The Book of Isaiah
James J. Barker


Lesson 32
SENNACHERIB'S INVASION AND FAILURE

Text: ISAIAH 36:1-22


INTRODUCTION:


1.     Isaiah 36 & 37 begin a new section in the book of Isaiah.  They, along with chapters 38 & 39 serve as a transition from the Assyrian to the Babylonian period.

2.     Chapters 36 & 37 conclude the Assyrian period and deal with the invasion of Assyria under King Sennacherib.

3.     These events are very important and are also recorded in II Kings 18—20 and II Chronicles 32.

4.     Stressing its importance, Merrill Unger wrote that Isaiah chapters 36 and 37 “deal with the first attempt of imperial human power to destroy the Kingdom of God and its failure” (Unger’s Commentary on the OT).

5.     I would like to expound the two chapters together and I will follow the outline found in the Scofield Study Bible.

 

I. THE ASSYRIAN INVASION

II. THE THREATS FROM RABSHAKEH

III. RABSHAKEH’S THREATS ARE TOLD TO KING HEZEKIAH

IV. THE MESSAGE OF JEHOVAH BY THE PROPHET ISAIAH

V. SENNACHERIB’S MESSAGE TO KING HEZEKIAH

VI. KING HEZEKIAH’S PRAYER

VII. JEHOVAH’S ANSWER BY ISAIAH

VIII. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN HOST

 

I. THE ASSYRIAN INVASION (36:1-3)

1.     Isaiah tells us “that King Sennacherib came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them” (36:1).

2.     Sennacherib came down from the north like a raging flood, taking everything in his wake.  He had captured every city that stood in his path and now he and his army are outside the walls of Jerusalem.

3.     Sennacherib sent his military commander Rabshakeh to King Hezekiah “with a great army” (36:2), undoubtedly to frighten him.

4.     The Scofield Bible says “Rabshakeh” means “chief of the cupbearers.”  Rabshakeh was not his name but his military title (like “general”).

5.     It is interesting that this meeting with Rabshakeh took place “by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field” (36:2).  This was the very same place where King Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, rejected the LORD’s help, preferring to put his trust in Assyria (cf. Isa. 7:3-7). Now, thirty years later, Assyria was threatening to take over Jerusalem.

6.     The choice is clear: we will either trust in the LORD or we will reject the LORD and put our trust in man.  Notice the repetition (36:4b, 5, 6, 7, 9, 15, etc.).

 

II. THE THREATS FROM RABSHAKEH (36:4-21)

1.     Rabshakeh referred to Sennacherib as “the great king, the king of Assyria” (36:4).  The king of Assyria was referred to as “the great king” because there were many subordinate kings and princes under him (cf. Isa. 10:8).

2.     Rabshakeh taunted King Hezekiah for his reliance on Egypt for “counsel and strength for war” (36:5).  Rabshakeh mocked King Hezekiah and his alliance with Egypt, referring to Egypt as a “broken reed” (36:6).

3.     The Lord had already said the same thing (Isa. 30:1-3).

4.     The Assyrians were a heathen people and did not understand the true God of Israel.  Rabshakeh misunderstood King Hezekiah’s removal of the high places as an affront to God, but actually Hezekiah removed them because he hated idolatry and he loved God (Isa. 36:7; cf. II Kings 18:1-5).

5.     But Rabshakeh did not understand King Hezekiah nor did he know King Hezekiah’s God.  So he thought King Hezekiah was not a God-fearing king (36:7).

6.     Rabshakeh tried to bargain with the Jews, warning them that even one captain of the least of Sennacherib’s servants could easily defeat an Egyptian regiment (36:8, 9).

7.     Rabshakeh was an arrogant heathen.  But he had a point when he said that God was directing him to go up and fight against Judah (36:10; cf. 10:5, 6; Dan. 4:25, 32; 5:21; Pro. 21:1).

8.     Eliakim and Shebna (36:11; cf. vs. 3) requested that Rabshakeh speak in the Syrian language (Aramaic), because they knew his arrogant taunts would disturb the Jews who were listening, sitting on the wall (36:11).

9.     But Rabshakeh bluntly told them that his dire warning was intended to frighten “the men that sit upon the wall” (36:12).

10. Rabshakeh concluded his speech by:

        Accusing King Hezekiah of being a deceiver (36:13, 14,

        Insisting Hezekiah would be unable to stop the Assyrians (36:14b, 15).

        Insisting that it was futile to trust in the LORD (36:15).

        Encouraging them to surrender to Sennacherib (36:16, 17).

        Blasphemously putting the true God of Israel on the same level as the false gods of the heathen (36:18-20).

11. King Hezekiah instructed his leaders not to respond to Rabshakeh’s taunts and threats.  They obeyed their king (36:21).

 

III. RABSHAKEH’S THREATS ARE REPORTED TO KING HEZEKIAH (36:22—37:4)

1.     King Hezekiah demonstrated grief and sorrow by tearing his clothes, and covering himself with sackcloth, and then going into the house of the LORD (37:1).

2.     By going into the temple and sending for Isaiah the prophet he was also demonstrating true faith in God (37:1, 2).

3.     King Hezekiah described the helplessness of his nation to a woman about to give birth but not having the strength to do so (37:3).

4.     King Hezekiah asked Isaiah to pray for “the remnant that is left” (37:4), i.e., Judah.  The ten tribes of Israel had already been taken into captivity.

 

IV. THE MESSAGE OF JEHOVAH BY THE PROPHET ISAIAH (37:5-7)

1.     The LORD (through his prophet Isaiah) assured King Hezekiah and the Jews that they were not to fear Sennacherib (37:5, 6).

2.     God would take care of Sennacherib, just as He took care of Pharaoh, and Goliath, all of the other heathen that dared to blaspheme God (37:7; cf. vs. 37, 38).

 

V. SENNACHERIB’S MESSAGE TO KING HEZEKIAH (37:8-13)

1.     Sennacherib’s message to King Hezekiah was more of the same blasphemous taunts delivered earlier by Rabshakeh (37:10-13).

2.     However there is one notable difference.  Earlier, Rabshakeh had accused King Hezekiah of deceiving his people (36:14).  Now Sennacherib was accusing God of deceiving King Hezekiah (37:10).

 

VI. KING HEZEKIAH’S PRAYER (37:14-20)

1.     It is a beautiful prayer.  King Hezekiah prayed, “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone” (Isa. 37:16).

2.     The Psalmist wrote, “The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: He sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved” (Psalm 99:1).

3.     King Hezekiah invoked the true God of Israel as the Creator of heaven and earth (37:16).  All throughout the Bible, God is acknowledged as the Creator of heaven and earth.  That is why evolution is such a wicked and damnable teaching.

4.     Isaiah 40:28 says, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding.”

5.     Isaiah 42:5 says, “Thus saith God the LORD, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.”

6.     Isaiah 45:12 says, “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”

7.     We are not just referring to the first two chapters of Genesis.  The entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation refutes evolution. 

8.     Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

9.     King Hezekiah referred to the gods of the heathens as “no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone” (37:19), in other words, they were nothing but idols.

10. King Hezekiah concluded his prayer by asking the LORD to save them from Sennacherib (37:20).

 

VII. JEHOVAH’S ANSWER BY ISAIAH (37:21-35).

1.     Sennacherib and his servants (cf. 37:24) did not just insult King Hezekiah and the people of Judah.  They were guilty of reproaching the Lord (37:23, 24).

2.     God had to explain to Sennacherib that He allowed him to defeat the other nations (37:26).  In fact, He “brought it to pass” (37:26).

3.     Sennacherib was very successful in conquering the other nations but his rage against the Lord would only end in failure (37:24-29).

4.     God told Sennacherib that his army would soon leave Judah and go back home to Nineveh.  Soon things would get back to normal and this would be a “sign” for King Hezekiah (37:30).

5.     Judah had turned from God but God was gracious to them.  The Lord used the Assyrians to chasten Israel and Judah (Isa. 7:17, 18), but the Lord would vindicate His holy name against the blasphemous taunts of Sennacherib and Rabshakeh.

6.     The Lord would continue protecting Jerusalem for David’s sake (37:35), i.e., the Davidic Covenant.

 

VIII. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN HOST (37:36-38)

1.     Isaiah 37:36 records the incredible slaughter of 185,000 Assyrians by “the angel of the LORD.”

2.     Lord Byron wrote:

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

3.     Twenty years later, the great king Sennacherib was murdered in the house of Nisroch, his god, by his own two sons (37:37, 38).

4.     “The wheels of God grind slow but they grind exceedingly fine” (cf. 37:7).

5.     He was succeeded by another son, Esarhaddon (37:38).

 

CONCLUSION:

1.     First Chronicles 28—31 records many of the great accomplishments of King Hezekiah.  He renovated and restored the temple.  He restored the Passover.   He destroyed the idols.

2.     There was a great revival in Judah under King Hezekiah.  Many people consider Hezekiah to be the best king Judah ever had.

3.     King Hezekiah was a statesman, a reformer, a warrior, a poet, an engineer, and the leader of a great heaven-sent revival.

4.     Second Chronicles 31:20, 21 says, “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”

5.     But the next verse, II Chronicles 32:1 says, “After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.”

6.     You can be serving God with all your heart and trouble can come.

7.     The key word in Isaiah 36 is “trust” (36:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 15).



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