Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 36

Under seige. The three men were silent. They said nothing, for the king had already commanded, "Don't answer him." Isaiah 36:21 (MSG)

It was common in Isaiah's day for conquering armies to send a "mouthpiece" to brag, boast and tear down the confidence of the beseiged city's people. It was a form of psychological warfare. If the city was scared enough, they might surrender and everyone would be delivered from bloodshed, starvation, and, potentially, years of tedious stand-off.  Armies would hurl insults and paint gruesome word pictures to try and convince the citizens of the town to surrender. Isaiah 36 is a great historical record of what this sounded like. We see this same tactic used through recorded history. Shakespeare's King Henry V did a little trash talking of his own outside the city gates of Harfleur:

If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
What say you? will you yield, and this avoid,
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy'd?

Henry V Act 3 scene III

Today, these same tactics are used through television, radio, and the internet to lay seige to ideas, faith, and world-views. There is a time and place for reasoned conversation and response. I am reminded today by King Hezekiah's command to his advisors that sometimes the best response is to say nothing and let God have the last word.

God's Message says that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Wisdom is often required to know which time you are in at any given moment. God, help me to know today when to speak, and when to be silent.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and mharrsch

One thought on “Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 36”

  1. 21The three men were silent. They said nothing, for the king had already commanded, “Don’t answer him.”
    This verse hit a nerve with me today. I have one young man on Harrison’s baseball team who is not respectful. He talks back, argues, gives nasty looks when I ask him to do something. I try to be gentle, he’s only 9, but it drives me nuts. My son has made me most proud this year not by hitting home runs, but by being respectful, listening well, and not speaking when he is asked to be quiet. There is something to be said for understanding authority.

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