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Isaiah 38:1 In those days was Hezekiah sick and near death. Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, came to him, and said to him- Hezekiah reigned 29 years (2 Kings 18:2), and the sickness after which he was given 15 years therefore happened in the 14th year or his reign- the very same time that Assyria invaded (Is. 36:1). Trials so often come together, in such an intense and extreme way that the situation can only be of God rather than mere bad luck or coincidence. The full title of Isaiah is given perhaps because the theme is that Hezekiah was to live because of the prophetic word.

 

Thus says Yahweh, ‘Set your house in order, for you will die, and not live’-  we should not assume too quickly that Hezekiah had no family at this stage; for he is commanded here to put in order his household ("house" is so often 'family' rather than the bricks of a house). Indeed the very same phrase is used of how Abraham would "command his household" to keep God's laws (Gen. 18:19). Perhaps that was the idea. He was to urgently teach his household more of God's ways as he was to soon die.

Isaiah 38:2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to Yahweh-
The divans, which were also beds, were arranged next to the walls. We are left with the impression of a man utterly alone with God, turning his face away from Isaiah when he had delivered the message, facing the wall- and praying to Yahweh.


Isaiah 38:3 And said, Remember now, Yahweh, I beg You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Your sight-
Hezekiah claimed to have lived with a good conscience but was at the same time aware of his sins (Is. 38:3 cp. 17); and his cutting off the gold of the temple to try to buy peace was surely a failure. Yet the conscience can be cleansed of sin, through the depth of the power of God's forgiveness. This is not the same as forgetfulness, self-righteousness or minimization of personal failings. Paul must surely have had twinges of guilt over his behaviour at times (not least over the bust up with Brethren Barnabas and Mark, Acts 15:39 cp. 2 Tim. 4:11); and yet he insists that he always had a good conscience. Paul likewise claims that the Jewish forefathers served God with a pure conscience (2 Tim. 1:3 NIV). Yet the Jewish fathers, dear Jacob particularly, must have had plenty of twinges of guilt over their years.

Walking in truth is the term used to characterize the seed of David (1 Kings 2:4; 3:6), as David personally walked in truth (Ps. 26:3; 86:11), and may not of itself mean that Hezekiah is saying he has not sinned; it's as if Hezekiah assumed that because he was the seed of David, he therefore ought not to die. As will be explained on :5, the adding of days to his life was a way of saying that he was being accepted as the seed of David; and yet he failed to use those years to save his people. It could be argued that by refusing to die when asked to, Hezekiah was disallowing his being the fulfilment of the Messianic suffering servant who was to die for his people.

 Hezekiah wept bitterly-  Perhaps in prayer, asking God to change the outcome. For as with Nineveh, in the gap between Divine statement and its fulfilment, we can repent and change the word which otherwise would have come true (Jer. 18:8-10).


Isaiah 38:4 Then the word of Yahweh came to Isaiah, saying-
It seems from 2 Kings 20:4 that once he reached the middle court of the palace, he was told by God to "turn again" and give Hezekiah assurance of healing. The whole incident shows the speed with which God responds to prayers, and His sensitivity to human prayer and repentance.


Isaiah 38:5 Go, and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says Yahweh the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life-
Kings adds more detail, denoted here in italics: "Behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the King of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake" (2 Kings 20:5,6 AV). The defence of Zion at this time was predicated upon God's grace; judgment was intended to come unless they repented, and most of them hadn't. And so God stresses He will save Zion by grace, for His own sake and not that of His peoples' prayer or repentance. The cure was not instant, it took three days; for the same reason as there will be the process of judgment between our resurrection and entrance to the Kingdom. The period between God's pronouncement of blessing and the realization of it is for our benefit, that we might grow in appreciation. The healing enabled Hezekiah to enter the temple; from God's perspective, the most significant aspect of his illness was that its uncleanness precluded him from entering the temple. We notice the parallel between Hezekiah's prayer and his tears;  God reads situations as prayers. Prayer is understood by Him far wider than simply words as lexical items. Otherwise those more able to verbalize would pray 'better'; and acceptable prayer is not related to our ability to verbalize.

The years 'added' to the king's life are expressed in the words of Ps. 61:6, where David felt that God would "prolong [s.w. "add to"] the king's life [s. w. "days"]. The clear allusion to David's words was perhaps to show that God considered Hezekiah to be the Davidic king who could have been the Messianic Son of David. But Hezekiah despised that and wasted those years in self-satisfaction. There is also a theme in Solomon's teaching that his son would have 'days added' (the same Hebrew phrase) to his life, because of his obedience to wisdom (Prov. 3:2; 9:11; 10:27). Again, the idea is that the adding of days to Hezekiah's life was confirming him as the seed of David.


Isaiah 38:6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city-
Yahweh had earlier stated that He would not "deliver" (s.w.) Jerusalem from the Assyrian lion (Is. 5:29). But as in Hosea, God speaks in wrath but then His grace is such that He doesn't carry out what He threatens. He has emotion and speaks and acts in that fire of passion. That was normal in the Middle East; it is the western obsession with nicespeak and measured responses which make outburst behaviour and language appear inappropriate. Micah was contemporary with Isaiah, and he spoke of the 'deliverance'
 (s.w.) of the city from the Assyrians as being due to the appearance of a Messianic figure (Mic. 5:6).  Here in Is 38:6, the deliverance of Hezekiah personally from inevitable death is tied up with the deliverance of Jerusalem from inevitable judgment. He surely could have been one of the possible fulfillments of the Messianic figure, which makes his failure to rise up to it all the more tragic.


Isaiah 38:7 This shall be the sign to you from Yahweh, that Yahweh will do this thing that He has spoken-
It seems that unlike his father Ahaz, Hezekiah had asked for this sign (:22). It is apparent that the experiences of believers are often suggestive of those of other believers. Insofar as we appreciate this, we will find strength to go the right way. Consider how Hezekiah was intended to see the similarities between himself and the earlier king Ahaz his father, and learn the lessons. They were both threatened by invasion and tempted to turn to human help (Is. 7:2; 37:1); Visited by Isaiah and told to not fear (Is. 7:4-9; 37:6,7). Ahaz was unfaithful by “the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the fuller’s field” (Is. 7:3); and in just the same place Hezekiah’s faith was tested and he learnt the lessons of Ahaz’ failure (Is. 36:2). Both were given a sign by God and promised deliverance (Is. 7:14; 37:30). Ahaz refused to ask for a sign when offered one (Is. 7:11); whereas Hezekiah learnt, and asked for a sign (Is. 38:7,22). Thus his asking for a sign was not a sign of faithlessness but rather his seeking to not be like Ahaz. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it” was spoken to both Ahaz (Is. 9:6) and Hezekiah (Is. 37:32).

Isaiah 38:8 Behold, I will cause the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down on the sundial of Ahaz with the sun, to return backward ten steps. ’ So the sun returned ten steps on the sundial on which it had gone down-
"The stairway built by King Ahaz", Hezekiah's father, was part of his idolatrous sun worship which Hezekiah ought to have destroyed. It was a kind of small ziggurat. It was the Babylonians who had begun telling the time in this way; there is no mention of "hours" of the day in the Hebrew Bible until the time of Daniel. Here we have another hint at the incomplete spirituality and reformation of Hezekiah. The "songs of degrees" were written or rewritten to apply to this experience of the sun returning ten degrees or steps. There are 15 of them, matching the 15 extra years of life given to Hezekiah.

"Gone down" is the word used by Hezekiah in speaking of how he feels he had "gone down" into the grave (:18). It is as if Hezekiah has died, the sun gone down those degrees, and then resurrected, brought up the same amount. He could have been a Messianic figure in a reestablished kingdom of God in Judah. The "return backward" of the sun is a phrase often used of the return of the exiles from Babylon to be part of that reestablished Kingdom. Hezekiah's revival / resurrection was to be seen as that of his people. How the miracle happened is not the essential question; but it could have been caused by the glory of Yahweh bursting forth so that the shadow was chased back.
 
Isaiah 38:9 The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and had recovered of his sickness-
LXX "The prayer of Hezekiah". "Recovered" here translates a common word for 'to make to live'. If recovery or healing was in view, another word would have been used- that used in Is. 39:1. Hezekiah uses the word in :16 "cause me to live". The idea is that he had effectively died. Whether he literally did or not is not the ultimate issue; his sickness is framed as a living death, from which he resurrected. The same word is used in :1; Hezekiah would "not live" or "not recover". But he does, such is God's openness to change His plans in response to human prayer. The recovery was clearly a Divine 'Plan B' and not necessarily what God had ideally wanted. Perhaps He wanted Hezekiah to die and be resurrected. Or perhaps indeed Hezekiah did not recover; he died, but was resurrected, and in that sense he recovered. The word is definitely used about resurrection in Is. 26:19 and elsewhere.

Isaiah 38:10 I said, In the middle of my life I go into the gates of Sheol. I am deprived of the residue of my years-
Hezekiah understood sheol as the place where there is no "living" (:11); the grave. "The middle" is literally 'the meridian', an allusion to the sundial which he perhaps viewed from his bed of sickness, and which was the appropriate sign to give him seeing as he watched the sun climb and decline on the steps. If it indeed was an idolatrous import from Assyria as suggested earlier, he would have had time to reflect on the incomplete nature of his purges and perhaps his own repentance. Hezekiah's reasoning seems based around the supposition that this life is all he had to enjoy, and at 39 he felt he was in the midst of it. The perspective of eternity doesn't seem to figure. The language of 'deprivation' likewise seems to presume that he has a right to life, whereas sinners deserve only death. Like Job, Hezekiah is made self-centered by the reality of pain, depression and illness; and yet is saved at the same time. Those things are understood by God and seen through as surface level issues.

Isaiah 38:11 I said, I won’t see Yah, Yah in the land of the living. I will see man no more with the inhabitants of the world-
This may be a lament that he would not live to see Yahweh destroying the Assyrians and establishing His Kingdom; hence LXX "I shall no more at all see the salvation of God in the land of the living: I shall no more at all see the salvation of Israel on the earth". Several of Isaiah's prophecies had suggested the literal coming of Yahweh to Zion in the restored kingdom (Is. 4:5,6).


Isaiah 38:12 My dwelling is removed, and is carried away from me like a shepherd’s tent-
LXX " I have parted with the remainder of my life: it has gone forth and departed from me, as one that having pitched a tent takes it down again: my breath was with me as a weaver's web, when she that weaves draws nigh to cut off the thread". AV "Mine age is departed"; the Hebrew for "age" is strictly 'a revolution', again reflecting how he had been watching the revolution of time on the sundial from his bed of sickness. The reference to a tent being taken down connects with the descriptions of the permanence of the restored Zion, as a tabernacle which would not again be taken down (Is. 33:20). He believed that he would not see this; he felt his destiny was that of the "tabernacle" in Zion. We could argue that he thereby failed to perceive the role of bodily resurrection, so that he would ultimately see this. Or that he doubted that Is. 33:20 was to come true. On the other hand, it could be that his identification of himself with the fortunes of Zion was positive, and was resolved by the message that he would be healed at the same time as the tabernacle would be permanently established through the destruction of the Assyrians. But he failed to live according to this faith in the final 15 years of his life.

I have rolled up, like a weaver, my life. He will cut me off from the loom- The same word for 'weaving' is used in Isaiah of those who weaved unspiritual plans to try to avoid the Assyrian judgment (Is. 19:9; 59:5). Perhaps he reflected upon his agreements with the Assyrians and cutting off the gold from the temple to pay for them. And he felt he was to be judged for that.

 From day even to night You will make an end of me- He was at the gates of the grave (:10), feeling that he would die by the end of that night, in the morning (:13). "Make an end" is more strictly 'recompense' (s.w. Is. 59:18; 65:6; Jer. 16:18). Perhaps he felt he was being judged for sin and was to receive the recompense for iniquity, in death. And yet he protests he has not sinned. We could read this as self-righteousness; or see him as the representative of God's sinful people, the just suffering for the unjust in the spirit of the Lord Jesus, the ultimate "suffering servant2/


Isaiah 38:13 I waited patiently until morning. He breaks all my bones like a lion. From now until tonight You will make an end of me-
See on :12. Assyria was the lion, and yet Yahweh was behind that lion. He feels his destiny is tied up with that of Judah. He suffered as their representative. Therefore he is assured that his healing is tied up with the salvation of Zion from Assyria.
LXX gives the sense: "I was given up as to a lion until the morning: so has he broken all my bones: for I was so given up from day even to night". The Assyrians were the lion, and Hezekiah feels that his death is as it were giving Assyria the victory. He fails to see the glory and purpose of God in wider terms, seeing his own living as indispensible to the purpose of God. See on :15.


Isaiah 38:14 I am chattering like a swallow or a crane, moaning like a dove. My eyes weaken looking upward-
He admits that his faith in the God above is weakening as he faces death. "Chatter" is the word used in Is. 29:4 of how Judah are to be brought down in condemnation and chatter out of the dust; he feels condemned although he is not, bearing Judah's sins and condemnation, exactly as the Lord Jesus did. But there is no mention of faith in resurrection, as there is with Job when he feels the same, and also is presented as the suffering servant. Perhaps he alludes to Ps. 84:3, where the Psalmist is also excluded from the temple, and is jealous of the swallows who can fly in there despite their uncleanness.

Lord, I am oppressed- This is the word used in Is. 30:12; 59:13 of Judah's trust in Egypt and clever political alliances. Hezekiah is bearing Judah's sins, but he is also aware of his own sin in cutting off the gold of the temple and allowing those sinful alliances to go ahead in his name.

 

Be my salvation- "Be my salvation" or AV "undertake for me" is the word used by Rabshakeh when he sarcastically asks Hezekiah to surrender to the Assyrians (see on Is. 36:8). His sickness came at the same time as the siege of Jerusalem; see on Is. 36:1.


Isaiah 38:15 What will I say?-
As the seed of David, he feels like David did when the great promises of the Messianic seed were given to him.

He has both spoken to me, and Himself has done it- The word of Isaiah promising healing was God's word, and had been done. It is the language of new creation, common in later Isaiah; God spoke and it was done. But Hezekiah was to later waste that wonderful potential.

I will walk carefully all my years because of that anguished experience of my soul- Hezekiah saw Jacob's watershed experience that night of wrestling as analogous to his own experience during his sickness: "I reckoned till morning, that as a lion he would break all my bones (cp. Esau's approach)... I shall go softly (cp. "I will lead on softly", Gen. 33:14)... for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back" (Is. 38:13,15). Tragically, Hezekiah didn't keep Jacob as his hero. He succumbed to the very materialism which Jacob permanently rejected that night.


Isaiah 38:16 Lord, men live by these things; and my spirit finds life in all of them: You restore me, and cause me to live-
The revival he felt was not simply of physical healing, but in spiritual restoration.  This again suggests he was not in fact a stellar example of spirituality beforehand. But he didn't render again according to the grace given, and he didn't keep this natural undertaking to live spiritually "by these things", as a result of the healing and national deliverance given.
LXX "Yea, O Lord, for it was told thee concerning this; and thou hast revived my breath; and I am comforted, and live"; GNB " Lord, I will live for you, for you alone; Heal me and let me live".

When we are seriously ill or in great calamity, we focus upon very simple ideas. God truly loves me and cares for me. My Lord Jesus will come again. He will raise me. Judgment lies ahead, but He wants me in His Kingdom. He died for me. He has a plan for me. He loves me and wishes only my eternal good. Hezekiah was driven to this when he was terminally ill. Afterwards he felt as a little child, and concluded: “by these things men live...”. Yet we are all terminally ill, if only we would know it. Paul quotes from the experience of Hezekiah at this time and says that this should be the keynote of our witness (2 Cor. 4:13 cp. Ps. 116:10). He was “delivered from death” and therefore promised to walk before the Lord “in the lands of the living”, believing in salvation and therefore speaking to those lands of it (RV). We all face the day when we shall be as water spilt on the ground, that cannot be gathered up; when the delicate, beautiful chandelier of human life will come crashing to the ground, when the rope holding the bucket snaps, and it falls into the well. In all these Biblical images of death, we face the tragic irreversibility of it all. Our bodies are already riddled with the cancer of inevitable decay. Today, while it is still today, we must focus ourselves upon the vital and essential realities of our faith, and away from all the peripheral issues upon which our flesh would far rather dwell.


Isaiah 38:17 Behold, for peace I had great anguish, but You have in love for my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; for You have cast all my sins behind Your back-
This again suggests that Hezekiah's previous life had not been of totally stellar obedience. Hezekiah didn't have "peace" before his suffering, so we must go with other translations.
LXX "For thou hast chosen my soul, that it should not perish: and thou hast cast all my sins behind me"; GNB "My bitterness will turn into peace. You save my life from all danger; You forgive all my sins".

 
Isaiah 38:18 For Sheol can’t praise You. Death can’t celebrate You. Those who go down into the pit can’t hope for Your truth-
That death is truly unconsciousness, even for the righteous, is demonstrated by the repeated pleas of God’s servants to allow their lives to be lengthened, because they knew that after death they would be unable to praise and glorify God, seeing that death was a state of unconsciousness. Hezekiah (Is. 38:17-19) and David (Ps. 6:4,5; 30:9; 39:13; 115:17) are good examples of this. Death is repeatedly referred to as a sleep or rest, both for the righteous and the wicked (Job 3:11,13,17; Dan. 12:13). And yet Hezekiah reasons as if he has no hope of future resurrection; in the grave he could have hoped for God's truth, the fulfilment of the promises to David which were clearly in his mind at this time. It was the lack of this future perspective which led him to his final failure, of considering that "peace and truth" in his last years was a good enough reward (see on Is. 39:8).


Isaiah 38:19 The living, the living, he shall praise You, as I do this day. The father shall make known Your truth to the children-
LXX "for from this day shall I beget children, who shall declare thy righteousness". This is not to say that at 39 he had no children, for he was commanded to arrange the affairs of his household / family (:1). And yet he vows to teach the "truth" of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant to his children in future. Is. 39:7 suggests he would now have [more?] children. His children were a remarkable failure. He apparently didn't do this. His having children after his recovery and figurative resurrection would look forward to the Lord's spiritual achievement. But again he is focused upon the life that now is, and assumes he will have children who will take forward God's truth- rather than any mention or implication of a faith in resurrection and a future Kingdom. David had such a faith and understanding, as did Job; Hezekiah clearly didn't.


Isaiah 38:20 Yahweh will save me-
This is the idea of the Hebrew word for "Jesus", 'Yehoshua'.

Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of Yahweh- The "songs of degrees" were written or rewritten to apply to this experience of the sun returning ten degrees or steps. There are 15 of them, matching the 15 extra years of life given to Hezekiah. "Our life" may refer to his children (:19). But as discussed on Is. 39:8, he still sees service to God as limited to his lifetime.


Isaiah 38:21 Now Isaiah had said, Let them take a cake of figs, and lay it for a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover-
There was no need for this, because his salvation was by a miracle. But it was perhaps given in reflection of his weak faith and needing something visible; hence :22 begins "Hezekiah also had" asked for a sign, as if the cake of figs was likewise associated with his needing visible assurances. We note it was done on Isaiah's initiative, who perhaps perceived Hezekiah's need for something visible.


Isaiah 38:22 Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I will go up to the house of Yahweh?
- Or as LXX "This is a sign to Ezekias, that I shall go up to the house of God". The request for this sign could be read as a lack of faith; or an attempt to learn the lesson of his father Ahaz, who was condemned for not asking for a sign. See on :7.