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Eliakim’s request; Rabshakeh’s reaction. Isaiah 36:11-20

There now occurred an interruption in the blasphemous ranting of Rabshakeh that was caused by a request of Eliakim and his companions that he speaks to them in the Aramaic, seeing that they understood that language, and to refrain from speaking the Jewish tongue in the ears of the people on the wall, lest they be discouraged (vs. 11). 

On the wall.—Here Hezekiah’s troops would be standing on guard. Here a large number of people would assemble to see the ambassadors of the Assyrians and to hear their message. Hearing their request, Rabshakeh was sorely disappointed and provoked, as could be expected. He had hoped for a different reaction. It was plain that Eliakim and his companions were unmoved. But might it not be different with the people on the wall? They were particularly vulnerable, as he had just heard Eliakim intimate. So he resolved to turn his attention to them. Why shouldn’t he, seeing that, as he explained, his master had not sent him to speak to their master—meaning Hezekiah—but to the men that sat upon the wall that they might eat their own dung with them (vs. 12), meaning that, if they hastened not to surrender but continued to resist, they would soon be driven to that extremity by hunger. 

But the king of Assyria, as Rabshakeh had just admitted, had certainly meant his message for Hezekiah. But Rabshakeh was now decided to work on the people on the wall. Evidently his purpose was to strike a breach between them and their king. 

So bracing himself and crying with a loud voice in the Jewish language, he exhorts the people on the wall that they hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. His word to them is, that they must not allow Hezekiah to deceive them; for he shall not be able to deliver them. Neither must they allow Hezekiah to make them trust in the Lord, saying, Surely the Lord will deliver us: this city shall not be given into the hand of Assyria. They must not hearken to Hezekiah. If they do, they will be choosing disaster for themselves. How unspeakably foolish that would be, seeing that abundant life is theirs for the mere choosing. For let them consider what the king of Assyria is saying to them. His mandate to them is, that they make an agreement with him by a present, and come out unto him and eat every one of his vine and every one of his fig tree and drink every one the waters of his own well; until the king come and take them away to a land like their own, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards (vss. 13-17).

This was the policy with the Assyrians and later with the Chaldeans. They transported the natives to another district of the empire and put others in their place, purposing thereby to quiet the conquered peoples and to destroy in them the hope of regaining their land and freedom by revolution. 

Lest Hezekiah tempt them by his insistence that the Lord will deliver them, Rabshakeh asks them to consider whether any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? And have they delivered Samaria out of the hand of his king? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of his hand, that Jehovah should deliver Judah out of his hand (vss. 18-20)? 

The logic here seems to be flawless and must have so impressed the apostates on the wall. 

No god of all the nations has been able to deliver his land out of the hand of Assyria’s king. If all the other gods are that impotent, why not Israel’s God just as well? Why should He be the lone exception? Isn’t it sound reasoning to conclude that he can no more deliver “the city” than the other gods were able to deliver their lands out of the hand of his master, the king of Assyria? And this leads to the conclusion that his master is the God that doeth all his good pleasure and that, as compared with him, all the other gods, including Jehovah, are vanity. Sennacherib is the god. If they serve him, they shall eat the good of his earth; but if they be unwilling, they shall be devoured by hissword. For his mouth has spoken it. 

The apostates on the wall may say that this is good logic, a real scientific thought process. But it is not the truth. It is the lie. Jehovah, Israel’s God, is the one exception. He is God and none else. All other gods are vanity. 

The king of Assyria was dreaming the dream of the antichrist, whose type and forerunner he was—the Antichrist, that man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (II Thess. 11:4). 

As to Eliakim and his companions, they kept silence and answered Rabshakeh not a word. Such had been the instructions of Hezekiah. And with reason. Their silence told Rabshakeh, better than words could, that they despised his proposal and that his blasphemies grieved and horrified them. But should they not have pointed out to him his great sin? Then they would have been casting pearls before the swine. For Rabshakeh knew that he was blaspheming the true God. His people had been living too close to Israel for him not to know that. Through all the ages of the past the Lord had demonstrated through all His marvelous works that He is the God. The Lord will rebuke Rabshakeh and his master. 

Hezekiah laments; He implores Isaiah to pray for them and is comfortedIsaiah 36:22-37:7

Eliakim and his companions came to Hezekiah with clothes rent and reported to him the words of Rabshakeh (vs. 22). When he had heard, he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of God. Besides, he sent a delegation to Isaiah including Eliakim, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests. They came to the prophet covered with sackcloth (Isaiah 37:1, 2). 

And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, and of rebuke, and of derision: for the children are come to the birth—Hebrew; to the mouth of the matrix—but there is no strength to bring forth (.vs. 3). 

Day of distress.—they had reference to the hopelessness of the plight of the “city” from a human standpoint, and to their great anguish of soul that the contemplation of the plight caused them. 

It was a day of distress indeed. The whole land of Judah has now overrun with Assyrians and the city was surrounded with them. If the Lord did not step in to save the “city” by a wonder of His grace, they were lost, doomed to perish, like a woman in travail that, for want of strength, cannot bear, bring forth the child of her womb, is doomed to death. Such was now their lamentation, their confession and their plea before God. 

Of rebuke.—the great distress was the rebuke, i.e., it was a word of God to the effect that He was chastening them for their sins by, the Assyrian, the rod of His anger (10:6). 

Of derision.—The terrible blasphemies of Rabshakeh, the likes of which they had perhaps never before heard. As an expression of their grief and amazement they rent their garments. 

The children are come to the birth.—To discover how this metaphor is to be applied is not easy. The figure as such is plain. It is that of a woman in travail, who, for want of strength, all of which has been spent in her labors, cannot bear the child of her womb, though it is brought to the mouth of the matrix. Doubtless the matter signified is, that Jerusalem, like the woman in the figure, must perish, unless the Lord Himself, by a wonder of His grace, saved the city. This is a good explanation. It is true to fact. Jerusalem’s plight was hopeless. The Lord must act or the city is lost. 

But there may be more truth concealed in this figure. But for the present, we won’t explore it any further. 

We have yet to take notice of Hezekiah’s petition to the prophet, It reads, “It may be the Lord thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the Lord thy dad hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left (vs. 4). 

It may be.—As coming from the king this was not a form of speech by which he voiced doubt as to whether the Lord was actually willing to send deliverance. But he was humble and contrite. The conviction that he and his people had by their sins forfeited the Lord’s help was strong in him. Hence his, It may be

It grieved him that the Assyrian had reproached, scorned, and derided the living God. Loving God, he couldn’t stand it that such befouling of God’s name, that alone is glorious, go unrebuked. 

This did not mean that he cared little whether the Lord save him and the “city,” if only He rebuked the blasphemer. That was not his attitude. It could not be. For if he was to see God in the land of the living, sing praises to His name forever—and that was the desire of his heart—he and the “city” had to be saved. But rebuking the blasphemer was to save the “city,” so that in praying for the former the king was at once praying for the latter. 

Though the Lord already had promised to heal him and to save the city, he again asks, for he had need of being reassured, seeing that it was a day of distress and of rebuke. That blasphemer had since appeared upon the scene, and he had need of telling the Lord about whim. 

We must now attend to the Lord’s reply (vss. 6, 7). 

The Lord had the prophet tell Hezekiah that he must not be afraid of the words that he had heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria blasphemed him; that by a report that the king would hear, the Lord would cause him to resolve to return to his own land (Hebrew—put a spirit in him), where he would fall by the sword (vss. 6, 7).

To understand what is recorded in the verses that follow it must be born in mind that while Rabshakeh and the army under him was laying siege to Jerusalem, his master Sennacherib was warring against Lachish and later against Libnah a Canaanite city. What it meant is that at the time the king of Assyria had two armies in the field, one at Lachish and Libnah under his own direct command and another at Jerusalem under the command of Rabshakeh. 

It must have been while Sennacherib was occupied with the siege of Libnah, that he received a report—it may have been a mere rumor—that Tirhakeh the king of Ethiopia was on the march to do battle with him (vs. 9a). This was the fulfillment of the first part of the promise of deliverance, “And I will cause him to hear a report (or rumor).” For the text states, “So Rabshakeh returned” (vs. 8a), that is, under orders of Sennacherib, it must have been, he lifted the siege of Jerusalem and returned to his master with his whole army to help him against the new oncoming foe. He had heard that his master had departed from Lachish and was now warring against Libnah. Here is where he also found him (vs. 8b). 

Though the text of the Scriptures does not literally state that Rabshakeh returned with his army, yet this is plainly implied, it seems to me. First there was the promise to God’s distressed people that Sennacherib would hear a rumor (vs. 7a). Then we read, “So Rabshakeh returned (vs. 8a). Why did he return? The following verse (vs. 9) gives the answer. For he (Sennacherib) heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee.” This was the rumor that Sennacherib was to hear. The implication is certainly that it caused him to send word that Rabshakeh immediately lift the siege of Jerusalem and hasten to join his forces to those of his master for the impending war. Whether this war was actually fought is not known. The rumor may have been a false one. Yet it had served its purpose. 

So was Jerusalem now delivered. But might not Sennacherib return with his whole army when the Ethiopian menace had been removed? Such must have been his intention. But he also must have reasoned that he would not have to return at all to fight against Jerusalem, if only he could still make Hezekiah see that, in view of the hopelessness of his plight, voluntary surrender of the “city” was the only sensible course for him to pursue. If Hezekiah could only be persuaded. Sennacherib decided to make another attempt. 

So he assailed Hezekiah with another barrage of blasphemies. Ye sent messengers to tell him that he must not allow his God to deceive him by saying that Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hezekiah must have heard what the mighty kings of Assyria had done to all the lands by destroying them utterly; shall he be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them that his fathers in the throne destroyed, such as Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the children of Eden that were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath and the king of Arphad and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Iva. (vss. 10-13)? 

Having received and read the letter, Hezekiah took it with him into the house of the Lord, where he spread it before His face (vs. 14). 

It was a meaningful act expressive of the posture of his heart as this comes out in the prayer that he now utters (vss. 15-20). 

The petitioner sets out with acknowledging that the Lord of hosts, God of Israel, that dwells between the cherubim, is the God, even He alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. And the evidence?—He has made heaven and earth (vs. 16). 

This is his confession. Made under the constraint of a living faith in Christ’s God, it forms the foundation of the rest of his prayer. 

Let the Lord incline His ear and hear; let Him open His eyes and see all the words of Sennacherib that he has sent to reproach the living God (vs. 17). 

This is praise in the form of a request. It is thus a declaration of faith that the Lord does hear and see, He being the living God, and that He will surely rebuke all revilers of His name. And so the petitioner also wants it. Such is his request. For the love of God is in his heart. 

True it is that the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the lands and their countries, and have cast their gods into the fire. But this only proved that they were no gods, that they were the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. That is the reason for their having been destroyed (vss. 18, 19). 

But the Lord is not wood and stone. He is the God. 

Let Him therefore save them from Sennacherib’s hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that He is the Lord, He only (vs. 20). 

So does Hezekiah, under the impulse of God’s love in his heart, take God’s side over against Sennacherib and all the idols of the nations. The Lord therefore by the mouth of the prophet let him know immediately that He will save him and the city.