When Hezekiah heard it all, he too ripped his robes apart and dressed himself in rough burlap. Then he went into The Temple of God.
He sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, all of them dressed in rough burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.
They said to him, "A message from Hezekiah: 'This is a black day, a terrible day - doomsday! Babies poised to be born, No strength to birth them.
"'Maybe God, your God, has been listening to the blasphemous speech of the Rabshakeh who was sent by the king of Assyria, his master, to humiliate the living God; maybe God, your God, won't let him get by with such talk; and you, maybe you will lift up prayers for what's left of these people.'"
That's the message King Hezekiah's servants delivered to Isaiah.
Isaiah answered them, "Tell your master, 'God's word: Don't be at all concerned about what you've heard from the king of Assyria's bootlicking errand boys - these outrageous blasphemies.
Here's what I'm going to do: Afflict him with self-doubt. He's going to hear a rumor and, frightened for his life, retreat to his own country. Once there, I'll see to it that he gets killed.'"
The Rabshakeh left and found that the king of Assyria had pulled up stakes from Lachish and was now fighting against Libnah.
Then Sennacherib heard that Tirhakah king of Cush was on his way to fight against him. So he sent another envoy with orders to deliver this message to Hezekiah king of Judah:
"Don't let that god that you think so much of keep stringing you along with the line, 'Jerusalem will never fall to the king of Assyria.' That's a barefaced lie.
You know the track record of the kings of Assyria - country after country laid waste, devastated. And what makes you think you'll be an exception?
Take a good look at these wasted nations, destroyed by my ancestors; did their gods do them any good? Look at Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, the people of Eden at Tel Assar. Ruins.
And what's left of the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of Sepharvaim, of Hena, of Ivvah? Bones."
Hezekiah took the letter from the envoy and read it. He went to The Temple of God and spread it out before God.
And Hezekiah prayed - oh, how he prayed! God, God of Israel, seated in majesty on the cherubim-throne. You are the one and only God, sovereign over all kingdoms on earth, Maker of heaven, maker of earth.
Open your ears, God, and listen, open your eyes and look. Look at this letter Sennacherib has sent, a brazen insult to the living God!
The facts are true, O God: The kings of Assyria have laid waste countries and kingdoms.
Huge bonfires they made of their gods, their no-gods hand-made from wood and stone.
But now O God, our God, save us from raw Assyrian power; Make all the kingdoms on earth know that you are God, the one and only God.
It wasn't long before Isaiah son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah:
This is my response to him: The Virgin Daughter of Zion holds you in utter contempt; Daughter Jerusalem thinks you're nothing but scum.
Who do you think it is you've insulted? Who do you think you've been bad-mouthing? Before whom do you suppose you've been strutting? The Holy One of Israel, that's who!
You dispatched your errand boys to humiliate the Master. You bragged, "With my army of chariots I've climbed the highest mountains, snow-peaked alpine Lebanon mountains! I've cut down its giant cedars, chopped down its prize pine trees. I've traveled the world, visited the finest forest retreats.
I've dug wells in faraway places and drunk their exotic waters; I've waded and splashed barefoot in the rivers of Egypt."
Did it never occur to you that I'm behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I've gone into action, Using you as a doomsday weapon, reducing proud cities to piles of rubble,
Leaving their people dispirited, slumped shoulders, limp souls. Useless as weeds, fragile as grass, insubstantial as wind-blown chaff.
I know when you sit down, when you come and when you go; And, yes, I've marked every one of your temper tantrums against me.
It's because of your temper, your blasphemous foul temper, That I'm putting my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth And turning you back to where you came from.
And this, Hezekiah, will be for you the confirming sign: This year you'll eat the gleanings, next year whatever you can beg, borrow, or steal; But the third year you'll sow and harvest, plant vineyards and eat grapes.
A remnant of the family of Judah yet again will sink down roots and raise up fruit.
The remnant will come from Jerusalem, the survivors from Mount Zion. The Zeal of God will make it happen.
To sum up, this is what God says regarding the king of Assyria: He won't enter this city, nor shoot so much as a single arrow there; Won't brandish a shield, won't even begin to set siege;
He'll go home by the same road he came; he won't enter this city. God's word!
I'll shield this city, I'll save this city, for my sake and for David's sake.
And it so happened that that very night an angel of God came and massacred a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians. When the people of Jerusalem got up next morning, there it was - a whole camp of corpses!
Sennacherib king of Assyria got out of there fast, headed straight home for Nineveh, and stayed put.
One day when he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer murdered him and then escaped to the land of Ararat. His son Esarhaddon became 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)