We are going to look at the psychological warfare of the Assyrians when they came up against Jerusalem at the time of King Hezekiah. This can be found in Isa 36 and 37. Hezekiah has made a treaty with Egypt and he defeats a Philistine vassal of Assyria and takes him to Jerusalem. This made Assyria angry (2 Kings 18.1-12).
Rabshakeh, a title for a representative of Sennacharib, comes to the kings representatives and begins to speak to discourage and deride the Jews at Jerusalem. We find out that the Jews had mixed paganism with the true worship of God in v 7 and we know Hezekiah took away the Bronze Serpent that Moses used, called Nechushtan in 2 Kings 18.4, because they turned it into an idol. He tries to say that God is angry at Hezekiah for tearing down his “high places” and tried to shed some doubt as to whether Hezekiah is doing the right thing.
Then in v 8 the psychology changes. He begins to say that the Jews do not have enough men. Then he says in v 10 that “the Lord told me” to come against you. This phrase “God told me” is widely used today by people. You can turn on any Christian television program and hear these preachers saying that the “Lord told me” this or that. Rabshakeh even tries to say that the Jews don’t have enough water to hold out, but they really do, but they do not let Rabshakeh know that (v 11-12). Then he tells the Jews that things will be better if they stop listening to Hezekiah, and that they will have prosperity and be at peace (v 13-16). He says that the land has been devastated but they will be put into a good land (v 17) and then he tries to undermine Hezekiah (v 18).
So, in short, the Assyrians try to discourage them (v 4-5, 18), they lift up any problems they may have (v 12), they speak to those who don’t know what to do (v 11-12), he plays mind games with “the Lord told me” (v 10) and he promises false things, but the end is slavery (v 8, 16-17). In response, the people kept silent and sent to the king.
Spiritually, we are not to talk to the enemy or answer. There is too much talking to the enemy with people today. If confronted by accusations, we need to go to the king and get our instructions. People go into spiritual battles like its the OK Corral, just “shooting their mouth off.” If a demon is cast out, and the Lord does not replace it with his Spirit, or they weren’t ready, he will be worse off than before.
But, if you are led of God and he tells you exactly what to do, then proceed. If he tells you nothing and you get no direction, then don’t do anything. In the Jewish Prayer Book called a “siddur” there are 13 principles of the faith. One of these is you are not to worship anyone but God. Prayer is worship, therefore, you are not to talk to anybody else but God in prayer.
When they came to the king in 36.22 they were serious and humble. Hezekiah is not presumptuous in 37.4 because he uses the word “Perhaps” and this is similar to what Esther said in Est 4.16. In the near future, Nebuchadnezzar will do the same thing when he gets to the city, but the difference is they had a word from the Lord through Jeremiah that the city was going to be taken and that they were to go out to Nebuchadnezzar. They had no such word in the case with the Assyrians. The same situation but two different instructions. Sennacharib talked too much, and he said the Lord was not going to help them, so why trust him. The Lord knew this and it angered him, just like it did when Ben-Hadad said that the Lord was not the God of the valleys in 1 Kings 20.28.
Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and Isaiah the prophet came with a word. He said that Sennacharib said too much and he brings destruction on his own head. As a result, the army of the Assyrians was destroyed in one night, losing 185,000 men. Sennacharib goes back to Assyria and is killed by his sons in a pagan temple. He is remembered for his defeat at Jerusalem. His face was taken off a memorial to him in the Lachish room. Later kings lived in fear after this and Assyria’s downfall is due to Sennacharib’s contention with the Lord.
Spiritually, before a siege, the enemy will try to work on you psychologically first, like the Assyrians did. There is only one way to turn back an “Assyrian” battle, and that is intervention from the Lord. We can prepare and be psychologically strong, like Judah prepared all the fortified cities they had, but Assyria defeated them all (Isa 36.1). You will not defeat him with your own strength. You can use all the defenses that you want, but if this kind of battle comes upon you, you will need God’s intervention. Every time we see victory in this kind of attack, its because they held on and held on, but they cried out to God and he took it upon himself to turn back the enemy.
In a siege, the enemy will try to cut off your water supply. If he does, in three or four days you are done. So, one will try to escape. Spiritually, “escapism” is seen as reading romantic novels for hours a day, watching daytime soaps, sports and TV all day and anything that erodes your life away. In a siege, you must discipline yourself to not get caught up in all this. The reason you don’t get anything out of reading Scriptures is you are under attack, so don’t waste your time reading one chapter a day. One chapter is not enough to make a difference. It is like a guy who wants to build up his body and does three sit-ups a day.
Find a way to be proactive under attack. The enemy can’t maintain a siege forever. What you want is when he hits you, you move forward. You delve into the Scriptures and good studies and prayer like never before. After it is over, you are better off at the end than at the beginning of the siege, even if it hurts, no matter what. Offense is your best defense. True, biblical knowledge can totally revolutionize your life and push the enemy back. You cannot put the Bible on top of your head and expect to know it. God will not reveal these things to anyone who does not “open the book” and studies hard and diligently.
In 2 Kings 19.32-37 we read about the death of Sennacharib. Spiritually, when God intervenes on your behalf, you don’t have to worry about carrying out vengeance. Israel was not to hate the Egyptians or treat strangers badly, but they were to remember. You are not to hate your enemy, but you are to defeat them. When the war is over, its over. Don’t keep carrying on the war by talking about it.
In a siege, don’t get with people and talk, talk, talk night and day. The people with you “feed” each other. They will take molehills and make mountains out of it. This will drain you and you can’t hear from the Lord, you can’t rest.
In 2 Kings 20.20 we read about one of the provisions Hezekiah made for a siege. He built a conduit, or tunnel, to bring water into the city. The pool of water was called the pool of Siloam, or Shiloach. It was the largest mikveh in Jerusalem, and healing was associated with this pool (Jer 17.12; John 9.7) It was used during the feast of Sukkot in the Beit Ha Shoevah ceremony.
Hezekiah was a king second only to David, and he has about as much trouble. He made a treaty with the Egyptians and attacked an Assyrian vassal state called Ekron. But the Lord is going to use Assyria to accomplish his work (Isa 10.5-12). In 2 Chr 29.1-36 we learn about Hezekiah the man. There is more to warfare than the battles. We see his heart towards the commandments in 2 Chr 30.18-19, and it is a perfect example of Yeshua’s words in Mark 2.27 and Paul’s in 1 Cor 3.6.
What should our approach to the commandments be? Should you approach them with an attitude that it doesn’t matter what I do? The purpose of the commandments is to show the Messiah. The commandments teach us about the redemption, eschatology, the ways and thoughts of the Lord and to show our faith in him. Anything less than that kills.
In Luke 10.30-37 we learn about the story of the Good Samaritan. The point of the story is following the letter of the Law without the heart (essence) of it can inhibit acts of kindness and mercy. It wasn’t that the priest and the Levite were cruel and heartless, because the commandments said they were not to touch a corpse in the purity laws. But they didn’t even check to see if he was alive, so they didn’t do anything to help.
Hezekiah started out on fire for the Lord and it says in 2 Chr 32.1 that “after these acts of faithfulness” trouble came in with Sennacharib. Something happened from his first year to his 14th in Isa 36.1. Idols came back and paganism crept in. Spiritually, it is the same with us. At first we have a zeal, but after a time we begin to let things creep back in. So, God may allow an “Assyrian” to come into your life to do a work. But, if that Assyrian exceeds what he is allowed to do, like Sennacharib, then the Lord will deal with that too. Leaders would strengthen avenues of attack so spiritually we must anticipate avenues of attack and strengthen them.
At the time of Solomon, walls were casemate walls but this changes at the time of Rehoboam. Why? Because the Assyrians had battering rams and casemate walls weren’t thick enough. Broad walls were developed, with crennels, a glacis, embrasures and towers. Gates will go through changes also. They were smaller, with one or two chambers with towers on the sides. It was solid and very hard to tear down. They continued with an angled approach to slow you down and maximize the dangers to a battering ram and sappers. Citadels and royal palaces were the last line of defense and they had broad walls, too. They were usually the highest point in the city, with gate after gate, wall after wall. The purpose was to wear the enemy down, hoping something would happen that would end the siege.
These defenses were meant to discourage the enemy and buy time. Spiritually, it is the same with us. We need to keep improving our defenses and make them stronger. We need to send the message to false teachers or anyone who tries to come against our “city” with false doctrine that they are going to have a hard, difficult, long, drawn out battle if they try to come against us with false teaching. They will need to stop and count the cost, and if you are strong in the Lord, know the Scriptures and have built your walls and towers on a solid foundation, they will decide not even to test you. This will save you a lot of time and energy that can be spent improving your defenses even more.
In Part 19, we will begin to talk about the end of the Assyrian era and move into the Babylonian and Greek era, all the while bringing out spiritual principles that will help us our own spiritual warfare.