Where we are:
|Part 1: Judgment||Part 2: Historical Interlude||Part 3: Salvation|
|Chapters 1-35||Chapters 36-39||Chapters 40-66|
When this takes place:
It appears the visit from Merodach-baladan of Babylon occurs in 701 B.C., after Hezekiah’s illness and recovery but before the siege of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem.
Isa. 39:6 – “The time will certainly come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left,” says the Lord.
The news of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery has spread as far as distant Babylon, whose king sends congratulatory letters and a gift to Jerusalem, followed by a visit. While on the surface it appears that Merodach-baladan has come to rejoice with Hezekiah over his restored health, the real reason is to learn about Judah’s economic resources, which may be needed to combat the Assyrians. No doubt Hezekiah is exploring an alliance with Babylon as well. But Hezekiah’s disregard of God’s promise to save Jerusalem will prove costly to the king’s family and nation.
This event also is recorded in 2 Kings 20:12-19 and a revealing commentary is placed at the end of a summary of Hezekiah’s wealth and works in 2 Chron. 32:27-31: “When the ambassadors of Babylon’s rulers were sent to him to inquire about the miraculous sign that happened in the land, God left him to test him and discover what was in his heart” (v. 31). The Lord already knows what’s in Hezekiah’s heart, principally pride, but He allows the king to discover this for himself.
Hezekiah’s Folly (Isa. 39:1-8)
In all likelihood there is more than good will on the mind of Merodach-baladan, who is known as Marduk-apal-idinna, the invader. Twice he has tried to shake off the yoke of Assyria, succeeding for a time in taking the city of Babylon. After his second reign, in 703-702 B.C., he is deposed by Assyria’s King Sennacherib and flees to Elam, where he tries to form alliances with other nations to fight against the Assyrians. “Undoubtedly his friendly visit after Hezekiah’s illness was intended to persuade the king of Judah to join the rebel alliance in the fight against Assyria. This made Hezekiah’s indiscretion all the worse in view of Isaiah’s words that God was using Assyria to punish the whole region (chap. 10). The visit was also God’s test of Hezekiah’s heart (2 Chron. 32:31)” (John Fr. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, 1:1090).
Matthew Henry notes that there may have been a noble element to the Babylonian king’s visit besides seeking a military alliance: “It becomes us to give honour to those whom our God puts honour upon. The sun was the Babylonians’ god; and when they understood that it was with a respect to Hezekiah that the sun, to their great surprise, went back ten degrees, on such a day, they thought themselves obliged to do Hezekiah all the honour they could. Will all people thus walk in the name of their God, and shall not we?” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 39:1).
Flattered by his Babylonian visitors, Hezekiah shows them “all his armory” and “everything … in his treasuries.” No doubt the king wants to impress the emissaries, but they are more interested in his ability to support a sustained military uprising against Assyria. When Isaiah gets wind of Hezekiah’s hospitality, he asks the king several questions and discovers that Hezekiah has shown the Babylonians “everything in my palace” (v. 4).
Isaiah’s response is prophetic. First, he tells the king that one day his family’s immense wealth will be carried off to Babylon. This is astounding because the Assyrians, not the Babylonians, are threatening the region. The Babylonians are rebels on the run, and they have experienced numerous defeats at the hands of the Assyrians. Second, Isaiah tells Hezekiah that some of his descendents will be carried away into Babylon as captives and made eunuchs. This is fulfilled beginning in 605 B.C. when Daniel and other Hebrews are taken from Judah and pressed into service in Babylon. Hezekiah is not the lone cause of this judgment, or even a major cause of it, for subsequent rulers, priests and false prophets heaped up the nation’s sins until God could take it no longer (2 Chron. 36:13-16).
Warren W. Wiersbe remarks: “It was certainly a mistake for Hezekiah to show his visitors all his wealth, but pride made him do it. After a time of severe suffering, sometimes it feels so good just to feel good that we get off guard and fail to watch and pray. The king was basking in fame and wealth and apparently neglecting his spiritual life. Hezekiah was safer as a sick man in bed than as a healthy man on the throne. Had he consulted first with Isaiah, the king would have avoided blundering as he did” (Be Comforted, S. Is 39:1). D.A. Carson adds, “The faith of Hezekiah, proof against the heaviest blows, melts at the touch of flattery … and the world claims another victim by its friendship” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 39:1).
The Lord’s punishment will not come in Hezekiah’s lifetime, as it did in the days of King David for his sin of numbering the troops (see 2 Sam. 24:13-15). Hezekiah’s response at first glance seems self centered. “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,” he says in verse 8. “There will be peace and security during my lifetime.” How cold hearted to rejoice in the escape from punishment that will be imposed on future generations. But on closer examination, the king’s reaction is more likely a humble acceptance of God’s decree, as 2 Chron. 32:26 bears out. The king repents and God forgives him. Still, the consequences of his foolish deeds are not removed; the Babylonians will return a century later – not as allies but as conquering foes.
Wiersbe comments: “When Satan cannot defeat us as the ‘roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8–9), he comes as the deceiving serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). What Assyria could not do with weapons, Babylon did with gifts. God permitted the enemy to test Hezekiah so that the proud king might learn what was really in his heart (2 Chron. 32:31)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 39:1).
Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips