II Kings 18: Judah perseveres

Hezekiah became king of Judah just six years before Israel was enslaved and exiled. Hezekiah brought back the old-time religion, outlawing the worship of all other gods and even tearing down the high places and Asherim that had quietly sprung up over the past 250 years, probably even longer. He even went so far as to destroy the Nehushtan, the fierce serpent designed by Moses. Perhaps it was his newfound fanaticism that encouraged him to pick fights with Philistia like David of old and to defy his Assyrian overlords–even though Assyria was busily consuming ancestral enemy and frenemy alike.

Eight years after the consumption of Israel, King Sennacherb’s forces were back in the Promised Land to feast on Judah. Hezekiah begged to be spared, promised to do anything required of his most honorable majesty, and would his magnificence would please accept this 11 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold as token of our submission? 

In answer, General Tartan marched near to the walls of Jerusalem and demanded to speak with this Hezekiah. Hezekiah sent out his butler, his secretary and his scribe. Tartan snorted contemptuously, and was all, Tell Hezekiah that the mighty lords of Assyria bid you think well upon who you rely. Think you that enfeebled Egypt will defend you? Or do you hope to stand on your own with your paltry army? Ha! I will even give you 2,000 horses if you can but find the men to sit astride them! No, you pathetic vermin undoubtedly think that your god will save you! But hasn’t Hezekiah ripped down your altars, your asherim upon which you worshiped? Besides, when I destroy your city, won’t that be a sign that your god has sent me to punish you?

At this the butler, the secretary, and the stenographer fell over themselves begging Tartan to please, please speak in Aramaic instead of Hebrew so all the commoners hanging on the walls couldn’t understand him!

Tartan laughed and yelled toward the walls, And why should I hide what I speak from these men? Aren’t they doomed to share with you the same fate, to eat their own shit and to drink their own piss and to die? Tartan stood in his stirrups and called, Be not deceived! Hezekiah will lead you into misery and death and exile! But King Sennacherb in his magnanimity bids me tell you, that if you bend knee and surrender to me, he will allow you to live in peace and prosperity–and if he deems it prudent to move you, he will send you only to lands of milk and honey such as this one!  But if you resist you will die. Your god cannot save you! Did Succoth-benoth, Nergel, Ashina, or Nibhaz spare the lands we have conquered? Did Tartak or Adrammelech? Did your god spare Samaria when we burned its towers and enslaved its people?

But the people just stared at him in stony-faced silence.


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