The Babylonian Embassy
2 Kings 20:12-19
At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah…

Berodach-Baladan, or as he is more correctly termed in Isaiah, Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39:1), at this time held possession of the throne of Babylon, and was everywhere casting about for alliances to strengthen him against Assyria. We have here the account of his embassy to Hezekiah.


1. Hezekiah's visitors. In the streets of Jerusalem were seen strange men, in princely robes, with servants bearing costly presents. They were the envoys of the King of Babylon, ostensibly come to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery from sickness, and to inquire into the wonder that had been done in the land (2 Chronicles 32:31). This, however, was, it is probable, only a pretext to cover their real object, which was to establish an offensive and defensive alliance with Hezekiah against Assyria Professions of friendship veiled the designs of a merely selfish policy. Does not much of what is called diplomacy consist of deceit, insincere profession, intrigue, subtle designs, covered by fair appearances?

2. Hezekiah's vanity. Hezekiah seems to have been completely imposed on by the fair words of his visitors. He felt flattered at being singled out for notice by this king of "a far country; and spared no pains to impress the ambassadors with ideas of his own greatness. He showed them all his treasures, all the resources of his kingdom, his silver, his gold, his precious things, everything he had. This love of display, this vain desire to stand well in the estimation of a foreign potentate, this boasting of mere worldly wealth as the distinction of his kingdom, shows a weakness we should not have expected in this good king. No man is perfect. The best character has its side of weakness, and men are singularly apt to be led astray when skilful appeals are made to their vanity.

3. Hezekiah's sin. It was not a mere weakness of human nature that Hezekiah was guilty of when he "hearkened" unto the ambassadors, and showed them all his precious things. It was not for a mere yielding to vanity that Isaiah afterwards so severely rebuked him. His offence was of a graver kind. The ambassadors had come with proposals for an alliance, and in hearkening to them on this subject Hezekiah had really been unfaithful to his position as a theocratic king. He was departing from the example set him by David. As king of the holy nation, it was his duty to keep himself free from entangling worldly alliances, to make God his boast, to rely on him for defense and help, and to resist solicitations to worldly pride and vanity. From this ideal he had fallen. Flattered by the attention of his visitors, deceived by their specious proposals, and led away with the idea of figuring as an important political personage, he consented, or was disposed to consent, to the alliance sought. In displaying his treasures, he was practically placing them before God, as the glory and defense of his kingdom. In reciprocating the friendship of the foreigners, accepting their gifts, and encouraging their advances, he was taking a first step in that direction of forming worldly alliances, which afterwards brought such trouble on the state. It was this policy, indeed, which ultimately led to the Captivity, as already a similar policy had wrought the ruin of Israel. The lessons for the Christian are obvious. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4). It is his duty to avoid worldly display, to guard against being ruled by worldly motives and ambitious, and to avoid ensnaring worldly alliances. He who gives way to these things is laying the foundations of his own spiritual overthrow.


1. The prophet confronts the king. In the theocracy the prophet stood beside the king, to be his friend, guide, and counselor if he did right, and his accusing conscience if he did wrong. Thus Nathan confronted David (2 Samuel 12:1-14), Elijah confronted Ahab (1 Kings 18:17; 1 Kings 21:17-24), Zechariah confronted Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20). Here Isaiah confronts Hezekiah, and calls him to account for his transgression. The king did not seem aware of his wrong-doing, for he answered the prophet's questions with the utmost frankness.

(1) The questions Isaiah asked were searching ones. He made Hezekiah tell out of his own mouth who the men were that had come to him, whence they came, and how he had received them. The object of these interrogations was to make Hezekiah aware of his sin. Many a thing is done, of which we do not at first perceive the criminality, but the sin of which is obvious enough when we have had the deed set objectively before us.

(2) Hezekiah's answers revealed the folly he had committed. In the very stating of what he had done, Hezekiah must have perceived the magnitude of his error. It is God's design in his questioning of us to bring us to conviction. He would have us judge ourselves. It does not follow, that because we are unconscious of sin, therefore we have no sin. The object of Divine discipline is to make us conscious. Every sinner will at the last be convicted out of his own mouth.

2. The prophet predicts the Captivity. If doubt remained in Hezekiah's mind as to his wrong-doing, it was speedily dispelled by Isaiah's stern answer to him. The prophet, without further parley, announced God's punishment for the sin committed. The penalty answered, as so many of God's penalties do, to the nature of the transgression. The messengers had come from Babylon; into Babylon should Hezekiah's sons (descendants) be carried away. He had displayed his treasures; these treasures would be carried to Babylon. He desired union with Babylon; he should have it in a way he did not look for. A prophecy of this nature implied a collapse of the kingdom of Judah as complete as that which had overtaken Israel. Such a collapse was, of course, the product of many causes, most of them already in operation. But not the least potent was the species of worldly policy of which Hezekiah's action was a typical example. As an outstanding and contributory cause, God fixes on it as the point of connection for the prophecy. We must take our share of the responsibility of every event which our actions have contributed to produce.

3. The king's reply. Hezekiah was no doubt shocked and startled by Isaiah's message. The only ray of consolation he derived was in the thought that the predicted evil was not to fall in his days, but in that of his descendants. His language on this point, "Is it not good, if peace and truth shall be in my days?" may seem selfish and even cynical. It is doubtful, however, if there is much room for blame. Hezekiah gathered that a period of respite was granted, and that the fulfillment of the threatening was somewhat remote. He rightly took this as an act of mercy to himself. There are probably few who would not feel relieved to know that, though calamities were to fall upon their land in future days, there would be peace and truth in their own lifetime. With lapse of time, too, opportunity was given for repentance; and who knew but that the sentence of doom might be reversed? - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: At that time Berodach Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah; for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.

Royal Congratulations and National Ostentation
Top of Page
Top of Page