Hezekiah and Sennacherib

INTRODUCTION: The key elements of this narrative are described in 2Kings chapter 19 and in an almost word-for-word parallel passage in Isaiah chapter 37, with a condensed version in 2 Chronicles 32:1-23. These historical events describe the defense of Jerusalem under the rule of King Hezekiah who had brought tremendous revival of worship to the LORD God after his father King Ahaz had led the people into despicable and vile idol worship for sixteen years. Hezekiah placed his complete faith in the LORD and invited even other tribes of Israel to return to true worship [details in 2 Chronicles, chapters 29-31]. When threatened by overwhelming forces he took extra steps to fortify Jerusalem, but knew that their only real hope was in the LORD. The miraculous protection of Jerusalem from the powerful army of King Sennacherib mocked and shamed the Assyrians who had overflowed with arrogant pride and had even blasphemed the Almighty God as they boasted.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the King James 21st Century Version.


A - HEZEKIAH REVERSED THE PRACTICES OF HIS FATHER AND SERVED THE LORD

2 Kings 18 "1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zechariah. 3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. 4 He removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the Asherah poles, and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it; and he called it Nehushtan. 5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any who were before him. 6 For he cleaved to the LORD and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments which the LORD commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him, and he prospered whithersoever he went forth; and he rebelled against the king of Assyria and served him not. 8 He smote the Philistines even unto Gaza and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city. 9 And it came to pass in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it; 10 and at the end of three years they took it. Even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is, the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken."

2 Chronicles 31 "20 And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. 21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered. 32:1 After these things and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fortified cities, and thought to win them for himself. 2 And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, 3 he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were outside the city; and they helped him. 4 So there were gathered many people together, who stopped all the fountains and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, "Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?" 5 Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall outside, and repaired Millo in the City of David, and made darts and shields in abundance. 6 And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spoke comfortingly to them, saying, 7 "Be strong and courageous. Be not afraid nor dismayed by the king of Assyria and all the multitude that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles." And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah."

2 Kings 18 "13 Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. 14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, "I have offended. Turn away from me; that which thou puttest on me will I bear." And the king of Assyria imposed upon Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king's house. 16 At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. 17 And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they had come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the Fuller's Field."

COMMENTS: Hezekiah served the LORD with his whole heart unlike his father Ahaz as he destroyed all the objects of false worship and directed attention to the living God. he rebelled against serving Shalmaneser the king of Assyria whose forces were able to take Samaria, the key city in the northern kingdom, in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign. King Hezekiah took extra steps to fortify Jerusalem and build up stocks of the weapons of war when he knew King Sennacherib of Assyria was moving into Judah. He encouraged the people to trust that with the LORD on their side they were not in fact outnumbered by the larger army of the Assyrians. However, by the 14th year of Hezekiah Sennacherib the king of Assyria had taken fortified cities in Judah and Hezekiah submitted to paying tribute to him. These things set the stage for the desire of the Assyrians to capture Jerusalem and depose Hezekiah as they encamped in a large force of troops outside the city.


B - RABSHAKEH SHOUTED OUT THE ASSYRIAN THREAT TO JERUSALEM

2 Chronicles 32 "9 After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah who were at Jerusalem, saying, 10 "Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria: 'Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem? 11 Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give yourselves over to die by famine and by thirst, saying, "The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria"?

2 Kings 18 "28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language and spoke, saying, "Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 Thus saith the king: 'Let not Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand. 30 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, "The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria."' 31 Hearken not to Hezekiah, for thus saith the king of Assyria: 'Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me; and then eat ye every man of his own vine and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern, 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live and not die. And hearken not unto Hezekiah when he persuadeth you, saying, "The LORD will deliver us." 33 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and of Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? Have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? 35 Who are they among all the gods of the countries that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?'" 36 But the people held their peace and answered him not a word; for the king's commandment was, saying, "Answer him not." 37 Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh."

COMMENTS: A great company of the Assyrians was outside Jerusalem and Rabshakeh the commander called to those on the city wall in their own language with an offer of safety and comfort if they would surrender and give a gift to the Assyrian king. Rabshakeh wanted not only the representatives of King Hezekiah to hear his words, but also all others in earshot to hear and understand in order to undermine their loyalty to King Hezekiah and to forsake the LORD. He directly challenged them not to believe that the LORD could protect Jerusalem. He referred to other nations that had fallen because their gods had not been able to deliver them from the Assyrians, which implied that the LORD had no more power than the false gods served by the other nations. Hezekiah's representatives went to him with their clothes torn as a sign of dismay, and told him of all that Rabshakeh had spoken.


C - HEZEKIAH SENT MEN TO ISAIAH WHO GAVE AN ANSWER FROM THE LORD

2 Kings 19 "1 And it came to pass, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3 And they said unto him, "Thus saith Hezekiah: 'This day is a day of trouble and of rebuke and blasphemy; for the children have come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. 4 It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard. Therefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant who are left.'" 5 So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6 And Isaiah said unto them, "Thus shall ye say to your master, 'Thus saith the LORD: Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. 7 Behold, I will send a blight upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.'"

COMMENTS: Hezekiah showed the traditional Jewish signs of humiliation and grief before the LORD in response to the tremendous affront the Assyrians had made in mocking the only true God as they claimed that he could not save the people and the city. Hezekiah then sent his officials and some elders of the priests who went in sack cloth to the prophet of the LORD. They asked him to pray for a response to the reproach made to the name of the living God by Sennacherib's commander Rabshakeh, and to reverse the situation for the Assyrians who threatened the remnant of Israel in Jerusalem. Obviously the LORD was aware and already had an answer for them. Isaiah sent them back to Hezekiah with the word from the LORD that they were not to be afraid of what had been spoken because the servants of the king of Assyria had blasphemed the LORD. The LORD would bring a halt to Sennacherib's prosperity and a rumor would cause him to return to his own land where he would die by the sword.


D - MESSENGERS CARRIED ANOTHER THREAT TO KING HEZEKIAH BY LETTER

2 Kings 19 "8 So Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, for he had heard that he had departed from Lachish. 9 And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, "Behold, he has come out to fight against thee," he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah, saying, 10 "Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, 'Let not thy god in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, "Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria." 11 Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly. And shalt thou be delivered? 12 Have the gods of the nations delivered them whom my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the children of Eden who were in Thelasar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?'" 14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD."

2 Chronicles 32 "17 He wrote also letters to rail at the LORD God of Israel and to speak against Him, saying, "As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand." 18 Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews' speech unto the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall to frighten them and to trouble them, that they might take the city. 19 And they spoke against the God of Jerusalem as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man."

COMMENTS: The Assyrian king prior to Sennacherib had besieged Samaria over a three year period before it fell to him and this was not an unusual length of time for warfare in those days. Lachish was south of Jerusalem and Sennacherib had been leading troops there while his commander Rabshakeh had been in charge of the troops outside Jerusalem. There is no statement to confirm that Lachish fell, but Rabshakeh returned to Sennacherib because he had heard that he left there and went on to wage war against Libnah. then when it was heard that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia has come out to fight against him, he sent messengers unto Hezekiah with a letter. In it he told Hezekiah not to allow his god in whom he trusted to deceive him by saying Jerusalem would not fall to the king of Assyria, because previous kings of Assyria had utterly destroyed other lands and their gods could not deliver them. When Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it he took it up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. Hezekiah had a letter with content he could pray over, and he carried it to the temple of the LORD apparently without needing any intermediary such as a prophet or priest before he prayed.


E - HEZEKIAH PRAYED TO THE LORD

2 Kings 19 "15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, "O LORD God of Israel, who dwellest between the cherubims, Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. Thou hast made heaven and earth. 16 LORD, bow down Thine ear, and hear; open, LORD, Thine eyes, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, who hath sent him to reproach the living God. 17 Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they have destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the LORD God, even Thou only."

COMMENTS: Hezekiah directed his prayer to the LORD God of Israel who dwells between the cherubim above the mercy seat, and he declared from his heart that the LORD is the only God of all the nations of the earth. Hezekiah worshipped him as the creator of heaven and earth, and he petitioned him that he listen to the words and look upon the reproach sent by Sennacherib in the letter delivered by the messengers. As Hezekiah continued his prayer to the LORD he acknowledged the truth that the kings of Assyria had destroyed many nations and their lands and have casts their gods into the fire. The reason they could destroy them is because they were not gods, but the work of men's hands made in wood and stone. Therefore Hezekiah urgently implored the LORD to save his people out of Sennacherib's threat in order that all the kingdoms of the earth would know that there is only one LORD God. This approach taken by Hezekiah in his prayer showed that his greater concern was for the glory of the LORD and not for himself. he did not speak at all about the way he had brought the people back from the despicable idol worship that had taken place during his father's reign.


F - ISAIAH SENT A RESPONSE FROM THE LORD TO HEZEKIAH

2 Kings 19 "20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel: 'That which thou hast prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.' 21 This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him: "'The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. 22 Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? And against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? Even against the Holy One of Israel. 23 By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, "With the multitude of my chariots I have come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof; and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel. 24 I have dug and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places."

COMMENTS: Scripture does not indicate that The LORD directly gave an answer to Hezekiah, and there is no record indicating that Isaiah was aware that Hezekiah had prayed, but the LORD God of Israel directed Isaiah to send a response to that prayer. The answer from the LORD began by saying he had heard what Hezekiah had prayed against Sennacherib the king of Assyria. The LORD had these things to say concerning Sennacherib. The virgin daughter of Zion looks upon you with contempt and laughs at you in derision as one who is unworthy of any regard. This daughter of Jerusalem just shakes her head at you. Your reproach and blasphemy, and the exaltation of your voice, and the prideful look in your eyes has been against the Holy One of Israel. Through your messengers you have insulted the LORD by claiming that the multitude of your chariots give you great power even to the tops of the mountains. You brag that you have gone into Lebanon to destroy their beautiful trees and to take their villages and drank freely from the water there. The movement of your large armies through the besieged places has been so great as to dry up their rivers. In these statements the LORD was saying all of these things are evidence of exceeding pride and self confidence.


G - THE ZEAL OF THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL ALWAYS ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES

2 Kings 19 "25 'Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fortified cities into ruinous heaps. 26 Therefore their inhabitants were of small power; they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field and as the green herb, as the grass on the house tops and as corn blighted before it be grown up. 27 "'But I know thy abode, and thy going out and thy coming in, and thy rage against Me. 28 Because thy rage against Me and thy tumult is come up into Mine ears, therefore I will put My hook in thy nose, and My bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. 29 "'And this shall be a sign unto thee: Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye and reap, and plant vineyards and eat the fruits thereof. 30 And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. 31 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion. The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.'"

COMMENTS: The LORD began to explain how foolish Sennacherib has been to believe that he did all of these things by his own strength and had no understanding that the LORD directs the affairs of all men. Have you not heard Sennacherib that the LORD planned this long ago by his superior authority and now he has brought it to pass to enable you to bring fortified cities to ruin. The people have been very weak before that overwhelming power. But the LORD knows every where that you stay, and every movement when you come and go, and the way you have raged against him. Because of that rage against the LORD and your insolence that he has heard, the LORD will treat you like an animal to be controlled with his hook in your nose and his bit in your mouth to make you return by the way you came.

The LORD said over the next three years there would be a progressive sign for those who were threatened to show that it has been turned away. This year they would eat what grew by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year they were to sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Once more a remnant of the house of Judah would be like that which takes root below and bears fruit above as both a remnant would come out of Jerusalem, and those who escaped out of Mount Zion. The zeal of the LORD of hosts would accomplish this for them.


H - THE LORD DEFENDED JERUSALEM FOR HIS OWN SAKE AND FOR THE DAKE OF DAVID

2 Kings 19 "32 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: 'He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city,' saith the LORD. 34 'For I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake, and for My servant David's sake.'" 35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37 And it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead."

2 Chronicles 32 "20 And for this cause Hezekiah the king and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven. 21 And the LORD sent an angel who cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he had come into the house of his god, those who came forth from his own loins slew him there with the sword. 22 Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. 23 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."

COMMENTS: Hezekiah and Isaiah had both prayed to the LORD about the reproach to his name by Sennacherib. Therefore the LORD says the king of Assyria would not enter Jerusalem or even shoot an arrow there. He would not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. He would return by the way he had come without entering into Jerusalem. The LORD defended Jerusalem for his own sake and for the sake of his servant David. When the people of the living God were wholly dedicated to him, he provided blessings. That night the angel of the LORD went out and killed 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians who were not even at Jerusalem. When the survivors arose in the morning all the corpses were there. So Sennacherib king of Assyria returned without ever personally being at Jerusalem, and he stayed at Nineveh. It happened as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, killed him with the sword as the LORD had said he would die in his own land. They escaped into the land of Ararat and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead. Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. The LORD was honored as many brought gifts for him at Jerusalem, and gave presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations for the remainder of his reign.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

LORD, I thank you for the record that shows how quickly you allowed the people to turn away from the pagan leadership of King Ahaz to worship the living God after King Hezekiah began to reign. Hezekiah sought you with all his heart and directed those under his rule to destroy the vestiges of idol worship in Jerusalem and in the surrounding cities. They even invited people from other tribes to return to you, LORD, to once again experience the joy of serving the true God. Hezekiah successfully rebelled against King Shalmaneser of Assyria, but made extra defense preparation for Jerusalem when King Sennacherib presented a more immediate threat. LORD, may I depend upon your direction for my life while also effectively using resources you have already provided to me. I want prayer to be an essential factor for meeting the needs of believers, much the same as Hezekiah and Isaiah brought the pressing need for Jerusalem to you in prayer. Hezekiah and his subjects believed what he had told them that in the face of overwhelming numbers of opponents who had only the arm of flesh, those who have the LORD God on their side have the much superior force. In the spiritual battle that continually rages in the world around me, LORD, comfort my soul with that same truth about your unequaled power. I believe LORD, that throughout all history you always know the composition and activities of all nations and their leaders and you have determined ahead of time the limits of their power and the length of their existence. Despite their arrogant pride, they actually fulfill your purposes because you have ordained what has been and what will be. All who trust in your name are to rely on your patience, your grace, and your mercy. You always maintain a remnant for the sake of your name and for the sake of your promise to David for your glory alone. I thank you, LORD, that you have chosen me to be part of your kingdom so I ask that you help me to be the vessel you have designed me to be as I continually struggle against the desires of the flesh that are within me. Amen.

Published 27 September 2014