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Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem


In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 2The king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army. He stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. 3And there came out to him Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder.

4 The Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? 5Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? 6See, you are relying on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 7But if you say to me, ‘We rely on the L ord our God,’ is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar’? 8Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 9How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 10Moreover, is it without the L ord that I have come up against this land to destroy it? The L ord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.”

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.” 12But the Rabshakeh said, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”

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! 14Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. 15Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the L ord by saying, The L ord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ 16Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 17until 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. 18Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The L ord will save us. Has any of the gods of the nations saved their land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20Who among all the gods of these countries have saved their countries out of my hand, that the L ord should save Jerusalem out of my hand?’ ”

21 But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.” 22Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

6. Behold, thou hast trusted in, that broken staff of reed. This is probably separate from the former verse; for, having formerly said that the eloquence by which he flatters the people is all that Hezekiah possesses, and having inferred from this that his confidence is exceedingly foolish, he now comes to other particulars. He employs every method for shaking the hearts of the people, that all, being stunned, may absolutely surrender. Accordingly, after having represented Hezekiah to be contemptible as to his internal resources, he next adds, that the external resources are idle and useless, and says that they are greatly mistaken in expecting any assistance whatever from the Egyptians.

And, first, he compares the Egyptians to “a staff of reed” on account of their weakness; secondly, for the sake of amplification he calls them “a broken staff;” thirdly, he says that it is so far from supporting that it pierces the hands that lean upon it. The meaning may be thus summed up, “the hope which the Jews entertain of receiving aid from the Egyptians is not only false and unfounded, but pernicious.” And indeed with truth might Rabshakeh have said this, if it had been true that Hezekiah relied on the Egyptians; but he slanderously and falsely accuses the pious king of this vain confidence Yet God justly rewarded a rebellious and disobedient people by allowing this filthy dog to reproach them with their wicked revolt. Isaiah had formerly (Isaiah 30:1, and 31:1, 6) condemned this crime in severe terms, but their deaf ears refused to admit the reproof; and therefore the Jews, who had wickedly despised a Prophet that spoke to them in the name of God, deserved to have Rabshakeh for their instructor.

We are therefore warned by this example, that there is no reason to wonder if unbelievers, who do not obey the counsel of God for their salvation, and reject all prophecies, are subjeered to the jeers of their enemies, as Rabshakeh, the captain of the Assyrian king, now haughtily taunts the rebellious Jews. Yet it is of importance to consider how great a difference there is between the warnings of God and the mockeries of Satan. When God wishes to dissuade us from sinful confidence in the flesh, he declares in general terms, “Cursed be he that trusteth in man,” (Jeremiah 17:5.) that the whole world may be reduced to nothing, and that thus we may be satisfied with himself alone; and therefore, when he has brought us low, he instantly imparts courage to us by holding out a remedy. But when Satan deceitfully blames any vain hope, he drives us to despair, and urges us to many other hopes equally bad or still worse, and tempts us to adopt unlawful methods; as Rabshakeh does not smite the hope which the Jews entertained from the Egyptians, in order that they may rely on God alone, but substitutes the king of Assyria, as if safety ought not to be expected from any other quarter, tie names Pharaoh, but likewise includes the whole nation.

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