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The reign of Assyrian king Sennacherib (705-681 BCE) was chiefly characterized by his difficulties with Babylon. Throughout the history of the Assyrian Empire, Babylon had caused problems and had even been destroyed by the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I in c. 1225 BCE. Even so, there were direct cultural bonds between Babylon and Ashur, capital of the Assyrian Empire, and the city was always re-built and re-populated. Babylon was more than just a physical city of bricks and streets in the minds of the Mesopotamians: it was a cultural center of immense significance. Tukulti-Ninurta I's desecration of Babylon and her gods, in fact, led directly to his assassination. Owing to its status among the people of Mesopotamia, however, the people of Babylon seemed to feel that they could repeatedly throw off the authority of whatever ruling body held the region with impunity, and one can understand how a king could become tired of such an attitude. This was precisely what happened with Sennacherib in his dealings with the great city.
Sargon II & Sennacherib
Sennacherib's problems with Babylon were largely inherited. His father, Sargon II (reigned 722-705 BCE) had defeated the tribal chieftain Merodach-Baladan and driven him from Babylon but had allowed him to live. Once Sargon II was dead, and Sennacherib took the throne, Merodach-Baladan returned to Babylon and re-claimed the throne. The Babylonians welcomed him; Sennacherib had done nothing at all to endear himself to the city. As the new king, he was supposed to have participated in the ceremony in which he took the hand of the statue of the god Marduk as a sign of respect for the god, Babylon, and the people Marduk presided over. Instead, Sennacherib had simply sent them word that he was now king of Babylon and never even bothered to visit the city. Merodach-Baladan was not in the least bit concerned about the new king. Sennacherib was considered a weakling. He had never taken part in any of his father's military campaigns and had spent his earlier life as crown prince with administrative duties, while Sargon II had achieved his glorious victories on the battlefield. When Sennacherib heard that Merodach-Baladan had taken Babylon, he did not even lead a force to re-claim it himself but, instead, sent his commander-in-chief at the head of an army. This force was swiftly defeated by the combined forces of Babylon and their allies the Elamites and Aramaeans in 703 BCE. Babylon then arranged its troops, just in case the Assyrians came back again, and settled down to its own business. According to the historian Susan Wise Bauer:
That was the last straw. Sennacherib himself came sweeping down like the wrath of Assur and broke through the allied front line, barely pausing. Merodach-Baladan ran from the battlefield and crept into the marshes of the Sealand, which he knew well, to hide himself; Sennacherib marched the rest of the way to Babylon, which prudently opened its gates as soon as it saw the Assyrian king on the horizon. Sennacherib came through the open gate, but chose to send Babylon a message: he ransacked the city, took almost a quarter of a million captives, and destroyed the fields and groves of anyone who had joined the alliance against him (384).
The people of Babylon quickly realized that the poor opinion they had held of Sennacherib was misguided. In this early campaign the new king showed himself an adept tactician, able military leader, and ruthless enemy.
Sennacherib mounted an enormous expedition to invade Elam that included Phoenician ships & the whole might of the Assyrian army.
Sennacherib Bides his Time
Although he sacked the city, he did not destroy it. Merodach-Baladan escaped following the battle and fled to safety in Elam where he would instigate further trouble for the Assyrians. After taking Babylon, Sennacherib placed a trusted official named Bel-ibni on the throne to rule for him. Bel-ibni had been raised alongside Sennacherib in the Assyrian court and was thought to be trustworthy. It turned out that, however loyal Bel-ibni may have been, he was an incompetent ruler who, over time, began to allow the southern regions to do as they pleased. Some years later, around 700 BCE, Merodach-Baladan returned from hiding and again incited rebellion in region. Sennacherib marched south again to put down the revolts. He sent Bel-ibni back to Nineveh and appointed his favorite son and chosen heir, Ashur-nadin-shumi, to rule Babylon. In 698 BCE Ashur-nadin-shumi was kidnapped by the Elamites who then claimed Babylon as their own. Sennacherib marched on the city, defeated the Babylonians, and executed the rebels, but there was no word on the fate of his son and no ransom had been demanded for his return. This action “produced a full-blown war between Assyria, Babylon, and Elam. Fighting went on for four years” (Bauer, 388). Sennacherib mounted an enormous expedition to invade Elam that included Phoenician ships and the whole might of the Assyrian army. The Assyrians lost the war, and Ashur-nadin-shumi was presumed dead (scholars in the present day believe he was executed sometime around 694 BCE). Sennacherib returned to his capital at Nineveh and occupied himself with building projects for the next five years. He seemed to have forgotten about Babylon but, actually, was only biding his time.
In 689 BCE the Elamite king died, and Sennacherib struck quickly at Babylon. The city fell, and he sent the pretender to the throne back to Nineveh in chains. He had spent more time during his reign dealing with Babylon and the Elamites, and had expended more men and resources on dealing with the city, than on any other campaign. His patience had run out, and so he ordered the city to be razed to the ground. His inscription reads, in part:
I swiftly marched to Babylon which I was intent upon conquering. I blew like the onrush of a hurricane and enveloped the city like a fog. I completely surrounded it and captured it by breaching and scaling the walls. I did not spare his mighty warriors, young or old, but filled the city square with their corpses...I turned over to my men to keep the property of that city, silver, gold, gems, all the moveable goods. My men took hold of the statues of the gods in the city and smashed them. They took possession of the property of the gods. The statues of Adad and Shala, gods of the city Ekallati that Marduk-nadin-ahe, king of Babylonia, had taken to Babylon at the time of Tiglath Pileser I, King of Assyria, I brought out of Babylon after four hundred and eighteen years. I returned them to the city of Ekallati. The city and houses I completely destroyed from foundations to roof and set fire to them. I tore down both inner and outer city walls, temples, temple-towers made of brick and clay - as many as there were - and threw everything into the Arahtu canal. I dug a ditch inside the city and thereby levelled off the earth on its site with water. I destroyed even the outline of its foundations. I flattened it more than any flood could have done. In order that the site of that city and its temples would never be remembered, I devastated it with water so that it became a mere meadow (Nagle, 26).
Babylon was destroyed and the statue of their god, Marduk, was carried back to Nineveh as a war trophy. Sennacherib no longer had to worry about who was ruling in Babylon or what trouble they might cause because the city no longer existed. He may have thought that now Babylon could cause him no further problems but, if so, he was mistaken. As in the reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I, the people were outraged at Sennacherib's destruction of the great city and, further, by his sacrilege in plundering the temples and taking the statue of Marduk as a prize. Bauer writes, “Turning Babylon into a lake – covering the civilized land with water, returning the city of Marduk to the primordial chaos – was an insult to the god. Sennacherib compounded this by ordering the statue of Marduk hauled back to Assyria” (389). The Assyrians and Babylonians revered many of the same gods – even though they often had different names – and this insult to Marduk, the god who had brought order out of chaos, was intolerable.
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The Death of Sennacherib
The Book of II Kings 19:37 states, “One day, while [Sennacherib] was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.” Assyrian inscriptions also maintain that he was killed by his sons but differ on whether he was stabbed or crushed to death. The historian Stephen Bertman writes, “Sennacherib was stabbed to death by an assassin (possibly one of his sons) or, according to another account, was crushed to death by the monumental weight of a winged bull that he just happened to be standing beneath” (102). However he was killed, it is thought that he was assassinated because of his destruction of the city of Babylon.
Ancient Babylonia - The Fall of Babylon
In 539 BC Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon. The Bible records in the Book of Daniel about the "Handwriting on the Wall" where Belshazzar who had been ruling in Babylon on behalf of his father Nabonidus, saw handwriting on his palace wall during a feast, which Daniel the Hebrew interpreted as the end of the Babylonian Empire.
Alexander and the Greeks
From the time of the first Sumerian cities (c 3500 BC) to the invasion of Mesopotamia by Alexander the Great , King of Macedon (331 BC) there was essentially only one civilization in Mesopotamia although there were many waves of immigrants.
The immigrants during that period did not have any well-structured culture or civilization until they adopted the culture of the city dwellers. Of course these people brought some things with them. The invaders had different languages and more importantly they had a tribal society with tribal customs. However after a few generations living in cities these tribal customs were virtually forgotten. The newcomers also had different views on some aspects, such as war. Sumerian kings boasted of the periods of peace they had brought their kingdoms, whereas the Akkadians, a Semitic people, boasted of their great victories. However there were only minor differences in Mesopotamian civilization until the introduction of Hellenism (Greek culture) with the invasion by Alexander.
The Greeks were a people with a long history of civilization. They imposed this civilization on all the people they conquered, building new cities with Greek civilizations . Babylon was no longer the principal city in the area and began to decline. As Babylon declined so did the Mesopotamian civilization . The old customs were forgotten or not performed. The old gods were abandoned. The old cities, the great cities of Sumer and Akkad, such as Babylon and Ur, Uruk and Eridu, Lagash and Isin declined to insignificance .
Metaphysical and Romanticism: Comparison’s of Death
The metaphysical style of poetry was born out of the movements during the renaissance. It relies on the focus of Man’s experience, relationship with God and eternal perspective, with John Donne as the most influential metaphysical poet. His personal relationship with spirituality is at the center of most of his work, and the emotional analysis of his work marked a staged exodus from traditional, refined verse. His early work, collected in Songs and Sonnets, was released in an era of religious oppression. His very famous poem “Death be not proud” can serve as a template for the style of the poetry as well as the ideologies of the Metaphysical poets of the era. However, the 18 th and 19 th centuries saw a transition from the Metaphysical perspective to the fiery disordered style of Romanticism. The emphasis on pleasure and feeling to achieve the tangible fulfillment made the style popular in many types of art forms within the last two hundred years. Lord Byron, popular throughout the Romantic texts has a great deal of influence on the Romantic period. His ability to project his feelings on to the page has been deeply admired for years. Byron’s “Destruction of Sennacherib” contrasts the Donne’s Metaphysical approach to death in numerous ways. The in depth analysis of these two poems depict the disparity on their views of death, in large pertaining to an underlying struggle of the metaphysical and the romantics in the play Arcadia. On the surface Arcadia seems like a passive version of Indiana Jones, with the interest in uncovering the mysteries of history. Later in the story, the ideas become clear and the characters begin to gravitate towards a field of thought. The very clever Tom Stoppard created an actively unconscious debate within his story, that actually exists today but was very prominent in the latter two hundreds years.
The Metaphysical school of poetry prides itself on the following structural principles. The Petrarchan sonnet is the popular form of poems, and is also apparent in “Death be not proud”. It contains a structured rhyming scheme that Donne deviates from in the second verse of the poem by changing the last two lines to rhyme with each other. Donne’s structural tweaks only led to more emotional emphasis on the metaphysical, making his poetry more engaging to read. Petrarchan sonnets involve a turn, which signifies a change in idea or emotion. It can be seen in this poem at line nine, when Donne begins to hone attack on Death. The name-calling begins, and it almost seems as if Donne is the triumphant one when he says, “Death, thou shalt die”. To conclude Donne utilizes the iambic pentameter very loosely, obviously shortening his words to make it fit. The form of this poem as in any poem has a great effect on the speaker’s tone and influence.
The speaker of the poem represents the Metaphysical values at large. Death does not seem to be an obstacle to eternal life. The faith he has symbolizes his relationship with God, although it is clear that Death does still have an intimating presence. Prior to the Volta, the speaker toggles between a scared and condescending tone. Though the speaker shows no signs of fright when he says that Death is not as mighty and dreadful as some believe him to be. The Volta plays a very significant role in the meaning of the poem, as speaker’s faith in his after becomes unquestionable. He confidently attacks Death, reducing Death to all but a “slave of man”. It is apparent that Man’s faith in God has conquered all other a strong belief within the metaphysical philosophy, especially in the last line when it says death will die. God seems to be the only force powerful enough to kill death in turn the speaker is using his relationship with God to his advantage.
To complete the analysis of the Donne’s poem, the imagery and symbolism must be addressed, as it is crucial to the meaning and definition of the metaphysical. The first line of the poem includes a personification of death that last throughout the poem. Death is symbolized a human like entity through the devices used in the poem. Death in most cultures and too most people is considered a symbol of fear and destruction, while the speaker seems symbolism death as a joke in comparison to God. In lines 5 and 6 Donne uses a metaphor to mock Death through the comparison to rest and sleep as images of Death. In these lines he calls out Death by saying that if sleep is an image of Death, than actual Death must be much more pleasurable. Donne’s use of literary device appears to destroy the credibility and reputation of Death, transitioning death from a once “tough guy” to a middleman between life and eternal life. He is the ferryman between two lives. The imagery Donne uses once again reduces death to the image of a man in shackles. The use of the word slave makes Death seem less threatening. Donne then claims that Death can never kill him because even after death kills him he will pass into eternal life.
The difference in the poetry and can be attributed to the difference in the lifestyle and values of the two schools of thought. As seen in the Donne analysis the metaphysical focus on structure and abstract thought can be almost annoying to understand, while the Romantics values on feeling and disorder within poetry can be seen in Lord Byron’s “Destruction at Sennacherib”.
In comparison to the very structured Petrarchan sonnet, Lord Byron was the avid user of structured disorder. The six stanza’s and four lines in each give the poem consistence in term of its order, but not near the strict structure of “Death be not proud”. The rhyming scheme of the poem is not uncommon in poetry. “Aabb” rhyming scheme makes every two lines like its own couplet with its own meaning, but gives to the overall meaning of the poem. Along with the form, the setting of the poem is an actual place. Unlike that in “Death be not proud” which has no setting but focuses on the abstract setting of the path to eternal life. Overall the poem generalizes what is means to use the romantic principles to poetry.
There is no specified speaker in the poem, but from the context, it can be understood that the speaker is telling a story from ancient Babylon. The speaker remains quite neutral in their approach to the destruction and death of the battle. Although death is mentioned in the poem it does not have same personal appeal that was in Donne’s poem. The speaker mentions the death of one of the soldiers “And there lay the rider distorted and pale” does not have the residual effect on the reader as calling death names. It does have more tangible feeling to it, as the entire poem is a description of a battle. Instead of using ideas to allude to higher abstract thought, the speaker directly describes the feelings and the event that transpired. In Romanticism, there is a focus on direct feeling this poem especially from the speaker’s point of view represents a very romantic view on the destruction.
The imagery and symbolism in this poem can be categorized as direct but containing a lot of feeling. The emotional impact that every word carries is controls the mood and tone of the poem. It also creates an image in the reader’s head of what the story is about. In terms of death, the poem contains immense amount of death imagery. “Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast” shows that the metaphysical and romantics do have something’s in common in terms of beliefs, but it also displays the romantic view of the feeling and tangible because the “Angel of Death” is spreading his wing over the blast, painting a realistic picture of death after a blast. The last four stanzas are symbols of death after the destruction, because along with the people their pride is dead when it says “And the tents were all silent, the banners alone, The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.” After reading this poem, Romanticism seems to have a focus on the feeling, whether the feeling is good or bad it is direct. Byron’s direct approach to this story can be easily contrasted with that of Donne’s metaphysical, with equally opposite attributes towards death from form, to voice, to symbolism.
Arcadia, on the surface looks as a struggle between the past and the present, but these two poems can advocate that it is about much more. The characters in the play shifted towards one side of the philosophical debate. Septimus for instance is represented as a romantic in the story. Especially with his views on death, “We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it” unlike the metaphysical, Septimus does not seem to care much for the life after death, he doesn’t even acknowledge its existence. This relates to Lord Byron’s “Destruction of Sennachrib” in that they do not even acknowledge the after life instead solely focusing on the life in the now. This story presents characters as almost mirror images of each other from different ages. Valentine appears to be a mirror image of the scholar Septimus, who very evidently endorses Romanticism with his dialogues Thomasina, and Valentine with Hannah. The way Hannah describes Valentine is parallel with the Septimus quotes above. “That’s why you can’t believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book, I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final”
Just like in the case of Septimus, Valentine has no regard for the after life and is looking for reason. Valentine would be an avid reader of Lord Byron because of their mutual disregard for the importance of death and the emphasis on feeling and reason. Along with these two scholars, Bernard’s very Romantic approach to history is contrasted with Hannah’s metaphysical attitude. “I’ll tell you your problem. No guts” Bernard calls out Hannah for her lack of gut instinct. This is does not only pertain to their fight over literature, but their lifestyle in general. This also marks the beginning of Hannah’s transition from the metaphysical to the Romantic.
This struggle between Romantic and Metaphysical seems to lean towards the Romantic side by the end of the story. The characters representing the Romantic side such as Septimus and Valentine dominate the views on death, although the metaphysical supporters such as Thomasina and Hannah have strong views as well. The story portrays Hannah as a very aggressive character. Her abstract thinking makes her an interesting character, much the like the young intellect in Thomasina. “It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter” based on this quote, Hannah’s views seem it be very conceptual because she could be talking about love, death or basically anything. In term of death Hannah has the ability to think of life after death, unlike the scientifically enlightened romantic characters of the story. If Hannah were to be compared to the two poems, she would fall closer to Donne’s but not completely due to her transition throughout the play.
Arcadia’s divided philosophies are far from the surface of its content. This intellectual aspect to the story gives the play many meanings and numerous uses. The contrast of metaphysical and romantic can be extracted from the story and compared to many poems from the two schools. Donne’s “Death be not proud” and Byron’s “Destruction of Sennachrib” divergent understanding of death can be understood through the analysis of the characters in Arcadia. The result of analyzing Arcadia brings to light the divide between the characters beliefs and values. From both ages there is a rift between philosophies, this rift in the character gives the story an underlying conflict that cannot be seen on the surface.
A Prophecy About Babylon Confirms the Accuracy of the Bible
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Isaiah was a prophet who began to prophesy the year that King Uzziah of Judah died, which was around 740 B.C. (Isaiah 6:1 Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
American King James Version× , 8). One of his predictions was about the city Babylon.
In the Bible, Isaiah 13:1 Isaiah 13:1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.
American King James Version× says, “The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.” At the time of Isaiah’s prediction, Babylon was one of the largest and most important cities in the world. This is what God told Isaiah would happen to Babylon:
“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver and as for gold, they will not delight in it. Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there” (Isaiah 13:17-20 Isaiah 13:17-20  Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.  Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb their eyes shall not spare children.  And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.  It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelled in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
American King James Version× ).
Isaiah claimed that God told him that Babylon would be completely destroyed.
The Assyrians destroy Babylon
During Isaiah’s lifetime, the Assyrian Empire ruled most of the Middle East. The Assyrians controlled many foreign cities, including Babylon. After Isaiah made his prediction, Babylon rebelled against the Assyrians several times. When Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, captured the city in 689 B.C., he decided to destroy the city forever so that it could never rebel again. Sennacherib made this inscription about his victory:
“I made its destruction more complete than by a flood. That in days to come the site of that city, and (its) temples and gods, might not be remembered, I completely blotted it out with (floods) of water and made it like a meadow” (Daniel D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1926-1927, Vol. 2, p. 152).
Isaiah’s prophecy was not fulfilled when Sennacherib destroyed Babylon. Isaiah predicted that the Medes would attack Babylon. But it was the Assyrians who attacked and destroyed the city first.
When Isaiah wrote his prediction, the Medes were weak. Most of the Medes were ruled by other nations, and the remaining Medes were not unified (The Cambridge History of Iran, 1985, Vol. 2, p. 80). It would have been impossible for them to capture or destroy the strong city of Babylon. Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be wrong. When the Assyrians destroyed Babylon in 689 B.C., Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be completely impossible. The Medes could not fight against a city that was gone!
Sennacherib thought that he had destroyed Babylon forever. But after Sennacherib died, his son Esarhaddon began to rebuild Babylon. Soon Babylon became an important city in the Assyrian Empire like it had been before.
In 626 B.C., Babylon rebelled against Assyria again. This time the Babylonians were successful. A local leader, Nabopolassar, became the king. He was able to establish Babylonia as a separate kingdom and Babylon began to grow in strength.
The Medes were also growing in strength at this time. Media managed to become independent from Assyria and expel the armies of the Scythians that had invaded their country (Herodotus 1.95, 106). In 612 B.C. the king of Media and the king of Babylon formed an alliance and fought together against Nineveh, the last capital city of Assyria. They captured the city and burned it. Within a few years the Babylonians and Medes had completely destroyed the Assyrian Empire. The Babylonians took most of the former Assyrian lands, and the Medes took what remained.
By 605 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon, the Babylonian Empire had become the leading empire in the world. Nebuchadnezzar focused on expanding his empire and on expanding Babylon to become the greatest city in the world. He built a beautiful palace, rebuilt and repaired the walls, improved the city streets and embellished the temples.
When Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C., Babylon was truly one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Isaiah had predicted that God would destroy Babylon—but now Babylon was greater than it had been in Isaiah’s lifetime. However, Babylon’s greatness would not last forever.
The Medes grow in power
A few years later, in 559 B.C., Cyrus the Great became king over Persia, a region under the rule of Media. The Persians were a tribe of people closely related to the Medes. Cyrus’ father was a Persian prince, and his mother was the daughter of the king of Media (Herodotus 1.107, 122). In about 550 B.C. Cyrus overthrew his grandfather, the king of Media, and became the king of both Media and Persia. Cyrus quickly began to build an empire. In 546 B.C. he conquered the Greek kingdom of Lydia (in western Turkey). In 539 B.C., Cyrus’ army came to fight against Babylon.
Babylon was a very strong city. Two thick walls and a large moat protected the city, making it extremely difficult for an enemy to attack. However, Babylon was divided into two parts. The larger part of the city was built on the east bank of the Euphrates River, and a smaller part of the city was on the west bank of the river. Babylon had strong walls, but it also relied on the Euphrates River and the moat around the city to protect it.
The Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote about Babylon about 100 years later, described how Cyrus’ army captured the city. Part of the army went north of Babylon and dug a trench from the Euphrates River to a nearby marsh. When the army connected the trench to the Euphrates River, much of the water in the river flowed toward the marsh, while only a little water continued to flow toward Babylon. While the Babylonians were confidently celebrating a feast, the strong river and moat protecting the city became very shallow, and the Medes and Persians were able to enter the city (Herodotus 1.191). They captured the city without a battle, and Darius the Mede was put in charge (Daniel 5:31 Daniel 5:31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about three score and two years old.
American King James Version× ).
Isaiah’s predictions fulfilled
Finally, nearly 200 years after Isaiah wrote about Babylon, part of his prophecy was fulfilled. God told Isaiah, “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver and as for gold, they will not delight in it” (Isaiah 13:17 Isaiah 13:17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.
American King James Version× ). The Medes captured Babylon, just as Isaiah predicted. They captured the city without a battle and did not plunder the city. However, the other details of the prophecy had not happened yet.
Isaiah said that the Medes would kill many people: “Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb their eye will not spare children” (Isaiah 13:18 Isaiah 13:18 Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb their eyes shall not spare children.
American King James Version× ). This prediction was fulfilled several years later.
An inscription written on a rock cliff in Bisotun, Iran—made by Darius, king of the Medes and Persians—describes the event. In 521 B.C. the Babylonians appointed their own king and the city rebelled. Darius’ army defeated the rebel army and captured Babylon. Then the rebel king and his main followers were impaled inside the city.
In about 482 B.C. Babylon rebelled against their Persian and Median rulers again. Xerxes the king sent his army to capture the city. The army destroyed the temples and took away the idol of the Babylonian god Marduk (Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander, 7.17.2 Herodotus 1.183). Xerxes may have also destroyed the outer walls of Babylon.
After this punishment the city began to decline in importance. When Alexander the Great defeated the Persians 150 years later, much of Babylon was still destroyed (Arrian 3.16.4). However, many people still lived in Babylon. Alexander decided to rebuild Babylon’s temples and make Babylon a marvelous city again, but he died before he could accomplish his plan.
After Alexander’s death, Seleucus I gained control of a large part of the Middle East, including Babylonia. He did not share Alexander’s grand vision for Babylon. Instead he built a new city called Seleucia, nearby on the Tigris River. An ancient clay tablet shows that Seleucus’ son ordered most of the population of Babylon to move to this new city in 275 B.C. (M.M. Austin, The Hellenistic World From Alexander to the Roman Conquest, 1981, p. 241).
After that time Babylon wasn’t a major city anymore. About 250 years later the Roman writer Strabo wrote, “Seleucia at the present time has become larger than Babylon, whereas the greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say…‘The Great City is a desert’” (Geography, 16.1.5, Loeb Classical Library). Before long Babylon was completely empty.
In 1899, German archaeologists went to the area in Iraq called Tell Babil, and they began to dig and uncover parts of ancient Babylon. In 1978, the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, began to rebuild some of the ancient buildings of Babylon. Some of the temples have been built again and also a palace, some walls and an amphitheater (Amatzia Baram, Culture, History, and Ideology in the Formation of Ba‘thist Iraq, 1968-89, 1991, p. 47).
But today, Babylon is still an empty city. In times of peace tourists can go see the partially rebuilt ruins of Babylon that have remained empty for almost 2,000 years. The city is exactly like Isaiah predicted: “It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation” (Isaiah 13:20 Isaiah 13:20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelled in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
American King James Version× ).
How could Isaiah know that the Medes, a weak tribe, would grow in strength and conquer the strong city of Babylon almost 200 years later? How could he know that one of the greatest cities in the world would be abandoned and remain empty for thousands of years? No one can make accurate predictions like these. The events in history show that the prophecies in the Bible really did come from God.
Last week I was teaching on a text that made mention of Satan when a hand shot up. Questions are helpful in clarifying issues related to the immediate discussion. The question was actually more of a comment suggesting that Satan’s sin and fall from heaven is explained in Isaiah 14. Time was too short to respond so I punted and concluded in prayer. But here is what I would have said had time allowed:
The question, “Does this text teach anything about Satan’s fall,” is raised because of the King James Version‘s translation of the Hebrew helel as “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12. And of course everyone knows that Lucifer is none other than Satan!
Actually, the term lucifer (“light-bearing one”) is a pretty good Latin translation of the Hebrew term helel. Unfortunately, while this term was applied by Isaiah to the “king of Babylon,” many have followed the early church fathers (Tertullian, Origen, and Hippolitus) in making this Latin word a title for Satan. The notion that “Lucifer” is a proper name for Satan was popularized in English literature by Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Satan is referred to as the “great Lucifer.”
It is argued that the similarity between the sin of the tyrant (king of Babylon) and Satan’s sin (Isa. 14:12-14 1 Tim. 3:6) would suggest the identification of the two. And since the tyrant fell (Isa. 14:14-15) and Satan fell (Gen. 3:14-15 2 Pet. 2:4 Jude 6 Rev. 12:4), they must be one and the same.
Although this interpretation has been popularized by the notes in several study Bibles, there are convincing arguments against this view:
- The historical context of Isaiah 14 concerns the overthrow of an arrogant king (a “man” v. 16)–the Assyrian tyrant Sennacherib. Nothing else is implied by the context.
- While the tyrant of Isaiah 14 has been judged and no longer shakes kingdoms or threatens the earth (v. 16), Satan, “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) is alive and well (Eph. 2:2 2 Cor. 2:11, 11:14 1 Pet. 5:8).
- There is adequate Scripture to substantiate Satan’s pride and fall without using this passage to provide a Scriptural basis for this doctrine (Gen. 3:14-15 2 Pet. 2:4 Jude 6 1 Tim. 3:6 Jn. 8:44 Rev. 12:4).
- The “fall from heaven” referred to by Christ in Luke 10:18 is His divine commentary upon what had just taken place as the disciples cast out demons in His name. This victory of the disciples foreshadows the ultimate banishment of Satan from heaven (Rev. 12:7-9).
- What is described in Isaiah 14:4-21 has not yet occurred in Satan’s history of moral decay and judgment. While he was defeated at the cross (Jn. 12:31, 16:11 Col. 2:13-15), his banishment from heaven (Rev. 12:7-9), imprisonment (Rev. 20:1-13), and final judgment (Rev. 20:20) are yet future.
- Isaiah 14:20 is not in harmony with the fact that Satan will be united with his people in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10, 15).
Isaiah 14:14-21 concerns the fate of an historical king and there is nothing to suggest that the passage teaches anything about Satan. The term “lucifer” is a Latin term that has migrated into our English Bibles and theological vocabulary. I have a box of matches which I picked up while traveling in Europe. The label reads, “lucifers” [light-bearers or matches], a good and accurate use of the term.
The wicked tyrant of Isaiah 14:14-21 is most likely Sennacherib (705-686 B.C.) who was king of Assyria when Babylon was completely overthrown and destroyed in 689 B.C. Sennacherib actually describes the destruction of the city in terms similar to those found in Isaiah 14:23 and 21:9. And he died a humiliating death as recorded in Isaiah 37:37-38.
You may still wonder why an Assyrian king can be referred to as “king of Babylon” (14:1). Erlandsson points out that the Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser, Sargon, and Sennacherib received the honorary title, “king of Babylon.” This took place at the Babylonian New Year’s day festival when the ruler would grasp the hand of Marduk and be declared, “king of Babylon” (The Burden of Babylon: A Study of Isaiah 13:2-14:23, CWK Gleerup Lund, 1970, pp. 160-66).
About J. Carl Laney
J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).
Can you explain the chronology of 2 Kings 19-20 (destruction of Sennacherib's army and God's promise to protect Hezekaih)
(maybe you need to change 4 Kings to 2 Kings. In the Russian Bible, 2 Kings is 4 Kings) Can I ask you to help me deal with the chronology of events in the life of Hezekiah? In the Bible, king Sennacherib wanted to conquer Jerusalem, threatening its residents. After this comes a description of how Hezekiah opened the letter from the ambassadors of the king of Assyria before God. Hezekiah prayed, and the answer of God through Isaiah was that that they will not be able to conquer the city. Afterward the troops were destroyed by an angel from God – 180 000 thousand people were killed, and soon even Sennacherib was killed by his own sons. And then in the Bible Hezekiah gets a deadly disease. Hezekiah prays and receives a promise from God, that Jerusalem will not be taken, and the king of Assyria will not be able to harm it. What king is this? Was it about Sennacherib? This means that this prayer was before he was killed by his own sons and before the angel of the Lord killed 180,000 by the walls of Jerusalem? In 4 kings 19:35 it says that “in the same night” the angel of the Lord killed 180 000 people. I.e. it happened in the night, when Hezekiah spread it before the Lord. And if so, when was the prayer, where he wept and after that God extended his life—the prayer in which He promises that the king of Assyria will not harm him (4 kings 20:6)? Was it that same night or even before the first prayer? After all, what could God say that protects Hezekiah the king of Assyria, if he had already been destroyed. If, of course, we are talking about the same king.
Here again briefly are the events which I want to understand correctly:
– First prayer of Hezekiah: 4 kings 19:14 and the next
– The destruction of the angel of the army of Assyria (in the same night?) 4 kings 19:35-36
– The second prayer of Hezekiah and the promise of God to deliver from the king of Assyria (4 kings 20:6)
– The destruction of the king of Assyria (4 kings 19:37)
Might God be promising to protect Judah from the Assyrian king, speaking about the event, described in 4 kings 19:37, of which Hezekiah did not know yet at that time?
And one more question, if you can. What exactly was Hezekiah proud of, as described in 2 Chronicles 32:22-26. What exactly is he not thankful for? For the victory over the king of Assyria? The recovery from the disease? For the newly-found fame and wealth? Just all these events are listed one after another in this passage is not clear, in what Hezekiah became arrogant.
First of all, we cannot necessarily absolutely assume that 2 Kings is perfectly chronological. It is possible that the events in 2 Kings 20 happened after those in 2 Kings 19. I am not saying this is the case. but we should at least be open to the possibility. Kings is generally chronological, so this is not very likely, but it should be considered. In this particular case, I believe that 2 Kings 19 and 20 are in fact chronological. First, Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem, after taking many cities in Judah. Then Hezekiah prayed to God and asked Isaiah to intervene. Then, God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and that very night the entire army of Sennacherib was destroyed. Sennacherib himself was apparently not with the army, as the writer of 2 Kings then interjects the story about his execution in a palace coup. We cannot assume that the execution of Sennacherib is chronological. It is inserted as a parenthesis in the story.
Some time later, Hezekiah came down with a deadly illness. We do not know how much later. Was this before or after the death of Sennacherib? We are not told. I believe that it was after the events in 2 Kings 19 including the destruction of the army. The situation in 2 Chronicles 32:22-26 supports this conclusion as it reports the pride of Hezekiah and its connection to his illness. It makes sense that Hezekiah got prideful after God heard his prayer and saved Judah through him. Anyway, Hezekiah became ill, he reminded God of his faithfulness to him (2 Kings 20:2-3) and God chose to deliver him from the sickness. Then comes the part you seem confused/concerned about. In 2 Kings 20:6 God tells Hezekiah, through Isaiah, that He will deliver him and the city from the king of Assyria. Your question is, who is this king and when did this happen? Here are the facts: The reign of Sennacherib was 705-681 BC. The reign of his successor, Esarhaddon. was 681-669 BC. When God healed Hezekiah, he also promised him continuing protection against Assyria. Whether the king in question was Sennacherib or Esarhaddon is not clear. Remember that, although 2 Kings 20:1-33 happened after 2 Kings 19:1-36, the timing of the death of Sennacherib is not clear from 2 Kings. Either way, after the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, Assyria did not simply go away. They were still a danger to Judah. So, God assured Hezekiah that during his reigh, Assyria would not conquer Jerusalem. We know from 2 Kings and from 2 Chronicles that this promise was fulfilled. Hezekiah finished his reign in relative peace. To summarize, we cannot be absolutely sure which King God promised to protect Hezekiah from. In fact, it may even have been that he promised to protect Hezekiah and Jerusalem from both Sennacherib and Esarhaddon.
About 2 Chronicles 32:22-26, the context tells us that the events of 2 Kings 19-20 are parallel to 2 Chronicles 32, including the threat of Sennacherib, the prayer of Hezekiah and the destruction of the Assyrian army. 2 Chronicles 32:24, which describes Hezekiah’s illness, is parallel to 2 Kings 20:1f. The difference here is that 2 Chronicles mentions the pride of Hezekiah. 2 Chron 32:24f has, “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him.” You ask what Hezekiah was proud of. Was it the miracle of his healing, the destruction of Sennacherib’s army or was it his wealth? I say all of the above. It is a sad fact about most of us that if God blesses us abundantly, we tend to get prideful and we take credit for what God did as if it was our own personal accomplishment. Hezekiah fell to this sin, but, fortunately, he later repented of his pride (2 Chron 32:26). For this reason, God continued to honor his promise to protect Hezekiah for the last 15 years of his reign as he had promised.
Sennacherib attacks and destroys Lachish
2 Kings 18:13-37 The new king of Assyria, Sargon&rsquos son Sennacherib, takes some time to establish his rule. But during the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign (in 702BC), he attacks Judah, and occupies and destroys Lachish in order to punish his rebellious neighbour (see 2 on Map 60 ). He then moves on to attack Libnah. Hezekiah tries to buy the Assyrians off with a huge payment of silver and gold, but Sennacherib threatens to destroy Jerusalem.
Lachish, situated 25 miles / 40 km south west of Jerusalem, was one of the five Amorite cities of Canaan who attacked Gibeon at the start of the Israelite conquest in 1406BC. Its king was defeated by Joshua and killed in the cave at Makkedah (see Joshua 10:5-9 & 22-26).
After Israel and Judah became mutual enemies on the death of King Solomon, Lachish was fortified by King Rehoboam of Judah in c.930BC (see 2 Chronicles 11:5-12). By the time King Amaziah fled here from Jerusalem in 767BC, Lachish had probably become the second most important city in Judah (see 2 Kings 14:19). It became the headquarters of the Assyrian King Sennacherib when he invaded Judah and attacked Jerusalem in 702BC (see 2 Kings 18:13, 17 & 19:8). Sennacherib installed huge carved reliefs showing his successful siege of Lachish inside his royal palace at Nineveh. These magnificent bas-reliefs, depicting Assyrian siege engines, archers and slingers attacking the double line of walls at Lachish, can now be seen at the British Museum in London. Also on display is the &lsquoTaylor Prism&rsquo, a six-sided baked clay tablet documenting Sennacherib&rsquos destruction of forty-six cities in Judah and the deportation of over 200,000 people.
Assyrian archers and a battering ram at the siege of Lachish
Modern-day visitors toTel Lachish can quickly appreciate the strategic importance of the site, overlooking the coastal plain to the west. As well as observing remains of the Canaanite moat, visitors can walk past the Assyrian siege ramp and climb the access road through remains of the two gateways that protected the double wall. The three-chambered inner gateway is similar to those built by King Solomon at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer.
Inside the city walls, on top of the mound, remains of the Judaean royal palace sit on a huge rectangular stone platform. Remnants of an earlier Canaanite temple have been uncovered underneath the north west corner of this platform. The Canaanite temple was superceded by a small Israelite sanctuary built by King Rehoboam, and by a larger Jewish temple built after the Exile in the 2 nd century BC.
2 Kings 19:1-37 The people are terrified at Sennacherib's threat to destroy Jerusalem, but the prophet Isaiah tells King Hezekiah that the Assyrians will be defeated. Word reaches the Assyrian camp that the Egyptians, under Prince Taharka (Hebrew, &lsquoTirhakah&rsquo) - the nephew of the Cushite (Sudanese) Pharaoh Ahabaka - are honouring their defensive treaty with Judah by sending an army from Egypt to fight the Assyrians (see 3 on Map 60 ).
The armies of the two super-powers clash, but the Egyptian army of the &lsquoBlack Pharaohs&rsquo is unable to defeat the Assyrians and retreats back to Egypt. Hezekiah prays to the LORD for deliverance. At this vital moment, an epidemic strikes the Assyrian camp and Sennacherib withdraws to Nineveh. Shortly after, he is assassinated by his sons.
The Chronology of the Book of Isaiah
The pages of the Book of Isaiah reflect in: a remarkable way the great events of the Prophet&rsquos day. The various prophecies, uttered by Isaiah under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had a direct bearing on what was then happening or was soon to take place. The prophecies were a message to the people among whom the Prophet lived.
Some have thought from the words of I Peter 1:10-12 that the prophecies were for a distant future only. But a careful reading of the passage will show that it was the salvation through grace of which the prophets enquired. The sufferings of Christ were a mystery to them, and they&rdquo prophesied of the grace&rdquo that should come unto us, and in these things they ministered unto us, but this does not mean the prophecies were devoid of meaning to the people of the Prophet&rsquos time. On the contrary, the prophecies had a direct message to those to whom they were spoken, as well as to us of to-day. God has so filled His word With meaning that it always has had a message for those to whom it has come, and still to this day, &ldquoALL Scripture is . . . profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
When the utterances of Isaiah had a message for the people of his time, it would not be surprising to find the important happenings of that day referred to in the prophecies. Providentially we are well supplied from the Assyrian tablets with records of the great events contemporary with the Prophet. By following the history of that time in the cuneiform inscriptions, and comparing these with the Book of Isaiah, it becomes possible to affix the correct date to many of Isaiah&rsquos prophecies. Before proceeding with this comparison it is necessary to first examine the chronology of that period.
The main difficulty in the chronology of this period is the supposed contradiction between II Kings 18:9, 10 and vs. 13, which has been pronounced &ldquoquite irreconcilable.&rdquo The first verse states, &ldquoAnd it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it . . ." and verse 13 says, &ldquoNow in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.&rdquo This makes it look as if but ten years elapsed between the beginning of the siege of Samaria and Sennacherib&rsquos invasion of Judah, while the Assyrian inscriptions make the interval to be twenty-three years. Shalmaneser V began the siege of Samaria (II Kings 18:9) and the siege lasted three years. A year before the siege ended, Sargon succeeded Shalmaneser, and he records the taking of the city of Samaria in his first year (721 BC).
After this he continued to reign sixteen years, and was then succeeded by his son Sennacherib (705 B.C.), who invaded Judah after reigning four years. This makes a total of twenty-three years, thus:
City of Samaria besieged for 3 years
Sargon afterwards reigned for 16 years
Sennacherib invaded Judah after reigning 4 years
However, it can soon be shown that the Scriptures also make this interval one of twenty-three years. Sennacherib&rsquos invasion began in 701 B.C. (Assyr. Epon.). As this was in Hezekiah&rsquos fourteenth year (II Kings 18:13), we may assume that his fourteenth year covered the larger part of 702 B.C. and the earlier part of 701 B.C.
Hezekiah&rsquos first year would accordingly begin in the first part of 715 B.C. Ahaz, Hezekiah&rsquos predecessor, reigned sixteen years (II Kings 16:2), but as these reigns are given in whole years (fractions of years being omitted unless the reign was under six months), we are at liberty to assume the reign was almost sixteen and a half years, so that the accession of Ahaz may be placed towards the close of 732 B.C. This was the seventeenth year of Pekah king of Israel (II Kings 16:1), so Pekah&rsquos reign began in 749 B.C. He reigned twenty years (II Kings 15:27) that is, from 749 B.C. to 729 B.C.
Pekah was murdered by Hoshea who succeeded him. II Kings 17:1 tells us Hoshea reigned nine years, but as it was still within the ninth year when Samaria was taken and his reign ended (II Kings 17:6), it is evident he did not complete his ninth year. Samaria accordingly fell slightly over eight and a half years after Hoshea had seized the throne in 729 B.C., which brings us to the latter part of the Jewish year 721 B.C. (very early spring of 720 B.C. by our calendar year). This calculation brings us precisely to the year ill which Sargon king of Assyria claims to have taken the city, according to the inscription beginning with the words: &ldquoIn the beginning of my reign (722B.C.) and in the first year of my reign (721 B.C.) . . . Samaria I besieged and took.&rdquo (Rogers: Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament, p. 326.) Thus it is seen the Assyrian records agree with the Scripture chronology.
From the above reckoning it is clear Hezekiah&rsquos reign began in 715 B.C., yet II Kings 18:1 tells us he began to reign in the third year of Hoshea, or 727 B.C. The best explanation seems to be that in 727 B.C. Hezekiah began to reign as a co-regent with his father Ahaz. In 715 B.C. Ahaz died and Hezekiah then became sale regent. The dates in II Kings 18:9-10 are counted from the beginning of Hezekiah&rsquos co-regency. Co-regencies were not uncommon among the Hebrew kings. Some of the better known instances are: Solomon with David, Jehoram with Jehoshaphat, and Jotham with Uzziah.
It appears that Ahaz was co-regent with his father Jotham also, for Hoshea began to reign in 729 B.C. and Ahaz succeeded Jotham only three years before this in 732 B.C., and yet we are told Hoshea began to reign in the twelfth year of Ahaz. (II Kings 17:1) This last dating must have been made from the beginning of a co-regency of Ahaz with Jotham, which evidently began in 740 B.C. Two considerations uphold this suggested co-regency.
The Scripture account of the wars of Ahaz with Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Syria (II Kings 16:5-9), and of his appeal to Tiglath-pileser IV of Assyria for help, is undated. However, the Assyian Eponym Canon ((Rogers: Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament, pp. 235-236,322) enables us to date these wars, and we find that Tiglath-pileser invaded Philistia in 734 B.C., and, in answer to Ahaz&rsquo appeal, besieged Damascus two years, 733-2 B.C., and he at this time records receiving tribute from Ahaz, whom he calls Jehoahaz. So Ahaz&rsquo wars with Pekah and Remaliah, and Tiglath-pileser&rsquos siege of Damascus, all took place before 732 B.C., the year in which Jotham died. Ahaz was therefore the acting regent before 732 B.C., and this supports the suggested co-regency.
Hezekiah was 25 years old when he began to reign, presumably in 715 B.C. (II Kings 18:2), and by adding 25 to 7I5 B.C. &hellip we find he must have been born in 740 B.C. Now Hezekiah&rsquos father, King Ahaz, was 20 years of age at the beginning of his reign (II Kings 16:2), and if we were to understand this to mean in 732 B.C., it would make Ahaz but 12 years old in 740 B.C. when Hezekiah was born. This is clearly out of question, and makes it necessary to find an earlier date for the beginning of Ahaz&rsquo reign. This earlier date we have in the suggested co-regency. Then we have Ahaz 20 years of age in 740 B.C., when his co-regency began, which is the same year that Hezekiah was born. This also supports the suggested co-regency.
We have now sufficiently cleared away the Chronological difficulties to permit us to compare the Book of Isaiah with the history of his time. For this the reader should refer to the accompanying table which will help to make the comparison with contemporary events more clear.
CHAPTERS 1 TO 5
In Isaiah 1:1 we notice that the prophecies were given &ldquoi_n the days of Uzziah_&rdquo as well as in those of later kings.
Jotham died in 732 B.C., as we have already noted, and this was after a reign of sixteen years (II Kings 15:33). Uzziah&rsquos death and Jothan&rsquos accession were therefore in 748 B.C., which was the second year of Pekah, king of Israel (749-729 B.C.). The first chapter of Isaiah is an introduction, evidently not written until Hezekiah&rsquos reign, as his name is mentioned (1:1), though verses 2-31 may have been spoken I earlier.
The next section of the book, chapters 2 to 5 (inclusive), evidently were uttered before Uzziah died (cf. 6:1), and as that king died in 748 B.C., these chapters may be dated as before 748 B.C.
This is positively dated as &ldquoIn the year that king Uzziah died,&rdquo which was 748 B.C. The chapter belongs to the very beginning of Jotham&rsquos reign.
This prophecy was given &ldquoin the days of Ahaz,&rdquo and was just prior to the wars with Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria, and so was evidently during Ahaz&rsquo co-regency, which lasted eight years, 740-732 B.C. Damascus was besieged for two years, 733-732 B.C., and the wars with Pekah and Rezin preceded this, thus being about 735 or 734 B.C.
This chapter therefore ought to be dated as about 736 or 735 B.C. So we find that the great prophecy of our Saviour&rsquos virgin birth, which this chapter contains, was given at least 731 years before it came to pass.
The prediction in verse 8 that &ldquowithin three-score and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people," clearly includes within its meaning the fall of the northern kingdom, but seems to also look further to some event in the reign of Esar-haddon (681-668 B.C.) now lost sight of. (cf. Ezra 4:2.)
CHAPTERS 8 TO 12
These carry on the prophecies of the virgin-born Immanuel, and are about the same date as the preceding chapter. Note in 8:2 the name of &ldquoUriah the priest,&rdquo who seems to be the same person as &ldquoUrijah the priest&rdquo in II Kings 16:10, before the time that he listened to Ahaz&rsquo suggestion to make another altar in the Temple. Chap. 8:6 mentions Rezin, which shows that that king was still living when this prophecy, was given. Rezin died in 732 B.C., therefore, these chapters should be dated as about 735 or 734 B.C.
CHAPTERS 13 TO 14:27
In 722 B.C. Sargon ascended the Assyrian throne, and immediately afterwards Merodach-baladan revolted in Babylon and began his twelve year reign in that city. This event would turn attention to that city, especially in those nations just brought under the hated Assyrian yoke, and also in those countries who feared the fast growing Assyrian power. The thought in many minds would be, &ldquoWill the revolt of Babylon be successful?&rdquo and Judah would watch the rebellion with great interest. At this juncture God sent His Prophet with the timely message of &ldquoThe Burden of Babylon&rdquo (chap. 13:1 to 14:27), in which the failure of Babylon is foretold. God used the opportunity to also foretell the final overthrow of Babylon, but it is the immediate meaning of the prophecy as spoken to the people of the Prophet&rsquos day which concerns us just now. They would readily understand the prediction to mean Babylon&rsquos revolt would not be successful. &ldquoLucifer&rdquo (14:12) would thus have an immediate application to the then king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan. However, the deeper meaning and application is to Satan, who fell through pride and led a greater revolt, not on earth, but in Heaven.
The date for this prophecy falls somewhere between 722 B.C., when Merodach-baladan revolted, and 715 B.C., the date of the next prophecy. 720 B.C. may be taken as the approximate date.
The next prophecy is brief, but definitely dated as &ldquoIn the year that king Ahaz died.&rdquo This was, as we have already seen, in 715 B.C., fourteen years before Sennacherib&rsquos invasion of Judah.
CHAPTER 15 TO 16
The last verse of this &ldquoBurden of Moab&rdquo reads, &ldquoBut now the Lord hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude and the remnant shall be very small and feeble&rdquo (16:14). The words, &ldquoWithin three years,&rdquo leave no room to question an immediate application of this prophecy to the Prophet&rsquos own time. The records of Sargon tell us of this immediate fulfillment. Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab rebelled against Assyria, and sought the aid of Egypt.
In his eleventh year, that is, in 711 B.C., Sargon&rsquos troops crossed the Euphrates at its flood and quelled the revolt. (Rogers: Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament, pp 328 - 331) This, the Prophet had said, was to be &ldquowithin three years,&rdquo and three years before 711 would be in 714 B.C. Thus this prophecy falls in the year following the preceding one, which was in 715 B.C.
CHAPTERS 17 AND 18
As the last prophecy was given a year after the preceding one, so the prophecies in these chapters would seem to fall in 713 B.C., one year after the last prophecy. It is to be noted that Damascus did not join in the rebellion against Assyria which was quelled in 711 B.C., and the revolting countries very likely suffered attacks from Damascus. So &ldquoThe Burden of Damascus&rdquo is given, concluding with these words, &ldquoThis is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us&rdquo (17:14). Chapter 18:2 would seem to have reference to the ambassadors passing forth and back between Egypt, at this time under Ethiopian rulers, and Judah and the associated nations.
Again this prophecy seems to fall in naturally one year later than the preceding one, being thus in 712 B.C. Egypt played an important part in the affairs of the Palestinian states, and there were conflicts between Egyptian and Assyrian armies on Palestinian soil. One such conflict had been fought at Raphia in 720 B.C. The fact that these smaller states were depending upon Egypt for aid in their rebellion against Assyria, created a need for God to warn His chosen people that Egypt could not save them, and &ldquoThe Burden of Egypt&rdquo is given through the Prophet, predicting that that ancient nation itself was ere long to fall. Judah lay between Egypt and Assyria, conquered and re-conquered by the Assyrians, but constantly incited to revolt by the Egyptians. God foretells the day of universal peace when Egypt and Assyria will both serve the one true God, with restored Israel between&rsquo them as &ldquoa blessing in the midst of the land&rdquo (19:23-25).
This chapter is dated as " In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him), and fought against Ashdod, and took it.&rdquo This is the campaign, spoken of before, when Sargon quelled the revolt of Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab, in 711 B.C. Evidently Sargon himself did not come against the city Ashdod, but sent Tartan &ldquocommander-in-chief&rdquo to besiege the place. It may be remarked that the method used by the Prophet in dating this prophecy is very like the language of the notes attached to some of the Assyrian Eponym Lists, and can be said to reflect Assyrian influence.
In this prophecy it is definitely predicted that the Assyrians would make the conquest of Egypt, which came to pass fifty years later when Ashur-banipal sacked Thebes in 661 B.C.
In verse 9 of this passage it is revealed to the Prophet that &ldquoBabylon is fallen, is fallen.&rdquo It will be remembered that Babylon under Merodach-baladan had revolted from under the Assyrian domination and that soon after &ldquo_The Burden of Baby_lon&rdquo had been pronounced indicating that Babylon would fail. For twelve years the efforts of Assyria to re-subdue the city were successfully resisted, but finally in the year 710 B.C. Sargon was victorious, Merodach-baladan fled to Elam, and Babylon fell into Sargon&rsquos hands. This was an event of great importance, and God again used the opportunity of general interest in Babylon to speak of a greater calamity that was yet to come upon the city. This prophecy with its reference to the fall of Babylon, which the cuneiform texts record as occurring in Sargon&rsquos twelfth year, is thereby dated as 710 B.C., again a year after the former prophecy.
CHAPTER 21:11-12, AND 13-17
In the rest of this chapter there are two more prophecies, &ldquoThe Burden of Dumah&rdquo and &ldquoThe Burden of Arabia.&rdquo There does not appear to be anything in the first of these by which it can be dated. It may be provisionally dated as 709 B.C., a year after the previous prophecy. &ldquoThe Burden of Arabia&rdquo contains the prediction, &ldquoWithin a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Qedar shall fail . . .&rdquo (vs. 16). This probably refers to some campaign into Arabia about the year 708 or 707 B.C., but there does not seem to be any surviving cuneiform record of it. Provisionally we may put it as 708, but this must remain uncertain so long as the invasion of Qedar in Arabia is unknown.
This &ldquoBurden of the Valley of Vision&rdquo pictures the busy stir and excitement attendant upon Judah&rsquos revolt against Assyria (II Kings 18:7), and speaks of the preparations which Hezekiah the king was making against the attack from Assyria which all knew would surely come (Isa. 22:8-11). But the inspired Prophet did not share the people&rsquos enthusiasm or the nation&rsquos joy instead he speaks of &ldquoa day of trouble,&rdquo of war, and of many dying (vs. 5-7, 14). Also, there is a prophecy against Shebna, ruler of the king&rsquos house, stating that his place would be taken by Eliakim (vs. 15, 20, 22). Later, when Sennacherib invaded Judah, we learn that Eliakim did then occupy the position formerly held by Shebna (Isaiah 36:3). The date of Hezekiah&rsquos rebellion against Assyria is not given, but it may have been just after Sennacherib ascended to the throne in 70S B.C. This chapter may therefore be dated as in that year.
Tyre joined in the revolt against Assyria, and through Isaiah is given &ldquoThe Burden of Tyre,&rdquo declaring that Tyre would accomplish no more than did Babylon in her revolt (vs. 13-14). The mention of the seventy year period, when Tyre would be forgotten, does not seem to have any clear, immediate fulfillment, but this does not affect the chronology of the Book of Isaiah. Chapter 23 may be dated as soon after the preceding prophecy, that is, about 70S or 704 B.C.
CHAPTERS 24 TO 35
These chapters belong to the years preceding Sennacherib&rsquos invasion, and must therefore be dated as 704-702 B.C. Chapters 30 and 31give fresh warning of the vainness of trusting in the shadow of Egypt, but give also definite promise of help direct from the Lord, and end with a prediction of defeat for Assyria.
CHAPTER 36:1 TO 37:37
In 701 B.C., towards the close of Hezekiah&rsquos fourteenth year, the expected invasion came. Sennacherib was victorious as he advanced southwards, and entering Judah he took forty-six of Hezekiah&rsquos cities. It was &ldquoa day of trouble,&rdquo as Isaiah had foretold (chap. 22:5 37:3), but God kept the promise he had given, for Assyria was defeated by the angel of the Lord smiting 185,000 of Sennacherib&rsquos army.
The death of Sennacherib did not occur until 681 B.C., thirty years after the invasion. This is proof that Isaiah lived well into the reign of Manasseh king of Judah, and that he did not complete the writing of his book of prophecies until after that date. This passage it should be noted is not in chronological order, but is an event which occurred after those of the next two chapters.
This chapter opens with the words, &ldquoIn those days,&rdquo quite evidently meaning the time immediately after Sennacherib&rsquos invasion. Its date therefore is 701 B.C.
The first words of this chapter are: &ldquoAt that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezehiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.&rdquo It will be remembered that Merodach-baladan had already led a revolt in the days of Sargon, lasting twelve years. At that time God had declared the Burden of Babylon through Isaiah, and had later given another short prophecy upon the defeat of Merodach-baladan and the fall of Babylon into Sargon&rsquos hands. These prophecies were a warning to Judah not to form any alliance with Babylon.
The warnings seem to have fallen upon deaf ears. From the Assyrian records we learn that soon after Sennacherib began to reign in 705 B.C. Babylon again revolted and made Marduk-zakir-shum their king. He reigned one month, when Merodach-baladan, who had fled to Elam, returned and, taking the throne of Babylon, reigned nine months in 702 B.C. Sennacherib then defeated him and made Bel-ibni the king, thinking he would remain faithful to Assyria.
But while Sennacherib was engaged with his wars in Syria and Palestine in 701, Bel-ilni joined forces with Merodach-baladan and a Chaldean, named Marduk-ushezib, and a fresh revolt broke out. It was at this time that Merodach-baladan, now joint-ruler in Babylon, and therefore rightly called in Isaiah &ldquoking,&rdquo sent his embassy to Hezekiah. He hoped to gain as an ally one who had had some success in rebelling against Assyria, though this was not due to Hezekiah&rsquos power, but to God&rsquos.
He had heard of Hezekiah&rsquos illness (Isaiah 39:1) and of the connection with it of the strange wonder of the sun returning ten degrees (II Chronicles 32:31), which phenomenon the astronomers of Babylon would not have failed to notice. Hezekiah received the messengers gladly, in spite of the warnings against alliance with Babylon, and afterwards is told by Isaiah of the Babylonian captivity to come later.
The fact that all three of the Biblical records, Kings, Chronicles, and Isaiah, place the arrival of this Babylonian embassy after Sennacherib&rsquos invasion is proof that it was sent in connection with the revolt of 701-700 B.C., not the revolt of 702 B.C. This chapter is therefore dated as 700 B.C.
CHAPTERS 40 TO 46
This large portion of Isaiah is dealt with under one paragraph, as in it less notice is taken of current events in the Prophet&rsquos time instead the prophecies are more concerned with the Babylonian captivity, so positively predicted in the preceding chapter, and with the Messiah.
Cyrus, in some respects a type of the Messiah, is foretold by name (44:28 45:1). But chapters 46 and 47 have some reference to Sennacherib&rsquos destruction of Babylon in 689 B.C. He was angered by the city&rsquos repeated rebellions, and laid it waste. This event is reflected in the words: &ldquoBel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together they could not deliver the burden but themselves are gone into captivity&rdquo (46:1, 2). Sennacherib at this time left the Babylonian throne vacant, and this too is referred to. &ldquoCome down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, 0 daughter of the Chaldaeans . . .&rdquo (47:1). There was no king in Babylon after this until Sennacherib died eight years later. This was not the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the current event which gave it point to the people of that day. These chapters therefore belong to about the year 689 B.C.
We have now gone through the Book of Isaiah and examined the various prophecies in the light of the contemporary history, and by this means have given dates to many portions. The earliest date is &ldquobefore 748 B.C.&rdquo for the first few chapters, the latter ones being about or soon after 689 B.C., and the latest event mentioned in the Book is dated &ldquo681 B.C.&rdquo (37:38). As this covers a total of over 67 years, Isaiah must have lived to a ripe old age, something like 90 years, before he died during the reign of Manasseh.
We have seen also in these prophecies how God Himself used those events which were occupying public interest as a foundation thought for His messages. But the thought in these messages again and again leaps from the current event or the near fulfillment, to the far distant times. The words are so arranged and so carefully chosen that, while they had an immediate application, they deal equally well with the greater events which were still future. This was not accomplished by making the meaning vague, for the statements are clear and positive. Only the God Who sees the end from the beginning could thus foretell: only the God Who gave man speech could be this perfect master of language that so many prophecies, lessons, and meanings could be all accurately combined into one message, even into the same words. Man alone could not have written the Book of Isaiah, but a man Isaiah, directly inspired by the Spirit of God could - and did.
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The Mutual Destruction of Sennacherib & Babylon - History
1 At that time Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2 Hezekiah was pleased, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and his whole armory and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. 3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, What did these men say, and from where have they come to you? And Hezekiah said, They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon. 4 He said, What have they seen in your house? So Hezekiah answered, They have seen all that is in my house there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them.
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the L ORD of hosts, 6 Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon nothing will be left, says the L ORD . 7 And some of your sons who will issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon. 8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, The word of the L ORD which you have spoken is good. For he thought, For there will be peace and truth in my days.
American Standard Version
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah for he heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.
AT that time Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan king of Babylon, sent letters and presents to Ezechias: for he had heard that he had been sick and was recovered.
Darby Bible Translation
At that time Merodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent a letter and a present to Hezekiah for he had heard that he had been sick and had recovered.
English Revised Version
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.
Webster's Bible Translation
At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and had recovered.
World English Bible
At that time, Merodach Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah for he heard that he had been sick, and had recovered.
Young's Literal Translation
At that time hath Merodach-Baladan, son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah, when he heareth that he hath been sick, and is become strong.
That for the Most Part the Occupation of Government Dissipates the Solidity of the Mind.
Often the care of government, when undertaken, distracts the heart in divers directions and one is found unequal to dealing with particular things, while with confused mind divided among many. Whence a certain wise man providently dissuades, saying, My son, meddle not with many matters (Ecclus. xi. 10) because, that is, the mind is by no means collected on the plan of any single work while parted among divers. And, when it is drawn abroad by unwonted care, it is emptied of the solidity of inward …
Leo the Great— Writings of Leo the Great
The Ambassadors from Babylon
In the midst of his prosperous reign King Hezekiah was suddenly stricken with a fatal malady. "Sick unto death," his case was beyond the power of man to help. And the last vestige of hope seemed removed when the prophet Isaiah appeared before him with the message, "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live." Isaiah 38:1. The outlook seemed utterly dark yet the king could still pray to the One who had hitherto been his "refuge and strength, a very present help …
Ellen Gould White— The Story of Prophets and Kings
The Prophet Micah.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS. Micah signifies: "Who is like Jehovah" and by this name, the prophet is consecrated to the incomparable God, just as Hosea was to the helping God, and Nahum to the comforting God. He prophesied, according to the inscription, under Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. We are not, however, entitled, on this account, to dissever his prophecies, and to assign particular discourses to the reign of each of these kings. On the contrary, the entire collection forms only one whole. At …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg— Christology of the Old Testament
HEZEKIAH (Hebr. />= "my strength is Jah" Assyrian, "Ḥazaḳiau"):
1. King of Judah (726-697 B.C. ).
Son of Ahaz and Abi or Abijah ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five and reigned twenty-nine years (II Kings xviii. 1-2 II Chron. xxix. 1). Hezekiah was the opposite of his father, Ahaz and no king of Judah, among either his predecessors or his successors, could, it is said, be compared to him (II Kings xviii. 5). His first act was to repair the Temple, which had been closed during the reign of Ahaz. To this end he reorganized the services of the priests and Levites, purged the Temple and its vessels, and opened it with imposing sacrifices (II Chron. xxix. 3-36). From the high places he removed the fanes which had been tolerated even by the pious kings among his predecessors, and he made the Temple the sole place for the cult of Yhwh . A still more conspicuous act was his demolition of the brazen serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness and which had hitherto been worshiped (II Kings xviii. 4). He also sent messengers to Ephraim and Manasseh inviting them to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. The messengers, however, were not only not listened to, but were even laughed at only a few men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun came to Jerusalem. Nevertheless the Passover was celebrated with great solemnity and such rejoicing as had not been in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon (II Chron. xxx.). The feast took place in the second month instead of the first, in accordance with the permission contained in Num. ix. 10, 11.
Hezekiah was successful in his wars against the Philistines, driving them back in a series of victorious battles as far as Gaza (II Kings xviii. 8). He thus not only retook all the cities that his father had lost (II Chron. xxviii. 18), but even conquered others belonging to the Philistines. Josephus records ("Ant." ix. 13, § 3) that Hezekiah captured all their cities from Gaza to Gath. Hezekiah was seconded in his endeavors by the prophet Isaiah, on whose prophecies he relied, venturing even to revolt against the King of Assyria by refusing to pay the usual tribute (II Kings xviii. 7). Still, Hezekiah came entirely under Isaiah's influence only after a hard struggle with certain of his ministers, who advised him to enter into an alliance with Egypt. This proposal did not please Isaiah, who saw in it a defection of the Jews from God and it was at his instigation that Shebna, the minister of Hezekiah's palace and probably his counselor, working for the alliance with Egypt, was deposed from office (Isa. xxii. 15-19).
As appears from II Kings xviii. 7-13, Hezekiah revolted against the King of Assyria almost immediately after ascending the throne. Shalmaneser invaded Samaria in the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, and conquered it in the sixth, while Sennacheribinvaded Judah in the fourteenth. The last-mentioned fact is also recorded in Isa. xxxvi. 1 but it would seem strange if the King of Assyria, who had conquered the whole kingdom of Israel, did not push farther on to Judah, and if the latter remained unmolested during ten years. In II Chron. xxxii. 1 the year in which Sennacherib invaded Judah is not given, nor is there any mention of Hezekiah's previous revolt.
There is, besides, an essential difference between II Kings, on the one hand, and Isaiah and II Chron., on the other, as to the invasion of Sennacherib. According to the former, Sennacherib first invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and took all the fortified cities (the annals of Sennacherib report forty-six cities and 200,000 prisoners). Hezekiah acknowledged his fault and parleyed with Sennacherib about a treaty. Sennacherib imposed upon Hezekiah a tribute of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold and in order to pay it Hezekiah was obliged to take all the silver in the Temple and in his own treasuries, and even to "cut off the gold from the doors of the Temple" (II Kings xviii. 13-16). Sennacherib, however, acted treacherously. After receiving the gold and the silver he sent a large army under three of his officers to besiege Jerusalem, while he himself with the remainder of his troops remained at Lachish (ib. xviii. 17). The contrary is related in II Chronicles. After Sennacherib had invaded Judah and marched toward Jerusalem, Hezekiah decided to defend his capital. He accordingly stopped up the wells diverted the watercourse of Gihon, conducting it to the city by a subterranean canal (II Chron. xxxii. 30 Ecclus. [Sirach] xlviii. 17) strengthened the walls and employed all possible means to make the city impregnable (II Chron. xxxii. 1-8). Still the people of Jerusalem were terror-stricken, and many of Hezekiah's ministers looked toward Egypt for help. Isaiah violently denounced the proceedings of the people, and derided their activity in fortifying the city (Isa. xxii. 1-14).
The account from the arrival of Sennacherib's army before Jerusalem under Rabshakeh till its destruction is identical in II Kings, Isaiah, and II Chronicles. Rabshakeh summoned Hezekiah to surrender, derided his hope of help from Egypt, and endeavored to inspire the people with distrust of Hezekiah's reliance on providential aid. But Sennacherib, having heard that Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia, had marched against him, withdrew his army from Jerusalem. He sent messages to Hezekiah informing him that his departure was only temporary and that he was sure of ultimately conquering Jerusalem. Hezekiah spread open the letters before God and prayed for the delivery of Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesied that Sennacherib would not again attack Jerusalem and it came to pass that the whole army of the Assyrians was destroyed in one night by "the angel of the Lord" (II Kings xviii. 17-xix. Isa. xxxvi.-xxxvii. II Chron. xxxii. 9-22).
Hezekiah was exalted in the sight of the surrounding nations, and many brought him presents (II Chron. xxxii. 23). During the siege of Jerusalem Hezekiah had fallen dangerously ill, and had been told by Isaiah that he would die. Hezekiah, whose kingdom was in danger, because he had no heir (Manasseh was not born till three years later) and his death would therefore end his dynasty, prayed to God and wept bitterly. Isaiah was ordered by God to inform Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and that fifteen years should be added to his life. His disease was to be cured by a poultice of figs and the divine promise was ratified by the retrogression of the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz (II Kings xx. 1-11 Isa. xxxviii. 1-8 II Chron. xxxii. 24). After Hezekiah's recovery Merodach-baladan, King of Babylon, sent ambassadors with presents ostensibly to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery and to inquire into the miracle (II Kings xx. 12 II Chron. xxxii. 31). His real intention may have been, however, to see how far an alliance with Hezekiah would be advantageous to the King of Babylon. Hezekiah received the ambassadors gladly, and displayed before them all his treasures, showing them that an ally of so great importance was not to be despised. But he received a terrible rebuke from Isaiah, who considered the act as indicating distrust in the divine power whereupon Hezekiah expressed his repentance (II Chron. xx. 12-19, xxxii. 25-26 Isa. xxxix).
Hezekiah's death occurred, as stated above, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. He was buried with great honor amid universal mourning in the chief sepulcher of the sons of David (II Chron. xxxii. 33). He is represented as possessing great treasures and much cattle (ib. xxxii. 27-29). He is the only king after David noted for his organization of the musical service in the Temple (ib. xxix. 25-28). There is another similarity between him and David, namely, his poetical talent this is attested not only by the psalm which he composed when he had recovered from his sickness (Isa. xxxviii. 10-20), but also by his message to Isaiah and his prayer (ib. xxxvii. 3, 4, 16-20). He is said to have compiled the ancient Hebrew writings and he ordered the scholars of his time to copy for him the Proverbs of Solomon (Prov. xxv. 1).
Hezekiah is considered as the model of those who put their trust in the Lord. Only during his sickness did he waver in his hitherto unshaken trust and require a sign, for which he was blamed by Isaiah (Lam. R. i.). The Hebrew name "Ḥizḳiyyah" is considered by the Talmudists to be a surname, meaning either "strengthened by Yhwh " or "he who made a firm alliance between the Israelites and Yhwh " his eight other names are enumerated in Isa. ix. 5 (Sanh. 94a). He is called the restorer of the study of the Law in the schools, and is said to have planted a sword at the door of the bet ha-midrash, declaring that he who would not study the Law should be struck with the weapon (ib. 94b).
Hezekiah's piety, which, according to the Talmudists, alone occasioned the destruction of the Assyrian army and the signal deliverance of the Israelites when Jerusalem was attacked by Sennacherib, caused him to be considered by some as the Messiah (ib. 99a). According to Bar Ḳappara, Hezekiah was destined to be the Messiah, but the attribute of justice("middat ha-din") protested against this, saying that as David, who sang so much the glory of God, had not been made the Messiah, still less should Hezekiah, for whom so many miracles had been performed, yet who did not sing the praise of God (ib. 94a).
Hezekiah's dangerous illness was caused by the discord between him and Isaiah, each of whom desired that the other should pay him the first visit. In order to reconcile them God struck Hezekiah with a malady and ordered Isaiah to visit the sick king. Isaiah told the latter that he would die, and that his soul also would perish because he had not married and had thus neglected the commandment to perpetuate the human species. Hezekiah did not despair, however, holding to the principle that one must always have recourse to prayer. He finally married Isaiah's daughter, who bore him Manasseh (Ber. 10a). However, in Gen. R. lxv. 4, as quoted in Yalḳ., II Kings, 243, it is said that Hezekiah prayed for illness and for recovery in order that he might be warned and be able to repent of his sins. He was thus the first who recovered from illness. But in his prayer he was rather arrogant, praising himself and this resulted in the banishment of his descendants (Sanh. 104a). R. Levi said that Hezekiah's words, "and I have done what is good in thy eyes" (II Kings xx. 3), refer to his concealing a book of healing. According to the Talmudists, Hezekiah did six things, of which three agreed with the dicta of the Rabbis and three disagreed therewith (Pes. iv., end). The first three were these: (1) he concealed the book of healing because people, instead of praying to God, relied on medical prescriptions (2) he broke in pieces the brazen serpent (see Biblical Data, above) and (3) he dragged his father's remains on a pallet, instead of giving them kingly burial. The second three were: (1) stopping the water of Gihon (2) cutting the gold from the doors of the Temple and (3) celebrating the Passover in the second month (Ber. 10b comp. Ab. R. N. ii., ed. Schechter, p. 11).
The question that puzzled Ewald ("Gesch. des Volkes Israel," iii. 669, note 5) and others, "Where was the brazen serpent till the time of Hezekiah?" occupied the Talmudists also. They answered it in a very simple way: Asa and Joshaphat, when clearing away the idols, purposely left the brazen serpent behind, in order that Hezekiah might also be able to do a praiseworthy deed in breaking it (Ḥul. 6b).
The Midrash reconciles the two different narratives (II Kings xviii. 13-16 and II Chron. xxxii. 1-8) of Hezekiah's conduct at the time of Sennacherib's invasion (see Biblical Data, above). It says that Hezekiah prepared three means of defense: prayer, presents, and war (Eccl. R. ix. 27), so that the two Biblical statements complement each other. The reason why Hezekiah's display of his treasures to the Babylonian ambassadors aroused the anger of God (II Chron. xxxii. 25) was that Hezekiah opened before them the Ark, showing them the tablets of the covenant, and saying, "It is with this that we are victorious" (Yalḳ., l.c. 245).
Notwithstanding Hezekiah's immense riches, his meal consisted only of a pound of vegetables (Sanh. 94b). The honor accorded to him after death consisted, according to R. Judah, in his bier being preceded by 36,000 men whose shoulders were bare in sign of mourning. According to R. Nehemiah, a scroll of the Law was placed on Hezekiah's bier. Another statement is that a yeshibah was established on his grave—for three days, according to some: for seven, according to others or for thirty, according to a third authority (Yalḳ., II Chron. 1085). The Talmudists attribute to Hezekiah the redaction of the books of Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes (B. B. 15a).
The chronology of Hezekiah's time presents some difficulties. The years of his reign have been variously given as 727-696 B.C. , 724-696 (Köhler), 728-697 (Duncker, "Gesch. des Altertums"), while the modern critics (Wellhausen, Kamphausen, Meyer, Stade) have 714-689. The Biblical data are conflicting. II Kings xviii. 10 assigns the fall of Samaria to the sixth year of Hezekiah. This would make 728 the year of his accession. But verse 13 of the same chapter states that Sennacherib invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah. The cuneiform inscriptions leave no doubt that this invasion took place in 701, which would fix 715 as Hezekiah's initial year. The account of his illness (II Kings xix.) seems to confirm this latter date. He reigned twenty-nine years (II Kings xviii. 2). His illness was contemporaneous with the events enumerated in II Kings xviii. (see ib. xix. 1-6). The Lord promised that his life should be prolonged fifteen years (29-15=14). His fourteenth year being 701, the first must have been 715. This will necessitate the assumption that the statement in II Kings xviii. 9-10, that Samaria was captured in the sixth year of Hezekiah, is incorrect. The other alternative is to look upon the date in verse 13 of the same chapter as a later assumption replacing an original "in his days." Again, the number fifteen (ib. xix. 6) may have replaced, owing to xviii. 13, an original "ten" (comp. the "ten degrees" which the shadow on the dial receded ib. xx. 10).
Another calculation renders it probable that Hezekiah did not ascend the throne before 722. Jehu's initial year is 842 and between it and Samaria's destruction the numbers in the books of Kings give for Israel 143 7/12 years, for Judah 165. This discrepancy, amounting in the case of Judah to 45 years (165-120), has been accounted for in various ways but every theory invoked to harmonize the data must concede that Hezekiah's first six years as well as Ahaz's last two were posterior to 722. Nor is it definitely known how old Hezekiah was when called to the throne. II Kings xviii. 2 makes him twenty-five years of age. It is most probable that "twenty-five" is an error for "fifteen." His father (II Kings xvi. 2) died at the age of thirty-six, or of forty, according to Kamphausen (in Stade's "Zeitschrift," iii. 200, and "Chronologie der Königsbücher," p. 20). It is not likely that Ahaz at the age of eleven, or even of fifteen, should have had a son. Hezekiah's own son Manasseh ascended the throne twenty-nineyears later, when he was twelve years old. This places his birth in the seventeenth year of his father's reign, or gives his father's age as forty-two, if he was twenty-five at his accession. It is more probable that Ahaz was twenty-one or twenty-five when Hezekiah was born, and that the latter was thirty-two at the birth of his son and successor, Manasseh.
To understand the motives of Hezekiah's policy, the situation in the Assyro-Babylonian empire must be kept in mind. Sargon was assassinated in 705 B.C. His successor, Sennacherib, was at once confronted by a renewed attempt of Merodach-baladan to secure Babylon's independence. This gave the signal to the smaller western tributary nations to attempt to regain their freedom from Assyrian suzerainty. The account of Merodach-baladan's embassy in II Kings xx. 12-13 fits into this period, the Babylonian leader doubtless intending to incite Judah to rise against Assyria. The motive adduced in the text, that the object of the embassy was to felicitate Hezekiah upon his recovery, would be an afterthought of a later historiographer. The censure of Hezekiah on this occasion by Isaiah could not have happened literally as reported in this chapter. Hezekiah could not have had great wealth in his possession after paying the tribute levied by the Assyrians (ib. xviii. 14-16). Moreover, the prophecy of Isaiah should have predicted the deportation of all these treasures to Nineveh and not to Babylon.
Underlying this incident, however, is the historical fact that Isaiah did not view this movement to rebellion with any too great favor and he must have warned the king that if Babylon should succeed, the policy of the victor in its relations to Judah would not differ from that of Assyria. If anything, Babylon would show itself still more rapacious. Isaiah's condemnation of the proposed new course in opposition to Sennacherib is apparent from Isa. xiv. 29-32, xxix., xxx.-xxxii. Hezekiah, at first in doubt, was finally moved through the influence of the court to disregard Isaiah's warning. He joined the anti-Assyrian league, which included the Tyrian and Palestinian states Ammon, Moab, and Edom, the Bedouin on the east and south, and the Egyptians. So prominent was his position in this confederacy that Padi, King of Ekron, who upon his refusal to join it had been deposed, was delivered over to Hezekiah for safe-keeping.
The Biblical accounts of the events subsequent to the formation of this anti-Assyrian alliance must be compared with the statements contained in Sennacherib's prism-inscription. It appears that the Assyrian king, as soon as he had subdued the Babylonian uprising in 701, set out to reestablish his authority over the western vassal states. Isaiah's fears proved only too well founded. Egypt, upon which Hezekiah had relied most to extricate him from the difficulties of the situation, proved, as usual, unreliable. Perhaps in this instance H. Winckler's theory that not the Egyptians, but the Musri and the Miluḥḥa, little kingdoms in northwestern Arabia, were the treacherous allies, must be regarded as at least plausible. For Isa. xxx. 6 pictures the difficulties besetting the embassy sent to ask for aid and as the road to Egypt was open and much used it is not likely that a royal envoy to Egypt would encounter trouble in reaching his destination.
The consequence for Hezekiah was that he had to resume the payment of heavy tribute but Jerusalem was not taken by Sennacherib's army. As to the details, the data in II Kings xviii. 13-xix. 37 and Isa. xxxvi.-xxxvii. are somewhat confusing. II Kings xviii. 13 declares that Sennacherib first captured all the fortified cities with the exception of the capital. But this is supplemented by the brief statement—probably drawn from another source in which the shorter form of the name />is consistently employed—that Hezekiah sent a petition for mercy to Sennacherib, then at Lachish, and paid him an exorbitant tribute in consideration for the pardon. Sennacherib nevertheless demanded the surrender of the capital but, encouraged by Isaiah's assurance that Jerusalem could and would not be taken, Hezekiah refused, and then the death of 185,000 of the hostile army at the hands of the angel of Yhwh compelled Sennacherib at once to retreat.
The story of Sennacherib's demand and defeat is told in II Kings xviii. 17-xix. 37 (whence it passed over into Isaiah, and not vice versa), which is not by one hand. Stade and Meinhold claim this account to be composed of two parallel narratives of one event, and, as does also Duhm, declare them both to be embellishing fiction. Winckler's contention ("Gesch. Babyloniens und Assyriens," 1892, pp. 255-258, and "Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen," 1892, pp. 26 et seq.) that two distinct expeditions by the Assyrian king are here treated as though there had been but one solves the difficulties (see also Winckler in Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d. ed., pp. 83, 273).
According to Biblical data, Sennacherib was assassinated soon after his return. But if 701 was the year of his (only) expedition, twenty years elapsed before the assassination (II Kings xix. 35 et seq.). Again, Tirhakah is mentioned as marching against the Assyrian king and Tirhakah did not become Pharaoh before 691. On the first expedition against Palestine (701, his third campaign see Schrader, "K. B." ii. 91 et seq.) Sennacherib, while with his main army in Philistia, sent a corps to devastate Judea and blockade Jerusalem. This prompted Hezekiah to send tribute to Lachish and to deliver his prisoner Padi, after the battle of Elteke (Altaku), where the Egyptian army, with its Ethiopic and perhaps Arabian contingents, was defeated. On the other hand, after Ekron had fallen into Assyrian hands, Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh to force the surrender of Jerusalem. Baffled in this, the king had to return to Nineveh in consequence of the outbreak of new disturbances caused by the Babylonians (II Kings xviii. 16).
Busied with home troubles till the destruction of Babylon (700-689 B.C. ), Sennacherib lost sight of the West. This interval Hezekiah utilized to regain control over the cities taken from him and divided among the faithful vassals of the Assyrian rulers. This is the historical basis for the victory ascribedto him over the Philistines (II Kings xviii. 8). The interests of Sennacherib and those of Tirhakah soon clashed (II Kings xix. 9 Herodotus, ii. 141) in their desire to get control over the commerce of western Arabia (see Isa. xx. 3 et seq., xxx. 1-5, xxxi. 1-3). This was for Hezekiah the opportunity to cease paying tribute. Sennacherib's army marching against Jerusalem to punish him spread terror and caused the king again to fear the worst but Isaiah's confidence remained unshaken (II Kings xix. 33). Indeed, in the meantime a great disaster had befallen Sennacherib's army (see Herodotus, ii. 141). Memories of this catastrophe, intermingled with those of the blockade under the Tartan (701 B.C. ), are at the basis of the Biblical account of the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib before the walls of Jerusalem. The "plague" may have been the main factor in thwarting the Assyrian monarch's designs. His undoing then undoubtedly led to his assassination. Nevertheless it seems that Hezekiah found it wise to resume tributary relations with Assyria. Hence the report (in the Sennacherib inscription) of the paying of tribute and the sending of an ambassador to Nineveh.
There is no possible doubt that the credit given to Hezekiah for religious reforms in the Biblical reports is based on facts. Yet, as the idolatrous practises were revived most vigorously after his death, it is most probable that his reforms were not quite as extensive or intensive as a later historiography would have it appear. Certainly the fate of Samaria must have been all the more instructive as Jerusalem, by what in Isaiah's construction was the intervention of Yhwh , had been spared. To make the capital, thus marked as Yhwh 's holy, untakable city, the exclusive sanctuary was a near thought. The "brazen serpent," probably an old totem-fetish, could not well be tolerated. Around Jerusalem the "high places" were also inhibited. But it must not be overlooked that Hezekiah's authority (or kingdom) did not extend over much territory beyond the city proper (see, however, in opposition to the views that would limit Hezekiah's influence as a religious reformer, Steuernagel, "Die Entstehung des Deuteronomischen Gesetzes," pp. 100 et seq. Kittel, "Gesch. der Hebräer," ii. 302 et seq.).
The Psalm ("Miktab") of Hezekiah (Isa. xxxviii. 9 et seq.) is certainly not by that king. Neither is the superscription to Prov. xxv. based on historical facts. It is more likely that the Siloam inscription speaks of the building of the aqueduct in Hezekiah's days, though from the character of the letters a much more recent date (about 20 B.C. ) has been argued for it ("Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch." 1897, pp. 165-185).
- Baudissin, König, Kuenen, Smend
- Monteflore (Hibbert Lectures, London, 1892), on the history of Israel's religion
- Meinhold, Jesaijastudien
- Schwartzkopff, Die Weissagungen Jesaia's Gegen Sanherib, Leipsic, n.d. (1993?).
2. ( />: A. V. "Hizkiah"):Ancestor of the prophet Zephaniah (Zeph. i 1) identified by Ibn Ezra and some modern scholars with the King of Judah Abravanel, however, rejected this identification.
3. Son of Neariah, a descendant of the royal family of Judah (I Chron. iii. 23).
4. There is a Hezekiah mentioned in connection with Ater (Ezra ii. 16 Neh. vii. 21, x. 18 [R. V. 17] in the last two passages />). The relationship between them is not clearly indicated in the first two passages the reading is "Ater of Hezekiah" the Vulgate takes "Hezekiah" in the first passage as the name of a place, in the second as the father of Ater. In the third passage, "Hezekiah" comes after "Ater" without any connecting preposition.