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Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 39

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


Chapter 39 Visitors From Babylon.

‘At that time.’ That is at the time of his having received the sign from God and having gone up to the house of Yahweh to acknowledge and give thanks for His power. What better time for ambassadors from Babylon to arrive? Surely he would now tell them to be on their way because God was able to deliver Jerusalem and Judah from the Assyrian yoke. God had primed him up and had given him two remarkable signs, his extension of life and God’s revelation of His power over the sun. How then could he do otherwise? But as this chapter demonstrates, he did do otherwise.

In human terms it is understandable. While Hezekiah was highly esteemed among the local peoples, he could not be compared to a king of Babylon. And he must have been highly flattered that that great king should seek him out and ask after his welfare and desire an alliance with him. We are given to understand that he was right to welcome them, but that that should have been all. Indeed we are given the picture of Isaiah waiting apprehensively, wondering what choice he would make.

And he chose disastrously. He unbared all his treasures and armour to the ambassadors, a clear indication that he was offering his strength to back up the rebellion. It was fatal. Not only did it mean that he was putting his trust in alliances with godless nations, and especially godless Babylon, rather than in Yahweh, but it also showed Babylon what treasures he had. And the wise old Isaiah knew instinctively that to a great and arrogant city like Babylon this could only be like a light to a moth, drawing it onwards until the glittering treasures were its own.

Of what purpose then had been God’s miraculous sign? Ahaz had refused the sign. Hezekiah had received the sign and then ignored its significance. Both were as bad. The house of David had rejected its second chance.

Verse 1

‘At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he had heard that he was sick and had recovered.’

There can be little doubt that Merodach-baladan, who was at that time in rebellion against Assyria (this was probably early in 702 BC), was using Hezekiah’s recovery as a means of intrigue. The visit was to be seen outwardly as for an innocent reason, but it had a far deeper significance. Merodach-baladan was seeking and offering support in a rebellion against Assyria. The choice then lay with Hezekiah. He could politely receive them and send them on their way, because his trust was in Yahweh. Or he could enter into negotiations and show what he could offer.

Verse 2

‘And Hezekiah was glad of them, and showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious oil, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures. There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them.’

Flattered, and desirous of their admiration, and very willing to enter into an alliance, Hezekiah forgot the significance of his deliverance from death and the great sign that had accompanied it. He committed himself totally. All his riches and all his armour was available to assist in the rebellion. And he took the ambassadors round the country, showing them the great cities with their powerful walls, and the men of war stationed in readiness for any attack, and the general wealth of the nation. It was a renunciation of Yahweh that was total and complete, and the sad thing is that Hezekiah seemed totally unaware of the fact. The impression given is that he did not realise what he had done.

If we do not keep in close touch with God when making our decisions, but allow ourselves to be carried forward by the emotion of the moment, we also, like Hezekiah, may very well go ahead with something, unaware that it is contrary to God’s will, and thus prove to be a hindrance to God’s work instead of carrying it forward.

Verse 3

‘Then Isaiah the prophet came to king Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, even from Babylon.”

Isaiah had seen these rich and powerful lords, and knew that mischief was afoot. But he was unable to do anything until they had gone. No doubt a great deal of secrecy had been preserved. (If there is one thing men love more than showing off it is being involved in intrigue, and to feel that they are a part of the inner circle). But then, once they had departed, he immediately sought the king’s presence and asked who they were and where they had come from. It is, however, probable that he already had a good idea what the answer would be.

As we read Hezekiah’s reply we can sense the great pride that he felt at the visit. These men had come a long way from a great king of a mighty city and country, who had proved his power in the past by at times achieving independence from the Assyrians, and they had come to see him.

Verse 4

‘And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.” ’

Hezekiah replied promptly and openly. He had shown them everything. He was fully committed to an alliance. He had committed all that he had. It is as though he did not know what he had done.Isaiah knew instinctively what the only consequence of this could be. If you show off your treasures to a great and proud king of a powerful nation one day he will come and collect them from you. What other end could there possibly be for a small kingdom like Judah when it got mixed up with such giants? Especially when it showed them how rich it was. And on top of this Hezekiah had earned his own Protector’s anger by putting his trust in Babylon. What hope then could there be for him?

So Hezekiah had aligned himself with Babylon of hosts? What about his commitment to Yahweh of hosts? Did Hezekiah not realise that he had betrayed Him, and thus His protective hand would be on him no longer? Yahweh of hosts Himself would now allow him to be robbed of all that he possessed. Nothing would be left. His protective shield was gone. As a result his descendants, the seed of the Davidic house, would become slaves in the palace of the king of Babylon. He had forfeited all that God had intended for him. He was now Babylon’s plaything, and there was nothing worse than that.

If the word ‘eunuchs’ is to be taken literally, although the word is not necessarily always so specific and can mean high-level servants, this spelled the end of Hezekiah’s dynastic hopes. This might explain why his descendants are brought into the equation. In fact in the future both his son Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11), and his descendants Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:12) and Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7) would be taken captive to Babylon. And none would have gone alone.

We note, however, that there is no mention of a general captivity. This is not strictly forecasting the exile. King’s sons were often taken as hostages even when no general exile took place. The point being made is that he will lose his treasures and his ‘sons’. His dynasty will cease. And Judah will be made tributary to Babylon.

Verse 8

‘Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of Yahweh which you have spoken is good.” He said moreover, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.” ’

That Hezekiah lacked Messianic ambition comes out clearly here. He was not concerned with the distant future. He had no vision of the future that God had promised through Isaiah. He was simply satisfied that it meant that in his own day peace and truth would prevail. He was quite prepared for the future house of David to be in slavery (what a contrast with Psalms 2:0) as long as he could have freedom now. How totally different he was from the coming Servant. No wonder the coming King would have to be miraculously born. David’s sons were to become eunuchs because of his folly! The words confirmed the promise that God had made of deliverance from Assyria and beyond that Hezekiah was not concerned. But it was the deathknell of any hopes of a Deliverer from his house. Israel would have to look elsewhere.

In their division of the book commentators often treat chapter 40 that follows as a new book. But in the Hebrew text Isaiah 40:1 simply continues on from Isaiah 39:8. Furthermore, while there is certainly a massive change of subject, what follows is actually Isaiah’s response to this situation. Isaiah 39:8 is a comment indicating that Hezekiah is satisfied with the status quo, and an indicator that he is not fitted to fulfil the role of Israel’s Saviour. Chapter 40 onwards indicates that Yahweh is not satisfied with such a situation because of Who He is (chapter 40), and will Himself find a Saviour (chapter 41-55), Who will save through suffering.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 39". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/isaiah-39.html. 2013.
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