The Power of Prayer and the Psalm of Hezekiah, ישעיהו לח:ו-י / Isaiah 38,6-10

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Introduction to Isaiah 38:6-10

This week we are looking at Isaiah 38:6-10. According to commentaries on Isaiah, authors state that Isaiah 38:9-20 is considered a Psalm. John Oswalt’s commentary states that this psalm does not fit the standard form saying that the psalm provides the expectation of a thanksgiving hymn but ends on a different note where the content does not support the idea of thanksgiving. The other idea is that this is a lamentation, but again the psalm also does not have the appearance of lamentation. The idea here is that the story of Hezekiah almost dying, and then God restoring him and giving him 15 more years demonstrates the position that we have before God from the sense that we are helpless, and God is all powerful. Death has power over everyone here on earth, and we all are on this path towards death, regardless of how much wealth that one has it is impossible to avoid the mortality of man. The narrative here in Isaiah 38 reveals to us how God has the power to snatch a person from the gates of death and restore a person to complete health. God has demonstrated this multiple times throughout history, and in His son, Yeshua raising him from the grave (consider also Lazarus see John 11:1-44), all of these things provide good reason to trust in the Lord God Almighty in heaven for everything. When we read the NT text, we read about the power of God in relation to the power of resurrection that is coupled to faith in Yeshua. The New Testament text describes Yeshua as having the power to raise others from the dead such as what we read here according to John 11:21-27.

John 11:21–27  
11:21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 11:23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 11:24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 11:27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. (KJV 21 εἶπεν οὖν °ἡ Μάρθα πρὸς °1τὸν Ἰησοῦν· °2κύριε,* εἰ ἦς ὧδε ⸉οὐκ ἂν ⸀ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου⸊· 22 °[ἀλλὰ] καὶ νῦν οἶδα ὅτι ὅσα ἂν ⸀αἰτήσῃ τὸν θεὸν δώσει σοι ὁ θεός.* 23 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἀναστήσεται ὁ ἀδελφός σου.* 24 λέγει αὐτῷ °ἡ Μάρθα· οἶδα ὅτι ἀναστήσεται ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. 25 εἶπεν ⸆ αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις ⸋καὶ ἡ ζωή⸌· ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ κἂν ἀποθάνῃ ⸀ζήσεται,* 26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ζῶν καὶ πιστεύων ⸋εἰς ἐμὲ⸌ οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. πιστεύεις τοῦτο;* 27 λέγει αὐτῷ· ναὶ κύριε ⸆, ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐρχόμενος.*)

Here Yeshua said “I am the resurrection and the life” providing us with a picture of the power and authority that He has been given by God as Mashiah (Messiah). This is further illustrated following these statements where Yeshua went to Lazarus’ grave, all he did was call out to him to come out of the grave and he did! In Yeshua the power of God was present to command the dead to rise to life! In John 11, Yeshua raises Lazarus from the dead. This event is significant because it demonstrates Yeshua’s power over death and foreshadows his own resurrection. In addition, the story of Lazarus is significant because it shows that Yeshua also has compassion for his followers and is willing to go to great lengths to help them. In addition to this significant event, the resurrection of Yeshua is one of the most important events in human history in relation to the revelation of God in His power to overcome this world and deliver His people. We note that in Hezekiah’s case, he drew near to death and God delivered. In Lazarus and Yeshua’s case death came and the power of God overcame death and the grave. The point is the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God! 

In Revelation 1:18, Yeshua told John that He holds the keys of hell and of death. This verse is interpreted by many to mean that Yeshua has power over death and the afterlife. The phrase “keys of hell and of death” is also interpreted to mean that Yeshua has the power to release people from the bondage of death and hell.

Revelation 1:13–18  
1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (KJV 13 καὶ ⸂ἐν μέσῳ⸃ τῶν ⸆ λυχνιῶν ⸀ὅμοιον ⸁υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου ἐνδεδυμένον ποδήρη καὶ περιεζωσμένον πρὸς τοῖς ⸀1μαστοῖς ζώνην χρυσᾶν.* 14 ἡ δὲ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ καὶ αἱ τρίχες ⸂λευκαὶ ὡς ἔριον λευκὸν⸃* ὡς χιὼν καὶ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ ὡς φλὸξ πυρὸς 15 καὶ οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὅμοιοι χαλκολιβάνῳ ὡς ⸂ἐν καμίνῳ⸃ ⸀πεπυρωμένης καὶ ἡ φωνὴ αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὑδάτων πολλῶν,* 16 ⸂καὶ ἔχων⸃* ἐν τῇ ⸄δεξιᾷ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ⸅ ⸀ἀστέρας ἑπτὰ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ῥομφαία δίστομος ὀξεῖα ἐκπορευομένη καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ ⸂1ὡς ὁ ἥλιος φαίνει⸃ ἐν τῇ δυνάμει αὐτοῦ. 17 Καὶ ὅτε εἶδον αὐτόν,* ἔπεσα ⸀πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ὡς νεκρός, καὶ ⸁ἔθηκεν τὴν δεξιὰν αὐτοῦ ⸆ ἐπʼ ἐμὲ λέγων· ⸋μὴ φοβοῦ·⸌* ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ⸀1πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος 18 καὶ ὁ ζῶν,* καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρὸς καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶν εἰμι εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ⸆ καὶ ἔχω τὰς κλεῖς τοῦ ⸉θανάτου καὶ τοῦ ᾅδου⸊.*)

The emphasis here is on the restorative power of God to overcome sin and death. Hezekiah’s mortality is an example of faith and restoration. We note that Hezekiah did not die to be raised again, he was not the promised Messiah. Hezekiah did trust in the God of Israel and led the nation in the ways of God destroying the idolatry in the land, his faithfulness and actions led to God working powerfully in his life. This illustrates for us how important it is to not overlook the significance of our actions which are called the works of righteousness that were prepared beforehand (maasim tovim, Ephesians 2:10). Hezekiah embodies this kind of faith, the same kind of faith that we are supposed to have, to serve God and to lead others to the Lord in Yeshua the promised Messiah. The outcome of these things is to direct our attention to the God of Israel and to His Mashiakh. The power of God is demonstrated through resurrection and restoration, and the Scriptures provide us with the historical record of how God has done these things, and how we can trust in Him! 

Hebrew Bible (MSS) on Isaiah 38:6-10

Isaiah continues saying the following according to Isaiah 38:6.

ספר ישעיה פרק לח
ו   וּמִכַּף מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר אַצִּילְךָ וְאֵת הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְגַנּוֹתִי עַל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת: 

Isaiah 38:6 states, “And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. (וּמִכַּף מֶלֶךְ-אַשּׁוּר אַצִּילְךָ וְאֵת הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְגַנּוֹתִי עַל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת)” Here we see how there is some overlap into Isaiah 36-37, since we are being told that God will deliver Hezekiah and the city from the hand of the king of Assyria. So some commentaries state that this is proof that Hezekia’s illness was prior to the Assyrian invasion. The issue is that the Lord God had killed a large number of Assyrian men in the army, and Sennacherib had returned home, but that did not bring comfort to Hezekiah from the sense that this would not prevent Assyria from attacking again a number of years later. So included in this the Lord God provides Hezekiah with a sign that would demonstrate he should not fear the Assyrians returning in his lifetime. So historically what Isaiah prophecies here came true, there was no Assyrian army that ever-captured Jerusalem. 

Isaiah continues saying the following according to Isaiah 38:7-8.

ספר ישעיה פרק לח
ז   וְזֶה-לְּךָ הָאוֹת מֵאֵת יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶֹה יְהֹוָה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר: ח   הִנְנִי מֵשִׁיב אֶת-צֵל הַמַּעֲלוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָרְדָה בְמַעֲלוֹת אָחָז בַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ אֲחֹרַנִּית עֶשֶֹר מַעֲלוֹת וַתָּשָׁב הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עֶשֶֹר מַעֲלוֹת בַּמַּעֲלוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָרָדָה: 

Isaiah 38:7 states, “And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; (וְזֶה-לְּךָ הָאוֹת מֵאֵת יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶֹה יְהֹוָה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר)” Isaiah 38:8 “Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. (הִנְנִי מֵשִׁיב אֶת-צֵל הַמַּעֲלוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָרְדָה בְמַעֲלוֹת אָחָז בַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ אֲחֹרַנִּית עֶשֶֹר מַעֲלוֹת וַתָּשָׁב הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עֶשֶֹר מַעֲלוֹת בַּמַּעֲלוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָרָדָה)” Note here the narrative from 2 Kings 1-10 that records these events here in Isaiah 38. Specifically let’s look at 2 Kings 6-10.

2 Kings 20:6–10  
20:6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. 20:7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. 20:8 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? 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? 20:10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. (KJV וְהֹסַפְתִּ֣י עַל־יָמֶ֗יךָ חֲמֵ֤שׁ עֶשְׂרֵה֙ שָׁנָ֔ה וּמִכַּ֤ף מֶֽלֶךְ־אַשּׁוּר֙ אַצִּ֣ילְךָ֔ וְאֵ֖ת הָעִ֣יר הַזֹּ֑את וְגַנּוֹתִי֙ עַל־הָעִ֣יר הַזֹּ֔את לְמַֽעֲנִ֔י וּלְמַ֖עַן דָּוִ֥ד עַבְדִּֽי׃ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְשַֽׁעְיָ֔הוּ קְח֖וּ דְּבֶ֣לֶת תְּאֵנִ֑ים וַיִּקְח֛וּ וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ עַֽל־הַשְּׁחִ֖ין וַיֶּֽחִי׃ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר חִזְקִיָּ֙הוּ֙ אֶֽל־יְשַׁעְיָ֔הוּ מָ֣ה א֔וֹת כִּֽי־יִרְפָּ֥א יְהוָ֖ה לִ֑י וְעָלִ֛יתִי בַּיּ֥וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֖י בֵּ֥ית יְהוָֽה׃ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְשַׁעְיָ֗הוּ זֶה־לְּךָ֤ הָאוֹת֙ מֵאֵ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֚י יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה אֶת־הַדָּבָ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר הָלַ֤ךְ הַצֵּל֙ עֶ֣שֶׂר מַֽעֲל֔וֹת אִם־יָשׁ֖וּב עֶ֥שֶׂר מַעֲלֽוֹת׃ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ יְחִזְקִיָּ֔הוּ נָקֵ֣ל לַצֵּ֔ל לִנְט֖וֹת עֶ֣שֶׂר מַעֲל֑וֹת לֹ֣א כִ֔י יָשׁ֥וּב הַצֵּ֛ל אֲחֹרַנִּ֖ית עֶ֥שֶׂר מַעֲלֽוֹת׃)

This record in 2 Kings denotes the difference between Hezekiah and his father Ahaz. Here Hezekiah asks for a sign, and in Ahaz’s case he had refused to ask for a sign. So, we see here how Hezekiah wants to trust in the Lord God whereas Ahaz did not. When we look at this prophecy and what God had done turning back the sundial, there are a number of conspiracy theories that have been developed over time in regard to this. Bible conspiracy theories encompass various claims suggesting that the Bible holds concealed messages, codes, or prophecies that unveil hidden truths about history, the future, and border on the line of divining the supernatural which is forbidden by God. These theories often rely on methods like numerology, gematria, anagrams, and other textual manipulations. So, the biblical text here revolves around the story of the sundial of Ahaz from 2 Kings 20:6-10 and Isaiah 38:7-8. According to Isaiah’s prophecy God turned back time by 10 degrees as a miraculous sign for King Hezekiah, who was gravely ill. The various commentaries on this text suggest a few approaches to this prophecy, (i) we can believe that God literally changed the rotation of the earth to move the sun backwards to perform this miracle or (ii) we could assume that God used some angle of refraction in the atmosphere that caused the light to refract back 10 degrees.  There are some who doubt the power of God and so they state in their commentaries that God simply altered Hezekiah’s vision to see the change, that this happened to those who were with Hezekiah, his servants, and Isaiah since there is no indication that the sign was visible to anyone else besides Hezekiah and his servants, suggesting this was only a local phenomenon or a subjective perception. Other commentators such as G. A. Smith states that the dying king was watching from his bed as the shadow descended the steps. He states how easily he could have associated his own ebbing strength with the lengthening shadow and then hallucinate that he saw this miracle. We note that we have to be very careful when we interpret scripture such that we do not draw in doubt in God’s word. I would say that the likeliness method that God used was a light refraction technique by altering the composition of the atmosphere temporarily. And we don’t know how fast (at what rate) the light traveled backwards, it could have happened very rapidly, the text does not indicate, so there are a lot of assumptions that go into how this miracle could have taken place. The point is that the miracle did take place regardless of how the Lord God performed the miracle. The most important thing to remember is that we should seek to understand and apply the Bible in its historical, literary, and theological context, with the aid of reliable tools and resources, while praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit during our study and meditation upon the word of God. 

Isaiah continues to say the following according to Isaiah 38:9-10.

ספר ישעיה פרק לח
ט   מִכְתָּב לְחִזְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה בַּחֲלֹתוֹ וַיְחִי מֵחָלְיוֹ: י   אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי בִּדְמִי יָמַי אֵלֵכָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵי שְׁאוֹל פֻּקַּדְתִּי יֶתֶר שְׁנוֹתָי:

Isaiah 38:9 states, “The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: (מִכְתָּב לְחִזְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה בַּחֲלֹתוֹ וַיְחִי מֵחָלְיוֹ)” Isaiah 38:10 “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. (אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי בִּדְמִי יָמַי אֵלֵכָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵי שְׁאוֹל פֻּקַּדְתִּי יֶתֶר שְׁנוֹתָי)” Here is the beginning of the Psalm that Hezekiah wrote upon his being healed from his sickness. Here again there are commentators that want to slice and dice the book of Isaiah doubting the authenticity of God’s Word. We note the significance of entertaining doubt. The Holy Scriptures (the Bible) is not only a book of information, but also a book of transformation. It teaches us how to live a godly life that pleases God and bears fruit for His glory. Yeshua said, אִם עוֹמְדִים אַתֶּם בִּי וּדְבָרַי עוֹמְדִים בָּכֶם, בַּקְּשׁוּ מַה שֶּׁתִּרְצוּ, וְיִהְיֶה לָכֶם.בְּזֹאת יְפֹאַר אָבִי׃שֶׁתַּעֲשׂוּ פְּרִי לָרֹב וְתִהְיוּ לִי לְתַלְמִידִים. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:7-8 NKJV). Abiding is walking in Yeshua’s footsteps and not turning to the left or the right. If we doubt the Word of God, we will not abide in Yeshua and His words, and we will not bear much fruit for the glory of our Father in heaven. We will be like branches that are cut off from the vine and wither away. (John 15:6) There are a lot of reasons why doubt has no place in the lives of God’s people. If we doubt, we could miss out on the promises of God. The Torah, Prophets, Writings (Tanakh) and the NT text contain many promises of God for His people. These promises are based upon His faithfulness and power to deliver. This gives us hope, peace, joy, and assurance in this life and in the next. The issue with doubting the Word of God is that we will not take these promises as ours being his children either natural born or grafted in children, the promises belong to God’s people. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:4 saying, “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (NKJV) If we doubt, we miss out on the blessings of God that He has prepared for us. The outcome of this then is the lack of fruit in one’s life. We note how the Scriptures are not just a compilation of historical information, it is a gook of transformation! The Scriptures teach us how to live a godly life that pleases God and bears fruit for His glory. Again, the idea of abiding is to take God’s word and apply it to our lives, and if we doubt, this falls short, and the consequences lead to gloom and helplessness. The recurring theme in these verses i.e. “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.” (אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי בִּדְמִי יָמַי אֵלֵכָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵי שְׁאוֹל פֻּקַּדְתִּי יֶתֶר שְׁנוֹתָי) is of ultimately death and the waning away of the prime of life. Hezekiah realizes here that suddenly all of his years have come to an end and realizes the volatility of the morality of man. We are not guaranteed tomorrow! Every day is a gift from God! This experience that Hezekiah is providing for us from the pages of the Scriptures helps us to face these truths about our lives, and how important it is to live for the Lord God of Israel and to abide in the Messiah Yeshua! The point is that we have an eternal destiny, if we keep the faith and walk in God’s holy ways, we are promised that the Lord God Almighty will always be us and we can face anything that comes our way in this life!

Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 38:6-10

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:ו-י
ו      וּמִיַד מַלכָא דְאַתוּר אְשֵיזְבִינָך וְיָת קַרתָא הָדָא וְאַגֵין עַל קַרתָא הָדָא׃ ז      וְדֵין לָך אָתָא מִן קֳדָם יוי דְיַעְבֵיד יָת פִתגָמָא הָדֵין דְמַלֵיל׃ ח      הָאְנָא מְתִיב יָת טוּל אַבַן שָעַיָא דִנחַתַת בְמַסְקַנָא דְאָחָז שִמשָא לַאְחֹורֹוהִי עְסַר שָעָן וְתָב שִמשָא עְסַר שָעָן בְצוּרַת אַבַן שָעַיָא דִנחַתַת׃ ט      כְתָב אֹודָאָה עַל נִסָא דְאִתעְבֵיד לְחִזקִיָה מַלַך שִבטָא דְבֵית יְהוּדָה כַד מְרַע וְאִתַסִי מִמַרעֵיה׃ י      אְנָא אְמַרִית בְדָוֹון יֹומַי אְהָך בְתַרעֵי שְאֹול עָל דוּכרָנִי לְטָב אִיתֹוסַף עַל שְנָי׃

Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 38:6-10
38:6 And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. 38:7 And this shall be a sign unto thee from before the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He hath promised. 38:8 Behold, I will turn back the shadow on the hour-lines by which the sun is gone down on the dial of Ahaz, ten hours backwards. And the sun returned ten hours on the figure of the hour-lines, which it had gone down. 38:9 THE WRITING OF THE THANKSGIVING FOR THE MIRACLE, WHICH HAD BEEN DONE FOR HEZEKIAH, THE KING OF THE TRIBE OF THE HOUSE OF JUDAH, WHEN HE HAD BEEN SICK, AND WAS HEALED OF HIS SICKNESS. 38:10 I said in the sorrow of my days, I shall go into the gates of the grave; but because He remembered me for good, an addition hath been made to my years. (TgJ)

The Talmudic passage from Sanhedrin 94a on Isaiah 38:8 provides a unique perspective on this event described in the Bible. The Talmudic passage sees the event as a sign of God’s mercy and power, and as a reminder that God is always willing to show mercy to those who repent. Isaiah states according to the Targum translation, ו      וּמִיַד מַלכָא דְאַתוּר אְשֵיזְבִינָך וְיָת קַרתָא הָדָא וְאַגֵין עַל קַרתָא הָדָא׃ 38:6 And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. ז      וְדֵין לָך אָתָא מִן קֳדָם יוי דְיַעְבֵיד יָת פִתגָמָא הָדֵין דְמַלֵיל׃ 38:7 And this shall be a sign unto thee from before the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He hath promised. ח      הָאְנָא מְתִיב יָת טוּל אַבַן שָעַיָא דִנחַתַת בְמַסְקַנָא דְאָחָז שִמשָא לַאְחֹורֹוהִי עְסַר שָעָן וְתָב שִמשָא עְסַר שָעָן בְצוּרַת אַבַן שָעַיָא דִנחַתַת׃ 38:8 Behold, I will turn back the shadow on the hour-lines by which the sun is gone down on the dial of Ahaz, ten hours backwards. And the sun returned ten hours on the figure of the hour-lines, which it had gone down. (TgJ) Here the TgJ adds to what we read according to the Masoretic text. The TgJ provides us with the amount of time that God dialed backwards, 10 hours’ time as a sign for Hezekiah that the Lord God of Israel would do this thing that He promised through Isaiah. The Talmud interprets the event described in Isaiah 38:8 here as a sign of God’s mercy on Hezekiah. The Talmudic passage in question states: “Rav Ashi said: When the shadow went back ten degrees, it was not because Hezekiah had merited ten years more of life, but rather because God wanted to show His mercy on him. For if the shadow had not gone back, people would have said that Hezekiah had died because he had sinned.” The Talmudic passage goes on to say that God’s mercy on Hezekiah was also a sign of God’s power and authority. The passage states: “The sun is a great light, and the shadow is a great darkness. But when God wanted to show His mercy on Hezekiah, He made the sun go back ten degrees, and the shadow went back ten degrees. This is a sign that God is the master of the sun and the shadow, and that He can do whatever He wants.” The Talmudic passage concludes by saying that the event described in Isaiah 38:8 is a reminder that God is always merciful to those who repent. The rabbis conclude these events saying that “This is a lesson for all of us. If we repent, God will show us mercy, even if we have sinned greatly. This event in Hezekiah’s life illustrates the power of God to control His creation. Note how if we have trouble believing this event as most commentaries state on Isaiah 38:8, then one has to also deny other parts of the bible. For example, In Midrash Rabbah on Bereshit / Genesis 44:4, there is a comment about how God can change the order of nature for the sake of His righteous ones. The comment cites Isaiah 38:8 as an example of how God made the sun go back ten degrees for Hezekiah and compares it to how God made the sun stand still for Joshua in Joshua 10:13. Note that if one does not believe the power of God to work a miracle for Hezekiah, then one cannot believe the words in the book of Joshua either. Another example is from Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 1:51, there is a comment about how God can shorten or lengthen the days for His will. The comment cites Isaiah 38:8 as an example of how God lengthened the day by ten degrees for Hezekiah and compares it to how God lengthened the day by two hours for Moses in Shemot / Exodus 34:28. Again, if it is believed that God cannot do this miracle for Hezekiah, then one also cannot believe the testimony of Moshe according to the book of Shemot / Exodus. What these things reveal to us is how faith in God’s word requires us to believe all that is written in the Tanakh and the NT text. What these things teach us is If we hiccup in our faith in one area, there will always be compromises in other areas of faith! Rashi states the following according to his commentary on Isaiah 38:8.

Rashi on Isaiah 38:8 Parts 1-3
הנני משיב. אחורנית עשר מעלות את הצל אשר ירדה:
Behold I return the shade backwards ten steps which it went down.
צל המעלות. כמין מדרגות עשויות כנגד החמה לבחון בהם שעות היום כעין אורלוגין שעושין האומנין:
the shade of the steps A sort of steps made opposite the sun to determine the hours of the day, like the clocks (horloge in French) that craftsmen make (sectarians make [Parshandatha]).
אשר ירדה. מיהרה לירד ונתקצר היום י’ שעות ביום שמת אחז כדי שלא יהו מספידין אותו ועלו עכשיו לאחוריהם ביום שנתרפא חזקיהו וניתוספו על היום י’ שעות:
that it went down It hastened to go down, and the day was shortened by ten hours on the day Ahaz died, in order that they should not eulogize him, and now they went backwards on the day Hezekiah recovered, and ten hours were added to the day.

Something to note about what God did in regard to turning back the clock, here Rashi claims that this shortened the day as opposed to lengthening the day. The miracle of moving the sun back 10 steps did not change the position of the sun to lengthen the day, the sun continued to go down at the correct time. This interpretation would lead to the understanding that God did not stop the rotation of the earth, but provided some kind of atmospheric composition change that led to a change in the light refraction index and caused the light to travel back as Isaiah had prophesied would be a sign for Ahaz. Rashi’s reasoning is that the day was shortened so that the people would not have to eulogize Hezekiah, and so the Lord returned the day back to its normal time, lengthening the day, because of the miracle of healing. 

Isaiah goes on according to the TgJ saying, ט      כְתָב אֹודָאָה עַל נִסָא דְאִתעְבֵיד לְחִזקִיָה מַלַך שִבטָא דְבֵית יְהוּדָה כַד מְרַע וְאִתַסִי מִמַרעֵיה׃ 38:9 THE WRITING OF THE THANKSGIVING FOR THE MIRACLE, WHICH HAD BEEN DONE FOR HEZEKIAH, THE KING OF THE TRIBE OF THE HOUSE OF JUDAH, WHEN HE HAD BEEN SICK, AND WAS HEALED OF HIS SICKNESS. י      אְנָא אְמַרִית בְדָוֹון יֹומַי אְהָך בְתַרעֵי שְאֹול עָל דוּכרָנִי לְטָב אִיתֹוסַף עַל שְנָי׃38:10 I said in the sorrow of my days, I shall go into the gates of the grave; but because He remembered me for good, an addition hath been made to my years. (TgJ) These are the words that open the Psalm of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:9-20). Here Hezekiah foresaw himself dying and in his great joy of God’s healing composed this testimony of his deliverance, how God had remembered him and added to his years. The Midrash Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 52:9 writes the following concerning these verses. 

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 52:9
המופת השביעי, מיום שנבראו שמים וארץ לא היה אדם חולה ויחיה ויעמוד מחליו, עד שבא חזקיהו מלך יהודה בחלותו ויחי מחליו. התחיל מתפלל לפני הב”ה ואמר, אנא ה’ זכור נא את אשר התהלכתי לפניך באמת ובצדקה ובלבב שלם והטוב בעיניך עשיתי. ונעתר לו, שנ’ הנני מוסיף על ימיך חמש עשרה שנה. אמר לפני הב”ה, רבון כל העולמים תן לי אות כי אעלה בית ה’. אמ’ לו, אחז אביך כובש במזלות היה והיה משתחוה לשמש והשמש היה בורח מלפניו וירד במעליו עשר מעלות, אם רוצה אתה ירד עשר מעלות או יעלה עשר מעלות. אמ’ לפניו, רבון כל העולמים לא אותן המעלות שירד יחזור ויעמד במקומו, שנ’ כי לא ישוב הצל אחורנית במעלות אשר ירדה. ונעתר לו הב”ה, שנ’ הנני משיב את צל המעלות אשר ירדה. וראו כל מלכי ארץ ותמהו שלא היה כמהו מיום שנברא העולם, ושלחו לראות את המופת, שנ’ וכן במליצי שרי מלך בבל המושלחים עליו לדרוש את המופת אשר היה בארץ.
The seventh wonder (was): From the day when the heavens and earth had been created there had never been a sick man who had recovered from his sickness, until Hezekiah, king of Judah, came and fell sick and (yet) he recovered, as it is said, “The writing of Hezekiah, king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness” (Isa. 38:9). He began to pray before the Holy One, blessed be He, saying: Sovereign of all worlds! “Now, O Lord, remember, I beseech thee, how I walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (2 Kings 20:3); and He was entreated of him, as it is said, “Behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (Isa. 38); and He was entreated of him, as it is said, “Behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (Isa. 38 5). Hezekiah said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of all worlds ! Give me a sign, as it is said, “And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up unto the house of the Lord?” (2 Kings 20:8). He answered him: Ahaz thy father compelled the constellations, and he bowed down to the sun, and the sun fled before him and went down in the west ten steps. If thou desirest, it shall go down ten steps, or it shall ascend ten steps. Hezekiah spake before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of all worlds ! Nay, || but those ten steps which it has (already) gone down let it retrace and stand, as it is said, “Nay, but let the shadow return backward ten steps” (2 Kings 20:10). And He was entreated of him, as it is said, “Behold, I will cause the shadow on the steps, which is gone down on the dial of Ahaz with the sun, to return backward ten steps” (Isa. 38:8). All the kings of the earth saw, and they were astonished, for there had been nothing like it from the day when the world was created, and they sent to behold the wonder, as it is said, “Howbeit in (the business of) the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land” (2 Chron. 32:31).

The midrash Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 52:9 states that from the day when the heavens and earth had been created there had never been a sick man who had recovered from his sickness, until Hezekiah, king of Judah, because the rabbis want to emphasize the miraculous nature of Hezekiah’s healing and the power of prayer. According to the biblical account in 2 Kings 20:1-11, Hezekiah was terminally ill and the prophet Isaiah told him to set his house in order, for he would die and not live. Hezekiah then turned his face to the wall and prayed to God, reminding him of his faithfulness and devotion. God heard his prayer and sent Isaiah back to him with a message of grace: he would add fifteen years to his life and deliver him and Jerusalem from the Assyrian king Sennacherib. As a sign of this promise, God made the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz go back ten steps.  The sundial of Ahaz was a device that measured time by the position of the sun’s shadow. It was invented by King Ahaz of Judah, who ruled from 735 to 715 BC. The Bible mentions the sundial of Ahaz twice, once in 2 Kings 20:8-11 and once Isaiah 38:7-8. In both passages, it is related to a miracle that God performed for King Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, who was sick and near death. There are different theories about what the sundial of Ahaz looked like and how it worked. Some scholars think it was a vertical pillar or obelisk that cast a shadow on a horizontal surface marked with lines or steps. Others think it was a staircase or a ramp that had steps on its side, and the shadow moved along the steps as the sun moved across the sky. Some also suggest that it was a circular or semicircular dial with a pointer or a gnomon that indicated the hours. Here in midrash Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 52:9, the rabbis elaborate on this story and add some details that are not found in the biblical text. For example, it says that Hezekiah was afflicted with leprosy, which was considered an incurable disease in ancient times. It also says that he was healed on the third day of his illness, which is a symbolic number in the Bible, often associated with resurrection and restoration. It also says that he composed a song of praise to God after his recovery, which is similar to the song of Moses after crossing the Red Sea (Shemot / Exodus 15) and the song of Hannah after giving birth to Samuel (1 Samuel 2). The midrash also connects Hezekiah’s healing with the future redemption of Israel, saying that he will be one of the seven shepherds who will lead the flock of God in the messianic era (Micah 5:5). The midrash portrays Hezekiah as a unique and exemplary figure in Israel’s history, who experienced a divine intervention that was unprecedented and unparalleled. By saying that there had never been a sick man who had recovered from his sickness until Hezekiah, the midrash exaggerates the contrast between Hezekiah and all other human beings, highlighting his special status and role in God’s plan. The midrash also implies that Hezekiah’s healing was not only a personal blessing, but also a sign of hope and salvation for the whole nation of Israel. What we note about these things is how important it is to live a repentant life, to turn from sin, and to seek the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua every day of our lives!  Rashi also comments on Isaiah 38:10 stating the following:

Rashi on Isaiah 38:10 Parts 1-2
אני אמרתי בדמי ימי. כשראיתי ימי בדמי, בשממון וחרישה כמו נדמה כל עם כנען (צפני’ א) כלומר כשחליתי אמרתי אלכה בשערי שאול עתה אמות, לפי שעד אותו היום לא נתרפא חולה:
I said, In the desolation of my days (בִּדְמִי) When I saw my days בִּדְמִי, in desolation and in silence. Comp. (Zeph. 1:11) “For the entire people of Canaan has been silenced (נִדְמָה).” That is to say that when I became ill, I said, “I will go into the gates of the grave.” Now I will die, since, until that day, no sick person had recovered.
פקדתי יתר שנותי. כמו (במדבר ל״א:מ״ט) לא נפקד ממנו איש נחסרתי שאר שנותי ויונתן תירגם על דוכרני לטב איתוספו על שני נפקדתי לטובה ונתייתרו שנותי:
I am deprived of the rest of my years (פֻּקַּדְתִּי) Comp. “(Num. 31:49) No man was missing (נִפְקַד) of us.” I am missing the rest of my years. Jonathan, however, renders: My remembrance has entered for good; years have been added to my years. I have been visited (נִפְקַדְתִּי) for good, and my years have been increased.

In Part 1, Rashi explains the meaning of the word בִּדְמִי (bidmi), which appears in the verse: “I said, In the desolation of my days I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years.” He says that בִּדְמִי means “in desolation and in silence,” and he compares it to another verse in Zephaniah 1:11, where the same word is used to describe the people of Canaan who are silent and mournful because of God’s wrath. Rashi’s reasoning is based on finding a similar word in another context and interpreting it according to its root meaning. Rashi goes on saying in Part 2 to explain the meaning of the phrase “In the desolation of my days.” He says that this refers to Hezekiah’s days, which were desolate and silent because he had no children to inherit his throne and continue his legacy. He also says that Hezekiah saw his days as desolate because he was about to die without fulfilling his potential and accomplishing his mission. Rashi’s reasoning is based on relating the phrase to Hezekiah’s personal situation and his role as a king and a prophet. What these things reveal to us is the importance of fulfilling your potential, what Rashi is explaining here is in relation to our honoring God and serving His purpose in the world. The major point found in the rabbinic literature is that Hezekiah did not have any children to succeed the throne, so God gave him more time to fulfill this important task. Note how the task of having children is to raise them to know the Lord, to walk in His holy and righteous ways, and to demonstrate this in our own lives, etc. In Hezekiah’s case, his illness and near-death experience was a wakeup call for him to realize how great God is, and how merciful He is to us each day! We note that the goal in our lives is not to achieve fame, wealth, or power, but to fulfill our responsibility in God’s plan for our lives. It is about using one’s talents and abilities that are given from God to serve God and others, to promote justice and peace, and to lead others to the Lord God of Israel! This concept of fulfilling one’s potential is related to these things, and we express our gratitude and love to God by הולך בדרכו walking in His ways, שומר מצוה keeping His commands, ולמד אותם את הילדים שלך and teaching them to our children and to others for the glory of God! This is what Yeshua taught us according to the NT text on the significance of who we are in the Messiah and how we are to live, walking in the footsteps of the Messiah!

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Dr. Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!