Sennaherib Besieges Jerusalem

Meanwhile Sennaherib had cruelly punished the various peoples who had dared to defy him openly or secretly. He suppressed the revolt of Babylon, and after he had defeated all his enemies in the east and north, he went west to punish Phoenicia, the Philistines, and the Kushites. Sennaherib exiled the native populations of the various countries and resettled them in different places in order to undermine their national spirit and sever their ties to their soil. Faithful governors supplanted the native kings and administration was centralized in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. After all these punitive measures, Sennaherib marched against Jerusalem.

Rabshakeh's Message

Sennaherib's army was led by three generals, headed by general Rabshakeh. They were to intimidate the people of Jerusalem and convince them that resistance against Assyria's mighty forces was futile and hopeless. Hezekiah sent his representatives to speak with the Assyrian officers, while the people came thronging to the walls of Jerusalem to hear the reply of the enemy. As soon as the Hebrew messengers had approached, Rabshakeh addressed them in Hebrew, in a loud voice, so that all could hear: "Speak you thus to Hezekiah says the great king of Assyria: 'What confidence is this wherein thou trusteth? Now, behold thou trusteth upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean it will go into his hand, and pierce it: So is Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to all that trust in him... Now, therefore, I pray thee, enter into a contest with my L-rd the King of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them... The L-rd said to me, go up against this land and destroy it!'"

Miraculous Liberation

When the words of the Assyrians were reported to King Hezekiah, he rent his garments, and went to the Holy Temple to pray. "O L-rd, G‑d of Israel, who thrones over the Cherubim, You alone are G‑d over all the kingdoms of the earth; for it is You who has created heaven and earth. Bend down, O L-rd, Your ear and hear! Open, O L-rd, Your eye and see: Hear all the words of Sennaherib which he has sent to blaspheme the L-rd. And now, O L-rd our G‑d, save us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the L-rd, You alone!"

The prophet Isaiah sent the following message of G‑d to the king. "The L-rd has heard your prayer. Of Sennaherib He has spoken the following: 'She despises you, she laughs at you in scorn, the virgin daughter of Zion; the daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head at thee. Whom have you blasphemed, and whom have you scorned? And against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel... Because of your raging against Me, and your tumult that has come to Mine ears, will I put My hook into your nose, and My bridle, between your lips, and I will make you turn back on the way by which you came... Therefore, he shall not come into this city, and he shall not shoot an arrow thereon; nor come before it with shields, nor cast up an embankment against it. On the same way by which he came, shall he return, and into this city shall he not come, says the L-rd. I will shield this city to save it for my own sake, and for the sake of David, my servant!"

That very night an angel of G‑d killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers in the Assyrian camp. Crushed with defeat and shame, Sennaherib returned to his capital Nineveh. There he was slain by his own sons while worshipping in the temple of his god Nisroch.