Isaiah 38:1-8. In those days was Hezekiah sick — See notes on 2 Kings 20:1-11.
Isaiah 38:9. Grotius is of opinion that this song was dictated by Isaiah. But it is more probable, as Hezekiah was a truly pious man, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, that he was moved thereby to write this form of thanksgiving, both as a testimony of his own gratitude to God, and for the instruction of future ages.
Isaiah 38:10-11. I said — Within myself; I concluded, in the cutting off of my days — When my days were cut off by the sentence of God, related Isaiah 38:1; I shall go to the gates of the grave — I perceive that I must die without any hopes of prevention. The grave is called man’s long home, Ecclesiastes 12:5; and the house appointed for all living, Job 30:23; and death opens the gates of this house. I am deprived of the residue of my years — Which I might have lived according to the common course of nature, and of God’s dispensations; and which I hoped to live for the service of God and of my generation. I shall not see the Lord — I shall not behold his beauty and glory as he manifests them in his temple, in his oracles and ordinances; I shall not enjoy him: for seeing is frequently put for enjoying; even the Lord in the land of the living — In this world, which is often so called; which limitation is prudently added, to intimate that he expected to see God in another place and manner, on the other side death; but he despairs of seeing him any more on this side death, as he had seen him in the sanctuary, Psalms 63:2. I shall behold man no more. &c. — I shall have no more society with men upon earth. Many good men, under the law, had but imperfect notions of a future state, and thought it a great unhappiness to be deprived, by death, of the communion of saints here upon earth. But by not seeing the Lord in the land of the living, Hezekiah might probably mean that he should not see the effects of God’s grace and goodness in the deliverance of his people.
Isaiah 38:12. Mine age is departed — The time of my life is expired; and is removed as a shepherd’s tent — Which is easily and speedily removed: I have cut off — Namely, by my sins, provoking God to do it; or, I have concluded, and declare that my life is, or will be, soon cut off: for men are often said, in the Scriptures, to do those things that they only declare and pronounce to be done; like a weaver my life — Who cutteth off the web from the loom, either when it is finished, or before, according to his pleasure. He — God; will cut me off with pining sickness — With a consuming disease, wasting my spirits and life; from day, even till night, wilt thou make an end of me — That is, either, 1st, This sickness will kill me in the space of one day; or, 2d, Thou dost pursue me night and day with continual pains, and wilt not cease till thou hast made a full end of me; so that I expect every day will be my last day. Bishop Lowth translates this verse: “My habitation is taken away, and is removed from me, like a shepherd’s tent: my life is cut off, as by the weaver; he will sever me from the loom; in the course of the day thou wilt finish my web.” Vitringa and Dr. Waterland read the verse nearly in the same manner, considering the similitude of the weaver as being continued to the end of it.
Isaiah 38:13-14. I reckoned till morning, &c. — When night came I reckoned I should die before the next morning, my pains being as great as if my bones had been broken, and the whole frame of my body crushed by a lion. Bishop Lowth reads: I roared until the morning like the lion; so did he break to pieces all my bones. Like a crane or a swallow, &c. — “My pains were sometimes so violent that they forced me to cry aloud; at other times my strength was so exhausted that I could only groan inwardly, and bemoan my unhappy condition in sighs.” I did mourn as a dove — Whose mournful tone is observed Isaiah 59:11, and elsewhere; mine eyes fail with looking upward — While I lift up my eyes and heart to God for relief in vain; O Lord, I am oppressed — Namely, by my disease, which, like a sergeant, hath seized upon me, and is haling me to the prison of the grave; undertake for me — Stop the execution, and rescue me out of his hands.
Isaiah 38:15. What shall I say? — I want words sufficiently to express my deep sense of God’s dealings with me; he hath spoken, &c. — He foretold it by his word, and effected it by his hand. In this verse he seems to make a transition into the thanksgiving, which is undoubtedly contained in the following verses, and so the sense is, He hath sent a gracious message to me, by his prophet, concerning the prolongation of my life, and himself hath made good his word. Thus the words are understood by the Chaldee paraphrast, the LXX., and by the Syriac and Arabic interpreters. To this purpose also Bishop Lowth reads the clause. He hath given me a promise, and he hath performed it. I shall go softly all my years — I will conduct myself with humble thankfulness to God for conferring so great a favour upon so unworthy a person, as long as I live. I shall never forget my unworthiness and his loving kindness; in the bitterness of my soul — That is, or rather, upon, or after it: or, as the Chaldee paraphrast reads it, because of my deliverance from bitterness of soul.
Isaiah 38:16. By these things men live — By virtue of thy gracious word, or promise, and powerful work; or, by thy promises, and thy performance of them: and therefore it is not strange that one word of God hath brought me back from the jaws of death. And in all these things is the life of my spirit — As all men’s lives are thy gift, so I shall always acknowledge the preservation of mine to be owing to thy goodness in promising, and thy faithfulness in fulfilling thy promise. So wilt thou recover me, &c. — Or, for thou hast recovered me. Thou hast restored my health and prolonged my life. — Bishop Lowth.
Isaiah 38:17. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness — “When I perceived and feared no evil, and seemed to enjoy my usual health, then this terrible evil came upon me.” The Hebrew, however, לשׁלום מר לו מר, may be properly rendered, Behold my grievous anguish is turned into ease; or, My great bitterness was unto peace, that is, became the occasion of my safety and comfort, for it drove me to prayer, and prayer prevailed with God for a gracious answer, and the prolonging of my life. Thou hast in love to my soul, &c. — That is, in kindness to me, (the soul being put for the man,) delivered it from the pit of corruption — This is an emphatical circumstance, for sometimes God prolongs men’s days in anger, foreknowing that they will only fill up still more the measure of their iniquities. For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back — Thou hast forgiven those sins that brought this affliction upon me, and, upon that account, hast removed the punishment of them.
Isaiah 38:18-20. For the grave cannot praise thee — The dead cannot be instruments of promoting thy glory among men upon earth, or of making thy goodness known to others, which I desire and determine to do. They cannot hope for thy truth — Cannot expect nor receive the accomplishment of thy promised goodness in this world. The living, &c., shall praise thee — They are especially obliged to do it, and they only have the privilege of doing it among men on earth. The father to the children, &c. — They shall not only praise thee while they live, but shall take care to propagate and perpetuate thy praise to all succeeding generations. Or, he means, “Thy wonderful mercy toward me shall be recorded for the benefit of after ages; and fathers shall mention it to their children, as an instance of thy faithfulness.” The Lord was ready to save me — Was a present help to me, ready to hear and succour me upon my praying to him in my great extremity. Therefore will we sing my songs — Both I and my people will sing those songs of praise which are due, especially from me, for God’s great mercy to me; to the stringed instruments — Or, to the harp, (as Bishop Lowth renders it,) which was according to the custom of those times. Some infer from this verse that Hezekiah composed several other sacred songs, some of which may be still extant among the Psalms. All the days of our life in the house of the Lord — Here we are taught, that the proper fruit of deliverance from evil is thanksgiving, diffusing itself through all the actions of our life. This passage exhibits to us especially a picture of our duty and state as Christians, who, redeemed as we are by the precious blood of the Son of God from everlasting destruction, ought, with all the powers of our souls and bodies, to celebrate his name and glory, so that our whole life may appear one continued thanksgiving. — Vitringa.
Isaiah 38:21-22. For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs — See note on 2 Kings 20:7. Hezekiah also had said — Or, for Hezekiah had said; What is the sign that I shall go up — Namely, within three days, as is more fully related 2 Kings 20:5; 2 Kings 20:8; to the house of the Lord? — For thither he designed to go first, partly that he might pay his vows and thanksgivings to God, and partly that he might engage the people to praise God with him and for him.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 38". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany