2 Kings 18
The Siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib
The Reign of Hezekiah (JUDAH)
Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, did what was pleasing and was a king like David. He removed pagan shrines and pillars, cut down the Ashram poles, and restored full-hearted Yahweh worship to Israel. He even took down the longstanding Nehushtan which was the bronze serpent Moses had made which persisted to be used as an object of worship and a place to make sacrifices. Israel had great and perpetual difficulty worshiping Yahweh in the way Yahweh prescribed so their whole heart would be engaged (1-4). There would be seven other kings after Hezekiah; another king would bring another revival of worship after his own, but in the end apostasy would dominate Isreal's religious life.
Hezekiah's Worship Reforms (5-6)
Hezekiah, however, was a king who was devoted to trusting Yahweh; there was no other king like him before or after in remaining faithful to what Yahweh commanded through Moses (5-6).
Hezekiah was successful in everything he did because Yahweh was with him. After Judah had been humiliated under his father—even some of the citizens of Judah were carried away into captivity—Hezekiah devoted himself to restoring worship to Yahweh (2 Chronicles 29:20-36) cleansing the temple (2 Chronicles 29:12-19) and restoring the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:13-27) with many other worship reforms.
Hezekiah's Conquests (7-11)
Yahweh was also with Hezekiah, enabling him to revolt against Assyria refusing to pay tribute and separating Judah as a vassal state (7). Hezekiah also conquered Philistine territory as far as Gaza from their smallest settlements to their largest cities (8).
During Hezekiah's fourth year on the the throne, Assyria began to lay siege to Samaria (9); three years later, during the sixth year of his reign, Samaria fell and the Israelites were taken exile into foreign lands (10-11). It is noted that they were taken captive for their refusal to listen to Yahweh. It was during this same season that Hezekiah was restoring worship in Judah, discerning the reason for Israel's plight. It is essential to note that Jerusalem was not attacked and she was freed during the reign of worshiping Hezekiah.
Assyria Invades Judah (13-18)
Eight years later, Assyria came to Jerusalem seeking to regain Judah and a vassal state. Sennacherib's famous attack on Judah has been well-documented. Sennacherib literally smashed Israel's allies, made it impossible for Egypt to come to their aid, and attacked and conquered Judah's cities (Latish), a city larger than Jerusalem (13). With Hezekiah completely surrounded, he apologized for not sending the tribute money and told the king he would accept any terms of peace Sennacherib thought appropriate. Hezekiah stripped the temple of its wealth and gave it all to Sennacherib (14-16).
The king of Assyria however betrayed Hezekiah, sending his chief military leaders from their siege at Lachish with an army to Jerusalem. It would seem the king of Assyria wanted even more out of Hezekiah than temple wealth.
According to Assyrian records, Sennacherib wanted the Assyrian governor of Jerusalem released who Hezekiah had been detaining since he had ceased paying the tribute. Sennacherib also wanted some daughters of Hezekiah to be sent to Nineveh to become a part of his harem.
By the time Sennacherib dispatched the generals and an army, he decided he wanted the whole city. Those generals stood at the wall and summoned King Hezekiah to come out and listen. The king did not come out but sent his officials—politicians and government bureaucrats (17-18).
The Letter from Sennacherib: Part One (19-25)
The generals then read a message that was to be given to Hezekiah. One of the generals could speak fluent Hebrew so he read the message in a language those listening from atop the walls Jerusalem could understand.
1) In the letter, the messenger told the city that it was foolish for King Hezekiah to be making plans to resist a siege and to further negotiate with others for help, especially Egypt. Jerusalem, due to the Assyrian might, had left every last ally completely undependable. He further likened Egypt to a nation who, if they sought to lean on, would snap like a reed, leaving nothing but splinters in their hand to pick out (19-20).
2) In the letter, the messenger told the city that it was foolish to trust in Yahweh as their God because Hezekiah's well-known reforms of worship had rendered them of no advantage to Assyrian might just like no other god had helped any other nation (21-22).
3) In the letter, the messenger told the city that they had no cavalry nor even men to mount a significant cavalry force if they had horses, and he mocked them for not having an army strong enough to turn back his weakest fighting force even if Egypt were to aid them (23-24).
4) Finally, the messenger mentioned in the letter that Sennacherib had heard the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:17-24; 10:5-12), affirming that Yahweh had sent him to attack and destroy the land of Israel. He claimed that even Yahweh was on his side (25).
The Message from Sennacherib: Part Two (26-30)
The messengers Hezekiah sent to the wall to hear Sennacherib's message interrupted the messenger and asked him to speak in Aramaic, the diplomatic language of the day, so the people within the wall could not understand what was being said and lose heart (26).
The messenger, Sennacherib's chief of staff, denied the request, letting all know it was Sennacherib's design for all to hear and know the siege would be so horrific that they would be forced to eat their own dung and drink their own urine (27). The messenger began to shout even louder in Hebrew, talking directly to the citizens of Jerusalem, asserting that Hezekiah was trying to be deceitful, seeking to convince them that some kind of supernatural deliverance was close at hand and seducing them to hang on a bit longer until rescue arrived. The messenger then, with great bravado, assured the citizens whose attention he had captured that Jerusalem was destined to be his (28-30).
Sennacherib's Terms of Peace: Part Three (31-35)
Sennacherib's chief of staff finally unleashed the concluding part of his message. He called for the citizens of Jerusalem and the army defending the king to abandon Hezekiah and open the gates to the city and come out. They would be allowed to return to their farms, orchards, and vineyards peaceably until a time of deportation (31). The chief of staff then committed to finding them a place to live within his nation as good as the one they were presently living in, fertile and bursting with food.
He called upon them to chose to live instead of certain death by defending Hezekiah's defeated city.
He begged them not to listen to or be misled by Hezekiah believing in some illusionary God to come and save them (32).
The messenger asked them to consider and give as a example just one other nation whose god had saved them from Assyrian domination (33). The messenger made a list of the gods who had fallen and were unable to stop the power of the unconquerable Assyrians (34-35).
Jerusalem’s Response to Sennacherib's Message (36-37)
The citizens of Jerusalem stood in silence and would not answer Sennacherib's messenger just as Hezekiah had instructed. The leaders Hezekiah had sent to the wall to receive Sennacherib's message came back to Hezekiah, tore their clothes in utter humiliation, and related to the king all that was said.