KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“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 18:5)
The importance of the account of Hezekiah’s reign as king of Judah is evidenced by its nearly identical mention in three separate places: 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, and Isaiah 36-39. Some scholars suggest that the relationship of Hezekiah with the Prophet Isaiah is the reason for this extensive history. While the Books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings record the history of the rulers of Israel and Judah from its inception through the Babylonian exile, they are much more than history alone. The account conveys spiritual and moral truths to the reader through the vehicle of objective political history. Specific kings are evaluated by a simple moral code — they either did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, or they did evil in His sight.
Hezekiah began to reign in Judah as co-regent with his father Ahaz at the age of twenty-five, around 729 B.C., and he reigned for twenty-nine years. He was identified as a good king, and took steps to eliminate idolatry in his kingdom, destroying altars, idols, and pagan temples. He cleaned out and restored the Temple in Jerusalem, and reinstated observance of the Passover.
His administration was, however, vexed with the pressures of politics. The neighboring Northern Kingdom (Israel) was conquered by Assyria during his reign and Hezekiah broke the treaty his father had forged with the Assyrians. Hezekiah attempted to bribe the Assyrian King Sennacherib, possibly in an attempt to avoid what was later to become an invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem.
There is also some evidence that Hezekiah made an attempt to secure a political alliance with Egypt in order to thwart the Assyrian invasion. In “The Annals of Sennacherib,” a translation of the historical record written by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib claims to have destroyed in Judah “forty-six of his [Hezekiah’s] strong, walled cities, as well as the small towns in their area which were without number.” His description of Hezekiah is, “Like a caged bird shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city.”(1) While this account does not acknowledge God’s miraculous deliverance, it does verify that Sennacherib was unable to conquer Jerusalem. Hezekiah agreed to pay a tribute (2 Kings 18:14), yet, Sennacherib treacherously invaded Judah again — a move which resulted in the divine destruction of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Sennacherib retreated to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, and was later assassinated by his own sons.
Most Bible scholars agree that the 2 Kings 20 account of Hezekiah’s sickness and his reception of Babylonian diplomats actually took place prior to the Assyrian invasion. The shift in chronology matches that found in Isaiah, and possibly was used there for literary reasons and then was followed in 2 Kings.
There are several lessons to be learned from King Hezekiah’s life history. When a crisis appears, we need to humbly “spread it before the Lord” and ask Him to undertake for us. Our lives are on God’s timetable and we should “set our houses in order” to be ready either for death or for the coming of the Lord. We are each entrusted with precious things from the Lord and we must be careful to guard them so we can not only finish well personally, but also pass the precious things on to those who follow us.
1. D.D. Luckenbill, “The Annals of Sennacherib,” University of Chicago Press, 1924.