ISAIAH CHAPTER 38.
Hezekiah’s Illness, Recovery, and Song of Praise.
HEZEKIAH’S ILLNESS AND RECOVERY. — V. 1. In those days, at the time of the Assyrian invasion or shortly after, was Hezekiah sick unto death, with an illness which was ordinarily mortal. And Isaiah, the prophet, the son of Amoz, came unto him, evidently by a direct command of the Lord, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order, literally, “Give charge concerning thy house”; he was to make arrangements especially concerning his successor to the throne and regarding the disposition of his goods; for thou shalt die and not live, this announcement being in agreement with the ordinary course of the disease. It is advisable for a believer always to have everything in readiness, so that, no matter when the Lord may call him hence, his earthly effects may be in order and those dependent upon him provided for. V. 2. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, in a movement which showed that he wished to be undisturbed with his thoughts, that he wished to be undistracted for communion with God, and prayed unto the Lord, v. 3. and said, in the fervent appeal of a child of God. Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth, without uncertainty and hypocrisy, and with a perfect heart, which aimed to serve Him in sincerity, and have done that which is good in Thy sight, according to the standard of Ps. 15 and also Matt. 5, 21. 22. And Hezekiah wept sore, for it seemed hard for him to die in the fullness of his manhood, without an heir, and with his country in a dangerous position. V. 4. Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, v. 5. Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David, thy father, for whose sake he gave so many evidences of His goodness and mercy to many of the kings of Judah, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years, by a gracious dispensation. V. 6. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, so that he would undertake no further campaigns against it; and I will defend this city. V. 7. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord that the Lord will do this thing that He hath spoken, a token which will prove the truth of this prophecy: v. 8. Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees which is gone down in the sun-dial of Ahaz ten degrees backward. This dial seems to have been built up in semicircular form, in a series of steps, the size of which was such as to make them visible from the king’s rooms. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. The sun not only stood still, hut it actually moved backward for a short distance, by the command of the Lord. The sickness of Hezekiah was not the plague, but a fever with an eruption of ulcers or boils. The present account is much abbreviated, as a comparison with 2 Kings 20 shows, but all the essential points are included. One commentator here makes the remark: “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.”
HEZEKIAH’S HYMN OF PRAISE. — V. 9. The writing of Hezekiah, king of 3udah, when he had been sick and was recovered of his sickness, a psalm of thanksgiving composed and written by him: v. 10. I said in the cutting off of my days, rather, in the tranquility of my days, at the time of his life and reign when he could look forward to an undisturbed enjoyment of his kingly position, I shall go to the gates of the grave, the kingdom of death had opened before him in his illness; I am deprived of the residue of my years, of the rest of his life according to the natural, average length of life. V. 11. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living, enjoy the gifts of His goodness here on earth, Ps. 27, 13; I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world, no longer enjoy the companionship of men among the denizens of the realm of death. V. 12. Mine age is departed, broken off, removed, folded up, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent, which is quickly pitched and as quickly taken down; I have cut off, like a weaver, my life, rolling it together as the craftsman folds the finished garment; He will cut me off with pining sickness, as the thread is cut off which tied the loom to the weaver’s beam; from day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me. While Hezekiah, as it were, was rolling up his life, as he lived it, on the weaver’s beam, the Lord threatened, by His cutting off, to interrupt his labor suddenly, and so rapid was the progress of the sickness that it seemed about to do its work in one day. V. 13. I reckoned till morning, composing himself till the next day, that, as a lion, so will He break all my bones, rather, for He was breaking my bones, and it was only with difficulty that he kept himself from despair; from day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me, it seemed that he could not endure the agony till evening. V. 14. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter, I did mourn as a dove, murmuring and groaning with querulous notes, with broken sounds expressive of pain; mine eyes fail with looking upward, with painful longing, and yet lifted up to the Lord. O Lord, I am oppressed, as a debtor hard pressed by his creditors; undertake for me, literally, “be surety for me,” so that he would be delivered from this oppression. V. 15. What shall I say? Hezekiah finds himself at a loss for words adequately to express his appreciation of the deliverance afforded him. He hath both spoken unto me, and Himself hath done it, the Lord’s performance agreeing exactly with his promise; I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul, or: ‘Shall I walk along softly all the years of my life after the bitterness of my soul?” The answer is, of course, that God granted him just this, to have such relief after his bitter experience. V. 16. O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit, namely, by the blessings of God’s goodness and mercy; so wilt Thou recover me and make me to live, preserving his life by His almighty power. V. 17. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness, that is, unto deliverance was bitterness for me, bitterness, what he considered the bitter distress of death makes his deliverance stand out all the more brightly; but Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption, for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back, this forgiveness of sins being the reason for Cod’s gracious deliverance of the king being the ground for His act of mercy. V. 18. For the grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee, people in the realm of death have no opportunity to sing His praises; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth, place their trust in His faithfulness. V. 19. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day, the great contrast between the mournful past and the joyful present being brought out here; the father to the children shall make known Thy truth, the faithfulness of God in keeping his promises. V. 20. The Lord was ready to save me, to give him deliverance from the evil which beset him; therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments, with their accompaniment, all the days of our life in the house of the Lord, the hymn probably being used for public worship at stated times, especially on the anniversary of Hezekiah’s recovery. To tarry in the house of the Lord and to bring him the sacrifices of our lips and hands is the only proper way of showing our thankfulness for favors received from him. V. 21. For Isaiah had said, at the tune when he had promised the king that he would recover from his illness, Let them take a lump of figs, a remedy often used to bring relief in case of swellings, but here merely a secondary feature in the miraculous cure, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover. V. 22. Hezekiah also had said, when Isaiah delivered to him the Lord’s promise, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord? He had been given the sign, and his recovery had taken place. His prayer had been heard, and so his heart overflowed in grateful melody to the God of all good gifts, a fine example for believers of all times.