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Isaiah 39:1 At that time, Merodach Baladan the son of Baladan king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah; for he heard that he had been sick, and had recovered- Gentiles bringing presents to Zion is the language of the reestablished kingdom (Ps. 68:29). It could have come about then, when the surrounding nations brought presents to Hezekiah; but human pride and impenitence precluded it. See on Is. 18:7. And Hezekiah and his descendants adopted the ways of those nations rather than ruling over them and helping them toward Israel's God. 2 Chron. 32:31 describes these people as "the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon", but an unusual word is used there for "ambassadors"; it is the word usually translated "scorner" or "mocker". The idea is clearly that these men had an agenda and were not sincere. And Hezekiah was willfully duped by them, falling for their agenda and being blinded by their gifts, rather than seeking to share the ways of Yahweh with them. Hezekiah ought to have learnt not to trust in them, seeing that trust in the "princes and ambassadors" of Egypt had been proven so false just in recent history (Is. 30:4). God likewise brings situations into our lives whereby situations repeat- to test our faith and understanding.

The "letters" and 'ambassadors' recall the 'letter' from the ambassadors of Assyria in Is. 37:14. He didn't respond spiritually to this 'trial by prosperity'. Hence: "However concerning the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart" (2 Chron. 32:31). "The wonder" could refer to the miracle on the sundial, or to the miraculous revival of the land physically in line with Isaiah's prophecies.        

Hezekiah had been warned at the start of his reign that Babylon was to become an evil empire whom Yahweh would destroy. The oracle against Babylon was given just as He became king (Is. 14:28 "In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden"). But the years had blunted the power of God's word, perhaps he had not re-read or regularly listened to Isaiah's prophecies. Babylon then would have been very small and distant, and he didn't pay attention to the prophecy- probably. And so when ambassadors from Babylon came to him, Hezekiah was easily flattered and he sought to impress them. When he should have remembered their predicted sad end. 

Isaiah 39:2 Hezekiah was pleased with them- "
Pleased" is s.w. "joy", "to rejoice". It is used of how Hezekiah previously had rejoiced in spiritual things (2 Chron. 29:36; 30:25). Now he rejoices in material things, and being respected by Gentiles rather than God. His "joy" or 'pleasure' ought to have been solely in Yahweh's salvation (Is. 25:9 s.w.). Hezekiah rejoiced "with them"; the Hebrew text is emphatic about this joy "with them". But the whole land had been charged not to rejoice at the fall of Assyria because it would revive in another form (s.w. Is. 14:29). Hezekiah is presented as totally ignorant of all this.

Hezekiah's problem was pride. Isaiah had repeatedly criticized Judah for being proud, and for their land being "filled with silver and gold" as well as full of idols and pride. Hezekiah was not an idolater, but he was caught up in the materialism and associated pride of the society in which he lived. This really is a warning to us. The Assyrian inscriptions even note his pride, e.g. "I overthrew the wide region of Judah. Its king, Hezekiah, a proud rebel, I made submit at my feet".

And showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, 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 didn’t show them- LXX "the houses of his treasures". This sounds as if his kingdom had become like that of Egypt and Solomon, where treasure cities were associated with gross materialism and refusal of the things of God's Kingdom. The Babylonians had revolted against Assyria, and they wanted help from Judah to form a political alliance against Assyria. But Hezekiah was taken in by the presents and attention paid to him, responding in pride rather than telling them he had nearly died because of his alliances; he ought to have told Babylon to accept Yahweh as their God, and thus be saved from Assyria as Judah had been. Presumably he agreed to the alliance; hence the judgment given, that his people would go into captivity in Babylon. He had recently been so lacking in gold that he had stripped the temple's gold and given it to the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:16). This sudden abundance of wealth may well have come from nations such as Babylon, who were eager to have Judah onside with them as a now significant and respected ally against Assyria. The wealth of the Gentiles flowed in to the liberated Zion, but only as a very weak foreshadowing of the things of the Kingdom. Human "armour" ought not to have been gloried in; for the entire message of Zion's deliverance was that it was achieved by God's power and grace and not at all by human strength. But the same Hebrew word is used repeatedly of the temple vessels which Hezekiah had earlier sanctified for usage (2 Chron. 29:19,26,27; 30:21). But now he had removed them out of temple service in Yahweh's house into his own house. His focus was upon his kingdom ["dominion"], rather than the things of Yahweh's Kingdom. It was these very vessels which were to be carried to Babylon (s.w. 2 Chron. 36:7).

Both Hezekiah and his father Ahaz had emptied the king's treasure house in attempting to buy off the Assyrian enemies (2 Kings 16:8; 18:15). But so soon after the Assyrian destruction, Hezekiah's treasure house is amazingly  and impressively full. The surrounding nations had brought huge wealth to him, and he had likely spoiled the camp of the Assyrians. Which may have been full of high value metals they had looted from other nations they had recently defeated. And Hezekiah spiritually falls flat on his face when faced with the temptation brought about by sudden wealth. His poor response, being lifted up in pride, is so psychologically credible.


Is. 22:8 condemned Judah for looking to the armour in this house, rather than looking to God: "you looked in that day to the armour in the house of the forest... But you didn’t look to Him who had done this, neither did you have respect for Him who purposed it long ago". Just as Hezekiah had earlier looked to Egypt rather than exclusively to God. And Isaiah had condemned him for this. His attention to Isaiah's word was therefore superficial. He wanted Isaiah to pray for him, but he himself presents as not responding to Isaiah's word, and wanting the benefit of Isaiah's intercession rather than taking seriously God's word through Isaiah.  

Hezekiah‘s father, King Ahaz, had stripped the Temple of all its silver and gold, as well as all the gold and silver in the palace treasury, and sent it to Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 16:8,9). We see how he reacted against his father's idolatry, but followed the same faithless script of his father in other ways. This again is so psychologically credible. It's how sons are with their fathers, unless they are born again and made free of all the ties that bind. But only 30 years later, Hezekiah was able to give 30 talents (or 900 kg) of gold and 800 talents (or 24,000 kg) of silver to Sennacherib. He had built up considerable wealth quite quickly- especially bearing in mind he is recorded as undertaking huge building and fortification projects, repairing the Temple, providing huge numbers of sacrificial animals for the Passover, funding a campaign against the Philistines and having enough wealth to try to buy Egyptian military support against Assyria.
This suggests Hezekiah was materialistic and on the look out for wealth. He believed his wealth could save him- he offered money to Egypt to help him, and paid a huge amount to Assyria to leave him alone. All of which was criticized by God through Isaiah. When his wealth revived after the Assyrian defeat, again it was his undoing- because he boasted of it to the Babylonians, who clearly were covetous and thence planned to come and take it by force. Which Isaiah says, God would empower them to do because of Hezekiah's pride. That pride arose from his great and sudden wealth, which was given to him by God: "Hezekiah enjoyed immense riches and honour. He built himself treasuries for gold, silver, precious stones, spices, jewels and every kind of desirable object, as well as storehouses for his returns of grain, new wine and olive oil, and stalls for all kinds of cattle and pens for the flocks. He also provided himself with donkeys in addition to his immense wealth of flocks and herds, since God had made him immensely wealthy" (2 Chron. 32:27-29). The promised blessing upon the land, producing "of itself", seems to have been responsible for the agricultural prosperity. The lands around him had been ravaged by the Assyrian scorched earth policy. They perhaps traded their wealth for food. But we note that this wealth led him to proudly show it off to the Babylonians, who came to find out about "the wonder that was done in the land" (2 Chron. 32:31, i.e. the amazing agricultural blessing). We now understand better why God is careful about giving wealth; because it typically leads to pride and loss of spirituality.

The Rassam Cylinder and the Taylor Prism lists what the Assyrians claim Hezekiah gave them. It includes "thirty talents of gold" as also stated in 2 Kings 18:14, but also lists many high luxury items made of ivory, and also Hezekiah's daughters. The list would suggest Hezekiah was living a high luxury life and was a lover of wealth. The Cylinder and Prism also claim the Assyrians took not only gold and silver, but also spices, precious oil and the contents of Hezekiah's well stocked armoury, "the house of his armour". But in 2 Kings 20:13 and Is. 39:2, these are the very things which Hezekiah has in abundance after the Assyrian destruction, and shows off to the Babylonians. So we can better imagine psychologically what happened. Hezekiah had amassed great wealth before the invasion, probably from transit taxes on the trade routes he had gained control of through taking the territory around Gaza [there is archaeological evidence of this]. But he gives it all to the Assyrians and Egyptians through lack of faith. But he amazingly receives it all back, and more, after the miraculous defeat of Assyria. And this lead to his pride. How often is this proved true, that wealth brings pride and lack of faith. It is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. Assyrian records show how much tribute was demanded and paid by various nations over their history- records of tribute from 26 countries have been preserved. The tribute demanded from Judah was one of the highest- indicating the relative wealth of Judah under Hezekiah. This wealth was what led him to lack of faith, and is criticized by Isaiah repeatedly. Archaeological evidence, especially from Lachish, likewise indicates that Hezekiah ruled over a very prosperous and wealthy society.

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to king Hezekiah and asked him, What did these men say? Where did they come from to you? Hezekiah said, They have come from a country far from me, even from Babylon-
Surely these were rhetorical questions aimed at rebuking Hezekiah. His reply was made in pride (2 Chron. 32:25). The prophetic intention had been that the Gentiles would come from far countries to Israel's God with offerings to Yahweh, but Hezekiah sees it in terms of them coming to him with presents and respect for him. He uses the very phrase of Dt. 28:49, of how a nation "from a far country" was to come and destroy Israel.


Isaiah 39:4 Then he asked, What have they seen in your house? Hezekiah answered, They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them-
Hezekiah appears to be boasting that he had boasted. His attitude is completely wrong. As in :3, these are rhetorical questions; and rather like those given to Adam in Eden, they were intended to elicit repentance. LXX "yea, also the possessions in my treasuries". Note the emphasis on "my... my.. I". The focus on his possessions and treasuries suggests the Lord quarried the parable of the rich fool from Hezekiah, who thought he had wealth to enjoy for the remainder of his days; see on :6. "My house... your house" stands in contrast to the temple / house of Yahweh which ought to have been Hezekiah's focus. All that was in his house was to be taken to Babylon (:6). The intention was that the Gentiles "from a far country" (s.w. Is. 5:26) would come to Zion and "see" or "be shown" (s.w.) God's glory (Is. 49:7; 52:15; 60:5; 61:9; 62:2; 66:18 s.w.). But instead Hezekiah showed them his own glory. He precluded the fulfilment of these prophecies in terms of his kingdom being the reestablished kingdom of Yahweh.

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, Hear the word of Yahweh of Armies-
"Hear" may be an appeal to repent and stop the prophesied outcome from happening in accordance with Jer. 18:8-10. Hezekiah is being asked to hear or be obedient to the threat of future judgment- by repenting, in the gap between the pronouncing of the prophecy and its fulfilment. But he doesn't. His final comment is that there will be peace in his time, and he is good with that.

Isaiah 39:6 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried to Babylon. Nothing will be left’, says Yahweh-
This would have seemed impossible; for Babylon was one of many apparently irrelevant small powers whom both Sargon and Sennacherib had overrun, destroyed her towns, and enforced direct Assyrian rule. That in 160 years' time Babylon would be the dominant power and would take Judah captive... appeared laughable. But God had just demonstrated that He could destroy the Assyrian army in a moment; and indeed it happened (2 Kings 24:13). 'Storing up' is surely alluded to by the Lord in the parable of the rich fool; he stored up riches only to lose them in a moment of Divine judgment, and was not rich toward God. See on :4. Just as there was "nothing" Hezekiah didn't show the ambassadors, so "nothing will be left". He showed them "all", and "all that is in your house..." would be carried away.

Isaiah 39:7 ‘They will take away your sons who will issue from you, whom you shall father, and they will be eunuchs in the king of Babylon’s palace’-
There is a theme in Isaiah of conceiving, suffering pain in labour- but bringing forth in vain (Is. 26:18; 33:11; 59:4).  And so did Hezekiah, in that he and his children turned away from true faith (Is. 39:7). In Isaiah's immediate context, the application would have been to the sense that the remnant had come to the birth but there was not strength to bring forth (Is. 37:3); apart from a few individuals, there was no bringing forth of a significant repentant remnant who would be the basis for the restored Kingdom. It felt like they were still under the curse of bringing forth in pain but in vain. The pain in vain at the time of the Assyrian invasion led to Micah offering a reworked version of all this; they were to be in pain at the hands of the Babylonians, but would bring forth in Babylon in that they would there repent, and the spiritually reborn remnant would emerge and their captors therefore judged (Mic. 4:10). But that possibility also didn't work out.  And so this idea of bringing forth but not in vain, but rather finding meaning in the resurrection of Messiah and all in Him, came to be reapplied to the birth of the Lord Jesus from the grave in resurrection; and it would characterize the establishment of the Kingdom age in Zion (Is. 65:24). Hezekiah's immediate sons "who will issue from you, whom you shall father" weren't permanently taken to Babylon. Manasseh was taken there but repented and returned to Judah (2 Chron. 33:11-13); but it was in Dan. 1:3 that "the king's seed" were all deported there permanently. Again we have an example of a prophecy being delayed and suspended in fulfilment. This could have been because of the prayer and repentance of a minority, not least Manasseh; the spirituality of Josiah; or God's constant pity towards His people.

Hezekiah's 'don't care' attitude is perhaps reflected in his son Manasseh, who became one of Judah's worst kings. "Manasseh" is a name without the common 'Yah' suffix. This itself indicates that Hezekiah did not want the Yahweh Name associated with his child, who was born3 years into the extra 15 years. Manasseh means 'causing to forget', and we enquire what it was that Hezekiah sought to forget. We wonder whether it was, in a word, God. But his awareness of God could not be erased, and so he wrote Ecclesiastes. 

If his sons were to be eunuchs, then the Davidic line would end. We rather hope Hezekiah's response will be similar to his response to the news that he must die without sons; we expect weeping and intense prayer as in the previous chapter, when Isaiah gives him a hard word from the Lord. But we are disappointed. Hezekiah presents as childless before his illness, and when healed he promised to tell his future children God's "truth"(Is. 38:18). But this was on a cusp of emotion, because when he is told in Is. 39:7 that his sons were to be eunuchs in Babylon, he makes no appeal for this to be changed. He is just relieved that there will be peace during his 15 years. Again we see, as in the lesson of the zealous reforms of 2 Chron. 30 that didn't last, that true spirituality is not on the cusp of emotion nor the passion of a moment. Men may do fine things and make huge sacrifice at one point- but it's the long run, in spiritual terms, which God looks at. And that is also true for the high profile sins of some.

Isaiah 39:8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, Yahweh’s word which you have spoken is good. He said moreover, For there will be peace and truth in my days

To accept Yahweh's word as "good" doesn't have to indicate much spirituality. The wicked Eli does the same when told he and his sons shall be judged for their wickedness: "He is Yahweh, let Him do what is good in His sight" (1 Sam. 3:18). He accepts the judgment as 'fair enough' but goes on impenitently. The 'goodness' perceived by both Eli and Hezekiah was simply that they would not immediately experience judgment. Men are the same today, willing to accept they have a few years to live and after that will face judgment. Often we read of God doing good in His own sight (2 Sam. 10:12). I suspect Hezekiah is alluding to that idea- God can do what He thinks good. Unlike when faced with death, he makes no attempt to reason with God.

To say that a "word" is "good" is a Hebraism for expressing agreement. The phrase is translated "Well said" (1 Kings 18:24; see too 1 Sam. 9:10; Dt. 1:14 "The thing [s.w. "word"] you have spoken is good" and often). It's as if Hezekiah saw God offering him personally 15 years of life in return for Judah going into captivity and Jerusalem falling. And he agrees. "He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days" is surely telling us what he said within himself. Hence GNB "King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, "The message you have given me from the LORD is good"". He made the agreement because he thought that it was a good enough return for he himself having 15 peaceful years. This was selfishness at its acme. And so the record ends in Isaiah, inviting us to see Hezekiah as impenitent of that awful egoism. The implication is surely that  instead of 'agreeing' to the word of judgment, he should have begged for a different outcome- just as he did when he was given the 'word' of his own imminent death. But he thought only of himself, not of the wider picture of God's people. His sons becoming eunuchs in Babylon (:7) would've meant the end of the direct Davidic line of kings- but he didn't care. Self interest dominated all wider issues.

Hezekiah presents as childless, and now promises to tell his future children God's "truth". But this was on a cusp of emotion, because when he is told in Is. 39:7 that his sons were to be eunuchs in Babylon, he makes no appeal for this to be changed. He is just relieved that there will be peace during his 15 years. Again we see, as in the lesson of the zealous reforms of 2 Chron. 30 that didn't last, that true spirituality is not on the cusp of emotion nor the passion of a moment. Men may do fine things and make huge sacrifice at one point- but it's the long run, in spiritual terms, which God looks at. And that is also true for the high profile sins of some.

"Peace and truth" is translated "assured peace" in the context of assurance that judgment will not come (Jer. 14:13). Or the idea may be that real peace is experienced on the basis of the truth of God's words. And he had had that Divine word of assurance, that judgment wouldn't come in his lifetime. What should he have done? Surely appeal for Judah to repent in order to change that outcome. And to repent himself. We see here Hezekiah's focus on himself. He would be saved from shame of face during his life, and that was enough for him. He had no real care for his children or grandchildren. It was all about him. Rather like when his death is announced, he basically pleads with God "I don't want to die, I don't deserve it, I've lived a good life". He refused to accept that the wages of sin is death. And he makes no obviously discernible reference to the hope of resurrection in the future. 

Sadly despite the warning from the example of Shebna (see on Is. 22:15) and the specific command not to just live for today and resign ourselves to an eternal death (Is. 22:13 "Behold, joy and gladness, killing cattle and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we will die"), Hezekiah at the end of his life gave in to just this same mentality. The sense is as GNB "King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, "The message you have given me from the LORD is good". "Peace and truth" is the language of the restored kingdom of God (Jer. 33:6); and it is the same term used by Hezekiah when he failed to grasp the potential of the Kingdom being reestablished in his times; he was content with peace and truth in his times alone (see on Is. 38:18,20). Likewise the Jews of Esther's time were content with "peace and truth" in their times, rather than seeing that what had happened was to lead them towards the eternal peace and truth with God of His Kingdom and not their own (see on Esther 8:13-16; 9:30 "with words of peace and truth"). And this is the abiding temptation for all believers; to be satisfied with some degree of "peace and truth" emotionally and intellectually in their lives now, but resign the far greater realities of the Kingdom to come when "peace and truth" shall be in eternal reality.

The lesson presented is that it's better not to have more life if during it you will turn away from God. This is a principle with massive implications. Life is to be lived for God, and we are to trust that His plan to get us to His Kingdom is in fact the best. Our struggle with death, illness and the apparent termination of our experience of what we think we should experience... is all subsumed beneath this acceptance.