38 It was just before all this that Hezekiah became deathly sick, and Isaiah the prophet (Amoz’ son) went to visit him and gave him this message from the Lord:
“Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not recover from this illness.”
2 When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed:
3 “O Lord, don’t you remember how true I’ve been to you and how I’ve always tried to obey you in everything you said?” Then he broke down with great sobs.
4 So the Lord sent another message to Isaiah:
5 “Go and tell Hezekiah that the Lord God of your forefather David hears you praying and sees your tears and will let you live fifteen more years. 6 He will deliver you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend you, says the Lord, 7 and here is my guarantee: 8 I will send the sun backwards ten degrees as measured on Ahaz’s sundial!”
So the sun retraced ten degrees that it had gone down!
9 When King Hezekiah was well again, he wrote this poem about his experience:
10 “My life is but half done and I must leave it all. I am robbed of my normal years, and now I must enter the gates of Sheol. 11 Never again will I see the Lord in the land of the living. Never again will I see my friends in this world. 12 My life is blown away like a shepherd’s tent; it is cut short as when a weaver stops his working at the loom. In one short day my life hangs by a thread.
13 “All night I moaned; it was like being torn apart by lions. 14 Delirious, I chattered like a swallow and mourned like a dove; my eyes grew weary of looking up for help. ‘O God,’ I cried, ‘I am in trouble—help me.’ 15 But what can I say? For he himself has sent this sickness. All my sleep has fled because of my soul’s bitterness. 16 O Lord, your discipline is good and leads to life and health. Oh, heal me and make me live!
17 “Yes, now I see it all—it was good for me to undergo this bitterness, for you have lovingly delivered me from death; you have forgiven all my sins. 18 For dead men cannot praise you.[a] They cannot be filled with hope and joy. 19 The living, only the living, can praise you as I do today. One generation makes known your faithfulness to the next. 20 Think of it! The Lord healed me! Every day of my life from now on I will sing my songs of praise in the Temple, accompanied by the orchestra.”
21 (For Isaiah had told Hezekiah’s servants, “Make an ointment of figs and spread it over the boil, and he will get well again.”
22 And then Hezekiah had asked, “What sign will the Lord give me to prove that he will heal me?”)
- Isaiah 38:18 For dead men cannot praise you. The meaning is unclear. Perhaps Hezekiah was unaware of the blessedness of the future life for those who trust in God (57:1-2). Or perhaps his meaning is, “Dead bodies cannot praise you.”