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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?”

17. Lo, in peace ray bitterness was bitter. 9191     “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness,” or, “On my peace came great bitterness.” — Eng. Ver. Again, another circumstance aggravates the severity of the distress; for sudden and unexpected calamities disturb us more than those which come upon us in a gradual manner. The grievousness of the disease was the more insupportable, because it seized him suddenly while he enjoyed ease and quietness; for nothing was farther from his thoughts than that he was about to depart from this life. We know also that the saints sometimes rely too much on prosperity, and promise to themselves unvarying success, which David too acknowledges to have happened to himself, “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved; but thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” (Psalm 30:6, 7.)

Nothing more distressing, therefore, could happen to Hezekiah than to be taken out of life, especially when the discomfiture and ruin of his enemy left him in the enjoyment of peace; for I think that Hezekiah fell into this disease after the defeat of Sennacherib, as has been already said. Amidst that joy and peace which smiled upon him, lo, a heavy sickness by which Hezekiah is fearfully distressed and tormented. This warns us that, since nothing is solid or lasting in this life, and since all that delights us may be speedily taken away, we ought not to grow sluggish in prosperity, but, even while we enjoy peace, we ought to think of war, and adversity, and afflictions, and, above all, to seek that peace which rests on God’s fatherly kindness, on which our consciences may safely repose.

And thou hast been pleased (to rescue) my soul from the pit. This part of the verse admits of two meanings. Since the verb חשק (chashak) signifies sometimes “to love,” and sometimes “to wish,” that meaning would not be unsuitable, “It hath pleased thee to deliver my soul.” But if nothing be understood, the style will be equally complete, and will flow not less agreeably, “Thou, O God, didst embrace my soul with favor and kindness, while it was lying in the grave.” 9292     “Thou hast loved my soul, from the pit of destruction. (This exactly agrees with our authors marginal reading.) “We have here another instance of pregnant construction, to love from, that is, so to love as to deliver from. This sense is expressed in the English Bible by a circumlocution.” — Alexander. It is well known that “soul” means “life;” but here the goodness of God is proclaimed, in not ceasing to love Hezekiah, even when he might be regarded as dead. In this way the copulative particle must be translated But.

For thou hast cast behind thy back all my sins. By assigning the reason, he now leads us to the fountain itself, and points out the method of that cure; for otherwise it might have been thought that hitherto he had spoken of nothing else than the cure of the body, but now he shews that he looks at something higher, namely, that he had been guilty before God, but by his grace had been forgiven. He affirms, indeed, that life has been restored to him, but reckons it of higher value that he has been reconciled to God than a hundred or a thousand lives. And, indeed,

“it would have been better for us never to have been born” (Matthew 26:24)

than by living a long life to add continually new offenses, and thus to bring down on ourselves a heavier judgment. He therefore congratulates himself chiefly on this ground, that the face of God smiles cheerfully upon him; for to enjoy his favor is the highest happiness.

At the same time he declares that all the distresses which God inflicts upon us ought to be attributed to our sins, so that they who accuse God of excessive severity do nothing else than double their’ guilt; and he does not only condemn himself for one sin, but confesses that he was laden with many sins, so that he needed more than one pardon. If, then, we sincerely seek alleviation of our distresses, we must begin here; because when God is appeased, it is impossible that it can be ill with us; for he takes no pleasure in our distresses. It often happens with us as with foolish and thoughtless persons, when they are sick; for they fix their attention on nothing but (συμπτώματα) symptoms or accidental circumstances, and the pains which they feel, and overlook the disease itself. But we ought rather to imitate skillful physicians, who examine the causes of disease, and give their whole attention to eradicate those causes. They know that outward remedies are useless, and even hurtful, if the inward cause be unknown; for such remedies drive the whole force of the disease inward, and promote and increase it, so that there is no hope of cure.

Hezekiah therefore perceived the cause of his distress, that is, his sins; and when he had received the forgiveness of them, he knew that punishment also ceased and was remitted. Hence we see how absurd is the distinction of the Papists, who wish to separate the remission of punishment from the remission of guilt. But Hezekiah here testifies that punishment has been remitted to him, because guilt has been remitted.

We ought carefully to observe the form of expression which Isaiah employs, thou hast cast behind thy back; for it means that the remembrance of them is altogether effaced. In like manner, a Prophet elsewhere says that God

“casteth them into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19.)

It is likewise said in another passage, that he casteth them away

“as far as the east is distant from the west.”
(Psalm 103:12.)

By these modes of expression God assures us that he will not impute to us the sins which he has pardoned; and if, notwithstanding of this, he chastise us, he does it not as a judge, but as a father, to train his children and keep them in the discharge of their duty. Papists are mistaken in dreaming that punishments contain some kind of satisfaction, 9393     “Satisfaction ou recompenses.” “Satisfaction or compensations.” as if God exacted vengeance, because he would not bestow a free pardon. But when God chastises his people, he promotes their future advantage.

18. For hell shall not confess thee 9494     “For the grave cannot praise thee.” — Eng. Ver.
“For the grave shall not confess thee.” — Alexander.
When he says that he would not have celebrated the praises of God, if his life had been taken away, he promises that he will be thankful and will keep it in remembrance, and at the same time declares that the highest and most desirable advantage that life can yield to him is, that he will praise God. But although it is a sign of true piety to desire life for no other reason than to spend it in the unceasing praises of God, yet Hezekiah appears to employ language which is too exclusive; for the death of believers declares the glory of God not less than their life, and, being after death perfectly united to God, they do not cease to proclaim his praises along with the angels. Again, another question arises, “Why was Hezekiah so eager to avoid death and so earnestly desirous of an earthly life?” And though even this second question were answered, still the reader will likewise call to remembrance, that this terror was not produced by death alone, for the same Hezekiah, when his life was ended, did not resist, but willingly yielded to God; but that the pious king, when he had been struck by God’s wrath, grieved only on this account, that by his sins he had excluded himself from life, as if he would never afterwards enjoy any favor or blessing.

On this also depends the answer to the first question; for we need not wonder if the pious king, not only supposing that he must depart out of life, but thinking that death is the punishment of sins and the vengeance of God, groan and weep that he is condemned as unworthy of devoting himself to the advancement of the glory of God. All who have been struck by this thunderbolt are unable, either living or dead, to celebrate the praises of God, but, being overwhelmed with despair, must be dumb. In the same sense also David says,

“In death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall praise thee?” (Psalm 6:5.)

And the whole Church says,

“The dead shall not praise thee, nor those that go down into silence.” (Psalm 115:17.)

The reason is, that they who are ruined and lost will have no ground of thanksgiving.

Yet it ought likewise to be observed that the saints, when they spoke in this manner, did not consider what kind of condition awaited them after death, but, under the influence of the pain which they now felt, looked only at the end for which they were created and preserved in the world. The chief object of life, as we said a little before, is that men should be employed in the service of God; and with the same design God protects his Church in the world, because it is his will that his name shall be celebrated. Now, he who sees himself cast down, because he does not deserve to be reckoned, or to hold a place, among the worshippers of God, does not calmly and attentively, consider what he shall do after death, but, under the darkening influence of grief, as if after death all the exercise of piety would cease, takes from the dead the power of praising God, because the glory of God appears to be buried along with the witnesses of it.

19. The living, the living, he shall confess thee. He does not include all men without exception; for many live, who yet extinguish the glory of God by their ingratitude, as far as lies in their power, and undoubtedly have nothing farther from their thoughts than that they were born to praise God. But he simply declares that men, so long as God supports them in this life, may justly be regarded as the lawful heralds of his glory, when he invites them, by his kindness, to the discharge of that office. And this contrast shews that the statement which he made a little before, that “in death or in the grave there is no remembrance of God,” is a general declaration, that they who would willingly be employed in praising God are deprived of this favor, when they are driven out of the world.

As I do this day. He solemnly declares that he will be one of the witnesses of the glory of God, and thus gives a manifest indication of gratitude towards God; for he declares that he will not be forgetful, but will continually give thanks to God, and will make known the favor which he has received; and that not only to the men of his own age, but also to posterity, that they too may celebrate those praises and adore the author of so great a favor.

The father shall make known to the sons thy truth. Hence we ought to learn a useful lesson, that children are given to men on the express condition, that every man, by instructing his children, shall endeavor, to the utmost of his power, to transmit the name of God to posterity; and, therefore, the fathers of families are chiefly enjoined to be careful in this respect, that they shall diligently mention the benefits which God has bestowed on them. By the word truth he means that faithfulness which God exercises towards his people, and all the testimonies of his grace by which he proves that he is true.

20. Jehovah to save me. 9595     “Le Seigneur m’a delivre.” “The Lord hath delivered me.” He acknowledges that he was delivered, not by the aid or industry of men, but solely by the kindness of God. The rendering given by some, “It belongs to the Lord to save me,” does not express enough, and appears to be more remote from the literal meaning; for he praises not only the power of God, but also the work by which he hath given an evident proof of it. In a word, he contrasts God’s keeping with the death to which he had been sentenced; because, having formerly dreaded him as a severe judge, he now avows him as his deliverer, and leaps with joy. 9696     “The obvious ellipsis in the first clause may be variously filled with ‘came, hastened, commanded, was ready, be pleased,’ or with the verb ‘is,’ as an idiomatic periphrasis of the future, ‘is to save’ for ‘will save.” — Alexander.

And we will sing our songs. For the reason now stated, he not only prepares himself for singing in token of gratitude, but also calls on others to join and accompany him in this duty, and on this account mentions the Temple, in which the assemblies of religious men were held. Had be been a private individual and one of the common people, still it would have been his duty to offer a public sacrifice to God, that he might encourage others by his example. Much more then was the king bound to take care that he should bring others to unite with him in thanksgiving; especially because in his person God had provided for the advantage of the whole Church.

All the days of our life. He declares that he will do his endeavor that this favor of God may be known to all, and that the remembrance of it may be preserved, not only for one day or for one year, but as long as he shall live. And indeed at any time it would have been exceedingly base to allow a blessing of God so remarkable as this to pass away or be forgotten; but, being forgetful, we continually need spurs to arouse us. At the same time, he takes a passing notice of the reason why God appointed holy assemblies. It was, that all as with one mouth might praise him, and might excite each other to the practice of godliness.

21. And Isaiah said Isaiah now relates what was the remedy which he prescribed to Hezekiah. Some think that it was not a remedy, becausefigs are dangerous and hurtful to boils; but that the pious king was warned and clearly taught by this sign that the cure proceeded from nothing else than from the favor of God alone. As the bow in the sky, 9797     “L’arc en la nuce.” “The bow in the cloud.” by which God was pleased to testify that mankind would never be destroyed by a flood, (Genesis 9:13,) appears to denote what is absolutely contrary to this; (for it makes its appearance, when very thick clouds are gathering, and ready to fall as if they would deluge the whole world;) so they think that a plaster, which was not at all fitted for curing the disease, was purposely applied by the Prophet, in order to testify openly that God cured Hezekiah without medicines. But since figs are employed even by our own physicians for maturing a pustule, it is possible that the Lord, who had given a promise, gave also a medicine, as we see done on many other occasions; for although the Lord does not need secondary means, as they are called, yet he makes use of them whenever he thinks proper. And the value of the promise is not lessened by this medicine, which without the word would have been vain and useless; because he had received another supernatural sign, by which he had plainly learned that he had received front God alone that life of which he despaired.

22. Now, Hezekiah had said. Some explain this verse as if this also had been a sign given to Hezekiah, and therefore, view it as connected with the preceding verse, and look upon it as an exclamation of astonishment. But it is more probable that in this passage the order has been reversed, as frequently takes place with Hebrew writers, and that what was spoken last is related first. Isaiah did not at the beginning say that Hezekiah had asked a sign, though the sacred history (2 Kings 20:8) attests it; and therefore he adds what he had left out at the proper place.

That I shall go up. He means that it will be his chief object throughout his whole life to celebrate the name of God; for he did not desire life for the sake of living at ease and enjoying pleasure, but in order to defend the honor of God and the purity of his worship. Let us therefore remember that God prolongs our life, not that we may follow the bent of our natural disposition, or give ourselves up to luxury, but that we may cultivate piety, perform kind offices to each other, and frequently take part in the assembly of the godly and the public exercises of religion, that we may proclaim the truth and goodness of God.

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