Sennacherib’s supreme commander marched into the palace surrounded by a gaggle of his most trusted underlings. Behind him, borne by Assyria’s brawniest, were treasures from the Temple in Jerusalem, gold and silver stripped from the most sacred site in pipsqueak Judah.
… with a deity about the same size, he muttered as he entered the cavernous hall that ended at the dais where the Lord of the Assyrians lounged.
He approached, calculating the exact distance he needed to cover before he had to make reverence before his master. Even the bow was proud as he bent before Sennacherib. Here were no trembling hands or shaking knees: He came in triumph.
“Greetings, oh great Sennacherib, King of Assyria …”, the grizzled warrior stopped, sensing a movement in front of him just before he was gripped in a smothering bear hug.
“What’s with all the formality, my good friend?”
The commander looked up into the eyes of his king. This wasn’t good. He expected congratulations, but such familiarity was a little overdone. He didn’t have long to wait for an answer to his concerns.
With a casual revision of the loot taken from Judah, Sennacherib returned to his throne, signaling, with a languid hand, his permission for the head of his army to approach
“I have another job for you.”
I knew it!
“You will return to Jerusalem with the army. You will take the city captive, along with her king and her people. Then you are to destroy the whole lot; hoof, foot and fodder. I’ve had quite enough insolence from this Israelite gnat biting at my backside. Gather what you need and move out as soon as possible. And when you get there tell them that their own God sent you!”
The commander bowed once more and backed out of the throne room. There was no point in protesting. When the great King of Assyria spoke, the world bit its tongue. But deep in his heart, the older man was certain that Sennacherib was simply trying to outdo the old king, Shalmaneser: He who had destroyed the northern kingdom and taken her people into captivity. Sennacherib coveted a bigger piece of history.
And so it was that Assyria’s army returned to Judah and surrounded the City of Jerusalem. The supreme commander sent his field commander under a flag of truce to speak to Hezekiah. This latter was a bit miffed when the King of Judah sent a troop of secretaries out to meet him.
“Tell Hezekiah: “‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours …’”*
He had practiced his speech in the Hebrew language to perfection. By the time he got finished ridiculing these weak-willed warriors and their miserable God, all resistance would melt like snow in the Eastern Desert.
And just to be sure that there was no misunderstanding the threat, the field commander addressed his final remarks to the gawkers on the wall:
“Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord.”*
Having delivered his message, the field commander returned to his chief and reported in.
“It shouldn’t be long now, boss. They’ll hem and haw, but defeat is a foregone conclusion. I’ll bet Hezekiah is writing his last will and testament as we speak!”
The senior commander had been through too many wars to be so sure. That night as he looked out toward the muted glow of Jerusalem in the distance, he wondered what the King of Judah really was doing.
Gathering his soldiers for one last battle? Consulting with his spiritual advisors? Praying? Not even that wimpy God of his has a chance against Assyria the Great, did He?
About the time the Supreme Commander was thinking about the logistics surrounding the disposal of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Word of the Lord against Assyria was being delivered to Hezekiah.
“… your insolence has reached my ears. I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return the way you came … the Zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”*
In the morning hands would tremble, and there would be shaking in as many Assyrian knees as still had life in them because Almighty always trumps Great.
*2 Kings 18:19, 28-30; 19:28, 31 NIV
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