The Glossary of Terms



Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Hezekiah. King of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, from 715 to 687 B.C., during the time of the prophet Isaiah. Alarmed by the conquest of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom, Israel, Hezekiah tried to make alliance with other nations against the Assyrians, but he was forced to pay tribute to them. 2 Kings, chs. 18 to 20; Isa. chas. 36-39; Jer. 26:18; Matt. 1:9-10.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Hezekiah. (Heb., ‘God strengthens’), the son of Ahaz and king of Judah (727-698 b.c.). He was considered by the author of the book of Kings to have been utterly loyal to the Lord, God of Israel; ‘there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him’ (2 Kings 18:3-6). This commendation is based on Hezekiah’s attention to ritual matters in his kingdom: he closed down all rural cult sites (‘high places’) throughout Judah, thereby centralizing sacrifice at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 18:22). He also banned many fetishes that had become common practice: the use of sacred pillars and trees (asherah) and the reverencing of the ‘bronze serpent’ (Heb. nehushtan) associated with Moses and the miraculous healing of the people attacked by scorpions in the desert (Num. 21:4-10).

Hezekiah’s Reign: Hezekiah’s reign fell during the age of major Assyrian military and commercial activity in Phoenicia and the Philistian coast. Shalmaneser V campaigned twice in the area and in 722 conquered Samaria. His successor, Sargon II, reconquered Samaria in 720 and marched as far as Rapiah, where he engaged an Egyptian force supporting the local rulers in their rebellion against Assyria. Four years later, Sargon appeared again, this time founding a trading colony south of Gaza, based in part on cooperation with local Arab tribes of the western Negev. The rebellion in Gaza in 713 was quelled by Sargon’s commander-in-chief (‘Tartan,’ see Isa. 20:1, kjv) in 712 and the city was annexed to the Assyrian Empire.

Throughout this decade, Hezekiah remained a vassal of Assyria, a status he inherited from his father Ahaz and accepted as the prudent course of state. But in his fourteenth year as king, in 713, Hezekiah received the Babylonian delegation of Merodach-baladan (2 Kings 18:13; 20:12-13) and this diplomatic dealing with the sworn enemy of Sargon is indicative of an anti-Assyrian undercurrent in Judah. Hezekiah was likely involved in the political stirrings in Philistia. Although Sargon does not claim to have engaged Judah outright, several fortresses in the Judean Shephelah (Ekron, Gibbethon and perhaps Azekah) did fall to the Assyrian armies.

Rebellion Against Assyria: Hezekiah openly broke with Assyria in 705; the death of Sargon had been the signal for rebellion throughout the empire. In the west, Hezekiah was the driving force behind the military coalition that was to face the new monarch Sennacherib. Hezekiah moved into the coastal plain with force (2 Kings 18:8) and he ousted rulers who were hostile to his policies. As part of his plans for preparedness, Hezekiah secured Jerusalem’s water supply in the event of siege by the drilling of the Siloam tunnel (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:3-4). But Hezekiah’s efforts were no match for Sennacherib’s superior forces. In 701, Sennacherib campaigned in the west. The Phoenician cities succumbed quickly and the allies in Philistia were defeated, despite the support lent them by an Egyptian expeditionary force (2 Kings 19:9). A biblical chronistic extract reports: ‘Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them’ (2 Kings 18:13). Sennacherib’s inscription concurs: ‘As for Hezekiah of Judah, who did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered them. …I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle, beyond counting and considered them booty.’

Jerusalem came under siege and negotiations were conducted by a high-level Assyrian team and Hezekiah’s advisors for Hezekiah’s total surrender. Sennacherib claims that he ‘made him a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage.’ Though the prophet Isaiah counseled holding out, for the Lord ‘will defend this city to save it’ (2 Kings 19:34), Hezekiah submitted to the Assyrian demands and paid a heavy indemnity (2 Kings 18:14-16). Jerusalem did not, however, become prey to the Assyrians and in prophetic circles this ‘salvation’ was celebrated as vindication of Isaiah’s prophecy of divine intervention. It was told: ‘That night an angel of the Lord went forth, and slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians, and…early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies’ (2 Kings 19:35). Much of Judah’s territory was transferred to the coastal city-states loyal to Assyria and Hezekiah resumed his vassal status as king of Jerusalem and its immediate environs.

Though Hezekiah is highly praised in the book of Kings, a later generation criticized him for his Babylonian entanglements; they saw in these moves the seed of the Babylonian exile over a century later (2 Kings 20:16-19). In the nt, Hezekiah is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:9-10).


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer