Isaiah 36 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
II. Historic Interlude (prose) ch. 36-39
A. Destruction of Judah averted, ch. 36, 37
  1. King Hezekiah and the challenge to Jehovah by Assyrian world power, 36:1-22
  2. King Hezekiah's prayer, Jehovah's answer and judgment of the Assyrians, 37:1-38
Thus far, most of Isaiah's book has been prophetic in nature,
looking forward to God's purposes being worked out, in some future time, whether near or far distant. Here, in ch. 36-39, prophecy and history are brought together, in the narrative of critical events during the reign of Hezekiah. Earlier in the book (in ch. 7-12), prophecy and history were also mingled in a series of messages to king Ahaz. These passages illustrate that "prophecy is history foretold, and history is prophecy fulfilled." [in quotes, GWms] God's Word has moral, spiritual, and also practical bearing upon the lives of men, whether they acknowledge it or not.
Apparently, the Holy Spirit places great importance upon the historical section before us,
since He includes three accounts of these events in Scripture (2Kings ch. 18-20; 2Chronicles ch. 29-32; and Isaiah ch. 36-39).
These four chapters (in Isaiah) can be divided as follows [adapted from outline by GWms] -
1. Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah,
[that] Sennacherib king of Assyria came up
against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.
2 And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish
to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army.
And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool
in the highway of the fuller's field.
Sennacherib king of Assyria...-
In the prophetic passages which precede this historic section, we were told that Assyria would be destroyed, in recompense for their oppression of Israel (eg., Isa 10:12,24; 31:8). There were near and far term applications to these prophecies. In the near term, this brief historic section begins with the power of Assyria and closes with the ascendency of Babylon (39:1,6).
 -- The four chapters of this section also divide according to the prophetic 'direction':
  • ch.36,37 are Retrospective, marking the near term fulfillment of previous prophecies.
    In the preceding chapters, Isaiah had foretold the deliverance from Assyria, which is recorded here. See Isa 8:5–10; 10:12–19,33,34; 14:24,25; 30:28–31; 31:8.
    (Most of these prophecies also have a far view application, which awaits future fulfillment in the Day of the LORD.)
  • ch.38,39 are Prospective, looking to the future with prophetic implications,
    regarding the decline of the kingdom in Jerusalem, and its fall and captivity under Babylon.
...sent Rabshakeh... with a great army... stood by the conduit of the upper pool...-
The threat of Assyria's dreadful power was very real to Hezekiah, at this time. The Assyrian king's forces had already attacked and taken 'all the defenced {ie., walled} cities of Judah' (except Jerusalem). While completing his conquest of Lachish, Sennacherib sent messengers to Jerusalem, threatening siege and demanding surrender.
     Rabshakeh, a general in Sennacherib's army, chose to deliver his demands at "the conduit to the upper pool" in order to emphasize Jerusalem's vulnerability. Although Hezekiah had taken measures to protect the city's source of water, this was still a weak point in the city's defense, as it had been in the days of Ahaz (cp. Isa 7:1-3; 22:9-11; 2Kin 20:20; 2Chr 32:1-3,30).
     Remember also that the upper pool and the conduit that brought its water to the pool of Siloam, speak of the Blessing of the Most High which would be Sent via the conduit of the Davidic line (see the Notes at Isa 7:3-6 and also the Notes at 8:6). As the king on David's throne, threatened by 'the Assyrian,' Hezekiah foreshadows the Messiah whom Satan and his Antichrist will seek to depose in the latter days.
     The preceding prophetic passages had warned Hezekiah against placing trust in covenants with men, and in the military power of nations. Yet, he had done so. Now, the futility of those diplomatic and economic measures is demonstrated in their failure. The Assyrian, king Sennacherib, had broken his covenant of 'cash for peace' and turned his forces against Jerusalem (cp. Isa 33:1,8; 2Kin 18:13-17).
3 Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house,
and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder.
4 And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah,
Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria,
What confidence [is] this wherein thou trustest?
5 I say, [sayest thou], (but [they are but] vain words)
[I have] counsel and strength for war:
now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
...on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?-
Hezekiah's covenant with Assyria had been entered reluctantly, and only after the Assyrians displayed their superior military power (cp. 2Kin 18:7,13-17). The charge of rebellion, was because Hezekiah had sought to engage the help of the Egyptians against the Assyrians. (cp. a similar situation 120 years later, when the king of Jerusalem would rebel against Babylon: Jer 52:3; Eze 17:15)
     Rabshakeh, surprised that Hezekiah would not quickly submit to the Assyrians, suggests several things in which Hezekiah might be placing false hope (in v.6-9).
6 Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt;
whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it:
so [is] Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.
It was true. Hezekiah, like Ahaz before him, had put confidence in Egypt. Egypt would not deliver him from his enemies. The Lord had warned Hezekiah of this very thing (cp. Isa 30:1-3; 31:1-3).
7 But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God:
[is it] not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away,
and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?
Hezekiah had put away idolatry and destroyed the places where false gods were worshipped. He had led a great revival to restore the worship of Jehovah in His Temple (2Kin 18:1-4; 2Chr 30:13-15).
     However the Assyrians, unfamiliar with God's Word, and untaught by God's Spirit, did not understand that these were acts of faith, in obedience to the LORD (cp. 1Cor 2:14,15). Today also, unregenerate men fail to see a difference between the worship of the true and living God, and the many empty religions of the world.
8 Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria,
and I will give thee two thousand horses,
if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
9 How then wilt thou
turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants,
and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
Perhaps, Rabshekah suggests, Hezekiah was trusting in his own military might. But wasn't it his military weakness that led him to seek help from Egypt? If Hezekiah really wants to do battle with us Assyrians, perhaps we can arrange to loan him weapons and equipment (chariots and horses). Although being greatly out numbered, Jerusalem has too few soldiers to use such weapons effectively. This also was a true assessment.
10 And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it?
the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
Either this was a bold lie, or the Assyrians were aware of the prophecy which Isaiah had given about 30 years prior (in Isa 10:5-11). Although Rabshekah cites the LORD's support for the Assyrian campaign against Jerusalem, he quickly contradicts himself by saying that the LORD is unable to deliver Jerusalem from the power of the Assyrians (v.20).
11. Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh,
Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants
in the Syrian language; for we understand [it]:
and speak not to us in the Jews' language,
in the ears of the people that [are] on the wall.
12 But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me
to thy master and to thee to speak these words?
[hath he] not [sent me] to the men that sit upon the wall,
that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
{ie., that they may die of starvation during the siege of the city...}
13 Then Rabshakeh stood,
and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said,
Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.
14 Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you:
for he shall not be able to deliver you.
15 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying,
The LORD will surely deliver us:
{cp. 2Chr 32:6-8}
this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
16 Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria,
Make [an agreement] with me [by] a present, and come out to me:
and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree,
and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern;
17 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land,
a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
As discussed in the Book Notes at Isa 22:15-19, Shebna (who had previously served as Hezekiah's treasurer) apparently gave heed to the Assyrian invitation, due to his lack of faith in the God of Israel. But it was to his own hurt, for the promises of the enemy were empty lies.
18 [Beware] lest Hezekiah persuade you,
saying, The LORD will deliver us.
Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land
out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
19 Where [are] the gods of Hamath and Arphad?
where [are] the gods of Sepharvaim?
and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?
20 Who [are they] among all the gods of these lands,
that have delivered their land out of my hand,
that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
21 But they held their peace, and answered him not a word:
for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
22 Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that [was] over the household,
and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder,
to Hezekiah with [their] clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land...
that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?-
The question places Jehovah on the same plane as all false and, therefore, impotent deities. Those who do not know the LORD, consider Him to be nothing more than the imagination of superstitious people, like any other idol. This argument, appealing to man's pragmatism, will be raised again. No answer is sufficient, until the LORD reveals Himself.
Then came... with their clothes rent...-
As Hezekiah's ambassadors returned to him, bearing the enemy's message, they tore their outer garments open, thus displaying their sorrow and humiliation (cp. Isa 33:7), and perhaps, on the part of some, their disgust over the blasphemous words which they had heard. Apparently, Shebna participated in this outward display, in order to cover his planned defection.

Click here to continue the study in Isaiah 37
Return to Isaiah - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.