2 Chronicles 32:31
However, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon…
I. ITS OCCASION. "In connection with the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon."
1. The senders of this embassy. "The princes of Babylon;" more particularly Berodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:12); or Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39:1) - undoubtedly the correct form, "Merodach has given a son." Three bearers of this name in the cuneiform inscriptions. The first, a king of South Chaldea and son of Jakin, with whom Tiglath-Pileser II. had warlike dealings (O. Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 256); the second, also a son or' Jakin and King of the Chaldeans, whom Sargon defeated, dethroning him and burning his city of Dur-jakin, B.C. 710-9 ('Records,' etc., 7:46-49); and the third, a King of Babylonia, whom Sennacherib overthrew in the vicinity of Kish ('Records,' etc., 1:25; G. Smith, 'Assyrian. Discoveries,' p. 297). The Merodach-Baladan who sent ambassadors to Hezekiah was not the first, unless all three were the same person, but the son and successor of the first (Schrader). The sole question is whether the second and the third were the same, and, if not, which of them it was that despatched envoys to Hezekiah. Sehrader distinguishes the two because the Bible describes Hezekiah's Merodach-Baladan as the son of Baladan; while the monuments designate Sargon's as the son of Jakin ('Die Keilinschriften,' p. 342); but Sayce ('Fresh Light,' p. 135) identifies the two, and explains "the son of Baladan" (2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1) as due to the error of a copyist, like "Berodach" for "Merodach." An absolute decision is meanwhile impossible.
2. The date of the embassy.
(1) The sacred narrative appears to connect it with Hezekiah's sickness, and this again with Sennacherib's invasion (Ewald, Schrader, Delitzsch). But if Hezekiah's sickness occurred after the invasion, the arrival of the ambassadors must have taken place before it, as otherwise he could not have shown them the treasures of the palace which, prior to their coming, had been despoiled to appease Sennacherib.
(2) Hence the opinion has gained ground that, as Hezekiah's sickness must have occurred about the time of Sargon's invasion of Judaea, the mission of Merodach-Baladan must be placed in connection with that event, and that both the sickness and the mission should be dated about B.C. 712-10 (Sayce, Cheyne, Driver).
3. The pretext of this embassy.
(1) Friendship. To congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery from what had seemed a fatal malady (2 Kings 20:12). A proper thing for friends and acquaintances, especially if Christian, to do - to congratulate each other on restored health, provided always such congratulations be sincere, not like these of Joab to Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9), but like those the patriarch of Uz received from his friends (Job 42:11).
(2) Scientific research. To inquire of Hezekiah concerning the wonder that was done in the land (2 Chronicles 32:31). According to the view taken of the date of this embassy, the wonder referred to will be the destruction of Sennacherib's army, or, what is more probable, the miraculous phenomenon connected with the step-clock of Ahaz (Delitzsch, Keil, Stanley). There is, however, no ground for thinking that either of these formed the real reason.
4. The object of this embassy. Political. Perhaps
(1) with an eye to future expeditions, "to investigate a little more closely the condition of the forces of Judah" (Ewald); but also
(2) with a view to present needs, to concert measures against the King of Assyria by forming a league between Babylon and the Palestinian states (Sayce, Rawlinson).
II. ITS NATURE. The discovery to Sargon's (or Sennacherib's) envoys of all the treasures in his palace and in his kingdom (2 Kings 20:13; Isaiah 39:21). A twofold indiscretion.
1. A political blunder. So Isaiah warned Hezekiah. The days would come when these very treasures which Hezekiah had so good-naturedly exhibited to the ambassadors of the Babylonian king, or others in their room, would be carried into Babylon (Isaiah 39:3-8). The prophet saw that "from Babylon especially Judah had nothing good to hope for, inasmuch as that state, though often in dispute with Nineveh, was yet by its peculiar position too closely entwined with Assyria; and it was really only a question whether Nineveh or Babylon should be the seat of universal dominion Accordingly, it flashed like lightning across Isaiah's mind that Babylon, attracted by those very treasures which Hezekiah, not without a certain complacency, had displayed to the ambassadors, might in the future become dangerous to that same kingdom of Judah it was now flattering" (Ewald, 'The History of Israel,' 4:188). "Even political sharp-sightedness might have foreseen that some such disastrous consequences would follow Hezekiah's imprudent course" (Delitzsch on 'Isaiah,' 2:126).
2. A personal transgression. That Hezekiah's indiscreet conduct was the outcome of mingled motives is hardly doubtful. Amongst these were
(1) vanity, or a feeling of inward complacency - in fact, he felt flattered by the attentions of a great Oriental prince like Merodach-Baladan;
(2) pride, or a sense of his own importance, arising from the fact that his military resources - his wealth, weapons, and war-chariots - were so abundant; and
(3) self-sufficiency, which made him set a higher value on himself than on Jehovah as an Ally.
III. ITS CAUSE. "Jehovah left Hezekiah to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart."
1. The fact stated. "Jehovah left Hezekiah."
(1) He did not warn Hezekiah by sending Isaiah to him before the Babylonian ambassadors had arrived at Jerusalem, or before the evil had been done. God is under no obligation to his intelligent creatures, or even regenerate children, to adopt special means to warn them of approaching danger in the shape of temptation, seeing that the faculties they possess, aided by the light of natural and revealed truth, should suffice to apprize them of the imminence of peril.
(2) He did not supernaturally enlighten Hezekiah, either as to the secret designs of the ambassadors or as to the disastrous consequences that should in after-years result from the false step he was about to take. The former Hezekiah should have suspected - Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes; knowledge of the latter was not requisite for determining the course of action which duty prescribed.
(3) He did not exceptionally reinforce Hezekiah in the moment of trial, so as to prevent him from falling. Had Hezekiah sought grace, he would have got it; Jehovah was under no obligation to extend it unasked.
2. The reason given. "That he might know all that was in his [Hezekiah's] heart." The heart the proper seat of religion (Deuteronomy 30:6; 1 Kings 8:58; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19). The character of the heart in every instance known to God (2 Chronicles 6:30; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 7:9: 139. 50:4; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15). Yet this character not always visible to others or even to one's self (Jeremiah 17:9). Hence God is wont, when his wisdom deems it necessary, to withhold reinforcements of grace from the individual, that this discovery - the unsuspected character of the heart - may be thereby brought to the light. So Christ dealt with Peter (Luke 22:31, 32).
1. The danger of flattery.
2. The sin of ostentation.
3. The feebleness of good men when left by God.
4. The necessity of having the heart right in religion.
5. The certainty that God tries all. - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.
WEB: However in [the business of] the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.