Page images

pitched their camp, and sent inessengers to Hezekiah, and desired that they might speak with him; but he did not himself come out to them for fear, but he sent three of his most intimate friends, the name of one was Eliakim, who was over the kingdom, and Shebna, and Joah the recorder. So these men came out, and stood over against the commanders of the Assyrian army; and when Rabshakeh saw them, he bid them go and speak to Hezekiah in the manner following : That

Sennacherib, the * great king, desires to know of him, on 166 whom it is that he relies and depends in flying from his “ lord, and will not hear bim, nor admit his army into the « city? Is it on account of the Egyptians, and in hopes that « his army would be beaten by them? Whereupon he lets « him know, that if this be what he expects, he is a foolish " man, and like one who leans on a broken reed, while such (6 an one will not only fall down, but will have his hand piercu ed and hurt by it. That he ought to know, he makes this # expedition against him by the will of God, who hath grant« ed this favour to bim, tbat he shall overthrow the kingdom of of Israel, and that in the very same manner he shall deo stroy those that are his subjects also.” When Rabshakeh had made this speech in the Hebrew tongue, for he was skilful in that language, Eliakim was afraid lest the multitude that heard him should be disturbed, so he desired him to speak in the Syrian tongue: but the general understanding what he meant, and perceiving the fear that he was in, he made his answer with a greater and a louder voice, but in the Hebrew tongue: and said, that " since they all heard what were the king's commands, they would consult their own « advantage in delivering up themselves to us, for it is plain 46 that both you and your king dissuade the people from sub“ mitting by vain hopes, and so induce them to resist; but if 66 you be courageous, and think to drive our forces away, I “ am ready to deliver to you two thousand of these horses '*6 that are with me for your use, if you can set as many horse« men on their backs, and shew your strength, but what you “ have not, you cannot produce. Why therefore do you de“ lay to deliver up yourselves to a superior force, who can “ take you without your consent ? although it will be safer “ for you to deliver yourselves up voluntarily, while a forcible “ capture, when you are beaten, must appear more dangerous, “ and will bring farther calamities upon you.”

[ocr errors]

* This title of Great King, both in our Bibles; 2 Kings xviii. 19. Isa. xxxvi. 4, and here in Josephus, is the very same that Herodotus gives this Sennacherib, as Spanheim takes potice on this places

3 When the people, as well as the ambassadors, heard what the Assyrian commander said, they related it to Hezekiah, who thereupon put off his royal apparel, and clothed himself with sackcloth, and took the babit of a mourner, and, after the manner of his country, he fell upon his face, and besought God, and entreated him to assist them, now they had no other bope of relief. He also sent some of his friends, and some of the priests, to the prophet Isaiah, and desired, that he would pray to God, and offer sacrifices for their common deliverance, and so put up supplications to him, that he would have indignation at the expectations of their enemies, and have mercy upon his people, And when the prophet had done accordingly, an oracle came from God to him, and encouraged the king and his friends that were about him; and foretold, that “ their “ enemies should be beaten without fighting, and should go " away in an ignominious inanner, and not with that insolence, " which they now shew, for that God would take care they " should be destroyed.” He also foretold, that " Sennache66 rib the king of Assyria should fail of his purpose against “ Egypt, and that when he came home he should perish by " the sword.”

4. About the same time also the king of Assyria wrote an epistle to Hezekiah, in which he said, “ He was a foolish man " in supposing that he should escape from being his servant, " since he had already brought under many and great nations; " and he threatened, that when he took him, he would ut" terly destroy him, unless he now opened the gates, and " willingly received bis army into Jerusalem.” When he had read this epistle, he despised it on account of the trust that he had in God, but he rolled up the epistle, and laid it up within the temple. And as he made his farther prayers to God for the city, and for the preservation of all the people, the prophet Isaiah said, that " God had heard his prayer, and that. is he should not be* besieged at this time by the king of As“syria ; that for the future he might be secure of not being

* What Josephus says here, how Isaiah the prophet assured Hezekiah, that “ at this time he should not be besieged by the king of Assyria, that for the fu. “ ture he might be secure of being not at all disturbed by him; and that (after“ ward] the people might go on peaceably, and without fear, with their husband“ ry, and other affairs,” is more distinct in our other copies, both of the kings and of Isaiab, and deserves very great consideration. The words are these: “ This shall be a sign unto thee; ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof,” 2 Kings xix. 20. Isa. xxxvii. 30. which seem to me plainly to design a sabbatic year, a year of Jubilee, next after it, and the succeeding usual labours and fruits of them on the third and fol. lowing years.


" at all disturbed by him; and that the people might go on “ peaceably, and without fear, with their husbandry and or other affairs." But after a little while, the king of Assyria, when he had failed of his treacherous designs against the Egyptians, returned home without success, on the following occasion: He spent a long time in the siege of Pelusium; and when the banks that he had raised over against the walls were of a great height, and when he was ready to make an immediate assault upon them, but heard that Tirhaka, king of the Ethiopians, was coming and bringing great forces to aid the Egyptians, and was resolved to march through the desert, and so to fall directly upon the Assyrians, this king Sennacherib was disturbed at the news, and, as I said before, left Pelusium and returned back without success. Now concerning this Sennacherib, Herodotus also says, in the second book of his histories, “ How this king came against the Egyptian king, 66 who was the priest of Vulcan, and that as he was besieging " Pelusium, he broke up the siege on the following occasion: " this Egyptian priest prayed to God, and God heard his 6 prayer, and sent a judgment upon the Arabian king.” But in this Herodotus was mistaken when he called this king not king of the Assyrians but of the Arabians : for he saith, that 66 a multitude of mice gnawed to pieces in one night buth 66 the buws and the rest of the armour of the Assyrians, and 66 that it was on that account that the king, when he had no 66 bows left, drew off his army from Pelusium.” And Herodotus does indeed give us this history; nay, and Berosus, who wrote of the affairs of Chaldea, makes mention of this king Sennacherib, and that he ruled over the Assyrians, and that he made an expedition against all Asia and Egypt; and* says

thus :

3 “ Now when Sennacherib was returning from his Egyp

tian war to Jerusalem, he'found bis army under Rabshakeh “ his general in danger (by a plague, for God had sent a " pestilential distemper úpon his army; and on the very first " night of the siege, an hundred fourscore and five thousand, " with their captains and generals, were destroyed: So the 66 king was in a great dread, and in a terrible agony at this " calamity; and being in great fear for his whole army, he fled : 66 with the rest of his forces to his own kingdom, and to his '“ city Nineveh: And when he had abode there a little while, 66 he was treacherously assaulted and died by the hands of

* That this terrible calamity of the slaughter of the 185,000 Assyrians is here delivered in the words of Berosus the Chaldean; and that it was certainly and frequently foretold by the Jewish prophets, and that it was certainly and under niably accomplished, see Authent. Rec. part II. page 858.

“ his elder sons * Adrammelech and Seraser, and was slain 56 in his own temple, which was called Araske. Now these " sons of his were driven away on account of the murder of « their father by the citizens, and went into Armenia, while “ Assarachoddas took the kingdom of Sennacherib” And this proved to be the conclusion of this Assyrian expedition against the people of Jerusalem.


How Hezekiah was sick, and ready to die; and how God be

stowed upon him fifteen years longer life, and secured that promise] by the going back of the shadow ten degrees.

Vow king Hezekiah being thus delivered, after a surprising manner, from the dread he was in, offered thank offerings to God, with all his people, because nothing else had destroyed some of their enemies, and made the rest so fearful of undergoing the same fate, that they departed from Jerusalem, but that divine assistance : Yet while he was very zealous and diligent about the worship of God, did he soon afterward fall into a severe + distemper, insomuch that the physicians despaired of him, and expected no good issue of his sickness, as neither did his friends : and besides the distemper itself, there was a very melancholy circumstance that disordered the king, which was the consideration that he was childless, and was going to die, and leave his house and his government without a successor of his own body: So he was troubled at the thoughts of this his condition, and lamented himself, and entreated of God that be would prolong his life for a little while till he had some children, and not suffer him to depart this life before he was become a father. Hereupon God had mercy upon him, and accepted of his supplication, because the trouble he was under at his supposed death, was not because he was soon to leave the advantages he enjoyed in the kingdom, nor did he on that account pray that he might have a longer life afforded him, but in order to have sons, that might receive the government after him. And so God sent Isaiah the prophet, and commanded him to inform Hezekiah, That " within three days time he should get clear 66 of his distemper, and should survive it fifteen years, and " that he should have children also.” Now upon the prophet's saying this, as God had commanded him, he could hardly believe it, both on account of the distemper he was under, which was very sore, and by reason of the surprising nature of what was told him ; so he desired that Isaiah would give him some sign or wonder, that he might believe him in what he had said, and be sensible that he came from God : for things that are beyond expectation, and greater than our hopes, are made credible by actions of the like nature. And when Isaiah had asked him, What sign he desired to be 'exhibited ? he desired that he would make the shadow of the sun which he had already made to go down ten steps [or degrees] in his house, to * return again to the same place, and to make it as it was before. And when the prophet prayed to God to exhibit this sign to the king, he saw what he desired to see, and was freed from his distemper, and went up to the temple, where he worshipped God and made vows to him.

* We are here to take notice, that these two sons of Sennacherib, that ran away into Armenia, became the heads of two famous families there, the Arzerunii and the Genunii; of which see the particular histories in Moses Chorenensis, p. 60.

† Josephus, and all our copies, place the sickness of Hezekiah after the destruction of Sennacherib's army, because it appears to have been after his first assault, as he was going into Arabia and Egypt, where he pushed his conquests as far as they would go, and in order to dispatch his story altogether; yet does no copy but this of Josephus's say it was after that destruction, but only that it happened in those days, or about that time of Hezekiah's life. Nor will the fifteen years prolongation of his life after his sickness, allow that sickness to have been later than the former part of the 15th year of his reign, since chronology does not allow him in all above 29 years and a few months, whereas the first assault of Sennacherib was in the 14th year of Hezekiah, but the destruction of Sennacherib's army was not till his 18th year.

2. At this time it was that the dominion of the Assyrians to was overthrown by the Medes; but of these things I shall treat elsewhere. But the king of Babylon, whose name was

* As to this regress of the shadow, either upon a sun-dial, or the steps of the royal palace built by Ahaz, whether it were physically done by the real miraculous revolution of the earth in its diurnal motion backward from east to west for a while, and its return again to its old natural revolution from west to east, or whether it were not apparent only, and performed by an aërial phosphorus, which imitated the sun's motion backward, while a cloud hid the real sun, cannot now be determined. Philosophers and astronomers will naturally incline to the latter hypothesis. However, it must be noted, that Josephus seems to have understood it otherwise than we generally do, that the shadow was accelerated as much at first forward as it was made to go backward afterward, and so the day was neither longer nor shorter than usual, which it must be confessed, agrees best of all to astronomy, whose eclipses older than that time were observed at the same times of the day as if this miracle had never happened. After all, this wonderful signal was not, it seems, peculiar to Judea, but either seen, or at least heard of at Babylon also, as appears by 2 Chr. xxxii. 31. where we learn, that the Babylonian ambassadors were sent to Hezekiah, among other things, to in. quire of the wonder that was done in the land.

+ This expression of Josephus's, that the Medes, upon this destruction of the Assyrian army, overthrew the Assyrian empire, seems to be too strong; for although they immediately cast off the Assyrian yoke, and set up Deioces a king of their own, yet it was some time before the Medes and Babylonians overthrew Nineveh, and some generations ere the Medes and Persians under Cyaxares and Cyrus overthrew the Assyrian or Babylonian enpire, and took Babylon.

« PreviousContinue »