The Intimidation of Evil
“Hezekiah built water tunnels to protect life in Jerusalem, and Hamas builds weapons tunnels to take life in Jerusalem.”
In Isaiah 36 a large delegation surrounds the city walls of Jerusalem. Assyrian flags flood the horizon with ascending chants, “from the river to the sea, Assyria will be free to wipe Judah off the face of the earth.” Though this happened in the 7th century BC, it’s not very different from what we are seeing now as protestors form mobs in major cities like London, Los Angeles, New York, and Istanbul. The spirit of antisemitism is heavily invested in Islam, the United Nations, and in all antisemitic individuals and causes.
For the residents of Jerusalem living during King Hezekiah’s day, Assyria was a constant threat to Israel’s survival. Coming from the eastern rivers of the Tigris-Euphrates, they first invaded and took over the Northern Kingdom of Israel and then moved south to surround Judah, lay siege to Jerusalem, and taunt them at the city walls. The despot from the east dispatched his military and political leadership to deliver his demands: surrender or be destroyed.
Making Deals With the Enemy
By the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria had captured all the cities of Judah except Jerusalem. The strategic plan of the Assyrian authority detailed actions that must be taken to defeat Israel: Attack each of her cities, one by one, until the nation surrenders or offers tribute — a midway point between total surrender. This guaranteed the nation that was being preyed upon a temporary ceasefire until the enemy regrouped and resupplied before launching the next offensive. Hezekiah, we are told, gave into a temporary ceasefire with Assyria by stripping the gold off the temple doors and giving it to Sennacherib to buy some time (2 Kings 18:14-17).
During this period, Hezekiah grew tired of making deals with the enemy. He resolved not to pay tribute anymore to the one who had attacked Judah on all sides and who was continuing to advance all over the Middle East. As word of Hezekiah’s rebellion gets back to Sennacherib, he sends his delegation and army to Jerusalem to proclaim to the Jews that they will be no more. But if you know the historical record, their campaign was unsuccessful as Sennacherib was defeated when his army suffered 180,000 casualties struck by a plague.
Though this provocation was directed towards Judah in the 7th century B.C., it’s no different from the taunts of Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas today. The crisis that Judah was facing with the impending Assyrian invasion was an opportunity for the king of Assyria to further flaunt his aggression. But this event in the history of the kingdom of Judah has ongoing applications for the children of Israel as we consider the enemy’s tactics and how to overcome them.
Tunnels of Life and Tunnels of Death
The siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib that happened in Hezekiah’s day is a microcosm of future threats directed toward Israel. It’s also an illustration of how the forces of evil oppose anyone and anything that stands in the way of Jewish sovereignty in the Land. Hezekiah built water tunnels to protect life in Jerusalem, and Hamas builds weapons tunnels to take life in Jerusalem.
In 1880 archaeologists discovered a dedication monument in Hezekiah’s water tunnels describing how they were built. It’s the oldest inscription of its kind ever discovered and is written in paleo-Hebrew script. Yet because it was discovered during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, it was taken to Istanbul where it remains hostage to this day under the pretense that it belongs to a Palestinian state.
Hezekiah’s story lives on. His tunnels, still bearing water to this day, are a visual reminder of the ongoing feud between what belongs to Israel and the Jewish people and those who want to take it from them. They will continue to use similar tactics of intimidation by political emissaries and organizations to advance an empire of evil.
As the tunnels of Hamas continue to implode, the tunnels of Hezekiah remain. Living water flows through Jerusalem, and so it will always be for the remnant of Israel.
Bryan Moselle (PhD, University of Pretoria; ThM, MDiv, Biola University) serves as the senior pastor of University Bible Church in Los Angeles, California. He previously served in global missions and disaster relief spanning 11 countries throughout Africa and was a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. The love of his life was born in Kenya and together they are blessed with four children.