Isaiah 36


‘In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. When the commander stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field, Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to him.’ Isaiah 36:1-3

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

This chapter through to chapter 39 are prophecies which belong to the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign and the time shortly thereafter.

In chapters 36-39, three very important events are recorded.

1. Two attempts of Sennacherib to take Jerusalem, Isaiah 36-37.

2. Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery, Isaiah 38.

3. Ambassadors of Babylon, Isaiah 39.

These chapters are also duplicated in 2 Kings 18:13-20:19. Hezekiah became king at the age of 25. He led a political and religious reformation.

He was a great king, a great organiser, a great leader, and, above all, a great servant of God, 2 Kings 18:1-8. When he had reigned for 14 years, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked Judah, 2 Kings 18:13–20:18 / 2 Chronicles 32.

In this chapter, through verse 7 of the next, we read of Assyria’s first attempt to capture Jerusalem.

De Hoff, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Sennacherib had three reasons for his attack on Judah’.

1. King Hezekiah had refused to pay tribute which had been customary since the days of his father Ahaz.

2. He had opened renegotiation with Babylon and Egypt attempting to form an alliance against Assyria.

3. He had helped the Philistines of Ekron in rebellion against their king who supported Assyria.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Lachish was a city in the south of the tribe of Judah and was southwest of Jerusalem, Joshua 10:23 / Joshua 15:39. It was situated on a plain, and was the seat of an ancient Canaanite king. It was rebuilt and fortified by Rehoboam, 2 Chronicles 11:9. It was in some respects a border town and was a defence against the incursions of the Philistines. It was therefore situated between Jerusalem and Egypt, and was in the direct way of Sennacherib in his going to Egypt, and on his return.’

Rabshakeh was sent to Jerusalem by Sennacherib, 2 Kings 18:17.

‘The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: “‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have counsel and might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But 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”? “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! How then can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? 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.’” Isaiah 36:4-10

These verses tell us of Rabshakeh’s message. Sennacherib sent Rabshakeh to taunt the Jews who were held up in Jerusalem and he calls upon Hezekiah to surrender. He tried to undermine the confidence of the Jews, in reference to their trust in Egypt.

He also tries to undermine their confidence by mocking the gods of the nations who had already been defeated by the Assyrians. In other words, he believed that the God of the Jews wouldn’t be able to deliver them because Hezekiah had banished them from the land.

The Assyrian officer wrongly interpreted Hezekiah’s reformation, 2 Chronicles 30:14, as being against Jehovah rather than purging God’s worship of idolatry. However, there was only one God in Israel, and Rabshakeh would witness the power of this God with the death of his army.

‘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.” But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” Isaiah 36:11-12

Here we read of the plea to Rabshakeh. Hezekiah’s committee urged the Assyrians to use a language not familiar to the common people, that is, Aramaic. We must note that the Assyrians spoke Aramean not Syrian.

Rabshakeh used the language of the common people because he was urging them to rebel against Hezekiah. He not only spoke in plain Hebrew but in vulgar terms in an effort to insult Hezekiah.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The purpose of Hezekiah’s envoys here is plain enough. They did not want the men on the wall to understand the arrogant intimidation in the terrible words of Rabshakeh and therefore they requested that the message be delivered in the Syrian language. Rabshakeh, fully aware of their purpose, addressed his next taunt to the men on the wall themselves, promising them that, when Sennacherib took over the siege of the city, they would be compelled to eat their own dung and drink their own urine! What a horrible and revolting promise!’

‘Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” Isaiah 36:13-20

Rabshakeh rants at Hezekiah before the people, he was urging the people to rebel against Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18:29.

Rabshakeh’s enticement to the people was to make an agreement. His plea was that they would enjoy food and drink, and then go into a land that was as their homeland.

Those who oppose God are always urging His children to compromise and make an agreement with evil men. The people now have a clear choice before them.

Rabshakeh blasphemes God by placing Him on the same level as the false gods. Since Assyria had taken all the cities of Judah, he reasoned that even Jerusalem would fall.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Sennacherib had defeated the gods of Hamath, Arpad and Sepharvaim, along with those of Samaria but it was not Sennacherib who had won those victories. They belonged to Shalmaneser or Sargon, or Tiglath-Pileser III.’

‘But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.” Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.’ Isaiah 36:21-22

Here, we read of the effect of Rabshakeh’s word. The people remained loyal to Hezekiah, who was supported by Isaiah.

Hezekiah’s trusted advisors came in great sorrow and with torn clothes to deliver the message to the king, 2 Samuel 3:21 / 1 Kings 21:27 / Ezra 9:3 / Job 1:20 / Job 2:12 / Jeremiah 36:24 / Matthew 26:65 / Acts 14:14.

Though the threats of Rabshakeh shook Eliakim, Shebna and Joah, they remained faithful to the words of Hezekiah and Isaiah.

Go To Isaiah 37