Isaiah 36:21
But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) But they held their peace . . .—Hezekiah seems to have commanded silence, as if distrustful either of the wisdom of the ambassadors or of the effect which any chance words might have upon the garrison and people of Jerusalem. As it was, the only words they had spoken (Isaiah 36:11) had made matters infinitely worse.

36:1-22:See 2Ki 18:17-37, and the commentary thereon.But they held their peace - Hezekiah had commanded them not to answer. They were simply to hear what Rabshakeh had to propose, and to report to him, that he might decide on what course to pursue. It was a case also in which it was every way proper that they should be silent. There was so much insolence, self-confidence, blasphemy, the proposals were so degrading, and the claims were so arrogant, that it was not proper that they should enter into conference, or listen a moment to the terms proposed. Their minds also were so horror-stricken with the language of insolence and blasphemy, and their hearts so pained by the circumstances of the city, that they would not feel like replying to him. There are circumstances when it is proper to maintain a profound silence in the presence of revilers and blasphemers, and when we should withdraw from them, and go and spread the case before the Lord. This was done here Isaiah 37:1, and the result showed that this was the course of wisdom. 21. not a word—so as not to enter into a war of words with the blasphemer (Ex 14:14; Jude 9). No text from Poole on this verse. But they held their peace, and answered him not a word,.... The three ministers of Hezekiah; not as confounded, and unable to return an answer: they were capable of saying many things in proof that the Lord God was greater than the gods of the nations, and in favour of their king, Hezekiah, whom he had treated in a scurrilous manner; and could have objected to him the king of Assyria's breach of faith and honour, but these things they waved, and said nothing of; no doubt they said something to him, had some conference with him, or otherwise what were they sent as commissioners about? but they made no answer to his blasphemies and menaces:

for the king's commandment was, saying, answer him not: with respect to the above things; when he sent them, he might be aware that he would behave in such a rude, insolent, and blaspheming manner, and therefore the king gave them instructions how to conduct themselves, should this be the case. Musculus thinks the king was on the wall, and heard all himself, and gave orders to his ministers to make no reply; but this does not seem likely; what is here said of the ministers is also said of the people, 2 Kings 18:36.

But they {n} held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.

(n) Not that they did not show by evident signs that they detested his blasphemy: or they had now rent their clothes, but they knew it was in vain to use long reasoning with this infidel, whose reign they would have so much more provoked.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. they held their peace] i.e. the people on the wall, as is expressed in 2 Kings 18:36.

Isaiah 37:1-4. Hezekiah, thrown back at last on the policy of faith consistently advocated by Isaiah, sends an influential deputation to the prophet, entreating him to intercede for the nation in this extremity. (Cf. 2 Kings 12:12-14; Jeremiah 37:3) The king’s message could not fail to be interpreted as a public confession of the utter failure of the policy which had landed him in such a desperate situation.Verse 21. - They (i.e. the people, as in 2 Kings 18:36) held their peace. Rabshakeh's attempt to shake their fidelity had, at any rate, no manifest effect. For the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Hezekiah can scarcely have anticipated that Rabshakeh would so far depart from ordinary usage as to make a speech to "the men on the wall." But he may have been in the immediate neighbourhood, and, when apprised of the envoy's proceedings, may have sent the order. We are not to suppose that the Jewish king was at a loss for an answer. He did not choose to bandy words with an envoy who had behaved himself so outrageously. After Rabshakeh had refused the request of Hezekiah's representatives in this contemptuous manner, he turned in defiance of them to the people themselves. "Then Rabshakeh went near, and cried with a loud voice in the Jewish language (K. and spake), and said, Hear the words (K. the word) of the great king, the king of Asshur. Thus saith the king, Let not Hizkiyahu practise deception upon you (יסה, K. יסהיא)); for he cannot deliver you (K. out of his hand). And let not Hizkiyahu feed you with hope in Jehovah, saying, Jehovah will deliver, yea, deliver us: (K. and) this city will not be delivered into the hand of the king of Asshur. Hearken not to Hizkiyahu: for thus saith the king (hammelekh, K. melekh) of Asshur, Enter into a connection of mutual good wishes with me, and come out to me: and enjoy every one his vine, and every one his fig-tree, and drink every one the water of his cistern; till I come and take you away into a land like your land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread-corn and vineyards (K. a land full of fine olive-trees and honey, and live and do not die, and hearken not to Hizkiyahu); that Hizkiyahu to not befool you (K. for he befools you), saying, Jehovah will deliver us! Have the gods of the nations delivered (K. really delivered) every one his land out of the hand of the king of Asshur? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? where the gods of Sepharvayim (K. adds, Hena‛ and ‛Ivah)? and how much less (וכי, K. כּי) have they delivered that Samaria out of my hand? Who were they among all the gods of these (K. of the) lands, who delivered their land out of my hand? how much less will Jehovah deliver Jerusalem out of my hand!? The chronicler also has this continuation of Rabshakeh's address in part (2 Chronicles 32:13-15), but he has fused into one the Assyrian self-praise uttered by Rabshakeh on his first and second mission. The encouragement of the people, by referring to the help of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 32:6-8), is placed by him before this first account is given by Isaiah, and forms a conclusion to the preparations for the contest with Asshur as there described. Rabshakeh now draws nearer to the wall, and harangues the people. השּׁיא is construed here with a dative (to excite treacherous hopes); whereas in 2 Chronicles 32:15 it is written with an accusative. The reading מיּדו is altered from מיּדי in Isaiah 36:20, which is inserted still more frequently by the chronicler. The reading את־העיר with תנּתן is incorrect; it would require ינּתן (Ges. 143, 1a). To make a berâkhâh with a person was equivalent to entering into a relation of blessing, i.e., into a state of mind in which each wished all prosperity to the other. This was probably a common phrase, though we only meet with it here. יצא, when applied to the besieged, is equivalent to surrendering (e.g., 1 Samuel 11:3). If they did that, they should remain in quiet possession and enjoyment, until the Assyrian fetched them away (after the Egyptian campaign was over), and transported them to a land which he describes to them in the most enticing terms, in order to soften down the inevitable transportation. It is a question whether the expansion of this picture in the book of Kings is original or not; since ועוּה הנע in Isaiah 36:19 appears to be also tacked on here from Isaiah 37:13 (see at this passage). On Hamath and Arpad (to the north of Haleb in northern Syria, and a different place from Arvad equals Arad), see Isaiah 10:9. Sepharvayim (a dual form, the house of the Sepharvı̄m, 2 Kings 17:31) is the Sipphara of Ptol. v. 18, 7, the southernmost city of Mesopotamia, on the left bank of the Euphrates; Pliny's Hipparenum on the Narraga, i.e., the canal, nehar malkâ, the key to the irrigating or inundating works of Babylon, which were completed afterwards by Nebuchadnezzar (Plin. h. n. vi. 30); probably the same place as the sun-city, Sippara, in which Xisuthros concealed the sacred books before the great flood (see K. Mller's Fragmenta Historicorum Gr. ii.-501-2). פּן in Isaiah 36:18 has a warning meaning (as if it followed לכם השּׁמרו ); and both וכי and כּי in Isaiah 36:19, Isaiah 36:20, introduce an exclamatory clause when following a negative interrogatory sentence: and that they should have saved," or "that Jehovah should save," equivalent to "how much less have they saved, or will He save" (Ewald, 354, c; comp. אף־כּי, 2 Chronicles 32:15). Rabshakeh's words in Isaiah 36:18-20 are the same as those in Isaiah 10:8-11. The manner in which he defies the gods of the heathen, of Samaria, and last of all of Jerusalem, corresponds to the prophecy there. It is the prophet himself who acts as historian here, and describes the fulfilment of the prophecy, though without therefore doing violence to his character as a prophet.
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