Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.2. THE BABYLONISH EMBASSY
1AT that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. 2And Hezekiah was glad of them, and showed them the house of his 1precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his 23armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.
3Then 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. 4Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in 5mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them. Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 7And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be 4eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which 8thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
On Isa 39:1. The text of 2 Kings 20:12 sqq., reads בְּרֹאדַךְ בַּלְאֲדָן instead of מְרֹאדַךְ. According to the monuments the reading of Isaiah appears to be decidedly the correct one. For the name in Assyrian is “Marduk-habal-iddina,” i. e. Merodach gave a (or the) son (SCHRADER, p. 213). The form בראדך seems to have sprung from the attraction of sound of the three following words, which begin with ב. What has been said shows that Merodach-Baladan does not mean “Merodacus Baladani filius,” as our text and 2 Kings seem to understand it. [This imputed misunderstanding seems quite gratuitous in the Author.—TR.]. We have here, also, an evidence of a later writer who was indifferently acquainted with the subject.—On ספרים comp. on 37:14,—Our text differs from 2 Kings 20:12, in reading וישׁמע and ויחזק. Both seem to me traceable to correction. The editor of the text in Isaiah might take offence at the double כִּי, and thus have replaced the first by וְ. But he also stumbled at its only being said 2 Kings: “he had heard that Hezekiah was sick.” For it seemed to him that the wonderful recovery of Hezekiah, and the proof it gave of his being a ruler under the protection of a mighty god, had as much to do with the Babylonian’s sending an embassy.
On Isa 39:2. Here, too, the two texts differ. The וישׁמע of 2 Kings 20:13, is the more difficult reading, compared with which וישׂמח appears an emendation: being the easier and more natural reading.
On Isa 39:3. At the end of the verse our text has אלי after באו, which is wanting in 2 Kings 20:14.
On Isa 39:5. Our text has צבאות at the end, which is wanting 2 Kings 20:16. It may be here the same as in the case of chapּ 37:32, compared with 2 Kings 19:31.
On Isa 39:6. Our text has בבל, 2 Kings 20:17, בבלה.
On Isa 39:7. Our text has יקחו; 2 Kings 20:18 only K’ri has this reading, whereas K’thibh reads יקח. Certainly the latter is the more difficult, and יקחו appears as an emendation. The sing may be taken either as the predicate of an indefinite subject (one) or, more correctly, as seems to me, as predicate of a definite subject, which, however, is present only in idea, viz.: the king of Babylon.
On Isa 39:8. 2 Kings 20:19 has הֲלֹא אם where our text has simply הלא אם does not occur elsewhere. EWALD (§ 324 b), takes it in the sense of “yea, if only.” But that is neither grammatically justified, nor does it give a clear meaning. According to my view of the context (see Exeg. and Crit. below) הלא = nonne. I, therefore, take אִם not as a particle expressive of desire, as many do, but it has its conditional meaning,—“if, in so far as.” The כִּי in the text of Isaiah has essentially the same meaning, as DELITZSCH also has admitted. For it says, that between the sentiments that Hezekiah had betrayed in reference to the ambassadors and his affirmation “good is the word,” etc., there was no contradiction, because, in fact, while he lived peace and fidelity would certainly be undisturbed. At least, our text can be so understood. Whether its author really meant this, is another question. For it were possible, too, that he substituted for the obscure הלא אם the general, indefinite כי perhaps only in its pleonastic sense, that introduces the oratio recta.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. As the text needs no special comment, it may be well for the better understanding of the circumstances involved, to present briefly the chief points of Babylonian history relating to them, according to the data of the Assyrian monuments as far as the latter have been deciphered. Our chapter speaks of two Baladans, viz.: Merodach-Baladan, who sent the embassy and Baladan his father. Yet there appears in this a misunderstanding. According to the Assyrian monuments (comp. LENORMANT,les premieres civilizations, Paris, 1874, Tom. II, in the essay “un patriote babylonien,” p. 210) our Merodach-Baladan was a son of Jakin. Comp. also the ostentatious inscription of Tiglath-Pileser mentioned above at 21:1, which states that he received the homage of “Merodach-Baladan, son of Jakin, king of the sea, in the city of Sapiga.” We remarked above at 21:1, that by tihamtu (תְּהוֹם, “sea, sea-land”) is to be understood south Chaldea, the watery region at the mouth of the united rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Merodach-Baladan, when he did homage to Tiglath-Pileser, was king of Bit-Jakin (such was the name of the residence and of the small territory of his father), and so remained till the year 721. In the year 721, when Sargon ascended the throne, this energetic man, who was an enthusiast for the independence of Babylon, succeeded in mounting the throne of all Chaldea in Babylon. The canon of Ptolemy names Mardocempad, under this year as king of Babylon, a name that is universally regarded as identical with Merodach-Baladan. Sargon states, that in the first complete year of his reign (i. e., in the year 721), after having in the year 722 completed the conquest of Samaria, he marched against Merodach-Baladan. But his undertaking was not successful. For Merodach-Baladan maintained himself, and reigned, according to the Canon, yet twelve years as acknowledged king of Babylon. Not till the year 710 did Sargon again take the field against him. The struggle extended into the year 709, ending in the dethronement of Merodach-Baladan (see the interesting description of this campaign in LENORMANT,l. c. p. 243 sqq.). In this year Sargon himself mounted the throne of Babylon. The Canon, from the year 709 onwards, names Ἀρκέανος, i. e, Sarrukin or Sargon, as king of Babylon. But the courage of Merodach-Baladan was not yet broken. He fled back into his own hereditary land Bit-Jakin, a narrow strip of land on the Persian gulf, extending from Schat-el-arab to Elam. Sargon marched against him again and stormed first the strongly fortified position where Merodach-Baladan awaited him, then the city Dur-Jakin, his opponent’s last refuge on the mainland. Merodach-Baladan escaped with great difficulty. But still he did not submit. Sargon was compelled, in the beginning of the year 705, to send his son Sennacherib against the obstinate rebel. But not long after, Sennacherib received in camp the intelligence of the murder of his father by a certain Belkaspai, probably a patriotic Chaldean and adherent of Merodach-Baladan’s.
Then there followed a period of two or three years, filled up with the strifes of various pretenders to the crown, and hence designated by the Canon as καιρὸς ἀβισίλευτος. Thus it appears by the account of POLYHISTOR in EUSEBIUS (chron. armen. ed.MAI, p. 19), that after Sargon’s death, his son and a brother of Sennacherib ascended the Babylonian throne. But after a short term this one was obliged to give place to a certain Hagisa, who, after not thirty days’ reign, was killed by Merodach-Baladan. That this was our Merodach-Baladan can scarcely be doubted. The implacable enemy of the Assyrians boldly raised his head anew. Sennacherib marched against him and conquered him at Kis, a city that Nebuchadnezzar afterwards incorporated in the city territory of Babylon by means of his great wall. Sennacherib gave the throne of Babylon to a certain Belibus or Elibus, the son of a “wise man,” whom, says the king, “they had brought up in the company of the small boys in my palace.” Hence this Belibus was not an independent pretender, as would seem according to POLYHISTOR, but a subordinate king recognized by Sennacherib after the expulsion of Merodach-Baladan. According to the Canon of regents (SCHRADER, p. 319), this expedition against Merodach-Baladan fell in the year 704 B. C. In the year 700 Sennacherib accomplished his unfortunate expedition against Judah and Egypt, according to the entirely credible testimony of the Assyrian monuments. The news of his defeat appears to have been the signal for a new insurrection to the Chaldean patriots. For in the following year (699), according to the Taylor-cylinder (SCHRADER, p. 224), we find Sennacherib on the march against the rebellious Babylonians. Merodach-Baladan had allied himself with a young prince Suzub, son of Gatul, of the race of Kalban, and Belibus found it best to enter into negotiations with these opponents. For this, according to BEROSUS, he was deposed and carried prisoner to Assyria. Sennacherib first attacked Suzub, whose troops were defeated; he himself escaped. Then Sennacherib turned against Merodach-Baladan, who gave way before the threatening danger. He fled by ship to the city Nagit-Raggi, situated on an island in the Persian gulf. The territory of Bit-Jakin was desolated. Sennacherib made his son Esar-Haddon king of Akkad and Sumir, i. e., Babylon (699). After that were eleven years of quiet. During this period, Merodach-Baladan, whom the king of Elam, Kudhir-Nakhunta, had made lord of a strip of the coast, had moved the discontented elements of Babylon and Chaldea to emigrate in mass into his land. This led Sennacherib to build a fleet in Nineveh (they were called “Syrian ships” because Phœnician seamen manned them), with which he attacked the island and the coast possessed by Merodach-Baladan, and entirely devastated them (see the remarks on 43:14). At this point Merodach-Baladan disappears from history. It is related that the in fluential Babylonians then forsook him. On the other hand, they moved the king of Elam to send that Suzub to Babylon. Suzub, indeed, ascended the throne of Babylon. Their purpose was to cut Sennacherib from his own land. But the latter returned in time and defeated his opponents in two battles. He took Suzub prisoner, but spared his life. This happened in the year 687. But in the following year Suzub escaped from prison, was again proclaimed king in Babylon, and, in alliance with Umman-Menan, king of Elam, the successor of Kudhir-Nakhunta, and with Nabusnmiskim, the eldest son of Merodach-Baladan, he opposed a considerable army to Sennacherib at Kalul on the Tigris. Sennacherib conquered again, and still again in another battle, by which he utterly destroyed the power of his opponents. He then resolved utterly to destroy Babylon: and this resolve was actually executed (685). Yet only four years after, the city was rebuilt. Sennacherib died 681, and his son and successor determined to put an end to the everlasting strife with the Babylonians by an opposite policy. He raised Babylon to equal rank with Nineveh, and made it his residence.
The eldest son of Merodach-Baladan, Nabusu-miskun, was taken prisoner at the battle of Kalul and beheaded by Sennacherib. His brother next of age to him, Nabozirnapsatiasir, reigned after him in the land Bit-Jakin. A third brother, Nahib-Marduk, submitted to the Assyrians on the condition that he be put in possession of the land Bit-Jakin. Esar-Haddon, in the year 676, actually invaded the land and conquered it. Probably Nabozirnapsatiasir then lost his life (LENORMANT, l. c., p. 303). Nahir-Marduk’s son, Nabobelsum, returned to the sentiments of his grandfather. He took part in the insurrection made by Samulsumukin, the second son of Esar-Haddon and viceroy of Babylon, against his elder brother Asurbanipal, great king of Assyria (651). Asurbanipal conquered. Samulsumukin burned himself in his palace in Babylon (648). After many negotiations, and finally after an expedition that devastated the whole land of Elam, the king of Elam, Ummanaldas, was obliged to promise that he would surrender Nabobelsum. The latter procured his death at the hands of a master of the horse. Asurbanipal, when the head of the corpse was sent to him, had it preserved in salt. A small bas-relief, found in the palace of Kujundschik, displays Asurbanipal banqueting in a garden with his wives, and the head of Nabobelsum hanging before him on a tree. Only thirty-five years later Nineveh was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and Cyaxares (605)!
According to our chapter, the embassy of Merodach-Baladan to Hezekiah fell in the time when the former reigned undisputed king of Babylon. As shown above, this was a period of twelve years, reaching from 721–709. It must not be supposed that Merodach-Baladan would not have sought the friendship of Hezekiah had he not heard of his victory over Sennacherib. An inscription of Sargon’s (Lenormant, l. c., 231) says of Merodach-Baladan: “For twelve years had he sent embassies contrary to the will of the gods of Babylon, the city of Bel, the judge of the gods.” These twelve years are manifestly the twelve years of Merodach-Baladan’s undisputed reign. During this period the latter had sought allies for the event of war breaking out again. Is it to be wondered if, under these circumstances, he should send such an embassy to Hezekiah? According to 2 Chron. 32:31, the messenger came from Babylon to Hezekiah “to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land.” The context shows that Hezekiah’s miraculous recovery and the miracle of the sun-dial are meant. It is, therefore, probable that the report of this miracle penetrated to distant lands. If it came to astrological Babylon, what wonder if the king of this city had his attention drawn to the king of Judea, especially as it was known of this people that more than once they had been an opponent or an ally of the Assyrians that was not to be despised.
2. At that time—shewed them not.
Isa 39:1, 2, The author would say that Hezekiah gave ear to the words of those ambassadors (see Text. and Gram.). Probably there is in this an intimation that they already made propositions of a political nature not displeasing to Hezekiah. And as he was pleased to hear what they said, so he wished them to see the things that gave him joy. There appears to me, therefore, in this antithesis of hearing and showing, to be a hint of Hezekiah’s sin. נכת is an obscure word both as to derivation and meaning. In Gen. 37:25; 43:11נְכאֹת either means spices in general, or, which is more likely, a particular sort of spice (storax—or tragacanth gum. Comp. LEYRER in HERZOG’SReal-Eycyclop. XIV p. 664). Many expositors are disposed to recognize in our נכתה (K’ri, 2 Kings 20:13, נכתו) the same word, and to understand by בית נ׳ a spice magazine; on which LEYRER, l. c., remarks that this would imply a great monopoly carried on by the kings of Judah in this particular. Others generalize the meaning and regard “spicery house” as a denominatio a potiori for “provision house” in general. Others, finally, derive נְכוֹת, not from נָכָא (“to beat, pound,” hence נכאת, “that which is pounded in a mortar”), but from a root כּוּת, not used in Hebrew, but which is kindred to כִּוּם, “to gather, preserve,” and in Arabic means (Pi. kajjata) “to cram, stuff full.” Of this נכת would be a Niphal form (30:12), and mean “provision, treasure.” Thus HITZIG, KNOBEL, FUERST (Lex. under כּוּם and כּוּת), DELITZSCH (comp. EWALD, Gesch. d. V. Isr. III. p. 690, Anm. 1). The items that follow, in which, beside gold, silver and spiceries (בשׂמים, the most general expression for aromatic substances, comp. LEYRER, L. c., p. 661) are particularly named, of course correspond best with a word of such general significance as “provision.” Still the subject is not satisfactorily cleared up. On “the precious ointment,” MOVERS (who translates בית נכת “styrax house”) makes the following remark: “Here Jewish expositors, no doubt on the best grounds, understand the balsam oil got from the royal gardens, comp. 2 Chron. 32:27. Olive oil, that was obtained in all Judea, was not stored in the treasuries along with gold, silver and aromatics, but in special store-houses, 2 Chron. 32:28” (Phön. II. 3, p. 227 Anm.). בית כלים is likely “the arsenal,” as כלים often signifies all sorts of war implements, and the arsenal doubtless was of prime importance to those ambassadors. In this case כלים is identical with the בית היער of 22:8. It appears that Hezekiah in this display observed a climax descendens, beginning with the precious articles of luxury and ending with the things of practical need. אוצרות (probably the store-houses like e. g. Joel 1:17; 2 Chron. 11, etc.) to contain stores in case of siege. It is to be noted that had this embassy come after the over throw of Sennacherib, Hezekiah would verilv have had nothing to show “in his dominion” outside of Jerusalem. For the whole land outside of the capital had been in the power of the enemy, who would have left little worth seeing. “His store-house, the spiceries, the fine oil,” do not intimate specially war-booty. Moreover it would then need to read: Hezekiah showed them the spoil he had taken from the Assyrians. Comp. on Isa 39:6.
3. Then came Isaiah—my days.
Isa 39:3-8. Apart from the internal probability of it, one may conclude from יבאו that Isaiah came to the king with the inquiry of Isa 39:3 while the ambassadors were still in Jerusalem. For this Imperfect can only have the meaning that the coming was in a certain sense still an incompleted transaction, although the king had then shown them every thing (Isa 39:4). The Prophet regarded them as advenas, arrivals, and that is a quality they have as long as they are in Jerusalem (comp. 37:34 with 2 Kings 19:33; Josh. 9:8 with Gen. 42:7). But it also seems very probable to me that the Prophet addressed his inquiries to the king in the presence of the ambassadors, and that “these men” is to be understood δεικτικῶς. This suits entirely the free and exalted position that the prophets assumed as the immediate messengers and instruments of Jehovah, even toward the kings themselves. Comp. on 7:14. If thereby those ambassadors enjoyed the opportunity of observing for once a genuine prophet of the true God in the exercise of his office, and if thereby the true God Himself drew near to them, it was one of those revelations of His being such as the LORD at times vouchsafed to the heathen, e. g., Moses before Pharaoh, Balaam before Balak, Elisha before Naaman, Daniel before the kings of Babylon. To the question what said these men? Hezekiah gives no answer, and Isaiah presses it no further. Their very presence there and the reception they found were adequate proof that Hezekiah allowed himself to treat with them, that once again, as he had done by the Egyptian alliance (27–32), he had extended to the world-power at least the little finger. That, in his answer, he lays stress on the far country, betrays an attempt to excuse himself. One cannot show men the door who come from a distance to show one honor and friendship. And Hezekiah ought not to do that. Neither ought he to indulge in vain boasting nor to seek false supports. O, had he only known how ill-timed both were in the case of Babylon! He would surely, without violating the duties of hospitality, have, yet avoided with anxious care every approach to more intimate relations. That he adds the name Babylon so briefly to the preceding “they are come from a far country unto me” seems to betray a certain embarrassment, a presentiment of having committed a fault. [See remarks of TR. below.]
We stand here on a boundary of immeasurable importance. Assyria is done away, but Babylon rises aloft. Ahaz had formally introduced Assyria by seeking its help. Here Babylon offers itself. With cat-like friendliness it creeps up. Hezekiah ought to have maintained an attitude of polite refusal. His vanity betrayed him into boasting and coquetting. Still by just this he yielded himself to the world-power. The Theocracy was later, under Zedekiah, ground to pieces between. Egypt and Babylon. Only by leaning solely and wholly on the LORD could it maintain itself between the southern and the northern world-power, between the Nile kingdom on the one hand, and the Euphrates-Tigris kingdom on the other. Hezekiah had unfortunately indulged in intimacies both with Egypt and with Babylon. The necessary consequence was that the Theocracy succumbed to the mightier of these. Hence it is announced to him that the precious things, of which he had made a boastful display, must go to Babylon, yea, that the posterity that was to issue from him who as yet was childless, would once do chamberlain service in the palace of the kings of Babylon. With this the Prophet points to a new and fatal future. Here, between the first and second parts of Isaiah, we stand on the bridge between Nineveh and Babylon. For what Nineveh was for the first part of Isaiah, Babylon is for the second.
Let it be particularly noted that Isaiah says: that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day (Isa 39:6). Had Hezekiah’s treasures been emptied by the event narrated 2 Kings 18:14 sqq., the Prophet could not have spoken so. For then what the fathers had gathered came into the hands of Sennacherib; and whether, after the defeat of the latter, all was found again, one must doubt very much. Sennacherib, who knew that he would not be pursued, could take all the spoils with him. Therefore the expression: “what thy fathers have laid up shall be carried captive to Babylon” favors the view that Hezekiah showed the ambassadors the gatherings of his fathers, that therefore this embassy did not come after the defeat of Sennacherib. [If the foregoing has any force, it would equally prove that the Babylonish captivity must have preceded the invasion of Sennacherib, “for then, after the latter event, what the fathers had gathered cams into the hands of Sennacherib,” etc., as just above.—TR.]
That סָרִים is not simply the “eunuch” appears from Gen. 37:36; 39:1. The word often stands for court officer, chamberlain generally (1 Ki. 22:9; 2 Ki. 8:6; 9:32; 25:19, etc.). It is clear that בניך must not be understood of direct generation, and that is agreeable to usage. Hezekiah’s son Manasseh went, indeed, as prisoner to Babylon (2 Chron. 33:11), but he did not act as chamberlain. Yet the prophecy was fulfilled by what is related Dan. 1:3.
Hezekiah humbly submits himself to the declaration of the LORD. The expression Good is the word,etc. involves in general the sense of approval and acquiescence (comp. 1 Kings 18:24), especially that of submission under a severe judgment, but one that is recognized as just (comp. 1 Kings 2:38, 42). For the meaning of כִּי(הלא אם, 2 Kings 20:19), see Text. and Gram. I fall back on the conjecture given above, that the ambassadors were present at this interview. If one then considers that the prophecy of Isa 39:6, 7 presupposes war between Babylon and Judah, and that this poorly corresponds with the assurances of friendship just interchanged between Hezekiah and the ambassadors, he can see that the word of the Prophet would embarrass these parties. It would the king, because it must seem strange that he, at the moment when an honorable embassy had brought him offers of peace and friendship, should call the announcement of the termination of the friendship (though it should turn to his disadvantage) a “good word.” It might appear as if he, Hezekiah, were a weather-cock, an unreliable man, who in turning about knew how to transform himself from a friend into an enemy. To ward off this evil appearance from himself, Hezekiah speaks these words, which are primarily, addressed to the ambassadors. He would say: is it not self-evident that I call the prophetic word good only on the assumption that peace and truth shall continue while I live? By this construction disappears also the objection that has been made to Hezekiah, as if he betrayed by this expression a sentiment like that depraved motto: “apres moi le deluge.”
It may be seen from 1 Kings 21:27 sqq. that the LORD lets Himself be moved by a penitent mind to postpone punishment beyond the lifetime of the man whom it primarily threatens.—שׁלום ואמת occurs again Jer. 33:6; comp. 14:13; Esther 9:30. It means here, manifestly, peace and faithfulness in the sense of political peaceableness and fidelity to alliances.5
Heb. vessels or, instruments.
 [In his conjectural interpretation of Hezekiah’s conduct and its relation to Isaiah’s prophecy the Author has only built on a foundation dating back to the earliest traditionary exposition. And the building, one must admit, agrees with the foundation. He has only built further than others, but in the same style. Yet, when so much is built, and of such a sort, one is constrained to look at the foundation to see if such a structure is justified. The Author admits that he resorts to conjecture; his confidence is in the natural reasonableness of it. But his work may be challenged down to the very foundation as, not only without warrant in Scripture, but actually against Scripture. See BAEHR, on 2 Kings 20 p. 211. And if this appear to be so, then the judgment of expositors against Hezekiah, though it be the judgment of ages, must be reversed.]
The only Scripture that can seem to give positive support to the (so commonly accepted) injurious view of Hezekiah’s conduct in the case before us is 2 Chr. 32:25, 31. Isa 39:31 clearly relates to the transactions of our text. But Isa 39:25 as clearly does not, and must not be brought in to shed light on them. It is in the context separated from them by the statement of Isa 39:26, viz.: that “Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.” What follows this verse is but descriptive proof of the last statement in it, and included in this proof is Isa 39:31. See the comm. of DR. O. ZOECKLER in the LANGE, B. W. in loc. p. 27. The rendering of the Eng. Ver. “Howbeit” for וכן Isa 39:31 is forced, and that by the pressure of the very opinion here combated. It means “And so” or “in this manner.” The particle introduces the additional statement of the trial Hezekiah underwent, and refers to the prosperity just described as having providentially led to it. Ver.31 does not imply reproach of Hezekiah or anything contrary to what may be included under the statement of Isa 39:26. עזבו, God “left him,” does not. For it remains to be determined to what he left him. The context must supply this, and we must not understand simply divine desertion in general, especially as that conflicts with all the recorded facts. The verse itself only supplies the event of the Babylonian embassy, and we may include of course Isaiah’s interpretation of it. To that the LORD left Hezekiah. Comp. 2 Chr. 12:5 “and therefore I have left (עזבתי) you in the hand of Shishak.” It is gratuitous to infer that God left Hezekiah to the workings of his own heart, It is equally so to infer that, because God so left Hezekiah, therefore Hezekiah must first have left God, as in the case just cited. Without leaving God or his own humility (Isa 39:26) Hezekiah might be thus left of God to this extraordinary providence. Comp. Ps. 22:1 with Matt. 27:46. לנסותו וגו׳ “to try him,” etc., does not imply reproach any more than the trial of Abraham Gen. 22:1. The sentiment of these words and even the very words are drawn from Deut. 8:2, 16. As an obvious quotation from the most familiar part of the Law, the only proper completion of their sentiment must be found in the completion of the quotation. That must be; “to know what was in his heart to know whether he would keep his (God’s) commandment or not.” The records of Isa. 39:8, and 2 Kings 20:19 furnish the only documentary information of what was revealed by this trial to be in Hezekiah’s heart. It was nothing but resignation and acquiescence in the will of God, the only form of obedience and keeping God’s commandment that the case admitted. It is, therefore, not only gratuitous to infer that the trial revealed the sinful vanity of Hezekiah’s heart, it is contrary to the very record. That he showed his treasures is thought to be evidence of such vanity. But this is only prejudice growing out of the very assumptions now combated. Why should this hospitality be so bad in Hezekiah, when that of Solomon to the queen of Sheba, substantially the same, is mentioned only with approval, and is even elevated to typical importance?
As for the rest of Hezekiah’s answer Isa. 39:8 b; 2 Kings 20:19 b, “Good is the word of the LORD,” etc., it may be interpreted best in the light of Deut. 8:16. A promise of good is given there for the latter days of those that stand the proof of God’s trials and keep His commandments. Hezekiah had the consciousness of such integrity (Isa. 38:3), he therefore gratefully rested in the expectation of such good for his latter days; in which he was also justified by the terms of Isaiah’s prophecy, if not by some more explicit announcement (2 Chr. 32:26).
The event of the Babylonian embassy, as it appears in our book, must be viewed as subservient to the ends of prophecy. It is told for the sake of the prophecy in Isa 39:5–7. Our Author himself well remarks (at the beginning of the introduction to chapters 36–39), that our chapters “show how ‘from afar’ (מרהוק) was begun the spinning of the first threads of that web of complications, that were at last so fatal.” The event of the embassy was providentially ordered for prophetic purposes. It may be compared to such events as Melchizedec, Esau selling his birth-right, the queen of Sheba’s visit, the birth of Maher-shal-al, the wise men of the east at the crib of Christ, the inquiring Greeks, Jno. 12:20–24. The questions of Isaiah, and the replies of Hezekiah as recorded, bring out precisely the traits needed for the prophecy about to be made. The “from a far country” was a providentially indited expression, like that of Caiaphas Jno. 11:49, sqq. Previous prophecy, likely familiar to Hezekiah, had made known that a visitation of wrath was coming on Judah “from far” 10:3, 30:27. Now this event strangely brings to Jerusalem and its king representatives of the very people that were to be the instruments of this wrath, and the Prophet appears, and identifies them and their destiny. And from this onward the Babylonians become more distinctly the theme of prophecy. Hezekiah submits, not like one receiving a well merited rebuke, but like Moses when the people were turned back from Kadesh-Barnea. All that the Author says about negotiations looking to alliance between Hezekiah and Babylon, does not pretend to be more than shrewd conjecture. As it does not find one word of corroboration in the Scripture, it would be well to make little or no account of it. Comp. the Author’s conjectures on 7:10–16, and the additions by TR. That follow—TR.]