In my last post, we learned of Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38:1-8. In this post, we examine Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22.
9 After Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah had been ill and had recovered, he wrote the following:
The introduction to Hizkiyahu’s poem states that it was written after he had been sick and had recovered. In this respect, the poem is like the thanksgiving songs in Psalms. In the first part of this poem, Hizkiyahu spoke as if he were going to die, but from the second half of the poem, it is clear that it was written after he was healed.
10 “I once said: ‘In the prime of life I am going off to the gates of Sh’ol. I am being deprived of living out the full span of my life.’
Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the ancient concept of an underworld.
11 “I said, ‘I will never again see Yah, Yah in the land of the living; I will look on human beings no more or be with those who live in this world.
Hizkiyahu does not view Yah (a name of God) as an afterlife experience. The land of the living refers to this world and leaves open the question about Hizkiyahu’s belief in the afterlife.
12 My home is uprooted and taken away from me like a shepherd’s tent. Like a weaver, I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom. Between day and night, you could finish me off. 13 I try to be strong like a lion till morning, but still, my illness breaks all my bones – between day and night you could finish me off.
This verse has several metaphors. The shepherd frequently moved from place to place and therefore could break camp quickly. The weaver working on a horizontal loom had the threads and material stretched on bars between stakes. When it had to be moved, the bars could be pulled off the stakes and rolled up. When the weaver finished a piece of cloth, the threads connecting the material to the loom had to be cut. The weaving of Hizkiyahu’s life had been completed, and he was now to be cut loose from the land of the living.
14 I make little chattering sounds like a swallow; I moan aloud like a dove, My eyes are weary with looking upward. Adonai, I am overwhelmed; guarantee my life!’
Hizkiyahu moans sound like the chirping of a bird.
15 “What is there that I can say? He has spoken to me and acted! I will go humbly all my years, remembering how bitter I was. 16 Adonai, by these things people live; in all these is the life of my spirit. You’re restoring my health and giving me life –
God had spoken, and King Hizkiyahu had been delivered from premature death.
In the fifteen additional years, he was given, Hizkiyahu made two terrible mistakes. In addition to providing the Bavelim reason to attack Y’hudah (see 39:5-8), he fathered a son named Manasseh – the worst king in Y’hudah‘s history. It was Manasseh who finally brought down the judgment of God upon Y’hudah.
I believe Hizkiyahu’s story is recorded to show us that there is both a perfect and permissible will of God. Therefore, the best way to pray is to pray as Yeshua did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, let not my will but yours be done.” ~ Luke 22:42 (CJB)
17 though instead of peace, I felt very bitter. You desired my life and preserved it from the nothingness pit; for you threw all my sins behind your back.
Hizkiyahu‘s bitterness refers back to his mournful reaction to news of his impending death. This bitterness is what led him to seek God in prayer and ultimately to God’s relenting from His death sentence. The king referred to the grave as the nothingness pit. After all, in the grave, the body rots and turns to dust.
18 “Sh’ol cannot thank you; death cannot praise you; those descending to the pit cannot hope for your truth.
Here Sh’ol and death are personified. The implication, as made clear by the phrase those descending to the pit, is that the dead can no longer have hope or praise God.
19 The living, the living – they can thank you, as I do today; fathers will make their children know about your faithfulness.
Adonai benefits from keeping His saints alive. The living can praise Him, and they can share that praise with the following generations.
20 Adonai is ready to save me; hence, we will make our stringed instruments sound all the days of our life in the house of Adonai.”
Hizkiyahu sang this song of deliverance after being given fifteen additional years to live on earth. We have been given not fifteen years, but all of eternity – not to live on earth, but eternal life with Yeshua heaven. How much more significant, then, should our song of deliverance be!
21 Then Yesha‘yahu said, “Have them take a fig-plaster and apply it to the inflammation, and he will recover.” 22 Hizkiyahu asked, “What sign will there be that I will be able to go up to the house of Adonai?” ~ Isaiah 38:9-22 (CJB)
These last two verses are an appendix that fills in some facts from earlier in the story. Apparently, Hizkiyahu had a skin disease, perhaps a boil that was causing his body temperature to rise dangerously. Here, we see that, while God performed the miracle of moving the clock backward, He also used a common medicinal substance of the day to heal Hizkiyahu. Medicine doesn’t heal. Miracles don’t heal. Our immune systems don’t heal. It is God who heals. And He can use medicine, miracles, our bodies, or a combination of all three to do His will.
In my next post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39.