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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 39

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Isaiah 39:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Hezekiah Shows His TreasuresThe Babylonian EnvoysMerodach-baladan's EmbassyMessengers from BabyloniaThe Babylonian Embassy
Isaiah 39:1-4Isaiah 39:1-2Isaiah 39:1-4Isaiah 39:1-3aIsaiah 39:1-2
Isaiah 39:3-8Isaiah 39:3-4
Isaiah 39:3b
Isaiah 39:4
Isaiah 39:5-8Isaiah 39:5-8Isaiah 39:5-7Isaiah 39:5-8
Isaiah 39:8

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compareyour subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

For a good discussion of the possible dates that these emissaries came see Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 212-213.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 39:1-4 1At that time Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2Hezekiah was pleased, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and his whole armory and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. 3Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where have they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4He said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them.”

Isaiah 39:1 “Merodach-baladan” This was prince of Bit-Yakin, who controlled southern Babylon (721-710, 703-702 B.C.) and who rebelled against Assyria, twice. See Contextual Insights to Isaiah 38:0.

“king of Babylon, sent letters” Apparently this Babylonian king was looking for allies against Assyria and, unfortunately, Hezekiah's pride caused him to do a foolish thing (cf. Isaiah 39:2) in revealing his wealth and resources to these Babylonian emissaries. He was possibly looking for a new political alliance.

Isaiah 39:2

NASB, NKJV“was pleased” NRSV, TEV, REB“welcomed” NJB“was delighted” LXX“rejoiced”

The MT has “rejoiced” (BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal IMPERFECT), which is often used in an arrogant sense (cf. Job 31:29; Psalms 35:15, Psalms 35:19, Psalms 35:24; Psalms 38:16; Proverbs 24:17; Ezekiel 25:6; Micah 7:8).

“There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them” The VERB “show” (BDB 906, KB 1157) is a Hiphil PERFECT. The king was really trying to show off. He must have personally accompanied them to all the civic and sacred sites (cf. Isaiah 39:4).

Isaiah 39:3-4 Was Isaiah seeking information? I think it was a rhetorical question to jolt the king!

Verses 5-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 39:5-8 5Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts, 6'Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,' says the LORD . 7'And some of your sons who will issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.'“ 8Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.”

Isaiah 39:5 This is a literary marker (“hear,” BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE) for a divine message, obviously related to Hezekiah's rash act.

Isaiah 39:6 This verse is the prophecy of the coming Babylonian exiles under Nebuchadnezzar II (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C.). It seems that the biblical thrust is not only (1) Hezekiah's arrogance; but also (2) the idolatry of his son, Manasseh (cf. 2 Kings 21:1-18); and (3) the peoples' continuing unbelief and idolatry. The real problem was Hezekiah's being tempted to trust a political alliance again, as he had Egypt earlier. One would think his answer to prayer in chapter 38 would have insulated him from this type of activity.

Isaiah 39:7 This verse is surprising, not because it is a true prophecy, but because Isaiah always believed in the inviolability of Jerusalem and the Davidic family (cf. 2 Samuel 7:0).

Also note that the Babylon of Hezekiah's visitors is not the same Babylon that caused the four exiles. Much of Isaiah's poetry is ambiguous enough to relate to

1. Assyria

2. Babylon

3. Neo-Babylon

4. end-time events

“will be taken away” This happened to King Jehoiachin (cf. 2 Kings 24:15).

“officials” The term (BDB 710) literally means “eunuchs,” but it came to refer to high court officials (cf. Potiphar was married, Genesis 39:1). In this context the term must refer to

1. a token symbol of Babylonian power

2. a ward of the state

Isaiah 39:8 “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good” This is a startling statement. It either means that Hezekiah realizes his pride was the source of God's just judgment and, therefore, is fair, or it may imply, as in Isaiah 39:8b, that he is just glad that the judgment will not occur in his day. Some scholars have asserted that the reason for the king's happiness is that this means he will have a son.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this concept of trust related to the Assyrian official's haunting message in Isaiah 36:0 and 37?

2. Did Hezekiah pay tribute to Assyria and did he have a military alliance with Egypt?

3. Why is Isaiah 37:20 so significant?

4. Why does God give two signs to Hezekiah?

5. Why is Hezekiah judged so severely for showing the Babylonian officials his treasure?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 39". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-39.html. 2021.
 
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