Friday, October 05, 2007

The Siege of Jerusalem

Friday, October 5, 2007 -- Week of Proper 21

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
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Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 986)
Psalms 102 (morning) 107:1-32 (evening)
2 Kings 19:1-20
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
Matthew 8:1-17

In the year 701 BCE, the Assyrian king Sennacherib besieged and captured the important walled city of Lachish, southwest of Jerusalem, and set up headquarters there to attack Jerusalem. We've been reading of the siege at Jerusalem led by the Assyrian Rabshakeh, a military title. Jerusalem's situation is dire. Provisions are low. They have few warriors. The Rabshakeh taunted Judah's King Hezekiah, offering to give him two thousand horses if Hezekiah could find that many solders to ride them. He tells the city, do not expect your God to save you. Have the gods of any of the other nations saved them?

Hezekiah sent servants to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah's speaks the word of the Lord to the King and to Jerusalem: "Do not be afraid because the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land."

Not long after, the Rabshakeh was recalled because of an Ethiopian threat near Lachish. Jerusalem was spared. We'll continue reading from this time, which solidified the reputation of the prophet Isaiah. Out of this event came a belief that God would never allow Jerusalem to be overthrown. That was a doctrine that Jeremiah struggled against years later.

We have some archaeological evidence from this period. Parts of the town of Lachish have been excavated, and the siege ramp is clearly visible. Sennacherib was so proud of the victory that his artists created a raised relief carving of the battle as part of the decoration of his palace wall in Nineveh. The carvings depict some of the weapons and strategies and horrors of the warfare of those days. One frame shows defeated Jews impaled upon spears in the ground.

2 Kings says that a plague caused Sennacherib to return to Assyria and gives an account of his assassination which happened 20 years later. The annals of Sennacherib claim that he conquered Jerusalem and do not mention the plague. Hezekiah remained on the throne of Judah. He also paid tribute to Sennacherib.

Scriptural interpretation holds that God defended Jerusalem, largely because of the faithfulness of Hezekiah. 2 Kings will blame the later fall of Jerusalem on King Manasseh. 2 Chronicles creates an otherwise unknown tradition that Manasseh repented and purified Jerusalem.

How to be faithful in times of trial? One refrain is consistent: Do not be afraid. Trust in God. That trust will be tried in the extreme when Israel goes into exile.



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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

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Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


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