And it all came to pass, for that night the Angel of the Lord went forth and slew 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when [the living] arose early in the morning, behold, all these were dead bodies. (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36)
This text seems self-evident, and thus we have always interpreted it. How do we “unpack” it in order to use it as strong support for the character of God message?
I have used the Amplified version of the Scriptures, because it makes one fact clear that wasn’t as clear in the other versions. The “Angel of the Lord” is actually Jesus, in his assumed role as the archangel or chief angel, and thus it is interpreted in the Amplified version. If we say that the Angel of the Lord [Jesus] personally killed all these soldiers, then we have to explain what happened to Jesus’ changeless character when He came to earth. This, in itself, sets up the problem in interpreting the text.
Next we look at the word “slew” which is translated “smote” in the KJV, “struck” (NAS) and “put to death” (NIV). Let us compare the word as it appears in the KJV with a word that appears in Isaiah 53:4 (KJV), a prophecy of Jesus. That word is “smitten”; so the Angel “smote” the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers but God’s own Son was “smitten” by the Father. In the original, it is the same word—struck.
“. . . we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).
Strong’s concordance says both Hebrew words are from “5221,” which means “beat, cast forth, clap, give [wounds],” etc. Therefore, we can conclude that the same thing that happened to Jesus (He was “smitten of God.”) also happened to the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. How did God the Father “smite” Jesus? Did He come down and strike Him? Possibly burn Him alive? No. He merely backed off and let “nature take its course.” And the results were the same. The same as if He had personally struck the Savior.
We can conclude from this that the “Angel of the Lord” backed off from His shielding duties or called off His angels; it is in this way that He “slew” the soldiers, and Ellen White verifies our conclusions:
Thus the second time a vast army, sent forth by the most powerful nations of Europe, a host of brave, warlike men, trained and equipped for battle, fled without a blow before the defenders of a small and hitherto feeble nation. Here was a manifestation of divine power. The invaders were smitten with a supernatural terror. He who overthrew  the hosts of Pharaoh in the Red Sea,  who put to flight the armies of Midian before Gideon and his three hundred,  who in one night laid low the forces of the proud Assyrian, had again stretched out His hand to wither the power of the oppressor. “There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.” Psalm 53:5. (Great Controversy, p. 117)
According to this paragraph, then, the same thing—“a supernatural fear”—accounts for the deaths of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.