Isaiah 36

The Word Made Fresh

1During the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. 2Then the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. He stood beside the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to Fuller’s Field. 3Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna, who was the secretary, and Joah, the recorder who was the son of Asaph, came out to meet him.

4The Rabshakeh said to them, “Give Hezekiah this message from the great king of Assyria: ‘On what do you base your confidence? 5Do you think that your words are sufficient to wage war? Now that you have rebelled against me, on whom do you depend? 6Egypt? Egypt’s staff is a bent reed which stabs the hand of whoever leans on it, and that includes anyone who relies on Pharaoh king of Egypt. 7If you tell me, ‘We are relying on the LORD our God,’ are you referring to the God whose altars and chapels Hezekiah removed, telling Israel and Judah, ‘You can worship only at this altar’? 8Okay; make a bet with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you two thousand horses if you have enough riders for them. 9How can you defend against a single captain, the least important one of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and riders? 10Besides, do you think I have come to destroy this land without the LORD? The LORD told me to go up against this land and defeat it.”

11Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah replied, “Please, speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Don’t speak to us in the language of Judah in the hearing of the people on the wall.”

12But the Rabshakeh replied, “Has my master sent me to speak only to you and your master and not to those sitting on the wall who are doomed with you to eat their own waste and drink their own urine?” 13Then he called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, “Hear the words of the great king of Assyria! 14He says, ‘Don’t let Hezekiah trick you. He’s not able to save you. 15Don’t let him say the LORD will certainly rescue you and this city will not be taken by the king of Assyria.’ 16Don’t listen to Hezekiah. The king of Assyria says, ‘Make peace with me and come out to me. Then all of you will eat from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern 17until I come and take you to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine and bread and vineyards. 18Don’t let Hezekiah trick you by telling you the LORD will save you. Have any of the gods of the nations saved their land from the king of Assyria? 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my grip? 20Which ones of all these gods have saved their countries from me. Why do you think the LORD will save Jerusalem from my hand?’”

21But they remained silent because the king had told them not to answer the Rabshakeh. 22Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the recorder, son of Asaph, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him what the Rabshakeh had said.


Chapters 36 and 37 tell the story of a failed Assyrian attempt to conquer Jerusalem. Here is repeated the tale told in 2 Kings 18:13-19:37 with some differences. Which account is based on the other is a matter of unresolved conjecture.

1-3: These verses repeat 2 Kings 18:13, 17-18 with one significant omission.

About five years after the fall of Samaria the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, invaded Judah and sent an army to the walls of Jerusalem. The Assyrian envoy summoned Hezekiah, who sent his own envoys — Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah – out to talk to them. Isaiah does not include verses 14-16 from the 2 Kings account that have Hezekiah capitulating and sending Sennacherib all the silver and gold from the temple and the royal treasure trove.

4-10: An almost word-for-word copy of 2 Kings 18:19-25. The Rabshakeh (chief of the princes of Assyria) speaks to them in Hebrew. He belittles their attempts to resist. He charges that they have made a worthless alliance with Egypt and even claims to have come at the behest of the LORD, the God of Israel.

11-12: Repeats 2 Kings 18:26-27 with few differences. They beg the Rabshakeh to negotiate in Aramaic, but he is interested in intimidating the people listening from the walls. After all, they need to know they are doomed, he says.

13-20: This repeats 2 Kings 18:28-35, with some minor omissions. The Rabshakeh now calls out to the people of Jerusalem, warning them not to let Hezekiah persuade them that they can somehow defeat Sennacherib. He invites them to surrender and says he will leave them in peace until they can be deported to a wonderful land where they will live happily ever after. He makes a convincing argument: how can they expect their God to rescue them when none of the other gods have helped their lands against the king of Assyria?

21-22: 2 Kings 18:36-37, almost verbatim. The people remain silent. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah return to Hezekiah to relay the Rabshakeh’s message. They are not at all optimistic about the future.


The more we are threatened by circumstances around us the more we need to trust God to keep us safe. We don’t have to fix everything; we don’t have to solve all our problems. We only have to maintain an abiding trust that our loving God is in charge. All will be well.