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Sennacherib Invades Judah

36 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign,[a] King Sennacherib of Assyria marched up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. The king of Assyria sent his chief adviser[b] from Lachish to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, along with a large army. The chief adviser[c] stood at the conduit of the upper pool that is located on the road to the field where they wash and dry cloth.[d] Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace supervisor, accompanied by Shebna the scribe and Joah son of Asaph, the secretary, went out to meet him.

The chief adviser said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: ‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: “What is your source of confidence?[e] Your claim to have a strategy and military strength is just empty talk.[f] In whom are you trusting, that you would dare to rebel against me? Look, you must be trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed staff. If someone leans on it for support, it punctures his hand and wounds him. That is what Pharaoh king of Egypt does to all who trust in him! Perhaps you will tell me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God.’ But Hezekiah is the one who eliminated his high places and altars and then told the people of Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship at this altar.’ Now make a deal with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you 2,000 horses, provided you can find enough riders for them. Certainly you will not refuse one of my master’s minor officials and trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen.[g] 10 Furthermore it was by the command of the Lord that I marched up against this land to destroy it. The Lord told me, ‘March up against this land and destroy it!’”’”[h]

11 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the chief adviser, “Speak to your servants in Aramaic,[i] for we understand it. Don’t speak with us in the Judahite dialect[j] in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 12 But the chief adviser said, “My master did not send me to speak these words only to your master and to you.[k] His message is also for the men who sit on the wall, for they will eat their own excrement and drink their own urine along with you!”[l]

13 The chief adviser then stood there and called out loudly in the Judahite dialect,[m] “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria. 14 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you, for he is not able to rescue you! 15 Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” 16 Don’t listen to Hezekiah!’ For this is what the king of Assyria says, ‘Send me a token of your submission and surrender to me.[n] Then each of you may eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you to a land just like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18 Hezekiah is misleading you when he says, “The Lord will rescue us.” Have any of the gods of the nations rescued their lands from the power of the king of Assyria?[o] 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?[p] Indeed, did any gods rescue Samaria from my power?[q] 20 Who among all the gods of these lands have rescued their lands from my power? So how can the Lord rescue Jerusalem from my power?’”[r] 21 They were silent and did not respond, for the king had ordered, “Don’t respond to him.”

22 Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace supervisor, accompanied by Shebna the scribe and Joah son of Asaph, the secretary, went to Hezekiah with their clothes torn[s] and reported to him what the chief adviser had said.

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 36:1 tn The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
  2. Isaiah 36:2 sn For a discussion of this title see M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 229-30.
  3. Isaiah 36:2 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the chief adviser) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  4. Isaiah 36:2 tn Heb “the field of the washer”; traditionally “the fuller’s field” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).
  5. Isaiah 36:4 tn Heb “What is this object of trust in which you are trusting?”
  6. Isaiah 36:5 tn Heb “you say only a word of lips, counsel and might for battle.” Sennacherib’s message appears to be in broken Hebrew at this point. The phrase “word of lips” refers to mere or empty talk in Prov 14:23.
  7. Isaiah 36:9 tn Heb “How can you turn back the face of an official [from among] the least of my master’s servants and trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen?” In vv. 8-9 the chief adviser develops further the argument begun in v. 6. His reasoning seems to be as follows: “In your weakened condition you obviously need military strength. Agree to the king’s terms, and I will personally give you more horses than you are capable of outfitting. If I, a mere minor official, am capable of giving you such military might, just think what power the king has. There is no way the Egyptians can match our strength. It makes much better sense to deal with us.”
  8. Isaiah 36:10 sn In v. 10 the chief adviser develops further the argument begun in v. 7. He claims that Hezekiah has offended the Lord and that the Lord has commissioned Assyria as his instrument of discipline and judgment.
  9. Isaiah 36:11 sn Aramaic was the diplomatic language of the Assyrian empire.
  10. Isaiah 36:11 tn Or “in Hebrew” (NIV, NCV, NLT); NAB, NASB “in Judean.”
  11. Isaiah 36:12 tn Heb “To your master and to you did my master send me to speak these words?” The rhetorical question expects a negative answer.
  12. Isaiah 36:12 tn Heb “[Is it] not [also] to the men…?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Yes, it is.”sn The chief adviser alludes to the horrible reality of siege warfare, when the starving people in the besieged city would resort to eating and drinking anything to stay alive.
  13. Isaiah 36:13 tn The Hebrew text includes “and he said.”
  14. Isaiah 36:16 tn Heb “make with me a blessing and come out to me.”
  15. Isaiah 36:18 tn Heb “Have the gods of the nations rescued, each his land, from the hand of the king of Assyria?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course not!”
  16. Isaiah 36:19 tn The rhetorical questions suggest the answer, “Nowhere. They seem to have disappeared in the face of Assyria’s might.”
  17. Isaiah 36:19 tn Heb “that they rescued Samaria from my hand?” But this gives the impression that the gods of Sepharvaim were responsible for protecting Samaria, which is obviously not the case. The implied subject of the plural verb “rescued” must be the generic “gods of the nations/lands” (vv. 18, 20).
  18. Isaiah 36:20 tn Heb “that the Lord might rescue Jerusalem from my hand?” The logic runs as follows: Since no god has ever been able to withstand the Assyrian onslaught, how can the people of Jerusalem possibly think the Lord will rescue them?
  19. Isaiah 36:22 sn As a sign of grief and mourning.

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