The punishment of Babylon (Jer 50:18-50:18)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

I am going to punish

The king of Babylon

With his land,

Just as I punished

The king of Assyria.”

Yahweh, the God of Israel, was going to punish the king of Babylon and his country just as he had punished the king of Assyria and his country. The Assyrians had captured Israel in 724 BCE, while the Babylonians had captured Judah in 587 BCE. The Assyrian Empire fell apart in 599 BCE just as the Babylonian Empire was increasing, while the Babylonian Empire fell apart in 539 BCE.

The attacks on Israel (Jer 50:17-50:17)

“Israel is

A hunted sheep.

It was driven away

By lions.

First,

The king of Assyria

Devoured it.

Now at the end,

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Has gnawed its bones.”

The Israelite hunted sheep were driven away by lions. The king of Assyria attacked the northern kingdom of Israel, as it came to an end in 724 BCE. Then the king of Babylon in 587 gnawed at their bones, since the kingdom was not in existence at that time. Thus both the lions of Assyria and Babylon have scattered the sheep of Israel within a couple hundred years.

Yahweh reverses himself (Isa 38:4-38:6)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to Isaiah.

‘Go!

Say to King Hezekiah.

Thus says Yahweh,

The God of your ancestor David.

I have heard your prayer.

I have seen your tears.

I will add fifteen years to your life.

I will deliver you.

I will deliver this city

Out of the hand of the king of Assyria.

I will defend this city.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 20. However, there are some minor changes. There is no indication here that Isaiah was still at the royal court. There is nothing here about King Hezekiah going to the temple on the 3rd day, nor defending this city for the sake of David. However, Yahweh did tell Isaiah to let King Hezekiah know that he had heard his prayer and seen his tears. Yahweh was going to add 15 years to his life. He would also defend and deliver the city of Jerusalem from the King of Assyria. Obviously, this was before the invasion of the king of Assyria.

The response of Isaiah (Isa 37:5-37:6)

“When the servants of King Hezekiah

Came to Isaiah,

Isaiah said to them.

‘Say to your master.

Thus says Yahweh.

Do not be afraid

Because of the words

That you have heard,

With which the servants

Of the king of Assyria

Have reviled me.

I myself will put a spirit in him,

So that he shall hear a rumor.

He will then return to his own land.

I will cause him to fall

By the sword in his own land.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. Here we have the first royal intervention of the great prophet Isaiah, whose influence had a great impact on future Israelite life. The response of Isaiah is quite remarkable. Because the servants of the king of Assyria had reviled Yahweh, he was going to retaliate against the Assyrian king. This oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, said that Yahweh would spread a rumor that would make the Assyrian army return to its own land, where the king would be killed at home in Assyria. The fact is that King Sennacherib of Assyria did return home without capturing Jerusalem. He was then killed by his sons in Assyria.

King Hezekiah sends people to Isaiah (Isa 37:2-37:4)

“The king sent Eliakim,

Who was in charge of the palace,

Shebna the secretary,

With the senior priests,

Covered with sackcloth,

To the prophet Isaiah,

Son of Amoz.

They said to him.

‘Thus says King Hezekiah.

This day is a day of distress.

This day is a day of rebuke.

This day is a day of disgrace.

Children have come to birth.

But there is no strength to bring them forth.

It may be that Yahweh your God

Heard the words of Rabshakeh,

Whom his master,

The king of Assyria,

Has sent to mock the living God.

Will you rebuke the words

That Yahweh your God has heard?

Therefore,

Lift up your prayer

For the remnant that is left.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. King Hezekiah decided to send his consultants, Eliakim, Shebnah, and the senior priests to the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz. Notice that Joah the recorder did not go, but instead senior priests went. They would all be wearing sackcloth because things were in distress and disgrace. In an interesting metaphor, they say that women are coming to the moment of childbirth, but have no strength to bring their children into the world. They mentioned that perhaps Yahweh had heard the mocking words of Rabshakeh, as the king of Assyria’s representative mocked the living God. How would you rebuke him? They wanted prayers for the “remnant.” This theme of the faithful few left behind occurs quite often in Isaiah.

 

Rabshakeh says that gods cannot help you (Isa 36:18-36:20)

“Do not listen to King Hezekiah

Mislead you by saying.

‘Yahweh will save us.’

Has any of the gods of the nations

Saved their land

Out of the hands of the king of Assyria?

Where are the gods of Hamath?

Where are the gods of Arpad?

Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?

Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?

Who among all the gods of these countries

Have delivered their countries

Out of my hand?

Why should Yahweh save Jerusalem

Out of my hand?’”

Once again in the same words as 2 Kings, chapter 18, Rabshakeh went on to point out that no god has helped anyone against the king of Assyria. He pointed out that the gods of Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim were all unsuccessful against the king of Assyria. Hamath and Arpad were in Syria in an alliance with Damascus, but taken over by the Assyrians. Sepharvaim was near Babylon, on the Euphrates River. Hena and Ivvah are not mentioned here but were in 2 Kings. All of these places were taken over by king of Assyria. Why should Yahweh and Jerusalem be any different?

Rabshakeh wants the people not to listen to King Hezekiah (Isa 36:13-36:16)

Then Rabshakeh stood.

He called out in a loud voice

In the language of Judah.

‘Hear the words of the great king!

The king of Assyria!’

Thus says the king.

‘Do not let King Hezekiah deceive you!

He will not be able to deliver you.’

Do not let King Hezekiah

Make you rely on Yahweh by saying.

‘Yahweh will surely deliver us.

This city will not be given

Into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

Do not listen to King Hezekiah!”

Once again in the same words as 2 Kings, chapter 18, Rabshakeh spoke in the Hebrew language of Judah to the people on the wall. He wanted all the people to listen to the king of Assyria, and not to their own King Hezekiah. He thought that the king of Judah was deceiving them by saying that he was going to rely on Yahweh. Most of all, he wanted to intimate the people, so that they would not listen to their king.