Summary of passages: Isaiah 36: The Field Commander of Assyria is planting fear in the hearts and minds of the people of Judah. Assyria has conquered all the fortified cities of Judah and is now targeting Jerusalem and King Hezekiah. The commander of Assyria’s forces stops at an Aqueduct and speaks to Hezekiah’s representatives: Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah. The commander says Egypt will not save them and neither will God. Didn’t Hezekiah remove all of the altars to worship God? Make a bargain with Assyria because it was God himself who told me to march against you and destroy Judah. He yells at the people: Do not listen to your king, Hezekiah. Do not listen when he says to trust in the Lord. Make peace with the King of Assyria and you will live in a land of bread and vineyards. Then, the commander tries to discredit God by saying, “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? How can the Lord deliver Jerusalem?” Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah report to Hezekiah the commander’s words.
2 Kings 18:1-16 Hezekiah is the King of Judah. He reigned 29 years. He did right in the eyes of the Lord. He smashed the false altars to pagan gods and trusted in the Lord. He kept the commandments and the Lord was with him. During Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria took Samaria (capital of Israel) and deported the people to Assyria. The Lord allowed this because Israel had not obeyed God’s commandments. Ten years later Sennacherib, King of Assyria, sets his sights on Judah. Hezekiah is afraid so he offers Assyria a ransom. Assryia agrees and Hezekiah stripped the gold and silver from the temple of the Lord to pay Assyria.
3a) Hezekiah becomes king. He smashes pagan altars. He trusts in the Lord and keeps His commandments. God is with him in whatever he undertook. Hezekiah defeated the Philistines. Then Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, lays siege to Samaria (capital of Israel) and captures it and deports the people. Later, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, attacks all the fortified cities of Judah and captures them, leaving Hezekiah afraid.
b) Isaiah predicts Babylon will capture Jerusalem, not Assyria (Isaiah 13-14). Later, in 2 Kings 19, after this episode on the wall, we learn Jerusalem will be delivered from Assyria.
4a) He is trying to persuade Hezekiah to make a bargain by questioning how tiny Judah can possibly defeat powerful Assyria. He says Egypt will not help and Hezekiah removed all the pagan altars so those gods won’t help. Even the Lord himself told Assyria to attack them. He is telling them they have no hope and no reliance on anyone to save them so they must save themselves by striking a bargain.
b) The officials did not want the people on the wall (commoners) to hear or understand what the commander was saying. Most spoke and understood only Hebrew. Aramaic only became common only after the Babylonian and Persian empires.
c) He hoped to turn the people against Hezekiah (hence he refused to stop speaking Hebrew) by striking fear into their souls and forcing Hezekiah to make “peace” with Assyria
5) Verses 14-15 The Lord will not deliver them or Jerusalem
Verse 16 The people will be better off (eat and drink better) if they make peace
Verse 18 Other gods did not deliver other nations we’ve conquered so why would your God?
6a) Simple: Trust God for their deliverance or subject themselves to Assyria’s rule.
b) Personal Question. My answer: The need to have more and do more and material wealth–to put my trust in other things like a job or other people instead of total reliance on God to lead, to provide, to trust He knows more about my life than I do.
Conclusions: My cup of tea–history. It’s hard for me to understand how such a Godly man as Hezekiah would be so scared he’d strip the Lord’s temple. And God proved his reliance by aiding in the Philistines defeat and prospering Judah when all around them Assyria was in destruction mode. He must have been deathly afraid to do such an about-face.
Yet, Hezekiah is human as we all are. We all do stupid things, especially under duress. So I can see it but it’s hard to put myself in his shoes.
I found it interesting the Aramaic and Hebrew question. When you’re reading something in English, it’s easy to picture everyone speaking English. I never stop to think, “These people are speaking different languages.” Aramaic was probably Jesus’s mother tongue (being raised around Galilee) but he probably spoke Hebrew and Greek as well and maybe even Latin. Being such a uni-language society, we forget most people in the world (both then and now) spoke more than one language to differing degrees and if they were educated, they were taught Greek and Latin and their native language. They had to: they were constantly being conquered or threatened. It was a matter of survival as well as a difference in education and world view.
End Note: Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim are all towns conquered by Assyria. Sepharvaim was believed to be on the Euphrates in traditional Babylonia. Arpad was in Syria. Hamath was above Israel. Here are the best maps I could find: