We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. — George Orwell

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Assyrian Host

After the siege of Samariar, the Assyrian host began to besiege the city of Tyre, which held out bravely for five years. But before it could be taken, the Assyrians were called home by a war with the Medes and Babylonians, and the Tyrians fancied that they had won.

But Isaiah, the great prophet whose predictions are written in the Bible, in a book bearing his name, sadly warned the merchant city of Tyre that although she had escaped this time, she was doomed to utter destruction.

Soon after this, Hezekiah, King of Judah, was "sick unto death." He was very unwilling to die, and in his distress he sent for Isaiah, begging the prophet to make his life longer. Isaiah then promised the king that he should get well again, and in token of the truth of this promise, the prophet made the shadow creep back ten degrees on the sundial, and said that Hezekiah’s life would be lengthened by fifteen years.

This respite, and the miracle of the sundial, came to the ears of the King of Babylon; so he sent an embassy to congratulate Hezekiah, and to offer to make an alliance with him against Assyria. Hezekiah was so proud to receive an embassy from the Babylonian king that he showed all his wealth to the messengers, and even let them see all the treasures of the temple.

Isaiah was indignant at this vain display, and sadly told Hezekiah that his treasures would be wrested away from him, not by the Assyrians, whom he feared, but by the Babylonians, whom he trusted. Now that they knew what wealth was there, he said, they would long to get it.

When Hezekiah heard this, he repented of his vanity, and humbled himself before the Lord. He prayed so fervently for forgiveness that he was told that the misfortunes which had been foretold would not be allowed to happen during his day.

The Assyrian king, having made peace at home, again came into Judah, on his way to conquer Egypt. And now, although Isaiah had foretold the downfall of the Egyptians, the Jews offered them their alliance.

The Egyptians, sure of their own strength, scornfully refused to receive any help, and all that the Jews gained by their rash behavior was to call down upon their own heads the wrath of the Assyrians. Isaiah bitterly reproached his countrymen for what they had done, but at the same time he told them they need not fear the Assyrians, because God would defeat the invaders by strange means, while the people need but stand by and see his power.

Reassured by these words, Hezekiah at first showed no fear when the Assyrians came, but later on, influenced by the terrified people, he tried to buy off the invaders, by giving them three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. This large sum was procured by the sacrifice of his own plate, and by stripping the precious metal off the temple pillars.

The Assyrian king nevertheless sent one of his generals to take possession of Jerusalem, and then Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled; for, in the dead of night, "the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred four score and five thousand." When the Jewish watchman looked out in the early morning, he saw all the plain strewn with corpses!

Hezekiah, thus saved by a miracle from the awful danger which threatened him, now spent the rest of his life in peace and prosperity, and when he died he was honored by the chief place in the sepulcher of the Kings of Judah.

He was succeeded by Manasseh, his son, who was then only twelve years of age, and who ruled over the country fifty-five years. In the first part of this long reign, Manasseh fell into idolatry, profaned the temple, and made his own son undergo a heathen rite, and "pass through the fire," a sacrifice to Moloch.

Manasseh dealt with wizards and witches; he persecuted many of the prophets, and probably killed Isaiah. It was in punishment for all these sins that the Assyrians were again allowed to come into his kingdom, and even to carry him off into captivity.

Then Manasseh felt so sorry for all the wrong he had done that God took pity upon him, and sent him back to his kingdom at Jerusalem. Here this king spent the rest of his life quite comfortably; and when he died he left his throne to his son Amon.