Hezekiah


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 (2Kgs.20.1-2Kgs.20.11). After Hezekiah’s recovery, Merodach-Baladan of Babylon sent an embassy ostensibly to congratulate him, but actually to persuade him to join a secret confederacy against the Assyrian power. This was the great crisis for Hezekiah, and indeed for Judah. During his illness he had received from God not only the promise of recovery, but also the pledge that the Lord would deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians (Isa.38.6-Isa.38.7). The ambassadors of Merodach-Baladan were intent also on freeing Jerusalem from the Assyrians—but by force of arms and the power of a military alliance. The question facing Hezekiah was therefore whether to walk the way of faith that the Lord would keep his promise or to take the way of “works,” setting out to liberate the city by his own abilities and clever policies. When Isaiah learned that Hezekiah had entertained the ambassadors and their suggestion, he knew that all was over for Judah and immediately (Isa.39.5-Isa.39.7) predicted the Babylonian captivity. Hezekiah paid a high price for dabbling in rebellion. Assyria compelled Judah to pay heavy tribute; and to obtain it, Hezekiah even had to strip the plating from the doors and pillars of the temple. Shortly after, Assyria decided to destroy Jerusalem, but God saved the city by sending a sudden plague that in one night killed 185,000 soldiers. After Hezekiah’s death, his son Manasseh succeeded him (2Kgs.20.21).

2. One of the covenanters with Nehemiah (Neh.10.17; kjv Hizkijah).——ABF


b
b
Wall of Jerusalem from Hezekiah's time.
In Hezekiah's tunnel. The tunnel was a remarkable feat of engineering, since two crews tunneled simultaneously and met as planned in the middle.

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 (2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chron 29:1-32:33; Isa 36:1-39:8).

Outline

Chronology.

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

—Jotham died

—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 Fertile Crescent.

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 Jeroboam II 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 (Num 21:4-9), so that the people could no longer use it as an object of worship.

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 (Isa 20:1-6).

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” (2 Chron 32:1-8).

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 (2 Kings 18:13-19:8; Isa 36:1-37:8). Speaking in the Heb. language, the Assyrians warned the people that their God would not give them any more aid than the heathen gods of other cities had aided them in their futile resistance against Assyrian might. Hezekiah reacted in great distress, went to the Temple dressed in sackcloth, and sent word to Isaiah. The latter predicted that Sennacherib would hear a rumor and suddenly return to his own land where he would die by the sword (2 Kings 19:7). Shortly after this, Sennacherib received word that Babylon was in rebellion. Immediately he abandoned his siege of Lachish and departed without conquering Jerusalem. In his records he merely boasts about shutting up Hezekiah like a bird in a cage.

With the Assyrian exit from Pal., the surrounding cities and nations expressed their congratulations to Hezekiah with abundant gifts (2 Chron 32:23). These gifts, plus the resumption of trade, ushered in a period of economic prosperity such as Judah had not enjoyed for some time.

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 (Isa 38:4-6; 2 Kings 20:1-11).

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 (2 Kings 19:9-34; Isa 37:9-36). To this threat Hezekiah responded very calmly, spreading this letter out before the Lord in the Temple and praying in confidence that God would deliver. From Isaiah came the message that the king of Assyria would return the way he came. Subsequently the army of Sennacherib was decimated in a miraculous manner by 185,000 men (2 Kings 19:35-37). Probably Sennacherib returned across the desert, abandoning his hopes to conquer Hezekiah and Tirhakah. In 681 b.c., he was killed by two of his sons as had been predicted by Isaiah in 701 b.c.

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.

Bibliography

J. Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (1946), 170-182; W. F. Albright, “New Light from Egypt on the Chronology and History of Israel and Judah,” BASOR, 130 (1953), 4-11; S. J. Schultz, The Old Testament Speaks (1960), 205-215, 299-314; E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1965), 90-172.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(chizqiyah):

(1) King of Judah. See special article

(2) A son of Neariah, of the royal family of Judah (1Ch 3:23, the Revised Version (British and American) "Hizkiah").

(3) An ancestor of Zephaniah (Ze 1:1, the King James Version "Hizkiah").

(4) One of the returned exiles from Babylon (Ezr 2:16; Ne 7:21).


One of the greatest of the kings of Judah; reigned (according to the most self-consistent chronology) from circa 715 to circa 690 BC.

nodetitle Estimate:

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 (2Ch 32:31) as lapsing from the wisdom of piety only by his vainglory in revealing the resources of his realm to the envoys of Merodach-baladan. In 2Ki 18:5, the earliest estimate, his special distinction, beyond all other Judean kings, before or after, was that he "trusted in Yahweh, the God of Israel." It is as the king who "clave to Yahweh" (2Ki 18:6) that the Hebrew mind sums up his royal and personal character.

I. Sources for His Life and Times.

1. Scripture Annals:

The historical accounts in 2Ki 18,20 and 2Ch 29,32 are derived in the main from the same state annals, though the latter seems also to have had the Temple archives to draw upon. For "the rest of his acts" 2Ki refers to a source then still in existence but now lost, "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (2Ki 20:20), and 2 Chronicles to "the vision of Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz, in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel" (2Ch 32:32). In this last-named source (if this is the original of our Book of Isa.), besides the warnings and directions called out by the course of the history, there is a narrative section (Isa 36,39) recounting the Sennacherib crisis much as do the other histories, but incorporating also a passage of Isaianic prophecy (Isa 37:22-32) and a "writing of Hezekiah king of Judah" (Isa 38:10-20). Lastly, in Sirach 48:17-25, there is a summary of the good and wise deeds of Hezekiah, drawn from the accounts that we already have.

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.

3. Side-Lights:

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 2Ch 28:16-25), Hezekiah inherited not only a disorganized realm but a grievous burden of Assyrian dominance and tribute, and the constant peril and suspense of greater encroachments from that arrogant and arbitrary power: the state of things foretold in Isa 7:20; 8:7 f. The situation was aggravated by the fact that not only the nation’s weakness but its spiritual propensities had incurred it: the dominant classes were aping the sentiments, fashions and cult of the East (compare Isa 2:6-8), while the neglected common people were exposed to the corruptions of the still surviving heathenism of the land. The realm, in short, was at the spiritual nadir-point from which prophets like Isaiah and Micah were laboring to bring about the birth of a true Hebrew conscience and faith. Their task was a hard one: with a nation smear-eyed, dull-cared, fat-hearted (Isa 6:10), whose religion was a precept of men learned by rote (Isa 29:13). Clearly, from this point of view, a most difficult career was before him.

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 (2Ch 29:3). It is the Chronicler who gives the fullest account of these reforms (2Ch 29-31); naturally, from his priestly point of view and access to ecclesiastical archives. Hezekiah began with the most pressing constructive need, the opening and cleansing of the Temple, which his father Ahaz had left closed and desecrated (2Ch 28:24), and went on to the reorganization of its liturgical and choral service. In connection with this work he appointed a Passover observance, which, on a scale and spirit unknown since Solomon (2Ch 30:26), he designed as a religious reunion of the devout-minded in all Israel, open not only to Jerusalem and Judah, but to all who would accept his invitation from Samaria, Galilee, and beyond the Jordan (2Ch 30:5-12,18). The immediate result of the enthusiasm engendered by this Old Home Week was a vigorous popular movement of iconoclasm against the idolatrous high places of the land. That this was no weak fanatical impulse to break something, but a touch of real spiritual quickening, seems evidenced by one incident of it: the breaking up of Moses’ old brazen serpent and calling it what it had come to mean, nechushtan, "a piece of brass" (2Ki 18:4); the movement seems in fact to have had in it the sense, however crude, that old religious forms had become hurtful and effete superstitions, hindering spirituality. Nor could the movement stop with the old fetish. With it went the demolition of the high places themselves and the breaking down of the pillars (matstsebhoth) and felling of the sacred groves (’asherah), main symbols these of a debasing naturecult. This reform, on account of later reactions (see under MANASSEH), has been deemed ineffective; rather, its effects were inward and germinal; nor were they less outwardly than could reasonably be expected, before its meanings were more deepened and centralized.

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 Isa 30:15), that is, of stedfast trust in Yahweh alone, and of abstinence from revolt and entangling alliances with foreign powers. This, however, in the stress and suspense of the times, did not preclude a quiet preparation for emergencies; and doubtless the early years of his reign were notable, not only for mild and just administration throughout his realm, but for measures looking to the fortifying and defense of the capital. His work of repairing and extending the walls and of strengthening the citadel (Millo), as mentioned in 2Ch 32:5, had probably been in progress long before the Assyrian crisis was imminent. Nor was he backward in coming to an understanding with other nations, as to the outlook for revolt against Assyria. He could not learn his lesson of faith all at once, especially with a factious court pulling the other way. He did not escape the suspicion of Sargon (died 705), who for his Egyptian leanings counted him among the "plotters of sedition" (compare COT, 100); while the increasing prosperity and strength of his realm marked him for a leading role in an eventual uprising. He weathered at least one chance of rebellion, however, in 711, probably through the strenuous exertions of Isaiah (see Isa 20:1 ff).

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 Isa 21:1-9 refers to and this), was free to invade his rebellious provinces in the West. It was a vigorous and sweeping campaign; in which, beginning with Sidon and advancing down


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 Isa 28:14-22. This was rendered all the more feasible, perhaps, by the period of incapacitation that must have attended his illness, in the very midst of the nation’s critical affairs. Isaiah’s words (33:17 ff) may be an allusion at once to his essential kingliness, to the abeyance of its manifestation due to his disease, and to the constricted condition into which, meanwhile, the realm had fallen. This exceedingly critical episode of Hezekiah’s career does not seem to have had its rights with students of the era. Considering the trials that his patient faith must have had, always at cross-purposes with his nobles (compare Ps 120:6 f); that now by reason of his sickness they had the whip hand; that his disease cut him off not only from hope of life, but from association with men and access to the sanctuary (compare Isa 38:10,11,12); that, as his son Manasseh was not born till three years within the fifteen now graciously added to his life (compare 2Ki 21:1), his illness seemed to endanger the very perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty, we have reason for regarding him as well-nigh a martyr to the new spiritual uprising of faith which Isaiah was laboring to bring about. In the Messianic ideal which, in Isaiah’s sublime conception, was rising into personal form, it fell to his lot to adumbrate the first kingly stage, the stage of committal to Yahweh’s word and will and abiding the event. It was a cardinal element in that composite ideal which the Second Isaiah pushes to its ultimate in his portrayal of the servant of Yahweh; another element, the element of sacrifice, has yet to be added. Meanwhile, as with the king so with his remnant-realm, the venture of faith is like a precipitation of spiritual vitality, or, as the prophet puts it, a new birth (compare Isa 26:17 f; 37:3; 66:7 f, for the stages of it). The event of deliverance, not by men’s policies but by Yahweh’s miraculous hand, was the speedy vindication of such trust; and the revulsion of the next decade witnessed a confirming and solidifying of spiritual integrity in the remnant which made it a factor to be reckoned with in the trying times that succeeded (see under MANASSEH). The date of Hezekiah’s death (probably not long after 690) is not certainly known; nor of the death of his mentor Isaiah (tradition puts this by martyrdom under Manasseh); but if our view of his closing years is correct, the king’s death crowned a consistent character of strength and spiritual steadfastness; while the unapproachable greatness of Isaiah speaks for itself.

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 (Pr 25-29), attributed to the "men of Hezekiah," indicates the value attached to the accumulations of the so-called Wisdom literature; and it is fair to assume that these men of Hezekiah did not stop with compiling, but stamped upon the body of Proverbs as a whole that sense of it as a philosophy of life which it henceforth bears, and perhaps added the introductory section, Pr 1-9. Nor would a king so zealous for the organization and enrichment of the temple-worship (compare Isa 38:20) be indifferent to its body of sacred song. It seems certain that his was, in all the nation’s history, the greatest single agency in compiling and adapting the older Davidic Psalms, and in the composition of new ones. Perhaps this union of collecting and creative work in psalmody is referred to in the mention of "the words of David, and of Asaph the seer" (2Ch 29:30). To Hezekiah himself is attributed one "writing" which is virtually a psalm, Isa 38:20. The custom through all the history of hymnology (in our own day also) of adapting older compositions to new liturgical uses makes uncertain the identification of psalms belonging specifically to this period; still, many psalms of books ii and iii, and especially those ascribed to Asaph and the sons of Korah, seem a close reflection of the spirit of the times. An interesting theory recently advanced (see THIRTLE, Old Testament Problems) that the fifteen Songs of the Steps ("Degrees" or "Ascents," Psalms 120-134) are a memorial of Hezekiah’s fifteen added years, when as a sign the shadow went backward on the steps of Ahaz (2Ki 20:8-11), seems to reveal many remarkable echoes of that eventful time. Nor does it seem unlikely that with this first extensive collection of psalms the titles began to be added.

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. Ps 49, a psalm of the sons of Korah, is concerned to make an essential tenet of Wisdom viable in song (compare Ps 49:3,4), as if one of the "men of Hezekiah" who is busy with the Solomonic counsels would popularize the spirit of his findings. Ps 78 in like manner, a Maschil of Asaph, is concerned to make the noble histories of old viable in song (78:2), especially the wilderness history when Israel received the law and beheld Yahweh’s wonders, and down to the time when Ephraim was rejected and Judah, in the person of David, was chosen to the leadership in Israel.

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 (2Ki 22); which book Josiah’s reforms, carried out according to its commands, prove to have been our Book of Deuteronomy. This is not the place to discuss the Deuteronomic problem (see under JOSIAH); it is fair to note here, however, that as compared with the austere statement of the Mosaic statutes elsewhere, this book has a literary art and coloring which seem to stamp its style as that of a later age than Moses’, though its substance is Mosaic; and this age of Hezekiah seems the likeliest time to put its rewriting and adaptation. Nor did the new spirit of literary creation feed itself entirely on the past. The king’s chastening experience of illness and trial, with the steadfast faith that upbore and survived it, must have been fruitful of new ideas, especially of that tremendous conception, now just entering into thought, of the ministry of suffering. Time, of course, must be allowed for the ripening of an idea so full of involvement; and it is long before its sacrificial and atoning values come to light in such utterances as Isa 53. But such psalms as Ps 49 and Ps 73, not to mention Hezekiah’s own psalm (Isa 38), show that the problem was a living one; it was working, moreover, in connection with the growing Wisdom philosophy, toward the composition of the Book of Job, which in a masterly way both subjects the current Wisdom motives to a searching test and vindicates the intrinsic integrity of the patriarch in a discipline of most extreme trial. The life of a king whose experience had some share in clarifying the ideas of such a book was not lived in vain.