Expecting imminent attack by the merciless army of Assyria in 701 BC, King Hezekiah of Jerusalem prepared for siege. He built a 1700-foot tunnel to supply the city with water. He set about “repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it.” He added “another wall” outside that one and reinforced supporting terraces (“the Millo”) of the City of David. He also “made weapons and shields in abundance” (2 Chronicles 32).
That second wall mentioned in Chronicles is what archaeologists believe they found while restoring Jerusalem after the 1967 war. Although today only lower portions remain, it once was a massive structure twenty-three feet wide and probably twenty-six feet high. A two hundred-foot length is visible among modern buildings today.
After Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem, he assembled people of the city and said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.”
Those faith-filled words did not convince everyone. Isaiah later asserted that people of Jerusalem built a reservoir in anticipation of siege, but “did not look to the One who made [the city], or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (Isaiah 22:11). They trusted more in military defenses than in God.
King Sennacherib of Assyria indeed besieged Jerusalem, and gloated that he “shut Hezekiah up like a caged bird” in the royal city. But the siege failed, and Jerusalem was spared (2 Kings 19). Was that protection from the wall or from the Lord? Perhaps both.
But Isaiah was certain God governed history, and that filled him with hope even when political or military horizons were bleak. With expansive vision, the prophet said someday “all the nations shall stream” to Jerusalem, and peoples of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2).
Isaiah could not have fathomed leaders of a distant nation 2700 years later hankering to build a massive wall to keep out impoverished or endangered foreigners who want to work in factories, start businesses, go to college, cook in restaurants, and otherwise contribute to society.
Perhaps Isaiah would quote from his prophetic scroll: “What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” (3:15). “Is this not the fast that I choose . . . to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them . . .?” (58:6, 7)
© 2017 J. Nelson Kraybill ******************************************
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Come with Ellen and me on a Peace Pilgrim walking tour in Galilee and Jerusalem! Dates are May 14-25, 2018, and the pace will be moderate. We will walk parts of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum, and hike at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus took his disciples on retreat in the foothills of Mt Hermon. At Jerusalem we will walk the city walls, trace the triumphal entry route on foot, and travel by vehicle to see more. We will do all this with scripture in hand and prayer in our hearts. Interested? See https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/holy-land-peace-pilgrim-walk-jesus/