A couple of years ago I was invited by the two editors to participate in this two-part series of character studies in Samuel and Kings. I know Keith Bodner, but I didn’t know Ben Johnson, though he had said he’d heard of me and had read things I’d written. They both knew about my dissertation on Jehu, my book God Behaving Badly, and my textbook on the Historical Books (Fortress).

Each of the two books has about 15 articles, so 15 on Samuel and 15 on Kings. I know many of the names since I’ve been pretty involved in the academic world on Samuel and Kings for almost 20 years. One of the contributors to the Kings volume, which is the one I contributed to, was one of my professors at Oxford 20 years ago, John Barton, who is now an Emeritus Professor at Oxford. Both volumes had high quality scholars from around the world, so it really is an honor to be included in this collection contributors.

Below is an excerpt from my article “The Trust of Hezekiah: In YHWH … and Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon (2 Kings 18-20)” (7500 words) in Characters and Characterization in Samuel-Kings edited by B. Johnson and K. Bodner (T&T Clark, 2019).

Hezekiah’s trust in YHWH was unique among southern rulers, but that was not the only aspect of his character that made him unusual. No other ruler of Israel or Judah interacted directly with each of the three surrounding empires (Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon). While Hezekiah prayed in the middle of the Assyrian crisis (2 Kings 19:15-19; 20:3), at the beginning and end of his narrative, he looked to political power and alliances for support. His loyalties were divided among YHWH, Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. The temptation to rely on these three foreign powers was great because they had had such a dramatic impact on Israel and Judah throughout their history. The most common way Judean rulers expressed dependence in Kings was to give tribute, just as Hezekiah did to Assyria, and he offered to do to Babylon.

However, each of the foreign empires Hezekiah relied upon are portrayed in 2 Kings 18-20 as untrustworthy.  Assyria did not withdraw after an enormous tribute. Egypt would collapse and injure any nation that relied on them.  Babylon would return and take Judah’s treasures and royal children. Just as Solomon’s marriage alliances led to his downfall and the division of the monarchy (1 Kings 11:1-13, 29-39), Hezekiah’s dependence upon these empires contributed to the downfall of Judah. Thus, readers of Hezekiah’s story are warned against any type of foreign reliance. Ultimately, it was not Hezekiah’s alliances with Assyria, Egypt, or Babylon that delivered him, but his prayers.