But the people 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)2 Kings 18:36. But the people held their peace — That is, both these three men, and the people that were with them upon the wall, especially the people to whom he had chiefly spoken, and from whom he expected an answer. For the king’s command was, Answer him not — This was wisely ordered, lest by their words they should betray their fears, or provoke their enemies to greater injuries or blasphemies, or give them some advantage or direction for their further proceedings; as also that by this instance of obedience and calmness, the king of Assyria might see the resolution of the people to cleave unto their king, and the vanity of his attempts to seduce them to a defection from him. 2 Kings 19:13, and again in Isaiah 10:9). Sennacherib adduces late examples of the inability of the nations' gods to protect their cities. On the other cities mentioned in this verse, see 2 Kings 17:24 notes. The people, i.e. either these three men, this word being sometimes used of a very few men, as 1 Samuel 9:24. Or rather, the people that were with then upon the wall, 2 Kings 18:26, to whom he spake, and from whom he expected an answer.
Answer him not; which was wisely ordered, partly lest by their words they should either betray their fears, or provoke their enemies to greater injuries or blasphemies, or give them some advantage or direction for their further proceedings; and partly that by this instance of obedience and calmness he might see the resolution of the people to cleave unto their king, and the vanity of his attempts to seduce them to a defection from him. 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. But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)36. the people held their peace] Rab-shakeh had hoped to excite the people, at all events, to some expression of discontent, and perhaps had any movement of that kind been displayed, the ‘great host’ of verse 17 would at once have begun the attack, for treason within the city might have opened the gates. But the expectation is utterly disappointed, even the fear of starvation provokes no treachery.
Bp Hall observes here, ‘I do not more wonder at Hezekiah’s wisdom in commanding silence, than at the subjects’ obedience in keeping it. This railer could not be more spited, than with no answer; and if he might be exasperated he could not be reformed. Besides, the rebounding of those multiplied blasphemies might leave some ill impressions in the multitude. This sulphurous flask, therefore, dies in his own smoke; only leaving a hateful stench behind it’.
The Chronicler, though his account is briefer, yet describes in more terrible terms the blasphemies of the Assyrian envoy. Not only does he mention his language to those who came to hear him, but he adds ‘he wrote also letters to rail on the Lord, the God of Israel, and to speak against Him … and they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth which were the work of the hands of man’. (2 Chronicles 32:17; 2 Chronicles 32:19.) Perhaps he is alluding to the letter mentioned below (2 Kings 19:14).Verse 36. - But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word. All Rabshakeh's efforts to produce open disaffection failed. Whatever impression his arguments may have made, no indication was given that they had produced any. If, then, he had hoped to bring about a mutiny, or even to create a disturbance, he was disappointed. For the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Hezekiah had either anticipated Rabshakeh's tactics, and given an order beforehand that no word should be uttered, or he had promptly met them by sending such an order, on learning Rabshakeh's proceedings, The latter is more probable, since such an outrageous course as that which Rabshakeh had pursued can scarcely have been expected. Isaiah 36:15.
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