Son and successor of Ahaz as king of Judah (716/15–687/86 B.C.) Hezekiah began his reign when he was twenty-five years old. At this time in history, the nation of Assyria had risen to power. Hezekiah's reign can best be understood against the background of Assyria's military activities during the years Hezekiah served as king of Judah. When Ahaz succeeded Jotham as king of Judah, he began pro-Assyrian policies by making Judah a vassal to Assyria. Ahaz's political involvements with Assyria brought idolatry and paganism into the Temple (2 Kings 16:7-20).
Hezekiah began his reign by bringing religious reform to Judah. Hezekiah was not willing to court the favor of the Assyrian kings. The Temple in Jerusalem was reopened. The idols were removed from the Temple. Temple vessels that had been desecrated during Ahaz's reign were sanctified for use in the Temple. The sacrifices were initiated with singing and the sounds of musical instruments. The tribes in the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been subjected to Assyrian dominance. Hezekiah invited the Israelites to join in the celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem. Places of idol worship were destroyed. Hezekiah even destroyed the bronze serpent Moses had erected in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) so the people would not view the bronze serpent as an object of worship. Hezekiah organized the priests and Levites for the conducting of religious services. The tithe was reinstituted. Plans were made to observe the religious feasts called for in the Law.
In 711 B.C., just a few years after Hezekiah had become king, Sargon II of Assyria captured Ashdod. Hezekiah anticipated the time when he would have to confront Assyrian armies. Hezekiah fortified the city of Jerusalem and organized an army. Knowing that a source of water was crucial, Hezekiah constructed a tunnel through solid rock from the spring of Gihon to the Siloam pool. The city wall was extended to enclose this important source of water.
Isaiah warned Hezekiah not to become involved with Assyria (Isaiah 20:1-6). The critical time for Hezekiah came in 705 B.C. when Sennacherib became king of Assyria. From Hezekiah, Sennacherib obtained a heavy tribute of silver and gold.
In 701 B.C., Hezekiah became seriously ill (Isaiah 38:1-21). Isaiah warned the king to prepare for his approaching death, but Hezekiah prayed that God would intervene. God answered by promising Hezekiah fifteen more years of life and deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria (Isaiah 38:4-6).
In the meantime, Sennacherib had besieged Lachish. Aware that Hezekiah had trusted God for deliverance, Sennacherib sent messengers to the Jerusalem wall to urge the people to surrender. Sennacherib boasted of having conquered 46 walled cities and having taken 200,000 captives. Sennacherib's messengers taunted that God would not come to Judah's defense. Hezekiah, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, went to the Temple to pray. He also called for Isaiah, the prophet. Isaiah announced that Sennacherib would “hear a rumour” and return to his own land where he would die by the sword (2 Kings 19:7).
Hezekiah's faith and physical recovery brought him recognition from the surrounding nations (2 Chronicles 32:33). The Babylonian leader, Merodachbaladan, even congratulated Hezekiah on his recovery. Hezekiah hosted this Babylonian leader at a reception, but Isaiah met this event with a warning that succeeding generations would be subjected to Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 39:1-8).
Sennacherib destroyed the city of Babylon in 689 B.C. He then marched toward Egypt. Hoping to ward off any interference from Judah, Sennacherib sent letters to Hezekiah ordering him to surrender (Isaiah 37:9-38). Hezekiah took the letters to the Temple and prayed for God's help. From Isaiah came the message that Sennacherib would not prevail. In fact, Sennacherib's army was destroyed in a miraculous way (2 Kings 19:35-37). In 681 B.C., Sennacherib was killed by two of his sons as had been predicted by Isaiah in 701 B.C. Hezekiah died in 687/86 B.C. Manasseh, his son, succeeded him, although Manasseh had become co-regent with Hezekiah about 696 B.C.
The Gospel of Matthew lists Hezekiah in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:9-10).