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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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HEZEKIAH. 1 . One of the most prominent kings of Judah. He came to the throne after his father Ahaz, about b.c. 714. The assertions that Samaria was destroyed in his sixth year and that Sennacherib’s invasion came in his fourteenth year are inconsistent ( 2 Kings 18:10; 2 Kings 18:13 ). The latter has probability on its side, and as we know that Sennacherib invaded Palestine in 701 the calculation is easily made.

Politically Hezekiah had a difficult task. His father had submitted to Assyria, but the vassalage was felt to be severe. The petty kingdoms of Palestine were restive under the yoke, and they were encouraged by the Egyptians to make an effort for independence. There was always an Egyptian party at the court of Jerusalem, though at this time Egypt was suffering from internal dissensions. In the East the kingdom of Babylon under Merodach-baladan was also making trouble for the Assyrians. Hezekiah seems to have remained faithful to the suzerain for some years after his accession, but when, about the time of Sennacherib’s accession (705), a coalition was formed against the oppressor he joined it. We may venture to suppose that about this time he received the embassy from Merodach-baladan (2 Kings 20:12 ff., Isaiah 39:1 ff.), which was intended to secure the co-operation of the Western States with Babylon in the effort then being made. Isaiah, as we know from his own discourses, was opposed to the Egyptian alliance, and apparently to the whole movement. The Philistines were for revolt; only Padi, king of Ekron, held out for his master the king of Assyria. For this reason Hezekiah invaded his territory and took him prisoner. If, as the Biblical account seems to intimate ( 2 Kings 18:8 ), he incorporated the conquered land in his own kingdom, the gain was not for a long time. In 701 Sennacherib appeared on the scene, and there was no possibility of serious resistance. The inscriptions tell us that the invaders captured forty-six walled towns, and carried 200,000 Judahites into slavery. The Egyptian (some suppose it to be an Arabian) army made a show of coming to the help of its allies, but was met on the border and defeated. Hezekiah was compelled to release the captive Padi, who returned to his throne in triumph. Sennacherib was detained at Lachish by the stubborn resistance of that fortress, and could send only a detachment of his troops to Jerusalem. With it went an embassy, the account of which may be read in 2 Kings 18:1-37; 2 Kings 19:1-37 and Is 36, 37. The laconic sentence: ‘Hezekiah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying: I have offended; that which thou puttest on me will I bear’ ( 2 Kings 18:14 ) shows that abject submission was made. The price of peace was a heavy one three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. To pay it, all the gold and silver that could be found was gathered together, even the Temple doors ( 2 Kings 18:16 ) being stripped of their precious metal.

In our accounts we read of a great destruction which came upon the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35 , Isaiah 37:36 ). Whether Sennacherib was not satisfied with the submission of Hezekiah, or whether a second campaign was made which the historian has confused with this one, is not yet certainly known. There was a second expedition of Sennacherib’s to the west some years later than the one we have been considering. At that time, it may be, the pestilence broke out and made the army too weak for further operations. It is clear that the people of Jerusalem felt that they had had a remarkable deliverance. Hezekiah’s sickness is dated by the Biblical writer in the time of this invasion, which can hardly be correct if the king lived fifteen years after that experience.

The account of Hezekiah’s religious reforms is more sweeping than seems probable for that date. There seems no reason to doubt, however, that he destroyed the brazen serpent, which had been an object of worship in the Temple (2 Kings 18:4 ). The cleansing of the country sanctuaries from idolatry, under the influence of Isaiah, may have been accomplished at the same time. The expansions of the Chronicler ( 2 Chronicles 29:1-36 ff.) must be received with reserve.

2. An ancestor of the prophet Zephaniah ( Zephaniah 1:1 ), possibly to be identified with the king of the same name. 3. Head of a family of exiles who returned, Ezra 2:16 = Nehemiah 7:21 (cf. Nehemiah 10:17 ).

H. P. Smith.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hezekiah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​h/hezekiah.html. 1909.
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