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Isaiah 38:1–8 King Hezekiah’s Sickness
This report of Hezekiah’s sickness (near the point of death) and miraculous healing is probably a flashback (note that Sennacherib’s defeat is recounted in Isaiah 37). But because of his faith and for the sake of the covenant that the Lord made with David, he was promised fifteen more years of life (38:5).
turned his face to the wall and prayed. The wall of the temple (in ancient Israel, worshippers faced the temple, even from a distance, when they prayed). Hezekiah’s illness made him ceremonially unclean, preventing him from entering the temple precinct, so he turned his face toward the temple wall to pray. Before his illness, Hezekiah prayed in the temple courtyard (37:14–15).
this is the sign to you. The Lord gave Hezekiah a sign that his life would be extended.
I will turn back the shadow cast by the sun . . . by ten steps. In a miraculous manner, the Lord caused the sun’s shadow to move backward, indicating that time had been added to the day (compare Helaman 12:14). This was the sign for Hezekiah, who had time added to his life (another miracle).
Apparently Isaiah 38 verses 21–22 have been misplaced and belong in the text here, between verses 6 and 7. This is (1) the reading of 2 Kings 20:6–9, a text that parallels this part of Isaiah; (2) the context of these passages; and (3) the evidence of the Isaiah Scroll. Verses 21–22 of that scroll were copied after verse 20, by a later scribe, making their placement there questionable.
Isaiah 38:9–20 King Hezekiah’s Psalm
King Hezekiah was sick and close to death (38:1–8). After he learned that the Lord had added years to his life, he wrote a psalm reflecting on his sickness and recovery, when the Lord delivered him “from the pit of destruction” (38:17). In the first portion of the psalm, Hezekiah is self-reflective (38:9–14a); the second portion constitutes a prayer, wherein Hezekiah entreats, “O Lord” (38:14b–20).
half of my days . . . gates of Sheol. Though Hezekiah is in the “middle of [his] days,” or half way through mortality, he stands at the threshold of death, ready to enter Sheol, which refers to the spirit world.
I will not look upon a human again. Hezekiah regrets that he will lose his association with mortals when he dies.
My dwelling is pulled up. His mortal tabernacle, or body, is dying. tent/weaver. Before the Lord extended Hezekiah’s years, Hezekiah feared that his life would end as quickly as a shepherd dismantles his tent or as rapidly as a weaver severs fabric from the loom.
swallow/crane/dove. Hezekiah compares his emotional prayers to three birds—occasionally his prayers are soft, like a swallow’s chirp; or loud, like a crane’s cry; or sometimes they are mournful, like a dove’s cooing. My eyes grow weary. Hezekiah’s prayers are so long that his eyes grow weary from looking heavenward. be my pledge of surety. Hezekiah compares his situation to a debtor (Hezekiah) and a creditor (the Lord) and prayers that the Lord will take responsibility for the debt and free Hezekiah from his impending death.
O Lord, you who are the life of my spirit. Hezekiah bears testimony that the Lord is the sustaining force of life. You have cast all my sins behind Your back. Being healed by the Lord is often associated with being forgiven of sins (Matthew 9:6; James 5:15).
pit of destruction. A representation of hell.
A father makes known Your truth to the children. It is the parent’s obligation to teach his or her children God’s truths (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25).
House of the Lord. The temple is both a house of prayer as well as a house of rejoicing and sacred music.
These verses have been moved and inserted between Isaiah 38 verses 6 and 7.
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