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King Sennacherib of Assyria Invades Judah

(2 Chronicles 32.1-19; Isaiah 36.1-22)

13 (A) In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's rule in Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the country and captured every walled city,[a] except Jerusalem. 14 Hezekiah sent this message to Sennacherib, who was in the town of Lachish: “I know I am guilty of rebellion. But I will pay you whatever you want, if you stop your attack.”

Sennacherib told Hezekiah to pay ten tons of silver and one ton of gold. 15 So Hezekiah collected all the silver from the Lord's temple and the royal treasury. 16 He even stripped the gold that he had used to cover the doors and doorposts[b] in the temple. He gave it all to Sennacherib.

17 The king of Assyria ordered his three highest military officers to leave Lachish and take a large army to Jerusalem. When they arrived, the officers stood on the road near the cloth makers' shops along the canal from the upper pool. 18 They called out to Hezekiah, and three of his highest officials came out to meet them. One of them was Hilkiah's son Eliakim, who was the prime minister. The other two were Shebna, assistant to the prime minister, and Joah son of Asaph, keeper of the government records.

19 One of the Assyrian commanders told them:

I have a message for Hezekiah from the great king of Assyria. Ask Hezekiah why he feels so sure of himself. 20 Does he think he can plan and win a war with nothing but words? Who is going to help him, now that he has turned against the king of Assyria? 21 Is he depending on Egypt and its king? That's the same as leaning on a broken stick, and it will go right through his hand.

22 Is Hezekiah now depending on the Lord your God? Didn't Hezekiah tear down all except one of the Lord's altars and places of worship?[c] Didn't he tell the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship at that one place?

23 The king of Assyria wants to make a bet with you people. He will give you 2,000 horses, if you have enough troops to ride them. 24 How could you even defeat our lowest ranking officer, when you have to depend on Egypt for chariots and cavalry? 25 Don't forget that it was the Lord who sent me here with orders to destroy your nation!

26 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said, “Sir, we don't want the people listening from the city wall to understand what you are saying. So please speak to us in Aramaic instead of Hebrew.”

27 The Assyrian army commander answered, “My king sent me to speak to everyone, not just to you leaders. These people will soon have to eat their own body waste and drink their own urine! And so will the three of you.”

28 Then, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he shouted in Hebrew:

Listen to what the great king of Assyria says! 29 Don't be fooled by Hezekiah. He can't save you. 30 Don't trust him when he tells you that the Lord will protect you from the king of Assyria. 31 Stop listening to Hezekiah! Pay attention to my king. Surrender to him. He will let you keep your own vineyards, fig trees, and cisterns 32 for a while. Then he will come and take you away to a country just like yours, where you can plant vineyards, raise your own grain, and have plenty of olive oil and honey. Believe me, you won't starve there.

Hezekiah claims the Lord will save you. But don't be fooled by him. 33 Were any other gods able to defend their land against the king of Assyria? 34 What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? What about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Were the gods of Samaria able to protect their land against the Assyrian forces? 35 None of these gods kept their people safe from the king of Assyria. Do you think the Lord your God can do any better?

36-37 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah had been warned by King Hezekiah not to answer the Assyrian commander. So they tore their clothes in sorrow and reported to Hezekiah everything the commander had said.

Hezekiah Asks Isaiah the Prophet for Advice

(Isaiah 37.1-13)

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[d] 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

(Isaiah 37.14-20)

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 (B) He prayed:

Lord God of Israel, your throne is above the winged creatures.[e] 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

(Isaiah 37.21-35)

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 this is how you
    bragged 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.[f]

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,[g]
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

(Isaiah 37.36-38)

35 (C) That same night the Lord sent an angel to the camp of the Assyrians, and he killed 185,000 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.[h]


  1. 18.13 King Sennacherib … walled city: Sennacherib ruled Assyria 705–681 b.c., and this event probably took place in 701 b.c.
  2. 18.16 doorposts: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  3. 18.22 worship: Hezekiah actually had torn down the places where idols were worshiped, and he had told the people to worship the Lord at the one place of worship in Jerusalem. But the Assyrian leader was confused and thought these were also places where the Lord was supposed to be worshiped.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 19.37 Esarhaddon became king: Ruled Assyria 681–669 b.c.

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