1In 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.’” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 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.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, 5 “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. 6 I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city [Jerusalem].”’
7 “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He has spoken: 8 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.
9 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.”
21 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.” 22 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.