Many critics claim that King Hezekiah in the Bible was a myth. His life story seems too good to be true. Who was he anyway? Why do sceptics make a fuss about him?
In the biblical account, he was a righteous king despite having a godless father. When he ascended the throne he abolished idolatry from the kingdom of Judah, re-established the temple in Jerusalem and reinstated the priests.
Then Hezekiah suffered a fatal illness but he held on to his faith in God and prayed for his life to be extended. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and promised him an additional fifteen years of peace and prosperity. The king asked God to give him a sign to prove that His words would be fulfilled.
Thinking it would be easier to manipulate the sundial’s shadow to go ten steps forward, Hezekiah asked God to turn the sundial back ten steps. God does not retract His words; He caused the sun’s shadow on the sundial to turn back ten steps.
The story sounds like a myth, right? But apart from the Bible account, there are shreds of evidence that King Hezekiah existed.
King Hezekiah in the Bible
The Bible mentions Sennacherib, who tried to overpower King Hezekiah, several times in various books of the Bible—2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Isaiah and Habakkuk. Does history support his identity and role in King Hezekiah’s life?
History presents many facts about the conqueror Sennacherib, a powerful Assyrian king and son of the mighty Sargon.
As a result of his conquests,Sennacherib became a threat to the neighbouring nations. King Hezekiah’s faith in the heavenly God had dwindled and he resolved to ally with Egypt. Despite his fear, he tried to appease the Assyrian king with gifts from Judah’s bounties, even stripping the gold from within the temple. This story is inscribed upon the clay prisms, otherwise known as the annals of Sennacherib, discovered in Nineveh (the ancient Assyrian capital).
Sennacherib persisted with his campaign until his troops surrounded Jerusalem. King Hezekiah then thought to put his trust in God and prayed. Believe it or not, God heard the sincere plea of His servant king. In just one night the Assyrian army perished and Jerusalem was spared, untouched by the Assyrian king.
King Hezekiah in Archaeological Discoveries
Archaeology has thoroughly attested the existence of Hezekiah.
Proof of Hezekiah’s Eradication of Idolatry
One fascinating discovery was made during the excavation of a pagan shrine in Tel Lachish.
A room was found to contain a vandalized gate, smashed altar horns and a toilet, clearly revealing that the former pagan worship site had been desecrated and providing evidence that the king had purged the idolatrous practices.
Towards the end of December 2015, archaeologists made an interesting discovery near Temple Mount. They found a clay royal seal or bulla inscribed with the name of Hezekiah, a royal motif and an Egyptian hieroglyph.
The inscription depicts a sun with covering wings, both having a symbol of life at each end. This tends to back up the biblical story of King Hezekiah’s recovery from a life-threatening illness.
According to archaeologists, this excavated bulla was the first and only artifact ever discovered to have belonged to a king of Judah or Israel.
Back in 2009, however, the Ophel excavations found an imperfect royal bulla. The imperfections delayed the correct reading of the clay seal until 2015. Scholars were then able to translate the bulla inscriptions as: “Belonging to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah”.
Hezekiah’s Storage Centre
Just this past summer, 2020, archaeologists unearthed one of the largest and most significant seal collections in Israel. A large structure was excavated in the neighbourhood of Arnona, Jerusalem (not far from the new US Embassy). A hoard of seals was discovered, impressed with inscriptions similar to King Hezekiah’s bulla.
Through carbon dating and careful observation, researchers believe that this is the administrative storage centre used during the reign of King Hezekiah and subsequently his son, Manasseh. The building is brimming with more than 120 jar handles. Many of these have ancient Hebrew seal inscriptions of “LMLK”, meaning “belonging to the king.” Some handles are inscribed with the names of important senior officials or the four Judahite cities.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority who carried out the excavation, it is believed that the building was used for government activities. The site seemed to have been used to collect taxes and manage or distribute food supplies. The vineyards, wineries, orchards and agricultural plots of the surrounding area also attest to this claim.
Aside from the sealed jar handles, they also discovered clay figurine collections such as statuettes of horse riders, women forms or animals. Researchers believe these are idolatrous or pagan worship figurines. These findings support the biblical account of Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, who re-established idol worship in Judah.
An engineering marvel and popular tourist destination, this extraordinary subterranean passage measures 1,750 feet long. It connects Gihon Spring (Jerusalem’s only freshwater source) to the Siloam Pool. The natural spring of Gihon runs through the Kidron Valley where it irrigates the plantations.
When King Hezekiah learned of Sennacherib’s plan to attack, he rerouted the spring water to inside the walls of Jerusalem. The Bible records this event in 2 Chronicles 32:2-4, 30 and 2 Kings 20:20. It describes Hezekiah’s prevention of the Assyrians from manipulating the city’s vital water supply.
The ability to dig this tunnel amazes scientists to this day. In 1880 an engraving inside the tunnel was discovered. It is known as the Siloam Inscription and records the account of the tunnel’s construction.
In 1891, the Siloam Inscription was removed and taken to Turkey, where it can be seen today in the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
Indeed, there are more exciting accounts relating to Hezekiah. Listen as I share the story of the king’s bulla in my podcast.