HEZEKIAH (Hebr. = "my strength is Jah"; Assyrian, "Ḥazaḳiau"):

1. King of Judah (726-697 B.C.).

—Biblical Data:

Son of Ahaz and Abi or Abijah; ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five and reigned twenty-nine years (II Kings xviii. 1-2; II Chron. xxix. 1). Hezekiah was the opposite of his father, Ahaz; and no king of Judah, among either his predecessors or his successors, could, it is said, be compared to him (II Kings xviii. 5). His first act was to repair the Temple, which had been closed during the reign of Ahaz. To this end he reorganized the services of the priests and Levites, purged the Temple and its vessels, and opened it with imposing sacrifices (II Chron. xxix. 3-36). From the high places he removed the fanes which had been tolerated even by the pious kings among his predecessors, and he made the Temple the sole place for the cult of Yhwh. A still more conspicuous act was his demolition of the brazen serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness and which had hitherto been worshiped (II Kings xviii. 4). He also sent messengers to Ephraim and Manasseh inviting them to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. The messengers, however, were not only not listened to, but were even laughed at; only a few men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun came to Jerusalem. Nevertheless the Passover was celebrated with great solemnity and such rejoicing as had not been in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon (II Chron. xxx.). The feast took place in the second month instead of the first, in accordance with the permission contained in Num. ix. 10, 11.

Under the Influence of Isaiah.

Hezekiah was successful in his wars against the Philistines, driving them back in a series of victorious battles as far as Gaza (II Kings xviii. 8). He thus not only retook all the cities that his father had lost (II Chron. xxviii. 18), but even conquered others belonging to the Philistines. Josephus records ("Ant." ix. 13, § 3) that Hezekiah captured all their cities from Gaza to Gath. Hezekiah was seconded in his endeavors by the prophet Isaiah, on whose prophecies he relied, venturing even to revolt against the King of Assyria by refusing to pay the usual tribute (II Kings xviii. 7). Still, Hezekiah came entirely under Isaiah's influence only after a hard struggle with certain of his ministers, who advised him to enter into an alliance with Egypt. This proposal did not please Isaiah, who saw in it a defection of the Jews from God; and it was at his instigation that Shebna, the minister of Hezekiah's palace and probably his counselor, working for the alliance with Egypt, was deposed from office (Isa. xxii. 15-19).

As appears from II Kings xviii. 7-13, Hezekiah revolted against the King of Assyria almost immediately after ascending the throne. Shalmaneser invaded Samaria in the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, and conquered it in the sixth, while Sennacheribinvaded Judah in the fourteenth. The last-mentioned fact is also recorded in Isa. xxxvi. 1; but it would seem strange if the King of Assyria, who had conquered the whole kingdom of Israel, did not push farther on to Judah, and if the latter remained unmolested during ten years. In II Chron. xxxii. 1 the year in which Sennacherib invaded Judah is not given, nor is there any mention of Hezekiah's previous revolt.

Invasion of Sennacherib.

There is, besides, an essential difference between II Kings, on the one hand, and Isaiah and II Chron., on the other, as to the invasion of Sennacherib. According to the former, Sennacherib first invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and took all the fortified cities (the annals of Sennacherib report forty-six cities and 200,000 prisoners). Hezekiah acknowledged his fault and parleyed with Sennacherib about a treaty. Sennacherib imposed upon Hezekiah a tribute of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold; and in order to pay it Hezekiah was obliged to take all the silver in the Temple and in his own treasuries, and even to "cut off the gold from the doors of the Temple" (II Kings xviii. 13-16). Sennacherib, however, acted treacherously. After receiving the gold and the silver he sent a large army under three of his officers to besiege Jerusalem, while he himself with the remainder of his troops remained at Lachish (ib. xviii. 17). The contrary is related in II Chronicles. After Sennacherib had invaded Judah and marched toward Jerusalem, Hezekiah decided to defend his capital. He accordingly stopped up the wells; diverted the watercourse of Gihon, conducting it to the city by a subterranean canal (II Chron. xxxii. 30; Ecclus. [Sirach] xlviii. 17); strengthened the walls; and employed all possible means to make the city impregnable (II Chron. xxxii. 1-8). Still the people of Jerusalem were terror-stricken, and many of Hezekiah's ministers looked toward Egypt for help. Isaiah violently denounced the proceedings of the people, and derided their activity in fortifying the city (Isa. xxii. 1-14).

The account from the arrival of Sennacherib's army before Jerusalem under Rabshakeh till its destruction is identical in II Kings, Isaiah, and II Chronicles. Rabshakeh summoned Hezekiah to surrender, derided his hope of help from Egypt, and endeavored to inspire the people with distrust of Hezekiah's reliance on providential aid. But Sennacherib, having heard that Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia, had marched against him, withdrew his army from Jerusalem. He sent messages to Hezekiah informing him that his departure was only temporary and that he was sure of ultimately conquering Jerusalem. Hezekiah spread open the letters before God and prayed for the delivery of Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesied that Sennacherib would not again attack Jerusalem; and it came to pass that the whole army of the Assyrians was destroyed in one night by "the angel of the Lord" (II Kings xviii. 17-xix.; Isa. xxxvi.-xxxvii.; II Chron. xxxii. 9-22).

Hezekiah was exalted in the sight of the surrounding nations, and many brought him presents (II Chron. xxxii. 23). During the siege of Jerusalem Hezekiah had fallen dangerously ill, and had been told by Isaiah that he would die. Hezekiah, whose kingdom was in danger, because he had no heir (Manasseh was not born till three years later) and his death would therefore end his dynasty, prayed to God and wept bitterly. Isaiah was ordered by God to inform Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and that fifteen years should be added to his life. His disease was to be cured by a poultice of figs; and the divine promise was ratified by the retrogression of the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz (II Kings xx. 1-11; Isa. xxxviii. 1-8; II Chron. xxxii. 24). After Hezekiah's recovery Merodach-baladan, King of Babylon, sent ambassadors with presents ostensibly to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery and to inquire into the miracle (II Kings xx. 12; II Chron. xxxii. 31). His real intention may have been, however, to see how far an alliance with Hezekiah would be advantageous to the King of Babylon. Hezekiah received the ambassadors gladly, and displayed before them all his treasures, showing them that an ally of so great importance was not to be despised. But he received a terrible rebuke from Isaiah, who considered the act as indicating distrust in the divine power; whereupon Hezekiah expressed his repentance (II Chron. xx. 12-19, xxxii. 25-26; Isa. xxxix).

Hezekiah's death occurred, as stated above, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. He was buried with great honor amid universal mourning in the chief sepulcher of the sons of David (II Chron. xxxii. 33). He is represented as possessing great treasures and much cattle (ib. xxxii. 27-29). He is the only king after David noted for his organization of the musical service in the Temple (ib. xxix. 25-28). There is another similarity between him and David, namely, his poetical talent; this is attested not only by the psalm which he composed when he had recovered from his sickness (Isa. xxxviii. 10-20), but also by his message to Isaiah and his prayer (ib. xxxvii. 3, 4, 16-20). He is said to have compiled the ancient Hebrew writings; and he ordered the scholars of his time to copy for him the Proverbs of Solomon (Prov. xxv. 1).

E. G. H. M. Sel.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Hezekiah is considered as the model of those who put their trust in the Lord. Only during his sickness did he waver in his hitherto unshaken trust and require a sign, for which he was blamed by Isaiah (Lam. R. i.). The Hebrew name "Ḥizḳiyyah" is considered by the Talmudists to be a surname, meaning either "strengthened by Yhwh" or "he who made a firm alliance between the Israelites and Yhwh"; his eight other names are enumerated in Isa. ix. 5 (Sanh. 94a). He is called the restorer of the study of the Law in the schools, and is said to have planted a sword at the door of the bet ha-midrash, declaring that he who would not study the Law should be struck with the weapon (ib. 94b).

Hezekiah's piety, which, according to the Talmudists, alone occasioned the destruction of the Assyrian army and the signal deliverance of the Israelites when Jerusalem was attacked by Sennacherib, caused him to be considered by some as the Messiah (ib. 99a). According to Bar Ḳappara, Hezekiah was destined to be the Messiah, but the attribute of justice("middat ha-din") protested against this, saying that as David, who sang so much the glory of God, had not been made the Messiah, still less should Hezekiah, for whom so many miracles had been performed, yet who did not sing the praise of God (ib. 94a).

Hezekiah and Isaiah.

Hezekiah's dangerous illness was caused by the discord between him and Isaiah, each of whom desired that the other should pay him the first visit. In order to reconcile them God struck Hezekiah with a malady and ordered Isaiah to visit the sick king. Isaiah told the latter that he would die, and that his soul also would perish because he had not married and had thus neglected the commandment to perpetuate the human species. Hezekiah did not despair, however, holding to the principle that one must always have recourse to prayer. He finally married Isaiah's daughter, who bore him Manasseh (Ber. 10a). However, in Gen. R. lxv. 4, as quoted in Yalḳ., II Kings, 243, it is said that Hezekiah prayed for illness and for recovery in order that he might be warned and be able to repent of his sins. He was thus the first who recovered from illness. But in his prayer he was rather arrogant, praising himself; and this resulted in the banishment of his descendants (Sanh. 104a). R. Levi said that Hezekiah's words, "and I have done what is good in thy eyes" (II Kings xx. 3), refer to his concealing a book of healing. According to the Talmudists, Hezekiah did six things, of which three agreed with the dicta of the Rabbis and three disagreed therewith (Pes. iv., end). The first three were these: (1) he concealed the book of healing because people, instead of praying to God, relied on medical prescriptions; (2) he broke in pieces the brazen serpent (see Biblical Data, above); and (3) he dragged his father's remains on a pallet, instead of giving them kingly burial. The second three were: (1) stopping the water of Gihon; (2) cutting the gold from the doors of the Temple; and (3) celebrating the Passover in the second month (Ber. 10b; comp. Ab. R. N. ii., ed. Schechter, p. 11).

The question that puzzled Ewald ("Gesch. des Volkes Israel," iii. 669, note 5) and others, "Where was the brazen serpent till the time of Hezekiah?" occupied the Talmudists also. They answered it in a very simple way: Asa and Joshaphat, when clearing away the idols, purposely left the brazen serpent behind, in order that Hezekiah might also be able to do a praiseworthy deed in breaking it (Ḥul. 6b).

The Midrash reconciles the two different narratives (II Kings xviii. 13-16 and II Chron. xxxii. 1-8) of Hezekiah's conduct at the time of Sennacherib's invasion (see Biblical Data, above). It says that Hezekiah prepared three means of defense: prayer, presents, and war (Eccl. R. ix. 27), so that the two Biblical statements complement each other. The reason why Hezekiah's display of his treasures to the Babylonian ambassadors aroused the anger of God (II Chron. xxxii. 25) was that Hezekiah opened before them the Ark, showing them the tablets of the covenant, and saying, "It is with this that we are victorious" (Yalḳ., l.c. 245).

Notwithstanding Hezekiah's immense riches, his meal consisted only of a pound of vegetables (Sanh. 94b). The honor accorded to him after death consisted, according to R. Judah, in his bier being preceded by 36,000 men whose shoulders were bare in sign of mourning. According to R. Nehemiah, a scroll of the Law was placed on Hezekiah's bier. Another statement is that a yeshibah was established on his grave—for three days, according to some: for seven, according to others; or for thirty, according to a third authority (Yalḳ., II Chron. 1085). The Talmudists attribute to Hezekiah the redaction of the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes (B. B. 15a).

E. C. M. Sel.Chronological Difficulties. —Critical View:

The chronology of Hezekiah's time presents some difficulties. The years of his reign have been variously given as 727-696 B.C., 724-696 (Köhler), 728-697 (Duncker, "Gesch. des Altertums"), while the modern critics (Wellhausen, Kamphausen, Meyer, Stade) have 714-689. The Biblical data are conflicting. II Kings xviii. 10 assigns the fall of Samaria to the sixth year of Hezekiah. This would make 728 the year of his accession. But verse 13 of the same chapter states that Sennacherib invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah. The cuneiform inscriptions leave no doubt that this invasion took place in 701, which would fix 715 as Hezekiah's initial year. The account of his illness (II Kings xix.) seems to confirm this latter date. He reigned twenty-nine years (II Kings xviii. 2). His illness was contemporaneous with the events enumerated in II Kings xviii. (see ib. xix. 1-6). The Lord promised that his life should be prolonged fifteen years (29-15=14). His fourteenth year being 701, the first must have been 715. This will necessitate the assumption that the statement in II Kings xviii. 9-10, that Samaria was captured in the sixth year of Hezekiah, is incorrect. The other alternative is to look upon the date in verse 13 of the same chapter as a later assumption replacing an original "in his days." Again, the number fifteen (ib. xix. 6) may have replaced, owing to xviii. 13, an original "ten" (comp. the "ten degrees" which the shadow on the dial receded; ib. xx. 10).

Another calculation renders it probable that Hezekiah did not ascend the throne before 722. Jehu's initial year is 842; and between it and Samaria's destruction the numbers in the books of Kings give for Israel 143 7/12 years, for Judah 165. This discrepancy, amounting in the case of Judah to 45 years (165-120), has been accounted for in various ways; but every theory invoked to harmonize the data must concede that Hezekiah's first six years as well as Ahaz's last two were posterior to 722. Nor is it definitely known how old Hezekiah was when called to the throne. II Kings xviii. 2 makes him twenty-five years of age. It is most probable that "twenty-five" is an error for "fifteen." His father (II Kings xvi. 2) died at the age of thirty-six, or of forty, according to Kamphausen (in Stade's "Zeitschrift," iii. 200, and "Chronologie der Königsbücher," p. 20). It is not likely that Ahaz at the age of eleven, or even of fifteen, should have had a son. Hezekiah's own son Manasseh ascended the throne twenty-nineyears later, when he was twelve years old. This places his birth in the seventeenth year of his father's reign, or gives his father's age as forty-two, if he was twenty-five at his accession. It is more probable that Ahaz was twenty-one or twenty-five when Hezekiah was born, and that the latter was thirty-two at the birth of his son and successor, Manasseh.

Policy of Hezekiah.

To understand the motives of Hezekiah's policy, the situation in the Assyro-Babylonian empire must be kept in mind. Sargon was assassinated in 705 B.C. His successor, Sennacherib, was at once confronted by a renewed attempt of Merodach-baladan to secure Babylon's independence. This gave the signal to the smaller western tributary nations to attempt to regain their freedom from Assyrian suzerainty. The account of Merodach-baladan's embassy in II Kings xx. 12-13 fits into this period, the Babylonian leader doubtless intending to incite Judah to rise against Assyria. The motive adduced in the text, that the object of the embassy was to felicitate Hezekiah upon his recovery, would be an afterthought of a later historiographer. The censure of Hezekiah on this occasion by Isaiah could not have happened literally as reported in this chapter. Hezekiah could not have had great wealth in his possession after paying the tribute levied by the Assyrians (ib. xviii. 14-16). Moreover, the prophecy of Isaiah should have predicted the deportation of all these treasures to Nineveh and not to Babylon.

Underlying this incident, however, is the historical fact that Isaiah did not view this movement to rebellion with any too great favor; and he must have warned the king that if Babylon should succeed, the policy of the victor in its relations to Judah would not differ from that of Assyria. If anything, Babylon would show itself still more rapacious. Isaiah's condemnation of the proposed new course in opposition to Sennacherib is apparent from Isa. xiv. 29-32, xxix., xxx.-xxxii. Hezekiah, at first in doubt, was finally moved through the influence of the court to disregard Isaiah's warning. He joined the anti-Assyrian league, which included the Tyrian and Palestinian states; Ammon, Moab, and Edom, the Bedouin on the east and south, and the Egyptians. So prominent was his position in this confederacy that Padi, King of Ekron, who upon his refusal to join it had been deposed, was delivered over to Hezekiah for safe-keeping.

The Assyrian Accounts.

The Biblical accounts of the events subsequent to the formation of this anti-Assyrian alliance must be compared with the statements contained in Sennacherib's prism-inscription. It appears that the Assyrian king, as soon as he had subdued the Babylonian uprising in 701, set out to reestablish his authority over the western vassal states. Isaiah's fears proved only too well founded. Egypt, upon which Hezekiah had relied most to extricate him from the difficulties of the situation, proved, as usual, unreliable. Perhaps in this instance H. Winckler's theory that not the Egyptians, but the Musri and the Miluḥḥa, little kingdoms in northwestern Arabia, were the treacherous allies, must be regarded as at least plausible. For Isa. xxx. 6 pictures the difficulties besetting the embassy sent to ask for aid; and as the road to Egypt was open and much used it is not likely that a royal envoy to Egypt would encounter trouble in reaching his destination.

The consequence for Hezekiah was that he had to resume the payment of heavy tribute; but Jerusalem was not taken by Sennacherib's army. As to the details, the data in II Kings xviii. 13-xix. 37 and Isa. xxxvi.-xxxvii. are somewhat confusing. II Kings xviii. 13 declares that Sennacherib first captured all the fortified cities with the exception of the capital. But this is supplemented by the brief statement—probably drawn from another source in which the shorter form of the name is consistently employed—that Hezekiah sent a petition for mercy to Sennacherib, then at Lachish, and paid him an exorbitant tribute in consideration for the pardon. Sennacherib nevertheless demanded the surrender of the capital; but, encouraged by Isaiah's assurance that Jerusalem could and would not be taken, Hezekiah refused, and then the death of 185,000 of the hostile army at the hands of the angel of Yhwh compelled Sennacherib at once to retreat.

Defeat of Sennacherib's Army.

The story of Sennacherib's demand and defeat is told in II Kings xviii. 17-xix. 37 (whence it passed over into Isaiah, and not vice versa), which is not by one hand. Stade and Meinhold claim this account to be composed of two parallel narratives of one event, and, as does also Duhm, declare them both to be embellishing fiction. Winckler's contention ("Gesch. Babyloniens und Assyriens," 1892, pp. 255-258, and "Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen," 1892, pp. 26 et seq.) that two distinct expeditions by the Assyrian king are here treated as though there had been but one solves the difficulties (see also Winckler in Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d. ed., pp. 83, 273).

According to Biblical data, Sennacherib was assassinated soon after his return. But if 701 was the year of his (only) expedition, twenty years elapsed before the assassination (II Kings xix. 35 et seq.). Again, Tirhakah is mentioned as marching against the Assyrian king; and Tirhakah did not become Pharaoh before 691. On the first expedition against Palestine (701, his third campaign; see Schrader, "K. B." ii. 91 et seq.) Sennacherib, while with his main army in Philistia, sent a corps to devastate Judea and blockade Jerusalem. This prompted Hezekiah to send tribute to Lachish and to deliver his prisoner Padi, after the battle of Elteke (Altaku), where the Egyptian army, with its Ethiopic and perhaps Arabian contingents, was defeated. On the other hand, after Ekron had fallen into Assyrian hands, Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh to force the surrender of Jerusalem. Baffled in this, the king had to return to Nineveh in consequence of the outbreak of new disturbances caused by the Babylonians (II Kings xviii. 16).

Busied with home troubles till the destruction of Babylon (700-689 B.C.), Sennacherib lost sight of the West. This interval Hezekiah utilized to regain control over the cities taken from him and divided among the faithful vassals of the Assyrian rulers. This is the historical basis for the victory ascribedto him over the Philistines (II Kings xviii. 8). The interests of Sennacherib and those of Tirhakah soon clashed (II Kings xix. 9; Herodotus, ii. 141) in their desire to get control over the commerce of western Arabia (see Isa. xx. 3 et seq., xxx. 1-5, xxxi. 1-3). This was for Hezekiah the opportunity to cease paying tribute. Sennacherib's army marching against Jerusalem to punish him spread terror and caused the king again to fear the worst; but Isaiah's confidence remained unshaken (II Kings xix. 33). Indeed, in the meantime a great disaster had befallen Sennacherib's army (see Herodotus, ii. 141). Memories of this catastrophe, intermingled with those of the blockade under the Tartan (701 B.C.), are at the basis of the Biblical account of the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib before the walls of Jerusalem. The "plague" may have been the main factor in thwarting the Assyrian monarch's designs. His undoing then undoubtedly led to his assassination. Nevertheless it seems that Hezekiah found it wise to resume tributary relations with Assyria. Hence the report (in the Sennacherib inscription) of the paying of tribute and the sending of an ambassador to Nineveh.

Hezekiah as a Reformer.

There is no possible doubt that the credit given to Hezekiah for religious reforms in the Biblical reports is based on facts. Yet, as the idolatrous practises were revived most vigorously after his death, it is most probable that his reforms were not quite as extensive or intensive as a later historiography would have it appear. Certainly the fate of Samaria must have been all the more instructive as Jerusalem, by what in Isaiah's construction was the intervention of Yhwh, had been spared. To make the capital, thus marked as Yhwh's holy, untakable city, the exclusive sanctuary was a near thought. The "brazen serpent," probably an old totem-fetish, could not well be tolerated. Around Jerusalem the "high places" were also inhibited. But it must not be overlooked that Hezekiah's authority (or kingdom) did not extend over much territory beyond the city proper (see, however, in opposition to the views that would limit Hezekiah's influence as a religious reformer, Steuernagel, "Die Entstehung des Deuteronomischen Gesetzes," pp. 100 et seq.; Kittel, "Gesch. der Hebräer," ii. 302 et seq.).

The Psalm ("Miktab") of Hezekiah (Isa. xxxviii. 9 et seq.) is certainly not by that king. Neither is the superscription to Prov. xxv. based on historical facts. It is more likely that the Siloam inscription speaks of the building of the aqueduct in Hezekiah's days, though from the character of the letters a much more recent date (about 20 B.C.) has been argued for it ("Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch." 1897, pp. 165-185).

  • Baudissin, König, Kuenen, Smend;
  • Monteflore (Hibbert Lectures, London, 1892), on the history of Israel's religion;
  • Meinhold, Jesaijastudien;
  • Schwartzkopff, Die Weissagungen Jesaia's Gegen Sanherib, Leipsic, n.d. (1993?).
E. G. H.

2. (: A. V. "Hizkiah"):Ancestor of the prophet Zephaniah (Zeph. i 1); identified by Ibn Ezra and some modern scholars with the King of Judah; Abravanel, however, rejected this identification.

3. Son of Neariah, a descendant of the royal family of Judah (I Chron. iii. 23).

4. There is a Hezekiah mentioned in connection with Ater (Ezra ii. 16; Neh. vii. 21, x. 18 [R. V. 17]; in the last two passages ). The relationship between them is not clearly indicated; in the first two passages the reading is "Ater of Hezekiah"; the Vulgate takes "Hezekiah" in the first passage as the name of a place, in the second as the father of Ater. In the third passage, "Hezekiah" comes after "Ater" without any connecting preposition.

J. M. Sel.