Isaiah 39:1-8 . HEZEKIAH'S ERROR IN THE DISPLAY OF HIS RICHES TO THE BABYLONIAN AMBASSADOR.
1. Merodach-baladan--For a hundred fifty years before the overthrow of Nineveh by Cyaxares the Mede, a succession of rulers, mostly viceroys of Assyria, ruled Babylon, from the time of Nabonassar, 747 B.C. That date is called "the Era of Nabonassar." Pul or Phallukha was then expelled, and a new dynasty set up at Nineveh, under Tiglath-pileser. Semiramis, Pul's wife, then retired to Babylon, with Nabonassar, her son, whose advent to the throne of Babylon, after the overthrow of the old line at Nineveh, marked a new era. Sometimes the viceroys of Babylon made themselves, for a time, independent of Assyria; thus Merodach-baladan at this time did so, encouraged by the Assyrian disaster in the Jewish campaign. He had done so before, and was defeated in the first year of Sennacherib's reign, as is recorded in cuneiform characters in that monarchs palace of Koyunjik. Nabopolassar was the first who established, permanently, his independence; his son, Nebuchadnezzar, raised Babylon to the position which Nineveh once occupied; but from the want of stone near the Lower Euphrates, the buildings of Babylon, formed of sun-dried brick, have not stood the wear of ages as Nineveh has.
Merodach--an idol, the same as the god of war and planet Mars ( Jeremiah 50:2 ). Often kings took their names from their gods, as if peculiarly under their tutelage. So Belshazzar from Bel.
Baladan--means "Bel is his lord." The chronicle of EUSEBIUS contains a fragment of BEROSUS, stating that Acises, an Assyrian viceroy, usurped the supreme command at Babylon. Merodach- (or Berodach-) baladan murdered him and succeeded to the throne. Sennacherib conquered Merodach-baladan and left Esar-haddon, his son, as governor of Babylon. Merodach-baladan would naturally court the alliance of Hezekiah, who, like himself, had thrown off the yoke of the Assyrian king, and who would be equally glad of the Babylonian alliance against Assyria; hence arose the excessive attention which he paid to the usurper.
sick--An additional reason is given ( 2 Chronicles 32:31 ). "The princes of Babylon sent to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land"; namely, the recession of the shadow on Ahaz' sundial; to the Chaldean astronomers, such a fact would be especially interesting, the dial having been invented at Babylon.
2. glad--It was not the mere act, but the spirit of it, which provoked God ( 2 Chronicles 32:25 ), "Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him, for his heart was lifted up"; also compare 2 Chronicles 32:31 . God "tries" His people at different times by different ways, bringing out "all that is in their heart," to show them its varied corruptions. Compare David in a similar case ( 1 Chronicles 21:1-8 ).
precious things--rather, "the house of his (aromatic) spices"; from a Hebrew root, to "break to pieces," as is done to aromatics.
silver . . . gold--partly obtained from the Assyrian camp ( Isaiah 33:4 ); partly from presents ( 2 Chronicles 32:23 2 Chronicles 32:27-29 ).
precious ointment--used for anointing kings and priests.
armour--or else vessels in general; the parallel passage ( 2 Chronicles 32:27 ), "treasuries . . . for shields," favors English Version. His arsenal.
3. What . . . whence--implying that any proposition coming from the idolatrous enemies of God, with whom Israel was forbidden to form alliance, should have been received with anything but gladness. Reliance on Babylon, rather than on God, was a similar sin to the previous reliance on Egypt (Isaiah 30:1-31:9').
far country--implying that he had done nothing more than was proper in showing attention to strangers "from a far country."
4. All--a frank confession of his whole fault; the king submits his conduct to the scrutiny of a subject, because that subject was accredited by God. Contrast Asa ( 2 Chronicles 16:7-10 ).
5. Lord of hosts--who has all thy goods at His disposal.
6. days come--one hundred twenty years afterwards. This is the first intimation that the Jews would be carried to Babylon--the first designation of their place of punishment. The general prophecy of Moses ( Leviticus 26:33 , Deuteronomy 28:64 ); the more particular one of Ahijah in Jeroboam's time ( 1 Kings 14:15 ), "beyond the river"; and of Amos 5:27 , "captivity beyond Damascus"; are now concentrated in this specific one as to "Babylon" ( Micah 4:10 ). It was an exact retribution in kind, that as Babylon had been the instrument of Hezekiah and Judah's sin, so also it should be the instrument of their punishment.
8. peace . . . in my days--The punishment was not, as in David's case ( 2 Samuel 24:13-15 ), sent in his time. True repentance acquiesces in all God's ways and finds cause of thanksgiving in any mitigation.