What does the Bible tell us about Hezekiah?
Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, became king over Judah at the age of twenty-five and reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem (2 Kings 16:20 and 18:1-2). His mother’s name was Abi (Abijah in 2 Chronicles 29:1) the daughter of Zechariah (2 Kings 18:2). Although his father Ahaz was an absolutely wicked monarch (2 Kings 16:2-4), Hezekiah “did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done” (2 Kings 18:3 and 2 Chronicles 29:2). Some scholars credit his mother as the godly influence in his life. Her name as given in Kings (Abi) means “my father,” and as given in Chronicles (Abijah) means “my father is the Lord.”
What did Hezekiah do that others kings did not do?
Hezekiah “removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah” (2 Kings 18:4 and see also 2 Chronicles 31:1). To understand the significance of this accomplishment, it is helpful to review the tolerance for and failure on the part of the kings of Judah (beginning with Rehoboam) to remove the high places.
King Solomon: The high places were used during the reign of Solomon. 1 Kings 3:2 records, “The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days.” Even Solomon “sacrificed and burned incense on the high places” (2 Kings 3:3). Ironically, while Solomon built the house of the Lord (1 Kings 6:1-2), he also “built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab … and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” (1 Kings 11:7-8).
King Rehoboam: Even Solomon’s son Rehoboam allowed the people of Judah to build “for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim” (1 Kings 14:23).
King Abijam: Rehoboam’s son Abijam “walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him” (1 Kings 15:3), which included a tolerance of the high places.
King Asa: Abijam’s son Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord and instituted many good reforms, “but the high places were not taken away” (1 Kings 15:14).
King Jehoshaphat: Asa’s son Jehoshaphat also did what was right in the sight of the Lord, “however, the high places were not taken away” (1 Kings 22:43).
King Jehoram: Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram did nothing to remove the high places. He married Ahab’s daughter and did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 8).
King Ahaziah: Jehoram’s son Ahaziah also did evil in the sight of the Lord and did nothing to remove the high places (2 Kings 8).
Queen Athaliah: Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah usurped the throne when she heard of his death and perpetrated her evil agenda for six years.
King Joash: Ahaziah’s son Joash, rescued from Athaliah’s murderous purge, did right in the sight of the Lord (for a period of time), “only the high places were not taken away” (2 Kings 12:3).
King Amaziah: Joash’s son Amaziah also did what was right in the sight of the Lord, “only the high places were not taken away” (2 Kings 14:4).
King Azariah (Uzziah): Amaziah’s son Uzziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord as his father had done, “only the high places were not taken away” (2 Kings 15:4).
King Jotham: Uzziah’s son Jotham also did what was right in the sight of the Lord, “only the high places were not taken away” (2 Kings 15:35).
King Ahaz: Jotham’s son Ahaz was a thoroughly wicked monarch who “sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree” (2 Kings 16:4).
King Hezekiah: Hezekiah, the son of the wicked King Ahaz, finally did what no other king before him had done — he “removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah” (2 Kings 18:4 and see also 2 Chronicles 31:1). One can only speculate regarding how different Judah’s history might have been had the high places been removed generations before Hezekiah.
What did Hezekiah destroy in addition to the high places?
Hezekiah “also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4). The term “Nehushtan” means “a brass thing,” or contemptuously, “only a piece of brass.” This relic with an interesting history (see Numbers 21:4-9) had become an object of worship and veneration, and as such, an idol. Hezekiah destroyed it rather than allow it to continue distracting the people from the proper worship of God.
Practical Consideration: We should not tolerate anything that cools our love for God.
For generations the kings of Judah had either tolerated the high places or stopped short of removing them as they initiated their respective reforms. As a result, the succeeding generation was distracted from a proper worship of God. Hezekiah finally led the nation of Judah to remove the high places and return to a proper worship of God. He also destroyed the bronze serpent of Moses because it had become an object of worship and veneration to the people. We too, should not tolerate anything in our lives that keeps us from being rightly related to God. We should remove from our lives anything that threatens to cool or compromise our love for God.
What characterized the life of Hezekiah?
Hezekiah “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Kings 18:5). This immediately sets him apart from many of the kings of Judah who trusted in their political alliances, military strength, and idols rather than in the Lord. Hezekiah also “clung to the Lord” (2 Kings 18:6). This is a reference to Hezekiah’s loyalty to the Lord (see Joshua 23:6-8 for more on the matter of clinging to the Lord). This loyalty was evidenced in the fact that “he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:6).
Because of his close relationship with the Lord, the Scripture records that “the Lord was with him; and wherever he went he prospered” (2 Kings 18:7). His loyalty to the Lord motivated him to rebel against the Assyrians and to defeat the Philistines, nations that on many occasions, imposed their idolatrous worship on their neighbors and vassals (2 Kings 18:7-8).
What grim event did Hezekiah witness during his reign?
Hezekiah witnessed the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians. This event occurred during the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign and probably had a sobering impact on him.
What military crisis did Hezekiah face during his reign?
The Assyrians, under the leadership of Sennacherib (the son of Sargon II), invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign (701 B.C.). The Assyrians “came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them” (2 Kings 18:13). Hezekiah confessed to Sennacherib that he had done wrong in rebelling against Assyria (see 2 Kings 18:7) and agreed to pay tribute to Sennacherib in an effort to deter him from doing further damage to Judah. In order to meet the heavy tribute demanded by the Assyrians, Hezekiah exhausted the silver and gold in the treasuries of his own house and the house of the Lord and even stripped the gold that overlaid the doors and doorposts of the temple (2 Kings 18:14-16).
Practical Consideration: Trouble is no respecter of persons.
Even though Hezekiah was a man who trusted in and was loyal to God, he experienced personal trouble and problems. Trouble is no respecter of persons. God can however, use troubles to shape, mold and strengthen us. As someone noted, “Trouble is a divine factor in human life.”
Did Hezekiah’s payment of tribute deter the Assyrians?
Hezekiah’s payment of tribute did not deter the Assyrians from their determination to subjugate Judah. Sennacherib sent three of his top officials (2 Kings 18:17) to Judah in an effort to intimidate the people into surrendering. These top officials were the “Tartan” (a word which means field marshal or commander in chief), the “Rab-saris” (a word which means chief eunuch), and the “Rabshakeh” (a word which means chief cupbearer). A large army accompanied these officials (2 Kings 18:17).
Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, three of Hezekiah’s officials went out to meet them (2 Kings 2:18:18). The three Assyrian officials then proceeded to ridicule Hezekiah’s dependence upon the Lord and said that he would find no help from the Lord or even from a political alliance with Egypt (2 Kings 2:19-21 and 2 Chronicles 32:9-11). They suggested that Hezekiah erred in removing the high places and that they had been commissioned by God to destroy Judah (2 Kings 18:22 and 25 and 2 Chronicles 32:12).
To boast about their superiority, the Assyrians offered the Judeans two thousand horses if they thought they could muster up enough men to ride them (2 Kings 18:23-24). Rabshakeh told the assembled crowd that they were foolish to follow Hezekiah or to trust in the Lord (2 Kings 18:28-30 and 32b and see also 2 Chronicles 32:7-8). He told the crowd to not listen to Hezekiah’s rantings about trusting in the Lord but rather to peacefully surrender and enjoy the beneficent goodness of Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:31-32 and 2 Chronicles 32:18), after all, none of the gods of their defeated foes had been able to deliver their followers from the mighty Assyrian army (2 Kings 18:33-35 and 2 Chronicles 32:13-15). Hezekiah’s three officials then proceeded to report to him the message from Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:36-37).