Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem (2 Kings 18-19)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.  Early the next morning, there they were, all the corpses of the dead."  (2 Kings 19:35 NAB)

            This passage is part of a larger story, concerning King Hezekiah's conflict with King Sennacherib of Assyria.  You can read the full story here:

            King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned circa 716-687 BCE), witnessed the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the kingdom of Assyria in 722 BCE.  In 701 BCE, after capturing all the fortified cities of Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria sent messengers to Hezekiah to threaten Jerusalem.  The field commander threatened Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem publicly, in their language, in front of the city walls (2 Kings 18:17-37, NIV).  It was Sennacherib's intention to destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity, as the Israelites had been conquered.  Among other things, the Assyrian field commander told the people of Jerusalem: “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” (2 Kings 18:27, NIV).  The field commander urged the people to betray their king and surrender to Sennacherib, or face destruction.  Worst of all, he repeated Sennacherib's message of blasphemy, insulting not only Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem, but God himself.  “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?" (2 Kings 18:32-33, NIV).  In saying such things, Sennacherib and his men were openly mocking the God who created them, and falsely boasting that they were more powerful.
            In response to these threats and insults, King Hezekiah prayed for God to deliver them: "Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 'Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.  It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.  Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.'” (2 Kings 19:14-19, NIV). 
            God heard Sennacherib's insults and Hezekiah's prayer for deliverance, and he responded through the prophet Isaiah with a message to Sennacherib: "Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride?  Against the Holy One of Israel!... Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: 'He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.  He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’” (2 Kings 19:22, 32-34, NIV).  That very night, God sent his angel, who took the lives of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, sending a powerful message not only to Sennacherib, but to people of all nations: God does not tolerate threats and abuse against his people, nor does he tolerate being mocked. 
            After this incident, Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem and returned to Nineveh.  20 years later, in 681 BCE, he was murdered by two of his sons, Adrammelek (aka Ardi-Mulishi) and Sharezer (2 Kings 19:36-37).