The Kingdom of Judah
Judah's Struggle to Survive
After the northern kingdom fell in 722, the Assyrian pressure on Judah was great. King Hezekiah of Judah is recorded as having rebelled against Assyrian domination, and he also attacked the Philistines as far south as Gaza (2 Kgs. 18: 7–8 ). He is remembered for having instituted religious reforms (2 Kgs. 18: 3–6 ) and, according to 2 Chronicles 30 , he summoned people from the whole land, from Dan to Beer‐sheba (that is, including the territory of the former northern kingdom), to come to keep the Passover in Jerusalem. In 711, Sargon of Assyria attacked Ashdod and made it an Assyrian province. This may be the context of Micah's prophecy against Philistia and other cities of the area, including Gath, Beth‐ezel, Moresheth‐gath, Achzib, Mareshah, and Adullam (Mic. 1: 10–15 ). Hezekiah is also renowned for the steps he took to ensure a secure water‐supply for Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 20: 20; 2 Chr. 32: 30 ) and he may have been responsible for the extension of the city's fortifications (see ‘Jerusalem in the 1st Millennium BCE’ ).
Sargon was succeeded by Sennacherib, who continued to exert pressure on Judah. In 701 he invaded and claims to have captured almost all the fortified cities of Judah. It is possible, though not universally accepted, that this invasion is reflected in the graphic verses of Isaiah 10: 27–32 which record a king of Assyria gradually getting closer and closer to Jerusalem. Starting from Rimmon he comes to Aiath, passes through Migron, stores his baggage at Michmash, and lodges at Geba for the night; he then continues past Ramah, Gallim, Laishah, Anathoth, Medmenah, and Gebim whose inhabitants flee for safety. Ultimately, from Nob he shakes his fist against Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The impact of such passages is greatly enhanced by an awareness of the underlying geography. Sennacherib's own annals supplement the account in 2 Kings 18–19 . They recorded how Sidon, Acco, Achzib, and other Phoenician cities submitted to him, and how he besieged and captured Joppa, Beth‐dagon, Bene‐berak, Ekron, Eltekeh, and Timnah. Sennacherib's siege and capture of Lachish is recorded on a series of reliefs which decorated his palace in Nineveh. The similarities between the reliefs and what has been revealed by archaeology at the site of Lachish suggest that they may have been based on drawings produced by an eyewitness of the events. Sennacherib seems to have used Lachish as the base for his operations against Jerusalem, but he did not actually succeed in taking Jerusalem. However, Hezekiah paid a heavy tribute (2 Kgs. 18: 14–16 ). In the latter part of his reign, Hezekiah is recorded as having become ill but was cured thanks to the intervention of the prophet Isaiah (2 Kgs. 20: 1–11 ). He is also said to have received envoys from Merodach‐baladan of Babylon (2 Kgs. 20: 12–15 ).
Hezekiah was succeeded by Manasseh. His long reign is recalled in Kings as a time of religious apostasy which brought Judah under divine judgement (2 Kgs. 21: 1–18 ). But in Chronicles he is recorded as having sought forgiveness and rectified some of his earlier misdeeds (2 Chr. 33: 10–17 ). Manasseh was succeeded briefly by his son Amon, who was removed from the scene by his own servants, sparking a reaction from the ‘people of the land’, probably the significant land‐owners, who took reprisals and placed Amon's son Josiah on the throne (2 Kgs. 21: 19–25 ).