|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
20:1-11 Hezekiah was sick unto death, in the same year in which the king of Assyria besieged Jerusalem. A warning to prepare for death was brought to Hezekiah by Isaiah. Prayer is one of the best preparations for death, because by it we fetch in strength and grace from God, to enable us to finish well. He wept sorely: some gather from hence that he was unwilling to die; it is in the nature of man to dread the separation of soul and body. There was also something peculiar in Hezekiah's case; he was now in the midst of his usefulness. Let Hezekiah's prayer, see Isa 38. interpret his tears; in that is nothing which is like his having been under that fear of death, which has bondage or torment. Hezekiah's piety made his sick-bed easy. O Lord, remember now; he does not speak as if God needed to be put in mind of any thing by us; nor, as if the reward might be demanded as due; it is Christ's righteousness only that is the purchase of mercy and grace. Hezekiah does not pray, Lord, spare me; but, Lord, remember me; whether I live or die, let me be thine. God always hears the prayers of the broken in heart, and will give health, length of days, and temporal deliverances, as much and as long as is truly good for them. Means were to be used for Hezekiah's recovery; yet, considering to what a height the disease was come, and how suddenly it was checked, the cure was miraculous. It is our duty, when sick, to use such means as are proper to help nature, else we do not trust God, but tempt him. For the confirmation of his faith, the shadow of the sun was carried back, and the light was continued longer than usual, in a miraculous manner. This work of wonder shows the power of God in heaven as well as on earth, the great notice he takes of prayer, and the great favour he bears to his chosen.
Verse 10. - And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees. Hezekiah views it as a comparatively easy thing for the shadow, which is already descending the steps, to accelerate its pace and rapidly descend fifteen degrees instead of slowly traversing them; and therefore accepts Isaiah's other offer. Nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. Let it, i.e., change its direction, and having descended a certain distance, suddenly return and ascend again. This will be no "light thing," but a great marvel, which will thoroughly convince him. The thought was natural, though perhaps not strictly logical.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Hezekiah answered, it is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees,.... That is, it was comparatively so, otherwise to go down ten degrees at once would be extraordinary and miraculous; but that was more agreeable to the nature and course of it to go forward, and so the miracle would be less apparent:
nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees; which was directly contrary to its natural order and course, whereby the miracle would appear more clear and manifest: these degrees are by some said (x) to be half hours, and not full ones, since it is observed the sun shines not twenty full hours on any dial, unless under the pole; the sun is supposed to have been now at the fifth full hour; the sun was brought back five whole hours, then came forward five, then came forward two degrees, or one hour, to the sixth hour; which made sixteen; then it was six hours to sunset; so that day was prolonged twenty two hours: the Chinese (y) relate, that, in the time of Kingcungus, the planet Mars, for sake of the king, went back three degrees.
(x) Weemse's Christ. Synagog. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 6. p. 167. See his Exposition of the Judicial Laws, c. 25. p. 90. &c. (y) Martin. Sinic. Hist. l. 4. p. 138.
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