Isaiah 38


‘In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.’ Isaiah 38:1-3

Hezekiah’s Illness

This chapter tells us of Hezekiah’s illness.

It is within the year of the Assyrian invasion of Isaiah 36:1, that the event described by Isaiah falls, 2 Kings 20:1-21 / 2 Chronicles 32:24-33. Hezekiah reigned for 29 years and 15 of them are promised here, the invasion began in the 14th year of his reign.

Hezekiah was probably 38 years old when Isaiah told him to put his house in order. At this time he had no children, and so, the Davidic seedline was in danger.

Jamieson, in his commentary, says the following.

‘How often do our wishes when gratified prove curses! Hezekiah lived to have a son, Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:1, by all standards the most wicked and evil of all the kings of Judah, whose reign ended with the overthrow of the kingdom and the deportation of the people to Babylon.’

Despite all the wonderful restoration works which Hezekiah did, that didn’t mean he could avoid death. We read that Hezekiah ‘turned his face to the wall’, Daniel 6:10, and prayed for his life and so, he humbled himself before God because he believed the pronouncement of Isaiah concerning his death.

‘Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city. “‘This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.’ Isaiah 38:4-8

Here we read of God’s promise to Hezekiah, he is promised an additional 15 years of life, James 5:13-18, and he is promised that God would defend the city against the attack of Sennacherib.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The parallel account in 2 Kings 20:4 reveals that Isaiah left Hezekiah and was on the way to departing from the palace, being as far as the middle court, when the Word of God came to Isaiah again, instructing him to reveal that the Lord had heard his prayers and was extending his life by some fifteen years. So swiftly does God answer the prayer of faith! From this, we may conclude that God approves of our prayers for health, for life and for strength.’

The process of healing would take time as God assisted the natural body processes to bring health to Hezekiah. Until he was healed, God knew that Hezekiah needed reassurance that he wouldn’t die. God made the sun’s shadow go back tens steps or degrees, 2 Kings 20:9-11 / Joshua 10:12-15.

The promise was, that Hezekiah will be permitted to go to the temple in three days, 2 Kings 20:5.

‘A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery: I said, “In the prime of my life must I go through the gates of death and be robbed of the rest of my years?” I said, “I will not again see the LORD himself in the land of the living; no longer will I look on my fellow man, or be with those who now dwell in this world. Like a shepherd’s tent my house has been pulled down and taken from me. Like a weaver I have rolled up my life, and he has cut me off from the loom; day and night you made an end of me. I waited patiently till dawn, but like a lion he broke all my bones; day and night you made an end of me. I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!” But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. Lord, by such things people live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back. For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD.’ Isaiah 38:9-20

Here we read Hezekiah’s psalm which is a deep lamentation.

If Hezekiah had died under the age of forty, he would have been cut off in his prime. Life for him would thus be rolled up like a shepherd’s tent. A cry of anguish went up from the king’s sleepless soul when he cried to God for deliverance. In other words, he was in anguish, feeling that his life was cut off before he could accomplish his destiny in life.

Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘He tells us what his thoughts were of himself when he was at the worst and these he keeps in remembrance.’

1. As blaming himself for his despondency, and that he gave up himself for gone, whereas while there is life there is hope, and room for our prayer and God’s mercy. Though it is good to consider sickness as a summons to the grave, so as thereby to be quickened in our preparations for another world, yet we ought not to make the worse of our case, nor to think that every sick man must needs be a dead man presently. He that brings low can raise up. Or,

2. As reminding himself of the apprehensions he had of death approaching, that he might always know and consider his own frailty and mortality, and that, though he had a reprieve for fifteen years, it was but a reprieve, and the fatal stroke he had now such a dread of would certainly come at last. Or,

3. As magnifying the power of God in restoring him when his case was desperate, and his goodness in being so much better to him than his own fears. Thus David sometimes, when he was delivered out of trouble, reflected upon the black and melancholy conclusions he had made upon his own case when he was in trouble, and what he had then said in his haste, as Psalm 31:22 / Psalm 77:7-9.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following, concerning ‘the pit of destruction’.

‘The grave, or the place for the dead, is often represented as a pit, deep and dark, to which the living descend, Job 17:16 / Job 33:18 / Job 33:24-25 / Job 33:30 / Psalm 28:1 / Psalm 30:3 / Psalm 55:23 / Psalm 69:15 / Psalm 88:4’.

He believed that if God were to be the foundation of his life and mission, then God would give him a longer life. Hezekiah is filled with joy and makes a promise to God.

Only by living and obeying God could Hezekiah praise God. God knew that His people needed Hezekiah’s leadership in a time of national crisis that was brought on by the Assyrian threat.

‘Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.” Hezekiah had asked, “What will be the sign that I will go up to the temple of the LORD?” Isaiah 38:21-22

Some commentators believe that these two verses were somehow removed from their proper place following verse 6, and are misplaced here. This would cause them to follow immediately after verse 6, and come before verse 7, 2 Kings 20:6-7.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In the parallel place in Kings the statement in these two verses is introduced before the account of the miracle on the sun-dial, and before the account of his recovery, 2 Kings 20:7-8. The order in which it is introduced, however, is not material.’

We aren’t told if the ‘poultice of figs’ was simply a sign of accepting the healing of God, or that it was believed that the poultice of figs had some medicinal power, 1 Samuel 25:18.

We’re also not told what kind of sickness the boil implies, Exodus 9:9 / Exodus 9:11 / Leviticus 13:18-20, but we do see in these verses that all that could be done medically, was done.

The point here is, that the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick does not reject the God-given means for recovery made known to medical science. The true healing, however, was accomplished by God, James 5:13-15.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The remedy for the king’s disease was suggested by Isaiah, and the sign was given at the king’s request.’

Go To Isaiah 39