Isaiah 36-37 • The Overt Spiritual Attack


This story is told three times in the Bible, provided in 2 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 32 as well. When God repeats things, it’s extremely important to pay close attention. There are important lessons here about God’s sovereignty, about God’s working in the world, and even how His enemies operate. On the surface are lessons for us about how to discern and engage in spiritual warfare, but at deeper levels we are presented with a picture of how things will be in the Last Days leading up to what we’ve learned to call “Armageddon”, the final battle when the nations of the earth are gathered against Christ and after which He establishes His millennial reign. This is a time when the enemy has the appearance of success because God has given over to them the unfaithful northern kingdom of Israel, so that now their pride desires to also pursue the faithful remnant of Judah. What happened then will happen again.

Read 36:1-10

Q: Why does the place Rabshakeh chose to deliver the king of Assyria’s message seem familiar?

A: The “conduit of the upper pool on the highway of the fuller’s field” is the exact same place from which Isaiah was known to deliver the King of Heaven’s message. (See Isaiah 7:3.)

Point: Spiritual deceivers always attempt to mimic God’s ways, imitating in their outward appearance God’s spiritual authority and ways.

Q: The very first point concerns Israel’s alliance with Egypt. How does this relate to Isaiah?

A: God spoke specifically through Isaiah warning Israel not to enter into an alliance with Egypt, and if they did that it would fail them. (See Isaiah 30-31.) They would appear to be affirming God’s Word to Judah through Isaiah.

Point: Spiritual deceivers often incorporate some of the truth of God’s Word to give their message an air of legitimacy. However, we must always be discerning so as not to allow one truth to deceive us into believing that the other points accompanying it are also truth. There is no such thing as “truth by association”.

Q: What is the first clear betrayal that their message is false?

A: In v.7 they attack Hezekiah’s spiritual reforms as being something false, when in fact they were not. The high places and alternative sites of worship which Hezekiah destroyed were traditionally associated by people of that time as belonging to the “god of the land”, whatever god was thought to possess that territory. By destroying those places and ordering that worship take place only in the temple, the Assyrians reveal they don’t really know God’s ways or that Hezekiah has been rightfully following them.

Point: Spiritual attacks are most often initiated by attempting to reinterpret right worship as actually somehow being wrong worship. This is how they begin the process of establishing a false belief system.

Q: What should be the second clear betrayal that their message and intentions are false?

A: In v.8, they attempt to buy off Hezekiah.

Point: Spiritual greed is always revealed by earthly greed. Because they themselves can be bought off, they believe everyone else can, too.

Q: What is their final salvo in this first round of attacks?

A: They claim to be acting according to God’s will and by His authority.

Point: Deceivers attempt to discredit the righteous and even buy them off as a prelude to establishing themselves in their place. They do this invoking God’s name but not actually following His Word in the process.

Read 36:11-12

Q: What does this teach us concerning spiritual deceivers?

A: They want as much public visibility as possible. They like to bring about changes by manipulating the group rather than relying on the truth. They aren’t interested in engaging true spiritual leaders but in replacing them. They desire to bring to bear the pressure of the group.

Read 36:13-20

Q: How does this attack compare to their opening attempt?

Point: Spiritual deceivers always try to court and sway public opinion as a tool of elevating themselves in the people’s eyes at the expense of the true spiritual leaders.

Q: How has their assertion about God’s role in all of this changed?

A: Originally they claimed to have been sent by God; now they simply number Him as but one of the many false gods whose nations they’ve defeated. They are making the claim that they have spiritual “right” on their side.

Point: Spiritual deceivers reveal themselves by their attempts to use other religions and alternative spiritual practices to demote God’s place among the people. They mix in non-biblical truths and practices to weaken true faith and obedience.

Read 36:21-22

Q: Why was silence at this time the most appropriate response?

A: It benefited the people the most by also silencing Rabshakeh’s dissertation, and it provided the opportunity for God’s people to seek a right response.

Point: It’s always tempting to respond in the flesh, but that usually results in lending credibility to the other side. One must seek the right response by the Spirit.

Read 37:1-4

Q: What is Hezekiah’s initial response?

A: Personal repentance wherein he presents himself before God (“entered the house of the Lord”) and seeks His Word (“sent Isaiah”).

Point: We should never engage the enemy without first engaging the Lord. Securing spiritual stability is critical before engaging a hostile foe.

Q: How does Hezekiah rightly interpret the TRUE nature of the attack?

A: Hezekiah recognizes it’s not really against him or the people, but against God Himself. What is at stake is not the defense of the name of the king or country, but the name of the One True God.

Point: Things may happen to us in the course of this life, but we have to recognize when in fact they’re actually attacks on God’s name and kingdom rather than our own.

Read 37:5-7

Q: What is the work assigned to Hezekiah by God to deal with this attack?

A: “Do not be afraid”. God is demanding a personal response of faith and endurance until He accomplishes the right response on their behalf.

Application: Do we often limit our request of God to what WE can do? How well do we regard that a response of faith and endurance is our first calling rather than direct action?

Read 37:8-13

Q: How does this 3rd attack reveal their true nature and intent?

A: They directly attack God as the source in their urging, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you”. Notice that whereas they initially used His name and called Him “Lord” in v.10 and then v.18, they now call Him “your God”, revealing that, in actuality, He is not theirs.

Q: What is the basis of this latest assertion?

A: That since the false gods all failed their previous victims, the God of Israel would be but another. They did not actually hold God in any special esteem or regard.

Point: Spiritual deceivers eventually reveal that they hold no special regard for God. They will attempt to define Christianity according to the terms and conditions of other, false religions in order to paint it with the same, broad brush.

Read 37:14-20

Q: What is significantly different about the way that the king of Judah presents the situation and the king of Assyria?

A: Hezekiah admits that Assyria has been successful, but not for the same reasons it has boasted. Hezekiah recognizes that the gods defeated by Assyria to date were, in reality, no gods at all. Hezekiah also recognizes that this attack is, in reality, against God: “...listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God”.

Q: What does Hezekiah specifically seek?

A: He seeks an outcome wherein “all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God”. In other words, Hezekiah does not seek to defend his own name and glory, but God’s.

Point: In spiritual warfare, our chief concern is for the name and person of Christ, even at the expense of ourselves. The solution we should be seeking is something that vindicates and holds up God’s name rather than our own.

Read 37:21-29

Q: How does God confirm the source of the real cause of this conflict?

A: In v.23 He specifically states that the Assyrians have undertaken reproach and blasphemy of the Lord, that it’s against Him they have directed their pride.

Q: How does God describe the Assyrians’ actions to date?

A: He confirms that they have been granted earthly success in their endeavors, but explains in v.26 that it only came about because of HIS will, because of HIS using them. They overcame previous countries and their gods because, according to v.27, God weakened them in advance of Assyria’s forays.

Q: What is particularly powerful in God’s describing that their arrogance and pride will lead to “My hook in your nose”?

A: There are literally ancient carvings uncovered showing Assyria leading away its captives into slavery in just this manner, strung together by hooks in their noses and led away.

Point: As was the original problem with Satan himself, the core problem of spiritual deceivers is rooted in pride, and it’s in dealing with their pride that God responds to them.

Application: When a person or group is consumed by and motivated by pride, our direct attempts to confront them are often only marginally effective because they see themselves as being in a higher position over us and not subject to God at all. This is why we earnestly need to seek God’s intervention, that an effective response to pride can be mounted.

Read 37:30-35

Q: What is the provision God makes for the remnant? What does this teach about how God works on our behalf in such situations?

A: God makes provision so that they can return to their work and life for Him. He will not allow the enemy’s efforts to permanently interrupt them. Having clung to the Lord, they will fully recover and continue in His name.

Point: If the enemy cannot achieve total destruction, it will attempt to render us ineffective by choking our resources. People who cling to God in spite of the circumstances experience the fact that He is greater and can overcome them. God’s remnant is always enough to fully carry on His work and is never therefore rendered ineffectual as long as its faith remains intact.

Read 37:36-38

Point: When spiritual enemies are defeated, they often continue to fail to learn the right lesson and instead of submitting to the One True God, retreat yet again to their false gods.

Overall Application

The enemy can appear frightening in its size, intensity, and ferocity, but it always relies on that kind of fear and intimidation to overcome their lack of truth. They are always betrayed by their speech and actions, which are not in alignment with God’s Word. In reality, they are attacking God through us, actually waging a battle with Him.