Feb 5, 2017

How Mice Saved Ancient Judaism from Disappearing Off the Face of the Earth

Image result for pics of Ancient Judaism 
via TheBurningPlatform
In 702 B.C. the most powerful empire in the Middle East was camped outside the gates of Jerusalem. The Assyrian Army awaited the order from King Sennacherib to attack. But, the order never came. Had the order come, Israel would have disappeared off the face of the earth, forever.  Ponder that for a moment.  Because, without the continuation of Judaism, then there would be no Christianity, and no Islam. The Battle-That-Never-Was would have altered world-wide human history in ways that no one can fully imagine.  This is the story of how the battle didn’t happen.

The Old Testament tells us that Israel achieved its greatest land mass, power, and wealth under King Solomon.  But, it didn’t last long. When Solomon died, around 925 B.C., the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam. So, they revolted. For about the next two hundred years there would be two kingdoms of Hebrews; Israel (ten tribes) and their capital Samaria in the north, and Judah (which included the small priestly tribe of Levi) and their capital Jerusalem in the south.
The history of both kingdoms is basically one of endless, ineffective, disobedient, and corrupt kings. The kingdoms eventually collapse due in no small part to Israel’s geographical location with a series of various powerful Mesopotamian kingdoms in the northeast and, the powerful Egyptians in the southwest. Internally, Moab successfully revolted against Judah. Ammon successfully seceded from Israel. Within a hundred years of Solomon’s death, in the vast expanse that is the Middle East, Israel and Judah were reduced to tiny and weak states which combined were about the size of New Jersey.

Assyria was a kingdom of Semitic people which existed between the 23rd century B.C. and 608 BC.  Assyria was named after the city Assur on the Tigris River in what is now modern day Iraq. But, it covered much more territory than that.  (In other words, other than sounding similar, Assyria has nothing in common with modern day Syria.)
The Assyrian identity was forged in war, invasion, and conquest. Their version of one-percenters was almost entirely made up of military commanders who grew wealthy from the spoils taken in war.  Their armies are generally believed to have been among the largest ever seen in the Middle East. The necessities of war caused them to invent or improve on several technological innovations; iron swords, lances, metal armor, and battering rams …. which made them almost unbeatable in battle.

The Assyrians contributed to a major innovation in weaponry, the composite bow. While the simple bow of that era could kill at up to one hundred yards, it would not penetrate even simple armor. The composite bow, with a pull of 2-3 times that of the simple bow, would easily have penetrated leather armor, and perhaps even bronze armor that was emerging at the time. The composite bow would bring the enemy under a hail of arrows from twice the distance, and with more lethality than the simple bow … even in the hands of untrained conscript archers.
The Assyrian obsession with war and conquest was responsible for a dramatic growth in science and mathematics.  It was the Assyrians who first divided the circle into 360 degrees. They were among the first to invent longitude and latitude in geographical navigation. Centuries of warfare necessitated the need for advanced and sophisticated medical science.
The Assyrians kept voluminous and meticulous records.  Before the Great Library of Alexandria, the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal built the Great Library of Nineveh containing the most complete knowledge of the Middle East ever assembled.  To this day, 30,000 tablets still exist.
King Sennacherib made Nineveh (modern-day Mosul, Iraq) capital of his Assyrian Empire. Nineveh (along with Babylon) is never mentioned favorably in the Bible.  Of course,  this is expected since the Old Testament is a Jewish book, and those two nations were mortal enemies.
Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that Nineveh would rank near the very top in Middle Eastern antiquity as ranking among the most glorious, beautiful, and powerful.  The city was huge. The book of Jonah states; — “Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” That’s likely an exaggeration or, a figure of speech. Nevertheless, scholars estimate the city was 1,900 acres, and had a population of up to 150,000 Sennacherib built great walls around the city with fifteen gates, created public parks and gardens, aqueducts, irrigation ditches, canals, and greatly expanded upon and improved the structures of the city. His palace had eighty rooms and he proclaimed it “the palace without rival“. The famous Hanging Gardens, which traditionally have been attributed to Babylon, are now thought by more and more scholars to have actually been Sennacherib’s creation at Nineveh.  To appreciate its grandeur please take a couple minutes to watch the lovely 3D rendering below.
Before we examine the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem it would be extremely beneficial to first understand the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom …. An event which occurred in the lifetime of those living in the besieged city of Jerusalem.
The utter and eternal destruction of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, Israel, is succinctly described in 2 Kings 17:6-18. Summarizing: The Israelites worshipped other gods and customs of other people. The Lord repeatedly sends prophets warning the people to repent. They don’t listen. God becomes very angry and “removed them from His Presence; none remained except the tribe of Judah alone.”
At that time, Hoshea was king of Israel. After many years of paying a heavy tribute to the Assyrians, he decided to rebel. He was crushed by the Assyrian monarch, Sargon II, around 723 B.C.
If the Assyrians didn’t invent the policy of  Dispersion Exile, they certainly perfected it.  About a hundred years later the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II would deport most, but not all, of Judah’s inhabitants to Babylonia. However, while in Babylon, the Jews all lived together in one place. This enabled them to continue to keep their customs, develop new customs as a group, and generally to keep their culture intact. Although captives, they flourished along the banks of the Euphrates River. When they were finally allowed to go back home, they still retained their Jewish culture.  The Assyrians simply didn’t operate that way. “No flourishing for you! One millennium!
The Assyrians would force conquered people to migrate in large numbers, often the entire population,  to other areas throughout the empire, and in small numbers.  Other empires of the day would allow little to no cultural contact between the conquered and the conquerors. For example, the Egyptians generally wanted nothing to do with their slave Israelites. But, the Assyrians turned the Middle East/Mesopotamia into a vast melting pot of diverse cultures, religions, and languages. The Assyrians then would send other conquered people to occupy the land they just emptied. In this case, the Assyrians would bring in an entire new population from their far flung empire into the land of Shomron, …. also known as Samaria.
This scheme essentially guaranteed the security of the empire. The empire grew in numbers and the conquered, in essence, became part of the empire. Assimilating entire cultures insured that those nations would be unable to go back and re-conquer their lost lands because within a generation, or two, even the knowledge of their previous culture would have been lost … or, assimilated. Think of the Assyrian Plan being on par with Star Trek’s Borg.
From a historical perspective, the ten tribes of Israel no longer exist.  (There are very many groups claiming to be a remnant of the Lost Tribes … none of it provable.) Also, there is no interest here in the miraculous. That’s because once miracles are introduced anything goes; snakes talk, oceans cover the world’s highest mountain, the dead are raised, and the earth stops rotating. Whatever. #HistoricalAccuracyMatters. The fact of history is this;  the Israelites deported by Sargon II have disappeared forever and ever, nameless and faceless, into the sands of northern Mesopotamia.
And now the remaining tribe of Judah was facing the same exact fate because, once again, the Assyrian Army was outside the gates of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—From Solomon to Hezekiah
To appreciate the sheer terror the people of Jerusalem must have felt, one must first know a little bit about Jerusalem.  Quite simply, Jerusalem was a small, rather inconsequential place …. except, of course, for the magnificent temple filled with gold, silver, and jewels.  The city itself encompassed a mere 125 acres, and had a population of about 25,000. Also, the people cowering in Jerusalem certainly knew that Assyria had already conquered and destroyed 46 other walled cities throughout the land …. not to mention the Assyrians had just conquered Egypt.
And, they were next.
Let’s quickly summarize what we know so far.  Jerusalem is a rather small city both in geographical size and population.  Their king has been paying a very heavy tribute for many years to the Assyrians, and the Treasury is depleted. They have no army worth mentioning. Their northern brethren have been utterly defeated and exiled throughout the Assyrian empire. Assyria is the most powerful empire of the time. They are a warrior nation who not only have mastered the art of war, but are also proficient in engineering, construction, technology, sciences, and their culture is second to none.  According to the Bible, at least 185,000 Assyrian troops are camped outside the gates of Jerusalem ready to implement their siege.
Among all extant exemplars of the Sumerian King List, the Weld-Blundell prism in the Ashmolean Museum contains the most extensive version as well as the most complete copy of the King List. The prism contains four sides with two columns on each side. Perforated, the prism had a wooden spindle so that it might be rotated and read on all four sides.
Regarding the workings of an Assyrian siege, there is no better source than King Sennacherib himself. Sennacherib wrote about his siege of Lachish  (a city in ancient Judah which was second in importance only to Jerusalem) in what is known as Sennacherib’s Annals.  The Annals are found inscribed on three clay prisms inscribed with the same text: the Taylor Prism , the Oriental Institute Prism, and the Jerusalem Prism (pictured above). This is what he wrote;
 “As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to his strong cities, walled forts, and countless small villages, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps and battering-rams brought near the walls with an attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as trenches. I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them slaves. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were his city’s gate. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the presents to me as overlord which I imposed upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches inlaid with ivory, nimedu-chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood and all kinds of valuable treasures, his own daughters and concubines.”
Is Sennacherib engaging in braggadocio, propaganda or liberal embellishment?  No. To this day, a cave near the city contains the mass grave of thousands of people slaughtered by the Assyrian army. Sennacherib’s report of taking 200,150 people prisoner as spoils of war is still considered a realistic figure today. 
Also important to know is that the Assyrians enjoyed employing pure naked terror; sticking severed heads on spikes, gouging out eyes, ripping out tongues, tearing apart limbs using wild animals, and other various forms of dismemberment, including private parts.  In the Battle of Elam the king wrote;
Their testicles I cut off and tore their privates like the seeds of cucumbers in June. Then they fled from me. They held back their urine but let their dung go into their chariots. 150,000 of their warriors I cut down with the sword.”
Seriously. Bad. Assed.
Let’s now turn to another ancient original source to see how Jerusalem survived.  The liberation of Jerusalem is found in 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 37. Below is the story according to 2 Kings 19:32-36
“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’ That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.”
Image result for god sends angel of lord against sennacherib
You might wonder why this article concerns itself with a plague since that word is not mentioned in the text. That’s because of the one doing the slaying – “the angel of the Lord”.  This spiritual being appears often throughout the OT and has many functions. One of the more frequent things associated with the angel of the Lord is disease, famine, pestilence and, as is clear in Moses’ dealings with Pharaoh, plagues.  (Of course, you are free to believe that this one angel was up all night stabbing Assyrians …. which, over a seven hour period, would need to occur at the rate of 440 slain soldiers per minute.)
NOTE #1: —  It is important to note that both the Bible and Sennacherib’s writings agree that he besieged 46 walled cities through Judah and Israel.   And while Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh was decorated with reliefs depicting these various campaigns and victories, Jerusalem never appears among them. Therefore, one can safely deduce that something detrimental happened with the Jerusalem campaign.
NOTE #2: —  You should also be aware that outside of the Hebrew Bible there is no independent corroboration that the Assyrians lost 185,000 men in a single day. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen because the Bible does have some historical value. Nevertheless, one would expect that some extra-biblical source would exist somewhere in some Mesopotamian account of such a monumental event. Yet, no other extra-Biblical source is aware of this event, even though the Assyrians kept meticulous records.
NOTE #3: —  We do know for a fact that Sennacherib never conquered Jerusalem. There are some scholars who dispute that Sennacherib left Jerusalem because of a plague. They offer the following alternative.
Assyrian writings of the time reveal that a new Babylonian revolt had broken out, and this news reached Sennacherib while he was camped outside Jerusalem. This certainly could have caused Sennacherib to lift his siege prematurely.  The danger Babylon posed to Nineveh was certainly much more of a serious priority than dealing with yet another mostly irrelevant Judean city.  So, he left Jerusalem, but not before exacting an enormous and humiliating annual payment of tribute. The Bible tells us that King Hezekiah was even forced to cut down the gold-overlaid doors and the gold-overlaid doorposts of the Temple to be paid as tribute.  Contrary to 2 Kings 19:36-37, Sennacherib was not murdered immediately upon his return to Nineveh. In fact, his reign spanned another two decades. Upon his return to Nineveh he squashed the Babylonian revolt …. which leads to an obvious question, how could he have done so if he just lost 185,000 men in Jerusalem? 
[Regardless of why the Assyrians failed to conquer Jerusalem, (be it mice, revolting Babylonians, or God) the overall premise of this article is still valid; that it was the Greatest Battle That Never Was in human history.]
Again, from a historical perspective, what could the plague have been?  There are two tantalizing options; one from the Bible, and the other from Herodotus.
————— –
  1. The Biblical account of how King Hezekiah prepared for the Assyrian onslaught is somewhat tantalizing … and points to a rather mundane cause of the plague. Contaminated water! 2 Chronicles 32:2-4 tells us;
“He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?
The reasonable possibility exists that “stopping the fountains” around Jerusalem forced the Assyrian soldiers to drink contaminated water, thus exposing them to infectious diseases.
However, I think this is the less likely of the two scenarios for three reasons.
—– First, this is not some brilliant never-before thought of strategy, especially in the dry environs of the middle east. It seems safe to assume that the Assyrians (or, other armies before and after them) faced similar tactics presented by their foes, and that they had contingency plans. 
—– Second, the tunnel was deep, at least 600 feet long, and the sands beneath were rock hard. In other words it was a long and difficult project.  This hardly fits with the emergency efforts required to deny the Assyrians water as described in Chronicles.
—– Third, and most importantly, the Jordan River is a mere 20 miles from Jerusalem. Surely, the Assyrians were aware of that sufficiently plentiful source of water.
————— –
  1. A much more likely scenario (in this author’s opinion) is recorded by Herodotus. He was born (484 BC – 425 BC) to a Greek family of nobility in a section of the Persian empire in what is today Turkey. He was a contemporary of Socrates, and Cicero was the first to refer to Herodotus as “The father of history”. Quite simply, his words carry weight.  His writings indicate that the plague which killed many Assyrians may have originated in Egypt.
So, what does Egypt have to do with the siege of Jerusalem? Well, hoping that Egypt would come to Judah’s rescue,  King Hezekiah entered into a military alliance with the King of Egypt. This kind of irritated Sennacherib. In his annals he referred to Egypt as “a splintered reed” which could be of no help to the city. It is reported that the people of Jerusalem were lined up along the city walls when they were addressed (in Hebrew, no less), and they heard this message; “The message is for them too. Like you, they will have to eat their own dung and drink their own urine”  Hezekiah was forced to send  eleven tons of silver and a ton of gold Sennacherib at Lachish. Then the Assyrian army withdrew from Jerusalem to fight the Egyptians at Eltekeh. They defeated the Egyptian forces rather easily, and then marched back to Jerusalem.  However, Herodotus reports that something bad happened while the Assyrians were in Egypt.
Hopefully, you won’t be disappointed in the brevity of what he wrote.  After all this detailed background, perhaps you’ll think this is anti-climactic. Well, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was only 272 words … while the other speaker, Edward Everett (who???), used up 13,000+ words.  Which one was more powerful?  Which one do people remember? Which one contained more useful information?
He wrote that King  Sennacherib “with  a great host of Arabians and Assyrians” marched against King Sethos of Egypt. When the army was encamped at Pelusium, “a multitude of  field mice swarmed over the  Assyrian camp and devoured their quivers and their bows and the handles of their shields likewise, insomuch that they fled the next day unarmed and many fell.”  Herodotus adds an additional detail, thus giving his writing even more legitimacy,  writing that —  “to his day a stone statue of  the Egyptian king stands in Hephaistus’ temple, with a mouse in his hand,  and an inscription to this  effect: ‘Look on me, and  fear the gods.“‘  Wow, eh?
And if that’s not enough, here is confirmation directly from the Bible; — (Isaiah 31:8 , Isaiah 10:5, 16)
Assyria will fall by no human sword; … Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! …. therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will send a wasting disease [bubonic plague?]  upon his sturdy warriors; under his pomp a fire will be kindled like a blazing flame.”
The testimony of two wildly divergent sources, Herodotus and Isaiah, seems crystal clear to me; it was the mice!
Sennacherib ruled for another twenty years when he returned to Assyria … and then was murdered by his sons. As you read what’s coming up next, see if you can spot the similarities with America.
The Assyrian Empire eventually became so large that maintaining it was almost impossible.  The people subject to Assyrian rule has been trying to break free for years.  Assyria became involved in endless wars with Persians, Babylonians, Medes, Scythians, and lessor powers.  And, even their “melting pot” of assimilated cultures would turn against them.
The empire became burdened by the expense of maintaining an army; soldiers had to be paid, massive numbers of horses had to be cared for and fed, siege engines had to be moved against rebellious cities, and despite the theft of massive amounts of silver and gold from their conquered vassals … the Treasury eventually became depleted. The economy tanked.
Eventually these empires always run out of people to conquer, and their gold to steal … or, they are conquered themselves. Eventually, tribes of an Indo-European people called Medes united under King  Cyaxares. He allied his army with the Chaldeans. The Medes and Chaldeans attacked, and together they defeated the Assyrians, overrunning Nineveh in 612 BC. A community that had existed for more than two thousand years was obliterated.
Undoubtedly, Sennacherib, and the Assyrian kings before him, believed that the glory of Nineveh would last forever.  Isn’t that the case for every empire … including the American one? Many battles were fought in and around Nineveh in subsequent centuries, including the Muslim conquest of 637AD.  Other great cities of ancient Mesopotamia were recognizable from their ruins. But, of Nineveh, there was not a trace. The Assyrian version of a “thousand year Reich” lasted but a mere 340 years.
The aftermath for Judaism was even more profound. Nothing and everything changed for Judaism.
By “nothing” I mean the truly endless wars. The Jews would be conquered and re-conquered for the next 2,500 years until their independence in 1948.
By “everything” I mean their religion. Specifically, how they viewed God to be.
Many people inside and outside of Judaism believe that the Babylonian exile gave birth to modern Judaism.  This article here presents an excellent case for that. However, surviving the Assyrian attempt to destroy the remaining tribe of Judah accomplished something even more fundamental;  it solidified the Jewish commitment to monotheism.
Folks read the stories of  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and other heroes of the Jewish faith … and then conclude that all of ancient Israel was firmly committed to the idea of One God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Abraham – the Father of Judaism – had a wife who took her gods and hid them under the camel’s saddle as she left Ur to go to the Promised Land. Moses was afraid the people wouldn’t believe him.  Heck, God didn’t even have a name.  Shortly after the Israelites miraculously escaped Egypt, they started worshipping a Golden Calf. Solomon started out good, and ended up doing evil. And so on, and so on.
In fact, the Bible lists a total of 43 kings who ruled over Israel/Judah … and 36 of them were considered evil, including every king of the ten tribes of Israel!  (See the list  here. ) Note that when the Bible calls a king “evil” it is always and only about one thing; that king worshiped, or tolerated, other gods. In other words, monotheism in ancient Israel consistently teetered on the edge of abandonment.
So, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom had been completely eradicated by Assyrian King Sargon II just twenty one years prior.  Now at the gates of Jerusalem are 185,000 Assyrians with bloodlust on their minds, ready to implement Phase II of their version of The Final Solution. Judaism is facing complete annihilation. The existential question of the ages they faced is this; what does this mean??  When it’s all boiled down to bare fundamentals, there are only two possibilities;
Option #1) —- It means that the God of Moses and Abraham, the God who promised a permanent inheritance of the land, is no longer able to protect his people.
Option #2) —- It means that God is using the most powerful empire on earth, evil as it might be, to punish the Israelites for their disobedience and, once they repent, God will restore the promise.
Option #1, that God failed them, is the choice made by the Northern Kingdom. One would expect Judah to make the same choice, especially when you consider that most of the Judaist population (except King Hezekiah and his prophets) probably considered option #2 as being totally ridiculous.
While Option #2 seems to be the easy and obvious choice … it is so only to the modern mind. The reason being that we moderns have been conditioned by 2,000+ years of Christianity informing us that God is good, and can do no evil. When evil does occur the only two reasons for it are either, 1) it’s the devil’s fault or, 2) it’s our fault.
But, is that the way ancients thought? No! Their version of “common sense” held that the Jewish god protected Jews, and Assyrian gods protected Assyrians, and Babylonian gods protected Babylonians, etc. etc. All gods were local. Victory and defeat depended both on local armies and the power of local rival deities. Even the Israelites could see that as the Assyrians expanded their empire, local gods died off. The defeated simply stopped worshipping their local god, and started worshipping the new god of the victors. This was the expectationthe rule of the day, the way things were. It is what the Northern Kingdom did. It is, no doubt, what the people in Jerusalem thought would happen with them.  So, when King Hezekiah, in the face of annihilation, rejected option #1, and chose option #2 instead — (for example, by destroying all the “high places” in the countryside) — it was quite unique and monumental!
The three Biblical narratives which tell the story of the Assyrian defeat at Jerusalem – but, written many years after it occurred – certainly contain exaggerations at best, if not flat out inaccuracies. So what! To the ancient Jews it’s the story and the interpretation of the story that mattered. Details just weren’t that important.
The pious leaders of Jerusalem interpreted the event this way; local gods no longer mattered. That’s because only the universal power of the Lord God could explain worldwide events satisfactorily.  Therefore, because their God was universal, there was no longer a need to abandon one local god for just another local tribal god. The evidence of the Assyrian retreat meant that their God was vastly more superior, not only on the local stage, but also on the world stage. This was a monumental change in Jewish thinking.
Furthermore, it was this newfound belief in the universality of God which enabled them to flourish a few decades later when the Babylonians conquered them. The Babylonian exiles even further expanded the universality of this One God.  You see, Hezekiah’s attempts to reconcile with God centered around where God resided, the Temple, which was the essence and centerpiece of Jewish faith. As such, in a manner of speaking, God was still local, confined to a building.  So, the exiled, and Temple-less,  Jews in Babylon had their own existential question, “What does the destruction of the Temple mean?”.
And they came up with yet another unique and amazing conclusion which further cemented the Jewish commitment to monotheism. They decided that ceremonies tied to a single sacred place no longer sufficed, or even made sense, and that access to God, once limited to the Temple, is now available to anyone in any place. A truly stunning development!  
You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the irony here.  Twenty years earlier probably many of the same folks now in Babylon were trembling in fear and questioning God because of the Assyrians … and now it is the remembrance of that very same story which gave the Babylonian exiles hope, and the wisdom and strength to yet again modify their understanding of God.    
Lastly, it is only by choosing option #2 that enabled Isaiah to write the words below. No longer do Jews have to ask why the Lord allows them to suffer.  No longer do they need to wonder if God will keep his promises. No longer do they have to wonder how he will accomplish His purpose for them. No longer do they have to wonder if other gods would be a better choice. All these questions have become irrelevant to their faith. The fact of the matter (according to the Scripture below) is that there is a day coming – “that day”, when all will be made right again. Even the ten tribes will be reconstituted.
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.” ——  Isaiah 11:11
The old faith has been overhauled! This universal One God, accessible to anyone and anywhere, intervenes in history, even when it is not apparent. In fact, the worse things appear … and there was absolutely nothing more traumatic than the Temple being destroyed … the more certain they are that God is with them!! How can such faith ever be defeated? Apparently, it cannot. (Which is why arguing with a Christian that “there is no God” will fail 99% of the time!)
The Jews (and their offspring religions) can thank the near disaster of the Assyrian siege, and the actual disaster of the Babylonian conquest, for this One God who “alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
You now know the story of the Greatest Battle That Never Was. A battle that, had it occurred, would have resulted in the utter defeat of Jerusalem and Judah. The inhabitants would have been scattered across the vast Assyrian empire, and a new population would have been imported. The tribe of Judah, the only one left carrying on the Jewish legacy, would have disappeared into the sands of Mesopotamia, exactly as what happened to the ten tribes of Israel two decades earlier. There’s no doubt about this. The end of Judaism would have prevented the birth of Christianity and Islam.  Such a thing would have altered the history of the world in ways that is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine. The fickleness of fate is phenomenal! All because of mice? Eeek! Or, because of God? Shalom! 
You decide …..