Invasion of Sennacherib

In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and then threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t. “What makes you think you can walk in and take over?” asks Linus. “These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they are nothing, b … More

King Hezekiah comes to the throne at a time when Judah was once again threatened by an invasion from the North. He has been king of Judah for 14 years (v. 1). In the next two chapters, Isaiah portrays Hezekiah as someone who believed in God and was miraculously delivered from the Assyrian threat by a sovereign act of God. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, boasted of taking 46 walled villages in Judah (In the Chronicle of Sennacherib) and now he sends his army against Jerusalem to surround it and to demand its surrender (vv. 2-3). His Rabshakeh (field commander) asked who they were depending on for victory (vv 4-5). To depend on Egypt would be like leaning on a “broken reed” (v. 6). Amazingly this was what Isaiah had been saying about Egypt.  He then said it would be foolish to trust in God (v. 7).  

The commander said that Jerusalem’s only reasonable option was to surrender and that the Lord had ordered him to destroy Judah (vv 8-10). This, of course, was meant to terrorize the people by making them think that god had actually turned against them. They didn’t want the people listening from the city wall to understand what they said so asked the people to speak in Aramaic instead of Hebrew (v. 11). Confident of an Assyrian victory, the commander said they would be forced to eat and drink their own body waste to survive in the siege (v. 12). He exhorted the people not to be deceived by Hezekiah (vv 13-15). He urged them to surrender and said that Sennacherib promised them prosperity in another land (vv 16, 17), because the gods of other nations had not been able to deliver them (vv 18-20).  We find the people’s response in verses 21-22. Even though they were probably terrified, the people followed Hezekiah’s instructions by not answering the Assyrian spokesman.


Jerusalem’s deliverance did not depend on negotiating with the enemy, but in trusting the Lord.  God’s promises are sure, but I must claim them by faith before God can work.

Isaiah 36:1-22 (English Standard Version)

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field. And there came out to him Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder. And the Rabshakeh said to them, "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? Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. But if you say to me, "We trust in the LORD our God," is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, "You shall worship before this altar"? Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master's servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this land to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land and destroy it.'" Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, "Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall." But the Rabshakeh said, "Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?" Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: "Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: '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. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, "The LORD will deliver us." Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?'" But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king's command was, "Do not answer him." Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

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