2 Kings 18:20
You say, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Thou sayest (but they are but vain Words).—Literally, thou hast saida mere lip-word it wasi.e., insincere language, an utterance which thou knewest to be false. (Comp. our expression, “lip-service.”)

I have counsel . . .—The margin is wrong.

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.Hezekiah no doubt believed that in the "counsel" of Eliakim and Isaiah, and in the "strength" promised him by Egypt, he had resources which justified him in provoking a war.

Vain words - literally, as in margin, i. e., a mere word, to which the facts do not correspond.

19. Rab-shakeh said—The insolent tone he assumed appears surprising. But this boasting [2Ki 18:19-25], both as to matter and manner, his highly colored picture of his master's powers and resources, and the impossibility of Hezekiah making any effective resistance, heightened by all the arguments and figures which an Oriental imagination could suggest, has been paralleled in all, except the blasphemy, by other messages of defiance sent on similar occasions in the history of the East. Thou sayest; either to thy people, to encourage them; or rather, within thyself.

But they are but vain words, or, surely, or, only words of the lips, i.e. vain, unprofitable, idle talk, without any effect; or they come not from thy heart; thou speakest this against thy own knowledge.

Counsel and strength for the war; counsel to contrive, strength or courage to execute; which two things are of greatest necessity and use for war. But the words are and may be rendered otherwise; either this, thou speakest surely words of the lips, i.e. thou encouragest thyself and thy people with talk and words; but counsel and strength are for war, are necessary for thy defence; neither of which thou hast within thyself, but must seek them from others; and where wilt thou find them?

on whom (as it follows)

dost thou trust? Or thus, Thou sayest, I have the word of my lips, (either,

1. Words wherewith to pray to God for help; or,

2. Eloquence to encourage my soldiers and people,) counsel and strength for war; i.e. I am furnished with all things necessary for my defence. On whom dost thou trust? seeing it is apparent thou hast not strength of thy own, from whom dost thou expect succours? 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. Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have {f} counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?

(f) You think that words will serve to persuade your people, or to move my master.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words)] Some have taken the words in the parenthesis as the object of the verb, so that the sense would be ‘Thou speakest only vain words (when thou talkest about) counsel and strength’. But it is better to leave them as a parenthesis, because of the succeeding question Thou speakest of counsel and strength, whence are they to come? The literal meaning of the expression rendered ‘vain words’, i.e. a word of the lips, which is nothing but so much breath, is very forcible and is preserved on the margin both of A.V. and R.V. Instead of the italics ‘I have’ R.V. inserts There is.Verse 20. - Thou sayest (but they are but vain words); literally, words of lips; i.e. words which the lips speak, without the heart having any conviction of their truth. We must suppose that Sennacherib has either heard from his spies that Hezekiah is speaking to the people as he represents him to be speaking, or conjectures what he is likely to say. According to the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8), what he did say was very different. He neither boasted of "counsel" nor of material "strength;" but simply said, "There be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles." I have counsel and strength for the war. Sennacherib imagines that Hezekiah's real trust is in the "fleshly arm" of Egypt, and in the counselors who have advised and brought about the alliance. And perhaps he is not far wrong. Hezekiah, it would seem, "halted between two opinions." He hoped for aid from Egypt; but, if it failed, then he hoped for the Divine help promised by Isaiah. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? On the report of Sennacherib's approach, Hezekiah made provision at once for the safety of Jerusalem. He had the city fortified more strongly, and the fountain of the upper Gihon and the brook near the city stopped up (see at 2 Kings 18:17), to cut off the supply of water from the besiegers, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 32:2-8, and confirmed by Isaiah 22:8-11. In the meantime Sennacherib had pressed forward to Lachish, i.e., Um Lakis, in the plain of Judah, on the south-west of Jerusalem, seven hours to the west of Eleutheropolis on the road to Egypt (see at Joshua 10:3); so that Hezekiah, having doubts as to the possibility of a successful resistance, sent ambassadors to negotiate with him, and promised to pay him as much tribute as he might demand if he would withdraw. The confession "I have sinned" is not to be pressed, inasmuch as it was forced from Hezekiah by the pressure of distress. Since Asshur had made Judah tributary by faithless conduct on the part of Tiglath-pileser towards Ahaz, there was nothing really wrong in the shaking off of this yoke by the refusal to pay any further tribute. But Hezekiah certainly did wrong, when, after taking the first step, he was alarmed at the disastrous consequences, and sought to purchase once more the peace which he himself had broken, by a fresh submission and renewal of the payment of tribute. This false step on the part of the pious king, which arose from a temporary weakness of faith, was nevertheless turned into a blessing through the pride of Sennacherib and the covenant-faithfulness of the Lord towards him and his kingdom. Sennacherib demanded the enormous sum of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (more than two and a half million thalers, or 375,000); and Hezekiah not only gave him all the gold and silver found in the treasures of the temple and palace, but had the gold plates with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:3) removed, to send them to the king of Assyria. האמנות, lit., the supports, i.e., the posts, of the doors.

These negotiations with Sennacherib on the part of Hezekiah are passed over both in the book of Isaiah and also in the Chronicles, because they had no further influence upon the future progress of the war.

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