Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Advent Angels 5

Day 5: Warrior Angels

Read : 2 Kings 18.13-16 & 19:35-37

The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, was waging war on the kingdom of Judah. Assyria was the mightiest empire the Middle East had ever seen, and was notoriously brutal. It looked as if it was all over for Jerusalem when Sennacherib began to advance on Judah’s capital, Jerusalem. King Hezekiah had already given him a huge amount of treasure in an attempt to buy him off, but to no avail.

On the very eve of the day when it looked as if Jerusalem would be attacked, however, the Bible says that “the angel of the Lord” struck down the entire Assyrian army of one hundred and eighty five thousand soldiers. Sennacherib’s power was broken, and, in a footnote to the story, we are told that he was assassinated by his own sons.

This is the story which Lord Byron famously told in his poem “The Destruction of Sennacherib”, which begins with the ominous line “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold”. It describes the awesome might of the army, but then continues:

“For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!”

We may not like to think of an “angel of death” – it conjures up sinister images like those of the “weeping angels” of the Doctor Who stories. However, we might feel differently if we were in a besieged city, or facing an apparently unconquerable enemy, and knew that we were entirely powerless in our own strength to defeat them. The sudden and unexplained withdrawal of Sennacherib from his planned attack on Jerusalem is recorded independently in Assyrian history, where it is portrayed as a tactical withdrawal, but the Biblical story may contain a memory of a sudden plague among the soldiers which made it impossible for the army to continue to fight.

·         Have you ever experienced a time when a threat you had feared suddenly disappeared?
·         Pray for those who are in situations that seem impossible to survive today.

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