Hezekiah (Hebrew חזקיה or חזקיהו, My strength is YHWH, or YHWH has strengthened) or Hezekias (Greek Ἑζεκίας) (751-vr.726-r. 726-698 BC according to Ussher, or 754-vr. 729-r. 715-686 BC according to Thiele) was the twelfth king of the Southern Kingdom of Israel in direct line of descent. He is one of the Southern Kingdom's two greatest and most glorious reformers. His complete trust in God averted national disaster--but his yielding to the temptation to vain boasting led the prophet Isaiah to predict that national ruin would come in due time. He stands today as a consummate example of faith, total commitment to God, and the consequences of a lapse in that commitment.
- 1 Early Life
- 2 Viceroyalty and Accession
- 3 Reforms
- 4 The Philistine War
- 5 The Assyrian War
- 6 Hezekiah's illness
- 7 Hezekiah's moral failure
- 8 Marriage and a son
- 9 Death and Succession
- 10 Chronological Problems
- 11 Extrabiblical evidence for Hezekiah
- 12 Hezekiah in fiction
- 13 References
- 14 See Also
- 15 Dual-user Provenance
Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz and a young woman named Abi. Scandalously, his father was only eleven years old when he was born. Many religious commentators have remarked on Hezekiah being such a good king after having come from such a bad father. But they all miss an essential point: that Ahaz cannot be said to have had any role in the upbringing of his son. That any son would naturally take orders, instruction, or any form of precept from a "father figure" a mere eleven years his senior, is utterly illogical.
More likely, Hezekiah took his instruction and precept from his maternal grandfather Zechariah, to whom Abi would probably have rushed for comfort and shelter after the shameful episode--under circumstances that remain unexplained and even unremarked to this day--in which she had intimate contact with an eleven-year-old boy (even if he was the crown prince). The exact date from which Hezekiah knew his father as his father is not given in the Bible or in any other source. Zechariah seems to have avoided provoking in his young charge any hostility toward his father, and concentrated strictly on instilling in the future king a sense of history, godliness, God's relationship with man and with the Hebrew nation, and the respect due God.
Hezekiah would not sire a son of his own until much later in his life, and indeed at a time in his life that he once despaired of ever living to see.
Viceroyalty and Accession
At the age of twenty-five, Hezekiah accepted the viceroyalty from his father in the last year of Ahaz' reign. Before the year was out, Ahaz was dead and Hezekiah was in command. He would hold that command for twenty-nine years.
However, Edwin R. Thiele assumes that Hezekiah became viceroy under Ahaz in the sixth year of Ahaz' reign and did not become sole ruler until Ahaz' death, fourteen years later. Thiele then assumes that Hezekiah reigned alone for twenty-nine years, including an eleven-year period of co-regency with his son. (Wood speculates that a strong anti-Assyrian faction at court compelled Ahaz to grant his son the viceroyalty and even to vest in Hezekiah the formal military command four years before he died.)
Reopening of the Temple
Ahaz had closed up the Temple of Jerusalem in the course of his reign, among all the other evils that he did. Hezekiah, in the first month during the first year of his reign (that is, the month that came first in the religious order of months), reopened the Temple and had the doors repaired. He then called an assembly of the priests and the Levites and delivered a stern speech, in which he spared no criticism of his ancestors and of the policies of his father. He ended with an order that the assembled men begin at once the process of ritual sanctification, so that they would be fit to carry out Temple rites according to Levitical law.
In accordance with Hezekiah's further orders, the priests and Levites cleaned out all the idolatrous and other improper elements from one end of the Temple to the other--a process that took eight days. They then took another eight days to sanctify the Temple itself.
The first offerings
Next Hezekiah ordered a great sin offering of seven bullocks, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats. After this Hezekiah encouraged all the people to bring their own sacrifices, thank offerings, and burnt offerings. The congregants brought so many that the priests could not handle the workload, so the Levites helped them until the work was done.
Hezekiah next made a public notice, and also sent copies of this notice to the people in Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, and other remaining tribal provinces in the Northern Kingdom, inviting all to come join in the observance of a Passover. Normally this ought to have been done in the first month of the religious year--but that was not possible because the priests could not be properly sanctified in time, nor had the people made a pilgrimage. But Hezekiah did not want to wait until the next year, and according to ancient law, he didn't have to.
King Hoshea of the Northern Kingdom did not interfere in any way with Hezekiah's messages. Nevertheless, most Northern Kingdom residents laughed at Hezekiah's passover invitation. Not everyone laughed, however, for many in those lands did come to Jerusalem to observe the Passover--though not so many, in proportion to their numbers, as from the Southern Kingdom itself.
The total attendance at the Passover is not given, but described merely as "a very great congregation." The Bible does give this clue, however: that Hezekiah provided a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep, and the "princes" (either heads-of-families or minor royalty) gave a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep.
As they waited until the proper day to kill the Passover lamb, they removed every altar, pagan or otherwise, from everywhere in Jerusalem except the Temple. This must surely have included Ahaz' altar, but did not include his sundial. On the appointed day (the fourteenth day of the month) the priests killed the Passover lamb and began to serve it. Not everyone present was properly sanctified, but they ate the Passover anyway, and Hezekiah prayed for them all.
The congregation continued to celebrate the Passover for the required seven days. Then they decided to celebrate it for seven additional days.
When these celebrations were ended, the people left the city on a campaign to remove every altar, every Asherah pole, and every high place.Authors unknown. "Entry for Hezekiah."  The returning Ephraimites and Mannassites even destroyed the high places in the lands of Ephraim and Manasseh--and again, King Hoshea did not interfere with this. (In the past, some people had presumed to worship God in high places, but that was contrary to God's explicit instruction that all worship of Him take place in the Temple.)
Hezekiah then re-established the incense-burning and other Levitical rotations, or "courses," and also reinstituted the tithe. In response, his people sent in offerings so generous that in four months' time they literally had heaps of farm produce and livestock too numerous to store. Hezekiah ordered the priests to build storehouses to keep everything. The tithes continued.
The smashing of the serpent
During the forty-year wilderness passage, Moses had fashioned a brass serpent for everyone to touch and be healed of snakebite. Hezekiah learned that his people were burning incense to it. He regarded this as also contrary to God's law, and therefore he smashed it to pieces and gave it the name Nehushtan, which means "a worthless thing."
The Philistine War
The Assyrian War
Prelude to war
In the sixth year of his reign, Hezekiah witnessed the Fall of Samaria. At some point in the next eight years, Hezekiah rebelled against Assyria, determined to end the annual tribute that Tiglath-Pileser III had imposed upon Ahaz in return for fighting a campaign that Tiglath-Pileser had his own reasons to fight anyway.
James Ussher states that Shalmaneser V, the conqueror of the Northern Kingdom, died in 717 BC, four years after his successful conquest. Secular scholars, however, insist that between Shalmaneser and Sennacherib, another king ruled, named Sargon II, and he had completed the conquest of Samaria. However, Mackey presents an excellent analysis providing independent support of Ussher's claim that Sargon was the same man as Sennacherib, the immediate successor to Shalmaneser. Mackey's basis is the appearance of identical sequences of six different wars in both men's inscriptions. Although Mackey still assumes that Shalmaneser died before completing the capture of Samaria, Mackey's most important and relevant contribution in this context is showing that Sargon and Sennacherib are one and the same man.
717 BC was the tenth year of Hezekiah's reign. That Hezekiah would begin planning rebellion and suspension of the tribute in that year is only logical, for new kings of superpowers quite often have to contend with rebellion in far-flung provinces, and even invasion from without, as "tests of their mettle."
If Hezekiah suspended the annual tribute in the tenth year of his reign, he seems to have anticipated at once that Sennacherib would invade. He dug a tunnel connecting the Gihon Spring and the Pool of Siloam directly to the city, the better to prolong the time that Jerusalem could withstand a siege. When he did this, the Bible does not say. Secular scholars have suggested that he did this toward the time they fix for the invasion of the Southern Kingdom--701 BC, the date that Thiele accepts. Perhaps Hezekiah dug this tunnel toward the end of his reign, or shortly before the invasion, or even four years earlier when Shalmaneser was dead and Hezekiah was already planning to suspend the tribute.
Sennacherib did indeed invade in 713 BC (Ussher), in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign. (Thiele assumes that Sennacherib invaded in 701 BC.) Hezekiah ordered the stoppage of all wells and even the diversion of a brook, so that Sennacherib's armies could not use them. He repaired definitively the breach in the wall that Joash of Israel had made in his war against Amaziah, and built another wall--the Broad Wall--beyond that. Hezekiah commissioned the making of abundant weapons and shields, and appointed an officer corps for training and discipline. He then told all his people to keep up their courage.
Sennacherib enjoyed some initial success, for he captured several fortified cities on the outskirts of the kingdom. Hezekiah first sent an urgent letter to Sennacherib's camp at Lachish, apologizing for the suspension of tribute and saying that he would pay any amount that Sennacherib asked. Sennacherib asked for 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold. (The Taylor Prism suggests that Sennacherib demanded 800 silver talents, but confirms the gold figure.) Hezekiah paid it with all the silver in the Temple and by stripping the gold from the Temple pillars and doors.
Sennacherib was not satisfied--or perhaps he thought he had Hezekiah's measure, after that subordinate gesture, or perhaps he was merely greedy. He sent three of his ranking officers--Tartan, Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh--to Jerusalem at the head of a large detachment. Rabshakeh delivered a classic propaganda speech that would have made Tokyo Rose (whoever she was) or Lord Haw-Haw proud. But, as is typical of propaganda, Rabshakeh demonstrated nothing so much as a total misunderstanding of the nature of God and contempt for all things non-Assyrian. For instance, Rabshakeh asked whether the God that Hezekiah trusted was the same God Whose "high places" Hezekiah had removed--in total ignorance of God's detestation of the high places and His repeated messages, delivered through several prophets and Judges, to that effect. Rabshakeh even delivered his message in Hebrew, so that all who heard him would understand him. His message was as simple as it was brazen: that the Southerners should simply open the gates and surrender.
Hezekiah would not surrender. But he probably experienced great fear--not so much of Rabshakeh's ridiculously ignorant words as of the army that backed them. Hezekiah tore his royal robes and sent immediately for the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah told him not to worry, that Sennacherib would feel a "blast," hear a rumor, and return to his own city (Nineveh), where eventually he would die at the hand of his own flesh and blood.
Rabshakeh seems to have gotten the message that Hezekiah was refusing to surrender. He traveled to Lachish, but then rejoined his master at Libnah, where Sennacherib had now moved his camp. At this point, Sennacherib was contending against Egyptian and Ethiopian forces as well. When Sennacherib heard that the king of Ethiopia was planning to join battle with him personally, he sent an intemperate letter to Hezekiah demanding his immediate and unconditional surrender.
Hezekiah took that letter into the Temple, spread it out on the altar, and prayed. Shortly thereafter he received another assurance from Isaiah, saying that God had heard everything, that Sennacherib and his servant Rabshakeh simply did not know whom they were insulting, and that Sennacherib would never enter Jerusalem, nor shoot an arrow at it, nor attack it with any sort of siege engine.
A miraculous victory
Then came an event that Sennacherib never admitted. In a single night, 185,000 of his soldiers died. The Bible says that this happened at the hand of an angel from God--perhaps even the Angel of the Lord, or the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Sennacherib does, however, admit this much: that he never succeeded in capturing Hezekiah or Jerusalem.
Sennacherib broke off his war and returned to Nineveh--where, some days later, two of his sons murdered him. The regicides fled to Armenia, and Prince Esarhaddon took over the kingdom. This record exists both in II Kings and in the Apocryphal book of Tobit. Babylonian records also confirm this account.
At this time, Hezekiah fell gravely ill. The nature of this illness is never revealed beyond the description of a "boil." This was probably a manifestation of cancer and could, depending on the anatomical location, have been a sign of lymphoma. Whatever this cancer was, it was definitely life-threatening. At first Isaiah told Hezekiah to set his affairs in order in anticipation of imminent death. Hezekiah asked God to remember Hezekiah's perfect service to Him, and wept.
Isaiah had not gone beyond the middle court of the Temple before he had a message from God telling him to turn back. The message was this: God would grant Hezekiah another fifteen years of life, and would deliver His people and city. And to attest to the message, Hezekiah would have a choice of a sign: whether the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz would abruptly move forward ten steps, or backward ten steps.
Hezekiah answered that moving the shadow forward would be easy, so he asked that the shadow move backward. Isaiah prayed, and the shadow did move backward ten steps. These steps are often called "degrees" in most English translations of the Bible, but the "degree" in view here is not a 180th portion of the measure of a semicircle, but rather one of the steps on Ahaz' sundial. Because no archaeologist has yet found this artifact, we cannot know the size of the angle that each step subtended, and therefore we cannot know exactly how much time God reversed to achieve this effect.
Some commentators have insisted that this event must have been a freak accident. John D. Davis tried to connect it to a partial solar eclipse that, he said, occurred on May 6, 724 BC--earlier even than the Fall of Samaria Ussher, who kept a strict account of astronomical manifestations, mentions no such eclipse in that year. Ussher also maintains that God accomplished a total reversal of time, so that the event did not leave any lasting sign other than contemporary records.
A third possibility is that the earth's inclination to the ecliptic was increased. A sundial measures both time of the day, and also by the length of the shadow at noon, it measures the sun's angle in the sky. If the sundial had a series of marks on a line going north from the pedestal, the shadow would always be moving one direction for each of the four seasons. If say, the event occurred in May, when the sun's noon shadow had been getting shorter for almost sixty days, and suddenly it got ten day-steps longer, the shadow could be said to have gone "backwards ten steps". If God changed the angle of the Earth's axis of rotation by a few degrees this is what would result.
Whether Hezekiah's illness took place before the mass killing of Sennacherib's soldiers, or afterward, the Bible does not make entirely clear. What is clear is that Hezekiah recovered from his illness.
Still other commentators suggest that Hezekiah was planning to bequeath his kingdom to another ruler not of his line, because at the time, he had not produced an heir. He did eventually produce an heir--after the sundial incident.
Hezekiah's moral failure
The spectacular time-reversal did not pass without notice. The Babylonians, renowned throughout their history as some of the foremost astronomers of their day, noticed the event and might have deduced that Hezekiah was involved. King Merodach-Baladan of Babylon visited Hezekiah to inquire into Hezekiah's health and the time reversal, and brought vast gifts with him.
At this time Hezekiah had amassed great wealth and was the head of a prosperous nation. Perhaps this wealth and prosperity went to his head. Hezekiah gave Merodach-Baladan a show-off tour of his palace and all his goods. Some commentators suggest that Merodach-Baladan's advisers would remember Hezekiah's ostentatious display and thus remember the Southern Kingdom as a good nation to conquer and despoil. But this ignores one salient fact: that the final conquest of the Southern Kingdom was made by Nebuchadnezzar II who was not in any way descended from or otherwise related to Merodach-Baladan.
Isaiah found out about it and was outraged. He then told Hezekiah that a time would come when a future king of Babylon would carry away all that vast wealth, and that descendants yet unborn to Hezekiah would be eunuchs in that king's palace. Hezekiah responded in all humility that he was blessed that this calamity should not befall the kingdom during his lifetime. (Some commentators suggest that Hezekiah's attitude was actually a selfish one, and that he had ceased to care about future generations. The Bible has no definite warrant for such an attitude on Hezekiah's part.)
Marriage and a son
In 710 BC, Hezekiah married Hephzibah and by her had his son and successor, Manasseh. In the Ussher chronology, this took place three years after Hezekiah fell ill and then had his life extended. In the Thiele chronology, Manasseh was born eight or nine years before Hezekiah's illness and was therefore a child during the invasion, and became viceroy of the kingdom three years after Sennacherib's withdrawal.
Death and Succession
Hezekiah died in 698 BC after a twenty-nine-year reign--or, according to Thiele, he died in 686 BC after a twenty-nine-year lone reign following a fourteen-year viceroyalty.
The people buried him in the best part of the sepulchres of the kings as a testament to his life of great honor and godliness. Sadly, his son Manasseh would not follow his example.
Secular commentators, in attempting to reconcile Hezekiah's reign with Assyrian records, cannot agree on a chronological placement for Hezekiah's reign. Their difficulties arise mainly from the inexactitude of the Assyrian records, the probable interpolation of a king between Shalmaneser and Sennacherib, and their own skepticism about the Bible itself.
The conventionally accepted date for Sennacherib's Egyptian-Ethiopian-Palestinian-Judean War is 701 BC. Edwin R. Thiele, in order to make his chronology agree with that date, simply assumed a priori that the Biblical text was wrong and that the syncrhonies with Hezekiah's birth and accession were not to be trusted--except that he assumed that Hezekiah lived on to the year 686 BC and made his son Manasseh his viceroy in 697 BC, when Manasseh was twelve years old.
The New Bible Dictionary took a different approach and simply made multiple changes in reckoning, as follows:
- In the third year of Hoshea, Hezekiah became viceroy under Ahaz.
- Hezekiah became sole ruler in 715 BC, fourteen years in advance of the invasion.
- The invasion (and Hezekiah's illness) took place in the fourteenth year of his lone reign.
The Biblical warrant for these reinterpretations of Scripture is very thin, as Larry Pierce has tartly observed. Indeed, Thiele never accepted those numbers while he was alive. Leslie McFall has attempted to re-popularize that solution after Thiele's death in 1986.
Extrabiblical evidence for Hezekiah
In addition to the specific mention of Hezekiah in Sennacherib's inscriptions, archaeologists have found a clay impression of a seal of King Ahaz, and a bulla clearly identified as pertaining to Hezekiah.
LMLK seals and bullae referring to Hezekiah have also been found in Jerusalem and apparently date from or near the period of Hezekiah's reign and Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem.
Hezekiah in fiction
In Dante's Paradiso, Hezekiah is named as one of the six most virtuous rulers in history.
In 2001, playwright Michael English wrote a short theatrical play mentioning Hezekiah and his illness. Hezekiah's breaking of the brass serpent also figures prominently in a work of fiction involving a conspiracy to reassemble the pieces of the serpent, and a theory that some of Nebuchadnezzar II's astrologers might have reassembled the serpent and used it as a medium to inscribe the location of the parts of Nebuchadnezzar's great gold image.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 621-628, 640, 641-671, 683
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 303-309
- Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'HEZEKIAH (2)'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- II_Kings 18-20 (NASB)
- II_Chronicles 29-32 (NASB)
- Authors unknown. "The Reigns Of Hezekiah Of Judah and Hoshea Of Israel And Their Relationship To God’s Eternal Purpose." Bellevue Church of Christ. Retrieved May 30, 2007. (Requires PDF reader)
- Some commentators have sharply disputed the very notion that an eleven-year-old boy sired a son. However, this is both anatomically and physically possible, and one such case caused a national scandal in the United States.
- Authors unknown. "King Hezekiah - Biography." The Kings of Israel, hosted at http://www.geocities.com/ Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Who is Hezekiah?" Never Thirsty, Like the Master Ministries. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Hezekiah." Great Men of the Old Testament. Bethel Church of God, 2002. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Kachelman, John L., Jr. "Hezekiah: Portrait of a Good Man." ChristianLibrary.org, 1999. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- David Holt Boshert, Jr., and David Ettinger, Hezekiah King of Judah, Christ-Centered Mall. Retrieved May 28, 2007
- George Konig, Hezekiah, or Ezekias, King of Judah, AboutBibleProphecy.com, 2007. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "King Hezekiah." Hebrew University, Israel, 2002. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "King Hezekiah (further information)." Hebrew University, Israel, 2002. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Klein, Ralph W., Hezekiah in Chronicles and Kings (Isaiah), a synopsis, ed. 2000, 2003
- Authors unknown. "Hezekiah's Profile." Biblical Profiles. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- Aust, Jerold, Profiles in Faith: Hezekiah, United Church of God, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- Numbers 9:10-11 (NASB)
- WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- II_Kings 18:4 (NASB)
- II_Kings 18:8 (NASB)
- John Argubright. "King Hezekiah." Bible Believer's Archaeology, Vol. 1: Historical Evidence That Proves the Bible. BibleHistory.net, 2007. Retrieved May 28, 2007. Requires PDF reader.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Hezekiah." AllAboutGod.com, 2006. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Mackey, Damien. Sargon is Sennacherib 2001. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the first-ever female head-of-state of an ancient power, faced similar tests. For details, see Tyldesley, Joyce, Hatchepsut: the Female Pharaoh, Penguin Books, 1998. ISBN 0140244646.
- Lancaster, James E., PhD., City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel, 1999. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Hezekiah's Tunnel." http://www.bibleplaces.com/ Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Rosenbloom, Michael. "Hezekiah's Tunnel and the Gihon Spring." Travel in Israel. Congregation Ohav Sholom, July, 2000. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Siloam Inscription and Hezekiah's Tunnel." Hebrew University, Israel. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Lynch, Doyle. "Hezekiah's Broad Wall." http://www.digbible.org/ Retrieved May 28, 2007.
- Davis, John D. Illustrated Davis Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville, Tennessee: Royal Publishers, 1973, ISBN 0878360018.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Hezekiah." Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- Velikovsky, Immanuel, The Reign of King Hezekiah. The Assyrian Conquest. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Hezekiah." Bible Heritage Center, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- Wood, D. R. W., Millard, A. R., Packer, J. I., Wiseman, D. J., and Marshall, J. Howard, eds. New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity Press, 1996. ISBN 0830814396
- Larry Pierce, Evidentialism–the Bible and Assyrian chronology TJ 15(1):62–68 April 2001
- Cross, Frank Moore. "King Hezekiah's Seal Bears Phoenician Imagery." Biblical Archaeology Review, March-April, 1999. Retrived May 28, 2007.
- Grena, G. M. LmLk--a Mystery Belonging to the King. Redondo Beach, CA: 4000 Years of Writing History, 2004, pp. 26, 338. ISBN 097487860X.
- English, Michael. Hezekiah's Illness All Saints Milton Anglican Parish, 2001.
- Shalmaneser V
- Northern Kingdom
- Southern Kingdom
- Assyrian chronology
- Biblical chronology dispute
This is a dual submission of original work. I am the same user as User:Temlakos on CreationWiki, and this article is based upon this version of the CreationWiki article of the same name, which is entirely my own work.-TerryHTalk 17:55, 30 May 2007 (EDT)