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Hezekiah Asks Isaiah the Prophet for Advice

19 As soon as Hezekiah heard the news, he tore off his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. Then he went into the temple of the Lord. He told Prime Minister Eliakim, Assistant Prime Minister Shebna, and the senior priests to dress in sackcloth and tell the prophet Isaiah:

These are difficult and disgraceful times. Our nation is like a woman too weak to give birth, when it’s time for her baby to be born. Please pray for those of us who are left alive. The king of Assyria sent his army commander to insult the living God. Perhaps the Lord heard what he said and will do something, if you will pray.

When these leaders went to Isaiah, he told them that the Lord had this message for Hezekiah:

I am the Lord. Don’t worry about the insulting things that have been said about me by these messengers from the king of Assyria. I will upset him with rumors about what’s happening in his own country. He will go back, and there I will make him die a violent death.

Meanwhile, the commander of the Assyrian forces heard that his king had left the town of Lachish and was now attacking Libnah. So he went there.

About this same time the king of Assyria learned that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia[a] was on his way to attack him. Then the king of Assyria sent some messengers with this note for Hezekiah:

10 Don’t trust your God or be fooled by his promise to defend Jerusalem against me. 11 You have heard how we Assyrian kings have completely wiped out other nations. What makes you feel so safe? 12 The Assyrian kings before me destroyed the towns of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and everyone from Eden who lived in Telassar. What good did their gods do them? 13 The kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah have all disappeared.

Hezekiah Prays

14 After Hezekiah had read the note from the king of Assyria, he took it to the temple and spread it out for the Lord to see. 15 He prayed:

Lord God of Israel, your throne is above the winged creatures.[b] You created the heavens and the earth, and you alone rule the kingdoms of this world. 16 But just look how Sennacherib has insulted you, the living God.

17 It is true, our Lord, that Assyrian kings have turned nations into deserts. 18 They destroyed the idols of wood and stone that the people of those nations had made and worshiped. 19 But you are our Lord and our God! We ask you to keep us safe from the Assyrian king. Then everyone in every kingdom on earth will know that you are the only God.

The Lord’s Answer to Hezekiah

20 Isaiah went to Hezekiah and told him that the Lord God of Israel had said:

Hezekiah, I heard your prayer about King Sennacherib of Assyria. 21 Now this is what I say to that king:

The people of Jerusalem
    hate and make fun of you;
    they laugh
    behind your back.

22 Sennacherib, you cursed,
shouted, and sneered at me,
    the holy God of Israel.
23 You let your officials
    insult me, the Lord.
And here is what you
    have said about yourself,
“I led my chariots
    to the highest heights
    of Lebanon’s mountains.
I went deep into its forest,
cutting down the best cedar
    and cypress trees.
24 I dried up every stream
    in the land of Egypt,
and I drank water
    from wells I had dug.”

25 Sennacherib, now listen
    to me, the Lord.
I planned all this long ago.
And you don’t even realize
    that I alone am the one
who decided that you
    would do these things.
I let you make ruins
    of fortified cities.
26 Their people became weak,
    terribly confused.
They were like wild flowers
    or tender young grass
    growing on a flat roof,
scorched before it matures.[c]

27 I know all about you,
    even how fiercely angry
    you are with me.
28 I have seen your pride
    and the tremendous hatred
    you have for me.
Now I will put a hook
    in your nose,
    a bit in your mouth,[d]
then I will send you back
    to where you came from.

29 Hezekiah, I will tell you what’s going to happen. This year you will eat crops that grow on their own, and the next year you will eat whatever springs up where those crops grew. But the third year you will plant grain and vineyards, and you will eat what you harvest. 30 Those who survive in Judah will be like a vine that puts down deep roots and bears fruit. 31 I, the Lord All-Powerful, will see to it that some who live in Jerusalem will survive.

32 I promise that the king of Assyria won’t get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack. 33 As surely as I am the Lord, he will return by the way he came and will never enter Jerusalem. 34 I will protect it for myself and for my servant David.

The Death of King Sennacherib

35 That same night the Lord sent an angel to the camp of the Assyrians, and he killed one hundred eighty-five thousand of them. And so the next morning, the camp was full of dead bodies. 36 After this King Sennacherib went back to Assyria and lived in the city of Nineveh. 37 One day he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, when his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him with their swords. They escaped to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon became king.[e]

Footnotes

  1. 19.9 Ethiopia: The Hebrew text has “Cush,” which was a region south of Egypt that included parts of the present countries of Ethiopia and Sudan.
  2. 19.15 winged creatures: Two winged creatures made of gold were on the top of the sacred chest and were symbols of the Lord’s throne on earth (see Exodus 25.18; 2 Samuel 6.2).
  3. 19.26 tender young grass. . . matures: Many of the houses had roofs made of packed earth. Grass would sometimes grow out of the roof, but would die quickly because of the sun and hot winds.
  4. 19.28 I will put. . . your mouth: This is how the Assyrians treated their prisoners, and now the Lord will treat Sennacherib the same way.
  5. 19.37 Esarhaddon became king: Ruled Assyria 681-669 B.C.

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