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36 After Hezekiah had been Judah’s king for 14 years, King Sennacherib of Assyria launched an attack against Judah’s fortified cities and conquered them. Sennacherib sent his right-hand man (whom they call the Rabshakeh) to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem along with an army to intimidate him. The Rabshakeh came from Lachish, formerly a great Judean city, and stationed himself along the highway that skirts the field where they launder the cloth, near the aqueduct for the upper pool. Three men from Hezekiah’s court came down from the palace to meet him there. They were Hilkiah’s son Eliakim, the palace administrator; Shebna, the royal secretary; and Asaph’s son Joah, the recorder.

The Rabshakeh told them to relay to Hezekiah these words of Sennacherib, the great king of Assyria.

Rabshakeh: How come you’re so sure of yourself? Your strategy and strength for war seem to be limited to diplomacy and empty words. Now that you have rebelled against me, who are you really relying on? Take a look! Are you really counting on the help of a crushed reed, Egypt, against me? Relying on Egypt is like leaning on a splintering stick that ends up jabbing you through the palm. That’s the way Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is to everyone who relies on him. Or maybe you’ll tell me, “We are putting our trust in the Eternal One our God.” Hah! I don’t think so. Don’t forget that Hezekiah went around destroying all His altars and wrecking His places of worship, insisting that Judah and Jerusalem must worship before the one altar in Jerusalem.

Hezekiah ascends to the throne as Judah’s king in 715 b.c. He may have served for a time as co-regent with his father Ahaz, so when the Assyrian army marches against him and issues its demands (apparently in 701 b.c.), Hezekiah has many years of experience. As a king of David’s royal line, Hezekiah’s reign is anchored to a promise God made to King David hundreds of years earlier. Indeed Judah enjoyed some success, but now all seems uncertain. Not long before Hezekiah takes the throne in Jerusalem, Israel, his northern neighbor, succumbs to invaders from Assyria. Now more than 20 years later, the Assyrians are moving against Jerusalem and her king. With bullying words and intimidating tactics, the Rabshakeh tries to force the Judean king to surrender Jerusalem and its citizens. Ironically—or perhaps providentially—the place where Isaiah met Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, with God’s message turns out to be near the place where the Rabshakeh now makes his demands upon Judah.

Come on now. Make a deal with my master, the king of Assyria: I’ll give you 2,000 horses if you can do your part and deliver the same number of riders. How can you repel even the weakest unit in my master’s army when you have to look to Egypt for chariots and drivers? 10 And just in case you think that I’m attacking you of my own volition, you should know that I am not. Your God, the Eternal, sent me. Your God said to me, “Rise up against that land (namely you Judeans), and destroy it.”

11 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah appealed to the Rabshakeh.

Hezekiah’s Men: Please speak to us, your servants, in a language we understand—Aramaic—not in Judah’s common language, so that the people on the wall who are trying to listen in can’t understand.

Rabshakeh: 12 My, my, my! Do you think that my king sent me here to speak only to your king and to you when those people stand just as much to lose as you? Don’t you think that these people along the wall should have a chance to hear our negotiations? After all, they’ll be reduced with you to eating their own feces and drinking their own urine.

13 So the Rabshakeh stood up and spoke even louder in the Judean language so all could hear and understand.

Rabshakeh: Hear the words of Great King Sennacherib, king of Assyria, dominator of the world!

14 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah’s lies. Your king won’t be able to save you. 15 Don’t let him convince you to trust the Eternal by saying, ‘The Eternal will surely save us; God will spare Jerusalem from the king of Assyria.’ 16 Don’t believe it for a minute.

My king, Sennacherib, says, “Make your peace with me. Don’t fight it, but come on out and join me. Then each of you will be able to enjoy your home and garden, eat your own grapes and figs, and drink the water from your own cistern 17 until I come and bring you back to my place. Oh, it’s like yours, to be sure. It has grain for bread and vineyards for new wine. 18 Be careful or Hezekiah will deceive you with his empty claim: ‘The Eternal One will surely save us.’ Look around. We’ve defeated everyone we’ve fought—every capital of every country. And did their gods save them? No. 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad, Sepharvaim, or even your sibling to the north, Samaria? 20 All of these are fallen—not a god in sight to save them. Do you really think you’re so different? Why should the Eternal save Jerusalem from me?”

21 To their credit, the people didn’t say anything. Hezekiah had commanded them not to answer the Rabshakeh, and indeed they just sat there silently. 22 Then the three men who had gone for Hezekiah—Hilkiah’s son Eliakim, the palace administrator; Shebna, the royal secretary; and Asaph’s son Joah, the recorder—returned to their king. In great distress, they tore their clothes and told him everything the Rabshakeh said.

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