Sancheirev’s threats against Chizkiyahu and his eventual annihilation

Melachim 2 Chapters 18-19

  1. Sancheirev conquerors the cities of Judah and Chizkiyah pays him a tribute:
  • Sancheirev conquerors cities in the land of Yehuda: Sancheirev the king of Ashur [who reigned years later after Shalmaneser] conquered all of the fortified cities of Yehuda in the fourteenth year of reign of King Chizkiyah.
  • Chizkiyah apologizes to Sancheirev and pays him a large sum of money: Chizkiyah, the king of Yehuda, sent a message to the king of Ashur who was in Lachish, asking forgiveness for having rebelled against him and asking him to once again protect him from enemies and place upon him whatever punishment he desires. So, the king of Ashur imposed upon Chizkiyah, king of Yehuda, a tax of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Chizkiyah gave to the king of Ashur all the silver that was found in the Temple and in the palace treasuries of the king.
  • Chizkiyah peels the gold off the doors of the temple to pay the king of Ashur: Chizkiyah stripped the gold off of the doors of the temple of Hashem, and he gave the gold to the king of Ashur.

2.      Sancheirev goes to war against Chizkiyah:

  • The king of Ashur sends generals and an Army up to Jerusalem: The king of Ashur sent his generals Tartan and Ravsaris, and Ravshakeh [who was a Jewish apostate who believed in God[1]] from the city of Lachish to King Chizkiyah in Jerusalem, together with a great army. The generals and their army arrived at Jerusalem and stood by the upper pool area [where the people would launder their clothing[2]].
  • The meeting with the king’s messengers and the message that Ravshakeh gave: The generals of Ashur summoned Chizkiyah the king, and Eliakim the son of CChilkiyah who was appointed over the palace came out to greet them together with and Shevna the scribe and Yoah the son of Asaph the secretary. Ravshakeh told them to relay the following message to their king Chizkiyah, “So says the great king of Ashur: What were you thinking that you rebelled against me and decided to trust that you don’t need me to help you fight your enemies. You trusted in your God and prayed to Him and therefore rebelled against me but now you realize that in truth you need my help and military support. Why would you place your trust in Egypt who is similar to a splintered reed which will puncture one’s palm when one tries to support himself on it. Now, if you tell me that you trusted in God, this should be to you of no salvation as you have removed all of the altars on which He was served from the land and said that people may only bow to Him in Jerusalem. Now, if you wish that my master the king of Ashur give you two thousand horses and supply you with riders, then give him some collateral in exchange that will show the you are subjugated to him. Now, you should know that it is God Himself who has sent me here to destroy this place.”
  • Ravshakeh is asked to speak with them in Aramaic: Eliakim the son of Chilkiyah and Shevnah and Yoah asked Ravshakeh to speak with them in Aramaic which they understand, and not speak with them in Hebrew in order so the people by the wall do not hear the conversation between them. Ravshakeh replied to them defiantly that he will continue to speak in Hebrew, as his master had sent him to speak not just to the king of Yehuda and his messengers but to all the Jewish people in the city, including the people who [will need to] sit by the wall and eat their dung and drink their urine [after we place siege over the city and starve the inhabitants[3]].
  • Ravshakeh tries to convince to the people in Jerusalem to capitulate to the king of Ashur: So, Ravshakeh stood up and called out in a loud voice in Hebrew towards the people by the wall, “Listen to the word of the great king, the king of Ashur. So has the king said, Don’t look up to Chizkiyah to help you as he will not be able to save you from my hand. Don’t let Chizkiyah to convince you to have faith in God who will save you and the city of Jerusalem from being given over to the king of Ashur. Do not listen to Chizkiyah, for the king of Ashur is offering you to make peace with him and come out of the city. Each person will be able to eat from his vine and fig tree and drink water from his well until you will be brought by the king of Ashur to a land like your land [i.e. Africa[4]], a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil yielding olives and honey. You will live and not die. Do not listen to the words of Chizkiyah who will mislead you to believing that your God will save you. Have the gods of any of the other nations been successful in saving their nation from the hands of the king of Ashur? Where are the gods of Chamas and Arpad, where are the gods of Sepharvaim? They were not successful in battling against the king of Ashur and instead he exiled them and twisted them. Did these deities save the city of Shomron from my hand? There has been no God who has been successful in fighting him and saving their land from the hand of the king of Ashur and certainly the Lord will not be successful in saving Jerusalem from my hand?”
  1. The people do not reply to Ravshakeh:
  • The people remained silent and did not answer even a single word to Ravshakeh, as indeed the king Chizkiyah instructed them not to answer him one word.
  • The king’s messengers relate to him the words of Ravshakeh: Eliakim the son of Chilkiyah who was appointed over the palace and Shevna the scribe and Yoah the son of Asaph the secretary, came to Chizkiyah with torn garments, and told him the message of Ravshakeh.

Chapter 19: Hashem saves Chizkiyah from Sancheirev

  1. Chizkiyah consults with Yeshayahu and is told not to fear Sancheirev:
  • Chizkiyah mourns the situation: When king Chizkiyah heard the message related to him from the king of Ashur, he tore his garments, and covered himself with sackcloth, and came to the temple [to beseech mercy from God].
  • The king sends his messengers to consult with the prophet Yeshayahu: Chizkiyahu sent Eliakim who was appointed over the palace, and Shevna the scribe and the elders of the priests, who were all covered with sackcloth, to Yeshayahu the prophet, the son of Amotz [to consult with him as to what they should do]. They came to Yeshayahu and told him of the dire situation with the king of Ashur and that he has blasphemed God, and that the Jewish people are weak like a woman who needs to give birth but has no strength to do so. “Let God listen to the words of Ravshakeh, and please offer a prayer to God on behalf of the rest of the Jewish people.”
  • Yeshayahu encourages Chizkiyahu to not fear Sancheirev: Yeshayahu said to the messengers of the king that they should relay back to the king, that God has told him that he should not fear the words of the lads of the king of Ashur who have blasphemed Him. Hashem has said, “I will cause a rumor to be spread of an imminent threat in his country, and will enter into him a spirit of worry and he will return to his land, and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his land.”
  1. Sancheirev continues to threaten Chizkiyah who prays to God for help:
  • Ravshakeh returns to his land and discovers that his king is in war: Ravshakeh returned back to his land and found the king of Ashur waging war against Livnah, as he heard that he had left Lachish. The king of Ashur heard a rumor that Tirhakah the king of Cush had come up to wage war against him.
  • A new message to Chizkiyah asking him to capitulate: The king of Ashur once again sent messengers to Chizkiyah telling him that [as soon as he is done with his war against the kingdom of Cush, he will be back to attack Jerusalem[5]] he should not waste his time trusting in his God that Jerusalem will not be handed into the hands of the king of Ashur. “You surely have already heard of all the nations that I, the king of Ashur, managed to conquer and destroy. Now, how do you think that you will manage to be saved. Did the deities of the nations whom my ancestors destroyed-Gozan and Charan, and Retzef and the children of Eden which is in Tilasher, save them? Where were the kings of Chamas and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim when I came to conquer them? I exiled these nations and controlled them.”
  • Chizkiyah prays to God in the temple to help him: Chizkiyah received the letters from the messengers of the king of Ashur, and read them. Chizkiyah took the letters to the temple and spread them open in front of God. Chizkiyah then prayed before Hashem and said, “Hashem, Who dwells between the cherubim, You are the only God of the heavens and the earth and are the one who created them. Please pay attention to the words of Sancheirev, who sent Ravshakeh to blaspheme the living God. Indeed, Hashem, the kings of Ashur have destroyed many nations and their land. They have destroyed their deities in fire, for they are not gods, but the handiwork of man, wood and stone, and they destroyed them. Now, O my God, please save us from his hands, so that all the kingdoms of the earth shall know that You alone are the God  of the earth.”
  • Yeshayahu reassures Chizkiyah that God will save them: Yeshayahu the son of Amotz sent a message to Chizkiyah telling him that God had heard his prayers concerning Sancheirev, king of Ashur. Yeshayahu told him that he has the following prophecy regarding Sancheirev: “This is the word that Hashem has spoken about Sancheirev: The virgin daughter of Tzion despises and mocks you. Who do you think you have blasphemed and insulted? You have raised your eyes against all that is holy to the Jewish people. You have blasphemed God and insulted Him, bragging that you will be able to annihilate the Jewish land and destroy the temple. But I will not allow you to do so, and return you back to the road that you came from.” Yeshayahu then gave a sign to Chizkiyah that the above prophecy will take place and that Sancheirev will fall, “This shall be the sign for you, as although Sancheirev has destroyed all the produce of the land and created a famine, you shall nevertheless find food as this year you shall eat what grows by itself, and the next year you will eat from what grows from the tree stumps, and in the third year, you will be able to sow and reap, and plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” Yeshayahu assures Chizkiyah that the remaining survivors of the tribe of Yehuda will once again resettle and grow in the land, and that Sancheirev will not even enter the city of Jerusalem “now he shall not shoot an arrow, nor shall he advance upon it with a shield, nor shall he pile up a siege mound against it. By the way he comes he shall return, and this city he shall not enter. I will protect Jerusalem for My sake and for the sake of My servant David.”


  1. An angel of God annihilates the army of Sancheirev:
  • On that night [when Sancheirev returned to Israel after conquering the kingdom of Cush[6]] an angel Hashem came and slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand generals so soldiers of the camp of Ashur. Sancheirev and his remaining soldiers arose in the morning, and behold they saw all of the dead corpses of their generals and soldiers.
  • Sancheirev leaves Israel and dwells in Ninveh: Sancheirev, the king of Ashur, left the land of Israel and went to dwell in Nineveh.
  • Sancheirev is assassinated by his own sons: It happened that when Sancheirev was prostrating himself in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adramelech and Sharezer assassinated him, killing him with a sword. The sons fled to the land of Ararat, and his son Eisar Chaddon reigned in his stead.

[1] Rashi 18:22

[2] Rashi 18:17

[3] Metzudos Dovid 18:27

[4] Rashi 18:32

[5] Rashi 19:9

[6] Rashi 19:35

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