|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 Hezekiah became gravely ill. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him and said, Thus says Jehovah: Put your house in order. You will die; you will not recover.
||בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם חָלָה חִזְקִיָּהוּ לָמוּת וַיָּבוֹא אֵלָיו יְשַׁעְיָהוּ בֶן־אָמוֹץ הַנָּבִיא וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה צַו לְבֵיתֶךָ כִּי מֵת אַתָּה וְלֹא תִחְיֶה ׃
|Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord,
||At this Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall and prayed to Jehovah:
||וַיַּסֵּב חִזְקִיָּהוּ פָּנָיו אֶל־הַקִּיר וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל אֶל־יְהוָה ׃
|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.
||I beseech you to remember, O Jehovah, how I have walked before you faithfully and with full purpose of heart and have done what is good in your eyes . . . And Hezekiah wept disconsolately.
||וַיֹּאמַר אָנָּה יְהוָה זְכָר־נָא אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלַּכְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ בֶּאֱמֶת וּבְלֵב שָׁלֵם וְהַטּוֹב בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי וַיֵּבְךְּ חִזְקִיָּהוּ בְּכִי גָדוֹל ׃
|Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying,
||Then the word of Jehovah came to Isaiah:
||וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־יְשַׁעְיָהוּ לֵאמֹר ׃
|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.
||Go and tell Hezekiah, Thus says Jehovah, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life.
||הָלוֹךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל־חִזְקִיָּהוּ כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי דָּוִד אָבִיךָ שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת־תְּפִלָּתֶךָ רָאִיתִי אֶת־דִּמְעָתֶךָ הִנְנִי יוֹסִף עַל־יָמֶיךָ חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה ׃
|And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.
||And I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; I will protect this city.
||וּמִכַּף מֶלֶךְ־אַשּׁוּר אַצִּילְךָ וְאֵת הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְגַנּוֹתִי עַל־הָעִיר הַזֹּאת ׃
|And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he hath spoken;
||a And Isaiah gave instructions to take fig packs and apply them to the swelling so that he would recover.
||וְזֶה־לְּךָ הָאוֹת מֵאֵת יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה יְהוָה אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר ׃
|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.
||a But Hezekiah said, What of a sign that I shall again go up to the house of Jehovah?
||הִנְנִי מֵשִׁיב אֶת־צֵל הַמַּעֲלוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָרְדָה בְמַעֲלוֹת אָחָז בַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ אֲחֹרַנִּית עֶשֶׂר מַעֲלוֹת וַתָּשָׁב הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עֶשֶׂר מַעֲלוֹת בַּמַּעֲלוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָרָדָה ׃
|The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:
||And Isaiah replied, This shall be a sign to you from Jehovah, that Jehovah will do the thing he has promised:
||מִכְתָּב לְחִזְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ־יְהוּדָה בַּחֲלֹתוֹ וַיְחִי מֵחָלְיוֹ ׃
|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.
||See, I make the shadow cast by the afternoon sun on the dial of Ahaz recede the ten degrees it has gone down. So the sun reversed its descent by ten degrees on the dial.
||אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי בִּדְמִי יָמַי אֵלֵכָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵי שְׁאוֹל פֻּקַּדְתִּי יֶתֶר שְׁנוֹתָי ׃
|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.
||Hezekiah king of Judah’s account of his illness, written upon his recovery:
||אָמַרְתִּי לֹא־אֶרְאֶה יָהּ יָהּ בְּאֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים לֹא־אַבִּיט אָדָם עוֹד עִם־יוֹשְׁבֵי חָדֶל ׃
|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.
||I said, in the prime of lifemust I depart through Sheol’s gates,deprived of the balance of my years?
||דּוֹרִי נִסַּע וְנִגְלָה מִנִּי כְּאֹהֶל רֹעִי קִפַּדְתִּי כָאֹרֵג חַיַּי מִדַּלָּה יְבַצְּעֵנִי מִיּוֹם עַד־לַיְלָה תַּשְׁלִימֵנִי ׃
|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.
||I thought, I shall not see bJehovahbin the land of the living;I shall not now behold Manamong those dwelling in mortality.
||שִׁוִּיתִי עַד־בֹּקֶר כָּאֲרִי כֵּן יְשַׁבֵּר כָּל־עַצְמוֹתָי מִיּוֹם עַד־לַיְלָה תַּשְׁלִימֵנִי ׃
|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.
||My tabernacle is being uprooted,carried away from me like a shepherd’s tent.My life is cut off like woven fabric;he is severing me from the loom.c
||כְּסוּס עָגוּר כֵּן אֲצַפְצֵף אֶהְגֶּה כַּיּוֹנָה דַּלּוּ עֵינַי לַמָּרוֹם אֲדֹנָי עָשְׁקָה־לִּי עָרְבֵנִי ׃
|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.
||Can I contain myself until morning,while like a lion he racks my whole frame?Surely, as night has followed day,you are bringing on my end!
||מָה־אֲדַבֵּר וְאָמַר־לִי וְהוּא עָשָׂה אֶדַּדֶּה כָל־שְׁנוֹתַי עַל־מַר נַפְשִׁי ׃
|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.
||Like a mounting lark I twitter,like a dove I murmur.My eyes are drawn looking heavenward;[I am utterly sleeplessdfrom bitterness of soul . . . ]eO Jehovah, I am in straits; be my surety!
||אֲדֹנָי עֲלֵיהֶם יִחְיוּ וּלְכָל־בָּהֶן חַיֵּי רוּחִי וְתַחֲלִימֵנִי וְהַחֲיֵנִי ׃
|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.
||But what shall I saywhen he has already spoken for me,when he himself has brought it about?
||הִנֵּה לְשָׁלוֹם מַר־לִי מָר וְאַתָּה חָשַׁקְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִשַּׁחַת בְּלִי כִּי הִשְׁלַכְתָּ אַחֲרֵי גֵוְךָ כָּל־חֲטָאָי ׃
|For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
||O my Lord, by means of such trialscomes a newness of life,and throughout them all the renewal of my spirit.
||כִּי לֹא שְׁאוֹל תּוֹדֶךָּ מָוֶת יְהַלְלֶךָּ לֹא־יְשַׂבְּרוּ יוֹרְדֵי־בוֹר אֶל־אֲמִתֶּךָ ׃
|The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
||Surely, for my own good I am in such dire distress;by its means you draw my soulout of the Pit of Dissolution.For you have cast all my sins behind you,[restoring and reviving me].f
||חַי חַי הוּא יוֹדֶךָ כָּמוֹנִי הַיּוֹם אָב לְבָנִים יוֹדִיעַ אֶל־אֲמִתֶּךָ ׃
|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 Sheol cannot praise you, nor Death glorify you;those who go down into the Pithave no further hope of your faithfulness.
||יְהוָה לְהוֹשִׁיעֵנִי וּנְגִנוֹתַי נְנַגֵּן כָּל־יְמֵי חַיֵּינוּ עַל־בֵּית יְהוָה ׃
|For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.
||But the living, only they bring you praise,as I do this day;from father to sons they pass onthe knowledge of your faithfulness.
||וַיֹּאמֶר יְשַׁעְיָהוּ יִשְׂאוּ דְּבֶלֶת תְּאֵנִים וְיִמְרְחוּ עַל־הַשְּׁחִין וְיֶחִי ׃
|Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?
||O Jehovah, may it please you to save me,and we will perform musicall the days of our lives in the house of Jehovah.
||וַיֹּאמֶר חִזְקִיָּהוּ מָה אוֹת כִּי אֶעֱלֶה בֵּית יְהוָה ׃
Directly related to Assyria’s invasion of the Promised Land “in those days,” and to the mortal threat Assyria posed to Hezekiah’s people, is the mortal threat of the king’s illness. Hezekiah’s role as his people’s proxy savior requires more than his vocal intercessory prayer on their behalf (Isaiah 37:15-20). It involves answering for their disloyalties to their God in the pattern of ancient Near Eastern emperor-vassal covenants. In other words, under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, Hezekiah takes upon himself his people’s transgressions and their covenant curses when seeking Jehovah’s physical protection.
On his deathbed, while facing the wall—symbolic of his life being cut short—Hezekiah reminds Jehovah of his enduring loyalty to him throughout his life, at the same time alluding to his people’s mortal threat by Assyria. As Jehovah’s son and servant—as his vassal (Isaiah 7:14; 37:35)—Hezekiah considers himself answerable for the terms of the Davidic Covenant by “walking faithfully” and “with full purpose of heart” before Jehovah—his emperor—and in doing “good,” a term synonymous with covenant keeping. Surely, the king’s offering his life will now ensure his people’s deliverance!
In response to Hezekiah’s agonizing prayer—and following divine protocol as before—Jehovah again sends word to Hezekiah through his prophet-messenger, Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 37:6-7, 21-22). As in ancient Near Eastern emperor-vassal covenants, Jehovah is bound under the terms of the Davidic Covenant to deliver a vassal and his people from a mortal threat when the vassal proves loyal under all conditions. Hezekiah demonstrates this during Jehovah’s personalized test of the king’s loyalty at the height of his royal career. Now about age forty, Hezekiah is in his prime and at the apex of his power.
The words, “I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; I will protect this city” (v 6), and “I will protect this city and save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David” (Isaiah 37:35), appear as one in 2 Kings 20:6. Isaiah’s dividing them links the king’s ordeal indissolubly to Jehovah’s response to Hezekiah. His suffering, in other words, directly impacts Jehovah’s deliverance of his people. God thus proves to be with this son Immanuel (“God Is with Us”)—a vassal who chooses the “good” (v 3; Isaiah 7:14, 16)—when the angel slays the Assyrian host (Isaiah 37:36).
Having suffered the covenant curse of being mortally afflicted, yet faithfully submitting his life to God, Hezekiah passes the test and Jehovah heals him. According to this same pattern, Jehovah heals his end-time servant after he is “marred beyond human likeness” and passes his personalized test of loyalty (Isaiah 52:13-14; 57:18-19). Fig packs and other natural means remind us that Jehovah provides remedies on the earth whereby his people may be healed—even of mortal illnesses—and live to experience a reversal of covenant curses when their lives accord with his divine laws (Isaiah 6:10; 58:8).
Verses 21 and 22 appear out of sequence in the text. From their misplacement and that of others in the Book of Isaiah it is clear that at times the entire text or parts of it were written down from memory by assigned scribes. In times of national distress, when enemies burned Jewish scriptures, such scribes could thus reproduce entire books from memory. However, when a scribe recalled a verse beyond where it was originally located, it was simply written down on the scroll at the point where he remembered it. Later scribes, fearing to alter the scripture, then simply copied the text just as they had received it.
As we learn from Hezekiah’s account of his illness, his desire was to see Jehovah during his lifetime (v 11). Inspired by his mentor Isaiah, who had seen Jehovah in the temple (Isaiah 6:1), Hezekiah wanted the same privilege. His inquiry, “What of a sign that I shall [again] go up to the house of Jehovah?” thus implies more than his physically being able to worship again at the temple. Hezekiah knows from Isaiah that the ultimate purpose of temple ordinances is to see Jehovah (Isaiah 1:11-12). It was therefore a great source of anguish that he was going to leave this world without fulfilling that desire.
An ancient apocryphal work, the Ascension of Isaiah, records how Hezekiah sees Jehovah during his illness (Ascension of Isaiah, 1:4). The “sign” Jehovah gives Hezekiah is the sun’s reversing its descent by ten degrees. That has meaning in its ancient Near Eastern context of the king’s role as the “sun of his people.” As in Egypt, the sun’s disc rising over the primeval hill signifies Pharaoh’s ascent to God and a new age dawning for his people. The extension of Hezekiah’s life thus betokens Jehovah’s renewed blessing when king and people pass their tests of loyalty and spiritually ascend.
While at this point still unaware that he will recover from his illness, Hezekiah seeks to reconcile himself to the idea that “Sheol”—the world of departed spirits (sometimes but not always accurately translated as “Hell”)—now awaits him. The synonymous parallelism of Hezekiah’s not seeing “Jehovah” in the land of the living and his not beholding “Man” among those dwelling in mortality characterizes Jehovah as a man, albeit a divine Man. In spite of Judeo-Christianity’s Hellenistic concept of an amorphous God, therefore, the biblical God resembles an exalted man (Genesis 18; 32:24-30; 32:24-30).
Being brought to the point that he is looking up, not down, all that a person in such a plight as Hezekiah’s has left is his God. His pleading with Jehovah in the midst of his agony, and his yielding up his life to his God, lends substance to his intercessory prayer on behalf of his people (Isaiah 37:15-20). As a type of the suffering of Jehovah’s end-time servant, Hezekiah “pours out his soul unto death” and “bears the sins of many”—until Jehovah “sees the toil of his soul and is satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11-12). Hezekiah thus becomes a classic role model of a proxy savior under the terms of the Davidic Covenant.
As his physical and mental torment progresses, Hezekiah realizes its purifying and sanctifying effect—that even his suffering and dying can have meaning. As he can’t gainsay Jehovah and wish his pain away, he submits to it and in so doing regenerates spiritually. Sensing the remission of sins that comes with making his life an offering to God, he perceives Jehovah’s comforting him with a sure knowledge of his forgiveness in his hour of anguish. He now sees things from God’s perspective, not only his own. Having passed his test, the deliverer is born—Jehovah can now save him and his people (v 6).
The synonymous parallelism of “Sheol” and “Death,” and the pairing of these terms with “the Pit,” likens all three to a state not just of physical death but of non-ascent as signified by the verb “go down.” What praises and glorifies God is his people’s experiencing spiritual rebirth and ascent in the land of the living after the pattern of King Hezekiah. Spiritual as well as physical “fathers”—proxy saviors under the terms of the Davidic Covenant (Isaiah 22:21; 49:22)—pass the knowledge of Jehovah’s “faithfulness” or “truth” (’emet) to their “sons”—their spiritual vassals—as did the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah.
Exemplifying faithfulness is Jehovah, the God of Israel (cf. Revelation 19:11), who at all times sustains and comforts those who wait for him and who trust in his deliverance (Isaiah 12:2; 25:9; 26:3-4; 30:18; 40:31; 49:23; 64:4). The antithesis of Israel’s God as the source of eternal life and regeneration to his people (v 16; Isaiah 42:5) is Death, as typified by the king of Assyria/Babylon. Leaving his followers comfortless in their hour of need (Isaiah 14:20-22), the archtyrant ends up in the “Pit of Dissolution” (v 17), there to endure spiritual as well as physical death, or de-creation (Isaiah 14:15).