June 21, 2024
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Israel at War: In Those Days in Our Times …

The year is 701 BCE. The northern kingdom of Israel has already been destroyed and its people exiled. Some of the cities of the kingdom of Yehuda have already been decimated as well. Yerushalayim is surrounded by the most powerful army in the world. Sancheirev, king of Ashur, has laid siege to Yerushalayim.

How do the Jewish people prepare for war? Chizkiyahu, the king of Yehuda at the time, takes various precautions to prepare the country for the attack. He brings the water source into the city, stocks up on food and supplies, and fortifies the city by expanding the wall. The prophet Yeshayahu actually criticizes Chizkiyahu Hamelech for destroying the homes of residents in order to fortify the wall (ישעיהו כ”ב: י).

In 1967, when Israel returned to the old city of Yerushalayim, some of the decimation done by the Jordanian and Arab legions led to fascinating archaeological discoveries. In the Jewish Quarter of the old city, remnants of a very large wall were discovered. The wall is about 23 feet wide. This is why it is termed “the Broad Wall.”The wall is dated to the time of the first Beit Hamikdash and it is quite likely a remnant of Chizkiyahu’s fortifications prior to the Assyrian siege. In a corner of the wall we can see remnants of a house which supports the words of the prophet Yeshayahu in his criticism. Is this the remains of a house that was destroyed to support the war effort?

(Credit: Tripadvisor.com)

If we take a look at the book of Kings, we can see the Assyrian empire’s attempt at psychological warfare against the Jewish people as well. Ravsheka, an officer of the king, was sent to call out to the Jewish people in Hebrew. In their language, he attempted to get them to lose faith in God and in King Chizkiyahu. “None of the other gods of all the nations of the world were able to save them from Sancheirev. Why should you be any different? Do you really believe that your alliance with Egypt, that wimpy reed, will help you?” (מלכים ב י”ח)

Ravsheka continues his psychological warfare and mocks the Jewish people sitting on the wall and tells them that they will come to eat and drink their own excrement (מלכים ב י”ח). This wall we currently see in the Old City is quite likely a part of the wall where Ravsheka addressed his attack.

King Chizkiayahu hears the words of Ravsheka, tears his clothing in mourning, and calls for the prophet Yeshayahu. Yeshayahu tells King Chizkiyahu not to be afraid and that Sancheirev will return to his land and be killed there.

(Credit: Walls in Jerusalem/Wooster Geologists)

When Sancheirev hears that King Chizkiyahu is going out to battle, he sends him another message to warn him that the gods of the other empires he conquered did not save them. Chizkiyahu Hamelech goes to the Beit Hamikdash and offers a heartfelt prayer. “Yes, those other gods didn’t save their people because they are nothing, but You Hashem can save us and then the whole world will recognize Your Greatness.  (מלכים ב י”ט)”

We can only imagine the fear and uncertainty of the Jewish people at that time as they faced the siege of the most powerful empire in the world. In the middle of the night, God sent an angel who decimated the entire Assyrian army, 185,000 soldiers! The Jewish people woke up the next morning to find that the entire Assyrian camp were merely dead corpses.

In every generation, our enemies rise up against us to destroy us. In these difficult and historic times, may we soon bear witness to God’s salvation.

(Credit: Tripadvisor.com)

Hava Preil is an enthusiastic licensed Israeli tour guide. She grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and holds an M.A. in Judaic studies. Hava has developed and taught accredited courses in Tanach and Jewish ethics for Naaleh/Woodmont College and Cybersem. She currently lives in Givat Ze’ev with her family. Hava can be reached at IL:054-844-1579; (845) 391-0438 (U.S.); or at [email protected]. Visit her new website, havapreiltours.com.

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