Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 15: Isaiah, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
1. In diebus illis aegrotavit Ezechias usque ad mortem. Et vemt ad eum Isaias filius Amoz Propheta, dixitque illi: Sic dicit Iehova, Praeeipe quoad domum tuam; (vel, domui tuoe;) quia tu morieris, et non rives.
2. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD,
2. Tunc vertit Ezechias faciem suam ad parietem, oravitque Iehovam.
3. And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
3. Ac dixit: Obsecro, Iehova, recordare nunc quod ambulaverim coram to in veritate, in corde perfecto, et recte fecerim in oculis tuis. Flevitque Ezechias fletu magno.
4. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,
4. Tunc factum fuit verbum Iehovae ad Isaiam, dicendo:
5. Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.
5. Vade, et dic Ezechiae: Sic dicit Iehova Deus David patris tui: Audivi orationem tuam, et vidi lachrymas tuas: Ecce ego adjicio ad dies tuos annos quindecim.
6. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.
6. Et eruam to de manu regis Assur, atque urbem hane; et protector ero huic urbi.
7. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;
7. Erit autem hoc tibi signum ab Iehova, quod Iehova hanc rem facturus sit, de qua loquutus est:
8. Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
8. Ecce ego reduco umbram graduum, quibus descendit in horologio Achaz per solem decem gradibus; et reversus est sol decem gradibus in horologio, quibus jam descenderat.
9. The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:
9. Scriptum Ezechiae regis Iuda, cum aegrotasset, ac convaluisset a morbo Suo.
10. I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
10. Ego dixi in successione dierum meorum, vadam ad portas sepulchri; privatus sum residuo annorum meorum.
11. I said, I shall net see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
11. Dixi, Non videbo Deum, Deum in terra viventium; non aspiciam hominem ultra cum incolis seculi.
12. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
12. Habitatio mea discessit, et convoluta est a me, quasi tabernaculum pastoris; succidi quasi textor vitam meam; ab elevatione (vel macie ant morbo) succidet me; a die usque ad noctem conficies me.
13. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
13. Supputabam ad auroram; sicut leo, its contrivit ossa mea; ab aurora ad noctem conficies me.
14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
14. Sicut grus aut hitundo garriebam, gemeban, quasi columba. Elevabantur ocnli mei in sublime, Domine, vim fecit mihi, recrea me.
15. What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.
15. Quid loqusr? Qui dixit mihi, ipse fecit: Movebor (vel, trepidus incedam) omnibus diebus vitae meae in amaritudine animae meae.
16. Lord, by these thing men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.
16. Domine, etiam omnibus qui ultra eos vivent, vita spiritus mei in illis (nota erit,) et me quod dormire feceris, et vivificaveris me.
17. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
17. Ecce in pace amaritudo mihi amara, et tibi placuit animam meam (eruere) a fovea; (vel, amasti animam meam a fovea interitns;) quia projecisti post tergum omnia peccata mea.
18. For the grave cannot praise thee; death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
18. Quoniam non infernus confitebitur tibi neque mors laudabit to; nec expectabunt qui in foveam descendunt veritatem tuam.
19. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
19. Vivens, vivens, ipse confitebitur tibi; sicur ego hodie. Pater filiis notam faciet veritatem tuam.
20. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
20. Iehova ad me servandum; et cantica nostra cantabimus omnibus diebus vitae nostrae in domo Iehovae.
21. For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.
21. Dixit autem Isaias, Accipient massam ficuum, et adhibebunt ulceri, et vivet.
22. Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?
22. Dixerat enim (vel, autem) Ezechias, Quod signum, quod ascensurus sim in domum Iehovae?
1. In those days. The Prophet now relates that the pious king was violently assailed by a different kind of temptation, namely, that he was seized with a mortal disease and despaired of life; and not only so, but likewise that he suffered dreadful agony, in consequence of having received from God a warning of his death, as if in a hostile manner God had thundered on his head from heaven. At what time that happened, whether after the siege, or during the siege, is not very evident; but it is unnecessary to give ourselves much trouble on that subject. It may be easily inferred from the sacred history, that this event happened about the fourteenth year of his reign, either while he was invaded by the Assyrian, or after he was delivered, for he reigned twenty-nine years, (2Ki 18:2;) in the fourteenth year of his reign the Assyrian attacked Judea, (2Ki 18:13,) and fifteen years were added by the promise which is here related by the Prophet, (2Ki 20:6,) and this makes up twenty-nine years. Hence it appears that it must have been about the fourteenth year of his reign that Hezekiah was afflicted by this disease.
The only doubtful point is, whether it was during the time of the siege, or afterwards, that he was sick. For my own part, I look upon it as a more probable conjecture, that he was attacked by this disease after the siege had been raised; for if he had been sick during the time of the siege, that circumstance would not have been left out by the Prophet, who, on the other hand, has related that Hezekiah sent messengers, went into the temple, spread a letter before the Lord, and sent for the Prophet. These circumstances do not at all apply to a man who was suffering heavy sickness; and if disease had been added to so many distresses, that circumstance would not have been omitted. In doubtful matters, therefore, let us follow what is more probable, namely, that the pious king, having been delivered from the enemy, is attacked by disease and is in great danger.
Yet it is not without reason that our attention is also directed to an almost uninterrupted succession of events, that we may know that he scarcely had leisure to breathe, but, after having scarcely reached the shore from one ship-wreck, suddenly fell into another equally dangerous. Let us therefore remember that believers must endure various temptations, so that they are assailed sometimes by wars, sometimes by diseases, sometimes by other calamities, and sometimes one calamity follows another in unbroken succession, and they are laid under the necessity of maintaining uninterrupted warfare during their whole life; so that, when they have escaped from one danger, they are on the eve of enduring another. They ought to be prepared in such a manner, that when the Lord shall be pleased to add sorrow to sorrow, they may bear it patiently, and may not be discouraged by any calamity. If any respite be allowed, 71 let them know that this is granted for their weakness, but let not a short truce lead them to form a false imagination of a lengthened peace; let them make additional exertions, till, having finished the course of their earthly life, they arrive at the peaceful harbor.
Even unto death. The severity of the disease might be very distressing to the good man. First, mortal disease brings along with it sharp pains, especially when it is attended by an inflammatory boil. But the most distressing of all was, that he might think that God opposed and hated him, because, as soon as he had been rescued from so great a calamity, he was immediately dragged to death, as if he had been unworthy of reigning. Besides, at that time he had no children; and there was reason to believe that his death would be followed by a great disorder of public affairs. (2Ki 21:1.) This dread of the wrath of God occasions far more bitter anguish to the consciences of believers than any bodily disease; and if they lose their perception of the favor of God, it is impossible that they should not be immediately grieved. But God, as if he expressly intended to add oil to the flame, absolutely threatens death, and, in order to affect him more deeply, takes away all hope of life.
For; thou shalt die, and shalt not live. The clause, thou shalt not live, is not superfluous, but is added for the purpose of giving intensity or confirmation, as if it had been said that there will be no hope of remedy. Men practice evasion, even though death is at hand, and eagerly seek the means of escape; and, therefore, that Hezekiah may not look around him as if he were uncertain, he is twice informed that he must die.
Give charge concerning thy house, 72 or, to thy house. 73 In order that he may bid adieu to the world, the Prophet enjoins him speedily to order what he wishes to be done after his death; as if he had said, “If thou dost not wish that death shall seize thee, give immediate orders about thy domestic affairs.” Here we see in passing, that the Lord approves of a practice which has been always customary among men, namely, that when they are about to die, they give orders to their neighbors or servants, and arrange the affairs of their family.
Jonathan renders it, “Give up thy house to another;” but the construction conveys a different meaning. Every person, when he must depart from this life, ought to testify that he pays regard to his duty, and that he provides even for the future interests of his family. But his chief care ought to be, not about testaments and heirs, but about promoting the salvation of those whom the Lord has committed to his charge.
2. Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall. He now relates the manner in which Hezekiah was affected when he received this message, that we may see his piety and faith. He does not break out into rage or indignation like unbelievers, but bears this affliction patiently. He does not debate with God, as if he had already endured enough of distresses from enemies, and ought not to be again chastised so severely by a new kind of afflictions. And this is true patience, not merely in a single instance to endure patiently any distress, but to persevere to the end, and always to be prepared for enduring new troubles, but, above all, to bow to the judgments of God in calm silence, and not to murmur at his severity, though it appear to be great; as David acknowledges that “he was dumb, because he saw that he had to deal with God.” (Ps 39:9.)
And such is the import of “turning the face to the wall;” for, in consequence of being overwhelmed by shame and grief, as if he shunned the face of men, he summons up his energy, and turns wholly to God, so as to rely entirely upon him. The mere attitude, indeed, is immaterial; but it is of very great importance to us, that nothing should be presented to our eyes or senses which would drag us away from prayer, that we may pour out our desires more freely before God. We are naturally unsteady, and easily drawn aside; and therefore we cannot be too diligent in fixing our attention. If we must pray in public, we are restrained by shame, lest, if we manifest excessive vehemence, we should be thought to do so for the sake of ostentation; or we are afraid of falling into improper attitudes; and therefore we ought to remove everything that would lead us aside.
Hezekiah, therefore, does not turn away his face, as if he were overwhelmed, or as if he bitterly and obstinately rejected the message that had been brought to him, but in this manner sharpens his eagerness for prayer. That he does not present his prayers openly, as when he formerly went up into the temple, followed by the rest of the multitude, (Isa 37:14,) is an indication of the deepest anxiety, as if grief had seized his whole frame. Yet it is a remarkable pattern of piety, that, when he has received the sentence of death, he does not cease to call upon God.
These words, Thou shalt die, and shalt not live, tended not only to startle him, but deeply to wound and pierce his heart, as if God were rushing upon him in a hostile manner to destroy him. It was an alarming token of wrath to be thrown headlong out of life in the very flower of his age, and to be cast out of the world, as if he were unworthy of the society of men; and therefore he had to contend not only with death, but with hell itself and with frightful torments.
Hence it follows that he attached to the Prophet’s words more meaning than they actually conveyed; for, although he could not all at once disentangle himself, yet the Holy Spirit suggested to his dark and confused heart “groanings that could not be uttered.” (Ro 8:26) And indeed it would have been a foolish message if God had not supported him by secret influence, when he appeared to have been slain by the external voice of his servant. But since he would never have aimed at repentance if he had been seized with despair, the slaying came first, and was next followed by that secret energy which dedicated the dead man to God.
3. And said, I beseech thee, Jehovah. He appears here to expostulate with God, and to remonstrate with him about his own past life, as if he were undeservedly distressed; but the case is far otherwise. On the contrary, he strengthens and fortifies himself against a heavy and dangerous temptation, which might otherwise have been suggested. For the great severity with which the Lord chastised him might lead him to think that the Lord had cast off, forsaken, and disapproved him, and had rejected all that he had formerly done. On this account he strengthens and encourages himself, and declares that whatever he did was done by him with a good conscience. In short, he concludes that, although he must die, still his services have not been displeasing to God, that he may thus open up for himself a path to prayer and good hopes.
Remember now that I have walked before thee in truth. He does not plead his merits against God, or remonstrate with him in any respect, as if he were unjustly punished, but fortifies himself against a sore temptation, that he may not think that God is angry with him for correcting the vices and removing the corruptions which prevailed throughout the whole of his kingdom, and especially in regard to religion. Yet the Lord permits his people even to glory, in some degree, on account of their good actions, not that they may boast of their merits before him, but that they may acknowledge his benefits, and may be affected by the remembrance of them in such a manner as to be prepared for enduring everything patiently. But sometimes the unreasonable conduct of their enemies constrains them to holy boasting: that they may commend their good cause to their judge and avenger; as David boldly meets the wicked slanders of enemies by pleading his innocence before the judgment-seat of God. (Ps. 7:8, Ps. 17:2.) But here Hezekiah intended to meet the craftiness of Satan, which believers feel, when, under the pretense of humility, he overwhelms them with despair; and therefore we ought earnestly to beware lest our hearts be swallowed up by grief.
With a perfect heart. We learn from his words what is the true rule of a pious life; and that is, when integrity of heart holds the first place, for nothing is more abhorred by God than when we endeavor to deceive either him or men by our hypocrisy. Although the eyes of men are dazzled by the splendor of worlds, yet pretended holiness, which is as it were a profanation of his name, provokes his anger; and, because “he is a Spirit,” (Joh 4:24,) he justly demands spiritual obedience, and declares that he abhors “a double heart.” (Ps 12:2.) Most properly, therefore, does Hezekiah begin with sincerity of heart. The Hebrew word שלם, (shalem,) which is translated perfect, means nothing else than integrity as contrasted with hypocrisy, which is also evident from the use of the word truth; as Paul affirms that
“the end of the law is brotherly love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith.” (1Ti 1:5.)
And have done what is good in thine eyes. He brings forward also the fruits which spring from an upright heart as from a root, not only to confirm himself, but likewise to confirm others, in reference to those things which might have given any occasion of offense. Hezekiah therefore did not hesitate or waver, but wished to take away what might have given offense to many persons. But again, it ought to be observed in what manner we must regulate our life, if we desire that God shall approve of our conduct. We must do nothing but what is agreeable to his command; for, as he rejects and condemns all the pageantry of which hypocrites boast, so he likewise reckons of no value all the false worship in which foolish men weary themselves in vain, while they labor to obtain his favor by disregarding his word. Accordingly, Hezekiah, who knew that “obedience is of greater value than sacrifice,” (1Sa 15:22,) says not only that he ran, (which is often done in a disorderly manner,) but that he regulated his life in obedience to God, who alone is competent to judge. Hence we may conclude how great was his earnestness in prayer; for though he sees on every hand nothing but the tokens of God’s anger, yet he does not cease to fly to him, and to exercise faith, which all believers ought earnestly and diligently to do amidst the heaviest afflictions.
4. Then came the word of Jehovah. Isaiah had departed, leaving the sting, as the saying is, in the wound, reckoning as abandoned him on whom he had pronounced sentence in the name of God himself. Yet with what trembling uneasiness he was tormented, and even with what terror he was seized, may be partly learned from the song. What interval of time elapsed between the Prophet’s departure and return we know not, but it is certain that the glad tidings of life were not brought until, after long and severe struggles, he perceived that he was utterly’ ruined; for it was a severe trial of faith that he should be kept plunged in darkness by the hiding of God’s face. We have said that, while the doctrine of consolation was taken away, still the faith of the good king was not extinguished so as not to emit some sparks, because, by the secret influence of the Spirit, “groans that could not be uttered” (Ro 8:26) arose to God out of the gulf of sorrow. Hence also we conclude that, while “in the day of trouble” (Ps 50:15) God heareth believers, yet the favor of God does not all at once shine on them, but is purposely delayed till they are sincerely humbled. And if a king so eminent in piety needed almost to suffer anguish, that he might be more powerfully excited to seek the favor of God, and, being almost wasted by grief, might groan from hell to God; let us not wonder if he sometimes permits us for a time to be agitated by fears and perplexities, and delays longer to bestow consolation in answer to our prayers.
But it may be thought strange that God, having uttered a sentence, should soon afterwards be moved, as it were, by repentance to reverse it; for nothing is more at variance with his nature than a change of purpose. I reply, while death was threatened against Hezekiah, still God had not decreed it, but determined in this manner to put to the test the faith of Hezekiah. We must, therefore, suppose a condition to be implied in that threatening; for otherwise Hezekiah would not have altered, by repentance or prayer, the irreversible decree of God. But the Lord threatened him in the same manner as he threatened Gerar for carrying off Sarah, (Ge 20:3,) and as he threatened the Ninevites. (Jonah 1:2, Jonah 3:4.)
Again, it will be objected, that it appears to be inconsistent with the nature of God to threaten what he does not intend to execute, and that it takes away from the authority of the word, and causes the promises and threatenings to have less weight. But what we have already said as to the sentence must likewise be maintained as to the form of the words. God threatened the death of Hezekiah, because he was unwilling that Hezekiah should die; and, indeed, it would have been unnecessary and even useless to predict it, if a remedy had not been provided. Now, as it was the purpose of God to humble his servant by fear and terror, that he might voluntarily condemn himself, and might thus escape punishment through prayer; so by harsh language and an absolute threatening of death, he intended to slay him, that, rising like a dead man out of the grave, he might feel that life had been restored to him. And thus we must suppose an implied condition to have been understood, which Hezekiah, if he did not immediately perceive it, yet afterwards in good time knew to have been added. Nor are we at liberty to infer from it that God used dissimulation by accommodating his discourse to the capacity and attainments of man; for it is no new thing if he “kill before he make alive.” (De 32:39; 1Sa 2:6.) In order to prepare Hezekiah by a spiritual resemblance of death, and gradually form him to a new life, he keeps back a part of the discourse.
5. Thus saith Jehovah the God of David thy father. At first, when he struck terror alone, he reckoned it enough to mention the bare and simple name of God, to whose heavenly judgmentseat he summoned him as a criminal; but now, when he brings consolation, he distinguishes God by a peculiar and honorable title in order to point out the cause and origin of grace; as if he had said that, from a regard to his covenant which he made with David, he is inclined to mercy, so that he does not deal rigorously with Hezekiah. (2Sa 7:12.) We know that nothing is more difficult than for hearts that have been greatly alarmed by the conviction of God’s anger to be encouraged to entertain favorable hope, so as to perceive that God is reconciled to them. That confirmation was therefore necessary, that the pious king, who in himself was ruined, might know that he could be again raised up to that life from which he had fallen; for the prophecy concerning the eternity of that kingdom could not fail. Since, therefore, he fainted when he thought that he had no hope of living, in order that he may breathe again, he is reminded of a promise, which at that time was universally known, that kings of the seed and posterity of David would always reign over the elect people,
“as long as the sun and moon should shine in the heavens.”
(Ps. 89:36, 37.)
That was the plank which he seized, and by which he escaped shipwreck.
David is not mentioned in this passage as a private individual, but as an eternal king, to whom had been committed the promise which might support Hezekiah; eternal, I say, not in himself, but in his blessed seed. Now, since that eternity was at length to be manifested in Christ, of whom Hezekiah along with other kings was a type, it must have been a solid ground of favorable hope that he was a son of David. 74 Whenever, therefore, we feel that our own sins hinder us from drawing near to God, in order that we may obtain his favor, let us think of this preface, that, although we have been estranged from him by our own fault, still he is the Father of Christ, who is our head, and
“in whom our salvation always remains hidden.”
In a word, God had lately spoken in the character of a judge, but now he is reconciled, and points out a Mediator who comes forth to appease him.
I have heard thy prayer. Having opened the door of hope, he tells Hezekiah that God “has heard his prayers.” This ought greatly to encourage us to earnestness in prayer; for, although God of his own accord takes a deep interest in our salvation, and anticipates us by his kindness, not only while we are asleep, but “before we were born,” (Ro 9:11,) yet, when he testifies that all the benefits which he bestows are granted in answer to our prayers, our negligence is altogether inexcusable, if, after having received such large invitations, we neglect to perform the duty of prayer, 75 And yet we must not imagine that prayers, to which God so graciously listens, are meritorious; but, in giving freely what he freely promised, he adds this as the crowning excellence of his kindness, in order more strongly to stimulate our faith. It is no ordinary privilege to be able to approach to him freely, and in a familiar manner to lay our cares in his bosom. If Hezekiah had not prayed, God would undoubtedly have secured that, in one way or another, some government of the kingdom should be preserved in the posterity of David; but what he would do from a regard to his truth, he says that he will give in answer to the prayers of Hezekiah, that he may acknowledge that he has obtained very abundant fruit from his faith which he exercised in prayer.
And I have seen thy tears. He mentions tears as a sign of repentance, and likewise of warmth and earnestness; not that in themselves tears procure favor, or have any power of appeasing God, but because they distinguish sincere prayers from those which are offered in a careless manner.
Behold, I add to thy days fifteen years. At length he adds that God has prolonged the life of Hezekiah to the extent of “fifteen years.” This might, indeed, at first sight, appear to be absurd; for we were created on the condition of not being able to pass, by a single moment, the limit marked out for us; as Job also says, “Thou hast appointed his bounds which he cannot pass.” (Job 14:5.) But the solution is easy. What is said about an extended period must be understood to refer to the views of Hezekiah, who had been excluded from the hope of life, and, therefore, must; have justly reckoned to be gain what was afterwards added, as if he had been raised up from the grave to a second life.
6. And I will deliver thee. Those who think that Hezekiah was sick during the time of the siege found an argument on this, that otherwise this promise would appear to be superfluous. But there is little force in that reasoning; for the Assyrian might have recruited his forces, and mustered a fresh army, at a later period, for the purpose of again invading Judea and attacking Jerusalem. The very defeat of which we have now read might have been a provocation to his rage and cruelty, so that the Jews had good reason for being continually alarmed at any reports which they heard. 76 That promise, therefore, is far from being superfluous, because along with life it promises protection from the enemy, against whom he would not otherwise have been secured, and may be regarded as an enlargement and increase of that blessing which the Lord promised to Hezekiah; as in the former chapter he promised abundance of fruits to accompany the deliverance. (Isa 37:30.)
7. And this shall be a sign to thee. The sacred history relates in the proper order that Hezekiah asked a sign from the Lord, (2Ki 20:8,) and that it was granted to him; which the Prophet will likewise mention at the end of this chapter. But it is no new thing for Hebrew writers to reverse the order of the narrative. God gives some signs of his own accord, without being asked; and he grants other signs to his people who ask them. Signs being generally intended to aid our weakness, God does not for the most part wait till we have prayed for them; but at first he appointed those which he knew to be profitable to his Church. If at any time, therefore, believers wished to have their faith confirmed by a sign, this circumstance, being rare, ought not to be produced as an example. Thus, to Gideon, whom he called from the sheepfold to govern Israel, he gave one sign and then another, when he asked them, (Judg. 6:17, 37, 39,) that he might be more fully convinced of his calling. He commonly gave, as we have said, other signs, in accommodation to the weakness of men; as to Adam the tree of life, (Ge 2:9,) to Noah the bow in heaven, (Ge 9:12,) and next the cloud and pillar of fire, (Ex 13:21,) and the serpent of brass in the wilderness. (Nu 21:8.) The same remarks apply to the passover, (Ex 12:8,) and to all the sacraments, both those which were formerly observed, and those which have now been appointed by Christ, 77 and which no one asked from God.
But it may be thought that Hezekiah insults God, by refusing credit to his word, when he asks a sign. I reply, we must not accuse him of unbelief, because his faith was weak; for we shall not find. any person who ever had faith which was perfect and complete in every respect. In seeking some assistance to support his weakness, he cannot, be blamed on that account; for, having embraced the promise made to him by the Prophet, he shews his confidence in God by seeking a remedy for distrust. And if there had been no weakness in man, he would not have needed any signs; and consequently we need not wonder that he asks a sign, since on other occasions the Lord freely offers them.
Yet it is proper also to observe, that believers never rushed forward at random to ask signs, but were guided by a secret and peculiar influence of the Spirit. The same thing might be said about miracles. If Elijah prayed to God for rain and for drought, (Jas. 5:17, 18,) it does not follow that others are at liberty to do the same. We must, therefore, see what God permits to us, lest, by disregarding his word, we bargain with him according to the foolish desires of our flesh.
8. Lo, I bring back the shadow of degrees. The sign which is here given to Hezekiah is the going back of the shadow on the sundial, along with the sun, ten degrees by which it had already gone up, 78 that is, had advanced above the horizon. And this sign bears a resemblance to the event itself, as all other signs generally do; for it is as if he had said, “As it is in my power to change the hours of the day, and to make the sun go backwards, so it is in my power to lengthen thy life.” As to the shadow not going back as many degrees as there were years added to his life, that was impossible, because there were not more than twelve degrees on the sundial; for the day was divided by them into twelve hours, either longer or shorter, according to the change of the season. We need not, therefore, give ourselves any uneasiness about the number; it is enough that there is a manifest correspondence and resemblance.
On the sundial of Ahaz. 79 Here the Jews make fables according to their custom, and contrive a story, that the day on which Ahaz died was shorter than ten hours, and that what God had justly inflicted on him as a punishment for his sins was reversed for the benefit of Hezekiah; because the shortening of one day was the lengthening of another. But there is no history of this, and it is entirely destitute not only of evidence but of probability; nor is there anything said here about the death of Ahaz, or about the change which took place when he died, but about the sundial which he had made.
9. The writing of Hezekiah. Though sacred history gives no account of this writing, yet it deserves to be recorded, and is highly worthy of observation; for we see that Hezekiah was unwilling to pass in silence, or to bury in forgetfulness, so remarkable a blessing which he had received from God. By his example he shews what all believers ought to do, when God miraculously and in an unusual manner exerts his power on their behalf. They ought to make known their gratitude, not only to their contemporaries, but also to posterity; as we see that Hezekiah did by this song, which may be regarded as a public record. We see that David composed many psalms on this subject, when he had been delivered from very great dangers, so that he took care to celebrate till the end of the world what was worthy of being remembered by all ages. (Ps. 18:2, Ps. 27:1.) Especially, the more eminent any man is, and the higher the station which he occupies, the more is he bound to consider himself as placed by God on a theater, and enjoined to perform this duty. 80 Yet all men, whether they be of ordinary rank or nobles and great men, ought to beware of ambition, lest, while they profess to imitate Hezekiah and David, they magnify their own name more than the name of God. 81
10. I said in the cutting off of my days. This is a very melancholy song; for it contains complaints rather than prayers. Hence it is evident that he was oppressed by so great perplexity, that he was weary with groaning, and sunk in lamentations, and did not venture to rise up freely to form a prayer. Murmuring thus within himself, he expresses the cause and intensity of his grief.
As to the cause, it might be thought strange that he had so strong an attachment, and so ardent a longing for this fading life, and that he so much dreaded death. The tendency of the first elements of heavenly doctrine is, that we may learn to sojourn in this world, and to advance swiftly towards the heavenly life. Hezekiah appears to be as warmly devoted to the earth as if he had never had the smallest particle of piety; he shuns and abhors death, as much as if he had never heard a word about heavenly doctrine. Now, what purpose did it serve to commit to writing those stormy passions which would rather prompt readers to the same excess than induce them to obey God? For we are too prone to rebellion, though there be no additional excitements of any kind.
But when it shall be minutely, and wisely, and carefully examined, we shall find that nothing could have been more advantageous to us than to have this picture of a man overwhelmed with grief painted to the life. It was not the object of the good king, in proclaiming his virtues, to hunt for the applause of the world. His prayer was undoubtedly a proof both of faith and of obedience; but, as if he had been overcome by fear, and dread, and sorrow, he leaves off prayer, and feebly utters complaints. He unquestionably intended to make known his weakness, and thus to give a lesson of humility to all the children of God, and at the same time to magnify the grace of God, which had brought out of the lowest depths of death a ruined man.
As to the manner in which he deplores his lot, when he is near death, as if he placed his existence on the earth, and thought that death reduced men to nothing, we must attend to the special reason. For while death is not desirable on its own account, yet believers ought to “groan continually,” (Ro 8:23,) because sin holds them bound in the prison of the flesh. They are forbidden also to “mourn as unbelievers usually mourn,” (1Th 4:13,) and are even commanded to “lift up their heads,” when they are about to depart from the world, because they are received into a happier life. (Lu 21:28.) Nor was the ancient Church under the Law destitute of this consolation; and, although the knowledge of a blessed resurrection was less clear, yet it must have been sufficient for mitigating sorrow. 82 If that impostor Balaam was forced to exclaim, “Let my soul die the death of the righteous,” (Nu 23:10,) what joy must have filled the hearts of believers, in whose ears resounded that voice, “I am the God of Abraham!” (Ex 3:6.)
But although with steady and assured hope they looked forward to the heavenly life, still we need not wonder to see in Hezekiah what David confesses as to himself, (Ps 30:9,) who yet, when his time was come, full of days, calmly left the world. (1Ki 2:10.) It is therefore evident that both of them were not assailed by the mere dread of death, but that they prayed with tears to be delivered from death, because they saw in it manifest tokens of God’s anger. We ought to remember that the Prophet came as a herald, to announce the death of Hezekiah in the name of God. This messenger might naturally have plunged all the senses of Hezekiah into a frightful deluge of grief, so that, thinking of nothing but God’s wrath and curse, he would struggle with despair.
Thus the piety of Hezekiah already begins to shew itself, when, placing himself before the tribunal of his judge, he applies his mind to meditation on his guilt. And, first, there might occur to him that thought by which David confesses that he was tempted: “What did God mean by treating his servants with cruel severity and sparing profane despisers? (Ps 73:3.) Next, he saw that he was exposed to the jeers of the wicked, by whom true religion also was basely reviled. He saw that it was scarcely possible that his death should not shake the minds of all good men; but especially, he was oppressed by God’s wrath, as if he had been already condemned to hell and to the eternal curse. In a word, because our true and perfect happiness consists in having fellowship with God, Hezekiah, perceiving that he was in some measure alienated from him, had good reason for being so greatly alarmed; for that word, “Thou shalt die, and shalt not live,” had seized his mind so completely, that he believed that he must die. 83 This is expressed by the phrase I said; for in Hebrew it does not mean merely to speak, or to pronounce a word, but to be persuaded or convinced in one’s own mind. Even though hypocrites receive a hundred threatenings from God, still they look around them on all sides, so that if they see any opening by which they think that they can escape, they may mock God, and give themselves up to luxury and indifference. But Hezekiah, being a sincere worshipper of God, did not resort to subterfuges; but, on the contrary, believing the words of the Prophet, he concluded that he must prepare for dying, because it was God’s good pleasure.
In this sense he speaks of the cutting off of his days, because he believed that an angry and offended God had broken off the course of his life; for he does not merely say in the ordinary manner that his life is cut short by a violent disease, but recognises that undoubted judgment of God as the cause of “the cutting off.” Now, life is “cut off,” whether we die at the entrance of life, or in middle life, or in old age; but they who are hurried away in the very flower of their age are said to be “cut off” from life, because they appear to die too soon, and before they have finished their course. The case was different with Hezekiah; for he perceived that the remaining part of life was “cut off” by the sword of God, because he had provoked God’s wrath by his offenses. Thus he complains that, as if he had been unworthy of enjoying it, God suddenly deprives him of life, which otherwise would have lasted longer. Such is the import of the phrase, “the residue of the years;” for although, being born mortal, we have reason to expect death every moment, yet since it was threatened as a punishment, he has good reason for saying that those years had been taken from him which he might have lived, if it had been the good pleasure of God.
11. I said, I shall not see God. Amidst such earnest longing for an earthly life, Hezekiah would have gone beyond bounds, if his grief had not been aggravated by the conviction of God’s wrath. Since, therefore, he is violently dragged away by his own fault, as if he were unworthy of enjoying the ordinary light of the sun, he exclaims that he is miserable, because henceforth he shall never see either God or man. Among believers the statement would have been regarded as liable to this exception, that, so long as we dwell on the earth, we wander and are distant from God, but that, when the entanglements of the flesh shall have been laid aside, we shall more closely “see God.”
In the land of the living. These words are indeed added as a, limitation; but in this way Hezekiah appears to limit “the seeing of God” to the present life, as if death extinguished all the light of understanding. We must therefore keep in view what I formerly remarked, that when he received the message of God’s vengeance, it affected him in such. a manner as if he had been deprived of God’s fatherly love; for if he was unworthy of beholding the sun, how could he hope for what was of higher value? Not that hope was altogether effaced from his mind, but because, having his attention fixed on the curse of God, he cannot so soon or so quickly rise to heaven, to soothe present grief by the delightfulness of a better life.
Thus it sometimes happens that godly minds are overclouded, so that they do not always receive consolation, which for a time is suppressed, but still remains in their minds, and afterwards manifests itself. Yet it is an evidence of piety, that, by the proper and lawful object of life, he shews how grievous and distressing it is to be deprived of it. Even to cattle it gives uneasiness to die, but they have almost no use for their life except to feed and eat to the full; while we have a far more excellent object, for we were created and born on the express condition, that we should devote ourselves to the knowledge of God. And because this is the chief reason why we live, he twice repeats the name of God, and thus expresses the strength of his feelings; “I shall not see God, God in the land of the living.” 84
If it be objected that here we do not “see God,” the answer is easy, that he is visible in his works; because “through the visible workmanship of the world,” as Paul says, “his eternal power and Godhead are known.” (Ro 1:20.) Hence also the Apostle calls this world a mirror of invisible things. (Heb 11:3.) The more nearly he manifests himself to be known by believers, the more highly did Hezekiah value that spiritual beholding; as David also says that they see the face of God who confirm their faith by the exercises of piety in the sanctuary. (Ps. 42:2, Ps. 63:2.) So far as relates to men, he grieves that he is withdrawn from their society, because we were born for the purpose of performing mutual kind offices to each other.
12. My dwelling is departed. He proceeds in his complaints, by painting his life under a beautiful metaphor; for he compares it to a shepherd’s tent. Such indeed is the condition of human life in general; but he does not relate so much what happens to all universally as what has befallen himself as an individual. The use of tents is more common in those countries than in ours, and shepherds often change their residence, while they drive their flock from one place to another. He does not therefore say absolutely that men dwell in a frail lodginghouse, while they pass through the world, but that, after he had dwelt at ease in a royal palace, his lot was changed, just as if “a shepherd’s tent” were pitched for two days in one field and afterwards removed to another.
I have cut off, as a weaver, my life. It is worthy of observation, that he indiscriminately ascribes the cause of his death, sometimes to himself, and sometimes to God, but at the same time explains the grounds; for when he speaks of himself as the author, he does not complain of God, or remonstrate that God has robbed him of his life, but accuses himself, and acknowledges deep blame. His words are equivalent to the proverbial saying, “I have cut this thread for myself, so that I alone am the cause of my death.” And yet it is not without reason that he soon afterwards ascribes to God what he had acknowledged to have proceeded from himself; for although we give to God grounds for dealing severely with us, yet he is the judge who inflicts punishment. In our afflictions, therefore, we ought always to praise his judgment; because he performs his office when he chastises us as we deserve.
From lifting up he will cut me off. Some translate מדלה (middallah) “through leanness,” or “through sickness,” and others translate it “by taking away.” The former derive this noun from דלל (dalal) which means “to diminish,” and the latter from דלה (dalah) which means “to carry off by lifting up.” But let my readers consider if the word “lifting up” be not more appropriate; for Hezekiah appears to complain that his life, while it tended to advance farther, was suddenly east down; just as if God should cause the sun to set, while it was still ascending in the sky.
From day even to night. He now adds that in a short space of time he was brought down; and by this circumstance again expresses the severity of God’s wrath; because he consumes men by the breath of a moment; for to be laid low in a single day means that men die very rapidly.
13. I reckoned till the dawn. Others translate it “I determined,” or “I laid down.” Here it means what we express by the ordinary phrase, (Je fasoye mon compte,)” I laid my account.” From this verse it may be inferred that Hezekiah labored two days at least under the disease; for in the preceding verse he pronounced its severity to be so great that he expected immediate death. And now, when one day was past, he still waited till the dawn, and again, from day even to night, so that he said that he would die every moment. The meaning therefore is, that though he reached “the dawn,” still through constant tossings he was hastening to death, because, having been struck by a terrible judgment of God, he cared nothing about his life; and as the Greeks, when they intended to say that nothing is more vain than man, said that he was (ἐφήμερον) “an ephemeral animal,” that is, “the creature of a day,” so Hezekiah means by “the life of a day” that which is fading and has no duration.
As a lion, so hath he broken my bones. The comparison of God to a lion ought not to be reckoned strange, though God is naturally “gracious, merciful, and kind.” (Ex 34:6.) Nothing certainly can more truly belong to God than these attributes; but we cannot be aware of that gentleness, when we have provoked him by our crimes and urged him to severity by our wickedness. Besides, there is no cruelty and fierceness in wild beasts that is fitted to strike such terror as we feel from the bare mention of the name of God, and justly; for the Lord’s chastisements must have sufficient power to humble and cast us down to hell itself, so that we shall be almost destitute of consolation and regard everything as full of horror. In like manner also, we see that David has described these terrors, when he says that “his bones are numbered, his couch is moistened with tears, his soul is troubled, and hell is opened.” (Ps. 6:3, Ps. 22:17, Ps. 38:6.) Thus must the godly be sometimes terrified by the judgment of God, that they may be more powerfully excited to desire his favor.
14. As a crane, or a swallow. Hezekiah cannot satisfy himself in explaining the severity of his anguish. He now says that he was reduced so low that he could not utter an articulate voice, but muttered some confused sound, like persons who are almost at the point of death. Hence it is evident that his distress was excruciating; for the severity of the pain took away his voice, and his voice, he says, stuck in his throat; nothing was heard but indistinct groans.
Such is the import of these metaphors of “the crane and the swallow,” which the Prophet employs. Still it is certain that this indistinct sound of the voice is nevertheless heard by God; though all our senses are oppressed by pain, and our throat is choked by grief, still God beholds our hearts and listens to godly sighs, 85 which will be even more powerful than plain and direct words, provided that the Spirit is present, who produces in us those “groanings that cannot be uttered,” of which Paul speaks. (Ro 8:26.) There is no believer who does not feel that in prayer, when his heart is oppressed by any heavy sorrow, he either stammers or is almost dumb.
My eyes were lifted up on high. These words are translated by some, “My eyes are weakened;” but that would not agree with the phrase, “on high.” 86 On this account we must adopt a simpler meaning, that, although Hezekiah’s eyes were nearly worn out with weakness, so that he almost fainted, yet. he did not cease to lift up his eyes to heaven; and that he never was stupified to such a degree as not to know that he ought to ask assistance from God. Let us therefore learn by the example of Hezekiah to lift up our eyes to heaven, when our hearts are afflicted and troubled; and let us know that God does not demand from us great eloquence.
O Lord, it hath oppressed me; 87 comfort me. He confirms the sentiment already expressed, by immediately directing his discourse to God and imploring his aid. Being oppressed by the violence of disease, he desires that God would be present to assist him. Some render the words, “Be surety for me;” 88 and the verb ערב (gnarab) is often used in this sense; but it is more appropriate to say, “Comfort me,” or “Cheer me.” Or perhaps it will be thought preferable to translate, as some have done, “Cause me to rest.” Undoubtedly he asks comfort from God, that he may not sink under the violence of disease; and we ought to be assured of this, that the greater the weight of afflictions that oppresses us, the more will God be ready to give us assistance.
15. What shall I say? This is generally supposed to be an exclamation, such as frequently bursts forth in a season of joy, as if he congratulated himself on having already obtained his wish. But I think differently. Hezekiah appears to proceed in his complaints; for he speaks as men commonly do when they are overcome by grief; “What shall I say? for he who said it hath also done it;” that is, “life and death are in his hand; it is useless for me to argue or contend with him; it is useless for me to complain.” In the book of Job also words and sayings of this sort are often found. (Job 7:4.) I think that this is the true meaning; for Hezekiah previously looked around on all sides to see if any assistance appeared, and now, when he sees that he is about to die, and that God has threatened it, he concludes that he ought no longer to resist but to obey.
Yet we ought to mark the emphatic statement, that God hath actually fulfilled what he had threatened by his word. They who explain it to mean simply, “what God said to me by the Prophet he hath fulfilled,” express a part of the truth, but. not the whole; for Hezekiah does not coldly relate that he has perceived the effect of the word, but, by bringing forward the power of God, he cuts off every occasion to murmur or complain. Thus also David says, “I am dumb, because thou hast done it.” (Ps 39:9.) We never cease to complain until we are restrained by the fear of the power of God. Thus also Job, considering that he has to deal with God, says, “I will lay my finger on my mouth,” (Job 40:4,) and “I will humbly make supplication to my judge.” (Job 9:15.) Hezekiah, therefore, enjoins silence on himself on this ground, that it is useless to contend with God.
At the same time, he means that he has no hope of life, because the Lord gives actual demonstration that it was a serious threatening; and hence he infers that he gains nothing, because there are no means of evasion. This sentiment, it is true, proceeds from despair; because in this manner, thinking that God is his enemy, he shuts the door against his prayers. But that in very severe distresses words of this kind should escape our lips, which deter us from confidence in prayer, is neither new nor strange, provided that, on the other hand, we rely on that calling upon God which the views of the flesh pronounce to be of no avail. There is reason to believe that the pious king labored under such perplexity that he fainted through weakness; but that he chiefly considered what I have said, that there was nothing preferable to silence, because that it would serve no purpose to dispute with God, will appear more clearly from what immediately follows.
I shall walk trembling 89 all my life. Hence we may infer that he now holds out to his view the dreadful power of God, in order to dispose himself to true humility. As דדה (dadah) sometimes signifies “to move,” and sometimes “to walk softly,” אדדה (eddaddeh) is translated by some commentators, “I shall be moved,” or “I shall be troubled,” and by others, “I shall walk softly.” For my own part, I have no doubt that it denotes a trembling and feeble step; for Hezekiah had been reduced to so great weakness that he despaired of ever afterwards recovering his former strength. This trembling must be attributed to fear, for it immediately follows, in bitterness; which means, that the sorrow which he had endured was so deeply rooted in his heart, that it could never be removed. Hence arose that weakness which he mentioned.
אדדה (eddaddeh) is translated by the Vulgate, “I will call to remembrance,” on which account this passage has been tortured by Papists to support auricular confession, but so absurdly that even old wives can laugh at it. But the plain meaning is, that Hezekiah does not speak of calling to remembrance, but of that agitation and trembling with which he says that he will be struck during the whole period of his life.
16. O Lord, even to all who shall live after them. The concise style of the Prophet has given rise to various interpretations. The interpretation most commonly received is “O Lord, they shall live beyond those years, 90 ” that is, “they shall lengthen their life.” This is equivalent to saying, “When thou shalt have lengthened my life, thou wilt grant that others also shall enjoy the same favor.” But that meaning does not agree with the text, and I look upon it as forced. I rather think that Hezekiah’s meaning was this” O Lord, whosoever shall live beyond those years, to them also will the life of my spirit be known.” We must therefore supply the relative אשר, (asher,) who, as the Hebrew writers frequently do, and there will be nothing forced in this interpretation; for there can be no doubt, and nobody denies it, that he speaks of the years which the Lord had lengthened out to him. Thus he means that, this favor will be acknowledged not only by the men of that age, but also by posterity.
And didst cause me to sleep, and didst make me alive. In this way he magnifies the greatness of the favor, because it will also be well known to a future age, and will continue to be engraven on the remembrance of all, even when Hezekiah himself is dead, and not only so, but will be reckoned to be a kind of resurrection. By the word sleep he means death, as the Scriptures frequently do. (1Co 11:30; 1Th 4:14; 2Pe 3:4.) Thus he compares this mortal disease to death; for he was so near death that he utterly despaired of life.
17. Lo, in peace ray bitterness was bitter. 91 Again, another circumstance aggravates the severity of the distress; for sudden and unexpected calamities disturb us more than those which come upon us in a gradual manner. The grievousness of the disease was the more insupportable, because it seized him suddenly while he enjoyed ease and quietness; for nothing was farther from his thoughts than that he was about to depart from this life. We know also that the saints sometimes rely too much on prosperity, and promise to themselves unvarying success, which David too acknowledges to have happened to himself, “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved; but thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” (Ps. 30:6, 7.)
Nothing more distressing, therefore, could happen to Hezekiah than to be taken out of life, especially when the discomfiture and ruin of his enemy left him in the enjoyment of peace; for I think that Hezekiah fell into this disease after the defeat of Sennacherib, as has been already said. Amidst that joy and peace which smiled upon him, lo, a heavy sickness by which Hezekiah is fearfully distressed and tormented. This warns us that, since nothing is solid or lasting in this life, and since all that delights us may be speedily taken away, we ought not to grow sluggish in prosperity, but, even while we enjoy peace, we ought to think of war, and adversity, and afflictions, and, above all, to seek that peace which rests on God’s fatherly kindness, on which our consciences may safely repose.
And thou hast been pleased (to rescue) my soul from the pit. This part of the verse admits of two meanings. Since the verb חשק (chashak) signifies sometimes “to love,” and sometimes “to wish,” that meaning would not be unsuitable, “It hath pleased thee to deliver my soul.” But if nothing be understood, the style will be equally complete, and will flow not less agreeably, “Thou, O God, didst embrace my soul with favor and kindness, while it was lying in the grave.” 92 It is well known that “soul” means “life;” but here the goodness of God is proclaimed, in not ceasing to love Hezekiah, even when he might be regarded as dead. In this way the copulative particle must be translated But.
For thou hast cast behind thy back all my sins. By assigning the reason, he now leads us to the fountain itself, and points out the method of that cure; for otherwise it might have been thought that hitherto he had spoken of nothing else than the cure of the body, but now he shews that he looks at something higher, namely, that he had been guilty before God, but by his grace had been forgiven. He affirms, indeed, that life has been restored to him, but reckons it of higher value that he has been reconciled to God than a hundred or a thousand lives. And, indeed,
“it would have been better for us never to have been born” (Mt 26:24)
than by living a long life to add continually new offenses, and thus to bring down on ourselves a heavier judgment. He therefore congratulates himself chiefly on this ground, that the face of God smiles cheerfully upon him; for to enjoy his favor is the highest happiness.
At the same time he declares that all the distresses which God inflicts upon us ought to be attributed to our sins, so that they who accuse God of excessive severity do nothing else than double their’ guilt; and he does not only condemn himself for one sin, but confesses that he was laden with many sins, so that he needed more than one pardon. If, then, we sincerely seek alleviation of our distresses, we must begin here; because when God is appeased, it is impossible that it can be ill with us; for he takes no pleasure in our distresses. It often happens with us as with foolish and thoughtless persons, when they are sick; for they fix their attention on nothing but (συμπτώματα) symptoms or accidental circumstances, and the pains which they feel, and overlook the disease itself. But we ought rather to imitate skillful physicians, who examine the causes of disease, and give their whole attention to eradicate those causes. They know that outward remedies are useless, and even hurtful, if the inward cause be unknown; for such remedies drive the whole force of the disease inward, and promote and increase it, so that there is no hope of cure.
Hezekiah therefore perceived the cause of his distress, that is, his sins; and when he had received the forgiveness of them, he knew that punishment also ceased and was remitted. Hence we see how absurd is the distinction of the Papists, who wish to separate the remission of punishment from the remission of guilt. But Hezekiah here testifies that punishment has been remitted to him, because guilt has been remitted.
We ought carefully to observe the form of expression which Isaiah employs, thou hast cast behind thy back; for it means that the remembrance of them is altogether effaced. In like manner, a Prophet elsewhere says that God
“casteth them into the depths of the sea.” (Mic 7:19.)
It is likewise said in another passage, that he casteth them away
“as far as the east is distant from the west.”
By these modes of expression God assures us that he will not impute to us the sins which he has pardoned; and if, notwithstanding of this, he chastise us, he does it not as a judge, but as a father, to train his children and keep them in the discharge of their duty. Papists are mistaken in dreaming that punishments contain some kind of satisfaction, 93 as if God exacted vengeance, because he would not bestow a free pardon. But when God chastises his people, he promotes their future advantage.
18. For hell shall not confess thee 94 When he says that he would not have celebrated the praises of God, if his life had been taken away, he promises that he will be thankful and will keep it in remembrance, and at the same time declares that the highest and most desirable advantage that life can yield to him is, that he will praise God. But although it is a sign of true piety to desire life for no other reason than to spend it in the unceasing praises of God, yet Hezekiah appears to employ language which is too exclusive; for the death of believers declares the glory of God not less than their life, and, being after death perfectly united to God, they do not cease to proclaim his praises along with the angels. Again, another question arises, “Why was Hezekiah so eager to avoid death and so earnestly desirous of an earthly life?” And though even this second question were answered, still the reader will likewise call to remembrance, that this terror was not produced by death alone, for the same Hezekiah, when his life was ended, did not resist, but willingly yielded to God; but that the pious king, when he had been struck by God’s wrath, grieved only on this account, that by his sins he had excluded himself from life, as if he would never afterwards enjoy any favor or blessing.
On this also depends the answer to the first question; for we need not wonder if the pious king, not only supposing that he must depart out of life, but thinking that death is the punishment of sins and the vengeance of God, groan and weep that he is condemned as unworthy of devoting himself to the advancement of the glory of God. All who have been struck by this thunderbolt are unable, either living or dead, to celebrate the praises of God, but, being overwhelmed with despair, must be dumb. In the same sense also David says,
“In death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall praise thee?” (Ps 6:5.)
And the whole Church says,
“The dead shall not praise thee, nor those that go down into silence.” (Ps 115:17.)
The reason is, that they who are ruined and lost will have no ground of thanksgiving.
Yet it ought likewise to be observed that the saints, when they spoke in this manner, did not consider what kind of condition awaited them after death, but, under the influence of the pain which they now felt, looked only at the end for which they were created and preserved in the world. The chief object of life, as we said a little before, is that men should be employed in the service of God; and with the same design God protects his Church in the world, because it is his will that his name shall be celebrated. Now, he who sees himself cast down, because he does not deserve to be reckoned, or to hold a place, among the worshippers of God, does not calmly and attentively, consider what he shall do after death, but, under the darkening influence of grief, as if after death all the exercise of piety would cease, takes from the dead the power of praising God, because the glory of God appears to be buried along with the witnesses of it.
19. The living, the living, he shall confess thee. He does not include all men without exception; for many live, who yet extinguish the glory of God by their ingratitude, as far as lies in their power, and undoubtedly have nothing farther from their thoughts than that they were born to praise God. But he simply declares that men, so long as God supports them in this life, may justly be regarded as the lawful heralds of his glory, when he invites them, by his kindness, to the discharge of that office. And this contrast shews that the statement which he made a little before, that “in death or in the grave there is no remembrance of God,” is a general declaration, that they who would willingly be employed in praising God are deprived of this favor, when they are driven out of the world.
As I do this day. He solemnly declares that he will be one of the witnesses of the glory of God, and thus gives a manifest indication of gratitude towards God; for he declares that he will not be forgetful, but will continually give thanks to God, and will make known the favor which he has received; and that not only to the men of his own age, but also to posterity, that they too may celebrate those praises and adore the author of so great a favor.
The father shall make known to the sons thy truth. Hence we ought to learn a useful lesson, that children are given to men on the express condition, that every man, by instructing his children, shall endeavor, to the utmost of his power, to transmit the name of God to posterity; and, therefore, the fathers of families are chiefly enjoined to be careful in this respect, that they shall diligently mention the benefits which God has bestowed on them. By the word truth he means that faithfulness which God exercises towards his people, and all the testimonies of his grace by which he proves that he is true.
20. Jehovah to save me. 95 He acknowledges that he was delivered, not by the aid or industry of men, but solely by the kindness of God. The rendering given by some, “It belongs to the Lord to save me,” does not express enough, and appears to be more remote from the literal meaning; for he praises not only the power of God, but also the work by which he hath given an evident proof of it. In a word, he contrasts God’s keeping with the death to which he had been sentenced; because, having formerly dreaded him as a severe judge, he now avows him as his deliverer, and leaps with joy. 96
And we will sing our songs. For the reason now stated, he not only prepares himself for singing in token of gratitude, but also calls on others to join and accompany him in this duty, and on this account mentions the Temple, in which the assemblies of religious men were held. Had be been a private individual and one of the common people, still it would have been his duty to offer a public sacrifice to God, that he might encourage others by his example. Much more then was the king bound to take care that he should bring others to unite with him in thanksgiving; especially because in his person God had provided for the advantage of the whole Church.
All the days of our life. He declares that he will do his endeavor that this favor of God may be known to all, and that the remembrance of it may be preserved, not only for one day or for one year, but as long as he shall live. And indeed at any time it would have been exceedingly base to allow a blessing of God so remarkable as this to pass away or be forgot, ten; but, being forgetful, we continually need spurs to arouse us. At the same time, he takes a passing notice of the reason why God appointed holy assemblies. It was, that all as with one mouth might praise him, and might excite each other to the practice of godliness.
21. And Isaiah said Isaiah now relates what was the remedy which he prescribed to Hezekiah. Some think that it was not a remedy, becausefigs are dangerous and hurtful to boils; but that the pious king was warned and clearly taught by this sign that the cure proceeded from nothing else than from the favor of God alone. As the bow in the sky, 97 by which God was pleased to testify that mankind would never be destroyed by a flood, (Ge 9:13,) appears to denote what is absolutely contrary to this; (for it makes its appearance, when very thick clouds are gathering, and ready to fall as if they would deluge the whole world;) so they think that a plaster, which was not at all fitted for curing the disease, was purposely applied by the Prophet, in order to testify openly that God cured Hezekiah without medicines. But since figs are employed even by our own physicians for maturing a pustule, it is possible that the Lord, who had given a promise, gave also a medicine, as we see done on many other occasions; for although the Lord does not need secondary means, as they are called, yet he makes use of them whenever he thinks proper. And the value of the promise is not lessened by this medicine, which without the word would have been vain and useless; because he had received another supernatural sign, by which he had plainly learned that he had received front God alone that life of which he despaired.
22. Now, Hezekiah had said. Some explain this verse as if this also had been a sign given to Hezekiah, and therefore, view it as connected with the preceding verse, and look upon it as an exclamation of astonishment. But it is more probable that in this passage the order has been reversed, as frequently takes place with Hebrew writers, and that what was spoken last is related first. Isaiah did not at the beginning say that Hezekiah had asked a sign, though the sacred history (2Ki 20:8) attests it; and therefore he adds what he had left out at the proper place.
That I shall go up. He means that it will be his chief object throughout his whole life to celebrate the name of God; for he did not desire life for the sake of living at ease and enjoying pleasure, but in order to defend the honor of God and the purity of his worship. Let us therefore remember that God prolongs our life, not that we may follow the bent of our natural disposition, or give ourselves up to luxury, but that we may cultivate piety, perform kind offices to each other, and frequently take part in the assembly of the godly and the public exercises of religion, that we may proclaim the truth and goodness of God.
“S’ils ont quelque loisir de reprendre haleine.” “If they have any leisure to draw breath.”
“Set thine house in order. Heb., Give charge concerning thy house.” — Eng. Ver.
Quoad domum taam, vel, domui tuae.
“Puis qu’il estoit ills et successeur de David.” “Since he was a son and successor of David.”
“Si nous ne daignons ouvrir la bouche pour prier.” “If we do not deign to open our mouth in prayer.”
“Quand on leur apportoit nouvelles de l’ ennemi.” “When news were brought to them about the enemy.”
“Tant sous le vieil que sous le nouveau testament.” “Both under the Old and under the New Testament.”
This is evidently an oversight, but the author’s reading is “ascenderat.” which corresponds to the French version, “qu’il estoit monte“ In Calvin’s version, prefixed to the commentary on this chapter, ירדה (yaradah) is correctly rendered “descenderat,” that is, “had gone down.” — Ed
See Note at the end of this volume — Ed.
“Doit considerer et savoir que ce que fait ici Ezechias, luy est enjoint en cas semblable.” “Ought to consider and know that what Hezekiah does here is enjoined on him in a similar case.”
“The conjecture of Grotius, that Isaiah dictated the psalm, or put it into Hezekiah’s mouth, is perfectly gratuitous. That Hezekiah should compose a psalm is not more strange than that he should make a collection of proverbs. (Pr 25:1.) It would have been far more strange if one so much like David, in character and spirit, had not followed his example in the practice of devotional composition.” — Alexander.
“Pour adoucir la tristesse des fideles de ces tempsla.” “For soothing the grief of the believers of that age.”
“Qu’il faisoit son conte de mourir.” “That he laid his account with dying.”
“יה יה (Yahh Yahh) is not an error of the text for יהוה (Yehovah) (Houbigant,) but an intensive repetition similar to those in verses 17, 19. Or the second may be added to explain and qualify the first. He did expect to see God, but not in the land of the living.” — Alexander.
“Et exauce les souspirs faits en foy.” “And listens to sighs heaved in faith.”
The sense of “lifting-up” belongs not to דלל (dalal) but to דלה (dalah) Jerome adopted the sense of “weakened,” and brought out the meaning by a supplement, in which he has been followed by almost all modern commentators. “My eyes were weakened (looking) on high.” This rendering has been almost literally adapted in diodati’s Italian version. “I mici occhi erano scemati (riguardando) ad alto.” Professor Alexander translates thus, “My eyes are weak (with looking) upward, or, on high.)” — Ed.
“Le mal m’ oppresse.” “Disease oppresses me.”
“Undertake for me; rescue me out of the hand of the angel of death, and answer for me, to deliver me. The word signifies ‘answering,’ or, as we say, ‘suretiship;’ as in that passage, Answer (or, be surety) for thy servant for good. (Ps 119:122.)” — Jarchi. “Or, contend for me, undertake my cause; for thus, according to Jarchi, עשוק (gnashuk) must be translated, if we read it with Sin, (not Schin,) as he appears to have done; and in the Hebrew copy which I have used the point is on the left horn of the letter.” — Breithaupt.
I shall go softly. — Eng. Ver.
Outre ces ans-ci.
“Behold, for peace I had great bitterness,” or, “On my peace came great bitterness.” — Eng. Ver.
“Thou hast loved my soul, from the pit of destruction. (This exactly agrees with our authors marginal reading.) “We have here another instance of pregnant construction, to love from, that is, so to love as to deliver from. This sense is expressed in the English Bible by a circumlocution.” — Alexander.
“Satisfaction ou recompenses.” “Satisfaction or compensations.”
“For the grave cannot praise thee.” — Eng. Ver.
“For the grave shall not confess thee.” — Alexander.
“Le Seigneur m’a delivre.” “The Lord hath delivered me.”
“The obvious ellipsis in the first clause may be variously filled with ‘came, hastened, commanded, was ready, be pleased,’ or with the verb ‘is,’ as an idiomatic periphrasis of the future, ‘is to save’ for ‘will save.” — Alexander.
“L’arc en la nuce.” “The bow in the cloud.”