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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 39

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) Merodach-baladan.—The name is conspicuous in the Assyrian inscriptions of Sargon (Records of the Past, ix. 13), as having rebelled against him and set up an independent monarchy. He is described in them as son of Yakin, but this is, probably, a dynastic appellative, just as Jehu is described in the Assyrian records (Records of the Past, v. 41) as “the son of Khumri” (i.e., Omri). The mission had two ostensible objects: (1) congratulation on Hezekiah’s recovery; (2) to inquire and report as to the phenomenon of the sun-dial (2 Chronicles 32:31). Really, we may believe the object of Merôdach-baladan was to open negotiations for an alliance with Judah. The “present,” interpreted after the manner of the East, would seem almost like an acknowledgment of Hezekiah’s hegemony, or even suzerainty, in such a confederacy.

Verse 2

(2) Shewed them the house of his precious things.—This fixes the date of the embassy at a time prior to the payment to Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:15-16), unless we were to assume that the treasury had been replenished by the gifts that followed on the destruction of Sennacherib’s army; but this, as we have seen, is at variance with both the received and the rectified chronology. The display was obviously something more than the ostentation of a Crœsus showing his treasures to Solon (Herod. i. 3). It was practically a display of the resources of the kingdom, intended to impress the Babylonian ambassadors with a sense of his importance as an ally.

The spices, and the precious ointment . . .—The mention of these articles as part of the king’s treasures is characteristic of the commerce and civilisation of the time. “Spices”—probably myrrh, gumbenzoin, cinnamon—had from a very early period been among the gifts offered to princes (Genesis 43:11; 1 Kings 10:10). The “ointment,” or perfumed oil, finds its parallel in the costly unguent of the Gospel history (Matthew 26:7; John 12:3). Esar-haddon’s account of the magnificence of his palace (Records of the Past, iii., 122) supplies a contemporary instance of like ostentation.

Verse 3

(3) Then came Isaiah . . .—The words that follow, like those in Isaiah 7:3, are spoken with the authority at once of age and of a Divine mission, perhaps also of a master speaking to one who had been his pupil. No sooner does the arrival of the embassy from Babylon reach his ear than he goes straight to the king to ask him what it all meant. The king’s answer seems to plead that they came “from a far country” as an excuse. Could he refuse to admit those who had taken so long a journey in his honour? Could intercourse with a land so distant bring any moral or political danger? It was not like the alliance with Egypt, to which Isaiah was so strenuously opposed.

Verse 4

(4) What have they seen in thine house?—The question was pressed home. Had the king contented himself with such hospitality as would have satisfied the demands of the code of Eastern ethics? or had he, as the prophet rightly suspected, done more than that, in his vain-glorious hope of figuring among the “great powers” of the East? On the minds of the ambassadors, we may well believe the impression left was like that made on Blucher as he passed through London: that it would be “a grand city to plunder.”

Verses 6-7

(6, 7) Behold, the days come . . .—The words, it may be noted, received a two-fold fulfilment, under widely different conditions. Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, at the time when Isaiah spoke unborn, was carried as a prisoner to Babylon by Esar-haddon, king of Assyria (2 Chronicles 33:11). The last lineal heir of the house of David, Jehoiachin, died there after long years of imprisonment (2 Kings 25:27). Daniel and his three companions were “of the king’s seed and of the princes,” and were, probably, themselves reduced to that state, placed under the care of the master of the ennuchs” (Daniel 1:3). The actual treasures which Hezekiah showed were probably handed over to Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:15-16); but looking to the fact that that king records his capture of Babylon, after defeating Merodach-baladan, and established his son Esar-haddon there (Lenormant, Ancient History, i., p. 400), it is probable enough that the treasures may have been taken thither, and displayed, as if in irony, to the king and the counsellors, who had hoped to profit by them. Sennacherib indeed boasts that he had carried off not only the king’s treasures, and his musicians to Nineveh, but his daughters also (Records of the Past, vii. 63).

Verse 8

(8) Good is the word of the Lord . . .—The words have the appearance of a pious resignation, but we feel that they are less true and noble than those of David on a like occasion: “I have sinned and done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let thy hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (2 Samuel 24:17). Hezekiah’s thanksgiving reminds us a little too much of “Après moi ledeluge.”

Peace and truth.—The latter word is used in the sense of “stability” (so Psalms 54:5). The two words are used in the same way in Jeremiah 14:13, where we find “assured peace” in the text of the Authorised Version, and “peace of truth” in the margin.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 39". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/isaiah-39.html. 1905.
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