Isaiah 36:1-37:38 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

Note: For more information relevant to this present passage of Isaiah thirty-six and thirty-seven, see the accompanying Appendix (PDF download) that provides the complete Scripture text of Isaiah 36:1-37:38.

1. What is the Assyrian commander’s view of the Lord Jehovah? See Isaiah 36:18-20 (printed below)

Beware that you do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, Jehovah will deliver us. Has any god of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? (19) Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? (20) Which one of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can Jehovah rescue Jerusalem from my hand? (Isaiah 36:18-20)

In verses 18-20 the commander disparages the Lord by foolishly equating the Lord with the idols of the world who were not able to deliver their people from the advancing Assyrians (verses 18-19). Furthermore, he arrogantly exalts human might as though it were able to combat and defeat the Lord Himself (verse 20).

2. How do the people of Judah respond to the commander’s words and why do they respond in this way? See Isaiah 36:21 (printed below)

The people remained silent, they said nothing in reply; for the king had given the commandment, Do not answer him. (Isaiah 36:21)

In the face of the Assyrian commander’s defiance and blasphemy of the Lord, the Jews held their peace: “they said nothing in reply” (verse 21a). Their response of silence was in keeping with Hezekiah’s instruction, who wisely commanded the people, “Do not answer him” (verse 21b). When men are railing against the truth, refusing to consider the truth and eager to blaspheme the truth, then it is appropriate to maintain a holy silence (note Matthew 7:6).

3. When the Assyrian commander’s words are reported to Hezekiah, what is his response? See Isaiah 37:1-4 (printed below)

When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of Jehovah. (2) He sent Eliakim, the palace administrator, Shebna, the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. (3) And they said to him, This is what Hezekiah says, This is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace; it is like infants coming to the point of birth, but there is no strength to deliver them. (4) Perhaps Jehovah your God will take note of the words of the Assyrian field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to defy the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words that Jehovah your God has heard. Therefore, lift up your prayer for the remnant of Judah that is still left. (Isaiah 37:1-4)

When the Rabshakeh’s blasphemy was reported to Hezekiah, Hezekiah was grieved, “he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of Jehovah” (Isaiah 37:1). But rather than confront the Rabshakeh, who at this point would not have considered the truth but would have taken the opportunity to further blaspheme the God of heaven, Hezekiah took the matter to the Lord in prayer. He calls upon the prophet Isaiah to pray (verse 4) and he himself engages in prayer (verses 14-20).

4. What message does the Lord instruct Isaiah to bring to Hezekiah? See Isaiah 37:5-7 (printed below)

When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, (6) Isaiah said to them, This is what you shall report back to your master, This is what Jehovah says, Do not be afraid of the words you have heard, the words with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. (7) Listen! I am going to put a spirit into him that will cause him, when he hears a certain report, to return to his own country. Furthermore, I will cause him to be killed with the sword in his own country (Isaiah 37:5-7)

The message the Lord communicates through Isaiah is as follows: “This is what Jehovah says, Do not be afraid of the words you have heard” (Isaiah 37:6). Note that the description of the wicked is that “their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth” (Psalm 73:9); they speak great things, but they do not have the ability to fulfill them—it is all just talk. In verse 7 the Lord assures His people that He will turn the blaspheming enemy away and cause him to fall by the sword; the fulfillment of this vow is recorded in Isaiah 37:37-38. The Lord promises that the day is coming when His people shall look upon the blasphemer with contempt and laugh him to scorn (note Psalm 52:5-7).

5. What did the Lord do in order to defend His people and punish the blaspheming Assyrians? See Isaiah 37:33-37 (printed below)

Therefore, this is what Jehovah says about the king of Assyria, He will not enter this city, nor will he shoot an arrow at it. He will not come against it with a shield, nor will he build a siege ramp against it. (34) By the same way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares Jehovah, (35) because I will defend this city in order to save it, for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake. (36) Then the angel of Jehovah went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the Assyrians got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! (37) So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew from Jerusalem. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. (Isaiah 37:33-37)

During the night the angel of the Lord dealt a devastating blow to the Assyrian armies assembled around Jerusalem, the death toll was 185,000. The discovery of the bodies early the next morning left the remnants of this once great army panic-stricken and in disarray. The surviving officers were forced to “reconsider” their campaign against the Jewish capitol. Receiving reports of a further set-back closer to home, King Sennacherib was forced to depart Jerusalem and return to Nineveh.