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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 39

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-8

Babylonian Envoys in Jerusalem (39:1-8)

The narrative about the envoys from the king of Babylon is taken from 2 Kings 20:12-19. If the editor of the material is correct in connecting the visit of the Babylonian ambassadors with the sickness of Hezekiah, then it is probable that the date should be taken as coming very soon after 705 b.c., before Sennacherib had consolidated his position on the throne of Assyria and had assumed firm control over Babylon. The king in question was Merodach-baladan (in its Mesopotamian form it was Marduk-apal-iddin, meaning “Marduk has given a son”). He first was able to make himself king of Babylon early in the reign of Sargon II, and he remained in power there from 721 until 710 b.c. When Sargon wrested Babylon from him he fled to his tribal realm in the lower marshlands of Babylonia. In the early years of Sennacherib, when the latter was busy consolidating his hold on the throne, Merodach-baladan again seized the throne in Babylon, but he was able to hold it only a short time before Sennacherib established his own government over the city.

In the biblical narrative the extent of Merodach-baladan’s diplomacy in the years 705-703 b.c. is given further support. Under the pretext of Hezekiah’s sickness he has sent ambassadors to Judah, presumably to encourage revolt throughout the Assyrian empire. The narrative was probably preserved because of the relation of the prophet Isaiah to the event. The prophet suspected an intrigue and appeared before King Hezekiah to challenge him about the matter. It may be recalled that this was the period of Hezekiah’s leadership of the small nations of southwestern Asia in their revolt against Assyria with the backing of Egypt. During that time Isaiah was bitterly opposed to the policies of the king, as indicated in chapters 28-31. Since the Lord, the Sovereign of the universe, is the God of Israel, there is no need to enter into a whole range of political alliances. This was not Israel’s purpose in the world, and such alliances were condemned by Isaiah throughout his life. The words of Isaiah to Hezekiah (vss. 5-7) are an anticipation of what actually happened in the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, as described in 2 Kings 24:10—25:17, over a century later. Whether the words of the prophet are here precisely recorded, or whether the memory of them has been colored by subsequent events, is something we do not know. In any event, verse 8 represents the king as accepting Isaiah’s message, because he thought within himself that at least the catastrophe was not going to happen in his own day.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 39". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/isaiah-39.html.
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