Deliverance From Assyria
IN a time of
grave national peril, when the hosts of Assyria were invading the land of
Judah and it seemed as if nothing could save Jerusalem from utter
destruction, Hezekiah rallied the forces of his realm to resist with
unfailing courage their heathen oppressors and to trust in the power of
Jehovah to deliver. "Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor
dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with
him," Hezekiah exhorted the men of Judah; "for there be more
with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the
Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." 2 Chronicles
It was not
without reason that Hezekiah could speak with certainty of the outcome.
The boastful Assyrian, while used by God for a season as the rod of His
anger for the punishment of the nations, was not always to prevail. See
Isaiah 10:5. "Be not afraid of the Assyrian," had been the
message of the Lord through Isaiah some years before to
dwelt in Zion; "for yet a very little while, . . . and the Lord of
hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian
at the rock of Oreb: and as His rod was upon the sea, so shall He lift it
up after the manner of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, that
his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from
off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the
anointing." Verses 24-27.
prophetic message, given "in the year that King Ahaz died," the
prophet had declared: "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely
as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so
shall it stand: that I will break the Assyrian in My land, and upon My
mountains tread him underfoot: then shall his yoke depart from off them,
and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that
is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched
out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who
shall disannul it? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it
back?" Isaiah 14:28, 24-27.
The power of
the oppressor was to be broken. Yet Hezekiah, in the earlier years of his
reign, had continued to pay tribute to Assyria, in harmony with the
agreement entered into by Ahaz. Meanwhile the king had taken "counsel
with his princes and his mighty men," and had done everything
possible for the defense of his kingdom. He had made sure of a bountiful
supply of water within the walls of Jerusalem, while without the city
there should be a scarcity. "Also he strengthened himself, and built
up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers,
wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and
shields in abundance. And he set captains of war over the people." 2
Chronicles 32:3, 5, 6. Nothing had been left undone that could be done in
preparation for a siege.
At the time
of Hezekiah's accession to the throne of Judah, the Assyrians had already
carried captive a large number of the children of Israel from the northern
kingdom; and a few years after he had begun to reign, and while he was
still strengthening the defenses of Jerusalem, the Assyrians besieged and
captured Samaria and scattered the ten tribes among the many provinces of
the Assyrian realm. The borders of Judah were only a few miles distant,
with Jerusalem less than fifty miles away; and the rich spoils to be found
within the temple would tempt the enemy to return.
But the king
of Judah had determined to do his part in preparing to resist the enemy;
and, having accomplished all that human ingenuity and energy could do, he
had assembled his forces and had exhorted them to be of good courage.
"Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee" had been
the message of the prophet Isaiah to Judah; and the king with unwavering
faith now declared, "With us is the Lord our God to help us, and to
fight our battles." Isaiah 12:6; 2 Chronicles 32:8.
quickly inspires faith than the exercise of faith. The king of Judah had
prepared for the coming storm; and now, confident that the prophecy
against the Assyrians would be fulfilled, he stayed his soul upon God.
"And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah." 2
Chronicles 32:8. What though the armies of
fresh from the conquest of the greatest nations of earth, and triumphant
over Samaria in Israel, should now turn their forces against Judah? What
though they should boast, "As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the
idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;
shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem
and her idols?" Isaiah 10:10, 11. Judah had nothing to fear; for
their trust was in Jehovah.
long-expected crisis finally came. The forces of Assyria, advancing from
triumph to triumph, appeared in Judea. Confident of victory, the leaders
divided their forces into two armies, one of which was to meet the
Egyptian army to the southward, while the other was to besiege Jerusalem.
hope was now in God. All possible help from Egypt had been cut off, and no
other nations were near to lend a friendly hand.
officers, sure of the strength of their disciplined forces, arranged for a
conference with the chief men of Judah, during which they insolently
demanded the surrender of the city. This demand was accompanied by
blasphemous revilings against the God of the Hebrews. Because of the
weakness and apostasy of Israel and Judah, the name of God was no longer
feared among the nations, but had become a subject for continual reproach.
See Isaiah 52:5.
ye now to Hezekiah," said Rabshakeh, one of Sennacherib's chief
officers, "Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What
confidence is this wherein thou trustest? Thou sayest, (but they are but
vain words,) I have
strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest
against me?" 2 Kings 18:19, 20.
were conferring outside the gates of the city, but within the hearing of
the sentries on the wall; and as the representatives of the Assyrian king
loudly urged their proposals upon the chief men of Judah, they were
requested to speak in the Syrian rather than the Jewish language, in order
that those upon the wall might not have knowledge of the proceedings of
the conference. Rabshakeh, scorning this suggestion, lifted his voice
still higher, and, continuing to speak in the Jewish language, said:
the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let
not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither
let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely
deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of
not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement
with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye everyone of his vine,
and everyone of his fig tree, and drink ye everyone the waters of his own
cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a
land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
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? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of
Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they
among all the gods of these lands,
delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver
Jerusalem out of my hand?" Isaiah 36:13-20.
taunts the children of Judah "answered him not a word." The
conference was at an end. The Jewish representatives returned to Hezekiah
"with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh."
Verses 21, 22. The king, upon learning of the blasphemous challenge,
"rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into
the house of the Lord." 2 Kings 19:1.
was dispatched to Isaiah to inform him of the outcome of the conference.
"This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy,"
was the word the king sent. "It may be the Lord thy God will hear all
the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to
reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God
hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are
left." Verses 3, 4.
this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz,
prayed and cried to Heaven." 2 Chronicles 32:20.
the prayers of His servants. To Isaiah was given the message for Hezekiah:
"Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast
heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.
Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and shall
return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his
own land." 2 Kings 19:6, 7.
representatives, after taking leave of the chief men of Judah,
communicated direct with their king,
who was with
the division of his army guarding the approach from Egypt. Upon hearing
the report, Sennacherib wrote "letters to rail on the Lord God of
Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, As the gods of the nations of
other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not
the God of Hezekiah deliver His people out of mine hand." 2
threat was accompanied by the message: "Let not thy God in whom thou
trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the
hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of
Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou
be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers
have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden
which were in Thelasar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of
Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?" 2
When the king
of Judah received the taunting letter, he took it into the temple and
"spread it before the Lord" and prayed with strong faith for
help from heaven, that the nations of earth might know that the God of the
Hebrews still lived and reigned. Verse 14. The honor of Jehovah was at
stake; He alone could bring deliverance.
God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims," Hezekiah
pleaded, "Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of
the earth; Thou hast made heaven and earth. Lord, bow down Thine ear, and
hear: open, Lord, Thine eyes, and see: and hear the words
Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Of a truth,
Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, and
have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of
men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now
therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand,
that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the Lord God,
even Thou only." 2 Kings 19:15-19.
ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
leadest Joseph like a flock;
dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.
Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up Thy strength,
And come and
again, O God,
And cause Thy
face to shine; and we shall be saved.
God of hosts,
How long wilt
Thou be angry against the prayer of Thy people?
them with the bread of tears;
them tears to drink in great measure.
us a strife unto our neighbors:
enemies laugh among themselves.
again, O God of hosts,
And cause Thy
face to shine; and we shall be saved.
hast brought a vine out of Egypt:
cast out the heathen, and planted it.
preparedst room before it,
cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.
were covered with the shadow of it,
boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.
She sent out
her boughs unto the sea,
branches unto the river.
hast Thou then broken down her hedges,
So that all
they which pass by the way do pluck her?
The boar out
of the wood doth waste it,
And the wild
beast of the field doth devour it.
beseech Thee, O God of hosts:
from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;
vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted,
branch that Thou madest strong for Thyself. . . .
us, and we will call upon Thy name.
again, O Lord God of hosts,
face to shine; and we shall be saved." Psalm 80.
pleadings in behalf of Judah and of the honor of their Supreme Ruler were
in harmony with the mind of God. Solomon, in his benediction at the
dedication of the temple, had prayed the Lord to maintain "the cause
of His people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require: that all
the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is
none else." 1 Kings 8:59, 60. Especially was the Lord to show favor
when, in times of war or of oppression by an army, the chief men of Israel
should enter the house of prayer and plead for deliverance. Verses 33, 34.
not left without hope. Isaiah sent to him, saying, "Thus saith the
Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to Me against Sennacherib
king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken
virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn;
the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted
thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of
messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the
multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to
the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and
the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his
borders, and into the forest of his Carmel. I have digged and drunk
strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the
rivers of besieged places.
thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I
have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to
lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants
were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the
grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops,
and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against
Me. Because thy rage against Me and thy tumult is come up into Mine ears,
therefore I will put My hook in thy nose, and My bridle in thy lips, and I
will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest." 2 Kings
The land of
Judah had been laid waste by the army of occupation, but God had promised
to provide miraculously for the needs of the people. To Hezekiah came the
message: "This shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such
things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth
of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards,
and eat the fruits thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house
yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem
shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal
of the Lord of hosts shall do this.
thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into
this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor
cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he
return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will
defend this city, to save it, for Mine own sake, and for My servant
David's sake." Verses 29-34.
night deliverance came. "The angel of the Lord went out, and smote in
the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand."
Verse 35. "All the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains
in the camp of the king of Assyria," were slain. 2 Chronicles 32:21.
this terrible judgment upon the army that had been sent to take Jerusalem,
soon reached Sennacherib, who was still guarding the approach to Judea
from Egypt. Stricken with fear, the Assyrian king hasted to depart and
"returned with shame of face to his own land." Verse 21. But he
had not long to reign. In harmony with the prophecy that had been uttered
concerning his sudden end, he was assassinated by those of his own home,
"and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead." Isaiah 37:38.
The God of
the Hebrews had prevailed over the proud Assyrian. The honor of Jehovah
was vindicated in the eyes of the surrounding nations. In Jerusalem the
hearts of the people were filled with holy joy. Their earnest
for deliverance had been mingled with confession of sin and with many
tears. In their great need they had trusted wholly in the power of God to
save, and He had not failed them. Now the temple courts resounded with
songs of solemn praise.
Judah is God known:
His name is
great in Israel.
In Salem also
is His tabernacle,
dwelling place in Zion.
He the arrows of the bow,
and the sword, and the battle.
art more glorious and excellent
mountains of prey.
stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep:
And none of
the men of might have found their hands.
rebuke, O God of Jacob,
chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.
even Thou, art to be feared:
And who may
stand in Thy sight when once Thou art angry?
cause judgment to be heard from heaven;
feared, and was still,
arose to judgment,
To save all
the meek of the earth.
the wrath of man shall praise Thee:
of wrath shalt Thou restrain.
Vow, and pay
unto the Lord your God:
Let all that
be round about Him bring presents unto Him that ought to
He shall cut
off the spirit of princes:
terrible to the kings of the earth."
The rise and
fall of the Assyrian Empire is rich in lessons for the nations of earth
today. Inspiration has likened the glory of Assyria at the height of her
prosperity to a
noble tree in
the garden of God, towering above the surrounding trees.
Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing
shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs. .
. . Under his shadow dwelt all great nations. Thus was he fair in his
greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great
waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees
were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his
branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his
beauty. . . . All the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God,
envied him." Ezekiel 31:3-9.
rulers of Assyria, instead of using their unusual blessings for the
benefit of mankind, became the scourge of many lands. Merciless, with no
thought of God or their fellow men, they pursued the fixed policy of
causing all nations to acknowledge the supremacy of the gods of Nineveh,
whom they exalted above the Most High. God had sent Jonah to them with a
message of warning, and for a season they humbled themselves before the
Lord of hosts and sought forgiveness. But soon they turned again to idol
worship and to the conquest of the world.
Nahum, in his arraignment of the evildoers in Nineveh, exclaimed:
the bloody city!
It is all
full of lies and robbery;
noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling
And of the
prancing horses, and of the jumping
lifteth up both the bright sword
And there is
a multitude of slain. . . .
I am against thee,
Lord of hosts."
accuracy the Infinite One still keeps account with the nations. While His
mercy is tendered, with calls to repentance, this account remains open;
but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the
ministry of His wrath begins. The account is closed. Divine patience
ceases. Mercy no longer pleads in their behalf.
Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the
wicked: the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the
clouds are the dust of His feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry,
and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the
flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at Him, and the hills
melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world, and all
that dwell therein. Who can stand before His indignation? and who can
abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are thrown down by Him." Nahum 1:3-6.
It was thus
that Nineveh, "the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in
her heart, I am, and there is none beside me," became a desolation,
"empty, and void, and waste," "the dwelling of the lions,
and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old
lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid."
Zephaniah 2:15; Nahum 2:10, 11.
forward to the time when the pride of Assyria should be brought low,
Zephaniah prophesied of Nineveh: "Flocks shall lie down in the midst
of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern
shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the
windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for He shall uncover the
cedar work." Zephaniah 2:14.
Great was the
glory of the Assyrian realm; great was its downfall. The prophet Ezekiel,
carrying farther the figure of a noble cedar tree, plainly foretold the
fall of Assyria because of its pride and cruelty. He declared:
saith the Lord God; . . . He hath shot up his top among the thick boughs,
and his heart is lifted up in his height; I have therefore delivered him
into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with
him: I have driven him out for his wickedness. And strangers, the terrible
of the nations, have cut him off, and have left him: upon the mountains
and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken
by all the rivers of the land; and all the people of the earth are gone
down from his shadow, and have left him. Upon his ruin shall all the fowls
of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his
branches: to the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt
themselves for their height. . . .
saith the Lord God; In the day when he went down to the grave I caused a
mourning: . . . and all the trees of the field fainted for him. I made the
nations to shake at the sound of his fall." Ezekiel 31:10-16.
The pride of
Assyria and its fall are to serve as an object lesson to the end of time.
Of the nations of earth today who in arrogance and pride array themselves
against Him, God inquires, "To whom art thou thus like in glory and
in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with
the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth." Verse 18.
Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that
trust in Him. But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter
end" of all who endeavor to exalt themselves above the Most High.
Nahum 1:7, 8.
pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt shall
depart away." Zechariah 10:11. This is true not only of the nations
that arrayed themselves against God in ancient times, but also of nations
today who fail of fulfilling the divine purpose. In the day of final
awards, when the righteous Judge of all the earth shall "sift the
nations" (Isaiah 30:28), and those that have kept the truth shall be
permitted to enter the City of God, heaven's arches will ring with the
triumphant songs of the redeemed. "Ye shall have a song," the
prophet declares, "as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and
gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain
of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel. And the Lord shall cause His
glorious voice to be heard. . . . Through the voice of the Lord shall the
Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where
the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall
be with tabrets and harps." Verses 29-32.