HEZEKIAH (Heb. חִזְקִיָּהוּ ,חִזְקִיָּה; "YHWH is [my] strength," shortened form of יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ; in cuneiform transcription Ḫazaqiau, "yhwh is strong"), son of Ahaz, king of Judah (ii Kings 18–20; ii Chron. 29–32). Hezekiah reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem. According to ii Kings 18:9–10, Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians in the sixth year of his reign (722/1 b.c.e.). This would imply that Hezekiah ascended the throne in 727/6 b.c.e. This seems to be confirmed by Isaiah 14:28ff. The rod of him who smote Philistia (ibid.) was hardly *Ahaz, who (even if one discounts ii Chron. 28:18f.) barely managed to save his kingdom with the help of Assyria but surely *Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria who invaded Philistia repeatedly and made it tributary. The manner of dating the prophecy in Isaiah 14:28 would seem to be due to the circumstance that Ahaz, like Tiglath-Pileser, died in 727/6. According to ii Kings 18:13, however, the campaign of *Sennacherib (701 b.c.e.) took place in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign which would place the beginning of Hezekiah's reign in 715/4 b.c.e. (i.e., after the destruction of Samaria); and this dating also has adherents among modern Bible scholars.
In ii Kings 18:3–4 stress is laid on the purgation of the cult by Hezekiah. The purge included the removal of cultic objects with a long history in Judah, such as the "high places," the pillars, the Asherah cult pole, and the *copper serpent whose creation was attributed to Moses in the desert (Num. 21:5–9). In ii Chronicles 29–32, the emphasis is placed on the renewal of the cult and the return to the service of God as in the days of David and Solomon (ii Chron. 28:24; 29:3). In the Books of Kings and Chronicles, a personal and religious reason for this reform is given. The changes stemmed from the will of the king, who was pious and did that which was upright in the eyes of God, more than any other king who reigned before him (ii Kings 18:3, 5–6; ii Chron. 31:20–21). It seems that there were also some political aspects to this religious reform. Hezekiah abolished the cult of the high places, which had always been practiced in Jerusalem and the provincial towns, and concentrated the religious activity in the Temple of Jerusalem (ii Kings 18:22). It was his intention to raise the Jerusalem Temple to the status of the only legitimate cult place. He would thus strengthen the ties between the people of Judah and the dynasty of David, which reigned in Jerusalem. Moreover, if there is any historical basis to the account in ii Chronicles 30:1–10, Hezekiah sent letters to Ephraim and Manasseh inviting them to the Temple in Jerusalem in order to sacrifice the Paschal Lamb. The object of this invitation to the "remnants" living outside Judah to come to Jerusalem for Passover was to intensify the consciousness of the national unity of the Israelite tribes as a first step in the territorial and political restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon. The national awakening that became apparent in Judah during this period was also expressed in literary activities (Prov. 25:1; see *Deuteronomy; *Hosea). Hezekiah probably introduced the seals on the handles of jars that were intended for storing state provisions in time of siege. The state of Judah was divided for that purpose into four defensive zones each comprising several walled towns. The four names of the jars represent the key cities of the above-mentioned zones: Mmšt-Negev, Socoth-Shephelah, Hebron-Hills, Ziph-Wilderness.
These activities were doubtless closely associated with the activities of Hezekiah in other fields, such as the war against the Philistines. Hezekiah penetrated into Philistia and reached the frontier of the state of Gaza. The activities of Hezekiah on the southwestern border of Judah are echoed in i Chronicles 4:34–43 (the version of the lxx, Gerar, is preferable to that of the traditional text Gedor) and according to Sennacherib's prism (in Pritchard, Texts, 287; cos ii, 302–3) the inhabitants of Ekron delivered their king, Padi, into the hands of Hezekiah. It can be logically assumed that these conquests were closely connected with Hezekiah's rebellion against Sennacherib in 701 b.c.e. (ii Kings 18:7, 13–37; ii Chron. 32; Isa. 36–37; Pritchard, ibid). This rebellion was a result of Hezekiah's policy for the expansion of his territory and his ambition to achieve absolute political independence. Hezekiah made preparations for the decisive struggle with Assyria by strengthening his forces and defenses internally and by making alliances against Assyria. He assured the supply of water to Jerusalem by closing off the outlet of the Gihon spring, which was outside the walls of Jerusalem, and diverting the spring waters by means of a tunnel to the pool of Siloam which was situated within the city walls (ii Kings 20:20; Isa. 22:9–11; ii Chron. 32:30). There is epigraphic evidence for the construction of this tunnel in the *Siloam Inscription, which was engraved near the pool end of the tunnel. Hezekiah also took care to fortify the provincial towns. He built towns for the storage of grain, wine, and oil (ii Chron. 32:28–29), reorganized the army, and made many weapons (ii Chron. 32:5–6). The passage in i Chronicles 4:41, perhaps warrants the conclusion that a *census was taken during his reign in connection with the military preparations throughout Judah. In the year 712 Sargon ii sent his army on a military expedition against Ashdod. The connection of the prophetic narrative of Isaiah 20 with the Assyrian expedition is vouched for by the text and is not disputed. The Assyrian army crushed the Ashdod-led revolt at Azekah, which lay about 15 miles due east of Ashdod. How long after the fall of Azekah King Hezekiah remained defiant cannot be said. In any case the attack on, or the capture of, Azekah is the background of Isaiah 22:1–14. Hezekiah engaged in extensive diplomatic activity in order to ensure support and assistance from the outside. He contracted an alliance with Egypt (ii Kings 18:21; Isa. 36:6) in spite of the opposition of Isaiah (Isa. 30:2; 31:1). The ties between Hezekiah and *Merodach (Berodach)-Baladan, the Chaldean (ii Kings 20; Isa. 39), an old enemy of Assyria, are of special importance. This appears to be the background of the visit of the messengers of Merodach-Baladan to Jerusalem (ii Kings 20:12–21; Isa. 39; ii Chron. 32:31). It also appears that Hezekiah was the ally of Luli, king of *Sidon, and Ṣidqā, king of Ashkelon, who fought against Sennacherib during his campaign of 701 b.c.e. Concerning the campaign itself, there is much information available from the Bible, Assyrian documents, Greek authors of the Persian and Hellenistic periods, and archaeological findings. Even so, the exact progress of the campaign has not been clarified. The general lines of the campaign are as follows: Sennacherib first fought Luli, the king of Sidon. Luli fled, while Sidon and her other towns surrendered. In mainland Tyre various kings of Phoenicia and Palestine accepted Sennacherib's rule and paid their tribute to him. Sennacherib advanced along the coast to Philistia, conquered the northern lowland towns which were under the dominion of Ashkelon, and took King Ṣidqā of Ashkelon himself as captive. On his way southward he defeated the Egyptian army at Eltekeh. He then conquered Ekron and penalized the rebels who had surrendered Padi their king to Hezekiah. From Ekron he pushed on into the territory of Judah. Sennacherib relates that he conquered the 46 fortified cities of Judah from Hezekiah, as well as innumerable smaller cities (cf. ii Kings 18:13; Isa. 36:1).
On one of Sennacherib's reliefs there is a detailed description of the conquest by the Assyrian army of the town of Lachish and the deportation of its inhabitants. According to the annals of Sennacherib, 200,150 captives were deported from Judah. Sennacherib also relates that he besieged Jerusalem and distributed the other towns among the kings of Philistia, thus diminishing the size of Hezekiah's kingdom. Hezekiah surrendered to release Padi, whom Sennacherib reinstated as king of Ekron, and paid a heavy tribute which included 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, and precious stones (cf. ii Kings 18:14). Of all the discrepancies between the various sources dealing with the details of the campaign, the most outstanding contradiction lies in the conflicting descriptions of the biblical and Assyrian sources as to the end of the campaign. The biblical accounts come from multiple contradictory sources. According to ii Kings 18:13–16 (see below) Hezekiah capitulated. According to ii Kings 19:20–31 (= Isa. 37:22–32) Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah and the people to ignore the words of the *Rabshakeh, whom Sennacherib dispatched with an army from Lachish to Jerusalem to demand unconditional surrender. On this same account the campaign ended when a catastrophic plague on the Assyrian camp wiped out the invaders and Sennacherib hurried back to his country (ii Kings 19:35; Isa. 37:36; ii Chron. 32:21). According to the Assyrian version, however, the campaign ended in an Assyrian victory.
Various suggestions are put forward by scholars. According to one, the biblical story and the Assyrian description deal with different stages of a single campaign which took place in 701 b.c.e. The first stage ended with the seizure of the cities of Judah, the capitulation of Hezekiah, and the sending of the tribute to Assyria (Pritchard, Texts, 287–8; cos ii, 302–3; ii Kings 18:13–16). The second stage which ended in disaster for Assyria is mentioned only in the Bible (ii Kings 18:17ff.), while the Assyrian version, for obvious reasons, passes over it in silence. According to another suggestion, which is even less likely, the biblical story combined two different campaigns which took place at different dates. The first campaign, which took place in 701 b.c.e., ended with the submission of Hezekiah (as in the Assyrian source and cf. ii Kings 18:13–16), while the second campaign was waged after 689 b.c.e., a period on which there is no information in the Assyrian sources. Some scholars find echoes of the second campaign in Herodotus (History, 2:141), where a defeat of Sennacherib at the gates of Egypt is reported. The most likely solution is that Hezekiah paid tribute (ii Kings 13:16) and that Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem after a brief campaign. The fact that Jerusalem was not conquered and that Hezekiah remained on the throne, and possibly soon expanded his territory as an Assyrian vassal, led Isaiah (ii Kings 19:32–34; = Isa. 37:33–35) and doubtless some of his contemporaries to see here the hand of God. The annals of Sennacherib do not claim that Jerusalem was captured. They only mention that Hezekiah sent his submission tribute to the king of Assyria in Nineveh. It appears that for some reason Sennacherib hurried back to his country and received the tribute in Nineveh. In the course of time the departure of Sennacherib was attributed to a miracle. The fact that Sennacherib was in fact assassinated by his own sons (ii Kings 18:37), albeit 20 years later, provided further proof of divine deliverance.
[Bustanay Oded /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
In the Aggadah
Hezekiah is idealized in the aggadah. He is regarded as completely righteous, modest in his demands (Sanh. 94b), devoted to the study of Torah (Song R. 4:8), and "strengthening the bonds between Israel toward its Father in Heaven." Through his efforts knowledge of Torah was universal so that "they searched from Dan to Beersheba and no ignoramus was found; from Gabbath to Antipatris and no boy or girl, man or woman was found who was not thoroughly versed in the laws of cleanness and uncleanness" (Sanh. 94b). When he died, they placed a Scroll of the Law upon his coffin, saying "This one has fulfilled all that is written in this" (bk 17a). He was rewarded for his righteousness, God himself fighting on his side (Lam. R. Proem 30). God wished to appoint Hezekiah as the Messiah, and Sennacherib as Gog and Magog, but the Attribute of Justice protested that David had been more entitled to this, and the proposal was abandoned. With his death, the merit of the patriarchs came to an end. Hezekiah did six things of his own accord. The first three the rabbis approved, the others they did not. He hid away a "Book of Cures," broke into pieces the brazen serpent, and dragged the bones of his father (to the grave) on a bier of ropes. He stopped up the waters of Gihon, removed (the gold from) the doors of the Temple and sent it to the king of Assyria, and intercalated a second month of Nisan (Ber. 10b). A baraita states that "Hezekiah and his school wrote the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes" (bb 15a).
[Yehoshua M. Grintz]
In the Arts
Two of the earliest literary works on this subject, both titled Ezechias, were dramas by the German Protestant Sixtus Birck (1538) and the English author Nicholas Udall. The latter's play was staged in 1564 before Queen Elizabeth i in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, but has not survived. In the 18th century there was an anonymous Russian Drama o Yezekiye, tsare Izrailskom written during the reign of Peter the Great; and three English plays: Hezekiah, one of Hannah More's Sacred Dramas (1782), W.A. Wright's Hezekiah, King of Judah … (1798), and William Allen's Hezekiah, King of Judah; or, Invasion repulsed, and Peace restored (1798), the last of which was marked by contemporary political allusions. The miraculous defeat of the Assyrian host was commemorated in Lord *Byron's poem "Sennacherib" (Hebrew Melodies, 1815); and the era of invasion described in W.H. Goss's novel Hebrew Captives of the Kings of Assyria (1890) and Joseph *David (Penker)'s Marathi drama The Assyrian Captive (1922). Later works on the theme include Naḥman Isaac *Fischman's five-act Hebrew drama Kesher Shevna (1870), which dealt with Hezekiah's alien major-domo, Shebna, who was censured by the prophet Isaiah. Four interpretations of the subject in the 20th century were John W. Harding's romance The Gate of the Kiss (1902); a short story by Arnold *Zweig (1910); William Henry Temple Gairdner's King Hezekiah; a tragical drama (1923); and Walter Gutkelch's German play, Der grosse Mut des Hiskia (1954).
In art the main subject treated is the miraculous prolongation of Hezekiah's life (Isa. 38:1–8). The eighth-century fresco at Santa Maria Antica, Rome, shows the prophet Isaiah standing at the bedside of the sick king, as does a miniature of the same period from the Christian Typography of Cosmas Indicopleustes (Vatican Library). In a 10th-century Greek psalter (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) Hezekiah is shown giving thanks to God. He also appears in two 11th-century Catalan Bibles; on a fresco in a former monastery in Cologne (Romanesque, 12th century); and in a 13th-century statue by Benedetto Antelami in the cathedral of S. Donnino, Borgo. There is a representation of the king by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.
The prayer of Hezekiah (Isa. 38) is included among the cantica of the Roman Catholic liturgy, and as Canticum Ezechié it figures in the Lauds of the Office for the Defunct; it is sung to a simple psalmodic formula. Hezekiah's illness and recovery provide the main theme of oratorios and cantatas on the subject, such as G. Carissimi's 17th-century Ezechia (oratorio, in the "Historia" form) and G.B. Bononcini's Ezechia (oratorio, 1737). A descriptive piece for keyboard instrument, "Der todtkranke und wieder gesunde Hiskias," was composed by G. Ph. Telemann as no. 4 of his Biblische Sonaten (1700). The prayer, and its introductory verses, form the subject of Ernst Kenek's motet for women's voices and piano, Aegrostate Ezechias (1945). A modern setting of the Hebrew text was written by the Israeli composer Abel *Ehrlich(Mikhtam le-Ḥizkiyyahu).
Bright, Hist, 261–87; Noth, Hist Isr, 264–70; J. Gray, A History of Israel (1960), 261–71, 282–7; Pritchard, Texts, 287–8; Albright, in: basor, 130 (1953), 8–11; Weinfeld, in: jnes, 23 (1964), 202–12; Ginsberg, in: A. Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 247–69; Thiele, in: VT, 16 (1966), 83–107; Maisler (Mazar), in: Eretz Israel, 2 (1953), 170–5. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index. add. bibliography: N. Na'aman, in: basor, 261:5–21; M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, ii Kings (1988), 215–63; A. Tushingham, in: basor, 287 (1992), 61–6; J. Rosenbaum, in: abd, 3:189–93; L. Handy, in: abd, 6:1117; A. Rainey, in: M. Coogan et al., Scripture and Other Artifacts… Essays… P. King (1994), 333–54; O. Borowski, in: ba, 58 (1995), 48–55; R. Hendel, in: ddd, 615–16.