Isaiah 36 has Sennacherib, who was king of Assyria, coming to Jerusalem and putting it under siege. He sends three of his thugs to talk with Hezekiah’s people about surrender. It becomes a war of words between the leaders with most of the trash talk coming from this guy names Rabshakeh. He was the apparent spokesperson, who was charged with getting Hezekiah to surrender. So Rabshakeh delivers the message that doom and gloom is coming if they don’t fold the tent and give in. And he challenges Hezekiah’s trust in God.
“Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me”? Rabs (we’ll call him that for short) is calling Hezekiah’s faith inadequate. He is challenging the truth of the past. He knows that will be the response from Hezekiah. He knows the history where God has been the foundation of His leadership and kingdom, but he is trying to break the people and their trust.
So he stands outside the wall talking to Hezekiah’s leaders and basically yells the challenge. The request had been made to hold the conversations quietly and in Aramaic, a language the leadership knew but that the people on the wall and behind it would not understand. No sense talking about the battle in front of the entire city. But Rabs defies that request and just goes on even louder. “Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice….do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us”.
Hezekiah had told his people this was coming, and their response should be silence. Can you imagine the scene? A powerful enemy outside the wall of your city threatening your future if you don’t do it their way and just roll over and let them have control. But Hezekiah had a past – one based on trusting the Lord and leading the people well. So “they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him”. How awesome is that. They are likely shaking in their boots talking to these powerful enemy leaders, but they remember what the king had told them. Be quiet, trust me as we trust God together. So Hezekiah’s team returns to the city with the message “with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh”. Overwhelming news. Next chapter we will see what Hezekiah does with it.