1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hezekiah

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HEZEKIAH (Heb. for “[my] strength is [of] Yah”), in the Bible son of Ahaz, one of the greatest of the kings of ]udah. He flourished at the end of the 8th and beginning of the 7th century B.c., when Palestine passed through one of the most eventful periods of its history. There is much that is uncertain in his reign, and with the exception of the great crisis of 701 B.C. its chronology has not been unanimously fixed. Whether he came to the throne before or after the fall of Samaria (722-721 B.c.) is disputed,[1] nor is it clear what share ]udah took in the Assyrian conflicts down to 701.[2] Shortly before this date the whole of western Asia was in a ferment; Sargon had died and Sennacherib had come to the throne (in 705), vassal kings plotted to recover their independence and Assyrian puppets were removed by their opponents. Judah was in touch with a general rising in S.W. Palestine, in which Ekron, Lachish, Ascalon (Ashkelon) and other towns of the Philistines were supported by the kings of Musri and Meluhha.[3] Sennacherib completely routed them at Eltekeh (a Danite city), and thence turned against Hezekiah, who had been in league with Ekron and had imprisoned its king Padi, an Assyrian vassal. In this invasion of ]udah the Assyrian claims entire success; 46 towns of ]udah were captured, 200,150 men and many herds of cattle were carried off among the spoil, and ]erusalem itself was closely invested. Hezekiah v1as imprisoned “ like a bird in a cage ”[4]—to quote Sennacherib, and the Urbi (Arabian?) troops in ]erusalem laid down their arms. Thirty talents of gold, eight hundred of silver, precious stones, couches and seats of ivory-“ all kinds of valuable treasure ”, -the ladies of the court, male and female attendants (perhaps “ singers ”) were carried away to Nineveh. Here the Assyrian record ends somewhat abruptly, for, in the meanwhile, Babylonia had again revolted (700 B.C.) and Sennacherib's presence was urgently needed nearer home.

At what precise period the Babylonian Merodach (i e. Marduk)-Baladan sent his embassy to Hezekiah is disputed. Although ostensibly to congratulate the king upon his recovery from a sickness, it was really sent in the hope of enlisting his support, and the excessive courtesy and complaisance with which it was received suggest that it found a ready ally in ]udah (2 Kings xx. I2 sqq.; Isa. xxxix.). Merodach-Baladan was overthrown by Sargon in 710 B.c., but succeeded in making a fresh revolt some years later (704-703 B.C.), and opinion is much divided whether his embassy was to secure the friendship of the youthful Hezekiah at his succession or is to be associated with the later widespread attempt to remove the Assyrian yoke.[5]

The brief account of the Assyrian invasion, Hezekiah's submission, and the payment of tribute in 2 Kings xviii. 14-16, supplements the Assyrian record by the statement that Sennacherib besieged Lachish, a fact which is confirmed by a basrelief (110w in the British Museum) depicting the king in the act of besieging that town.[6] This thoroughly historical fragment is followed by two narratives which tell how the king sent an official from Lachish to demand the submission of Hezekiah and conclude with the unexpected deliverance of Jerusalen1. Both these stories appear to belong to a biography of Isaiah, and, like the similar biographies of Elijah and Elisha, are open to the suspicion that historical facts have been subordinated to idcahze the work of the prophet. See Kmcs, Books or. I'he narratives are (a) 2 Kings xyiii. 13, 17-xix. 8; cf. Isa. xxxvi. 1- xi 8, and (b) xix gb-35, cp. lsa. xxxvn. 9-36 (2 Chron. xxxn. 9 sqq is based on both), and Jerusalem's deliverance is attributed to a certain rumour (xix. 7). to the advance of Tirhakah, king of hthiopia (v 9), and to a remarkable pestilence (11.35) which finds an echo in a famous story related, not without some confusion of essential facts, bv Herodotus (n. 141; cf. Josephus Antzq. x. i. 5)[7] lt is difficult to decide whether xix. ga belongs to the first or second of these narratives, and whether the “ rumour ” refers to the approach of Firhakah, or rather to the serious troubles which had arisen in Bablon1a. It is equally difficult to determine whether Tirhakah actually appeared on the scene in 7o1, and the precise application of the term fusri (Mizraim) is mucll debated. Unless the two narratncs are duplicates of the same event, it may be urged that 5ennacher1b's attack upon Arabia (apparently about 689) involved an mi asion of Judah, by which time Egypt was in a position to be of material assistance (cf. Isa. xxx. 1-5, xxxi. 1-37). T is theory of 1 second campaign (first suggested lg/ Sir Henry Rawllnson) has been contested, although It is pointe out that Sennacherib at all ew ents did not invade Egypt, and that 2 Kings xix. 24 (lsa. xxxvn. 25) can only refer to his successor. The allusion to the murder ol bennachcrib (xix 36 sq)[8] points to the year 681, but it is uncertain to which of the above narratives it belongs. On the whole, the question must be left open, and with it both the problem of the extension of the name llusri and Mizraim outside Egypt in the Assy rian and Hebrew records of this period and the true historical background of a number of theIsa1an1c prophecies. It is quite possible that later ew ents which belong to the time of the Egyptian supremacy and the wars of Esarhaddon have been conlused Wlth the history of Sennacher1b's Invasion.

It is not certain whether Hezekiah's conflict with the Philistines as far as Gaza or his preparations to secure for Jerusalem a good water supply (xviii. 8, xx. 20, 2 Chron. xxxii. 30; Ecclus. xlvni 17 sq)[9] should precede or follow the events which have been discussed. On the other hand, the reforms which the compiler of the book has attributed to the early part of the reign were doubtless much later (2 Kings xviii. 1-8). Not the fall of Samaria, but the crisis of 701, is the earliest date that could safely be chosen, and the extent of these reforms must not be overestimated. They are related in terms that imply an acquaintance with the great “Deuteronomic” movement (see D1 Lrrkovoux), and are magnified further with characteristn detail by the chronicler (2 Chron. xxix.-xxxi.). The most remarkable was the destruction of a brazen serpent, the cult of which was traditionally traced back to the time of Moses (Num. xxi. 9).[10] This persistence of serpent-cult, and the idolatry (necromancy, tree-worship) which the contemporary prophets denounce, do not support the view that the apparently radical reforms of Hezekiah were extensive or permanent, and Jer. xxvi. 17-19 (which suggests that Micah had a greater influence than Isaiah) throws another light upon the conditions during his reign. Hezekiah was succeeded by his son Manasseh (q. v.).

See further W. R. Smith, Prophets, 359-364, and Hebrew Religion. According to Prov. xxv. 1, Hezekiah was a patron of literature (see Proverbs). The hymn which is ascribed to the king (Isa. xxxviii. 9-20, wanting in 2 Kings) is of post-exilic origin (see Cheyne, Inirod. to Ismah, 222 sq), but is Iurther proof of the manner in which the Judaean king was idealized in subsequent ages, partly, perhaps, in the belief that the deliverance of Jerusalem was the reward for his piety. For special discussions, see Stade, Zezts. d. alttcst. Wissenschaft, 1886, pp. 173 sqq; Winckler, Alttest. Untersuch., 26 sqq; Schrader, Cunezform I nscr. and Old Test. (on 2 Kings, la); Driver, Iszuah, his Life and Tunes, pp. 43-83; A. Jerennas, Alte Test. 304-310; Nagel, Zug d. Sanhertb gegen Jerus. (Leipzig, 1903, conservative); and especially Prasek, 5anherib's “Feldzuge gegen Juda ” (Mzttezl. d. 1/orderaszat. Gesell., 1903, p . Il3-158), K. Fullerton, Bzblwtheca sacra, 1906, pp. 577-634, Alt, Israel u. Agypten (Leipzig, 1909); also the bibliography to Isaiah.

  1. See W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel, ” 415 sqq; O C. Whitehouse, Isaiah, pp 20 sqq, 372; J. Skinner, Kings, p. 43 seq; T K. Cheyne, Ency. Bib. col. 2058, n. 1, and references.
  2. The chief dates are: 720, defeat of a coalition (Hamath, Gaza and Musri) at Karlgar in north Syria and Raphia (S. Palestine); 715, a rising of Musri and Arabian tribes; 713-711. revolt and ca ture of Ashdod (cp. Is. xx.). That Judah was invaded on this hitter occasion is not improbable.
  3. Meluhha is held by many critics to be N.W. Arabia; the identification of Nlusri is uncertain, see below.
  4. The phrase was a favourite one of Rib-Addi, king of Gebal (Byblus), in the 15th century B.C; Tell-el-Arnarna Letters (ed. Knudtzon), Nos. 74, 79, &c. Jeremiah (V 27) uses the simile in a different way. For a discussion of Sennaclier1b's record, see lke, Jcsaja u. Assur (Leipzig, 1905), pp 97 sqq
  5. For the early date (between 720 and 710), Winckler, Alttest. Unt. 139 sqq, Burney, Kzngs, 350 sq, Driver; Kuchler, &c.; for the later, hitehouse, Isazah, 29 sq, in agreement with Schrader, Wellhauscn, W R Smith, Cheyne, M'Curdy, Paton, &c.
  6. Isa 28 32 may perhaps refer to this invasion. Allusions to the -ss»r1an oppression are found in Isa. x 5-15, xiv. 24-27, xvii. 12-14, and to internal Judaean intrigues perhaps in Isa. xxii. 15-18, unx 15 For a picture of the ruins in Jerusalem, see Isa. xxii. 9-11. But see further lsA1Au (Book).
  7. 3 See, on the story, Griffith, in D. Hogarth's Authority and Arflzaeology, p. 167, n 1
  8. The house of Ntsroch should probably be that of the god Nusku; see also Driver in Hogarth, op. at p 109; Winekler, up czt p 84
  9. It is commonly believed that Hezekiah constructed the conduit of biloain, famous for its Hebrew inscription (see Inscriptions, Jerusalem) But Isa vin 6, would seem to show that the pool was already in existence, and, for palaeographlcal details, see Pal. Etplof Fund, Quart. Stat (1909)- DP 289, 305 sqq
  10. The name Nehushtan (2 Kings xviii 4, cp mihtish, “serpent") is obscure, -ee the commentaries