“But they were silent.
They answered him not a word.
The king’s command was.
‘Do not answer him.’
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah,
Who was in charge of the palace,
Shebnah the secretary,
With Joah son of Asaph,
Came to King Hezekiah
With their clothes torn.
They told him the words of Rabshakeh.”
Once again in the same words as 2 Kings, chapter 18, there was no response to Rabshakeh, after his Hebrew presentation on why they should surrender rather than rely on their own God, Yahweh. King Hezekiah had told his messengers not to respond. These 3 officials from Judah, Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah went with torn clothes to King Hezekiah. They told him what Rabshakeh had said.
Said to Rabshakeh.
‘Please speak to your servants in Aramaic.
We understand it.
Do not speak to us
In the language of Judah
Within the hearing of the people
Who are on the wall.’”
In words that are word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 18, the 3 ambassadors of King Hezekiah, Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah asked Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic because they understood it. The language of Judah refers to local Hebrew. Perhaps as early as the 8th century BCE Aramaic was the common Mid Eastern language, while Hebrew was the unique to Israel. Apparently the ambassadors of King Hezekiah did not want the people sitting on the wall to hear this conversation. Rabshakeh may have had some prior connections with the Israelites since he knew their local language.
“The king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh
With a great army,
To King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.
He stood by the conduit of the upper pool,
On the highway to Fuller’s Field.
There came out to them Eliakim,
Son of Hilkiah,
Who was in charge of the palace,
Shebnah the secretary,
With Joah son of Asaph,
This is a lot like 2 Kings, chapter 18, except that there is no mention of the Tartan General Rabsaris here. The king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh, who was his chief steward or cup bearer, from Lachish to Jerusalem with a big army. King Hezekiah sent out the man in charge of his palace, Eliakim, his secretary, Shebnah, and his recorder, Joah. They met at the upper pool near Fuller’s Field. This Fuller’s Field on the northwest side of Jerusalem must have been well known. A “fuller” is someone who works with cloth to get it the right color. Thus near a pool sounds about right. The names Eliakim and Joah refer to 4 other people in biblical literature, other than these two men. However, the name Shebnah only appears in this story.
“In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of Yahweh his God. They came to the high priest Hilkiah and delivered the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected. They had collected money from Manasseh, Ephraim, and from the whole remnant of Israel as well as from all Judah, Benjamin, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They delivered it to the workers who had the oversight of the house of Yahweh. These workers, who were working in the house of Yahweh, got it for repairing and restoring the house. They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, timber for binders, and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. The people did the work faithfully. Over them were appointed the Levites Jahath and Obadiah of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. Other Levites, all skilful with instruments of music, were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service. Some of the Levites were scribes, officials, and gatekeepers.”
This section is based on 2 Kings, chapter 22. All this happens in the 18th year of King Josiah, which would put him at age 26. I wonder why he took so long to try to repair the Temple. Shaphan, the secretary of King Josiah plays a major role here in 2 Kings. Instead of a military leader or a religious leader, it is this secretary who carries out the orders of King Josiah. There are 7 biblical figures with the name of Hilkiah, but this is the high priest who is responsible for many of the religious reforms under King Josiah. Instead of the money collected only from those who went into the Temple as in 2 Kings, here the money has been collected from all over Israel. This money, in turn, was to be given to the workers at the Temple, the house of Yahweh. Thus the carpenters and builders were to get timber and stones to repair the house of Yahweh. There is no mention about loose accounting as in 2 Kings. Instead there is mention of the various Levite groups in the Temple and their oversight responsibilities.
“Then the Levites arose. Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites arose. Of the sons of Merari, Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel arose. Of the Gershonites, Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah arose. The sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel also arose. Of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah arose. Of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei arose. Of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel arose. They gathered their brothers. They sanctified themselves. They went in as the king had commanded, by the words of Yahweh, to cleanse the house of Yahweh.”
The Levites responded positively. 2 people from each of the Levitical tribes arose from the Kohathites, the Merarites, and the Gershonites. The same was true for the 3 groups of singers or cantors, the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, all had 2 people stand up. On top of that, the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel also rose up. They gathered their brother Levites and sanctified themselves. Then they went in to cleanse the house of Yahweh. I wonder why they had not done more to sustain the house of Yahweh even in the face of indifference.
“Obed-edom had sons, Shemaiah the first-born, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sachar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, and Peullethai the eighth. God blessed him. To his son Shemaiah were sons born who exercised authority in their ancestral houses. They were men of great ability. The sons of Shemaiah were Othni, Rephael, Obed, and Elzabad, whose brothers were able men, Elihu and Semachiah. All these were the sons of Obed-edom with their sons and brothers. They were able men qualified for the service, sixty-two of Obed-edom.”
Obed-edom was the same man who had the Ark of the Covenant at his house before it came to Jerusalem in chapter 15. This is why it seems correct to say that he was a gatekeeper. He had 8 sons. Then his first-born son Shemaiah had 6 sons. There were 25 people with the name of (1) Shemaiah. There were 2 other people with the name of (2) Jehozabad. There are 3 other people with the name of (3) Joah. There was 1 other (4) Sachar. There were 9 other people with the name of (5) Nethanel. (6) Ammiel was the same name as the father of Bathsheba. There was only 1 other biblical person with the name of (7) Issachar, who was the son of Jacob. Thus he was one of the 12 tribes of Israel. This was the only mention of (8) Peullethai. As for Shemaiah’s son, this is the only mention of (1) Othni, (2) Rephael, and (6) Semachiah. There 4 others with the name of (3) Obed. There was 1 other (4) Elzabad. There were 4 other people with the name of (5) Elihu, the most famous in Job. All the sons and brothers of Obed-edom were gatekeepers, who amounted to about 62 men.
“The sons of Gershom were Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son, Joah his son, Iddo his son, Zerah his son, and Jeatherai his son.”
Here we have 8 generations of (1) Gershom via (2) Libni his son. There are at least 4 Gershom Levites with the name of (3) Jahath and (5) Joah, all mentioned in this book, while there are 2 other Gershom Levites with the name of (4) Zimmah. There are 6 people with the name of (6) Iddo, most of them not Levites in the biblical literature. (7) Zerah was the same name as Perez’s twin brother, the son of Judah. In fact there were 4 other biblical persons with the name of Zerah. On the other hand, this is the only mention of a (8) Jeatherai in all the biblical literature. Their official functional roles were laid out in Numbers, chapter 4.