And then, after this exemplary track record, this: Sennacherib king of Assyria came and attacked Judah. He put the fortified cities under siege, determined to take them.
When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib's strategy was to take Jerusalem,
he talked to his advisors and military leaders about eliminating all the water supplies outside the city; they thought it was a good idea.
There was a great turnout of people to plug the springs and tear down the aqueduct. They said, "Why should the kings of Assyria march in and be furnished with running water?"
Hezekiah also went to work repairing every part of the city wall that was damaged, built defensive towers on it, built another wall of defense further out, and reinforced the defensive rampart (the Millo) of the old City of David. He also built up a large store of armaments - spears and shields.
He then appointed military officers to be responsible for the people and got them all together at the public square in front of the city gate.
"Be strong! Take courage! Don't be intimidated by the king of Assyria and his troops - there are more on our side than on their side.
He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us!" Morale surged. Hezekiah's words put steel in their spines.
Later on, Sennacherib, who had set up camp a few miles away at Lachish, sent messengers to Jerusalem, addressing Judah through Hezekiah:
"A proclamation of Sennacherib king of Assyria: You poor people - do you think you're safe in that so-called fortress of Jerusalem? You're sitting ducks.
Do you think Hezekiah will save you? Don't be stupid - Hezekiah has fed you a pack of lies. When he says, 'God will save us from the power of the king of Assyria,' he's lying - you're all going to end up dead.
Wasn't it Hezekiah who cleared out all the neighborhood worship shrines and told you, 'There is only one legitimate place to worship'?
Do you have any idea what I and my ancestors have done to all the countries around here? Has there been a single god anywhere strong enough to stand up against me?
Can you name one god among all the nations that either I or my ancestors have ravaged that so much as lifted a finger against me? So what makes you think you'll make out any better with your god?
Don't let Hezekiah fool you; don't let him get by with his barefaced lies; don't trust him. No god of any country or kingdom ever has been one bit of help against me or my ancestors - what kind of odds does that give your god?"
The messengers felt free to throw in their personal comments, putting down both God and God's servant Hezekiah.
Sennacherib continued to send letters insulting the God of Israel: "The gods of the nations were powerless to help their people; the god of Hezekiah is no better, probably worse."
The messengers would come up to the wall of Jerusalem and shout up to the people standing on the wall, shouting their propaganda in Hebrew, trying to scare them into demoralized submission.
They contemptuously lumped the God of Jerusalem in with the handmade gods of other peoples.
King Hezekiah, joined by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz, responded by praying, calling up to heaven.
God answered by sending an angel who wiped out everyone in the Assyrian camp, both warriors and officers. Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace, tail between his legs. When he went into the temple of his god, his own sons killed him.
God saved Hezekiah and the citizens of Jerusalem from Sennacherib king of Assyria and everyone else. And he continued to take good care of them.
People streamed into Jerusalem bringing offerings for the worship of God and expensive presents to Hezekiah king of Judah. All the surrounding nations were impressed - Hezekiah's stock soared.
Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. He prayed to God and was given a reassuring sign.
But the sign, instead of making Hezekiah grateful, made him arrogant. This made God angry, and his anger spilled over on Judah and Jerusalem.
But then Hezekiah, and Jerusalem with him, repented of his arrogance, and God withdrew his anger while Hezekiah lived.
Hezekiah ended up very wealthy and much honored. He built treasuries for all his silver, gold, precious stones, spices, shields, and valuables,
barns for the grain, new wine, and olive oil, stalls for his various breeds of cattle, and pens for his flocks.
He founded royal cities for himself and built up huge stocks of sheep and cattle. God saw to it that he was extravagantly rich.
Hezekiah was also responsible for diverting the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and rerouting the water to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah succeeded in everything he did.
But when the rulers of Babylon sent emissaries to find out about the sign from God that had taken place earlier, God left him on his own to see what he would do; he wanted to test his heart.
The rest of the history of Hezekiah and his life of loyal service, you can read for yourself - it's written in the vision of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
When Hezekiah died, they buried him in the upper part of the King David cemetery. Everyone in Judah and Jerusalem came to the funeral. He was buried in great honor. Manasseh his son was the next king.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)