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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Rab-Shakeh (2)

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is the last named of three Assyrian generals sent against Jerusalem in the reign of Hezekiah. Sennacherib, having taken other cities of Judah, was now besieging Lachish; and Hezekiah, terrified at his progress, and losing, for a time, his firm faith in God, sends to Lachish with an offer of submission and tribute. This he strains himself to the utmost to pay, giving for the purpose not only all the treasures of the Temple and palace, but stripping off the gold plates with which he himself, in the beginning of his reign, had overlaid the doors and pillars of the house of the Lord (2 Kings 18:16; 2 Chronicles 29:3; see Rawlinson, Bampton Lectures, 4:141; Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 145). But Sennacherib, not content with this his cupidity being excited rather than appeased sends a great host against Jerusalem under Tartan, Rab-saris, and Rab- shakeh; not so much, apparently, with the object of at present engaging in the siege of the city as with the idea that, in its present disheartened state, the sight of an army, combined with the threats and specious promises of Rab-shakeh, might induce a surrender at once. In Isaiah 36, 37 Rabshakeh alone is mentioned, the reason of which would seem to be that he acted as ambassador and spokesman, and came so much more prominently before the people than the others. Keil thinks that Tartan had the supreme command, inasmuch as in 2 Kings he is mentioned first, and, according to Isaiah 20:1, conducted the siege of Ashdod. In 2 Chronicles 32 where, with the addition of some not unimportant circumstances, there is given an abstract of these events. it is simply said that (2 Chronicles 32:9) "Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem." Rab-shakeh seems to have discharged his mission with much zeal, addressing himself, not only to the officers of Hezekiah, but to the people on the wall of the city, setting forth the hopelessness of trusting to any power, human or divine, to deliver them out of the hand of "the great king, the king of Assyria," and dwelling on the many advantages to be gained by submission. Many have imagined, from the familiarity of Rab-shakeh with Hebrew, that he either was a Jewish deserter or an apostate captive of Israel. Whether this be so or not, it is not impossible that the assertion which he makes on the part of his master, that Sennacherib had even the sanction and command of the Lord Jehovah for his expedition against Jerusalem ("Am I now come up without the Lord to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land to destroy it"), may have reference to the prophecies of Isaiah (8:7, 8; 10:5, 6) concerning the desolation of Judah and Israel by the Assyrians, of which, in some form, more or less correct, he had received information. Being unable to obtain any promise of submission from Hezekiah, who, in the extremity of his peril returning to trust in the help of the Lord, is encouraged by the words and predictions of Isaiah, Rabshakeh goes back to the king of Assyria, who had now departed from Lachish. (See HEZEKIAH).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rab-Shakeh (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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