Hezekiah’s Chief Official Eliakim was High Priest
Damien F. Mackey
“What was Sobna’s former office, to which Eliakim had now succeeded? It is usually
given as Major-domo or its equivalent; but the Douay Isaiah 22:15 translates it in terms
that could only be referring to the high priesthood. Thus Isaiah is commanded: ‘Go … to
him that dwelleth in the tabernacle, to Sobna [Shebna] who is over the Temple ...’.
The Latin Vulgate gives the words italicized here as ‘eum qui habitat in tabernaculo’.”
There may be far more to King Hezekiah’s chief official, “Eliakim son of Hilkiah” (Isaiah 36:3) than at first meets the eye. According to what I have suggested in my recent article:
Lachish - Rebellious city
Eliakim was the Akhimiti whom the Assyrian king Sargon II had appointed to govern “Ashdod” after his brother Azuri had rebelled: “Azuri king of Ashdod, not to bring tribute his heart was set, and to the kings in his neighbourhood proposals of rebellion against Assyria he sent. Because of the evil he did, over the men of his land I changed his lordship. Akhimiti his own brother, to sovereignty over them I appointed”.
Sennacherib (who is Sargon II) will refer to Akhmiti as Mitinti, whose city of “Ashdod”, I have argued, is actually Lachish. (Plenty of merging needed here).
As said, Eliakim was the brother of Azuri. The latter I have identified as the high priest, Uriah, at the time of King Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, and also as (2 Chronicles 31:19): “Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok”, whom we meet in the early years of reign of Hezekiah.
This would mean that Eliakim was a Zadokite priest.
We find the names, Azariah, Hilkiah, Zadok, in the Aaronite genealogy of Ezra (7:1, 2):
“Ezra … son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah … the son of Zadok …”.
In the Book of Judith
Eliakim, the leading man under King Hezekiah during the first half of the king’s reign, when the Assyrian forces of Sargon II/Sennacherib swept into Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem, will re-emerge about a decade later, when now the Assyrian king’s commander-in-chief invades Phoenicia and Israel with an army of 185,000 men.
The high priest in Jerusalem at the time is Joakim (var. Eliakim).
Although the goal of the Assyrians will once again be Jerusalem - on the way to conquering Egypt - the invaders will not actually succeed in invading Judah, thanks to the courageous intercession of Judith of Bethulia in the north.
In my university thesis (Volume Two, pp. 53-55):
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
I made the connections of Eliakim with Joakim:
The High-Priest, Joakim
Instead of a king to stir up the people, as Hezekiah had done at the commencement of Sennacherib’s invasion (2 Chronicles 32:2-8), for his Third Campaign, BOJ [Book of Judith] 4:6-7 introduces us to: “The high priest, Joakim, who was in Jerusalem at the time [who] wrote to the people of Bethulia and Betomesthaim, which faces Esdraelon opposite the plain near Dothan, ordering them to seize the mountain passes, since by them Judaea could be invaded …”. The fact that the name Joakim is linguistically interchangeable with Eliakim – and a fortiori that Joakim the high priest is otherwise named Eliakim in the Douay BOJ (Eliachim in the Latin)1276 – leads me now to identify him with Hezekiah’s chief official, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah (cf. 2 Kings 18:18; Isaiah 36:3).
I have previously identified EliAKIM with AKHI-Miti (Mitinti) of the Assyrian records, the ruler of the great fort of ‘Ashdod’ (that is, Lachish).
…. verse 6 above specifies that the high priest Joakim “was in Jerusalem at the time” might indicate that the capital city was not his usual abode. … previously, I had argued that the stronghold of Lachish was entrusted to a succession of high priests.
Now, in light of BOJ’s information that Joakim was in fact the high priest, we need to
examine further the office of Hezekiah’s illustrious official, Eliakim; his office usually
being rendered as ‘Major-domo’, or ‘Chamberlain’. It is generally interpreted, from the Hebrew, עַל־הַבָּיִת, that Eliakim was in charge of palace affairs, literally ‘over the
palace’: bayit … being one of the Hebrew words for “palace”. However, bayit can also mean Temple, and it is interesting to note that in Solomon’s time the king’s chief
men amongst his “high officials” were: the Priest (not Major-domo); the Secretaries and the Recorder (or herald) (1 Kings 4:2-3). The last two mentioned offices here are exactly the same as with Hezekiah’s trio in KCI [Kings, Chronicles, Isaiah]. Only the first one, that of the Priest, seemingly diverges. I therefore suggest for the sake of consistency that, as was the case with king Solomon, so would Hezekiah’s first official indeed be the Priest, and that the scriptural texts need to be more precisely translated to accommodate this! I shall now add to this.
Isaiah’s Oracle Re Eliakim
We first encounter Eliakim son of Hilkiah in Isaiah 22, in what is regarded as the prophet’s ‘second oracle’ against the official, Sobna (or Shebna). Isaiah predicted that Sobna will be replaced by Eliakim. I showed in the previous chapter that this took effect during Sennacherib’s Third Campaign invasion, since Eliakim was by then the king’s chief minister. Sobna was now only second in command. But the vital question here is: What was Sobna’s former office, to which Eliakim had now succeeded? It is usually given as Major-domo or its equivalent; but the Douay Isaiah 22:15 translates it in terms that could only be referring to the high priesthood. Thus Isaiah is commanded: ‘Go … to him that dwelleth in the tabernacle, to Sobna [Shebna] who is over the Temple ...’.1277 The Latin Vulgate gives the words italicized here as ‘eum qui habitat in tabernaculo’.1278 Moreover, Isaiah describes and praises Eliakim in words that indicate, not only the man’s great authority, but that could also be taken as a description of a high priest: “He shall be as a father [לְאָב] to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah” (v. 21). Strong words when it is considered that Hezekiah himself ruled over the House of Judah; but an appropriate title for a high priest who was, in a sense, ruler over even the king whom he would proclaim and anoint (cf. 1 Samuel 16:13).
And in Eliakim’s case, with his having had to substitute for the king whilst Hezekiah was sick, the title, ‘father’ … would take on an even more significant meaning.
Eliakim points to Saint Peter
‘And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven’.
For those who would consider that Matthew the Evangelist is drawing here upon Isaiah 22, the ancient prophet’s Oracle concerning “Eliakim son of Hilkiah”, a far richer store for comparisons would be available to them from realising that, as I argued in Part One, this Eliakim was the high priest.
The following Catholic site has duly noted the comparisons, including with Revelation 3:7, whilst typically, however, identifying Eliakim’s position purely as “prime minister” – with no hint of any sacerdotal status (http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/dont-revelation-37-and-isaiah-22-point-to-christ-not-peter-as-having-the-keys-of-davi):
Don't Revelation 3:7 and Isaiah 22 point to Christ - not Peter - as having the keys of David?
Revelation 3:7 proves Christ is the one who holds the key of David, not Peter. Isaiah 22 prophesies Christ's coming and his authority rather than Peter's. Matthew 16:18 has nothing to do with either.
As the royal son of David, Christ is the owner of the key of David, but this doesn't mean he can't give to Peter, as his "prime minister," the keys to his heavenly kingdom.
In the passage to which Revelation 3:7 alludes, Isaiah 22:20-23, Eliakim is made master of the palace, a post roughly equivalent to prime minister. As the king's right-hand man, the master of the palace is given the "key of the House of David."
Keys symbolize authority, so bestowing the key to the House of David upon Eliakim is equivalent to giving him, as the king's duly appointed representative, authority over the kingdom.
Revelation 3:7 speaks of Jesus as the "holder of the key of David." Some argue this means he fulfills the role Eliakim foreshadowed in Isaiah 22:20-23. They claim this excludes a prophetic application of this text to Peter by Christ in Matthew 16:18-19.
There's a problem with this argument. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is master of the palace--the king isn't. Eliakim possesses the key of the kingdom not as its owner, but as one deputed to oversee the king's affairs. If we apply this to Christ, then we must conclude he's not the true messianic king, merely his prime minister, the Messiah's chief representative!
Although Jesus is called the "holder of the key of David" in Revelation 3:7, he doesn't hold it as Eliakim did. As the son of David, Jesus is the heir to the throne of his ancestor (Lk 1:32-33). He really is the king, not the master of the king's palace, as was Eliakim.
As king, Jesus is free to bestow the keys of his kingdom on whomever he wishes--without losing the authority those keys represent.
It's the Catholic position that this is precisely what Jesus does in Matthew 16:18-19.
Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, which means, among other things, acknowledging his kingship. Christ then shows his kingly authority by bestowing on Peter something only the king could give--the keys of the kingdom of heaven--thus making Peter the messianic equivalent of Eliakim.