deliverance from the Assyrians (
The congratulations of Merodach-baladan may have been a recognition of Hezekiah’s physical recovery as well as his successful resistance to the king of Assyria. The triumph of Hezekiah’s personal and national recovery was only tempered by Isaiah’s prediction that subsequent to his reign Judah would be subjected to Babylonian captivity.
After a decade or more of repeated rebellions, Sennacherib destroyed Babylon in 689 b.c. Hearing of the advance of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, Sennacherib may have attempted to march across the Arabian desert toward Egypt in 688 b.c. This time he sent a letter to Hezekiah (
Hezekiah died in 686 b.c., having enjoyed the fifteen-year extension of his life in peace and prosperity. He was succeeded by Manasseh his son who probably had become co-regent in 696 b.c.
J. Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (1946), 170-182; W. F. Albright, “New Light from Egypt on the Chronology andand Judah,” BASOR, 130 (1953), 4-11; S. J. Schultz, The Speaks (1960), 205-215, 299-314; E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1965), 90-172.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(1) King of Judah. See special article
(2) A son of Neariah, of the royal family of Judah (
(3) An ancestor of Zephaniah (Ze 1:1, the"Hizkiah").
(4) One of the returned exiles from Babylon (
One of the greatest of the kings of Judah; reigned (according to the most self-consistent chronology) from circa 715 to circa 690 BC.
On the Old Testament standard of loyalty to Yahweh he is eulogized by Jesus Sirach as one of the three kings who alone did not "commit trespass" (Sirach 49:4), the other two being David and Josiah. The Chronicler represents him (
I. Sources for His Life and Times.
1. Scripture Annals:
The historical accounts in
2. View-point and Colouring:
Of these sources the account in 2 Kings is most purely historianic, originating at a time when religious and political values, in the Hebrew mind, were inseparable. In 2Ch the religious point and coloring, especially in its later developed ritual and legal aspects, has the decided predominance. Sirach, with the mind of a man of letters, is concerned mainly with eulogizing Hezekiah. in his "praise of famous men" (compare Sirach 44-50), of course from the devout Hebrew point of view. In the vision of Isaiah (Isa 1,39), we have the reflection of the moral and spiritual situation in Jerusalem, as realized in the fervid prophetic consciousness; and in the prophecy of his younger contemporary Micah, the state of things in the outlying country districts nearest the path of invasion, where both the iniquities of the ruling classes and the horrors of war were felt most keenly. Doubtless also many devotional echoes of these times of stress are deducible from the Psalms, so far as we can fairly identify them.
It is in Hezekiah’s times especially that the Assyrian inscriptions become illuminating for the history of Israel; for one important thing they furnish certain fixed dates to which the chronology of the times can be adjusted. Of Sennacherib’s campaign of 701, for instance, no fewer than six accounts are at present known (see G.A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 154, note), the most detailed being the "Taylor Cylinder," now in the British Museum, which in the main agrees, or at least is not inconsistent, with the Scripture history.
II. Events of His Reign.
1. His Heritage:
From his weak and unprincipled father Ahaz (compare
2. Religious Reform:
The sense of this unspiritual state of things furnishes the best keynote of Hezekiah’s reforms in religion, which according to the Chronicler he set about as soon as he came to the throne (
3. Internal Improvements:
All this, on the king’s part, was his response to the spiritual influence of Isaiah, with whose mind his own was sincerely at one. As a devout disciple in the school of prophetic ideas, he earnestly desired to maintain the prophet’s insistent attitude of "quietness and confidence" (compare
4. The Assyrian Crisis:
5. Invasion and Deliverance:
The critical moment came in 701, when Sennacherib, who the year before had reconquered Babylon and expelled Merodach-baladan (perhaps
6. The Second Summons:
III. His Character.
Our estimate of Hezekiah’s character is most consistently made by regarding him as a disciple of Isaiah, who was earnestly minded to carry out his prophetic ideas. As, however, these were to begin with only the initial ideas of a spiritual "remnant," the king’s sympathies must needs be identified at heart, not with his imperious nobles and princes, but with a minority of the common people, whose religious faith did not become a recognizable influence in the state until after 701. In the meantime his zeal for purer worship and more just domestic administration, which made him virtually king of the remnant, made him a wise and sagacious prince over the whole realm. Isaiah’s glowing prophecy (32:1-8) seems to be a Messianic projection of the saner and clearer-seeing era that his domestic policy adumbrated--a time when king and nobles rule in righteousness, when man can lean on man, when things good and evil are seen as they are and called by their right names. When it came to dealing with the foreign situation, however, especially according to the Isaianic program, his task was exceedingly difficult, as it were a pioneer venture in faith. His effort to maintain an attitude of steadfast trust in Yahweh, with the devout quietism which, though really its consistency and strength looked like a supine passivity, would lead his restlessly scheming nobles to regard him as a pious weakling; and not improbably they came to deem him almost a negligible quantity, and forced his hand into diplomacies and coalitions that were not to his mind. Some such insolent attitude of theirs seems to be portrayed in
IV. Reflection of His Age in Literature.
1. Complication and Revival:
The sublime and mature utterances of Isaiah alone, falling in this time, are sufficient evidence that in Hezekiah’s age, Israel reached its golden literary prime. Among the idealists and thinkers throughout the nation a new spiritual vigor and insight were awake. Of their fellowship was the king himself, who emulated the activity of his predecessor Solomon as patron of piety and letters. The compilation of the later Solomonic section of the Proverbs (
2. Of More Creative Strain:
This literary activity of Hezekiah’s time, though concerned largely with collecting and reviving the treasures of older literature, was pursued not in the cold scribal spirit, but in a fervid creative way. This may be realized in two of the psalms which the present writer ascribes to this period.
Such a didactic poem would not stand solitary in a period so instructed. As in Wisdom and psalmody, so in the domain of law and its attendant history, the literary activity was vigorous. This age of Hezekiah seems the likeliest time for putting into literary idiom that "book of the law" found later in the Temple (