Righteous King Hezekiah
In our next two classes I want to talk about King Hezekiah. Most of you probably are somewhat aware of Hezekiah, but not like David or Solomon or possibly even like Saul.
Righteous King Hezekiah, Part 1
In our next two classes I want to talk about King Hezekiah. Most of you probably are somewhat aware of Hezekiah, but not like David or Solomon or possibly even like Saul. Like David, he made mistakes, but also like David he demonstrated a great degree of perseverance, and moved forward, not backward.
Hezekiah was one of the kings of Judah that is spoken well of in scripture. In this research paper, major events in the life of Hezekiah will be examined to show why he was given this honor.
Hezekiah was the thirteenth king of Judah, son of Ahaz and grandson of Jotham. The kingship of Hezekiah is relayed to us in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32and Isaiah 36-39. He was twenty-five years old when he became king of Judah and he reigned for twenty-nine years (2 Kings 18:1-2). Hezekiah “did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father1 (Heb. אָבִיו – Aviv: canbe translated as father, grandfather or ancestor – Holladay’s Lexicon #1) had done” (2 Kings 18:3 NAS).
Hezekiah did not come from a righteous family. We read of his father Ahaz in 2 Kings 16:2-4 (NAS): “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out from before the sons of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.”
Theologian, archaeologist and Christian educator John J. Davis tells us in the book A History of Israel, from Conquest to Exile, that “Ahaz died and was buried in dishonor. And such would have been the fate of his kingdom too were it not for Hezekiah his son, whose faith in Jehovah in an hour of ultimate crisis was God’s reason for extending the nation’s existence yet another hundred years.”2
Although, Hezekiah’s grandfather, Jotham “Did right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chron. 27:2) and he “became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God” (2 Chron. 27:6). 3Consider the following:
It is possible that Hezekiah had a relationship with his grandfather or that stories told of Jotham’s building projects and the fact that he was a righteous person (2 Chron. 27:3-6) had an impact on Hezekiah.
What does anybody think about this hypothesis?
Hezekiah began his singular reign over Judah after the nation of Israel was taken into captivity. Evidence of this isbrought out by Edwin Thiele in his book The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings: “There was no overlap between Hoshea [the last king of Israel] and Hezekiah. Hoshea was dead and the kingdom of Israel was no longer in existence when Hezekiah took the throne. The siege of Samaria ended in723 B.C. and Hezekiah did not begin full reign until 716/715 B.C.”4
One more point of background is that the prophetic ministries of Isaiah, Hosea and Micah would have overlappedHezekiah’s lifetime.
In summary, Hezekiah was not from an immediate righteous family line, his reign began in 715 B.C. after Israel was taken into captivity. and he reigned for 29 years. Hezekiah died in 686 B.C..
Chronological Order of Events
In order for us to properly evaluate the righteousness of Hezekiah, the rest of this paper will focus on five major events in his life.The order in which they are listed in the Bibleis as follows:
Occasionally, events in the Bible are not listed in exact chronological order. To fully understand the character of Hezekiah it is necessary to put these major “life-events” in the order that they occurred. If this is not done, it could be thought that the “Messengers from Babylon” was one of the last recorded acts of Hezekiah and that he finished his kingship in ignominy (public shame or disgrace).
I am not saying that these events are recorded wrong or that they did not happen, just that they are probably not listed in chronological order.
There is no dispute that the great revival was the first of these events. The question is whether events two, three and four above (the Attack of Sennacherib, Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery, and the Visit from the Ambassadors of Babylon) occur in the order that they are shown in 1 Kings.
John Whitcomb, co-author of A History of Israel-From Conquest to Exile,provides two reasons for believing that Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery and the visit from the ambassadors from Babylontook place before the attack by Sennacherib.
These two events will be examined in further detail later in this paper.
With the understanding that the order of events as listed in the Bible are not in actual chronological sequence,6 the critical events in the life of Hezekiah will be reviewed in this order:
Now please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that these events didn’t happen or are incorrect, just saying that they are probably not listed in chronological order.
The Great Revival
Hezekiah became king when he was young, at twenty-five. A lot of responsibility had been put on this young man, especially not having grown up with a righteous father to follow. As co-regent for the past thirteen years and seeing the nation steadily become more and more reprobate (unprincipled), he must have learned a lot of lessons and gained wisdom.
Hezekiah had two choices:Hezekiah had two choices:
The principle source of that wisdom is related to us in 2 Kings 18:5-6 (NAS): “He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.”
The word “clung” in verse 6 comes from the Hebrew וַיִּדְבַּק(va-yid-bach – qal stem, vav consecutive, imperfect conjugation, 3ms). This Hebrew word is 7defined by Holladay’s Lexicon (qal stem) as, “stick, cling, cleave, join, follow, hold onto, fasten oneself,” etc. Other translations of this word include, “was loyal” (NET) and “held fast” (NIV/NKJ).
By this we can see that Hezekiah held tight to the instructions of God. The Word of God was the source of Hezekiah’s knowledge and wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (KJV).
Quoting the article 8Kings and Prophets – Bible Study on King Hezekiah – True Revival: “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given to Moses.”
Hezekiah’s wisdom and ability to lead the kingdom of Judah came directly from the LORD. Very much unlike his father, he followed the LORD with all his heart and the LORD directed his steps into ways of righteousness.
As is evidenced in 2 Chronicles 29:3 (“in the first month of the first year of his reign”), Hezekiah did not wait long before he started the revival process. The steps taken by Hezekiah are shown in 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 29-30 and are summarized as follows:
A good summary of Hezekiah’s reforms is provided in the book The Kingdoms of Israel, by David F. Payne: “Both 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 29 have nothing but praise for these reforms, which were primarily intended to eradicate the idolatry fostered during the reign of Ahaz, though they did not stop there. Hezekiah had a praiseworthy ambition to eject everything which promoted idolatry, even the old brazen serpent Nehushtan, a purely Israelite symbol and relic. The Israelite hillshrines, which similarly had attracted idolatrous practices, were another victim of reforming zeal.”11
The reforms of Hezekiah early in his reign were from a pure and just heart. One that wanted to serve God. They were righteous acts.
Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery
The next event in chronological time frame that is examined is Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery. Death happens to everyone (Heb. 9:27), but this is the only recorded instance of God telling a righteous man to prepare to die while he was still in the prime of life (Isa. 38:10). One must wonder why Hezekiah was going to die so young, after all of the great reforms he made?
John Whitcomb explains it as follows: “The answer seems to be that God chose this means to chasten Hezekiah because of a growing pride of heart.”12This is a natural tendency of humanity after blessings and sometimes even revival. Hezekiah obviously fell into this trap as well.
Hezekiah was stricken with a terminal illness. Isaiah the prophet came to him andsaid, “Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1 KJV). Isaiah certainly could not have been overly joyful with this judgment. He had lived through the wicked reign of Ahaz and had seen the marvelous reforms that Hezekiah had put in place. Nevertheless, as prophet of God, he had to faithfully deliver God’s message.
How do we think Isaiah felt?
When Hezekiah heard this, he immediately turned his face to the wall and prayed to God, saying: “I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (2 Kings 20:3 KJV).
One might think that Hezekiah was remaining full of pride by saying he “walked before [God] in truth and with a perfect heart.” The word perfect is from the Hebrew שָׁלֵם(Sha-lame), which is translated in the NAS as “whole,” and in the NET and NIV as “wholehearted.” Hezekiah was not claiming to be “perfect,” but rather wholehearted or saying that he served God with a pure heart.
God is jealous of our love and devotion to Him, and certainly, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every son He accepts” (Heb. 12:6 NET).
John Whitcomb further explains: “It was not that Hezekiah’s years of God-honoring service had been forgotten. It was not that he had borne no spiritual fruit… After all, those who bear fruit are chastened! ‘Every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit (Matt. 7:19).’ May it never be forgotten that it was Hezekiah’s repentant tears, rather than his great works, that brought the miracle of physical healing (2 Kings 20:6) and the miracle of Jerusalem’s defense.”13
God loved Hezekiah, Hezekiah pleaded for mercy, and the LORD heard his petition. While Isaiah was still in the middle of the courtyard the LORD told him to go back and tell Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and seen his tears. Fifteen years were added to his life and Hezekiahand the city of Jerusalem were rescued from the king of Assyria.
Event 2 was Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery.
Ambassadors from Babylon
“MerodachBaladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and was recovered” (Isa. 39:1 KJV). The book, “The Kingdoms of our Lord” 14explains the visit of the Babylonians: “Two details in the Biblical account make it plain that the embassy was not really a courtesy visit. In the first place, the visitors took pains to investigate all Hezekiah’s resources, financial and military; and secondly, the prophet Isaiah took it upon himself to give the king a plain warning not to associate himself with the Babylonians (Isa. 39:3-7).”
Hezekiah welcomed the ambassadors and showed them his storehouse with its gold, silver and everything else.
Hezekiah missed an opportunity to glorify God here. “His heart’s desire was to convince these men that he was not a second-rate king according to the world’s standards, And so, instead of learning about the holiness of Jehovah,and the necessity of acknowledging him alone, they carried back to Babylon nothing more than a [little better] knowledge of silver, gold , spices, precious oil and material treasures.”15Instead of using the occasion to sanctify God’s name by pointing out the Divine power over life and death and over all the forces of nature, the king had boasted of his riches.
In 2 Chronicles 32:25 (NET) we read a troubling statement: “But Hezekiah was ungrateful; he had a proud attitude, provoking God to be angry at him, as well as Judah and Jerusalem.”
Hezekiah’s “ungratefulness and pride” is probably referring to a time after Hezekiah’s healing and the visitors from Babylon. Isaiah told Hezekiah that, “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD” (2 Kings 20:17 KJV).
When Hezekiah realized what he had done, his response was similar to that of King David, as is shown in 2 Chronicles 32:26: “But then Hezekiah and the residents of Jerusalem humbled themselves and abandoned their pride, and the LORD was not angry with them for the rest of Hezekiah’s reign” (2 Chron. 32:26 NET).Hezekiah didnot curse God and give up. Instead he repented.
Event 3 was the visit from the ambassadors of Babylon.
This brings us to the end of part 1 in our study on Hezekiah. In summary we discussed:
In our next class, Righteous King Hezekiah Part 2, we will continue with the last two major evets,
Servants of the Most High God Ministries
Righteous King Hezekiah, Part 2
In the first part of this series we covered:
In today’s class, Part 2, we will continue with the last two major evets,
Moving on to Event 4
The Attack of Sennacherib/Assyria
Hezekiah was made sole king of Judah when he was twenty-five. He showed great wisdom and obedience to the LORD with many great acts of revival for the country. He was sick near death, in fact death had been pronounced upon him, but in answer to prayer God added fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah made a mistake when he let the ambassadors from Babylon visit. In pride, he showed off his great treasures, but forgot to give God credit for all good things.
Now we are coming upon what many would consider the hardest time of Hezekiah’s life, the Assyrian invasion. In 705 B.C., Sargon II, king of Assyria died, and as Sennacherib became the new king, Hezekiah thought it was the time to make a bold move for freedom.
2 Kings 18:7 tells us “he[Hezekiah] rebelled against the king of Assyria and served him not.”
During the first four years of Sennacherib’s rule (705 B.C. – 701 B.C.)he was busy maintaining control of Babylon, but by 701 B.C. he was ready to move westward to punish various kings, as others had rebelled too.
The revolt included Tyre and other Phoenician cities (North of Israel) as well as Ashkelon (which was on the Mediterranean due west of the Dead Sea) and Ekron (one of the 5 cities of the Philistine pentapolis – Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Gath and Ekron – in the northeast corner of the land of the Philistines) and possibly Moab (southeast side of the Dead Sea), Edom (south of the Dead Sea) and Ammon (northeast of the Dead Sea) as well. “In spite of earnest warnings from Isaiah, who branded the whole thing as folly and rebellion against Yahweh, Hezekiah joined in and sent envoys to Egypt to negotiate a treaty (Isa. 30:1-7). In fact, he became a ringleader in the revolt.”16
Hezekiahknew that Sennacherib would not overlook this union of his enemies, so he made preparations for an invasion. He constructed fortifications, made new weapons, and reinforced his military strength (2 Chron. 32:1-8). His most incredible feat was the digging of Hezekiah’s (the famous Siloam) Tunnel from the Spring of Gihon, through the hill of Ophel to a place within the city that was lower than the starting point. A Survey of Israel’s History explains this well:
An inscription found near the mouth of the tunnel (see Ancient Near Eastern Text, p. 321, for text) states that diggers worked from both ends. Their place of meeting shows a sight jog but the degree of skill in maintaining the right slope and direction is incredible. The inscription says that the tunnel was 1,200 cubits long. Measurement today reveals the distance in feet to be 1,777 (others give 1,749), which indicates the length of the cubit to have been just under eighteen inches.17
During this general period, Hezekiah became terrified at this sudden and unexpected approach from the Assyrians. Instead of trusting God, he asked for terms of peace. Sennacherib consented along with an enormous tribute due; three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (2 Kings 18:14).
The NET Bible Commentary explains that “the Hebrew word used here for “talent” is כִּכַּרCicargenerally refers to something that is round. When used of metals it can refer to a disk-shaped weight made of the metal or a standard unit of weight. Since the accepted weight for a talent of metal is about 75 pounds, this would have amounted to about 22,500 pounds of silver and 2,250 pounds of gold.”18As of April 26, 2020 the price of gold was $1,657 per troy ounce (12 troy ounces make up a pound) and the price of silver was $15.42 per troy ounce.19 So, at April 26, 2020 rates, Sennacherib would have been demanding over $44,000,000 worth of gold ($1,657 (per ounce) x 12 (12 troy ounces per pound) x 2,250 pounds) and over $4,000,000 worth of silver ($15.42 (per ounce) x 12 (troy ounces per pound) x 22,500 (pounds)). The fact that Hezekiah stripped the metal (2 Kings 18:16) which had been put on the door-casings shows how difficult it was for him to raise this sum.
Hezekiah, in his response to Sennacherib (or his officials) saidthat, “we have offended (KJV) (done wrong (NAS)), already, return from me: that which thou puttest on me I will bear” (2 Kings 18:14 KJV). Lange’s Commentary on Holy Scripture explains as follows: “He [Hezekiah] determined to try to make terms with the powerful enemy, and rather submit to a heavy tribute in money than to risk the possession of his capital and the independence of his kingdom.” חָטָאתִי(has-a-tee) does not mean: I have sinned against God by my revolt from thee (that would require that לַיהוָֹה should be added, as we find it Gen. 13:13; Gen. 39:9; 1 Sam. 7:6; 2 Sam. 12:13 and elsewhere); nor, as the ancient expositors supposed: I have, in thy opinion, sinned. We have simply to adhere to its original signification, to fail, to err (Job 5:24; Pro 19:2). It is an acknowledgment wrung from him by his distressed circumstances.”20
Moving southwest along the coast, Sennacherib first dealt with Tyre, the leading city. After Sennacherib crushed the resistance, Tyre’s King Luli fled toCyprus (which is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, northwest of Israel). Now, many of the coalition’s less enthusiastic participants such as Byblos (South of the Sea of Galilee), Arvad (north of Israel), Moab (E of Dead Sea), Edom (SE of Dead Sea) and Ammon (NE of Dead Sea) gave up. Then Sennacherib moved further south along the Mediterranean and took another leading city, Ashkelon (southern portion of the land of the Philistines) and deported her king, Sidqia to Assyria. Now he started moving back east, toward Jerusalem, and stopped at Lachish (about 25 miles SW of Jesusalem). While here he received the enormous tribute from Hezekiah, who at this time felt the cause was lost.
At this point we need to stop and consider if allof the actions Hezekiah did in preparation, plus the paying of the tribute were a loss of faith on his part. It would seemthat a man of complete faith in God would have not given in.
The dangers Hezekiah faced must be taken into consideration:
Hezekiah was under intense pressure. It is hard to believe that any person would not have succumbed to a temporary lack of faith in such circumstances.
As the story unfolds, Sennacherib was apparently not satisfied with gold and silver alone and he still went on to attack Jerusalem. As the Assyrian army approached, three high ranking officials: Tartan (second in rank), Rabsaris (chief eunuch) and Rabshakeh (chief officer) were sent to exhibit psychological pressure on Judah’s leadership.22
These were highly trained military ambassadors, expert at exerting psychological warfare. Their efforts were successful in intimidating those listening as Rabshakeh insisted on speaking Hebrew in a loud voice so he could be heard (it is possible that an interpreter spoke for him).
These ambassadors gave six reasons why Judah should capitulate. Some were logical, some foolish. After the arguments were completed, Hezekiah had no response. He knew the only answer the Assyrians could possibly understand was the language of action in the form of supernatural judgment (1 Kings 18:17-36).
Hezekiah was at a critical point. He had to do something, and he did. He developed a four-step strategy to deal with this great crisis.
A second Assyrian threat came to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19:8-13, which was essentially a repeat of the first threat. Upon this second threat, Hezekiah took his plan of action a step further. Hezekiah took the letter his adversaries had sent, read it, and once again went to the house of the LORD. This time he “spread it before the LORD” (2 Kings 19:14) and earnestly prayed to God.
This time, Isaiah the prophet, understanding the king’s difficult position and seeing genuine sincerity, supported him. The prophet told King Hezekiah that Sennacherib would not capture Jerusalem, nor even come close to it (2 Kings 19:8-34, Isa. 37:8-35).
At or near this point in time, Sennacherib heard that Egypt’s army under Tirhakah, was joining the coalition. From Lachichk, which was about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, he turned south toward Egypt instead of continuing on directly to Jerusalem.
Sennacherib did encounter an Egyptian force, of which he claimed to have defeated,as well as forty-six cities of Judah, besides numerous villages and the seizure of over 200,000 prisoners.
However, the Biblical record gives the final note to this story, stating that all this activity was brought to a sudden end by the slaying of 185,000 troops of Sennacherib by the angel of the LORD. We read in 2 Kings 19:35 (KJV): “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”
There are different theories as to what actually caused the death of 185,000 Assyrians. Greek writer Herodotus says that Sennacherib’s host was attacked by field mice swarming over the camp and devouring quivers, bows, and handles. The suggestion is that the plague, which is carried by rats and mice, was the method God used.24
Some have suggested that the bubonic plague was the cause of the disaster, but one must question whether this many people could have died in one night from mice or the bubonic plague or if the Biblical account “smote by an angel of the LORD” (2 Kings 19:35) is the only rational explanation.
Of this Sennacherib says nothing. Although, because he does not claim to have captured Jerusalem, one of his prime targets, he indirectly corroborates the fact. The fact that Sennacherib said nothing about conquering Jerusalem is virtually identical to admitting total defeat. Otherwise, he would have gloated over the defeat in detail.
This was the answer to righteous King Hezekiah’s earnest plan of action plus his humble and discerning prayer.
John C. Whitcomb summarizes the situation well: “Finally, the threatened siege of Jerusalem would not materialize at all, for Jehovah would defend it to vindicate His glory, which had been blasphemed (1 Kings 20:28), and to honor the covenant promise He made to David” (2 Sam. 7).25
When Did These Events Occur?
There is much debate among scholars as to when these events, such as the plague upon the Assyrian army occurred. Many scholars believe that they took place shortly after the Assyrian invasion in 701 B.C. In this case we have to assume that Sennacherib decided after all to make Judah an Assyrian province like Samaria.
Others feel that Hezekiah rebelled a second time late in his reign provoking a second invasion, perhaps in 688 B.C. Author John Bright, in his writing A History of Israel makes a strong case fora second invasion.26
In discussion regarding Sennacherib’s neglect in mentioning defeating Israel, John Whitcomb indicates, “Furthermore, it was thirteen years before the Assyrians appeared in Palestine again.”27 Although Dr. Whitcomb in his writing indicates that the plague happened after the 701 B.C. invasion.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether it was after the first or second invasion, or whether there was only one invasion, we can be certain that the “angel of the LORD” struck down 185,000 Assyrian warriors and this led to the extension of the Kingdom of Judah by 115 years.
If God had not intervened on Hezekiah’s and the nation’s behalf, they would have had no way of defending themselves. Quoting F.F. Bruce: “There is no doubt that the powerful preaching of Isaiah and other prophets was listened to, though not always heeded, and had its effects on the history of the ancient Hebrew people.”28
Hezekiah’s Last Years and his Son Manasseh
Considering that the attack and deliverance from Sennacherib is the last chronological event discussed regarding Hezekiah in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, there is not a lot of detail about the last fifteen years of his life.
Edwin Thiele’s chart of Old Testament Kings and Prophets shows that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh acted as co-regent for the last nine years (695 B.C. – 686 B.C.).29
Some have postulated that because Manasseh was such a wicked king, Hezekiah must not have spent adequate time teaching and instructing him in the ways of the truth.
There are three facts that challenge this concept.
First, Manasseh was a person and he had his own mind. Hezekiah could not force Manasseh to do right or wrong.
Second, remember the one considered Israel’s (the combined nation’s) greatest king, David. With all the blessings given to his son Solomon he didn’t follow the ways of the LORD explicitly. In fact, he completely disobeyed God in gathering wealth and horse and seven hundred wives, who led him astray and into idolatry.
Third, after Manasseh had committed some abominable sins and “shed very much innocent blood” (2 Kings 21:16 NAS), and after he was taken captive, he did repent!
“And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And prayed unto Him, and He was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD He was God” (2 Chron. 33:12-13 KJV).
Manasseh did go astray, certainly, but one can surmise that he remembered the teachings of his father Hezekiah; he remembered the time and effort that his father put into trying to correct things in the country and this led to his repentance.
There are five key events in the life of Hezekiah that have been examined. In summary, these events plus Hezekiah’s response are as follows:
With reflection upon the Biblical assessment of Hezekiah in the following three passages, we can come to a solid conclusion:
Hezekiah was a righteous king.
And this will bring us to the end of our class on Righteous King Hezekiah.
Thank you everyone for joining me,.
Yivoreka YHVH – God bless you
Servants of the Most High God Ministries