kings hezekiah sennacherib xviii twenty
HEZEKIAII (71:V71.`, 17r.1, or r1:77.1 "Jehovah makes strong "; 'ECEKias ; Ezechias ; the tfa-za-k-i-ya-hu or lja-za-ki-a-/uu of the Assyrian inscriptions), one of the greatest and best of the kings of Judah, succeeded his father Ahaz when still a young man (at the age of twenty-five according to 2 Kings xviii. 2 ; and this is probably correct if the LXX. be followed in reading " twenty-five " instead of " twenty " in 2 Chr. xxviii. 1 ; cf. 2 Kings xvi. 2). The year of his accession was most probably 717 13.c.;1 and he ruled for twenty-nine years with a vigour and a success that deeply impressed later historians ; "he trusted in the Lord God of Israel ; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him" (2 Kings xviii. 5; cf. Ecclus. xlviii. 17 - S5). The very outset of his reign was marked by an emphatic reversal, both in foreign and in domestic affairs, of the policy which had been so disastrously followed by his weak and foolish predecessor. While Ahaz had shown distinctly paganizing tendencies in religion, Hezekiah was .ardent in his zeal for the exclusive worship of Jehovah, which he sought to simplify, centralize, and refine even at the expense of abolishing many cherished institutions which had the sanction of ancient usage. "He removed the high places, and brake the pillars, and cut down the Asherab, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made ; for unto these days the children of Israel did burn incense to it ; and he [or, perhaps, they] called it Nehushtan " (i.e., according to the A.V., " brazen " ; but, if this was the popular name, it is probably derived from nahash, serpent ; see 2 Kings xviii. 4). How great were the strength of conviction and the courage which were necessary to such reforms as these is incidentally shown by the appeal to conservative feeling which some years afterwards could still be made by a skilful diplomatist with at least some hope of success (2 Kings xviii. 22). The details of the reforming activities of Hezekiah, extending even to the northern kingdom, as given with characteristic fulness and minuteness by the compiler of the book of Chronicles, are not now accepted by the majority of critics as absolutely trustworthy, a prevalent opinion being that actions have been attributed to Hezekiah which ought really to have been assigned to Josiah, and that some at least of the chronology is imaginary ; but it is obvious that the influence of such prophets as Isaiah and Micah must have been powerful enough to bring about many thorough-going changes even during the earlier reign. As in the internal religious affairs of the theocratic kingdom so in its relations with foreign powers Hezekiah innovated very conspicuously on the policy of his father, although not here entirely on the lines laid down by the great contemporary prophet. Confirmed in the consciousness of military strength by a successful war against the Philistines (2 Kings xviii. 8), and having no longer anything to fear either from Damascus or from Samaria, he began to cherish the hope (at least with Egyptian support and the active co-operation of Egyptian cavalry) of being able to shake off entirely the yoke of Assyria, and with this view he set about extensive fortifications and other engineering works in and about Jerusalem. " He made the pool and the conduit and brought the water into the city," "stopping the upper outlet of Gihon and bringing it straight by an underground way ;" he also "built up all the wall that was broken, and raised thereupon towers" (2 Kings xx. 20 ; 2 Chr. xxxii. 5, 30 ; and cf. Isa. xxii. 8-11, which also has been referred by the sagacity of Ewald to this period). It is not clear from the sacred historians how far Judah was affected by the successful expedition of Sargon against Ashdod in 711 13.C., which is mentioned in Isa. xx. 1 (and in which possibly Sennacherib may have held the rank of a rabsaki or general) ;• but Ewald's brilliant conjecture, to the effect that Isa. xxii. 1 sqq. alludes to hardships suffered by the people of Hezekiah at that time, is remarkably confirmed by the cuneiform inscriptions. It was not, however, until of ter the accession of Sennacherib (705) and the resolution of that monarch to direct one of his great expeditions against Egypt (c. 701), that matters were brought to a sharp and immediate crisis between Nineveh and Jerusalem. The capture of all his "fenced cities," Jerusalem excepted, coupled with the inactivity of Egypt, convinced Hezekiah of the uselessness of a struggle with the greatest military power of his century, in a way that Isaiah, with often repeated admonitions, had failed to do ; and the payment of a large sum of money by way of tribute readily purchased a temporary relief. But when Sennacherib sent from Lachish his "tartan," or commanderin-chief, along with the " rab-saris," or head eunuch, and the " rab-shakeh," or chief of the staff (the rendering " chief cup-bearer" seems based on a wrong etymology), with a large force to demand the surrender of Jerusalem itself, it was felt by king and prophet alike that the time for resistance to the utmost lied come. Probably the resolution thus formed was in part, at least, due to the fact that the main body of the Assyrian army was already finding it necessary to fall back before Tirhakah, the Ethiopian king of Egypt, from Lachish to Libnah ; it was at all events justified, not only by the indecisive battle at Altaku near Ekron, but also by the pestilence (2 Kings xix. 35) which speedily compelled the withdrawal of Sennacherib with the remains of his army from Libnah to Nineveh. The relation between the .accounts of this retreat given by Sennacherib himself, by the sacred historians, and by Herodotus (ii. 141) will be considered in the article SENNACIIER113. The sickness and recovery of Hezekiah, recorded in 2 Kings xx. 1-11 and (with additional details) in Isa. xxxviii., seem to have preceded the invasion of Seunacherib by three years at most ; they were almost immediately followed by the arrival of the messengers of Merodach (not Berodach) Baladan, the son of Baladan, who for some six months, until repressed by Sennacherib, usurped the throne of Babylon about the year 703. The excessive courtesy shown to these ambassadors gave occasion, it is recorded (2 Kings xx. 17, 18), to a prediction by Isaiah of the Babylonian exile, which took place more than a century afterwards. Of the later portion of Hezekiah's reign no details have been preserved ; but it appears to have been characterized by peace and prosperity. He was succeeded in 688 by Manasseh, his son by Hephzibah, born apparently about 702. Besides being a patron of literature (Prov. xxv. 1), Hezekiah was himself a poet ; and his sole remaining production (Isa. xxxviii. 10-20), if somewhat deficient in originality, abounds in depth and tenderness of religious and poetic feeling.