So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side. — 2 Chronicles 32:22
There’s a fascinating book called “What If?” in which historians share their thoughts about how life would be different today if something in the past had worked out another way. For example, in the 1920s, Winston Churchill was in Manhattan when he was grazed by a passing taxi. One historian wondered how our world would be different if that taxi had been a foot over and had killed Churchill instead.
There are many such “what if’s” that we can ask, but one historian, William McNeill, points to what he thinks is the most important event in history that – had it gone differently – would have changed the world as we know it. That event is the triumph of King Hezekiah over Sennacherib, King of Assyria.
Sennacherib had already conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and part of his protocol was mixing people up and sending them to different nations so that he could completely obliterate their culture. He was successful, and still today we refer to that group of exiled Israelites as the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” Had Sennacherib been able to conquer Hezekiah and Jerusalem, it would have been the end of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, and the end of Judaism.
Remember, during that time, everyone with the exception of the Jews worshiped idols. Had King Hezekiah and the Jews fallen to Assyria, the idea of one loving God would no longer have an advocate in the world. The fact that the Jews were able to stay in Israel for a few hundred years more — albeit with a 70-year interlude in Babylon – gave time for Christianity to be born and for the idea of monotheism to spread to the world.
Islam would follow suit, and that’s how today, three of most dominating religions in today’s culture have taught the world that there is one God. No, our world isn’t perfect, but instead of living in a world of idolatry and paganism, we live in a world where most people believe in a Father in Heaven.
Instead of falling to Sennacherib, God sent an angel the night before the Assyrian army would decimate Jerusalem, and the angel killed them all. It was a victory sent by God that changed history forever.
What does all this teach us?
The lesson is that God has a plan for the world, and nothing, not even the greatest army, can get in His way. He has a plan for our lives as well, and nothing can stop that either. We need to trust, thank, and give glory to our Father in Heaven. There are many “what if’s” that can be asked, but there is one thing we know for sure: There is one God who loves us and He is the One running the show.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President