As I’m currently reading through the entire Bible, I happen to be in Isaiah 36 today. And one thing really stood out to me while reading what Rabshakeh said – the Assyrians were masters of propaganda. They were so good at the art of persuasion that even Eliakim responded to him to not speak to them in Hebrew so that the army could not hear what he was saying.
Isa 36:2-12 (KJV)
2 And the king of Assyria sent Rab-shakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field.
3 Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph’s son, the recorder.
4 And Rab-shakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence this wherein thou trustest?
5 I say, [sayest thou], (but [they are but] vain words) counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
6 Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.
7 But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?
8 Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
9 How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
10 And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
11 Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rab-shakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that [are] on the wall.
12 But Rab-shakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? [hath he] not [sent me] to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
Here are some things that stood out to me:
– Rabshakeh knew fluent Hebrew
– They had a lot of intelligence information about them – their military strategy, how many people they had
– They knew a lot about their religion and even claimed Yahweh spoke to the Assyrians
– He used the sacred personal name of God, Yahweh, which is rarely invoked even by the Jews
– They claimed Yahweh commanded them to attack Jerusalem and implying God was blessing their attack in order to judge the nation of Judah
– Rabshakeh had a wide range of speech skills – he could speak very cordially and also crudely
– With just a few sentences, he could convince the Jerusalem soldiers they were going to lose