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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.

18. Lest perhaps Hezekiah deceive you. This is another argument different from the former, by which he endeavors to withdraw the people from Hezekiah and from confidence in God. Formerly he boasted that he was God’s servant, and that God had sent him to destroy Judea, and on that ground he assured himself of certain victory; but now he openly insults God himself. At the first onset wicked men do not usually betray their scorn and impiety, but at length the Lord makes known their dispositions, and constrains them to discover the venom of their own heart. Now therefore the wicked Rabshakeh bursts forth with greater violence, and boasts that he will gain the victory over God himself.

Have any of the gods of the nations rescued their land? He speaks in the person of his master, that he had obtained great victories over many and powerful nations. They had their “gods,” by whose protection they thought that they were defended; and therefore Sennacherib thought that he had vanquished the “gods” themselves, because he had vanquished the nations which relied on their aid. The consequence is, that he breaks out into such insolence as not to hesitate to compare himself to the living God, and is impelled by such rage that he brings his own strength into conflict with the power of God.

Thus, although at first wicked men conceal their contempt of God, yet they afterwards shew that they claim everything for themselves, and that they are “without God.” 4444     “Et n’ont que faire de luy“ “And have nothing to do with him.” (Ephesians 2:12.) In words, indeed, they pretend to ascribe victories to their idols; but afterwards, as Habakkuk says, they

“sacrifice to their net, and offer incense to their drag.”
(Habakkuk 1:16.)

We see hypocrites do this also at the present day; for they run to do honor to their idols after having obtained a victory, but immediately afterwards boast of their plans, and wisdom, and courage, and military forces; which plainly shews that they ascribe to themselves and not to their idols all that has happened.

By such insolent boasting, therefore, he shewed that it was a lie, when he said that he acknowledged God to be the author of his victories. Besides, it was impossible that these words should not give dreadful agony to the heart of the good king, when he was informed that the promises of God were condemned as false, when that wicked man openly insuited God and linked their cause with idols. And these things are related, in order that we may behold the patience of the good king, and may resolve to imitate him when anything of the same kind shall take place.

Have they delivered? When he sets himself in opposition to all the gods, and declares that he is more powerful than they are, this is so much at variance with common sense, that it is abhorred even by wicked men themselves; yet if the Lord press hard upon them, if he put them to the torture, he speedily extorts from them such language. When they make a premeditated speech, they pretend that they are worshippers of God, but afterwards God constrains them to bring out and acknowledge what was lurking within. Let us therefore learn, that superstition is always accompanied by pride; so that they who do not know God, do not scruple to rise up against everything that is called God; and let us not be astonished at the rebellion and insolence of wicked men, for nothing but the pure knowledge of God can teach us humility. And yet that wicked man cannot be excused as if he justly reproached idols with their weakness and uselessness; for we ought to observe his sentiments and the purpose of his heart, since he does not ridicule the superstition and vain confidence of the nations, but in the idols themselves he pours contempt on the power of God. In like manner, when Dionysius the tyrant ridiculed his gods, he fought with God and defied him to a contest; for he attacked, in opposition to his conscience, such a deity as his mind could comprehend. The same observation might be made on all other infidels who treated with scorn false religions which they supposed to be from God.

Here we ought also to observe another kind of blasphemy, by which the majesty of God is wickedly dishonored; which is, that Rabshakeh confounds God with idols, and represents him to be one of the multitude. For what blasphemy is it to confound the immortal God and creator of all things with what is most detestable, to confound truth with falsehood, glory with shame, heaven with earth?

“The Lord is great,” says David, “and worthy of the highest praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are nothing; but the Lord made the heavens. Majesty and honor are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” —
(Psalm 96:4-6.)

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