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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 39

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-2


Isaiah 39:1-2. At that time Merodach-baladan, &c.

A study of the character of Hezekiah is profoundly instructive. The sacred writers impartially present him to us in his strength and in his weakness.

He was in the full sense of the word a good king (2 Kings 18:3; 2 Kings 18:5). He was conspicuous—

1. For his religious zeal. Though, politically, it was a hazardous thing to do, he utterly abolished idolatry in his kingdom.

2. For his religious wisdom (2 Kings 18:4) [1267]

3. For his strong faith. This was shown especially in his conduct in the matter of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib. When we consider these things, we may well understand the high praise given to Hezekiah; certainly there were few kings like him; perhaps none who exhibited a ripeness of religious knowledge and a strength of character so remarkably superior to the times in which he lived.

[1267] Amongst other idolatrous forms of worship which he destroyed, he broke in pieces the brazen serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness (2 Kings 18:4). Many men would have been ready to destroy all the heathen forms of idolatry; they would have made no peace with Baal, or Dagon, or any other gods of the nations, but they would have hesitated to destroy a relic of the life of Israel in the wilderness; they would have thought it sacrilegious to break up an image which Moses himself had made, and they would have reasoned that the religious feelings of the people were so entwined about this memorial of their early days, that it would do more harm than good to violate their feelings, and take away that which excited in their minds religious thoughts. If a king of Judah had so argued, it would not have been right to confound him with the mere rabble of idolaters. If Hezekiah had destroyed all other forms of idolatry and left this remaining, we could easily have found an excuse for his conduct; but forasmuch as he took a higher view of his duty, we are bound to give him credit for that higher view, and to remark his spiritual discernment. Hezekiah was not deceived by any flimsy arguments about the sacred nature of the relic which the people adored; it was a cause of idolatry, that was enough. It had been sacred once. In the wilderness, when it was held up as an object upon which the people might gaze, it would have been a sacrilege to mutilate it; but now it was but “a piece of brass,” and if that piece of brass be the centre of a system of idolatry, there is but one safe course, and that is to destroy it.—Goodwin.

The weakness of his character was displayed—

1. When the king of Babylon sent messengers and a present to him to congratulate him on his recovery from his illness. Then he must needs take them over his house and his armoury, and parade before them all the strength of his dominions (2 Kings 20:12-13). It was natural and right that he should be pleased with the conduct of the king of Babylon; it was gratifying to him personally; it augured well for the future, as concerning his kingdom, that he should be on good terms with the king of Babylon, now rising into power; but it was unworthy of him to lose his self-possession in the manner described.

(1.) He was evidently overcome for the nonce by silly feelings of vanity. He seems to have thought that inasmuch as the king of Babylon had considered him worthy of the compliment of sending to him, he on his part must show that he was indeed a very magnificent king, as the king of Babylon had no doubt heard that he was.
(2.) His vanity caused him to forget how little service his armoury and his treasures had been to him in the hour of peril (H. E. I. 3998, 4000, 4001, 4011).
(3.) His vanity caused him to forego an opportunity of honouring God and of instructing his neighbours in Divine truth [1270] Doubtless it was his failure in duty in this respect that brought upon him so severe a rebuke (Isaiah 39:3-7).

2. The weakness of his character had already manifested itself in his couduct during his illness. In the prospect of death his strength of mind quite broke down (ch. 38.) But there was a difference: in the other case he acted unworthily of his knowledge; in this case he was weak because he was, compared with ourselves, weak in religious privileges. He looked to his grave with such melancholy feelings because he could not clearly see a life beyond it. The answer of the great riddle of humanity had been guessed by many before Christ, but His resurrection made the truth clear (2 Timothy 1:10; H. E. I. 3415). If it were not for the light which our Lord has thrown into the grave, we should mourn like Hezekiah, and our eyes would fail as did his. Having more light than he had, it is our duty to live a nobler life than he did, and not to be cowards in prospect of death (H. E. I. 1570–1643).—Harvey Goodwin, M.A.: Plain Parish Sermons, Third Series, pp. 78–92.

[1270] If his purpose was to impress upon the Babylonians the greatness of his strength, the story of the destruction of Sennacherib would have answered his purpose much better. If Hezekiah had taken the ambassadors to the Temple, and told them how he had spread Sennacherib’s letter before the invisible presence of his God in that holy house, and how he had prayed that the designs of his enemy might be brought to nought, and how that eventually the Assyrians had all either perished or fled, the men of Babylon would have been far more impressed with the power of Hezekiah, believing as they would that he was under the protection of an unseen Hand, than they possibly could be by the mere vulgar display of treasures and armour, which their own country could show in abundance, and which was the very thing calculated to excite their desire of plunder.—Goodwin.

Verse 4


Isaiah 39:4. What have they seen in Thy house?

State briefly the circumstances that gave rise to this question. It evidently suggests to Hezekiah that he has not made the best use of the visit of the Babylonians. He might have turned it to greater account than the gratification of his vanity by displaying his treasures. Instead of magnifying the greatness and glory of God, and thus lifting the minds of his visitors to the highest themes, he had only held out a bait to their covetous desires, and tempted them to steal the treasures so vainly displayed. This was to be the result of his folly (Isaiah 39:6). This is how we miss the great opportunities of our life. There come to us golden seasons when we might bear valuable testimony for God; but we have some petty, personal desires of our own to carry out, and they pass away unimproved. Then comes the prophetic message, borne by our own conscience, that the plan we adopted to gratify our improper desires will only lead us to confusion and unhappiness.

The extent to which Hezekiah came under the censure of God in this matter we shall not now further consider. We shall extend the application of this question to the matter of home life and home influence. So it has a bearing on all of us. “What have they seen in thy house?”

I. It should be seen that our home is the common centre of attraction for all the family (P. D. 1828–1830, 1836).
II. In the home each member of the family should be seen faithfully discharging the duties of his or her relationship to it; husbands, wives, fathers, &c.
III. It should be seen that every Christian gift and grace is carefully cultivated. “For Christ’s sake,” should be the motto of the whole family. In all they do, every member of it should seek to display love such as He manifested when He dwelt among us: His love was patient, magnanimous, sympathetic. This is the way to make the humblest home happy (P. D. 1823, 1834, 1838, 1839).

1. If we do not thus exhibit Christianity at home, it may be questioned whether we possess it at all (H. E. I. 2994).
2. If others know that there is no practical Christianity displayed by us at home, they will rightly set but little value upon our religious performances abroad.
3. It is from the culture of home life that our hopes are to spring with regard to the national life. In the home lurk the disorders that disturb society. The true way to bring those disorders to an end is to endeavour to make the homes of our land the nurseries of every Christian grace and virtue.
4. Let us aim at the accomplishment of the needful national reforms, by each of us doing what we can to make our own home all that it ought to be.—William Manning.

Verse 8


Isaiah 39:8. Then said Hezekiah, &c.

In the narrative connected with the text we find much in Hezekiah to be avoided and much worthy of imitation.

I. We find Hezekiah in great affliction. He had recently escaped from great public and national calamity; he is speedily involved in private and personal suffering (Isaiah 38:1). “He was sick,” and Isaiah was sent to prepare him for death. He was greatly alarmed at the approach of death (Isaiah 38:9-14). How different from St. Paul (Philippians 1:23). He lived in a dark and imperfect dispensation; few then had clear views of the world to come (2 Timothy 1:10). Hezekiah’s faith failed him greatly, and he clung to life with pertinacity.

II. In his trouble he sought the Lord (Isaiah 38:2-3). He made solemn vows of what he would do if spared (Isaiah 38:15). When partially restored, he renewed his vows (Isaiah 38:19). Thus believers in every kind of trouble should seek comfort of God in earnest prayer; nor is it improper then solemnly to give ourselves to God, and renew our vows. We are encouraged to do this by the speed with which a gracious answer was sent to Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:4-5). Isaiah was hardly gone out from pronouncing the judgment when he was sent back with a message of mercy (2 Kings 20:4-5). How wonderfully compassionate is God to His feeble people! Their poor, trembling prayers, uttered in fear and doubting, are heard and answered. He not only hears prayer, but answers directly (Daniel 9:20-23).

III. We find him speedily forgetful of the mercy he had received. Ambassadors arrive at his court. Whence and for what purpose? (Isaiah 39:1-2). What an opportunity for him to redeem his vows, and to proclaim the power and goodness of God to these heathens! Alas! he shows them all his riches, &c., but of God and His temple He says nothing. Flattered and betrayed by the world (Isaiah 39:3-4), what a heart his and ours must be! How could this be? We are told (2 Chronicles 32:31) that such is man when left to himself! We are never in greater danger than after seasons of great mercy and special providences (H. E. I. 4902–4904).

IV. He humbly received the rebuke that was sent to him (text). Here the habit of his mind appeared: he had fallen into the sin of vanity, but humility and resignation to the will of God, especially to His afflictive dispensations, were his usual characteristics. A clear evidence of true godliness, meekly and cheerfully to submit to fatherly correctives. Aaron (Leviticus 10:1-3), Eli (1 Samuel 3:18), the bereaved mother (2 Kings 4:26), David (Psalms 119:75).


1. Let us cultivate humility, watchfulness, and jealousy of ourselves (H. E. I. 4883, 4901).

2. Let us not be disconsolate because we are conscious of weakness and unworthiness. The errors and failings of the best of men are left on record, not to extenuate our sins, but to save us from despair. They were men of like passions with ourselves—the same infirmities and corruptions—yet God bore with them, and saved them out of all their distresses. Let us therefore “hope to the end,” and “patiently continue in well-doing,” believing that we shall be “more than conquerors through Him who hath loved us” (H. E. I. 1117, 2376).—F. Close, A.M.: Fifty-two Sketches of Sermons, pp. 52–55.


Isaiah 39:8. Then said Hezekiah, &c.


The character of Hezekiah is well known. One of the very best of the kings of Judah (2 Kings 18:3-7). Nevertheless even in this excellent man there were moral weaknesses which were displayed when his physical malady was removed. The arrival of the Babylonian ambassadors excited within him hopes of political advantages arising from alliance with the idolatrous king whom they represented, and in order to impress the envoys with a sense of his importance, he made an ostentatious display of his wealth (Isaiah 39:2). This displeased the Lord. Why?

1. Because Hezekiah let slip a favourable opportunity of making known to the heathen the glory and the goodness of the God of Israel [1273]

2. Because his ostentation made it plain that pride was usurping the throne of his heart (2 Chronicles 32:26).

[1273] If, instead of showing them his treasures, he had related to these idolatrous Chaldeans, who were worshippers of the sun, the account of his marvellous cure, and especially the miracle by which the shadow was made to go ten degrees backward on the dial, he might have been the means of bringing them to the knowledge of the true God who made the heavens, and of convincing them that He was master even of that glorious luminary, which they ignorantly adored instead of its Creator.—Bather.

But this was not the habitual frame of Hezekiah’s mind; he was a good man, and therefore God lovingly chastened him. If it had been the wicked Ahab who had done this deed, the Lord might possibly have taken no notice of it; He might have left that idolatrous sinner to have followed his own devices. But seeing this evil spirit begin to show itself in a pious and humble man, the Lord mercifully and savingly interposed to check it in the beginning (Isaiah 39:3-7).

Sharp as was the rebuke sent him by Isaiah, Hezekiah so received it as to give a rare example of pious and cheerful resignation (text). Both parts of his reply are remarkable.

1. “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken.” None but a child of God could have used this language in sincerity, under such trying circumstances. But he has such faith in God, that although it is impossible for him to foresee what wickedness his posterity would commit, he knows that the decree will be found to be righteous (1 Samuel 3:18). But doubtless he meant something more than submission to God’s sovereignty; he meant to acknowledge the goodness of the Lord to himself, of which this very rebuke was a new manifestation (H. E. I. 190–196,162–165).

2. “He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.” That is, God hath been pleased to inform me that my children are to be carried into captivity and to suffer much affliction; but in my grief for this, I must not forget to thank Him for His tender mercies to myself. He has declared that I shall have peace, and this is far more than I deserve.


1. We may learn what exceeding sinfulness and immense danger there often is in sins which we are apt to pass over as trifles, and hardly to notice in ourselves (H. E. I. 4897, 4898, 4516).
2. Remark an inestimable privilege of the children of God’s love: they may fall into the very same troubles as their ungodly neighbours, but in the one case calamity is the angry lash of the law, in the other it is the faithful rebuke of an anxious Father.
3. From the history of God’s dealings with Hezekiah we may infer what must be the wisest wish for any man to make, viz., that God would take us into His holy keeping and choose our inheritance for us. If we were left to determine for ourselves, some would choose one thing, and some another. Yet “sorrow is better than laughter;” and the history of Hezekiah is a proof of it (H. E. I. 211, 3986, 3998–4001).
4. If sin have brought rebuke upon you, search and try your ways, that you may see what your transgression and weakness is; and then accept the chastening of the Lord as a token of His love (H. H. I. 144–147).
5. Whatsoever may have befallen you, remember always that the mercies which remain are far greater than you deserve; and that in the day of prosperity, no less than in the evil day, there is need for perseverance and watchfulness (H. E. I. 4888–4890).—Archdeacon Bather: Sermons on Old Testament Histories, pp. 275–285.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 39". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/isaiah-39.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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