Sennacherib lays siege to Israel

TEXT: ISAIAH 36

BACKGROUND: According to Wikipedia, Assyrian King Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem begins with the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria.

The Bible says the 10 northern tribes came to be known as the Ten Lost Tribes, because as recorded in II Kings 17, they were carried off and settled with other peoples - as was the Assyrian policy.

II Kings 18-19 (and parallel passage II Chronicles 32:1-23) details Sennacherib's attack on Judah and capital Jerusalem. Hezekiah had rebelled against the Assyrians, so they had captured all of the towns in Judah. Hezekiah realized his error, and sent great tribute to Sennacherib. But the Assyrians nevertheless marched toward Jerusalem.

Sennacherib sent his supreme commander, Rabshakeh, with an army to besiege Jerusalem while he himself went to fight with the Egyptians. Supreme commander Rabshakeh met with Hezekiah's officials and threatened them to surrender; while hurling insults so the people of the city could hear, blaspheming Judah and, particularly, Jehovah.

Who was Rabshakeh, really? Scholars believe that, aside from being Supreme Commander of Sennacherib's forces, he was also likely a "political officer," and possibly a "renegade Jew." (Companion Bible footnote, Page 914). Also note in Isaiah 36:11-12 that Rabshakeh begins to speak in Hebrew to those on the walls of the city of Jerusalem - also lending credence to the belief that he may have been a renegade Jew.

So now, in this passage, we see Rabshakeh and his army of 185,000 men (Isaiah 37:36) standing before the gates of Jerusalem, and he begins to hurl his insults and threatenings.

As you read this, perhaps you might see some parallels to this passage and passages elsewhere in Isaiah and in Revelation about the armies of all the nations that will one day lay siege to  Jerusalem, having first taken the cities of Judah, as Sennacherib did in this passage (See Isaiah 36:1, Isaiah 38:10-12). Scholars note that Sennacherib, in fact, took 46 fortified cities in Judah. The cities' names and number of them are listed on Sennacherib's hexagonal cylinder in the British Museum.

Could there be a future Sennacherib, who will also worship a god who is not Jehovah, the God of Israel, who would send a host of Rabshakehs to a battlefield to take all of israel, perhaps at the Valley of Armageddon (Ezekiel 38:18, Revelation 16:16)?

During the seige of Jerusalem in this passage in Isaiah, we see the goal is to take Israel captive, depose Jehovah as God of the Jews (SEE Isaiah 36:18-20 and Isaiah 37:10), and then resettle the Jewish population (Isaiah 36:14-17) in Assyrian-held lands. But in a future siege at Armageddon, the goal of Sennacherib will not be to capture and resettle, but to exterminate it and its people.

In this passage, we see that Israel could not depend on Egypt to help (Isaiah 36:6,9), and Rabshakeh tries to convice the Jews on the walls of the city of Jerusalem that God was on his side (Isaiah 36:7-8, 10), so they should just give in to him and submit to Sennacherib.

Rabshakeh then tries to get the Jews to doubt the actions and character of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 36:14-16). After that, he tries to paint a picture of a lovely life in Israel as it has always been for the Jews in their own land (verse 16) - until, that is, Rabshakeh comes to take all the Jews to some unnamed Assyrian country (verse 17) and captivity there.

After he had finished his speech, no one said anything, because King Hezekiah had told them not to say anything in response to anything Rabshakeh said (Isaiah 36:21).

More about Sennacarib (Source: WikiPedia)

In 721 BCE, the Assyrian army captured the Israelite capital at Samaria and carried away the citizens of the northern kingdom into captivity. The virtual destruction of Israel left the southern kingdom, Judah, to fend for itself in the whirlwind of warring Near Eastern kingdoms. At the time of Samaria's fall, there existed two kings in Judah — Ahazand his son Hezekiah — who ruled as co-regents. Judah existed as a vassal to Assyria during this time and was forced to pay an annual tribute to the powerful empire.

In 715 BCE, following the death of Ahaz, Hezekiah became the sole regent of Judah and initiated widespread religious changes, including the breaking of religious idols. He re-captured Philistine-occupied lands in the Negev desert, formed alliances with Ashkelon and Egypt, and made a stand against Assyria by refusing to pay tribute. In response, Sennacherib attacked Judah, laying siege on Jerusalem.