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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 36

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-22


Isaiah 36-39

These four chapters run parallel with 2 Kings 18:13 to 2 Kings 20:19. It is not hard to see why they are here. Chaps. 36 and 37 represent to us the contemporaneous fulfilment of the prophecies relating to Assyria. Chaps, 38 and 39 show how “from afar” (מרחוק) was begun the spinning of the first threads of that web of Babylonish complications that were at last so fatal. There is good internal ground for putting side by side these two retrospective and prospective histories, which Delitzsch aptly compares to the head of Janus. It is, moreover, natural that the retrospective should come before the prospective piece. But researches among the Assyrian monuments have established beyond doubt that the overthrow of Sennacherib did not occur in the fourteenth, but in the twenty-eighth year of Hezekiah; therefore not in 714 B. C., but in 700 B.C.

According to the annals and according to the Canon of Ptolemy, Sargon ascended also the throne of Babylon in 709 B. C. (see on Isaiah 38:1). For the latter calls the year 709 the first of Ἀρκέανος, i.e., Sargon, Therefore Sennacherib cannot possibly have reigned as early as 714. The lists of regencies (comp. Schrader, p. 331, 268 sqq.) say distinctly that Sennacherib, after the murder of his father on the 12th Ab (July) of the year 705, ascended the throne. Lenormant, as learned as he is positive in his opinions (Les prem. civilis, 2. p. 237) says: “In fact the attack of Sennacherib on the kingdom of Judah is fixed in a precise way at the third campaign of that king and at the year 700 B. C. by the text of the annals of his reign inscribed on a cylinder of baked earth possessed by the British Museum. It is said, in fact, that it precedes by one year the installation of Asurnadinzum as viceroy in Babylon, an event which, in the astronomical Canon of Ptolemy, is inscribed in 699. Consequently the expedition against Judah took place in the twenty-eighth and not in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah.” It appears not clearly made out whether Sennacherib’s expedition against Judah occurred in 701 or in 700. Lenormant says 700, but Schrader (l. c.) is still in doubt. The difference is unessential. It appears to be occasioned by different computations of the beginnings of the years. I will follow that of Lenormant.

Now while it appears that chaps. 36 and 37 relate the events of 700 B. C., or of the twenty-eighth year of Hezekiah’s reign, it is equally certain chaps 38 and 39 relate the events of 714, or of the fourteenth year of Hezekiah. For according to Isaiah 38:5 (see comm. in loc.) the Lord prolongs Hezekiah’s life fifteen years. We know also from 2 Kings 21:1 (2 Chronicles 33:1) that Manasseh was twelve years old when he succeeded his father Hezekiah. From this results that he could only have been born after the seventeenth year of Hezekiah’s reign. In the fourteenth then he was not yet born. And this explains both the grief of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:3) and his great joy (Isaiah 38:19). But the following considerations show that Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery and the embassy from Babylon did not occur before Sennacherib’s overthrow: 1) The treasury chambers, still full, in contrast with 2 Kings 18:14 sqq. (see Isaiah 39:2 and comm.). Had this been the spoil of an enemy, Hezekiah would have displayed it as such, and the Prophet (see comm. at Isaiah 39:6) would not have called it “that which thy fathers have laid up in store.” 2) The deliverance from Assyria is spoken of as in the future (Isaiah 38:6). 3) We do not find in Hezekiah’s psalm (Psalms 39:10 sqq.) the slightest reference to the miraculous deliverance spoken of in 36 and 37 which would be inexplicable if that glorious event were a thing of the past.

Accordingly it appears that chaps. 36–39 are not chronologically arranged, but according to their contents, as already explained. [On the misunderstandings to which this has led and the possible change of the captions, see Introduction, § § 3,4.] The important question arises: which of these records is the original one—this in Isaiah 36-39, or the parallel one in 2 Kings 18:13 to 2 Kings 20:19? It seems to me that no impartial reader can remain in doubt on this subject. The text of the Book of Kings is the older.

This appears probable from the fact that it is more comprehensive and stands in an historical book. For as certainly as prophecy needs history, so certainly it needs only such facts as verify its fulfilment. And the presumption is that this in Isaiah being the shorter, has been abbreviated for the ends of a prophetic book. Moreover it is better to think, if any alterations must be admitted, that they are of the nature of abbreviations, rather than arbitrary additions, which is the alternative, if the shorter text be regarded as the older. These probabilities become certainties when we view the difference in these passages in concreto. The differences on the part of Isaiah form two chief classes, abbreviations and corrections. Additions, i.e., where the text in Isaiah gives something more than the Book of Kings, there are none, except the psalm of thanksgiving, Isaiah 38:9-20. But this exception proves the rule. For it proves that the author of each book had in view his own object. Such a psalm suits better in a prophetic book to which song and prayer are kindred elements, than to historic annals. Moreover this psalm is so far important that it proves that, beside the two writings before us, there must have existed a third, that probably served as the source of both.

The abbreviations in Isaiah’s text are of two sorts. They are partly the omission of historical data that seemed unsuited to the aim of the prophetic book. To this sort belong Isaiah 36:1-2; Isaiah 37:36; Isaiah 38:4-7 (where the whole text is much contracted). And partly also they are omissions of rhetorical and grammatical redundancies. Such are Isaiah 36:2; Isaiah 36:6-7; Isaiah 36:11-14; Isaiah 36:17; Isaiah 37:4 (comp. Isaiah 36:17; Isaiah 39:2), 11, 21, 25; Isaiah 39:2. I will refer for the particulars to the following commentary. But here I will call special attention to a few passages. Can any one deny that the accumulation of predicates in 2 Kings 18:17 b ויעלו ויבאו ירושלים ויעלו ויבאו ויעמדו are contracted into one word in Isaiah 36:2, wherein, besides, יעמדו must become יעמדִ because Isaiah leaves out two of the three ambassadors? Or can it be denied that the picturesque, circumstantial וידבר ויאמר of Kings has been contracted to the simple ויאמר, Isaiah 36:13? Or must the editor of 2 Kings 18:29 have added the surprising מידו? Did not rather the editor of the Isaiah text leave that word out because it was superfluous for him and seemed harsh?

But still more common are the differences that are due to corrections. They are the following: Isaiah 36:5; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 36:10-11; Isaiah 36:13; Isaiah 36:15; Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 36:21; Isaiah 37:2; Isaiah 37:6; Isaiah 37:9; Isaiah 37:12-15; Isaiah 37:17-19; Isaiah 37:23-24; Isaiah 37:26-27; Isaiah 37:29-30; Isaiah 37:32; Isaiah 37:34-37; Isaiah 38:2-3; Isaiah 39:1-3; Isaiah 39:5-8. I will notice here the following: Isaiah 36:5 we have אָמַרְתִּי instead of אָמַרְתָּ. The latter—though at first sight strange—is undoubtedly correct (see comm.). Can המקום have come from הארץ (2 Kings 18:25 and Isaiah 36:10), or והחרישו 2 Kings 18:36, have come from ויחרישו, Isaiah 36:21? Is the ויחרישו of Isaiah 39:8 changed into הֲלֹא אִם 2 Kings 20:19? These few examples and the others that are commented on more at length in the exposition below seem to prove irrefragably that we have in 2 Kings a more original text. Delitzsch (in Drechsler’s Comm. ii. p. 151 sqq. and in his own Comm., p. 373) is certainly right in saying that our chapters were not composed by the author of the Book of Kings himself, or drawn from the annals of the kingdom. I agree perfectly with his explanation of the difference between annalistic and prophetic writing of history, and according to which he ascribes our chapters to a prophetic source. I also quite agree with him, that an account composed by Isaiah must essentially be that source. For he justly appeals to the fact that, according to 2 Chronicles 26:22, Isaiah wrote a history of king Uzziah, and elsewhere weaves historical accounts into his prophecies (7, 8, 20), and in them speaks of himself partly in the third person, as he does in 36–39 I moreover willingly admit that the mention of the locality Isaiah 36:2, on account of almost literal agreement, connects with Isaiah 7:3, in fact presupposes it. And finally I have no objection to the statement that the author of 2 Kings had Isaiah’s book before him, and that 2 Kings 16:5 compared with Isaiah 7:1, may be adduced as proof. I even add to this that the two passages now reviewed are proof of this. For the author of 2 Kings could have accepted for his book the arrangement according to the contents and contrary to the chronology, only on the ground of the book of prophecy that lay before him. But I must controvert the view that 2 Kings 18:13-30 is drawn from Isaiah 36-39 as its source. For reasons already given I think the text of 2 Kings the more original and better.

Isaiah may have written down an account of the remarkable events of which our chapters treat, a matter that is at least highly probable. From this source was first drawn what we have in 36–39. These chapters are so suitable and even necessary where they are, that we may refer the idea of them to the Prophet himself, and even admit that he directed his account to be adopted into his book of prophecy, not unaltered, but with a suitable transposition of events and abbreviation of the text. Both were done, but the latter not quite in the sense of the Prophet. The result was as described in the Introduction, § § 3, 4 (at the end). But we must not suppose the false dates of Isaiah 36:1; Isaiah 38:1; Isaiah 39:1 were put by this first editor. The author of the Book of Kings, too, who wrote in the exile (probably 562–536 B. C.) must have known the right relations of these chapters and the proper dates. For he had at the same time before him that historical account of the Prophet as his source, and reproduced it more perfectly and unaltered than his predecessors that had used it for the prophetic book. Possibly, while following the order of Isaiah, he may have retained the original dates of their common source. But in time, and for reasons easily conjectured, his text would experience the same alterations as to dates as did the parallel passages in Isaiah, and perhaps by the same hand. And if, in respect to chronological arrangement of the account, the Book of Kings differed from the prophetic book and agreed with their common original source, then it is probable that a later hand, perhaps the same that changed the dates in Isaiah, brought the Book of Kings in this respect into accord with the prophetic book.

Thus it is found, that the transposition of events in the prophetic book for material reasons has become the origin of that discrepancy between the Assyrian and Bible chronology of this historical epoch. We have seen in respect to the taking of Samaria that these two sources completely agree. Also for Manasseh’s time the agreement is satisfactory. Only for Hezekiah’s time there existed this fatal difference of fourteen years in reference to the all-important event of Sennacherib’s overthrow. This difference is seeming. It dissolves when we consider the misunderstandings occasioned by the transposition of the chapters.
So it can have been. I do not say that it must have been so. For in these ancient matters we will hardly be able ever to make out the exact course things have taken. Only that chap 36–39 are not derived from Isaiah in their present form, but have proceeded by alteration and abbreviation from the original account of Isaiah seems to me certain.1

Delitzsch, in proof of the authenticity of the present text of Isaiah, appeals to 2 Chronicles 32:32 : “in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, (and) in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.” He finds in this that “an historical account of Hezekiah out of the collection of Isaiah’s prophecies with the superscription חזון passed over into the “book of the kings of Judah and Israel.” I admit that the words of the Chronicler have this sense, which is favored by 2 Chronicles 20:34. But what is gained by that? Only that then, when the Chronicler wrote, the books of Isaiah and Kings were in existence, and that he supposed the text in Kings to be taken from Isaiah. He might have been moved to take this view by the recognized priority of Isaiah’s book, and by the conviction that Isaiah was certainly the author of the text contained in his book. But this view of the Chronicler does not weaken the fact that the text in 2 Kings is more original and purer than that in Isaiah.

It has been objected to the claim of originality for the text in 2 Kings, that 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30, although the original text, is still more corrupt than the parallel text, Jeremiah 52:0. This is in general true (see my comm. on Jeremiah 52:1). But there one sees that the text of 2 Kings, being the older and more disintegrated, is, on account of adverse experiences, less preserved. But the text of Isaiah 36-39, on the contrary, has not become worse in process of time and by unfavorable circumstances, but it is from its origin worse through the faulty epitomizing and unfortunate emendations of its author.

The division of the chapters is very simple. Embassies play a great part in them. Chapters 36 and 37 contain the conclusion of the relations between Israel and Assyria. This first part has six subdivisions. 1) The embassy of Sennacherib to Hezekiah, chap. 36. 2) The embassy of Hezekiah to Isaiah, Isaiah 37:1-7. Isaiah 37:3) The writing of Sennacherib to Hezekiah, Isaiah 37:8-13. Isaiah 37:4) Hezekiah’s prayer, Isaiah 37:14-20. Isaiah 37:5) Isaiah’s message to Hezekiah, Isaiah 37:21-35, Isaiah 37:6) The deliverance, Isaiah 37:36-38. The second part that paves the way for the relations to Babylon has three subdivisions: 1) Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery, chap. 38. (a. sickness, Isaiah 36:1-3; b. recovery, Isaiah 36:4-8; psalm of thanksgiving, Isaiah 36:9-20 [22]). 2) The Babylonian embassy, Isaiah 39:1-8.


Isaiah 36, 37


Isaiah 36:1-22

1Now 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. 2And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish unto 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. 3Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, which was over the house, and Shebna the23scribe, and Joah, Asaph’s son, the recorder.

4And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great 5king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou 4trustest? 5I say, sayest thou, (but they are but6 vain words) 7I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? 6Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this 8broken 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. 7But 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, 8Ye shall worship before this altar? Now therefore9 give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able 10on thy part to set riders upon them. 9How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, 11and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 10And 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.

11Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants 12in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us 13in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall. 12But 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?

13Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice iin the Jews’ language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. 14Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. 15Neither 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. 16Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, 1415Make 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; 17Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and 18wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah 16persuade you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out 19of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and 17have they delivered Samaria out of my 20hand? 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? 21But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s command ment was, saying, Answer him not. 22Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the 1ascribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.


Isaiah 36:2. The form חֵיל occurs only here and 2 Kings 18:17 as stat. absol. Yet comp. חֵל, which differs in meaning Isaiah 26:1.—כבד in the sense of “considerable for number,” comp. Numbers 20:20; 1 Kings 3:9; 1 Kings 10:2; 2 Kings 6:14.—יעמד, abbreviated compared with 2 Kings 18:17 b.; see introduction to this chapter. 2 Kings 18:18 begins with “And when they had called to the king,” which are wanting here in accordance with the tendency to abbreviate.

Isaiah 36:5. Instead of אמרתי 2 Kings has אָמַרְתָּ. I regard the latter as the correct reading, and that in Isaiah to be a correction, occasioned by not knowing that אך דבר שׂכּתים is parenthetical, and thus not understanding how Hezekiah could speak words that in the mouth of the Assyrian king could have good sense, but in Hezekiah’s none. According to the question Isaiah 36:4, “what confidence,” etc.? the contents of this confidence is set forth: “thou sayest namely: counsel and strength for war.” The words אך ד׳ שׁ׳ are parenthetical, and words of the Assyrian, by which he gives his opinion of the expression imputed to Hezekiah. This expression is put as an exclamation, thus as a clause without explicit predicate. This is a somewhat pathetic form of sentence. It reveals an intention of making Hezekiah’s words appear to be empty pathos, absurd boastfulness. If the entire first clause of verse 5 were to be construed as the utterance of the Assyrian, then the second clause must begin withכִּי instead of עתה. For then a reason would need to follow showing Hezekiah’s words to be empty boast. But if Isaiah 36:5 a contain in its chief clause Hezekiah’s words, then עתה is perfectly in place. For then by means of it Hezekiah is summoned to establish his (so-called) boast. Come, now! in what dost thou trust that thou rebellest against me?

Isaiah 36:6. עתה before הנה, and לך after בטחת are missing here for abbreviation’s sake.—אשׁר יסמך וגיis paratactic.

Isaiah 36:7. תאמר for תאמרון and the omission of בירושלים at the end of the verse are further marks of simplifying and abbreviating.

Isaiah 36:8. לְךָ after לתת evidently means “to thy advantage.” It is dat. commodi: meaning, “thou mayest use these horses for your advantage against me, in case you can mount them with riders.”

Isaiah 36:9. השיב כּנים elsewhere means “to turn away, refuse,” in reference to suppliants (comp. 1 Kings 2:16-17; 1 Kings 2:20). Only here is it used of turning away an attack. But comp. Isaiah 14:27.—כֶּחָה, which occurs first 1 Kings 10:15, of Solomon’s כּחות הארץ, i.e., governors of the land, has been since Benfey (Monatsnamen, p. 195), derived from the Sanscrit, from pakscha, socius, amicus. But Schrader (p. 88 sq.) places the Semitic origin of the word beyond doubt. He lays stress on its appearance in such ancient Hebrew documents, and maintains that this is proved by the Assyrian documents. “In Assyrian the word is used and modified like any other word of pure Semitic origin. From a singular pahat is formed a plural pahati; not less immediately from the root the abstract pihat = satrapy.” The word does not occouragain in Isaiah; but does in Jeremiah 51:23; Jeremiah 51:28; Jeremiah 51:57; Ezekiel 23:6; Ezekiel 23:23; Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2; Haggai 2:21; Malachi 1:8.—Preceding ותבטח there is no explicit verbal form on which the vav consecutive can support itself; but the Prophet connects it with the implied affirmation “thou canst thyself do nothing.”

Isaiah 36:10. 2 Kings 18:25 begins withoutוְ. The ועתה here is likely imitated from Isaiah 36:7-9. But Isaiah 36:10 is not parallel with what precedes. For the Assyrian here turns their weapons against them. Hence the reading in 2 Kings is the correct one. Moreover the first clause of Isaiah 36:10 has על־הארץ instead of על־המקום 2 Kings 18:25, which also appears to be a correction, occasioned either by the thought that Sennacherib did not come up merely against Jerusalem, or by the fact that הארץ stands also in the second clause, or both. That על is exchanged here for אל is of inferior significance (comp. Isaiah 39:9).

Isaiah 36:12. The consonants of the K’thibh, according to the view hitherto prevalent (comp. e.g., Fuerst in the Propylaea Masorœ, p.1366), are to be pointed חַרְאֵיהֶם (2 Kings 18:27 חֲרֵהֶם) which word implies a singular חֶרֶא. But Delitzsch points חֲרָאֵיהֶם or חֲרָיהֶם taking חֲרִי as the ground form, which is quite possible. The word occurs beside only 2 Kings 6:25, where perhaps simply חֲרִי יוֹנִים is to be read. The meaning is stercus, excrementum. For the Masorets the expression is indecent. Hence they substitute צוִאָתָם (from צֹאָה = יְצֹאָה exeuntia, comp. Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 28:8; Proverbs 30:12); as immediately afterwards for שֵׁיגֵיהֶם (from שַׁיִן Plur. שֵׁינִים, urina, only here and 2 Kings 18:27) they put מֵימֵי רַגְלֵּיהֶם.

Isaiah 36:11-12. The differences between the present readings and 2 Kings are inconsiderable. In verse 11 “son of Hilkiah” is omitted, אלינו before יהודיתinstead of עמנו (a correction because the latter seemed too familiar). In verse 12 אליהם is omitted before Rabshakeh; we have האל instead of העל before אדניך (in order to restore likeness of expression when there is likeness of meaning; 2 Kings however would avoid the many אֵל)חראיהם instead of חריהם (the א in Isaiah being intended likely to make the etymology more noticeable). Here then appears a tendency to abbreviate and correct.

Isaiah 36:13-14. נָשָׁא, unused in Kal, may be used in the Hiph., also in the direct causative sense, and hence may mean “to cause נֶשֶׁא, i.e., fraudem, deception,” which explains the construction (here and Jeremiah 29:8) with the dative, along with the construction with the accusative (Genesis 3:13; Jeremiah 37:9; 2 Kings 19:10, etc.).—In Isaiah 36:13 the נידבר of 2 Kings 18:28 omitted as superfluous: we have, דברי instead of דבר because they are many words. Isaiah 36:14 does not end as 2 Kings 18:29 with מידו, which is both abbreviation and removal of the harshness of combining “let not Hezekiah deceive,” which are the words of the king and “from his hand,” which are spoken by the ambassador.

Isaiah 36:15. העיר gives an easier construction than את־העיר2 Kings 18, though the latter is the correct reading. As to the third pers. fem. תנתן see 1 Samuel 30:6; 2 Samuel 13:2; Psalms 33:9; Lamentations 3:37. On יַבְטח comp. Jeremiah 28:15; Jeremiah 29:31.

Isaiah 36:16. אִכְלוּ וּשְׁתוּ are imperatives by attraction of those preceding and supply the place of Futures.

Isaiah 36:17-18. The end of the verse shows considerable abbreviation compared with 2 Kings 18:32, which see. Isaiah omits the description of the land of exile as superfluous, and also the repetition of the warning against Hezekiah.—כּן beginning Isaiah 36:18, (occasioned by the omission last mentioned), stands here independent of any foregoing verb, of which there are other examples (Job 36:18; Jeremiah 51:46).—הִסִית or הֵסִית properly means “stimulare, to incite, set on,” from which develops the meaning “seduce, deceive” (comp. Joshua 15:18; 1 Samuel 26:19; 2 Samuel 24:1).—The omission of חַצֵל found in the parallel of 2 Kings 18:33 is again a plain proof of abbreviation.

Isaiah 36:19. If the text of the second clause be correct (וְכִי here instead of the simple כִּי 2 Kings 18:34), the construction is bold and unusual. The subject of הצילו is wanting and must be supplied from what precedes. It might be, say: וְאַיֵה אלהי את־שׁמרון or ישׂראל?—Isaiah omits the words הֵנַע וְעִוָּה that appear in 2 Kings 18:34. These words are in both texts, Isaiah 37:13 and 2 Kings 19:13. Delitzsch supposes they are patched into 2 Kings from Isaiah 37:13. Tome it seems more probable that they were purposely omitted in our verse. For consider that Isaiah 37:10-13 Hezekiah is addressed. There it is said: “Let thy God not deceive thee; where is the king of Hamath,” etc.? Thus the sense there is: it will be no better for thee, king Hezekiah, than for the king of Hamath, etc. But Isaiah 36:14-20 the people are addressed: Let not Hezekiah deceive you by pointing you to Jehovah’s help. Where are the gods of Hamath, etc.? Readers that construed the words הנע ועוה as verbs (see on Isaiah 37:13) must have found it as improper to say: deos expulit et subvertit, as they found it proper to say: regem expulit et subvertit.

Isaiah 36:20. The plural הצילו does not conflict with מי, for this interrogative is found only in the singular: this singular may be taken as collective.—כִּי, after a question referring to the future, may be taken in the sense of ut; but fundamentally it means quod, and has a causal sense: Who has delivered? Are there any way gods (beside the Assyrian gods) that deliver? because (according to your opinion) Jehovah will deliver Jerusalem.—[“The parallel 2 Kings 18:35 omits these before lands; another exception to the general statement that the narrative of Isaiah is an abridgement.—J. A. A.].

Isaiah 36:21. ויחרישׁו instead of והחריֹשו העם of 2 Kings 18:36. Hezekiah had commanded his representatives to make no response. With that ויהרישׁו corresponds. The reading of 2 Kings is usually translated: “and they kept silence, the people,” עם being construed in apposition. Rather than this strange construction I think a more probable rendering is: “and they hushed the people.” חָרַשׁ means mutum esse, silere (Psalms 28:1; Psalms 35:22; Psalms 1:3, etc). Hiphil means first mutum reddere, ad silentium redigere aliquem. Yet it is true that it occurs seldom in this sense (Job 11:3). Usually Hiphil is direct causative=“mutitatem facere, to make silence, to be silent.” Here, “they made the people be silent” would imply that many of them wanted to reply to the words of Isaiah 36:12 sqq., but that Hezekiah’s messengers, even before Rabshakeh had finished, had commanded silence and themselves made no response. According to this the perfect וההרישׁו does not merely continue the recital, but states an accompanying circumstance that had already occurred before Rabshakeh had done speaking. But the reviser of Isaiah’s text was not acquainted with this meaning of the Perfect [!]. He thought the word meant only to continue the recital. Therefore he changed it to the Imperfect with Vav consec.

Isaiah 36:22. קרועי בגדים, the participle in the construct state retains the construction of its verb with the accusative; comp. 2 Samuel 13:31.


1. In the fourteenth year (after the sickness of) Hezekiah Sennacherib conquered all Judea excepting the capital. He sent Rabshakeh from Lacish with a considerable array to demand the surrender of the latter. Rabshakeh first seeks to convince the messengers of Hezekiah that they could rely neither on Egypt (Isaiah 36:6), nor on Jehovah (Isaiah 36:7), nor on their own might (Isaiah 36:8-9), especially as the king of Assyria had undertaken his expedition against Judea by Jehovah’s express commission (Isaiah 36:10). These words he had spoken in the dialect of Judea. Hezekiah’s messengers having requested him to speak in Aramaic (Isaiah 36:11), Rabshakeh answered that his mission was properly just to the dwellers of Jerusalem hearkening there on the city wall (Isaiah 36:12). Then he calls with a loud voice to them (Isaiah 36:13) not to let Hezekiah deceive them by any illusion about their own power, or about the aid of Jehovah (Isaiah 36:14-15). Let them rather give themselves up to the king of Assyria. He will for the present leave them in peaceful possession of their own (Isaiah 36:16), till He shall come for the purpose of deporting them to a good land like their own (Isaiah 36:17). They must the less expect help from Jehovah seeing no god had been able to protect his land from the power of Assyria (Isaiah 36:18-20). By Hezekiah’s command the messengers made no reply, but with rent garments, in token of dismay at what they heard, they conveyed the message to the king (Isaiah 36:21-22).

2. Now it came—took them.

Isaiah 36:1. According to the Assyrian monuments Sennacherib (Assyrian Sin-ahi-irib or Sin-ahi-ir-ba, i.e., Sin (=Luna) multiplicat fratres, Heb. אַחִים הִרְכָּה) became king in the year 705 B.C, on the 12th of the month Ab (Schrader, p. 331). He was the son and successor of Sargon, and reigned to the year 681. Sennacherib relates to us the events of his third campaign on two monuments with nearly identical inscriptions, viz.: an hexagonal clay cylinder, and the bulls at the portal of the palace at Kuyyundschik. Their contents is chiefly as follows. Sennacherib moved first against Phœnicia. King Eluläeus of Sidon fled to Cyprus. The Assyrians conquered all Phœnicia, and Sennacherib installed Etobal as king. The kings Menahem of Samaria (?), Etobal of Sidon, Abdilit of Arvad, Urniski of Byblos, Mitinti of Ashdod, Puduil of Amnion, Kamosnadab of Moab, Malikram of Edom, the whole of the kings of the westland (?) did homage and brought presents. But Zidka of Ascalon would not do homage. Hence he was expelled and another put in his place. Also the cities of his territory (?) Bet-Dagon, Joppa, Benebarak, Azur were conquered. The inhabitants of Ekron had imprisoned their king Padi, who held faithfully to the Assyrians, and “in the shadow of the night” had delivered him to Hezekiah. But the kings of Egypt and Meroe, as allies of the Palestinian opponents of Assyria, had led up a great army. In the vicinity of Altaku (Eltekeh Joshua 19:44; Joshua 21:23 in the territory of Dan, between Timnat and Ashdod) there was a battle. The Assyrians claimed the victory.

Thus it appears that what was undertaken against Judah formed merely an episode of this expedition. Sennacherib relates that he took forty-six of the fortified cities of Judah, and shut Hezekiah up in his capital “like a bird in its cage.” He then threw up fortifications against Jerusalem and caused the exit of the great gate to be broken through. The conquered cities he gave to Mitinti of Ashdod, Padi of Ekron, and Ismibil of Gaza. Thereupon Hezekiah was greatly alarmed and agreed to pay tribute, and by his messengers payed thirty (30) talents of gold and eight hundred (800) talents of silver. So far the Assyrian inscriptions.

One sees how accurately they agree with the Bible account, in our text and in 2 Kings 18:0. The Bible account says three hundred talents of silver (2 Kings 18:14). This difference is only apparent. For 800 Assyrian talents are exactly equal to 300 Palestinian (Schrader,l. c. p. 197, 25).

But with this agreement there is a considerable discrepancy in these two accounts in respect to chronology. Both accounts agree in giving the year 722 B.C, for the taking of Samaria by Sargon. But before and after this the statements diverge. According to the monuments Sennacherib became king only 705 B.C, while the Biblical account places this expedition which he himself calls his third in the year 714. This difference between the Assyrian and Biblical chronology is limited for the time after 722 to the date of expedition of Sennacherib against Palestine and Egypt. For, as Schrader (p. 300) expressly says, in respect to the time of Mannasseh both reckonings “agree satisfactorily:” [For the Author’s method of reconciling this discrepancy in date, see the general Introd. § 3, and the introduction to chapters 36–39]. The omission of three verses 2 Kings 18:14 sqq., relating to the payment of ransom show the designed abbreviation of this account.

3. And the king—the recorder.

Isaiah 36:2-3. Schrader (p. 199) remarks on Rabshakeh that there occurs no mention on the monuments of the chief cup-bearer, as a high dignitary and officer of state. But rab-sak is mentioned. That however is not the chief cup-bearer. For sak means chief, captain, collective chiefs. Therefore rab-sak is the chief of the captains (comp. rab sarisim, rab tabbachim), perhaps the chief of the general’s staff. Then the form רַבְשָׁקֵה is a Hebraizing occasioned by accordance of sound with מִשְׁקֶהGen 40:1 sqq. Chald. מַשְׁקֵי or שָׁקֵי which means pincerna, pocillator. The names Tartan and Rabsaris 2 Kings 18:17 are omitted here. Lacish, whence this detachment of troops came, is the modern Umm-Lâkhis, in the S. W., of Judea near the border of Philistia, on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. This was the extreme southern point to which Sennacherib penetrated at that time. On the approach of the Egyptian army he retired to Altaku (Eltekeh) that lay N. E. of Lacish. There is a bas-relief (Schrader, p. 170) with the inscription: “Sennacherib, the king of the nations, the king of the land of Assyria, sits on an exalted throne and receives the spoil of the city Lacish.”

And he stood,etc. The locality is described by exactly the same words that Isaiah 7:3 describe the place where Isaiah was to meet Ahaz. That now the Assyrians stand in such threatening attitude by the conduit of the upper pool is the fruit of Ahaz having so insolently rejected the promise given him at that time, and in the same place, and having preferred to call Assyria to his aid. We do not err, therefore, in understanding by this literal agreement of the naming of the place in both passages, that an intimation of the divine nemesis is intended. On Eliakim the chamberlain and Shebna the scribe see Isaiah 22:15; Isaiah 22:20 sqq. The סֹפֵר “scribe” appears as a state officer first under David, 2 Samuel 8:17, where he is distinguished from several other officers. He was the king’s secretary, who wrote all that the king’s service demanded. Thus his office would lead him to meddle with every branch of government, and we find him expressly mentioned in matters of finance (2 Kings 22:3 sqq.), and of war (2 Kings 25:19; Jeremiah 52:25). The מַזְכִּיר (LXX. ὑπομνηματογράφος, ἐπὶ τῶν ὑπομνημάτων, Vulg.,a commentariis), is certainly not the monitor (Thenius), but the one that was charged with recording the res gestas of the king, and of the kingdom, and preserving them for posterity (comp. 2Sa 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24; 2 Kings 4:3; 2 Chronicles 34:8). As is well-known, national archives are found not only among civilized but also among uncivilized people. Of Joah, Asaph’s son, nothing more is known. Both the names are Levitical, comp. 1 Chronicles 6:6; 1 Chronicles 29:12; 1 Chronicles 26:4. In 2 Chronicles 34:8 is mentioned a Joah son of Joahaz, who was recorder to king Josiah.

4. And Rabshakeh—destroy it.

Isaiah 36:4-10. On the Assyrian monuments the kings designate themselves, or are designated, “great king,” “mighty king,” “king of the nations.” The Assyrian seeks to prove to Hezekiah that his only recourse is to yield himself unconditionally to the great king. “That thou rebellest.” It may be asked: does this refer to the matter mentioned 2 Kings 18:7, or to that mentioned 2 Kings 18:14 sqq., viz.: the refusal to surrender the city in addition to the ransom? Both must be understood. For to the Assyrian, that refusal was only a symptom that the rebellious disposition was not sufficiently broken.

In showing further, how nugatory every thing was on which Hezekiah relied, he calls Egypt a bruised reed, that breaks when one rests on it and pierces the hand. This reproach was well founded. Isaiah himself says the same Isaiah 30:3; Isaiah 30:5; Isaiah 30:7 in other words. Ezekiel 29:6-7, employs this figure, amplifying it. In another sense and connection Isaiah uses the image of the bruised reed Isaiah 42:3, where רצוץ and ישׁבר used together show that the former word does not mean “broken” but “bruised.” What the Assyrian says Isaiah 36:6 is an undeniable truth. But he omits making it general as the prophets did. For what was true of Egypt was equally true of Assyria, and of any other world-power. They do no favor for nothing, but sell their aid so dear, that it becomes doubtful whether friend or foe harms the most. [The charge of relying on Egypt may be true, or it may be a malicious fabrication, or a shrewd guess from analogy.—J. A. Alexander.]

Isaiah 36:7. As proof that even Jehovah cannot be expected to help; the Assyrian appeals to the fact that Hezekiah has done away with all the high-places and altars of Jehovah, and has left remaining only a single spot for worship in Jerusalem. As is well-known Hezekiah did away with all high-places in Judea, even those that were monotheistic, consecrated to Jehovah (2 Kings 18:4, comp. J. G. Muller in Herz.R.-Encycl., VI. p. 176), and thus had stringently carried out the principle of the one, and only authorized central sanctuary. In 2 Chronicles 32:12 it reads “ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it,” instead of, as here, “ye shall worship before this altar.” The Assyrian, ignorant of the higher commandment that had prompted Hezekiah’s obedience, saw in this conduct a reduction, an arrest of Jehovah-worship. Less probable is the explanation that the Assyrian has in mind what is related 2 Kings 16:10-17, and has confounded Ahaz and Hezekiah. For such confusion is hardly credible. Isaiah 36:8. He next holds up to contempt Hezekiah’s own power. His derisive proposition intimates both the abundance of Assyria’s cavalry and war chariots (comp. Isaiah 5:28) and the weakness of Judah in this respect. עָרַב is “to pledge,” then “to pledge for others,” i.e., go security, and in fact in the double sense of a benefit to be done to a third party (e.g., עָרְבֵנִי38:14, אֶעֶרְבֶבּוּGen 43:9) or of a performance incumbent on a third party. But there is a pledging when two or more bind themselves to a performance in common, even when the pledging is not specifically made prominent or is silently presumed. Thus the word acquires the meaning, “to enter into, become one, to mix oneself in with.” Here the notion sponsio appears evident: pledge thyself, i.e., unite thyself by a mutual pledge with the king of Assyria. But as under the present circumstances the one party pledged himself to conditions he thinks impossible to the other, the pledging acquires the significance of a wager, in which sense also Clericus has taken the word.

Isaiah 36:9. Two inferences are drawn from the representation of Isaiah 36:8; the positive, that Hezekiah cannot hope to resist the least captain of Assyria, and the negative, that this personal inability explains how Judah must be leaning on Egypt. The relation of פחת אחד to what follows is not simple genitive of the subject (commander of the small servants, Knobel), but is a partitive genitive: of one captain from among the most inferior servants of my lord, i.e., who belongs to the most inferior servants of my lord. Isaiah 36:10. The Assyrian feigns to have received a commission direct from Jehovah to go against Judah and destroy it. That this was false appears from Isaiah 37:6; Isaiah 37:21 sqq., where the Lord Himself pronounces the words of the Assyrian blasphemous, and takes Judah in protection after a grand fashion. The Assyrian may possibly have heard something of Isaiah’s prophecies, who, he may have known, was then in Jerusalem, which prophecies treated of a subjection of Judah to Assyria (comp. Isaiah 7:17 sqq., Isaiah 10:5 sqq.). These and similar prophetic utterances may have afforded the occasion for this pretext. But no prophecy “go up against this land and destroy it,” nor anything like it exists in Isaiah, or any other Prophet.

5. Then said Eliakim—words of Rabshakeh.

Isaiah 36:11-22. Hezekiah’s messengers had so far hearkened in silence. But apprehensive of the effect of the words of Isaiah 36:10 on the people assembled on the wall, they beg the messenger of the Assyrian not to speak the Jewish tongue but to speak in Aramaic. The people might easily take this pretended mandate for reality. Had not the Lord Himself called Assyria “the rod of mine anger” (Isaiah 10:5)? Discouragement might arise from this among the people, and paralyze every effort at self-defense. יהודית means primarily the dialect of the tribe of Judah. It was thus spoken in Jerusalem and was the purest and best Hebrew. Rabshakeh spoke this dialect. A considerable time had elapsed since that fatal resort of Ahaz to Assyria spoken of in chap. 7, certainly more than twenty-five years. During this time the Assyrian rulers were in constant intercourse with Judah, and were properly attentive to Jewish affairs. This explains how there would be in their court persons that could speak the dialect of Judah. Besides the Assyrian and Hebrew languages were daughters of the same Semitic stem, and an Assyrian would find no great difficulty in learning Hebrew. See the Assyrian Grammars of Oppert 1859 and of Menant, 1868. Eliakim would not have called the dialect of the northern Israelites, Jewish had Rabshakeh spoken that. For at that time the name Judah had not become the national name as it did after the exile. At the latter period יהודית comprised all that was Hebrew, even what had perhaps attached itself to the tribe of Judah from the isolated elements of the other tribes (comp. Nehemiah 13:24). By ארמית Eliakim understood, not the mother-tongue of the Assyrian, but the Syro-Chaldaic-Aramaic, thus the language whose territory lay between that of the Hebrew and of the Assyrian and that was suited for mediating between them. According to Alex. Polyhistor. in Eusebius,Chron., arm. I. p. 43, Sennacherib erected a monument to himself with a Chaldaic inscription, and with the later Persian kings Aramaic seems to have been the government language for intercourse with the nations of western Asia (Ezra 4:7). Our passage shows that Aramaic would not be known to all people of Judah without study and of course.

Eliakim’s remonstrance only exposed a weak place, of which Rabshakeh immediately took advantage. He noticed, that his words were regarded as likely to produce an impression among the people prejudicial to Hezekiah’s intention, and at once he acts as if his mission were to the people, and not at all to Hezekiah, though Isaiah 36:4 and 2 Kings 18:18-19 show the contrary. He proceeds therefore to warn the people to save themselves from the dreadful fate that impended, and to beware of letting Hezekiah deceive them. In עמכם, “with you,” end of Isaiah 36:12, there is emphasis implying reproach for those addressed. The Assyrian means: those sitting on the wall will fare well with us (comp. “come out to me” Isaiah 36:16), but they will have to endure the dreadfulest distress with you. Isaiah 36:16-17. Rabshakeh makes definite proposals in the name of the king of Assyria, in opposition to the designs of Hezekiah against which he warns them. “Make with me a blessing,” i.e., an alliance of blessing, he says. ברכה is not merely the blessing itself, but also, by metonymy, either what the blessing involves (comp. Genesis 12:0:2והיה ברכה), or what the blessing produces (e.g., a rich gift 1 Samuel 25:27, etc.). Thus here the alliance, the treaty is called ברכה because, in the opinion of the Assyrian, it would be a source of blessing. The word occurs in this sense nowhere else. יצא with אל often occurs in the sense of deditio:1Sa 11:3; 1 Kings 20:31; Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 38:21. To eat his vine and his fig tree, and drink his waters (metonymic expressions, comp. on Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 5:18) is a figurative description of a peaceful and undisturbed existence (comp. Micah 4:4; 1 Kings 5:5). On Isaiah 36:17 Schrader remarks: “Such a recommendation of surrender to the Assyrian were even for an Assyrian a little maladroit.” I cannot see that. The fate that Rabshakeh proposed was relatively a mild one. Humanly speaking, there was no hope of deliverance. If the Assyrian would revenge the revolt of Hezekiah on the capital, who would hinder him? Even after a glorious defence, which was sure to be attended with much suffering, they must prepare for entire destruction attended with great cruelties. This or the proposition of Isaiah 36:16-17 were the alternatives to the Assyrian. It certainly never entered into his mind to treat them with sentimental mildness. “A land of bread and vineyards” is a more comprehensive expression than “a land of corn and wine.” For “bread” (see Isaiah 28:28) represents here every sort of vegetable that gives bread, and in vine-yards not only vines grow, but also other noble trees (comp. כרם זיתJdg 15:5).

Isaiah 36:18-20. Rabshakeh repeats the warning against illusive hopes of help from Jehovah, and would prove that they are illusive by appealing to facts that showed how the heathen gods had been unable to save their lands. The question where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad?etc., is not meant as denying the existence of these gods generally, but only to demonstrate their inability and unworthiness to let themselves be seen, i.e., to show themselves in a clear light. They are brought to shame and must hide themselves. On Hamath and Arpad see Isaiah 10:9. According to the Assyrian monuments (see Schrader, p. 152), Sargon, in the second year of his reign, therefore a year after the conquest of Samaria, conquered king Ilubid of Hamath, and took as the royal share of the spoils 200 chariots and 600 horsemen. From this is inferred that he transported most of the rest of the inhabitants. And in fact we read 2 Kings 17:24 that, among others, people from Hamath were transplanted in Samaria. Arpad, that is never named except with Hamath, does not appear in the inscriptions after Sargon (Schrader, p. 204). It likely shared therefore the fate of Hamath. Rabshakeh does not mean to enumerate here the conquests of Sennacherib. But he would remind the men of Judah of examples of transplanted nations well-known to them. By which Assyrian king it was done was unimportant. It was enough that Assyrian kings could do this. The words Isaiah 36:18-19, are, besides a fulfilment of the prophecy Isaiah 10:7-11.

Isaiah 36:21-22. Hezekiah’s prohibition of any reply was wise. A single incautious word might occasion great harm, as was in fact proved by Eliakim’s blundering interruption Isaiah 36:11. Every reply needed to be maturely considered. Those were serious and significant moments in which only he ought to speak who was qualified, and authorized to represent the entire nation.


[1][The reader versed in studies belonging to the general subject of Introduction will be reminded by the foregoing of the Urevangelium, the original Gospel, the fascination of German critics of the New Testament. Its foundation is conjecture, and nothing better than probability at best. Though one accumulate a mountain of such conjectural probabilities, they will no more sustain a fact or make a fact than a cloud will sustain a pebble or condense into a pebble. The same may be said of the Author’s original Isaiah history. On the general subject treated of in the foregoing, J. A. Alexander, in his introduction to chapter 36, says: “The simple, common-sense view of the matter is, that since the traditional position of these chapters among the writings of Isaiah corresponds exactly to the known fact of his having written a part of the history of Judah, the presumption in favor of his having written both the passages in question cannot be shaken by the mere possibility, or even intrinsic probability of other hypotheses, for which there is not the least external evidence.” And again on Isaiah 38:1 he says: “Why may we not suppose that the overthrow of Sennacherib occurred in the interval between Hezekiah’s sickness and the embassy from Merodach-baladan? It is altogether natural that the Prophet, after carrying the history of Sennacherib to its conclusion, should go back to complete that of Hezekiah also”—TR.]

[2]Or, secretary.

[3]the chancellor.


[5]I say it is mere lip work the counsel and strength for carrying on war.

[6]Heb. a word of lips.

[7]Or, but counsel and strength are for war.


[9]make a wager.

[10]for thee(i. e., for thy advantage).

[11]And trustest thou, etc.?

[12]in Aramaic.

[13]in Judaic.

[14]Or, seek my favor by a present.

[15]Heb. make with me a blessing.


[17](where were your gods) that delivered Samaria, etc.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 36". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/isaiah-36.html. 1857-84.
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