“So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone” (v. 19).- 2 Kings 19
Hezekiah’s first response to Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah was to attempt to buy him off (2 Kings 18:13–16). Sennacherib received the payment, but he did not let up his attack, sending his Rabshakeh and an army to take Jerusalem. Hezekiah sent his own representatives to negotiate peace (vv. 17–18).
Assyria did not want peace with Judah. We see this in the Rabshakeh’s response to Hezekiah, which gives remarkable insight into Assyrian theology. The Assyrians believed Yahweh, the God of Judah, would not listen to the Judahites because Hezekiah had torn down every worship site in Judah besides the Jerusalem temple. For the Assyrians, the chief purpose of religion was to cajole the gods to be on your side, so they thought that the more sanctuaries you had for your god, the easier it would be to induce him to assist you. The Assyrians also believed their gods were stronger than Yahweh, that Yahweh was no better than the deities of other conquered nations who could not save their people from Assyria (vv. 19–35).
In a sense, then, Assyria dared Yahweh to prove Himself stronger than their deities. Hezekiah recognized this, as today’s passage indicates. Knowing that the honor of the one true God was at stake, Hezekiah asked the prophet Isaiah to intercede on Judah’s behalf. Isaiah responded with a word from the Lord that Sennacherib would fail in his attempt to take Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:1–7). But Hezekiah did not use this promise as an excuse for inaction. When he received a letter from the Assyrians again claiming that Yahweh could not save Judah, Hezekiah went to the temple. In an act that must have been quite moving to those who saw it, Hezekiah spread open the letter before the Lord and pleaded for God’s help. Here we see clearly Hezekiah’s piety, for he begged for the Lord’s assistance not merely to save Judah but so that the “kingdoms of the earth” would know that the Lord of Judah alone is God (vv. 8–19). Yahweh’s rescue of the outnumbered Judahites would prove that the God of Judah was greater than all other pretenders.
Isaiah promised that Sennacherib would fall and that while Judah would suffer, the nation would be spared in Hezekiah’s day. And so, the angel of the Lord defeated the Assyrian army and Sennacherib withdrew, only to be killed in the temple of his god Nisroch (vv. 20–36). Assyria believed its gods to be mighty, but they could not save the Assyrian king even in their own house.
In a sense, God has put His honor on the line in promising to save His people. By fulfilling His covenant commitments to redeem us, the Lord reveals Himself as the God of all nations when He keeps His Word. We share the gospel not merely so that others would receive eternal life, as good a goal as that is, but so that the Lord would be revealed in all His power. That should motivate us to support world missions and engage in evangelism ourselves.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 32:9–23