Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Kings 20:9

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?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Degrees;   Disease;   Faith;   Hezekiah;   Isaiah;   Miracles;   Rulers;   Symbols and Similitudes;   Time;   Thompson Chain Reference - Manifestations, Special Divine;   Mysteries-Revelations;   Signs Given;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Sun, the;   Time;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Hezekiah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Heal, Health;   Kings, First and Second, Theology of;   Miracle;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Dial;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ahaz;   Dial;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Isaiah, Book of;   Israel;   Sun;   Text, Versions, and Languages of Ot;   Time;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Dial, Sun-Dial;   Merodachbaladan ;   Miracles;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Hezekiah;   Manasseh;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Dial;   Hezekiah;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Dial;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Day;   Urim and Thummim;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ahaz;   Augury;   Degree;   Dial of Ahaz, the;   Hezekiah (2);   Shade;   Sign;   Time;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ten degrees - literally, “ten steps.” It is not, perhaps, altogether certain whether the “dial of Ahaz” 2 Kings 20:11 was really a dial with a gnomon in the center, and “degrees” marked round it, or a construction fur marking time by means of “steps.” Sundials proper had been invented by the Babylonians before the time of Herodotus; but the instrument here was probably an instrument consisting of a set of steps, or stairs, with an obelisk at the top, the shadow of which descended or ascended the steps according as the sun rose higher in the heavens or declined.

The question as to the mode whereby the return of the shadow was produced is one on which many opinions have been held. Recently, it has been urged that the true cause of the phenomenon was a solar eclipse, in which the moon obscured the entire upper limb of the sun; and it has been clearly shown that if such an occurrence took place a little before mid-day, it would have had the effect described as having taken place - i. e., during the obscuration of the sun‘s upper limb shadows would be sensibly lengthened, and that of the obelisk would descend the stairs; as the obscuration passed off the reverse would take place, shadows would shorten, and that of the obelisk would once more retire up the steps. If this be the true account, the miracle would consist in Isaiah‘s supernatural foreknowledge of an event which the astronomy of the age was quite incapable of predicting, and in the providential guidance of Hezekiah‘s will, so that he chose the “sign” which in the natural course of things was about to be manifested.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-kings-20.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And Isaiah said, this sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken,.... Cure him of his disorder, so that he should be able to go to the temple on the third day:

shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? that is, the shadow of the sun on a dial plate; it was left to his option to choose which he would, as the confirming sign of his recovery.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-kings-20.html. 1999.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Kings 20:9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?

Ver. 9. Shall the shadow go forward ten degrees?] This was in God Almighty stupenda dignatio, a wonderful condescension, thus to gratify a mortal man - stooping so low to his meanness. If Hezekiah were - as the Rabbis say he was - studious of the mathematics, how suitable was this sign! These degrees were half-hours, or quarters, or haply less. The shadow was that of the style of a sundial. Neither did the shadow only go backward, but the sun itself ran retrograde, [Isaiah 38:8] whereof the Rabbis give this foolish reason, that when wicked Ahaz was buried, the sun hastened faster than ordinary to his setting, that there might be no time for funeral rites, to recompense which loss of time then, the day was thus prolonged now. Those ancients do better, who, allegorising the text, tell us that sick Hezekiah signifieth all mankind as sick of sin; but this is an infallible sign of the saint’s recovery, that the sun hath gone ten degrees back in the dial. The Sun of righteousness Jesus Christ, hath for our sakes made himself lower by many degrees in the earth. "My Father is greater than I": there he is gone back ten degrees below his Father. "Thou hast made him lower than the angels": there he is gone back ten degrees below the angels. "I am a worm, and no man": there he has gone back ten degrees below men. "A live dog is better than a dead lion": there he has gone back ten degrees below worms: for he was not counted so good as a live worm, but was buried in the earth, as a dead lion, to be meat for the worms, if it had been possible for "his holy One to see corruption."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-kings-20.html. 1865-1868.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9.Shall the shadow go forward — A more accurate rendering of the Hebrew is that of Keil: The shadow has advanced ten degrees; if it should return ten degrees. This concise and idiomatic Hebrew might thus be paraphrased: The shadow has now advanced ten degrees; if it go back ten degrees, would that be a convincing sign to thee? Hezekiah’s answer in the next verse seems, however, to show that Isaiah had put it to him to decide whether the sign should be an advance or return of ten degrees, and so favours the common version.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-20.html. 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

degrees. It is to these degrees that Hezekiah"s fifteen Songs refer (Psa 120 - 134). The word "degrees" is repeated here six times (in the history), but five times in Isaiah"s gracious words (2 Kings 38:8).

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-kings-20.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) Shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?—Rather, the shadow hath marched (or travelled) ten steps; shall it return ten steps? This is what the Hebrew text seems to say at a first glance. But Hezekiah’s answer apparently implies an alternative; and we might render: “the shadow shall have travelled ten steps; or shall it return ten steps?” (Comp. the LXX. πορεύσεται.) The Targum has: “shall the shadow march ten hours or return ten hours?” The Vulgate also makes it a double question. The Syriac is: “the shadow shall march ten steps, or return ten steps.”

It is very probable that the Hebrew text is corrupt. We might read the first word as an infinitive instead of a perfect, after the analogy of 2 Kings 19:29 (“ye shall eat”). Or we might read “shall it march?” as a question (hă-yçlçk); or better still, “shall it go up” (hă-yçlçk), after the hint afforded by the Vulgate: “Vis ut ascendat umbra . . . Et ait Ezeehias, Facile est umbram crescere,” &c. It is obvious that a kind of sun-dial is meant, though what kind is not so clear. The word “degrees” (ma‘ălôth) means “steps” or “stairs” wherever it occurs. (See Exodus 20:26; Ezekiel 40:6; Ezekiel 40:22; Ezekiel 40:26; Ezekiel 40:31, &c; 1 Kings 10:20; Nehemiah 3:15.) There is probability, therefore, in Knobel’s conjecture that “the dial of Ahaz” consisted of a column rising from a circular flight of steps, so as to throw the shadow of its top on the top step at noon, and morning and evening on the bottom step. This, or some similar device, was set up in the palace court, and was probably visible to Hezekiah lying on his sick bed and facing the window. Herodotus (ii. 9) ascribes the invention of the gnomon to the Babylonians. From the inscriptions we know that they divided time into periods of two hours, each called in Sumerian kasbumi, and in Assyrian asli. Each kasbu or aslu was subdivided into sixty equal parts.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-kings-20.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?
This sign
Isaiah 38:7,8; Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11,12; Luke 11:29,30
Reciprocal: Judges 6:36 - If thou wilt;  2 Kings 19:29 - a sign;  Isaiah 37:30 - this shall

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-kings-20.html.