THE FOURTEENTH YEAR OF KING HEZEKIAH'S REIGN: 701
SENNACHERIB KING OF ASSYRIA ATTACKED ALL THE FORTIFIED
CITIES OF JUDAH AND CAPTURED THEM: On an Assyrian record, Sennacherib
claimed to have taken 46 cities of Judah during this campaign (cp 2Ch 32:1).
THEN THE KING OF ASSYRIA SENT HIS FIELD COMMANDER:
"Rabshakeh" (as in AV: the word literally means: "chief cup-bearer") is a title
that seems about equivalent to field commander.
LACHISH: A strongly fortified city of Judah about 30 mi
sw of Jerusalem (Jos 15:39; 2Ch 11:9).
THE COMMANDER STOPPED AT THE AQUEDUCT OF THE UPPER POOL, ON
THE ROAD TO THE WASHERMAN'S FIELD: 2Ki 18:17 records that three military
officials represented Sennacherib, but Isaiah referred to only the speaker among
The place where the Assyrian commander took his stand near
Jerusalem was the same place where Isaiah had stood when he urged Ahaz to trust
God a number of years earlier (cp Isa 7:3). It was because Ahaz failed to trust
God earlier that the Assyrian official stood there now (cp Isa 8:5-8). The very
nation that Ahaz had trusted proved to be the greatest threat to her safety only
one generation later. Father and son both faced a threat of destruction, both
recognized the inadequacy of their own strength, but one trusted man and
suffered defeat -- whereas the other trusted God and enjoyed
ELIAKIM SON OF HILKIAH THE PALACE ADMINISTRATOR, SHEBNA THE
SECRETARY, AND JOAH SON OF ASAPH THE RECORDER WENT OUT TO HIM: Eliakim,
Shebna, and Joah were all important officials in Hezekiah's government (cp Isa
Vv 4-10: The point of the Rabshakeh's first speech was that
there is no salvation in faith; no deliverance would come from trusting Yahweh.
Judah should surrender because Egypt would not help her (v 6), Yahweh would not
help her (v 7), she did not have enough military manpower to win (vv 8,9), and
Assyria had authority from Yahweh to attack Jerusalem (v 10). This speech
challenged everything Isaiah had been preaching.
THE FIELD COMMANDER SAID TO THEM, "TELL HEZEKIAH, "'THIS IS
WHAT THE GREAT KING, THE KING OF ASSYRIA, SAYS...": The Rabshakeh told the
Judean officials to give Hezekiah -- he did not call him a king -- a message
from "the great king", a title the Assyrian monarchs arrogantly claimed for
themselves (cp Isa 10:8; 30:33). Clearly Sennacherib wanted the listening Jews
to know that he regarded Hezekiah as a minor chieftain incapable of resisting
the massive power of the Assyrian Empire.
LOOK NOW, YOU ARE DEPENDING ON EGYPT, THAT SPLINTERED REED
OF A STAFF, WHICH PIERCES A MAN'S HAND AND WOUNDS HIM IF HE LEANS ON IT! SUCH IS
PHARAOH KING OF EGYPT TO ALL WHO DEPEND ON HIM: He knew that some of the
Judean nobles had put their trust in Egypt and had sent ambassadors there to
make a treaty (cp Isa 30:1-7). But he also knew, better than those officials,
that Egypt was not only an unreliable ally but a dangerous one, an opinion
Isaiah shared (cp Isa 20; 28:15; Eze 29:6). Sennacherib had already defeated the
Egyptians, who for the first and last time had unsuccessfully come to the aid of
the Philistines, at Eltekeh northwest of Lachish.
AND IF YOU SAY TO ME, "WE ARE DEPENDING ON THE LORD OUR
GOD" -- ISN'T HE THE ONE WHOSE HIGH PLACES AND ALTARS HEZEKIAH REMOVED, SAYING
TO JUDAH AND JERUSALEM, "YOU MUST WORSHIP BEFORE THIS ALTAR"?: The Rabshakeh
knew about Hezekiah's religious reforms in which he had removed many of the
altars from the land (cp 2Ki 18:1-7; 2Ch 29 -- 31). Evidently the commander
believed that removing altars would antagonize Yahweh, but Hezekiah was really
purifying Yahweh worship. Or perhaps he knew better, but didn't care -- since
many of the Judeans believed that the removal of those altars was a bad thing
anyway, and it was to those people that the Rabshakeh was evidently
FURTHERMORE, HAVE I COME TO ATTACK AND DESTROY THIS LAND
WITHOUT THE LORD? THE LORD HIMSELF TOLD ME TO MARCH AGAINST THIS COUNTRY AND
DESTROY IT: Perhaps the commander was referring to Isa 10:5,6, Isaiah's
prophecy that God would send Assyria against His people. Alternatively, he may
have just been claiming divine authorization for Sennacherib's invasion when
there was none. It was not unusual for ANE conquerors to claim that the god of
the invaded people had joined the invader.
THEN ELIAKIM, SHEBNA AND JOAH SAID TO THE FIELD COMMANDER,
"PLEASE SPEAK TO YOUR SERVANTS IN ARAMAIC, SINCE WE UNDERSTAND IT. DON'T SPEAK
TO US IN HEBREW IN THE HEARING OF THE PEOPLE ON THE WALL": Aramaic was the
common language of diplomacy; politicians normally conducted diplomatic talks in
that language. (It did not become the common language in Israel until many years
later.) The Rabshakeh, however, spoke to the kings' officials in the common
Hebrew that all the people understood. He probably did this so all the people,
not just the king's officials, would understand his message. He may also have
been intending it as an insult to the king's officials: by using Hebrew the
commander was also implying that they did not know Aramaic, ie, that they were
WHO, LIKE YOU, WILL HAVE TO EAT THEIR OWN FILTH AND DRINK
THEIR OWN URINE: He sought to picture in the most disgusting terms the
horrors of the coming siege -- a form of propaganda.
DO NOT LET HEZEKIAH DECEIVE YOU: Apparently Rabshakeh
knew of Hezekiah's speech of exhortation to Judah (2Ch 32:7,8).
'Be my servants!' Rabshakeh the Assyrian cried out to the
watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem: 'Make an agreement... seek my favor with
presents, come out to me... and then you will really live! You will eat of the
vine and the fig tree, and you will drink waters of your own cistern. And some
day I'll take you away to a land of grain fields gently rustling in the cool
breezes! Do you honestly want to starve and die on these bare Judean hills?' In
like manner the siren-song of a materialistic world calls us down from the walls
of faith, freely to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Pleasurable it may
be, but only for a time. Freedom it will never be; man was not created to be
free, but only to choose which of two masters he will serve. He who commits sin
is the servant of sin (Joh 8:34), and whatever fleeting enjoyment he experiences
will be with the fear of a deserter and the greed of a slave. The "Rabshakeh"
still cries out, "Serve me!" and the faithful still respond, with faithful
Hezekiah, "Our eyes wait upon the Lord!" (Psa 123:2).
HAMATH: A Hittite city on the Orontes River (Isa
ARPAD: Taken by Tiglath-pileser 740 BC; suppressed by
Sargon 720 BC; near Hamath.
SEPHARVAIM: A city east of Euphrates River, near
SAMARIA: Northern Kingdom, Israel, captured by
Assyrians in immediate past.
WITH THEIR CLOTHES TORN: Expressing grief and dismay,
at the blasphemy of Rabshakeh: cp Mat 26:65; Acts 14:14.