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Hezekiah’s Illness

38 Now, Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and prophesied to him, saying, “This is what Yahweh has to say to you: Set your affairs in order, for you will not recover from this illness. You are going to die.” Then Hezekiah broke down and wept, turned his face to the wall, and prayed, “O please, Yahweh, please. I beg you, let me live. Remember how I have walked faithfully before your face. With all my heart, I have sought to do only what is good in your eyes.“ Bitter tears streamed down his face.

Then Isaiah received another prophetic word for Hezekiah. Yahweh said to him, “Go deliver this message to Hezekiah: ‘This is what Yahweh, the God of your ancestor David, has to say to you: I have heard your heartfelt prayer and I have seen you cry tear after bitter tear. I will give you another fifteen years. I will defend Jerusalem, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. This will be a sign to you from Yahweh as a confirmation that I will do for you what I have promised. I will cause the sun’s shadow to retreat ten steps on the stairway of Ahaz.’”

Then the sunlight went back up the ten steps it had gone down.[a]

Hezekiah’s Psalm of Praise

Here is the poem of Hezekiah, king of Judah, which he wrote when he was healed from his illness:

10 I was dying in the prime of life.
    I thought, “Must I leave this world now?
    Must I go through the gates of death
    and miss out on the rest of my years?”
11 I thought, “I won’t get to see[b] Yah again
    in the land of the living.
    No longer will I see my friends or family
    nor enjoy the company of anyone living on earth.
12 My body is being folded up and taken from me,
    taken down like a shepherd’s tent.
    He cuts my life short,
    as a weaver cuts his cloth from the loom and rolls it up.
    From day to night, you bring my life to an end.
13 I felt as though a lion were crushing all my bones
    as I cried out for help until morning.
    From day to night, you bring my life to an end.
14 I could only chirp like a swallow or small bird;
    I could only moan like a dove.
    My eyes are weary from looking up into heaven.
    Yahweh, I am so depressed. Come and be my strength.[c]
15 But what can I say?
    For he has spoken to me and told me
    that he is the one who has done this.[d]
    I can’t sleep a wink[e] because I’m overwhelmed with grief.[f]
16 Lord, it is because of your kindness[g] that life is given.
    It is in you that my spirit lives.[h]
    Now restore my health and give me life again!
17 Truly, it was for my own good
    that I had this bitter experience.
    For you loved my soul out of the pit of oblivion.
    You cast all my sins behind your back.
18 The grave and those buried there cannot praise you.
    Neither the realm of death nor those who enter it
    can give you thanks or hope for your faithfulness.
19 It’s the living who thank you as I do today.
    One generation makes your faithfulness known to the next.
20 Yahweh is pleased to heal me and save me!
    We will sing to the music of stringed instruments
    every day of our lives in Yahweh’s house.”

21 Now, Isaiah had said to Hezekiah, “Have the physicians apply a poultice of cakes of dried figs to your boil, and you will recover.”

22 And Hezekiah had said, “What will be the sign from God that I will be healed and go up again to worship in Yahweh’s house?”[i]


  1. Isaiah 38:8 It is possible that these steps functioned as some type of a sundial. See Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 614, s.v.
  2. Isaiah 38:11 Or “appear before (in the temple).”
  3. Isaiah 38:14 Or “stability.”
  4. Isaiah 38:15 This is almost the same as saying, “It is finished.”
  5. Isaiah 38:15 Or “All my sleep has fled” or “I walk slowly all my years.” The Hebrew is uncertain.
  6. Isaiah 38:15 Or “because of the bitterness of my soul.”
  7. Isaiah 38:16 Or “because of these things (kindness, mercy, acts of love, goodness of God).”
  8. Isaiah 38:16 The meaning of this Hebrew sentence is uncertain.
  9. Isaiah 38:22 Because this verse seems so out of place, many contemporary translations place it between v. 6 and v. 7. See also 2 Kings 20:7-8. Hezekiah was not afraid of asking for a sign, not wanting to make the mistake of his father, Ahaz (Isa. 7:11-13).

Hezekiah’s Illness(A)

38 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz(B) went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order,(C) because you are going to die; you will not recover.”(D)

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked(E) before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion(F) and have done what is good in your eyes.(G)” And Hezekiah wept(H) bitterly.

Then the word(I) of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David,(J) says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears;(K) I will add fifteen years(L) to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend(M) this city.

“‘This is the Lord’s sign(N) to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.(O)

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery:

10 I said, “In the prime of my life(P)
    must I go through the gates of death(Q)
    and be robbed of the rest of my years?(R)
11 I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself(S)
    in the land of the living;(T)
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
    or be with those who now dwell in this world.
12 Like a shepherd’s tent(U) my house
    has been pulled down(V) and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled(W) up my life,
    and he has cut me off from the loom;(X)
    day and night(Y) you made an end of me.
13 I waited patiently(Z) till dawn,
    but like a lion he broke(AA) all my bones;(AB)
    day and night(AC) you made an end of me.
14 I cried like a swift or thrush,
    I moaned like a mourning dove.(AD)
My eyes grew weak(AE) as I looked to the heavens.
    I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”(AF)

15 But what can I say?(AG)
    He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.(AH)
I will walk humbly(AI) all my years
    because of this anguish of my soul.(AJ)
16 Lord, by such things people live;
    and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
    and let me live.(AK)
17 Surely it was for my benefit(AL)
    that I suffered such anguish.(AM)
In your love you kept me
    from the pit(AN) of destruction;
you have put all my sins(AO)
    behind your back.(AP)
18 For the grave(AQ) cannot praise you,
    death cannot sing your praise;(AR)
those who go down to the pit(AS)
    cannot hope for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living—they praise(AT) you,
    as I am doing today;
parents tell their children(AU)
    about your faithfulness.

20 The Lord will save me,
    and we will sing(AV) with stringed instruments(AW)
all the days of our lives(AX)
    in the temple(AY) of the Lord.

21 Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.”

22 Hezekiah had asked, “What will be the sign(AZ) that I will go up to the temple of the Lord?”

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