Then came Isaiah the prophet to king Hezekiah, and said to him, What said these men? and from where came they to you? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country to me, even from Babylon.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then came Isaiah . . .—The words that follow, like those in Isaiah 7:3, are spoken with the authority at once of age and of a Divine mission, perhaps also of a master speaking to one who had been his pupil. No sooner does the arrival of the embassy from Babylon reach his ear than he goes straight to the king to ask him what it all meant. The king’s answer seems to plead that they came “from a far country” as an excuse. Could he refuse to admit those who had taken so long a journey in his honour? Could intercourse with a land so distant bring any moral or political danger? It was not like the alliance with Egypt, to which Isaiah was so strenuously opposed.Isaiah 7)
What said these men? - What proposition have they made? What is the design of their coming? It is implied in the question that there had been some improper communication from them. To this question Hezekiah returned no answer.
And from whence came they? - It was doubtless known in Jerusalem that ambassadors had come, but it would not be likely to be known from what country they had come.
From a far country - Probably this was said in order to palliate and excuse his conducts, by intimating to the prophet that it was proper to show respectful attention to foreigners, and that he had done nothing more than was demanded by the laws of hospitality and kindness.
far country—implying that he had done nothing more than was proper in showing attention to strangers "from a far country."
and said unto him, what said these men? what was their errand to thee, and their business to thee? what did they communicate to thee, or request of thee?
and from whence came they unto thee? from what country? these questions the prophet put to the king, not as ignorant of the men, and their business, and country, but in order to have everything from the king himself, and to lead on to further conversation with him on these things:
and Hezekiah said, they are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon; he makes no answer to the first question, but at once replies to the second, as being what his heart was lifted up with; that ambassadors should come to him from a very distant country, and from so famous and renowned a place as Babylon; which showed that his name was great in foreign parts, and was in high esteem in distant countries, and even so great a prince as the king of Babylon courted his friendship.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 unto me, even from Babylon.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. The prophet’s appearance on the scene shews that he suspected the king of coquetting with a foreign alliance, although it is remarkable that on neither side is there any explicit allusion to the political aspect of the affair. Perhaps the first evasive answer of Hezekiah betrays a consciousness of wrong-doing.
from a far country] He answers that part of the question which involved least embarrassment. It is hardly likely that he means to hint that an alliance with so distant a country was out of the question; more probably he will excuse himself on the ground of hospitality to strangers who had come so far. It is noticeable that he does not mention the ostensible motive of the embassy.Verse 3. - Then came Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah comes, unsent for, to rebuke the king (comp. 2 Samuel 12:1-12; 2 Samuel 24:11-14; 1 Kings 12:22-24; 1 Kings 13:2-5; 2 Chronicles 12:5-8; 2 Chronicles 16:7-9; 2 Chronicles 19:2, 3, etc.). 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. A similar fearlessness is apparent in Isaiah 7:1-17, where the king with whom Isaiah has to deal was the wicked Ahaz. What said these men? "These men" is contemptuous. The demand to know what they said is almost without parallel. Diplomacy, if it is to be successful, must be secret; and Isaiah can scarcely have been surprised that his searching question received no answer. But he was zealous of God's honour, 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. From whence came they? Isaiah does not ask this question for the sake of information, Doubtless all Jerusalem was agog to see the strange envoys "from a far country," who had now for the first time penetrated to the city of David. All knew whence they had come, and suspected why. Isaiah asks, to force the king to a confession, on which he may base a prophecy and a warning. And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country. Embassies from distant lands to their courts are made a con-slant subject of boasting by the Assyrian monarchs (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 1. pp. 28, 68, 95; vol. 7. pp. 49, 51, etc.). Hezekiah, perhaps, is "lifted up" (2 Chronicles 32:25) by the honour paid him, and intends to impress Isaiah with a sense of his greatness - "The men are come all the way from Babylon to see me!"
"For Hades does not praise Thee; death does not sing praises to Thee:
They that sink into the grave do not hope for Thy truth.
The living, the living, he praises Thee, as I do today;
The father to the children makes known Thy truth.
Jehovah is ready to give me salvation;
Therefore will we play my stringed instruments all the days of my life
In the house of Jehovah."
We have here that comfortless idea of the future state, which is so common in the Psalms (vid., Psalm 6:6; Psalm 30:10; Psalm 88:12-13, cf., Psalm 115:17), and also in the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5, Ecclesiastes 9:10). The foundation of this idea, notwithstanding the mythological dress, is an actual truth (vid., Psychol. p. 409), which the personal faith of the hero of Job endeavours to surmount (Comment. pp. 150-153, and elsewhere), but the decisive removal of which was only to be effected by the progressive history of salvation. The v. is introduced with "for" (kı̄), inasmuch as the gracious act of God is accounted for on the ground that He wished to be still further glorified by His servant whom He delivered. לא, in Isaiah 38:18, is written only once instead of twice, as in Isaiah 23:4. They "sink into the grave," i.e., are not thought of as dying, but as already dead. "Truth" ('ĕmeth) is the sincerity of God, with which He keeps His promises. Isaiah 38:19 reminds us that Manasseh, who was twelve years old when he succeeded his father, was not yet born (cf., Isaiah 39:7). The להושׁיעני יהוה, μέλλει σώζειν με, is the same as in Isaiah 37:26. The change in the number in Isaiah 38:20 may be explained from the fact that the writer thought of himself as the choral leader of his family; ay is a suffix, not a substantive termination (Ewald, 164, p. 427). The impression follows us to the end, that we have cultivated rather than original poetry here. Hezekiah's love to the older sacred literature is well known. He restored the liturgical psalmody (2 Chronicles 29:30). He caused a further collection of proverbs to be made, as a supplement to the older book of Proverbs (Proverbs 25:1). The "men of Hezekiah" resembled the Pisistratian Society, of which Onomacritos was the head.
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