(Rabʹsha·keh) [great or chief cup-bearer].
The title of a major Assyrian official. (2 Ki. 18:17) Like the titles “Rabmag” and “Rabsaris,” “Rabshakeh” is also a compound word. Some believe that “Rabshakeh” as a title comes from the two Assyrian words rab and saqu, which, when combined, mean “chief cupbearer,” “chief of the officers” or a general, a high officer of state. A building inscription of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III says: “I sent an officer of mine, the rabsaq, to Tyre.” Also, from a tablet in the British Museum an inscription of King Ashurbanipal reads: “I ordered to add to my former (battle-) forces (in Egypt) the rabsaq -officer.” Incidentally, for further evidence that the Hebrew word rav is used as part of a title, take note of the common title “Rabbi,” which literally means “my great one.”
While Sennacherib the king of Assyria was laying siege to the Judean fortress of Lachish he sent a heavy military force to Jerusalem under the Tartan, the commander-in-chief, along with two other high officials, the Rabsaris and the Rabshakeh. (2 Ki. 18:17; the entire account appears also at Isaiah chapters 36 and 37.) Of these three superior Assyrian officials, Rabshakeh was the chief spokesman in an effort to force King Hezekiah to capitulate in surrender. (2 Ki. 18:19-25) The three stood by the conduit of the upper pool. This Rabshakeh, whose personal name is not revealed, was a fluent speaker in Hebrew as well as Syrian. He called out in Hebrew to King Hezekiah, but three of Hezekiah’s officials came out to meet him. King Hezekiah’s officers asked Rabshakeh to speak to them in the Syrian language rather than in the Jews’ language because the common people on the wall were listening. (2 Ki. 18:26, 27) But the situation suited Rabshakeh’s purpose as a propagandist. He wanted the people to hear, with a view to demoralizing their ranks. By words calculated to induce terror, by false promises and lies, by ridicule and by reproach toward Jehovah, Rabshakeh spoke even more loudly in Hebrew, submitting arguments to the people to turn traitor to King Hezekiah by surrendering to the Assyrian army. (2 Ki. 18:28-35) Nevertheless, the people of Jerusalem remained loyal to Hezekiah.—2 Ki. 18:36.
The taunting words of Rabshakeh were taken by Hezekiah to Jehovah in prayer and a delegation was sent to the prophet Isaiah to receive Jehovah’s reply. (2 Ki. 18:37; 19:1-7) In the meantime Rabshakeh was quickly called away when he heard that the king of Assyria had pulled away from Lachish and was fighting against Libnah. Keeping up his propaganda campaign against Hezekiah from a distance, Sennacherib sent messengers to Jerusalem with letters of continued taunt and strong threat to bring Hezekiah to surrender. (2 Ki. 19:8-13) King Hezekiah took the letters to the temple of Jerusalem and spread them before Jehovah along with his urgent prayer for help. (2 Ki. 19:14-19) Jehovah gave his answer through the prophet Isaiah that the king of Assyria “will not come into this city nor will he shoot an arrow there nor confront it with a shield nor cast up a siege rampart against it. By the way by which he proceeded to come, he will return, and into this city he will not come, is the utterance of Jehovah.” (2 Ki. 19:32, 33) That night the angel of Jehovah struck down in death 185,000 soldiers of the Assyrians. This unexpected mighty blow caused Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to withdraw immediately and return to Nineveh, Assyria’s capital, where Sennacherib was assassinated. (2 Ki. 19:35-37) As a blasphemous taunter of the living God Jehovah, Rabshakeh’s efforts came to nothing.