Then came Isaiah the prophet to king Hezekiah, and said to him, What said these men? and from from where came they to you? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)What said these men?—“Isaiah, with that fearless assumption of a superior position which we have noticed in Isaiah 7, at once challenges the king to explain his conduct. Jehovah’s will is opposed to all coquetting with foreign powers. (Comp. Isaiah 30:1.)” [Cheyne.]
From a far country.—So the Assyrian kings describe Palestine as “a far off land,” using the same adjective (rûqu).2 Kings 20:14-15. Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country — A vain-glorious expression, intimating the great honour which he had from all parts, far and near. Even from Babylon — That potent monarchy; which he mentions to magnify his own honour and happiness. What have they seen in thy house? — He asks, not because he was ignorant of it, but in order that, from Hezekiah’s answer, he might take occasion of delivering God’s message to him.
Babylon now for the first time became revealed to the Jews as an actual power in the world, which might effect them politically. As yet even the prophets had spoken but little of the great southern city; up to this time she had been little more to them than Tyre, or Tarshish, or any other rich and powerful idolatrous city. Henceforth, all this was wholly changed. The prophetic utterance of Isaiah on this occasion 2 Kings 20:16-18 never was, never could be, forgotten. He followed it up with a burst of prophecy Isaiah 40-66, in which Babylon usurps altogether the place of Assyria as Israel's enemy, and the captivity being assumed as a matter of certainty, the hopes of the people are directed onward beyond it to the Return. Other prophets took up the strain and repeated it Habakkuk 1:6-11; Habakkuk 2:5-8; Micah 4:10. Babylon thus became henceforth, in lieu of Assyria, the great object of the nation's fear and hatred.They are come from a far country; a vain-glorious expression, intimating the great honour which he had from all parts, both far and near.
Even from Babylon, that great and potent monarchy; which he speaks to magnify his own honour and happiness. Isaiah 39:1, so here in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions; See Gill on Isaiah 39:1; and by Metasthenes (z) his father is called Merodach, and he Ben Merodach, who reigned twenty one years, and his father fifty two; from hence to the end of 2 Kings 20:12 the same account is given in the same words as in Isaiah 39:1 throughout, except in 2 Kings 20:13, where it is, "hearkened unto them", and there, "glad of them"; heard the letter the ambassadors brought with pleasure; see the notes there. See Gill on Isaiah 39:1 and following. Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. What said these men?] Hezekiah does not answer this question. To tell of the proposals which had been made to him by the Babylonians, and of the remarks which had been called forth in praise of all that he had shewn them, would have provoked some reproach from God’s prophet, who was probably averse to any alliance with foreign and idolatrous powers, knowing that in Jehovah there was present help so long as His people trusted in Him only.
even from Babylon] Except as one of the places whence colonists were brought to occupy Samaria (2 Kings 17:24), Babylon has not before come into Jewish history. Soon it begins to figure largely, especially in the writings of the prophets, and at last becomes the victor of Jerusalem, and the scene of the long captivity of the two tribes.Verse 14. - Then came Isaiah the prophet unto King Hezekiah; and said unto him. When a prophet came, unsummoned, into king's presence, it was usually to rebuke him (comp. 2 Samuel 12:1; 2 Samuel 24:11-13; 1 Kings 13:1, 2; 1 Kings 18:15-18; 1 Kings 21:18-22; 2 Kings 1:15, 16; 2 Chronicles 12:5; 2 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 20:37; 2 Chronicles 25:7, 15, etc.). What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? Isaiah does not ask because he does not know, but to obtain a confession, on which he may base the message that he has to deliver. And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon. Note first, that Hezekiah does not give any answer to the prophet's first question, "What said these men?" being unwilling probably to make known the overtures that he had received from them, since he knows that Isaiah is opposed to any reliance on an "arm of flesh:" and secondly, that he answers the second question, not with shame, but with complacency, "They are come to me from a very far country, whither my fame has reached - even from Babylon are they come, 'the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency' (Isaiah 13:19)." Self-satisfaction shows itself in the answer. He thinks it redounds to his honor that he has been sought out from so great a distance, and by so great a city.
(Note: The account is still more abridged in the text of Isaiah. In 2 Kings 20:4 the precise time of the prayer is omitted; in 2 Kings 20:5 the words, "behold, I will cure thee, on the third day thou shalt go into the house of the Lord;" and in 2 Kings 20:6 the words, "for mine own sake and my servant David's sake." The four 2 Kings 20:8-11, which treat of the miraculous signs, are also very much contracted in Isaiah (Isaiah 38:7 and Isaiah 38:8); and 2 Kings 20:7 and 2 Kings 20:8 of our text are only given at the close of Hezekiah's psalm of praise in that of Isaiah (Isaiah 38:21 and Isaiah 38:22).)
תּאנים דּבלת is a mass consisting of compressed figs, which the ancients were in the habit of applying, according to many testimonies (see Celsii Hierob. ii. p. 373), in the case of plague-boils and abscesses of other kinds, because the fig διαφορεῖ σκληρίας (Dioscor.) and ulcera aperit (Plin.), and which is still used for softening ulcers. שׁחין, an abscess, is never used in connection with plague or plague-boils, but only to denote the abscesses caused by leprosy (Job 2:7-8), and other abscesses of an inflammatory kind (Exodus 9:9.). In the case of Hezekiah it is probably a carbuncle that is intended.
After the allusion to the cure and recovery of Hezekiah, we have an account in 2 Kings 20:8. of the sign by which Isaiah confirmed the promise given to the king of the prolongation of his life. In the order of time the contents of 2 Kings 20:7 follow 2 Kings 20:11, since the prophet in all probability first of all disclosed the divine promise to the king, and then gave him the sign, and after that appointed the remedy and had it applied. At the same time, it is also quite possible that he first of all directed the lump of figs to be laid upon the boil, and then made known to him the divine promise, and guaranteed it by the sign. In this case ויּחי merely anticipates the order of events. The sign which Isaiah gave to the king, at his request, consisted in the miraculous movement of the shadow backward upon the sundial of Ahaz.
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