The king of Assyria sent Tartan, etc. - Calmet has very justly remarked that these are not the names of persons, but of offices. Tartan, תרתן tartan or tantan, as in the parallel place in Isaiah, in the Greek version, signifies he who presides over the gifts or tribute; chancellor of the exchequer.
Rabsaris - סריס רב , the chief of the eunuchs. Rab-shakeh, שקה רב master or chief over the wine cellar; or he who had the care of the king's drink.
From Lachish - It seems as if the Assyrian troops had been worsted before Lachish, and were obliged to raise the siege, from which they went and sat down before Libnah. While Sennacherib was there with the Assyrian army, he heard that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, had invaded the Assyrian territories. Being obliged therefore to hasten, in order to succor his own dominions, he sent a considerable force under the aforementioned officers against Jerusalem, with a most fearful and bloody manifesto, commanding Hezekiah to pay him tribute, to deliver up his kingdom to him, and to submit, he and his people, to be carried away captives into Assyria! This manifesto was accompanied with the vilest insults, and the highest blasphemies. God interposed and the evils threatened against others fell upon himself.
Manifestoes of this kind have seldom been honorable to the senders. The conduct of Rab-shakeh was unfortunately copied by the Duke of Brunswick, commander-in-chief of the allied army of the center, in the French revolution, who was then in the plains of Champagne, August 27, 1792, at the head of ninety thousand men, Prussians, Austrians, and emigrants, on his way to Paris, which in his manifesto he threatened to reduce to ashes! This was the cause of the dreadful massacres which immediately took place. And shortly after this time the blast of God fell upon him, for in Sept. 20 of the same year, (three weeks after issuing the manifesto), almost all his army was destroyed by a fatal disease, and himself obliged to retreat from the French territories with shame and confusion. This, and some other injudicious steps taken by the allies, were the cause of the ruin of the royal family of France, and of enormities and calamities the most extensive, disgraceful, and ruinous, that ever stained the page of history. From all such revolutions God in mercy save mankind!
Conduit of the upper pool - The aqueduct that brought the water from the upper or eastern reservoir, near to the valley of Kidron, into the city. Probably they had seized on this in order to distress the city.
The fuller's field - The place where the washermen stretched out their clothes to dry.
An interval of time must be placed between this verse and the last. Sennacherib, content with his successes, had returned to Nineveh with his spoil and his numerous captives. Hezekiah, left to himself, repented of his submission, and commenced negotiations with Egypt 2 Kings 18:21, 2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 30:2-6; Isaiah 31:1, which implied treason against his Assyrian suzerain. It was under these circumstances that Sennacherib appears to have made his second expedition into Palestine very soon after the first. Following the usual coast route he passed through Philistia on his way to Egypt, leaving Jerusalem on one side, despising so irony a state, and knowing that the submission of Egypt would involve that of her hangers-on. While, however, he was besieging Lachish on his way to encounter his main enemy, he determined to try the temper of the Jews by means of an embassy, which he accordingly sent.
Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh - None of these are proper names. “Tartan” was the ordinary title of an Assyrian general; “Rab-saris” is “chief eunuch,” always a high officer of the Assyrian court; Rab-shakeh is probably “chief cup-bearer.”
By the conduit of the upper pool - Possibly a conduit on the north side of the city near the “camp of the Assyrians.” The spot was the same as that on which Isaiah had met Ahaz Isaiah 7:3.
The long-expected crisis finally came. The forces of Assyria, advancing from triumph to triumph, appeared in Judea. Confident of victory, the leaders divided their forces into two armies, one of which was to meet the Egyptian army to the southward, while the other was to besiege Jerusalem. PK 352.1
Judah's only hope was now in God. All possible help from Egypt had been cut off, and no other nations were near to lend a friendly hand. PK 352.2
The Assyrian officers, sure of the strength of their disciplined forces, arranged for a conference with the chief men of Judah, during which they insolently demanded the surrender of the city. This demand was accompanied by blasphemous revilings against the God of the Hebrews. Because of the weakness and apostasy of Israel and Judah, the name of God was no longer feared among the nations, but had become a subject for continual reproach. See Isaiah 52:5. PK 352.3Read in context »