Counteracting Human Propaganda

It is often said that the present conflict is largely a war of propaganda; and it is as often affirmed that this method of attack is difficult to repulse because of its alleged novelty. It is interesting to recall, however, that propaganda was employed twenty-six centuries ago in the days of the prophet Isaiah; while it is heartening to realize that that clearsighted seer provided a practical remedy for it.

The powerful and ruthless empire of Assyria was attacking the small kingdom of Judah. Several Judean cities had already been captured, and Jerusalem itself seemed to be on the point of falling into the enemy's hands. Then it was that a certain Rab-shakeh was sent by the Assyrian monarch to address the Jews in their own language, and to weaken their morale. (See II Kings, chapter 18.) He outlined the near-by victories of his master, resistance to whom, he boasted, had been quickly broken down, and advised the Jews to put no trust in the exhortations of their leader Hezekiah: "Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you ... neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us ... for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me."

The situation seemed dangerous, if not desperate; the fall of Jerusalem itself appeared to be imminent; but Isaiah, secure in his certainty of divine protection, encouraged the king and the people alike with the dynamic statement: "Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard;" while, in addition, he turned to God in prayer. In response to this implicit trust, the answer came: "The king of Assyria ... shall not come into this city. ... For I will defend this city, to save it;" while that very night, without apparently any further military action or attack on the part of the Jews, the invading army was destroyed, and its general, Sennacherib, returned to Assyria. Thus the suggestive propaganda of the pagan Assyrians was found to be as ineffective as was their boasted military force, and the sublime confidence of Isaiah was vindicated.

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Where Is Our Defense?
October 19, 1940

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