Isaiah 36-41 The Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah

From Isaiah 36-41

23 Isaiah kneelingThe Assyrian army has laid siege to Jerusalem. Before hostilities start a Rabshakeh calls out to the people to ridicule their faith. To get them to trust his king and not the LORD. Sometimes our trust in the LORD is attacked and ridiculed. How do you stand up against it. Who is our best example of someone who trusted the LORD?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Today’s chapter readings take us into Isaiah’s dealings with King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was generally a good king. In today’s passage Sennacherib king of Assyria has just taken all the smaller cities around Judah. Now he moves in to take Jerusalem.

In the past Judah relied on foreign nations to protect them and not the LORD. But in this instance the king and people are faithful to the LORD. Hezekiah has set a strong example for the people and encouraged them to trust in the LORD.

The Assyrian king Sennacherib has requested a meeting with a high ranking Assyrian military officer called a ‘Rabshakeh’ and some of Hezekiah’s men. Hezekiah sent two of officials and a recorder to discuss what will happen. The Rabshakeh threatens them (Isa 36.1-10).

11 Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh,

“Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.”

12 But the Rabshakeh said,

“Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?” (Is 36:11–12)

The Rabshakeh continues to speak in the language of Judah (Hebrew) because he wants to undermine the confidence of the people on the wall in the LORD and Hezekiah. These are the people who will be fighting in the likely event of battle. He wants to break their morale.

What issues in your life threaten to break your trust in the LORD?

When an army besieged a city they cut off the food and water sources. Sieges generally took a long time and so eventually the cities food and water ran out. When people were about to starve and die of thirst it was not uncommon that they would eat their own dung and drink their own urine. The Rabshakeh is saying its only a matter of time until this happens. He is very confident.

13 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah:

“Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria!

14 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you.

15 Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying,

“The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (Is 36:13–15)

Rabshakeh cries out for all to hear. Their beliefs are challenged. Their trust in Hezekiah and the LORD is threatened. Because each of them hear and understand his message, inside they all have to make a choice.

Either trust in the LORD for their salvation or trust their enemy.

In front of them lay a massive army (Isa 36.2). Certainly they knew fear.

16 Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria:

Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17 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. (Is 36:16–17)

Hezekiah’s words exhort them to listen and hear. These words strike to the core of Israel’s belief (Dt 6.4).

What words are central to your faith, your way of life?

Now the Rabshakeh has challenged them. ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me’. He promises to let them go to their own properties. There they could eat of their own vine and trees. There they could drink from their own cisterns. For a time. Because eventually he would take them to another land, a land like their own. Exile in Assyria.

18 Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.”

Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20 Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’ ” (Is 36:18–20)

The Rabshakeh claims Hezekiah has deceived them saying ‘the LORD will deliver us’. The Rabshakeh asks, ‘Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria’. Maybe not Assyria yet. But the LORD has indeed delivered Israel from enemies in the past. Egypt and foreign powers during the times of Judges and Samuel. Will he do it again? Note however the Rabshakeh seems to believe in many gods. He doubts them all including the LORD.

21 But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.”

22 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh. (Is 36:21–22)

The men remain silent. Thinking to themselves and obeying Hezekiah’s command.  Some men reported what he said to Hezekiah.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

When Hezekiah hears he also tears his own clothing. He enters the house of the LORD and prays. The LORD responds to Hezekiah’s prayer by sending a message through Isaiah.  Isaiah tells him the LORD will make the Assyrian king leave and in his home country he will be killed. That leaves the Rabshakeh and the army. He ridicules Judah and the LORD God again (Is 37.1-13).

Big mistake. Hezekiah prays to the LORD again for salvation and the LORD responds through Isaiah with a judgment on Assyria (Is 37.14-29).

The story of Hezekiah continues and he gets sick. Once again he prays to the LORD crying. He prays for healing and asks the LORD to remember his faithfulness. The LORD is gracious and says he will extend his life another 15 years giving him a sign to guarantee what he has promised. Hezekiah writes a public letter for all the people to see, thanking the LORD (Is 38.1-22).

Later on some envoys from Babylon visit Hezekiah and check on him since they heard he was sick. Hezekiah welcomes them in and shows him his treasure, armouries and warehouses. This was a mistake. They will return and tell their king who will later invade Judah. When Isaiah rebukes Hezekiah for his openness and gullibility, Hezekiah shows a pronounced lack of concern for his own people saying it will happen after he dies (Is 39.1-8).

The prediction will prove true after Hezekiah dies. Babylon, the very nation he showed all his treasure too will invade and plunder Jerusalem. They will send the people into exile. Hezekiah and the people trusted the LORD to deliver them initially, but later generations did not continue to do so.

Story of Jesus

Hezekiah and the men on the wall were called upon to remain strong in trusting the LORD. Sometimes we have to do the same as well. However I hope you won’t be surrounded like a hostile army like they were. Hezekiah was their main example of someone who put his trust in the LORD. Jesus is ours.

33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. (Mt 27:33–44)

The Rabshakeh ridiculed Hezekiah and the people standing on the wall. He ridiculed their trust in God. There will be times when Satan will accuse us and ridicule our faith. Do not give in. Remember Jesus trusted in the LORD to deliver him. Learn from him. He put his life in his Fathers hands for he knew he would die and rise again (cf. Mt 27.63).

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.