Did you know that the events described in 2 Kings 18-19 are also recorded two other places in the Bible? The story is also recorded in 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 36-37. When I heard that, it made me think that God must want us to remember it. Like the Red Sea crossing, the walls of Jericho, and the Feeding of the Five Thousand, this story was recorded for us to read and remember. As we come to the conclusion of the story, we find three verses that recorded what happened after Hezekiah read God’s message of deliverance.
- What does it say? (2 Kings 19:35-37)
On an unspecified night (so not necessarily immediately), the angel of the Lord went out and killed 185,000 people in the Assyrian camp. It was not noticed until the next morning when the rest of the people awakened from sleep. This caused Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, to leave the area and return home. He decided to remain at Nineveh. Later, he was killed by two of his sons while he was worshiping in the temple of his god. Their names were Adrammelech and Sharezer. They escaped to the land of Ararat and another son, Esarhaddon, reigned as king.
- What does it mean?
It means that God does not let blasphemy go unpunished (2 Kings 19:22-28).
In verses 22-28, God asked Sennacherib who he was reproaching and blaspheming. Apparently, the king was unaware of who God was. He had become very arrogant about his success and considered himself unstoppable. But all of that pride disappeared when the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of his soldiers.
Who were these people? Apparently, they were his best soldiers—perhaps even the Rabshakeh and his cohorts.
2 Chronicles 32:21 – “Then the Lord sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria.”
How many people were Sennacherib’s army? According to one source, a different Assyrian king “Shalmaneser III once boasted a force of 120,000 men in his campaigns against Syria.”1 One video commentator said that Sennacherib had only 200,000 soldiers. If that was the case, he would have limped home quietly with only 15,000 soldiers. In this way, God put a “hook in his nose” and brought him home.
It means that God kept his promises (2 Kings 19:32-34).
If you look back at verses 32-34, you will see that God promised several things about King Sennacherib.
• He would not enter the city.
• He would not shoot an arrow there.
• He would not bring a shield to the city.
• He would not build a siege mound against the city.
• He would return the same way he had come.
God’s promises were fulfilled as Sennacherib never even came to Jerusalem. God kept him from coming to the city or doing anything at all. He had built a siege mound against Lachish earlier and captured it. But God did not allow him to even come to Jerusalem in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer.
It means that Sennacherib’s god could not protect him (2 Kings 19:37).
It is interesting that Sennacherib downplayed the gods of the other nations. None had been able to protect their worshipers. So, it is no wonder that the king ignorantly thought the same about the God of Israel. Until this moment, none had been able to stop him. But in a surprising turn of events, his god failed him on two occasions. His soldiers were killed while they slept and he was later assassinated by two of his sons while he was worshiping in his god’s temple.
- How does it apply?
We must not think that God will allow sin to go unpunished.
When people curse God’s name or say blasphemous things against the Lord, true believers are grieved by this behavior. While there is a time coming when all unbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne for judgment, be assured that God is aware of this behavior and will respond in His perfect timing.
Gal. 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
Sennacherib was eventually judged by God for his blasphemy. But notice that God did not kill him immediately. Historians tell us that the siege of Jerusalem happened in 701 BC but that his assassination did not happen until 681 BC, some 20 years later. Despite Sennacherib’s pride and blasphemy, God gave him twenty years to repent. Sadly, it appears that he did not.
We can trust God to keep His promises.
One of the lessons learned from this passage is that God always keeps His promises. In this instance, God promised to defend Jerusalem and He did it. This ought to help us when considering the other promises that God has made. Can you think of some of his promises?
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
1 Thess. 4:16-17 – “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Heb. 13:5 – “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
As we consider all that God has promised, stories like this reinforce our faith in God’s ability to do whatever He says He will.
After reading this incredible story, how will it affect your life? Perhaps it would be good to let this story affect the way that you pray this week. Since God was able to protect His people from the greatest military force at that time, it is more than certain that He can take care of your problems today. As you pray, recall to mind God’s promises and His ability to do the impossible.
Barnes, Albert, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible as viewed in the PocketBible app.
Constable, Thomas L., “2 Kings” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989.
Jameison, Robert, “2 Kings” in Classic Bible Commentary as viewed in the PocketBible app.
“Military history of the Neo-Assyrian Empire” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_the_Neo-Assyrian_Empire on 1/24/2024.
“Sennacherib” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sennacherib on 1/24/2024.
Videos to Consider
“14. Hezekiah, Sennacherib, and Big Surprises” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O5RHbq3BLI&t=20s on 1/16/2024.
“Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem | Part 2” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3i-C1HxVVg&ab_channel=TheStudyofChristianity on 1/24/2024.
“King Sennacherib of Assyria: Digging for Truth Episode 178” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjSucp73Hwk&ab_channel=AssociatesforBiblicalResearch on 1/16/2024.
“The Assyrian War Machine: King Hezekiah vs. Emperor Sennacherib: Episode 7” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnLEz3bcU8A&ab_channel=Patheos on 1/16/2024.
“The Highly Ironic Death of Sennacherib, King of Assyria” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5CQHeK1ksc&ab_channel=MasterpieceBible on 1/24/2024.
“Who was Sennacherib?” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR_poifNJYU&pp=ygULc2VubmFjaGVyaWI%3D on 1/24/2024.