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In this chapter is an account of Hezekiah’s sickness, and of the means of his recovery, and of the sign given of it, ( 2 Kings 20:1-11) of the king of Babylon’s congratulatory letter to him upon it, when he showed to the messengers that brought it his treasures, in the pride and vanity of his heart, ( 2 Kings 20:12,13) for which he was reproved by the prophet Isaiah, and was humbled, and submitted to the sentence pronounced on his house, ( 2 Kings 20:14-19), and the chapter is concluded with his reign and death, ( 2 Kings 20:20,21).
Ver. 1-3. In these days was Hezekiah sick unto death , etc.] Of this sickness of Hezekiah, the message of the prophet Isaiah to him, and his prayer upon it, (see Gill on “ Isaiah 38:1-3”).
Ver. 4 . And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court , etc.] Of the king’s palace, which is called the other court within the porch, ( 1 Kings 7:8) so it is according to the marginal reading, which we follow; but the textual reading is, “the middle city”; Jerusalem was divided into three parts, and this was the middle part Isaiah was entering into: but before he did, so it was, [that] the word of the Lord came to him, saying ; as follows.
Ver. 5 . Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people , etc.] The king of them, as the Targum: thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears ; (see Gill on “ Isaiah 38:5”) behold, I will heal thee ; instantly, miraculously; and none but God could heal him, his disease being in its kind mortal, and he had been told from the Lord that he should die: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord : the temple, to give thanks for his recovery; and this he should do on the third day from thence; so soon should he be well, which would show the cure to be miraculous.
Ver. 6 . And I will add unto thy days fifteen years , etc.] (See Gill on “ Isaiah 38:5”) and I will deliver thee, and this city, out of the hand of the king of Assyria ; by which it appears that this sickness and recovery were before the destruction of the Assyrian army: and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake : for the sake of his honour and glory in the temple, and the service of it, that were in Jerusalem, and for the sake of his promise to David and his seed.
Ver. 7 . And Isaiah said, take a lump of figs , etc.] Not moist figs, but a cake of dried figs, as the word used signifies, and so the less likely to have any effect in curing the boil: and they took, and laid it on the boil, and he recovered ; made a plaster of it, and laid it on the ulcer, and it was healed. Physicians observe f240 , that as such like inflammations consist in a painful extension of the fibres by the hinderance of the circulation of the blood, through the extreme little arteries, which may be mitigated, or dissipated, or ripened, by such things as are emollient and loosening, so consequently by figs; and, in a time of pestilence, figs beaten together with butter and treacle have been applied to plague of boils with great success; yet these figs being only a cake of dry figs, and, the boil not only malignant, but deadly, and the cure so suddenly performed, show that this was done not in a natural, but in a supernatural way, though means were directed to be made use of.
Ver. 8 . And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah , etc.] Or “had said”, before the plaster of figs was directed to, or, however, laid on, and as soon as he was told he should be healed: 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 ? not that he disbelieved the promise of God, or doubted of a cure, but this he requested for the confirmation of his faith; which good men sometimes asked, when they doubted not, as Gideon; and Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, was bid to ask a sign for the like purpose, and it was resented in him that he did not, (see Judges 6:17,36 Isaiah 7:11-13).
Ver. 9 . And Isaiah said, this sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken , etc.] Cure him of his disorder, so that he should be able to go to the temple on the third day: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees ? that is, the shadow of the sun on a dial plate; it was left to his option to choose which he would, as the confirming sign of his recovery.
Ver. 10 . And Hezekiah answered, it is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees , etc.] That is, it was comparatively so, otherwise to go down ten degrees at once would be extraordinary and miraculous; but that was more agreeable to the nature and course of it to go forward, and so the miracle would be less apparent: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees ; which was directly contrary to its natural order and course, whereby the miracle would appear more clear and manifest: these degrees are by some said to be half hours, and not full ones, since it is observed the sun shines not twenty full hours on any dial, unless under the pole; the sun is supposed to have been now at the fifth full hour; the sun was brought back five whole hours, then came forward five, then came forward two degrees, or one hour, to the sixth hour; which made sixteen; then it was six hours to sunset; so that day was prolonged twenty two hours: the Chinese relate, that, in the time of Kingcungus, the planet Mars, for sake of the king, went back three degrees.
Ver. 11 . And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord , etc.] Or prayed, as the Targum; and was very earnest in prayer, that what Hezekiah had desired might be granted: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz ; Ben Gersom understands it not of the sun itself, but of the shadow of it only; (see Gill on “ Isaiah 38:8”).
Ver. 12-19 . At that time Berodachbaladan , etc.] He is called Merodachbaladan, ( Isaiah 39:1), so here in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions; (see Gill on “ Isaiah 39:1”); and by Metasthenes his father is called Merodach, and he Ben Merodach, who reigned twenty one years, and his father fifty two; from hence to the end of ( 2 Kings 20:12-19) the same account is given in the same words as in ( Isaiah 39:1-8) throughout, except in ( 2 Kings 20:13), where it is, “hearkened unto them”, and there, “glad of them”; heard the letter the ambassadors brought with pleasure; see the notes there. (See Gill on “ Isaiah 39:1”) and following.
Ver. 20 . And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might , etc.] Which he exerted in his wars with his enemies, and in the reformation of religion, and abolition of idolatry: and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city ; at the same time that he cut it off from the enemy without, (see Chronicles 32:3,4,30), are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah ? a book often referred to in this history, but since lost; many of his acts are recorded in the canonical book of Chronicles, ( 2 Chronicles 29:1- 32:33).
Ver. 21 . And Hezekiah slept with his fathers , etc.] Died, as they did; no mention is here made of the place of his burial, but there is in ( Chronicles 32:33) where he is said to be buried in the principal part of the sepulchres of the sons of David, and to have honour done him at his death by the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, by the vast concourse of people attending his interment, and by burning spices for him, and making a public mourning on his account a certain stated time: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead ; of whose wicked reign an account is given in the next chapter.