rab'-sha-ke, rab-sha'-ke (rabhshaqeh): A compound word, the first part, rabh, indicating "head" or "chief" (see RAB-MAG; RAB-SARIS). The second part, which in the Aramaic, probably meant "cupbearer," had in this connection and elsewhere, according to later discoveries, an extended significance, and meant chief officer, i.e. chief of the heads or captains.
Rabshakeh was one of the officers sent by Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, with the Tartan and the Rabsaris to demand the surrender of Jerusalem, which was under siege by the Assyrian army (2Ki 18:17,19,26-27,28,37; 19:4,8; Isa 36:2,4,11-12,13,22; 37:4,8). The three officers named went from Lachish to Jerusalem and appeared by the conduit of the upper pool. Having called upon King Hezekiah, his representatives Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, Shebnah, the scribe, and Joah, the recorder, appeared. Rabshakeh sent through them a message to the king in which he represented himself as the spokesman for the king of Assyria. He derided King Hezekiah in an insolent fashion in representing his trust in Egypt as a bruised reed which would pierce the hand. Likewise his confidence in Yahweh was vain, for He also would be unable to deliver them. Then the officers of the king replied, requesting him to speak in the Syrian language-which they understood, and not in the Jews' language which the people on the wall understood. This he refused to do, speaking still more loudly in order that they might hear and be persuaded. By bribery and appeal, by promise and by deception he exhorted them to turn traitor to Hezekiah and surrender to him. The people, however, true to the command of Hezekiah (2Ki 18:36), "held their peace, and answered him not a word." Afterward Rabshakeh returned and "found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah". (2Ki 19:8). From this description it is inferred that Rabshakeh was a man of considerable literary attainment, being able, in all probability, to speak in three languages. He had, in addition to his official power, dauntless courage, an insolent spirit and a characteristic oriental disregard for veracity.
Walter G. Clippinger