Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 36

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.

This and Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8, form the historical appendix closing the first division of Isaiah's proprecies, and were added to make the parts of these referring to Assyria more intelligible. So Isaiah 52:1-15 in Jeremiah: cf. 2 Kings 22:1-20. The section occurs almost word for word, 2 Kings 18:13; 2 Kings 18:17-20; 2 Kings 19:1-37. 2 Kings 18:14-16 (respecting the tribute of 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold imposed on Hezekiah by Sennacherib), however, is additional matter. Hezekiah's writing also is in Isaiah, not in Kings (Isaiah 38:9-20). We know from 2 Chronicles 32:32 that Isaiah wrote "the acts of Hezekiah." It is therefore probable, that his record here (Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8) was incorporated into the Book of Kings by its compiler. Sennacherib lived, according to Assyrian inscriptions, about twenty years after his invasion, and was succeeded by Esar-haddon; but, as Isaiah survived Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:32), the record of Sennacherib s death (Isaiah 37:38) is no objection to this section having come from Isaiah; 2 Chronicles 32:1-33 is probably an abstract drawn from Isaiah's account, as the chronicler himself implies (Isa. 36:32


Pul, the first of the Assyrian kings mentioned in Scripture, was probably the last of the old dynasty, (about 770 BC) A new dynasty began with Tiglath-pileser II. Shalmaneser II followed; then followed Sargon, a powerful satrap, who contrived to possess himself of supreme power and found a new dynasty (see note, Isaiah 20:1). That Sargon was an usurper appears from his avoiding all mention of his father in the deciphered inscriptions. Probably he took advantage of Shalmaneser's protracted absence in besieging Samaria (2 Kings 17:5) to effect a revolution and substitute himself as king. No attempt was made by Judah to throw off the Assyrian yoke during his vigorous reign. The accession of Sargon's son Sennacherib was thought by Hezekiah the opportune time to refuse the long-paid tribute; Egypt and Ethiopia, to secure an ally against Assyria on their Asiatic frontier, promised help; Isaiah, while opposed to submission to Assyria, advised reliance on Yahweh, and not on Egypt, but his voice was disregarded, and so Sennacherib invaded Judah 700 BC, in the third year of his reign, for the first time.

The reason alleged in the inscription is, because the Ekronites had sent their king, Padya, a prisoner to Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 18:8). He was the builder of the largest of the excavated palaces, that of Kouyunjik. It is his monument that yet remains at the mouth of the Nahr-el-Kelb, on the coast of Syria, side by side with an inscription of Rameses the Great recording conquests six centuries earlier. Hincks has deciphered his name in the inscriptions. In the third year of his reign (his accession was 702 years B.C., according to the canon of Ptolemy), these state that he overran Syria, took Sidon and other Phoenician cities, and then passed to Southwest Palestine, where he defeated the Egyptians and Ethiopians (cf. 2 Kings 18:21; 2 Kings 19:9). His subsequent retreat, after his host was destroyed by God, is of course suppressed in the inscriptions. But other particulars inscribed agree strikingly with the Bible: the capture of the "defensed cities of Judah," the devastation of the country and deportation of its inhabitants: the increased tribute imposed on Hezekiah-thirty talents of gold-this exact numher being given in both: the silver is set down in the inscriptions at 800 talents, in the Bible 300; the latter may have been the actual amount carried off, the larger sum may include the silver from the temple doors, pillars, etc. (2 Kings 18:16) (Layard).

The fine imposed was 800; but perhaps only 300 was paid. It was in 699 or 698 B.C. that Sennacherib made his second invasion of Palestine. The first invasion of Palestine falls into Hezekiah's 27th year, not his 14th, as stated here in Isaiah 36:1; because his reign extends from 726 BC to 697 BC A scribe may have conjecturally changed 27th into 14th, applying to Sennacherib's invasion what was true of Sargon's earlier invasion-namely, that it was in the 14th year of Hezekiah's (Isaiah 20:1-6). Then the section as to Hezekiah's sickness and addition of 15 years (Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8) must refer to the earlier period, Sargon's time, not Sennacherib's

(G. Rawlinson).

The fourteenth - the third of Sennacherib's reign. Hincks agrees with Rawlinson in making it the 26th or 27th year of Hezekiah. But the transposition of Hezekiah s sickness and the embassy from Babylon to a position in Sargon's time, eleven years before Sennacherib's invasion, seems to me forced, seeing that the events stand in the same order in 2 Kings 2:1-25 Chronicle, and Isaiah. Again, Isaiah's record of Sennacherib's death, which took place twenty years later than the invasion, accords with the view that Hezekiah survived the invasion 15 years, and not merely two, which would put Isaiah more than 18 years under Manasseh, which is very improbable. Scripture is at least as trustworthy a document of history as any pagan monument. In chronology numbers of course are more liable to suffer by transcription. The date of the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, as our Bible text stands, would be 713 BC Sennacherib's ultimate object was Egypt, Hezekiah's ally. Hence, he, with the great body of his army (2 Chronicles 32:9), advanced toward the Egyptian frontier, in South-west Palestine, and did not approach Jerusalem.

Sennacherib ... came up against all the defensed cities of Judah, and took them - 46, according to the inscriptions recently deciphered, and 200,000 prisoners.

Verse 2

And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.

Rabshakeh. In 2 Kings 18:17, Tartan and Rabsaris are joined with him. Rabashakeh was probably the chief leader; Rab is a title of authority, 'chief cupbearer.'

Lachish - a frontier town southwest of Jerusalem, in Judah; represented as a great fortified city in a hilly and fruitful country in the Kouyunjik bas-reliefs, now in the British museum; also, its name is found on a slab over a figure of Sennacherib on his throne. He took it at his first invasion, but apparently failed to take it and Libnah at the second expedition. From it he sent his messengers, and then the threatening letter to Hezekiah.

Upper pool - the side on which the Assyrians would approach Jerusalem coming from the southwest (note, Isaiah 7:3).

Verse 3

Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder.

Eliakim - successor to Shebna, who had been "over the household" - i:e., chief minister of the king: in Isaiah 22:15-20 this was foretold.

Scribe - secretary.

Recorder - literally, one who reminds; a remembrancer to keep the king informed on important facts, and to act as historiographer. In 2 Kings 18:18 the additional fact is given, that the Assyrian envoys "called to the king," in consequence of which Eliakim, etc., "came out to them."

Verse 4

And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?

Great king - the usual title of the Persian and Assyrian kings, as they had many subordinate princes or kings under them over provinces (Isaiah 10:8.)

Verse 5

I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?

Counsel - Egypt was famed for its wisdom.

Verse 6

Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.

Lo, thou trustest ... on Egypt. It was a similar alliance with So (i:e., Sabacho, or else Sevechus) the Ethiopian king of Egypt, which provoked the Assyrian to invade and destroy Israel, the northern kingdom, under Hoshea.

Verse 7

But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?

But if thou say to me ... The Assyrian mistakes Hezekiah's religious reforms, whereby he took away the high places (2 Kings 18:4), as directed against Yahweh. Some of the high places may have been dedicated to Yahweh, but worshipped under the form of an image, in violation of the Second Commandment. So the "brazen serpent" (broken in pieces by Hezekiah, and called Nehushtan, 'a piece of brass,' because it was worshipped by Israel), was originally set up by God's command. Hence, the Assyrian's allegation has a specious colour-You cannot look for help from Yahweh, for your king has 'taken away His altars.' The familiarity which Rabshakeh shows, not only with the Hebrew language, but also with the religious doings of Hezekiah, gives colour to the conjecture that he was an apostate Jew, like Shebna (Isaiah 22:1-25) and the "sinners in Zion," and "hypocrites" Isaiah 33:14).

To Jerusalem - (Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11; John 4:20).

Verse 8

Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.

Give pledges - a taunting challenge. Only give the guarantee that you can supply as many as 2,000 riders, and I will give thee 2,000 horses. But seeing that you have not even this small number (note Isaiah 2:7), how can you stand against the hosts of Assyrian cavalry? The Jews tried to supply their weakness in this 'arm' from Egypt (Isaiah 31:1).

Verse 9

How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?

Captain - a governor under a satrap-even he commands more horsemen than this.

Verse 10

And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.

Am I now come up without the Lord against this land? - a boastful inference from the past successes of Assyria, designed to influence the Jews to surrender-their own principles bound them to yield to Yahweh's will. He may have heard from partisans in Judah, and deserters, if he was not one himself, what Isaiah had will. He may have heard from partisans in Judah, and deserters, if he was not one himself, what Isaiah had foretold (Isaiah 10:5-6).

Verse 11

Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.

Speak ... in the Syrian language - rather, Aramean. The language spoken north and east of Palestine, and understood by the Assyrians as belonging to the same family of languages as their own, nearly akin to Hebrew also, though not intelligible to the multitude (cf. 2 Kings 5:5-7). Aram means a high land, and includes parts of Assyria as well as Syria.

Speak ... the Jews' language. The men of Judah, since the disruption of Israel, claimed the Hebrew as their own peculiarly, being now the only true representative of the whole Hebrew Twelve tribes.

In the ears of the people that (are) on the wall. The interview was within hearing distance of the city. The people crowded on the wall, curious to hear the Assyrian message. The Jewish rulers fear that it will terrify the people, and therefore beg Rabshakeh to speak Aramean.

Verse 12

But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?

Hath my master sent me to thy master ... ? - Is it to thy master and thee that I am sent? Nay, it is to the men on the wall, to let them know (so far am I from wishing them not to hear, as you would wish) that unless they surrender, they shall be reduces to the direst extremities of famine in the siege (2 Chronicles 32:11, explains the words here) - namely, to eat their own excrements; or, connecting, "that they may eat," etc., with "sit upon the wall;" who, as they hold the wall instead of surrendering, are knowingly exposing themselves to the direst extremities (Maurer). Isaiah, as a faithful historian, records the filthy and blasphemous language of the Assyrians, to mark aright the true character of the attack on Jerusalem.

Verse 13

Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.

Rabshakeh speaks louder and plainer than ever to the men on the wall.

Verse 14

Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.

The foes of God's people cannot succeed against them, unless they can shake their trust in Him (cf. Isaiah 36:10).

Verse 16

Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern;

Make (an agreement) with me (by) a present - `Make peace with me;' literally, blessing, Hebrew, berakah; so called from the mutual congratulations attending the ratification of peace. So the Chaldaic. Or else, 'Do homage to me' (Horsley).

Come out to me - surrender to me; then you may remain in quiet possession of our lands until my return from Egypt, when I will lead you away to a land fruitful as your own. Rabshakeh tries to soften, in the eyes of the Jews, the well-known Assyrian policy of weakening the vanquished by deporting them to other lands. Compare the Egyptian policy, Genesis 47:21, with the Assyrian, 2 Kings 17:6.

Verses 17-18

Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?

Hamath and Arphad - (note Isaiah 10:9.)

Sepharvaim - literally, the two scribes. The came as Sipphara, on the east of Euphrates, above Babylon, near the modern Mosaib. Berosus ('Fragm. Hist. Gr.,' 2: 501; 4: 280) mentions Sippara as the place where Xithrus (Noah) buried the records of the antediluvian world at the time of the deluge, whence his posterity afterward recovered them. The dual form refers to there being two Sipparas, one on either side of the river. The inscriptions call it Tsipar sha shamas, 'Sippara of the sun. 'Adrammelech and Anamelech, the gods of Sepharvaim' (2 Kings 17:31), answer to the male, or active and the female, or passive powers of the sun (G. Rawlinson). Colonists of Sepharvaim were planted in the land of Israel (thenceforth called Samaria) by the Assyrian conquerer (2 Kings 17:24: cf. 2 Kings 18:34).

Samaria. Shalmaneser began the siege against Hosea because of his conspiring with So of Egypt (2 Kings 17:4). Sargon finished it; and in his palace at Khorsabad has mentioned the number of israelites carried captive-27,280. How just the retribution in kind, that Israel, having chosen the gods of Hamath and Sepharvaim, should be sent to Hamath and Sepharvaim as their place of exile, and that the people of Hamath and Sepharvaim should be sent to the land of Israel to replace the Israelites! (Proverbs 1:31; Jeremiah 2:19.)

Verse 20

Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand? Who (are they) ... ? (Compare Isaiah 10:11; 2 Chronicles 32:19.) Here he virtually contradicts his own assertion (Isaiah 36:10), that he had 'come up against the land with the Lord.' Liars need good memories. He classes Yahweh with the idols of the other lands; nay, thinks Him inferior in proportion as Judah, under His tutelage, was less than the lands under the tutelage of the idols.

Verse 21

But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.

Answered him not a word - so as not to enter into a war of words with the blasphemer (Exodus 14:14; Jude 1:9).

Verse 22

Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that 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.

Clothes rent - in grief and horror at the blasphemy (Matthew 26:65).

Remarks: The godly do not escape their share of the trials which abound in this life of probation. Even good King Hezekiah, of whom it is testified that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done," was threatened with destruction by the overwhelming hosts of Sennacherib. Trust in Egypt was the great weakness of which the Jewish nation was guilty at that time. But there was also a godly party, of whom the king was the leader, and who trusted in Yahweh, Rabshakeh well said of the former trust, that Egypt was but a broken reed to lean on. But of trust in Yahweh he tried to rob the godly, through misrepresentation of the pious act of their king in removing the unlawful high places and altars to God, and in insisting on a return to the law, which commanded that all should worship before the altar at Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:7).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 36". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/isaiah-36.html. 1871-8.
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