A Study in the Word – Isaiah 38:1-39:8


The events of chapters 38-39 occurred prior to the events in chapters 36-37, probably for topical rather than chronological reasons. Hezekiah contracted a terrible and terminal infection (38:1). He petitioned the Lord to “remember” him (38:2-3), and a reprieve of fifteen years is granted (38:4-5). In an experience parallel to Hezekiah’s, Jerusalem will be spared from assault (38:6-8). In both cases the focus is on “Who,” not on “how.” Judah will learn that promises from God can be trusted.

It was widely held that death ended one’s vital connection with God (38:9-11), so Hezekiah feels his life and work are ended (38:12-14). Since he attributes his affliction to the Lord (38:15), he pleads with God for return of physical and spiritual health (38:16). Verse 17 signals a change from bitterness to praise. He has not died and his sins have been forgiven (38:17). Only the living can show gratitude to God and tell of his faithfulness (38:18-19), so his healing calls forth praise of the Lord in His temple (38:20).

The cake of figs would draw out the infection (38:21). The question in verse 22 seems out of place since the answer came in verses 7-8. Keep in mind that chapters 38 and 39 are topical, not chronological. Isaiah 38:20 mentions the temple of the Lord, so perhaps placing the question later (verse 22) was done to focus praise to the Lord in His temple.

At this time Assyria was the most powerful nation in the world, ruthless in battle and severe in the governance of conquered peoples. Babylon was the chief instigator of revolt against Assyria. Using the occasion of Hezekiah’s healing, Babylon’s king sent his well-wishes to Hezekiah as a subterfuge to gain an ally against Assyria (39:1). Hezekiah succumbed to the human tendency of trying to impress persons of power and stature. By showing off Judah’s wealth and arsenal, he was actually revealing state secrets (39:2).

Isaiah questioned Hezekiah closely concerning who these people were and what was shown to them. Hezekiah is condemned by his own words (39:3-4). “All” in the treasury and “all” in Judah’s heritage will become “nothing” in Judah (39:5-6). The royal family will serve a different king in a different palace in a different country. By “good” Hezekiah means “good for Hezekiah.” He can enjoy the remainder of his life, while disaster for unrepentant Judah becomes someone else’s problem (39:7-8).

Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com


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