John Ecob

WHEN SENNACHERIB THE KING OF ASSYRIA came against Jerusalem he boasted  that the Lord God of Israel could not deliver the city from his army. He listed many  cities he had already conquered and said that their gods had not been able to  deliver them so what chance would Jerusalem have? 

Sennacherib’s boasting was strange because he also claimed that the Lord had  sent him to punish Israel. He said,  

“Am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD  said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it” (Isa.36:10). 

At the same time Sennacherib claimed that the Lord God of Israel had no more  power than all the gods of the heathen. He said: 

“Let not Hezekiah deceive you: … Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying,  the LORD will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his  land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? (Isa.36:14-18). 

Apparently Sennacherib had good intelligence about the kingdom of Judah  before he invaded the southern cities. No doubt he had many reports on the  situation in Jerusalem and would have been aware of Isaiah’s prophecies for  they were widely known. He knew Israel had offended the Lord and that Isaiah  had prophesied the King of Assyria would come into the land to punish them  (Isa.7:17). He knew that Hezekiah the King of Judah had removed all the altars so  that the people could only sacrifice in Jerusalem (Isa.36:7). He didn’t understand 

that Hezekiah’s action was pleasing to the Lord; he thought the removal of these  altars would offend the Lord. 

The Assyrians were idolators and worshipped heathen gods but they also knew  about the Lord God of Israel. The city of Nineveh had a Godly beginning after  the Flood. When Nimrod built Babylon and established it as the centre of idolatry  in the world, Asshur, from the Godly line of Shem went hundreds of miles north  along the Tigris River to build Nineveh and its surrounding cities. 

Then about 800BC after Nineveh had become a wicked city, God sent the prophet  Jonah to Nineveh to warn them they 40 days to repent or God would destroy the  city. Fortunately the King and all the people repented and Nineveh was spared.  That experience must have been indelibly etched in the history of the great city. 

The prophet Isaiah had foretold that the Assyrians would come and invade Judah.  He wrote: 

“they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the  holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes. In the same day  shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the  river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also  consume the beard” (Isa.7:19-20). 

And not only Isaiah but another prophet, Micah, had prophesied that Assyria  would come into the land. He wrote of a day when 

“the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces…”  (Mic.5:5). 

When the northern kingdom of Israel had joined forces with Syria to invade  Judah in the days of King Ahaz, Ahaz had paid the Assyrian king, Tiglathpileser,  to destroy Damascus and kill Rezen its king. Ahaz had taken the payment to  Damascus and met with Tiglathpileser to thank him. 

Even before this time the Scripture indicates that Pul and Tiglathpileser had  entered the northern kingdom of Israel when the “Lord stirred them up” to do so  (1Chron.5:26). 

Then Sennacherib would no doubt have heard of the prophecy of Isaiah that  “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine  indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the  people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the  prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth  not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut  off nations not a few” (Isa.10:5-7). 

Perhaps it was this prophecy that Sennacherib was referring to when he said, “the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.” 

During the reign of Sargon II, the father of Sennacherib, Isaiah had prophesied  over a three-year period, walking bare footed during that time, saying that Assyria 

would invade Egypt and take the Egyptians captives (Isa.20:1-6). The Ethiopians  had controlled Egypt at that time and their army would not be able to deliver the  Egyptians out of the hands of the King of Assyria.  

Since Isaiah was preaching this prophecy publically for 3 years there is no doubt  Sennacherib would have had full knowledge of it. 

Finally, Isaiah had prophesied that his wife would have a son who would be named  Mahershalalhashbaz meaning, “hasting to the prey”. This child was to be a sign  “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother,  the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before  the king of Assyria” (Isa.8:4). 

Within 2 years this prophecy was fulfilled in 721BC when Sargon II, the father of  Sennacherib, captured Samaria. 

“Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river,  strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up  over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah;  he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching  out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel” (Isa.8:7-8). 

The imminent capture of Samaria by the King of Assyria was clearly foretold and  also that Judah would be invaded and occupied right up to the neck. In other  words all the cities of Judah except the head city of Jerusalem. There was a limit  to Sennacherib’s campaign and he failed to recognize this. He thought that if he  could conquer all the cities of Judah he could also capture Jerusalem and this was  a fatal mistake. 

Thus Hezekiah had many prophecies by Isaiah indicating that God was going to  preserve Jerusalem but he had to believe them.  

At first Hezekiah was tempted to form a confederacy with the Egyptians but Isaiah  warned him not to form such a confederacy because it would fail. Isaiah said: “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in  chariots … Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh,  and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth  shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together”  (Isa.31:1-3).  

Then Hezekiah attempted to buy his way out of trouble and sent messengers to  Sennacherib offering to pay any price he should ask for the freedom of Jerusalem.  Sennacherib asked for 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold and Hezekiah  stripped the gold from the Temple to pay. However Sennacherib took the money  and sent messengers back to Hezekiah saying they must all be taken captive to  Assyria. 

It was only when there was no alternative that Hezekiah cast himself upon the Lord  and sent messengers to Isaiah asking him to pray for the deliverance of Jerusalem. 

He already had promises of deliverance but it was only when he was desperate that  he trusted the Lord to deliver him. Isaiah even had indicated how God would deliver  Jerusalem. God would deliver Jerusalem suddenly:  

“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it  shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day(Isa.10:17). 

Israel’s enemies would be there one evening and not there the next morning! Isaiah  said: 

The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke  them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the  mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. And  behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the  portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us” (Isa.17:13-14). 

Jerusalem would be delivered without the sword of mighty men in battle. The  deliverance would be by an angel flying through the host of the Assyrians and the  remnant would flee.  

“Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey…so shall the LORD of  hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying,  so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it;  and passing over he will preserve it. 

Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword,  not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his  young men shall be discomfited. And he shall pass over to his strong hold for  fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in  Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem” (Isa.31:4-9). 

Actually when Hezekiah asked Isaiah to pray for deliverance Isaiah replied that God  would do three things (Isa.37:7). 

  1. i) Sennacherib would receive a blast. That blast killed 185,000 of the mighty men  in his army in one night. 
  2. ii) Sennacherib would hear a rumour that caused him to fear. He heard a rumour  that Tirhakah the Ethiopian king of Egypt was coming with his army. iii) God would cause Sennacherib to return to Nineveh and dwell there before  being murdered. He fled to Nineveh and years later he was murdered by two of  his sons who then fled to Armenia. 

“Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his  own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (Isa.37:7). 

Lessons to Learn 

  1. Walk with the Lord and He will defend us. 
  2. Even when we fail, the Lord will hear our prayer if we trust Him. 3. Learn to believe the promises of God’s Word and not to seek our own solutions.