Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.II.—THE WAY PREPARED FOR THE RELATIONS WITH BABYLON. HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS AND RECOVERY, AND THE EMBASSY FROM BABYLON THIS OCCASIONED
CHAPTERS. 38, 39
1. HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS AND RECOVERY
a) The Sickness. 38:1–3
1In 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, 1Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. 2Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, 3and 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 wept2 sore.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 38:1. In למות we have a constructio prægnans, in as much as the preposition depends on a notion of movement onward, nearing, that is latent in the verb חָלָה. Unless לְ be regarded as a particle denoting design; he was sick in order to die, in which case the consequence would be represented as intention, as elsewhere similarly the reason is substituted as an object in clauses with בֵּי ,עַל ,כֵּן. It is said in like manner Jud. 16:16, וַתִּקְצַר נַפְשׁוֹ לָמוּת. In the parallel place 2 Chr. 32:24 עַד־לָמוּת stands for our לָמוּת, which corresponds essentially with the first of the two explanations given above.——The expression “to command his house,” for “to make his last will known to his house” is found again only 2 Sam. 17:23, where, however, the preposition אֶל is used instead of לְ. The expression כי־מת אתה ולא תחיה denotes the dying as certain, surely determined, by using the positive affirming participle (which presents death as abstract, timeless fact, thus a fact determined as to substance, though undetermined as to form, comp. Gen. 20:3) and the negative clause ולא תחיה that excludes the contrary. As analogous to the meaning “to remain living,” comp. חִיָּה = “to retain alive,” 7:21 and the comment.
The differences between our text and 2 Kings 20:1–3 are inconsiderable as to sense, and yet are characteristic: חזקיהו omitted at the beginning of Isa 38:2, and לאמרsubstituted at the end for our ויאמר beginning Isa 38:2. Here our passage again gives evidence of an amended text. The absence of a subject for ויסב, when previously Hezekiah and Isaiah and Jehovah had been named, and Hezekiah in fact the furthest from the predicate, lets it be possible (though only grammatically) to think of Isaiah or Jehovah as subject. And the emphatic ויאמִד Isa 38:3 corresponds to the importance of the brief prayer much better than the short לאמר, that is only equivalent to our quotation marks. Thus we see here again that 2 Kings has the more original text. For it is inconceivable that the correcter and completer text has been changed into that which is less correct and complete. [The foregoing reasoning on the differences of the two texts must strike most readers as simply the fruit of a foregone conclusion. When, moreover, one takes the latter statement concerning ויאמר and לאמר and compares the two texts at Isa. 37:15 and 2 Ki. 19:15, this impression is confirmed. See the Author’s comm. on 37:15 under Text. and Gram. There we find precisely the reverse of what the Author remarks here on the occurrence of the two words in the parallel texts. In using לאמר 37:15, instead of the ויאמר found in 2 Kings, does the Isaiah text do injustice to the importance of the solemn prayer of Hezekiah in the Temple? And does he fail to observe how much better “the emphatic ויאמר corresponds to that importance?” The reader is also referred to the comparison between 7:1 (in loc.) and 2 Kings 16:5. When all the details of this argument, (viz. for the text of 2 Kings being more original and the Isaiah text being amended from that, and so still more remote from a genuine Isaiah text), have been gone over, we may anticipate that the conclusion of most students will agree with the opinion of J. A. ALEX., (see his comment on 37:17, 18), who characterizes most of it as “special pleading” and “perverse ingenuity.”—TR.].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. In the fourteenth year of his reign, Hezekiah fell dangerously ill. It was no doubt a proof of especial divine grace when Isaiah announced to him his approaching end, and thereby gave him time to command his house. But Hezekiah was terrified at the intelligence. He prayed weeping to the LORD, and appealing to his life spent in the fear of God.
2. In those days——wept sore.
Isa 38:1-3. We have, above in the introduction to chaps. 36–39sufficiently shown what is the relation of chaps. 38–39 to the two that precede it. It can no longer be a matter of doubt that the time of Hezekiah’s sickness preceded the overthrow of Sennacherib. The former as certainly belonged to the year 714 as the latter to the year 700. The transposition of the chapters, which was for the sake of the connection of the subject matter in them with the general contents of the book, occasioned the belief that the overthrow of Sennacherib also happened in the year 714. In consequence of this, expositors only differ in this respect, that some put all the events narrated 36–37 before those narrated 38–39 while others put the sickness of Hezekiah before 36–37 but the embassy after them. An end is made to all this by the fact, now put beyond doubt, that Sennacherib only began to reign in the year 705, and made his first and only campaign against Phœnicia, Judea and Egypt in the year 700. For these reasons “in those days” Isa 38:1 and “at that time,” 39:1 are equally unauthentic and not genuine. Both must owe their origin to emendation. [See introduction before 36 Comp. SMITH’SDict. of the Bible, article Hezekiah.].
It cannot be certainly determined what was the nature of Hezekiah’s sickness. Many have inferred from הַשְּׁחִין Isa 38:21; 2 Kings 20:7, that he had the plague, and have associated this with the plague in the Assyrian camp. (37:36), and even used this as proof that Hezekiah’s sickness occurred after Sennacherib’s overthrow. But שְׁחִין, (שָׁחַן a root unused in Hebrew, but meaning in the dialects (“incaluit, calidus fuit”) stands not only for the plague boil (bubo), but also for other burning ulcers, as it occurs in reference to leprosy (Lev. 13:18 sqq.), and other inflammable cutaneous diseases (Exod. 9:9 sqq.; Deut. 28:27, 35; Job 2:7). If השׁחין Isa 38:21 be not taken collectively, so that there was only one boil, then the next meaning would be a carbuncle (i.e., a conglomeration of ulcerous roots). In respect to God’s promises and threatenings being, as it were, dependent on the subjective deportment of men, for their realization, comp. Jer. 18:7 sqq.; where especially the רֶגַע, connecting with the celerity with which the potter transforms the clay, denotes the celerity with which the LORD, under circumstances alters His decrees. Comp. my remarks in loc. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall because at that moment he neither wished to see the face of men, nor to show his countenance to men. He would, as much as possible, speak with his God alone. It was different with Ahab, 1 Kings 21:4. לֵב שָׁלֵם is animus integer, i.e., a whole, full, undivided heart (1 Kings 8:61; 11:4). It is an Old Testament speech, that Hezekiah makes. A Christian could not so speak to God. Hezekiah applies to himself the standard that Ps. 15 offers, and that Christ proposes in the Sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:21 sqq.).
Heb. Give charge concerning thy house.
Heb. With great weeping.
Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,b) The Recovery
4THEN came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, 5Go, 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, 3I will add unto thy days fifteen years. 6And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend 7this city. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this 4thing that he hath spoken; 8Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down 5in the 6sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 38:5. On the construction of הנני יוסיף see on 28:16; 29:14.
Isa 38:21. The word דְּבֵלָה, st. constr. דְּבֶלֶה, beside the text, and 2 Kings 20:7, occurs only 1 Sam. 30:12; 1 Chr. 12:40. The Greek word παλάθη, which means a cake of dried fruits, especially of figs, seems to have been derived from דְּבֵלָה through the Aram. דְּבֶלְתָּא.
The 3 pers. plur. יִשְאוּ has for subject those who naturally performed the service in question. We use in such cases the indefinite subject they (Germ. “man”): (comp. Jer. 3:16 sq.; Isa. 34:16).—מָרַח occurs elsewhere only in the substantive form מָרוֹחַ (contritus scil, testiculos contritos habens, Lev. 21:20). The meaning is “to crush, triturate.” It is thus a constructio prœgnans: let them crush figs (and lay them) on the boil. On שׁחין, See on Isa 38:1.
In 2 Kings 20:7 at the end of the verse it reads וַיֶּחִֽי, “and he lived,” i.e., recovered, instead of as here וַיֶחִֽי. “that he may live.” Our text appears to be an effort to remove a difficulty. For וַיֶּחִֽי seems primarily to mean that Hezekiah immediately recovered. But that such was not the case is seen from the king’s asking: “what shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the temple the third day?” (2 Ki. 20:8). It was, therefore, no instantaneous cure: and this our text would intimate by ויֱחִֽי. But the word in 2 Kings 20:7 is only an anticipation of the narrator, who states the effect immediately after the application of the means although other events intervened.
Isa 38:21, 22, are an epitome of 2 Kings 20:7, 8, with the omission of what is less essential. But it is to be noted, as a further proof of the second-hand nature of our text, that the words “what is the sign,” etc. 2 Ki. 20:8 have there their proper foundation in that the promise is expressly given (2 Kings 20:5) that the king should go up to the temple, whereas that item is wanting in our Isa 38:5.—Whether or not our Isa 38:21, 22 were intentionally or accidentally put where they are by some later copyist cannot be certainly determined, and is in itself indifferent. But it seems to me most natural to assume that some later person, with the feeling that there was a disturbing gap, thought he must supply it from 2 Kings. An interpolation between Isa 38:6, 7 would have involved a change in his actual text, thus he supplemented at the end. As they are found in the LXX. the addition must be very ancient. They are important, too, as proof in general that the text in our chaps. has suffered alterations; and especially that the dates have been changed.
On the text at Isa 38:8 b. An important difference is to be noted between this and 2 Kings 20:9–11. Our text assumes an actual going backward of the sun, probably, as is also assumed by many expositors, because it was thought that this miracle must be put on a level with the sun standing still at Gibeon (Josh. 10:12). In the Book of Sirach (Ecclus. 48:23) it is expressly said: “in his days the sun went backward and he lengthened the king’s life.” The older and original text of the Book of Kings knows nothing of this construction.7
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Then came the word——was, gone down.
Isa 38:4-8. In 2 Kings 20:4 we are told that the word of the LORD came to the Prophet when he had hardly left the king, when he had not yet traversed the עִיר תִּיכֹנָה, or, as the K’ri and the ancient versions have it probably more correctly, חָצֵר תִּיכֹנָה, i.e., the inner court of the residence. Therefore actually רֶגַע (Jer. 18:7), i.e., suddenly, Jehovah recalled the announcement so categorically made Isa 38:1. Just that so harsh sounding announcement had brought forth that fervent sigh of prayer from the depths of Hezekiah’s heart. Precisely this was intended. Necessity must teach Hezekiah to pray. The LORD calls Himself “the God of thy father David” in order to give Hezekiah one more comforting pledge of deliverance. For He intimates that He will be still the same to him that He had been to David. The LORD had heard the prayer, He had seen the tears. Both were well pleasing to Him, He regarded both. And thus He promises the king that He will add yet fifteen years to his life.
I cannot accord with all that BAEHR remarks on our passage (see the vol. on 2 Kings 20:4 sqq.). But I agree with him when he says: “The Prophet announces to the suppliant that God has heard him, and promises him not only immediate recovery, but, in fact, that he shall reign as long again as he has already reigned.” Accordingly Hezekiah must already have reigned fifteen years. This could easily be the case if the historian (36:1) reckoned the fourteen years from the first day of the calendar year, beginning after Hezekiah’s becoming king, while the LORD reckoned so favorably for Hezekiah that He counted the fragment of the first calendar year when he began to reign and the fragment of the current year as a whole year. Then is explained how by divine reckoning Hezekiah reigned 15+15 years, and by human reckoning only 14+15. In 2 Kings 20:5 the additional promise for the immediate future is given: “Behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.” This is manifestly omitted in our text because included in the larger promise. The promise of Isa 38:6 is of course conceivable even after the overthrow of Sennacherib. For the latter was to the Assyrians, though a serious, yet by no means an annihilating blow. They could recover themselves after it, and fall on Judah with augmented force and redoubled rage. But our passage stands primarily in undeniable connection with 37:35, especially when we regard it in the construction of 2 Kings (comp. 2 Kings 19:34 with 20:6, where only אֶל for עַל and the להושׁיעה wanting in 20:6 makes the difference). If we are correct in construing the temporal relations of 38, 39, to 36, 37 (see on 38:1), then our passage is older than 37:35. But the latter passage promises deliverance from Sennacherib in words evidently taken on purpose from our passage, so that the promise there given to Hezekiah appears as a renewal and repetition of that he had received already fourteen years before. In addition to this, both our passage and 37:35 have their common root in 31:5. There as here גנין and הציל occur together; there, too, גנין is illustrated by the touching image of a hovering bird. There it is expressly said that, not Egypt shall protect the people of Israel, but Jehovah has reserved this care for Himself. And this deliverance of Judah from Assyria was in fact definitively and forever decided by the defeat of Sennacherib. Assyria, as we have already seen, is done away. The deportation of Manasseh (2 Chr. 33) was more a benefit for Judah than a punishment. One may say: Sennacherib’s losing his army, not by the sword of Egypt, but by the hand of the LORD, is the true and proper fulfilment of the promises, 31:5; 37:35; 38:6. For these reasons I believe that our passage is to be referred to Sennacherib’s defeat and, because that was decisive for Judah’s relations to Assyria, to no later event. But then our passage also puts a decisive weight in the scale in favor of the assertion that the events narrated 38 precede the events narrated 36 and 37.
In our text are wanting after Isa 38:6 the words that 2 Ki. 20:7, 8 are found in the proper place, viz.: “And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs,” etc. Instead we have in Isa 38:21, 22 an epitome of what is there said. We will, therefore, anticipate here the exposition of these verses. The Prophet proceeds at once to the fulfilment of the promise of Isa 38:5, 6. To this end he orders a piece of figcake to be laid on the diseased spot. דבלה means a round (sometimes four-cornered) cake of dried summer figs, that were pounded in a mortar and put up in this form for better preservation and transportation (see WINER,R.-W.-B. art. Feigenbaum [SMITH’SBib. Diet. art. Figs]). It is well known that anciently, as now-a-days, too, figs were applied as an emollient to hasten the gathering of a boil. Comp. GESENIUS on Isa 38:1 and BAEHR on 2 Kings 20:7. Already JEROME mentions the opinion that the sweet fig was a contrarium, i. e., an aggravation of the evil, and adds: “Ergo, ut Dei potentia monstraretur, per res noxias et adversas sanitas restituta est.” According to SEB. SCHMIDT,Hebraei communiter et Christianorum quidam (e.g., GROTIUS) share this opinion. We are told in the Scriptures of countless miraculous cures in which divine omnipotence made no use of natural means. Why such means were still sometimetimes employed (comp. Mar. 7:33; 8:23; Jno. 9:6 sq.) we will hardly be able to fathom. If the means used in the present case were already known at that time as a cure of this disease, why did not the physicians apply it? Or was this cure still unknown at that time? Or did the physicians not understand the disease correctly? Or had the LORD, beside the object of the bodily cure, some other higher objects to which that means stood in a relation to us unknown? Such are the questions that men raise here, but can hardly answer to satisfaction.
Asking and giving signs is nothing unusual in the Old Testament, and especially in the life of our Prophet. The more the life of faith stands in the grade of childhood, the more frequent it is. Christ would give no sign on demand (Matth. 12:38 sqq.; 16:1 sqq.; Luke 11:16; John 2:18; 6:30). But Moses received and gave them in abundance (Exod. 4). Also in the times of the judges and of the kings they were frequent (Judg. 6:17, 36 sqq.; 1 Sam. 2:34; 10:1 sqq.). Isaiah himself was more than once the medium of such signs (7:11 sqq.; 8:1 sqq.; 20:3 sq.; 37:30). They are sometimes threatening, sometimes comforting in their promissory contents, and are, accordingly, given now to the wicked as a warning, now to the pious for comfort and to strengthen their hopes. Thus Hezekiah here receives the second comforting sign. That his life shall be prolonged the LORD makes known to him by means of an implement used for measuring time. At Hezekiah’s request the LORD actually causes the shadow on the sun-dial to go backward ten steps or degrees. Here we must note the not inconsiderable difference between our text and that of 2 Kings 20:9 sqq. According to our text, the Prophet does not propose to the king the choice whether the shadow shall go forwards or backwards; moreover he does not call on the Lord to do the miracle. But the Prophet declares at once that he will (of course by the power of God) turn the shadow back. Finally our text says, Isa 38:8, that the sun returned back the ten degrees that it had gone down, whereas 2 Kings 20 speaks only of the return of the shadow (וַיָּשֶׁב אֶת־הַצֵּל וגו׳). The last mentioned difference is so far especially important because it intensifies the miracle. We have hitherto learned, in the character of an abstract that the Isaiah text bears, to recognize a mark of its later origin. This magnifying the miraculous may be regarded as a further symptom of the same thing. See Text. and Gram.
It is now admitted by all that by מעלות we are to understand a sun-dial. The ancient notion found in the LXX. in JOSEPHUS (Antiqq. X. 2, 1), the SYR., various Rabbis, SCALIGER (Praef. ad can. chronol.) was that the steps were a simple flight of stairs exposed transversely to the sun. But to this it is objected that one may imagine the withdrawal of the shadow from ten stair-steps, but not the going down. For the sun must stand so that the upright faces or risers of the stair cast their shadows on the flat steps. But then all the flats must be shaded equally from the top to the bottom. One may of course picture that the ten lower steps lost their shade, but not that the shadow descended ten steps further, as all the steps must already have their shadow. This ascent or descent of the shadow is only possible where there is one object to cast the shadow, and serve as an indicator, whatever may be its form. Hence all expositors understand a sun-dial to be meant. [The words in the Hebrew literally mean “the degree or steps of Ahaz in (or by) the sun.” מעלות, like the Latin gradus, first means steps, and then degrees. The nearest approach to the description of a dial is in the words: “degrees of Ahaz,” which certainly do not obviously mean a dial. As investigation shows, there is no historical necessity for assuming that a dial could not be meant, and that we must assume that the shadow here meant was the shadow cast upon the stairs of Ahaz. “The only question is, whether this (latter) is not the simplest and most obvious explanation of the words, and one which entirely exhausts their meaning. If so, we may easily suppose the shadow to have been visible from Hezekiah’s chamber, and the offered sign to have been suggested to the Prophet by the sight of it. This hypothesis relieves us from the necessity of accounting for the division into ten, or rather twenty degrees, as Hezekiah was allowed to choose between a procession and a retrocession of the same extent.” J. A. ALEX. A neighboring wall might have cast its shadow on such a stair, which might be called the shadow of the stair, as God’s shadow is called “thy shadow.” צִלְּךָ, Ps. 121:5; comp. צִלָם, Num. 14:9. The stair may have served designedly or undesignedly for a rude or even comparatively accurate gauge of time, or it may not.—TR.]
We learn from Herodotus (II. 109) that the Greeks received the sun-dial from the Babylonians, and he says expressly that the Greeks learned from them τὰ δυώδεκα μέρεα τῆς ἡμέρης. Thus the Babylonians seem already to have known the division into twelve day and twelve night hours. The sun-indicator of Ahaz may also have had this division. For the mention of ten degrees does not warrant the inference that it was divided according to the decimal system. The sun-dial could easily pass from the Babylonians to the Syrians, and from the latter to the Jews. Ahaz was disposed to introduce foreign novelties (comp. 2 Kings 16:10 sqq.), and may have introduced this with other things from Syria. But this is only conjecture. The same is true of any thing that may be offered concerning the form of Ahaz’s sun-dial [see BARNESin loco;SMITH’SBib. Dict.].
As the Prophet offered the choice of letting the shadow rise or fall ten degrees, it must have been at a time of day that allowed room for both on the dial. Of course this room was measured by the length of time represented by the degrees. Did they represent hours or a like larger measure, then a gnomon arranged for only twelve would not have sufficed. But what was proposed could have been done did the degrees mark half or quarter hours. DELITZSCH says: “If the performance of the sign took place an hour before sundown, then the shadow, going back ten degrees, of half an hour each, came to where it was at noon.” But how then could the shadow at 5 o’clock, P. M., go also ten degrees further down? Could the dial mark the tenth hour after noon? It is thus more probable that the Prophet came to the king nearer mid-day. [According to the old view defended above, it would be, say halfway, between sunrise and meridian.—TR.]
The expression סעלות is manifestly used with different meanings. It designates first the degrees or steps, however they may have been marked. And, in my opinion, it has this sense four out of the five times that it occurs in our passage. Moreover צל מעלות seems to me to be “the shadow of the degrees,” not “the shadow of the gnomon.” For it is not correct to say: “the shadow of the gnomon that is gone down on the gnomon of Ahaz.” For if מעלות be taken in the concrete sense, meaning that particular gnomon, that would be to distinguish what in fact is identical. But if the word be taken generally=the sun-dial shadow that is on every dial in general, then מעלות is quite superfluous. Hence I think that מעלות means here the degrees, and “the shadow of the degrees” is the shadow that, connected with the degrees, marks the hours, be it that the degrees themselves cast the shadow, or that the shadow strikes the degrees (be they lines, points, circles, or the like), and thereby marks the position of the sun or the time of day. Moreover, the third, fourth and fifth time the word means “degrees.” For in these it is only said that the sun has retrograded over the same degrees on which it went down. But the expression מעלית אחז is manifestly to be taken as a metonomy, as far as it is pars pro toto. The language had no name for the novelty. It had only a word for the chief features of it, and thus that became the name of the whole. אשׁר מעלות is both times the accusative of measure. בשׁמשׁ stands in an emphatic antithesis: by means of the sun’s movement, thus in consequence of a natural cause, the shadow had gone down; but I, says the Prophet in the consciousness of the will and power of Jehovah, I bring it about that, contrary to nature, it must return ten degrees. This could happen indirectly by refraction of the sun’s rays (comp. KEIL on 2 Kings 20:9), or perhaps directly by an optical effect. It remains a miracle any way. [See BARNESin loc. for a full presentation of this subject.] Various natural explanations see in WINER,R.-W.-B. Art. Hiskia.THENIUS (on 2 Kings 20:9) supposes an eclipse of the sun, which, according to SEYFFARTH, took place September 26th, 713 B. C. But this date does not sufficiently agree with our event, nor would an eclipse explain the retrocession of the shadow. I believe that the LORD desired to give to His anointed, at a very important epoch of his personal and official life, the assurance that He, the LORD, could as certainly restore the sands of Hezekiah’s life that were nearly run out, and strengthen them to renew their running, as He now lets the shadow of the sun-dial return a given number of degrees.
auf der Stufenuhr Achas’ vermoege der Sonne, or, on the degrees, or steps of Ahaz with the sun.—J. A. ALEX.
Heb. degrees by, or, with the sun.
[This use of Ecclus. 48:23 conflicts with the appeal the Author makes to the same text in his Introduction, § 4 (at the end), in support of the genuineness of the Isaiah text. If it there serves to prove that an entire section, viz., the historical part, 36–39 is Isaiah’s own work, it must certainly prove as much for the particular language that Sirach actually refers to.—TR].
The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:c) Hezekiah’s Psalm of Thanksgiving
No one doubts the genuineness of this song. That it was not composed during the sickness, appears from the second half, which contains thanks for recovery. But it is probable, too that the song was no involuntary burst of joyful and grateful feeling, such as might well forth from the heart in the first moments after deliverance. For, as DELITZSCH has remarked, the song bears evident marks of art, and of choice, and partly of antiquated expression. Such forms of expression are: פֻּקַּדְתִּי (again only Exod. 38:21) and חֶדֶל (ἅπ. λεγ.) Isa 38:11; דּוֹר in the sense of “dwelling” (perhaps again Ps. 49:20), רֹעִי (adjective form only here), קִפֵּד and דַּלָּה meaning “licium” (ἅπ. λεγ.) Isa 38:12; שִׁוָּה meaning “composuit animum” (again only Ps. 131:2) Isa 38:13; סוּם עָגוּר (again only Jer. 8:7) and עָשְׁקָה (ἅπ. λεγ.) Isa 38:14; Hithp. הִדַּדָּה (again only Ps. 42:5) Isa 38:15; חָשַׁק Isa 38:17 and נִגֵן Isa 38:20 with the accusative instead of the usual construction with בְּלִי ;בּ as substantive=interitus, and joined with שַׁחַת (only here) Isa 38:17. Added to this are echoes from Job, especially in the first, lamenting part of the song: נִסַּע Niph. Isa 38:12 (again only in Job 4:21). יבצעני Isa 38:12, comp. Job 6:9 (Isa 27:8); תשׁלימני Isa 38:12, comp. Job 23:14. מיום עד־לילה Isa 38:12, Job 4:20; דַּלּוּ וגי׳ Isa 38:14, comp. Job 16:20; ערבני Isa 38:14, comp. Job 17:3; חלם Isa 38:16, comp. Job 39:4. Compare the list by DELITZSCH in DRECHSLER’S Komm. II. p. 620 sq. It is, therefore, conjectured, not without reason, that the learned king, well acquainted with the ancient literature of his people, produced this song later as he had time and leisure for it, as a monument both of his art and learning. Apart from the superscription Isa 38:9, the song has evidently two parts; a lament (Isa 38:10–14), and a joyful thanksgiving (Isa 38:15–20.
α) SUPERSCRIPTION. 38:9
9The writing of Hezekiah, king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered from his sickness.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
It is doubtful if מִכְתָּם = מִכְתָּב. For although b. and m. are in general kindred sounds, still an interchange specially of the roots כָּתַב and כָּתַם never occurs. For neither נִכְתַּם (Jer.2:22, see my remarks in loc.) nor the noun כֶּתֶם has anything to do with כָּתָב. We have besides, as derived from the unused root כָּתַם only מִכְתָּם in the superscriptions of Ps. 16, 56–60. Why should the exchange of ב and מ be made just for this species of Psalm? Why was not מכתב used in the superscription of those Psalms as well as for our passage, if both words are actually of like meaning? Beside מכתב occurs elsewhere, and means either abstractly the writing, mode of writing (Exod. 32:16; 39:30; Deut. 10:4; 2 Chr. 36:22; Ezra. 1:1), or in the concrete sense, a something written, piece of scripture, copy (2 Chr. 21:12; 35:4). Here, too, it means a writing, a written document or record. The word would give us to know that another source for this song lay before the author than for other parts of chapters 36–39. The Book of Kings does not contain the song of Hezekiah. From that therefore the author could not take it. There lay before him a document that was either held to be a writing of Hezekiah’s or actually was such. In fact we may take the word “writing” in the sense of original manuscript. For the unusual word, מכתב, doubtless chosen on purpose, and on purpose put first, intimates that not only the contents of the writing came from Hezekiah, but also that the manuscript of it was his. It may be remarked as a curiosity, that GROTIUS conjectures that the song was dictated to the king by Isaiah, thus was properly the production of the latter. Excepting this no one has doubted Hezekiah’s authorship. He is known to have been a very active man in the sphere of art and literature. He was the restorer of the Jehovah-cultus in general, and of the instrumental and vocal temple music of David in particular (2 Chr. 29). According to Prov. 25:1, he had a college or commission, called the אַנְשֵׁי חִזְקִיָה, which appears to have been charged with collecting and preserving ancient documents of the national literature. See DELITZSCH in DRECHSL.Komm. II.2, p. 221. From the words בחלתו and ויחימחליו we see that the sickness and recovery are treated as a total. In the second of these periods, inexactly defined, the song originated. The second period is named, not by the infinitive as the first, but by means of the verb. fin., according to that frequent Hebrew usage, in which the discourse quickly returns from subordinate to the principal form. Comp. 18:5.
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.β) THE DISTRESS
10 I said in 8the cutting off of my days,
I shall go to the gates of the grave:
I am deprived of the residue of my years.
11 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 9world.
12 10Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent;
I have 11cut off like a weaver my life:
He will cut me off 12with pining sickness:
From day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
13 13I 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.
14 Like 14a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter:
I did mourn as a dove;
Mine eyes 15fail with looking upward:
O LORD, I am oppressed; 16 17undertake for me.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 38:10. Views differ very much about דְּמִי ימי. The Ancient Versions guess at it. The LXX. have ἐν ὕψει (they probably read רמי); the VULGATE, “in dimidio” (if this was not for the sake of resemblance in sound between דמי and dimidium, then it was from a calculation that the point of culmination is at the same time solstitium). The SYRIAN, also, by reason of the same combination, has in mediis diebus meis;” TARG. JONATAN has in moerore dierum meorum; AQU. and SYMM. have ἐν ἀσθενεἰᾳ (they take the root דָּוָה = דָּמָה); the ARABּ and various Rabbins translate “in ademtione, excisione dierum meorumְ” in which they proceed from the meaning “to destroy,” which דָּמָה certainly has, especially in the Niph. (comp. Hos.10:15; Isa. 6:5; 15:1, etc.). Many modern expositors, following the precedent of EBERH. SCHEID (Diss. philol. exeg. ad Cant. Hisk. Lugd. Bat. 1769), translate the word as do the VULG. and SYR., viz., in dimidio, medio (comp. בַּחֲצִי יָמַי Ps. 102:25). This meaning is supported by reference to the supposed still-stand of the sun in the midst of its course; but it is over ingenious and entirely isolated here. For in other places of its occurrence דמי undoubtedly means: “being still, pause” (62:6, 7; Ps. 83:2). Most expositors now adopt this sense (GESENIUS, MAURER, UMBREIT, DRECHSLER, KNOBEL, DELITZSCH). Yet they differ also; some understanding by the stillness the political still-stand consequent on Sennacherib’s defeat (GESEN. MAUR., DRECHSLER), or that promised to follow the hoped-for retreat of the Assyrians (KNOBEL). Others refer to the expression בִּימֵי חָרְפִּי (“in the days of my harvest” Job 29:4), and suppose the meaning to be “the time of manly maturity when the spirit of men begins to be clearer and quieter” (UMBR.), or “the quiet course of healthful life” (DEL.). Thus all these expositors take דמי in a good sense, i. e., of quiet, happy condition, of rest of spirit, of vigor of life, vigor. But I cannot think it has this positive meaning. One must not transfer to דמה the sense of נוּחַ. The root דָּמָה has the predominant meaning “not to be, to bring to nought, to annihilate,” whether this comes from the notion of making like (the earth), or elsewhere. For דמה means “to destroy,” once in Kal. (Hos. 4:5), always in Niph. (Hos. 4:6; 10:7, 15; Isa. 15:1; 6:5; Jer. 47:5; Obad. 5; Zeph. 1:11); in Piel in the solitary instance of this conjugation (2 Sam. 21:5). Kal. occurs beside only in the sense of negative rest, of being no more, ceasing (cessare): Jer. 14:17; Lam. 3:49. And also דמי, in the three instances where it occurs (62:6, 7; Ps. 83:2), is primarily only a designation for ceasing to speak, being silent, as DELITZSCH himself remarks on 62:6. Accordingly I think that דמי ימי means rather “being still, standing still, the quenching of life-power.” Thus the king would say: “as I noted that the clock of my life gradually stopped, I thought: now it goes in the gate of Hades.” It is plain that, with this construction דמי ימי must be referred to אמרתי, whereas those who construe דמי positively must refer it to אלכה. For it is self-evident that one whose life-clock stops must enter the gates of Hades, whereas it needs to be made emphatic that one, still in the vigor of life, must make up his mind to this fatal entry. The Masorets understood the words in the latter sense; hence the pause in אֵלֵֽכָה indicated by Tiphhha. One is necessitated thereby to construe הלך emphatically “to go off,” and the connection with בשׁערי שׁ׳ as a pregnant construction, which is needless with our exposition. The cohortative form in אלכה seems to me to mean that the speaker, as it were, spurs himself on to do what he must do, but does unwillingly (comp. EWALD, 228, a).—Pual פֻקַד occurs again only Exod. 38:21, where it means “to be mustered, inscribed, inventoried.” It is plain that it cannot mean this here. Hence some take it=“made to miss, deprived of, frustrari.” But DELITZ. justly remarks that then it ought to read הָפְקַדְתִּי (comp. on 29:6). GESEN. translates: “I am missed through the rest of my years,” grammatically correct but flat. The most inviting is the rendering: “I am fined the residue of my years,” which is grammatically possible since פָּקַד occurs with the accusative of the person meaning “to visit, punish” (Jer. 6:15; 49:8; Ps. 59:6).
Isa 38:11. Concerning יָהּ see on 12:2.—If the words עם ישׁבי חדל are taken as parallel with בארץ החיים, then of course one must cast doubt upon חדל (ἅπ. λεγ.) as CHEYNE, DELITZSCH, DIESTEL and others do, and read חָֽלֶד, i. e., “world in the sense of earthly presence” (αίὼν οὗτος) Ps. 17:14; 49:2; 89:48. But if we are correct in referring בארץ הח׳ to the object and not to the predicate (see comm. below), and if, according to the principle of parallelism, the same construction obtain in the second half of the verse, then the position of עוֹד after אָדָם and then also the difficulty of connecting הח׳ בארץ and also אדם עם חדל, show that עם ישׁבי חדל is not to be joined to the object but to the predicate, that therefore there is an antithetical parallelism. Therefore חָֽדֶל is correct, and is to be taken the sense μὴ εἶνει of a relative not being, or being no more.
Isa 38:12. If דּוֹר be taken in its usual sense of “œtas, time, life-time” (DRECHSLER) there ensues the disadvantage that the predicates נסע ונגלה do not fit to it. For they contain the notion breaking off, removal in respect to space, which is applicable to dwelling-space, room, but not to the time of dwelling. Hence most expositors recur to the dialects wherein דור (likely because of a relation to גּוּר) has very constantly the sense of “dwelling.” Thus in Chaldee גּוּר is a very common word for “dwelling;” Dan. 2:38; 3:31; 4:9, 18, 32. Thence come the expressions of the Targum דַּיָּר “the inhabitant,” דִּירַא “the dwelling.” In Syriac, too, dairo, dajoro, dairono is “the dwelling;” and in Arabic dar. It seems that the radical idea “rotundum, orbis” has in Hebrew developed more to the meaning “circuit, periodus, period, age,” whereas in the dialects it has been restricted more to the meaning of the round tent-dwelling. Still there are not wanting examples to prove that in Hebrew also the word has retained its original sense of “being round” in reference to things of space. Thus 22:11 דּוּר means “ball;” 29:3 כַּדּוּר=circumcirca; Ezek. 24:5 מְדוּרָה = דּוּר “the wood-pile in round layers.” Indeed Ps. 49:20 דּוֹר very likely means specifically “dwelling.” It is very probable that Hezekiah, a learned prince and well acquainted with the ancient monuments of the national tongue, in solemn poetry, availed himself of an antiquated expression.—נָסַע used for pulling up the tent-pegs, 33:20; Niph. Found again only Job 4:21, and with the same meaning.—נגלה from גָּלָה “to uncover,” “to clear out the land, evacuare,” then specifically “migrare,” Niph.=“migrare factus, deportatus.—רֹעִי is an adjective formation from רֹעֶה=pastoricius: it occurs only here. That קָפַד (ἅπ. λεγ.) does not mean “to cut off” seems probable to me also. For all kindred roots קפץ ,קפז ,קפא, as also the derivative קִפּוֹד “the porcupine,” indicate that it means “to contract, wrap together, lay together.” Thus many moderns translate: “I have wound up my life.” But if one so understands it: “I regard my life as wound up,” i. e., done, finished, I have finished with life, then it seems to me not to suit the first person, nor the primary sense of קפדתי. My rendering (see Exeg. and Crit. below) makes plain why we find the first and then the third person. יבצעני (reminds strongly of Job 6:9, comp. 27:8).—מיום עד־לילה recall Job 4:20; and תשׁלימנו Job 23:14.
Isa 38:13. שִׁוָּה is “componere, complanare.” We had the word with a physical sense 28:25; here it has a moral sense like Ps. 131:2, where it means composui et compescui animum. In our text נפשׁי is wanting. It is seen from this that the poet uses the word in that direct causative sense, so frequent in Hebrew, according to which שִׁוָּה can mean, not only “to make alike, even, mild, quiet,” but also “to effect equality, evenness (aequitatem animi), equanimity, quietness.”—כָּֽאֲרי, (pointed with the art. like Ps. 22:17), though referred by the Masorets to שׁויתי still manifestly, as to sense, belongs to what follows. For the lion is no example of that animum componere.—The retrospective כֵּן after a כְּ immediately preceding occurs here like it does directly after, at the beginning of Isa 38:14.
Isa 38:14. The words כסום עגור are difficult. First, as to סוּם it is to be remarked that Jer. 8:7, the only other place where the words occur, K’ri would read סִים. This shows that the word has nothing to do with סוּם “horse,” whatever may be the etymology of the latter word. The conjecture of VELTHUSEN (Beitrag zur Aufklaerung des Dankliedes Hiskiae zur Befoerderung theol. Kenntnisse von J. A. CRAMER, P. I. p. 61 not.), seems to me reasonable, that the Masorets, beside the pronunciation sus, intimate another süs or sis, because the latter better corresponds to the sound-mimicry of the word. For it is very probable that the bird receives its name from the sound it makes (like cuckoo, Uhu “owl,” etc.).—עגור. There is no root עָגַר in Hebrew. It is regarded as coming by transposition from גָּעַר increpare, but which in Ethiopic is said to mean “to sigh,” in Arabic “to implore plaintively.” BOETTCHER (Aehrenlese, p. 33) takes עגור for a softened עָכוּר=“disturbed, troubled,” and this “as the peculiar mark of the restless swallow that flies back and forth.” But this does not suit Jer. 8:7, where it is pure arbitrariness to omitוְ.—It is, certainly no accident that in many languages the crane is designated by a word containing the sound g (k) and r, and it shows that all these denominations are ’ονοματοποιητικά. The name in Arab, is Kurki; Aram., kurkeja; Greek, γέρανος; Lat. grus, etc. This meaning suits very well Jer. 8:7, but is less suitable in our text.—כסים עגור is the same as כסים בעגור (FUERST): The asyndeton (the like occurs Nah. 2:12; Hab. 3:11) gives emphasis: “like a swallow, (still more) like a crane I sigh.” There are cases where, not the species, but the individual forms the basis of comparison. Thus the rule that would require it, to read כַּסּוּם if עגור is co-ordinate and not subordinate, cannot be strictly carried out. Beside the examples just given, comp. Num. 23:24; 24:9,6; Job 16:14.—חָנָה is used for the note of the dove also 59:11, comp. Ezek. 7:16; Nah. 2:8.—עָֽשְׁקָה־לִּי; so punctuated עשׁקה can only be perf. 3d per. fern., and the fem. is to be construed as neuter. But עשׁק occurs no where else in an intransitive sense. Hence, and for the sake of antithesis to ערבני (as LUZZATTO well remarks, see in DELITZSCH), it is better to read עָשְָׁקֽה, which must then be taken as substantative=“oppressio, anxiety.”—דָּלַל “to hang down limp,” Job 28:4, then, generally, “languidum, debilem esse,” comp. 19:6; Ps. 79:8; 116:6; 142:7)—ערבני is sponde pro me. The construction with the accusative of the person like Gen. 43:9; 44:32; Prov. 11:15.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. The poet depicts how he felt in the moment of extreme peril of life, when he thought he must enter the gates of Hades, and, as it were, pay the penalty of the remnant of his days (Isa 38:10). Then he believed he would for ever be robbed of the blessing that is enjoyed in contemplating the works of Jehovah and in the companionship of men, by his exile in the land of unsubstantial shades (Isa 38:11). He sees his body already broken up and removed away like the tent of a wandering shepherd; he was in the midst of the labor of weaving his life and rolling it up, like the weaver his web on the weaver’s beam; but in the midst of this labor he sees his life suddenly cut off. By day still untouched, it is mortally smitten before night comes (Isa 38:12). In anxious expectation he drags on till morning. But that brings only new suffering. Like a lion the disease falls upon him to crush his bones, and anew it seems as if between day and night his life must end (Isa 38:13). Mortally sick, he can only utter weak murmurs and groans, like the complaining sounds of the swallow, the crane, the dove. Yet his languishing eyes look upwards; he has great anguish, but he is able still to call on the LORD to be surety for him (Isa 38:14).
2. I said——of the world.
Isa 38:10, 11. אני before אמדתי, beginning Isa 38:10, seems to stand in antithesis to ואמר, Isa 38:15. I thought, the poet would say, that all was up; but the LORD thought otherwise. אמר stands for what one says, i. e., thinks inwardly to himself (comp. Gen. 26:9; 44:28; 1 Sam. 20:3, etc.).
The expression gates of Hades occurs only here: comp. Ps. 9:14; 107:18; Job 38. By the rest of my days Hezekiah means, of course, the extent of life he hoped for according to the natural conditions of life. It is the same as is expressed in “the half of my days” (Ps. 102:25; Jer. 17:11). Having mentioned the evil that was in prospect (10a), and named the good in a general way of which he was to be deprived (10b), Hezekiah proceeds in Isa 38:11 to specify the particulars of this good. He puts first that he shall no more see JAH, namely, JAH in the land of the living. But can one any way see JAH? With the bodily eye, certainly not, and least of all in the land of the living. But to see Jehovah means nothing else than to observe and enjoy the traces of His being and essence. For “to see” stands here, as often, in the wider sense of perception of the senses generally (comp. Ps. 37:13; 34:13; Jer. 29:32; Eccl. 3:13; 9:9, etc.). [It is both more obvious and more edifying, and more to the honor of Hezekiah, to explain this seeing Jehovah by a reference to Psalm 63, especially Isa 38:2, 6; coll. Isa 38:20 of the text. The whole Psalm mutat. mutand. may be taken as the amplification of our Isa 38:11a; or, vice versa,11a may be taken as Hezekiah’s epitome of Ps. 63, which may have been his solace in the languishing night-watches. It is strong confirmation of this explanation of “the seeing,” that Isaiah communicates to Hezekiah his near recovery by promising that in three days he shall enjoy what he here represents as the prime blessing of life: “the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 20:5). The promise may be completed in the words of Psalm 63:2: “to see (לראות) Jehovah’s power and glory, as thou hast seen Him in the sanctuary.” According to the exposition that follows, “the third day” might be from the beginning of the disease.—TR.]
The clause in the land of the living is a limitation and nearer definition. Not that he means that Jehovah is not to be observed in the land of the dead, and as if that land lay outside of Jehovah’s power and dominion. How contrary to Old Testament Scripture that sentiment would be appears from Amos 9:2; Job 26:6; Psalm 139:8: Prov. 15:11. Hence the poet defines his meaning: “I thought never more to see theJAH who reveals Himself in the land of the living.” This is the first and greatest good that the deceased loses. But he loses also the companionship of men. And this, again, is not to be understood absolutely, but relatively. For in Hades the dead person is with other dead men. But they are even no right and proper men any more, but only shades. Comp. NAEGELSBACH:Homer Theol. VII. § 25, p. 398 sqq.; Die nachhomer. Theol. des griech. Volksglaubens VII. § 25, p. 413 sqq. (see Text. and Gram.).
3. Mine age——for me.
Isa 38:12-14. The king depicts in these verses, by a succession of images, the progress of his sickness to its culmination, then the turn brought about by his believing prayer, דורי means “my dwelling” and not “mine age” (see Text. and Gram.). By this Hezekiah evidently means his body (comp. 2 Cor. 5:1, 4; 2 Pet. 1:13, 14). Though in the body still, he contemplates the separation of body and soul as already accomplished. Comparing the body to a shepherd’s tent, which after a while is struck, so his tent he regards as already struck and removed. The next image is drawn from the weaver (see Text, and Gram.). I understand the words thus: I sit at the loom and roll up my life continuously on the weaver’s beam; He cuts me off from the thrum (דלה, i.e., the ends of the threads attached to the beam). The LORD, by His cutting off, interrupts the labor of Hezekiah, who is, so to speak, weaving his life. “From day to night thou finishest me.” This seems to depict the feeling of the poet at the close of his first day of suffering. Such was the rapid progress of the disease that it seemed about to do its work in one day. By evening, indeed, he was not dead, but only by the greatest effort the patient wards off despair. “I composed myself to the morning” (on שׁויתי see Text. and Gram.). On the following day the torments of the disease continue. He feels its power like that of a lion that crunches the bones of its prey (comp. Prov. 25:15, where is a different sense). A second time he thinks the evening will end his sufferings, and awaits the issue with murmurings and groanings comparable to the querulous notes of the swallow, crane and dove.
The second clause of Isa 38:14 forms the turning point. With painful longing, under severe oppression, the poet lifts his eyes to the LORD. His prayer is only a short one. He regards himself as a debtor hard pressed by his creditor, and prays the LORD to be surety for him. ערבני is, moreover, a literal quotation from Job 17:3. Hezekiah thinks of suffering Job, and concludes a similar event with the same appeal.
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.γ) THE DELIVERANCE
15 What shall I say?
He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it:
I shall 18go softly all my years
19In the bitterness of my soul.
16 O LORD, by these things men live,
20And in all these things is the life of my spirit:
So wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.
17 21Behold, 22for peace I had great bitterness:
But 23thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of 24corruption:
For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
18 For the grave cannot praise thee,
Death can not celebrate thee:
They 25that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
19 The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day:
The father to the children shall make known thy truth.
20 The LORD 26was ready to save me:
Therefore 27we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments
All the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
21 For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon
22 the boil, and he shall recover. Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 38:15. The Hiph. הִדַּדָּה (denoting the solemn walk of those visiting the temple), occurs again only Ps. 42:6. To take it as meaning the walk of life seems to me unwarranted in view of that passage, and in the entire absence of any supporting passage. The same may be said of taking עַל here, as in other passages after verbs or nouns denoting cumulation (38:5; 32:10; Lev. 15:25), in the sense of “according to.” Nor may we take על=“spite of,” which it never means. It is here simply causal.
Isa 38:16. The suffix in עליהם can only refer to the two notions אמר ועשׂה. The plur. masc, need not surprise: comp. Ezek. 18:26; 33:18, 19.—עַל joined to חָיָה denotes the ground or cause of life; and it is to be noted that a Hebrew regards as the basis of life what we regard as the means of living. Hence that from which one lives in the usual sense, i. e., his support, is joined with עַל (Gen. 27:40; Deut. 8:3). Much more הָיָה may stand with עַל when the absolute foundation of life is to be designated. The plural יחיו has for subject the living generally, for which we may use “one.”—Among the many explanations, more or less forced, of the following clause, the most admissible seems to be that of GESENIUS, afterwards amplified by DRECHSLER. It takes all from ולכל to החייני as one clause, and thus has the double advantage of obtaining for ולכל a suitable reference and for the verbs at the close a suitable connection. “And to the totality, i. e., the completeness, full power of the life of my spirit mayest thou by the same both strengthen and make me live.” בָּהֶן refers to אמר ועשׂה Isa 38:15. The change of gender is common in Hebrew. The insertion of בהן between כל and היי corresponds to the frequent insertion of עוד after כל, a form of expression that occurs once in Hos. 14:3 in reference to נִשָׂא and in Isaiah even 40:12 in reference to חָלַם .בַּשָּׁלִישׁ with that meaning that alone suits here occurs only in this Hiph. and again in Kal, Job 39:4. The meaning of Kal is “pinguis, fortis fuit;” thus Hiph. would mean “to make fat, strong, healthy.” Instead of החייני the VULG. and TALMUD seem to have read תחייני. One Codex reads thus, and many expositors adopt it. In fact there is no alternative but either to read תַּחֲיֵינִי [LOWTH], or to take וְ before תחלימני in that demonstrative retrospective sense in which we had it 37:26; 17:14; 9:4, and which, in fact, occurs generally in clauses that are expanded either extensively or intensively. Comp. 2 Sam. 14:10; Prov. 23:24; Num. 23:3; Isa. 56:6 sqq. According to this the וְ would refer to the remote וּלְכֹל. But והחייני would denote emphatically the chief result contemplated by the poet. Hezekiah was convalescent when he composed this song. He could therefore wish that he might be restored to the full power of his spirit. But if, instead of this imperative, one reads תחייני, then the double Vav before the verbs=et—et, as in Isa 38:15. The sense remains essentially the same.
Isa 38:17. לשׁלום is not = בשׁלום. But the meaning is “for peace, for good it was bitter to me.” It is not to be objected to this that then היה ought not to be wanting, for, apart from its absence being quite normal here (comp. Isa 38:20), מַר may itself be regarded as a verb [“preterite Kal of מור, not elsewhere used, though the Hiph. is of frequent occurrence.”—J. A. ALEX.]. (Comp. 24:9; Job 22:2; Ruth 1:20). But it is more likely that מר is adjective used as noun as in Ruth 1:13; Lam. 1:4. Comp. עשׁקה לי, Isa 38:14.—According to our construction of לשׁלום we must regard ואתה חשׁקת a causal clause expressive of the situation.—חָשַׁק=“to be lovingly attached” (Deut. 7:7; 10:15, etc.); but while elsewhere construed with בְּ, it is here (comp. נִגֵן Isa 38:20, with the accusat. though elsewhere always with בּ, joined with the accusat. of the object, and beside this with מִן to designate the terminus a quo of the way of deliverance (construct. prœgnans) [coll. Heb. 5:7, καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας—TR.].—The combination שׁחת בלי “the pit of destruction,” occurs only here; even the substantive use of בלי does not occur elsewhere.
Isa 38:18. לא before שׁאול ת׳, by a familiar usage, (23:4; 1 Sam. 2:3, etc.) extends to the following clause.—The יודרי בור (comp. 14:19; Ps. 28:1; 88:5, etc.) are not those going down, but those gone down. For in Hebrew the Participle is in itself devoid of tense signification, which must be ascertained from the nature of what is affirmed or from the context. Here the hopelessness is during the endless stay in Hades.
Isa 38:19. הודיע with אל arises from the direct causative use of this Hiph. For הודיע = “to make, prepare דַּעַת, knowing, knowledge.” Accordingly he for whom the knowledge is prepared, i. e., to whom it is imparted must be in the dative. The object of knowledge is designated by אֶל in accordance with the frequent use of this preposition with verbis decendi (comp. Gen. 20:2; 1 Sam. 4:19; 2 Kings 19:9, etc.).
Isa 38:20. In יהוח להושׁיעני we are to supply הָיָה (comp. Isa 38:17; 21:1; 37:26). We must not translate: “Jehovah was there to save me,” for Hezekiah certainly did not feel the saving hand of God as something that withdrew after accomplishing its work. He felt it as something still present. He still needed it, as appears from Isa 38:16. This is precisely the sense of this periphrastic construction, that it does not represent the verbal notion simply, but with the additional notion of continued occupation with something.—נִגֵּן is pulsare, and is used of playing stringed instruments (1 Sam. 16:16, 23, etc.). Hence נְגִינוֹת is to be understood of instrumentum pulsatile, (not cantus), as in the superscriptions of many Psalms: 4, 6, 54, etc.; Hab. 3:19.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. In this second part of his song Hezekiah expresses his gratitude to the LORD. “What shall I say?” he begins, as if he could not find the proper word to express in a suitable manner what he had been permitted to experience. In two brief words, he first expresses comprehensively what he has to say. “He promised it, and has also done it!” But I, as long as I live, will walk before the LORD, in gratitude for His imparting to me by means of bitter suffering so much joy (Isa 38:15). Such is, as it were, the theme. In what follows the details are amplified. First, the king expresses the great truth that God’s word and act are the foundation of life for all, and adds the petition that God would by word and act, also fully restore him to life (Isa 38:16). This petition forms the transition to further thanksgiving. The poet acknowledges that his suffering had inured to his salvation: the LORD had precisely in the depth of suffering made him to know the height of His love. But how could such salvation accrue to the sinner? Because the LORD graciously forgave his debt (Isa 38:17). But also because it is in a measure important to the LORD Himself to preserve man alive. For in Hades there is no thanksgiving to God nor any more trusting in Him (Isa 38:18). Only the living can do this, and that both for themselves, and by handing down the praise of the divine faithfulness to their posterity (Isa 38:19). Because he knows the LORD to be near as his redeemer and Saviour, he will, in the church and in the house of the LORD, let his song sound as long as he lives (Isa 38:20). Verses 21, 22, which are here out of place, were explained above at Isa 38:6.
2. What shall I say—my soul.
Isa 38:15. The sentiment is, that there is properly an infinite amount to say. What shall the poet select from mass of material. One may compare 2 Sam. 7:20. Hezekiah resolves to make two things prominent: 1) that the LORD was as good as His word. 2) that he, for his part, will give solemn thanksgiving as long as he lives. The construction ואמר והוא ע׳ must not be taken as giving a reason. The antithesis of “saying” and “doing” reveals that we have here two correlative members, and that וְ before אמר does not point backward, but forward. The וְ—וְ is here simply=et-et. In the second number הוּא “idem” is added for emphasis. For the “truth” that is so lauded Isa 38:18, 19 only exists when the performer is identical with the promiser (comp. Num. 23:19). Therefore אמר “He hath said” refers back to Isa 38:5, and stands in an emphatic sense, as in general the notion אמר is capable of various emphasis (comp. 2 Chr. 32:24). The second clause of the verse expresses in brief the thanks that Hezekiah means to pay. He promises zealous Jehovah-worship (on אדדה see Text. and Gram.), as proof of his thanks for the misfortune sent him that had become the source of so much good fortune to him, as he expressly confesses Isa 38:17. The thought recalls 12:2, where the Prophet thanks Jehovah for being angry at him.
3. O LORD—to live.
Isa 38:16. These words contain a nearer definition of “he said and he did,” Isa 38:15, from which is seen that the poet attaches great importance to this thought. By the words עליהם יחיו he first utters the general sentence, that all life rests on God’s word and deed (DRECHSLER appropriately refers to the creative word and act Gen. 1). The following clause applies this universal truth to the poet himself. (See Text. and Gram.).
4. Behold, for peace—thy truth.
Isa 38:17-19. In these verses the poet gives in brief outline the story of his suffering and the deliverance from it. The bitter distress of death serves him as a foil that lets the light of the deliverance shine all the brighter. He praises the miraculous power of God that has brought it about that precisely what was bitter accrued to his salvation. Therefore he repeats emphatically מר “bitterness” (comp. חי חי Isa 38:19; 24:16; 27:5). This gracious deliverance comes from the LORD’S no more remembering the poet’s sins (Ps. 90:8), and casting them behind Him (Ps. 51:11; Mic. 7:19).
In Isa 38:18, 19 Jehovah’s deliverance is explained from another side. It is shown that the LORD Himself has an interest in preserving Hezekiah alive. The Sheol (metonomy: the total for the individuals that constitute it) does not praise the LORD; death (also metonomy) does not celebrate Him: those that have gone down into the pit hope not in His faithfulness. We have here quite the Old Testament representation of the condition of the dead as something that excludes all free and conscious action. Thus in Ps. 6:6 (5). “For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” Bring together also in one conspectus the expressions Ps. 88:11–13; 30:10; Eccl. 9:5, 6 and comp. Job 14:10 sqq.; Ps. 115:17. One sees that the spiritual activity of the dead was looked upon as paralyzed by the shades of death. They cannot hope,etc. points to the future as what precedes does to the past. The dead have as little remembrance of the benefits received from God in life, as they have hope in the faithfulness of God that rules over them and promises a better future. [“The true explanation of the words is given by CALVIN,viz., that the language is that of extreme agitation and distress, in which the prospect of the future is absorbed in contemplation of the present, and also that, so far as he does think of futurity, it is upon the supposition of God’s wrath. Regarding death, in this case, as a proof of the divine displeasure, he cannot but look upon it as the termination of his solemn praises.”—J. A. ALEX.].
With jubilant emotions, Hezekiah feels that he again belongs to the living, hence the repetition of חַיwho lives, who lives, he praises,etc., and the joyous כמוני היום as I this day, in which appears how much the contrast between the mournful yesterday, and the blessed to-day moves the heart of the poet. The words father to the children,etc., have a peculiar significance in Hezekiah’s mouth. His successor Manasseh, according to 2 Kings 21:1, ascended the throne at twelve years of age. Consequently he cannot have been born at this time. Indeed, since it was customary for the eldest son to succeed, it is very probable that at that time Hezekiah had no son at all, which seems to be confirmed by יֵצְאוּ ,וגוּ׳39:7. Considered from this point of view our words appear prophetic. Yet, when one reflects what sort of a son Manasseh was, it would almost seem to have been better had Hezekiah done nothing to avert the sentence of death Isa 38:1.
5. The LORD——house of the LORD.
Isa 38:20. Concluding verse, containing once again the chief thought, and a summons to continual praise of Jehovah. “Jehovah is present to save me,” see Text. and Gram.So will we touch my stringed instruments,ibid. The song accompanying the stringed instrument is not excluded, though the latter alone is mentioned. The plural has been urged as favoring the meaning “song.” But could not the musical King Hezekiah understand various sorts of playing on stringed instruments? Or, if not this, may not the plural be that of the general notion? Some suppose, that by the plural נְנַגֵּן “we will touch,” Hezekiah sets himself as the chorus-leader of his family. But one must not forget the Levitical musicians that he himself had instituted for the service of God’s house (2 Chr. 29:30). Corresponding to the אדדה Isa 38:15, Hezekiah thinks here not of private divine service, but of the worship of Jehovah in the temple. The preposition עַל is surprising. Perhaps one may compare Hos. 11:11. Perhaps, too, the preposition has reference to the elevated way which, according to 2 Kings 16:18, led the king into the temple, and afforded him an elevated place from which he saw the greater part of the house beneath him. Moreover it is to be remarked, that tarrying in the house of the LORD has a prominent place in many Psalms: 15:1; 23:6; 42:5; 43:4; 84:2 sqq. 11, etc.
in the pause of my days
My dwelling is broken up.
Or, from the thrum.
I composed myself.
a swallow, a crane.
Or, ease me.
be my surety.
And to the full life of my spirit strengthen me thereby and let me live.
Behold for peace bitterness inured to me.
Or, on my peace came great bitterness.
Heb. thou hast loved my soul from the pit.
destruction, or nothingness.
that are gone down.
we will touch the stringed instruments.