II Chronicles – Chapter 32

Assyrian Propaganda

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Some time later, Sancheriv (Sennacherib), king of Assyria, invaded the land of Judah. Chizkiyahu, in consultation with his advisors, decided to cut off the Assyrians’ water supply. After stopping the wells and even the river, Chizkiyahu built up the city defenses. He raised arms and appointed military leaders over the populace. He told the people not to be discouraged by the Assyrians because G-d can outmatch all of the enemy’s soldiers. The people were invigorated by these words.

Sancheriv sent emissaries to Jerusalem on a propaganda campaign to dishearten the Jews. They said that Chizkiyahu was only leading his people to ruin. After all, the messengers reasoned, Chizkiyahu was the king that finally did away with the people’s private altars; surely G-d wouldn’t be pleased by that! The Assyrians continued by bragging about all the other lands they had razed. If those nations’ “gods” hadn’t saved them, why did the Jews expect any different? The representatives from Assyria further blasphemed against G-d.

Sancheriv sent threatening letters, also blasphemous. His messengers cried out their propaganda in Hebrew in order to scare the populace. In their rhetoric, they treated G-d as if He were as powerless as an idol made by human hands. Chizkiyahu and the prophet Isaiah prayed to G-d. G-d responded by sending an angel, who wiped out the Assyrian camp in a single night. Sancheriv returned home in disgrace, where he was assassinated by his own sons.

Representatives of the other nations sent gifts to the Temple and to Chizkiyahu to commemorate this miraculous victory. Chizkiyahu became renowned among the nations, which went to his head a little. Then he became deathly ill. He prayed to G-d, Who sent a sign that he would recover. But Chizkiyahu did not reciprocate G-d’s beneficence. (The parallel account in II Kings chapter 20 explains how Chizkiyahu showed off for visiting foreign dignitaries.) But since he humbled himself before G-d, He decreed that the exile would not occur in Chizkiyahu’s lifetime.

When Chizkiyahu died, he was buried with the highest honors. His son Menashe took over as king of Judah.

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