New European Commentary


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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.        

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.

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).

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-
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.

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.

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.

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
- 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), 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). 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.