After the death of Sargon II, rebellions broke out throughout the empire. Sennacherib spent the first 2 years of his reign fighting a war to crush the Babylonian rebellion. After this, he consolidated his power by moving the royal residence to Nineveh and establishing a palace there.
In 701 BC, a rebellion backed by Egypt and Phoenicia took place in Judah under its King Hezekiah. Sennacherib gathered a large army. He attacked and sacked Tyre and Sidon. After this he invaded Judah and sacked many of its fortified cities. The Egyptians attempted to aid their Judean allies but they were defeated by the Assyrian armies. Hezekiah tells the king of Assyria that he (Hezekiah) did wrong, asked him to withdraw from Hezekiah and would pay whatever he demanded of him. Sennacherib demanded three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold from Hezekiah, which he did pay as he said. Sennacherib sends afterwards his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army to Hezekiah who was at Jerusalem (which was the capital of Judah). When they came to Jerusalem and stopped at an aqueduct they called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them. The field commander asked told them to tell Hezekiah what the king of Assyria had to say to him. The king of Assyria asked on what he was basing his confidence on (which was God). He told him that Hezekiah only spoke empty words when he spoke of his counsel and his might for war. The king of Assyria thought and said that Hezekiah was depending on Egypt, calling Egypt a "splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it" ( NIV). He also thought that Hezekiah removed the altars and high places of their God and said so if they were to tell him that they were depending on God (actually, Hezekiah brought down the high places and altars of false gods, not Yahweh's ). Then he said to them to make a bargain with the king of Assyria, he would give them 2000 horses. Then he asked how they could repulse even one of the least soldiers, even though they were depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen. Then he said that the LORD had told him to destroy Judah.
Eliakim, Shebna and Joah didn't want him to speak in Hebrew and discourage the soldiers, but in Aramaic. The field commander replied asking if it was only to Hezekiah that the king of Assyria wanted to be told what he had spoken. Then he said in Hebrew not to let Hezekiah deceive them, for he could not deliver them from his hand. He said not to let Hezekiah persuade them to trust the LORD. He told them not to listen to Hezekiah and promised prosperity if they make peace with the king of Assyria. He told them not to listen to Hezekiah because he was misleading them when he tells them that the LORD will deliver them. Then he goes on saying that no other god has delivered their land from him. If they couldn't how could Yahweh? The people remained silent because Hezekiah told them not to answer him. Eliakim, Shebna and Joah then went to Hezekiah and told him about what the field commander said with their clothes torn as a sign of mourning and grief. Hezekiah went to the temple in the same manor that Eliakim, Shebna and Joah had come to him. He sent Eliakim, Shebna and Joah to Isaiah the prophet. They filled him in on the day's events and hoped that the LORD would rebuke the field commander. Isaiah told Hezekiah not to be afraid of the words of the king of Assyria. Isaiah prophesied that when the King of Assyria hears a certain report, God would make him want to return to his country. When king of Assyria left Lachish, the field commander withdrew from Jerusalem and found his king fighting against Libnah.
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush, was marching out to him to attack him. So Sennacherib sent Hezekiah a message that basically said Hezekiah's God wasn't strong enough to deliver Jerusalem from Sennacherib, like the rest of the gods of the other nations he conquered. Hezekiah spread out the letter before God, and asked God to take notice. God spoke against Assyria and said that He would force them to leave, and a sign for Hezekiah would be that his people for two years wouldn't have to sow crops, only collect the fruit of the crops. The third year they would have to plant again. God then said that the king of Assyria wouldn't attack Jerusalem, but go home. That night the angel of the LORD came and killed 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian camp. They broke camp in the morning and withdrew. Sennacherib went to Nineveh (the capital of Assyria).
Sennacherib spent the remainder of his rule renovating his palaces, receiving important dignitaries, supervising building projects in Nineveh and praying to his god Nisroch.
One morning while in the temple of Nisroch praying, Sennacherib was stabbed by his two sons who then fled to Armenia (a.k.a Ararat).