Isaiah 38
Clarke's Commentary
Account of Hezekiah's dangerous sickness and miraculous recovery, Isaiah 38:1-9. Tender and beautiful song of thanksgiving, in which this pious king breathed out the sentiments of a grateful heart, when his life was, as it were, restored. This ode may be adapted to other cases; and will always afford profit and pleasure to those who are not void of feeling and piety, Isaiah 38:10-22.

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
In those days - The reader is requested to consult the notes on 2 Kings 20 in reference to the principal parts of this chapter.

Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD,
Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall - The furniture of an eastern divan or chamber, either for the reception of company or for private use, consists chiefly of carpets spread on the floor in the middle; and of sofas, or couches ranged on one or more sides of the room, on a part raised somewhat above the floor. On these they repose themselves in the day, and sleep at night. It is to be observed that the corner of the room is the place of honor. Dr. Pococke, when he was introduced to the Sheikh of Furshout, found him sitting in the corner of his room. He describes another Arab Sheikh "as sitting in the corner of a large green tent, pitched in the middle of an encampment of Arabs; and the Bey of Girge as placed on a sofa in a corner to the right as one entered the room." - Harmer's Observ. 2 Peter 60. Lady Mary Montague, giving an account of a visit which she made to the Kahya's lady at Adrianople, says, "She ordered cushions to be given me; and took care to place me in the corner, which is the place of honor." - Letter 33. The reason of this seems to be, that the person so placed is distinguished, and in a manner separated, from the rest of the company, and as it were guarded by the wall on each side. We are to suppose Hezekiah's couch placed in the same situation; in which turning on either side, he must turn his face to the wall; by which he would withdraw himself from those who were attending upon him in his apartment, in order to address his private prayer to God.

Isaiah 38:3 And he said, I beseech thee, O Jehovah, remember now how I have endeavored to walk before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart; and have done that which is good in thine eyes. And Hezekiah wept, and lamented grievously. - L.

Isaiah 38:4 Now [before Isaiah was gone out into the middle court] the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, Go [back], and say unto Hezekiah, Thus saith Jehovah the God of David thy father, I have heard thy supplication; I have seen thy tears. Behold [I will heal thee; and on the third day thou shalt go up into the house of Jehovah.

Isaiah 38:5 And] I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee, and this city, from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will protect this city. And [Hezekiah said, By what sign shall I know that I shall go up into the house of Jehovah?

Isaiah 38:7 And Isaiah said], This shall be the sign unto thee from Jehovah, that Jehovah still bring to effect this word which he hath spoken.

The words in the translation included within crotchets are supplied from the parallel place, 2 Kings 20:4, 2 Kings 20:5, to make the narration more perfect. I have also taken the liberty, with Houbigant, of bringing forward the two last verses of this chapter, and inserting them in their proper places of the narration with the same mark. Kimchi's note on these two verses is as follows: "This and the following verse belong not to the writing of Hezekiah; and I see no reason why they are written here after the writing; for their right place is above, after And I will protect this city, Isaiah 38:6. And so they stand in the book of Kings, "2 Kings 20:7, 2 Kings 20:8. The narration of this chapter seems to be in some parts an abridgment of that of 2 Kings 20. The abridger, having finished his extract here with the eleventh verse, seems to have observed, that the seventh and eighth verses of 2 Kings 20 were wanted to complete the narration: he therefore added them at the end of the chapter, after he had inserted the song of Hezekiah, probably with marks for their insertion in their proper places; which marks were afterwards neglected by transcribers. Or a transcriber might omit them by mistake, and add them at the end of the chapter with such marks. Many transpositions are, with great probability, to be accounted for in the same way.

And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,
Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.
And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.
I will defend this city - The other copy, 2 Kings 20:6, adds:" for mine own sake, and for the sake of David my servant;" and the sentence seems somewhat abrupt without it.

And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;
Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
Which is gone down "By which the sun is gone down" - For בשמש bashshemesh, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee read השמש, hashshemesh. - Houbigant. In the history of this miracle in the book of Kings, (2 Kings 20:9-11), there is no mention at all made of the sun, but only of the going backward of the shadow: which might be effected by a supernatural refraction. The first ὁ ἡλιος, the sun, in this verse is omitted in the Septuagint, MS. Pachom.

The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:
The writing of Hezekiah - Here the book of Kings deserts us, the song of Hezekiah not being inserted in it. Another copy of this very obscure passage (obscure not only from the concise poetical style, but because it is probably very incorrect) would have been of great service.

The MSS. and ancient Versions, especially the latter, will help us to get through some of the many difficulties which we meet with in it.

I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
The Lord "Jehovah" - יה Yah, יה Yah, seems to be יהוה Yehovah, in MS. Bodl., and it was so at first written in another. So the Syriac. See Houbigant. I believe יהוה Yehovah was the original reading. See the note on Isaiah 12:2 (note).

Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
Mine age - is removed from me as a shepherd's tent - רעי roi is put for רעה roeh, say the rabbis (Sal. Den Melec on the place); but much more probably is written imperfectly for רעים roim, shepherds. See note on Isaiah 5:1.

I shall be removed from this state to another, as a shepherd removes his tent from one place to another for the sake of his flock. Is not this a strong intimation of his belief in a future state?

I have cut off like a weaver my life "My life is cut off as by the weaver" - קפדתי kippadti. This verb is rendered passively, and in the third person, by the Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate.

I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
The last line of the foregoing verse מיום עד לילה תשלימני miyom ad layelah tashlimeni, "In the course of the day thou wilt finish my web; "or, as the common version has it, "From day even to night wilt thou make an end of me, "is not repeated at the end of this verse in the Syriac version; and a MS. omits it. It seems to have been inserted a second time in the Hebrew text by mistake.

I reckoned till morning, etc. "I roared until the morning like the lion" - For שויתי shivvithi, the Chaldee has נהמית nihameith: he read שאגתי shaagti, the proper term for the roaring of a lion; often applied to the deep groaning of men in sickness. See Psalm 22, Psalm 32:3; Psalm 38:9; Job 3:24. The Masoretes divide the sentence, as I have done; taking כארי caari, like a lion, into the first member; and so likewise the Septuagint.

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
Like - a swallow "Like the swallow" - כסיס kesis; so read two MSS., Theodot., and Hieron.

Mine eyes fail - For דלו dallu the Septuagint read כלו calu, εξελιπον. Compare Psalm 69:4; Psalm 119:82, Psalm 119:123; Lamentations 2:11; Lamentations 4:17, in the Hebrew and in the Septuagint.

O Lord "O Lord" - For יהוה Jehovah, thirty MSS. and eight editions read אדני Adonai.

Undertake for me "Contend for me" - עשקה ashekah, with ש shin, Jarchi: this sense of the word is established by Genesis 26:20 : "He called the name of the well עשק esek, because they strove with him:" התעשקו hithasseku, equivalent to יריבו yaribu, at the beginning of the verse.

What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.
I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul "Through the rest of my years will I reflect on this bitterness of my soul" - אדדה eddaddeh; recogitabo, Vulg., reputabo, Hieron. in loc.

O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.
By these things men live "For this cause shall it be declared" - Περι αυτης γαρ ανηγγελη σοι, και εξηγειρας μου την πνοην, Sept. They read in their copies עליה יחוו לך ותחיי רוחי not very different from the present text, from which all the ancient Versions vary. They entirely omit two words, ולכל בהן ulecol bahen; as to which there is some variation in the MSS. One MS. has ובכל ubechol, and in all; two others וכל vechol, and all, and ten MSS. have בהם bahem, in them, in the masculine gender.

Taking this as in the common Version, we may observe, it is not an unfrequent case, that afflictions, and especially such as tend to a speedy death, become the means, not only of saving the soul, but also of lengthening the life.

Make me to live "Hast prolonged my life" - A MSS. and the Babylonish Talmud read ותחיני vetachayeni, and so the ancient Versions. It must necessarily be in the second person.

Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: 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.
For peace I had great bitterness "My anguish is changed into ease" - מר לי מר mar li mar, "mutata mthi est amaritudo." Paronomasia; a figure which the prophet frequently admits. I do not always note it, because it cannot ever be preserved in the translation, and the sense seldom depends upon it. But here it perfectly clears up the great obscurity of the passage. See Lowth on the place.

Thou hast rescued - חשכת chashachta, with כ caph, instead of ק koph; so the Septuagint and Vulgate; Houbigant. See Chappelow on Job 33:18.

From perdition - משחת בלי mishshachath beli, ἱνα μη αποληται, Sept. ut non periret, "that it may not perish." Vulg. Perhaps inverting the order of the words. See Houbigant.

Thou hast in love to my soul - חשקת chashakta, "thou hast lovingly embraced" or kissed "my soul out of the pit of corruption."

For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
Thy truth - אל אמתך el amittecha. A MS. omits אל el; and instead of אל el, an ancient MS. and one edition read את eth. The same mistake as in Psalm 2:7.

The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.
Let them take a lump of figs, etc. - God, in effecting this miraculous cure, was pleased to order the use of means not improper for that end.

"Folia, et, quae non maturuere, fici, strumis illinuntur omnibusque quae emollienda sunt discutiendave." - Plin. Nat. Hist. 23:7.

"Ad discutienda ea, quae in corporis parte aliqua coierunt, maxime possunt-ficus arida," etc. - Celsus, 5:11.

See the note on 2 Kings 20:7 (note). Philemon Holland translates the passage as a medical man: "The milke or white juice that the figge tree yieldeth is of the same nature that vinegre: and therefore it will cruddle milke as well as rennet, or rendles. The right season of gathering this milkie substance is before that the figs be ripe upon the tree; and then it must be dried in the shadow: thus prepared, it is good to break impostumes, and keepe ulcer open."

Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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