The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 18:17-37 (2 Kings 18:17-37)

SECOND EXPEDITION OF SENNACHERIB . This section and 2 Kings 19:1-37 . form one continuous narrative, which can only have been divided on account of its great length (fifty-eight verses). The subject is one throughout, viz. Sennacherib's second expedition against Hezekiah. The narrative flows on without a break. It consists of

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2 Kings 18:21 (2 Kings 18:21)

Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt. Sennacherib had good information. Hezekiah's embassy to Egypt ( Isaiah 30:2-7 ) was known to him; and he rightly judged that Hezekiah was expecting aid from this quarter. This expectation he ridicules. What is Egypt but a "bruised reed"? The Nile bulrush ( רצץ ) has a goodly show; it rears itself aloft, and leeks strong and stately; but use it as a staff, lean upon it, and it snaps at once. Such is Pharaoh—nay, he is worse; he is a bruised reed, which can give no support at all, even for a moment. The Assyrian monarch was justified in his contempt. Egypt had never yet given any effectual support to the states attacked by Assyria Shebek gave no manner of aid to Hoshea, but allowed Samaria to be conquered in B.C. 722 without making the slightest effort on her behalf. In B.C. 720 he came to the aid of Gaza, but Gaza was captured notwithstanding. In B.C. 711 either he or Sabatok undertook the protection of Ashdod, but with the same lack of success. "Kings of Egypt" assisted the Ascalonites against Sennacherib himself in B.C. 701, and were again completely defeated. Sargon calls the King of Egypt, whoso aid was invited by the Ashdedites, "a monarch who could not save them." On which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it ; i.e. trust in Egypt will not only bring a country no advantage, but it will bring positive injury. The sharp siliceous casing of a reed might run into the hand and give an ugly wound. So is Pharaoh King of Egypt unto all that trust on him. Sargon in one place speaks of a King of Egypt under the title of "Pharaoh."

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2 Kings 18:20-21 (2 Kings 18:20-21)

Bruised reeds.

It is astonishing what trust is still placed, by generation after generation of mankind, in "bruised reeds." Whatever may be the case with individuals, mankind, the human race, learns nothing from experience. Men still trust implicitly in such "bruised reeds" as these—

I. BIG BATTALIONS . They think they are safe if they have sufficient "strength for the war." They go on increasing their military establishments, adding regiment to regiment, and battery to battery, and corps d'armee to corps d'armee . They count the armies of their neighbors; they reckon up man against man, and gun against gun, and ship against ship; and calculate, and plan, and act, as if the "multitude of an host"—the number of troops capable of being brought at once into the field—was everything. They forget that "it is nothing to the Lord to help, whether with many or with them that have no power" ( 2 Chronicles 14:11 ). They forget, or misread, history, and fail to note how often "the race has not been to the swift, nor the battle to the strong" ( Ecclesiastes 9:11 ).

II. POWERFUL ALLIES . Weak powers have always some "Egypt" to which they look for succor. Strong Powers count on "triple" or "quadruple" alliances to augment their strength, and render them irresistible. They forget how easily alliances are broken up, how sure they are to arouse discontents and jealousies, how little dependence can be placed on the promises of statesmen, or the persistence of a particular mood in a nation, or the view which a state may take of its interests. They forget that the friend of today may be the enemy of to-morrow, and may fail them at the moment of greatest need.

III. SAGACIOUS STATESMEN AND GENERALS . It is forgotten, or at any rate not borne steadily in mind, how intellect decays, how mental power lessens, as men grow old; how often under a prolonged strain the strongest intellect suddenly snaps and is no longer of any account. Nor is it generally felt and recognized how limited and imperfect even the greatest intellect always is—how incompetent to forecast all possibilities, or to deal with all emergencies. "The weakness of God is stronger than man, and the foolishness of God is wiser than man" ( 1 Corinthians 1:25 ). Man's wisdom is at best a poor purblind wisdom, apt to err, apt to fail when most needed—a very "bruised reed" to trust in.

IV. GOOD LUCK OR A FORTUNATE STAR . The trust of the first Napoleon in his "star" is well known. It is not so well known, but it is sufficiently attested, that the third Napoleon had nearly as implicit a trust. Thousands of persons deem themselves "lucky," and trust in their "good luck," as if it were an actual tangible possession. Otherwise there would be far less gambling than there is. The poor peasants of Italy and Germany would Waste less money in lotteries, and the simpletons of England less in bets upon horses. Persons "luck" is, on the whole, probably about equal, and if a man has been "lucky" hitherto, he should expect to be "unlucky" in the future.

V. SOMETHING TURNING UP . The phrase is a vulgar one, but it would need a long periphrasis to express the idea otherwise, and even then we might not make our meaning clear. Men who do not think themselves particularly lucky are still constantly waiting for "something to turn up," looking for it, trusting in it. The trust is made an excuse for idleness, for inaction, for waste of the best years of life, even for dissipated courses—for gambling, drinking, frequenting evil company. This "bruised reed" is more rotten even than most of the others. For the idler, the waster of his time, the haunter of smoking saloons, billiard-rooms, and race-courses, nothing ever does "turn up." He offers no temptation to steady business-like men to employ him. He does not seek work, and work is not very likely to seek him. He is an idler, and will remain an idler to the end of the chapter. There is no help for him, unless he gives up his silly trust, and betakes himself to a better one.

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2 Kings 18:17-37 (2 Kings 18:17-37)

The tempter and his methods: Rabshakeh's address to the leaders and people of Jerusalem.

Hezekiah's gift to the King of Assyria had not saved him. The weakness he showed was rather an encouragement to Sennacherib to continue his attacks upon Judaea. And now a detachment of Sennacherib's army, headed by three officers of rank, comes up to Jerusalem. Their first effort is to induce the people of Jerusalem to surrender. Rabshakeh is the spokesman. His speech is like the speech of a Mephistopheles. It may fairly be taken as an illustration of how the wily tempter himself proceeds in his desire to allure to sin and destruction the souls of men.

I. HE PRETENDS TO BE DOING GOD 'S WORK .

1. He ridicules their confidence in Egypt . Isaiah himself could hardly have warned them more strongly against the vanity of alliance with other nations. "Thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt" (verse 21).

2. He censures Hezekiah for disrespect toward God . "If ye say unto me, We trust in the Lord God: is not this he whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away?" (verse 22). So Satan sometimes appears as an angel of light. Men of sin and worldliness sometimes show a remarkable interest in the Church of God.

3. He represents himself as having a commission frown God . "Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it" (verse 25). It is thus that sin constantly presents itself to men and women. It masks its real features. It presents itself in a religious garb. A debased theatre professes to be the teacher of morality. But for one whose life it has changed for the better, there are thousands whom it has changed for the worse. Perhaps we should be justified in going the length of Pollok, in his 'Course of Time,' and in saying, "It might do good, but never did." How many questionable practices defend themselves on the ground that they are sanctioned and encouraged by "religious" people?

II. HE MAKES LIGHT OF TRUST IN GOD . But soon the cloven foot appears. The tempter soon begins to wean the soul from that religion 'of whose interests he professes to be so jealous. See here the inconsistency of Rabshakeh's speech. He first of all made it appear that he was commissioned by God, and that therefore all their efforts to resist him would be futile. But now he proceeds to ridicule the idea of trusting to God's power. "Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us" (verse 30). "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the King of Assyria?" (verses 33-35). So it is in the progress of sin. He who is led away by the allurements of the world and pleasure, first begins with pleasures which lie on the herder-land between the bad and the good. These are the pleasures or pursuits about which men say, " Oh ! there is no harm in that ." " No harm" is a very dangerous phrase. When we hear it, we may generally doubt its truth. It usually refers to pursuits or pleasures which are the stepping-stones to worse sins. Many a man crosses the bridge of " no harm," and enters forever the land of " no good." Let us never be induced to waver in our trust in God and obedience to him. His way is the way of safety and peace. There are many whose work seems to be like that of Rabshakeh—to weaken the trust of others in God, to diminish the respect of others for the Law of God. " Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." Where God and conscience say to us, " You ought not," let not the tempter ever persuade us by saying, " You may."

III. HE MAKES FALSE PROMISES . How fair-spoken is Rabshakeh! How very alluring his promises! If the people of Jerusalem would only make an agreement with the King of Assyria by a present, then they would eat every man of his own vine and fig tree, until he would afterwards take them away to a land like their own land, " a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live and not die." In this specious way he held before them an attractive prospect. But it was as empty as the bubble in the summer breeze. It was the pleasant euphemism by which he sought to gloss over the prospect of conquest and captivity. So with the pleasures of sin. How bright and how attractive, to outward appearance, are the haunts of wickedness and vice! The bright lights of the gin-palace—how they allure its unhappy victims, often by the contrast with the dreariness and misery of their homes! What a pleasant prospect sin in various forms presents! But how terrible is the reality! How grim is the skeleton at the feast! "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." Such are the tempter ' s methods still . The thirty-sixth verse contains a very good suggestion as to the way of meeting temptation. " But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word; for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not." It is a wise rule not to parley with the tempter . If we pray, "Lead us not into temptation ," then we ought to be careful not to put ourselves in temptation's way.—C.H.I.

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2 Kings 18:1-37 (2 Kings 18:1-37)

A striking reformation, a ruthless despotism, and an unprincipled diplomacy.

"How it came to pass," etc. Amongst the incidents recorded and the characters mentioned in this chapter, there stand out in great prominence three subjects for practical contemplation:

The many strange and somewhat revolting historic events that make up the bulk of this chapter will come out in the discussion of these three subjects.

I. A STRIKING REFORMATION . Hezekiah, who was now King of Judah, and continued such for about twenty-nine years, was a man of great excellence. The unknown historian here says that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did," etc. ( 2 Kings 18:3-8 ). This is high testimony, and his history shows that on the whole it was well deserved. Compared with most of his predecessors and contemporaries, he appears to have been an extraordinarily good man. He lived in a period of great national trial and moral corruption. Israel, Judah's sister-kingdom, was in its death-throes, and his own people had fallen into idolatry of the grossest kind. In the very dawn of his reign he sets himself to the work of reformation. We find in 2 Chronicles 29:2-36 a description of the desire for a thorough reformation which displayed itself. But the point of his reformative work, on which we would now fasten our attention, is that mentioned in 2 Chronicles 29:4 , "He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan." His method for extirpating idolatry from his country is detailed with minuteness in 2 Chronicles 29:3 ; 2 Chronicles 30:1-9 . In this destruction of the brazen serpent we are struck with two things.

1. The perverting tendency of sin . The brazen serpent (we learn from Numbers 21:9 ) was a beneficent ordinance of God to heal those in the wilderness who had been bitten by the fiery serpents. But this Divine ordinance, designed for a good purpose, and which had accomplished good, was now, through the forces of human depravity, become a great evil. The Jews turned what was a special display of Divine goodness into a great evil. I am disposed to honor them for preserving it for upwards of seven hundred years, and thus handing it down from sire to son as a memorial of heavenly mercy; but their conduct in establishing it as an object for worship must be denounced without hesitancy or qualification. But is not this the great law of depravity? Has it not always perverted the good things of God, and thus converted blessings into curses? It has ever done so. It is doing so now. See how this perverting power acts in relation to such Divine blessings as

(4) knowledge;

2. The true attributes of a reformer . Here we observe:

3. The true soul of a reformer . What is that which gave him the true insight and attributes of a reformer—which in truth was the soul of the whole?

II. A RUTHLESS DESPOTISM . There are two despots mentioned in this chapter—Shalmaneser and Sennacherib, both kings of Assyria. A brief description of the former we have in 2 Chronicles 30:9 , 2 Chronicles 30:10 , 2 Chronicles 30:12 . What is stated in these verses is but a repetition of what we have in the preceding chapter, and the remarks made on it in our last homily preclude the necessity of any observations here. This Shalmaneser was a tyrant of the worst kind. He invaded and ravaged the land of Israel, threw Hoshea into prison, laid siege to Samaria, carried the Israelites into Assyria, and located in their homes strangers from various parts of the Assyrian dominions. Thus he utterly destroyed the kingdom of Israel. The other despot is Sennacherib ( 2 Chronicles 30:13-16 ). Shalmaneser is gone, and this Sennacherib takes his place. The ruthlessness of this man's despotism appears in the following facts, recorded in the present chapter.

1. He had already invaded a country in which he had no right . "Sow in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah did Sennacherib King of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them." "The names of the principal of these cities are perhaps enumerated by Micah ( Micah 1:11-16 ), viz. Saphir , lying between Ashdod and Eleutheropolis; Zaanan or Zenan ( Joshua 15:37 ),; Beth-Ezel or Azel ( Zechariah 14:5 ), near Saphir and Zaanan; Maroth or Maarath ( Joshua 15:59 ), between these towns and Jerusalem; Lachish ( Um Lakis ); Moresheth-Gath , situated in the direction of Gath; Achzib , between Keilah and Mareshah ( Joshua 15:44 ); Mareshah , situated in the low country of Judah ( Joshua 15:44 ); Adullam , near Mareshah (cf. Isaiah 24:1-12 ). Overrunning Palestine, Sennacherib laid siege to the fortress of Lachish, which lay seven Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, and, therefore, southwest of Jerusalem on the way to Egypt. Amongst the interesting illustrations of sacred history, furnished by the recent Assyrian excavations, is a series of bas-reliefs representing the siege of a town—a fenced town—among the uttermost cities of Judah ( Joshua 15:39 ; Robinson's 'Biblical Researches')." Now mark, he now determines on another invasion, although:

2. He had received from the king most humble submission and large contributions to leave his country alone . Mark his humiliating appeal, "And Hezekiah King of Judah sent to the King of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear." Alas! herein is a yielding of this great man's courage. Why did he apologize, pay the tribute which his ancestor had immorally pledged? Up to this point he had been bold in withholding it. But here, in crouching fear, he makes an apology. And more than this, he unrighteously promises a large contribution in answer to the despot's demands. "And the King of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah King of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold." The sum that he promised was extravagant, amounting to three hundred and fifty thousand pounds; but what was worse, this sum was abstracted from the public funds, to which he had no right, and was also rifled from the temple, which was a desecration. " And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house. At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah King of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the King of Assyria" The conduct of Hezekiah in this matter cannot be justified. Inasmuch as Sennacherib accepted the offering, he was in honor bound to abandon all idea of another invasion. Albeit, contrary to every principle of justice and kindness, not to say honor, he dispatches his army again into Judaea. "And the King of Assyria sent Tartan," etc. (verse 17). What monsters are such despots! and yet they are not rare. Is there a nation existing on the face of the earth to-day, whatever its form of government, that has not at one time or another played this part?

III. AN UNPRINCIPLED DIPLOMACY . On behalf of Hezekiah, "Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder," appeared before the invading soldiers, and they are thus addressed by Rabshakeh, one of the leaders of the invading host: "And Rahshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the King of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?" etc. He appears as the diplomatist of the Assyrian war-king, and what does he do? By an impassioned harangue, fraught with insolence, falsehood, and blasphemy, he urges Hezekiah and his country to surrender. In doing this:

1. He represents his master , the King of Assyria , to be far greater than he is . "Thus saith the great king, the King of Assyria." Great, indeed! A flashing meteor and a gorgeous bubble, nothing morel A diplomatist is ever tempted to make his own country fabulously great in the presence of the one with whom he seeks to negotiate.

2. He seeks to terrify them with a sense of their utter inability to resist the invading army . "What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?"—D.T.

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2 Kings 18:17-37 (2 Kings 18:17-37)

Rabshakeh's boastings.

From Lachish Sennacherib sent an army to Jerusalem, and with it some of his highest officers, the Tartan, Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh. Taking their stand by "the conduit of the upper pool," where they could be heard from the walls, they called for the king to come to them. Hezekiah did not come, but sent three envoys, Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah, to whom Rabshakeh, the orator of the party, addressed himself. His speech is a very skilful one from his own point of view, and fails into two parts. It is pervaded by the utmost arrogancy and contempt of the God of the Jews.

I. HIS ADDRESS TO THE ENVOYS . The question Rabshakeh had been sent by his master to ask of Hezekiah was—"What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?" He proceeds to demolish one by one Hezekiah's supposed confidences, and to show how vain it was for him to hope to carry on the war.

1. Hezekiah ' s confidence in Egypt . Rabshakeh answers his own question by declaring, first, that Hezekiah's confidence was placed in Egypt. This was true; and it was also true that, as the speaker next went on to say, this confidence was in a "bruised reed." The policy of relying on Egypt, instead of seeking help from God, was Hezekiah's great mistake. Rabshakeh did not denounce the worthlessness of this ground of confidence too scornfully. Pharaoh King of Egypt was indeed a bruised reed, on which, if a man leant, it would go into his hand, and pierce it. Isaiah's language had been not less strong ( Isaiah 30:1-33 .). The metaphor may be applied to any reliance on mere human wisdom, human power, or human help. Often it has proved so in individual experience and the history of nations. Through some overlooked factor in the calculations, some unexpected turn in providence, some treachery, self-interest, or delay on the part of allies, the best-laid schemes break down, the strongest combinations dissolve like smoke.

2. Hezekiah ' s confidence in Jehovah . Rabshakeh next deals with Hezekiah's trust in the Lord. He does not at this point urge the plea afterwards put forth, viz. that no gods can stand before the King of Assyria. Indeed, he claims (verse 25) to be commissioned by Jehovah—either an idle boast or an allusion to what he had heard of Isaiah's prophecies (cf. Isaiah 7:17-25 ; Isaiah 10:5-19 ). But he skillfully makes use of Hezekiah's action in destroying the high places and altars. "Is not this he whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?" This sweeping away of the high places is represented as an outrage on the religion of Jehovah, which that Deity might be expected to avenge. How, then, could Hezekiah expect any help from him? The argument was a skilful one as directed to the body of the people. The high places were of long-standing sanctity, and they at least were disposed to regard them with superstitious reverence. What if, after all, Hezekiah had displeased Jehovah by suppressing them? Calamity upon calamity was falling on the nation: was there not a cause? A reformer must ever lay his account with charges of this kind. Any political, social, or religious change is apt to be blamed for troubles that arise on the back of it. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc . The early Christians were blamed for the calamities of the Roman empire; the Reformation was blamed for the civil convulsions that followed it; when drought or trouble falls on tribes which have been persuaded to abandon idolatry, they are apt to think the idols are angry, and to go back to their old worship. In this argument, however, Rabshakeh was as wrong as he was right in his first one. The fault was that the people did not trust God enough, and what he thought was a provocation of Jehovah was an act done in his honor, and in obedience to his will.

3. Hezekiah ' s confidence in his resources . Lastly, Rabshakeh ridicules the idea that Hezekiah can resist his master by force. Where are his chariots and horsemen? Or, if he had horses, where are the riders to put on them? He undertakes to give two thousand horses, if Hezekiah will furnish the men; and he knows he cannot. How, then, can he hope to put to flight even the least of Sennacherib's captains? Rabshakeh again was right in assuming that Hezekiah had not material forces wherewith to contend with Sennacherib, and Hezekiah himself was too well aware of the fact. He had not confidence in his forces, and therein the orator was wrong. But Rabshakeh's whole speech shows that he was himself committing the error he denounced in Hezekiah. If the question were retorted, "What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?" the answer could only be—In chariots and horses, in the proved might of the Assyrian arms. His speech breathes throughout the spirit of the man who has unbounded trust in armaments, provided only they are gigantic enough. Because Sennacherib has such immense armies, valiant soldiers, and such numbers of them, therefore he is invincible in war, and can defy God and man. The arm of flesh—"big battalions"—is everything here. Herein lay his profound mistake; and it was soon to be demonstrated. The might of the Invisible was to be declared against the power of the visible . Philistinism was to receive another overthrow—this time without even the sling and atones ( 1 Samuel 16:1-23 :40-51).

II. ADDRESS TO THE JEWS . At this point Hezekiah's officers interposed, and requested Rabshakeh to speak, not in the Hebrew, but in the Syrian tongue, that his language might not be understood by the people on the wall. Rabshakeh had come on a mission of diplomacy, and it was proper that in the first instance only the king's representatives should be consulted with. The envoy, however, insolently broke through all customary bounds, and declared that it was the common people he wished to address. Taking up, therefore, a yet better position, he now spoke directly, and in louder tones, to the people, who by this time may be supposed to have crowded the battlements. Again declaring that he bears a message from "the great king, the King of Assyria," he bids them not let Hezekiah deceive them, and urges:

1. The advantages of submission . As it was, they were in evil ease. But if they surrendered to Sennacherib, they had nothing to fear. Here Rabshakeh touches on delicate ground. He cannot deny that they will lose their liberty, and be transported as captives to Assyria All he can do is to attempt to gild the pill. He tells them, first, that in the mean time they will be allowed the utmost freedom—to eat every man of his own vine and of his own fig tree, and to drink every man the waters of his own cistern. When the time does come that they must be removed—and he tries to represent this as a privilege—it will be to a land like their own, a land of corn and wine, of bread and vineyards, of oil and olives and honey; a land where they shall live, and not die. The promises were alluring only by contrast with the worse fate that awaited them if they did not submit to the Assyrian; but more than this, they were deceitful. They were promises which, if the people had trusted to them, would never have been fulfilled. Sennacherib was not in the habit of treating his captives tenderly. His good faith had just been tested by his perfidy towards Hezekiah. Is it not always so with the promises of the tempter? When a soul capitulates, and yields to sin, what becomes of the bright prospects that are opened up beforehand? Are they ever realized? There is a brief period of excitement, of giddy delight, then satiety, loathing, the sense of degradation, the dying out of all real joy. What, if by yielding to sin, some present evil be avoided, some immediate good gained? Is the good ever what was anticipated? or can it compensate for the exile from God and holiness which is its price? At all hazards the wise course is to adhere to God and duty. The visions of corn and wine, of bread and vineyards, of oil and olives, by which the soul is tempted from its allegiance, are illusions—as unsubstantial as the desert mirage.

2. The futility of resistance . To enforce his argument for submission, Rabshakeh returns to what is undeniably his strongest point, viz. the futility of resistance. Can they hope to be delivered? He had argued this before from the side of Hezekiah's weakness, showing the baselessness of his grounds of confidence; be now argues it from the side of Sennacherib's strength. Here undoubtedly he has a plausible case.

III. THE ANSWER OF SILENCE . To these harangues of Rabshakeh the people "answered not a word." Hezekiah had given this instruction to his officers, and they, when the people gathered, doubtless spread among them the knowledge of the king's wish. Accordingly they "held their peace." There were many reasons why this answer of silence was a wise one.

1. Rabshakeh's words did not deserve an answer . His address to the people on the wall was a breach of all diplomatic courtesy; it had for its object to sow the seeds of mutiny, and set the people against their king; it was obviously insincere in its tone and promises, scrupling at nothing which would induce the people to surrender their liberties; in relation to Jehovah, it was profane and blasphemous. Speeches of that kind are best left unanswered. A tempter is fittingly met with silence. A man who makes insincere proposals does not deserve to be reasoned with. Profanity and blasphemy should be left without reply ( Matthew 7:6 ).

2. From Rabshakeh ' s point of view no reply was possible . This has freely to be conceded. What would it have availed to point out to him that the gods of these other nations were no gods, and that Jehovah was the one living and true God? Such statements would have but provoked a new burst of mockery. It was better, therefore, to say nothing. In all reasoning with an opponent there must be a basis of common ground. When we reach a fundamental divergence of first principles, it is time to stop. At least, if argument is to proceed, it must go back on these first principles, and try to find a deeper unity. Failing in that, it must cease. Between the Christian and unchristian views of the world, e . g ; there is no middle term.

3. Even from the Jewish point of view no reply was ready . God was to be trusted, but would he indeed save? What if the iniquities of the people had provoked him to deliver them up, as he had delivered up Samaria? Deliverance was conditional on repentance: did the state of morals in the city show much sign of repentance? Or, if God meant to deliver them, how would he do it? They seemed fast in the lion's jaws. The way of escape from their present predicament was not obvious, yea, no way seemed possible. What, then, should they answer? At most, their belief in Jehovah's interposition was an act of faith, for which no justification could be given in outward appearances. In such crises, when all rests on faith, nothing on sight, the best attitude of the soul, at least in presence of the worldly, is silence. "Be still, and know that I am God," is the counsel given in the psalm supposed to commemorate this deliverance ( Psalms 46:10 ).—J.O.

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