|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 11. - And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord. Though the sign had been promised, Isaiah regarded his own intercessional prayer as not out of place, and "cried unto the Lord," i.e. prayed with energy, that the king's wish might be accomplished. So, though we have God's promise to care for us, and keep us from want (Matthew 6:25-30), yet we must daily beseech him to "give us this day our daily bread." And he brought the shadow ten degrees backward. How this was done, we are not told, and can therefore only conjecture. The earlier commentators imagined that the revolution of the earth upon its axis was actually reversed for a time; but this idea is now generally rejected. It is clear from 2 Chronicles 32:31 that the phenomenon, whatever may have been its cause, was local, "done in the land" of Judah, and not visible elsewhere. Some moderns have suggested an earthquake affecting the gnomon; some a trick on the part of Isaiah; ethers, and the generality, a very abnormal refraction of the sun's rays. An observed instance of something similar, which took place at Metz, in Lotheringia, in the year 1703, is on record. Two scientists, Professor Seyffarth and Mr. J. W. Bosanquet, think that the phenomenon was due to an eclipse, in which the upper limb of the sun was obscured temporarily. In such a case a slight recession of the shadow would certainly take place; but it would scarcely be such as to attract attention from any one but a scientific observer (Stanley, 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 537). On the whole, the most probable cause would seem to be refraction, which is accepted by Keil, Bahr, and Kay. By which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz; literally, on the steps of Ahaz. Sundials were invented by the Babylonians (Herod., 2:109), and were no doubt in use at Babylon long before the time of Hezekiah. They were of various kinds, and in some of them the gnomon was made to cast its shadow upon steps. There are still two dials in India - one at Benares, known as the Manmandir, and the other at Delhi - where this is the case (see Mr. Bosanquet's paper, already quoted, plate opp. p. 35).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord,.... Or prayed, as the Targum; and was very earnest in prayer, that what Hezekiah had desired might be granted:
and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz; Ben Gersom understands it not of the sun itself, but of the shadow of it only; See Gill on Isaiah 38:8.
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