The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 39

Isa 39:1

Isa 39: "Isa 39 concludes the first section of the prophecy. Significantly it contains 39 chs: the same number as the books of the OT. Isa 40 commences the new section, significantly with the voice of John Baptist, the forerunner of the Master. But in Isa 39, Hezekiah typifies the multitudinous Christ, and manifests the same characteristics which are captured in the final chapter of the Old Testament. He finds himself in the environment of sin, is rebuked by the prophet, and finds acceptance in the judgment meted out to him. The chapter has 4 sections: (1) Congratulations from Babylon: v 1. (2) Hezekiah's sad failure: v 2. (3) Isaiah's faithful rebuke: vv 3-7. (4) Hezekiah's humble acceptance of the rebuke, and his acknowledgement of divine righteousness: v 8. What a glorious conclusion to a great and remarkable record! Though he compromised his standing when faced with the diplomatic approach of the Babylonians, Hezekiah makes a free and open confession of sin (v 4). In this he stands as typical of the believers, who ultimately will stand redeemed before the divine Judgment" (GEM).

MERODACH-BALADAN: Lit, "the god Marduk has given a son". He raised Babylon to a position from which it threatened and eventually overthrew Assyrian dominance in the ancient Near East (cp Isa 21:1-10). He was the first king of Babylon, and he led that nation during two periods: c 721-710 BC and c 703-702 BC. In 710 BC Sargon, another Babylonian leader, ousted him, but in 702 BC the Assyrians defeated him. After this defeat, he continued to foment revolt against Assyria in the Fertile Crescent. This seems to have been his motivation for cultivating Hezekiah's friendship by sending letters and a present when he heard of Hezekiah's recovery.

Isa 39:2

HEZEKIAH RECEIVED THE ENVOYS GLADLY AND SHOWED THEM WHAT WAS IN HIS STOREHOUSES -- THE SILVER, THE GOLD, THE SPICES, THE FINE OIL, HIS ENTIRE ARMORY AND EVERYTHING FOUND AMONG HIS TREASURES. THERE WAS NOTHING IN HIS PALACE OR IN ALL HIS KINGDOM THAT HEZEKIAH DID NOT SHOW THEM: Hezekiah received Merodach-baladan warmly since he had expressed sympathy toward him and because the Babylonians shared Judah's antagonism toward Assyria. But showing the Babylonians all of his wealth and military resources went beyond what Hezekiah needed to do for such a friendly visitor. It expressed a desire to share these resources with an ally who might help Judah oppose Assyria. Thus Hezekiah's act demonstrated trust in Babylon and reliance on her for safety.

"Here was a ready-made opportunity for Hezekiah to glorify God before the pagan Babylonians, to tell of his greatness and of his grace. Instead, he succumbed to the temptation to glorify himself and to prove to the Chaldeans that he was a worthy partner for any sort of coalition they might have in mind. There is no indication that they were interested in such an alliance, however. Much more likely they simply wished to encourage someone whom they viewed as a petty kinglet without making any commitment on their part" (Oswalt).

This visit constituted a divine test of Hezekiah's heart. 2Ch 32:31 reads, "And even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land [namely Hezekiah's recovery], God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart."

Isa 39:3

Vv 3,4: God's Spirit and Hezekiah's failure to trust the Lord undoubtedly moved Isaiah to confront Hezekiah. First, the prophet asked about the visit of the Babylonian ambassadors and what Hezekiah had done with them. Hezekiah told the truth and put his actions in the best light, but he did not relate what the envoys had said or explain his motive. He put the best possible light on his actions. Nevertheless he put his own neck in the noose by answering Isaiah's simple questions as he did (cp Gal 6:7).

Isa 39:6

THE TIME WILL SURELY COME WHEN EVERYTHING IN YOUR PALACE, AND ALL THAT YOUR FATHERS HAVE STORED UP UNTIL THIS DAY, WILL BE CARRIED OFF TO BABYLON. NOTHING WILL BE LEFT, SAYS THE LORD: This happened finally in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem (cp 2Ki 24:13; 25:13-15; 2Ch 36:18; Jer 20:5). Isaiah's mention of Babylon as the enemy undoubtedly shocked Hezekiah because at this time Assyria was the great threat to Judah.

This one sin of Hezekiah's did not doom Judah to Babylonian captivity. However, it illustrates the pride that the whole nation and its leaders manifested that ultimately resulted in the captivity.

Isa 39:7

AND SOME OF YOUR DESCENDANTS, YOUR OWN FLESH AND BLOOD WHO WILL BE BORN TO YOU, WILL BE TAKEN AWAY, AND THEY WILL BECOME EUNUCHS IN THE PALACE OF THE KING OF BABYLON: Some of Hezekiah's descendants would also be taken captive to Babylon. (It is very probable that at the time of the events in Isa 36 -- 39 Hezekiah had no children. His son, Manasseh, began reigning when he was 12 years old, and Hezekiah died a year later, in 686 BC. Thus Isaiah's announcement here may have sparked a hope of some descendants in Hezekiah's mind. As usual, God's promise of judgment contained some hope: cp with Psa 127:3-5; Psa 128.) This became true of the king's physical descendants: his son Manasseh (2Ch 33:11), King Jehoiachin (2Ki 24:12), King Zedekiah (2Ki 25:7), and Daniel and companions (Dan 1:3). It also became true of many of Hezekiah's people, his "children" in that sense, when Nebuchadnezzar carried three deportations of Judahites off to Babylon (cp 2Ki 24:12-16; 2Ch 33:11; Dan 1:3,4,6).

Isa 39:8

THE WORD OF THE LORD YOU HAVE SPOKEN IS GOOD: A humble acknowledgment of the preeminence of God's will (cp 2Ch 32:26).

THERE WILL BE PEACE AND SECURITY IN MY LIFETIME: Which, after all, is all that any man can aspire to! For Hezekiah's ardent desire for peace, cp Psa 120:6,7; 122:6,7; 125:5; 128:6.

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