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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?”

10. I said in the cutting off of my days. This is a very melancholy song; for it contains complaints rather than prayers. Hence it is evident that he was oppressed by so great perplexity, that he was weary with groaning, and sunk in lamentations, and did not venture to rise up freely to form a prayer. Murmuring thus within himself, he expresses the cause and intensity of his grief.

As to the cause, it might be thought strange that he had so strong an attachment, and so ardent a longing for this fading life, and that he so much dreaded death. The tendency of the first elements of heavenly doctrine is, that we may learn to sojourn in this world, and to advance swiftly towards the heavenly life. Hezekiah appears to be as warmly devoted to the earth as if he had never had the smallest particle of piety; he shuns and abhors death, as much as if he had never heard a word about heavenly doctrine. Now, what purpose did it serve to commit to writing those stormy passions which would rather prompt readers to the same excess than induce them to obey God? For we are too prone to rebellion, though there be no additional excitements of any kind.

But when it shall be minutely, and wisely, and carefully examined, we shall find that nothing could have been more advantageous to us than to have this picture of a man overwhelmed with grief painted to the life. It was not the object of the good king, in proclaiming his virtues, to hunt for the applause of the world. His prayer was undoubtedly a proof both of faith and of obedience; but, as if he had been overcome by fear, and dread, and sorrow, he leaves off prayer, and feebly utters complaints. He unquestionably intended to make known his weakness, and thus to give a lesson of humility to all the children of God, and at the same time to magnify the grace of God, which had brought out of the lowest depths of death a ruined man.

As to the manner in which he deplores his lot, when he is near death, as if he placed his existence on the earth, and thought that death reduced men to nothing, we must attend to the special reason. For while death is not desirable on its own account, yet believers ought to “groan continually,” (Romans 8:23,) because sin holds them bound in the prison of the flesh. They are forbidden also to “mourn as unbelievers usually mourn,” (1 Thessalonians 4:13,) and are even commanded to “lift up their heads,” when they are about to depart from the world, because they are received into a happier life. (Luke 21:28.) Nor was the ancient Church under the Law destitute of this consolation; and, although the knowledge of a blessed resurrection was less clear, yet it must have been sufficient for mitigating sorrow. 8282     “Pour adoucir la tristesse des fideles de ces tempsla.” “For soothing the grief of the believers of that age.” If that impostor Balaam was forced to exclaim, “Let my soul die the death of the righteous,” (Numbers 23:10,) what joy must have filled the hearts of believers, in whose ears resounded that voice, “I am the God of Abraham!” (Exodus 3:6.)

But although with steady and assured hope they looked forward to the heavenly life, still we need not wonder to see in Hezekiah what David confesses as to himself, (Psalm 30:9,) who yet, when his time was come, full of days, calmly left the world. (1 Kings 2:10.) It is therefore evident that both of them were not assailed by the mere dread of death, but that they prayed with tears to be delivered from death, because they saw in it manifest tokens of God’s anger. We ought to remember that the Prophet came as a herald, to announce the death of Hezekiah in the name of God. This messenger might naturally have plunged all the senses of Hezekiah into a frightful deluge of grief, so that, thinking of nothing but God’s wrath and curse, he would struggle with despair.

Thus the piety of Hezekiah already begins to shew itself, when, placing himself before the tribunal of his judge, he applies his mind to meditation on his guilt. And, first, there might occur to him that thought by which David confesses that he was tempted: “What did God mean by treating his servants with cruel severity and sparing profane despisers? (Psalm 73:3.) Next, he saw that he was exposed to the jeers of the wicked, by whom true religion also was basely reviled. He saw that it was scarcely possible that his death should not shake the minds of all good men; but especially, he was oppressed by God’s wrath, as if he had been already condemned to hell and to the eternal curse. In a word, because our true and perfect happiness consists in having fellowship with God, Hezekiah, perceiving that he was in some measure alienated from him, had good reason for being so greatly alarmed; for that word, “Thou shalt die, and shalt not live,” had seized his mind so completely, that he believed that he must die. 8383     “Qu’il faisoit son conte de mourir.” “That he laid his account with dying.” This is expressed by the phrase I said; for in Hebrew it does not mean merely to speak, or to pronounce a word, but to be persuaded or convinced in one’s own mind. Even though hypocrites receive a hundred threatenings from God, still they look around them on all sides, so that if they see any opening by which they think that they can escape, they may mock God, and give themselves up to luxury and indifference. But Hezekiah, being a sincere worshipper of God, did not resort to subterfuges; but, on the contrary, believing the words of the Prophet, he concluded that he must prepare for dying, because it was God’s good pleasure.

In this sense he speaks of the cutting off of his days, because he believed that an angry and offended God had broken off the course of his life; for he does not merely say in the ordinary manner that his life is cut short by a violent disease, but recognises that undoubted judgment of God as the cause of “the cutting off.” Now, life is “cut off,” whether we die at the entrance of life, or in middle life, or in old age; but they who are hurried away in the very flower of their age are said to be “cut off” from life, because they appear to die too soon, and before they have finished their course. The case was different with Hezekiah; for he perceived that the remaining part of life was “cut off” by the sword of God, because he had provoked God’s wrath by his offenses. Thus he complains that, as if he had been unworthy of enjoying it, God suddenly deprives him of life, which otherwise would have lasted longer. Such is the import of the phrase, “the residue of the years;” for although, being born mortal, we have reason to expect death every moment, yet since it was threatened as a punishment, he has good reason for saying that those years had been taken from him which he might have lived, if it had been the good pleasure of God.

11. I said, I shall not see God. Amidst such earnest longing for an earthly life, Hezekiah would have gone beyond bounds, if his grief had not been aggravated by the conviction of God’s wrath. Since, therefore, he is violently dragged away by his own fault, as if he were unworthy of enjoying the ordinary light of the sun, he exclaims that he is miserable, because henceforth he shall never see either God or man. Among believers the statement would have been regarded as liable to this exception, that, so long as we dwell on the earth, we wander and are distant from God, but that, when the entanglements of the flesh shall have been laid aside, we shall more closely “see God.”

In the land of the living. These words are indeed added as a, limitation; but in this way Hezekiah appears to limit “the seeing of God” to the present life, as if death extinguished all the light of understanding. We must therefore keep in view what I formerly remarked, that when he received the message of God’s vengeance, it affected him in such a manner as if he had been deprived of God’s fatherly love; for if he was unworthy of beholding the sun, how could he hope for what was of higher value? Not that hope was altogether effaced from his mind, but because, having his attention fixed on the curse of God, he cannot so soon or so quickly rise to heaven, to soothe present grief by the delightfulness of a better life.

Thus it sometimes happens that godly minds are overclouded, so that they do not always receive consolation, which for a time is suppressed, but still remains in their minds, and afterwards manifests itself. Yet it is an evidence of piety, that, by the proper and lawful object of life, he shews how grievous and distressing it is to be deprived of it. Even to cattle it gives uneasiness to die, but they have almost no use for their life except to feed and eat to the full; while we have a far more excellent object, for we were created and born on the express condition, that we should devote ourselves to the knowledge of God. And because this is the chief reason why we live, he twice repeats the name of God, and thus expresses the strength of his feelings; “I shall not see God, God in the land of the living.” 8484     “יה יה (Yahh Yahh) is not an error of the text for יהוה (Yehovah) (Houbigant,) but an intensive repetition similar to those in verses 17, 19. Or the second may be added to explain and qualify the first. He did expect to see God, but not in the land of the living.” — Alexander.

If it be objected that here we do not “see God,” the answer is easy, that he is visible in his works; because “through the visible workmanship of the world,” as Paul says, “his eternal power and Godhead are known.” (Romans 1:20.) Hence also the Apostle calls this world a mirror of invisible things. (Hebrews 11:3.) The more nearly he manifests himself to be known by believers, the more highly did Hezekiah value that spiritual beholding; as David also says that they see the face of God who confirm their faith by the exercises of piety in the sanctuary. (Psalm 42:2; 63:2.) So far as relates to men, he grieves that he is withdrawn from their society, because we were born for the purpose of performing mutual kind offices to each other.

12. My dwelling is departed. He proceeds in his complaints, by painting his life under a beautiful metaphor; for he compares it to a shepherd’s tent. Such indeed is the condition of human life in general; but he does not relate so much what happens to all universally as what has befallen himself as an individual. The use of tents is more common in those countries than in ours, and shepherds often change their residence, while they drive their flock from one place to another. He does not therefore say absolutely that men dwell in a frail lodginghouse, while they pass through the world, but that, after he had dwelt at ease in a royal palace, his lot was changed, just as if “a shepherd’s tent” were pitched for two days in one field and afterwards removed to another.

I have cut off, as a weaver, my life. It is worthy of observation, that he indiscriminately ascribes the cause of his death, sometimes to himself, and sometimes to God, but at the same time explains the grounds; for when he speaks of himself as the author, he does not complain of God, or remonstrate that God has robbed him of his life, but accuses himself, and acknowledges deep blame. His words are equivalent to the proverbial saying, “I have cut this thread for myself, so that I alone am the cause of my death.” And yet it is not without reason that he soon afterwards ascribes to God what he had acknowledged to have proceeded from himself; for although we give to God grounds for dealing severely with us, yet he is the judge who inflicts punishment. In our afflictions, therefore, we ought always to praise his judgment; because he performs his office when he chastises us as we deserve.

From lifting up he will cut me off. Some translate מדלה (middallah) “through leanness,” or “through sickness,” and others translate it “by taking away.” The former derive this noun from דלל (dalal) which means “to diminish,” and the latter from דלה (dalah) which means “to carry off by lifting up.” But let my readers consider if the word “lifting up” be not more appropriate; for Hezekiah appears to complain that his life, while it tended to advance farther, was suddenly cast down; just as if God should cause the sun to set, while it was still ascending in the sky.

From day even to night. He now adds that in a short space of time he was brought down; and by this circumstance again expresses the severity of God’s wrath; because he consumes men by the breath of a moment; for to be laid low in a single day means that men die very rapidly.

13. I reckoned till the dawn. Others translate it “I determined,” or “I laid down.” Here it means what we express by the ordinary phrase, (Je fasoye mon compte,)” I laid my account.” From this verse it may be inferred that Hezekiah labored two days at least under the disease; for in the preceding verse he pronounced its severity to be so great that he expected immediate death. And now, when one day was past, he still waited till the dawn, and again, from day even to night, so that he said that he would die every moment. The meaning therefore is, that though he reached “the dawn,” still through constant tossings he was hastening to death, because, having been struck by a terrible judgment of God, he cared nothing about his life; and as the Greeks, when they intended to say that nothing is more vain than man, said that he was (ἐφήμερον) “an ephemeral animal,” that is, “the creature of a day,” so Hezekiah means by “the life of a day” that which is fading and has no duration.

As a lion, so hath he broken my bones. The comparison of God to a lion ought not to be reckoned strange, though God is naturally “gracious, merciful, and kind.” (Exodus 34:6.) Nothing certainly can more truly belong to God than these attributes; but we cannot be aware of that gentleness, when we have provoked him by our crimes and urged him to severity by our wickedness. Besides, there is no cruelty and fierceness in wild beasts that is fitted to strike such terror as we feel from the bare mention of the name of God, and justly; for the Lord’s chastisements must have sufficient power to humble and cast us down to hell itself, so that we shall be almost destitute of consolation and regard everything as full of horror. In like manner also, we see that David has described these terrors, when he says that “his bones are numbered, his couch is moistened with tears, his soul is troubled, and hell is opened.” (Psalm 6:3-6; 22:17; 38:6.) Thus must the godly be sometimes terrified by the judgment of God, that they may be more powerfully excited to desire his favor.

14. As a crane, or a swallow. Hezekiah cannot satisfy himself in explaining the severity of his anguish. He now says that he was reduced so low that he could not utter an articulate voice, but muttered some confused sound, like persons who are almost at the point of death. Hence it is evident that his distress was excruciating; for the severity of the pain took away his voice, and his voice, he says, stuck in his throat; nothing was heard but indistinct groans.

Such is the import of these metaphors of “the crane and the swallow,” which the Prophet employs. Still it is certain that this indistinct sound of the voice is nevertheless heard by God; though all our senses are oppressed by pain, and our throat is choked by grief, still God beholds our hearts and listens to godly sighs, 8585     “Et exauce les souspirs faits en foy.” “And listens to sighs heaved in faith.” which will be even more powerful than plain and direct words, provided that the Spirit is present, who produces in us those “groanings that cannot be uttered,” of which Paul speaks. (Romans 8:26.) There is no believer who does not feel that in prayer, when his heart is oppressed by any heavy sorrow, he either stammers or is almost dumb.

My eyes were lifted up on high. These words are translated by some, “My eyes are weakened;” but that would not agree with the phrase, “on high.” 8686     The sense of “lifting-up” belongs not to דלל (dalal) but to דלה (dalah) Jerome adopted the sense of “weakened,” and brought out the meaning by a supplement, in which he has been followed by almost all modern commentators. “My eyes were weakened (looking) on high.” This rendering has been almost literally adapted in diodati’s Italian version. “I mici occhi erano scemati (riguardando) ad alto.” Professor Alexander translates thus, “My eyes are weak (with looking) upward, or, on high.)” — Ed. On this account we must adopt a simpler meaning, that, although Hezekiah’s eyes were nearly worn out with weakness, so that he almost fainted, yet he did not cease to lift up his eyes to heaven; and that he never was stupified to such a degree as not to know that he ought to ask assistance from God. Let us therefore learn by the example of Hezekiah to lift up our eyes to heaven, when our hearts are afflicted and troubled; and let us know that God does not demand from us great eloquence.

O Lord, it hath oppressed me; 8787     “Le mal m’ oppresse.” “Disease oppresses me.” comfort me. He confirms the sentiment already expressed, by immediately directing his discourse to God and imploring his aid. Being oppressed by the violence of disease, he desires that God would be present to assist him. Some render the words, “Be surety for me;” 8888     “Undertake for me; rescue me out of the hand of the angel of death, and answer for me, to deliver me. The word signifies ‘answering,’ or, as we say, ‘suretiship;’ as in that passage, Answer (or, be surety) for thy servant for good. (Psalm 119:122.)” — Jarchi. “Or, contend for me, undertake my cause; for thus, according to Jarchi, עשוק (gnashuk) must be translated, if we read it with Sin, (not Schin,) as he appears to have done; and in the Hebrew copy which I have used the point is on the left horn of the letter.” — Breithaupt. and the verb ערב (gnarab) is often used in this sense; but it is more appropriate to say, “Comfort me,” or “Cheer me.” Or perhaps it will be thought preferable to translate, as some have done, “Cause me to rest.” Undoubtedly he asks comfort from God, that he may not sink under the violence of disease; and we ought to be assured of this, that the greater the weight of afflictions that oppresses us, the more will God be ready to give us assistance.

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