Chizkiyahu's Monarchy in Jerusalem (I): An Overview (I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

  

            In the previous lesson, we dealt with the reign of Achaz as an introduction to the period of Chizkiyahu – a much longer and more complex period (29 years). In addition to the accounts in II Melakhim 18-20 and II Divrei Ha-yamim 29-32, many of the prophecies in the books of Yishayahu and Mikha relate to the period of Chizkiyahu. Nowhere, however, do we find an orderly chronology of the events spelled out in the various sources. In this lesson, therefore, we shall try to construct a chronological framework of the major events that occurred during the reign of Chizkiyahu as an introduction to the coming lectures. The table in the appendix presents in chronological order (to the extent possible)[1] the major events that took place during the days of Chizkiyahu and provides an overview of the period and its spiritual significance.

 

I.          THE FIRST PERIOD OF CHIZKIYAHU'S REIGN

 

From the very outset, Chizkiyahu's reign (especially according to the account in Divrei Ha-yamim) presents an absolute turnabout in relation to the reign of Achaz. An upheaval of such scale (as we shall immediately outline) and at such an early stage ("In the first year of his reign, in the first month"; II Divrei Ha-yamim 29:3) indicates prior planning, determination and perseverance, and it is reasonable to assume that the prophet Yishayahu was in some way involved.[2]

 

1. REDEDICATION OF GOD'S TEMPLE (II DIVREI HA-YAMIM 29)

 

We saw in the previous lecture that Achaz introduced idol worship into the Mikdash and closed the house of God. Chizkiyahu reopened the Temple already at the beginning of his reign, an action that involved several steps: removal of the abomination from the Temple, purification of the Temple, and removal of the uncleanness to the Kidron Wadi, purification of the holy vessels and their renewed consecration. Scripture attests to the speed with which all this was done: "For the thing was done suddenly" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 29:36). At the same time, the king uprooted the idolatrous practices that had taken root in the cities of Yehuda and Israel. And finally, the Temple service was renewed: the service of the priests and Levites, the mishmarot and ma'amadot, and the bringing of teruma and tithes to the house of God (Ibid. v. 31).[3]

 

2. PESACH FOR GOD (II DIVREI HA-YAMIM 30)

 

3In the framework of the new covenant made with God, the festival of Pesach is chosen as the appropriate time to reunite the two kingdoms, Israel and Yehuda, around the service of God in the Temple in Jerusalem. The king sends runners and letters to all of Israel from Dan to Be'er-Sheva asking everyone to return to the service of God in the Temple in Jerusalem and bring the paschal offering.[4]

 

Scripture testifies that the time for bringing the paschal offering was pushed off:

 

For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep Pesach in the second month. For they could not keep it in its time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, nor had the people gathered themselves together in Jerusalem…  Then they killed the paschal lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month; and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and they sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings in the house of the Lord. And they stood in their place according to the form prescribed for them, according to the Torah of Moshe, the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood, which they received from the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the congregation who were not sanctified. Therefore the Levites had the charge of killing of the paschal lambs for every one who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, many of Ephraim, and Menasheh, Yissakhar, and Zevulun had not cleansed themselves, so that they did eat the Pesach otherwise that it was written. But Yechizkiyahu prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one who directs his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 30:2-19)

 

            It is clear from this passage that the paschal offering was delayed owing to uncleanness, but the Sages disagree as to the nature of the delay (Sanhedrin 12). According to the plain sense of the text, the "second month" refers to the month of Iyar, that is to say, the king set aside the regular Pesach and celebrated only Pesach Sheni; this is the position of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Shimon (Ibid.). But other Sages understand that it was Adar Sheni, and that Chizkiyahu prayed for atonement either because adding a month on account of ritual impurity is questionable, or because they added a month of Nissan (Ibid.; Pesachim 4:9), and we only add a month of Adar (Sanhedrin, ibid.).[5]

 

            In any event, Chizkiyahu's objective in connection with the paschal offering was to reunite the entire people, and especially the Kingdom of Israel, around the Temple in Jerusalem. It is possible that in this manner the king was also trying to synchronize once again the calendars of the two kingdoms, between which Yarovam had created an intentional discrepancy by adding a month of his own (I Melakhim 12:33),[6] and thus the entire people would celebrate Pesach together on one common date.[7]

 

3) RESTORING THE TORAH AND PROPHECY TO THEIR PREVIOUS STATUS

 

            During the time of Chizkiyahu there was extensive activity in the realms of wisdom literature, recording of prophecies and study of Torah:

 

These also are proverbs of Shelomo, which the men of Chizkiya, King of Yehuda, copied out. (Mishlei 25:1)

 

Chizkiyahu and his company wrote Yishayahu, Mishlei, Shir Ha-shirim and Kohelet. (Bava Batra 15a)

 

"And it shall come to pass on that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off your shoulder, and his yoke from off your neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the fatness" (Yishayahu 10:27). Rabbi Yitzchak Nafcha said: [This means,] the yoke of Sancheriv shall be destroyed on account of the oil of Chizkiyahu, which burnt in the synagogues and academies. What did he do? He planted a sword by the door of the academy and proclaimed: "He who will not study the Torah will be pierced with the sword." Search was made from Dan unto Be'er-Sheva, and no ignoramus was found; from Gabbat unto Antipris, and no boy or girl, man or woman was found who was not thoroughly versed in the laws of cleanliness and uncleanliness. (Sanhedrin 94b)

 

            It is quite possible that this activity arose out of the concern that in the wake of Achaz's reign, Israel's Torah would, God forbid, be forgotten, and therefore it was important to institutionalize, summarize, and fix the Torah.

 

4) SUMMARY

 

            The account of the first period of Chizkiyahu's reign, as spelled out in Divrei Ha-yamim, portrays a spiritual upheaval in all areas of activity: removal of the idols erected by Chizkiyahu's father, Achaz, in the Temple and in the cities of Yehuda and Israel; rededication of the Temple, with all that is implied by that regarding the ma'amadot of the priests, the Levites, and the Israelites; renewal of the covenant with God around the paschal offering in the house of God in Jerusalem; and deepening the people's connection to prophecy, wisdom literature and Torah study. All these constitute a total turnabout in relation to the period of Achaz: Chizkiyahu dedicates the early years of his reign to the spiritual repair of his kingdom and to the opening of a new page in the relations between the Kingdom of Yehuda and God.

 

            We shall see below that Scripture testifies that later in life Chizkiyahu abandoned the internal arena in favor of involvement in foreign affairs.

 

II.        THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL

 

In II Melakhim 17, we find a detailed account of the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel in the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea ben Ela, which corresponds to the sixth year of the reign of Chizkiyahu:

 

In the twelfth year of Achaz, King of Yehuda, Hoshea the son of Ela began to reign in Shomeron over Israel, reigning for nine years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him. Against him came up Shalmaneser King of Assyria, and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. And the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So King of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Shomron, and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Shomron, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Chelach and in Chavor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Madai. (II Melakhim 17:1-7)

 

            It is interesting that this account is repeated again in II Melakhim 18, in the framework of the chronicles of the reign of Chizkiyahu:

 

And it came to pass in the fourth year of King Chizkiyahu, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Ela King of Israel, that Shalmaneser King of Assyria came up against Shomron, and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it: in the sixth year of Chizkiya, that is the ninth year of Hoshea King of Israel, Shomron was taken. And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel to Assyria, and put them in Chelach and in Chavor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Madai. Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed His covenant, and all that Moshe the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them. (Ibid. 18:9-12)

 

            It seems that with this repetition, Scripture wishes to allude to the importance of the event for Chizkiyahu himself: the army of Assyria on the way to Yehuda and the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel constituted a severe warning to the Kingdom of Yehuda.

 

III.       THE CONQUEST OF ASHDOD BY SARGON

 

In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it. (Yishayahu 20:1)

 

            According to the Assyrian annals, Sargon ruled after Shalmaneser and before Sancheriv. Thus, we see that the conquest of Ashdod occurred after the sixth year of Chizkiyahu, i.e., after the fall of the Kingdom of Israel, and constituted then a second, even more severe warning, for Chizkiyahu. The very appearance of the Assyrian army on the coastal plain was a concrete threat to the Kingdom of Yehuda.

 

            In the wake of Tartan's arrival in Ashdod it is stated:

 

At the same time the Lord spoke by Yishayahu the son of Amotz saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off your loins, and put off your shoe from your foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. And the Lord said, Just as My servant Yishayahu has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a portent upon Egypt and upon Kush; so shall the king of Assyria lead away the prisoners of Egypt and the exiles of Kush, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Kush their expectation, and of Egypt their glory. And the inhabitant of this coastland shall say on that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape? (Ibid. vv. 2-6)

 

The prophet is commanded to go three years naked and barefoot as a sign and portent of the way that Assyria, the great superpower, will deal with Kush and Egypt. Thus the prophet warns Chizkiyahu against the political step that he will take just a short time later: rebellion against Assyria and entering into an alliance with Egypt.

 

To summarize, these two events – the fall of the Kingdom of Israel and the conquest of Ashdod – serve as clear hints to Chizkiyahu that the global power of Assyria is headed towards him, and that the conquest of Yehuda is only a question of time.

 

IV.       THE SMITING OF AMALEK AND THE PELISHTIM

 

            In addition to these regional developments, Scripture testifies about local military campaigns. One such campaign was directed against Amalek:

 

And these written by name came in the days of Yechizkiyahu King of Yehuda, and smote their tents, and the Me'unim who were found there, and destroyed them utterly unto this day, and dwelt in their stead: because there was pasture there for their flocks. And some of them, of the sons of Shimon, five hundred men, went to Mount Se'ir, having as their leaders Pelatya, and Ne'arya, and Refaya, and Uziel, the sons of Yishi. And they smote the remnant of Amalek who had escaped, and dwelt there to this day. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 4:41-43)

 

            Going to Mount Se'ir and confronting the remnant of Amalek testifies to Chizkiyahu's desire to complete the process of destroying Amalek that had been begun by the first kings of Israel, Shaul and David. Thus, Chizkiyahu sees himself as successor to David and Shelomo (a parallel that that we will expand upon in future lectures), who completes the mitzva about which Israel had been commanded when they first entered the land of Israel to destroy the seed of Amalek (Sanhedrin 20b).

 

            The second campaign was conducted against the Philistines, and is presented as part of the rebellion against Assyria:

 

And he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. He smote the Philistines, as far as Azza and its borders, from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city. (II Melakhim 18:7-8)

 

            The Philistines were settled along the coastal road, the great international highway that connected Egypt, along the seacoast, to Syria and the northern powers. The various powers – Egypt in the south, and Aram, Assyria, Babylonia and Persia (each in its own time) in the north – made sure that this most important route remained open in order to allow for military maneuvers. Therefore, it was only rarely that the rulers of the Kingdom of Israel maintained actual control of the area of Philistine rule along the coast.[8] Chizkiyahu, as part of his rebellion against Assyria, conquered the territory of Peleshet as far as Azza.

 

            We have no information as to when these conquests took place, but it is reasonable to assume that they occurred at an early stage, before Sancheriv rose to the throne. In a prophecy delivered during the year of the death of King Achaz, Yishayahu (14:28-32) speaks of Peleshet's calamity, and it is very possible that he is referring to its conquest by Chizkiyahu. If this is true, then it stands to reason that the arrangements made for his rebellion against Assyria, the conquest of Peleshet and the pact made with Egypt, took place at a very early stage of Chizkiyahu's reign.[9] We already noted that following the great spiritual revolution of the beginning of his reign, Chizkiyahu focused on foreign affairs and security matters.

 

V.        THE COVENANT WITH EGYPT

 

When did Chizkiyahu, King of Yehuda, enter into an alliance with Egypt is an interesting question.[10] Scripture does not mention a specific date, but it is clear that already at the beginning of his reign, Chizkiyahu had to deal with the issue whether he would continue the policy of Achaz his father – total subjugation to Assyria – or perhaps he would change directions and rebel against the Kingdom of Assyria by entering into a political alliance against it. It is reasonable to assume that already at an early stage of his reign Chizkiyahu decided to free himself from the Assyrian yoke. This started with the cleansing of the Temple of any relic of Assyrian idolatry, and continued with the establishment of a regional alliance against the global superpower. Nowhere does Scripture give any indication whether the cause of the revolt against Assyria was primarily spiritual or political; and it is possible that Chizkiyahu was seeking a certain degree of independence for the Kingdom of Yehuda for both reasons. Either way, he chose to free himself of the Assyrian yoke in the sharpest manner, with an open revolt and the creation of an alliance against it with other countries in the region.

 

Another question regarding the steps taken by Chizkiyahu relates to the degree to which the people were partners in his moves, with all their far-reaching spiritual and political ramifications, and with the great turnabout that they marked in relation to the policies of Achaz. Scripture does not say that the king in any way prepared the people for his steps in order to obtain their understanding and support, and so it stands to reason that there was no such preparation.

 

The most important power in the regional alliance against Assyria was the Kingdom of Egypt, to which were added – besides the Kingdom of Yehuda which filled a central role in the formation of this alliance – the kingdoms of Babylonia, Peleshet, Phonecia, Ammon and Mo'av. This alliance was crated in explicit opposition to the position of the prophet Yishayahu, who rejected any pact with any other power, and with Egypt in particular. The prophet's criticism is recorded in chapters 30-31:

 

Woe to the rebellious children, says the Lord, that take counsel, but not of Me; and that prepare a plan but not of My spirit, that they may add sin to sin: that walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at My mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt. Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. For his princes were at Tzo'an, and his ambassadors came to Chanes. (Yishayahu 30:1-4)

 

            The prophet continues with a description of a journey that essentially parallels the Exodus from Egypt but in the opposite direction – from Eretz Yisrael to Egypt. He repeats his consistent position, which he had expressed to Achaz as well:

 

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; in ease and rest shall you be saved. In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; and you did not wish it. (Ibid. v. 15)

 

            Running the world is not a task that falls upon the king of Israel. Far reaching steps ought not be taken. Salvation will come, but "in quietness and in confidence." The prophet continues with his critique of the policy of relying on the military strength of Egypt:

 

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and depend on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!… Now Egypt is man, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, the helper shall stumble, and the one who is helped shall fall down, and they shall all perish together… As birds hovering, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; He will defend it and deliver it; He will pass over it and spare it… Then shall Assyria fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall become bond-slaves. (Ibid. 31:1-8)

 

            In the end God will defend Jerusalem, and Assyria will fall with the sword not of a mighty man: through Divine, rather than human deliverance. Therefore, the alliance with Egypt will yield no benefit; on the contrary, it will cause great damage: apart from the spiritual damage, it is reasonable to assume that the resources that were invested in the rebellion against Assyria deepened the social gaps between rich and poor and weakened the unity and cohesion of the people.

 

VI        FORTIFICATION OF THE CITY OF JERUSALEM

 

It seems that at the same time that he entered into an alliance with Egypt, Chizkiyahu took into account the possibility that Sancheriv would reach Yehuda, and therefore decided to fortify the city of Jerusalem (see Map 1). Sancheriv went up against Yehuda in the fourteenth year of Chizkiyahu's reign, and it stands to reason that these preparations only shortly preceded this date.[11] The preparations are described in the sources, and they are confirmed by archeological findings. The sources relate to two main aspects of these preparations – fortifications and water supply:

 

After these things and these deeds of integrity, Sancheriv king of Assyria came, and entered into Yehuda, and encamped against the fortified cities, and thought to win them for himself. And when Yechizkiyahu saw that Sancheriv was come, and that he intended to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to top the water of the springs which were outside the city: and they helped him. So a great many people were gathered together, who stopped all the springs, and also the wadi that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water? Also he took courage, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall outside that, and he strengthened the Milo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:1-5)

 

This same Chizkiyahu also stopped up the upper watercourse of Gichon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the City of David. (Ibid. v. 30)

 

You also saw the breaches of the City of David, that they are many; and you gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And you numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses you broke down to fortify the wall. You made also a pond between the two walls for the water of the old pool. (Yishayahu 22:9-11)

 

And the rest of the acts of Chizkiyahu, and all his might, and how he made the pool, and the aqueduct, and brought water into the city… (II Melakhim 20:20)

 

1) THE FORTIFICATIONS

 

Divrei Ha-yamim speaks about building "all the wall that was broken." It stands to reason that this refers to the repair of the breach made by Yoash King of Israel "in the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate, four hundred cubits" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 25:23). Uziyahu later built towers in Jerusalem "at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the angle of the wall, and fortified them" (Ibid. 26:9). There is no mention, however, of the building of a wall. The fortification of the wall and the sealing of its breaches are, of course, included among the necessary preparations for a possible siege.

 

In his archeological digs in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, Prof. Avigad[12] found a wall which he identified as the wall built by Chizkiyahu. He based this claim on several arguments. First of all, the ceramics found at the site fit the period of Chizkiyahu (eighth century, BCE). Second, he argued that with the fall of the Kingdom of Israel, some of the refugees arrived in Jerusalem and it was necessary to expand the city in order to absorb them (a reasonable possibility, but to which there is no testimony in Scripture).[13] The verse in Yishayahu 22:10, "And the houses you broke down to fortify the wall," implies that the fortification of the wall necessitated the destruction of houses; and indeed it was discovered in the excavations that the wall was built on the ruins of buildings (again: it is not necessary to identify this wall and these houses with the wall and houses mentioned in Scripture, but it is possible). So too, we find two walls, the northern one, according to Avigad being slightly later than the southern one, and it is possible that it was primarily the northern wall that Chizkiyahu repaired.[14] Before concluding, let it be noted that Avigad wanted to identify the section of wall that he discovered with the "broad wall" mentioned in Nechemya (3:8) in the account of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in the days of the return to Zion.

 

2) THE WATER PROJECT (see Map 2)

 

Chizkiyahu established two important water projects in Jerusalem. The first is the tunnel that leads water from the Gichon spring to the southern part of the city. The identification of this tunnel as Chizkiyahu's project is based on several verses:

 

… And how he made the pool, and the aqueduct, and brought water into the city… (II Melakhim 20:20)

 

This same Yechizkiyahu also stopped up the upper watercourse of Gichon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the City of David. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:30)

 

You made also a pond between the two walls for the water of the old pool. (Yishayahu 22:11)

 

            The tunnel in question indeed leads water from the spring (referred to here as "the upper watercourse of Gichon") to a pool in the southern part of the city (in the city!) – the Al-Chamra pool - where the middle wadi (called during the Second Temple period, "the Cheesemaker's Valley") meets the Kidron Wadi. Support for this identification is found in an inscription found at the southern end of the tunnel, which describes the exciting meeting between the two teams of underground diggers and whose dating fits the period of Chizkiyahu.

 

            The second water-related project mentioned in Scripture is the sealing of "all the springs, and also the wadi that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:4). The nature of the sealing is not clear, but this might refer to the sealing of the Gichon tunnel (perhaps, "The waters of Shiloach that go softly"; Yishayahu 8:6): another aqueduct that led out from the Gichon spring southward, but led to a pool found outside the city (and it is possible that there were openings along its length facing eastward that were used to irrigate fields in the Kidron Wadi). If this conjecture is correct, then it stands to reason that the sealing of these openings was meant to direct all the water to the other tunnel and from there to the southern pool inside the city.

 

3) THE PROPHECTIC CRITICISM REGARDING THE FORTIFICATION PROJECT

 

The two projects were subjected to the prophet's harsh criticism:

 

And you numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses you broke down to fortify the wall. You made also a pond between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to Him who made it, nor did you see Him that fashioned it long ago. (Yishayahu 22:10-11)

 

            The criticism is twofold: on the one hand, it concerns the heavy social cost (the demolition of houses); on the other hand, it concerns the disregard of God's word through His prophet. According to the prophet, the fortification projects were executed out of great confidence in their ability to provide protection, but without inquiring of God and without taking into account their spiritual significance. The prophet does not reject the fortification projects in and of themselves; but rather he opposes actions that rely only on human power, that lack the support of the prophet and the authorization of God – and included in these actions is the rebellion itself.

 

***

 

            This week we have surveyed the events that occurred during the first half of Chizkiyahu's reign. In next week's lecture we shall review the second half of his reign and outline the spiritual situation of his period.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

 

Appendix: Table of the Major Events in the Days of Chizkiyahu

 

 

Internal events

 

External events

 

The attitude of the prophetic Attitude

 

The news of the birth of Chizkiyahu and the nature of the monarchy

Yishayahu 9:1-6

 

 

 

 

The death of Achaz

I Melakhim 16:20; II Divrei Ha-yamim 28:27

 

 

In the year that king Achaz died – the burden of Peleshet (Yishayahu 14:28-32)

Year 1 and 1 month

The opening of the doors of the house of God and its purification and rededication

II Divrei Ha-yamim 29

 

 

 

Year 2 and 2 months

Offering of the paschal sacrifice together with the Kingdom of Israel

II Divrei Ha-yamim 30

 

 

 

 

The restoration of the Torah and prophecy to its former status

Mishlei 25:1

 

 

 

Year 6

 

 

The conquest of Shomron by Shalmaneser King of Assyria and the exile of the kingdom of Israel to Assyria

II Melakhim 18:9-12

 

 

 

 

The conquest of Ashdod by Sargon

Yishayahu 20

 

 

 

 

The smiting of Amalek and the Philistines

II Divrei Ha-yamim 4:41-43; II Melakhim 18:8

(the smiting of Peleshet may have occurred at an earlier stage, in light of Yishayahu 14:28-32)

 

 

 

The alliance with Egypt

Yishayahu 30-31

 

 

The fortification of Jerusalem and wantonness

Yishayahu 22:1-14; II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:2-8

Rebellion against the king of Assyria

II Melakhim 18:7

 

 

The corruption of the regime in Jerusalem

Yishayahu 1; Mikha 3:9-11 (Yirmiyahu 26:18)

 

 

"Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps of rubble, and the mountain of the house like the high places of the forest" (Mikha 3:12)

Year 14

 

 

Sancheriv's invasion of the cities of Yehuda, and his campaign in the coastal plain (Mikha 1:10-15) and Binyamin (Yishayahu 10:28-32)

II Melakhim 18:3; Yishayahu 36

 

 

The replacement of Shevna with Elyakim ben Chilkiyahu

Yishayahu 36

The siege of Jerusalem

Yishayahu 36

 

 

Chizkiyahu's repentance and prayer, and God's answer

II Melakhim 19:14-34; Yishayahu 36

The delegation of Ravshake on the outskirts of Jerusalem

II Melakhim 18:17-37; Yishayahu 36

"For I will defend this city, to save it, for my own sake, and for My servant David's sake" (II Melakhim 19:34)

 

 

 

God smites the Assyrian camp; 185,000 casualties (according to Shemot Rabba 18, 5 – on the night of Pesach)

II Melakhim 19:35; Yishayahu 37:36

 

 

Chizkiyahu's illness, his prayer and the addition of 15 years to his life

II Melakhim 20:1-11; Yishayahu 38

 

 

 

 

Following the deliverance from Assyria, the nations bring gifts to God and to Chizkiyahu

II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:23

 

 

 

 

Chizkiyahu's arrogance

II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:25-26

The Babylonian delegation sees all the treasures in the royal palace

Yishayahu 39; II Melakhim 20:12-19

The decree of the Babylonian exile

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Many of the events that took place during Chizkiyahu's reign lack clear dates. Thus, the chronological ordering suggested below in many instances expresses an approximation, rather than precise dating.

[2] Just as it is very possible that he was involved in Chizkiyahu's education, he being a righteous man son of a wicked man.

[3] On the assumption that the worship that was conducted in the Temple during the period of Achaz was Assyrian, this act also hints at what would happen in the future: the restoration of spiritual independence and the service of the God of Israel in the Temple lead to the political rebellion.

[4] It should be remembered that we are dealing with the days of Hoshea ben Ela, the last king of Israel, who apparently lacked the power to maintain the separation from the Kingdom of Yehuda, and therefore Chizkiyahu was able to send runners to all parts of the Kingdom of Israel without interference. In any event, Scripture testifies that the response was weak: "So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Menasheh as far as Zevulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless, certain men of Asher and Menasheh and of Zevulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 30:10-11).

[5] We cannot analyze here the very broad halakhic issue relating to this intercalation. The various sides of the problem are presented in Tosefta Sanhedrin 2:10-11; Bavli Sanhedrin 12; Yerushalmi Nedarim 6:13. This issue was dealt with by Rabbi Saul Lieberman, in his article, "Ha-Pesach she-Asa Chizkiyahu ha-Melekh le-Shitat ha-Yerushalmi," Sinai – Sefer Ha-yovel, 1958, pp. 81-88.

[6] This argument was put forward at length by Zeev Erlich, in his article, "La'asot ha-Pesach be-Chodesh ha-Sheni," Ha-Tzofe, 11 Iyar 1981. It should be noted that the change in the calendar (or more precisely, its shift) made by Yarovam is not explicit in Scripture, but it fits in well with his overall separatist tendency (Beit-El in place of Jerusalem, new priests).

[7] Choosing Pesach as the time of renewing the covenant between God and the people of Israel relates to the essence of Pesach and the paschal offering. The Pesach of Chizkiyahu, which was conducted immediately after he wiped out the idolatrous practices of the period of Achaz, and the Pesach of Yoshiyahu, which was conducted after he wiped out the idolatrous practices of the period of Menasheh, were very similar to the Pesach in Egypt, which was conducted after the wiping out of the idolatrous practices of Egypt and the acceptance of the worship of God. And furthermore, the paschal offering expresses in its very essence the renewal of the covenant between God and the entire people of Israel – each and every individual – and it is one of the two positive precepts that carry the punishment of karet (excision) for its disregard: circumcision, the personal covenant between each and every Jew and God, and the paschal offering, the covenant between the entire people of Israel and God. Eating the offering in a group framework emphasizes that every Jew belongs to the collective of God's people. Owing to the fundamental importance of the paschal offering, a second opportunity of Pesach Sheni is offered to one who is unable to bring the offering at its proper time (one who is unclean or far from Jerusalem), so that he not miss out on offering God's sacrifice among the rest of the people of Israel. The initial understanding of the Beraita (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Parashat Bo, Massekhta de-Pischa, parasha 15; Sifrei, Bamidbar, piska 71), that a proselyte should bring a paschal offering immediately following his conversion – for the time of his joining the people of Israel is for him sort of a personal Pesach – is instructive about the essence of the sacrifice (even though this was not accepted as final halakha). The issue requires further expansion; here we have merely alluded to the topic.

In light of this, we can understand the paschal offering's various appearances in Scripture: at the time of Israel's entry into the Promised Land – at Gilgal in the days of Yehoshua (Yehoshua 5:10); following the rededication of the Mikdash in the days of the return to Zion (Ezra 6:19-20) – on the one hand; and as part of the renewal of the covenant following the end of long periods of idolatrous practices in the days of Shemuel (see II Divrei Ha-yamim 35:18 and I Shemuel 6:2-4), Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu (see above) – on the other hand.

[8] This reality alludes to the geopolitical meaning of the Israel's dependence on the powers surrounding it, whose spiritual meaning is Israel's essential dependence on God: Israel's struggles with its enemies are rooted in its relationship with God. This idea requires a shiur of its own.

[9] And perhaps even before the fall of the Kingdom of Israel! Even though in the table in the appendix and in the body of the article we have presented the smiting of Peleshet here, we have no data that allow for a precise dating, and it is possible that this took place even earlier.

[10] We shall not deal here with a precise chronology of the period of Chizkiyahu in light of external sources, but only with the spiritual significance of the events.

[11] II Divrei Ha-yamim 32 implies that the preparations began after Sancheriv had already invaded Yehuda and turned toward Jerusalem. As we have seen, however, the organization of the rebellion undoubtedly began in a much earlier period, and it is difficult to assume that the grand fortification projects were carried out only shortly prior to the invasion. It is possible that this description in Divrei Ha-yamim refers only to specific preparations, which by their nature are made only shortly before a siege, e.g., sealing of the wells. It might also be that the author of Divrei Ha-yamim is trying to present Chizkiyahu's rebellion in a more positive light: not as a planned rebellion in opposition to the position of the prophet, but as a reaction to the Assyrian invasion.

[12] N. Avigad, Ha-Ir ha-Elyona shel Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, 1980, pp. 31ff.

[13] It is interesting that according to the archeological evidence, the city of Jerusalem expanded during this period not only westward, toward the western hill (the Jewish and Armenian quarters and Mount Zion), but also eastward, toward the Kidron Wadi (area J), and so too it included an additional area – between the ancient eastern wall of the City of David and the wadi; and it is possible that this area between the two walls is called "between the two walls" (II Melakhim 25:4; Yishayahu 22:11; Yirmiyahu 39:4; 52:6). Scholarship attributes this new eastern wall to the days of Chizkiyahu, but it is possible that this is the wall built by Menasheh "outside the City of David, on the west side of Gichon, in the wadi" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 33:14).

[14] Others, however, argue that the westward expansion of the city preceded the period of Chizkiyahu. According to this, the building of the wall itself preceded Chizkiyahu, and Chizkiyahu merely improved or repaired it.