Explore the Bible
March 29, 2009
Background Passage: Isaiah 36:1-39:8
Lesson Passage: Isaiah 38:1-6; 39:1-2, 5-8
Introduction: Stylistically and thematically, this
week’s lesson differs from the sections that precede it. Chapters Thirty-Two through Thirty-Five
continue the themes of the previous lessons, and Chapter Thirty-Six through
Thirty-Nine provide a brief historical interlude that will introduce the second
half of the prophecy (Chapters Forty through Sixty-six).
For several chapters (beginning as early as Chapter
Thirteen), Isaiah recorded God’s complaint against the nations of the Middle East. He
included indictments against Babylon, Philistia, Moab,
Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt,
Edom, and Assyria; then, the
prophet turned his attention to Israel
and Judah. As discussed in an earlier lesson, Isaiah
interspersed wonderful promises of salvation and grace among the bitter
predictions of judgment upon the Jews.
Chapters Thirty-Two through Thirty-Five, in last week’s lesson, belong
to this section on the judgment of the nations.
Chapters Thirty-Six through Thirty-Nine recount important
historical information concerning the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Sennacherib, ruler of Assyria, threatened Judah by
sending an enormous army to Hezekiah’s borders.
Ominous pronouncements by the Assyrian general Rabshakeh troubled the
good king of Judah,
but the monarch sought the wise counsel of Isaiah, and, as a result of the
prophet’s direction, the king trusted God for deliverance from his enemies.
Please recall that Judah
had struggled with forming unwise alliances with pagan nations, and certainly
Hezekiah must have experienced some of this temptation. Thankfully, he resisted the allurement of
ungodly alliances, and he placed his trust in Jehovah. Despite the grave threat
of the Assyrian conquest of Judah,
God miraculously delivered his people from their enemies.
After the defeat of Assyria,
Hezekiah grew ill, and appeared to stand at the threshold of death. He asked God to spare his life, and the Lord
granted the monarch’s request.
Unfortunately, during the next fifteen years, Hezekiah made some serious
mistakes. Among the grave errors of
these last years, Hezekiah allowed pagan Babylonian emissaries to tour the city
of Jerusalem to
survey the wondrous riches and glories of the city. Certainly, Hezekiah must have revealed some
of the treasures of the Temple;
thus, he contributed to the future defilement of the sacred place by permitting
the presence of the Babylonians. Furthermore,
Hezekiah exhibited an unseemly spirit of pride in displaying the Lord’s city to
these emissaries. This behavior, of
course, displeased the Lord, and Isaiah predicted grave consequences for the
king’s indiscretion. Eventually, the Babylonians would, according to Isaiah,
and carry off all of the treasures Hezekiah had accumulated. Furthermore, the king’s descendants would be
held in captivity and serve as eunuchs in the palace of the Babylonians. This
prediction of captivity acts as a prelude to the second half of the Book of
The Assyrian Conquest of Judah (36:1-37:38)
occasion of the conquest (36:1): The “fourteenth year” probably refers to the
period in which Hezekiah ruled as sole monarch of Judah (c. 715 B.C.). Recall that he had served as regent with his
father for several years.
aggression toward Judah
(36:2): This evil monarch had recently ascended the Assyrian throne (ruled c.
704-681 B.C.), and he clearly wanted to assert his power over the entire
region. Rabshakeh, emissary of
Sennacherib, brought a great army to assail the fortified cities of Judah (The
Annals of Sennacherib identify forty-six of these cities). Hezekiah sent three officials to negotiate
with the Assyrians.
threatening speech (36:3-22): This pagan military official mocked Judah, thus
trying to shame her into submission to his threats. He knew, of course, that Egypt could not help Judah,
and he predicted that Jehovah had no power to defend Judah in these dire circumstances
(vv. 6-7). Hezekiah’s negotiators
pleaded with Rabshakeh to speak Aramaic (the accepted language of international
diplomacy) so the common people could not easily understand his blasphemous and
disheartening words. Of course, the
cruel leader, realizing that his speech would unnerve the people of Judah, spoke
loudly, in the Hebrew tongue. After
hearing the profane and cruel oration, Hezekiah’s representatives returned to
give the dismal news to Judah’s
prayer for deliverance from the Assyrians (37:1-38): As soon as Hezekiah
received the bad report from his emissaries, the king sent word to the Prophet
Isaiah to come to intercede for the Lord’s people. Isaiah prayed for Judah, and he assured Hezekiah that
Rabshakeh would die, in his own land, by the sword.
continued mockery of Judah
(vv. 8-13): Sennacherib’s negotiator returned to Assyria and found his country
at war with Libnah; nevertheless, he remained confident that Assyria would
easily rout Judah.
prayer (vv. 14-20): Unlike his predecessors, Hezekiah found security and
consolation in the Lord. Rather than
seek unwise alliances, the king laid his concerns before the Lord. Above all, Hezekiah wanted the Lord’s name to
be exalted (v. 20).
defeat of the Assyrians (vv. 21-38): God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and sent a
message, through Isaiah, concerning the impending defeat of the Assyrians. The
prophet predicted the future security and prosperity of Judah, blessing
that would be accomplished by the zeal of the Lord. Jehovah sent an angel to supernaturally
defeat Sennacherib. The Bible does not
reveal the exact nature of this judgment.
Perhaps the angel brought a plague to the Assyrians, and 185,000 men
died. Assassins (the king’s own sons) murdered
the Assyrian monarch, in Nineveh,
as worshipped in the temple of the pagan god Nisroch.
Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery (38:1-22)
king’s terminal illness (vv. 1-3): We do not know the exact nature of
Hezekiah’s illness, but he stood at the threshold of death. Isaiah came to the ailing king and told him
that he would not recover from this malady.
Stricken by the bad news, Hezekiah prayed for the Lord’s help.
promise of recovery (vv. 4-8): God heard the king’s prayer, and Isaiah assured
the ailing monarch of recovery from this grave illness. Furthermore, God promised a sign of the
king’s healing. The sun would turn back to assure recovery. The chapter concludes with a hymn of praise
for the miraculous intervention of the Lord.
hymn of praise (vv. 9-22)
Hezekiah’s Foolish Confidence in the Babylonians
poor judgment (vv. 1-4): Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon,
sent emissaries to Jerusalem,
and Hezekiah greeted them enthusiastically.
Indeed, he gave them a royal tour of the riches of the city, including
the temple and the royal storehouse.
prophecy concerning Hezekiah’s unwise choice (vv. 5-8): The prophet predicted
that Hezekiah’s trust in the Babylonians would contribute to Judah’s
eventual ruin. The king’s descendants
would, according to Isaiah, be taken into captivity and serve as eunuchs in the
Babylonian royal court. Hezekiah was not
wrong to show appropriate hospitality to the Babylonians, but he made a serious
mistake in entrusting his heart to them.
God’s people often have very open hearts, but it is, perhaps, unwise to
reveal the secret, holy things to ungodly men.