Isaiah 39

 

 

 

 

                        The Embassy of Merodach-Baladan.

 

Soon after his recovery, Hezekiah received an embassy from a new quarter.

Hitherto Babylon and Judaea had been isolated from one another, and had

perhaps scarcely known of each other’s existence. Assyria had stood between

them, and Babylonia had been for the most part an Assyrian dependency. But

recently Babylonia had asserted herself. In B.C. 722, on the death of

Shalmaneser, a native Chaldean named Meredach-Baladan had made

himself king of the country, and maintained his independence against all the

efforts of Sargon to reduce him. His position, however, was precarious,

and it was probably in the hope of concluding an alliance with Hezekiah

also an enemy of Sargon’s  that he sent his embassy. He had two excuses for it.

A neighboring king might wellcongratulate his brother monarch on his recovery;

and a Chaldean prince might well inquire into an astronomical marvel – that is

God’s sign of the sun going back ten degrees related in the previous chapter.

(2 Chronicles 32:31).  The date of the embassy appears to have been B.C. 712,

the year following on Hezekiah’s illness.

 

This chapter is parallel with 2 Kings 20:12-19, and scarcely differs from

it at all -v.1  has the additional words, “and was recovered;” v. 2, the

phrase, “was glad of them,” for “hearkened unto them;” v. 5, “Lord of

hosts,” for “Lord” simply; and v. 8 makes Hezekiah’s last utterance an

observation instead of a question. Otherwise the two accounts are almost

word for word the same. Both relate the novel and important fact of

ambassadors being sent to Hezekiah by the King of Babylon, shortly after

his illness, and tell of the reception which he gave them, of the message

which Isaiah was commissioned to deliver to him from God in

consequence, and of Hezekiah’s acquiescence in the terms of the message

when it was conveyed to him.

 

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vs. 1-2 - The Problem - Hezekiah tempted to vanity/vain glory and to lean

            on the arm of flesh - BabylonGOD HAD JUST DELIVERED

            JUDAH FROM ASSYRIA IN A SPECIAL WAY  - ch. 37:35-38

 

“At that time Merodach-Baladan….. -King of Babylon, sent letters and

a present unto Hezekiah” -  Thus opening diplomatic communication. It has

been almost universally felt that the object of the embassy must have been to

conclude, or at any rate to pave the way for, an alliance. So Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’

10:2. § 2), Ewald, Von Gerlach, Thenius, Keil, Bahr, and others. Assyria

menaced both countries, and the common danger produced naturally a

mutual attraction. But it was prudent to disguise this motive –“for he had

heard that Hezekiah had been sick” - Assyria could not take umbrage at

an embassy of congratulation, nor at one for scientific purposes (2

Chronicles 33:31). So these two objects were paraded.

..

“And Hezekiah was glad of them……and shewed them the house and

all that was found in his treasures” - Hezekiah was dazzled by the prospect

that opened upon him. It was a grand thing that his fame should have reached

so far as Babylon, a still grander thing to be offered such an alliance. It must be

remembered that he and his counselors were inclined from the first to meet

Assyrian menace by calling in foreign aid (2 Kings 18:21-24; Isaiah 20:6; 30:2-7;

36:6). He had not yet accepted the view of Isaiah, that human aid was vain, and

that the only reasonable ground of hope or confidence was, in Jehovah.  Hezekiah did

not do this in mere ostentation, though he may have had a certain pride in exhibiting

his wealth. His main wish, no doubt, was to make known his resources, and show

that he was a valuable ally.

 

v. 3 – 7 - “Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah” -  Isaiah comes,

            unsent for, to rebuke the king (comp. 2 Samuel 12:1-12; 24:11-14; 1 Kings

            12:22-24; 13:2-5; 2 Chronicles 12:5-8; 16:7-9; 19:2, 3). This bold

            attitude was one which prophets were entitled to take by virtue of their

            office, which called upon them to bear testimony, even before kings, and to

            have no respect of persons.  For a deeper look into the Old Testament

            prophets (see Prophets of the Old Testament by H. I. Hester – this web site)

 

Isaiah was zealous of God’s honor, and anxious that Hezekiah should rely on no

arm of flesh,” whether it were Egypt or Babylon. Such dependence would

straiten God’s arm, and prevent him from giving the aid that he was otherwise

prepared to give. The desire of the prophet is to warn the king of the danger

which he runs by coquetting with human helpers.

 

Hezekiah tells Isaiah that they came from a far country "they came to see me"

and glories in it

 

vs. 6-7 - "nothing shall be left..(see Jeremiah 52:12-23)…thy sons shall be

            eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon - See Dan. 1:3 where

            certain “of the king’s seed” are mentioned among the Israelites who

            served as eunuchs in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar.

 

v. 8 - resignation and selfishness of Hezekiah

 

Thomas Paine's illustration either in - The Crisis (see additional thoughts

below)

                           

What wonder that Hezekiah’s heart “was lifted up” (2 Chronicles32:25)?

that he rejoiced, though with a carnal joy, that had no substantial

spiritual basis? Isaiah had warned him against all “arms of flesh.” Isaiah had

bidden him “trust in the Lord Jehovah,” and in Jehovah only. No doubt he

had been especially warned against Egypt; but all the reasons that were

valid against Egypt were valid against Babylon also. Babylon was as

idolatrous as Egypt; Babylon was as licentious as Egypt; Babylon was as

selfish in her aims as Egypt. Hezekiah’s joy was thus a purely carnal joy, a

rejoicing in his own honor, and in the prospect of material aid from a

tainted source. In the midst of his joy the prophet announces himself.

“What said those men?” he sternly asks. “Whence came they? What have

they seen? Ah! they have seen thy treasures, have they? All of them? Thou

thinkest those treasures will make them thy friends. Nay; they will make

them thy bitterest enemies. It will not be forgotten at Babylon that thy

temple and thy treasure-house are worth plundering. The days will come

when all the wealth of thy house, and of the temple, and of the holy city

will be carried off to enrich that city. The days will come when thou wilt

have disgrace from Babylon instead of honor. Thy descendants — they

that have issued from thy loins — will serve the King of Babylon, will be

eunuchs, doing the menial offices in his palace.” In a moment the king’s joy

is gone, and replaced by sorrow. It is with a saddened spirit that he

submits, and acquiesces in his punishment. “Good is the word of the Lord”

 

Hezekiah and the Old Testament saints were not faultless, and are not set before

us as perfect patterns. There is one only “Ensample” given us whose steps we

are to follow in all things and that is Jesus Christ, (I Peter 2:21-24) the Only

Begotten Son of God and our Savior!

 

 

The revelation was now, it would seem, for the first time made that Babylon,

and not Assyria, was the true enemy which Judaea had to fear, the destined foe

who would accomplish all the threats of the prophets from Moses downwards,

who would destroy the holy city and the glorious temple of Solomon, and carry

away the ark of the covenant, and tear the people from their homes, and

bring the kingdom of David to an end, and give Jerusalem over as a prey to

desolation for seventy years. Henceforth it was Babylon and not Assyria

which was feared, Babylon and not Assyria whereto the prophetic gaze of

Isaiah himself was directed, and which became in his later prophecies

(chapters 40-66.) the main object of his denunciations.

.

 

 

 

                                     

 

 

                                      Additional Notes

 

 

The Sunshine of Prosperity a Greater Danger Than the Storms of Adversity.

 

When Sennacherib threatens, when his messengers blaspheme, when the

huge battalions of the most powerful kingdom in the world have entered

his territory and are about to march upon his capital, the Jewish monarch

remains firm; his faith is unshaken; he casts his care upon God, looks to

Him and Him only; believes in Him, trusts in Him, regards prayer as the only

door of safety. Similarly, when disease prostrates him, when a painful and

dangerous malady confines him to his bed, and the prophet, instead of

bringing him words of comfort, is commissioned to bid him “set his house

in order; for he shall die, and not live” (v. 1), his faith fails not, in God is

still his refuge, to God alone he betakes himself, and prays and weeps sore

(vs. 2, 3). The blasts of calamity cannot tear away from him the cloak of

faith; he clutches it the tighter the more the storm rages; nothing will

induce him to let it go. But the danger past, health restored, the admiration

of foreign kings attracted, his car besieged by congratulations and

flatteries, his court visited by envoys from “a far country,” and at once his

grasp relaxes, the thought of God fades from his heart, his faith slips from

him, and he is a mere worldling, bent on winning to himself a seat alliance,

and obtaining the aid of an “arm of flesh ‘ against his enemies. And so it is

and will ever be with most of us. We can bear the world’s frowns, the

buffets of fortune, the cruelty of oppressors, the open attacks of rivals and

enemies; we can resist them, defy them, and still maintain our integrity; but

let the world smile, let fortune favor us, let riches increase, let friends

spring up on all sides, and how few of us can stand the sunshine! How few

of us can remain as close to God as we were before! How few of us but

drop the habits of prayer, of communing with God, of constant reliance

upon him, which were familiar to us in the darker time, and substitute a

mere occasional and perfunctory acknowledgment of his goodness! Alas,

how few! Oh! may our cry, the cry of our heart, ever be, “In all time of our

tribulation, in all time of our wealth... good Lord, deliver us!”

 

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A comment on v. 8:

 

“Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which

thou hast spoken.  He said moreover, For there shall be peace and

truth in my days”

 

 

 

 

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Paine’s The Crisis

 

“I once felt all that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel, against

the mean principles that are held by the Tories: a noted one, who

kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door, with as pretty a child

in his hand, about eight or nine years old, as I ever saw, and after speaking

his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, finished with this unfatherly

expression, "Well! give  me peace in my day." Not a man lives on the

continent but fully believes that a separation must some time or other finally

take place, and a generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble,

let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;" and this single reflection,

well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.

 

 

 

(I cite this to all of us who are “at ease in Zion – (Amos 6:1)– who live it up

and shirk duties and responsibilities while the family and nation goes literally

“to pot”MAY IT NOT BE SAID OF US as of “Ephraim“The children of

Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle”

(Psalm 78:9) - we ought to be in the front of the battle so that our “grand-

children” might be able to enjoy freedom as ourselves.  Our motto should be

“NOT ON OUR WATCH” - Hezekiah was selfish, the tavern owner at Amboy

was selfish and we are selfish.  May God save us from “this untoward

generation” – Acts 2:40 – CY – 2009)