HEZEKIAH
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Hebrew HIZQIYYA, Greek EZEKIAS, son of Ahaz, and the 13th successor of David as king of Judah at Jerusalem. The dates of his reign are often given as about 715 to about 686 BCE, but inconsistencies in biblical and Assyrian cuneiform records have yielded a wide range of possible dates. 

Hezekiah reigned at a time when the Assyrian empire was consolidating its control of Palestine and Syria. His father had placed Judah under Assyrian suzerainty in 735 BCE. Hezekiah may have taken part in a rebellion against King Sargon II of Assyria (reigned 721-705 BCE), which the Assyrians apparently crushed in the year 710. At the accession of Sennacherib (705-681 BCE), further rebellions broke out all over the Assyrian empire. Hezekiah may have been the leader of the rebellion in Palestine, which included the city-states of Ascalon and Ekron and gained the support of Egypt. In preparing for the inevitable Assyrian campaign to retake Palestine, Hezekiah strengthened the defenses of his capital, Jerusalem, and dug out the famous Siloam tunnel (2 Kings 20:20, 2 Chronicles 32:30), which brought the water of the Gihon springs to a reservoir inside the city wall.

Sennacherib finally put down the rebellion in 701 BC, overrunning Judah, taking 46 of its walled cities, and placing much conquered Judaean territory under the control of neighboring states. While Sennacherib was besieging the city of Lachish, Hezekiah sought to spare Jerusalem itself from capture by paying a heavy tribute of gold and silver to the Assyrian king, who nevertheless demanded the city's unconditional surrender. At this point Jerusalem was saved by a miraculous plague that decimated the Assyrian army. This event gave rise to the belief in Judah that Jerusalem was inviolable, a belief that lasted until the city fell to the Babylonians a century later. Contradictory dates for Sennacherib's invasion are given in the Book of Kings, and he may possibly have invaded Judah a second time near the close of Hezekiah's reign.

Hezekiah's ascension to the throne in Jerusalem was accompanied by a comprehensive religious reform and substantial political changes. He restored the worship of YAHWEH following a lengthy period when idol-worship had prevailed in the city, and he renewed the pilgrimage tradition of the Passover week. Hezekiah took advantage of that festival to consolidate his religious reforms and to bring the people back to the worship of God.

Concurrently Hezekiah revised the political approach of his father Ahaz, asking Egypt to halt the Assyrian expansion. His pragmatism was scornfully criticized by the prophet Isaiah, who was highly influential in Jerusalem during this period. The prophet's theological-political approach held that the Assyrian conquests were merely a sign to the people to resume the worship of God. For the same reason he rejected the attempts to form an alliance with Babylon. Hezekiah also took concrete measures to prepare for the Assyrian siege, which was finally implemented in 701 BCE by Sennacherib, notably an amazing engineering feat in which a tunnel 533 meters long was dug to provide access to the waters of the Gihon Spring which lay outside the city. In addition, a wall was built around the city, which in this period expanded to the slopes of Mount Zion. An impressive and still visible remnant of this structure, the building of which is described in Isaiah 22:11, is the "broad wall". Miraculously the city was spared the siege, a fact which has also been explained in realistic terms.

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