Isaiah 36-39 Sennacherib Invades Judah December 10, 2018
Today we will study the Assyrian assault on Jerusalem. Assyria had devastated most of Judah. Hezekiah, unfortunately joined an alliance of local rulers and the Egyptians to try t drive the Assyrians back to Assyria. The rebellion failed, and Jerusalem, that had been spared by paying tribute to the latest ruler of Assyria, Sennacherib. Additionally Jerusalem was considered invulnerable as a fortress. But now that Hezekiah joined the resistance Sennacherib turned his forces on Jerusalem and set up a siege of the city.
Today’s reading is an almost word for word repeat of the account in 2 Kings 18:13-19:37. There is an abbreviated account found in 2 Chronicles 32:1-23. We will be reading today’s lesson without written notes. I was in meetings much of last week and did not have time to annotate our lesson. The story speaks for itself, and hopefully I will be able to fill-in the gaps during the class.
Below is a brief history of the Assyrian Kingdoms almost from the beginning of time.
Assyria was a powerful nation in early history between 2025-1400 BC when it was known as the Old Assyrian Empire. In the 1300’s - 1200”s various nations ruled Assyria and much of the Fertile Crescent. These nations included the Mitannians, the Hittites, the Hurrianians and the early Babylonians. But Assyria kept rising back to power. Our study is of the Neo-Assyrian Kingdom that came back to power under Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077 BC) in the 1000’s BC. The kingdom grew to incorporate much of the Middle East. The growth continued in the 900’s under Tiglath-Peliser II (967-936), and the 800’s under a series of rulers.
Beginning with the campaigns of Adad-nirari II (911–892 BC), Assyria once more became a great power, growing to be the greatest empire the world had yet seen. The new king firmly subjugated the areas that were previously only under nominal Assyrian vassalage, conquering and deporting troublesome Aramean, Neo-Hittite and Hurrian populations in the north to far-off places. Adad-nirari II then twice attacked and defeated Shamash-mudammiq of Babylonia, annexing a large area of land north of the Diyala River and the towns of Hīt and Zanqu in mid Mesopotamia. Later in his reign, he made further gains against King Nabu-shuma-ukin I of Babylonia. He then conquered Kadmuh and Nisibin from the Arameans, and secured the Khabur region.
Ashur-nirari V became king in 754 BC, the early part of his reign seems to have been one of permanent internal revolution, and he appears to have barely left his palace in Nineveh. However, later in his reign he led a number of successful campaigns in Asia Minor and the Levant. He was deposed by Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 BC bringing a resurgence to Assyrian expansion. Assyria expanded aggressively under his leadership. He developed armors, spears and chariots of steel that were a major advance over the bronze military weapons of the day. He incorporated a corp of engineers into his armies that developed ladders, and towers, and ramps for assaulting walled cities. The empire spread to Aramea, Media, Mannea, Babylonia, Arabia, Phoenicia, Israel, Judah, Samaria, Chaldea, Cyprus, Moab, Edom, and the Neo-Hittites (Turkey).
Tiglath-Pileser III had reorganised the Assyrian army into the first professional fighting force in history, he also incorporated conquered peoples into the imperial army to serve as light infantry, thus expanding the size of the army. He greatly improved the civil administration of his empire, reducing the influence of hitherto powerful nobles, regional governors and viceroys, and deporting troublesome peoples to other parts of his vast empire, setting the template for all future ancient empires. Tiglath-Pileser III also introduced Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic as the Lingua Franca of Assyria and its vast empire, whose Akkadian infused descendant dialects still survive among the modern Assyrian Christian people to this day.
Shalmaneser V (726–723 BC) consolidated Assyrian power during his short reign, and repressed Egyptian attempts to gain a foothold in the near east, defeating and driving out Pharaoh Shoshenq V from the region. He is mentioned in Biblical sources as having conquered Israel and being responsible for deporting the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel to Assyria. He and his successor also brought the Samaritans, people originating from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Sepharvaim and Hamath, and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites.
In 716 BC Sargon II crossed the Sinai and amassed an army on Egypt's border. Osorkon IV personally met the Assyrian king at the "Brook of Egypt" (most likely el-Arish) and was forced pay tribute to Sargon II to avoid being invaded. Mannea, Cilicia Cappadocia and Commagene were conquered, Urartu was ravaged, and Babylonia, Chaldea, Aram, Phoenicia, Israel, Arabia, Cyprus and the famed Midas (king of Phrygia) were forced to pay tribute. His stele has been found as far west as Larnaca in Cyprus. Sargon II conquered Gurgum, Milid, the Georgian state of Tabal, and all of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms of the Taurus Mountains. Egypt, now under a new Nubian dynasty, once again attempted to gain ground in the region by supporting Israel's rebellion against the empire, however Sargon II once again crushed the uprising, and Piye was routed and driven back over the Sinai. Sargon II was killed in 705 BC while on a punitive raid against the Cimmerians, and was succeeded by Sennacherib.
Sargon II (722–705 BC) maintained the empire, driving the Cimmerians and Scythians from Ancient Iran, where they had invaded and attacked the Persians and Medes, who were vassals of Assyria. Deioces, king of the Medes and Persians was then forced to pay tribute after launching a failed rebellion against Assyria. When in 720 BC a revolt occurred in Canaan against Sargon II, king Hanno sought the help of Pharaoh Osorkon IV of the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt. The Egyptian king sent a general named Raia as well as troops in order to support the neighboring ally. However, the coalition was defeated in battle at Raphia: Raia fled back to Egypt, Raphia and Gaza were looted and Hanno was burnt alive by the Assyrians.
Sennacherib (705–681 BC), a ruthless ruler, defeated the Greeks who were attempting to gain a foothold in Cilicia, and then defeated and drove the Nubian ruled Egyptians from the Near East where the new Nubian Pharaoh Taharqa had once again fomented revolt against Assyria among the Israelites, Judeans and Canaanites.
Sennacherib was forced to contend with a major revolt within his empire, which included a large alliance of subject peoples, including Babylonians, Persians, Medes, Chaldeans, Elamites, Parthians, Manneans and Arameans. The prime movers in this rebellion were Mushezib-Marduk of Babylonia, Achaemenes of Persia, Khumban-umena III of Elam, and Deioces of Media. The Battle of Halule was fought in 691 BC between Sennacherib and his enemies, in which this vast alliance failed to overthrow Sennacherib. The Assyrian king was then able to subjugate these nations individually, Babylon was sacked and largely destroyed by Sennacherib. He sacked Israel, subjugated the Samaritans and laid siege to Judah, forcing tribute upon it. He installed his own son Ashur-nadin-shumi as king in Babylonia. He maintained Assyrian domination over the Medes, Manneans and Persians to the east, Asia Minor and the southern Caucasus to the north and north west, and the Levant, Phoenicia and Aram in the west.
Esarhaddon also completely rebuilt Babylon during his reign, bringing peace to Mesopotamia as a whole. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Elamites, Cimmerians, Scythians, Persians, Medes, Manneans, Arameans, Chaldeans, Israelites, Phoenicians and Urartians were vanquished and regarded as vassals and Assyria's empire was kept secure.
Sennacherib's palace and garden at Nineveh have been proposed by some scholars as the true location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. During the reign of Sennacherib, the major city of Nineveh (extant since approximately 3000 BC) which at the end of the Bronze Age had a population of 35,000, was transformed into the capital of Assyria, growing at its height to be the largest city in the world at the time, with a population of up to 150,000 people.
Sennacherib was murdered by his sons (according to the Bible the sons were named Adrammelech, Abimelech and Sharezer) in a palace revolt, apparently in revenge for the destruction of Babylon, a city sacred to all Mesopotamians, including the Assyrians. His death was prophesied by Isaiah, and the Bible attributes it to God’s judgment on him for his arrogance and denial of the true God, Yahweh.
The kings of Judah, Edom, Moab, Israel, Sidon, Ekron, Byblos, Arvad, Samarra, Ammon, Amalek, and the ten Greek kings of Cyprus, are listed as Assyrian subjects. Esarhaddon expanded the empire as far south as Arabia, Meluhha, Magan and Dilmun (modern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain the United Arab Emirates and Qatar). He imposed a so-called Vassal Treaty upon his Persian, Parthian and Median subjects, forcing Teispes of Persia and Deioces of Media to submit both to himself, and in advance to his chosen successor, Ashurbanipal. Esarhaddon died while preparing to leave for Egypt to once more eject the Nubians, who were attempting to encroach on the southern part of the country. This task was successfully completed by his successor, Ashurbanipal.
The Assyrian Kingdom finally fell from power in 705 BC at the battle of Carchemish when the Neo-Babylonian Kingdom and Egypt joined forces to finally bring Assyria down. It never regained prominence again.
Sennacherib Invades Judah
36:1-3 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field. And there came out to him Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder.
36:4-10 And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. But if you say to me, “We trust in the LORD our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”? Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master's servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this land to destroy it? The LORD said to me, “Go up against this land and destroy it.”’”
36:11-12 Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” But the Rabshakeh said, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”
36:13-20 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has 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 Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”
36:21-22 But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king's command was, “Do not answer him.” Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.
Hezekiah Seeks Isaiah's Help
37:1-4 As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”
37:5-7 When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’”
37:8-12 The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “He has set out to fight against you.” And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’”
Hezekiah's Prayer for Deliverance
37:14-20 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all 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 were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”
37:21-29 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning him:
“‘She despises you, she scorns you—
the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
the daughter of Jerusalem.
“‘Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
By your servants you have mocked the Lord,
and you have said, With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon,
to cut down its tallest cedars,
its choicest cypresses,
to come to its remotest height,
its most fruitful forest.
I dug wells
and drank waters,
to dry up with the sole of my foot
all the streams of Egypt.
“‘Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
crash into heaps of ruins,
while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
blighted before it is grown.
“‘I know your sitting down
and your going out and coming in,
and your raging against me.
Because you have raged against me
and your complacency has come to my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
by which you came.’
37:30-32 “And this shall be the sign for you: this year you shall eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that. Then in the third year sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
37:33-35 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
37:36-38 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.
Hezekiah's Sickness and Recovery
38:1-8 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.
“This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has promised: Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.
38:9-19 A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:
I said, In the middle of my days
I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
for the rest of my years.
I said, I shall not see the LORD,
the LORD in the land of the living;
I shall look on man no more
among the inhabitants of the world.
My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
like a shepherd's tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;
I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
from day to night you bring me to an end.
Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!
What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
because of the bitterness of my soul.
38:16-20 O Lord, by these things men live,
and in all these is the life of my spirit.
Oh restore me to health and make me live!
Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.
For Sheol does not thank you;
death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
for your faithfulness.
The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
The LORD will save me,
and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
at the house of the LORD.
38:21-22 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?”
Envoys from Babylon
39:1-8 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”
This is the final study for the fall. We will resume our study of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, in January. The planned date turns out to be Martin Luther King Day, so we will begin on January 29, 2019.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Fret not! We know the Lord reigns.