Table of Contents
Introduction to Isaiah 38:17-22
When we began reading Isaiah 38, we saw the power of God to heal Hezekiah, and this reminded us of what we read in the Torah. When we open the Torah and begin reading, we instantly are able to see in the first few paragraphs the power of the Word of God! The Torah reveals to us the Power of God! As we continue reading through the Torah, it can be a great source of blessing or curse, depending on whether or not we are willing to obey God’s commandments. Moses told Israel that the Torah would be a source of blessing if obeyed, but a source of curse if disobeyed. To emphasize this Moshe instructed the Israelites to hold a covenant ceremony after entering the land of Canaan. Half of the tribes would pronounce the curses for violating the Torah from atop one mountain (mount Ebal), while the other half would pronounce the blessings for keeping the Torah from atop the opposite mountain (mount Gerizim).
ספר דברים פרק כז
[רביעי] א וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה וְזִקְנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל אֶת-הָעָם לֵאמֹר שָׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם: ב וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר תַּעַבְרוּ אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ וַהֲקֵמֹתָ לְךָ אֲבָנִים גְּדֹלוֹת וְשַֹדְתָּ אֹתָם בַּשִּׂיד: ג וְכָתַבְתָּ עֲלֵיהֶן אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת בְּעָבְרֶךָ לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר תָּבֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ | נֹתֵן לְךָ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵי-אֲבֹתֶיךָ לָךְ: ד וְהָיָה בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן תָּקִימוּ אֶת-הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּהַר עֵיבָל וְשַֹדְתָּ אוֹתָם בַּשִּׂיד: ה וּבָנִיתָ שָּׁם מִזְבֵּחַ לַיהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים לֹא-תָנִיף עֲלֵיהֶם בַּרְזֶל: ו אֲבָנִים שְׁלֵמוֹת תִּבְנֶה אֶת-מִזְבַּח יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַעֲלִיתָ עָלָיו עוֹלֹת לַיהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: ז וְזָבַחְתָּ שְׁלָמִים וְאָכַלְתָּ שָּׁם וְשָֹמַחְתָּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: ח וְכָתַבְתָּ עַל-הָאֲבָנִים אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת בַּאֵר הֵיטֵב:
Devarim / Deuteronomy 27:1–8
27:1 And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day. 27:2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: 27:3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee. 27:4 Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister. 27:5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. 27:6 Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God: 27:7 And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the LORD thy God. 27:8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly. (KJV)
According to tradition, Mount Gerizim was lush and fertile while Mount Ebal was rocky and barren, clearly portraying the ramifications of our choices: We may choose the good path, cleaving to God and following in His ways, leading to a rich and fruitful life. Alternatively, we can embrace evil and negativity, which leads to an empty and barren life, devoid of all things good. This ceremony was a reminder that obedience to the Torah brings God’s blessing, while disobedience brings His curse. Today, this reminds us that we can obtain God’s blessing in our lives if we will commit ourselves to faithfully listening and living our lives for the Lord God according to His Holy Word. We note the power of God’s word in our lives! The Lord God has not left humanity adrift without a rudder to guide us. He has spoken to us through His servant Moshe, through His prophets, and through His Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Christ). These words are recorded in the Bible, which is more than just an ancient piece of literature; it is a living document that is charged with the Spirit of God. The Bible is a compass for finding one’s way through life, and a road map for truth and life! This is why Yeshua and Paul state what they do concerning the Torah in Matthew 5:17-18, Romans 3:31, and Romans 7:12.:
5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (KJV 17 * Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας· οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι. 18 ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν· ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου ⸆, ἕως °ἂν πάντα γένηται.* ⸇)
3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (KJV 31 νόμον οὖν καταργοῦμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως; μὴ γένοιτο·* ἀλλὰ νόμον ἱστάνομεν*.)
7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (KJV 12 ὥστε ὁ μὲν νόμος ἅγιος καὶ ἡ ἐντολὴ ἁγία καὶ δικαία καὶ ἀγαθή*.)
These are only a few verses that describe the importance of the Torah in the life of a believer. These things should encourage us to recognize how we are to read the Scriptures very carefully, being very critical in our understanding of exactly what it is that the Scriptures are teaching us. We note how Yeshua said that he did not come to destroy the Torah. Paul wrote that we fulfill the Torah in our lives, because we are not walking in sin but in righteousness and truth with the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. Paul also writes that the Torah command is holy, just, and good. In Romans 7 he explains the difficulty of life, how the body wars against the spirit, and how the Torah is at the center of all of this that is coupled to God’s mercy and grace in the Messiah! Something we note about the blessing of God concerning all of these things. If we humble ourselves and see the truth of God, to walk in His holy and righteous ways, it can and will change our lives to the extent that we are willing to conform our lives to God’s wisdom found in the Scriptures. The Bible contains God’s message to us, and it is our responsibility to study it carefully and to walk faithfully before God in Yeshua the Messiah. To walk in Yeshua’s footsteps is to carefully obey and seek the way of God according to the Scriptures.
MSS (Masoretic Text) on Isaiah 38:17-22
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 38:17.
ספר ישעיה פרק לח
יז הִנֵּה לְשָׁלוֹם מַר-לִי מָר וְאַתָּה חָשַׁקְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִשַּׁחַת בְּלִי כִּי-הִשְׁלַכְתָּ אַחֲרֵי גֵוְךָ כָּל-חֲטָאָי:
Isaiah 38:17 states, “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. (הִנֵּה לְשָׁלוֹם מַר-לִי מָר וְאַתָּה חָשַׁקְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִשַּׁחַת בְּלִי כִּי-הִשְׁלַכְתָּ אַחֲרֵי גֵוְךָ כָּל-חֲטָאָי)” Here the Hebrew bible writes saying הִנֵּה לְשָׁלוֹם מַר-לִי מָר “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness” The word for great is used to describe the repeated word מַר (bitter) which is emphasizing that Hezekiah had great bitterness. Hezekiah says that for peace he had great bitterness drawing peace and bitterness together. When looking through the rabbinic literature we do not seem to find much on the idea that one must have bitterness before peace as a general rule, but rather as a specific situation that may occur in some cases. For example, in the Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 10:11, it is said that God will bring peace to the world after the destruction of the wicked, which is compared to the bitterness of a woman in labor before the joy of giving birth. Similarly, in Isaiah 36-39, King Hezekiah prays to God for deliverance from the Assyrian siege, and God promises him peace and prosperity after the bitter ordeal. However, these are not presented as universal principles, but rather as historical events or prophecies. Hezekiah went through these events, the bitterness and despair for a reason, this humbles our lives as God’s people so we can submit to His will according to His Word. Notice how both the Septuagint and the TgJ modify this verse.
The Septuagint states, 17 εἵλου γάρ μου τὴν ψυχήν, ἵνα μὴ ἀπόληται, καὶ ἀπέρριψας ὀπίσω μου πάσας τὰς ἁμαρτίας μου. 17 For you selected my soul so that I would not perish; and you cast all my sins behind me. (LES) We note here how bitterness was removed, and the idea of God casting Hezekiah’s sins behind Him was changed to casting the sins behind Hezekiah. The TgJ writes, הָא לְעָבְדֵי אֹורָיתָא סַגִי שְלָמָא קֳדָמָך וְאַת מֵיתֵי מְרָרָא לְרַשִיעַיָא בְכֵין כַד יְדַעִית יֹום מֹותִי שְפַכִית דִמעְתִי בִצלֹו קֳדָמָך מַר לִי סַגִי וְאַת אִתרְעִיתָא בְחַיַי בְדִיל דְלָא לְחַבָלָא נַפשִי אְרֵי אַרחֵיקתָא מִן קֳדָמָך כָל חְטָאָי׃ 17 Behold, to them that obey the law, peace shall be multiplied before Thee; but Thou wilt bring bitterness to the wicked: therefore, when I knew the day of my death, I poured out my tears in prayer before Thee; my bitterness was great, but Thou hast had pleasure in my life, not to destroy it; for Thou hast cast all my sins far away from Thy presence. (TgJ) Here the TgJ makes a comparison between the righteous (those who obey Torah) and the wicked (those who do not obey Torah) and seems to draw the conclusion that God brings peace to those who obey His commands and bitterness to the wicked who do not. This verse emphasizes the contrast between the fate of the righteous and the wicked, and the power of prayer and repentance to bring peace and salvation. Here the translation highlights the mercy and love of God towards those who turn to Him in times of distress. We note something about what is being said here is that God used something bad for the purpose of drawing His people closer to Him (see Romans 8:28, i.e. all things work together for good). We note a concept that is present here from the NT text, according to Luke 5:17-26, forgiveness of sins and healing from illness are all part of God’s saving power. What we note about the remainder of the verse וְאַתָּה חָשַׁקְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִשַּׁחַת בְּלִי כִּי-הִשְׁלַכְתָּ אַחֲרֵי גֵוְךָ כָּל-חֲטָאָי “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” reveals to us the concept of sins being cast behind God is a reference to being forgiven of sin. And that many times healing only comes following one having been forgiven of their sins. This illustrates how Teshuvah is such an important part of the healing process. Hezekiah’s sin could have been pride, note how he showed the Babylonian envoy all that he had. So the illness was humbling to him, so that he would utterly trust in the Lord. Many times there are deeper reasons why bad things happen, we should not give up but dig deeper into God’s word, prayer, and seeking our Father in heaven through faith in Yeshua!
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 38:18.
ספר ישעיה פרק לח
יח כִּי-לֹא שְׁאוֹל תּוֹדֶךָּ מָוֶת יְהַלְלֶךָּ לֹא-יְשַֹבְּרוּ יוֹרְדֵי-בוֹר אֶל-אֲמִתֶּךָ:
Isaiah 38:18 states, “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. (כִּי-לֹא שְׁאוֹל תּוֹדֶךָּ מָוֶת יְהַלְלֶךָּ לֹא-יְשַֹבְּרוּ יוֹרְדֵי-בוֹר אֶל-אֲמִתֶּךָ)” Note something here, Hezekiah writes that the grave does not praise God and death does not celebrate the Lord, and those who go to the grave do not hope. Hezekiah makes the statements about the outcome of his dying, he will not be able to give glory to God in this world any longer. We note something about what Hezekiah states here in comparison to what we read Paul writing to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:8-11.
2 Corinthians 5:8–11
5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. (KJV 8 ⸀θαρροῦμεν δὲ καὶ εὐδοκοῦμεν μᾶλλον ἐκδημῆσαι ἐκ τοῦ σώματος καὶ ἐνδημῆσαι πρὸς τὸν κύριον*. 9 διὸ καὶ φιλοτιμούμεθα, εἴτε ἐνδημοῦντες εἴτε ἐκδημοῦντες, εὐάρεστοι αὐτῷ εἶναι*. 10 τοὺς γὰρ πάντας ἡμᾶς φανερωθῆναι δεῖ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ*, ἵνα κομίσηται ἕκαστος* ⸀τὰ ⸁διὰ τοῦ σώματος ⸋πρὸς ἃ⸌ ἔπραξεν, εἴτε ἀγαθὸν εἴτε ⸀1φαῦλον*. 11 Εἰδότες οὖν τὸν φόβον τοῦ κυρίου ἀνθρώπους ⸀πείθομεν*, θεῷ δὲ πεφανερώμεθα·* ἐλπίζω δὲ καὶ ἐν ταῖς συνειδήσεσιν ὑμῶν πεφανερῶσθαι.)
This is the text that is produced when one discusses the topic of death and the grave and soul sleep vs going to be in the presence of God. We note that here in the MSS we see the word שְׁאוֹל (the underworld, sheol) is translated as “pit” by the KJV. We see a common statement here from the Tanakh which is that the dead do not praise God. Here the argument is over the spirit which lives vs the body that dies. Hezekiah makes no distinction being made in regards to those who are righteous versus those who are dead. In addition, there are no instances in the Tanakh that describe the departed spirits as praising God and the reason is that the God of Israel is equated with the living God, the God of life, the Creator and Maker of all things. He is not the God of the dead or of departed spirits. This is a significant thing to be aware of as to why the Tanakh does not mention the dead praising God. Similarly, here we do not read Paul saying that the departed spirits are praising God, rather, he is saying that when one is absent from the body he is present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) The even more difficult text is found in 2 Corinthians 5:9 which states that we labor “whether present or absent” which begs the question whether he is really speaking about departed spirits, since departed spirits do not labor. Paul goes on to speak of the judgment of God and the Messiah being the one who judges in the great day of judgment. We note the importance of the living praising God found in the resurrection. God will raise the righteous to live again in holiness and righteousness as His people. This is the major point of Hezekiah’s words, that he seeks to remain alive because his central purpose is to praise the Lord! What we note about this verse Isaiah 38:18 is the significance of our actions in this life. Our actions are for the Lord and not for sinful selves. This illustrates the importance of this world in God’s eyes, that he seeks life for us and not death. This was the whole purpose for His giving us His word, so that we might live by His word and live in life and not death. This also illustrates the significance of the Messiah, who lives, the One who died and is alive again, Yeshua! It is because Yeshua is alive, because He lives, all who trust in Him will be saved forever! (1 Peter 3:18-19, Revelation 5:9-14) We note how these truths are drawn out from the text based on what Hezekiah states concerning the dead not praising God!
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 38:19-20.
ספר ישעיה פרק לח
יט חַי חַי הוּא יוֹדֶךָ כָּמוֹנִי הַיּוֹם אָב לְבָנִים יוֹדִיעַ אֶל-אֲמִתֶּךָ: כ יְהֹוָה לְהוֹשִׁיעֵנִי וּנְגִינוֹתַי נְנַגֵּן כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֵּינוּ עַל-בֵּית יְהֹוָה:
Isaiah 38:19 states, “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. (חַי חַי הוּא יוֹדֶךָ כָּמוֹנִי הַיּוֹם אָב לְבָנִים יוֹדִיעַ אֶל-אֲמִתֶּךָ)” Isaiah 38:20 “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. (יְהֹוָה לְהוֹשִׁיעֵנִי וּנְגִינוֹתַי נְנַגֵּן כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֵּינוּ עַל-בֵּית יְהֹוָה)” Here Hezekiah pushes forward his point, that it is the living who praise the Lord! We note how this stands in contradiction to Catholic tradition that the dead praise God, or that the departed spirits are alive praising God in heaven and so we can pray to them (i.e. the saints). It is indeed the living who praise God, but it is in this life, in this world and the world to come that we praise God and declare His faithfulness to His promises! Is there anything that is promised to the dead outside of the resurrection that is meant to bring us to life? It is in this life that God declares his faithfulness to His people! This is why we can be confident to ask the Lord for healing from disease and illness and death! We note how Hezekiah is so confident in his approach to seeking God for healing, because the people of Israel know the character of God as loving, merciful, full of grace, and long suffering for His people! Note that the place that is most longed for is to dwell in the presence of the Lord. This is the characteristic of those who are in the Kingdom of God, who are God’s people! Various places where we read how God’s people sing and give praise, Tehillim / Psalms 27:6, 30:11, 51:14, Isaiah 12:2, 26:19, 65:14. We note that happened in the NT text according to Luke 7:40-49.
7:40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 7:41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 7:42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 7:43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 7:44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 7:45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 7:46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 7:48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 7:49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? (KJV 40 Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν·* Σίμων, ἔχω σοί τι εἰπεῖν. ὁ δέ· διδάσκαλε, εἰπέ, φησίν.* 41 δύο χρεοφειλέται ἦσαν δανιστῇ τινι· ὁ εἷς ὤφειλεν δηνάρια πεντακόσια, ὁ δὲ ἕτερος πεντήκοντα. 42 μὴ ἐχόντων ⸆ αὐτῶν ἀποδοῦναι ἀμφοτέροις ἐχαρίσατο.* τίς οὖν αὐτῶν ⸇ πλεῖον ἀγαπήσει ⸈αὐτόν; 43 ⸀ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν· ὑπολαμβάνω ὅτι ᾧ τὸ πλεῖον ἐχαρίσατο.* ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὀρθῶς ἔκρινας. 44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη·* βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ ⸂μοι ἐπὶ πόδας⸃ οὐκ ἔδωκας·* αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς ἐξέμαξεν. 45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας·* αὕτη δὲ ἀφʼ ἧς ⸀εἰσῆλθον οὐ ⸁διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.* 46 ἐλαίῳ ⸂τὴν κεφαλήν⸃ μου οὐκ ἤλειψας· αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν ⸄τοὺς πόδας μου⸅. 47 οὗ χάριν˸ λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται ⸂αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί⸃, ⸋ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ· ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται,* ὀλίγον ἀγαπᾷ.⸌ 48 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ· ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.* 49 Καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς)
What we note here is concerning what is inside of a man. The idea is that we are not perfect, and we are full of sins, both past and present. So this woman that came and poured out the oil upon Yeshua and kissed him, we note that she looked within herself and realized the level of need that she had to seek forgiveness. Notice how Peter did not respond in this way to Yeshua as the woman had responded. This may not be specifically about pride, but about how one views himself before the living God of Israel, and the holy and righteous One that was sent by God (Yeshua). The woman offered her gratitude to the Messiah in the way that she could. How have we offered our gratitude to Yeshua for what he has done for us? Good question, right? Hezekiah recognized that he was as good as dead, especially since the word came from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah. But now that Hezekiah was given 15 more years to live, he was expressing his great gratitude to the Lord for the mercy that has been bestowed upon him. Similarly, we should thank the Lord each day for the extra day that He has granted to us in this life, so that we can bring glory to His name by the way we live our lives for Him! Notice how what we do in this life influences prayer and answered pray according to the book of Jonah.
ספר יונה פרק ג:י
וַיַּ֤רְא הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶֽת־מַ֣עֲשֵׂיהֶ֔ם כִּי־שָׁ֖בוּ מִדַּרְכָּ֣ם הָרָעָ֑ה וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם הָאֱלֹהִ֗ים עַל־הָרָעָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר לַעֲשׂוֹת־לָהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א עָשָֽׂה׃
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 38:21-22.
ספר ישעיה פרק לח
כא וַיֹּאמֶר יְשַׁעְיָהוּ יִשְֹאוּ דְּבֶלֶת תְּאֵנִים וְיִמְרְחוּ עַל-הַשְּׁחִין וְיֶחִי: כב וַיֹּאמֶר חִזְקִיָּהוּ מָה אוֹת כִּי אֶעֱלֶה בֵּית יְהֹוָה:
Isaiah 38:21 states, “For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover. (וַיֹּאמֶר יְשַׁעְיָהוּ יִשְֹאוּ דְּבֶלֶת תְּאֵנִים וְיִמְרְחוּ עַל-הַשְּׁחִין וְיֶחִי)” Isaiah 38:22 “Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD? (וַיֹּאמֶר חִזְקִיָּהוּ מָה אוֹת כִּי אֶעֱלֶה בֵּית יְהֹוָה)” Here in Isaiah 38:21 we are provided with the cause of Hezekiah’s illness, he has a boil, according to the translation of the word הַשְּׁחִין which is a word to describe an inflamed spot or ulcer. A boil is a painful pus-filled bump that forms under the skin when bacteria inflames a hair follicle. Boils (furuncles) usually start as reddish or purplish, tender bumps. The bumps quickly fill with pus, growing larger and more painful until they rupture and drain. Areas most likely to be affected are the face, back of the neck, armpits, thighs and buttocks. Medical websites state that one should not pick at or squeeze a boil, this may spread the infection. In addition, in rare cases, bacteria from a boil may enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. The spreading infection, commonly known as blood poisoning or sepsis, can lead to infections deep within the body, such as the heart (endocarditis) and bone (osteomyelitis). So, with this modern information, we get an idea on what was happening to Hezekiah and at this point the infection may have entered his blood and he was in really bad shape. The Lord God Almighty healed him of this infection because He is the Creator and Author of Life and is able to do so! We note again that the commentaries such as John Oswalt’s commentary casts doubt on the originality of these verses (Isaiah 38:21-22) and John Oswalt believes that the Isaiah text along with 2 Kings 20 were both redacted by someone from an original source text which we do not have anymore. (John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 690–691) The commentary says that these verses stand only as an explanatory note to provide background on what has already happened. What is significant here about these verses is also on the explanation of the type of disease and what Isaiah recommended for the cure. In my opinion, a fig press would not have healed a blood infection if this had already taken place, and so the miracle that God performed was a miracle regardless of what Isaiah had recommended to do for the boil. In addition to this, the scriptures illustrate for us the importance of how God can heal through other means, through medical intervention. When we seek out medical intervention, this does not supersede the fact that God is involved in the healing process. The Lord God can work through the use of medicine, so when we pray, we should ask that Lord to heal us through the use of xyz medical procedure. This appears to be what is taking place here in Hezekiah’s case and is an example for us today in our lives. In Isaiah 38:22, we note that the sign that Isaiah had given Hezekiah was in Isaiah 38:7 and stated that He would be in the house of God praising the Lord (Isaiah 38:20). The sun dial moving backwards was also the sign to indicate that this shadow of death would go backwards and not forwards and so illustrating how God will remove this death from Hezekiah’s body. We note when we seek the Lord for help we do not doubt, and trust in His ability to do anything because it is within his power to do so. We also note that we should not allow theologies to limit God in what He can do on our behalf! We read the Scriptures and believe what the Scriptures say and do not doubt! Hezekiah asking for a sign was not doubt on his part, but assurance of the promise of God. Today we have the Scriptures which reveal to us these things that God has done in history, and so we can believe and trust in the power of God in our lives! Especially in receiving the Holy Spirit of God, His presence in our lives to empower us to live for Him, and to overcome sin because of our faith in Yeshua and what He has done on our behalf! God delights to show Himself powerful in the lives of His people, and so we can trust in this and rest assured that He is with us and one day we will see Him face to face in the world to come!
Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 38:17-22
The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the book of Isaiah and therefore is a valuable resource for continuing to study the book of Isaiah!
תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק לח:יז-כב
יז הָא לְעָבְדֵי אֹורָיתָא סַגִי שְלָמָא קֳדָמָך וְאַת מֵיתֵי מְרָרָא לְרַשִיעַיָא בְכֵין כַד יְדַעִית יֹום מֹותִי שְפַכִית דִמעְתִי בִצלֹו קֳדָמָך מַר לִי סַגִי וְאַת אִתרְעִיתָא בְחַיַי בְדִיל דְלָא לְחַבָלָא נַפשִי אְרֵי אַרחֵיקתָא מִן קֳדָמָך כָל חְטָאָי׃ יח אְרֵי לָא דְבִשאֹול מֹודַן קֳדָמָך מִיתַיָא לָא מְשַבְחִין לָך לָא מְסַבְרִין נָחְתֵי גוּב בֵית אַבדָנָא לְפֻרקָנָך׃ יט דְחַי חַי הוּא יֹודֵי קֳדָמָך כְוָתִי יֹומָא דֵין אְבָהָן לִבנֵיהֹון יְחַוֹון גְבוּרְתָך וְיֹודֹון לְמֵימַר דְכָל אִלֵין קְשֹוט׃ כ יוי לְמִפרְקִנַנָא אְמַר וְנִיגוּן תוּשְבְחָתֵיה נְנַגֵין כָל יֹומֵי חַיַינָא עַל בֵית מַקדְשָא דַיוי׃ כא וַאְמַר יְשַעיָה יִסְבוּן דִבלַת תֵינִין וְיִסרְטוּן עַל שִחנָא וְיִתַסֵי׃ כב וַאְמַר חִזקִיָה מָא אָת אְרֵי אַסַק לְבֵית מַקדְשָא דַיוי׃
Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 38:17-22
38:17 Behold, to them that obey the law, peace shall be multiplied before Thee; but Thou wilt bring bitterness to the wicked: therefore, when I knew the day of my death, I poured out my tears in prayer before Thee; my bitterness was great, but Thou hast had pleasure in my life, not to destroy it; for Thou hast cast all my sins far away from Thy presence. 38:18 For they that are in the grave do not praise Thee; neither do the dead celebrate Thee, nor do those that descend into the pit of the place of Abaddon hope for Thy salvation. 38:19 The living, the living shall praise Thee, as I do this day: the fathers unto their children shall make known Thy might, and They shall confess, saying, that all these things are truth. 38:20 The Lord has promised to save us: and we will sing the song of His praise all the days of our life in the house of the sanctuary of the Lord. 38:21 For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it on the boil, and he shall recover. 38:22 And Hezekiah said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the sanctuary of the Lord? (TgJ)
The TgJ states in verse 17, יז הָא לְעָבְדֵי אֹורָיתָא סַגִי שְלָמָא קֳדָמָך וְאַת מֵיתֵי מְרָרָא לְרַשִיעַיָא בְכֵין כַד יְדַעִית יֹום מֹותִי שְפַכִית דִמעְתִי בִצלֹו קֳדָמָך מַר לִי סַגִי וְאַת אִתרְעִיתָא בְחַיַי בְדִיל דְלָא לְחַבָלָא נַפשִי אְרֵי אַרחֵיקתָא מִן קֳדָמָך כָל חְטָאָי׃ 38:17 Behold, to them that obey the law, peace shall be multiplied before Thee; but Thou wilt bring bitterness to the wicked: therefore, when I knew the day of my death, I poured out my tears in prayer before Thee; my bitterness was great, but Thou hast had pleasure in my life, not to destroy it; for Thou hast cast all my sins far away from Thy presence. (TgJ) It is interesting how the TgJ says here obeying the law brings peace and mulitplies peace in one’s life. This is generally true, from the NT perspective we are commanded to obey the law of the land, meaning that we obey the laws that are established by our government. And when we obey God’s Torah, we generally speaking have no problems with the law of the land or country that we live in. This is the idea of obeying God’s Torah brings and multiples peace. In Isaiah 48:18, we read: “O that you had hearkened to My commandments! Then your peace would have been as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.” In the rabbinic literature, the rabbis explain that the Torah (the Five books of Moshe, Genesis through Deuteronomy) is the source of peace and harmony in the world, as it teaches us how to live in accordance with God’s will and to respect our fellow human beings. The Torah is also called truth, as it reveals the ultimate reality that God exists and it is He who created this world. By following the Torah, we align ourselves with the truth and attain peace within ourselves and with others. For example, Midrash Rabbah in Genesis, states: “Great is peace, for it is one of the names of God, as it is written: ‘And he called it God is Peace’ (Judges 6:24). Great is peace, for it is equal to the whole Torah, as it is written: ‘All its ways are peace’ (Proverbs 3:17). Great is peace, for even in times of war, peace must be sought, as it is written: ‘When you draw near to a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it’ (Deuteronomy 20:10).” Another source according to the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), we read: “Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel used to say: On three things does the world stand: On justice, on truth and on peace. As it is said: ‘Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates’ (Zechariah 8:16).” These sources along with the TgJ demonstrated how the rabbis understood the connection between the Torah, the truth, and peace all of which are essential for the well-being of humanity and the fulfillment of God’s plan. By obeying the Torah, we access the truth meaning that we are able to discern the truth and achieve peace. This is why the TgJ translates Isaiah to say “to them that obey the law, peace shall be multiplied before you.” The Talmud Bavli Berekhot 10b states the following concerning this verse in Isaiah 38:17.
Talmud Bavli Berakhot 10b:13
חִזְקִיָּהוּ תָּלָה בִּזְכוּת עַצְמוֹ, דִּכְתִיב: ״זְכָר נָא אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלַּכְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ״, תָּלוּ לוֹ בִּזְכוּת אֲחֵרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וְגַנּוֹתִי אֶל הָעִיר הַזֹּאת לְהוֹשִׁיעָהּ לְמַעֲנִי וּלְמַעַן דָּוִד עַבְדִּי״. וְהַיְינוּ דְּרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי. דְּאָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי: מַאי דִּכְתִיב ״הִנֵּה לְשָׁלוֹם מָר לִי מָר״ — אֲפִילּוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁשִּׁיגֵּר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שָׁלוֹם, מָר הוּא לוֹ.
Hezekiah, however, based his request upon his own merit, as it is written: “Please, remember that I walked before You” (Isaiah 38:3). When God answered his prayers, it was based upon the merit of others with no mention made of Hezekiah’s own merit, as it is stated: “And I will protect this city to save it, for My sake and for the sake of David, My servant” (II Kings 19:34). And that is what Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said. As Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Behold, for my peace I had great bitterness; but You have, in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption; for You have thrown all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17)? This verse teaches that even when the Holy One, Blessed be He, sent him peace and told him that he would recover from his illness, it was bitter for him, because God did not take his merit into consideration.
This passage from the Talmud Bavli Berakhot 10b:13 discusses the story of King Hezekiah, who was sick and prayed to God for healing. The passage contrasts Hezekiah’s approach to prayer with that of other biblical figures, such as Abraham, Moses, and David, who did not rely on their own merit, but rather on God’s mercy and kindness. The passage also explains why Hezekiah was bitter even after God granted him peace and recovery, because he felt that God did not appreciate his righteousness and piety. One of the most important points of this passage from the Talmud is that our obedience to God’s word is our duty, this is who we are called to be as God’s people. Should we think that God should be grateful for our being obedient to His word? Isn’t this approach a little presumptuous especially when it is us who should be grateful for the mercy of God that allows us the time to repent and be faithful? (see what Paul says in Romans 2) One of the lessons that we can learn from this passage is the importance of humility and gratitude in our relationship with God. We should not presume that we deserve God’s favor because of our good deeds, but rather acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from Him. We should also thank Him for His compassion and forgiveness, even when we feel that we have not been treated fairly or justly. By doing so, we can cultivate a deeper and more meaningful connection with our Father in heaven, and our repentance and humility will help us to experience true peace and joy in our lives. The Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 10 goes on to say the following concerning these things.
Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 10:1:12
בַּר קַפָּרָא אָמַר. אָחָז וְכָל־מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָֽרְשָׁעִים אֵין לָהֶן חֵלֶק לְעוֹלָם הַבָּא. מַה טַעַם. כָּל־מַלְכֵיהֶ֣ם נָפָ֔לוּ אֵין־קֹרֵ֥א בָהֶם֭ אֵלָֽי׃ מְתִיבִין לֵיהּ. הֲרֵי הוּא נִמְנָה בֻּפַּטֵּייָה שֶׁל מְלָכִים. בִּימֵ֨י עֻזִּיָּ֧הוּ יוֹתָ֛ם אָחָ֥ז יְחִזְקִיָּה֭וּ מַלְכֵ֥י יְהוּדָֽה׃ אֲמַר לוֹן. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיָה בוֹ בּוֹשֶׁת פָּנִים. מַה בוֹשֶׁת הָיָה בוֹ. רִבִּי אָחָא בְשֵׁם רִבִּי לָֽעְזָר רִבִּי יוֹסֵי בְשֵׁם רִבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי. אַתְּ מוֹצֵא בְשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה הַנָּבִיא בָּא לְקַטְרְגוֹ הָיָה בוֹרֵחַ לִמְקוֹם טוּמְאָה וְכוֹבֵשׁ אֶת פָּנָיו בִּמְקוֹם טוּמְאָה. לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵין שְׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה בִמְקוֹם טוּמְאָה. הָדָא הִיא דִכְתְיב וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְי אֶל־יְשַׁעְיָהוּ֒ צֵא־נָא֙ לִקְרַ֣את אָחָ֔ז אַתָּ֕ה וּשְׁאָר֭ יָשׁ֣וּב בְּנֶ֑ךָ אֶל־קְצֵ֗ה תְּעָלַת֙ הַבְּרֵיכָה הָֽעֶלְיוֹנָ֔ה אֶל־מְסִלַּת֖ שְׂדֵ֥ה כוֹבֵֽס׃ אַל תְּהֵי קוֹרֵא כוֹבֵס אֶלָּא כוֹבֵשׁ. שֶׁהָיָה כוֹבֵשׁ פָּנָיו וּבוֹרֵחַ מִמֶּנּוּ. הָא כֵיצַד. בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה הַנָּבִיא בָּא לְקַטְרְגוֹ הָיָה בוֹרֵחַ לִמְקוֹם טוּמְאָה וְכוֹבֵשׁ אֶת פָּנָיו בִּמְקוֹם טוּמְאָה. רִבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנִּתְײַסֵּר בִּבְנוֹ הַהַבְּכוֹר. מַה טַעַם. וַיַּֽהֲרֹ֞ג זִמְרִי גִּבּ֣וֹר אֶפְרַ֗יִם וגו׳. רִבִּי הוֹשַׁעְיָה רַבָּה אָמַר. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיָה אָבִיו צַדִּיק. וּמְנַשֶּׁה לֹא הָיָה אָבִיו צַדִּיק. מְנַשֶּׁה אָבִיו צַדִּיק וּבְנוֹ רָשָׁע. יְחִזָקִיָּהוּ אָבִיו רָשָׁע וּבְנוֹ רָשָׁע. הוּא שֶׁיְּחִזְקִיָּהוּ אוֹמֵר הִנֵּ֥ה לְשָׁל֖וֹם מַר־לִ֣י מָ֑ר. מַר לִי מִלְּפָנַײ מֵאָחָז. מַר לִי מֵאֲחוֹרַײ מִמְּנַשֶּׁה. אָחָז אָבִיו צַדִּיק וּבְנוֹ צַדִּיק. הָדָא הִיא דִכְתְיב. יָ֣ד לְ֭יָד לֹֽא־יִנָּ֣קֶה רָּ֑ע וְזֶרַ֖ע צַדִּיקִ֣ים נִמְלָֽט׃ וְזֶרַע צַדִּיק נִמְלָט אֵין כָּתוּב כָּאן אֶלָּא וְזֶרַ֖ע צַדִּיקִ֣ים נִמְלָֽט. זֶרַע שֶׁהוּא מוּטָּל בֵּין שְׁנֵי צַדִּיקִים נִמְלָט.
*A complete parallel to this paragraph is in Lev. rabba 36(3); a short reference is in the Babli, 104a. Bar Qappara said, Ahaz and all evil kings of Israel have no part in the World to Come. What is the reason? All their kings fell, not one of them calls to Me *Hos. 7:7. This seems to contradict Misnhah 2, where only two kings of Israel are denied part in the World to Come.. They objected to him: Is he not mentioned in the era *Greek ὑπατεία, ἡ, “consulate”, for which years are counted. of kings, in the days of Uzziahu, Yotham, Ahaz, Yeḥizqiahu the kings of Jehudah *Is. 1:1.? He answered them, because he showed shame. How did he show shame? Rebbi Aḥa in the name of Rebbi Eleazar, Rebbi Yose in the name of Rebbi Joshua ben Levi: You find that when the prophet came to accuse him *In the Midrash, “to needle him”. The change from קנטר to קטרג may be a scribal error., he fled to an impure place and buried his face in an impure place, implying that the Divine Presence does not dwell at an impure place. That is what is written *Is. 7:3.: The Eternal said to Isaiah, please go out towards Aḥaz, you and your son Še’ar Yašuv, to the end of the canal of the upper pond, to the path of the fuller’s field. Do not read fuller’s but suppressing *The argument suggests that under the influence of the Greek, שׁ,שׂ,ס all sounded the same.. He hid his face and fled before him. (How is that? When the prophet came to accuse him, he fled to an impure place and buried his face in an impure place.) *The repetition of the sentence looks like dittography, but it also appears in the Midrash text. Rebbi Jehudah *He is Rebbi. R. Jehudah ben Rabban Simeon, as spelled out in the Midrash and required for chronological reasons. says, because he was made to suffer about his firstborn son. What is the reason? Zimri, the strongman of Ephraim, killed *2Chr. 28:7. The name should be זִכְרִי not זִמְרִי. etc. Rebbi Hoshaia the Elder said, because his father was just. *From here on exists a Genizah fragment (G): L. Ginzberg, Yerushalmi Fragments, New York 1909, pp. 260–264. But was Manasse’s father not just *Mishnah 2 declares that Manasse has no part in the World to Come. It implies that Ahaz has part in the World to Come.? Manasse’s father was just but his son was evil. Hezekias’s father was evil and his son was evil. That is what Hezekias says *Is. 38:17.: Behold about peace, bitter is bitter for me. Bitter before me, from Aḥaz. Bitter after me, from Manasse. Aḥaz’s father was just and his son just, that is what is written *Prov. 11:21. The first part of the verse has differing interpretations below and in Midrash Prov. 11:21, Babli Berakhot 61a, Eruvin 18b, Sotah 4b.: hand to hand will not cleanse evil, but the seed of the just will escape. [Rebbi Phineas said.] *Addition from G. In the Midrash: R. Simon. it is not written “the seed of a just will escape” but the seed of the just will escape. The seed lying *In G: “planted between” מושתת. between two just men will escape *The Babli 104a states categorically that the good deeds of the son save the father from judgment but the merits of the father cannot save the son. This is the basis of the Qaddish ritual of modern Judaism.
Here the Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 10:1:12 discusses whether or not Ahaz, a king of Israel, has a place in the World to Come. Bar Qappara argues that he does not because he showed shame when the prophet Isaiah came to accuse him. Rebbi Aḥa and Rebbi Yose agree, citing Isaiah 7:3, which they interpret as Ahaz fleeing to an impure place and burying his face in an impure place. Rebbi Jehudah argues that Ahaz does not have a place in the World to Come because he was made to suffer about his firstborn son. Rebbi Hoshaia the Elder disagrees, arguing that Ahaz has a place in the World to Come because his father was just. Hezekiah, who was also a king of Israel, supports this argument by saying that he was “bitter” about the evil kings who came before and after him, Ahaz and Manasseh, respectively. The paragraph concludes by stating that the good deeds of the son can save the father from judgment, but the merits of the father cannot save the son.
The Major Talmudic Conclusions Concerning Ahaz and His Son Hezekiah
- Ahaz does not have a place in the World to Come because he showed shame when the prophet Isaiah came to accuse him.
- Ahaz does not have a place in the World to Come because he was made to suffer concerning his firstborn son.
- Ahaz does have a place in the World to Come because his father was just.
- The good deeds of the son can save the father from judgment, but the merits of the father cannot save the son.
The Jerusalem Talmud on Sanhedrin 10:1:12 provides a complex discussion of the criteria for who has a place in the World to Come. It is interesting to note that the paragraph ultimately concludes that the good deeds of the son can save the father from judgment, even if the father himself was not a good person. What this suggests to us is that Jewish tradition places a great emphasis on the importance of family and community, and that the good deeds of one person can benefit others. This illustrates for us how our actions can influence others, especially when we live our lives for the glory of God, walking in His ways, this can have an influence upon family members. The influence can result in either a positive or a negative effect upon family members, depending upon the rebellious nature of the family member. For some family members, in their own rebelliousness, they could choose to turn from the truth and embrace their own personal misconceptions of the truth. On the other hand, living for the Lord can lead to family members also deciding to embrace the Word of God, have faith in Yeshua the Messiah and in our Father in heaven. This is the kind of effect that the rabbis are speaking of here from the sense that the son was righteous and the father sees the righteousness of the son and redirects his life to serve the Lord rather than serving himself. When surveying the rabbinic literature, the rabbis have differing opinions and interpretations on the issue of whether the good deeds of the son can save the father from judgment. The following is a list of some of the sources that discuss this topic.
Sources that Discuss Interpretations on the Son influencing the Father
- The Talmud in Sanhedrin 104a, states: “Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: The son can bring merit to his father, as it is stated: “And he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done” (II Chronicles 26:4). This verse teaches that King Uzziah was credited with the good deeds of his son Jotham, even though he himself had sinned and was punished with leprosy.”
- The Talmud in Shabbat 32a, states: “Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: A son can save his father from a severe decree through his prayer and through his Torah study. As it is stated: “And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21). The rabbis say the verse should have said: “And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife. What is the meaning of “opposite his wife”? Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: This teaches that Isaac said before God: Master of the Universe, if it is revealed and known before You that there is no sin in my hands preventing me from having children, let children be granted to me for the sake of my father’s merit. And Rebecca said before God: Master of the Universe, if it is revealed and known before You that there is no sin in my hands preventing me from having children, let children be granted to me for the sake of my husband’s merit. Therefore, it is written “opposite,” indicating that they each prayed for a different reason.”
- The Midrash in Genesis Rabbah 63:6, which says: “Rabbi Levi said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Abraham: ‘I will not punish your children for their sins until I have first punished you for your sins.’ As it is written: ‘And it came to pass after these things, that God tested Abraham’ (Genesis 22:1). And what was Abraham’s sin? He had said to God: ‘What will You give me seeing I go childless?’ (Genesis 15:2). Therefore, God said to him: ‘Take now your son’ (Genesis 22:2). And when Abraham passed the test and was willing to sacrifice his son, God said to him: ‘By Myself have I sworn…because you have done this thing…I will greatly bless you…and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 22:16-18). This means that I will not punish your children for their sins until I have first blessed you for your merit.”
These sources show that the rabbis have differing ways of understanding the relationship between the father and the son in terms of judgment and reward. Some rabbis argue that the son can save or benefit his father by his good deeds, prayer, or Torah study. Other rabbis argue that the father can save or benefit his son by his good deeds or merit. Some rabbis also suggest that there is a balance or reciprocity between the father and the son, so that each one can influence the other for good or bad. The idea that the son or the father having and influence upon one another for good or bad is the most viable option, since we also note that the scriptures tell us that the father will not be put to death for the sins of the son and the son is not to be put to death for the sins of the father. We see this in the following places in the Scriptures.
Scriptures that Speak of the Responsibility of One’s Sins
- Devarim / Deuteronomy 24:16, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (לֹֽא־יוּמְת֤וּ אָבוֹת֙ עַל־בָּנִ֔ים וּבָנִ֖ים לֹא־יוּמְת֣וּ עַל־אָב֑וֹת אִ֥ישׁ בְּחֶטְא֖וֹ יוּמָֽתוּ׃)
- Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַחֹטֵ֖את הִ֣יא תָמ֑וּת בֵּ֞ן לֹא־יִשָּׂ֣א׀ בַּעֲוֺ֣ן הָאָ֗ב וְאָב֙ לֹ֤א יִשָּׂא֙ בַּעֲוֺ֣ן הַבֵּ֔ן צִדְקַ֤ת הַצַּדִּיק֙ עָלָ֣יו תִּֽהְיֶ֔ה וְרִשְׁעַ֥ת רָשָׁע עָלָ֥יו תִּֽהְיֶֽה׃)
- Jeremiah 31:30, “But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (כִּ֛י אִם־אִ֥ישׁ בַּעֲוֺנ֖וֹ יָמ֑וּת כָּל־הָֽאָדָ֛ם הָאֹכֵ֥ל הַבֹּ֖סֶר תִּקְהֶ֥ינָה שִׁנָּֽיו׃)
These verses suggest that God judges each person individually based on their own actions and choices, and does not hold them accountable for the sins of their ancestors or descendants. However, there are also verses that indicate that God visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments. Some of these verses are as follows:
Scriptures that Speak of being Accountable for Sins of Ancestors or Descendants
- Shemot / Exodus 20:5-6, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (לֹֽא־תִשְׁתַּחְוֶ֥֣ה לָהֶ֖ם֮ וְלֹ֣א תָעָבְדֵ֑ם֒ כִּ֣י אָֽנֹכִ֞י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ אֵ֣ל קַנָּ֔א פֹּ֠קֵד עֲוֺ֨ן אָבֹ֧ת עַל־בָּנִ֛ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֥ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִ֖ים לְשֹׂנְאָֽ֑י׃ וְעֹ֥֤שֶׂה חֶ֖֙סֶד֙ לַאֲלָפִ֑֔ים לְאֹהֲבַ֖י וּלְשֹׁמְרֵ֥י מִצְוֺתָֽי׃)
- Bamidbar / Numbers 14:18, “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (יְהוָ֗ה אֶ֤רֶךְ אַפַּ֙יִם֙ וְרַב־חֶ֔סֶד נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֺ֖ן וָפָ֑שַׁע וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה פֹּקֵ֞ד עֲוֺ֤ן אָבוֹת֙ עַל־בָּנִ֔ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֖ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִֽים׃)
- Isaiah 65:6-7, “Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom, Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.” (הִנֵּ֥ה כְתוּבָ֖ה לְפָנָ֑י לֹ֤א אֶחֱשֶׂה֙ כִּ֣י אִם־שִׁלַּ֔מְתִּי וְשִׁלַּמְתִּ֖י עַל־חֵיקָֽם׃ עֲ֠וֺנֹתֵיכֶם וַעֲוֺנֹ֨ת אֲבוֹתֵיכֶ֤ם יַחְדָּו֙ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר קִטְּרוּ֙ עַל־הֶ֣הָרִ֔ים וְעַל־הַגְּבָע֖וֹת חֵרְפ֑וּנִי וּמַדֹּתִ֧י פְעֻלָּתָ֛ם רִֽאשֹׁנָ֖ה עַל־חֵיקָֽם׃)
These verses suggest that God punishes or rewards people not only for their own sins or merits, but also for those of their ancestors or descendants. This may imply that God considers people as part of a collective or covenantal relationship with Him, and that their actions have consequences for themselves and their generations. This suggests that there is to be accountability amongst the community with one another. In addition, we reconcile these things from the sense that the children will learn the sins of their fathers. We note that the verses that speak of individual responsibility are referring to cases where a person repents or rebels against their father’s sin or righteousness. In such cases, God judges them according to their own choice and does not hold them accountable for their father’s deeds. The verses that speak of generational consequences are referring to cases where a person follows or approves of their father’s sin or righteousness. Just like it states in various places in the Nevi’im (Prophets) section of the Tanakh how the sons walk in the ways of their father in sin. In such cases, God judges them as part of a group or a family that shares a common fate or blessing. The verses that speak of individual responsibility are referring to cases where a person is judged by God directly and personally. In such cases, God judges them according to their own deeds and does not hold them accountable for their father’s deeds. The verses that speak of generational consequences are referring to cases where a person is judged by human authorities or natural laws. In such cases, God allows them to be affected by their father’s deeds through social or physical factors. All of these things shed light on how these verses harmonize together and illustrate how there is no contradiction in the Scriptures. The conclusion is that ultimately, we trust that God is just and merciful in His judgment and His dealings with us and our generations, and as His people we should be seeking his holy and righteous ways all the days of our lives.
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 38:18-21 from the TgJ, יח אְרֵי לָא דְבִשאֹול מֹודַן קֳדָמָך מִיתַיָא לָא מְשַבְחִין לָך לָא מְסַבְרִין נָחְתֵי גוּב בֵית אַבדָנָא לְפֻרקָנָך׃ 38:18 For they that are in the grave do not praise Thee; neither do the dead celebrate Thee, nor do those that descend into the pit of the place of Abaddon hope for Thy salvation. יט דְחַי חַי הוּא יֹודֵי קֳדָמָך כְוָתִי יֹומָא דֵין אְבָהָן לִבנֵיהֹון יְחַוֹון גְבוּרְתָך וְיֹודֹון לְמֵימַר דְכָל אִלֵין קְשֹוט׃ 38:19 The living, the living shall praise Thee, as I do this day: the fathers unto their children shall make known Thy might, and They shall confess, saying, that all these things are truth. כ יוי לְמִפרְקִנַנָא אְמַר וְנִיגוּן תוּשְבְחָתֵיה נְנַגֵין כָל יֹומֵי חַיַינָא עַל בֵית מַקדְשָא דַיוי׃ 38:20 The Lord has promised to save us: and we will sing the song of His praise all the days of our life in the house of the sanctuary of the Lord. כא וַאְמַר יְשַעיָה יִסְבוּן דִבלַת תֵינִין וְיִסרְטוּן עַל שִחנָא וְיִתַסֵי׃ 38:21 For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it on the boil, and he shall recover. כב וַאְמַר חִזקִיָה מָא אָת אְרֵי אַסַק לְבֵית מַקדְשָא דַיוי׃38:22 And Hezekiah said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the sanctuary of the Lord? (TgJ) Rashi writes about these passages in his commentary to say the following:
Rashi on Isaiah 38:21 Parts 1-2
דבלת תאנים. דבלת העשויה מתאנים כשהן לחין קרויין תאנים וכשנדרסין בעיגול קרויין דבלה:
a cake of pressed figs (דְּבֶלֶת) A pressed cake made from figs. When they are fresh, they are called תְּאֵנִים, and when they are pressed into a circular cake, they are called דְּבֵלָה.
וימרחו. ויחליקוה לדבקה על השחין ונס בתוך נס היה שאף בשר חי שנותנין עליו דבלה מסריח אלא הקב”ה נותן דבר המחבל לתוך דבר המתחבל ומרפא:
and lay it for a plaster And they shall smooth it out to cause it to adhere to the boil, and this was a miracle within a miracle, for, even healthy flesh, upon which pressed figs are placed, decays. But the Holy One, blessed be He, places an injurious substance upon vulnerable tissue, and it heals.
Rashi on Isaiah 38:22 Part 1
מה אות. מה טוב ומה נאה אות זה הניתן לי אשר אעלה בית ה’:
What a sign How good and how beautiful is this sign which is given to me that I will go up to the house of the Lord!
These verses speak about how Hezekiah, king of Judah, was sick with a terminal illness, He asked God to heal him, God promises Hezekiah that he will be healed, but he will add 15 years to his life, Hezekiah recovers, and he thanks God for his mercy, and then Hezekiah promises to dedicate his life to God, and he asks the Lord God to save Judah from the Assyrians. We read then that the Lord God promises Hezekiah that he will protect Judah, and he will punish the Assyrians. Both these passages and Rashi illustrate for us God’s mercy and love for His people. These Scriptures also serve to show the importance of faith and prayer. Hezekiah was confident in God, and he believed that he would heal him. God answered Hezekiah’s prayers, and he healed him. Hezekiah was grateful to God for his mercy, and he promised to dedicate his life to God. These Scriptures, along with the rabbinic commentary function as a reminder that Lord God of Israel is always with us, and he is always there to help us. We need to be confident in the Lord, and we need to believe that he will be there for us, even in the most difficult times. In addition to these things, the miracle of Hezekiah’s healing is a reminder that God is still in the business of miracles today. We should never give up hope, no matter how dire our circumstances may seem. Hezekiah’s commitment to God is an inspiration to us all. He was willing to dedicate his life to the Lord, even in the face of death. We should all strive to have the same level of faith and commitment to God. The Assyrians were a powerful enemy, but God was able to defeat them. This is a reminder that God is always greater than our enemies. We can trust him to protect us and to help us overcome any obstacle. Praise the Lord for His great mercy, and for His giving His Son Yeshua for the salvation of our souls!