Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, October 07, 2005

Praying Monarch

Daily Readings
Isaiah 37 + II Kings 19 + II Chronicles 30 + Jeremiah 52

Quote of the Day
“O LORD the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.” II Kings 19:15 --Hezekiah

Daily Text: II Kings 19

Praying Monarch
That Hezekiah prayed (and his prayer survives) is the most amazing matter in this reading. The accounts of confrontation by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, are historically confused. It appears that in 701 B.C. he came against Jerusalem and defeated the resistance of Hezekiah without actually entering the city. Hezekiah did pay heavy tribute, however. All of this is confirmed in three annals of Sennacherib—the Taylor Prism, the Oriental Institute Prism and the Rassam cylinder [439:247]. This last cuneiform inscription, once translated by scholars, created a debate as to whether the Assyrian or the biblical account was the most accurate. To date, that debate has not been settled. Was there a second siege by Sennacherib after Babylon was defeated in 689 the result of which was a defeat of Sennacherib as the biblical account suggests? Assyrian records are not available after the ones reported above. This author would throw his opinion in with the two-campaign theory for one reason: the biblical historical account, while biased and selective, is more or less complete for several hundred years. Assyrian records are patchy, incomplete and without the same continuity. Where the Assyrian and biblical accounts do cover the same material they essentially agree. There is no reason to doubt that even given the religious nature of the biblical account it has been created out of whole cloth.

There is no claim that Hezekiah and his weakened troops defeated the mighty Sennacherib. The claim is that an angel of death (a plague?) struck down his troops and he went home to Nineveh leaving the city intact. Even acceptance of this second siege does not preclude the possibility that Hezekiah continued to pay the Assyrians tribute all of his life. This was a mighty little nation in the midst of Assyrian ascendancy. A story of Assyrian troops defeated by an invasion of mice as they confronted the Egyptians at Pelusium in 674 was later told by Herodotus and reported in Josephus (Bk. X:ch. II:para. 4). Was there some connection? With a monarch praying, one can never predict the outcome.

Only One Way
Author Unknown

However the battle is ended,
Though proudly the victor comes,
With fluttering flags and prancing nags
And echoing roll of drums,
Still truth proclaims this motto,
In letters of living light:
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.

Though the heel of the strong oppressor
May grind the weak in the dust,
And the voices of fame with one acclaim
May call him great and just,
Let those who applaud take warning,
And keep this motto in sight:
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.

Let those who have failed take courage;
Though the enemy seemed to have won,
Though his ranks are strong, if in the wrong
The battle is not yet done.
For, sure as the morning follows
The darkest hour of the night,
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.


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