King Sargon II (right) and his crown prince Sennacherib (left) on a relief from Khorsabad, now in the Louvre, Paris
Photo source: Livius website
Nadav Na'aman lectured yesterday on Hezekiah in view of the Biblical and archaeological sources in an evening in memory of Hayim Tadmor. He suggested that the recent trend to view Hezekiah as a powerful king is misplaced. Hezekiah received a very strong kingdom. However, Sargon II very quickly conquered both Israel and Ashdod and made them Assyrian provinces. Hezekiah found himself bordering the terrifying Assyrian empire on the northern and western border. Assyrian troops stationed at both provinces to put down revolts could easily have been used as a military force against his own kingdom. Thus, so long as Sargon II was in power, Hezekiah was careful not to do any move that might cause his own kingdom to become an Assyrian province. The uncertain future of Judah, however, eventually caused Hezekiah to join a revolt against Assyria when Sennacherib replaced Sargon II. The result was a devastating blow to Judah, coupled with a heavy tax, from which Judah did not recover for many years. The author of Chronicles, writing hundreds of years later, is totally oblivious to this reality and does not understand the threat that Assyria posed to Judah. Building upon the information in the book of Kings, Hezekiah is portrayed as a great builder and king, during whose time Judah witnessed a golden age. In fact, Hezekiah took a powerful kingdom, and led it to a devastating military blow from the Assyrian empire that now bordered his kingdom. It would be wrong for us as historians to take this utopian picture painted by the author of Chronicles and view it as historical reality.