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? — Isaiah 36:20
During my first year in college, I took a sociology class. One afternoon in the middle of fall term, I went to class and our professor, a middle-aged woman who had taught at the university for years, announced that we were going to depart from our scheduled lecture. Instead, we could put our notes away and simply absorb her dissertation.
This was a welcome break for me, and I leaned back in my chair, relaxing as she began. Her words were calm and laced with humor. She was speaking of urban myths and some examples she gave were preposterous! I floated along with the rest of the class as she started to compare myths to religion, and then challenge the “myths” about witchcraft.
“Many ignorant people claim,” she said in her soft voice, “that witchcraft is evil and brings death.” Before I could comprehend the significance of her speech, she had woven words together that questioned every moral law established by God. And she had done so very persuasively.
There will come a time in every person’s life when he or she will face acute spiritual challenge. I faced it that afternoon in college, confronted with a clever, deceptive lecturer. Often during my years there professors and students called Christianity evil.
Satan will try to tempt us to stop serving God, as he did to the Jews in Hezekiah’s kingdom. Imagine being one of the men standing along the wall of defense, listening to an ambassador from a powerful kingdom gloat on the glories of his kingdom, mock the faithfulness of God, and offer a generous reward for submission. The formidable ambassador challenges the wisdom of your king, and reverently looks to the sky and proclaims that God has sent him to destroy your land. No one can defeat his army, so why not submit?
Undoubtedly, Satan has stood outside our heart and spoken the essence of these words. What we feel in moments such as these can be fear, doubt, and insecurity. What if everything we have known as true and good is, in fact, false? Satan coaxes us with warm words like those that he spoke through the ambassador of Assyria. How will we respond?
God has indicated in His Word that we are in a battle, and there will be moments of intense fighting to stay on His side. Hold on to truth and never let it slip, even in times of insecurity. God will prove faithful until the end.
This chapter begins the historical section of the Book of Isaiah. (A parallel history of these events occurs in 2 Kings 18:13 through 20:18 and 2 Chronicles 32.) Up to this point, the prophet Isaiah had written as a prophet. The first half of the book predicted that darkness and destruction would come to the nations who had turned from God. Mingled in these judgments were promises of hope: the promise of Judah’s defeat of its enemy, and the coming Messiah.
The story in this text was inserted for several reasons. Many of Isaiah’s prophecies leading up to this chapter referred to this very event — when Assyria would invade Judah and miraculously be defeated. This account confirmed the fulfillment of these prophecies.
Secondly, the account served as an example of the message Isaiah had preached throughout the first half of the book: Judah would not fall into the hand of the enemy if it restored its relationship with God. Furthermore, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy confirmed that other prophecies would be accomplished later.
The Assyrians were convinced that they were invincible and that the God of Israel was no different from any of the other gods they had overcome on their westward march. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C., Judah lived under the constant threat of Assyria. Hezekiah finally rebelled against Assyria, and when Sennacherib threatened to attack, Hezekiah tried to bribe him with tribute. Sennacherib accepted the treasures, using them to beautify his capital city, Nineveh; but the Assyrians broke their treaty with Judah in 701 B.C., during the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign.
The Assyrians advanced westward, attacking swiftly down the Mediterranean coast. Lachish was one town they defeated. It was about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem and became a staging area for attacks on a number of other towns. From Lachish, Sennacherib sent a large army against Jerusalem to besiege it and to demand its surrender.
The Assyrian commander, Rabshakeh, stopped at the aqueduct of the upper pool, on the road to the fuller’s field. Besides setting the stage geographically, this information has theological significance. This was the very place where Isaiah had confronted Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father. Ahaz had refused to trust the Lord and instead made a treaty with Assyria. Now the Assyrians were ready to take Jerusalem and Hezekiah was faced with the same message of deliverance from the same man of God. The setting heightened the significance as to whether Hezekiah would respond positively to God’s promise.
According to 2 Kings 18:17, Sennacherib sent three of his most important officers to arrange for Hezekiah’s surrender of the city. The ambassadors from Assyria claimed that Hezekiah insulted God by tearing down his altars in the hills and making the people worship only in Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s reform only sought to eliminate idol worship, however, which occurred mainly in the hills.
The Syrian language, Aramaic, was the international language at this time. The men of Judah claimed Hebrew as solely their own since the division of Israel, as if they were now the only representatives of the twelve Hebrew tribes.
The Assyrians hoped to convince the people of Judah to surrender without fighting. They appealed to Jerusalem, a starving city under siege, by offering them plenty of food and land if they surrendered. The Assyrian management of conquered nations was to capture or kill the inhabitants and then to move their own people into the recently conquered area. This policy provided manpower for their armies and prevented revolts in conquered territories.
Judah was offered promises from opposing entities — the promise of protection from the Assyrians for surrender, and the promise of God through Isaiah that the Assyrians would be defeated. It was a significant choice of whom to trust, the essence of the object lesson Isaiah tried to teach.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The historical interlude: The Holy One of Israel delivering from Assyria
A. The invasion of Sennacherib
1. The invasion of Judea (36:1-3)
2. The embassy from Sennacherib (36:4-22)
a. The words of Rabshakeh to Eliakim (36:4-10)
b. The request of Eliakim to Rabshakeh (36:11-12)
c. The words of Rabshakeh to the people (36:13-20)
d. The report to Hezekiah (36:21-22)
Continually seek God and trust His promises. Nothing the enemy sends can deceive us if we stay in communication with God.