Hezekiah's Foreign Policy
Hezekiah had given up his spiritual guide YeshaYahu and gone over openly to the military party
Second Act; Hezekiah rose against Assyria
In 705 Sargon was murdered in his palace at Khorsabad. Hezekiah thought that the time was ripe, he threw off the mask and rose against Assyria.
Generally speaking, every change of ruler in Assyria was marked by a twofold rebellion. In the capital, groups of ambitious men endeavoured by a coup-d-etat to seize the crown. At the same time in the vassal countries rebellions broke out in an attempt to be free of the harsh protection of the occupying power. Sargon, then, had just died. It so happened that on this occasion his son Sennacherib succeeded him without any great difficulty. But already the whole of the Fertile Crescent was in ferment Babylon, supported by Elam, Tyre and Sidon, refused to pay tribute to Nineveh; that was the usual way of declaring hostilities. In the south of Canaan the Philistines rose. Hezekiah placed himself at the head of a coalition. In the background Egypt fanned the blaze, urging all western Asia to revolt. It seemed as if a general conflagration was imminent.
YeshaYahu was extremely angry; he stood out against the king and began to predict the great catastrophes that were to engulf the country. Hitherto, YeshaYahu imagined that he had succeeded in converting the king entirely to his policy. And now, after some ten years of wise government, his royal pupil had broken away. Hezekiah had given up his spiritual guide and gone over openly to the military party. YeshaYahu's painful surprise is understandable.
Hezekiah, paying no attention to the prophet's outbursts, continued to carry out his plan. Judaean ambassadors were sent to Egypt to conclude a treaty of alliance and Pharaoh undertook to give military aid. And, as the worst is always to be expected, Hezekiah began to put the defences of Yerusalem in order. The breaches in the ramparts were quickly repaired, new towers were built and a second wall was put up. In view of the importance of water for the city, the king decided to stop up the outlet of the spring Gihon, the principal source of supply, and to make a tunnel, less primitive than the Jebusite Zinnor,9 to direct the waters of this spring to the interior of the fortifications through a conduit passing beneath the citadel (see Plan, p. 99). A glance at the map of Yerusalem gives an idea of this colossal undertaking. From an inscription discovered on the lining of the tunnel, not far from the entrance, we know that two teams of miners dug towards each other, their tunnel forming a gigantic S (560 yards long). This is the celebrated conduit of Hezekiah, bringing the water from the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam. To protect this from the enemy Hezekiah enclosed it with a line of fortifications (Hezekiah's wall).
Thus the besiegers when they came would be without water, since the spring of Gihon had been closed on the eastern side, while the besieged would have a plentiful supply.
Despite YeshaYahu's declarations and forebodings, Hezekiah was sure that YAHWEH of Yisrael would defend the City of David: 'Be strong and stand firm,' he exhorted his soldiers in a fine speech. 'Be fearless, be undaunted when you face the king of Assyria and the whole horde he brings with him, since he that is with us (YAHWEH) is stronger than he that is with him (the idols of Nineveh)' (2 Divre Hayamim 32:7).
Meanwhile the metal-workers were making quantities of missiles and shields.
Hezekiah was already beginning to sing his hymn of victory, while YeshaYahu was giving vent to his despair, describing the terrible punishment shortly to be experienced by Yerusalem in her pride. For she was placing her trust not in her all powerful YAHWEH, but in military preparations.
Realizing that Sennacherib's advance was the preliminary to an attack on Yerusalem, Hezekiah strengthened his defenses: he had the broken parts of the wall repaired...'Sennacherib', said Hezekiah, 'has only an arm of flesh, but we have YAHWEH our Mighty One to help us fight our battles.' The people took heart at the words of Hezekiah king of Yahudah. 2 Divre Hayamim 32: 2-8
HEZEKIAH'S UNDERGROUND CANAL
The construction of Hezekiah's canal, intended to ensure the water supply to Yerusalem in case of siege, was decided when Sennacherib's armies drew near. Two teams of miners dug towards each other, their tunnel forming a gigantic S, the end of which passed under the city of David. The canal came out on the side of the Tyropoeon Valley in the pool of Siloam under the shelter of the new fortifications constructed by Hezekiah, that is, inside the city. The canal was 560 yards long.
9 This underground conduit is described in David in this series