WHO WAS KING OF JUDAH WHEN SAMARIA FELL?
IX. Rabshakeh's Speech
IX. RABSHAKEH'S SPEECH
The eloquent plea by Rabshakeh in the 18th chapter of the second
book of the Kings gives us more evidence for the view that the
king of Assyria referred to in II Kings 18:13 could have been
Sargon II, as well as Sennacherib. Rabshakeh was either an
ambassador or a general of the king of Assyria, and he seems
urgently to want to persuade the Judeans to accept the overlordship
of Assyria without compelling a battle. Here is his speech, slightly
paraphrased into more modern language:
(II Kings 18)
19 ...Now go tell Hezekiah, Thus speaks the great king,
the legitimate king, the king of Assyria, What faith
is this upon which you are trusting?
20 You say, (but they are but vain words), I have support
and strength for a war. Now on whom are you counting
that you should rebel against me?
21 Now, are you trusting on the support of this broken
reed, the land of Egypt, on which if you lean, it will
pierce your hand? for so is the king of Egypt if you
depend upon him.
22 Or are you saying, We trust in the god Yahveh; but
is not that the god that Hezekiah himself has destroyed
all his altars and worshipping places, forcing you all
to come and worship in Jerusalem?
23 I urge you, give pledges of your fealty to my lord
the king of Assyria, and I will help you with two thousand
horses, if you can find riders to place upon them.
24 For how can you hope to drive away even one captain
of the least of my master's servants, even if Egypt
does provide you with chariots and horsemen?
25 Am I to come up in spite of your god Yahveh against
this place to destroy it? for Yahveh himself has told
me to come into your land if necessary and destroy it.
Then after Eliakim, the Judean emissary, asks him to speak in
Syriac, Rabshakeh continues his argument:
(II Kings 18)
28 ...Hear the word of the great king, the king of
29 The king says this: Don't let Hezekiah deceive you;
for he shall not be able to deliver you out of mine
30 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in this god
Yahveh, to believe that Yahveh will deliver you, and
that your city will not be delivered into the hand
of the king of Assyria.
31 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king
of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present
and bow before me, and then you all may eat of your
own vine, and your own fig tree, and drink fresh water
from your own cisterns;
32 Otherwise I will come in all force, and take you
away to a different land, which will still be a land of
corn and wine, of bread and vineyards, a land of olive
oil and honey, where you will be alive, and not dead in
battle; but do not listen to Hezekiah when he deceives
you by saying, Yahveh will deliver us.
33 For have any of the gods of the nations delivered
any of THEM out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
34 Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where
are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? or were
any of them able to deliver Samaria out of my
35 Which of them among all the gods of the countries
have been able to deliver their country out of my hand
that you should think, Yahveh will deliver Jerusalem
out of my hand?
Now even if we support Yahveh in the struggle of Judea against
Assyria, we must still admit that this is a cogent and persuasive
appeal to the Judeans to accept Assyrian rule without fighting. To
a Yahvist this may have been a very temptation of Satan, but to
Isaiah or Jeremiah with their worldwide outlook it must have
sounded like an sincere attempt by an earnest ambassador to avoid
a war. But the important thing for us to see here is that this
speech does not call the king of Assyria by name, so that it could
equally well refer to Sargon II as to Sennacherib; and also that
it occurs in a situation of negotiating or parleying, which seems
to have been true of the campaign in 714 BCE by Sargon's army. But
the 34th verse is the crucial verse, which we can compare with
II Kings 17, verses 23-24:
(II Kings 17)
23 ...So was Israel carried away out of their own land
to Assyria unto this day.
24 And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon
and from Cuthah, and from Ivah, and from Hamath, and
from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria
instead of the children of Israel...
This clearly refers to the deportation of the Israelites by Sargon
II after he captured Samaria. But we can immediately see that the
place names are the same as in Rabshakeh's speech: Hamath, and
Sepharvaim, and Ivah; and Rabshakeh also names Arpad and Hena, both
of which were subjugated in Sargon's campaign in 720 BCE against
Yahu-bihdi of Hamath. And does not verse 34 refer clearly to
Sargon, when it says, "...Have they delivered Samaria
out of my hand?" This should leave us little doubt that
Rabshakeh was here speaking not for Sennacherib, but
for Sargon, and provide us with a firm basis for concluding
that the year being referred to as the 14th year of Hezekiah was
the year 714 BCE and the event was the campaign of Sargon's army
through Judah against Ashdod. And the year 714 BCE was indeed the
14th year of Hezekiah if he began to reign in the 6th year before
the fall of Samaria.
This chapter of the second book of the Kings also reports that
Rabshakeh was sent by the king of Assyria from Lachish, clearly
implying that the king had not come himself, and this is supported
by the book of Isaiah, chapter 36, verse 2. And verse 8 of chapter
19 of the second book of the Kings reports that Rabshakeh returned
to Lachish and found the king of Assyria there, engaged in
a war against Libnah. All of these verses tend to prove that this
speech was not connected with Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem.
These chapters are filled with evidence that the 14th year
of Hezekiah was the occasion of the advance of Sargon's army
through Judah rather than that of Sennacherib. Verse 14 refers
only to the "king of Assyria", and Hezekiah says, "I have
offended," which is more appropriate to his part in the conspiracy
organized by Merodach-Baladan than a standoff in a siege. And
there are further indications in chapter 20 that the 14th year of
Hezekiah's reign was the occasion of Sargon's campaign. The chapter
states that "in those days" Hezekiah was sick unto death, but
after praying Yahveh granted him 15 years more life, which would
certainly be the latter 15 years of the 29 years total of his
reign, and his death would then have occurred in 700 or 699
BCE, after the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib. This supports
the other evidence that Rabshakeh was an emissary not of
Sennacherib, but of Sargon.
Finally, according to Babylonian records Merodach-Baladan sent
letters out organizing a league with Judah, Moab and Edom in or
about the year 714 BCE, during the reign of Sargon, not
Sennacherib, and was driven from his throne about that time, so
that "at that time Merodach-Baladan sent letters to Hezekiah"
(II Kings 20:12) clearly places the sickness of Hezekiah and the
14th year of his reign in the year 714 BCE. Why has this explanation
not been seen before?
And the report of these events in the books of the
Chronicles, chapter 32, verse 10-17, even though it calls
Sennacherib by name, and specifically refers to it as the siege
of Jerusalem, was most certainly written later, probably three
centuries later, and is based on the books of the Kings and
presents only the author's interpretation of those events.
None of this is to deny that Sennacherib came up against
Jerusalem in the year 701 BCE. It is merely to show that in
chapters 18-20 of II Kings two events have been telescoped
into one, and the events in the reign of Sargon in 714 BCE, including
Rabshakeh's speech, have been conflated with those of Sennacherib
in 701 BCE.