Isa 38:1-22. Hezekiah's
Sickness; Perhaps Connected with the Plague or Blast Whereby the
Assyrian Army Had Been Destroyed.
1. Set … house in order—Make
arrangement as to the succession to the throne; for he had then no son;
and as to thy other concerns.
thou shall die—speaking according to
the ordinary course of the disease. His being spared fifteen years was
not a change in God's mind, but an illustration of God's dealings being
unchangeably regulated by the state of man in relation to Him.
2. The couches in the East run along the walls
of houses. He turned away from the spectators to hide his emotion and
collect his thoughts for prayer.
3. He mentions his past religious consistency,
not as a boast or a ground for justification; but according to the Old
Testament dispensation, wherein temporal rewards (as long life,
20:12) followed legal
obedience, he makes his religious conduct a plea for asking the
prolongation of his life.
walked—Life is a journey; the pious
"walk with God" (Ge 5:24; 1Ki 9:4).
perfect—sincere; not absolutely
perfect, but aiming towards it (Mt 5:45); single-minded in walking as in the
presence of God (Ge 17:1). The
letter of the Old Testament legal righteousness was, however, a
standard very much below the spirit of the law as unfolded by
Christ (Mt 5:20-48; 2Co 3:6, 14, 17).
wept sore—Josephus says, the reason why he wept so sorely was
that being childless, he was leaving the kingdom without a
successor. How often our wishes, when gratified, prove curses! Hezekiah
lived to have a son; that son was the idolater Manasseh, the chief
cause of God's wrath against Judah, and of the overthrow of the kingdom
4. In 2Ki 20:4, the quickness of God's answer to the
prayer is marked, "afore Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, the
word of the Lord came to him"; that is,
before he had left Hezekiah, or at least when he had just left him, and
Hezekiah was in the act of praying after having heard God's message by
Isaiah (compare Isa 65:24; Ps 32:5; Da 9:21).
5. God of David thy father—God remembers
the covenant with the father to the children (Ex 20:5; Ps
days … years—Man's years,
however many, are but as so many days (Ge 5:27).
6. In 2Ki 20:8, after this verse comes the statement
which is put at the end, in order not to interrupt God's message (Isa 38:21,
22) by Isaiah (Isa 38:5-8).
will deliver—The city was
already delivered, but here assurance is given, that Hezekiah
shall have no more to fear from the Assyrians.
7. sign—a token that God would fulfil
His promise that Hezekiah should "go up into the house of the Lord
the third day" (2Ki 20:5, 8); the words in italics are not in
8. bring again—cause to return (Jos
10:12-14). In 2Ki 20:9, 11, the choice is stated to have been
given to Hezekiah, whether the shadow should go forward, or go back,
ten degrees. Hezekiah replied, "It is a light thing (a less decisive
miracle) for the shadow to go down (its usual direction) ten degrees:
nay, but let it return backward ten degrees"; so Isaiah cried to
Jehovah that it should be so, and it was so (compare Jos 10:12, 14).
sundial of Ahaz—Herodotus (2.109) states that the sundial and the
division of the day into twelve hours, were invented by the
Babylonians; from them Ahaz borrowed the invention. He was one, from
his connection with Tiglath-pileser, likely to have done so (2Ki 16:7,
10). "Shadow of the degrees"
means the shadow made on the degrees. Josephus thinks these degrees were steps
ascending to the palace of Ahaz; the time of day was indicated by
the number of steps reached by the shadow. But probably a sundial,
strictly so called, is meant; it was of such a size, and so placed,
that Hezekiah, when convalescent, could witness the miracle from his
chamber. Compare Isa 38:21, 22 with 2Ki 20:9, where translate, shall this
shadow go forward, &c.; the dial was no doubt in sight,
probably "in the middle court" (2Ki 20:4), the point where Isaiah turned back to
announce God's gracious answers to Hezekiah. Hence this particular sign
was given. The retrogression of the shadow may have been effected by
refraction; a cloud denser than the air interposing between the gnomon
and dial would cause the phenomenon, which does not take from the
miracle, for God gave him the choice whether the shadow should go
forward or back, and regulated the time and place. Bosanquet makes the fourteenth year of Hezekiah to
be 689 B.C., the known year of a solar
eclipse, to which he ascribes the recession of the shadow. At all
events, there is no need for supposing any revolution of the relative
positions of the sun and earth, but merely an effect produced on the
shadow (2Ki 20:9-11); that effect was only local, and
designed for the satisfaction of Hezekiah, for the Babylonian
astronomers and king "sent to enquire of the wonder that was done in
the land" (2Ch 32:31),
implying that it had not extended to their country. No mention of any
instrument for marking time occurs before this dial of Ahaz, 700 B.C. The first mention of the "hour" is made
by Daniel at Babylon (Da 3:6).
9-20. The prayer and thanksgiving song of
Hezekiah is only given here, not in the parallel passages of Second Kings and Second Chronicles. Isa 38:9 is the heading or inscription.
10. cutting off—Rosenmuller translates, "the meridian"; when the sun
stands in the zenith: so "the perfect day" (Pr 4:18). Rather, "in the tranquillity of
my days," that is, that period of life when I might now look forward to
a tranquil reign [Maurer]. The
Hebrew is so translated (Isa 62:6, 7).
go to—rather, "go into," as in
residue of my years—those which I had
calculated on. God sends sickness to teach man not to calculate on the
morrow, but to live more wholly to God, as if each day were the
11. Lord … Lord—The repetition, as
38:19, expresses the excited
feeling of the king's mind.
See the Lord (Jehovah)—figuratively
for "to enjoy His good gifts." So, in a similar connection (Ps 27:13). "I had fainted, unless I had
believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the
living"; (Ps 34:12),
"What man is he that desireth life that he may see good?"
world—rather, translate: "among the
inhabitants of the land of stillness," that is, Hades [Maurer], in parallel antithesis to "the land
of the living" in the first clause. The Hebrew comes from a
root, to "rest" or "cease" (Job 14:6).
12. age—rather, as the parallel
"shepherd's tent" requires habitation, so the Arabic
departed—is broken up, or shifted, as
a tent to a different locality. The same image occurs (2Co 5:1; 2Pe
1:12, 13). He plainly expects
to exist, and not cease to be in another state; as the shepherd still
lives, after he has struck his tent and removed elsewhere.
I have cut off—He attributes to
himself that which is God's will with respect to him;
because he declares that will. So Jeremiah is said to "root out"
kingdoms, because he declares God's purpose of doing so (Jer 1:10). The weaver cuts off his web from
the loom when completed. Job 7:6 has a
like image. The Greeks represented the Fates as spinning and cutting
off the threads of each man's life.
with pining sickness—rather, "from the
thrum," or thread, which tied the loom to the weaver's beam.
from day … to night—that is, in
the space of a single day between morning and night (Job 4:20).
13. I reckoned … that—rather, I
composed (my mind, during the night, expecting relief in the
"morning," so Job 7:4):
for ("that" is not, as in the English Version, to
be supplied) as a lion He was breaking all my bones [Vitringa] (Job 10:16; La 3:10, 11). The Hebrew, in Ps 131:2, is rendered, "I quieted." Or
else, "I made myself like a lion (namely, in roaring, through pain), He
was so breaking my bones!" Poets often compare great groaning to a
lion's roaring, so, Isa 38:14,
he compares his groans to the sounds of other animals (Ps 22:1) [Maurer].
14. Rather, "Like a swallow, or a crane" (from
a root; "to disturb the water," a bird frequenting the water) [Maurer], (Jer 8:7).
chatter—twitter: broken sounds
expressive of pain.
dove—called by the Arabs the daughter
of mourning, from its plaintive note (Isa 59:11).
looking upward—to God for relief.
undertake for—literally, "be surety
for" me; assure me that I shall be restored (Ps 119:122).
15-20. The second part of the song passes from
prayer to thanksgiving at the prayer being heard.
What shall I say?—the language of one
at a loss for words to express his sense of the unexpected
both spoken … and … done
Both promised and performed (1Th 5:24; Heb 10:23).
himself—No one else could have done it
go softly … in the
bitterness—rather, "on account of the bitterness"; I
will behave myself humbly in remembrance of my past sorrow and sickness
from which I have been delivered by God's mercy (see 1Ki 21:27, 29). In Ps 42:4, the same Hebrew verb expresses
the slow and solemn gait of one going up to the house of God; it is
found nowhere else, hence Rosenmuller
explains it, "I will reverently attend the sacred festivals in the
temple"; but this ellipsis would be harsh; rather metaphorically the
word is transferred to a calm, solemn, and submissive
walk of life.
16. by these—namely, by God's
benefits, which are implied in the context (Isa 38:15, "He hath Himself done it" "unto me").
All "men live by these" benefits (Ps 104:27-30), "and in all these is the life of my
spirit," that is, I also live by them (De 8:3).
and (wilt) make me to live—The
Hebrew is imperative, "make me to live." In this view he
adds a prayer to the confident hope founded on his comparative
convalescence, which he expressed, "Thou wilt recover me" [Maurer].
17. for peace—instead of the prosperity
which I had previously.
"bitterness to me, bitterness"; expressing intense emotion.
in love—literally, "attachment," such
as joins one to another tenderly; "Thou hast been lovingly
attached to me from the pit"; pregnant phrase for, Thy love has gone
down to the pit, and drawn me out from it. The "pit" is here simply
death, in Hezekiah's sense; realized in its fulness only in
reference to the soul's redemption from hell by Jesus Christ
61:1), who went down to the
pit for that purpose Himself (Ps 88:4-6; Zec
9:11, 12; Heb 13:20). "Sin"
and sickness are connected (Ps 103:3;
compare Isa 53:4, with Mt 8:17; 9:5, 6), especially under the Old Testament
dispensation of temporal sanctions; but even now, sickness, though not
invariably arising from sin in individuals, is connected with it
in the general moral view.
cast … behind back—consigned my
sins to oblivion. The same phrase occurs (1Ki
14:9; Ne 9:26; Ps 50:17).
90:8, "Thou hast set our
iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy
18. death—that is, the dead; Hades and
its inhabitants (Job 28:22;
see on Isa 38:11). Plainly Hezekiah believed in
a world of disembodied spirits; his language does not imply what
skepticism has drawn from it, but simply that he regarded the
disembodied state as one incapable of declaring the praises of God
before men, for it is, as regards this world, an unseen
land of stillness; "the living" alone can praise God on earth,
in reference to which only he is speaking; Isa 57:1, 2 shows that at this time the true
view of the blessedness of the righteous dead was held, though not with
the full clearness of the Gospel, which "has brought life and
immortality to light" (2Ti 1:10).
hope for thy truth—(Ps 104:27). Their probation is at an end. They can
no longer exercise faith and hope in regard to Thy faithfulness to Thy
promises, which are limited to the present state. For "hope" ceases
(even in the case of the godly) when sight begins (Ro 8:24, 25); the ungodly have "no hope"
4:13). Hope in God's truth is
one of the grounds of praise to God (Ps 71:14; 119:49). Others translate, "cannot
19. living … living—emphatic
repetition, as in Isa 38:11, 17; his heart is so full of the main object
of his prayer that, for want of adequate words, he repeats the same
father to the children—one generation
of the living to another. He probably, also, hints at his own
desire to live until he should have a child, the successor to his
throne, to whom he might make known and so perpetuate the memory of
truth—faithfulness to His
promises; especially in Hezekiah's case, His promise of hearing
20. was ready—not in the Hebrew;
"Jehovah was for my salvation," that is, saved me (compare Isa 12:2).
we—I and my people.
in the house of the Lord—This song was
designed, as many of the other Psalms, as a form to be used in
public worship at stated times, perhaps on every anniversary of his
recovery; hence "all the days of our life."
lump of figs—a round cake of figs
pressed into a mass (1Sa 25:18).
God works by means; the meanest of which He can make effectual.
boil—inflamed ulcer, produced by the
22. house of the Lord—Hence he makes the
praises to be sung there prominent in his song (Isa
38:20; Ps 116:12-14, 17-19).