Table of Contents
Introduction to Isaiah 36:7-12
This week we discuss the dark side of Israel’s history. In Isaiah 36:6 Rabshakeh describes Egypt as a broken reed because it was a weak and unreliable country, government, and people. Egypt and the children of Israel’s interactions go back as far as Abraham sojourning in the pharaoh’s land and the centuries of slavery they endured there according to Bereshit / Genesis 12:10–20, Shemot / Exodus 1:8–14, and 12:40–42.
ספר בראשית פרק יב
י וַיְהִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ וַיֵּרֶד אַבְרָם מִצְרַיְמָה לָגוּר שָׁם כִּי-כָבֵד הָרָעָב בָּאָרֶץ: יא וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִקְרִיב לָבוֹא מִצְרָיְמָה וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-שָֹרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ הִנֵּה-נָא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אִשָּׁה יְפַת-מַרְאֶה אָתְּ: יב וְהָיָה כִּי-יִרְאוּ אֹתָךְ הַמִּצְרִים וְאָמְרוּ אִשְׁתּוֹ זֹאת וְהָרְגוּ אֹתִי וְאֹתָךְ יְחַיּוּ: יג אִמְרִי-נָא אֲחֹתִי אָתְּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב-לִי בַעֲבוּרֵךְ וְחָיְתָה נַפְשִׁי בִּגְלָלֵךְ: [שני] יד וַיְהִי כְּבוֹא אַבְרָם מִצְרָיְמָה וַיִּרְאוּ הַמִּצְרִים אֶת-הָאִשָּׁה כִּי-יָפָה הִוא מְאֹד: טו וַיִּרְאוּ אֹתָהּ שָֹרֵי פַרְעֹה וַיְהַלֲלוּ אֹתָהּ אֶל-פַּרְעֹה וַתֻּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה בֵּית פַּרְעֹה: טז וּלְאַבְרָם הֵיטִיב בַּעֲבוּרָהּ וַיְהִי-לוֹ צֹאן-וּבָקָר וַחֲמֹרִים וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹת וַאֲתֹנֹת וּגְמַלִּים: יז וַיְנַגַּע יְהוָֹה | אֶת-פַּרְעֹה נְגָעִים גְּדֹלִים וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ עַל-דְּבַר שָֹרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם: יח וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה לְאַבְרָם וַיֹּאמֶר מַה-זֹּאת עָשִֹיתָ לִּי לָמָּה לֹא-הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי כִּי אִשְׁתְּךָ הִוא: יט לָמָה אָמַרְתָּ אֲחֹתִי הִוא וָאֶקַּח אֹתָהּ לִי לְאִשָּׁה וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה אִשְׁתְּךָ קַח וָלֵךְ: כ וַיְצַו עָלָיו פַּרְעֹה אֲנָשִׁים וַיְשַׁלְּחוּ אֹתוֹ וְאֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ:
Bereshit / Genesis 12:10-20
12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. 12:11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: 12:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. 12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. 12:17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. 12:18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 12:19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had. (KJV)
Here Egypt behaved in a more righteous way in the way that Pharaoh handled this situation, especially since Abraham had lied about his wife, and God afflicting the Egyptians with diseases due to Pharaoh taking Abram’s wife. Pharaoh had enough sense to recognize what was happening and some ethical standing to believe that it was wrong to take his wife once he knew she was his wife. Being able to recognize what God is doing in our lives is very important and is the reason we have been given God’s Word. When we take the time to see His hand at work in our lives, we are acknowledging His sovereignty and His goodness over our lives. The scriptures also state saying in 1 Chronicles 28:9 “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.” (KJV) As we take the time to seek Him, we will find the Lord and consequently we also find hope, strength, growth, and joy. Notice how Pharaoh recognized the work of God in his life, but instead of embracing the Lord God of Abram he pushed Abram and his God away. Here Abram did not experience slavery, but he did experience what happens when one lies, he loses something, and then God restored his wife out of mercy. Later on we read that all of Israel was enslaved by the Egyptians out of fear according to Shemot / Exodus 1:8-14.
ספר שמות פרק א
ח וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ-חָדָשׁ עַל-מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע אֶת-יוֹסֵף: ט וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-עַמּוֹ הִנֵּה עַם בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל רַב וְעָצוּם מִמֶּנּוּ: י הָבָה נִּתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן-יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי-תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם-הוּא עַל-שֹֹנְאֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם-בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ: יא וַיָּשִֹימוּ עָלָיו שָֹרֵי מִסִּים לְמַעַן עַנֹּתוֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָם וַיִּבֶן עָרֵי מִסְכְּנוֹת לְפַרְעֹה אֶת-פִּתֹם וְאֶת-רַעַמְסֵס: יב וְכַאֲשֶׁר יְעַנּוּ אֹתוֹ כֵּן יִרְבֶּה וְכֵן יִפְרֹץ וַיָּקֻצוּ מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל: יג וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ: יד וַיְמָרֲרוּ אֶת-חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה בְּחֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים וּבְכָל-עֲבֹדָה בַּשָּׂדֶה אֵת כָּל-עֲבֹדָתָם אֲשֶׁר-עָבְדוּ בָהֶם בְּפָרֶךְ:
Shemot / Exodus 1:8-14
1:8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 1:9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 1:10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 1:11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 1:13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 1:14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour. (KJV)
Here historically speaking Israel was to have nothing to do with the Egyptians, they were not to deal with them in trade (Devarim / Deuteronomy 17:16), they were not to seek out the way they worshiped their gods (Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:30) and even though Sefer Devarim is speaking of the Promised Land, this applies to all nations around the world including for us today! Later on the leaders and the people do not appear to know what God’s Word states, and so the rulers of Judah turned to Egypt for help. Two decades after Samaria fell in 722 BC, Judah asked Egypt for help when the leaders chose to rebel against Assyria, to which they had been paying tribute since Ahaz invited the empire to meddle in Judah’s affairs through an alliance against Syria and Israel in 735 BC (see Isaiah 16:1-9). Judah rebelled against Assyria during the reign of King Hezekiah in about 701 BC (Isaiah 18:1-7), and the account of this rebellion in 2 Kings 18 reveals that Judah appealed to Egypt for military aid during the conflict (vv. Isaiah 18:19-21). This is the setting for Isaiah’s warning Judah not to seek Egypt’s help against Assyria. (Isaiah 30:1-7) What we note is that when Judah turned to Egypt this resulted in great sin, because it demonstrates Judah’s failure to seek the God of Israel as their rock and shelter (Tehillim / Psalms 18:2). Isaiah says in Isaiah 30:1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, That take counsel, but not of me; And that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, That they may add sin to sin: (KJV ה֣וֹי בָּנִ֤ים סֽוֹרְרִים֙ נְאֻם־יְהוָ֔ה לַעֲשׂ֤וֹת עֵצָה֙ וְלֹ֣א מִנִּ֔י וְלִנְסֹ֥ךְ מַסֵּכָ֖ה וְלֹ֣א רוּחִ֑י לְמַ֛עַן סְפ֥וֹת חַטָּ֖את עַל־חַטָּֽאת׃) so to trust in Egypt was synonymous to “adding sin to sin.” Note also what Ahaz did in 2 Kings 16:1-9 and Isaiah 7 turning to Assyria for help against Syria and Israel. Judah sins in a similar way seeking help from the nations and not trusting in the Lord God Almighty. So the basic conclusion is that they were putting their confidence in the weakness of men and not upon the strength of the Creator. (Isaiah 30:7)
Part 2 – Isaiah 36:7-12
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 36:7.
ספר ישעיה פרק לו
ז וְכִי-תֹאמַר אֵלַי אֶל-יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ בָּטָחְנוּ הֲלוֹא-הוּא אֲשֶׁר הֵסִיר חִזְקִיָּהוּ אֶת-בָּמֹתָיו וְאֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לִיהוּדָה וְלִירוּשָׁלַם לִפְנֵי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַזֶּה תִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ:
Isaiah 36:7 states, “But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it 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? (וְכִי-תֹאמַר אֵלַי אֶל-יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ בָּטָחְנוּ הֲלוֹא-הוּא אֲשֶׁר הֵסִיר חִזְקִיָּהוּ אֶת-בָּמֹתָיו וְאֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לִיהוּדָה וְלִירוּשָׁלַם לִפְנֵי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַזֶּה תִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ)” This statement here is very signinfcant. What is so significant about what Rabshakeh is saying is concerning the high places that were torn down by the king of Judah. Remember according to the Torah, in Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:11-14, the people were forbidden from seeking the way the nations served their gods and then doing so to the Lord God Almighty. What was happening was the people were co-opting the pagan high places to worship HaShem. This was forbidden, and the reason was this would easily lead to syncretism. Syncretism is the mingling of pagan practices with the sacred and holy ways of God. This is synonymous to polluting the waters or muddying the waters. When we mix doctrines, thought processes, woke liberal ideologies with our understanding of God’s Word, the waters get muddied and so the word of God as denoting the life giving waters becomes unpalatable for our souls. The reason is the truth gets spun on his head. This is obvious through the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in the pulpit in churches today around the world. Note here is a picture of the excavation of a high place in Dan and Jeroboam’s high place, respectively, shown below:
So here Rabshakeh is making a statement about Hezekiah’s religious reforms in Judah. This indicates something about the Assyrians, they are paying close attention to the events that are taking place in the countries they are planning to conquer, and/or their vassal countries, etc. John Oswalt states in his commentary saying, “Nonetheless, the destruction of the worship centers outside Jerusalem must have seemed like a colossal blunder to the idolatrous and polytheistic Assyrians. For them, the more places at which some form of the god was worshiped, the more manipulative power the ritual had. To limit the worship to one place could only lessen its power and infuriate the god. It is likely that the Assyrians also knew that substantial numbers of Israelites felt the same way (Hos. 2:5–10). Thus the Assyrian officer’s confident assertion that God did not want to bless Judah probably touched the raw nerve of doubt which was already very near the surface of many a Judean consciousness (Jer. 44:18).” (John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 636.)
The narrative in Isaiah goes on saying the following:
ספר ישעיה פרק לו
ח וְעַתָּה הִתְעָרֶב נָא אֶת-אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אַלְפַּיִם סוּסִים אִם-תּוּכַל לָתֶת לְךָ רֹכְבִים עֲלֵיהֶם: ט וְאֵיךְ תָּשִׁיב אֵת פְּנֵי פַחַת אַחַד עַבְדֵי אֲדֹנִי הַקְטַנִּים וַתִּבְטַח לְךָ עַל-מִצְרַיִם לְרֶכֶב וּלְפָרָשִׁים:
Isaiah 36:8 states, “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. (וְעַתָּה הִתְעָרֶב נָא אֶת-אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אַלְפַּיִם סוּסִים אִם-תּוּכַל לָתֶת לְךָ רֹכְבִים עֲלֵיהֶם)” Isaiah 36:9 “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? (וְאֵיךְ תָּשִׁיב אֵת פְּנֵי פַחַת אַחַד עַבְדֵי אֲדֹנִי הַקְטַנִּים וַתִּבְטַח לְךָ עַל-מִצְרַיִם לְרֶכֶב וּלְפָרָשִׁים)” Here Rabshakeh uses a hitpael imperative verb הִתְעָרֶב meaning “be responsible” is his way of trying to reason with the people so Jerusalem would not be destroyed. Rabshakeh returns to the question of why trust in Egypt and so it almost sounds as if Rabshakeh is trying to meet the people halfway reasoning with them and insulting them saying that he and the king of Assyria will give them 2,000 horses and yet they will not be able to defeat the Assyrian army. Up until this point the Assyrian army has been very successful in battle. The following map details the battle path and strategy of the Assyrian army.
Notice how the Assyrian army traveled throughout Judah taking down the fortified cities first before attacking Jerusalem last. Assyria is therefore quite confident and so Rabshakeh speaks boasting of their conquests over the weakness of Judah. At this point in the war Judah could not even put 2,000 men on the horses that Rabshakeh is boasting about. He states וְאֵיךְ תָּשִׁיב אֵת פְּנֵי פַחַת אַחַד עַבְדֵי אֲדֹנִי הַקְטַנִּים “How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants” that Judah is not powerful enough to defy even the lowest ranking person in Sennacherib’s army.
Isaiah goes on saying the following:
ספר ישעיה פרק לו
י וְעַתָּה הֲמִבַּלְעֲדֵי יְהֹוָה עָלִיתִי עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לְהַשְׁחִיתָהּ יְהֹוָה אָמַר אֵלַי עֲלֵה אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וְהַשְׁחִיתָהּ:
Isaiah 36:10 states, “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. (וְעַתָּה הֲמִבַּלְעֲדֵי יְהֹוָה עָלִיתִי עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לְהַשְׁחִיתָהּ יְהֹוָה אָמַר אֵלַי עֲלֵה אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וְהַשְׁחִיתָהּ)” Here there are a number of things that are significant about this verse from the Hebrew bible.
Notice how Rabshakeh speaks of the God of Israel, how he went up without the God of Israel and how the God of Israel commanded him to go and destroy the land. There are two imperative commands here in Isaiah 36:10, the word עֲלֵה for “ascending to the land” and the word וְהַשְׁחִיתָהּ for “ruin and destroying” the land. So Rabshakeh is essentially saying that it is God’s will for him to be there, even though he does not serve the God of Israel, he is called by the God of Israel to destroy this place. It is not certain whether the Assyrians had known about Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 8:7-8 and 10:5-6) in regards to the Lord God allowing the Assyrians to punish the people. He was definitely trying to demoralize the people, especially since he spoke in Hebrew to everyone. This was the point at which the diplomats requested Rabshakeh to speak in his own country’s language rather than Hebrew, since the objective was to cause a divide between the people and king Hezekiah. Hezekiah had however instructed everyone to not say a word. What we note about Rabshakeh is that he continued and blasphemed the God of Israel in his claims of the gods of his nation being superior along with his army being superior in might. So here we see the expression of what Isaiah had been warning Judah about, trusting in human might, pride, and not trusting in the Lord but trusting in foreign gods and people. In the midst of what Rabshakeh was saying, the people maintained their faith in the God of Israel. The Lord God’s response and the people waiting upon the Lord is an example for us today to wait upon the Lord and to commit ourselves, our lives, to the Lord God Almighty, and not to human might or glory. Rabshakeh’s words gave the Lord God of Israel the opportunity to respond, and respond he did in a devastating way!
The Narrative continues according to Isaiah 36:11-12.
ספר ישעיה פרק לו
יא וַיֹּאמֶר אֶלְיָקִים וְשֶׁבְנָא וְיוֹאָח אֶל-רַבשָׁקֵה דַּבֶּר-נָא אֶל-עֲבָדֶיךָ אֲרָמִית כִּי שֹׁמְעִים אֲנָחְנוּ וְאַל-תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ יְהוּדִית בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַחוֹמָה: יב וַיֹּאמֶר רַבשָׁקֵה הַאֶל אֲדֹנֶיךָ וְאֵלֶיךָ שְׁלָחַנִי אֲדֹנִי לְדַבֵּר אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הֲלֹא עַל-הָאֲנָשִׁים הַיּשְׁבִים עַל-הַחוֹמָה לֶאֱכֹל אֶת-חֹרָאיהָם [צוֹאָתָם] וְלִשְׁתּוֹת אֶת-שֵׁיֵנַיְֵהֶם [מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם] עִמָּכֶם:
Isaiah 36:11 states, “Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall. (וַיֹּאמֶר אֶלְיָקִים וְשֶׁבְנָא וְיוֹאָח אֶל-רַבשָׁקֵה דַּבֶּר-נָא אֶל-עֲבָדֶיךָ אֲרָמִית כִּי שֹׁמְעִים אֲנָחְנוּ וְאַל-תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ יְהוּדִית בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַחוֹמָה)” Isaiah 36:12 “But Rabshakeh 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? (וַיֹּאמֶר רַבשָׁקֵה הַאֶל אֲדֹנֶיךָ וְאֵלֶיךָ שְׁלָחַנִי אֲדֹנִי לְדַבֵּר אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הֲלֹא עַל-הָאֲנָשִׁים הַיּשְׁבִים עַל-הַחוֹמָה לֶאֱכֹל אֶת-חֹרָאיהָם [צוֹאָתָם] וְלִשְׁתּוֹת אֶת-שֵׁיֵנַיְֵהֶם [מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם] עִמָּכֶם)” Here both Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah ask Rabshakeh to speak only in the Syrian language and not in Hebrew. The purpose was so that the common people would not know what is being said. Aramaic was the language of Syria, and the commentaries state that the adoption of Aramaic may be due to it being an alphabetic language as opposed to cuneiform, and Aramaic became a bridge with other nations as well for communication. Rabshakeh states that the reason for his speaking in Hebrew was so that the people would know they would eat their own dung and drink their own pee. The reason this would happen would be due to the Assyrian army not allowing supplies to reach the city and feed the people, etc. Starvation is one of the horrors of war and so it is easy to use infinitives to describe the situation.
וַיֹּאמֶר רַבשָׁקֵה הַאֶל אֲדֹנֶיךָ וְאֵלֶיךָ שְׁלָחַנִי אֲדֹנִי לְדַבֵּר אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הֲלֹא עַל-הָאֲנָשִׁים הַיּשְׁבִים עַל-הַחוֹמָה לֶאֱכֹל אֶת-חֹרָאיהָם [צוֹאָתָם] וְלִשְׁתּוֹת אֶת-שֵׁיֵנַיְֵהֶם [מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם] עִמָּכֶם:
Here Rabshakeh states [לֶאֱכֹל אֶת-חֹרָאיהָם [צוֹאָתָם “to eat your excrement” and וְלִשְׁתּוֹת אֶת-שֵׁיֵנַיְֵהֶם [מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם] “to drink your pee” using the infinitives לֶאֱכֹל “to eat” and וְלִשְׁתּוֹת “to drink.” The idea is that this is what will happen if the people decide to sit on the wall and follow Hezekiah and not listen to these words. Note how the text states מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם “the waters at your feet” to describe human urine based upon the Qere-Ketiv in the marginal masorah. This is a crude way to provide shock value to the people to elicit a response of disgust and sickening feeling of the outcome of war and so Rabshakeh is trying to terrorize the people with his words. This is the classic tactic of wicked men in attempts to get their way. We see these kinds of things “shock value” happening today on the political scale being used to develop new laws for greater control and the loss of freedoms for the people. We see this happening all over the place, here in the USA, in Canada, Australia, Europe, and other places around the world! Fortunately for us, and like the people in Isaiah’s day, our hope is in the Lord! He is our redeemer, and He will deliver us, and provide for our needs. All we have to do is wait upon Him, trust in Him, and continue to serve Him regardless of what happens!
Part 3 – Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 36:7-12
The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the book of Isaiah and therefore is a valuable resource for continuing to study the book of Isaiah!
תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק לו:ז-יב
ז וַאְרֵי תֵימַר לִי עַל מֵימְרָא דַיוי אְלָהַנָא אִתרְחֵיצנָא הְלָא הוּא דְאַעדִי חִזקִיָה יָת בָמָתֹוהִי וְיָת אֵיגֹורֹוהִי וַאְמַר לַאְנָש יְהוּדָה וּליָתְבֵי יְרוּשלַם קֳדָם מַדבְחָא הָדֵין תִסגְדוּן׃ ח וּכעַן אִתעָרַב כְעַן עִם רִבֹונֵי מַלכָא דְאַתוּר וְאַתֵין לָך תְרֵין אַלפִין סוּסָווָן אִם תִכֹול לְמַנָאָה לָך רָכְבִין עְלֵיהֹון׃ ט וְאֵיכְדֵין אַת מְדַמֵי לְאָתָבָא יָת אַפֵי חַד מִשִלטֹונֵי עַבדֵי רִבֹונִי זְעֵירַיָא וְאִתרְחֵיצת לָך עַל מִצרַיִם לִרתִכִין וּלפָרָשִין׃ י וּכעַן הְבָר מִמֵימְרָא דַיוי סְלֵיקִית עַל אַרעָא הָדָא לְחַבָלוּתַה יוי אְמַר לִי סַק עַל אַרעָא הָדָא וְחַבִילָא׃ יא וַאְמַר אַליָקִים וְשַבנָא וְיֹואָח לְרַב שָקֵי מַלֵיל כְעַן עִם עַבדָך אַרמָת אְרֵי שָמְעִין אְנַחנָא וְלָא תְמַלֵיל עִמַנָא יְהוּדַת קֳדָם עַמָא דְעַל שוּרָא׃ יב וַאְמַר רַב שָקֵי הַעַל רִבֹונָך וַעְלָך שַלחַנִי רִבֹונִי לְמַלָלָא יָת פִתגָמַיָא הָאִלֵין הְלָא עַל גֻברַיָא דְיָתְבִין עַל שוּרָא לְמֵיכַל יָת מַפַקתְהֹון וּלמִשתֵי יָת מֵימֵי רַגלֵיהֹון בִציָרָא עִמְכֹון׃
Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 36:7-12
36:7 But if ye say to me, We trust in the WORD of the Lord our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? 36:8 And now, pledge thyself with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to appoint riders upon them. 36:9 And how dost thou expect to turn back the face of one of the least princes, servants of my master? yet, thou trustest in Egypt for chariots and horsemen. 36:10 Am I now come up without the WORD of the Lord against this land to destroy it? The Lord said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it. 36:11 Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language before the people that are upon the wall. 36:12 But Rabshakeh 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 in the siege with you? (TgJ)
Here in Isaiah 36, the TgJ basically follows the narrative from the MSS with no innovation in the interpretation of Isaiah’s words. Hezekiah, the 13th king of Judah, was a righteous king who followed the Lord. This is illustrated by his removing the high places in Israel because they were places where people were worshiping idols. The high places were altars that were built on hills or mountains. People would go to the high places to sacrifice animals and burn incense to their idols. There were several reasons why Hezekiah removed the idols:
- To return the people to worshiping God in the one true way. The high places were places where the people of Israel had been worshiping the gods of the nations or mingling worship of the God of Israel with the nations way of worshiping. Hezekiah wanted to bring them back to worshiping God as He had commanded them to do according to the Torah.
- To purify the worship of God from pagan influences. The high places were often associated with immorality and other sinful practices. Hezekiah wanted to cleanse the worship of God and make the people pure.
- To show his commitment to the Lord God and lead the people in the way of God. Hezekiah was a devout follower of God. He wanted to show his commitment to God by removing the high places and restoring the worship of God to its proper place.
Some of the people were angry that Hezekiah removed the high places, so his actions were not without opposition. (2 Kings 18:4) Their worship at these high places had gone on for generations, and therefore tradition played a large role in the people being upset with Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s actions were a sign of his faith in the God of Israel. He believed that the Lord God of Israel was the only true God, and he was willing to do what it takes to return Judah to worshiping God in the one true way. Hezekiah’s example is a reminder to us that we should always be willing to put God first, even when we are faced with difficult situations. Because of these things, the enemy always begins the attack by speaking doubtful words concerning our faith. This is how the evil one operated in the very beginning (Bereshit / Genesis 3:1-15) and likewise Rabshakeh questions the faith of the king and the people here according to Isaiah 36:7 saying, ז וַאְרֵי תֵימַר לִי עַל מֵימְרָא דַיוי אְלָהַנָא אִתרְחֵיצנָא הְלָא הוּא דְאַעדִי חִזקִיָה יָת בָמָתֹוהִי וְיָת אֵיגֹורֹוהִי וַאְמַר לַאְנָש יְהוּדָה וּליָתְבֵי יְרוּשלַם קֳדָם מַדבְחָא הָדֵין תִסגְדוּן׃ 36:7 But if ye say to me, We trust in the WORD of the Lord our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? (TgJ) What we note about Rabshakeh’s words here is that he acknowledged the people worshiping upon the mountain tops. He also claimed that they worshiped their God, the God of Israel, up on these mountains, and made the accusation against Hezekiah that removing them was a violation, whereas the Torah commands the people to remove them. This then leads to the conclusion that the people were in fact mingling pagan practices with their worship of God, in direct violation of the Torah command according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:1-5. Rashi states the following concerning this verse in his commentary saying:
Rashi on Isaiah 36:7 Part 1
אשר הסיר חזקיה את במותיו. ביער את כל בתי עכו”ם ומזבחות ובמות והזקיק את כל יהודה להשתחות לפני מזבח אחד:
Whose high places…has removed He abolished all the pagan temples and the altars and the high places, and has coerced all Judah to prostrate themselves before one altar.
Rashi agrees with this assessment, that Hezekiah had destroyed the pagan temples, altars, and high places the people were mingling with, and sought to draw the people back to the altar of God in Jerusalem. The narrative continues saying the following according to Isaiah 36:8-9, ח וּכעַן אִתעָרַב כְעַן עִם רִבֹונֵי מַלכָא דְאַתוּר וְאַתֵין לָך תְרֵין אַלפִין סוּסָווָן אִם תִכֹול לְמַנָאָה לָך רָכְבִין עְלֵיהֹון׃ 36:8 And now, pledge thyself with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to appoint riders upon them. ט וְאֵיכְדֵין אַת מְדַמֵי לְאָתָבָא יָת אַפֵי חַד מִשִלטֹונֵי עַבדֵי רִבֹונִי זְעֵירַיָא וְאִתרְחֵיצת לָך עַל מִצרַיִם לִרתִכִין וּלפָרָשִין׃ 36:9 And how dost thou expect to turn back the face of one of the least princes, servants of my master? yet, thou trustest in Egypt for chariots and horsemen. (TgJ) Here Rabshakeh taunts the people and Hezekiah with the idea of pledging themselves with the Assyrian king and he will give them something, as opposed to taking something away. We note that the evil one makes promises for the purpose of appealing to one’s desires. The evil one promises power and wealth, sex and pleasure, security and protection, and acceptance and love. What we note is that these things are only temporal promises because the evil one is a deceiver and his major goal is to deceive and destroy people’s lives. Note that in the case of Rabshakeh’s promise of horses, who would know whether what he said was actually true, or just a lie to get the people to surrender? If one gives into sin and enjoys the pleasures of sin, it will be impossible to overcome the sin. It is only when we are repentant to turn from sin and acknowledge what God has done, that He is powerful and mighty in our lives to help us to overcome, and because of what Yeshua has done on our behalf. We note something according to Revelation 16:8-11.
ספר הַהִתְגַּלּוּת פרק טז
ח שָׁפַךְ הָרְבִיעִי אֶת קַעֲרָתוֹ עַל הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְהֻתַּר לוֹ לִצְרֹב אֶת הָאֲנָשִׁים בָּאֵשׁ. ט נִצְרְבוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים בְּחֹם גָּדוֹל וְגִדְּפוּ אֶת שֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר לוֹ הַשִּׁלְטוֹן עַל הַמַּכּוֹת הָאֵלֶּה, וְלֹא חָזְרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה לָתֵת לוֹ כָּבוֹד. י הַחֲמִישִׁי שָׁפַךְ אֶת קַעֲרָתוֹ עַל כִּסֵּא הַחַיָּה וְחָשְׁכָה מַלְכוּתָהּ. הֵם נָשְׁכוּ אֶת לְשׁוֹנָם מִכְּאֵב יא וְגִדְּפוּ אֶת אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּכְאוֹבָם וּשְׁחִינָם, וְלֹא שָׁבוּ מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֶם.
16:8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. 16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. 16:10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, 16:11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. (KJV)
What we note is how men would not repent of their ways, the fourth bowl of God’s wrath was poured out on the sun to scorch men, and the fifth bowl was poured out on the throne of the beast. When the sun scorched men, they blasphemed the name of God, and when the bowl was poured out on the throne of the beast, darkness and pain was inflicted upon those who served the beast and the evil one (Satan). In each of these cases, men refused to repent and turn from their sins. It is important to note that וְלֹא חָזְרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה לָתֵת לוֹ כָּבוֹד that the people would not repent and give glory to God. So they would not acknowledge that the Lord God is in control, and the source of these things. Rashi writes the following concerning Isaiah 36:8-9.
Rashi on Isaiah 36:9 Parts 1-2
ואיך תשיב. אפי’ פני פחת אחד שהוא מעבדי אדוני הקטנים שהקטן בראשי גייסות שלו ממונה על אלפים איש:
And how can you repulse even a captain, who is one of my master’s smallest servants, for the smallest of the heads of his troops is in charge of two thousand men.
אחד עבדי. אחד מעבדי כמו אחד השיחים (בראשית כא) אחד הריקים (שמואל ב ו):
one of…servants (אַחַד) one of the servants of. Comp. (Gen. 21:15) “One of (אַחַד) the bushes.” Also (II Sam. 6:20) “One of (אַחַד) the idlers.”
Rashi writes on Rabshakeh comments about the inability of the people to subdue even the least of the servants of the king of Assyria. This is a simple insult and illustrates why it is important to trust in the Lord. The point is that if we do not trust in the Lord, when going to battle, we will fail! This is how King David lived his life, how he and his men would sanctify their lives for the purpose of drawing near to the Lord before they went to battle, so that they would be successful in battle, we see this in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Isaiah goes on saying, י וּכעַן הְבָר מִמֵימְרָא דַיוי סְלֵיקִית עַל אַרעָא הָדָא לְחַבָלוּתַה יוי אְמַר לִי סַק עַל אַרעָא הָדָא וְחַבִילָא׃ 36:10 Am I now come up without the WORD of the Lord against this land to destroy it? The Lord said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it. יא וַאְמַר אַליָקִים וְשַבנָא וְיֹואָח לְרַב שָקֵי מַלֵיל כְעַן עִם עַבדָך אַרמָת אְרֵי שָמְעִין אְנַחנָא וְלָא תְמַלֵיל עִמַנָא יְהוּדַת קֳדָם עַמָא דְעַל שוּרָא׃ 36:11 Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language before the people that are upon the wall. יב וַאְמַר רַב שָקֵי הַעַל רִבֹונָך וַעְלָך שַלחַנִי רִבֹונִי לְמַלָלָא יָת פִתגָמַיָא הָאִלֵין הְלָא עַל גֻברַיָא דְיָתְבִין עַל שוּרָא לְמֵיכַל יָת מַפַקתְהֹון וּלמִשתֵי יָת מֵימֵי רַגלֵיהֹון בִציָרָא עִמְכֹון׃ 36:12 But Rabshakeh 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 in the siege with you? (TgJ) Here we see Rabshakeh become a little more crude in his description of war using what the rabbis call obscene language in the Tosefta Megillah 3:20. The examples provided are from the Torah and prophets saying:
Summary Tosefta Megillah 3:20
- Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:30 “You will betroth a woman, but another man will yishgalenah (‘ravish her),”
- Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:27 “[God will strike you] with the boils of Egypt and with afolim (‘hemmerhoids’),” in every place where it is written afolim, we read it as tehorim (“tumors”); and such
- 2 Kings 6:25-26 “a quarter of a kav of doves’ divyonim (‘excrement’, considered softer than chiryonim, ‘dung’, as written) sold for five shekels”
- Isaiah 36:12 “to eat tzo’atam (‘their own excrement’, considered softer than chareichem, ‘their own dung’, as written) and drink their urine,”
- 2 Kings 10:27 “and they turned it (i.e., the temple of Ba’al) into motzaot (‘latrines,’ considered softer than chara’ot, ‘outhouses’, as written) until today.”
We note these examples parallel what we read in Isaiah 36:12. In the case of 2 Kings 10:27, the temple of baal being turned into a latrine is because the temple of baal is obscene. The point is to illustrate shock and disgust of what will take place, and this is due to not seeking the God of Israel. Note how all of these outcomes are due to the unrepentant nature of men, their sins find them out, and lead to destruction and receiving the wrath of God. Note that the only solution that was provided us is found in John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (KJV, הַמַּאֲמִין בַּבֵּן יֵשׁ לוֹ חַיֵּי עוֹלָם, אַךְ הַמְסָרֵב לְהַאֲמִין בַּבֵּן לֹא יִרְאֶה חַיִּים, אֶלָּא חֲרוֹן אֱלֹהִים חָל עָלָיו.״) Trusting in the Lord leads to peace and life! Rashi states in his commentary on Isaiah 36:11 that Rabshakeh was an apostate Jew who was working for the king of Assyria. So when they asked that he speak only in the Assyrian tongue, they were hoping that Rabshakeh would have feelings of his past and family that would cause him to take pity on the people. Rashi writes the following concerning Isaiah 36:12.
Rashi on Isaiah 36:12 Parts 1-4
האל אדוניך. תמיהה הוא לכך נקוד חטף פתח וכי אל שניכם לבדכם שלחני אדני הלוא אל כולם שלחני ולכך באתי שכל העם ישמעו ויראו ואל יסיתם חזקיהו למרוד:
Did…to your master (הַאֶל) This is the interrogative form. It is therefore vowelized with a ‘hataf pattah’ (not so in our editions). Did my master send me to you two alone? Indeed, he sent me to all of them, and for that reason I have come, so that all the people hear and see, and let not Hezekiah persuade them to rebel.
לאכול את צואתם. אף הם ברעב המצור:
to eat their dung They too (sic) would eat in the hunger of the siege.
יאכלו את חריהם. רעי היוצא דרך הנקב שלהם, ול’ נאה תקנו סופרים לקרותו צאתם כך שנו רבותינו מקראות הכתובים לגנאי קורין אותו לשבח כמו (דברים כח) בעפולים בטחורים (שם) ישגלנה ישכבנה, חוריהם צאתם:
their dung The kethib reads חֹרָאֵיהֶם, the dung that is excreted through their orifice. Our Sages instituted to euphemize and read it צוֹאָתָם, i.e., their dung. Thus did our Rabbis teach: Verses written in uncomplimentary words are to be read in a complimentary manner, e.g., (Deut. 28:27) עֲפֹלִים (is read) טְחֹרִים. (Both mean hemorrhoids. The former means ‘that which is in the dark holes,’ being more explicit than the latter. (ibid. v. 30) יִשְׁגָּלֶנָּה (is to be read) יִשְׁכָּבֶנָּה. (Both denoting intimacy, the former related as well to a dog.) חֹרָאֵיהֶם (is to be read) צוֹאָתָם, שִׁינֵיהֶם (is to be read) מֵימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶם.
שיניהם. מימי רגליהם, שיניה’ צואה לחה שיני דכרכשת’ היא החלחולת שקורין טבחיא בלע”ז עומדת ע”י שלש שינים:
their urine The kethib is שִׁינֵיהֶם, loose excrement. The teeth of the large intestine. That is the intestine called tabahie in O.F. that stands on three teeth, (i.e. the glands of the rectum, which is held by three glands. They are called שִׁנַּיִּם because they are shaped like teeth).
Rashi goes into excruciating detail regarding the meaning of “eating your own excrement” from hunger due to the siege on Jerusalem. Having hunger for something is not always a bad thing, it just depends upon what it is that we hunger for. Obviously sin, sex pride, wealth, all of these things that one may hunger for are not what the Lord wants for us. To have a hunger for the Lord God of Israel is to have a deep desire to know Him and walk in His holy ways. Thirst and hunger are the ways that scripture describes our desire for the Lord, describing our desire to be in His presence and spend time with Him. We note something about having a hunger for the Lord God Almighty, when we hunger for the Lord, we find that He satisfies our hunger. These other things, sin, sex, pride, wealth, etc all of these things cause us to be empty and wanting more. God fills us with His peace, His joy, and His love (Tehillim / Psalm 28:7, Acts 13:52). He gives us strength, comforts us when sad, and guides us when walking through tough times. These things do not come simply by osmosis but take our personal effort to spend time with the Lord in His word, through prayer, through deeds of loving kindness towards others, ect. The greatest thing that Isaiah is speaking to us today is to seek the Lord God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua, and to ask the Lord God Almighty to reveal Himself to us and give us a hunger for Him that nothing else can satisfy! If we do this, we will not be disappointed! Remember that the Lord God will do these things when we step out in faith, when we put in the effort, and when we have the proper kavanah (intention) to simply draw near to God Almighty for the simple purpose of being in His presence and cultivating a hunger for Him!