King Hezekiah ruled the southern kingdom of Judah towards the end of the eighth century BCE. Biblical writers judged him very favorably. They viewed Hezekiah as an exceptionally righteous king and likened him to David (
Did you know…?
- Pinpointing the exact dates of Hezekiah’s rule is challenging, but scholars typically date his rule to either ca. 727-698 BCE or ca. 715-686 BCE. Some explain these differing dates by postulating a coregency.
- In his royal inscriptions, King Sennacherib claims that he surrounded Jerusalem and trapped Hezekiah “like a caged bird.”
- Sennacherib’s campaign appears in the works of Herodotus and Josephus, with the latter writing about Hezekiah in particular.
- Among Hezekiah’s construction projects (
2Chr 32:5, 2Chr 32:27-30; 2Kgs 20:20) was an underground water-supply tunnel. This tunnel is widely recognized as the Siloam Tunnel and can be visited today. Its accompanying inscription is well-known.
- Archaeologists have discovered numerous jar handles engraved with the phrase lmlk (“to the king”). These have been understood to reflect measures undertaken by Hezekiah.
- Hezekiah’s name appears in a recently discovered seal impression (as well as in several other unprovenanced seal impressions).
- Hezekiah won military victories over the Philistines (
- Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and Abi/Abijah (“Abi” a short form of Abijah), and he began his twenty-nine-year reign at age 25 (
2Kgs 18:2; 2Chr 29:1).
- Hezekiah belonged to the tribe of Judah and was a descendant of King David, hence his inclusion in the list of the descendants of David (
1Chr 3:13) and in the genealogy of Jesus ( Matt 1:9-10).
- Though Hezekiah was evaluated as righteous, his father (King Ahaz) and son (King Manasseh) were evaluated as wicked.
- The Hezekiah episodes in 2 Kings form important pillars in some compositional theories of the Deuteronomistic History.
Why did biblical writers view Hezekiah’s standoff with the Assyrian military threat positively?
Hezekiah’s rebellion left him in an extremely dangerous position. Assyrian kings bragged about their extreme cruelty in inscriptions and depicted tortuous acts in their palace reliefs. Their program of terror included atrocities such as beheadings, flaying, and the gruesome display of corpses. From conquered territories they demanded heavy tribute. Hezekiah must have been aware of what he and his people could face if the Assyrians conquered Jerusalem.
Biblical writers viewed Hezekiah’s response to his precarious position through a theological lens. Put differently, they were not necessarily primarily concerned with the political fallout of Hezekiah’s rebellion. Instead, they were interested in Hezekiah’s religious response to the Assyrian threat. On what would Hezekiah rely? In whom would he trust?
The answer to these questions, according the biblical writers, is that Hezekiah chose to trust and rely on God (
Biblical writers report that Hezekiah’s prayer was miraculously answered, for a certain “angel of the Lord” slaughtered 185,000 troops in the Assyrian army (
Were Hezekiah’s biblical evaluators uncritical?
Biblical writers had other reasons to evaluate Hezekiah favorably. Especially important in the eyes of biblical writers was Hezekiah’s restoration of proper worship. In the book of Kings, Hezekiah is commended for purging illicit worship from Judah (
Biblical writers certainly saw in Hezekiah an exemplary model of trust and conduct, but it would be a mistake to consider these writers as “uncritical” of Hezekiah. In fact, it is in light of Hezekiah’s exemplary righteousness that other, less positive, episodes from his career should be viewed. The episode recounting Hezekiah’s interactions with Babylonian envoys from the Chaldean insurgent Merodach-baladan has a negative tone, for it ends with a prophetic word announcing coming doom and an unflattering response from Hezekiah (