King Hezekiah’s Reign: Jerusalem ExpandsJerusalem’s heyday as a Near East metropolis came during the reign of Hezekiah. In the second half of the 8th century B.C., Jerusalem underwent a period of dramatic and unprecedented expansion.
Jerusalem’s heyday as a Near East metropolis came during the reign of Hezekiah. In the second half of the 8th century B.C., Jerusalem underwent a period of dramatic and unprecedented expansion. Growing from six to 60 hectares within decades, Jerusalem rapidly transformed into one of the largest cities in the country. Professor Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, reveals the events that led to this sudden explosive growth: Events that set a course for the destiny of the region, but were also deeply rooted in its turbulent past.
Finkelstein first explains that much can be told about the 8th century B.C. from archaeological evidence, because the Judean ceramic phases are well known. “We can identify a group of vessels as belonging to a specific period,” says Finkelstein.
One reason for the massive expansion of Jerusalem is simple: At that time, the Judean Kingdom was incorporated into the Assyrian Kingdom, which was then under the reign of Tiglath-pileser III. This incorporation “gave Judah new possibilities to expand, including new economic possibilities,” notes Finkelstein.
But the second reason for Jerusalem’s expansion was even more important. At that same time, the northern kingdom of Jerusalem—that which had been ruled by the descendants of King Saul—was conquered by the Assyrians.
The result is that refugees from the north flooded the southern kingdom of Judea, doubling or even tripling the population. And Jerusalem was forced to expand to accommodate these newcomers.
Judea: Changed Forever
Now that the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed, it was the king of Judea and his entourage who exerted paramount authority. King Hezekiah was active in consolidating his power in the capital city of Jerusalem, in particular by banning worship at countryside shrines. Worship of God was now permitted only in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, nowhere else—and this, says Finkelstein, was a transformative development for Judea.
“Before [the banning of shrines], Judea was a tribal society in that its power was in the countryside, focused around local shrines. So the concentration of power only in Jerusalem consolidated the power of the Davidic king, as a result of groundbreaking processes.”
Professor Israel Finkelstein is a professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, and co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel.
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