Parallels: The Reign of Hezekiah

Isaiah 36-39 & 2 Kings 18-21

The Book of Isaiah was not written by one author. In addition to prophecies from the original Isaiah, two-or-more later prophets wrote their own works by borrowing themes and ideas from Isaiah. Finally, there was at least one editor, giving us the 'Book of Isaiah' as we know it.

In the course of the editorial process, the editor came across Isaiah 7-9, a unit in which Isaiah interacts with King Ahaz's royal court, telling them that God would give them this or that sign that the Judean kingdom would survive Assyria's exertion of force over Israel and Syria. In chapter 9, Isaiah tells the Judean royal court that Judah's survival is guaranteed because 'a son has been born to us', referring to King Ahaz's son Hezekiah. Through Hezekiah, the kingdom would remain stable; 'the zeal of Yahweh of Armies will do this'.

The editor had a copy of the Book of Kingdoms, a lengthy tome covering the entire span of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, from King David all the way to the exile. In this book was the account of King Hezekiah, how through his reign God preserved the Judean kingdom against Assyrian threat: 'from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will do this.' The author of Kingdoms uses the same phrase as Isaiah's prophecy, 'the zeal of Yahweh of Armies will do this'. (The phrase is found nowhere else in the Hebrew scriptures.)

Seeing fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, the editor copied the text of Hezekiah's reign over into his edition of Isaiah. Perhaps he did it for convenience, or maybe he didn't expect readers to have the Book of Kingdoms on hand. The excerpt from Kingdoms was inserted between Isaiah and Deutero-Isaiah, becoming chapters 36-39. For today's readers of the bible, this duplication of 2 Kings into the Book of Isaiah is functionally obsolete; the passage from Isaiah could be removed and nothing significant would be lost.

The text between the two versions is almost identical, except for two larger insertions: a paragraph of narration at the start of the 2 Kings version, and the Prayer of Hezekiah near the end of Isaiah's version. The prayer belongs to the same genre as, e.g., the Prayer of Manasseh, which you can read here. The Prayer of Hezekiah insertion may have originally existed as an independent document before being included by the editor of the Book of Isaiah.

Below is a parallel of the two versions. The parts in bold are where the text differs.

Isaiah // Kingdoms

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.
King Hezekiah of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, ‘I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.’ The king of Assyria demanded of King Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of Yahweh and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of Yahweh, and from the doorposts that King Hezekiah of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
The king of Assyria sent The king of Assyria sent
the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and
the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.
They went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived,
He stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. And they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. When they called for the king,
there came out to him Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder. The Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? there came out to them Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder. The Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war?
On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? See, you are relying on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? See, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it.
Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. But if you say to me, “We rely on Yahweh our God”, is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”? Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. But if you say to me, “We rely on Yahweh our God”, is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?
Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without Yahweh that I have come up against this land to destroy it? Yahweh said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.’ Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without Yahweh that I have come up against this place to destroy it? Yahweh said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.’
Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, ‘Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.’ Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, ‘Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.’
But the Rabshakeh said, ‘Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?’ But the Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?’
Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on Yahweh by saying, Yahweh will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on Yahweh by saying, Yahweh will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”
Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: “Make your peace with me and come out to me; then everyone of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: “Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree, and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and honey, that you may live and not die.
Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, Yahweh will deliver us. Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, Yahweh will deliver us. Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?
Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these countries have saved their countries out of my hand, that Yahweh should save Jerusalem out of my hand?”’ Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that Yahweh should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?”’
But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, ‘Do not answer him.’ But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, ‘Do not answer him.’
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh. When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of Yahweh. And he sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, ‘Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that Yahweh your God heard the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that Yahweh your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’ Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh. When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of Yahweh. And he sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, ‘Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that Yahweh your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that Yahweh your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’
When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Say to your master, “Thus says Yahweh: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor, and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”’ When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Say to your master, “Thus says Yahweh: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”’
The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. Now the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, ‘He has set out to fight against you.’ When he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. When the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, ‘See, he has set out to fight against you’, he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying,
‘Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. See, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. Shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my predecessors destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’ ‘Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. See, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. Shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my predecessors destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of Yahweh and spread it before Yahweh. And Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh, saying: ‘O Yahweh of Armies, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Yahweh, and hear; open your eyes, O Yahweh, and see; hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Yahweh, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods, but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. So now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are Yahweh alone.’ Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of Yahweh and spread it before Yahweh. And Hezekiah prayed before Yahweh, and said: ‘O Yahweh the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Yahweh, and hear; open your eyes, O Yahweh, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Yahweh, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods, but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. So now, O Yahweh our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are Yahweh God alone.’
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying: ‘Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria, this is the word that Yahweh has spoken concerning him: She despises you, she scorns you—virgin daughter Zion; she tosses her head—behind your back, daughter Jerusalem. Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: I have heard your prayer to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria. This is the word that Yahweh has spoken concerning him: She despises you, she scorns you—virgin daughter Zion; she tosses her head—behind your back, daughter Jerusalem.
‘Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your servants you have mocked the Lord, and you have said, “With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its remotest height, its densest forest. I dug wells and drank waters, I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt.” ‘Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have mocked the Lord, and you have said, “With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its farthest retreat, its densest forest. I dug wells and drank foreign waters, I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt.”
‘Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should make fortified cities crash into heaps of ruins, while their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded; they have become like plants of the field and like tender grass, like grass on the housetops, blighted before it is grown. ‘Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should make fortified cities crash into heaps of ruins, while their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded; they have become like plants of the field and like tender grass, like grass on the housetops, blighted before it is grown.
‘I know your rising and your sitting, your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your arrogance has come to my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth; I will turn you back on the way by which you came. ‘I know your rising and your sitting, your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your arrogance has come to my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth; I will turn you back on the way by which you came.
‘And this shall be the sign for you: This year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that; then in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downwards, and bear fruit upwards; for from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will do this. ‘And this shall be the sign for you: This year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that; then in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downwards, and bear fruit upwards; for from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will do this.
‘Therefore thus says Yahweh concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege-ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says Yahweh. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.’ ‘Therefore thus says Yahweh concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege-ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says Yahweh. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.’
The messenger of Yahweh set out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived at Nineveh. As he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him. That very night the messenger of Yahweh set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived at Nineveh. As he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him.
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, ‘Thus says Yahweh: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’ Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to Yahweh, and said: ‘Remember now, O Yahweh, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly. In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, ‘Thus says Yahweh: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’ Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to Yahweh, saying: ‘Remember now, O Yahweh, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of Yahweh came to Isaiah: ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says Yahweh, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of Yahweh came to him: ‘Turn back, and say to Hezekiah prince of my people, Thus says Yahweh, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears;
indeed, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of Yahweh.
[[ And Isaiah said, ‘Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it on the boil, so that he may recover.’ And Hezekiah had said, ‘What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of Yahweh?’ ]] And Isaiah said, ‘Bring a lump of figs.' And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What is the sign that Yahweh will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of Yahweh on the third day?’
Isaiah said,
‘This is the sign to you from Yahweh, that Yahweh will do this thing that he has promised: ‘This is the sign to you from Yahweh, that Yahweh will do the thing that he has promised:
See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.’ So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined. the shadow has now advanced ten intervals; shall it retreat ten intervals?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘It is normal for the shadow to lengthen ten intervals; rather let the shadow retreat ten intervals.’ The prophet Isaiah cried to Yahweh; and he brought the shadow back the ten intervals, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz.
A writing of King Hezekiah of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness: I said: In the noontide of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years. I said, I shall not see Yah in the land of the living; I shall look upon mortals no more among the inhabitants of the world. My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me like a shepherd’s tent; like a weaver I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom; from day to night you bring me to an end; I cry for help until morning; like a lion he breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end. Like a swallow or a crane I clamor, I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upwards. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security! But what can I say? For he has spoken to me, and he himself has done it. All my sleep has fled because of the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, by these things people live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. O restore me to health and make me live! Surely it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but you have held back my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. For Sheol cannot thank you, death cannot praise you; those who go down to the Pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, they thank you, as I do this day; fathers make known to children your faithfulness. Yahweh will save me, and we will sing to stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of Yahweh.
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At that time King Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. At that time King Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.
Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them his treasure-house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah and said to him, ‘What did these men say? From where did they come to you?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.’ He said, ‘What have they seen in your house?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.’ Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, ‘What did these men say? From where did they come to you?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have come from a far country, from Babylon.’ He said, ‘What have they seen in your house?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.’
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh of Armies: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says Yahweh. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of Yahweh that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’ Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says Yahweh. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of Yahweh that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’