Don’t let Assyrians scare you
Crooked judges, crooked laws1
Too bad for crooked judges
Who write their crooked laws.
You steal their rights away.
You make money from humbled widows,
And target orphans like they’re prey.
3What will you do when you face judgment,
When trouble comes calling, from far away?
Where will you go for help?
Where will you hide your money?
4How can you avoid getting arrested?
How will you miss getting killed?
Even after that happens
The LORD will still be angry,
Still on the attack.
Bad news for Assyria5
Too bad for Assyria,
Even though they’re the club I’m using to punish nations.
They’ll punish the people who made me so angry,
Steal from them whatever they want,
And stomp them like walking on dirt.
7But this isn’t what their king has in mind.
He has another agenda.
He wants to destroy.
He wants to conquer the nations.
“Kings command soldiers in my army.
9We captured one city kingdom after another:
Calno and Carchemish,
Hamath and Arpad,
Samaria and Damascus.
10I’ve overpowered the idols and gods
Of kingdoms greater than Jerusalem and Samaria.
11What’s going to stop me
From doing to Jerusalem and her gods
What I did to Samaria and her gods?” 12Whatever. This Assyrian king is nothing but a tool. When the Lord is done using him to teach a lesson on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, this braggart is going to get a lesson in humility.
This Assyrian king brags:
“I alone have conquered these nations.
I did it with my strength, wisdom, and insight.
I erased their national boundaries.
I took their treasures.
And like a bull in a palace,
I knocked kings off their thrones.
Cleaning out their nest eggs
Like stealing eggs from a nest.
Not one bird flapped a feather,
Chirped, or peeped.
No protest but frozen silence.”
Should a tool brag about itself?15
What’s more important?
The ax or the one who holds it?
Can a defensive club lift the person who carries it?
Can a wooden staff do that, too?
The LORD of everyone
Is going to plague the Assyrian army
With a sickness that will sap their strength
and leave them skinny and weak. 
Assyrian’s glory will go up in flames.
17God is Israel’s Guiding Light.
But that Holy Light
Is going to torch their enemies
They’ll burn like thorns in a brushfire.
18He’ll scorch the earth where their forests grew.
Their pride will die, and their lives will follow.
He’ll destroy their bodies and leave their shells.
19So little of their forests will survive the fires
That a child can count the trees.
Israel’s survivors return to God20
When that day comes,
Israel’s survivors, descendants of Jacob,
Will no longer need allies who hurt them.
For in God, they’ll trust.
And in Israel’s Holy LORD
They’ll find all they need.
And return to their great God.
22Israel was once a huge nation
With a lot of people,
Like sand on a beach.
But only some survive to come back home.
God defended goodness
By destroying evil among them.
23It’s coming. The LORD God of all is bringing it.
He said he would decimate the Promised Land,
He’s going to do it.
Don’t fear puny Assyrians24
This is from the Lord, the God of everyone:
“My dear children in Jerusalem,
Don’t fear the Assyrians.
Don’t be intimidated when they hit you with sticks
Like the Egyptians did to your ancestors.
Then, I’ll turn my anger on them.
26The LORD of all the world will crack a whip.
He’ll knock them down like he did the Midianites
At the famous Rock of Oreb,
Or like Egyptians he drowned in the sea.
27When that happens,
He’ll lift a weight from your shoulders,
The weight of oppression and slavery.
Marching to Jerusalem28 29Then moved on through the pass,
And camped a night at Geba.
Neighbors in Ramah were terrified to hear it.
People in Gibeah, King Saul’s hometown,
Took off and ran for their lives.
30Scream if you live in Gallim.
Listen if you live in Laishah.
Echo the screams if you live in Anathoth.
Answer the painful cry.
31People in Madmenah are already running.
Gebim is on the run, too.
32When he reaches the city of Nob he’ll stop
And shake a fist at Jerusalem’s hill.
33Watch what happens next
When the LORD of all the earth arrives.
He’s going to cut them down
Like chopping wood.
Their tallest trees will fall.
34He’ll swing his ax through their forests,
Those towering cedars of Lebanon.
Every tree snaps and every tree falls,
By the ax of the Almighty One.
When Assyrians invaded Israel in the 700s BC, they gave top priority to capturing and pillaging Israel’s elite: rulers, judges, wealthy businesspeople. They followed the money and often butchered the cash cow.
The writer is talking about ancestors of the Jewish people—Israelites in the divided nations of Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
Some kings of conquered nations served in the Assyrian army. Others didn’t live long enough.
Mount Zion often refers to the Temple Mount, the hilltop on which Solomon built the first permanent temple for the Jewish nation of Israel. “Zion” is also a term of endearment, and another name for the ridgetop city of Jerusalem, a bit like “the Big Apple” is for New York City.
The apparent point: Assyrian is God’s tool of the moment. It’s a club to hammer some punishment and discipline into the southern Jewish nation of Judah.
Some scholars say this refers to Assyrian King Sennacherib’s devastating invasion in 701 BC. Assyrians had destroyed the northern Jewish nation of Israel about 20 years earlier. Judah, in the south, was the only surviving Jewish nation. Sennacherib destroyed most cities during that campaign. And he defeated Egyptians who came to their rescue. Then he lay siege to Jerusalem when Hezekiah was king. But he left suddenly. A Bible writer said an angel killed 185,000 of his soldiers (2 Kings 19:35). A Greek writer 250 years later, Herodotus, wrote that the army got stopped by a rat infestation that killed some of the soldiers. Some scholars speculate that the rats carried diseases—plagues such as bubonic, septicemic, pneumonic. Those three diseases—all from the same bacterium (yersinia pestis)—affect the immune system, blood, and lungs.
Who’s “he,” that’s the question. Some say God, coming to the rescue. Others say the Assyrian king and his army, coming to kill the people. See notes in 10:16.
A city formerly known as Ai (Joshua 7:2). It’s less than a day’s walk north of Jerusalem—as are all the cities in this poem whose locations are known; Madmenah and Gebim are not. Ai is typically connected with a mound of ruins called et-Tel (the Mound), roughly 10 miles (16 km) north of Jerusalem—a half-day’s walk. Other scholars, a minority, speculate that the Bible’s description of the geography of Joshua’s battles with Ai better fits another site: el-Maqatir, about half a mile west of et-Tel.
The Assyrian king had described himself in much the same way: “I alone have conquered these nations” (10:13). The king seemed to think of himself as a Mighty One. But he was about to encounter the Almighty One.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.