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first news that Sennacherib received of it, he resolved to march against them. But first he sent his ambassador to Hezekiah with a letter full of blasphemies against the God of Israel.

*

"The holy king, in great affliction, went straight to the temple, spread forth this impious letter before the Lord, and represented to him in a lively and pathetic prayer, that it was against Him they fought; that the glory of his name was affected, and that, for this reason, he presumed to ask a miracle of him, that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that he alone was the Lord, and the true God. In that moment, Isaiah sent to tell Hezekiah that the Lord had heard his prayer, and the city should not even be besieged. "Whom," says God, addressing himself to Sennacherib, "hast thou reproached and blasphemed? Against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thy hands on high? Even against the Holy One of Israel. Because thy rage is against me, and thy tumult is come up into mine ears; therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way which thou camest."

"The king of Ethiopia, full of confidence in his troops, thought that the sight of him would suffice to put the Assyrians to flight, and set Jerusalem free. He knew not the curse which God

had pronounced against him for presuming to declare himself the protector and deliverer of Jerusálem, and the people of God; as though both had been without hope or refuge, unless he had hastened to take upon him their defence. His army was cut to pieces; the slaughter was so great, and the flight so swift, that there was no person left to bury the dead.

"After this victory, the king of Assyria carried the war into Egypt itself. All there was in disorder and confusion. God had taken away counsel and prudence from the wise counsellors of Egypt, and mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof. He deprived their leader of all strength and courage, so that they made no resistance, and the whole country lay exposed to the discretion of a cruel and avaricious prince, who carried away an infinite number of captives, as Isaiah had foretold.

"When Sennacherib had returned with his victorious troops before Jerusalem, it is easy to imagine how great the consternation of the city must have been. They saw an immense army encamped at their gates, and all the neighbouring country covered with chariots of war. The enemy was preparing to lay siege to the city, and lift up their voice against mount Sion. The time of their destruction seemed to draw nigh; but it

was that of divine mercy and deliverance. That very night, which doubtless preceded the day appointed for a general attack, the Angel of the Lord came into the camp of the Assyrians, and slew a hundred and fourscore and five thousand men!

"Sennacherib, at the break of day, beheld the dead bodies, and immediately returned to Nineveh, where he was soon after slain by his own sons in the temple, and in the presence of his gods. Isaiah, in foretelling the departure of Sennacherib and his army, speaks of God in a manner suitable to the grandeur and majesty of the Almighty. He has only to give the signal, and set up the standard, and all the princes of the earth repair to it.

"All the kings of the earth are but flies, in comparison of Him. He hisses for them, and they march.*

"It was a great consolation to the faithful in those days, to know for certain that all the evils which befell them were ordained by Divine Providence; that God sent them as remedies, and not barely as punishments; that men were only the ministers of his justice; and that they were

* This metaphor referred to the practice of those who kept bees, who drew them out of their hives into the fields, and led them back again by a hiss, or whistle. [Bp. LowTH in loc.

guided by his wisdom at the time they were thinking to gratify their own passions.

"The speeches and letter of Sennacherib, with reason, appear impious, senseless, and detestable, in the mouth of a worm, against the Majesty of Heaven. This prince, blinded by his success, and not knowing whence it arose, entertained the same notions of the God of Judah, as of all the other gods whose power, in his opinion, was confined to certain regions, and who were capable of being entirely overthrown, notwithstanding their divinity.

"He saw nothing in the God of Israel to distinguish Him from the multitude of gods he had conquered. His empire was enclosed within the narrow limits of a small country. His name was scarcely known among the neighbouring nations. This God had already suffered the ten tribes to be carried away by the kings of Nineveh. He had just lost all the fortified places of the tribe of Judah, which alone was left Him; and all his dominion, all his people, all his worshippers, and his whole religion, were reduced to a single city, in all outward appearance without any power to secure itself from the destruction which Sennacherib looked upon as inevitable.

"It is admirable to see in what manner the

pride of this great prince was confounded, who had caused himself to be called the great king; who considered himself as the lord of the earth, and the subduer of men and gods. This prince, so proud and haughty, the God of Israel treated as a wild beast; he put a hook in his nose, and a bridle in his mouth, and turned him back with disgrace and infamy, by the same way that he came triumphant and glorious. Such is the fate of human pride."

God had used Sennacherib as an instrument to correct his people, and to purify Jerusalem. After he had reduced the city to a small number of righteous persons, who were deeply humbled under his afflicting hand, he then thought of punishing the blasphemies of that prince, whose pride had led him into impiety: "When the Lord had performed his whole work upon mount Sion, and on Jerusalem," then said he, "I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks." With what ease can God bring down the pride of a haughty prince, destroy his officers, and exterminate a numerous and formidable army! It cost Him but a blast: "I will send a blast upon him, and he shall return into his own land."

After this, Hezekiah, for his truth and up

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