Many of us know King Hezekiah because of the account of his sickness and healing in the book of Isaiah, but his first appearance historically is in II Kings 18. He was 12th following the reign of David.
Judah was under an Assyrian Suzerainty treaty accepted by Hezekiah’s father, an ineffective treath that neglected its responsibility toward Judah. Hezekiah’s goal was to protect Judea and its capital city of Jerusalem. He even tried to pay the Assyrian king an exhorbitant tribute of gold and silver for the protection he’d committed to, but to no avail. He instead demanded Judah’s total surrender to his realm.
A plague practically wiped out the Assyrian army, which convinced the surrounding nations that God was on the side of Jerusalem and that God’s protection was inviolable, a belief that lasted more than a century.
As unsuccessful as King Hezekiah’s efforts had been at standing against political and military opposition, his religious reforms were outstanding. He asserted his faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and restored the religious practices to affirm that faith. He had actually begun to comfort others in the faith during the reign of his father who was the complete opposite.
He restored and strengthened study of the Torah and worship practices in the Temple. He encouraged the reinstatement of pilgrimages to the Temple and made the Festival of Passover in Jerusalem something special, not only for the Judeans but for residents of the northern kingdom to whom he extended an invitation.
Then he turned his attention to making the military stronger than it had been so they would be victorious in the face of future attacks. He recovered Judah’s lost provinces and defeated the Philistines in such a way that other nations were hesitant to attack Judah.
In the light of Israel’s seeming downfall, Judeans clung to God even more vehemently and praised Him for the great fortune they enjoyed under Hezekiah’s rule. Even though early on his rule, they’d wished for a King more like David.
Isaiah, everyone’s favorite prophet, assured Hezekiah that no one would be able to come against them and succeed as long as the king himself and his people depended on God. He told Hezekiah to remove himself from the yoke of Assyria, the greatest military power of his day, knowing that God was the ultimate treaty creator and sustainer.
In spite of Hezekiah’s faith, some of his counselors conspired to rise up against Assyria, news of which was leaked to Sennaherib, Assyria’s king. He set out to quell all signs of rebellions and seized control of cities of Judea which left Hezekiah on his own without the help of Egypt or Babylon. When Hezekiah asked for a peace treaty, Sennaherib insisted on pillaging the treasures of Judea including those of Hezekiah’s palace and the Holy Temple.
Knowing this was just a temporary settlement, Hezekiah put his best effort into strengthening Judea militarily in numbers and expert training. He stocked the capital city with provision and strengthened its walls, destroying any resources outside the walls that could supply the enemy’s needs.
When Hezekiah became seriously ill, Isaiah told him he would die. The reason seemed to be Hezekiah’s refusal to marry and legitimize his children. His reason was that he hadn’t wanted his children in leadership because he couldn’t trust them to stand firm in God’s way. But he had faith in God. He turned his face toward the wall and begged God for more years, a plea that was granted; the granting of which cemented his place of grace in the hearts of the people who witnessed it.
Hezekiah’s extra years of grace proved to be a blessing for the people of Judea as God blessed everything his hands touched. The nation experienced an abundance of everything. Exiled Jews found their way home to Jerusalem. And God reigned supreme because of Hezekiah’s leadership and willingness to stand firm in his faith.