Isaiah 36:12
But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
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(12) Hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall . . .?—The words, which 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,” imply that the Assyrians were in a position to cut off the supplies both of food and water.

36:1-22:See 2Ki 18:17-37, and the commentary thereon.Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee? - To Hezekiah, and to you alone. A part of my purpose is to address the people, to induce them to leave Hezekiah, and to offer no resistance to the Assyrian.

To the men that sit on the wall ... - The meaning of this is, that the inhabitants of the city, if they do not surrender, will be subjected to the severest evils of famine. If they did not surrender, it was the purpose of the Assyrian to lay siege to the city, and to reduce it. But it was often the work of years to reduce and take a city. Nebuchadnezzar spent thirteen years before Tyre, and the Greeks employed ten in reducing ancient Troy. The sense here is, therefore, that unless the people could be induced to surrender to Sennacherib, they would be subjected to all the horrors of a siege, when they would be reduced to the most deplorable state of necessity and want. The idea in the whole verse is clearly expressed in the parallel place in 2 Chronicles 32:11 : 'Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The Lord our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?' In regard to the indelicacy of this passage, we may observe:

1. That the Masoretes in the Hebrew text have so pointed the words used, that in reading it the offensiveness would be considerably avoided. It is common in the Hebrew Scriptures, when a word is used in the text that is indelicate, to place another word in the margin, and the vowel-points that belong to the word in the margin are applied to the word in the text, and the word in the margin is thus commonly read. In accordance with this custom among the Jews, it is evident that more delicacy might have been observed by our translators in this, and in some other places of the Scriptures.

2. The customs, habits, and modes of expression of people in different nations and times, differ. What appears indelicate at one time or in one country, may not only be tolerated, but common in another. Many things are esteemed indelicate among us which are not so in polite and refined France; many expressions are so regarded now which were not in the time when the Bible was translated into English. Many things may be to us offensive which were not so to the Syrians, the Babylonians, and the Jews; and many modes of expression which are common now, and consistent with all our notions of refinement, may appear improper in some other period of the world. There are many things in Shakespere, and in most of the Old English writers, which cannot now be read without a blush. Yet need I say that those expressions will be heard with unconcern in the theater by those whose delicacy is most offended by some expression in the Bible? There are things infinitely more offensive to delicacy in Byron, and Moore, and even Burns, than there are in the Scriptures; and yet are these not read without a murmur by those who make the loudest complaints of the slightest departure from delicacy in the Bible?

3. There is another remark to be made in regard to this. Isaiah is not at all responsible for the indelicacy of the language here. He is simply a historian. He did not say it; nor is he responsible for it. If there is indelicacy in it, it is not in recording it, but in saying it; and the responsibility is on Rabshakeh. If Isaiah undertook to make a record of an important transaction, what right had he to abridge it, or contract it, or to make it different from what it was?

4. And again: it was of importance to give the true character of the attack which was made on Jerusalem. The coming of Sennacherib was attended with pride, and insolence, and blasphemy; and it was important to state the true character of the transaction. and to record just what was said and done. Hence, Isaiah, as a faithful historian, recorded the coming of the Assyrians; the expressions of their haughtiness, insolence, and pride; their vain boasting, and their reproaches of Yahweh; and for the same reason he has recorded the gross and indelicate language which they used to add to the trials of the Jews. Let him who used the language, and not him who recorded it, bear the blame.

12. Is it to thy master and thee that I am sent? Nay, it is to the men on the wall, to let them know (so far am I from wishing them not to hear, as you would wish), that unless they surrender, they shall be reduced to the direst extremities of famine in the siege (2Ch 32:11, explains the word here), namely, to eat their own excrements: or, connecting, "that they may eat," &c., with "sit upon the wall"; who, as they hold the wall, are knowingly exposing themselves to the direst extremities [Maurer]. Isaiah, as a faithful historian, records the filthy and blasphemous language of the Assyrians to mark aright the true character of the attack on Jerusalem. No text from Poole on this verse.

But Rabshakeh said, hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words?.... That is, to them only, that he should use a language only understood by them:

hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall; and therefore it is proper to speak in a language which they understand, and to let them know that if they will not surrender up the city, but will attempt to hold out a siege, they must expect

that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? suggesting that they must expect a close siege, which would not be broke up until the city was taken; the consequence of which would be such a famine, that they would be reduced to such extremities. The Jews have substituted other words in the margin, instead of those in the text, as more cleanly, and less offensive; for "dung" they put "excrement", and for "piss" they read "the waters of the feet"; and had we in our version put excrement and urine instead of these words, it would have been more decent.

But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
12. that they may eat …] Note the contrast in Isaiah 36:16. The clause, therefore, expresses not the desire or purpose of the king of Assyria, but the effect of submitting to Hezekiah’s insane policy.

Verse 12. - Hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall? Rabshakeh was contravening all diplomatic usage, and no doubt was conscious of it. But the pride and arrogance of the Assyrians rendered them as careless of diplomatic etiquette as, at a later date, were the Romans (see Polybius, 29:11, § 6; Liv., 45:12). That they may eat, etc.; rather, to eat. That is, with no other result than that of being reduced, together with you, to the last extremity of famine, when the siege comes. Isaiah 36:12The harsh reply is given in Isaiah 36:12. "Then Rabshakeh said (K. to them), Has my lord sent me to (K. העל) the men who sit upon the wall, to eat their dung, and to drink their urine together with you?" - namely, because their rulers were exposing them to a siege which would involve the most dreadful state of famine.
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