Kingship: 715-686 BC (begins his reign as a co-regent in the third year of King Elah of the northern kingdom – 729 BC – but does not become solely king until 715)
Age: beginning of his co-regency – 11, beginning of his sole kingship – 25, his illness – 39, his death – 54
Father: King Ahaz
Son: King Manasseh
Found in scripture: 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, Isaiah 36-39
The dates of King Hezekiah are somewhat tricky to determine because it appears that there is a long co-regency period. According to scripture there are several things to note. Hezekiah begins his kingship in the third year of King Hoshea’s reign. Hoshea was Israel’s last king and he reigned nine years – until the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom in 722 BC. This puts the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign around 729/728 BC. However we are also told that he became king at the age of 25 and that he reigned 29 years. If his death was around 700 BC, this would be too early for some of the troubles with the Assyrians.
2 Kings 18 records Hezekiah’s confrontation with Sennacherib to be in his reign. This confrontation is widely accepted to take place in 701 BC which puts the date of the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign at 715 BC.
Hezekiah is the most righteous king to rule over Israel or Judah outside of King David. He destroyed the high places dedicated to idols. He even destroyed the bronze serpent which Moses was commanded to create to save the Israelites in the desert. This figure had survived for 800 years and was being worshiped. It was known as Nehushtan. 2 Chronicles 29-31 records in great detail how he purified the temple and celebrated the Passover.
Despite being a godly man like David, Hezekiah is just as well known for his failures as his triumphs. In 2 Kings 18, he initially tries to buy peace with the Assyrians by paying them tribute. Nevertheless, they come and march against Jerusalem to besiege it. Isaiah prophecies that Jerusalem would be spared however and in 2 Kings 19 the Assyrian army is decimated overnight, 185,000 men struck dead by the angel of the Lord.
Sometime shortly after Hezekiah’s victory over Sennacherib – likely the same year – Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him to get his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord and the Lord agreed to extend his life another 15 years.
The remaining years of Hezekiah’s life were not as good, spiritually speaking, as the previous ones had been. While Hezekiah didn’t necessarily have much control over it, after his life was extended, his son Manasseh was born. Manasseh would go on to be the most wicked king on Judah’s history. This was an unfortunate byproduct, so to speak, of Hezekiah’s extended life.
The other recorded failure of Hezekiah is 2 Kings 20. After his recovery, envoys from Babylon come bearing gifts to Jerusalem. This is undoubtedly an attempt to form an alliance with Judah as much as it is to pay tribute to the king’s recovery.
Hezekiah pridefully shows off all of the riches of the kingdom. Because of his pride, the word of the Lord comes to him and informs him that one day all of the riches that he had boasted about to the Babylonians would be carried off by them. Likewise, some of his very descendants would be carried off as slaves. Historically we know that this does not take place for another hundred years as Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians don’t attack Jerusalem until 605 BC. There would ultimately be three waves of attacks – in 605, 597, and finally in 586 BC when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed.
Rather than be crushed by the news of what would happen to his people in the future, Hezekiah is only pleased that the disaster would not take place in his lifetime.
Hezekiah’s life is a difficult one to summarize. While he did a lot of good for the Lord, like David it is hard to ignore some of his faults as well. This shouldn’t necessarily be held against him as David was a man after God’s own heart despite his failings. Hezekiah appears to be a righteous man as well. His true failing is that he doesn’t finish the race strongly. The extra fifteen years that he was given seem to be squandered rather than put to good use.