So we have an exact date and time for when this event, this confrontation, took place in the Israelite history. We know that this took place in 701 when the Assyrian King Sennacherib defeated Hezekiah and the people of Judah. Now, you wouldn’t know that from reading this chapter or the next, but we do see that Hezekiah did stand up to the Assyrian king and trusted that God would deliver. We also know that historically even though Judah was overcome, somehow Hezekiah was able to retain his throne even though his own daughters were taken away in captivity.
Some details that might be interesting. The term “the Rabshakeh” means literally the cup bearer of the king, so someone who was sent as a messenger of the king, someone who was close to and important to the king. He mocks the alliance that they had with Egypt which quickly crumbled. We also know that at this point they had an alliance with Babylon against Assyria, but Babylon quickly fell leaving Israel all alone to defend themselves. He mocks the gods of the other nations that had fallen to the Assyrians and wondered why the Israelites thought they were any more special than these nations that had succumbed and whose gods had also been captured.
It is interesting that the appeal of the Jewish leaders was that the envoy would not speak Hebrew out of concern that the regular old people of the city would be able to understand it. That request just emboldens him even more. Aramaic was used as the language of diplomacy and it was a language that would not be able to be understood by the regular old people within the city. But the envoy mocks that request as well and tries to strike fear within the people of the city. You have to get to the people if you want to conquer a nation. It is not enough to defeat the soldiers, you have to defeat the people as well.
It is obvious that those who brought the word to Hezekiah were concerned, enough concerned to tear their clothes. The question remained for everyone involved was when was the last time that reliance on the Lord actually worked. We have a whole Scripture full of examples. But when we are faced with seemingly overwhelming odds they seem, well, overwhelming.