Invasion of Sennacherib. 1In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, went up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.* a 2From Lachish the king of Assyria sent his commander with a great army to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When he stopped at the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway of the fuller’s field, 3there came out to him the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, and Shebna the scribe, and the chancellor, Joah, son of Asaph. 4The commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this trust of yours? 5Do you think mere words substitute for strategy and might in war? In whom, then, do you place your trust, that you rebel against me? 6Do you trust in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it? That is what Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is to all who trust in him.b 7Or do you say to me: It is in the LORD, our God, we trust? Is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed,* commanding Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Worship before this altar’?c
8“Now, make a wager with my lord, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able to put riders on them. 9How then can you turn back even a captain, one of the least servants of my lord, trusting, as you do, in Egypt for chariots and horses? 10Did I come up to destroy this land without the LORD? The LORD himself said to me, Go up and destroy that land!”d
11Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to the commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic; we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within earshot of the people who are on the wall.”*
12But the commander replied, “Was it to your lord and to you that my lord sent me to speak these words? Was it not rather to those sitting on the wall, who, with you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” 13Then the commander stepped forward and cried out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, “Listen to the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. 14Thus says the king: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he cannot rescue you. 15And do not let Hezekiah induce you to trust in the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us, and this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’ 16Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria:
Make peace with me
and surrender to me!
Eat, each of you, from your vine,
each from your own fig tree.
Drink water, each from your own well,e
17until I arrive and take you
to a land like your own,
A land of grain and wine,
a land of bread and vineyards.
18Do not let Hezekiah seduce you by saying, ‘The LORD will rescue us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria?f 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Where are the gods of Samaria? Have they saved Samaria from my power?g 20Who among all the gods of these lands ever rescued their land from my power, that the LORD should save Jerusalem from my power?” 21But they remained silent and did not answer at all, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.”
22Then the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, Shebna the scribe, and the chancellor Joah, son of Asaph, came to Hezekiah with their garments torn, and reported to him the words of the commander.
* [36:1–39:8] Except for 38:9–20 (Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving), this historical appendix describing the siege, etc., is paralleled in 2 Kgs 18:13–20:19, which, however, has certain details proper to itself. The events are also reflected in the cuneiform inscriptions of Sennacherib.
* [36:1] The occasion for this Assyrian attack was Hezekiah’s attempt to reject Judah’s status as vassal to Assyria, relying on help from Egypt, a course of action condemned by Isaiah (see notes on 28:15, 18; 28:16; 29:7–8; 30:1–17; etc.). 2 Kgs 19:14–16 reports that Hezekiah surrendered to the Assyrians and paid the tribute imposed on him—a report omitted in the Isaiah text.
* [36:7] The Assyrians assert that Hezekiah’s removal of the high places and altars (unofficial sanctuaries) was taken by the Lord as an insult. They declare to Jerusalem’s emissaries that the city therefore no longer has a right to the Lord’s protection and that they are the ones who truly carry out his will (cf. v. 10).
* [36:11] The emissaries of King Hezekiah ask that the conversation be carried on in Aramaic, not in Hebrew, for they fear the effect of the Assyrian claims upon the morale of the people.