Isaiah 36:11 MEANING

Isaiah 36:11
(11) Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants . . .--The king's officers, knowing the "little faith" of their people, are not, perhaps, without misgivings of their own. Might not the townsmen, listening eagerly on the wall, recognise in Rabshakeh's words an echo of Isaiah's, and lose courage, as feeling that they were fighting against the God who was chastising them? The Syrian or Aramaic was a common ground for the ambassadors on both sides, as being the language of commerce and diplomacy. Rabshakeh, it would seem, could speak three languages, Assyrian, Syrian, and Hebrew; Hezekiah's ministers the two latter; the "people on the wall" only the last.

In the Jews' language.--It is uncertain whether this means simply Hebrew, which Isaiah elsewhere calls the language of Canaan (Isaiah 19:18), or a special dialect of Judah. The Moabite stone, on the one hand, shows that Hebrew was the common speech of Palestine and the border countries. On the other hand, dialects spring up quickly. Nehemiah 13:24 is the only other passage (the parallels of 2 Kings 18:26 and 2 Chronicles 32:18 excepted) in which the term meets us in the narrower sense, and that is after the exile.

Verse 11. - Speak... unto thy servants in the Syrian language; literally, in the Aramaic language. Aramaeans were widely spread over the entire region between the Lower Tigris and the Mediterranean; and their language seems to have been in general use, as a language of commerce. "Private contract tablets in Aramaic and Assyrian have been found in the remains of ancient Nineveh" (Cheyne). Rabshakeh had, perhaps, spoken "in the Jews' language " without any ill intent, thinking that it was the only tongue which Jewish envoys would understand; but his so doing was calculated to affect the minds of the common people, and to shake their allegiance to Hezekiah. The envoys, therefore, requested him to employ a foreign tongue, and suggested Aramaic as one which was familiar to them, and which they supposed that he would understand. His employment of Hebrew had shown them that he was a linguist. In the Jews' language. There was no language peculiar to the Jews as Jews, that is to say, different from the ordinary speech of the Israelites. Both alike spoke Hebrew. In the Old Testament, however, this corn-men language is never called "Hebrew," but either "the tongue of Canaan" (Isaiah 19:18) or "the Jewish language" (2 Kings 18:26, 28; 2 Chronicles 32:18; Nehemiah 13:24). Similarly, our own tongue is called "English," though spoken also in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, America, and Australia. In the ears of the people that are on the wall; i.e. of the soldiers placed on the wall to defend it. We must suppose that the conference took place immediately outside the fortifications, so that some of those on the wall could hear.

36:1-22:See 2Ki 18:17-37, and the commentary thereon.Then said Eliakim and Shebah and Joah unto Rabshakeh,.... That is, one of them addressed him in the name of the rest; for the verb is singular; and what follows confirms it; perhaps Eliakim was the speaker:

speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syriac language; which was somewhat different from the Hebrew, in which he spoke, and which was not understood by the common people, and for that reason desired:

for we understand it; or hear it; could hear it, so as to understand it; it being common in all courts, as the French tongue now; the Assyrian empire being very large, and so had been learned by these courtiers, for the sake of negotiation or commerce, when the common people had no concern with it:

and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall; the wall of the city, where the commissioners were, who would not venture themselves out of the city, in the hands of so perfidious an enemy: and the men on the wall were such, who either were placed there to defend the city, and so were soldiers, or people that were gathered together to see the ambassadors of the king of Assyria, and to hear, as much as they could, what passed between them and the ministers of Hezekiah; and as this speech of Eliakim's showed great submissiveness in praying and entreating Rabshakeh to speak to them in another language, and a mean abject spirit, in saying they were his servants, so a great degree of timorousness in them, and diffidence of the people, lest they should be terrified, and be for giving up the city at once into the hands of the enemy; this looks like a piece of bad policy, and some think that Shebna was the contriver of it, and the adviser to it, in order to give Rabshakeh a hint of their fears, and of the disposition of the people, and put him in higher spirits, and on railing the more, and thereby still work the more on the people's fears; however, it had this effect on him, as follows.

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