Rabshakeh, also Rab-shakeh and Rabsaces (Akkadian language Rabshaqe; Hebrew: רַבְשָׁקֵה, Modern Ravshake, Tiberian Raḇšāqē; Ancient Greek: Ραψακης Rapsakēs; Latin: Rabsaces) Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: (ܪܵܒܫܵܩܹܐ) This name meaning chief of the princes in the Semitic Akkadian and Aramaic languages, was given to the chief cup-bearer or the vizier of the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian royal courts in ancient Mesopotamia, and revived by the Assyrians as a military rank during World War I.
The Bible mentions it for one of Sennacherib's messengers to Hezekiah. The speech he delivered, in the Hebrew language, in the hearing of all the people, as he stood near the wall on the north side of the city, is quoted in 2 Kings 18:27–37 and Isaiah 36:12–20:
|“||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?||”|
He and the other envoys returned to their master and reported that Hezekiah and his people were obdurate, and would not submit.
Rabshakeh is also the title of a novel by J Francis Hudson (Lion Publishing 1992). It concerns the life of King Saul, as seen through the eyes of his Amalekite cup-bearer.
II Kings 18:
Rabshakeh starts to speak:
|“||And Rabshakeh said to them, "Say now to Hezekiah, 'So has the great king, the king of Assyria, said, "What is this confidence that you have trusted? You have said but words of the lips; counsel and might are needed for war. Now, on whom do you depend that you have rebelled against me? Now, behold you have depended upon the support of this splintered reed, upon Egypt, upon whom a man will lean and it will go into his palm and puncture it; so is Pharaoh the king of Egypt to all those who trust in him. And if you say to me, 'We trust Jehovah our God,' is He not the one Whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed? He has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, 'Before this altar in Jerusalem shall you prostrate yourselves.' And now, wager now with my lord the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses if you are able to supply riders upon them of your men. And how can you repulse one captain of the smallest of my master's servants, and you rely on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? Now is it with other than Jehovah that I have come up against this place to destroy it? Jehovah said to me, 'Go up against this land and destroy it.' "||”|
Then Joah, Shebnah and Eliakim, ministers of Hezekiah ask him to talk in Aramaic and not in Judean (Hebrew):
|“||And Eliakim the son of Hilkiah and Shebnah and Joah said to Rabshakeh, "Please speak to your servants in Aramaic for we hear, do not speak with us in Judean within the hearing of the people who are on the wall."||”|
Then Rabshakeh answers to them:
|“||And Rabshakeh said to them, "Did my master send me to speak these words to your master and to you? Is it not to the men who sit on the wall to eat their dung and drink their urine with you?"||”|
And he continues:
|“||And Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in Judean, and he spoke and said, "Listen to the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! So has the king said, 'Let not Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from his hand. And let not Hezekiah make you rely on Jehovah, saying, 'Jehovah will save us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.' Do not listen to Hezekiah, for so has the king of Assyria said, "Make peace with me, and come out to me, and each man will eat of his vine and each man of his fig tree, and each man will drink the water of his cistern. Until I come and take you to a land like your land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil yielding olives and honey, and you may live and not die, and do not heed Hezekiah for he will mislead you, saying, 'Jehovah will save us.' Have the gods of the nations saved each one his land, from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad, where are the gods of Sepharvaim? He exiled them and twisted them. Now, did they save Samaria from my hand? Who are they among all the gods of the lands who saved their land from my hand, that Jehovah should save Jerusalem from my hand?' "||”|
- F Leo Oppenheim - Ancient Mesopotamia
- Len Deighton - Blood, sweat and Tears
- 2 Kings 18:27
- Isaiah 36:12
- "...for we hear" may be understood in the Hebrew as "because we understand you" (in Aramaic) or as: "because we", all the Judeans on the wall, including us, "hear" - and understand what you are saying in 'Judean'.
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