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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Isaiah Chapter 39

Isaiah 39:1

isa 39:1

From this point onwards the text of the book of Kings (Kg2 20:12-19, cf., Ch2 32:24-31) runs parallel to the text before us. Babylonian ambassadors have an interview with the convalescent king of Judah. "At that time Merodach Bal'adan (K. Berodach Bal'adan), son of Bal'adan king of Babel, sent writings and a present to Hizkiyahu, and heard (K. for he had heard) that he (K. Hizkiyahu) had been sick, and was restored again." The two texts here share the original text between them. Instead of the unnatural ויּשׁמע (which would link the cause on to the effect, as in Sa2 14:5), we should read שׁמע כּי, whereas ויּחזק in our text appears to be the genuine word out of which חזקיהו in the other text has sprung, although it is not indispensable, as חלה has a pluperfect sense. In a similar manner the name of the king of Babylon is given here correctly as מראדך (Nissel, מרדך without א, as in Jer 50:2), whilst the book of Kings has בּראד (according to the Masora with א), probably occasioned by the other name Bal'ădân, which begins with Beth. It cannot be maintained that the words ben Bal'ădân are a mistake; at the same time, Bal'ădân (Jos. Baladas) evidently cannot be a name by itself if Merō'dakh Bal'ădân signifies "Merodach (the Babylonian Bel or Jupiter)

(Note: Rawlinson, Monarchies, i. 169.)

filium dedit."

(Note: Oppert, Expdition, ii. 355.)

In the Canon Ptol. Mardokempados is preceded by a Jugaeus; and the inscriptions, according to G. Rawlinson, Mon. ii. 395, indicate Merodach-Baladan as the "son of Yakin." They relate that the latter acknowledged Tiglath-pileser as his feudal lord; that, after reigning twelve years as a vassal, he rose in rebellion against Sargon in league with the Susanians and the Aramaean tribes above Babylonia, and lost everything except his life; that he afterwards rebelled against Sennacherib in conjunction with a Chaldean prince named Susub, just after Sennacherib had returned from his first

(Note: The inscription is mention two campaigns.)

Judaean campaign to Nineveh; and that having been utterly defeated, he took refuge in an island of the Persian Gulf. He does not make his appearance any more; but Susub escaped from his place of concealment, and being supported by the Susanians and certain Aramaean tribes, fought a long and bloody battle with Sennacherib on the Lower Tigris. this battle he lost, and Nebo-som-iskun, a son of Merodach Baladan, fell into the hands of the conqueror. In the midst of these details, as given by the inscriptions, the statement of the Can. Ptol. may still be maintained, according to which the twelve years of Mardokempados (a contraction, as Ewald supposes, of Mardokempalados) commence with the year 721. From this point onwards the biblical and extra-biblical accounts dovetail together; whereas in Polyhistor (Eus. chron. arm.) the following Babylonian rulers are mentioned: "a brother of Sennacherib, Acises, who reigned hardly a month; Merodach Baladan, six months; Elibus into the third year; Asordan, Sennacherib's son, who was made king after the defeat of Elibus." Now, as the Can. Ptolem. also gives a Belibos with a three years' reign, the identity of Mardokempados and Marodach Baladan is indisputable. The Can. Ptol. seems only to take into account his legitimate reign as a vassal, and Polyhistor (from Berosus) only his last act of rebellion. At the same time, this is very far from removing all the difficulties that lie in the way of a reconciliation, more especially the chronological difficulties. Rawlinson, who places the commencement of the (second) Judaean campaign in the year 698, and therefore transfers it to the end of the twenty-ninth year of Hezekiah's reign instead of the middle, sets himself in opposition not only to Isa 36:1, but also to Isa 38:5 and Kg2 18:2. According to the biblical accounts, as compared with the Can. Ptol., the embassy must have been sent by Merodach Baladan during the period of his reign as vassal, which commenced in the year 721. Apparently it had only the harmless object of congratulating the king upon his recovery (and also, according to Ch2 32:31, of making some inquiry, in the interests of Chaldean astrology, into the mōphēth connected with the sun-dial); but it certainly had also the secret political object of making common cause with Hezekiah to throw off the Assyrian yoke. All that can be maintained with certainty beside this is, that the embassy cannot have been sent before the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign; for as he reigned twenty-nine years, his illness must have occurred, according to Isa 38:5, in the fourteenth year itself, i.e., the seventh year of Mardokempados. Such questions as whether the embassy came before or after the Assyrian catastrophe, which was till in the future at the time referred to in Isa 38:4-6, or whether it came before or after the payment of the compensation money to Sennacherib (Kg2 18:14-16), are open to dispute. In all probability it took place immediately before the Assyrian campaign,

(Note: A reviewer in the Theol. L. Bl. 1857, p. 12, inquires: "How could the prophet have known that all that Hezekiah showed to the Babylonian ambassador would one day be brought to Babylon, when in a very short time these treasures would all have been given by Hezekiah to the king of Assyria?" Answer: The prophecy is so expressed in Isa 39:6-7, that this intervening occurrence does not prejudice its truth at all.)

as Hezekiah was still able to show off the abundance of his riches to the Babylonian ambassadors.

Isaiah 39:2

isa 39:2

"And Hezekiah rejoiced (K. heard, which is quite inappropriate) concerning them, and showed them (K. all) his storehouse: the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the fine oil (hasshâmen,K. shemen), and all his arsenal, and all that was in his treasures: there was nothing that Hezekiah had not shown them, in his house or in all his kingdom." Although there were spices kept in נכת בּית, נכת is not equivalent to נכאת (from נכא, to break to pieces, to pulverize), which is applied to gum-dragon and other drugs, but is the niphal נכת from כּוּת (piel, Arab. kayyata, to cram full, related to כּוּס (כּיס), נכס (נכס), and possibly also to כּתם, katama (Hitzig, Knobel, Frst), and consequently it does not mean "the house of his spices," as Aquila, Symmachus, and the Vulgate render it, but his "treasure-house or storehouse" (Targ., Syr., Saad.). It differs, however, from bēth kēilim, the wood house of Lebanon (Isa 22:8). He was able to show them all that was worth seeing "in his whole kingdom," inasmuch as it was all concentrated in Jerusalem, the capital.

Isaiah 39:3

isa 39:3

The consequences of this coqueting with the children of the stranger, and this vain display, are pointed out in Isa 39:3-8 : "Then came Isaiah the prophet to king Hizkiyahu, and said to him, What have these men said, and whence come they to thee? Hizkiyahu said, They came to me from a far country (K. omits to me), out of Babel. He said further, What have they seen in thy house? Hizkiyahu said, All that is in my house have they seen: there was nothing in my treasures that I had not shown them. Then Isaiah said to Hizkiyahu, Hear the word of Jehovah of hosts (K. omits tsebhâ'ōth); Behold, days come, that all that is in thy house, and all that thy fathers have laid up unto this day, will be carried away to Babel (בּבל, K. בּבלה): nothing will be left behind, saith Jehovah. And of thy children that proceed from thee, whom thou shalt beget, will they take (K. chethib, 'will he take'); and they will be courtiers in the palace of the king of Babel. Then said Hizkiyahu to Isaiah, Good is the word of Jehovah which thou hast spoken. And he said further, Yea (כּי, K. אם הלוא), there shall be peace and stedfastness in my days." Hezekiah's two candid answers in vv. 3 and 4 are an involuntary condemnation of his own conduct, which was sinful in two respects. This self-satisfied display of worthless earthly possessions would bring its own punishment in their loss; and this obsequious suing for admiration and favour on the part of strangers, would be followed by plundering and enslaving on the part of those very same strangers whose envy he had excited. The prophet here foretells the Babylonian captivity; but, in accordance with the occasion here given, not as the destiny of the whole nation, but as that of the house of David. Even political sharp-sightedness might have foreseen, that some such disastrous consequences would follow Hezekiah's imprudent course; but this absolute certainty, that Babylon, which was then struggling hard for independence, would really be the heiress to the Assyrian government of the world, and that it was not from Assyria, which was actually threatening Judah with destruction for its rebellion, but from Babylon, that this destruction would really come, was impossible without the spirit of prophecy. We may infer from Isa 39:7 (cf., Isa 38:19, and for the fulfilment, Dan 1:3) that Hezekiah had no son as yet, at least none with a claim to the throne; and this is confirmed by Kg2 21:1. So far as the concluding words are concerned, we should quite misunderstand them, if we saw nothing in them but common egotism. כּי (for) is explanatory here, and therefore confirmatory. אם הלוא, however, does not mean "yea, if only," as Ewald supposes (324, b), but is also explanatory, though in an interrogative form, "Is it not good (i.e., still gracious and kind), if," etc.? He submits with humility to the word of Jehovah, in penitential acknowledgement of his vain, shortsighted, untheocratic conduct, and feels that he is mercifully spared by God, inasmuch as the divine blessings of peace and stability (אמת a self-attesting state of things, without any of those changes which disappoint our confident expectations) would continue. "Although he desired the prosperity of future ages, it would not have been right for him to think it nothing that God had given him a token of His clemency, by delaying His judgment" (Calvin).

Over the kingdom of Judah there was now hanging the very same fate of captivity and exile, which had put an end to the kingdom of Israel eight years before. When the author of the book of Kings prefaces the four accounts of Isaiah in Kg2 18:13-20, with the recapitulation in Kg2 18:9-12 (cf., Isa 17:5-6), his evident meaning is, that the end of the kingdom of Israel, and the beginning of the end of the kingdom of Judah, had their meeting-point in Hezekiah's time. As Israel fell under the power of the Assyrian empire, which foundered upon Judah, though only through a miraculous manifestation of the grace of God (see Hos 1:7); so did Judah fall a victim to the Babylonian empire. The four accounts are so arranged, that the first two, together with the epilogue in Isa 37:36., which contains the account of the fulfilment, bring the Assyrian period of judgment to a close; and the last two, with the eventful sketch in Isa 39:6-7, open the way for the great bulk of the prophecies which now follow in chapters 40-66, relating to the Babylonian period of judgment. This Janus-headed arrangement of the contents of chapters 36-39 is a proof that this historical section formed an original part of the "vision of Isaiah." At any rate, it leads to the conclusion that, whoever arranged the four accounts in their present order, had chapters 40-66 before him at the time. We believe, however, that we may, or rather, considering the prophetico-historical style of chapters 36-39, that we must, draw the still further conclusion, that Isaiah himself, when he revised the collection of his prophecies at the end of Hezekiah's reign, or possibly not till the beginning of Manasseh's, bridged over the division between the two halves of the collection by the historical trilogy in the seventh book.

Next: Isaiah Chapter 40