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The Assyrian Rabshakeh shouted to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in

Isaiah 36:16 Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

Was the Rabshakeh selling exile as an attractive prospect to the Jews?

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In the conversation recorded in Isa 36 between the palace officials and the Assyrian field commander, he says this (V16-18) -

16 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for this is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with med and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and his own fig tree, and drink water from his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

18 Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?

The field commander is setting out the options to the people as he (incorrectly) sees them - either they will:

  • Resist him and endure a siege and starve to death and the few survivors will be killed
  • Surrender and be deported to Assyria to live in a nice country and have plenty to eat.

How truthful this was is a separate question for the moment (he paints a rosier picture than would have actually been the case); nevertheless, it was broadly correct - surrender would be easier for the people. A similar thing had occurred just a few years to Samaria and was also occurring to Lachish.

[Of course, this assumes that God would not interfere and destroy the army as actually occurred but he did not know that then.]

The Pulpit commentary records this:

Verse 17. - Until I come and take you away. It was so much thee usual policy of Assyria to remove to a new locality a conquered people, which had given them trouble, that Rabshakeh felt safe in assuming that the fate in store for the Jews, if they submitted themselves, was a transplantation. Sargon had transported the Israelites to Gozan and Media (2 Kings 18:11), the Tibarcni to Assyria, the Commageni to Susiana ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 423). Sennacherib himself had transported into Assyria more than two hundred thousand Aramaeans (ibid., p. 430). It might be confidently predicted that, if he conquered them, he would transplant the Jews. Rabshakeh tries to soften down the hardship of the lot before them by promises of a removal to a land equal in all respects to Palestine. To a land like your own land. This was certainly not a general principle of Assyrian administration. Nations were removed from the far north to the extreme south, and vice versa, from arid to marshy tracts, from fertile regions to comparative deserts. The security of the empire, not the gratification of the transported slaves, was the ruling and guiding principle of all such changes. A land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. The writer of Kings adds, "a land of oil olive and of honey."

Barnes says something similar:

And take you away - It was common for conquerors in ancient times to remove a vanquished people from their own country. They did this either by sending them forth in colonies to people some unsettled region, or by removing the body of them to the land of the conqueror. This was done for various purposes. It was sometimes to make slaves of them; sometimes for the purposes of triumph; but more commonly to secure them from revolt. In this manner the ten tribes were removed from the kingdom of Samaria; and thus also the Jews were carried to Babylon. Suetonius says (chapter xxi.) of Augustus. that he removed the Suevi and the Sicambri into Gaul, and stationed them on the Rhine. The same thing was also practiced in Egypt, for the purpose of securing the people from revolt Genesis 47:21.

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