In the eighth century BC the brutal nation of Assyria ravaged the Middle East, building an empire. In 722BC they defeated the northern kingdom of Israel and threatened the southern Kingdom, Judah, with the same fate. At the time Hezekiah reigned from Jerusalem. Bearing witness to the defeat of his brothers in the North, Hezekiah diligently fortified his cities, preparing the southern kingdom for the inevitable attack of Assyria. One such fortification is known as the Broad Wall.
Jerusalem sits on a hill with deep valleys on three sides. The Hinnom Valley wraps around the West and South, and the Kidron cuts the land to the East. These valleys would do little to slow modern military strikes, but in ancient times these natural barriers provided protection. Jerusalem’s most vulnerable point is it’s Northern border, where there is no significant valley. In order to compensate for this weakness Hezekiah built a wall. A broad wall. A wall seven meters thick, build down to bedrock and occasionally on top of homes.
In 701 BC the Assyrian military began their campaign against the kingdom of Judah, conquering 46 cities and surrounding the city of Jerusalem. Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, boasted that he had “confined him [Hezekiah] inside the city Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage.” Notably, this is where his boasting ends, because Jerusalem did not fall. In one night, the Angel of the Lord swept through the Assyrian camp wiping out one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers. The Lord kept his word, spoken through the prophet Isaiah (2 Kings 19; Isa. 14:24–27), to spare the holy city and defeat the Assyrians. Through Hezekiah’s preparations and the miraculous provision of God, the city withstood.
Hezekiah’s Broad wall is still intact today. It was excavated after the Six Day War in the 1970s by archaeologist Nahman Avigal. A portion of the wall remains exposed in the Jewish quarter, where visitors can see Hezekiah’s broad wall still standing nearly 3,000 years later.
The account of the Assyrian siege and King Hezekiah’s reign can be found in 2 Kings 18–20, Isaiah 36–39, and 2 Chronicles 29–32.