Chizkiyahu's Monarchy in Jerusalem (I): An Overview (II)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

 

            In this shiur, we shall continue with our overview of the main events that transpired during the days of Chizkiyahu.

 

I.          THE SPIRITUAL STATE IN JERUSALEM

 

It seems that while Chizkiyahu was involved in foreign relations – organizing an alliance with Egypt, Babylonia and other countries – he abandoned the internal social and religious reforms in Jerusalem, thus leading to the disintegration of the moral norms of the regime. We shall first describe the facts as they are recorded in the Prophets, and then we shall examine their causes.

 

Many commentators date the famous prophecy in the first chapter of the book of Yishayahu to the days of Chizkiyahu. There it is stated:

 

How is the faithful city become a harlot? It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Your silver is become dross, your wine is mixed with water: your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loves bribes, and follows after rewards: they judge not the fatherless neither does the cause of the widow reach them… And I will turn My hands against you, and purge away your dross as with lye, and take away all your base alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning: afterwards you shall be called, the city of righteousness, a faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and those that return to her with righteousness. (Yishayahu 1:21-27)

 

            In the previous verses as well, the prophet likens those who remain in Jerusalem to the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah, describing them as people who lift in prayer hands that are full of blood:

 

Hear the word of the Lord, rulers of Sodom; give ear to the Torah of our God, you people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me, says the Lord: I am sated with the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this at your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense of abomination they are to Me; as for new moons and sabbaths and the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear iniquity along with solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates: they are a trouble to Me; I am weary of enduring them. And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you: even when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Ibid. vv. 10-17)

 

            The prophet Mikha, as well, describes the depraved spiritual state of Jerusalem:

 

Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the House of Yaakov, and rulers of the House of Israel, that abhor justice, and pervert all equity; that build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priest thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? No evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps of rubble, and the mountain of the house like the high places of the forest.[1] (Mikha 3:9-12)

 

            Regarding the time that Mikha uttered these words, Scripture itself testifies:

 

Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spoke to all the people of Yehuda, saying, Mikha the Morashti prophesied in the days of Chizkiyahu King of Yehuda, and spoke to all the people of Yehuda, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Chizkiyahu king of Yehuda and all Yehuda put him to death? Did he not rather fear the Lord, and beseech the Lord, and the Lord repented of the evil which He had pronounced against them? (Yirmiyahu 26:17-19)

 

            The shared element of these two prophecies is the description of the moral corruption and the social and religious disintegration of all branches of the regime – officers, heads, priests and prophets – the common denominator of all of them being the absence of righteousness and perversion of justice.[2]

 

II.        SHEVNA, WHO IS OVER THE HOUSE

 

One of the most important causes of this moral deterioration was apparently the conduct and influence of Shevna, who was over the house, about whom Yishayahu prophesied a harsh prophecy in the second half (vv. 15-25) of the "burden of the Valley of Visions" (Yishayahu 22). The office of him "who was over the house" was apparently one of the highest positions in the kingdom (perhaps, sort of a prime minister subject to the king), and indeed, the prophet (Ibid. v. 16) describes Shevna as one who during his lifetime prepared for himself a magnificent tomb.[3] What was Shevna's sin?

 

Chazal (Sanhedrin 26a) understood that he wanted to cooperate with Assyria and hand over the city to Sancheriv. In the first half of the aforementioned prophecy (vv. 1-14), however, the prophet describes in a terse but sharp manner the moral and normative corruption that then ruled in the city, which is presented as a hedonistic city – "You that are full of uproar, a tumultuous city, a joyous city" (Ibid. v. 2). Most of the first half of the prophecy (vv. 3-11) describes the approaching war with Assyria and the preparations being made for it, but at the end, it is stated:

 

And on that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth. And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating meat, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in my ears, by the Lord of hosts: surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you till you die, says the Lord God of hosts. (Ibid. vv. 12-14)

 

            Scripture does not explain the connection between the first half of the prophecy and the second half, which deals with Shevna, but it stands to reason that the prophet is laying the responsibility for the situation described in the first half upon him. It is possible that by fortifying the city and preparing for war, he provided the inhabitants of the city with a false sense of security, that allowed them to focus on the pleasures of today and not to be concerned about the dangers of the future; and it is possible that he radiated his own personal feeling of security – especially according to Chazal, who maintained that Shevna was planning on handing the city over to Assyria.

 

            Replacing Shevna with Elyakim ben Chilkiyahu, whom the prophet refers to as "my servant" (Ibid. v. 20), was meant – in light of the high prestige of the office – to serve as a turning point for the entire kingdom and to impact upon all realms of life. And it stands to reason that the change was carried out when Chizkiyahu understood the extent to which the evil influence of Shevna had reached. When Ravshake arrived in Jerusalem, we find that Elyakim had already replaced Shevna (see II Melakhim 18:18), and therefore the change presumably took place shortly before Sancheriv's invasion of Yehuda.

III.       SANCHERIV'S INVASION OF YEHUDA

 

The Assyrian invasion of Yehuda is described in several places. In Melakhim, it is stated:

 

Now in the fourteenth year of King Chizkiyahu did Sancheriv King of Assyria come up against all the fortified cities of Yehuda, and took them. (II Melakhim 18:13)

 

            A similar description is found in Yishayahu 36:1. Mikha also describes an Assyrian campaign in the coastal plain of Yehuda (1:10-16), whereas Yishayahu relates to a campaign in the territory of Binyamin on the way to Jerusalem (10:28-32). It is unclear whether we are dealing with two separate campaigns or with a two-pronged assault – from the north and from the west – of the same campaign. In either case we are witness to the conquest and destruction of all the cities of Yehuda, including Lakhish, the second most important city in the country. In addition to the biblical account, there are also solid proofs from the archeological findings to the burning of a number of cities in Yehuda, which can be attributed to the conquest of Sancheriv. Only Jerusalem remained: "And the daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, like a besieged city" (Yishayahu 1:8).  Thus we see that following all the previous "warnings" – the conquest of Shomron and Ashdod – there came the turn of Yehuda.

 

IV.       CHIZKIYAHU'S REACTION TO THE ASSYRIAN INVASION

 

And Chizkiya King of Yehuda sent to the king of Assyria to Lakhish, saying, I have offended; withdraw from me: that which you will impose on me I will bear. And the king of Assyria imposed on Chizkiya King of Yehuda a payment of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Chizkiya gave him all the silver that was in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house. At that time did Chizkiya cut off the doors of the Temple of the Lord, and the pilasters which Chizkiya King of Yehuda had overlaid with gold, and gave them to the king of Assyria. (II Melakhim 18:14-16)

 

            Sancheriv invaded Yehuda – and Chizkiya, one of the initiators of the alliance against Assyria, buckled under the pressure, admitting that he had sinned and accepting upon himself to pay a heavy payment from the Temple treasures!

 

            Perhaps more than anything else, v. 16 illustrates the great change that transpired in Chizkiyahu. At the beginning of his reign, against the backdrop of Achaz's actions, Chizkiyahu had overlaid the doors of the Temple sanctuary and the pilasters with gold; now, with the arrival of Sancheriv, he removes those doors in order to give them to the king of Assyria. My revered teacher, Rav Yoel Bin Nun, already noted that in connection with the overlaying of the doors and pilasters with gold, Chizkiyahu is called "king of Yehuda," but in connection with their removal he is called simply Chizkiyahu. Just like his father Achaz in his time, so too Chizkiyahu removes the splendor of God's Temple and uses it as payment of the tax imposed by the king of Assyria, without consulting the prophet Yeshayahu.

 

            Not only did Chizkiyahu abandon the role assigned to him by the prophet - to establish the kingdom on judgment and righteousness (Yishayahu 9:6), in favor of focusing on foreign relations – but the policies that he follows are not driven by spiritual considerations.

 

V.        RAVSHAKE'S DELEGATION IN JERUSALEM

 

1.         IDENTIFICATION OF THE AQUEDUCT OF THE UPPER POOL[4]

 

Following his conquest of the cities of Yehuda, Sancheriv sends a delegation to Jerusalem:

 

And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rav-Saris and Ravshake from Lakhish to King Chizkiyahu with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the aqueduct of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the washers' field. (II Melakhim 18:17)

 

            "The aqueduct of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the washers' field" is generally assumed to be on the northern side of the city, though the opinions differ as to the precise location. Was it on the eastern side of the city, in the wadi coming down from the Flowers Gate in the direction of Lions Gate, where a pool and aqueduct have been found from the First Temple period? Or was it on the western side of the city – in the wadi coming down from the Damascus Gate southward in the direction of the Temple Mount and the City of David (which during the Second Temple period was called the "Valley of the Cheesemakers"), which has an aqueduct leading to the northern side of Mount Moriah that has been dated by some scholars to the First Temple period?

 

            The term "upper pool" – which implies that there is also a "lower pool" – may perhaps fit in better with the western alternative, for at the southern end of the Valley of the Cheesemakers, at the southern tip of the City of David, there is indeed a pool, i.e., the Al Chamra pool, which is also referred to as the king's pool, or "the pool of Shelach by the king's garden" (Nechemya 3:15).

 

            Those who support the eastern alternative base their view on the expression, "highway of the washer's field," for it is this area – the northeastern section of the city, close to the third wall, north of the Rockefeller Museum of today – that Josephus locates a site called "the washer's pillar."[5]

 

2.         RAVSHAKE'S SPEECH AND THE REACTION TO IT

 

Standing against the Assyrian delegation are Elyakim ben Chilkiyahu, who was over the house, Shevna the scribe and Yoach ben Assaf the recorder. As stated above, at this stage, Elyakim ben Chilkiyahu had already replaced Shevna in his high office, and Shevna assumed the position of recorder (if indeed we are dealing with the same person).[6]

 

The chain of events is described almost word for word in II Melakhim 18-19 and Yishayahu 36-37. In a sharp speech, Ravshake bitterly criticizes Chizkiyahu, his policies, and his reliance on Egypt, which he calls, "the staff of a broken reed" (II Melakhim 18:21). He presents the king of Assyria as God's agent to destroy Yehuda ("Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? It is the Lord who said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it"; ibid. v. 25)[7], and blasphemes God out loud in Hebrew in the ears of the people on the wall ("Which of all the gods of the countries, have delivered their country out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?"; ibid. v. 35). Chizkiyahu's representatives atop the wall report these words to their king.

 

And it came to pass, when King Chizkiyahu heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. (Ibid. 19:1)

 

            Chizkiyahu's repentance seems to have succeeded in canceling Mikha's prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Mikdash.

 

            Chizkiyahu sends for Yishayahu, and the prophet answers him:

 

Thus says the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which you have heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Behold, I will send another spirit in him, and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land, and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. (Ibid. vv. 6-7)

 

            Indeed, Sancheriv is forced to leave Yehuda in order to fight Tirhaka King of Kush, but he warns Chizkiyahu in letters that he will yet return to Yehuda and capture it. Chizkiyahu once again prays in the Temple:

 

… Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech you, save You us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, even You only. (Ibid. vv. 15-19)

 

            God answers him through Yishayahu:

 

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor throw a mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it, for My own sake, and for my servant David's sake. (Ibid. vv. 32-34)[8]

 

            Note: According to the prophet, God will defend Jerusalem and save it for His own sake and for the sake of His servant David – and not for the sake of Chizkiyahu. Thus we see that at this stage, the merits of David still exist and protect the city of Jerusalem.

 

            Deliverance comes that very night:

 

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord, went out and smote in the camp of Assyria a hundred and eighty five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (Ibid. v. 35)

 

            Sancheriv himself returned to Nineve, where he was murdered (Ibid. vv. 36-37).

 

            Yishayahu's prophecy already alluded that the deliverance would be miraculous: "For I will defend this city, to save it."[9] The absolutely miraculous nature of the deliverance bears a certain irony: Chizkiyahu thought to save Yehuda and Jerusalem by entering into an alliance with the superpowers and fortifying the city; in the end, however, it became clear that all the practical preparations and alliances were of no value – Egypt was indeed the staff of a broken reed, as Ravshake had warned – and salvation came in an absolutely miraculous manner, through no human intervention.

 

            It should be noted that while Jerusalem was saved, the rest of Yehuda suffered utter ruin – ruin that constituted the beginning of the destruction of the kingdom, for the archeological findings indicate that many of the cities of Yehuda did not recover before the exile to Babylonia.[10]

 

VI.       CHIZKIYAHU'S DISEASE

 

            Chizkiyahu's disease is described in II Melakhim 20:1-11 and in Yishayahu 38:9-22:

 

In those days, Chizkiyahu fell mortally sick. And the prophet Yishayahu the son of Amotz came to him, and said to him, Thus says the Lord, Set your house in order; for you shall die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, I beseech You, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before You in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Your sight. And Chizkiyahu wept bitterly. And it came to pass, before Yishayahu was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn back and tell Chizkiyahu the prince of My people. Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you: on the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years; and I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for My servant David's sake. And Yishayahu said: Take a cake of figs. And they took and laid it on the festering place, and he recovered. And Chizkiyahu said to Yeshayahu, What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord on the third day? And Yishayahu said, This sign shall you have of the Lord, and the Lord will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or shall it go backward ten degrees? And Chizkiyahu answered, It is easier for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Yishayahu the prophet cried to the Lord: and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Achaz. (II Melakhim 20:1-11)

 

            In Seder Olam Rabba (chap. 23) it is stated:

 

Prior to the fall of Sancheriv, Chizkiyahu was sick for three days. Rabbi Yose says: It was on the third day of Chizkiyahu's sickness that Sancheriv fell.

 

            There is a correspondence here between the siege laid around the city and the fate of Jerusalem, and Chizkiyahu's illness and the fate of the king: the sin parallels the illness; the siege and the threat of destruction parallel the threat of death; and the Divine deliverance parallels the king's repentance, prayer, and recovery. Indeed, Yeshayahu repeats what he had said – "For I will defend this city, for My own sake, and for my servant David's sake" – using almost the identical formulation with which he had responded to Chizkiyahu about the threats contained in the letters sent by Sancheriv.

 

            There is then an essential connection between Chizkiyahu's repentance and prayer and the deliverance of Jerusalem: with his sin, he brought the siege to the city and the Temple, and with his repentance and prayer, he brought their deliverance.

 

VII.     THE EVENTS IN THE AFTERMATH OF CHIZKIYAHU'S ILLNESS, THE WAR AND THE DOUBLE RESCUE

 

Divrei Ha-yamim briefly describes the siege laid by Sancheriv, at the end of which it is stated:

 

Thus the Lord saved Yechizkiyahu and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sancheriv the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side. And many brought tribute to the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Yechizkiyahu King of Yehuda: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from henceforth. In those says Yechizkiyahu fell mortally sick, and he prayed to the Lord: and He spoke to him, and He gave him a sigh.

But Yechizkiyahu did not pay back according to the benefit done to him; for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him, and upon Yehuda and Jerusalem. Nevertheless Yechizkiyahu did humble himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Yechizkiyahu.

And Yechizkiyahu had very much riches and honor… (II Divrei Ha-yamim 32:22-27)

 

            The great victory and the downfall of Assyria brought about a change in Chizkiyahu's international standing and extensive recognition of his greatness. This, however, seems to have brought Chizkiyahu to arrogance,[11] which might have stemmed from his attribution of the victory to himself, at least indirectly. This might also have been Chazal's intention when they criticized Chizkiyahu for not having recited a song over his deliverance (Sanhedrin 94b): He did not know how to fully attribute the salvation to God, because his heart swelled over his own actions in defense of the city.

 

            This criticism is not explicit in Scripture, but it seems that support for it may be found in the description of the visit of the Babylonian delegation:

 

At that time Berodakh-Bal'adan, the son of Bal'adan, King of Bavel, sent letters and a present to Chizkiyahu: for he heard that Chizkiyahu had been sick. And Chizkiyahu hearkened to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all this was found in his treasures. There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Chizkiyahu did not show them. (II Melakhim 20:12-13; parallel in Yishayahu 39)

 

            It may be remembered that the Babylonians were included in the alliance against Assyria, and there is no doubt that the delegation arrived also on a diplomatic mission in the wake of Assyria's fall, and not only to visit the sick king.

 

            In the aftermath of this incident, the prophet Yishayahu prophesied for the first time about the exile to Babylonia:

 

Then came Yishayahu the prophet to King Chizkiyahu, and said to him, What said these men? and from where did they come to you? And Chizkiyahu said, They are come form a far country, from Babylonia. And he said, What have they seen in your house? And Chizkiyahu answered, All the things that are in my house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them. And Yishayahu said to Chizkiyahu, Hear the word of the Lord, Behold, days are coming, when all that is in Your house, and that which your fathers have laid up in store to this day, shall be carried into Babylonia; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And of your sons that shall issue from you, which you shall beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylonia. Then said Chizkiyahu to Yishayahu, Good is the word of the Lord which you have spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if there is peace and truth in my days? (Ibid. 14-19; parallel in Yishayahu, ibid.)

 

            What was wrong with the way Chizkiyahu dealt with his Babylonian guests? Chazal considered the matter:

 

When Chizkiya saw the messengers of the Babylonian king, his heart swelled more and more, and he showed them all the treasures of the kings of Yehuda and the treasures of the Holy of Holies. He even opened the Ark and showed them the tablets [of the Law], saying to them: With this we wage war and emerge victorious. The Holy One, blessed be He, became angry with Him, and said to him: Is it not enough that you showed them all the treasures, that you also showed them the tablets that are My handiwork? By your life, they shall come up and take all the treasures… and instead of the tablets they will take your sons as eunuchs. (Yalkut Shimoni, II Melakhim, 245)

 

It is written: "And Chizkiyahu was glad of them, and showed them the house of his treasures" (Yishayahu 39:2). What is "the house of his treasures"? Rabbi Imi said: The bite that he had bitten off from Sancheriv and the spoil that he had taken from Sancheriv. (Shir Ha-shirim Rabba 3, 4)

 

            These midrashim imply that Chizkiyahu sinned in that he attributed the miraculous Divine deliverance to himself (if only by implication).

 

            Chizkiyahu's response – "Good is the word of the Lord which you have spoken… But there shall be peace and truth in my days" – in which he expresses his satisfaction that peace will continue for the duration of his reign, while ignoring the harsh implications of the prophecy for the long-term fate of the kingdom, also invites criticism.

 

***

 

            In the last two shiurim we tried to describe the succession of major events that took place during the reign of Chizkiyahu in their chronological order while considering their essential spiritual meanings. In the coming shiurim we shall deal with selected topics regarding Chizkiyahu's reign.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


[1] While it is true that "no two prophets prophesy in the same style" (Sanhedrin 89a), nevertheless there is room to discuss why Mikha speaks (for the first time in the history of the city) of the destruction of the city and the Temple, whereas Yishayahu makes no mention of such a possibility. Is this just a matter of style? Or perhaps they prophesied at different times and under different circumstances. This, however, is not the forum in which to expand on the matter.

[2] In last year's shiur (no. 6), we discussed at length the connection between Jerusalem and justice, the latter being a condition for the existence of the former.

[3] In his book, Matzevot Kedumot be-Nachal Kidron (Mossad Bialik, Jerusalem, 1954), Prof. Avigad wishes to identify the grave of Shevna with a magnificent monolithic tomb in the village of Silwan, on which there is found a monumental inscription that mentions a person whose name ends with "…yahu, who is over the house" (the previous section is broken). According to his proposal, Shevna's original name was Shevnayahu, Shevna being his alternative name (we find such substitutions; see, for example, Ovadyahu – Avda (I Divrei Ha-yamim 9:15 – Nechemya 11:17); Zekher – Zekharya (I Divrei Ha-yamim 8:31 – Ibid. 9:37). This, of course, is mere speculation, and it is certainly possible that buried there is another person who bore the same title.

[4] See the attached map.

[5] Jewish Wars, V, 2. This issue is also connected to the location of the "Assyrian camp" which Josephus mentions in several places. Dan Bahat supports the eastern identification in the region of the Bet Chisda pools (Santa Anna monastery), northwest of Lion's Gate, and spells out his reasons in his article, "Ta'alat ha-Berekha ha-Elyona u-Mekoma," Eretz Israel 20 (1989), pp. 253-255.

[6] For this reason, the book of Yishayahu puts the prophecy regarding the replacement of Shevna (chap. 22) before the story of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (chaps. 36-37).

[7] The question whether the enemies of Israel – who are also the enemies of God – should be seen as God's messengers, is a complicated theological issue. It has been discussed at length by Prof. Elitzur, z"l, in his article, "Yisra'el ve-Oyevav," in Chevra ve-Historiya (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 385ff.

[8] There is room to consider the relationship between the prophecy in Mikha 3 regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and Yishayahu's prophecy about its deliverance. See above, note 1.

[9] In Shemot Rabba (18, 5), it is stated that the Assyrian camp was smitten on the night of Pesach; and indeed, Israel's salvation "was not by way of an angel, or a seraph, or a messenger, but rather by way of the Holy One, blessed be He, in all His glory" (as stated in the Pesach Haggada). We shall expand upon this idea in the next shiur.

It is important to emphasize that while Yishayahu speaks of a miraculous deliverance ("The sword not of a man"; Yishayahu 31:1-8), Mikha speaks in chapters 4-5 of a human deliverance: A leader of Israel from the seed of David will restore the original kingdom to its greatness, strike at Assyria with the sword, and lead Israel and the world to the vision of the end of days.

[10] Of course, from Sancheriv's perspective, his failure to conquer the capital city was particularly strident, and in contrast to what he wrote about the conquest of other capital cities, regarding Jerusalem all that he was able to write in his annals was that "he trapped Chizkiyahu the Judean like a bird in a cage" – a statement against which the prophet said: "As birds hovering, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; He will defend it and deliver it; He will pass over it and spare it." (Yishayahu 31:5).

[11] It is possible, however, to interpret the verses "But Yechizkiyahu did not pay back … Nevertheless Yechizkiyahu did humble himself," not as a continuation of the description, but rather as a summary of what was stated earlier: The siege and the illness (which came in the wake of sin) – and the deliverance and rescue in the wake of repentance and prayer. In any event, this explanation does not explain the criticism implied by the description of the visit of the Babylonian delegation.