Isaiah 39 – Showing Off the Lord’s Treasure
A. King Hezekiah shows off the treasures of his house to envoys from Babylon.
1. (1) A letter from the king of Babylon.
At that time Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.
a. At that time: This was after the miraculous recovery of Hezekiah. The Lord was good enough to give King Hezekiah 15 years more of life; but it was up to Hezekiah if those years would be lived in wisdom and to the glory of God.
b. The king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Apparently this was a gesture of kindness from the king of Babylon, showing concern to Hezekiah as fellow royalty.
c. The presence of Merodach-Baladan shows this was more than a courtesy call. This was an attempt to bring the kingdom of Judah on to the side of the Babylonians against the Assyrians.
i. “To the Assyrians Merodach-Baladan was a terrorist; to himself he was a freedom-fighter with his life devoted to the liberation of his beloved Babylon from Assyrian tyranny.” (Motyer)
ii. “Hezekiah was deeply worried about Assyria. Feeling honored by the embassy, he gladly welcomed the envoys of this archenemy of Assyria. Without consulting either the Lord or Isaiah, he showed them his vast treasures, his abundant supplies of food, and his military armaments. God had given Hezekiah great wealth, so the visitors were duly impressed (2 Chron. 32:27-29).” (Wolf)
iii. The first part of Isaiah (chapters 1 through 38) mainly dealt with the present threat from the Assyrian Empire. The rest of Isaiah (chapters 39 through 66) will prophetically speak to the threat of the coming Babylonian Empire. Therefore, “This brief chapter is actually an introduction to the second half of Isaiah.” (Bultema)
2. (2) Hezekiah entertains the envoys from the king of Babylon.
And Hezekiah was pleased with them, and showed them the house of his treasures; the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory; all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.
a. And Hezekiah was pleased with them: We can imagine that this was flattering for King Hezekiah. After all, Judah was a lowly nation with little power, and Babylon as a junior superpower. To receive this notice and recognition from the king of Babylon must have really made Hezekiah feel he was important.
b. In gratitude, Hezekiah showed them the house of his treasures. We can imagine Hezekiah wanting to please these envoys from Babylon, and wanting to show them that they had good reason to be impressed with him and his kingdom. So he does everything he can to impress them, and shows them the very best riches of the royal household – and he showed them everything (There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them).
c. As the coming rebuke from Isaiah will demonstrate, this was nothing but proud foolishness on Hezekiah’s part. He is in the dangerous place of wanting to please and impress man, especially ungodly men.
i. It was a genuine compliment for Hezekiah to receive this recognition from the king of Babylon. But Hezekiah received it wrongly, and let it go to his head. It is easy to get too puffed up when people compliment or recognize us, and to begin to take their praise – and ourselves – too seriously.
ii. In this place of wanting to please man, Hezekiah is no longer a true servant of God. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10, For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. When we live to please men, we cannot at the same time live to please and serve God. When we live to please men, we are really living to serve ourselves, because what we value from men is the praise and honor and recognition they may give us. It is a glorious thing to live to serve men, but not to live to please them.
iii. “Just as Samson revealed his strength to the whore, so Hezekiah revealed God’s glory to the devils as though he were their companion and had received favors from Babylon.” (Kohlbrugge, cited in Bultema)
d. “‘What should Hezekiah have said to the envoys?’ The answer is plain: ‘Thank you for coming and thank Merodach from his gift and invitation, but the fact is I have a divine promise to lean on; it has been confirmed personally in my return to health and cosmically in the sign of the sun. I cannot turn from faith in the promises of God.’” (Motyer)
B. Isaiah reproves Hezekiah.
1. (3-4) Isaiah questions Hezekiah regarding the visit of the Babylonian envoys.
Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” So Hezekiah said, “They came to me from a far country, from Babylon.” And he said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.”
a. What did these men say, and from where did they come to you? Isaiah probably already knew the answer to these questions. It is likely that his questions were guided by God to allow Hezekiah the opportunity to answer honestly (which he did) and to see his error himself (which he apparently did not).
b. They have seen all that is in my house: There is the flavor that Hezekiah was proud to tell Isaiah this. He is like a small-town boy who is awed by the attention of a big-city man. “Isaiah, you should have seen how impressed those Babylonians were by all I have. They really know we are something here in Judah!” Hezekiah’s pride and inflated ego have made him blind.
2. (5-7) The word of the Lord to Hezekiah through Isaiah.
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
a. All that is in your father’s house . . . shall be carried to Babylon: Hezekiah thought that this display of wealth would impress the Babylonians. All it did was show them what the kings of Judah had, and what they could get from them. One day the kings of Babylon would come and take it all away. This was fulfilled in 2 Kings 24:10-13 and 2 Kings 25:11-17, under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
i. It would be more than a hundred years before Babylon carried away the royal treasures of Judah, but they did come, just as Isaiah prophesied. This prophecy is so remarkably accurate that many skeptics insist – without grounds other than unbelief – a later “Isaiah” must have written it after the fact.
b. And they shall take away some of your sons . . . and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon: Worse than taking the material riches of the kings of Judah, the king of Babylon would take the sons of the king of Judah – his true riches!
i. One fulfillment of this was the taking of Daniel and his companions into captivity. Daniel was one of the king’s descendants taken into the palace of the king of Babylon (Daniel 1:1-4). Because of this promise of God through Isaiah, many think that Daniel and his companions were made eunuchs when they were taken to serve in the palace.
3. (8) King Hezekiah’s response.
So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”
a. “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” This is a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announces coming judgment, and all he can respond with is relief that it will not happen in his lifetime.
i. In this, Hezekiah shows himself to be almost the exact opposite of an “others-centered” person. He is almost totally self-centered. All he cares about is his own personal comfort and success.
b. There is no doubt that Hezekiah started out as a godly king, and overall his reign was one of outstanding godliness (2 Kings 18:3-7). Yet his beginning was much better than his end; Hezekiah did not finish well. God gave Hezekiah the gift of 15 more years of life, but the added years did not make him a better or more godly man.
i. Time or age doesn’t necessarily make us any better. Consider that time does nothing but pass away. We sometimes say, “time will tell,” “time will heal,” or “time will bring out the potential in me.” But time will do nothing of the sort! Time will only come and go. It is only how we use time that matters. Hezekiah didn’t make good use of the extra time the Lord gave him.
© 2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission