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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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8-6 Rabshakeh And The Last Days

" The king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17).   The Hebrew for " great" here is not the usual word so translated.   " Kabed" used here means literally to be heavily laden down, being related to the word for 'glory'.   This could refer to a large amount of (relatively) sophisticated military hardware being carried by them, which accords with other indications that the final Arab push against Jerusalem will be noted for its extensive use of the latest military gadgetry.   It could be a malfunctioning of this which causes the Arab invaders to destroy each other, as required by Zech. 14:13;  Jud. 7:22; 2 Chron. 20:23 etc.   Note, too, how the prophecy of Gog's invasion, being based on this Assyrian invasion, stresses the huge amount of military equipment used by the invader (Eze. 38:4,5).   The Gulf war of 1991 demonstrated how a number of nations, each using such sophisticated hardware, must work in absolute co-operation for it to be effective, showing that there must be at least a superficial unity amongst the Arab aggressors before the final invasion.

The Assyrian army was split up under three leaders, Tartan, Rabsaris and Rabshakeh.   " Tartan" is related to the Assyrian god Tartak (2 Kings 17:31), further confirming that there was and will be a religious aspect to the final invasion.   More proof of this is found in the great emphasis on their desire to take Jerusalem as opposed to anywhere else (2 Kings 18:17);  2 Chron. 32:2 AV mg.).  " Rabsaris" is mentioned in Jer. 39:3 as being one of the princes of Babylon who came against Jerusalem during that invasion, again demonstrating the similarity between the invasions of Babylon and Assyria (see introduction to this study).   The attack comes against Jerusalem from the south (Lachish, 2 Kings 18:17), as do the attacks in the historical incidents which typify this final invasion.

The subdivision of the Arab invader into three groups, as in the original Assyrian battle plan, may also be seen in the last days, seeing that some previous Arab invasions may have had this feature too:-

-  " The spoilers of the Philistines (raided Israel) in three    companies" (1 Sam. 13:17).

-  The Israelites fought their Ammonite enemies " in three companies" , perhaps because there were three groups of

   Ammonites (1 Sam. 11:11).

-  The account of Gideon's victory over Midian, a clear type of the latter-day Arab destruction, has a triple emphasis on

   Israel attacking them in " three companies" (Jud. 7:16,20,22) - perhaps for the same reason.

-  The " great city" of Bablylon/Assyria will be " divided into three parts" for its destruction (Rev. 16:19).

-  The Chaldeans (Babylonians/Assyrians) attacked Job, symbolic of faithless Israel (1)  in  three bands (Job 1:17).   The book of Job has many other links with the Assyrian invasion (see later). 

-  Is there some reference to this in the enigmatic three frog like spirits of Rev. 16?

Rev. 9:14-18 describes how 200,000,000 horsemen came from just beyond the Euphrates (i.e. Babylon/Assyria), using " fire and smoke and brimstone" to punish God's apostate people.   " By these three was the third part of men killed" , suggesting that this invading army has three aspects to its work.   The huge number of horsemen must allude to the " great company" of horsemen of Eze. 38:4, which we have shown to be rooted in the Assyrian invasion.   The 200,000,000 horsemen of Rev. 9:16 may correspond to the fact that profane history records the strength of the Assyrian army which came against Jerusalem as being 200,000 men.

Jerusalem was truly “compassed with armies”, and perhaps the Lord has this in mind when He predicted that Jerusalem would again be like this in the last days. His subsequent warning to those in the country areas not running into Jerusalem for refuge is also an allusion to the situation in Hezekiah’s time- for this was exactly what happened then (Lk. 21:20,21 RV).

The final trauma

With Jerusalem surrounded by such a huge army, it was inevitable that fear would reign within its walls.   Rabshakeh's continual propaganda " to affright them and to trouble them" (2 Chron. 32:18) egged this on, as jubilant Arab propaganda will likewise intensely test the faith of the remnant within Jerusalem in the last days.   It would appear from this typology that there will be this final intense testing of Israel in the very last moment before God's intervention.   It may be similar for the faithful remnant among spiritual Israel, too.

Against this background, Isaiah is framed as the epitome of sedate spirituality and faith, calmly assuring the people from God's word.   Rabshakeh realized their dependence on Isaiah's prophecies, and he mocked their reliance on these abstract, apparently academic things as opposed to anything physical:  " Thou sayest (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war" (2 Kings 18:20), the implication being " But we Assyrians have 200,000 warriors to fight the war with!"    The ministry of the (Elijah?) prophets in the last days will have a similar central role in continuing to motivate the faith of the righteous remnant.

House to house fighting

Presumably these prophets will actually be physically with this faithful group, tucked away in underground bunkers in Jerusalem.   This is certainly what Zech. 14:2 implies - Jerusalem taken by the Arabs, but the righteous remnant somehow remaining there.   One can imagine the Arab troops flushing out the Jews from the wreckage of the city in house-to-house fighting, killing half of those who were in it at the time it fell. Is. 4:3 surely speaks of this scenario: “He that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem”.

Those killed will be the faithless, although they will not necessarily be physically separate from the righteous.   When the last of these is shot or knifed by Arab soldiers and the destruction of the faithful ones looks inevitable, the Lord will dramatically intervene.   It is hard to imagine another scenario which fits the requirements of Zech. 14:1-4.   That remnant are those typified by the faithful within Jerusalem at the time of the Assyrian invasion, so it is reasonable to imagine the latter-day equivalent of Isaiah and his school of prophets uttering and expounding words of prophecy, perhaps these very ones which this study reflects upon, in Bible classes held in sewers and barricaded buildings.   Truly, " in that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem" , i.e. the remnant (Zech. 12:8). This final remnant of Israel is referred to in Obadiah 17- "in Mount Zion there shall be those that escape" (RV), "the captivity of this fortress of the children of Israel" (Obadiah 20 RVmg.), and they will be saved by the appearance of saviours / Angels on Mount Zion (Obadiah 21) at the Lord's return to the place from which He ascended to Heaven.

It is worth noting that two thirds of the Jews within the land are to be " cut off" in the holocaust, meaning that a third survive it (Zech. 13:8,9).   Having spoken of this period in Rev. 6, Rev. 7:4 speaks of 144,000 Jews as surviving it.   A third of the Jews in Israel is about 1.4 million people;  it may be that only a tenth of those will ultimately be found worthy. The 144,000 are sealed so that they avoid God's judgments, which would fit the idea of the righteous remnant miraculously surviving in an Arab occupied Jerusalem.

Western intervention?

The equivalent of Rabshakeh's propaganda may well be in the form of Arab megaphone broadcasts to the Jews they know to be hidden away.   Rabshakeh mocked their trust in Egypt, the " king of the south" , which was the only other main power bloc opposed to Assyria, " the king of the north" (2 Kings 18:21) reporting how so many other surrounding nations had fallen to Assyria.   The Arab " Assyria" of the last days will broadcast similar messages, although the equivalent of 'Egypt' in the sense of the only other major world power may be the U.S.A.   As in Hezekiah's time, many Jews will be tempted to put their real faith in a Western intervention, on humanitarian grounds alone, rather than in the words of the prophets concerning the second coming.   Such Western intervention may well look likely, as Egyptian help did in Hezekiah's time - but it will not come in time.

Immediately prior to the final Angelic destruction of the Assyrians, " Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia" came to fight them (2 Kings 19:9).   The mentioning of this shows how tempting it was for the Jews to put their faith in this sort of thing.   There may be a similar situation in the last days, so that literally " all nations" are involved in a Middle East conflict when the Lord intervenes.


Rabshakeh's foghorn blared on: " Make an agreement with me...and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree...until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey" (2 Kings 18:31-32).   The repetition of the word " land" and the evident allusions to the description of the promised land Israel would have if they were faithful (e.g. Deut. 8:7,8), show that Rabshakeh was offering the Jews a fake kingdom of God.   The reference to each man eating his own vine and fig tree is alluding to Mic. 4:4, a prophecy which was uttered during this period, and doubtless repeated by the prophets within Jerusalem:  " They shall sit every man under his vine and...fig tree" .

These conscious allusions by Rabshakeh again show that there was a strong religious element in his reasoning - as if to say, " Make a deal with us, and we can offer you something better than the kingdom your prophets tell you will soon come and is worth suffering for" .   The Arab propaganda of the last days may run along similar lines:  " Become Muslims, and then you will be the real children of Abraham and have hope of being in a real paradise" .   The language of vines, oil, corn, honey etc. are prominent in the Islamic concept of 'paradise', their equivalent to the Kingdom of God.

It follows that the Kingdom prophecies of Micah and the early promises of the land of Israel - i.e. the Gospel of the Kingdom -  will be under much discussion amongst persecuted Israel of the last days, taught to them by the prophet-preachers who come among them during the preceding period of Arab domination.  The Elijah ministry will turn their hearts back to the Jewish fathers- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Mal. 4:6). These prophets were, and will be, dynamic in their work;  thus Rabshakeh told Israel not to be persuaded by the prophetic promises that " The Lord will deliver us" (2 Kings 18:32).   In the last days this aspect of the message will be in the form of assurance that the second coming, the ultimate deliverance, will soon occur.

In passing, it is intriguing that the Nazis told the Jews of occupied Europe that the death camps were holiday resorts, dressing up in exotic terms their means of destroying and 'carrying captive' the Jews.   This may have been a purposeful echo of Rabshakeh's style: describing the Jews' certain death in captivity, in the language of their being invited to a peaceful place of freedom and plenty. If the Arabs do the same in the last days, they will be knowingly imitating both Hitler and Rabshakeh/Sennacherib.   Their evident attention to historical symbolism makes this quite likely.

Isaiah's prophecies have reference to both Sennacherib's invasion and the last days. In what is very much a last days prophecy, Is.51:12 encourages Israel not to " be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass" . Primarily this must have referred to Rabshakeh's threats which so pulverized the Jews with fear. It is quite possible that there will be a specific man who co-ordinates the holocaust upon Israel, a real 'anti-Christ'; a fake " son of man" .


(1) See James and other Studies (London: Pioneer, 1992).