“I promise that the king of Assyria won’t get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack. As surely as I am the LORD, he will return by the way he came and will never enter Jerusalem. I will protect it for myself and for my servant David.”
That same night the LORD sent an angel to the camp of the Assyrians, and he killed one hundred eighty-five thousand of them. And so the next morning, the camp was full of dead bodies. After this King Sennacherib went back to Assyria and lived in the city of Nineveh. One day he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, when his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him with their swords. They escaped to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon became king. (2 Kings 19:32-37)
As the old saying goes, your arm’s too short to box with God. Sennacherib learned that lesson the hard way. His attack against Jerusalem, his arrogant words against the God of Israel, all came to naught. In one night, nearly all of Sennacherib’s army died of a plague, forcing him to withdraw and head back home. Without Hezekiah having to do a thing, God had fixed his problem completely. He’d even given him the spoils of war without the war.
The ancient Assyrians kept a detailed history of the events that transpired each and every year. During that year, the records describe how Sennacherib laid siege to and conquered city after city as he marched south. But when the records speak of his attack on Jerusalem, the language shifts just slightly. Once again, the records describe the siege on Jerusalem, how he locked Hezekiah up inside the city like a bird in a cage. But strikingly missing from the record is any account of conquest or despoiling of the city. Totalitarian dictatorships, of which Assyria was definitely one, may not outright lie. But they like to hide embarrassing truth. Thus, the defeat was left unmentioned though victory was never claimed.
His humiliating loss was still known within the government, and such an egregious failure could not be tolerated. Sennacherib was removed from office in the most common way that kings were removed from office back then: he was assassinated and replaced by his son.
Not only did God defeat the army of Sennacherib, he saw to it that Sennacherib personally paid for his arrogance against God. If we leave no place for God in our calculations, God might leave no place for us in his.