Hezekiah Recklessly Courts the Egyptians
Damien F. Mackey
“The archaeological evidence indicates that the iconography on Hezekiah’s seal came from Egypt. However, the reason Hezekiah adopted an Egyptian religious motif for his royal seal is debatable”.
Professor Claude Mariottini
If the archaeologists will only ‘dig deeply enough’ they will inevitably verify the Bible - and thereby give the lie to the biblical minimalists. One classical example is the Pool of Bethesda according to John the Evangelist, but poo-pooed by the minimalists. This, however, is what was found upon deeper excavation:
Controversial Bethesda pool discovered exactly where John said it was
written by Dean Smith
There is a story in the Gospel of John that proved problematic for liberals who don’t believe the Bible.
I am talking about Jesus healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). In the account, Jesus came across a lame man lying by the pool. According to tradition, when an angel stirred the waters, the first sick person to enter the pool was healed.
When Jesus asked the man, who had been lame for 38 years, how he was doing, the man said because he did not have anyone to help him, when the waters stirred someone always stepped in before him. Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (v 8) and the man was instantly healed.
In the account, the apostle John provides some detail about the pool. First he said it was near the “sheep’s gate” and secondly it had “five porticoes” (verse 2). A portico, similar to a porch, is a covered entrance way. It was a five-sided pool.
However, because the healing by this pool is only mentioned in John’s Gospel, the liberals quickly concluded it was a later addition by someone not familiar with Jerusalem. That theory prevailed until the late 19th century when archaeologists discovered the pool exactly where John said it was — by the Sheep’s gate now located in the Muslim-controlled sector of Jerusalem.
Not only that, the pool had five porticoes, just as John said it did. It was five sided because the rectangular pool had two large basins that were separated by a wall/portico. This made five in total for the pool. The northern pool collected water which replenished the southern side.
The remains of the Bethesda Pool found exactly where the Apostle John said it was located. Image biblewalks.com
Because of the broad steps located beneath a portico leading down to the southern basin, it is believed this pool is also served as a mikveh or ritual bath for the Jews.
In addition, they even found evidence of the healing tradition associated with the pool as they discovered shrines dedicated to a Greek god of healing — Asclepius (a god of medicine/healing). It was part of a Roman medicinal bath built on the site between 200AD and 400AD.
Obviously, pagans recognized the healing attributes of the pool and transferred them to their pagan gods. A similar thing happened in Acts 14:9-18 when villagers in town of Lystra mistakenly believed Zeus and Hermes had performed a miraculous healing after Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man from the city.
So John was right. ….
[End of quote]
There is much rejoicing, too, over the fact that the existence of a genuine king of Judah has recently been archaeologically verified. See e.g. the article, “King Hezekiah Comes to Life”: https://www.thetrumpet.com/13400-king-hezekiah-comes-to-life
That is terrific news!
What I want to consider here, though, is just one aspect of this seal of King Hezekiah – which seal was discovered by the Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar - and that is the seal’s Egyptian-ness.
King Hezekiah’s reason
for using Egyptian Motif
Divergent reasons - both favourable to, and critical of, King Hezekiah of Judah - have been advanced for why the recently-discovered seal of Hezekiah might have used Egyptian motifs, such as the ankh sign and the scarab beetle.
Egyptian motif is a feature common also to the Seal of Jezebel. Its 18th dynasty symbolism being, I believe, further positive evidence in favour of my identification of Queen Jezebel with Queen Nefertiti of Egypt. See e.g. my:
Queen Nefertiti Sealed as Jezebel
Following on from the glowing account of King Hezekiah that one finds in 2 Kings 18:5-8:
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory [,]
the more earnest biblically-apologetic commentators might immediately look for a positive interpretation of King Hezekiah’s use of Egyptian motif. Whilst others may prefer to take into account the whole biblical impression of Hezekiah, which reveals that this admittedly good king had also some extremely serious flaws, for which the great prophet Isaiah will rebuke him. For instance, there is the case of the Babylonian envoys, two chapters on from this (20:12-19), providing us with a rather negative image of Hezekiah as one proud of his abundant wealth and unnecessarily boasting of it before the assembled Babylonians.
Hezekiah’s proud nature was not lost on his old foe, Sennacherib of Assyria, who would speak of “the strong, proud Hezekiah” (Sennacherib’s Bull Inscriptions).
Although 2 Kings 18:5 may tell that: “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him”, one wonders how much of that was due to the impetus provided him by the two great contemporary prophets, Micah and Isaiah. (See also Mariottini below: “Hezekiah probably was influenced by the preaching of the prophet Micah …”.).
Similarly, the great King Solomon may have flourished for a substantial period of time largely under the long-lasting impetus provided by his father, David.
But such impetus can eventually fade, unless the one under its impression personally takes ownership of it, thereby renewing its force so to speak.
Quote from J. Buridan's "Quaestiones on Aristotle's Physics":
When a mover sets a body in motion he implants into it a certain impetus, that is, a certain force enabling a body to move in the direction in which the mover starts it, be it upwards, downwards, sidewards, or in a circle. The implanted impetus increases in the same ratio as the velocity. It is because of this impetus that a stone moves on after the thrower has ceased moving it. But because of the resistance of the air (and also because of the gravity of the stone) which strives to move it in the opposite direction to the motion caused by the impetus, the latter will weaken all the time. Therefore the motion of the stone will be gradually slower, and finally the impetus is so diminished or [destroyed] that the gravity of the stone prevails and moves the stone towards its natural place.
[End of quote]
Positive view of Hezekiah’s Seal
Professor Claude Mariottini tells of the following positive spin that can be put on Hezekiah’s seal:
In his article, “King Hezekiah’s Seal Revisited: Small Object Reflects Big Geopolitics,” published in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Meir Lubetski proposed that Hezekiah had a political motive in selecting the Egyptian scarab for his royal ring.
According to Lubetski, when Hezekiah became king of Judah, his goal was to reunify the Northern Kingdom of Israel with the Kingdom of Judah and revive the united kingdom that existed in the days of Solomon.
One evidence that Lubetski uses to support his view was Hezekiah’s celebration of the Passover: “Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover to the LORD the God of Israel” (2 Chonicles 30:1). Lubetski wrote:
I believe that Hezekiah consciously chose the Egyptian design, laden with symbolic content, to promote his own lofty ambitions. He borrowed the beetle icon from his southwestern neighbor and ally to convey the concept of permanence. The ball the beetle pushes represents the rejuvenation of the kingdom; the set of wings signifies the unification of the north and south of the Land of Israel under a scion of the House of David, just as they characterized the union of Upper and Lower Egypt under the pharaoh.
According to Lubetski, Hezekiah removed the religious symbolism of the scarab and infused it with nationalist sentiments in order to promote his desire to reunite the two kingdoms under his leadership.
[End of quote]
Negative view of Hezekiah’s Seal
Mariottini then proceeds to give an assessment that I believe may be more biblically realistic – at least it is one right in line with the view that I had expressed in my article:
Sobna (Shebna) the High Priest
regarding the prophet Isaiah’s sharp condemnation of Judah’s dependence upon Egypt at this particular time. Thus I wrote:
… Hezekiah, unlike his father, was pro-Egyptian. And this was anathema to Yahweh speaking through Isaiah (30:1-3):
‘Oh, rebellious children’, says the Lord,
who carry out a plan, but not mine;
who make an alliance, but against my will,
adding sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt
without asking for my counsel,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh,
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt;
Therefore the protection of Pharaoh shall become your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt your humiliation’.
Professor Mariottini accordingly has written, quoting from the same Isaian text:
However, there may be another reason for the use of a scarab in the royal signet. The prophet Isaiah provides ample evidence that during the reign of Hezekiah, the king entered into a covenant with Egypt in order to confront the Assyrian menace under Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Two oracles in Isaiah seem to indicate this alliance between Judah and Egypt.
The first passage is found in Isaiah 30:1-2: “Oh, rebellious children, says the LORD, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt.”
The second passage in found in Isaiah 31:1-3: “Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! . . . The Egyptians are human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit.”
Hezekiah had sent ambassadors to the “land of winged insects” in vessels of papyrus (Isaiah 18:1-2) to make a covenant with Egypt, a covenant which Isaiah said was “a covenant with death” (Isaiah 28:15). Thus, it is possible that the presence of the scarab on Hezekiah’s signet ring was to declare his covenant with Egypt.
In preparing to revolt against Assyria, Hezekiah embarked on a series of religious and political reforms in Judah. You can find more information on Hezekiah and his reforms by reading my “Studies on Hezekiah, King of Judah.”
Hezekiah’s religious reform was a success. Hezekiah probably was influenced by the preaching of the prophet Micah and, as a result, he removed the high places of Judah, smashed the sacred pillars used in the worship of pagan gods, cut down the Asherah, and destroyed other items of pagan worship. Hezekiah’s desire was to establish the exclusive worship of Yahweh in Judah.
But the political reality did not allow Hezekiah to accomplish all his goals. When Sennacherib invaded Palestine in 701 B.C., he attacked and conquered forty-six fortified cities of Judah. Hezekiah was forced to pay a heavy tribute to Sennacherib and he became a vassal of Assyria.
Although Hezekiah sought Egyptian help to deal with Assyria, in the end, the words of Isaiah came true: “The protection of Pharaoh shall become your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt your humiliation” (Isaiah 30:3). “When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper [Egypt] will stumble, and the one helped [Judah] will fall, and they will all perish together” (Isaiah 31:3).