A Priest, a Torah scribe and an historian go out to parley with the leader of a vast army carrying nothing more than some styli and parchment…
Chapters 36 -39 are an historical supplement to the prophecies of 1 – 35. Beginning at the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, these chapters record the literal fulfillment of many of the prophecies of the first 35 chapters and act as a link between the first and second prophetic themes.
The events of chapter 36 are also recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-37 with some minor additions and textual variations. This period of history is also discussed in 2 Chronicles 32:1-16. Each of these records illuminates the other.
It is impossible to know whether the Isaiah account predates the 2 Kings account. However, the prophet’s habit of inserting historical information into his proclamations (e.g. 7:1-6; 8:1-4; 20:1; 22:15) along with the style of Hebrew used and the references in Chronicles 26:22 and 32:32 to Isaiah’s historical and geographical activities, suggest that the present record (perhaps written by Asaph the recorder [v3]) is the original and or was recorded at the same time as the slightly more detailed 2 Kings account. Regardless, the multiple accounts only serve to affirm the historical accuracy of these events which are also attested to by ancient Assyrian records of the invasion of Judea in 701 BCE. Some will say that because the 2 Kings account is slightly more detailed that it must be the original, however, In the example of the repetitious accounts of Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 24:18-25:30, we have a proof that the text of a passage may be more faithfully preserved in a second location than it is in its original form. Therefore, as I stated previously, it is impossible to know without doubt which of the texts is the original.
One of the strongest themes of this chapter is the arrogance and ignorance of the Assyrian king. This is faced in stark contrast by the vulnerable and frightened religious leaders and the historian sent to parley with the Rav-Shakeih (Great Cupbearer). Verse 3 almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke “A Priest, a Torah scribe and an historian go out to parley with the leader of a vast army carrying nothing more than some styli and parchment…”
Isa 36:1 And it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH), that Sancheiriyv (Sennacherib: Sin (Moon god) send many brothers) king of Ashur (Assyria: a step) came up against all the fortified cities of Yehudah (Judah: praise), and took them.
2 Kings 18:13 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them.
2 Kings 18:14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended you; turn away from me: that which you have put on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
2 Kings 18:15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house.
2 Kings 18:16 At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
As mentioned in the introduction, Assyrian records detail the invasion of Judea in 701 BCE and the conquest of forty six cities but not Jerusalem.
It is no coincidence that these things began to happen in Hezekiah’s 14th year. 14 is 2 x 7 which is a number for completion. Thus, twice complete, the prophecies of the former chapters, being firmly established begin to manifest themselves literally before the eyes of all Israel.
Prior to the threats of Sennacherib via his messenger the Rav-Shakeih, we are blessed with the promise revealed in the meaning of Hezekiah’s name. “Chizki My strength Yahu He is YHVH Mercy”. Judah has sinned and is worthy of discipline, king Hezekiah, as we will soon see, is no perfect chassid (saint): however, Judah’s deliverance is not reliant on her righteousness but on the righteous strength of Hashem.
Against this Jewish king’s wonderful name we have Sancheiriyv, meaning “The moon god sends many brothers”. The Islamic world would do well to heed the warning inferred in this ancient narrative. Allah (feminine moon deity symbolized by the crescent moon) will send many brothers against Jerusalem (The Temple mount, Israel, the Jewish people) but the fate of those who despise the God of Israel and his people will be like that of the Assyrian Empire, they will cease to exist.
It is important to note that the additional events given in the 2 Kings account occurred prior to the events of verse 2. It is Hezekiah’s faithlessness toward God that precedes the encounter that follows. Hezekiah had clearly lacked trust in God and or disbelieved the prophecies of Isaiah to some degree until it was almost too late. By giving Sennacherib the silver from the Temple of God Hezekiah would have been seen to be symbolically submitting the God of Israel to the moon deity (and or other gods) of Assyria. By giving the treasures of his own house to Sennacherib he would have been seen to be symbolically submitting the kingship of Judah (and Israel) to Sennacherib, who boasted that he was the “Great King”. Hezekiah even went as far as removing the gold plating from the Temple doors and the pillars, gold that he himself had installed in an act of worship to God.
We have much to learn from Hezekiah’s actions. In many ways he was a devoted follower of Hashem but in many other ways he showed that he was prone to focus on temporal things and take his eyes off God’s eternal purposes. We are fools to take back those things that have previously been given over to God in worship and give them to the enemy of our faith. This happens when we take our eyes off eternal Mercy (HaShem) and instead submit our gaze to temporal fear. This is why Yochanan writes:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” -1 John 4:18
Isa 36:2 And the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step) sent Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) from Lachiysh (invincible: south of Jerusalem in the territory of Judah) to Yerushalayim (Flood of peace: Jerusalem) unto king Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper ha-bereichah pool (from barak: bless, kneel) by the highway near the field of choveis those who clean clothes by treading them down in water (a fuller).
2 Kings 18:17 And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan (General) and the Rab-saris (Great Eunich) and the Rab-shakeh (Great Cupbearer) from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
The 2 Kings account adds two officials to the Rab-shakeh’s visit. This creates a balance between parties and sets the scene more thoroughly in order to give a greater sense of the pride of Assyria and the vulnerability of Judah. The plurality of the Assyrian party is presupposed by Isaiah 37:6, 24.
We notice that among the representatives of Judah there is no general or men of arms of any kind. As is often the case throughout Jewish history we Jews turn up to war with our Torah and history in hand. It is no wonder then that we are called people of the Book by some. While we don’t necessarily prove the adage “the pen is mightier than the sword”, it is true to say that in the end we trust in the Word that the pen engraves and that along with David the righteous among us proclaim “My heart is stirred with a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.”
“Rav-shakeih” is a title rather than a proper noun. It translates literally as great drink giver or great irrigator, which is an idiomatic way of saying that this man is Sennacherib’s wine taster, his cup bearer, a man trusted to ensure that the king is not poisoned by a usurper or an enemy of the state. Thus Sennacherib puts his own words in the mouth of his most trusted subordinate. It is possible, due to his familiarity with the Hebrew language, that Rav-shakeih was an apostate Jew who was now in the service of Sennacherib.
“Lachish” is a city within the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:39) 12 hours walk south-west of Jerusalem. It’s known today by the tel (mound/hill) that adorns the landscape, thus Tel Lachish. It was the gateway city to the main trade route south toward Egypt and was thus an extremely important strategic location. Sennacherib was in the midst of besieging Lachish when he sent the Rav-shakeih to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:9).
The pool mentioned is obviously close to the city walls given the fact that those on the walls could hear Rav-sakeih’s message spoken in Hebrew. Ben Melekh describes the pool, conduit, and highway:
“the pool is a ditch, built with stone and lime, where rainwater was collected, or where they drew water from the fountain, and the waters were gathered into this pool; and there was in this pool a hole, which they stopped, until the time they pleased to fetch water, out of the pool: and the conduit was a ditch near to the pool, and they brought water out of the pool into the conduit, when they chose to drink, or wash garments: the highway was a way paved with stones, so that they could walk upon it in rainy days; and here they stood and washed their garments in the waters of the conduit, and in the field they spread them to the sun.”
Isa 36:3 Then came out toward him Eleyakiym (God raises, arises), son of Chilkiyahu (My portion, territory, is YHVH), which was over ha-bayt the house, and Shevna (vigour, tender youth) ha-sofeir the scribe, and Yoach (YHVH a brother), son of Asaph (gatherer), ha-mazekiyr the recorder (from zakar: remember).
2 Kings 18:18 And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
“Came out to him” means that they were sent out by Hezekiah. The Rav-Shakeih’s insolent words tell us that he would not have been above breaking protocol and calling the king of Judah out had he not been met promptly by Hezekiah’s officials.
It is interesting to note that the corresponding account in 2 Kings has a Deuteronomic tone, while the account in 2 Chronicles has a more historical sound. It is possible that Shevna was responsible for the 2 Kings account, being a scribe (Theological), while Yoach recorded the 2 Chronicle account in the historical style commonly employed by a recorder, chronicler, historian.
“Ha-Bayt” The House, is a title for the Temple. Thus, Eleyakiym was Priest of Hashem.
“Ha-Sofeir” The Scribe, is a title given to the chief scribe responsible for maintaining the accurate transmission of the Torah. Thus, Shevna was the keeper of the Torah.
“Ha-mazekiyr” The recorder, is a title given to the chronicler of historical events. Thus, Yoach was responsible for the accurate transmission of Israel’s history at the time of Hezekiah.
With the titles and roles of these three men in mind we’re able to see a certain prophetic continuity in their names:
· Eleyakiym, God raises up Mount Zion (The House, Har Bayt) above all other mountains (Micah 4:1).
· Shevna, vigorous and tender the Torah of the Lord goes out from Mount Zion (Micah 4:2).
· Yoach, Adonai a brother through Yeshua the King Messiah Immanuel [with us God](Hebrews 2:11; Luke 8:21), the living Word Who goes out from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).
Therefore, it isn’t against men that Rav-Shevna (On behalf of Sennacherib) of Assyria has come to speak but against The House of God, The Torah of HaShem, and the promised King Messiah of Israel.
Note also the names of the fathers of these men:
· Chilkiyahu, HaShem is my portion and territory, He secures His territory.
· Asaph, gatherer of Israel.
During this season (See the following chapters) Hezekiah chooses to humble himself and place his trust in God as his portion, hoping that God will secure the territory of Judah. In addition, those of the tribe of Judah who have fled their ransacked cities and towns are gathered together in Jerusalem so that Hashem might deliver them from Sennacherib.
Isa 36:4 And Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) said to them, “Say you now to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH), Thus says ha-gadol melek the great king, the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step), ‘What is ha-bitachon the trust ha-zeh the thing you’re batachta trusting?
2 Kings 18:19 And Rabshakeh said unto them, “Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this you trust in?”
A portion of the Rav-Sakeih’s address on behalf of Sennacherib is also recorded in 2 Chronicles 32:10-12.
In a very real sense king Sennacherib is speaking directly to the three emissaries of Hezekiah as a sort of antithesis to God’s speaking to Israel through His prophet Isaiah.
“Ha-gadol Melek” The great king, is another way of saying “King of kings”, a title for God (Psalm 95:3) and thus, blasphemous. “The great king” is the standing royal title attributed to the names of Sargon and Sennacherib upon the Assyrian monuments.
“The thing” Rav-shakeih is referring to is Egypt, who he later calls a “broken reed” (v.6).
The form of trust referred to is batach, meaning a continued choice.
Isa 36:5 I say, ach surely, with devar-sefatayim a word of binding language I have counselled ugevurah and strengthened for war: now on whom do you batachta trust, that you rebel against me?
2 Kings 18:20 “You say, (but they are vain words,) ‘I have counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do You trust, that you rebel against me?”
Kimchi suggests that the first section is intended to be understood as the mocked words of Hezekiah and the latter part Rav-shakeih’s commentary on them. In other words, Hezekiah says “But I’ve been strengthened by wise counsel and have prepared for war” and Rav-Shakeih mocks saying “Now on whom do you place your trust?”
2 Chronicles 32:3 tells us that Hezekiah had taken counsel from his princes and mighty men and had stopped up the water supplies that surrounded the city in preparation for the coming invasion.
Isa 36:6 Hinei Now, behold, pay attention, you batachta trust in the staff of this broken reed, on Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress); which if a man lean on it, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: this is what Pharaoh (great house) king of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress) does to all that trust in him.
2 Kings 18:21 “Now, behold, you trust upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust on him.”
It is worth reminding ourselves at this point that Lachish, from where Sennacherib’s emissary had come, was the key city in securing access to the main trading route between Judah and Egypt.
The reed is an appropriate figure for Egypt given the rich Nile delta and the prolific number of reeds and other water born vegetation. The Hebrew ratztutz does not mean bruised or fragile but broken. Egypt’s royal family had been literally broken by both the Ethiopians (Isaiah 18:1-7) and by Sargon (Isaiah 20:1-6).
Isa 36:7 But if you say to me, “We trust in Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) Eloheiynu our God”: is it not He, whose high places and whose altars Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) has turned aside, and said to Yehudah (Judah: praise) and to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Flood of peace), “lifnei before the face of ha-mizbeiach the altar, ha-zeh this one You will worship”?
2 Kings 18:22 “But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God’: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?’”
The wording of the 2 Kings account clarifies the fact that the altar that Judah is using is the altar of the Temple mount in Jerusalem by adding the simple phrase “in Jerusalem”.
“Ha-mizbeiach” The Altar, is a reference to the altar of HaShem on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Hezekiah had restricted the worship of HaShem to Jerusalem by removing the syncretistic and idolatrous altars elsewhere.
“He (Hezekiah) removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the occult groves, and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for in those days the children of Israel burned incense to it: and he called it Nechushtan (literally bronze thing from nachash: to practice divination).” -2 Kings 18:4
The Rav-shakeih’s words show his ignorance concerning HaShem and the true worship practices of Israel’s righteous ones. He mistakenly links the high places to the worship of HaShem as if HaShem were a local cult deity limited by His attachment to the land. In fact, Hezekiah had done well to tear down the high places and their heathen altars.
Hezekiah had even gone so far as to break into pieces the sacred relic of the staff and bronze snake which Moses had used as a call sign in the healing of the nation. Hezekiah did this in order to make a clear distinction between the worship of God (Israel’s healer) and the idolatry of worshipping a symbol used in His healing work. We too are deluded if we think idolatry is confined to the statues and beliefs of foreign religions. To place anyone or anything above God is idolatry.
Ironically, by reminding Hezekiah and his officials of their righteous action he was in fact directing them back into the arms of the only One who could truly save them from Sennacherib and his armies.
Isa 36:8 Now therefore come and make an exchange with adoniy my lord ha-melek the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step), and I will give you two thousand horses, if you’re able for your part to set riders on them.
2 Kings 18:23 “Now therefore, I plead with you, give a pledge to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver you two thousand horses, if you be able on your part to set riders upon them.”
This is no more than a taunt. Rav-shakeih knows that Judah doesn’t have the numbers of riders needed to man two thousand horses.
The “exchange” was the sending of Judeans to live among the Assyrians and become part of their empire, often meaning that they would become indentured servants, soldiers etc. This was common practice for both the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
Isa 36:9 How then will you turn away the face of even one commander of the least of adoniy my lord's servants, va-tivtach lecha and put your trust on Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress) for chariots and horsemen?
2 Kings 18:24 “How then will you turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put you trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?”
This verse is self-explanatory. Neither Egypt nor Judah had the numbers to man their respective horses and chariots. Therefore, trusting in chariots and horsemen was at best laughable and at worst futile. Both Hezekiah and Judah will do well to place their trust in Hashem instead:
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” -Psalm 20:7
Isa 36:10 And am I now come up without Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) against ha-aretz the land to destroy it? Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) said to me, “Go up against ha-aretz the land, and destroy it.”
2 Kings 18:25 “Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’”
While it is true that in a more general sense God did send Assyria against Israel and Judah in order to discipline His chosen people, it is not true that either Rav-shakeih or Sennacherib had any relationship with the God of Israel that might afford them a direct commandment from the mouth of HaShem. This is a blasphemous lie spoken without fear in the name of a God Who will make Himself fearfully known to the Assyrians in due course.
Isa 36:11 Then said Eleyakiym (God raises, arises) and Shevna (vigour, tender youth) and Yoach (YHVH a brother) to Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer), “Daber Speak, I plead with you, to your servants in Aramiyt Aramaic (the Assyrian language); for we understand it: and don’t speak to us Yehudiyt (in the Jews' language), in the ears (in the hearing) of the people that are on the wall.”
2 Kings 18:26 Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, “Speak, I beg you, to your servants in Aramaic; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.”
It is likely that Eleyakim spoke on behalf of the others seeing that he was the priest and was responding to what was effectively a blasphemous tirade.
The Lingua franca (trading language) of the day was Aramiyt. However, in order to cause panic among the people of Jerusalem Rav-shakeih was intentionally speaking Yehudiyt, another way of saying Ivriyt (Hebrew), the language of the Jews. This was what passed for psychological warfare at the turn of the sixth century BCE.
Isa 36:12 But Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) said, “Has adoniy my lord sent me to Adoneycha your Lord and to you to speak these words? Has he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own excrement, and drink their own piss with you?”
2 Kings 18:27 But the Rab-shakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to your master, and to you, to speak these words? has he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”
The graphic language concerning excrement and piss is both mocking and tactical. This idiom infers that the city will run out of food and water and become so desperate that the residents will eat their own excrement and drink their own urine.
Isa 36:13 Then Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) stood, and cried with a loud voice in Yehudiyt (the Jews' language), and said, “Hear you the words of ha-gadol melek the great king, the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step).
2 Kings 18:28 Then the Rab-shakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spoke, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:”
Rav-shakeih intends this as a blatant slight against the request of Eleyakim and the Jews. However, unbeknownst to him he has sealed the fate of Assyria with a blasphemous challenge to the Authority and Kingship of the One true King of the universe Hashem YHVH. Sennacherib is not simply claiming dominion over Israel, he is claiming all dominion. This has been the great mistake of all who throughout history have sought to destroy the Jewish people. They have neglected to pay attention to the fact that God has placed his Name on Israel (Yisra Overcome El in God). Over 360 times in the Tanakh God is referred to either directly or indirectly as El-Elohaiy-YisraEl, “God the God of Israel”.
Isa 36:14 Thus says the king, ‘Let not Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) deceive you: for he will not be able to deliver you.
2 Kings 18:29 “Thus says the king, ‘Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:’”
It is of course true that the man Hezekiah will not be able to save Judah. However, HaShem will deliver her.
Isa 36:15 Neither let Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) yabetach make you trust in Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), saying, ‘Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will surely deliver us: this city will not be delivered into the hand of the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step).’
2 Kings 18:30 “Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.’”
Hezekiah may well have been encouraging the people of Jerusalem with the words already spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“As birds afoot hovering (lighting upon), so will HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Goes warring) of hosts be upon Yerushalayim to defend and deliver her, pasakh He will pass over and affect her escape.” -Isaiah 31:5
Isa 36:16 Don’t listen to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH): for thus says the king of Ashur (Assyria), ‘Make an agreement with me by berachah a blessing, and come out to me: and eat you every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink you every one the waters of his own cistern;
2 Kings 18:31 “Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus says the king of Assyria, ‘Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat you every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:’”
While the p’shat plain meaning denotes a peace accord based on Judah’s surrender, there is a rather obvious remez (hint) in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew “berachah” is literally “blessing”. This means that the text can be understood to mean both agreement in a secular sense and blessing in the sense of spiritual approval. Thus Sennacherib is asking the Jews to make an agreement that denies both their ethnic and spiritual identities. The sad reality is that if Judah had accepted this proposal they would soon have discovered that many of them would not benefit in the ways promised.
The final clause may also infer an offer of protection from sexual defilement at the hands of the invading army. This due to the fact that drinking from one’s own cistern is a Hebrew euphemism for a man having sexual relations with his wife.
“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” -Proverbs 5:15
Isa 36:17 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread (food) and vineyards.
2 Kings 18:32 “Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that you may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuades you, saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’”
Rav-shakeih employs language similar to that of Deuteronomy 8:8, affirming the adage that “the Devil puts a little truth in every lie”.
Isa 36:18 lest Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) persuade you, saying, “Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will deliver us.” Have any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Ashur (Assyria)?
2 Kings 18:33 “Has any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?”
Once again Rav-shakeih and by proxy Sennacherib make the mistake of impugning the character of God, likening Him to the gods of other lands. The Assyrians might just have well cut their own throats.
“Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” -Exodus 15:11
“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.” -Exodus 18:11
“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.” –1 Chronicles 16:35
“And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods.” -2 Chronicles 2:5
Isa 36:19 Where are the gods of Chamat (Fortress) and Arphad (I will be supported)? where are the gods of Sepharvayim (Two booktowns)? and have they delivered Shomron (Samaria: watch mountain) out of my hand?
2 Kings 18:34 “Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?”
The 2 Kings account adds two cities to the list of places whose gods have failed to defeat the king of Assyria: Hena, meaning troubling, a city once located in what is now modern day Iraq; and Ivah, meaning ruin, another city conquered by the Assyrians which was located on the Euphrates river between Sepharvaim and Hena.
Isa 36:20 Who are there among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) could deliver Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Flood of peace) out of my hand?”
2 Kings 18:35 “Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?”
Rav-shakeih hammers the final nail into the Assyrian coffin, claiming in Sennacherib’s name that YHVH cannot deliver Judah out of the Assyrian’s hand.
Isa 36:21 vayachariyshu But they were ploughed, silent, speechless, and they didn’t answer a word: for the king's had commanded them, saying, “Don’t answer him.”
2 Kings 18:36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, “Answer him not.”
The officials’ obedience to Hezekiah’s instruction shows their righteous character. They have clearly been unsettled by the words of Rav-shakeih, however, they remain committed to the king of Judah and to their God. After all, not all in Judah had been guilty of idolatry, and during Hezekiah’s reign it follows that righteous men were given position in the priesthood and in the court of Hezekiah.
By keeping silent in the face of the blasphemous challenge of Sennacherib, the leaders of Judah left room for God’s answer to pervade.
“Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.” -Deuteronomy 32:35
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” -Romans 12:19
Isa 36:22 Then Eleyakiym (God raises, arises), son of Chilkiyahu (My portion, territory, is YHVH), which was over ha-bayt the house, and Shevna (vigour, tender youth) ha-sofeir the scribe, and Yoach (YHVH a brother), son of Asaph (gatherer), ha-mazekiyr the recorder (from zakar: remember), went to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) with their clothes torn, and told him the words of Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer).
2 Kings 18:37 Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
The tearing of garments was done only at times of great grief. It is also done as a sign of repentance along with the donning of sackcloth and throwing dust on ones’ self. The officials were obviously terrified by what they had heard and returned to Hezekiah looking like men who had just looked death in the face. This is the catalyst for Hezekiah’s response in the following chapter.
Copyright 2018 Yaakov Brown