Ancient Near East
Images & Art
Maps & Geography
Mythology & Beliefs
People in History
Timelines & Charts
When Your Enemies are the Size of Assyria
Conclusion and Heart Message about a Big Enemy Showing Up at Our Gates
The Assyrians commanded a vast empire with a ruthless and
terrorizing army. They were the “superpower” of the day and they weren’t
governed by democracy, rules of war, the Geneva Convention, news media, UN
resolutions, or international law. There was no fear of a war crimes tribunal
after they tortured and obliterated the nations they attacked.
Below are some of the “journal” entries of their commanders…
destroyed, I demolished, I burned. I took their warriors prisoner and impaled
them on stakes before their cities. …flayed the nobles, as many as had rebelled,
and spread their skins out on the piles [of dead corpses]… many of the captives
I burned in a fire. Many I took alive; from some I cut off their hands to the
write, from other I cut off their noses, ears and fingers; I put out the eyes of
many of the soldiers." (TimeFrame 1500-600 BC by Time-Life Books)
Assyrian War Bulletin (1000 B.C.)
“I slew two hundred and sixty fighting men; I cut off their heads and made pyramids thereof. I slew one of every two. I built a wall before the great gates of the city; I flayed the chief men of the rebels, and I covered the wall with their skins. Some of them were enclosed alive in the bricks of the wall, some of them were crucified on stakes along the wall; I caused a great multitude of them to be flayed in my presence, and I covered the wall with their skins. I gathered together the heads in the form of crowns, and their pierced bodies in the form of garlands.”
When King Sennacherib of Assyria, threatened Judah with
destruction, King Hezekiah knew exactly what his nation was facing; an
overwhelming enemy beyond their ability to resist. At first he tried to appease
his enemies and paid them blackmail. (2Kings 18:13-16) As we have learned
through history, appeasement doesn’t stop an aggressor, but is only a sign of
weakness which emboldens them. The peace of appeasement is short lived.
Sennacherib’s servants arrive at Jerusalem to deliver the demand of surrender,
or face impending slaughter. It came with taunts, boldness and mockery.
After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem while he was besieging Lachish with all his forces with him, against Hezekiah king of Judah and against all Judah who were at Jerusalem, saying, "Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, `On what are you trusting that you are remaining in Jerusalem under siege? `Is not Hezekiah misleading you to give yourselves over to die by hunger and by thirst, saying, "The LORD our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria"? `Has not the same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, "You shall worship before one altar, and on it you shall burn incense"? `Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands? Were the gods of the nations of the lands able at all to deliver their land from my hand? `Who was there among all the gods of those nations which my fathers utterly destroyed who could deliver his people out of my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? `Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you like this, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?' " His servants spoke further against the LORD God and against His servant Hezekiah. He also wrote letters to insult the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, "As the gods of the nations of the lands have not delivered their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand." They called this out with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city. They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men's hands. (2 Chron. 32:9-19)
Sometimes a Sennacherib shows up at our gates. The situation is beyond our control. All of our own resources will not deliver us, and a terrible outcome awaits. Everyone who follows the Lord will one day run into an enemy that is too strong. We all wish to see miracles in our lives, but sometimes we forget that we will not see a miracle until we absolutely require a miracle. The Assyrian army provided Judah with that desperate requirement. There was no other possible remedy. For us it’s an interesting study. For King Hezekiah and those living inside the walls of Jerusalem, it was a terrifying life threatening trauma.
The King reached out to someone he knew heard from God. He sent servants and a message to the prophet Isaiah.
They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, `This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth and there is no strength to deliver. ‘Perhaps the LORD your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left.' " (2Kings 19:3,4)
Isaiah got a word from God and sent it back promising immediate relief. He said that the servants of Sennacherib would hear a rumor and leave. Unfortunately, this was going to be only a temporary respite from this awful situation. Yet it was a welcome sign from God that no doubt produced faith in the heart of Hezekiah. Wouldn’t be nice if we could constantly depend on the faith of others? But God wanted Hezekiah to grow in his own ability to trust Him. Soon, other messengers of Sennacherib returned, with more taunts and threats. They gave it to the king in writing.
Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, "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 the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? `Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? `Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?' " (2 Kings 19:10-13)
This time Hezekiah went directly to the Lord himself. In one of the most touching scenes in Scripture, we see the King humbling himself in desperation before the Lord in the Temple, in total need, making his request known to God.
"Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, "O LORD, the God of Israel, who are 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 listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. "Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. "Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD , are God." (2 Kings 19:14-19)
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah saying, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.' (2 Kings 19:20)
Can you see the king of Judah, spreading out before the Lord the threats of the king of Assyria? Can you feel his desperation? You may have a similar desperation. Spread them out before the Lord.
God’s reply was swift, again using the man of God Isaiah. God spoke directly to Assyria and it’s king. You can read God’s full reply in 1 Kings 19:21-34. The manifestation of God’s mercy upon King Hezekiah, Isaiah, and the people of Judah is a powerful reminder that our God reigns and will answer us in our distress. Do not despair when an enemy the size of Assyria shows up at our gates with war and destruction, but bring your fear to the Lord, spread out the threats before Him, and seek Him earnestly. He will hear your cry and answer with a miracle. Watch for it. Wait expectantly. Your God will come.
Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place. (2 Kings 19:35-37)
Table of Contents
The Eighth Century BC
Tiglath Pileser III
King Menahem of Israel
Pekah Slays Pekahiah
The Syrian League
King Ahaz of Judah
Assyria Attacks Damascus
Assyria Attacks Israel
Israel is Deported
The 10 Lost Tribes of Israel
Plague of Lions
Kingdom of Judah
"Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. . And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight." (The Book of 2 Kings)
When Your Enemies Are The Size Of Assyria - A Heart Message
Isa 10:5-7 "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations."
The Northern Kingdom consisted of 10 of the tribes (excluding Judah and Benjamin). It lasted for about 210 years until it was destroyed by Assyria in 722 BC. Its capital was Samaria. Every king of Israel was evil. In the northern kingdom there were 9 dynasties (family lines of kings) and 19 kings in all. An average of 11 years to a reign. 8 of these kings met death by violence.
The epitaph written over every one of its kings was:
I King 15:34 "and he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he had made Israel to sin."
It was king Ahab who introduced Baal worship to them.
I King 16:30-33 "Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him."
The last king was Hoshea (2 Ki 17). The petty wars of the past, wars with Syria and Edom, Ammon and Philistia, were now to give way to war on an ominous new scale. A world empire was being gathered into the ruthless hands of the Assyrians. The ruthless and cruel Assyrians (under Sargon II) besieged Samaria for 3 years and finally it fell, Israel was doomed. The Assyrians hauled them away into captivity (722 BC).
But the Lord always reminded them of why judgment came:
II Ki 17:7-23 "For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.
Also the children of Israel secretly did against the LORD their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this thing."
Yet the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets." Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them that they should not do like them.
So they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. . And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day."
Charts and Information