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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 36

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Sennacherib invadeth Judah. Rabshakeh, sent by Sennacherib, by blasphemous persuasions soliciteth the people to revolt: his words are told to Hezekiah.

Before Christ 714.

IN this and the three following chapters is contained the HISTORICAL part of the book of Isaiah, relating a memorable transaction, strongly confirmative of the divine mission of our prophet. So in Jeremiah, a history of an event is added to the prophesies which he had frequently delivered concerning it. See chap. 52: Some have thought that Isaiah wrote the prophesies in the former part of this book before the irruption of the Assyrian into Judaea, and the latter ones, from chap. 40: after it.

Verse 1

Isaiah 36:1. Now it came to pass This famous expedition happened in the year of the world 4001, seven hundred and thirteen years before Christ. Concerning Sennacherib, see Univ. Hist. vol. 2: p. 79 vol. iv. 162, &c. All the defenced cities, must mean all those which were in the way; for it is plain that he had not taken all. See chap. Isa 37:8 and the Note.

Verse 2

Isaiah 36:2. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh The prophet omits what is related in 2 Kings 18:14-16, that Hezekiah sent ambassadors to Sennacherib at Lachish. What is here related probably happened after Sennacherib returned from his Egyptian expedition. See Joseph. Antiq. book 10: chap. 1: Rabshakeh is thought to have been a name of office, signifying the principal cup-bearer, as Tartan and Rabsaris mentioned in 2Ki 18:17 signify the president of the council and the chief eunuch.

Verse 5

Isaiah 36:5. I say, &c.— Thou hast said, (but they are vain words,) I have counsel and strength sufficient for the war. Lowth.

Verse 6

Isaiah 36:6. Lo, thou trusteth in the staff of this broken reed This comparison is excellently adapted to denote an ally, who is not only weak and unable to help, but also dangerous to those who rely upon him for succour; and his representing the power of Egypt to be as brittle as the reeds growing upon the banks of the Nile, (for to these doubtless the Syrian orator alludes) is a great beauty in the similitude. See Ezekiel 29:6.

Verse 7

Isaiah 36:7. But if thou say, &c.— It appears from this passage, what deep root idolatry had taken in the time of Ahaz, when Hezekiah, the great reformer of religion, seemed to have instituted a new one in the eyes of foreigners and strangers. Before this altar, means before the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem. See 2 Kings 18:22.

Verse 10

Isaiah 36:10. And am I now come up without the Lord It is plain from the seventh verse, that Rabshakeh, by the Lord, meant that god whom himself or his master the king of Assyria adored, and not the Jehovah of the Jews; he boasts therefore that he did not come without the permission of this god: His prophets and diviners, most likely, had informed him that his expedition should be successful; for the heathens, we know, were used to consult their priests and augurs on these occasions. He urges therefore, that it was in vain for the Jews to trust in the Lord, when that Lord himself had sent him against them. There are some, however, who think that he had heard and known of Isaiah's prophesies, (see chap. Isa 8:7 Isaiah 10:5-6.) and that he alludes to them in these words.

Verse 12

Isaiah 36:12. But Rabshakeh said, &c.— This verse would be clearer, if read thus, Hath thy master sent me to my master and to thee [only] to speak these words? Hath he not sent me also to the men who sit upon the wall, &c. The meaning is, that they may be reduced to such extremity by a close and long siege, as to be obliged to surrender the city. Nothing can be more strongly marked than the insolence of Rabshakeh throughout this whole conference. Observe particularly the next verse.

Verse 16

Isaiah 36:16. Make an agreement with me. Make peace with me. Vitringa. The full meaning of the next phrase, come out to me, is, rejoice in your liberty. He invites the people, now shut up through fear within the walls of Jerusalem, to make a treaty of peace with him, and thus to enjoy their liberty without fear or danger.

Verse 17

Isaiah 36:17. And of corn and wine, &c.— It is added in 2 Kings 18:32 a land of oil-olive and of honey. It is still usual among the Arabs to dip their bread in oil of olives. Maillet tells us, that the poor people of Egypt use, out of necessity, a sort of oil drawn from a plant called cirica, and that the Jews, through sparingness, make use of it in the preparation of many of their meats; which must make, he observes, a detestable cookery. Rabshakeh seems to refer to these kinds of oil. See Observations, p. 138.

Verses 18-20

Isaiah 36:18-20. Beware, lest Hezekiah persuade Let not Hezekiah seduce you with words of this kind. Vitringa. Agreeably to the opinion of all the Pagan nations, Rabshakeh considers and speaks of Jehovah as the tutelary deity of the Jews: Now, as their tutelary deities had not delivered the cities and nations here mentioned, the Assyrian with a blasphemous insolence infers, that the God of Israel could not deliver Jerusalem out of his hands. See chap. Isaiah 10:9, &c. and Hezekiah's fine answer to this reproach in the 18th and 19th verses of the next chapter.

Verse 22

Isaiah 36:22. With their clothes rent In token of their grief and astonishment, both for the blasphemy of Rabshakeh, and on account of their dread of the approaching calamity. It was usual not only in cases of grief, but also of blasphemy, to rend the clothes: a custom doubtless of great antiquity, and very suitable to the reverence due to the divine Majesty. See Mat 26:65 and Vitringa.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, As this transaction has been treated of at large, 2 Kings 18:0; 2 Kings 19:0; 2 Kings 19:0 and 2 Chronicles 32 a few remarks will here suffice; and we may observe, [1.] How apt success is to intoxicate, and prosperity to puff men up with pride. Because the other defenced cities were taken, Rabshakeh already regards Jerusalem as a prey. [2.] When, like Hezekiah, we are found in the zealous discharge of our duty, and perhaps hoping for singular blessings from God, we may meet with the severest conflicts and discouragements, for the exercise of our faith, the brightening of our graces, and the increase of our glory. [3.] The people of God may expect sometimes the threats, sometimes the mockery of men, to intimidate and discourage them from following the good ways of the Lord; but let their hearts stand fast, and trust still on him. [4.] Many, like Rabshakeh, pretend to have the Lord's commission, who will be found to have a lie in their right hand.

2nd, With civil entreaty the persons appointed by Hezekiah for the conference with Rabshakeh, beg the favour of him to speak to them in the Syriac tongue, as his discourse had an evident bad tendency to discourage those who were within hearing: to which he makes a reply as indecent as insolent; and, addressing his speech, in the Jews' language, to the people on the wall, with blasphemous reflections on Israel's God, endeavours to spread a spirit of mutiny among them. But they are forbidden to reply; and, shocked at the blasphemy, or grieved at their distress, the messengers return unto the king, and report the words of this impious Assyrian. Note; (1.) Insolent language betrays a base spirit. (2.) The devil, like Rabshakeh, would insinuate, that it is our advantage to serve him; but his fair promises are foul lies. (3.) Silence is often the most proper answer to railing accusations. (4.) It were folly to attempt replying to those who are as unreasonable as they are wicked. (5.) It is a grief to the gracious soul, to hear the name of God dishonoured.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 36". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/isaiah-36.html. 1801-1803.
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