Today’s chapter begins with King Hezekiah getting the news of the Assyrian commander Rabshakeh’s threats against Jerusalem. After mourning, Hezekiah sends his steward Eliakim to get Isaiah the prophet. Rabshakeh has claimed, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.” (36:10), and the king needs to find out from God himself whether God has sided with the Assyrians. His inquiry and command for Isaiah: “Perhaps the Lord your God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the Lord your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left” (37:4). If Rabshakeh is putting words in the Lord’s mouth, then perhaps the Lord won’t stand for it. Perhaps.
As the narrative opens, Sennacherib launches a military campaign against Judah, quickly seizing its fortified cities. Then, Isaiah reports, “[T]he king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah with a large army” (36:2). When Eliakim and his crew go out to meet him, Rabshakeh threatens and taunts the entire kingdom, proposing a deal to secure Judah’s compliance. Rabshakeh mocks the uselessness of the alliance with Egypt, and even questions the utility of relying on the God of Israel, YHWH. “Have I now come up without the Lord’s approval against this land to destroy it?” he asks. “The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it’” (36:10). He asserts that he himself, not Judah, has God’s will on his side, and that he has divine authorization for his attack on Judah.
The Bible has got some great names. I’ve always been partial to Arpachshad. But in today’s chapter from Isaiah, we get Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz. That’s an entire sentence in Hebrew. Can you imagine naming your kid an entire sentence, like “Raise high the roof beam, carpenters” or “All my best friends are metalheads?” Well, at God’s instruction, that’s exactly what Isaiah does.