Isaiah 36
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The Assyrian king made a campaign against Judah, Lachish was taken, and the event was commemorated on bas-reliefs in Sennacherib's palace. The place commanded the direct road from Egypt to Judah. Hence the Rabshakeh, one of the chief officers of the Assyrians, was sent against Hezekiah, and by the "conduit of the upper pool" - the very spot where Ahaz had spoken with Isaiah (Isaiah 7:3) - he took up his quarters. "Unbelief was then represented by an Israelite, now more naturally by an Assyrian" (Cheyne). To meet him there go forth Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, disciple of Isaiah; Shebna, the secretary (cf. Isaiah 22:15-25); and Joah, the annalist.

I. THE PRIDE AND POWER OF THE ASSYRIAN. It seems to be the very type of worldly pride and power.

1. His title. He is the sarru rabu, the great king, or the strong king, or the king of hosts. The ruler of Judah is no king at all in his thought, but a name and shadow, or a mere puppet in the hands of a giant.

2. His contemptuous trust in force. Hezekiah trusts in a "mere word of the lips," according to the insolent conqueror. What of the alliance of Egypt? On the banks of the Nile grow abundance of reeds; a "cracked reed" is the symbol of that alliance, and of the Pharaoh's help (cf. Ezekiel 29:6, 7). The Assyrian predicts that the alliance will be broken asunder, and that crushing defeat will follow. But what of the protection of Jehovah? The Assyrian taunts Hezekiah with inconsistency, and turns his own conduct as a reformer against himself. The latter had abolished the "high places" (2 Kings 18:4; 2 Chronicles 31:1), and had centred worship at Jerusalem. To a superficial observer it looked as if the God of Israel had been robbed of his altars and a part of his due rites. How, then, could Judah expect the countenance of Jehovah? A reformation is always attended by evils, and it is a weapon in the hands of the enemy to charge these evils upon the reformation itself, instead of upon the human passions stirred up in the course of any great change. So the heathen charged the calamities of the Roman empire on Christianity, and the disorders attending the great Reformation of the sixteenth century were laid at the door of the reformers. Against these weaknesses in the position of Hezekiah, as the Assyrian deems them, he himself opposes brute force. He is strong in cavalry, and Judah is weak. Judah may have two thousand horses if she can find riders for them. How can she resist the attack of a single Assyrian satrap? She may well look to Egypt for chariots and horsemen.


1. The Assyrian pretends that he has even an oracle from Jehovah himself to destroy the land of Judah, because of the violation of the high places. Our spiritual enemies would not be so mighty if we were not so weak. In times of trial, it is the doubtful conscience which makes us weak; the self-betraying heart. The reaction and revival even from righteous efforts may be felt by good men. What if when they thought to serve God they have been displeasing him? And now, when danger and opposition have to be encountered, suppose that these assume the aspect, not of obstacles to be overcome in his strength, but of judgments sent in his wrath, to be withstood? There is, after all, no enemy to be feared like the traitor in our bosom, no force against us so formidable as that which is cloudily projected from an uneasy imagination; no bulwark so strong as a conscience void of offence toward God.

2. He endeavours to undermine the source of spiritual confidence. Hezekiah had encouraged the people, as he himself was encouraged by Isaiah - by pointing to the Divine Saviour of the nation: "Jehovah will surely deliver us, and the city shall not fall into the Assyrian's hands" (cf. Isaiah 37:35). How typical this of spiritual temptation! If the devil can get men to question the words of God, his victory is assured. It is not so much the open warfare, the battles about the outposts and fortifications of the faith, that we have to dread, as the sapping and mining operations directed at the very principle and seat of faith itself. Is this world governed? Has it a righteous constitution and administration? Does all repose upon the mind and will of a just and holy Being? Then faith may live, and the weakest may be strong. Or is all the effect of chance? and are we at the mercy of some blind and fatal power, which neither loves nor knows? Then the stoutest knees will be loosened, anti the bravest heart will quail.

3. He holds out enticing promises. Let the people make a treaty with the Assyrian. Let them surrender to him, and he will secure them a happy future. They will be removed from their own land, it is true; but they shall find another home in a land equally goodly, abounding in corn and grapes, in bread-corn and orchards. There each family shall possess its vine and its fig tree and its cistern. Here, again, worldly hopes are made to take the field against the instincts of religious faith. Why cling to Judah? Because it was sacred soil - the land of the fathers, the land whose holy centre was Jerusalem, the altar Of God, the meeting-place of the tribes, the earthly mirror of heaven. But was not this mere charm of imagination? Were not other lands as fair and as fertile? Could not a peaceful and a happy home be found in distant lands? Perhaps they are clinging to a pleasing illusion, a vain dream, and are blind to the good which lies at their feet. Perhaps they are defending themselves against their own happiness.

4. He appeals to seeming facts of history. The "gods of the nations" appear to have gone down before the victorious Assyrian. They, in the struggle, had not manifested a power to save. In ancient thought, religion and political power were closely connected. If a city or a nation stood, it was because of the protecting presence of the national god; its wanderings were his wanderings, its victories the effect of his prowess, its failures the signs of his defeat. Now, the gods of Hamath were captive in Assyrian shrines. And what probability was there, from a heathen point of view, that it would be otherwise with Jehovah, the national God of Israel? Such a rivalry between the long-vanished, power and religion of the Assyrian, and that of the living God, whom we at this day own, not only as national God of Israel, but as the Eternal himself - may seem strange. To the eve of the heathen, and from the heathen view of politics and history, it was not so. Time alone can discover the short-sightedness of human calculation, and expose the superficiality of worldly views of history.

III. THE ANSWER OF SILENCE. It was by Hezekiah's command that no answer was returned. "For they had nothing that would seem, from an Assyrian point of view, a satisfactory answer." And the rent clothes of the Jewish officials confess the last extreme of helpless grief. And may not the facts of this situation remind us of spiritual situations? There are hours of perplexed thought when the mind turns its own weapons against itself. All circumstances conspire against us, or seem to do so. We seek for the "bright side" of the situation, but there is no bright side to look upon. We turn to the east, hoping for a ray of light: all is darkness. The known is distinct and threatening; the unknown veiled and, to the depressed imagination, more threatening still. We are cowed by our own reason, quelled by the pressure of our most fixed habits of thinking. Tim problem is without solution to the intelligence. But there is a secret sympathy of our being with the Unseen. There is a secret channel by which we may communicate with the Unseen, and pierce behind the veil. When temptations close around us like the serried ranks of the Assyrian host, shutting out from view every possible way of escape, we may, nevertheless, believe that there is such a way - a passage into the clear light, which Jehovah has made, and which he will presently reveal. - J.

This general of the Assyrian army seems to have been a rude, violent, boastful man, who thought to do his work by means of great swelling words. He was big in threatening; and it is not often that such men prove big in deeds. Dean Plumptre says that "his words, in their brutal coarseness, have hardly a parallel in history, till we come to Bismarck's telling the Parisians that they may 'stew in their own gravy.'" The Rabshakeh, it should be observed, stood in the position, while he thus threatened, which intimated his power to destroy the aqueduct which supplied the city with water. Times of threatening are to be clearly distinguished from times of actual calamity. Trouble threatened is apt to relax our natures and weaken us with fears. Trouble actually come calls out our powers of endurance, and braces us for bearing and battling. And so, sometimes, trouble threatened, taking bigger shape in appearance than it ever can take in reality, has a special work of testing to do. He must be well centred in God who holds fast his calmness and trust, even in times of fright. Society is peculiarly liable - more especially highly civilized society - to sudden fears, which very easily become helpless panic. A few criminals in a great city get an hour's licence, and loot the shops in one district, and the whole city goes into a panic, stops its business, and pours its wealth into a fund to quiet the people who had little or nothing to do with the looting. So it has been again and again in the world's history. Threatenings have been more morally mischievous than actual calamity. The godly man should be easily master even of such circumstances.

I. HE KNOWS WELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BOAST AND PERFORMANCE, Observation teaches him that the man who threatens much accomplishes little; the man who swears and yields to passion is always weak in action. There is "sound, and nothing more." There is always room for this good advice, "Let not him that putteth on his armour boast as he that putteth it off."

II. HE KNOWS THAT THIS CONDITION APPLIES TO ALL THREATENINGS AND ALARMS: "IF THE LORD WILL." Men cannot, any more than tidal waves, go beyond their appointed bounds. Threats may do the Lord's will, but they can do nothing beyond the Lord's will. The godly man, therefore, waits to read God's will behind the threats or the fears, and can afford to be quite calm, and master of all circumstances.

III. HE KNOWS THAT GOD IS ALWAYS ON THE SIDE OF THE PERMANENTLY GOOD, AND IS ALWAYS WORKING TOWARDS IT. The way to the good is often like the twisting and winding of the stream of Jordan; but the godly man does not make too much of the rushes and rapids in the twists and falls - he knows Jordan moves steadily on to the sea, and life, however ruffled may be its surface, moves on to fulfil the good purpose of God. We may do as did the apostolic company when its leaders were threatened - we may bend before our God, and pray, "Now, Lord, behold their threatenings" (Acts 4:29, 30). - R.T.

An air of intolerable arrogance breathes in almost every sentence of this "railing Rabshakeh." It comes out in insolent characterization (vers. 5, 6), in disdainful challenge (ver. 8), in haughty self-confidence (ver. 9), in contemptuous disregard of the conventionalities of war (ver. 12), in a reprehensible vulgarity (ver. 12), etc. From this incident, or from other parts of Scripture, we conclude respecting it -

1. THAT IT IS APT TO DE VERY IGNORANT. Rabshakeh made a large and even ludicrous mistake respecting the action of Hezekiah in his iconoclastic policy. He thought the Jewish king was doing that which would excite the anger of Jehovah, when he was really securing his Divine favour (ver. 7). Contemptuous men are often found to be ignorant: and, naturally, if not necessarily, so; for they imagine themselves to be above the necessity to inquire and ascertain, and their assumptions are soon discovered to be false. Those who are too proud to learn must be content to be numbered with the foolish.

II. THAT IT SINKS INTO IMPIETY. Rabshakeh held up to derision the idea that Jehovah could preserve Jerusalem (ver. 15), and classed the Lord of heaven with the helpless deities of Syria (vers. 18-20). The arrogant spirit is essentially an irreverent one. Men that look with scorn upon the human soon come to regard themselves as independent of the Divine. They are not deified in the daring and presumptuous form which was once known; but they assume to themselves a power, a control, a providence, which belongs only to the Lord of our hearts and lives. Hence we find -

III. THAT IT MAKES FATAL BLUNDERS. The king for whom Rabshakeh was speaking and whose haughty determination he was announcing never did "come and take away" to his own land these despised Jews who were on the walls of Jerusalem. He returned with haste and humiliation into his own land. The scornful will find that events do not fill up their bold outlines; on the contrary, they will entirely traverse them: their pretensions will be overthrown, and their promises and their threats left unfulfilled. Expel the contemptuous spirit from the heart: it is an evil thing in itself, and it works evil to him that cherishes it.

1. It is exceedingly unlovely; it is utterly unbecoming in any child of man who, be he what he may, stands on the same level of fallibility on which his fellows stand.

2. It meets with the deep displeasure, and will bring down the strong rebuke, of God. He resists the proud and humiliates them.

3. It is only worthy of the disregard of man; all wise people, when they are treated with arrogance, return a rebuking silence, like these sensible sons of Jerusalem (ver. 21). - C.

Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, in Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it. Man must lean. He is constituted to rest on some object outside himself, and it would be a wise though painful study to review the false resting-places of the human heart. Egypt stands in the Scripture for the world outside God - its pleasure, its skill, its science, its entire wealth of means and appliances. For Egypt was once the repository of the world's wealth, and skill, and science, and beauty, and glory.

I. THIS IS HISTORICAL TRUTH. How eagerly the Jews turned from the true God to idols! Their life was dishonoured during a long part of their history by idolatry, for which they were punished by captivities, and against which they were warned by prophets. Still they rebelled against God, and vexed and grieved his Holy Spirit. Delivered from Egypt and its slaveries and wrongs, as their fathers were, they yet turned in heart to all that was represented by Egypt.

II. THIS IS SYMOBLIC TRUTH. Men lean still on reeds, that in time become broken reeds. They trust in wealth, friendship, fortune; and these at last give way, and the reed pierces them to the heart. This is the story often told of the world's disappointed conditions - broken health and lost fortunes. Having no God to turn to, men are left desolate and deserted in the hour when heart and flesh faint and fail. We see all this in Byron and Shelley, and in the "Midases" of the world, who love wealth and all that wealth can bring. Nothing in the world answers to the deep necessities of man's immortal nature, and the "rest under the shadow of Egypt" is not broad and deep enough for the soul of man.

III. THIS IS SURPRISING TRUTH. "Lo!" we may well exclaim. Is this world a lunatic asylum, alter all, full of men and women who have lost the fine balances of judgment? or is it a blind asylum, where they have lost the clear vision of truth? After all the records of observation and of history, has it come to this - that each succeeding generation takes up the old lie and forsakes the living God? Even now and here, where the Saviour says, "Come unto me and rest," how many seek "rest" out of God! Some find human love itself a broken reed, and in their hours of sad discovery turn cynical and despairing, whilst to others friendship itself has proved superficial and fickle. There are many who have drawn out the broken reed, and dressed the wound as well as they may; but it remains unhealed. What they really want is the balm of Gilead and. the great Physician of souls. - W.M.S.

The arrogant language of Rabshakeh was full enough of falsehood, but it had one grain of truth. Egypt was but a broken reed on which to lean, and any trust reposed in its aid would be attended with disaster and humiliation. The imagery which is here used is forcible enough, and it admirably describes the character and the consequences of an ill-founded confidence. Of these treacherous trusts are -


1. We are expressly warned of God not to lean on this (Proverbs 3:5).

2. Our known weakness, our incapacity to penetrate the hearts of men and to foresee the issue of events, our liability to make deplorable and ruinous mistakes, - this should teach us to forbear.

3. And the many lamentable instances, recorded in histories and witnessed by our own eyes, of the evil consequences of men trusting to their own sagacity, should also dissuade and deter us.

II. HUMAN FRIENDSHIPS. The language of Scripture on this subject is remarkably, is significantly, strong (Jeremiah 17:5). When we consider how often it has happened, as the consequence of human insufficiency, not only that men have failed to secure what they were expecting, but that they have been thereby plunged into the deepest distress and even into irremediable ruin; that - to use the image of Rabshakeh - the staff has not only broken under them, but pierced the hand that leant on it; - we may well feel that this scriptural language is not a whir too strong. Human friendship breaks down and wounds us by its fracture,

(1) through the limitations of our faculty;

(2) through inconstancy, and even treachery;

(3) through moral or spiritual shipwreck.

III. TEMPORAL ADVANTAGES. Riches, rank, official position and the power it confers, - these are things on which we are prone to place reliance. But woe unto the man who has no firmer ground on which to build! In the day of his calamity, in the hour of bereavement, in the time of desolation, in the hour of death, those things will fail him; and to have trusted in any or in all of them, to the negligence of a hope that is surer than they, will add unspeakable bitterness to the sense of failure and of need. The broken reed will pierce the hand that holds it. Only in a Divine Saviour, whose wisdom will never be found wanting, whose faithfulness will never fail, whose power to succour and befriend in the saddest sorrows and darkest hours will continually suffice - only in him will be round the support which "cannot be broken." "Our God is a Rock;" and blessed is the man who rests all the weight of his joy and of his hope on his inviolable word, on his irrefragable power. - C.

Evidently the Rabshakeh was informed concerning the parties that divided the people of Jerusalem at this time. Hezekiah seems to have been so far persuaded as to give his reluctant assent to sending the embassy to Egypt. The complaints which Sennacherib had to make against Hezekiah were

(1) that he had refused tribute (2 Kings 18:14);

(2) that he had opened negotiations with Babylon and Egypt (2 Kings 18:24), with a view to an alliance against Assyria;

(3) that he had helped the Philistines of Ekron to rise against their king. The second of these is dealt with in this verse. The Rabshakeh satirizes the helplessness of Egypt, likening that nation to a cracked, not broken, reed, which breaks suddenly, and pierces the hand of him who leans hard on it as a supporting staff. The keenness of the satire lies in the truth of it. Of the hopelessness of leaning on Egypt Isaiah had already warned the people (Isaiah 30:7, see the true reading). Egypt, in relation to Israel, is the type of the human confidences to which men turn so readily in their distress, forgetful of the Divine confidence in which alone they can be secure.

I. THE SATIRE OF GOD'S MINISTERS. Illustrate from the Prophet Isaiah, who dealt so vigorously with this trusting to Egypt. Sometimes he gave serious and solemn warnings; sometimes grave reproaches; and sometimes keen criticism and biting satire, as if he would shame them into giving up the foolish and hopeless scheme. He put the character of Egypt into a word, almost an offensive word. Cheyne suggests that he wrote this word Rahab, "utter indolence," "helpless inaction," in large characters, and set it up in a public place. That was his idea of Egypt. So, still, Christian ministers must not hesitate to wither up men's self-trusting and man-trusting with the keenest satire. It is a fair weapon for destroying self-confidences.

II. THE SATIRE OF RIVALS. Such was the satire of Assyria, through its Rabshakeh. At this time Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt were each seeking the alliance of Judah, and the jealousy of the one that did not succeed found expression in descriptions of the one that did. We can often get some self-knowledge through the things our rivals say of us in the bitterness of their disappointment. It is often surprising, it should be always helpful, to "see oursel's as ithers see us."

III. THE SATIRE OF EVENTS. Ridiculous indeed was the help Egypt afforded to Judah. The strength of Egypt at this time was one of appearance only. Egypt never has been a country that could be relied on. It did not save Judah. Its alliance only hurried on the fate of Judah. The cracked reed broke, and pierced the hand. "Experience is a dear school, but fools will learn in no other." The logic of events soon shows up the folly of all confidences in man. Impress, in conclusion, from the figures of the very striking passage, Jeremiah 17:5-8. - R.T.

The explanation of this taunt is well given by Sayce and Cheyne. "Sennacherib had heard of the reformation of worship undertaken by Hezekiah. This, from his heathen point of view, was an act of gross impiety towards Jehovah; for had not Jehovah from time immemorial been worshipped at most, if not all, of the 'high places'? The local sanctuaries designated by the latter phrase appear from the inscriptions to have been known in Assyria and Babylonia, as well as Palestine; indeed, they go back to Accadian - that is, pre-Semitic times." As he had passed through the country, the Rabshakeh had found the "high places" desecrated; so he assumed that the God of the country must he offended with Hezekiah. One of our gravest difficulties in witnessing for God in the world arises from men's mistakes concerning him. They do not understand us, or feel the force of our pleadings, because they do not apprehend God as we do. This subject may be very practically illustrated and enforced from three spheres of modern religious activity and service - missions, apologetics, preaching.

I. THE MISTAKES OF THE HEATHEN CONCERNING OUR GOD HINDER MISSIONS. They have notions of God, or the gods, and attach them to the God we reveal to them. Much missionary labour is necessarily expended in correcting the mistakes which prevent the acceptance of the way of salvation by Christ Jesus. God pure, God love, God hating sin, God a Spirit, God our Father, God in sacrifice that he might save, - these are all most strange and confusing to men who must think amidst heathen associations. It is eternal life to know the only true God.

II. THE MISTAKES OF THE OPPONENTS OF REVELATION HINDER OUR ARGUMENTS FROM PRODUCING DUE CONVICTIONS. The atheist, infidel, agnostic, sceptic, make as grave mistakes about our God as the Rabshakeh did about Jehovah. They have created figures and representations of him which we can join them in declaring make him unworthy of trust. Only those figures do not represent our God. We cannot acknowledge them. If the mistakes could but be corrected, and our God be known as he is, they would "preach the faith" who now "seek to destroy it." Grave, indeed, is the sin of those who, professing to believe in God, nevertheless misrepresent him, and so give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme.

III. THE MISTAKES OF SECTS AND CREEDS HINDER RELIGIOUS WORK AMONG PROFESSORS. There is the Calvinistic God, and the Arminian God, the God who is exacting . Judge, Moral Governor, august King. There are vague, repellent notions cherished in ignorant minds; and the preacher often speaks of a God who is really to the people an "unknown God." The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to bring the full, last, all-satisfying revelation of God to men. We are still making hindering mistakes about God, because we will not receive his revelation. He taught men to lift up holy hands, and say, "Our Father, which art in heaven." - R.T.

The Lord said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it. The inscriptions of Sennacherib are remarkable for similar assertions to this. He delights, apparently, to claim a Divine sanction for the wars in which he was engaged. Some think that he may have heard of Isaiah's declaration, that Jehovah was using the King of Assyria as his instrument (see ch. 7:17, 18). We are bound to receive the messages of God, in whatsoever form they may come to us; but we are bound also to test the credentials of every messenger who brings them. For testing the messengers, adequate provisions have been made. We can "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." A suggestive illustration may be found in the narrative of the disobedient prophet (1 Kings 13.). The old prophet claimed to speak in the name of God, and so over-persuaded the younger man. But that young man might reasonably have argued thus: "I have my instructions direct from God; they are definite and, clear, and I must have the most convincing evidence before I turn aside from fulfilling the instructions given me." It was right to doubt even Christ so far as to require satisfactory signs and proofs that he had come from God. Men may make claims, as fanatics and enthusiasts do in every age; we shall not heed until they prove the claim. Illustrate by Johanna Southcote, Swedenborg, Irving, etc. We suggest some tests for judging claims to speak for God.

I. REASONABLE PROBABILITY. We suspect many things because they are not likely. It was very suspicious to assume that Jehovah had given direct and audible commands to Sennacherib. Many of the visions and mysteries of Swedenborg are judged by their unreasonableness and improbability. God's ways may be beyond reason, but they are not foolish to the view of reason. The test of reason is carried too far when a full and accurate understanding is demanded, but it may fairly be applied to decide what is probable.

II. BOOK OF THE LAW. The Israelites were required to test all who claimed to be prophets by the harmony between their spoken word and the existing written Word. "To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them." The Scriptures have a tone and character which is even more important than their precise details. Apply these to claimants, and they will test, as do chemical solvents. All who know and love God's Word become sensitive to that which is in harmony with it.

III. RESPONSE OF CONSCIENCE. This test may be illustrated by Jonah's mission to Nineveh. Jonah had no credentials. He might have been treated as an impostor. But the conscience of Nineveh responded to his message, and conscience guaranteed faith. All messages from God that come as warnings, reproaches, awakenings, threatenings, can be tried by conscience, and its "accusings and excusings." So none of us need be uncertain whom to believe. - R.T.

The King of Assyria, by the mouth of his general, appeals to the citizens of Jerusalem to abandon their allegiance to Hezekiah. and "go out to him," promising them great advantages for their disloyalty. It is closely analogous to the invitation of our spiritual enemy to go over to him and receive the wages of sin which he offers to our souls.


1. Under the circumstances in which they then were, loyalty was threatened with decided disadvantage:

(1) with privation, for there was the probability of a long siege and its attendant scarcities;

(2) with suffering, or even death, for attacks would be made and missiles would be hurled against the city.

2. On the other hand, surrender promised material good:

(1) present exemption from exigency and assault (ver. 16); and

(2) abundance of comfort in future days (ver. 17). So is it in the spiritual realm. Our great Adversary seeks to allure us from the true citizenship, and he has a plausible proposal to make. He says

(1) that to serve God is to suffer loss; is to be shut out from many sources of wealth and joy; is to be starved and beggared; is to be exposed to the dislike, the derision, the hostile action of those who are the strongest and most numerous among men. He says also

(2) that to be on the side of evil is to be in the way of prosperity; that its land is "a land of corn and wine," of strength and joy, of material prosperity and sensual enjoyment: be selfish and unscrupulous, and the prizes of life and the pleasures of sense are yours. But in regard to each of these proposals, the historical and the existing, it must be considered that -


1. Rabshakeh and his royal master were both mistaken in their calculations. Jerusalem was not to be reduced to the severe straits of a protracted siege, was not to be taken by assault; neither want nor sword was to devastate the city. And they left the most important consideration out of their account; for even if their military projects had succeeded, and if the Jews had been defeated and ]lad found the plains of the Tigris as fruitful as the valley of the Jordan, yet would they have missed and mourned the liberty, the sacred services, the natural independence of their own beloved country, - they would have hung their harps upon the willows, instead of making them sound the joyous strains of patriotism and piety.

2. Our spiritual enemy is also essentially wrong in his representations; he, too, leaves the principal considerations out of his reckoning.

(1) All that we lose by our loyalty to God is that which no wise man would accept - iniquitous gain, injurious friendship, demoralizing pleasure, etc.; it is well, indeed, to be without these.

(2) All that we could gain by subservience to his unholy will would leave us unblessed with the true riches - with the favour and friendship of God, with a sense of moral and spiritual integrity, with the power of rendering holy service to our kind, with the joy of sacred intercourse with a Divine Redeemer and with like-minded fellow-servants, with the elevating and sustaining hopes that "enter within the veil." - C.

The fig tree affords a thick shade, and is, on this account, a favourite resort of the family, where they may often be seen seated on mats, partaking of a meal or entertaining friends. The expression, 'to sit under one's own vine and fig tree,' denotes at once security, domestic enjoyment, and competence. The expression is either a common Eastern, proverb, or the Rabshakeh takes up the language of the people he addresses, in his chaffing, taunting, satirical way. The sentence and figure are found also in 1 Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:50. Mr. Thomas Jenner, writing of a dwelling just outside Jerusalem, says, "Mr. Azam's house is approached through a gateway of considerable width, from which to the door a broad path leads through the garden. This path is spanned by a wooden trellis, upon which a vine is trained, and at the time of our visit delicious grapes were hanging from it. As I contemplated this scene from within doors, or took the morning and evening air, sauntering between gate and door, I could but recall this striking figure of security and peace." The point before us is, that the Rabshakeh promises the people that safety which comes from the rule of a strong and stable government. He scarcely veils his taunts at the parties and political commotions which were destroying the sense of security, and making foreign complications, for the people of Judah. We too seldom realize the importance of strong, stable government in a country. It may be illustrated in the following directions.

I. STABLE GOVERNMENT CHECKS PARTY FEELING. If the government be weak, its enemies are active, public opinion is kept agitated, demagogues appear and exaggerate public disabilities and public claims. Men are diverted from their proper pursuits to engage in political wrangle; the relationships of life are embittered by party divisions; and valuable national time is lost in unprofitable contentions. If the government be strong, the anarchical forces subside. Blessed is the land that is generally free from political strife.

II. STABLE GOVERNMENT VIGOROUSLY REPRESSES EVIL-DOERS. And on this the security and prosperity of a country most directly depends. Business can only be carried on where there is security for property and security for rights. Illustrate from the condition of Israel when "there was no king in the land, and every one did that which was right in his own eyes."

III. STABLE GOVERNMENT CAN ENCOURAGE THE ARTS OF PEACE AND ACCOMPLISH JUDICIOUS REFORMS. It holds foreign relations with firm band, and so preserves peace. It can crush the agitator and heed the reformer. Spared from contention, it has time and means for aiding internal development. And it can stand by and preserve the liberties of those who, in a thousand ways, would spread among the people the knowledge of the true God and the eternal life. Therefore every good Christian and good citizen should strengthen the government of his day. "The powers that be are ordained of God." - R.T.

It is an insult to class Jehovah with the idol-gods created by heathen imaginations and presented in heathen symbolic figures. Jehovah is like none else; he is God alone. The impertinence of this Rabshakeb is seen in that he sets Jehovah among the petty and inferior gods of small nations, and assumes that Asshur and Ishtar, the gods of Assyria, were supreme above them all. Cheyne says, "The Assyrian is inconsistent. In his first speech he had stated himself to be the obedient instrument of Jehovah. Here he represents the wars of the Assyrians as inspired by a religious hostility to all the gods of the nations." The point which may be illustrated is - What should be our attitude in the presence of such insults? For they are offered now. The scoffer still lives. The sceptic still flings over God the dark shadow of his doubtings. Literature, too, often thinly veils its insults. We should variously meet the occasions, adapting our response to the nature of the insult and the character of him who offers it. Three forms of response may be considered.

I. CALM INDIFFERENCE. Very many of the bravely uttered scepticisms of our time are only designed to draw attention to those who utter them. They are in the nature of personal advertisements. Leave them alone. They are nothing; we must take care not to swell them into something by directing attention to them. Sometimes these insults are petty and nagging, but continuous. Again, indifference is the best treatment. Those who have faith in God make grave mistakes when they too vigorously defend God against the arrows of mere children. To noisy antagonism we may calmly say, "It doesn't matter."

II. NOBLE TESTIMONY. There is a time to speak. When insults have grown to such power that the faith of the young, or the work of grace in the world, is imperilled, we must speak out. The Christian apologist has his time and his sphere, especially when a kind of mania of unbelief seems to seize upon a people. Illustrate from the three Hebrew youths; the apostles before the Sanhedrini; Paul before Agrippa; Luther at the Diet of Worms, etc. Firm testimony of our personal convictions will often silence the scoffer.

III. ACTIVE VINDICATION. By reasonable judgments on those who offer the insult. Blasphemy ought to he a crime. By withdrawal from association with those who thus walk disorderly. The man who has no reverence for God has no basis of character which makes friendship with him safe. And by using all available means for clearing the outraged name, and upholding the imperilled honour of him who is our "All and in all." - R.T.

They held their peace, and answered him not a word. The readiest thing is to meet taunt with taunt, and rouse each other's worst passions with mutual recriminations. The noblest thing is to meet undeserved and unworthy reproach and insult with the dignified silence which is born of trust in God as our Vindicator. But worthy silence must be carefully distinguished from the dumbness of the sulky temperament, which is a sign of the uncultured and ungoverned nature. We should never confuse the silence of stupidity with the silence of self-restraint. Matthew Henry quaintly and wisely says, "It is sometimes prudent" not to answer a fool according to his folly. "These Jews had reason enough on their side, but it would be hard to speak it to such an unreasonable adversary without a mixture of passion; and, if they should fall a-railing like him, Rabshakeh would be much too hard for them at that weapon." Fixing attention on the two facts - that the people kept silence, and that they did so in obedience to Hezekiah, we get the following two points for illustration.

I. SILENCE IN AN EVIL TIME INDICATES SELF-MASTERY. Remember what the Apostle James says of the unruliness of the tongue. Observe how readily we are excited to answer again. Recall the anxiety of the psalmist about keeping the door of his lips. Notice how speakers are carried to the utterance of imprudent things by the heat of discussion. Estimate the mischief done by careless, cruel, or passionate words. And see the sublime example of our Lord when on his trial. "He answered nothing" "He held his peace." This last expression suggests that silence is a sign of strength of will; the man who can keep silence is master of his actions, and master of himself Silence is oftentimes, in its effect, the truest and most powerful speech. It shames men; it quiets men; it reproaches men; it conquers the opposition of men; it shows the right to all bystanders and onlookers. It has been said that there is such a thing as a "Divine dumbness;" and Carlyle calls "speech silvern, silence golden." The sublime self-mastery of Heaven is suggested in the declaration that "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."

II. SILENCE IN A PUBLIC EVIL TIME SHOWS POWER OF COMMAND OVER OTHERS. It was a great thing for Hezekiah to keep silence himself; anti it was a great thing also for him to command silence in the people. Only the man who can control himself can ever have the power to control others. Illustrations of the importance of this power of checking speech in others may be taken from family life and Church life. It is of special value in excited, irritating, quarrelsome times. - R.T.

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