Tagged: free commentary

Revelation 8-9: Download the free study

We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John, as well as a firm conviction that in this book are many clear doctrinal truths around which all believers may rally. We still have a long way to go in our study. You can read the commentary to date by clicking here.

Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.

We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.

With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapters 8-9. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3, 4-5, or 6-7, links are provided as well.

Download the pdf: Revelation 8-9

Download the pdf: Revelation 6-7

Download the pdf: Revelation 4-5

Download Introduction to Revelation and chapters 1-3

Isaiah 53: The Suffering Servant

LISTEN: Isaiah 53 – The Suffering Servant – Part 1 (mp3)

READ: Isaiah 53 – The Suffering Servant (pdf)

Prologue

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:

Chapter 53 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.

Key verses:

Isa. 53:5-6 – But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment   for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.  We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

Quick summary:

Isa. 52:13 – 53:12 make up the fourth Servant Song in which the Servant dies in the place of the guilty to satisfy God’s judgment of sin. Warren Wiersbe (Be Comforted, S. Is 52:13) sees this song unfolding in five parts:

  1. Exaltation – the shocking Servant (Isa. 52:13-15)
  2. Humiliation – the sorrowing Servant (Isa. 53:1-3)
  3. Expiation – the smitten Servant (Isa. 53:4-6)
  4. Resignation – the silent Servant (Isa. 53:7-9)
  5. Vindication – the satisfied Servant (Isa. 53:10-12)

Take note:

Many Jews today reject the notion that Isaiah 53 is a Messianic prophecy fulfilled in Jesus. Instead, they say, this chapter is a reference to the nation of Israel, which has suffered great violence throughout history – in Isaiah’s day at the hands of the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, and more recently by the Nazis and the Arab nations that surround modern Israel. But this interpretation is fraught with problems, as Robert B. Hughes and Carl J. Laney explain: “Early Jewish interpretation of this passage understood the ‘servant’ (52:13) to refer to the Messiah. This also was the interpretation by the early church (cf. Acts 8:30–35). Not until the twelfth century was it suggested that the ‘servant’ of Isaiah 53 was the nation of Israel. But the nation of Israel has not suffered innocently (53:9) or willingly (53:7). Nor did Israel’s suffering provide substitutionary atonement (53:5)” (Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, S. 267).

As we will see, this passage is naturally and wonderfully fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Despised and Rejected (Isa. 53:1-3)

The chapter opens with a depiction of the Servant as a nondescript “young plant” shooting up out of “dry ground.” When Jesus appears seven centuries later, He is not the Messiah the Jews are expecting – handsome, charismatic, flush with political and military designs for the oppressed nation of Israel. Rather, He is poor and plain, a Galilean carpenter with seemingly little interest in the Romans, who says His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Although His words and works attract great crowds, His appearance does not distinguish Him from other Jewish men. Further, His religious views are at odds with those of the Jewish leaders, and His refusal to be declared king infuriates the political zealots of His day. He is, indeed, a young sprout in barren soil. Warren Wiersbe summarizes Isaiah’s use of horticultural imagery to describe Jesus: “Messiah is the Branch of the Lord (4:2); the remnant is like the stumps of trees chopped down (6:13); the proud nations will be hewn down like trees, but out of David’s seemingly dead stump, the ‘rod of Jesse’ will come (10:33–11:1). Because Jesus Christ is God, He is the ‘root of David’; but because He is man, He is the ‘offspring of David’ (Rev. 22:16)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 53:1).

So how do the people respond to this unlikely Servant? They treat Him as a common slave. They despise Him, reject Him, put a cheap price on His head, and look the other way when he passes by. The apostle John puts it this way: “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11). This Servant does not value the same things the people of His day – or ours – value: wealth (Luke 16:14), prestige (Luke 14:7-14), self-reliance (Luke 18:9-14), and self-indulgence (Matt. 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-27).

But what does the phrase “a man of suffering who knew what sickness was” mean? While it could refer to a sickly person, or one who experiences much pain and illness, more likely it describes the Great Physician who gives Himself to those who are suffering for the purpose of providing relief. This is how Matthew sees it, quoting from Isa. 53:4 in Matt. 8:16-17: “When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick,  so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.”

Struck Down by God (Isa. 53:4-6)

These verses capture the essence of the sacrificial system and point us to the heart of the gospel: the innocent dying for the guilty for the remission of sins. Just as the blood of spotless animals atone for people’s sins under the Old Covenant, the blood of the sinless Servant, who fulfills the Law, takes away the sin the world (John 1:29). Jesus bears our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), but He also addresses the consequences of Adam’s sin by ministering to people in need. Matthew 8:14-17 applies Isaiah 53:4 to Jesus’ healing ministry, not to His death. Those who apply this passage today and teach that healing from all sickness is a “right” of the believer fail to understand Isaiah’s prophecy and Matthew’s application of it. It is true that the effects of the fall, including illness, will be reversed in our bodies in resurrection and glorification (1 Cor. 15:51-57), as well as in creation in the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13: Rev. 21-22). But until these promises are fulfilled, believers must understand that we continue to live in this present evil age (Gal. 1:4) in a world that groans beneath the weight of sin (Rom. 8:18-22).

All that the Servant suffers is our fault, and for our benefit: He bears our sicknesses, carries our pains, is pierced for our transgressions, is crushed for our iniquities and heals us by His wounds. Yet we regard Him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted (vv. 4-5). Note the graphic depiction of the Servant’s suffering. He is “pierced because of our transgressions.” Nails pierce His hands and feet (Ps. 22:16; Luke 24:39-40), and a spear pierces His side (Zech. 12:10; John 19:31-27; Rev. 1:7). This is not a Jewish form of execution. Isaiah foresees a Roman crucifixion centuries before it is introduced. The Servant also is “crushed,” not physically because not a bone of Jesus is broken, but in His soul and spirit as He who knows no sin becomes sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). He is punished for our peace. The only way a lawbreaker may be at peace with the law is to be innocent or to pay the penalty the law requires. Jesus is innocent, yet pays the penalty for our sins so that we may stand blameless before God (see Rom. 5:1, 8:1). Finally, the Servant heals our wounds. The reference to healing in verse 5 concerns sin, as Peter makes clear (1 Peter 2:24). Sin is sometimes compared to sickness that only God can cure (Isa. 1:4-6; Jer. 30:12; Nahum 3:19).

Isaiah refers to our sin as “transgression” and “iniquity.” Transgression means rebellion against God, deliberately crossing the line He has established. “Iniquity” refers to our sin nature, our natural tendency to live independently of God. In other words, the prophet understands that we are sinners by nature and by choice. In verse 6, he compares us to sheep that are prone to wander. “By nature, we are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:3); and by choice, we become children of disobedience (2:2). Under the Law of Moses, the sheep died for the shepherd; but under grace, the Good Shepherd died for the sheep (John 10:1–18)” (Wiersbe, S. Is 53:4).

Silent as a Lamb (Isa. 53:7-9)

As a slave is silent before his master, even though wrongly accused, the Servant does not speak in His own defense. This is fulfilled beautifully in Jesus, who is silent before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:62–63), the chief priests and elders (27:12), Pilate (27:14; John 19:9) and Herod (Luke 23:9). He holds his tongue while Roman soldiers mock and beat him (1 Peter 2:21–23). This humble endurance intrigues the Ethiopian eunuch as he reads the account in Isaiah (Acts 8:26–40). Is the Servant powerless? Is He somehow deserving of this treatment? Has He nothing to say in His own defense? Couldn’t He argue the unfairness – the illegality – of this judicial charade? What has He done? He has done no violence, nor has He spoken deceitfully (v. 9). So why does He remain silent in the face of this monstrous injustice? Perhaps Jesus answers it best: “Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11). Anything He says in His own defense could lead to the release Pilate is inclined to grant. But escaping the cross negates His very mission. Therefore, His silence secures His death, for which He came into the world. “He was willingly led to death because He knew it would benefit those who would believe” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1108).

The Servant is compared to a lamb, a frequent symbol of the Savior in Scripture. A lamb dies at Passover for the sins of the household (Ex. 12:1-13). The Servant dies for His people, the nation of Israel (v. 8). Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Nearly 30 times in Revelation alone, Jesus is called the Lamb.

A victim of execution on a cross knows his corpse most likely will be left unburied. Yet the Romans release Jesus’ body to Joseph and Nicodemus, who bury Him nearby. There are two key facts to note here. First, the Romans never would have given Joseph Jesus’ body if the Servant were not dead (Mark 15:42-47; John 19:38-42). Second, Joseph, a wealthy man, never would have chosen an execution site for his own burial, especially when he lived so far away. What’s the explanation? The Lord planned it this way and gave us a unique prophecy through Isaiah that is fulfilled magnificently in Christ.

Joyful in Submission (Isa. 53:10-12)

The last three verses of this chapter reveal the cross from God’s perspective. Even though wicked men crucify Jesus, God planned His death long ago for the redemption of mankind (Acts 2:22-23; Rev. 13:8). There is a secret to the Servant’s death that Isaiah reveals: It pleases the Lord. “[T]he Lord was pleased to crush Him,” reads verse 10, and we later learn the Messiah is pleased to be crushed. He comes to do the Father’s will, not His own (John 6:38; Heb. 10:7, 9), and “for the joy that lay before Him” endures the cross (Heb. 12:2). In addition, the Lord makes the Servant sick, meaning He not only bears our sins but partakes in sin’s consequences. This seems unreasonable to the unbeliever, but it is an essential truth that spurs deep gratitude in the hearts of those who trust in Christ.

But even better news than the Servant’s death is that the Lord “will prolong His days” (v. 10), meaning He will be raised from the dead and live forever. Jesus’ words in John 11:25 prove the value of this truth: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” Jesus is obedient to the point of death, and in His obedience defeats Satan and his works, claims the spoils and is highly exalted by the Father (Eph. 1:19-23; Phil. 2:8-10). His obedience also results in a spiritual family: “He will see His seed … My righteous servant will justify many … I will give Him the many as a portion” (vv. 10-12).

There also is satisfaction in these verses. The Servant’s obedience satisfies the heart of the Father. But even more, His sacrificial death satisfies the law of God. Warren Wiersbe explains: “The theological term for this is ‘propitiation’ (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). In pagan religions, the word meant ‘to offer a sacrifice to placate an angry god’; but the Christian meaning is much richer. God is angry at sin because it offends His holiness and violates His holy Law. In His holiness, He must judge sinners; but in His love, He desires to forgive them. God cannot ignore sin or compromise with it, for that would be contrary to His own nature and Law. How did God solve the problem? The Judge took the place of the criminals and met the just demands of His own holy Law! ‘He was numbered with the transgressors’ and even prayed for them (Isa. 53:12; Luke 22:37; 23:33–34). The Law has been satisfied, and God can now graciously forgive all who will receive His Son” (S. Is 53:10).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes: “When men brought bulls and goats as sacrifices for sin they made them offerings, for they had an interest in them, God having put them under the feet of man. But Christ made himself an offering; it was his own act and deed. We could not put him in our stead, but he put himself, and said, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 53:10).

Isaiah 43: Walk Through the Fire

Isaiah 43: Walk Through the Fire (audio file / mp3)

Isaiah 43: Walk Through the Fire (study notes and work sheet / pdf)

Prologue

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:

Chapter 43 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance and the worldwide impact of the coming of Messiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 43:2 – I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and [when you pass] through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.

Quick summary:

Despite Judah’s unfaithfulness, God promises to restore the nation after the Babylonian captivity.  The people are not to fear because the Lord created them, loves them and will carry out His promises to them. Just as God led the Israelites out of Egypt through the Red Sea, He will bring them out of Babylon, across the desert and safely back into their homeland. As a result, the people will witness to the world that He is the one true God and only Savior.

Take note:

The Lord repeatedly rehearses His uniqueness as the only true God. For the Jews, this is both a reminder and a prophetic prompt. The Babylonian captivity will finally cure the people of their idolatry, although it will take a spiritual revival in the last days to fully draw the redeemed of Israel into declaring worldwide the wonder of the Holy One of Israel and the salvation of the Messiah. Note how the Lord describes Himself to the people in this chapter:

  • “I [am] the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior” (v. 3).
  • “I am He. No god was formed before Me, and there will be none after Me” (v. 10).
  • “I, I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior but Me” (v. 11).
  • “I alone declared, saved, and proclaimed … I am God” (v. 12).
  • “I am He [alone] … I act, and who can reverse it?” (v. 13).
  • “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, Your King” (v. 15).
  • “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more” (v. 25).

The Restoration of Israel (Isa. 43:1-7)

“These verses give Israel in eloquent detail the assurance Christ gives to his church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” writes D.A. Carson (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 43:1). Raging waters, scorching fires, brutal enemies and great distances will not prevent the Lord’s people from obtaining their inheritance. For the Jews in Isaiah’s day, this means a return to Israel and a rebuilding of the temple following the Babylonian captivity, and ultimately the coming of the Messiah. For the church, it means an irrevocable citizenship in the kingdom of heaven based on the finished work of Christ and the promise of His glorious return one day. All of this is assured, not because of human righteousness, but because of the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah reminds the Jews of some of the strands that bind them to God: creation, redemption and calling (verse 1); the Lord’s omnipresence (verse 2); love (verse 4); adoption (verse 6); and the honor of His name (verse 7). This unique relationship between God and His people is pictured in the bold image of a human ransom. Nations fall and people are displaced to make way for Israel (verses 3-4, 14). God is not unjust to act this way for all the world’s people have rejected Him and gone their own way. In choosing Israel, the Lord demonstrates His sovereignty and grace. Even more important, whatever the nations lose to Israel is more than compensated in the ransom Israel’s Messiah would pay for the sins of the world, bringing into the kingdom people of every “tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

The Response of Israel (Isa. 43:8-13)

The Lord invites Israel, still spiritually blind and deaf, to stand before the nations as a witness of His uniqueness as the one true and living God. He challenges the nations to present witnesses. Can they point to past prophecies, made by their seers, which came true? Can they predict the

future? Of course not (see Isa. 41:21-23). In contrast, Israel, as God’s chosen servant, takes the stand and testifies that no god was formed before the Holy One of Israel, and there will be none after Him (v. 10). The Lord reminds His people, “‘I, I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior but Me. I alone declared, saved, and proclaimed – and not some foreign god among you. So you are My witnesses’ – the Lord’s declaration – ‘and I am God’” (Isa. 43:11-12). The Lord’s deliverance of Israel shows He is the true God. No one can successfully oppose Him or thwart His plans.

The name “Savior” is one God gives Himself in this passage and Isaiah uses frequently throughout his writings. For example, the Lord is “the God of your salvation” in Isa. 17:10; “God of Israel, Savior” in 45:15; “a righteous God and Savior” in 45:21; “Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” in 60:16; and “your salvation” in 62:11. No foreign god can duplicate His wondrous works. No deity fashioned out of metal, wood or stone is able to save the people God created for His pleasure, purpose and glory.

Twice in this section the Lord calls the citizens of Judah “My witnesses.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “[I]t is in the history of Israel that God has revealed Himself to the world. Frederick the Great asked the Marquis D’Argens, ‘Can you give me one single irrefutable proof of God?’ The Marquis replied, ‘Yes, your majesty, the Jews’” (Be Comforted, S. Is 41:1). Matthew Henry notes that the Lord shows Himself as God by two proofs in this passage: “[1.] He has infinite and infallible knowledge, as is evident from the predictions of his word (v. 12) … [2.] He has an infinite and irresistible power, as is evident from the performances of his providence…. The cause of God is not afraid to stand a fair trial; but it may reasonably be expected that those who cannot justify themselves in their irreligion should submit to the power of the truth and true religion” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 43:8).

The Routing of Babylon (Isa. 43:14-21)

By God’s grace and for Israel’s sake, the Lord promises to destroy Babylon and deliver the Jews from captivity. Even though Assyria is the threat in Isaiah’s day, and Babylon is pursued as an ally, this powerful kingdom to the east will rise up and do to Judah what the Assyrians could not – conquer Jerusalem and destroy the temple. Even so, once God’s use of the Babylonians as His rod of punishment is completed, He will defeat Judah’s foes and bring His people home. This deliverance is the backdrop against which a greater work of God will be accomplished in the sending of Messiah and His redemption on the cross. As D.A. Carson writes, “For its real fulfillment we must look beyond the modest homecomings from Babylon of the sixth and fifth centuries bc, although these are certainly in view, to the exodus which the Son of God accomplished at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31; cf. 1 Cor. 10:4, 11), which alone justifies the language of this and kindred passages” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 43:1).

In verses 16-17, Isaiah alludes to God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian captivity and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. The exodus is a standing illustration of God’s unchanging character toward His people and a reminder to the church today that the Lord is directing human history to its ultimate conclusion in the destruction of His enemies and the deliverance of His people into “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Peter 3:13). The works that God will yet do for His people are so wonderful, they will not remember the sins God already has forgotten or “the past events” such as the defeat of Sennacherib or the return from exile in Babylon (v. 18). The apostle Paul, quoting Isaiah 52 and 64, gives Christians a similar glimpse of the future when he writes, “What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

The Rebellion of Israel (Isa. 43:22-28)

With the temple destroyed and the nation exiled under Babylonian rule, the Jews in the coming days will not be able to offer atoning sacrifices. Nevertheless, their gracious God promises to forgive their mounting sins. “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more,” the Lord says in verse 25. At the same time, the people should not lose sight of why they’re going into captivity in the first place: “Jacob, you have not called on Me … Israel, you have become weary of Me … you have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities” (vv. 22, 24).

Matthew Henry takes note of five sins of omission in this passage. The people have 1) “cast off prayer;” 2) “grown weary of their religion;” 3) “grudged the expense of their devotion;” 4) not honored God with their sacrifices, “and so they were, in effect, as no sacrifices;” and 5) “aggravated their neglect of sacrificing” because God had not made it a burden for them  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 43:22).

Even though the Lord will forgive Judah, He must discipline them. He invites the people to court and urges them to state their case. He then offers His evidence against them. Their “first father” sinned and their “mediators” rebelled against God. The “first father” is Adam (see Hosea 6:7), Abraham, or possibly Jacob. If Adam, then the point is that his sin nature was passed to all people (Rom. 5:12). If Abraham, then even the father of the Jewish race was in need of a Redeemer. If Jacob, then God is reminding the people that even their ancestors were sinful and fallen men. In addition, the “mediators” – the priests and prophets – have rebelled against God and failed to lead the people to live in a manner pleasing to Him. Therefore, God is going to punish the nation at the hands of Babylon.

Closing Thought

God’s chosen people should never presume upon His grace. While we are the recipients of the “richness of His grace” (Eph. 1:7), we also are the receivers of the full weight of His divine discipline when we fail to “walk worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:12). D.A. Carson comments: “Israel’s devastating response to divine ardor is a yawn of apathy. No rebuff could be worse … The final thrust [v. 28] is deadly, for destruction is the Hebrew term herem, reserved for such objects of judgment as Jericho or the Amalekites, with whom no compromise was to be endured. It is the strongest term in the language” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 43:22).

Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 39: Nothing Left

Isaiah 39: Nothing Left (audio)

Isaiah 39: Nothing Left (pdf)

Prologue

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.

Key verse:

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.

Quick summary:

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.

Take note:

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.

Closing Thought

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