Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 40:12-26

In my last post, we began to explore Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part1 in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11. In this post, we continue to explore Comfort for Adonai’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:12-26.

The series of rhetorical questions that follow in these verses have one intention – to demonstrate the uniqueness of the One True God. This assured Adonai’s people that God not only wanted to deliver them, but He was able to do so.

12 Who has counted the handfuls of water in the sea, measured off the sky with a ruler, gauged how much dust there is on the earth, weighed the mountains on scales, or the hills in a balance?

Adonai is in control and knows everything about His creation, both heavens, and earth. Unlike the gods of the surrounding nations that were identified with aspects of nature (Ba’al was the god of storm, thunder, and lightning), Yeshua is not only a gentle Shepherd but also the powerful Creator. The picture here is one of Him pouring the water of the oceans of the world out of His hand. Three-quarters of our world is water. There is so much water on this planet that if it were flattened out, the entire earth would be under 1.5 miles of water. And yet the Lord measures all of that water with His hand. Adonai holds the heavens with His hand. The fact that it would take millions of light-years to cross our galaxy alone means that Adonai’s ruler is humongous. Thirty thousand cubic tons of cosmic dust fall to our planet each year. And the Lord measures it all. [1]

13 Who has measured the Spirit of Adonai? Who has been His counselor, instructing Him? 14 Whom did He consult, to gain understanding? Who taught Him how to judge, taught Him what He needed to know, showed Him how to discern?

Who counsels this One who measures the seas with His palm, who holds the heavens in His hand, who weighs mountains? Do you ever try to counsel the Lord in your prayer – advising Him about what should happen, how He should work, or what He should do? The best way to pray is to cast our cares upon Him and to share our burdens with Him, but then to say, “Lord, Your will be done because You know best.”

Adonai does not need a teacher. He is inherently wise and advises others (see Job 38:1-42:5).

15 The nations are like a drop in a bucket; they count like a grain of dust on the scales. The islands weigh as little as specks of dust.

The dust of the earth was used to express shame, smallness, and insignificance in the Tanakh. In this passage, the dust of the nations makes no significant difference in the scales.

16 The L’vanon would not suffice for fuel or its animals be enough for burnt offerings.

The Isra’eli considered that the land with magnificent forests and most varied animal life was L’vanon. In addition to supplying lumber for the temple of Shlomo, the cedars of L’vanon provided barges for Egypt and ships for Tzor.

17 Before Him, all the nations are like nothing. He regards them as less than nothing.

Bavel must have seemed invulnerable once Y’hudah suffered defeat by the Bavelim and her leaders were carted off into exile; but no human power, not even Bavel, could compare with Adonai. The message is that Adonai could and would deliver Y’hudah from captivity in Bavel.

18 With whom, then, will you compare God? By what standard will you evaluate Him? 19 An image made by a craftsman, which a goldsmith overlays with gold, for which he then casts silver chains?

Images in the ancient Near East were either cast or carved. Here, the reference is clearly to cast images. These would have been anywhere from four to ten inches high. Thousands of idols throughout the Near East have been uncovered by archaeologists. [2]

20 A man too poor to afford an offering chooses a piece of wood that won’t rot, then seeks out a skilled artisan to prepare an image that won’t fall over.21 Don’t you know? Don’t you hear? Haven’t you been told from the start? Don’t you understand how the earth is set up? 22 He who sits above the circle of the earth – for whom its inhabitants appear like grasshoppers – stretches out the heavens like a curtain, spreads them out like a tent to live in.

The picture of the universe described here is the prevailing view of the cosmos in the ancient Near East. The sky was a dome that arched over the disk of the earth, which sat on top of an ancient ocean. Under the sea was the netherworld, virtually a mirror image of the space above the earth. Thus, the entire universe was an enormous sphere, cut in the center by the earth. Nevertheless, here it is the earth itself that is described as circular. [3]

23 He reduces princes to nothing, the rulers of the earth to emptiness.

Adonai warns us not to put too much stock in leaders and judges. Don’t build your life hoping you’ll find a politician, judge, or Supreme Court nominee who is perfect and flawless. It won’t happen.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely their stem taken root in the ground, when He blows on them, they dry up, and the whirlwind carries them off like straw.

Recapping the previous verses, Adonai is not only superior to the gods of the nations; He is far above the rulers of the countries as well. He is the ultimate ruler. His throne is not on earth, but above the circle of the earth. Those gods are no match for Adonai.

25 “With whom, then, will you compare Me? With whom am I equal?” asks the Holy One. 26 Turn your eyes to the heavens! See who created these things! He brings out the army of them in sequence, summoning each by name. Through His great might and His massive strength, not one of them, is missing. ~ Isaiah 40:12-26 (CJB)

Nothing compares to Adonai. The religions of the ancient Near East believed the stars were gods. Y’hudah’s doctrine asserted that Adonai created the stars. The fact that He knew them by name indicates that they were His creation and they were protected by His power.

In my next post, we conclude our examination of Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 40:27-31.

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[1] Statistics taken from Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

[2] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[3] Ibid.

Comfort for God’s People ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 40:1-11

In my last post, we learned about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39:1-8. In this post, we begin to explore Comfort for God’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11.

In chapters 1 through 39, we’ve seen Adonai as sovereign sitting on the throne. In chapters 40 through 66, however, we see Adonai as Savior, hanging on the Execution Stake. In chapters 1 through 39, we saw the law of Adonai pointedly proclaimed. The first section dealt with the judgment from Adonai. The second deals with the joy of Adonai.

1 “Comfort and keep comforting my people,” says your God.

Though the hearer of Adonai’s words are not here specified, it is best to see these words as being directed to the prophet Yesha’yahu, who was commanded to bring words of comfort rather than judgment to Adonai’s people. The words address the prophet as if he were living in the time of the future exile of Y’hudah to Bavel. Adonai anticipated the questions that His people would have as they experienced His judgment.

Many people call this section the Gospel according to Yesha’yahu. It begins with these words, which, in a sense, introduce the Gospel story because we hear Yochanan the Immerser, in introducing Yeshua, quote this particular chapter. After thirty-nine chapters of Adonai convicting His people, He now begins to comfort them.

2 “Tell Yerushalayim to take heart; proclaim to her that she has completed her time of service, that her guilt has been paid off, that she has received at the hand of Adonai double for all her sins.”

How was Yesha’yahu to comfort Adonai’s people? First, he was to tell the nation that she has completed her time of service, that her guilt has been paid off. How are we to comfort others? By telling people that troubles are coming to an end, that life is short, that life goes fast, that Yeshua is coming back.

3 A voice cries out: “Clear a road through the desert for Adonai! Level a highway in the ‘Aravah for our God! 4 Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill lowered, the bumpy places made level and the crags become a plain.

Messengers (A voice cries out) were well known in the ancient Near Eastern world. They played an essential role as the bearers of political and civic news to the inhabitants of a city. Virtually every town had a messenger who announced important news to the inhabitants. Foreign invaders often sent a herald to a town to discuss terms with those remaining in the city.

The roads of the ancient Near East were for the most part unpaved. Although unpaved, those intended for wheeled transport had to be staked out, leveled and consistently maintained. However, very few texts describe the construction and maintenance of these roads. Roads for heavy transport were somewhat rare and were primarily along the trade routes. [1]

This is the essence of ministry for you and me as well. We are not to draw attention to ourselves, but rather we are to prepare the way for Yeshua. We can be like Yochanan. We can share Yeshua, preparing a way for Him.

5 Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed; all humankind together will see it, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.”

Sin had broken the fellowship between Adonai and His people, but Yesha’yahu looked beyond their punishment to the return of the glory of Adonai.

6 A voice says, “Proclaim!” And I answer, “What should I proclaim?” “All humanity is merely grass, all its kindness like wildflowers: 7 the grass dries up, the flower fades, when a wind from Adonai blows on it. Surely the people are grass! 8 The grass dries up, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand forever.”

The awareness of fleeting human mortality is not exclusive to ancient Isra’el. The concept of forever in the ancient Near East connotated continuous and permanent time rather than endless time. In contrast to the withering grass and fading flower, the Word of our God stands forever. His promise that He will never leave you, that He is going to finish the work He began in you, that He’s coming back for you will never change.

9 You who bring good news to Tziyon, get yourself up on a high mountain; you who bring good news to Yerushalayim, cry out at the top of your voice! Don’t be afraid to shout out loud! Say to the cities of Y’hudah, “Here is your God!

If you want a life of purpose and substance, do the work of an evangelist. Lift up your voice and tell people to behold the One who created them, who loves them, who has a plan and a purpose for them. Say to those around you, “Here is your God!

10 Here comes Adonai Elohim with power, and His arm will rule for Him. Look! His reward is with Him, and His recompense is before Him.11 He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering his lambs with his arm, carrying them against his chest, gently leading the mother sheep.” ~ Isaiah 40:1-11 (CJB)

In Scripture and throughout the ancient Near East, the shepherd was a familiar image for a ruler. Y’hudah had been subject to weak and evil shepherds or kings, but the nation would once again have a strong and compassionate shepherd. This speaks, of course, of Yeshua, our Shepherd. I’m so glad it is the weakest of us that He carries closest to His heart and that it is those of us who are bogged down with cares or concerns that He gently leads.

In my next post, we continue to learn about Comfort for God’s People ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 40:12-26.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Envoys from Bavel ~ Yesha’yahu 39:1-8

In my last post, we learned about Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22. In this post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39:1-8.

1 M’rodakh-Bal’adan the son of Bal’adan, king of Bavel, heard that Hizkiyahu had been ill and had recovered, so he sent a letter and a gift to him.

Following the destruction of Ashur, Bavel emerges as the new world power. This is an important transition because it will be Bavel who will ultimately carry the Jews into captivity. M’rodakh-Bal’adan was king of Bavel, at this time a province of the Ashurim Empire. In 703 BCE, Sancheriv, to whom M’rodakh-Bal’adan had been a constant irritant looking for opportunities to revolt, removed him. Even after his removal from Bavel, M’rodakh-Bal’adan went to Elam and continued to plot against Ashur until his death. The letters and a gift that he sent to Hizkiyahu were part of a strategy to get Hizkiyahu to join with him in a rebellious alliance.

2 Hizkiyahu was pleased with the gifts and showed the messengers all of the building where he kept his treasures, including the silver, gold, spices and precious oils; also all of the building where he kept his armor; and everything in his treasury — there was nothing in his palace or in his entire domain that Hizkiyahu did not show them.

Hizkiyahu responded positively to M’rodakh-Bal’adan, showing him the wealth of his kingdom as well as the strength of his armaments. What in the world was Hizkiyahu thinking? Even I know that was a pretty dumb thing to do. Let’s read on and learn just how tragic it proved to be.

3 Then Yesha‘yahu the prophet came to King Hizkiyahu and asked him, “What did these men say? Where did they come from?” Hizkiyahu answered, “They came to me from a distant country, Bavel.” 4 Yesha‘yahu asked, “What have they seen in your palace?” “They have seen everything in my palace,” said Hizkiyahu. “There isn’t a thing among my treasures that I haven’t shown them.”

In Luke 2:19,51, when Miryam, mother of Yeshua, was given revelation and insight, she treasured those things in her heart. If Adonai gives you treasured revelation, you don’t need to spout it out to everyone immediately. If Adonai gives you insight and glorious truths, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to treasure them in your heart.

5 Yesha‘yahu said to Hizkiyahu, “Hear what Adonai-Tzva’ot says: 6 ‘The day will come when everything in your palace, along with everything your ancestors stored up until today, will be carried off to Bavel. Nothing will be left,’ says Adonai. 7 ‘They will carry off some of your descendants, your own offspring; and they will be made eunuchs serving in the palace of the king of Bavel.”

Adonai through the prophet Yesah’yahu expressed his great displeasure with Hizkiyahu. The king’s actions demonstrated that he was trusting foreign nations like Bavel for his protection rather than Adonai. Adonai’s punishment would take away the wealth that Hizkiyahu had been showing off to M’rodakh-Bal’adan. Another part of the punishment was that some of the king’s descendants would be taken away and would become eunuchs in Bavel. Bavelim records indicate that a number of the Bavelim king’s advisers were eunuchs.

8 Hizkiyahu said to Yesha‘yahu, “The word of Adonai which you have just told me is good”; because he thought, “At least peace and truth will continue during my lifetime.” ~ Isaiah 39:1-8 (CJB)

The announced punishment implied that it would happen in a future generation. Hizkiyahu’s selfish relief does not speak well for him. The reference likely refers to the turbulent end of the Davidic dynasty in Y’hudah and specifically to the events surrounding the exile and removal of the last king, Tzidkiyahu (see 2 Kings 25:7).

In my next post, we begin to learn about Comfort for God’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11.

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Hizkiyahu’s Poem ~ Yesha’hayu 38:9-22

In my last post, we learned of Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38:1-8. In this post, we examine Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22.

9 After Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah had been ill and had recovered, he wrote the following:

The introduction to Hizkiyahu’s poem states that it was written after he had been sick and had recovered. In this respect, the poem is like the thanksgiving songs in Psalms. In the first part of this poem, Hizkiyahu spoke as if he were going to die, but from the second half of the poem, it is clear that it was written after he was healed.

10 “I once said: ‘In the prime of life I am going off to the gates of Sh’ol. I am being deprived of living out the full span of my life.’

Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the ancient concept of an underworld.

11 “I said, ‘I will never again see Yah, Yah in the land of the living; I will look on human beings no more or be with those who live in this world.

Hizkiyahu does not view Yah (a name of God) as an afterlife experience. The land of the living refers to this world and leaves open the question about Hizkiyahu’s belief in the afterlife.

12 My home is uprooted and taken away from me like a shepherd’s tent. Like a weaver, I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom. Between day and night, you could finish me off. 13 I try to be strong like a lion till morning, but still, my illness breaks all my bones – between day and night you could finish me off.

This verse has several metaphors. The shepherd frequently moved from place to place and therefore could break camp quickly. The weaver working on a horizontal loom had the threads and material stretched on bars between stakes. When it had to be moved, the bars could be pulled off the stakes and rolled up. When the weaver finished a piece of cloth, the threads connecting the material to the loom had to be cut. The weaving of Hizkiyahu’s life had been completed, and he was now to be cut loose from the land of the living.

14 I make little chattering sounds like a swallow; I moan aloud like a dove, My eyes are weary with looking upward. Adonai, I am overwhelmed; guarantee my life!’

Hizkiyahu moans sound like the chirping of a bird.

15 “What is there that I can say? He has spoken to me and acted! I will go humbly all my years, remembering how bitter I was. 16 Adonai, by these things people live; in all these is the life of my spirit. You’re restoring my health and giving me life –

God had spoken, and King Hizkiyahu had been delivered from premature death.

In the fifteen additional years, he was given, Hizkiyahu made two terrible mistakes. In addition to providing the Bavelim reason to attack Y’hudah (see 39:5-8), he fathered a son named Manasseh – the worst king in Y’hudah‘s history. It was Manasseh who finally brought down the judgment of God upon Y’hudah.

I believe Hizkiyahu’s story is recorded to show us that there is both a perfect and permissible will of God. Therefore, the best way to pray is to pray as Yeshua did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, let not my will but yours be done.” ~ Luke 22:42 (CJB)

17 though instead of peace, I felt very bitter. You desired my life and preserved it from the nothingness pit; for you threw all my sins behind your back.

Hizkiyahu‘s bitterness refers back to his mournful reaction to news of his impending death. This bitterness is what led him to seek God in prayer and ultimately to God’s relenting from His death sentence. The king referred to the grave as the nothingness pit. After all, in the grave, the body rots and turns to dust.

18 “Sh’ol cannot thank you; death cannot praise you; those descending to the pit cannot hope for your truth.

Here Sh’ol and death are personified. The implication, as made clear by the phrase those descending to the pit, is that the dead can no longer have hope or praise God.

19 The living, the living – they can thank you, as I do today; fathers will make their children know about your faithfulness.

Adonai benefits from keeping His saints alive. The living can praise Him, and they can share that praise with the following generations.

20 Adonai is ready to save me; hence, we will make our stringed instruments sound all the days of our life in the house of Adonai.”

Hizkiyahu sang this song of deliverance after being given fifteen additional years to live on earth. We have been given not fifteen years, but all of eternity – not to live on earth, but eternal life with Yeshua heaven. How much more significant, then, should our song of deliverance be!

21 Then Yesha‘yahu said, “Have them take a fig-plaster and apply it to the inflammation, and he will recover.” 22 Hizkiyahu asked, “What sign will there be that I will be able to go up to the house of Adonai?” ~ Isaiah 38:9-22 (CJB)

These last two verses are an appendix that fills in some facts from earlier in the story. Apparently, Hizkiyahu had a skin disease, perhaps a boil that was causing his body temperature to rise dangerously. Here, we see that, while God performed the miracle of moving the clock backward, He also used a common medicinal substance of the day to heal Hizkiyahu. Medicine doesn’t heal. Miracles don’t heal. Our immune systems don’t heal. It is God who heals. And He can use medicine, miracles, our bodies, or a combination of all three to do His will.

In my next post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39.

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Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’hayu 37:11-20

In my last post, we begin a new mini-series on Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10. In this post, we continue to learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 37:11-20.

11  You have heard what the kings of Ashur have done to all lands — they have completely destroyed them. So how will you be delivered?12  Have the gods of the nations delivered them? No, my ancestors destroyed them — Gozan, Haran, Retzef, and the people of ‘Eden who were in Tel’asar. 13  Where is the king of Hamat? the king of Arpad? the king of the city of S’farvayim, of Hena and ‘Ivah?’”

Verses 11-13 repeat the thrust of the threat we saw in Yesha’yahu 36:18-20. Sancheriv again told Hizkiyahu that he should not trust Adonai. After all, the gods of other nations and cities conquered by Ashur in the past had been unable to help them.

14  Hizkiyahu took the letter from the messengers’ hands and read it. Then Hizkiyahu went up to the house of Adonai and spread it out before Adonai. 15  This is the prayer that Hizkiyahu prayed to Adonai:

Hizkiyahu took this threatening letter to the house of the Adonai and spread it out before Him. That’s always a good thing to do with threatening letters that come your way or bills too big to pay. Just spread them out and say, Adonai, help!” Logically and militarily, Yerushalayim was no match for Ashur. But that didn’t stop Hizkiyahu from calling out to the only One who could save them.

16  “Adonai-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el, who dwells above the k’ruvim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth.

Hizkiyahu addressed his prayer to Adonai-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el whom he described as enthroned above the k’ruvim. The k’ruvim were among the most powerful of Adonai’s heavenly creatures and are often represented at places close to the divine presence. In particular, this refers to the two k’ruvim whose wings covered the ark of the covenant as it rested in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple. Hizkiyahu appealed to Adonai as the One who made the heavens and the earth – the One who is sovereign over all the kingdoms on earth, not just Y’hudah – since Sancheriv had mocked Adonai as a mere local deity.

17  Turn your ear, Adonai, and hear! Open your eyes, Adonai, and see! Hear all the words that Sancheriv sent to taunt the living God. 18  It is true that the kings of Ashur have laid waste all the countries and their lands 19  and have thrown their gods into the fire. For those were nongods, merely the products of people’s hands, wood, and stone; this is why they could destroy them. 20  Now, therefore, Adonai our God, save us from his power— so that all the kingdoms on earth will know that you are Adonai – you only.”

Sancheriv had dared to compare the Adonai to mere idols and suggested that he would defeat Adonai’s people as quickly as he had defeated the gods of the other countries. This is a prayer that produces power because the motivation was not for Hizkiyahu‘s protection but Adonai’s glorification. If Y’hudah should be defeated, then the nations, and in particular Ashur, would believe that Adonai was just like the false gods of all the other nations.

21  Then Yesha‘yahu, the son of Amotz, sent this message to Hizkiyahu: “Adonai the God of Isra’el says: ‘You prayed to me against Sancheriv king of Ashur.’ 22  Here is Adonai’s answer concerning him: “‘The virgin daughter of Tziyon despises you; she laughs you to scorn. The daughter of Yerushalayim shakes her head at you. ~ Isaiah 37:11-22 (CJB)

Adonai responded to Hizkiyahu through His divinely chosen prophet, Yesha’yahu. As Yesha’yahu spoke, he spoke in the name of Adonai.

Daughter Tziyon is a personification of Tziyon, the holiest location in Y’hudah. This reminds the reader of the intimate relationship Adonai enjoyed with His people. The response was addressed to none other than Sancheriv, so the use of this title for Adonai’s people shows from the start how important they were to Adonai.

In my next post, we continue to unpack this exciting encounter in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 37:21-38.

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Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 ~Yesha’hayu 37:1-10

In my last post, we completed the examination of The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22. In this post, we begin a new mini-series on Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10.

1 On hearing it, King Hizkiyahu tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and entered the house of Adonai.

It was the report from Hizkiyahu’s officials (see Yesha’yahu 36:22). Hizkiyahu assumed a posture of mourning when he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth. He did not turn to a foreign nation like Egypt for help, but he turned to Adonai.

When things are looking bad, the best place for us to be is in the house of the Adonai with the people of Adonai. The enemy will do everything possible to discourage us from coming to the house of the Adonai. But Hizkiyahu knew that was exactly where he needed to be.

2 He sent Elyakim, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and the leading cohanim, covered with sackcloth, to Yesha‘yahu the prophet, the son of Amotz. 3 They said to him, “This is what Hizkiyahu says: ‘Today is a day of trouble, rebuke, and disgrace. Children are ready to be born, but there is no strength to bring them to birth. 4 Maybe Adonai your God will hear the words of Rav-Shakeh, whom his master the king of Ashur has sent to taunt the living God, and will rebuke the message which Adonai your God has heard. So pray for the remnant that is left.’”

Hizkiyahu sent a message to Yesha’yahu, saying, Rav-Shakeh has been troubling us, threatening us, and blaspheming Adonai. The time has come to stand -but we have no strength.” Do you ever feel that way? You know it’s a time to be strong, to stand up, to stand fast – and yet you feel drained? Let’s see how Yesha’yahu handled it on behalf of Hizkiyahu.

Hizkiyahu then sent two of his delegation to elicit prayers on behalf of the nation from the prophet Yesha’yahu. One of the primary roles of a prophet was to provide intercessory prayer. The first mention of a prophet in the Bible links the office with prayer (Genesis 20:7). Most of the prophets, beginning with Moshe (Exodus 33) and Sh’mu’el (1 Samuel 12:23), demonstrated the critical role of prayer in their work.

5 When King Hizkiyahu’s servants came to Yesha‘yahu, 6 he said to them, “Tell your master that this is what Adonai says: ‘Don’t be afraid of the words you heard the servants of the king of Ashur use to insult me.

Yesha’yahu assured King Hizkiyahu through his men that Adonai would remedy the threat presented by the Ashurim army. Adonai took the Ashurim challenge personally. The king had shown trust in the Adonai by approaching Yesha’yahu, His servant, to pray.

Of Yeshua, Yesha’yahu would prophesy, Adonai Elohim has given Me the ability to speak as a man well taught, so that I, with My words, know how to sustain the weary. Each morning He awakens My ear to hear like those who are taught.” Isaiah 50:4 (CJB). Do we have a sure word for the fearful people around us? We will if we wake morning by morning to wait on the Adonai. Start your day in prayer.

7 I will put a spirit in him that will make him hear a rumor and return to his own land; then I will cause him to die by the sword in his own land.’”

Adonai would send a spirit of deception to Rav-Shakeh so he would hear and believe a falsehood that would cause him to retreat. The fact that Adonai would send such a spirit evokes the memory of the evil spirit Adonai sent to torment Sha’ul (1 Samuel 16:14) and the deceiving spirit Adonai used to deceive King Achav (1 Kings 22:22).

8 Rav-Shakeh returned and, having heard that the king of Ashur had left Lakhish, found him making war with Livnah.

When Rav-Shakeh had traveled to Yerushalayim, the Ashurim king and his army were at Lakhish, but when Rav-Shakeh returned, the king was at Livnah, a town about eight miles northeast of Lakhish. Sennacheriv had completed the capture of Lakhish and had moved on to the next city on what seemed to be an unstoppable march toward Yerushalayim.

9 Then he heard it said that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia was on his way to fight him. On hearing this, the king of Ashur sent messengers to Hizkiyahu, after ordering them,

Tirhakah, at this point in history (701 BCE) may have been the crown prince of Egypt. He became pharaoh of all Egypt in 690 BCE and ruled until 664 BCE. [1]

10 “This is what you are to say to Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah: ‘Don’t let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, “Yerushalayim will not be handed over to the power of the king of Ashur.”Isaiah 37:1-10 (CJB)

The rumor of Tirhakah’s advance on his rear flank caused Sennacheriv to retreat from his march on Yerushalayim, but before he left, he sent a message to warn Hizkiyahu that his departure was only temporary.

In my next post, we continue to unpack this exciting encounter in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 37:11-20.

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[1] HCSB Study Bible.

The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’hayu 36:11-22

In my last post, we learned The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 36:1-10. In this post, we complete the examination of The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22.

11 Elyakim, Shevnah, and Yo’ach said to Rav-Shakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic since we understand it; don’t speak to us in Hebrew while the people on the wall are listening.” 12 But Rav-Shakeh answered, “Did my master send me to deliver my message just to your master and yourselves? Didn’t he send me to address the men sitting on the wall, who, like you, are going to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”

When the people of Yerushalayim began to sit on the wall in order to listen to the conversation taking place between Sancheriv’s and Hizkiyahu’s negotiators, Hizkiyahu’s men asked that they be spoken to in Aramaic lest the Jewish populace become demoralized. However, it served Rav-Shakeh’s propagandistic purpose to have the people hear and be frightened by the coming Ashurim army, so he refused this request. He reminded them of the consequences of a long siege. They would run out of water and have to drink their urine; they would run out of food and have to eat their excrement.

13 Then Rav-Shakeh stood up and, speaking loudly in Hebrew, said: “Hear what the great king, the king of Ashur, says!  (emphasis added.)

As exemplified by Rav-Shakeh, a big mouth is often indicative of a wicked heart. When someone has to speak loudly to make himself heard, there’s usually something amiss in his heart. [The exemption is those of us who are very hard of hearing and may not even know we are talking loudly.]

14 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hizkiyahu deceive you, because he won’t be able to save you. 15 And don’t let Hizkiyahu make you trust in Adonai by saying, “Adonai will surely save us; this city will not be given over to the king of Ashur.”

Again Rav-Shakeh mocked the idea of trusting in Adonai to rescue Y’hudah from Ashur. But as the previous chapters have asserted many times, trusting Adonai is precisely what the people of Y’hudah should do in this situation.

16 Don’t listen to Hizkiyahu.’ For this is what the king says: ‘Make peace with me, surrender to me. Then every one of you can eat from his vine and fig tree and drink the water in his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land with grain and wine, a land with bread and vineyards.

Ashur’s imperialistic policy called for the deportation of a subjugated people. Rav-Shakeh presented his ultimatum for surrender. For the time being, the Y’hudahim would stay in their land, but after a while, they would be deported to another area. Such a policy was put into place in 722 BCE when the Ashurim conquered the northern kingdom and deported the vast majority of the native population and then brought in foreigners to live there. This policy was intended to break the connection between a people and the god of their land.

18 Beware of Hizkiyahu; he is only deluding you when he says, “Adonai will save us.” Has any god of any nation ever saved his land from the power of the king of Ashur?

Rav-Shakeh does just what HaSatan does to us. First, he plants a question in the ears of the people of Yerushalayim concerning their king. HaSatan attempts to deceive us at every turn. Rav-Shakeh argued that the Adonai could not save Y’hudah any more than the gods of other nations and cities that had been defeated by Ashur.

19 Where are the gods of Hamat and Arpad? Where are the gods of S’farvayim? Did they save Shomron from my power? 20 Where is the god of any of these countries that has saved its country from my power, so that Adonai might be able to save Yerushalayim from my power?’”

Rav-Shakeh specifically mentioned the defeat of three cities whose gods were unable to rescue their inhabitants. Arpad and Hamat were cities in northern Syria known to have been defeated by Ashur at an earlier time. The exact identification of S’farvayim is unknown.

21 But they kept still and didn’t answer him so much as a word, for the king’s order was, “Don’t answer him.” 22 Then Elyakim the son of Hilkiyahu, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and Yo’ach the son of Asaf, the foreign minister went to Hizkiyahu with their clothes torn and reported to him what Rav-Shakeh had said. ~ Isaiah 36:11-22 (CJB)

Hizkiyahu did not give his officials authority to negotiate with Ashur. They reported the proceedings to the king. Their clothes that were torn were a common sign of mourning, showing their deep distress.

In my next post, we learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold in Yesha’yahu 37.

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Sukkot 5780 ~ The Ultimate Sukkah

We continue to interrupt our series on Yesha’yahu once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2019, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Sunday, October 13th.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43). Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13). It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43). During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).


Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40). The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls. The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams. It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah. The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle). The etrog is a citron. Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14). He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot. We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth. But we do know; it indeed wasn’t December 25th. For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80). The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come! The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice. And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it entirely comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time. God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua resides as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach. Because of its latter-day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2) The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives. By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain. He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19). Can’t you imagine it? The feast of the Millennium! What a party that will be! This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy. This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory. All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day. God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua! Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Yesha’yahu.

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Yom Kippur – 5780 ~ The Day of Atonement

In this post, we take another break from the series on Yesha’yahu to observe the second of the fall Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur. This a lengthy post and I would encourage you to download the PDF version.

In 2019, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on October 8th. The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement. The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are Kippur (noun) and Kaspar (verb). The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to Adonai. What does “atonement mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for the wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 provides detailed instructions for a unique sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray. The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal. There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15). That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

It is essential in looking at the Tanakh to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later. The whole of scripture is a progressive revelation of Adonai. He reveals Himself more and more throughout human history. Adonai planned for continuous enactments of reality so that when Yeshua finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing? Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness? No. In the repeated sacrifices of the Tanakh we are led to understand that, to Adonai, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.

Yom Kippur in Yeshua’s Time

Vayikra 16:7-10 states that the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is “to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then (he) is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel (scapegoat). (He) is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”

There were also a few traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony. According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate of both of the goats. The lot for the sacrifice said for the Lord, and the lot for the scapegoat said, the scapegoat.  The people considered it a good omen if the lot for the Lord came up in the Priests right hand. Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoat’s horns, and a portion of it was also tied to the door of the Temple. The sash on the Temple turned from red to white as the goat met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that Adonai had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned. This idea came from Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

Also stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred during the forty years before the destruction of the Temple which foreshadowed its doom. (This would have started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and for all.) For forty years:

  • The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the Priests right hand…this was considered a bad omen.
  • The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
  • The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not burn. This was crucial because this was the “shammash” (servant) used to kindle the other candles.
  • The temple doors opened by themselves. The rabbis saw the prophetic fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire can consume your cedars.” Fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have adorned the inside of the temple.
Yeshua’s Fulfillment

What should surprise us is that Adonai would give His Son for us. What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own. But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve. Sacrifice has always been central to the history of Adonai’s gracious dealings with men. Over and over again, that picture is presented to us. Over and over again we see the blood. Over and over – till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one. And we bow, stunned by the reality.

He died.
He died for me.
He died for you.

Even in ancient times, Adonai lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows of the reality.

Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah – the Deliverer to be sent to them by Adonai. In this passage, we have a clear picture of Yeshua, and of sacrifice.

“Like a lamb led to be slaughtered” (v. 7).

“He would present himself as a guilt offering” (v. 10).

“He exposed himself to death” (v. 12).

“Actually bearing the sin of many” (v. 12).

We cannot read these words today without realizing that they contain Adonai’s explanation for Yeshua’s life – and for His death.

According to Hebrews Chapter10, the sacrifices of old were “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals” (v. 1). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (v. 4). The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting Adonai to overlook His people’s sins until Yeshua could come to take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25-26). What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Yeshua accomplished! By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Yeshua, our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven entirely, and we have been cleansed. (Hebrews 10:14) Thus “an offering for sins is no longer needed” (v. 18). We need to appropriate for ourselves the atonement of the shed blood of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again. Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with. The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of Adonai. What a different message the bread and wine of Communion! No longer is fresh blood required. Yeshua has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (v. 12).

It is enough.
Redemption’s work is done.
By the blood of Yeshua, you and I have been set forever free.

The focal point of Adonai’s atoning work is Yeshua’s death on the execution stake. Sha’ul wrote, “we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death when we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). These words not only define the meaning of atonement, but they also reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

At the beginning of His ministry, Yeshua was identified as “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The purpose of His coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He explained His death regarding His “bloodshed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).

The relation of Yeshua’s death to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Messianic preaching (Acts 2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43). Sha’ul proclaimed, “Yeshua died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), that He was the “kapparah – atonement” (Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” NRSV, NIV; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a cursed on our behalf” (Galatians 3:13), and that those “who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.” (Ephesians 2:13). Furthermore, Yeshua has been “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28) and has become “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) into Adonai’s presence. He is the one who “bore our sins in his body on the stake” (1 Peter 2:24).

Though atonement is focused on the execution stake, the Brit Hadashah makes clear that Yeshua’s death is the climax of His perfect obedience. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the execution stake” (Philippians 2:8). “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings” (Hebrews 5:8). Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Yeshua’s obedience to Adam’s disobedience. His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 6:8-10).

The atonement for sin provided by Yeshua’s death had its origin in divine love. No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 5:18). The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique Son (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10). This does not mean that Adonai loves us because Yeshua died for us. Rather, Yeshua died for us because Adonai loves us. Thus, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as a human achievement.

No day was, or is, as sacred to the Jewish community as Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement. After the high priest had made atonement for his sins and those of his household, he proceeded with the rites of atonement for the whole community.

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah – the atonement – for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.” (Romans 3:25) Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so. We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13) and to punish it (Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9). No acceptance by, or fellowship with,  Adonai can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation.

As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19), Yeshua’s death was our redemption. He paid the price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14). Yeshua’s death was Adonai’s act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Yeshua’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of a renewed covenant, in which Yeshua’s one sacrifice guarantees access to Adonai under all circumstances that cover all transgressions (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15; 10:12-18). Those who through faith in Yeshua have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) “in him… become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We no longer need the blood of bulls or goats.
Yeshua is our perfect atonement. He is the Messiah!

In my next post, we will consider the last of the Fall Feasts by examining Sukkot.

The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’hayu 36:1-10

In my last post, we learn of The Joy of the Redeemed in Yesha’hayu 35:1-10. In this post, we learn The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 361-10.

The Ashurim had been swallowing up the territory between Nineveh, the capital city of Ashur, and Yerushalayim, the capital city of Y’hudah. They had already defeated Isra’el’s ten northern tribes. With the Ashurim forces only ten miles from Yerushalayim, it looked as though Yerushalayim, a relatively small and weak city, would be defeated, as well. But Adonai had promised that He would bring about deliverance. And this is the story of that deliverance.

1 It was in the fourteenth year of King Hizkiyahu that Sancheriv king of Ashur advanced against all the fortified cities of Y’hudah and captured them.

The Ashurim had defeated the northern kingdom of Isra’el in 722 BCE and put Y’hudah in a position where they had to pay an annual tribute to keep the Ashurim from attacking them. In 703 BCE Sancheriv succeeded his father Sargon on the throne of Ashur. Many nations, including Y’hudah, seized upon this succession in leadership as an opportunity to rebel against Ashur. After taking care of rebellions in other parts of his empire, Sancheriv turned his attention to Y’hudah in 701 BCE. He quickly took many of the smaller fortified cities on the way to Yerushalayim. For accounts of this confrontation, see 2 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 32.

Hizkiyahu, king of Y’hudah, was a very godly man. Being a man, he had the vulnerability and weakness common to all men. Earlier, he had tried to appease the Ashurim by stripping the gold and silver from the doors of the temple and giving it to Sancheriv. But he found the same thing that you and I see. That is, appeasing the devil never works because he always wants more.

2 From Lakhish the king of Ashur sent Rav-Shakeh to Hizkiyahu in Yerushalayim with a large army. He positioned himself by the aqueduct from the Upper Pool, which is by the road to the Launderers’ Field.

Lakhish was a critical garrison city about 30 miles west of Yerushalayim. It guarded the road that led to Yerushalayim. The king of Ashur, along with his armies, was still at Lakhish when he sent one of his chief officials, the Rav-Shakeh to present an ultimatum to Yerushalayim. Rav-Shakeh stood at the same place where Yesha’yahu had confronted Achaz at an earlier time (see Isaiah 7:3).

3 Elyakim, the son of Hilkiyahu, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and Yo’ach, the son of Asaf, the foreign minister, went out to meet him.

All three of these gentlemen were high ranking officials in Hizkiyahu’s government.

4 Rav-Shakeh addressed them: “Tell Hizkiyahu: ‘Here is what the great king, the king of Ashur, says: “What makes you so confident? 5 I say: do mere words constitute strategy and strength for battle? In whom, then, are you trusting when you rebel against me like this?

The purpose of Rav-Shakeh’s speech was to try to get Hizkiyahu to surrender. He questioned the basis of Hizkiyahu’s refusal in attempting to undermine the foundations of his confidence. He first asked whether the people of Y’hudah were militarily prepared to counter the Ashurim threat.

6 Look! Relying on Egypt is like using a broken stick as a staff – when you lean on it, it punctures your hand. That’s what Pharaoh king of Egypt is like for anyone who puts his trust in him.

Rav-Shakeh then undermined any confidence the nation of Y’hudah might have in Egypt as an ally. He used the metaphor of a splintered reed of a staff. A staff was something a person leaned on for support. However, this staff was made out of a reed that could not support a person’s weight. Indeed, Adonai through Yeshayahu had been making the same point. Egypt was not an ally that could be trusted.

7 But if you tell me, ‘We trust in Adonai our God,’ then isn’t He the one whose high places and altars Hizkiyahu has removed, telling Y’hudah and Yerushalayim, ‘You must worship before this altar’?

Finally, Rav-Shakeh questioned whether Adonai would protect Hizkiyahu. Indeed, the removal of all altars except the one on Mount Tziyon conformed with the law of centralization in Deuteronomy 12. The alters Hizkiyahu removed were altars of false gods. Rav-Shakeh’s argument shows that he did not understand the religion of Y’hudah. Therefore Rav-Shakeh was speaking ignorantly.

8 All right, then, make a wager with my lord, the king of Ashur: I will give you two thousand horses if you can find enough riders for them.

Rav-Shakeh then taunted Y’hudah by offering them 2,000 horses, suggesting that they could not find riders for them.

9 How then can you repulse even one of my master’s lowest-ranked army officers? Yet you are relying on Egypt for chariots and riders! 10 Do you think I have come up to this land to destroy it without Adonai’s approval? Adonai said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it!’” ~ Isaiah 36:1-10 (CJB)

Rav-Shakeh continues, saying, “The Egyptians won’t help you. The Lord won’t help you. You can’t even ride horses. And besides that, He sent us to destroy you.”  His statement reflects ancient Near Eastern pagan theology. The Ashurim believed that the God of Isra’el was a real deity, though perhaps not a strong one. Rav-Shakeh claimed that Y’hudah’sGod had ordered the nation’s destruction. Adonai did use foreign nations on occasion to punish His people, but in this case, Rav-Shakeh was wrong, as further developments of the confrontation between Ashur and Isra’el would indicate.

In my next post, we continue to learn that The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22.

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