In those days Hezekiah [king of Judah] became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, came to him and said, “For the Lord says this, ‘Set your house in order and prepare a will, for you shall die; you will not live.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, “Please, O Lord, just remember how I have walked before You in faithfulness and truth, and with a whole heart [absolutely devoted to You], and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept greatly.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and say to Hezekiah, ‘For the Lord, the God of David your father says this, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; listen carefully, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city [Jerusalem].”’
“This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He has spoken: Listen carefully, I will turn the shadow on the stairway [denoting the time of day] ten steps backward, the shadow on the stairway ([a]sundial) of Ahaz.” And the sunlight went ten steps backward on the stairway where it had [previously] gone down.
This is the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after he had been sick and had recovered from his illness:
I said, “In mid-life
I am to go through the gates of Sheol (the place of the dead),
I am to be summoned, deprived of the remainder of my years.”
I said, “I will not see the Lord
The Lord in the land of the living;
I will no longer see man among the inhabitants of the world.
“My dwelling (body) is pulled up and removed from me like a shepherd’s tent;
I have rolled up my life as a weaver [rolls up the finished web].
He cuts me free from the warp [of the loom];
From day to night You bring me to an end.
“I lay down until morning.
Like a lion, so He breaks all my bones;
From day until night You bring me to an end.
“Like a swallow, like a crane, so I chirp;
I coo like a dove.
My eyes look wistfully upward;
O Lord, I am oppressed, take my side and be my security.
“What shall I say?
For He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it;
I will wander aimlessly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.
“O Lord, by these things men live,
And in all these is the life of my spirit;
Restore me to health and let me live!
“Indeed, it was for my own well-being that I had such bitterness;
But You have loved back my life from the pit of nothingness (destruction),
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
“For Sheol cannot praise or thank You,
Death cannot praise You and rejoice in You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness.
“It is the living who give praise and thanks to You, as I do today;
A father tells his sons about Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is ready to save me;
Therefore we will play my songs on stringed instruments
All the days of our lives at the house of the Lord.”
Now Isaiah had said, “Have them take a cake of figs and rub it [as an ointment] on the inflamed spot, that he may recover.” Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I will go up to the house of the Lord?”
- Isaiah 38:8 Some suggest that this stairway was built to serve as a sundial; others think that it was just a stairway whose design happened to function as a kind of sundial. The Hebrew word simply means “ascent,” which can be a stair or a stairway. If it was fully exposed to the sun, the shadow must have been cast by some object, such as a pole. Otherwise, if it was covered, then perhaps there was an opening through which the sun shone and illuminated part of the stairway.
Hezekiah Shows His Treasures
At that time Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent [messengers with] letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he had heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Hezekiah was pleased and showed them his treasure house—the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his entire armory and everything that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his area of dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did these men say? From where have they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They came to me from a far country, from [a]Babylon.” Then Isaiah said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen everything that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts, ‘Listen carefully, the days are coming when everything that is in your house and everything that your predecessors have stored up until this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And [b]some of your own sons (descendants) who will come from you, whom you will father, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and faithfulness [to God’s promises to us] in my days.”
- Isaiah 39:3 During this period Babylon was not regarded as a threat.
- Isaiah 39:7 The fulfillment of this prophecy was initiated when Daniel and some of the other royal sons were taken to Babylon to serve in the court of the king.
The Greatness of God
“Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
“Speak [a]tenderly to Jerusalem,
And call out to her, that her time of compulsory service in warfare is finished,
That her wickedness has been taken away [since her punishment is sufficient],
That she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double [punishment] for all her sins.”
A voice of one is calling out,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness [remove the obstacles];
Make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
“Every valley shall be raised,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged places a broad valley.
“And the glory and majesty and splendor of the Lord will be revealed,
And all humanity shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”
A voice says, “Call out [prophesy].”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
[The voice answered:] All humanity is [as frail as] grass, and all that makes it attractive [its charm, its loveliness] is [momentary] like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Most certainly [all] the people are [like] grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
O Zion, herald of good news,
Get up on a high mountain.
O Jerusalem, herald of good news,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, do not fear;
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Listen carefully, the Lord God will come with might,
And His arm will rule for Him.
Most certainly His reward is with Him,
And His restitution accompanies Him.
He will protect His flock like a shepherd,
He will gather the lambs in His arm,
He will carry them in His bosom;
He will gently and carefully lead those nursing their young.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens with a span [of the hand],
And calculated the dust of the earth with a [b]measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or has taught Him as His counselor?
With whom did He consult and who enlightened Him?
Who taught Him the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
In fact, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Now look, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
And [the forests of] Lebanon cannot supply sufficient fuel to start a fire,
Nor are its wild beasts enough for a burnt offering [worthy of the Lord].
All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
To whom then will you liken God?
Or with what likeness will you compare Him?
As for the cast image (idol), a metalworker casts it,
A goldsmith overlays it with gold
And a silversmith casts its silver chains.
He who is too impoverished for such an offering [to give to his god]
Chooses a tree that will not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To [carve and] set up an idol that will not totter.
Do you [who worship idols] not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth [the omnipotence of God and the stupidity of bowing to idols]?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
[It is He] who stretches out the heavens like a veil
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
It is He who reduces dignitaries to nothing,
Who makes the judges (rulers) of the earth meaningless (useless).
Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And a strong wind carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you compare Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these heavenly bodies,
The One who brings out their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one is missing.
Why, O Jacob, do you say, and declare, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become tired or grow weary;
There is no searching of His understanding.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who has no might He increases power.
Even youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him]
Will gain new strength and renew their power;
They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun];
They will run and not become weary,
They will walk and not grow tired.