(“Yah[weh] strengthens”). King of Judah (“the finest”: 2 Kings 18.5) 715–698 (or 727–686) BCE. Like his later successor Josiah, while young he worked closely with the priesthood (2 Chron. 29.2–4) and sought unification with the northern kingdom of Israel (left kingless), inviting the northern tribes to an ecumenical Passover (2 Chron. 30.1, perhaps a midrashic embroidering of his reforms summarized in 2 Kings 18.4). At first he paid tribute to Assyria, remaining submissive until 705; but apparently as part of his revolt (2 Kings 18.7; 20.12) he set about fortifying Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32.5). The year of Sennacherib's punitive invasion (see Lachish), Hezekiah's fourteenth year in 2 Kings 18.14, was 701, whence the beginning of his reign in 715, a date incompatible with 2 Kings 18.10, in which his sixth year was that of the fall of Samaria in 722 (whence the inauguration date of 727). Assyria's general (Isa. 36.4) appealed to Jerusalem's populace in their own language over the king's head; but trouble in the army (perhaps a plague: see 2 Kings 19.35) forced Sennacherib's sudden withdrawal. A second Assyrian campaign has been proposed on the basis of 2 Kings 18.17–19.36 (duplicating 18.13–16), to collect the immense sum Sennacherib claimed from Judah (2 Kings 18.14); but Isaiah may have induced Hezekiah just to send off the money and end his years in peace (2 Kings 20.19).

Robert North