Isaiah 36:5
I say, say you, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?
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(5, 6) I have counsel and strength for war . . .—Reports of Hezekiah’s speech. probably also of his negotiations with Egypt, had reached the ears of the Assyrian king. So Sennacherib. in his inscriptions, speaks of “the king of Egypt as a monarch who could not save those who trusted in him” (Smith, Assyrian Canon). The Pharaoh in this case was Shabatoka, or Sabaco II., the father of the Tir-hakah of Isa xxxvii 9, one of the Ethiopian dynasty that reigned in Egypt from B.C. 725-665.

36:1-22:See 2Ki 18:17-37, and the commentary thereon.I say, sayest thou - In 2 Kings 18:20, this is 'thou sayest;' and thus many manuscripts read it here, and Lowth and Noyes have adopted that reading. So the Syriac reads it. But the sense is not affected whichever reading is adopted. It is designed to show to Hezekiah that his reliance, either on his own resources or on Egypt, was vain.

But they are but vain words - Margin, as Hebrew, 'A word of lips;' that is, mere words; vain and empty boasting.

On whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? - Hezekiah had revolted from the Assyrian power, and had refused to pay the tribute which had been imposed on the Jews in the time of Ahaz 2 Kings 18:7.

5. counsel—Egypt was famed for its wisdom. No text from Poole on this verse. I say, (sayest thou,) but they are but vain words,.... Or, "word of lips" (f); meaning the following, which he suggests were only the fruit of his lips, not of his heart; or were vain and foolish, and without effect, and stood for nothing; so the first part of the words are Hezekiah's, "I say (sayest thou)"; and the latter, Rabshakeh's note upon them; though they may be understood as Hezekiah's, or what he is made to speak by Rabshakeh, as the ground of his confidence, namely, "word of lips"; that is, prayer to God, as Kimchi explains it; or eloquence in addressing his soldiers, and encouraging them to fight, either of which Rabshakeh derides, as well as what follows:

I have counsel and strength for war; as he had; he had wise ministers to consult, and was capable of forming a good plan, and wise schemes, and of putting them in execution, and of heartening men; though he did not put his confidence in these things, as Rabshakeh suggested, 2 Chronicles 32:3, the words may be rendered; "but counsel and strength are for war" (g): what signifies words to God, or eloquence with men? this is all lip labour, and of little service; wisdom and counsel to form plans, and power to execute them, are the things which are necessary to carry on a war with success, and which, it is intimated, were wanting in Hezekiah; and therefore he had nothing to ground his confidence upon, within himself, or his people:

now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? which it does not appear he had, having paid the money agreed to for the withdrawment of his army; but this was a pretence for the siege of Jerusalem.

(f) "verbum labiorum", Montanus; "vel, sermo labiorum", Vatablus. (g) "consilium et fortitudo ad praelium", Montanus; "sed consilio et fortitudine opus ad praelium", Pagninus, i.e. "requiruntur", ut Grotius.

I say, {f} sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?

(f) He speaks this in the person of Hezekiah, falsely charging him that he put his trust in his wit and eloquence, while his only confidence was in the Lord.

5. I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) &c.] Rather (as Cheyne and others) Thinkest thou that a mere word of the lips is counsel and strength for war? “You cannot think so,” reasons the Rabshakeh, “you must have some ground of confidence; what is it?” The rendering of A.V. which takes the phrase “merely a word of the lips” as a parenthetic ejaculation is intelligible, but hardly right. In any case the text must be corrected in accordance with that of 2 Kings 18:20 (“thou sayest [thinkest]” for “I say [think]”).Verse 5. - I say. In 2 Kings 18:20 we read, "Thou sayest" for "I say," which gives a better sense. Dr. Kay holds the two forms to be "complementary." I have counsel and strength for war. Either the words of Hezekiah had been reported to Sennacherib, or he rightly divined Hezekiah's thoughts. It was, no doubt, in reliance on the "counsel" of Eliakim and the "strength" of Egypt that the Jewish monarch had a second time provoked his suzerain. In the midst of such miracles, by which all nature is glorified, the people of Jehovah are redeemed, and led home to Zion. "And a highway rises there, and a road, and it will be called the Holy Road; no unclean man will pass along it, as it is appointed for them: whoever walks the road, even simple ones do not go astray. There will be no lion there, and the most ravenous beast of prey will not approach it, will not be met with there; and redeemed ones walk. And the ransomed of Jehovah will return, and come to Zion with shouting, and everlasting joy upon their head: they lay hold of gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing flee away." Not only unclean persons from among the heathen, but even unclean persons belonging to Israel itself, will never pass along that holy road; none but the church purified and sanctified through sufferings, and those connected with it. למו הוּא, to them, and to them alone, does this road belong, which Jehovah has made and secured, and which so readily strikes the eye, that even an idiot could not miss it; whilst it lies to high, that no beast of prey, however powerful (perı̄ts chayyōth, a superlative verbal noun: Ewald, 313, c), could possibly leap up to it: not one is ever encountered by the pilgrim there. The pilgrims are those whom Jehovah has redeemed and delivered, or set free from captivity and affliction (גּאל, לג, related to חל, solvere; פּדה, פד, scindere, abscindere). Everlasting joy soars above their head; they lay fast hold of delight and joy (compare on Isaiah 13:8), so that it never departs from them. On the other hand, sorrow and sighing flee away. The whole of Isaiah 35:10 is like a mosaic from Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 61:7; Isaiah 51:3; and what is affirmed of the holy road, is also affirmed in Isaiah 52:1 of the holy city (compare Isaiah 62:12; Isaiah 63:4). A prelude of the fulfilment is seen in what Ezra speaks of with gratitude to God in Ezra 8:31. We have intentionally avoided crowding together the parallel passages from chapters 40-66. The whole chapter is, in every part, both in thought and language, a prelude of that book of consolation for the exiles in their captivity. Not only in its spiritual New Testament thoughts, but also in its ethereal language, soaring high as it does in majestic softness and light, the prophecy has now reached the highest point of its development.
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