1 - 11 Illness and Recovery of Hezekiah
1 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” 2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”‘“ 7 Then Isaiah said, “Take a cake of figs.” And they took and laid [it] on the boil, and he recovered. 8 Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?” 9 Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?” 10 So Hezekiah answered, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” 11 Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
“In those days” (verse 1), that is, in the days of his distress because of the enemy from outside, Hezekiah becomes ill. He even gets so ill that he has to die. Hezekiah therefore has a trial from outside, that is the enemy who has surrounded Jerusalem, and a trial from within, within himself. This second test comes on top of the first and is even greater, because it concerns himself.
What happens to Hezekiah is a picture of the trials of the faithful remnant in the end time that also has an enemy from the outside and also an enemy from the inside. Both enemies are death threatening, but the enemy inside is the worst. The enemy from within is someone from the people themselves, the antichrist.
Isaiah comes to Hezekiah with the announcement that he will die and that he will have to arrange the affairs of his house for that purpose. For us, we must have our affairs arranged in view of the coming of the Lord. This can happen at any moment and that is why we must always be ready for it.
The announcement that he must die causes enormous sadness in Hezekiah. For an Old Testament believer, dying is very sad, especially when he is still relatively young, like Hezekiah, who is about forty years old here. For the promise of the LORD is a long life by faithfulness to Him. That is what Hezekiah the LORD reminds of. If he were taken away now, it would seem as if God is taking him away because of his bad spiritual condition.
The LORD wants Hezekiah to discover the power of death through what happens to him here. He also wants him to discover the power of the resurrection. We see that the Lord always gives richer lessons than we perceive at first sight. Events that we think put an end to certain things are often not intended by God to take something away from us, but to give us something in addition: a greater view of His power.
When Hezekiah has poured out his grief to the LORD, Isaiah receives a new message for Hezekiah. When the word of the LORD comes to Isaiah, he is not even completely out of the door. As a result, he soon returns to Hezekiah with the answer to his prayer.
Hezekiah gets a wonderful answer from the LORD. Isaiah must give him the answer on behalf of “the LORD, the God of your father David”. In this way the gaze is again focused on David as the picture of the Messiah. In the answer of the LORD we can notice seven blessings.
1. The LORD has heard his prayer. We may also know that the Lord hears all our prayers.
2. The LORD has seen his tears. The Lord also knows from us our anguish and repentance for our sins.
3. The LORD tells him that he will recover. God will take care of him and recover his health by letting him experience the power of the resurrection, as the following sentence shows. For us, every prayer that fits into His plan is answered by Him. It is not an incentive for anyone who is ill to claim recovery from the disease. Hezekiah has not claimed any health. He has revealed his need, and this is God’s answer for him.
4. After the promise that he will recover, the LORD says that on the third day he will go to the house of the LORD. The power of the resurrection will make him go to the house of the LORD. For us it means that if we are aware that we have new life, we will take our place in the church.
5. The LORD promises him an extension of his life of fifteen years.
6. The LORD promises that he will be saved from the hand of the king of Assyria.
7. The LORD promises protection of the city. Hezekiah gets this protection because of Who the LORD is and because of the Messiah.
The answer to Hezekiah’s prayer is not by a sensational miracle. A common, everyday and tangible medicine is used for his healing that others have to apply to him. That medicine is a cake of figs. The result is that “he recovered”.
In a spiritual sense figs are a picture of righteousness. Nathanael sits under the fig tree (Jn 1:48). The Lord Jesus says of him that he is an Israelite “in whom there is no deceit” (Jn 1:47). Nathanael and the fig tree give a picture of the faithful remnant that does justice. A cake of figs is sweet. Knowing the sweetness of righteousness by doing righteousness brings recovery.
Hezekiah also asks for a sign. There seems to be a certain lack of faith in what the LORD has said. That lack of faith is not ‘punished’ by leaving him in his illness with the accusation that he should have believed. This is often done by contemporary so-called faith healers. Instead, Isaiah gives him a choice of two kinds of signs. In this way God meets the small faith of Hezekiah.
In choosing one of the two signs we see that there is faith in Hezekiah. It is not a question for him whether the signs Isaiah proposes to him can be given. He considers in faith which sign will be most obvious. In that consideration, he chooses the least obvious sign. The accelerated progression of time is not as impressive as putting time back. This is not about the time of a clock, of which you can turn back the hands, but about the sun that is in the sky and that no man can reach, but only God.
When Hezekiah has made his choice, Isaiah cries to the LORD. Also Isaiah does not doubt the outcome. Through his prayer God intervenes in nature. All of nature is set back by the God of nature to a situation of ten steps ago to help a believer believe in Him. The whole course and the whole order are in His hand. He can stop the sun and the moon (Jos 10:12-13) and also set them back, as He does here.
12 - 19 The Delegation from Babylon
12 At that time Berodach-baladan a son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 Hezekiah listened to them, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and the house of his armor and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. 14 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where have they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.” 15 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them.” 16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD. 17 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. 18 ‘Some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away; and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” 19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Is it not so, if there will be peace and truth in my days?”
In verse 12 we hear about Babylon for the first time in the history of Israel. Babylon is still an insignificant city and far from being a world power. The king of Babylon has heard of the disease and healing of Hezekiah. That is the reason for him to visit Hezekiah. However, the king of Babylon is not interested in Hezekiah’s disease. His visit has a political reason. He wants to try to make Hezekiah his ally to fight with him against Assyria.
This visit becomes a trap for Hezekiah. He is flattered by this visit. Blinded by the high visit he forgets the LORD. He shows the delegation from Babylon everything he has in his house, all his treasures. That must make an impression on this delegation. Not a word does he mention about the LORD, and the miracle He did to him. He is silent about Him Who has taken away the threat of death for him and by doing so has come to know Him as the God of resurrection.
When Hezekiah has answered the questions of Isaiah, Isaiah announces the judgment about all that Hezekiah has shown. He predicts that everything will be taken away and brought to Babylon. Not only things will be taken away, but also people. His descendants will be taken to Babylon to serve as officials of the king of Babylon. Here we hear the first announcement in Scripture about the deportation of the two tribes to Babylon.
Hezekiah bows down under this judgment. He accepts that the LORD does this. In so doing he expresses with a certain sense of gratitude for undeserved grace the thought that this judgment will not take place in his days.
20 - 21 The Death of Hezekiah
20 Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 21 So Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh his son became king in his place.
Hezekiah has been powerful. This power is “written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah”, which is unknown to us. A special feature is that Hezekiah brought water from the pool he made and through the watercourse he made into the city. In the case of a siege, it is of vital importance that the water supply is secured. Hezekiah has taken care of that. Spiritually it is also important to be able to take God’s Word, which is compared with water, to us in times of trial.
The extra fifteen years also come to an end. Hezekiah dies. This end, as with the other kings of Judah, is lower than he began. He was better able to deal with distress than with prosperity. He has been able to cope better with illness than with health. Illness and distress have driven him out to the LORD. His health and prosperity have led him to forget the LORD.