When Sennacherib conquered Lachish Hezekiah sent him the silver from the temple and the royal palace and the gold Hezekiah had used to cover the doors of the temple.
Sennacherib sent a letter calling Jerusalem to surrender and not to trust Hezekiah or the Lord. It was read to the people of Jerusalem who had been forced into the city for protection and were standing around the wall. This letter can be found in 2 Kings 18:19-25, 2 Chronicles 32:10-15 and Isaiah 36:4-22.
Hezekiah went to the temple with the letter and sent his men to the prophet Isaiah. All of Jerusalem cried out to the Lord (Isaiah 37:1-38). Isaiah received a word from the Lord that was reported to Hezekiah that said,
“Do not be afraid of what you have heard . . . I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country.”
- the full message from Isaiah in Isaiah 37:21-36
That night the angel of the Lord put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers. The Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC) wrote of this disaster when he recorded an oral tradition he heard as he traveled this area that credits this Assyrian defeat to field mice that invaded the camp to gnaw the quivers, bow stings and leather shield handles leaving the Assyrians disarmed.
The Sennacherib Prism was discovered in Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire, in 1830 BC. It records the Annals of Sennacherib. This is one of three Assyrian accounts of their invasion of Judah discovered so far. Jerusalem was approached but never taken. Hezekiah paid tribute after the invasion but was never defeated. Sennacherib agrees with the biblical account that Judah was invaded and many of its cities fell but in the end Jerusalem and Hezekiah were not touched by the military. Hezekiah continued as a subject of the Assyrian Empire but was not overthrown or defeated.
The best Sennacherib can say concerning Hezekiah is:
“I made a prisoner in Jerusalem . . . like a bird in a cage.”
It is not surprising that Sennacherib does not mention his flight out of Judea, the loss of 185,000 men or even anything resembling Herodotus’ account or the biblical account.
Read part of the Sennacherib Prism’s context below:
“In my third campaign I marched against Hatti. Luli, king of Sidon, whom the terror-inspiring glamour of my lordship had overwhelmed, fled far overseas and perished.... As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to his strong cities, walled forts, and countless small villages, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps and battering-rams brought near the walls with an attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as trenches. I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them slaves. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were coming out of his city’s gate. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the presents to me as overlord which I imposed upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches inlaid with ivory, nimedu-chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood and all kinds of valuable treasures, his own daughters and concubines. . .”