This month's "Bible Characters"
section focuses on two good kings -- Hezekiah
The stories of Hezekiah are told in three books
of the Bible: II Kings, II Chronicles, and Isaiah.
Bible lecturer Joan K. Snipes shares her
insights on his reign. In the next article, Bible
scholar Mary Jane Chapin Chaignot discusses
the life of eight-year-old king Josiah.
- Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz and Abijah,
who was the daughter of the prophet Zechariah.
- He was 25 years old when he inherited the
throne and reigned in Jerusalem for 29 years,
from about 715 to 687 BCE.
- Hezekiah was one of four godly kings of Judah,
the Southern Kingdom. The other good kings were
Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah.
- King Hezekiah of Judah was a friend of the
- In his first month in office, Hezekiah opened
the temple gates (his father had closed them,
thereby stopping all temple activities), meaning
that, once again, the people would have access
- He called the priests and Levites and ordered
them to purify the defiled temple, to begin
repairs on the temple, and to remove all the
idols from the sanctuary.
- It took them 16 days just to clean up the
- When the idols were removed, Hezekiah restored
proper sacrifice and worship, according to the
rule prescribed by David. (II Chron. sees Hezekiah
as the reformer par excellence - a character
like David and Solomon.)
- Hezekiah is credited with reinstituting proper
worship (including reinstatement of the Levitical
musicians) and rededicating the temple, overturning
many years of abuse by kings "who did evil
in the eyes of the Lord" (including his
own father, Ahaz).
- He not only renewed the covenant with the
Lord, but also called upon the Levites to recommit
themselves to the Lord and carefully spelled
out their duties and responsibilities.
- So many people responded with free-will offerings
for sacrifice that the priests were swamped
and the Levites had to help.
- With activities at the temple back on track,
Hezekiah turned to reunification and invited
Ephraim and Manasseh to Jerusalem to participate
in Passover. (It is likely that this was after
the north had been conquered by Assyria in 722BCE.
The call to return to the Lord surely resonated
with many who believed their apostasy had led
to their defeat.)
- He sent a letter to all of Ephraim
and Judah, inviting participants to return and
repent (to the temple and its liturgy). They
postponed Passover for a month so all could
come and enough priests would be ready to prepare
- Many people in the north laughed him to scorn,
but some responded. All in all, there was a
"very large assembly."
- Some scholars think this was the beginning
of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Here it was
conjoined with Passover.)
- Many of the north were ritually impure, but
Hezekiah prayed that the "Lord would pardon
all those who set their hearts to seek him."
- The Lord's favorable response and the resultant
healing of the community struck a blow against
- When the seven days of the festival were up,
the people opted for another seven days! And
the Chronicler wrote, "Since the time of
Solomon son of King David of Israel there had
been nothing like this in Jerusalem."
- When it was over, the participants were so
filled with zeal that they began to cleanse
the land (north and south) of all the high places,
sacred poles, and altars.
- Hezekiah himself had broken into pieces the
"brasen serpent" (bronze snake) Moses
had made, recognizing that the people attached
superstitious meaning to the relic wilderness
story. (See 2 Kings 18:3, 4; Numbers 21:5-9)
- Hezekiah implored the people to give generously
the portion due the priests and Levites. Though
other sources indicate people resented this,
here, they responded with such generosity that
new storehouses had to be built.
- Hezekiah's hope for reunification might have
been the reason he named his son Manasseh. (The
fact that Assyria was busy elsewhere and pretty
much was ignoring the north at this time might
also have bolstered his plans.)
- In the fourteenth year of his reign, Hezekiah's
faith was tested by an invasion of the Assyrian
king, Sennacherib, who determined to do to Judah
what he had done in the north. He began by capturing
all the fortified cities.
- Hezekiah offered the king a bargain. He admitted
wrongdoing and agreed to pay a tribute if only
Sennacherib would withdraw. Sennacherib demanded
"three hundred talents of silver and thirty
talents of gold." At least part of this
gold came from the temple, where it was removed
from the doors and pillars. (See 2 Kings 18:14-16)
- Despite the tribute of silver and gold, the
Assyrians laid siege to
Jerusalem and the surrounding cities. The Assyrian
commander taunted Hezekiah for the mounting
desertions in his army and mocked the people
for depending on God whom he accused of being
- Upon hearing the commander's words, Hezekiah
turned to the prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah told him
God would deliver them.
- The commander repeated his taunts through
letters. Hezekiah took these to the temple and
laid them out before Yahweh and prayed directly
(See 2 Kings 15-19). Isaiah sent word to him
that God had heard his prayers. Isaiah's prophecy
included a lengthy response to Sennacherib and
Hezekiah, including the prophecy of a remnant.
(See 2 Kings 20-34).
- Thanks to the prayers of Hezekiah, Isaiah,
and the Hebrew people, Jerusalem was delivered.
"Then the angel of the Lord went forth,
and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred
and fourscore and five thousand...." (NIV
says "a hundred and eighty-five thousand
men." (2 Kings 19:35)
- After the sudden plague, Sennacherib's remaining
troops withdrew and returned to Nineveh, the
capital of Assyria.
- Under the rocky ground of Jerusalem, there
is a 1749-foot tunnel known as "Hezekiah's
tunnel." Tourists in Jerusalem enjoy walking
single file through the dark tunnel built to
conduct water from the Gihon spring to the pool
of Siloam. The tunnel was cleared in 1910.
- Hebrew writing was found inside Hezekiah's
tunnel. Known as the Siloam inscription, the
rock with this writing on it is now in the Museum
of the Ancient Orient at Istanbul, Turkey.
- Sometime after Jerusalem's deliverance from
Sennacherib's army, Hezekiah became very ill.
The prophet Isaiah had the task of informing
Hezekiah that he should set his "house
in order" for he would die.
- Once again, Hezekiah prayed to God for help.
God responded immediately and Isaiah was sent
to relay the good news. Hezekiah asked for a
sign that would modify the order of creation
by shortening the shadow on the sundial - essentially
turning back time.
- The sign was granted and Hezekiah knew he'd
recover. Not only was Hezekiah "recovered
of his sickness," but also he lived for
another 15 years.
- Upon his recovery, Hezekiah recited a psalm
of thanksgiving, according to Isaiah 38:9-20.
According to the Anchor Bible, "this is
one of the rare instances outside the Psalter
where a personality other than David is the
author of a psalm."
- After Hezekiah was recovered from his sickness,
he was "flattered by Babylon's suggestion
of an alliance against Assyria." Hezekiah
welcomed the Babylonian ambassadors and "proudly
exhibited his treasures." (The Interpreter's
Bible in Twelve Volumes, Vol. III, p. 308)
- The prophet, Isaiah, correctly prophesied
that everything in Hezekiah's palace would be
carried off to Babylon. (Isaiah 39:1- 6) This
sad event occurred during King Zedekiah's reign.
(II Kings 24:13)
- Hezekiah is mentioned on an archaeological
find known as Sennacherib's prism. The prism,
dated 691 BCE, was found at Nineveh. Today it
is at The Oriental Institute, University of
Chicago. Sennacherib gives his own version of
the event at Jerusalem and writes: "Hezekiah...I
made a prisoner in Jerusalem...like a bird in
- King Manasseh, Hezekiah's son, "was as
evil as his father was
good." (Leishman and Lewis, p. 47)
- The Bible stories about Hezekiah show that
he had both strengths and weaknesses. His weakness
was succumbing to flattery. His strengths were
reliance on God, a willingness to pray, courage,
wisdom, and foresight.
Alter, Robert and Frank Kermode. The Literary
Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Belknap
McConville, J.G. "I & II Chronicles."
The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia,
Payne, J. Barton. "1, 2 Chronicles."
The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Gaebelein,
Frank, ed. Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers, 1988.
Tuell, Steven. "First and Second Chronicles."
Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox Press.
Brueggeman, Walter. "1 & 2 Kings."
Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon,
Georgia: Smyth &
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