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Hezekiah’s Illness


In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the L ord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” 2Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the L ord: 3“Remember now, O L ord, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Then the word of the L ord came to Isaiah: 5“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the L ord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city.

7 “This is the sign to you from the L ord, that the L ord will do this thing that he has promised: 8See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.


9 A writing of King Hezekiah of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:


I said: In the noontide of my days

I must depart;

I am consigned to the gates of Sheol

for the rest of my years.


I said, I shall not see the L ord

in the land of the living;

I shall look upon mortals no more

among the inhabitants of the world.


My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me

like a shepherd’s tent;

like a weaver I have rolled up my life;

he cuts me off from the loom;

from day to night you bring me to an end;


I cry for help until morning;

like a lion he breaks all my bones;

from day to night you bring me to an end.



Like a swallow or a crane I clamor,

I moan like a dove.

My eyes are weary with looking upward.

O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security!


But what can I say? For he has spoken to me,

and he himself has done it.

All my sleep has fled

because of the bitterness of my soul.



O Lord, by these things people live,

and in all these is the life of my spirit.

Oh, restore me to health and make me live!


Surely it was for my welfare

that I had great bitterness;

but you have held back my life

from the pit of destruction,

for you have cast all my sins

behind your back.


For Sheol cannot thank you,

death cannot praise you;

those who go down to the Pit cannot hope

for your faithfulness.


The living, the living, they thank you,

as I do this day;

fathers make known to children

your faithfulness.



The L ord will save me,

and we will sing to stringed instruments

all the days of our lives,

at the house of the L ord.


21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it to the boil, so that he may recover.” 22Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the L ord?”

1. In those days. The Prophet now relates that the pious king was violently assailed by a different kind of temptation, namely, that he was seized with a mortal disease and despaired of life; and not only so, but likewise that he suffered dreadful agony, in consequence of having received from God a warning of his death, as if in a hostile manner God had thundered on his head from heaven. At what time that happened, whether after the siege, or during the siege, is not very evident; but it is unnecessary to give ourselves much trouble on that subject. It may be easily inferred from the sacred history, that this event happened about the fourteenth year of his reign, either while he was invaded by the Assyrian, or after he was delivered, for he reigned twenty-nine years, (2 Kings 18:2;) in the fourteenth year of his reign the Assyrian attacked Judea, (2 Kings 18:13,) and fifteen years were added by the promise which is here related by the Prophet, (2 Kings 20:6,) and this makes up twenty-nine years. Hence it appears that it must have been about the fourteenth year of his reign that Hezekiah was afflicted by this disease.

The only doubtful point is, whether it was during the time of the siege, or afterwards, that he was sick. For my own part, I look upon it as a more probable conjecture, that he was attacked by this disease after the siege had been raised; for if he had been sick during the time of the siege, that circumstance would not have been left out by the Prophet, who, on the other hand, has related that Hezekiah sent messengers, went into the temple, spread a letter before the Lord, and sent for the Prophet. These circumstances do not at all apply to a man who was suffering heavy sickness; and if disease had been added to so many distresses, that circumstance would not have been omitted. In doubtful matters, therefore, let us follow what is more probable, namely, that the pious king, having been delivered from the enemy, is attacked by disease and is in great danger.

Yet it is not without reason that our attention is also directed to an almost uninterrupted succession of events, that we may know that he scarcely had leisure to breathe, but, after having scarcely reached the shore from one ship-wreck, suddenly fell into another equally dangerous. Let us therefore remember that believers must endure various temptations, so that they are assailed sometimes by wars, sometimes by diseases, sometimes by other calamities, and sometimes one calamity follows another in unbroken succession, and they are laid under the necessity of maintaining uninterrupted warfare during their whole life; so that, when they have escaped from one danger, they are on the eve of enduring another. They ought to be prepared in such a manner, that when the Lord shall be pleased to add sorrow to sorrow, they may bear it patiently, and may not be discouraged by any calamity. If any respite be allowed, 7171     “S’ils ont quelque loisir de reprendre haleine.” “If they have any leisure to draw breath.” let them know that this is granted for their weakness, but let not a short truce lead them to form a false imagination of a lengthened peace; let them make additional exertions, till, having finished the course of their earthly life, they arrive at the peaceful harbor.

Even unto death. The severity of the disease might be very distressing to the good man. First, mortal disease brings along with it sharp pains, especially when it is attended by an inflammatory boil. But the most distressing of all was, that he might think that God opposed and hated him, because, as soon as he had been rescued from so great a calamity, he was immediately dragged to death, as if he had been unworthy of reigning. Besides, at that time he had no children; and there was reason to believe that his death would be followed by a great disorder of public affairs. (2 Kings 21:1.) This dread of the wrath of God occasions far more bitter anguish to the consciences of believers than any bodily disease; and if they lose their perception of the favor of God, it is impossible that they should not be immediately grieved. But God, as if he expressly intended to add oil to the flame, absolutely threatens death, and, in order to affect him more deeply, takes away all hope of life.

For; thou shalt die, and shalt not live. The clause, thou shalt not live, is not superfluous, but is added for the purpose of giving intensity or confirmation, as if it had been said that there will be no hope of remedy. Men practice evasion, even though death is at hand, and eagerly seek the means of escape; and, therefore, that Hezekiah may not look around him as if he were uncertain, he is twice informed that he must die.

Give charge concerning thy house, 7272     “Set thine house in order. Heb., Give charge concerning thy house.” — Eng. Ver. or, to thy house. 7373     Quoad domum taam, vel, domui tuae. In order that he may bid adieu to the world, the Prophet enjoins him speedily to order what he wishes to be done after his death; as if he had said, “If thou dost not wish that death shall seize thee, give immediate orders about thy domestic affairs.” Here we see in passing, that the Lord approves of a practice which has been always customary among men, namely, that when they are about to die, they give orders to their neighbors or servants, and arrange the affairs of their family.

Jonathan renders it, “Give up thy house to another;” but the construction conveys a different meaning. Every person, when he must depart from this life, ought to testify that he pays regard to his duty, and that he provides even for the future interests of his family. But his chief care ought to be, not about testaments and heirs, but about promoting the salvation of those whom the Lord has committed to his charge.

2. Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall. He now relates the manner in which Hezekiah was affected when he received this message, that we may see his piety and faith. He does not break out into rage or indignation like unbelievers, but bears this affliction patiently. He does not debate with God, as if he had already endured enough of distresses from enemies, and ought not to be again chastised so severely by a new kind of afflictions. And this is true patience, not merely in a single instance to endure patiently any distress, but to persevere to the end, and always to be prepared for enduring new troubles, but, above all, to bow to the judgments of God in calm silence, and not to murmur at his severity, though it appear to be great; as David acknowledges that “he was dumb, because he saw that he had to deal with God.” (Psalm 39:9.)

And such is the import of “turning the face to the wall;” for, in consequence of being overwhelmed by shame and grief, as if he shunned the face of men, he summons up his energy, and turns wholly to God, so as to rely entirely upon him. The mere attitude, indeed, is immaterial; but it is of very great importance to us, that nothing should be presented to our eyes or senses which would drag us away from prayer, that we may pour out our desires more freely before God. We are naturally unsteady, and easily drawn aside; and therefore we cannot be too diligent in fixing our attention. If we must pray in public, we are restrained by shame, lest, if we manifest excessive vehemence, we should be thought to do so for the sake of ostentation; or we are afraid of falling into improper attitudes; and therefore we ought to remove everything that would lead us aside.

Hezekiah, therefore, does not turn away his face, as if he were overwhelmed, or as if he bitterly and obstinately rejected the message that had been brought to him, but in this manner sharpens his eagerness for prayer. That he does not present his prayers openly, as when he formerly went up into the temple, followed by the rest of the multitude, (Isaiah 37:14,) is an indication of the deepest anxiety, as if grief had seized his whole frame. Yet it is a remarkable pattern of piety, that, when he has received the sentence of death, he does not cease to call upon God.

These words, Thou shalt die, and shalt not live, tended not only to startle him, but deeply to wound and pierce his heart, as if God were rushing upon him in a hostile manner to destroy him. It was an alarming token of wrath to be thrown headlong out of life in the very flower of his age, and to be cast out of the world, as if he were unworthy of the society of men; and therefore he had to contend not only with death, but with hell itself and with frightful torments.

Hence it follows that he attached to the Prophet’s words more meaning than they actually conveyed; for, although he could not all at once disentangle himself, yet the Holy Spirit suggested to his dark and confused heart “groanings that could not be uttered.” (Romans 8:26) And indeed it would have been a foolish message if God had not supported him by secret influence, when he appeared to have been slain by the external voice of his servant. But since he would never have aimed at repentance if he had been seized with despair, the slaying came first, and was next followed by that secret energy which dedicated the dead man to God.

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