Friday, February 22, 2008

Isaiah, chapter 36

You will notice that today's chapter is written in an entirely different style than the previous chapters we have studied in the book of Isaiah. In chapter 36, Isaiah takes a different approach away from poetic visions and figurative language. Instead, he chooses to write in straight prose, much like a historian giving an account of something he personally witnessed. What we see today is the beginning of a culmination of all the prophesy aimed at the nation of Assyria. We have heard much about how Israel and king Hezekiah of Judah were not trusting God. They had instead decided to make their own plans and look to Egypt for protection.

We begin chapter 36 with the Assyrians at the gates of Jerusalem. They had already conquered much of Israel to the north, and essentially their envoy, the field commander, was coming to Jerusalem to tell them they had no chance at being saved. This envoy was essentially asking the people of Jerusalem to give up, and telling them that their faith in God was a sham. In this passage the Assyrians come off as extremely cocky, stating that it was indeed God that had told them they would conquer Jerusalem.

4 The field commander said to them, "Tell Hezekiah,
       " 'This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours?
5 You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 6 Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man's hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 7 And if you say to me, "We are depending on the LORD our God"-isn't he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, "You must worship before this altar"? – Isaiah 36:4-7

Let us think about this for a moment. The field commander here is attacking the core beliefs of the people of Jerusalem. Not only that, he is telling them that if they return to the Lord, God will not deliver them as promised. How would you feel if your core beliefs were attacked? Essentially, the field commander was asking the people of Jerusalem to roll over and surrender without a fight. In later versus he is asked not to speak in Hebrew so the people would understand him, to which he openly mocks the people again.

18 "Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, 'The LORD will deliver us.' Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from 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 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" – Isaiah 36: 18-20

The second half of this chapter shows the power of temptation. Jerusalem very easily could have taken the easy way and surrendered without a fight, but in doing so they would have turned their back on God by believing He could not deliver them. Though Hezekiah had faltered in the past concerning this, specifically with the alliance and Egypt, but he is asked here to stand strong one more time. It's almost like he is given as second chance at being a leader, and we will find out his response over the next few chapters.


  1. How easy would it have been for Israel to give up?
  2. In what instances has God faced you with a similar type of situation and asked you to trust Him?
  3. How did you respond?

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