X. The Witness of Isaiah
by miriam berg
circa 1996


Isaiah was a prophet who lived during the reigns of Azariah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, according to his writings. He was therefore in a position to know who was king of Judah when Samaria fell. According to the chronology of the Kings, Azariah died in 750 BCE, so that would have been the year Isaiah began his prophecies according to Isa. 6:1. If we suppose that he was about twenty years old that year, he would have been 48 years old in the year that Samaria was captured, and if Hezekiah in fact died in the year 699 BCE, Isaiah would have been about 70 years old by that time, so that it is not likely that he lived into the reign of Manasseh as some legends tell. But what does he have to say to help us unravel the riddle of the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign?

Chapters 36 through 39 of the book of Isaiah in fact repeat almost word for word chapters 18 through 20 of the second book of the Kings. But if we compare them verse by verse we can see that they must have been copied from the book of II Kings, since many words and phrases are shortened or omitted. We can conclude then that the chapters in the book of II Kings are the older, and that therefore the references to Sinakhe-erba in Isaiah have been added by the redactor. But the speech by Rabshakeh in II Kings does not refer to Sennacherib at all, but only to the "king of Assyria", who could have been Sargon II as well as Sennacherib.

Chapter 20 of the book of Isaiah tells us plainly that Isaiah prophesied Assyrian victory in the campaign in the 9th year of Sargon II against Ashdod, after which Assyrian records show that Hezekiah submitted and paid tribute. This chapter relates that it was Tartan or the Tartan who came against Ashdod. The 17th verse of the 18th chapter of II Kings also relates that the Tartan came during the reported 14th year of Hezekiah's reign, but Isaiah 20 is clear that this was the Ashdod campaign. This is the essential clue. Besides, this verse relates that the king did not come himself, but SENT the Tartan and Rabshakeh to Jerusalem to subdue it. This clause could not have applied to the siege in 701 BCE, since Sennacherib certainly came during that siege. Thus the 20th chapter of Isaiah confirms our hypothesis that the invasion by the king of Assyria referred to in II Kings 18:13, and the speech by Rabshakeh given there, occurred in the year 714 BCE which was also the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign if he began to reign in the 6th year of Hoshea, and that the interpretation of that verse as referring to the siege by Sennacherib, both by the authors of the Kings and modern scholars, is incorrect.