2 Kings 18:21
Now, behold, you trust on the staff of this bruised reed, even on Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust on him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) The staff of this bruised reed.Cracked or flawed would be better than bruised; because, as is clear from the following words, the idea is that of a reed splitting and piercing the hand that rests upon it. (Comp. Isaiah 42:3.) As to the Judæan expectations from Egypt, comp. Isaiah 20:1-5; Isaiah 30:1-8; Isaiah 31:1-4, passages in which such expectations are denounced as implying want of faith in Jehovah.

2 Kings 18:21. Thou trustest upon this bruised reed — Sennacherib probably thought that Hezekiah depended on Egypt for help, and therefore represents the power of that kingdom to be as weak as the canes or reeds that grew on the banks of the Nile, (to which he seems to allude,) on which, if a man leaned, they brake, and the splinters ran into his hand. Such is Pharaoh, says he; a man gets no help, but mischief, by relying on him. Whoever trusts in man, leans on a broken reed; but God is the Rock of ages.18:17-37 Rabshakeh tries to convince the Jews, that it was to no purpose for them to stand it out. What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? It were well if sinners would submit to the force of this argument, in seeking peace with God. It is, therefore, our wisdom to yield to him, because it is in vain to contend with him: what confidence is that which those trust in who stand out against him? A great deal of art there is in this speech of Rabshakeh; but a great deal of pride, malice, falsehood, and blasphemy. Hezekiah's nobles held their peace. There is a time to keep silence, as well as a time to speak; and there are those to whom to offer any thing religious or rational, is to cast pearls before swine. Their silence made Rabshakeh yet more proud and secure. It is often best to leave such persons to rail and blaspheme; a decided expression of abhorrence is the best testimony against them. The matter must be left to the Lord, who has all hearts in his hands, committing ourselves unto him in humble submission, believing hope, and fervent prayer.This bruised reed - The "tall reed of the Nile bulrush" fitly symbolized the land where it grew. Apparently strong and firm, it was quite unworthy of trust. Let a man lean upon it, and the rotten support instantly gave way, wounding the hand that stayed itself so insecurely. So it was with Egypt throughout the whole period of Jewish history (compare 2 Kings 17:4-6). Her actual practice was to pretend friendship, to hold out hopes of support, and then to fail in time of need. 19. Rab-shakeh said—The insolent tone he assumed appears surprising. But this boasting [2Ki 18:19-25], both as to matter and manner, his highly colored picture of his master's powers and resources, and the impossibility of Hezekiah making any effective resistance, heightened by all the arguments and figures which an Oriental imagination could suggest, has been paralleled in all, except the blasphemy, by other messages of defiance sent on similar occasions in the history of the East. This bruised reed; he calls Egypt a reed, with allusion to the reeds wherewith the banks of Nilus were full; and bruised, to note their weakness and insufficiency to support him. Compare Ezekiel 29:6,7.

It will go into his hand, and pierce it, by some of the fragments into which it will be broken.

Unto all that trust on him; doing them no good, but much hurt. And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem,.... Notwithstanding he took the above large sum of money of him, so false and deceitful was he: these were three generals of his army, whom he sent to besiege Jerusalem, while he continued the siege of Lachish; only Rabshakeh is mentioned in Isaiah 36:2 he being perhaps chief general, and the principal speaker; whose speech, to the end of this chapter, intended to intimidate Hezekiah, and dishearten his people, with some circumstances which attended it, are recorded word for word in Isaiah 36:1 throughout; See Gill on Isaiah 36:1 and notes on that chapter. Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon {g} Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.

(g) Egypt will not only be unable to help you, but will be a detriment to you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. Thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed] Rab-shakeh answers his own question. It may be that he also is correct in saying that Hezekiah had hopes of help from Egypt. But in this the king would find no support from the prophets of the time. The figure of a reed is perhaps used by Rab-shakeh because Egypt produced them in abundance. A bruised reed, one which will crack, and offer jagged points at the broken part is used as a figure by Ezekiel concerning Egypt (Ezekiel 29:6), and the words exactly illustrate what Rab-shakeh would convey. ‘They (the Egyptians) have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. When they took hold of thee by thy hand thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand’. (Bp Hall.)

Pharaoh king of Egypt] Pharaoh is here used as the common title of the native kings of Egypt. Thus Rabshakeh disposes of external help.Verse 21. - Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt. Sennacherib had good information. Hezekiah's embassy to Egypt (Isaiah 30:2-7) was known to him; and he rightly judged that Hezekiah was expecting aid from this quarter. This expectation he ridicules. What is Egypt but a "bruised reed"? The Nile bulrush (רצץ) has a goodly show; it rears itself aloft, and leeks strong and stately; but use it as a staff, lean upon it, and it snaps at once. Such is Pharaoh - nay, he is worse; he is a bruised reed, which can give no support at all, even for a moment. The Assyrian monarch was justified in his contempt. Egypt had never yet given any effectual support to the states attacked by Assyria Shebek gave no manner of aid to Hoshea, but allowed Samaria to be conquered in B.C. 722 without making the slightest effort on her behalf. In B.C. 720 he came to the aid of Gaza ('Eponym Canon,' p. 126), but Gaza was captured notwithstanding. In B.C. 711 either he or Sabatok undertook the protection of Ashdod, but with the same lack of success (ibid., pp. 130, 131). "Kings of Egypt" assisted the Ascalonites against Sennacherib himself in B.C. 701, and were again completely defeated (ibid., pp. 133, 134). Sargon calls the King of Egypt, whoso aid was invited by the Ashdedites (ibid., p. 130, line 37), "a monarch who could not save them." On which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it; i.e. trust in Egypt will not only bring a country no advantage, but it will bring positive injury. The sharp siliceous casing of a reed might run into the hand and give an ugly wound. So is Pharaoh King of Egypt unto all that trust on him. Sargon in one place (ibid., p. 130, line 36) speaks of a King of Egypt under the title of "Pharaoh." On the report of Sennacherib's approach, Hezekiah made provision at once for the safety of Jerusalem. He had the city fortified more strongly, and the fountain of the upper Gihon and the brook near the city stopped up (see at 2 Kings 18:17), to cut off the supply of water from the besiegers, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 32:2-8, and confirmed by Isaiah 22:8-11. In the meantime Sennacherib had pressed forward to Lachish, i.e., Um Lakis, in the plain of Judah, on the south-west of Jerusalem, seven hours to the west of Eleutheropolis on the road to Egypt (see at Joshua 10:3); so that Hezekiah, having doubts as to the possibility of a successful resistance, sent ambassadors to negotiate with him, and promised to pay him as much tribute as he might demand if he would withdraw. The confession "I have sinned" is not to be pressed, inasmuch as it was forced from Hezekiah by the pressure of distress. Since Asshur had made Judah tributary by faithless conduct on the part of Tiglath-pileser towards Ahaz, there was nothing really wrong in the shaking off of this yoke by the refusal to pay any further tribute. But Hezekiah certainly did wrong, when, after taking the first step, he was alarmed at the disastrous consequences, and sought to purchase once more the peace which he himself had broken, by a fresh submission and renewal of the payment of tribute. This false step on the part of the pious king, which arose from a temporary weakness of faith, was nevertheless turned into a blessing through the pride of Sennacherib and the covenant-faithfulness of the Lord towards him and his kingdom. Sennacherib demanded the enormous sum of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (more than two and a half million thalers, or 375,000); and Hezekiah not only gave him all the gold and silver found in the treasures of the temple and palace, but had the gold plates with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:3) removed, to send them to the king of Assyria. האמנות, lit., the supports, i.e., the posts, of the doors.

These negotiations with Sennacherib on the part of Hezekiah are passed over both in the book of Isaiah and also in the Chronicles, because they had no further influence upon the future progress of the war.

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