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2 Kings 18:14-16 (NIV)

14 So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents[c] of silver and thirty talents[d] of gold.

15 So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace.

16 At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria.

Archaeological discovery of the Royal Assyrian annals apparently provides some hints about this matter. Scholars had composed a Table listing the tribute payments demanded by eight Assyrian monarchs over two centuries. There was a record of Hezekiah's tribute.

Hezekiah and the Assyrian tribute

However, soon after the defeat of Assyria, in 2 Kings 20:12-19, envoys from Babylon visited Hezekiah for consolation of his illness, and likely wanted to know how the Assyrians were defeated. 2 Kings 20:13 records:

Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

The tribute of Hezekiah by that time was huge. If he did pay the tribute, how could he show the envoy such a vast treasure? Would it be possible that;

  1. The tribute was paid but in an earlier time of 701BC.
  2. The tribute was not paid and that was the reason Sennacherib did not retreat.

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Yes, he did pay the tribute.

The answer to this conundrum is found in the parallel account in 2 Chronicles. Key events:

  1. Sennacherib demands tribute; Hezekiah pays him silver & gold (2 Kings 18:13-15)
  2. Sennacherib threatens to destroy the kingdom; Hezekiah offers more tribute (2 Kings 18:17,22). This means he hadn't given away all of the wealth of Judah the first time (though he may well have given up the most prominent treasures). Sennacherib isn't so interested in more tribute as he is in destroying Judah.
  3. Sennacherib's army approaches Jerusalem and, as recorded by Isaiah, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles, there is a stunning upset in which the Lord slays ~185,000 Assyrians (by plague/angel of destruction). The Assyrians, after suffering this devastating loss, give up the campaign against Judah (see 2 Chron. 32, 2 Kings 19, Isaiah 37)
  4. Many people/nations bring gifts to Hezekiah, giving him great wealth:

And many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth. (2 Chron. 32:23)

The passage in 2 Kings 20, where Hezekiah displays great wealth, comes after the defeat of the Assyrians. Because of the prevalence of looting in ancient warfare, it is likely that the rapid loss of 185,000 Assyrian troops meant they left many valuables behind. This, as well as gratitude from other nations and/or wealthy locals (for the destruction of much of the Assyrian army), likely contributed to the gifts later presented to Hezekiah and his kingdom.

In the first passage cited in the OP, Hezekiah has given up great wealth. In the second passage, after all of the aforementioned events have transpired, he is wealthy again.

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    Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jun 25 at 20:50
  • Thank you Rod. Let's review some details. Your suggestion is Hezekiah still had gold and silver in his treasure. 2 Kings 18:16 said Hezekiah stripped off the gold from the doorposts of the Holy Temple, it meant he was out of gold. Next, it is doubtful that the gold was with the dead warriors, and not with the survival king Sennacherib. Next, the Babylonia envoys visited Hezekiah soon after the Assyrian defeated. Time was too short for his treasure stock up. Chronicles 32:31 revealed God's displease with Hezekiah. The treasure was likely accumulated in his first 14 years, but not after. Jun 26 at 2:22
  • @VincentWong fair questions. I'm not necessarily suggesting Hezekiah still had gold & silver, but that he at least had things of value. Sennacherib surely did take much loot from the kingdoms he conquered, but typically in ancient warfare individual soldiers would pillage what they could and keeping some of the booty was part of the incentive to fight (e.g. this was a critical variable at the battle of Tours). I'm running with the sequence of events as given in 2 Chron 32; though I'd be interested if there's an argument that the chapter is not chronologically ordered. Jun 26 at 2:52
  • Chronicles focus on the blessing of a good king, and the woe of a bad king, purposed on teaching the returned remnant, obeyed the law and lived a godly life, so that by the mercy of God they might one day be glory again. Therefore Chronicles is not a history book and certainly chronological order was not the writer's focus. But you may aware that Chronicles did not mention about Hezekiah's tribute. Jun 27 at 4:54

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