When we have a problem (when we are under attack – whether physically and/or spiritually), who do we listen to? When we are going through difficult times it is important that we seek wise counsel and G-dly perspective. We should not take counsel from individuals who do not represent truth, but who (consciously or unconsciously) align themselves with the enemy’s strategy.
In the next few chapters there is an emphasis on King Hezekiah – one of the kings of Judah. For the most part he was a G-dly king, but, unfortunately, he did not finish well. (For background to this chapter read 2 Kings 18:7, 13-37)
v1: Took them: This means that he took possession over them, he was in control of these cities. However, he did not take control of the city of Jerusalem.
v2: Rabshakeh: Probably the name of one of the Assyrian generals.
- Great: A vast or large army
- The upper pool: See Isaiah 7:3. Traditionally, the sages of Judaism say that this was where the people would go out and have their clothes washed.
v3: Eliakim: This name means ‘G-d will establish’ or ‘G-d rises’. His name has led some to believe that Eliakim was of priestly origin, and he was leading in the temple at this time.
- Household: There is a debate as to whether this is speaking of the temple or the king’s household.
- Recorder: Secretary. Probably the one who saw to all the business affairs and actions that took place in Jerusalem.
Note: These three men were clearly leaders in Judah at that time. One was possibly in charge of the priests, another was a Biblical expert and the third was possibly a leader in business and finance.
v4: Note: Rabshakeh was speaking to these three leaders in the name of the king of Assyria.
v5: In whom do you trust: The king of Assyria wants to know who Hezekiah is taking counsel from, who he is listening to. This Assyrian king cannot believe that Hezekiah would have the audacity to rebel against him.
Note: This conversation is taking place when Jerusalem was under siege – no food could go into the city, no garbage could go out of it. People were getting very hungry, and the city was full of rubbish. The situation in Jerusalem was dire, but Hezekiah was refusing to cave in to the demands of Assyria.
v6: Broken reed… go into his hand and pierce it: Rabshakeh is saying that Egypt is broken. He says that those who trust in Egypt will come to more harm than good. All the other countries who had trusted in Egypt had found themselves broken or defeated by the Assyrian army. Rabshakeh was making an assumption. He was assuming that Hezekiah was trusting in Egypt’s assistance, and he was saying that that was a foolish thing to do.
v7: Note: See 2 Kings 18:4-5. Hezekiah removed the high places of idolatry in Judah. Worshipping at these high places had been very gratifying to the flesh of the people who worshipped there. This kind of ‘worship’ was all about gratifying the flesh. Rabshakeh is reminding the people that they no longer have the pleasure that they were accustomed to as a result of their ungodly worship. He is also reminding the people that the lack of worship has now led them to a place of suffering (a siege) rather than to a place of blessing. Rabshakeh is trying to undermine the decisions that Hezekiah had made for the (spiritual) good of his people.
- (literally: Before this altar you cannot worship): Hezekiah said they could not worship their false gods on the high places, at these altars. He said they were only allowed to worship at the altar in Jerusalem.
v8: Note: Rabshakeh is trying to get the people to rebel against Hezekiah. He tries to bribe the people to come out of Jerusalem and submit to Assyria’s leadership.
- Give a pledge: A token, a guarantee, a sign of their submissiveness.
- Give you two thousand horses: If they showed submission to Assyria then Rabshakeh promised to give them horses in order to strengthen their army.
- If you are able on your part to put riders on them: Rabshakeh is mocking them. He does not think they would even have 2000 fighting men left who would be able to ride on these horses. The siege has caused the people of Judah to lack food and to become weakened. Rabshakeh’s propaganda was very unsettling to the leadership, because people wanted a change. They were in a desperate situation. Often, desperate situations will cause people to make foolish and ungodly decisions.
v9: One captain: A small, almost insignificant, leader in Assyria. Judah were unable to go out and fight the Assyrian army that was laying siege to them. Isaiah calls it a great/vast army (Isaiah 36:2), but to the Assyrians it was just a small part of their whole army. If Judah could not fight this army, how could they expect to fight several more of Assyria’s army?
- Put your trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen: This was Assyria’s assumption – that Judah was trusting in the Egyptian army.
v10: Without the L-rd: Without any opposition. Rabshakeh says the L-rd G-d of Israel did nothing to stop the advance of the Assyrian army against Judah.
- The L-rd said to me: Rabshakeh is again mocking (and lying). He is asking the people of Judah how they can be so sure that the L-rd hadn’t brought this punishment upon them. Rabshakeh is saying the only way they can escape is through surrender and to acknowledge those whom the L-rd had sent to rule over them. These were false statements.
v11: Please speak to your servants in… Aramaic: These three leaders did not want the people of Judah thrown into confusion or to be unsettled by the words of this Assyrian leader.
v12: My master: The Assyrian King – Sennacherib.
- Your master: King Hezekiah.
- Eat and drink their own waste: This siege against Jerusalem was so bad that people were either eating and drinking human waste because of this dire situation, or this is what they were about to start doing.
v13: Called out with a loud voice in Hebrew: He paid no attention to what the three Jewish leaders had requested of him, and he called out to the people on the walls, in a loud voice, in the language that they understood what he was saying.
v14: Note: Rabshakeh is telling the people of Judah not to trust Hezekiah.
v15: Nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the L-rd: Rabshakeh thought that the words that Hezekiah was speaking about G-d (His salvation) were false words.
Note 1: Assyria was a very vast empire with a vast army (so much so that prophetically the antichrist is often paralleled to the king of Assyria, as to how he is going to rule over the world). Assyria conquered many nations and cities and, in comparison to these other nations, Judah was really small and should have been easily conquered.
Note 2: The king of Assyria was an ungodly idol worshiper. He hated the L-rd G-d of Israel, and he sent his army to Jerusalem to defeat it.
v16: Do not listen to Hezekiah: Rabshakeh was encouraging the people to not remain under Hezekiah’s leadership.
- Peace: An agreement.
- Every one of you eat from his own vine…: When people are starving, and their wives and kids are crying out from hunger and thirst this would have been a very tempting offer.
- Cistern: Well
v17: I: Referring to the king of Assyria himself.
- Take you away to a land like your own land: Assyria wanted to conquer Judah and take them away from the land of Israel, away from their holy city. With a very tempting offer, they wanted Judah to be lured into exile. Sennacherib was counting on the people of Judah to blaspheme G-d and surrender to a man rather than obey G-d.
v18: Persuade: Incite. Deceive
- Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria: This was a very true statement and is backed up historically. Wherever the king of Assyria went, he conquered. No one was able to defeat him. None of the Gentile nations had remained in their own lands, but all of them had been carried off once they had been defeated by Assyria.
v19: Hamath: A border town in the northern part of Israel – close to Syria.
Note: Israel/Ephraim (the 9 tribes and some from the tribe of Levi) were all captured and taken into exile by Assyria. The Northern kingdom had almost five times as many people as Judah. They were strong militarily and had formed strong alliances with other countries. They were wealthy and prosperous and had built up their military. They had many more soldiers than Judah, but they fell. Judah would have seen Israel fall and it would have made her extremely fearful that the same would happen to her at the hands of Assyria.
v20: Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their countries from my hand?: The answer: None of them.
v21: The king: Hezekiah
v22: The words of Rabshakeh: Propaganda is not new. Hezekiah heard this threat. What Assyria did to its enemies would have been frightening for the people. It would have been tempting for Hezekiah to have fallen into faithlessness at this stage – submitting to Sennacherib to preserve life, and enjoy, once again, the pleasures of life – food and drink. Hezekiah, however, remained faithful amid this great threat. It was under Hezekiah’s leadership that spiritual renewal took place in Judah. Assyria was never able to conquer Judah, and they experienced deliverance and victory over Assyria.