Question:

Hi Jeff,

I have a question about these verses. The wording is a bit strange and I'm not sure I understand it right:

"Then Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. When he heard them say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, "He has come out to fight against you," and when he heard it he sent messengers to Hezekiah..." (NASB)

"The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah King of Cush "He has sent out to fight against you." And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah..."' (ESV)

The "he" in Isaiah 37:8-9, is it referring to Rabshakeh or the king of Assyria? If you would, can you explain briefly who told "who" about Tirhakah's attack and who sent messengers to Hezekiah?


Answer:

"Then the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And he stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller's Field" (Isaiah 36:2).

The king of Assyria had sent his commander, Rabshakeh, to lay siege to the city of Lachish, but he decided to then send Rabshakeh to Jerusalem where he delivered a threat to Hezekiah and the people of Israel (Isaiah 36:12ff).

"Then the Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, for he [Rabshakeh] heard that he [the king of Assyria] had departed from Lachish. And the king [of Assyria] heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, "He [the king of Ethiopia] has come out to make war with you." So when he [the king of Assyria] heard it, he [the king of Assyria] sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, ..." (Isaiah 38:8-9 NKJV).

On his return, Rabshakeh found that the king of Assyria had move to the Libnah, probably deciding it would be an easier target. Meanwhile, word came to the king of Assyria that the king of Ethiopia was advancing on him. That puts pressure on the king of Assyria because he doesn't want to fight a multi-front war. Thus, he presses to get the battle against Jerusalem over quickly so he is prepared to face the king of Ethiopia. As a result he sends a second demand to Hezekiah to just give up immediately. This demand is answered by God wiping out 185,000 soldiers overnight (Isaiah 37:36).

The king of Assyria prudently decides that it is time to go home where not long after two of his sons assassinate him while he is worshiping his false god (Isaiah 37:38).