Hezekiah against the Assyrians (Isaiah 36)

Image result for biblical hezekiah

Illustration: The prayer of Hezekiah for deliverance from Sennacherib

After a lengthy coregency with his father, Ahaz, Hezekiah ascended to the throne of Judah in 715 B.C., six years after the northern kingdom had fallen to Sargon II of Assyria. He promptly restored the long neglected temple and invited the remnant of the northern tribes to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. In the beginning of his reign Hezekiah remained a loyal subject of the Assyrian king, refusing to revolt when the Philistine states did so in 711 B.C. However, when Sargon died in battle in 705 B.C., the transfer of power to his successor, along with internal pressures from the Assyrian heartland, occasioned many of Assyria’s vassals, including king Hezekiah, to attempt to regain their independence. Sennacherib ascended to the Assyrian throne facing rebellion on all dises.

In 701 B.C. Sennacherib laid siege to Lachish, which guarded access to Jerusalem and its rebellious king. Hezekiah paid a heavy tribute at this time and released Padi, the pro-Assyrian king of Ekron, from prison in Jerusalem, while Sennacherib gave some cities of western Judah to loyal Philistine kings. Nevertheless Sennacherib sent forces to besiege Jerusalem, demoralize its people and try to persuade them to hand over their king (2 Kings 18:19-35, 2 Chronicles 32:10-19, Isaiah 36:4-20). The prophet Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah by prophesying the deliverance of Jerusalem and the return of Sennacherib to his own land. The angel of the Lord entered the Assyrian camp, slaying 185,000 soldiers. Sennacherib’s own record boasts that he had shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird but does not explain how the siege ended. Sennacherib did in fact return to Nineveh, where he was later assassinated by two o his sons.

Differences in the Biblical and Assyrian accounts of Sennacherib’s dealings with Hezekiah have led many scholars to posit the theory that Sennacherob led two campaigns against Jerusalem; one in 701 B.C. and the other sometime between 688 and 681 B.C. According to this proposed reconstruction of events, the first siege of Jerusalem would have ended when Hezekiah sent tribute to Nineveh (2 Kings 18:14-16). Later, Hezekiah may have withheld tribute and relied upon Egypt as an ally powerful enough to resist Assyria. This may have roused Sennacherib to a second siege of Jerusalem, which ended when the Lord decimate the Assyrian army overnight.

Regardless of whether we accept the theory of one Assyrian campaign against Jerusalem or two, it is certain that Hezekiah went to great lengths to prepare and fortify his nation for the onslaught:

  • He protected Jerusalem’s water supply, chaneling the Gihon spring through the city and building a wall and additional towers to prevent access to the spring from without (2 Chronicles 32:5, cf. the reference to the two walls in Isaiah 22:11).
  • What is known as the Broad Wall was added to the western hill of Jerusalem, and an outer wall was added to the eastern side of the city, expanding Jerusalem’s area fourfold to accommodate refugees from northern Israel and western Judah.
  • Hezekiah stopped up water sources in outlaying areas, fortified many Judahite cities and manufactured armaments.
  • Hezekiah’s efforts to safeguard Jerusalem against prolonged sieges may be evidenced by the countless jars discovered throughout ancient Judah. These large jars, bearing the Hebrew letters lmlk (“Belonged to the king”) and dating to the time of Hezekiah, suggest that he was preparing and equipping storehouses of food and supplies throughout the land.

Although Sennacherib inflicted dire casualties upon Judah, the Lord delivered the city from the hand of the Assyrian monarch. God’s protection, along with Hezekiah’s preparations for war, proved successful against a fearsome foe.


%d bloggers like this: