As a Biblical Hebrew Teacher I get a lot of questions during the week about the Hebrew Bible. One of the questions that I received is from Jim from Australia, a participant of the Biblical Hebrew Webinar, and he asked me to explain how King Hezekiah could win the Assyrian Empire, while the king from the Northern Kingdom, Hosea the son of Ellah couldn’t?
Well, Dear Jim; thanks for the question and I will do my best to answer.
The answer to the Hezekiah story was one of the first times when l have looked for an answer in the realm of Archeology. Another thing that is important to figure out is that the one who wrote the book of Kings, and probably all the books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel as well, is called by the scholars a Deuteronomist, a historian who sat in Judah after the exile and wrote all the history of these books with information that he got on the one hand and his ideology on the other. That means that when we read information regarding the Judaic Kingdom it is different from the information that we are reading about the Northern Kingdom.
To all of the above we must say that the ideology that exists in the bible tends to be the same. If a King was a sinner, and all of his fathers were as well, their destiny won’t be good, as we can read in 2 Kings 17:1-6,20-23-
" בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה, לְאָחָז מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה: מָלַךְ הוֹשֵׁעַ בֶּן-אֵלָה בְשֹׁמְרוֹן, עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל--תֵּשַׁע שָׁנִים. וַיַּעַשׂ הָרַע, בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה: רַק, לֹא כְּמַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ, לְפָנָיו. עָלָיו עָלָה, שַׁלְמַנְאֶסֶר מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר; וַיְהִי-לוֹ הוֹשֵׁעַ עֶבֶד, וַיָּשֶׁב לוֹ מִנְחָה. וַיִּמְצָא מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר בְּהוֹשֵׁעַ קֶשֶׁר, אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל-סוֹא מֶלֶךְ-מִצְרַיִם, וְלֹא-הֶעֱלָה מִנְחָה לְמֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר, כְּשָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה; וַיַּעַצְרֵהוּ מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר, וַיַּאַסְרֵהוּ בֵּית כֶּלֶא. וַיַּעַל מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר, בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיַּעַל, שֹׁמְרוֹן, וַיָּצַר עָלֶיהָ, שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים. בִּשְׁנַת הַתְּשִׁעִית לְהוֹשֵׁעַ, לָכַד מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר אֶת-שֹׁמְרוֹן, וַיֶּגֶל אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אַשּׁוּרָה; וַיֹּשֶׁב אוֹתָם בַּחְלַח וּבְחָבוֹר, נְהַר גּוֹזָן--וְעָרֵי מָדָי.... וַיִּמְאַס יְהוָה בְּכָל-זֶרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיְעַנֵּם, וַיִּתְּנֵם, בְּיַד-שֹׁסִים--עַד אֲשֶׁר הִשְׁלִיכָם, מִפָּנָיו. כִּי-קָרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵעַל בֵּית דָּוִד, וַיַּמְלִיכוּ, אֶת-יָרָבְעָם בֶּן-נְבָט; וַיַּדַּח יָרָבְעָם אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאַחֲרֵי יְהוָה, וְהֶחֱטִיאָם חֲטָאָה גְדוֹלָה. וַיֵּלְכוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּכָל-חַטֹּאות יָרָבְעָם אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה: לֹא-סָרוּ, מִמֶּנָּה. עַד אֲשֶׁר-הֵסִיר יְהוָה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵעַל פָּנָיו, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר, בְּיַד כָּל-עֲבָדָיו הַנְּבִיאִים; וַיִּגֶל יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵעַל אַדְמָתוֹ, אַשּׁוּרָה, עַד, הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. "
"In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned nine years. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, only not as the kings of Israel who were before him. Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes… The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight. When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the Lord and made them commit a great sin. The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them until the Lord removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day."
If you read the first six verses it is understandable why the Northern King was exiled with his people- they weren't loyal to the Assyrian King. After reading the last four verses, you understand that The Lord, being the God of history, gave the king and his citizens to the hands of the Assyrian, because they didn't follow his commandments.When the Assyrian King wanted to conquer Jerusalem, which was in the territory of Judah the destiny was different. In the Bible it's clear that a good king won't be hurt by God, and Hezekiah was one of those Kings, as written in 2 Kings 18:1-7. Due to the fact that God made a miracle and killed 185,000 soldiers from the Assyrian army by the hand of the angel of The Lord, as we can read in 2 Kings 19: 35-36-
" וַיְהִי, בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא, וַיֵּצֵא מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה וַיַּךְ בְּמַחֲנֵה אַשּׁוּר, מֵאָה שְׁמוֹנִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה אָלֶף; וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ בַבֹּקֶר, וְהִנֵּה כֻלָּם פְּגָרִים מֵתִים. וַיִּסַּע וַיֵּלֶךְ, וַיָּשָׁב סַנְחֵרִיב מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר; וַיֵּשֶׁב, בְּנִינְוֵה"
"Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh"
The Assyrian source, on the other hand, describes the reality differently. It is not related to the actions of the Judaic King or his behavior. It is the fact that the Assyrian King needed to return to Assyria due to a rebellion there. Whether the first source is correct or the second, Archeology can help us here with the Tunnel of Hezekiah that was found in 1880 with the inscription that verifies that it is the tunnel that Hezekiah dug in the Bible, as written in 2 Kings 20:20-
" וְיֶתֶר דִּבְרֵי חִזְקִיָּהוּ, וְכָל-גְּבוּרָתוֹ, וַאֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֶת-הַבְּרֵכָה וְאֶת-הַתְּעָלָה, וַיָּבֵא אֶת-הַמַּיִם הָעִירָה: הֲלֹא-הֵם כְּתוּבִים, עַל-סֵפֶר דִּבְרֵי הַיָּמִים--לְמַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה"
"Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah"
This verse and the verses that are found in 2 Chronicles 30:1-7, 30 can show us how this inscription describes the meeting of two groups of diggers. This existing meeting between them reminds me the meeting between the people around the world online in our classes, the webinars, the Facebook fan pages and more. The same as in the tunnel of Hezekiah, there is water in these meetings as well, the water of the Hebrew!
Have a blessed week, Eli