Sabbatical Year in the Reign of King Hizqiyahu

Posted by on May 29, 2016


After we have established the reigns of the kings of Israel and Yehudah, we may proceed to find any sabbatical and jubilee years in that period of time which will help us draw a conclusion whether this reckoning is correct or not. There are two key points in the chronology of the kings of Yehudah as described in the Biblical text (more specifically in the reigns of King Hizqiyahu and King Tsidqiyahu) that define the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. If we can determine beyond any reasonable doubt that these Sabbatical and Jubilee years in the reigns of King Hizqiyahu and King Tsidqiyahu fall in place in the above established chronology, we will conclude that the chronology is correct.

Three books in Tanak (Isa 37:2-39:8; 2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32) all speak to the same historical events in the life of King Hizqiyahu: (1) the invasion of Yehudah by Sancheriv, (2) the extension of Hizqiyahu’s life by fifteen years, and (3) the turning back of the sundial by ten degrees.

King Hizqiyahu was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years (2Ki_18:2, 2Ch_29:1). King Hoshea, the last king of Israel, started to reign in Samaria for nine years in the twelfth year of Ahaz, father of Hizqiyahu (2Ki_17:1), who reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem (2Ch_28:1). In the third year of Hoshea, King Hizqiyahu began to reign (2Ki_18:1). And in his fourth year, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Ashshur came up against Shomeron, besieged it, and captured it at the end of the three years which was in the sixth year of Hizqiyahu, the ninth year of Hoshea (2Ki_17:6, 2Ki_18:9-10), and the northern kingdom was exiled, as it is written,

And it came to be in the fourth year of Sovereign Hizqiyahu, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah, sovereign of Israel, that Shalmaneser sovereign of Ashshur came up against Shomeron and besieged it, and they captured it at the end of three years. In the sixth year of Hizqiyah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea sovereign of Israel, Shomeron was captured.

The Scriptural data cited above are generally in good agreement one with others, and if there is any disagreement it amounts to no more than one or two years which can be adjusted by the above mentioned differences of how the years were reckoned in both kingdoms: the northern kingdom measured the years by a non-accession system (first partial year of reign was counted as year one), while the southern kingdom used the accession method (it was counted as year zero). And that the calendars of the kings of Yehudah and Israel were onset by six months: that of Yehudah starting in the seventh month and that of Israel in the first.

And in the fourteenth year of Hizqiyahu, Sancheriv came up against Yehudah and captured all the walled cities but Yerushalayim (2Ki_18:13). King Hizqiyahu was very distressed. The prophet Yeshayahu assured the king that Yerushalayim would be spared and the invaders destroyed. Hizqiyahu went into the Temple to pray before Elohim. And as a result of the prayer Elohim gave him a sign that Assyrians would be destroyed; this sign happened to be a sign of a Sabbatical year. Three days before the Assyrians’ destruction the king was ill and dying because of the distress fell on him but on the third day the Assyrian army was destroyed while Hizqiyahu was still praying in the Temple that night (2Ki_19:35). Prior to the night of destruction, the narrative of Isa_37:30 and 2Ki_19:29 report the sign of Sabbath of the land by saying “This year” plainly describing a Sabbatical year during the reign of King Hizqiyahu, and the labors and fruits in the third year.

And this is the sign for you: This year you eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that, and in the third year sow and reap and plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

This sign given to the king describes the exact pattern YHVH commands to keep for the Sabbath Year: neither to reap nor to plant in the seventh, not to reap but to plat in the first year, and to reap and plant in the second year of the new Sabbatical cycle, as it is written in Lev_25:20-22,

And since you might say, “What do we eat in the seventh year, since we do not sow nor gather in our crops?” ‘Therefore I have commanded My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth the crop for three years. ‘And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat of the old crop until the ninth year.

Here is the chart of the Sabbath and Jubilee of the land for more clarity:

sab jub

Torah teaches that the year begins in spring not in fall (contrary to the tradition of the rabbis) because only then can the command of Lev_25:20-22 be fulfilled: when the crop is sowed in the fall in the eight year which can be eaten after about six months in the spring of the ninth year. Until then the old crop is to be eaten for three years (v.21). The term “for three years” means that there will be sufficient amount of food for: (1) the part of the sixth year from the spring [when the crop is reaped] until the fall, (2) for the entire seventh [Shemittah] year, (3) and for the eighth year, for they will sow a new crop in the fall of the eighth year, and reap the new crop in the spring of the ninth year while still eating of the sixth year’s crop. Now, while in the case of a Jubilee year, the old crop is to be eaten for four years, when the land would need to yield crops for four years: in the sixth year preceding the seventh, when they would refrain from doing work on the land for two consecutive years, the seventh year and the Jubilee year.

According to Jewish tradition, the victory over the Assyrians and Hizqiyahu’s return to health happened at the same time: the night of Passover, 14th of the Aviv (Mid. Rab. Song 1:12:3, Mid. Rab., Exod 18:5). Notice the exact pattern of the Passover in the chronology of these events:

1. 10 Aviv: Hizqiyahu was dying and received the prophecy (2Ki_20:1).

2. 13 Aviv: the sun moved back and he recovered (2Ki_20:8-9); the sign of the Sabbatical year was given (2Ki_19:29).

3. 14 Aviv: on Passover, the Assyrian army was defeated by YHVH with a plague, 2Ki_19:35-36, Isa_37:36-37, 2Ch_32:21-23, in the first month of Hizqiyahu’s 14th year.

King Hizqiyahu’s life was prolonged for fifteen years as it is written in the two parallel accounts of 2Ki_20:5-9 and Isa_38:5-6,

Go and say to Ḥizqiyahu, ‘Thus said Yehovah, the Elohim of David your father, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. See, I am adding fifteen years to your days. And out of the hand of the sovereign of Ashshur I shall deliver you and this city, and protect this city.

Since he reigned total of twenty-nine years, this sign had to be given in his early fourteenth year (Passover) when the Assyrians invaded the land and their destruction occurred. The prophecy tells that that particular year was Sabbatical, and indeed the fourteenth year of the king, 3242, was sabbatical (see Jubilees Table).

The question again, concerning whether the sabbatical years were observed, is: if the Sabbaths of the land were observed, as some advocate, why should Elohim have told the Yehudim when to observe the Sabbatical years unless they had not observed them at all or they had been observed in the wrong years?