2 Kings 18:17
And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
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(17) And the king of Assyria sent . . .—Apparently in careless violation of his word, as Josephus states.

Tartan.—Rather, the commander-in-chief; called in Assyrian tur-ta-nu, a word of Sumerian origin, imitated in the Hebrew tartān here and in Isaiah 20:1.

Rabsaris and Rab-shaken.—Two other official titles. The Rabsaris has not been identified on the Assyrian monuments. The Hebrew word suggests “chief eunuch,” or “courtier.” (Comp. Jeremiah 39:3.) Such an official would accompany the tartan as scribe The term Rab-shakeh, as a Hebrew expression, signifies “chief cup-bearer;” but it is really only a Hebraised form of the Assyrian title rab-sak, “chief officer,” applied to superior military commanders or staff officers. In Isaiah 36:2 only the Rabshakeh is mentioned; in 2Chronicles 33:9 the three foreign titles are naturally displaced by the general expression, “his servants.”

And they went up and camei.e., the Assyrian army-corps under the tartan, &c.

And when they were come up, they came.—Literally, as before, And they went up and came. This is omitted in LXX., Syriac, Vulg., and Arabic, but the phrase refers this time specially to the three principals, who came within speaking distance of the walls.

The conduit . . . field.Isaiah 7:3. The upper pool (called Gihon in 1Kings 1:33) on the “highway of the fuller’s field,” i.e., the Joppa road, on the west side of the city, is different from the upper pool in the Tyropœon, which is also called “the artificial pool” (Nehemiah 3:16), and “the old pool” (Isaiah 22:11). Below this latter was a pool, dug in Hezo-kiah’s time, called in Isaiah 22:9 “the lower pool,” and in Nehemiah 3:15 “the pool of Siloah.”

2 Kings 18:17. The king of Assyria sent Tartan — Having received the money, upon which he agreed to depart from Hezekiah and his land, he breaks his faith with him; thereby justifying his revolt, and preparing the way for his own destruction. They came and stood, &c. — They took up their headquarters, as we now speak, by the conduit or canal, into which water was derived from the upper fish-pond or pool, which was in the highway to the field where the fullers, after they had washed their clothes in that pool, were wont to spread them. This was a most unjust behaviour of the king of Assyria, since Hezekiah had paid the fine he had imposed on him.

18:17-37 Rabshakeh tries to convince the Jews, that it was to no purpose for them to stand it out. What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? It were well if sinners would submit to the force of this argument, in seeking peace with God. It is, therefore, our wisdom to yield to him, because it is in vain to contend with him: what confidence is that which those trust in who stand out against him? A great deal of art there is in this speech of Rabshakeh; but a great deal of pride, malice, falsehood, and blasphemy. Hezekiah's nobles held their peace. There is a time to keep silence, as well as a time to speak; and there are those to whom to offer any thing religious or rational, is to cast pearls before swine. Their silence made Rabshakeh yet more proud and secure. It is often best to leave such persons to rail and blaspheme; a decided expression of abhorrence is the best testimony against them. The matter must be left to the Lord, who has all hearts in his hands, committing ourselves unto him in humble submission, believing hope, and fervent prayer.An interval of time must be placed between this verse and the last. Sennacherib, content with his successes, had returned to Nineveh with his spoil and his numerous captives. Hezekiah, left to himself, repented of his submission, and commenced negotiations with Egypt 2 Kings 18:21, 2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 30:2-6; Isaiah 31:1, which implied treason against his Assyrian suzerain. It was under these circumstances that Sennacherib appears to have made his second expedition into Palestine very soon after the first. Following the usual coast route he passed through Philistia on his way to Egypt, leaving Jerusalem on one side, despising so irony a state, and knowing that the submission of Egypt would involve that of her hangers-on. While, however, he was besieging Lachish on his way to encounter his main enemy, he determined to try the temper of the Jews by means of an embassy, which he accordingly sent.

Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh - None of these are proper names. "Tartan" was the ordinary title of an Assyrian general; "Rab-saris" is "chief eunuch," always a high officer of the Assyrian court; Rab-shakeh is probably "chief cup-bearer."

By the conduit of the upper pool - Possibly a conduit on the north side of the city near the "camp of the Assyrians." The spot was the same as that on which Isaiah had met Ahaz Isaiah 7:3.

2Ki 18:17-37. Sennacherib Besieges Jerusalem.

17. king of Assyria sent Tartan—general (Isa 20:1).

Rab-saris—chief of the eunuchs.

Rab-shakeh—chief cupbearer. These were the great officers employed in delivering Sennacherib's insulting message to Hezekiah. On the walls of the palace of Sennacherib, at Khorsabad, certain figures have been identified with the officers of that sovereign mentioned in Scripture. In particular, the figures, Rab-shakeh, Rab-saris, and Tartan, appear as full-length portraits of the persons holding those offices in the reign of Sennacherib. Probably they represent the very individuals sent on this embassy.

with a great host to Jerusalem—Engaged in a campaign of three years in Egypt, Sennacherib was forced by the king of Ethiopia to retreat, and discharging his rage against Jerusalem, he sent an immense army to summon it to surrender. (See on [348]2Ch 32:30).

the conduit of the upper pool—the conduit which went from the reservoir of the Upper Gihon (Birket et Mamilla) to the lower pool, the Birket es Sultan.

the highway of the fuller's field—the public road which passed by that district, which had been assigned them for carrying on their business without the city, on account of the unpleasant smell [Keil].

The king of Assyria sent; having received the money, upon which he agreed to depart from Hezekiah and his land, 2 Kings 18:16. He breaks his faith with Hezekiah, thereby justifying Hezekiah’s rebellion, and preparing the way for his own approaching destruction.

And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem,.... Notwithstanding he took the above large sum of money of him, so false and deceitful was he: these were three generals of his army, whom he sent to besiege Jerusalem, while he continued the siege of Lachish; only Rabshakeh is mentioned in Isaiah 36:2 he being perhaps chief general, and the principal speaker; whose speech, to the end of this chapter, intended to intimidate Hezekiah, and dishearten his people, with some circumstances which attended it, are recorded word for word in Isaiah 36:1 throughout; See Gill on Isaiah 36:1 and notes on that chapter. And the king of Assyria sent {e} Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.

(e) After certain years, when Hezekiah ceased to send the tribute appointed by the king of the Assyrians, he sent his captains and army against him.

17–25. The Assyrian army sent against Jerusalem. Rab-shakeh’s arguments for a surrender of the city (2 Chronicles 32:2-12; Isaiah 36:2-10)

17. the king of Assyria sent Tartan] In the light of the record in Chronicles, which says nothing of the previous proceedings of Sennacherib, we must consider that there was but one expedition, and that first came Hezekiah’s submission, which was unavailing, and then followed the advance upon Jerusalem. We can imagine many things which induced Sennacherib not to keep faith with Hezekiah, but most probably it was the movements of the Egyptians in the south. Finding that they were advancing he would resolve on attacking and reducing Jerusalem before they arrived, and would care nothing for former compacts. Tartan, as well as the other two names here given, is probably an official title. Tartan is found in Isaiah 20:1, and the R.V. puts a note in the margin ‘the title of the Assyrian commander in chief’. In that place it is the title of the officer sent by Sargon against Ashdod. As this title here stands first, we may suppose that he was the chief military officer, though Rab-shakeh was the spokesman. It would be more correct to say ‘the Tartan’.

and Rabsaris] The word is Hebrew in form and signifies ‘the chief of the eunuchs’. It may be some title which the Jews modified so as to make of it a Hebrew word. Clearly in this place it indicates some high official. It need not necessarily be a military person, but some one like a lord chamberlain, who came with the Tartan to add civil dignity to the military. Rab-saris is found in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:3) among the titles of the princes of the king of Babylon.

and Rab-shakeh] This word also has a Hebrew form, and means ‘the chief cup-bearer’. The title may have been preserved and attached to an office, when the duties from which it was originally given had ceased to be performed, and others had been imposed in their place. And the Hebrew writers may have represented in their own way the meaning of a title for which they had no proper equivalent.

with a great host] For Jerusalem was stronger than the other places in Judah which he had already captured, and news from Egypt-wards was perhaps such as to make haste urgent.

against Jerusalem] R.V. unto Jerusalem. The original has no preposition, but the accusative of direction.

they came and stood by the conduit] The Chronicler gives us details which shew that some time elapsed before the attack on Jerusalem was commenced. Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem. He therefore took counsel with his princes and blocked up all the water courses and fountains, so that the Assyrians should have as little water supply as possible. He also strengthened the fortifications, provided new weapons, and organized his forces. Then he gathered the people and encouraged them, so that they ‘rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah’. All this had been done before the arrival of Rab-shakeh and his fellows.

the upper pool] This is probably what in 2 Chronicles 32:30 is called ‘the upper watercourse of Gihon’. On ‘Gihon’ see note on 1 Kings 1:33. The locality is described, in the same words as here, in Isaiah 7:3, so that it was a well-known spot. The pool was within the walls, but from it went a conduit to the fuller’s field. The fuller’s occupation was one which was carried on without the walls.

Verses 17-37. - SECOND EXPEDITION OF SENNACHERIB. This section and 2 Kings 19. form one continuous narrative, which can only have been divided on account of its great length (fifty-eight verses). The subject is one throughout, viz. Sennacherib's second expedition against Hezekiah. The narrative flows on without a break. It consists of

(1) an account of the embassy of Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:17-37; 2 Kings 19:1-8);

(2) an account of an insulting letter written by Sennacherib to Hezekiah, and of Hezekiah's "spreading it before the Lord" (2 Kings 19:9-14);

(3) the prayer of Hezekiah, and God's answer to it by the mouth of Isaiah (2 Kings 19:15-34);

(4) the destruction of Sennacherib's host, his flight to Nineveh, and his murder by two of his sons. The Assyrian inscriptions are absolutely silent with respect to this expedition and its result - it being a fixed rule with the historiographers of Assyria to pass over without notice all defeats and disasters. Verse 17. - And the King of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. Sennacherib appears, by his great inscription, to have returned to Nineveh, with his Judaean captives (more than two hundred thousand in number) and his rich booty, towards the close of the year B.C. 701. In the following year he was called into Babylonia, where troubles had broken out, and Hezekiah, left to himself, seems to have made up his mind to revolt, and to have called in the assistance of Egypt (Isaiah 30:4; 2 Kings 18:21). Sabatok was probably the nominal sovereign, but Tirhakah, who held his court at Meres, was lord paramount. An alliance was made; and hopes held out that, if Sennacherib again marched into Judaea, Hezekiah would receive effectual aid, especially in chariots and horsemen (ver. 24). Under these circumstances, Sennacherib made his second expedition, probably in B.C. 699. Regarding Egypt as his main enemy, and Judaea as of small account, he led his army by the ordinary route into the Philistian plain, pressing southward, while he detached a moderato force to hold Jerusalem in check, to threaten it, and, if an opportunity offered, to seize it. At the head of this force were three commanders, who seem to have borne, all of them, official titles; viz. the Tartan, or "commander-in-chief;" the Rabsaris, or "chief eunuch;" and the Rabshakeh, or "chief cupbearer." The Tartan was the highest of all the officials of the empire, and ranked next to the king. Sennacherib detached this force from Lachish, which seems to have revolted, and to have been undergoing a second siege. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool. It was, perhaps, this army which Isaiah saw in vision, advancing on Jerusalem from the pass of Michmash (Isaiah 10:28-32), and "shaking its hand" at the city from the northern plateau outside the walls - the traditional "camp of the Assyrians." At any rate, the "upper pool" and the" fuller's field" were in this direction (see the comment on Isaiah 7:3). Which is in the highway of the fuller's field. 2 Kings 18:17For though Sennacherib did indeed take the money, he did not depart, as he had no doubt promised, but, emboldened still further by this submissiveness, sent a detachment of his army against Jerusalem, and summoned Hezekiah to surrender the capital. "He sent Tartan, Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh." Rabshakeh only is mentioned in Isaiah, as the chief speaker in the negotiations which follow, although in Isaiah 37:6 and Isaiah 37:24 allusion is evidently made to the other two. Tartan had no doubt the chief command, since he is not only mentioned first here, but conducted the siege of Ashdod, according to Isaiah 20:1. The three names are probably only official names, or titles of the offices held by the persons mentioned. For רב־סריס means princeps eunuchorum, and רבשׁקה chief cup-bearer. תּרתּן is explained by Hitzig on Isaiah 20:1 as derived from the Persian tr-tan, "high person or vertex of the body," and in Jeremiah 39:3 as "body-guard;" but this is hardly correct, as the other two titles are Semitic. These generals took up their station with their army "at the conduit of the upper pool, which ran by the road of the fuller's field," i.e., the conduit which flowed from the upper pool - according to 2 Chronicles 32:30, the basin of the upper Gihon (Birket el Mamilla) - into the lower pool (Birket es Sultn: see at 1 Kings 1:33). According to Isaiah 7:3, this conduit was in existence as early as the time of Ahaz. The "end" of it is probably the locality in which the conduit began at the upper pool or Gihon, or where it first issued from it. This conduit which led from the upper Gihon into the lower, and which is called in 2 Chronicles 32:30 "the outflow of the upper Gihon," Hezekiah stopped up, and conducted the water downwards, i.e., the underground, towards the west into the city of David; that is to say, he conducted the water of the upper Gihon, which had previously flowed along the western side of the city outside the wall into the lower Gihon and so away down the valley of Ben-hinnom, into the city itself by means of a subterranean channel,

(Note: We may get some idea of the works connected with this aqueduct from the description of the "sealed fountain" of the Solomon's pool at Ain Saleh in Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerus. ii. pp. 857ff., Dritte Wanderung.)

that he might retain this water for the use of the city in the event of a siege of Jerusalem, and keep it from the besiegers.

This water was probably collected in the cistern (הבּרכה) which Hezekiah made, i.e., order to be constructed (2 Kings 20:20), or the reservoir "between the two walls for the waters of the old pool," mentioned in Isaiah 22:11, i.e., most probably the reservoir still existing at some distance to the east of the Joppa gate on the western side of the road which leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the so-called "pool of Hezekiah," which the natives call Birket el Hamman, "Bathing-pool," because it supplies a bath in the neighbourhood, or B. el Batrak, "Patriarch's pool" (see Robinson, Pal. i. p. 487, and Fresh Researches into the Topography of Jerusalem, pp. 111ff.), since this is still fed by a conduit from the Mamilla pool (see E. G. Schultz, Jerusalem, p. 31, and Tobler, Denkbltter, pp. 44ff.).

(Note: The identity of the ברכה, which Hezekiah constructed as a reservoir for the overflow of the upper Gihon that was conducted into the city (2 Kings 20:20), with the present "pool of Hezekiah" is indeed very probable, but not quite certain. For in very recent times, on digging the foundation for the Evangelical church built on the northern slope of Zion, they lighted upon a large well-preserved arched channel, which was partly cut in the rock, and, where this was not the case, built in level layers and coated within with a hard cement about an inch thick and covered with large stones (Robinson, New Inquiries as to the Topography of Jerusalem, p. 113, and Bibl. Res. p. 318), and which might possibly be connected with the channel made by Hezekiah to conduct the water of the upper Gihon into the city, although this channel does not open into the pool of Hezekiah, and the walls, some remains of which are still preserved, may belong to a later age. The arguments adduced by Thenius in support of the assumption that the "lower" or "old pool" mentioned in Isaiah 22:9 and Isaiah 22:11 is different from the lower Gihon-pool, and to be sought for in the Tyropoeon, are inconclusive. It by no means follows from the expression, "which lies by the road of the fuller's field," i.e., by the road which runs past the fuller's field, that there was another upper pool in Jerusalem beside the upper pool (Gihon); but this additional clause simply serves to define more precisely the spot by the conduit mentioned where the Assyrian army took its stand; and it by no means follows from the words of Isaiah 22:11, "a gathering of waters have ye made between the two walls for the waters of the old pool," that this gathering of waters was made in the Tyropoeon, and that this "old pool," as distinguished from the lower pool (Isaiah 22:9), was an upper pool, which was above the king's pool mentioned in Nehemiah 3:15. For even if החמתים בין occurs in 2 Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 39:4; Jeremiah 52:7, in connection with a locality on the south-east side of the city, the Old Testament says nothing about two pools in the Tyropoeon at the south-east corner of Jerusalem, but simply mentions a fountain gate, which probably derived its name from the present fountain of the Virgin, and the king's pool, also called Shelach in Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15, which was no doubt fed from that fountain like the present Siloam, and watered the royal gardens. (Compare Rob. Pal. i. pp. 565ff., and Bibl. Res. p. 189, and Tobler, Die Siloah-quelle u. der Oelberg, pp. 1ff.). The two walls, between which Hezekiah placed the reservoir, may very well be the northern wall of Zion and the one which surrounded the lower city (Acra) on the north-west, according to which the words in Isaiah 22:11 would admirably suit the "pool of Hezekiah." Again, Hezekiah did not wait till the departure of Sennacherib before he built this conduit, which is also mentioned in Wis. 48:17, as Knobel supposes (on Isaiah 22:11), but he made it when he first invaded Judah, before the appearance of the Assyrian troops in front of Jerusalem, when he made the defensive preparations noticed at v. 14, as is evident from 2 Chronicles 32:3-4, compared with 2 Kings 18:30, since the stopping up of the fountain outside the city, to withdraw the water from the Assyrians, is expressly mentioned in 2 Kings 18:3, 2 Kings 18:4 among the measures of defence; and in the concluding notices concerning Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:20, and 2 Chronicles 32:30, there is also a brief allusion to this work, without any precise indication of the time when he had executed it.)

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