"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 7, 2013
The Scriptures: Your Strategy Handbook
by Kathryn Grant

In 701 BC, the terrified Jews watched as a massive Assyrian army approached their land. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, was determined to bring Jerusalem under his rule.

The Assyrian aggression is recorded in Isaiah 36 and 37, and it’s one of many scriptural accounts of the Lord’s people being attacked by a powerful and determined enemy. Why would the Lord inspire the writers of scripture to include these accounts?

The answer may lie in the words of the Apostle Paul: “For we wrestle ... against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12).

We too are at war in a very real sense. Thus, the scriptures become our handbook for understanding the strategies of our enemies. They also teach us strategies we can use to be successful in withstanding them.

What strategies did the Assyrians employ as they tried to conquer Jerusalem?

Power: The Assyrians came with a great army (36:2) and boasted of other lands they had conquered (36:18).

Mockery: The Assyrian king sent an envoy to the Jews led by the crafty and ruthless Rabshakeh, who insulted and taunted them. He rudely referred to Hezekiah simply by name, without any royal title (for example, 36:4 and 7); in contrast, he called his own master, “the great king, the king of Assyria.” He also told Hezekiah’s representatives he’d give them 2,000 horses for battle against the Assyrians if the Jews could even find soldiers to ride them (36:8-9).

Bribery: The Rabshakeh claimed that if the Jews yielded to Assyria, they would be taken to a land of plenty (36:16-17).

Intimidation: The Rabshakeh did his best to undermine the people’s faith in their king and also in the Lord (36:14-15). He blasphemously boasted that the Jews’ God was no more powerful than the gods of other lands conquered by the Assyrians (36:17-18).

Deception: The Rabshakeh twisted the truth for his own purposes: for example, he claimed God wouldn’t help the Jews because Hezekiah had insulted Him (36:7). He also claimed that God commanded the Assyrians to destroy Jerusalem (36:10).

We see one of the most intriguing glimpses into the Assyrians’ deceptive strategy after Sennacherib learned that an Egyptian army was approaching. He knew if he didn’t do something soon, he’d be caught between the Egyptians on one side and the Jews on the other. His strategy? He sent another audacious demand to Hezekiah for surrender (37:8-18) — essentially a bluff. Hezekiah, of course, didn’t realize that an Egyptian army was approaching and the Assyrians were in danger themselves. By all appearances, Assyria was about to conquer Jerusalem.

Fortunately, Hezekiah did not give in to the Assyrian threat. His strategy is also instructive. It is at once less complicated and more powerful than his enemy’s.

Refusing to debate with the enemy: In response to the Rabshakeh’s taunting questions, Hezekiah’s people “held their peace,” in accordance with Hezekiah’s wise counsel (36:21.) It wouldn’t have mattered what they said: the Rabshakeh would not have acknowledged it nor changed his attack; in fact, it’s more likely that engaging in debate with the enemy would have weakened the people’s resolve and courage.

Trusting the Lord for deliverance. Hezekiah prayed faithfully to the Lord for deliverance. He expressed his confidence in the Lord (37:16-20).

Seeking answers and help in the temple. Hezekiah knew that strength and inspiration is found in the house of the Lord. In response to each attack by the enemy, Hezekiah went to the temple for help (37:1, 14).

How effective was Hezekiah’s strategy? The results speak for themselves. The Lord promised Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah that He would defend Jerusalem (37:35), and He did. Scripture records the Jews’ miraculous deliverance as the “angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand.... So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed” (37:36-37).

Are you fighting a battle in your life against a determined and powerful enemy whose strategies are like those of the Assyrians? Does Isaiah’s account shed light on those strategies? What keys to help and rescue might be found in this account of the Lord’s deliverance of his people?

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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