by Gordon Franz
The two major views which permeate the scholarly community, with regards to the Sennacherib / Hezekiah chronology problem, have been found wanting. Both have serious flaws in them and should be abandoned.
This paper set forth a new reconstruction for the life of King Hezekiah and his two encounters with Sennacherib. Hezekiah came to the throne in 727 BC and ruled for 29 years. His first encounter with Sennacherib was in the “fourteenth year,” 713/12 BC, when Sennacherib was used by the Lord to humble Hezekiah because of pride in his material possessions. It cost Hezekiah “all the fortified cities of Judah,” yet Jerusalem was spared.
In 701 BC, Hezekiah revolted again. This time he trusted Yahweh for the salvation of Jerusalem, and the Angel of the LORD destroyed the Assyrian army in Jerusalem. Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, never to return again.
The Challenge of the Thesis
B. Childs laments at the end of his monumental work on Isaiah and the Assyrian crisis that the “historical problems have not been solved; in fact, greater complexity calls for even greater caution,” and proceeds to explain that “it seems unlikely that a satisfactory historical solution will be forthcoming without fresh extra-biblical evidence” (1967: 120).
Whether this proposed reconstruction has solved the problem remains to be seen. It has been cautiously set forth in preliminary form and awaits criticism, positive and negative, from the scholarly community. Childs is not confident that the problem will be solved without additional historical inscriptions. As much as archaeologists desire to find further written inscriptions, more than likely a solution is possible if the sources available are carefully re-examined and better understood. Such was the attempt of this thesis.
The Divine Purpose of the Two Campaigns
The Spirit of God presented the facts of this historical period to illustrate the issue of how to deal with crisis situations. He set forth two similar examples of crisis from the reign of King Hezekiah. The believer is to compare the examples from the crisis situations and draw the proper application for his / her life. In the first crisis (713/12 BC), Hezekiah dealt with the problem his way and did not trust the Lord. Heeding bad counsel served to accentuate his failure. There was a high cost for not heeding the Word of God. After his defeat, he humbled himself and learned from his mistake. The crisis may have appeared to have gone away, but the relief was only temporary. In 701 BC, the state of crisis, though in a different form, returned. This time, having learned well the lessons of the past, Hezekiah received godly counsel and trusted the Lord to deliver Jerusalem. The Lord was faithful. He kept His promise and dealt with the problem permanently. Sennacherib never came back. The personal applications are quite obvious. Might we learn, and apply the lessons to our own lives (James 1:22).