Between the last chapter and this one, we meet Hezekiah’s mother, Abi, as well as Shebna, the scribe and Eliakim who will become his friend and later, advisor. In this next section, Hezekiah, with the recklessness of youth, rides into battle.
Hezekiah, though a tall boy, could pass for no more than twelve or thirteen, still he had managed to blend in with the cavalry. He pulled the leather cap down tighter on his head, and secured his too large rounded helmet over the top. He gripped his knees into the powerful war horse beneath him that had begun to dance with impatience, and because it didn’t recognize the light rider on its back. A soldier next to him coughed from the dust being stirred up by twenty-five hundred nervous or impatient horses. . . .Then the gates were opened and with a continuous playing of trumpets, the chariots burst through behind the banner of Judah, led by Maaseiah, son of the king, but younger brother to Ahaz. He was followed closely by the mounted soldiers. . . . Hezekiah had blended with the mounted soldiers near the rear . . . as the horses thundered down the hill, heading up the road to Ramah. . .The Judean army was now 150,000 strong as they moved to meet the army of the Israelites which was advancing over the pass from Geba and would be at Ramah within an hour.
The initial departure from the city of Gibeah was filled with yells of victory and aggression against the enemy from the north. For several minutes the shouts from the walls of Gibeah had rang out, cheering the army of Judah. Ramah was only two miles to the north and the chariots would be there almost before the foot soldiers cleared the city. Hopefully those would arrive before the advancing army of Israelites did. Ramah, to its advantage, was situated on a limestone hill which offered a formidable defense.
As the army advanced, a scout was seen closing the distance from ahead. Then there was the chaos that comes from reigning in several hundred chariots to an abrupt stop. Word was sent back that the enemy had just arrived at Ramah and were even now positioning themselves toward the south for the coming battle.
Weapons were readied and again the army advanced, though at a slower, more deliberate pace, allowing the foot soldiers, who were encouraged into a brisk run, to join them. Hezekiah shifted the balance of his spear in his right hand and the weight of his shield which pulled down on his left. It was inconvenient to ride with weapons at the ready, and though he was strong for his years, the weapons were still too large and heavy for him. He had not yet mastered shooting arrows from horseback as most of the cavalry did. The sun was moving up the sky, filling the plain with the heat of its rays. . .
Then the first barrage of arrows arrived, unseen until they were overhead because the Israelites had used their shields to reflect the sun into the Judean army’s eyes. Like a dark cloud they came raining down upon them. Though the force and accuracy were not great, several found exposed skin and the resulting screams were unnerving. Then a second cloud arrived, again striking at the Judean soldiers. The armed men from the north had the superior number of chariots. Each time one cloud of arrows was released, another was already on its way. Undaunted, the chariots and horsemen of Judah thundered forward, releasing arrows as they rode. Each chariot contained two men, the driver and the archer. But their hearts were dismayed even as they advanced through the adjusting rain of arrows. The Israelites, equally swift, rode now to smash against them in conflict.
The clash of the armies when they met drowned out the sound of the Israelites’ battle cries. Then the events occurred with the swiftness of a swung arm or raised shield. There was no time for commands or plans, only response and attack. The battle waged in shades of grey dirt, pale faces, brown horses and leather clothing, all being blended with the terrible staining color of war. Hezekiah heard the shout of attack, the cry of anguish and the scream of horses. After having spent his spear in a useless jab at a soldier who actually grabbed it from his hand, Hezekiah swung his sword about himself, trying to do as he imagined a soldier would, and trying to recall his limited training.
. . . When his horse was injured from a foot soldier, Hezekiah found that his only recourse was to dismount. . .Down among the fray Hezekiah could not see which side prevailed. He was suddenly challenged by a large man, who had hairy arms and a thick black beard. Hezekiah tried to hold his ground and meet the man blow for blow, gripping the hilt of his sword with both hands, but the contest was determined before it began and Hezekiah backed up with each offensive strike of his opponent. Suddenly Hezekiah’s attention was diverted. Only three paces away he saw Maaseiah, standing firm in his gilded chariot. But even in that moment, a spear thrown by the Israelite soldier Zichri, pierced a gap in Maaseiah’s armor between the chest plate and the loin shield. Hezekiah watched stunned, as Maaseiah wavered and then fall to the ground beneath the trample of the men and horses where many swords were available to end his legacy. Even as he fell, Hezekiah had called out, but the diversion afforded his own opponent the time to run his sword into Hezekiah. Providentially, it had deflected off the bronze scales of Hezekiah’s armor to pass beneath his left arm, and instantly, mercifully, another soldier had unknowingly knocked Hezekiah on the head with a heavy bronze shield from behind. Blackness covered his mind as he crumpled to the ground, and the two enemy soldiers from Israel turned to fight others who were standing.