Isaiah Chapter 38 Notes

Isaiah Ch 38 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Notes on Isaiah Thirty-eight:

v. 2:  It is interesting that the writer includes this detail about Hezekiah’s turning to face the wall to pray.  I suppose the bed was against a wall.  Perhaps he turned to hide his grief, but that seems out of place in a culture where public displays of grief (tearing one’s clothes, hiring professional mourners, etc.) were common.  Therefore, I think he looked at the wall as a means to concentrate his mind for the prayer.  I know this comparison may be off the wall (so to speak) but in doing this, Hezekiah reminds me of Bodhidharma, who supposedly meditated for 9 years while staring at the wall of a cave.

v. 8:  This miracle reminds me of the time the LORD held the sun in midheaven for a whole day for Joshua (Joshua 10:12-14).

V. 10: It seems that the life expectancy of a Jew at this time was roughly what it is for people today.  Hezekiah is 39 years old and “in the noontide” of his days.  The context here, I think, demands not only that we read “in the noontide of my days” as marking the middle of Hezekiah’s life (just like noon marks the middle of the day) but also as having the same meaning as our phrase “in the prime of life.”

v. 17:  The narrative does not say that the death sentence delivered by Isaiah is a punishment for Hezekiah’s sins of resubmitting to Assyria and stripping the temple of its gold and silver as tribute for Sennacherib, but surely these acts were sins.  Perhaps the death sentence was punishment.  Notice that, upon his recovery from the sickness, Hezekiah says, “…you have cast all my sins behind your back.”[1]

v. 21:  Barnes points out that figs were used medicinally in the ancient world (41).  Nevertheless, it is interesting to me how the prophets sometimes performed miracles simply by asking God for them and sometimes by doing some action beyond the simple request.  For instance, Hezekiah’s illness was beyond the cure of human medical science, but presumably he still needed the figs.  (Otherwise, why would Isaiah direct the attendants to apply figs to the king’s boil “…that he may recover”?)  Why not simply heal him?  I suspect the reason has to do with the faith of the individual being healed.  Weaker faith requires more demonstrative signs of assurance.  For example, yesterday we took Jezee (our dog) down into the storm shelter and were coaxing her to walk back up the steep stairs out again.  Eventually she had the faith to do this on her own, but not until I stood over her the whole way as a sign of assurance that I was with her and that she would be alright.  Similarly, perhaps Hezekiah has the faith to believe that God will heal him of his disease but needs signs of assurance to bolster that faith because his fear of the disease is so great.[2]  For further illustrations of this principle of faith, compare the account of Jesus’ healing the blind man (Mark 8:24) with the account of his healing the servant of the centurion of great faith (Matthew 8:5-10).  We know from Mark 6:1-6 that weak faith hinders miracles.

v. 22:  This verse is obviously out of place chronologically.  In fact, it is so obviously out of place chronologically that I suspect that the editor placed it here for some reason other than ignorance of the order of events.[3]  There is a thematic link in this verse with the end of the psalm Hezekiah composed.  Notice that the last verse of the psalm refers to singing “at the house of the LORD” and that here in v. 22 Hezekiah asks for a sign that he will once again “…go up to the house of the LORD.”  Perhaps he thought to sing this very psalm at the house of the LORD.

[1] See my Chronological Summary of Hezekiah’s Reign in 2nd Kings 18 notes.

[2] He has already required the sign of the sundial.  The fig lump, while not miraculous, may be another tangible thing Hezekiah can look to for assurance.

[3] Besides, if the English translation of tense is correct (past perfect) the editor was clearly aware that these events had happened before Hezekiah’s healing (and before the composition of the king’s psalm).


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