Fausset's Bible Dictionary


("strength of Jehovah".)

1. Twelfth king of Judah; son of the unbelieving Ahaz and Abi or Abijah; ascended the throne at the age of 25 in 726 B.C. Of his faithfulness it is written (2Ki_18:5) "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, for he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him but kept His commandments." Probably his mother, being daughter of Zechariah "who had understanding in the visions of God" (2Ch_26:5), was pious, and her influence counteracted the bad example of his father. In the very first year and first month of his reign the Lord put it "in his heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chronicles 29), so he opened and repaired the doors of the Lord's house which had been "shut up," and charged the Levites not to be negligent but to "sanctify" the house and "carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place," and to light the lamps, to burn incense, and to offer burnt offerings as in former times; all which, to the shame and disaster of Judah, had latterly been neglected.

They did so, and moreover sanctified all the vessels which Ahaz had "cast away in his transgression." Then an atonement was made for the kingdom, the sanctuary, and Judah, with a sin offering of seven bullocks, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats; then followed the burnt offering, while "the Levite singers sang with the words of David and Asaph the seer, and the trumpets sounded." The priests were too few to flay the burnt offerings which the congregation "of a free heart" brought in; therefore the Levites helped them "until the other priests had sanctified themselves, for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests." So "Hezekiah rejoiced that God had prepared the people, for the thing was done suddenly." Then followed the Passover, in the second month, "because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem," so as to keep it in the regular month (Num_9:10-11; compare Exo_12:6; Exo_12:18).

Hezekiah by letter invited not only Judah, but also Ephraim and Manasseh, to it: "Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and He will return to the remnant of you, escaped out of the hand of the king of Assyria." The majority "laughed the messengers to scorn; nevertheless, divers of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun (Ephraim and Issachar also) humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem." Also "in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king by the word of the Lord" (2Ch_30:2; 2Ch_30:12; 2Ch_30:18; 2Ch_30:23; Jer_32:39). Owing to the want of priests several were not duly cleansed and sanctified, yet did eat the Passover; but Hezekiah prayed for them, "the good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary."

So "the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah and healed the people." "And Hezekiah spoke comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the Lord," assuring them of God's pardon upon their "making confession to the Lord God" for the people, so that "the whole assembly took counsel and kept other seven days with gladness." "So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since Solomon's time there was not the like ... and the priests blessed the people ... and their prayer came up to the Lord's holy place, even unto heaven." Next, all Israel present went out to break the images, cut down the groves, and throw down the high places and altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. (See ASHTORETH; Asheerah.) "Hezekiah also broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses made," for previously "Israel did burn intense to it, and he called it Nehushtan" (piece of brass, nothing better: 2Ki_18:4); a practical condemnation of "relics" when superstitiously venerated.

Yet in spite of the warning the brazen serpent was reverenced by professing Christians in the church of Ambrose at Milan! (Prideaux, Connex., 1:19). The Passover must have been five or six years later than the purification of the temple, which was in Hezekiah's first year; for it was not until the sixth year of Hezekiah that the king of Assyria took Samaria (ver. 9-10); its fall prepared many in Israel to accept humbly Hezekiah's invitation (2Ch_30:6; 2Ch_30:9). Hezekiah also provided for the maintenance of the priests and Levites by commanding the payment of tithes; he ordered also their courses of service, and "in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart and prospered": a good motto for Christians (Col_3:23).

Isaiah the prophet was the great supporter of Hezekiah in his pious efforts; but not without opposition from drunken scoffers, who asked "whom shall he (Isaiah) teach knowledge? them that are weaned from the milk?" i.e., does he take us for babes just weaned, that he presumes to teach us? (Isa_28:9) "for precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little," i.e., for he is constantly repeating the same thing as if to little children, and as one teaching young beginners how to make the strokes of a letter and join line to line; the scorners imitated Isaiah's stammering like repetitions, in Hebrew tsaw latsar, qaw laqaw. The simplicity of divine teaching offends proud scorners (2Ki_5:11-12; 1Co_1:23); but children in knowledge needed to be spoken to in children's language (Mat_13:13). Isaiah replies, You will have a sterner teacher with stammering and foreign speech to convict you of unbelief (Isaiah 28).

Ahaz the former king's counselors recommended worldly alliances and compromises of principle for political expediency, instead of Isaiah's counsel to rest on Jehovah alone. Shebna was one of these half hearted, self indulgent, and ostentatious officers at court. His father's name is not given, though his office is," the scribe" (2Ki_18:18; 2Ki_19:2); whereas the fathers of Eliakim and Joah, with Shebna, are named. The reason appears quite incidentally in Isa_22:15, "Say unto Shebna ... this treasurer over the house (prefect of the palace), What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here?" i.e. as being a foreigner (his name is un-Hebrew like, he was probably a Syrian brought from abroad to Ahaz' court) thou hast no paternal burying place or kindred here.

He was degraded; but (probably upon his repentance) the lower yet honourable office of "scribe" or secretary of state was given him, and in that office he is mentioned as if faithful (Isa_37:2, etc.), so that the sentence of exile and humiliation, "tossed like a ball into a large country, and there the chariots of his glory becoming the shame of his lord's house," was apparently reversed, though Jewish tradition says he was tied to the horses' tails by the enemy to whom he designed to betray Jerusalem, but who thought he mocked them. (See ELIAKIM.) It is possible that, unwarned by the past, he relapsed into treachery, and then were fulfilled Isaiah's prophetic threats, which but for his relapse would have been averted, and which were temporarily suspended.

Hezekiah recovered from the Philistines all the cities which his father Ahaz had lost, namely, of "the low country and the S. of Judah, Bethshemesh, Ajalon, Gederoth, Shocho, Timnah, Gimzo" with their dependent villages, "the Lord having brought Judah low because Ahaz had made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord" (2Ch_28:18-19). "Hezekiah smote them even unto Gaza (Gaza and Gath alone remained to them: Josephus, Ant. 9:13, section 3), from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city" (2Ki_18:8). This was foretold by Isaiah (Isa_14:29-30): "Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the God of him that smote thee (Uzziah, 2Ch_26:6) is broken (namely, under Ahaz), for out of the serpent's (as Uzziah was regarded by the Philistines) root shall come forth a cockatrice," an adder, to the Philistines, Hezekiah; "and the firstborn of the poor (the poorest) shall feed" in safety, instead of constant alarms of Philistine invasions.

Hezekiah bore for a time the yoke of tribute imposed by the Assyrian Tiglath Pileser on Ahaz (2Ki_16:7); but having spent much on the Philistine war, trusting in the aid of Egypt, be now ventured to withhold payment from Assyria. Shalmaneser had begun, and Sargon had just terminated, the siege of Samaria (Isa_20:1; Isa_20:4; Isa_20:6; 2Ki_17:6; 2Ki_17:24; 2Ki_18:7; 2Ki_18:7; 2Ki_18:9-10 "THEY took it," 11). Sargon moreover removed some of the Israelites to "the cities of the Medes"; the Scripture herein being confirmed by Assyrian monuments which mention his seizing and annexing several Median cities, to which Assyrian policy would of course transplant distant colonists. Light years subsequent to Samaria's fall, in Hezekiah's fourteenth year, Sennacherib, in the third year of his reign according to Assyrian records, undertook his first expedition against Judah. In the interval between Samaria's fall and this invasion Tyre's gallant resistance under their king Elulaeus had forced the Assyrians to retire after a five years' siege.

Hezekiah had used this interval to "stop the waters of the fountains without the city, stopping the upper watercourse (rather 'spring head') of Gihon (i.e. the spring source of the Kedron stream, Nachal being the valley E. of the city, Ge the valley W. and S. of the city), and bringing it straight down to the W. side of the city of David" (i.e into the valley separating mount Moriah and Zion from the upper city (2Ch_32:3-4; 2Ch_32:13; 2Ch_32:30): Zion must therefore have lain on the N. not on the S.W. of the city, so that the water brought to the W. of it should be inside not outside the city); also building up the broken wall (using the materials of the houses which they broke down for the purpose), and raising it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repairing Millo in the city of David, and making darts and shields in abundance. Hezekiah also "gathered together the waters of the lower pool," i.e. brought into the city by subterranean passages in Zion rock the waters from the fountain which supplied the lower pool (Isa_22:9-11; Isa_7:3; 2Ki_20:20).

"He also made a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool," i.e. the lower pool's water he diverted to a new tank in the city between the two walls. His words too cheered the hearts of his captains and people, being the language of faith: "there be more with us than with him; with him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to fight our battles." So "the people rested themselves upon his words." (See JERUSALEM.) Sennacherib undertook two expeditions against Judah. In the first he took all Judah's fenced cities, and Hezekiah sent saying, "I have offended; return from me, that which thou puttest upon me I will bear"; and "the king of Assyria appointed 300 talents of silver, and 30 talents of gold."

The monuments confirm this Scripture statement: "because Hezekiah king of Judah would not submit, I took 46 of his strong fenced cities ... and from these, as spoil, 200,150 people, with horses, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates .... Then Hezekiah sent out to me the chiefs with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver ... by way of tribute." The patriotism of the Hebrew historian (2 Kings 18) suppresses the ravages, advance on the capital, and the siege; but Isaiah (2Ki_10:28-32; 2Ki_22:1-14; 2Ki_22:2 Kings 24; 2 Kings 29) more vividly than even Sennacherib's annalist, notices all. In the main facts there is a singular agreement between the sacred and the secular records, the variation in the number of talents of silver being probably due to the Hebrew recording the number appointed as permanent tribute, the Assyrian the whole that was actually carried off. The inscriptions record that Ekron had submitted to Hezekiah and delivered their king Padi up to him because of his adherence to Assyria.

Sennacherib recovered Padi from Jerusalem and seated him again on the throne. Hezekiah's sickness must have occurred just before Sennacherib's expedition, for God assures him (Isa_38:6), "I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city," in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign. Moreover, 15 years was the addition promised by God to his life, which added to the 14 years would give 29 years, the actual number of years in all that he reigned. His sickness was owing to an inflammatory carbuncle and abscess. Having then no heir, he shrank from death with a fear scarcely worthy of a believer. God granted his earnest prayer; "afore Isaiah had gone out into the middle court the word of the Lord came to him," i.e. when he had just left Hezekiah and Hezekiah was in the act of praying, after having heard God's message, "thou shalt die."

God hears while His children are yet speaking (Isa_65:24; Psa_32:5; Dan_9:21). Our wishes, when gratified, often prove curses. Three years afterward Hezekiah had a son, Manasseh, the chief cause of God's wrath against Judah and of the overthrow of the kingdom (2Ki_23:26-27). God gave Hezekiah as a sign of recovery the recession of the shadow ten degrees on Ahaz's (See DIAL, an obelisk in the midst of the court, the shadow of which could be seen by Hezekiah from his sick chamber, falling on the successive steps ascending to his palace. Hezekiah composed a thanksgiving hymn for his, recovery, based on the psalms of David, which he had restored to liturgical use in the temple. The beginning rests on Psa_102:2, the first half of verse 11 on Psa_27:13 (chedel), "the world" or age soon ceasing, is from chaadal "to cease"; usually written cheled, this transitory world, Psa_49:1); verse 18 on Psa_6:5; Psa_30:9; the beginning of verse 20 on Psa_70:1. (See HEPHZIBAH.)

Hezekiah did not disbelieve in a future state, but regarded the disembodied state as one wherein men cannot declare the praises of God before men, it is as to this world an unseen land of stillness, the living alone can praise God on earth. That the true view was at the time held of the blessedness of the sleeping saints Isa_57:1-2 proves. A cake of figs was the instrument used for the cure; God can make effectual the simplest means. Sennacherib's object in his second expedition was Egypt, Hezekiah's ally. Hence with the great body of his army he advanced toward Egypt by S.W. Palestine, and did not himself approach Jerusalem; this was two years after the former invasion. The Assyrian annals are silent as to Sennacherib's second expedition in the fifth year of his reign, which began by his "treacherously" (Isa_33:1) attacking Lachish, and which ended in the destruction recorded in 2Ki_19:35; for, unlike the faithful Jewish historians, they never record any of their monarch's disasters. (See LACHISH.)

But the disaster is tacitly deducible in the Assyrian records from the discontinuance subsequently of expeditions by Sennacherib westward further than Cilicia. The Assyrians did not resume aggression upon southern Syria and Egypt until the close of Esarhaddon's reign. Moreover the Egyptian priests told Herodotus, from their records, that, a century and a half before Cambyses, Sennacherib led a host of Assyrians and Arabs to the Egyptian border where king Sethos met them near Pelusium on the E. of the Nile; and that swarms of field mice ate the Assyrians' quivers, bowstrings, and shield thongs in the night, so in the morning, they fled, and multitudes fell, having no arms to defend themselves. Sethos erected a monument, a man in stone with a mouse in his hand, and the inscription, "Look on me and learn to reverence the gods." The mouse symbolized ruin (1Sa_6:4-5); the story arose out of this symbolical statue, not the statue out of the literal story.

Sennacherib, according to Assyrian inscriptions, which mention the 22nd year of his reign, lived about 17 years after the invasion and was slain by his two sons. Isaiah, while disapproving of trust in Egypt, regarded the voluntarily offered aid of the tall and warlike Ethiopians as providential (Isa_18:1-2; Isa_18:7). "Ho (not Woe!) to the land of the winged bark," or else "to the land of the clanging sound of wings" (i.e. armies). To Ethiopia Isaiah announces the overthrow of Sennacherib the common foe, and desires the Ethiopian ambassadors, then at Jerusalem, to carry the tidings to their people. See TIRHAKAH'S coming forth to encounter Sennacherib created a diversion in favor of Judaea. In the former invasion Sennacherib in his first, expedition inflicted a decisive blow on the united forces of Egypt and Ethiopia at Altagu (possibly the Eltekon of Jos_15:59); but now he was forced to raise the siege of Pelusium by Tirhakah, and send an imperious letter to Hezekiah by Rabshakeh, whose sneers at his religious reforms in removing the high places (2Ki_18:22-32) and flattering promises in fluent Hebrew to the people favor the idea that he was a renegade Jew.

Hezekiah's simple childlike faith appears in his spreading the foe's insolent, letter before the Lord. His faith received an immediate answer of peace; 185,000 were slain by the angel of the Lord in the "night," perhaps by "the plague that, walketh in darkness" (2Ki_19:35, with which Isa_37:36 undesignedly accords, "when they arose early in the morning".) In this second expedition, according to Jehovah's word, Sennacherib did not "come before the city with shields, nor cast a bank against it" (Isa_37:33); whereas in the first he shut Hezekiah up as a "bird in a cage" also "raising banks of earth against the gates." It is possible Rabshakeh took the army with him from Jerusalem to Libnah on the borders of Egypt (ver. 8), and that the destruction occurred there, which accords with the Egyptian story to Herodotus above; the Lord's words "he shall not shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields" seem corrupted into the Egyptian legend of the mice gnawing the bowstrings and shield straps.

In Sennacherib's account of his wars with Hezekiah, inscribed with cuneiform characters in the hall of the palace of Koyunjik built by him (140 ft. long by 120 ft. wide), wherein the Jewish physiognomy of the captives is discernible, after mentioning the capture of the 200,150 Jews he adds, "then I prayed unto God," the only instance of God's name in an inscription without a pagan adjunct. On returning to Nineveh Sennacherib, according to Tob_1:18, revenged himself on the Jews then in his power; but that apocryphal book makes him die 55 days afterward, whereas 17 years elapsed: see above. In Isaiah 39, an embassy from Merodach Baladan to Hezekiah is recorded. He congratulated Hezekiah on his recovery, and sent also a present. About this time precisely it was that Babylon had revolted from Assyria, and set up an independent kingdom. Scripture calls him "king of Babylon," though both before and after him Babylon was subject to Assyria.

This is an undesigned coincidence of Scripture with secular history, confirming the truth of the former. The Assyrian inscriptions say he reigned twice, and that Sennacherib in his first year expelled him and set up Belib in his stead. Probably he recovered the Babylonian kingdom when Sennacherib was weakened by his disaster in Judea, and sent the embassy not merely to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery but mainly to court Hezekiah's alliance, as having like himself cast off the Assyrian yoke. Hence arose Hezekiah's excessive attention to his ambassadors. But how had Hezekiah such a store of precious things? Either the transaction was before Hezekiah's straits when he had to cut off the gold from the doors and pillars of the temple, to give to the Assyrian king. (Then Merodach Baladan's embassy would be during his earlier reign at Babylon, in Sargon's time, 713 B.C.; whereas his second reign fell in 703 B.C., five or six years before the date of Hezekiah's death (these dates are deduced from the Assyrian records, if they be trustworthy).

The chronology favors the view that Hezekiah's sickness and Merodach Baindan's embassy were some years before Sennacherib, in the first reign of Merodach Baladan). Or the more probable (though the dates cause difficulty) explanation is in 2Ch_32:22-23; "thus the Lord saved Hezekiah from Sennacherib .... And many brought gifts unto the Lord (doubtless impressed with His great majesty and power in the miraculous destruction of the Assyrians) to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah; so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth." The spoils of the Assyrian army left in panic, as on a different occasion (2Ki_7:15), would add to Hezekiah's wealth.

The sending of the embassy so long after his recovery is accounted for by Babylon being then regarded in respect to Judah as "a far country" (Isa_39:3), also by the impossibility of sending sooner during Sennacherib's invasion; moreover another object of the princes of Babylon, which was famed for astronomy, was "to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land" (2Ch_32:25-26; 2Ch_32:31), i.e. the recession of the shadow on Ahaz's dial. Hezekiah was "glad"; it was not the act but the ostentatious spirit, and the unbelief tempting him to rest on Babylon, proud of its alliance, instead of on Jehovah, which called forth God's retributive threat that Babylon, the instrument of his and Judah's sin, should be the instrument of their punishment (Isa_39:5-7); fulfilled 120 years afterward. Ingratitude to God, and pride, were his fault in this affair; "Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him, for his heart was lifted up," "God leaving him to try him, that He might kow all that was in his heart" (Deu_8:2).

But when the believer's foot slides, it slides the deeper into humility. First, Hezekiah frankly confessed "all"; unlike Saul and Asa, submitting to God's servant though his subject (Isa_39:4; 2Ch_16:7-10; 1Sa_15:20-21), and "humbling himself for the pride of his heart," and "accepting the punishment of his iniquity" (Lev_26:41) meekly, and even finding cause for thanksgiving in the mitigating fact foretold by implication, "there shall be peace and truth in my days." Not the language of mere selfishness, but of one feeling that the national corruption must at last lead to the threatened judgment, and thanking God for the stroke being deferred yet for a time. The prophecy of the carrying away to Babylon, in the form of a rebuke, forms the connecting link between the former portion of Isaiah's prophecies (Isaiah 1-39), which relate to the deliverance from Assyria, and the latter (Isaiah 40-66) as to the deliverance from Babylon, more than a century and a half later. Psalm 46 and Psalm 76 commemorate Sennacherib's overthrow.

Two coincidences in Psalm 46 occur: "the city of God" (verse 4) is that wherein" God is in the midst," so that "she shall not be moved," just as history states that the mother city Jerusalem alone escaped, whereas "all the defensed cities of Judah" fell before Sennacherib (Isa_36:1); also in verse 10, "Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted in the earth," is God's reply to Hezekiah's prayer, "O Lord our God save us, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the Lord" (Isa_37:20). Also verse 5," God shall help her ... right early," Hebrew at the turning of the morning (Psa_30:5 ff). On the previous night the cause of the city of God seemed desperate and the Assyrian triumphant, but "when they (the Jews) arose early in the morning, behold they (the Assyrians) were all dead corpses" (Isa_37:36). In Isa_37:8-10 Sennacherib's overthrow is made the earnest of the final cessation of wars throughout the earth under the Prince of Peace, after He shall have made "desolations" of the adversary.

Psa_76:3, "there broke He the arrows of the bow ... shield ... sword ... battle," implies that by one stroke at Jerusalem (which opposes the view that Libnah was the scene of the Assyrian overthrow) God ended completely the war. Psa_76:6; Psa_76:8 imply that it was by Jehovah's direct interposition. The "death sleep" of the host at God's rebuke is described vividly (Psa_76:5-6), the camp so recently full of life now lying still as death. "The stout hearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep .... At Thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep." God's "cutting off the breath (spirit) of princes" (Psa_76:12) implies probably that Rabshakeh and other leaders fell on the same night. "Let all that be round about Him bring presents unto Him that ought to be feared" (Psa_76:11) accords with the fact recorded 2Ch_32:22-23.

The assurance of God's help in Psalm 75 accords with Isa_37:21-35; also the omission of the N. among the quarters from from whence help is expected accords with the Assyrian attack being from the N. Hezekiah died in his 56th year after a 29 years' reign, 697 B.C. He was buried "in the chiefest (or highest) of the sepulchres of the sons of David, and all Judah and Jerusalem did him honour at his death" (Pro_10:7). His "acts and goodness were written in the vision of Isaiah ... and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel" (2Ch_32:32-33). A fitting accompaniment of the religious reformation he wrought was his setting" the men of Hezekiah" (Isaiah, Micah, Joah, etc.) to "copy out" some of the 3,000 proverbs which Solomon spoke 300 years before: thus he brought forth the word of God from its obscurity (1Ki_4:32; Ecc_12:9; Pro_25:1).

2. Son of Neariah, of Judah (1Ch_3:23; Zep_1:1).


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)