In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
Verse 1. - In those days. This is a very vague note of time, and cannot be regarded as determining the position of the events here related with respect to the preceding narrative. Ver. 6, however, shows that a time anterior to Sennacherib's discomfiture is intended; and the same verse also fixes the date to Hezekiah's fourteenth year, which was B.C. 713. If the date in 2 Kings 18:13 be regarded as genuine, we must consider that the illness happened in the year of Sennacherib's first expedition against Palestine; but if we regard that date as interpolated, and accept the Assyrian inscriptions as our chronological authorities, we must place the events of the present chapter twelve years earlier than that expedition, in the reign of Sargon over Assyria, and in the first reign of Merodach-Baladan over Babylon. It belongs, at any rate, to the middle part of Hezekiah's reign, while his treasures were intact (vers. 13-17), and had not been carried off to Nineveh. Was Hezekiah sick unto death; stricken, i.e., by a malady which, in the ordinary course of nature, would have been fatal. And the Prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him. The designation of Isaiah as "the prophet," and" the son of Amoz," as if previously unknown to the reader, indicates the original independency of the narrative, which the writer of Kings probably obtained from a separate source. And said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. The statement was a warning, not a prophecy. It is parallel to that of Jonah to the Ninevites, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,
Verse 2. - Then he turned his face to the wall - i.e., away from those who were standing beside his bed, and might have distracted his attention, to pray with more concentration and earnestness - and prayed unto the Lord, saying (comp. 2 Kings 19:15). It was natural to Hezekiah, in every kind of affliction and distress, to take his trouble direct to God.
I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
Verse 3. - I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart. There is no Pharisaical self-righteousness here. Hezekiah is conscious that he has honestly endeavored to serve God, and to do his will - that, whatever may have been his shortcomings, his heart has been right towards God. He ventures, therefore, on something like expostulation. Why is he to be cut off in the midst of his days, at the age of thirty-nine, when such a wicked king as Uzziah has lived to be sixty-eight (2 Kings 15:2), and Rehoboam to be fifty-eight (1 Kings 14:21)? It is to be remembered that, under the old covenant, length of days was expressly promised to the righteous (Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 9:11; Proverbs 10:27, etc.), and that a shortened life was the proclaimed penalty of wicked-doing (Job 15:32, 33; Job 22:16; Psalm 55:23; Proverbs 10:27). Hezekiah's self-assertion is thus a sort of laying hold of God's promises. And have done that which is flood in thy sight; comp. 2 Kings 18:3-6; and note the similar pleadings of David, "With my whole heart have I sought thee" (Psalm 119:10); "I have remembered thy Name, O Lord, and have kept thy Law. This I had because I kept thy commandments" (Psalm 119:55, 56), and the like. And Hezekiah wept sore. Human nature shrinks from death instinctively, and it requires a very vivid imagination for even the Christian in middle life to feel with St. Paul, that "it is better for him to depart and to be with Christ." The Hebrew of Hezekiah's time had far mere reason to regard death as an evil. His hopes of a life beyond the grave were feeble - his conceptions of the life, if life there were, faint and unattractive. Sheol, like Hades, was a vague, awful, terrible thing. If we consider Hezekiah's words, "The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee" (Isaiah 38:18, 19), we may understand how the Hebrew shrank from the fearful change. And in Hezekiah's case there was a yet further reason for grief Hezekiah had as yet no male offspring (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,'10:2. § 1). Manasseh was as yet unborn (comp. ver. 6 with 2 Kings 21:1). If he died now, his house would be cut off, he would be without posterity - a sore grief to every Hebrew. Ewald's references to Isaiah 38:19 and Isaiah 39:7, as indicative of Hezekiah having sons at the time, are absolutely without value.
And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
Verse 4. - And it same to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court. The narrative in Isaiah 38:4 does not contain this touch, which is very graphic, and indicative of the eye-witness. "The middle court" is probably the second or intermediate court of the royal palace. Isaiah had not gone further than this, when he was arrested in his course by a Divine communication. That the word of the Lord came to him, saying. How the word of the Lord came to the prophets is an inscrutable mystery. Sometimes, no doubt, it came in vision, which to a certain extent we can understand. But how, when the prophet was secularly engaged, as in this instance, walking across a court, he knew that the thought which occurred to him was a Divine message, it is almost impossible to conceive. Still, we cannot doubt that if God determines to communicate his will to man, he must be able, with the message, to impart an absolute certainty of its source, an assured conviction that it is his word, which precludes all question, hesitation, or dubiety. Isaiah, in the middle of his walk, finds his steps arrested, anew injunction laid upon him, with a necessity of immediately obeying it.
Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
Verse 5. - Turn again - or, turn back - "retrace thy steps, and enter once more into the bedchamber of the king" - and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people. An unusual title for the Jewish monarch, but one applied in 1 Samuel 9:16 and 1 Sam 10:1 to Saul, and in 1 Samuel 13:14 and 2 Samuel 5:2 to David. The proper meaning of נָגִיד is "leader" - "one who goes in front." Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father - Hezekiah obtains mercy, both as David's son and as David's imitator (see 2 Kings 18:3) - I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears (comp. Exodus 2:24; Exodus 3:7; Psalm 56:8). There is not a cry, not a groan, not a tear, not a sigh of his faithful ones, to which the heart of God is not open, which does not touch him, move him, draw forth his sympathy. If he does not always grant our prayers, it is because we "ask amiss" - without faith, or without fervor, or things not good for us. Hezekiah's earnest, faithful, and not unwise prayer was, as such prayers always are, effectual. Behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord; i.e. thou shalt be so completely recovered as to be able to quit thy palace and pay thy vows in the courts of the Lord's house. God knows that to do this will be Hezekiah's first wish, as soon as his sickness is past (comp. Isaiah 38:20).
And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
Verse 6. - And I win add unto thy days fifteen years. God "does exceeding abundantly more than we either ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Hezekiah had asked for nothing more than immediate escape from death. God grants him fifteen additional years of life, i.e. more than doubles the length of his reign. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the King of Assyria. If Hezekiah's illness took place in B.C. 713, and Jerusalem was then in danger of being attacked by the Assyrians, the king who threatened the attack must have been Sargon. Sargon made an expedition into Palestine in B.C. 720, another in B.C. 713, and a third in B.C. 711. In none of them does he seem to have invaded Judaea; but in the third he counts the Jews among his enemies ('Eponym Canon,' p. 130, line 32). Hezekiah, who had revolted from him (2 Kings 18:7), may well have felt alarm both in B.C. 713 and 711. And I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake (comp. 2 Kings 19:34). The promise given in B.C. 713 in respect of Sargon was repeated in B.C. 699 (?) with respect to Sennacherib in almost the same words.
And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
Verse 7. - And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. Figs were the usual remedy for boils. Dioscorides says of the fig, διαφορεῖ σκληρίας; Pliny, "Ulcera aperit;" while Jerome, in his-commentary on Isaiah, has the following: "Juxta artem medicorum omnis sanies siccioribus ficis atque contusis in cutis superficiem provocatur." The remedy is said to be still in use among Easterns. It can scarcely be supposed to have cured a malignant bell by its intrinsic force; but under the Divine blessing it was made effectual, and the cure followed. And they took and laid it on the boil. The royal attendants obtained a lump of figs, and applied it to the inflamed boil or carbuncle, as Isaiah had suggested. It is impossible to say what exactly was the nature of the "boil," since diseases change their characters, and every age has its own special disorders; but modern medical science knows of more than one kind of pustular swelling, which, as soon as it is detected, is regarded as fatal. And he recovered. Not suddenly, but by degrees; after the manner of natural remedies. It was three days before he was well enough to quit the palace, and offer thanks in the temple for his miraculous cure (see ver. 5).
And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?
Verse 8. - And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me? Having regard to the weakness of human faith, God, under the old covenant, often gave, or offered, near "signs" of promised blessings that were more remote, in order to sustain and encourage the doubtful and the wavering (comp. Exodus 3:12; 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:11, 14, etc.). Hezekiah assumes that a near "sign" will now he granted to him, and simply asks what the sign is to be. And that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day? Three days would be a long and weary time to wait. It was not unnatural that Hezekiah should crave some more immediate assurance that his prayer was indeed heard. Neither God nor the prophet was angry at his request.
And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?
Verse 9. - And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken. Hezekiah is no more reproved for asking for a sign than was Gideon (Judges 6:37, 39). Ahaz, his father, had been reproved for not asking (Isaiah 7:13). It would be faithless now for Christians to demand signs; but in an age of miracles, when there were prophets upon the earth empowered to give signs, faithful men might request them without incurring God's displeasure. Shall the shadow go forward ten degrees? The Hebrew text will scarcely bear this translation, which, however, seems to be required by Hezekiah's answer. Perhaps for חָלַך we should read הֲחָלך. Or go back ten degrees? literally, in both clauses, ten steps. There are abundant reasons for believing that the early dials consisted of a gnomon set up on the top of a flight of steps, and that time was measured by the number of steps on which the shadow of the gnomon fell (see a paper by Mr. Bosanquet, in the 'Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology' for 1874, pp. 1-82).
And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.
Verse 10. - And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees. Hezekiah views it as a comparatively easy thing for the shadow, which is already descending the steps, to accelerate its pace and rapidly descend fifteen degrees instead of slowly traversing them; and therefore accepts Isaiah's other offer. Nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. Let it, i.e., change its direction, and having descended a certain distance, suddenly return and ascend again. This will be no "light thing," but a great marvel, which will thoroughly convince him. The thought was natural, though perhaps not strictly logical.
And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.
Verse 11. - And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord. Though the sign had been promised, Isaiah regarded his own intercessional prayer as not out of place, and "cried unto the Lord," i.e. prayed with energy, that the king's wish might be accomplished. So, though we have God's promise to care for us, and keep us from want (Matthew 6:25-30), yet we must daily beseech him to "give us this day our daily bread." And he brought the shadow ten degrees backward. How this was done, we are not told, and can therefore only conjecture. The earlier commentators imagined that the revolution of the earth upon its axis was actually reversed for a time; but this idea is now generally rejected. It is clear from 2 Chronicles 32:31 that the phenomenon, whatever may have been its cause, was local, "done in the land" of Judah, and not visible elsewhere. Some moderns have suggested an earthquake affecting the gnomon; some a trick on the part of Isaiah; ethers, and the generality, a very abnormal refraction of the sun's rays. An observed instance of something similar, which took place at Metz, in Lotheringia, in the year 1703, is on record. Two scientists, Professor Seyffarth and Mr. J. W. Bosanquet, think that the phenomenon was due to an eclipse, in which the upper limb of the sun was obscured temporarily. In such a case a slight recession of the shadow would certainly take place; but it would scarcely be such as to attract attention from any one but a scientific observer (Stanley, 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 537). On the whole, the most probable cause would seem to be refraction, which is accepted by Keil, Bahr, and Kay. By which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz; literally, on the steps of Ahaz. Sundials were invented by the Babylonians (Herod., 2:109), and were no doubt in use at Babylon long before the time of Hezekiah. They were of various kinds, and in some of them the gnomon was made to cast its shadow upon steps. There are still two dials in India - one at Benares, known as the Manmandir, and the other at Delhi - where this is the case (see Mr. Bosanquet's paper, already quoted, plate opp. p. 35).
At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.
Verses 12-19. - 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 (see the comment on ver. 6) - that he sent his embassy. He had two excuses for it. A neighboring king might well congratulate his brother monarch on his recovery; and a Chaldean prince might well inquire into an astronomical marvel (2 Chronicles 33:31). The date of the embassy appears to have been B.C. 712, the year following on Hezekiah's illness. Verse 12. - At that time Berodach-Baladan. Isaiah gives the name more correctly as "Merodach-Baladan" (Isaiah 39:1). The native form is Marduk-pal-iddin, i.e. "Mere-dacha son has given." This king makes his first appearance in an inscription of Tiglath-pileser's, where he is one of many chieftains among whom Babylonia is divided. Subsequently he is mentioned as revolting from Sargon in the latter's first year, B.C. 722 ('Records of the Past,' vol. 7. p. 29), and holding the throne of Babylon for twelve years (ibid., p. 41), when Sargon conquered him, deposed him, and took the kingdom (ibid., p. 48). This twelve-years' reign is acknowledged by Ptolemy in his Canon, but the name of the king is given as Mardoc-Empadus. On the death of Sargon, in B.C. 705, Merodach-Baladan again revolted, and reigned for six months, when he was driven out of the country by Sennacherib, B.C. 704. He continued, however, to give trouble even after this ('Records of the Past,' vol. 7. p. 63); and his sons and grandsons were pretenders to the Babylonian throne in the reigns of Esar-haddon and his successor, Asshur-bani-pal (see 'Ancient Monarchias,' vol. 2. pp. 469 and 490). The son of Baladan. In the Assyrian inscriptions Merodach-Baladan is always called "the son of Yakin" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 7. p. 40; vol. 9. p. 13, etc.). Yakin, however, may have been his grandfather, as Nimshi was the grandfather of Jehu, and Baladan (Bel-dash?) his father. 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 hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.
Verse 13. - And Hezekiah hearkened unto them. 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; Isaiah 30:2-7; Isaiah 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. And showed them all the house of his precious things; i.e. his treasury. 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. So Oroetes acted towards Polycrates (Herod., 3:123), and Hannibal towards the Gortynians (Com. Nep., 'Vit. Hannib.,' § 9). It is to be borne in mind that Hezekiah's treasures were, in B.C. 712, still intact, and included all that ample store which he sacrificed to save Jerusalem at the time of the first expedition of Sennacherib (see 2 Kings 18:14-16, and comp. 'Eponym Canon,' p. 135, where we find enumerated among the treasures given up, besides gold and silver, "precious carbuncles, couches of ivory, elevated thrones of ivory, skins of buffaloes, horns of buffaloes, and weapons"). The silver, and the gold, and the spices. Compare the description of the wealth of Solomon (1 Kings 10:25). "Spices" always form an important portion of the treasure of Oriental kings (comp. Herod., 2. 97, sub fin.). And the precious ointment; rather, the precious oil - שֶׂמֶן, not רֹקַח (compare the Septuagint, τὸ ἔλαιον τὸ ἀγαθόν). It is thought (Keil, Bahr) that the valuable balsam oil, which was obtained from the royal gardens, is intended. And all the house of his armor; or, of his vessels; but arms and armor are probably intended. It would be almost as important to show that he had abundant arms in store, as that he had abundant riches. And all that was found in his treasures - a clause implying that there was much more which had not been specified, as precious stones, ivory, ebony, and the like - there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not. This is a manifest hyperbole; but it can scarcely mean less than that he gave orders for them to be shown the collections of arms and stores which existed in his other strongholds besides Jerusalem. Hezekiah, no doubt, had many "store cities," as Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:6) and Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:5-12) had.
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.
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.
And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.
Verse 15. - And he said, What have they seen in thine house? i.e. What hast thou shewed them? Hast thou treated them like ordinary ambassadors, or hast thou gone out of thy way to court an alliance with their master? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them. The reply is open and straightforward. Hezekiah is not ashamed of what he has done, or at any rate, will not, to escape blame, take refuge in lies or concealment. He readily acknowledges that he has shown the ambassadors everything.
And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.
Verse 16. - And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord. This is a phrase of warning very common in the mouth of the prophets, when they are about to deliver a rebuke or solemn condemnation (comp. 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 28:14; Jeremiah 7:2; Jeremiah 9:20; Jeremiah 10:1; Jeremiah 19:3, etc.; Ezekiel 15:35; 34:9; Hosea 4:1; Amos 3:1, etc.).
Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.
Verse 17. - Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon. These treasures of thy royal house, whereof thou art so proud, and which thou hast of thine own accord made known to the Babylonians, to obtain their alliance, will in fact excite their cupidity, and the time will come when they, or what remains of them and represents them, will be carried off as plunder to Babylon by a conquering monarch, who will strip thy palace of its valuables, and drag thy descendants into captivity, and degrade them to the condition of slaves or servants, and make them discharge menial offices about his court. 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 (40 - 66.) the main object of his denunciations. Considering the circumstances of the time, the prophecy is a most extraordinary one. Babylonia was at the time merely one of several kingdoms bordering on Assyria which the Assyrians threatened with destruction. From the time of Tiglath-pileser she had been continually diminishing, while Assyria had been continually increasing, in power. Tiglath-pileser had overrun the country and established himself as king there. Shalmaneser's authority had been uncontested. If just at present a native prince held the throne, it was by a very uncertain tenure, and a few years later Assyria regained complete mastery. No human foresight could possibly have anticipated such a complete reversal of the relative positions of the two countries as was involved in Isaiah's prophecy - a reversal which was only accomplished by the appearance on the scene of a new power, Media, which hitherto had been regarded as of the very slightest account. Nothing shall be left, saith the Lord (comp. 2 Kings 25:13-17 and Jeremiah 52:12-23).
And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
Verse 18. - And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget. Under "sons" are included by the Hebrew idiom all descendants, however remote (Pusey's 'Lectures on Daniel,' pp. 406-409). The princes carried off from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar were Hezekiah's descendants, either in the fourth or the fifth generation. Shall they take away. Among the descendants of Hezekiah taken to Baby]on by Nebuchadnezzar were Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:15), Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7), Daniel (Daniel 1:3), and others. And they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon. Keil and Bahr translate סָרִיסִים in this place by "chamberlains" or "footmen;" but there is no reason why the word should not have its ordinary sense of "eunuchs" (see the Septuagint ἔσονται εὐνοῦχοι, and for the fulfillment, comp. Daniel 1:3-18).
Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?
Verse 19. - Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. Hezekiah accepts the rebuke, thereby acknowledging himself to have been in the wrong, and submits without remonstrance to his punishment. "Good is the word of the Lord" - who "in his wrath has thought upon mercy." The king feels that God might, in justice, have visited him, in his own person, with some immediate affliction or calamity. It is a relief to hear that the blow will not fall during his lifetime. There may be a tinge of selfishness in his acquiescence, but it is not very pronounced, and does not call for any severe animadversion. 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 he said - apparently after a pause, per-Imps turning to his courtiers, whose looks may have expressed astonishment at the words which he had just spoken - Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days? i.e. Am I not right to acquiesce in the sentence and pronounce it "good," if it promises me "peace and truth," or "tranquility and steadfastness"? Ought I not to accept with thankfulness the immediate boon, instead of troubling myself about a remote future? The sentiment is not far removed from that of the well-known lines -
"I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."
And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
Verses 20, 21. - The great works of Hezekiah, and his decease. Hezekiah was known, not only as a pious king, and the king in whose reign the pride of the Assyrians was dashed to the ground, but also as one who, by works of great importance, conferred permanent benefit on Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 32:3-5 and 30; Ecclus. 48:17). The writer feels that he cannot conclude his notice of Hezekiah's reign without some mention of these works. He enters, however, into no description, but, having referred the reader for details to the "book of the chronicles," notes in the briefest possible way the decease of Hezekiah, and the accession of his son and successor. Verse 20. - And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might. Hezekiah's "might" was chiefly shown in the earlier portion of his reign, when he "smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof" (2 Kings 18:8). Against Assyria he was unsuccessful, and must have succumbed, but for the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's host. And how he made a pool; rather, the pool, or the reservoir. The writer of Kings either knows of one pool only in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, or regards one as so superior that it deserves to be called κατ ἐξοχήν, "the pool." Recent discoveries make it highly probable that the "pool" intended is that of Siloam, or, if not the present Siloam reservoir, a larger one, a little below it, now known as Birket el Hamra (see the 'Quarterly Statement' of the Palestine Exploration Fund for April, 1886, p. 88). That there was at least one other pool in Hezekiah's time is evident from Isaiah 22:9, 11. And a conduit; rather, the conduit. If "the pool" is Siloam, "the conduit" must almost certainly be that which was excavated under Ophel for the purpose of conveying the water from the Well of the Virgin in the Kedron valley to the Siloam reservoir on the western side of the spur. This conduit, which is curiously twisted, has a length of 1708 feet, with a height varying from two feet to four or five, and a width of about two feet. The roof is flat, the sides perpendicular, and the floor hollowed into a groove for the more rapid passage of the water. About nineteen feet from the southern extremity, where the channel opens upon the Siloam pool, a niche has been cut in the right-hand wall in the shape of a square tablet, and smoothed to receive an inscription of six lines, the greater part of which has been recovered. The letters are of the old Hebrew or Phoenician type, and by their forms indicate a date "between the eighth and the sixth centuries" (Sayce). The inscription, so far as it is legible, appears to have run as follows: "Behold the tunnel! Now, this is the history of the tunnel. As the excavators were lifting up the pick, each towards the other, and while there were yet three cubits to be broken through... the voice of the one called to his neighbor, for there was an excess (?) of the rock on the right. Then they rose up... they struck on the west of the excavators; the excavators struck, each to meet the other, pick to pick. And the waters flowed from their outlet to the pool for a distance of a thousand cubits; and three-fourths (?) of a cubit was the height of the rock over the head of the excavation here." We learn from it that the workmen began at either end, and tunnelled through the rock until they met in the middle - a result which their previous divergences from the straight line force us to attribute more to good fortune than to engineering science. And brought water into the city. The Well of the Virgin was without, the Pool of Siloam within, the city - the wall of the town being carried across the Tyropoeon valley from the extreme point of Ophel to the opposite hilt (see Nehemiah 3:15). Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? Hezekiah's fame rested very much upon these works, as we see by what is said of him by the son of Sirach (see the comment on vers. 20, 21).
And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.
Verse 21. - And Hezekiah slept with his fathers. The writer of Chronicles adds, "And they buried him in the chiefest," or rather, in the topmost, "of the sepulchers of the sons of David" (2 Chronicles 32:33). The catacomb of David being now full, Hezekiah and his descendants (2 Kings 21:18, 26; 2 Kings 23:30) had to he buried elsewhere. The tomb of Hezekiah was either over the catacomb of David, or on the ascent which led to it. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead. (See 2 Chronicles, 50. s.c; and Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 10:3. § 1.)