The purpose of God’s healing is to invoke salvation and wholeness. Thus, Yeshua says “Go, your faith has made you whole.” And not “Go, your faith has healed you” as some intellectually dishonest English versions suggest (Luke 19:17; Mark 5:34; 10:52 etc.)
Cf. 2 Kings 20:1-11
The events described in chapters 38 - 39 preceded the events of chapters 36 and 37 by a period of approximately 10 years. We’re able to deduce this because chapter 39 ends with a prediction of the Babylonian exile. However, the scribes who transmitted the scroll of Isaiah placed these events after chapters 36 and 37 in order to form a bridge, giving the meta-narrative a greater sense of continuity. Thus, the prediction of the Babylonian exile (Chap. 39) precedes chapter 40, the subject of which is Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile.
The events of chapter 38 are recorded in a parallel passage in 2 Kings 20:1-11 with only slight variations, and of course the omission of Hezekiah’s psalm/meditation (Isaiah 38:9-20). It seems fitting that the scribes include the mikhtav of Hezekiah in the present chapter of Isaiah’s poetic, prophetic scroll and exclude it in the more historically styled record of the Kings.
What follows conveys the ancient rhythm of God inspired relationship: a relationship strengthened rather than weakened by illness and despair.
Isa 38:1 In those days Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH, Mercy) became chalah sick, weak, grieved, sorry, diseased lamot to the point of death. And Yeshayahu (YHVH, he is salvation: Isaiah) the prophet the son of Amotz (Strength, courage) came to him, and said to him, Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD), “tzav order, command lebeitecha your house: for met die you shall, and not tichyeh live.”
Cf. 2 Kings 20:1
“In those days” as discussed above, refers to that time approximately 10 years prior to the events of chapters 36-37. Hezekiah assumed the throne of Judah at the age of 25 and reigned for 29 years (2 Kings 18:2), living to the age of 54: given that 15 years are added to his life in the present text, he was therefore, 39 years of age at the time of the events recorded in Isaiah chapter 38. However, Yarchi and a number of other Jewish commentators suggest that these events took place three days before the ruin of Sennacherib's army (placing them at the end of the aforementioned ten year period); and that it was on the third day that Hezekiah recovered, and went up to the temple, that the destruction of the Assyrian army occurred, that evening being the first day of Pesach the Passover (Seder Olam Rabba, c. 23. p. 65).
It is noteworthy that Isaiah came to Hezekiah during his time of personal illness, whereas on occasions when Hezekiah was in health he had sent messengers to Isaiah. This shows compassion on the part of Isaiah. Although he had been tasked with giving bad news to Hezekiah, he performed that duty in person as a friend to the King rather than sending a messenger to deliver the news.
Some have suggested that the Hezekiah’s illness was brought on by the stress that he experienced in response to the speed and force of the invading Assyrian army, and his inability to gain adequate protection from Egypt. We find out later in this chapter that the sickness is somehow connected to a boil that had grown on Hezekiah’s body which may have become infected, thus, causing blood poisoning; a life threatening condition.
“order, command your house” is a way of saying “Make your last will and testament, leave instructions for your household regarding what is to be done after your passing.”
“for die you shall, and not live.” Makes death certain but is not specific enough to infer immediate death. None the less, Hezekiah’s illness was terminal.
Isa 38:2 Then Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH, Mercy) turned his face toward ha-kiyr the wall, and prayed to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD),
Cf. 2 Kings 20:2
“The wall” could be understood in a plain sense to simply refer to the wall of the room in which Hezekiah was bedridden. Turning in toward the wall would have been his only means of finding some privacy and solace with the palace representatives and staff constantly present to care for the king.
As a remez I see the act of Hezekiah’s turning as being a turning toward God in his distress. Further to this although the Hebrew kiyr is a generic term for a flat surface, wall etc. it can also be used to describe the wall surrounding the Temple complex of Solomon. I can’t help but see a comparrison to ha-kotel, the western wall of the Temple of Herod, yet future at the time of Hezekiah, and certainly present in its Solomonic form during Hezekiah’s time . To turn toward it is to turn toward the Temple and the Holy of holies. As I’m writing this we are in that time of repentance and preparation in the month of Elul, when, davening selichot (prayers of contrition), thousands of Jews are turned toward ha-kotel and the Temple mount as a symbolic physical act representing our desire to turn toward God in our distress.
I’m not alone in my supposition, regarding Hezekiah potentially turning toward the wall surrounding the Temple complex of his time: the second century Targum writers understood ha-kiyr to refer to the outer wall of the Temple complex of Hezekiah’s day:
“Then Hezekiah turned his face towards the wall of the house of the sanctuary, and prayed before the Lord,” -Targum Yonatan
Turning toward the Temple to pray is advocated for by king Solomon (1 Kings 8:29-61) and is elsewhere commonplace within traditional Jewish prayer practice throughout the world.
Hezekiah’s first instinct as a human being and as a Jew upon whom God had placed His Name, was to turn to God in an intimate gesture of vulnerability and cry out in prayer: his prayer being a response to the conversation God had already begun. One could say that the general nature of Isaiah’s warning (which doesn’t say when Hezekiah will die, just that his death is certain) was God’s way of allowing Hezekiah the opportunity for repentance and healing.
Isa 38:3 And said, “Anah I beseech you, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD), zechor-na remember, recall, call to mind now, how I have walked before You be-emet in truth uveleiv and with a heart (core being) of shaleim wholeness, safety, completeness, peacefulness, and have done that which is ha-tov good in Your sight.” And Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH, Mercy) bechiy bewailed gadol greatly.
Cf. 2 Kings 20:3
Hezekiah does not presume to be perfect in his walk before God, he is simply asking that God acknowledge the sincerity with which he has sought to follow the commandments and restore the centrality of the Temple cult to Judah and Israel. After all, Hezekiah was responsible for removing the high places and tearing down the heathen altars, and for bringing the focus of Israel’s worship back to the God appointed Temple mount and the altar of sacrifice therein (2 Kings 18:4).
Hezekiah does not think that God has forgotten him, rather he is in a sense, reminding himself that God is aware of every intimate part of Hezekiah’s life. Thus, feeling abandoned within time and space, he calls out to God, Who is outside of Time and space and in control of all things.
Hezekiah’s “bewailing greatly” denotes not only his concern for himself and his potential loss of life but also for the state of the nation and the added vulnerability that would ensue were he to die with the invading Assyrian army at the doorstep of Jerusalem.
Isa 38:4 Then came a devar-YHVH word of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD) to Yeshayahu (YHVH, he is salvation: Isaiah), saying,
“And it came to pass, before Isaiah was gone out (chatzeir) of the city centre, that a word of the Lord came to him, saying,” -2 Kings 20:4
The account of 2 Kings 20 illuminates further the immediacy of God’s response to Hezekiah. Isaiah was still in the centre of the upper city of Jerusalem and probably had gone no further than the middle court of the king’s residence, and or had progressed via the Temple pausing at the middle court (court of Israel) to pray.
Isa 38:5 “Go, and say to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH, Mercy), ‘Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD), Eloheiy the God of David aviycha your father, I have shamatiy heard, listened to your prayer, I have raiytiy seen, considered your tears: Hineni Now, behold, pay attention, I will yosif add to your days fifteen years.’”
Cf. 2 Kings 20:5-6
“Thus says HaShem the God of David your father”. This is said to affirm the covenant God had made with the house of David (2 Sam. 7:4-17). It is for the sake of the King Messiah Who will come out of the line of David and for the subsequent redemption of those who receive Him that God calls Himself “Eloheiy Daveed”.
Neither a prayer said in vain nor the superficial tears of the unrepentant invoke the mercy of God. Hezekiah’s request is acknowledged as genuine and moving (Yaakov [James] 5:16). God now demands that Hezekiah pay attention, that is, “act righteously in response to the extension of life that I am giving you”.
15 years is representative of two terms of completion (2 x 7) plus a year of new beginning (+1). 2 sevens are an allusion to eternity (completion perfected) and the added single year an allusion to the beginning of that eternity. Thus, the added years promise far more than earthly life, something that Isaiah already understands but Hezekiah has yet to fully grasp.
Isa 38:6 And I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Ashur (A step, Assyria): ve’ganotiy and I will defend, cover, surround this city.
Cf. 2 Kings 20:6
This verse suggests that while these events occurred as many as 10 years prior to Sennacherib’s move against Jerusalem, it is also possible that they occurred closer to the end of that 10 year period and therefore, align with the Jewish Sages’ tradition more closely than some scholars suspect.
The wording of God’s comforting response to Hezekiah seeks to calm his concerns both for himself and for Jerusalem and its inhabitants: “I will defend, cover, surround this city.”
The 2 Kings 20 account places the entire conversation concerning the sign and the healing of Hezekiah by means of a pressed fig rub at this point in the narrative, giving the dialogue a more natural continuity. Thus, 2 Kings 20:7-8 correspond to the seemingly ill-placed verses of Isaiah 38:21-22, which bare no connection to the following chapter but rather refer back to a point in the narrative prior to the giving of the sign and the healing of Hezekiah.
“And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day?” -2 Kings 20:7-8
Isa 38:7 And this to you ha-ot the miraculous sign from HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD), that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD) will ya’aseh fashion, do ha-devar this thing, word, essence that He has dibeir spoken;
“And Isaiah said, This sign you will have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten steps: no, but let the shadow return backward ten steps.” 2 Kings 20:9-10
The sign is to be a miraculous one. While some seek to provide a practical reason for the adjustment of the shadow, the plain meaning of the text denotes a supernatural event that directly affects the sun itself. In the 2 Kings 20 account the recorded request of Hezekiah shows either his true belief in the miraculous power of God or his desperate need to witness that power made manifest as a promise of even greater deliverance to come. Thus, his request relates to both his own healing and the protection of Jerusalem and her inhabitants.
“Do this thing which He has spoken” refers to the healing and longevity of Hezekiah, for which the sign is offered.
It is of note that Hezekiah acted in contradiction to his wicked father Ahaz, who hypocritically refused to ask for a sign from God (Isaiah 7:12).
Isa 38:8 Hineni Now, behold, pay attention, I will bring again the shadow of ha-ma’alot the steps, which yaredah descends bema’alot on the steps of Achaz (grasped), ten ma’alot steps backward. Ve’tashav And returned ha-shemesh the sun, the ten ma’alot steps, bama’alot on the steps it yaradah had descended.
“And Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord: and He brought the shadow ten steps backward, by which it had gone down in the steps of Ahaz.” -2 Kings 20:11
Although some suggest a momentary refraction of light as the mechanism behind the sign, we notice that it is the sun itself that is the subject of the returning in the latter clause of verse 38, and not it’s light, the steps or the shadow it casts. In laymen’s terms, the sun itself went backward; a stumbling block for both the modern scientist and the desperately rational theologian. This is one of the many reasons we must become like children in order to enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3).
Isa 38:9 The writing of Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH, Mercy) king of Yehudah (Praise, Judah), bachaloto in his sickness, vaychi and in restored life from out of his sickness:
This psalm-like piece of writing (mikhtav) while present here, is not included in the 2 Kings 20 account. As I said in my introduction to the chapter, it seems fitting that the scribes include the mikhtav of Hezekiah in the present chapter of Isaiah’s poetic, prophetic scroll and exclude it in the more historically styled record of the Kings.
This psalm/meditation was written both during (in) Hezekiah’s illness and following (in) his restoration to health. Thus, it probably covers Hezekiah’s progression of feelings throughout the entire experience. Therefore, we should look for a progression of Hezekiah’s understanding of God and his relationship in Him as we journey through the thoughts, emotions, desperate cries and ecstatic relief of Hezekiah’s psalm/meditation.
Hezekiah’s mikhtav is typical of psalms of supplication and thanksgiving. Similar elements appear in psalm 118 and in the psalm of Jonah 2. In fact, Hezekiah’s mikhtav follows the basic structure of this type of psalm:
Isa 38:10 “I said bidmi in the cessation, silence, quiet, pause of my days, I will walk to the gates of Sheol (Holding place of departed humans, divided into Gan-Eden and Gehinnom): I am deprived of the yeter remainder, residue, excellence of my years.
Ibn Ezra explains that “bidmi” means “cut off” according to its comparable use in Hosea 10:15. This makes sense as an allusion to the weavers analogy of Isaiah 38:12. Others interpret it to convey a quiet part of the day, that being the middle of the eastern day and a time for rest from the heat. Both readings have relevance here: the theme being that Hezekiah is to be cut off (die) in the prime of his life, the middle of his days.
Hezekiah’s reference to Sheol does not denote a cessation of consciousness but a cessation of earthly life. As I have stated in previous articles, Sheol is not the grave (kever), and the ancient (Biblical) Hebrew grave was above ground, a tomb, cave, and or stones piled over the remains.
Isa 38:11 I said, I will not see HaShem (Yah: Mercy, the LORD), HaShem (Yah: Mercy, the LORD), be’eretz in the land of ha-chayim the living: I will behold humanity no more with the inhabitants chadel at rest.
The repetition of “Yah”, the shortened form of YHVH, denotes the permanence of Mercy. We note that while Hezekiah says “I will not see Yah, Yah” the qualifying phrase is “in the land of the living”, the living being the temporal living of humanity within the sin affected creation. Thus, the final clause in this verse alludes to the cessation of Hezekiah’s days spent with humanity (humanity within the context of the sin affected creation and not in regard to consciousness of the spirit).
Ibn Ezra suggests that “I will not see” means, “I shall not see any longer the works of the Almighty:” in the land of the living. He explains further that this is the reason for the latter clause “I will behold humanity no more”, because part of the witness of God’s works is manifest in human beings.
Many translate the Hebrew “chadel” as “World, life” following the comparative use in Psalm 39:5-6. However, the plain meaning of this word is “rest, cessation” and as such conveys a much different meaning from that of the traditional English translations. In short, the latter part of this verse “I will behold humanity no more with the inhabitants chadel at rest.” Is conveying the idea that Hezekiah is mourning the beholding of humanity in this (temporary) life alone, while at the same time showing that his understanding of Sheol includes the idea that he will share this inability to behold humanity in the land of the living, with those others who are departed and present with him in Sheol “with the inhabitants chadel at rest.”
The Jewish sage Ben Melekh, in keeping with the writers of the 2nd Century Targum, observes, that seeing or appearing before the Creator signifies confession and praise. Thus the Targum of Yonatan’s allusion to the Temple cult and the manifest feminine presence of the Shekhinah, which is a manifestation of the Kevod HaShem (Glory of God).
“I shall no more appear before the face of the Lord in the land of the house of his Shekhinah, in which is length of life; and I shall no more serve him in the house of the sanctuary.'” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isa 38:12 Doriy My generation, time, age is nesa pulled up, departed, veniglah and is removed, uncovered from me like keohel roiy my shepherd's tent: kipadtiy I am gathered together, rolled up by a weaver is chayay my life: midalah from threads he will cut me off: from day until night ta-shlim-eini You will make a covenant of peace with me.
Contrary to common interpretation I do not believe “Doriy” (from dor: generation) should be understood as describing the so called “Tent of the body”, which is in fact a Gnostic idea drenched in heresy. Rather, as is suggested by the plain meaning of the Hebrew “Dor”, it is the temporal nature of existence in general within the sin affected creation, that is intended. Thus, “Generation” and not “Tent, dwelling”.
That which is being lifted up and put away like a tent is the temporal existence (generation of a life) within the sin affected creation. The body on the other hand is yet to be restored and renewed as a metaphysical entity at the resurrection of the dead, and not done away with completely as many theologians suggest. To the contrary, we believe in the physical resurrection, or did Messiah rise a ghost? A curse on that idea! Thomas touched His physical body post resurrection. It is high time we did away with these Gnostic lies.
“veniglah and is removed, uncovered from me like keohel roiy my shepherd's tent”. So much is to be uncovered ahead of the dying man: the veil of temporal existence gives way to eternal rest for those, who like Hezekiah have placed their hope in HaShem. A shepherds tent is pulled up to make way for a journey, an adventure into the new grazing lands of the future. Thus, following death the believer receives a fuller understanding of the eternal present.
The Hebrew “Roiy” can be understood as “My shepherd” or, “The Shepherd to Whom I belong”. Both denote God and His King Messiah Yeshua. Think carefully on this: “uncovered from me like my shepherd's tent (generational existence)”. God, Who is Hezekiah’s Shepherd, is attributed a temporal tent, even though He is unmistakably eternal. Therefore, Whoever Hezekiah is referring to must be that manifestation of God as Shepherd Whom Isaiah has been prophesying as the King Messiah Imanu (with us) El (God). Messiah is yet to come in the context of Hezekiah’s historical prayer, and yet is alluded to as being one Who will experience death, the cessation of His time (dor) on earth (albeit temporarily).
“I am gathered together, rolled up by a weaver is my life: from threads He will cut me off: from day until night You will make a covenant of peace with me.”
The weaving analogy infers God as the weaver (Job 6:9). It also reveals the threads of life woven together to bring Hezekiah to this point. The phrase “from day to night” is a Hebrew idiom expressing the outworking of something within a short period of time. Thus, prior to God’s response and promise of additional years Hezekiah believed his death was imminent.
“You will make a covenant of peace with me.” Notice that in spite of his distress and the realization that he is soon to die Hezekiah none the less acknowledges his belief that beyond death the covenant of peace God will make with Hezekiah will sustain him.
Isa 38:13 It is made plain to me until morning, as a lion, so will He break all my bones: from day until night ta-shlim-eini You will make a covenant of peace with me.
Simply put, Hezekiah has come to terms with his imminent death. He has concluded that regardless of the distress caused by his anticipation of death and the pain of the illness along with its fast approaching end, that he is certain (repeating the phrase for the second time) that God “will make a covenant of peace” with him. That covenant, whether Hezekiah fully understood it or not, would be made in the shed blood of the coming Messiah (historically speaking), a covenant that had already been made outside of time and space (Rev. 13:8).
Notice that Hezekiah acknowledges God’s control over both the illness and the covenant of peace.
Isa 38:14 Like a swallow or a crane, so I did chirp: ehgeh moaning, muttering, meditating as a dove: my low eyes fail to look up: Adonaiy Lord I am oppressed; areveini make an exchange, become surety, mortgage (death pledge), become a ransom for me.
Hezekiah explains the din of his expressions of pain. The cacophony of cries that issue from his suffering body and soul. He likens his suffering to oppression, an allusion to the oppression of Israel, particularly with regard to her time in Egypt. The sickness is the Tyrant that is oppressing Hezekiah and is a figure for sin, which oppresses his soul.
“my low eyes fail to look up”. The plain meaning is that Hezekiah is so weak and sick that he lacks the physical and emotional energy to look up, either for food or in a spiritual sense to make proper supplication before God. The Targum Yonatan conveys this in the spiritual sense by alluding to the manifest glory of the Shekhinah:
“I lifted up mine eyes, that refreshing might come to me from (before) Him whose Shekhinah is in the highest heavens: Lord, hear my prayer; grant my petition.” -Targum Yonatan
“Lord I am oppressed make an exchange for me.” This shows, at least in part Hezekiah’s understanding that his suffering can only be overcome through a redemptive ransom. The title Adonaiy is used rather than the Holy Name YHVH: while Adonaiy can refer to any lord, YHVH refers only to Hashem. Thus, in petitioning Hashem Hezekiah has chosen a title that might also be used of Messiah, a man Who is God with us. “Make an exchange for me” equates to “take my place”, or “Bail me out”. Thus, whether Hezekiah fully understand what he is asking for or not, he is essentially requesting that God take his place and bear the suffering for him. This is of course, the very nature and mechanism of the Gospel: Messiah (Imanu-El, with us-God) becomes the ransom that atones for our sin and makes us whole.
Isaiah will later prophecy the greater answer to Hezekiah’s request:
“Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to His own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” -Isaiah 53:4-6
Isa 38:15 What will I say? Now speaking to me Himself He has fashioned, made, done it: I will go softly all my years upon the bitterness of nafshiy my soul.
Hezekiah acknowledges that in when faced with God’s authority, mercy and redemption there is nothing more a man can say.
Ibn Ezra suggests that this verse refers to the answer of God and the promise of an additional 15 years. This view would mean that the final clause refers to the way Hezekiah intends to address bitterness in the years ahead, be it through illness or political intrigue. However, it is equally possible that this verse is referring to the first words of the Lord spoken through Isaiah concerning Hezekiah’s certain death. If this is the correct understanding then the present verse shows that Hezekiah has concluded that he should exhibit a contrite state of heart before God in the face of his imminent death.
Isa 38:16 Adonaiy Lord, according to this life are all these things, and in the life of ruchiy my spirit ve-ta-chalimein-iy so You will recover me (chalam as from a dream), ve-ha-chayeiniy and cause me to live.
“according to this life are all these things”. What things? All those things aforementioned in Hezekiah’s mikhtav: pain, sorrow, despair, distress, oppression are all part of a man’s life on earth in a sin affected world.
“These things” might also refer to the things fashioned by God for the sake of Hezekiah, however, this is less likely. What is certain is that all things exist according to God’s word and that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3 Matt. 4:4). Therefore, we can understand this verse to convey the idea that relying on the things of God is the foundation for the recovery the human spirit.
“In the life of my spirit, so You will recover me and cause me to live.” Hezekiah has just prior to this named those things that are common to life on earth in a sin affected body: now he makes a distinction between the sin affected body and the everlasting nature of the spirit ruach, that part of the person that continues to exist in Sheol after death awaiting the resurrection and restoration of the physical in the perfect world to come. Therefore, contrary to the protestation of many modern scholars, Hezekiah is clearly showing an understanding of the afterlife that includes the conscious state of the spirit within Sheol, be it in Gan-Eden or Gehinnom. After all, the Hebrew chalam is used as a descriptor that invokes the idea of waking from a dream. What is this life if not the dream that acts as a prelude to the reality of eternity. Thus, “In the life of my spirit, so You will recover me and cause me to live” takes on an ambiguous meaning that illuminates both the physical healing of Hezekiah and the post death reality of his spirit when the 15 years are concluded.
The Targum also interprets this verse as referring to the resurrection:
“O Lord, You have said concerning all the dead, that You will quicken them, and You have quickened my spirit before any of them: You have quickened, You have made me to live.” -Targum Yonatan
Isa 38:17 Hineih Behold, now, le-shalom for peace I had great bitterness: but You have chashakta in longing for nafshiy my soul delivered it mishachat from the pit of wearing out: for You have cast behind Your back all my sins.
One cannot dispute the fact that Hezekiah understands his deliverance to be both physical and spiritual. It is deliverance from sin that he is alluding to here, something that can only be purchased by a substitutionary sacrifice of shed blood. Therefore, he understands at least in part the redemptive process of God through Messiah, even though at that time in history Messiah was yet to enter time and space. Thus, we understand that the transcendent nature of the resurrected Messiah is inferred by Hezekiah’s words.
“now, for peace I had great bitterness”. Is understood by Ibn Ezra to refer to Hezekiah’s life being at the middle point of his days and the bitterness refers to his illness. Thus, at 39 years old he was considered to be in the relatively peaceful middle time of life rather than at one end or the other. It was therefore, in the peaceful time of his life that he received the dreadful news of his imminent death and was thus embittered. However, Yosef Kimchi interprets this phrase to mean that peace had replaced the bitterness: “Now my life is for peace, though I had great bitterness”. This I believe is the correct interpretation.
“but You have in longing for my soul delivered it from the pit of wearing out: for You have cast behind Your back all my sins.” Hezekiah recognizes that God has longed for him in love and mercy and will both deliver him from the physical wearing out of his body in the immediate sense, and from the just punishment for his sins in the eternal sense.
Isa 38:18 For Sheol (Holding place of departed humans, divided into Gan-Eden and Gehinnom) cannot praise You, nor can death yahaleka celebrate (shine light on) You: there is no hope for those who descend into bor a pit, well, cistern, to come into amitecha Your truth.
It is true that the holding place Sheol cannot praise God, nor can death, which is not a person but a state resulting from sin. This of course does not negate the ability of the departed to engage with God (Rev. 6:9-11), Who is not bound by time and space, nor is He deaf to the conscious departed (Though it is true that they have no means of communicating with those who remain living in the sin affected world of the present reality).
The latter clause “there is no hope for those who descend into a pit, to come into Your truth” is best summed up by the Scripture “It is appointed unto human beings to die once and then the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). In other words, there is no dispensation for salvation following death: a person must accept God’s redemptive offer during life and or in the moments of transition between life and death.
Isa 38:19 Chay Life, chay life, he yodecha shall throw praise to You, kamoni as I do ha-yom this day: Av Father levaniym to the children You make known amitecha Your truth.
“Chay, chay” The living, both those corporeally and spiritually alive will always praise God.
“As I do this day” refers first to the day that Hezekiah receives his healing and in general to every day on which Hezekiah’s voice gives praise to Hashem.
The Father mentioned is of course Hashem and the children (plural) are Israel, ethnic, religious and subsequently all those who through Israel’s Messiah receive the truth that the Father makes known. “Your truth made known” is the redemption of human beings and of all sin affected creation through the shed blood of the Son and King Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 38:20 HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD) is for saving me: u-neginotay therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life at beiyt the house of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD).”
The singular grammar of the first clause is beautiful: “Mercy is for saving me”. Take time to pause and consider this, HaShem is for saving you, are you for accepting that salvation?
Notice that following the singular phrasing of the first clause that the Hebrew uses the plural to describe the songs of praise. Why? Because Hezekiah is referring to something more than physical healing and salvation from certain death in his personal immediate context. He is also referring to the deliverance of Judah from the Assyrians: further still and most importantly he is alluding to that salvation which places our sin behind the back of God (as it were). Thus, in the likeness of the psalmist we (all Israel and those from other nations who find redemption through her Messiah) sing praises “all the days of our life at the house of HaShem”, both physical atop the Temple mount and eternal, being in God and the Lamb, Who reside in place of the Temple in the New Jerusalem, a city which has no need of a Temple (Rev. 21:22).
Isa 38:21 For Yeshayahu (YHVH, he is salvation: Isaiah) had said, “Let them take a cake of pressed figs, and use it as a medicinal rub upon the boil, and he will recover.”
These verses are retrospective in that they refer back to the process of healing that occurred over the period of time that Hezekiah was recording his mikhtav.
The mechanism for the healing reminds us that God heals in many and varied ways and not always instantaneously. The goal of the miraculous is to point people to salvation. Healing is of little value if it only extends life unto eternal death. The purpose of God’s healing is to invoke salvation and wholeness. Thus, Yeshua says “Go, your faith has made you whole.” And not “Go, your faith has healed you” as some intellectually dishonest English versions suggest (Luke 19:17; Mark 5:34; 10:52 etc.)
Isa 38:22 Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH, Mercy) also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy, the LORD)?
Once again this verse should be understood retrospectively and refers to the sign of the shadow reversing up the stars of Ahaz, which has occurred chronologically speaking prior to this point in the narrative. As explained earlier, these verses are included directly prior to the healing of Hezekiah in the 2 Kings 20 account.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.