The Hezekiah (Heb: Chizkiyahu) narrative in II Kings (chapters 17 – 20) and Isaiah (36 – 39) concludes on a dissonant and haunting confrontation between King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah has just shown his kingdom’s wealth to messengers of Brodach Baladan, King of Babylonia. Isaiah asks Hezekiah about his guests, and when Hezekiah tells him where they are from, Isaiah proclaims:
Behold, days are coming and everything in your house and what your
ancestors have collected until this day will be carried off to
Babylonia, nothing will remain saith the Lord. And the children that
you will beget will be taken to be eunuchs in the palace of the King
of Babylonia. And Hezekiah responded to Isaiah, the word of the Lord
that you have spoken is good, insomuch as there will be peace and
truth in my days. (II Kings 20:17-18, JPS translation).
This prophecy of doom is devastating and perplexing. Does Isaiah mean to say that Hezekiah is literally responsible for the future exile and destruction at the hands of Babylonians? If so, what did he do wrong? How should Hezekiah have known it was bad to receive foreign emissaries from Babylonia?