The Destruction of Sennacherib
About the time that the ten tribes of Israel were made captive by the king of Syria, there came against Jerusalem a king of Assyria, named Sennacherib. The king of Judah, at the time, was Hezekiah. When he saw the hosts of Sennacherib encamped against Jerusalem, he called together his priests and his mighty men.
The first thing they did was to fill up the cisterns and the wells which were outside the city so as to cut off the water supply from the Assyrians as much as possible.
Then Hezekiah built up the walls of the city, raised towers and repaired the breaches and made darts and shields in abundance for his soldiers. Then he appointed captains over the soldiers, and called them together and spoke to them.
He said to his soldiers: "Be strong and courageous; be not afraid nor dismayed on account of the multitude that is with the king of Assyria. There is more with us than there is with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord, our God, who will help us fight our battles."
Now Hezekiah was afraid of the king of Assyria, in spite of his boasting, so he put him off by sending him a great deal of gold and silver and begging him not to fight any more against Judah. Sennacherib took .the presents from Hezekiah and went up to his own country, but it was not long before he came again to besiege Jerusalem.
Again did Hezekiah call the people together, and exhort them to be brave and courageous, for the Lord would defend them. Sennacherib sent his servants to Jerusalem to tell the people that he was coming against them with a great army and would destroy them.
His servants said to the people: "Why do you trust in Hezekiah and give yourselves over to die by famine and thirst? The hosts of Sennacherib will encompass the city and their gods will overcome your God. Let not Hezekiah deceive you; your God cannot keep you out of the hands of Sennacherib."
The servants of Sennacherib stood close to the wall of Jerusalem on the outside and spoke to the people on the walls in their own tongue and tried to frighten them and make them give up the city to Sennacherib. The servants spoke against God and tried to persuade the people to surrender their city without a struggle.
The people on the wall made no reply to the servants of Sennacherib but held their peace, for Hezekiah had told them to answer not a word.
Then the servants of Sennacherib called out again: "If you will pay our king tribute of gold and silver then he will spare you and your city and every man shall have his own vine and fig tree and drink the waters of his own cistern." But still the people answered not a word.
When King Hezekiah heard the threats of the king of Assyria, and what his messengers had said to the men on the walls, he went into the house of the Lord to pray. He sent priests and elders to Isaiah, the prophet, and asked him what he should do. Isaiah, the prophet, told the priests to say to Hezekiah: "Be not afraid of the words which you have heard and the threats of the servants of the king of Assyria. The Lord will send a blast upon him and his army shall be destroyed and he shall return to his own land and there he shall fall by the sword." The priests returned to Hezekiah and told him what Isaiah had said and he was much comforted.
He sent word to the servants of Sennacherib out-side the walls, that he would not surrender his city and that the Lord would help him to defend it and this defiance the messenger took back to the king of Assyria.
Sennacherib then wrote a letter to Hezekiah. In that letter he said: "You have heard what the king of Assyria has done to other lands by utterly destroying them, and do you hope for deliverance? The kings of Assyria have overcome the kings of all other nations and surely they will overcome the king of Judah."
When Hezekiah received this letter, he went up into the house of the Lord and spread it on the floor and knelt down in front of it and began to pray: "O, Lord, Thou hast heard the words of Sennacherib and his defiance to the living God. It is true that the kings of Assyria have destroyed the kings of other nations and have cast their gods into the fire, but they were not, gods, because they were the work of men's hands and were made of wood and stone, therefore, they have destroyed them. But Thou art the living God and can save us out of the hands of these Assyrians, that all the gods of the earth many know that Thou art the Lord God, and Thou only."
Isaiah, the prophet, knew of the prayer of Hezekiah, and sent him word that the Lord had heard his prayer against Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, and would deliver him and Judah from the hands of his enemies. Hezekiah went forth from the temple and told the people not to be afraid, for the Lord would rid them of the Assyrians and defend them from their enemies.
That night the people of Judah went to sleep inside the walls of their city and the great hosts of the Assyrians slept in their camp outside. As the Assyrians slept the angel of the Lord passed over the camp and smote the Assyrians with death, one hundred and eighty-five thousand of them, and in the morning, when the people of Jerusalem went out to see what had become of their enemies, they were all dead.
Sennacherib, however, was spared by the destroying angel and went quickly back to Nineveh. Shortly afterwards, when he was worshiping in the temple of his god his sons took him and slew him with their swords. Thus came to grief the great army of the Assyrians and Sennacherib, their proud leader.