Isaiah 38:15
What shall I say? he has both spoken to me, and himself has done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) What shall I say?—With the same force as in 2Samuel 7:20; Hebrews 11:32. Words fail to express the wonder and the gratitude of the sufferer who has thus been rescued for the fulfilment which followed so immediately on the promise.

I shall go softly . . .—Better, That I should walk at ease upon (i.e., because of, or, as others take it, in spite of) the trouble of my soul. The verb is used in Psalm 42:4 of a festal procession to the Temple, but here refers simply to the journey of life, and implies that it is to be carried on to the end as with calm and considerate steps. The Authorised Version suggests wrongly the thought of a life-long bitterness.

Isaiah 38:15. What shall I say? — I want words sufficiently to express my deep sense of God’s dealings with me; he hath spoken, &c. — He foretold it by his word, and effected it by his hand. In this verse he seems to make a transition into the thanksgiving, which is undoubtedly contained in the following verses, and so the sense is, He hath sent a gracious message to me, by his prophet, concerning the prolongation of my life, and himself hath made good his word. Thus the words are understood by the Chaldee paraphrast, the LXX., and by the Syriac and Arabic interpreters. To this purpose also Bishop Lowth reads the clause. He hath given me a promise, and he hath performed it. I shall go softly all my years — I will conduct myself with humble thankfulness to God for conferring so great a favour upon so unworthy a person, as long as I live. I shall never forget my unworthiness and his loving kindness; in the bitterness of my soul — That is, or rather, upon, or after it: or, as the Chaldee paraphrast reads it, because of my deliverance from bitterness of soul.38:9-22 We have here Hezekiah's thanksgiving. It is well for us to remember the mercies we receive in sickness. Hezekiah records the condition he was in. He dwells upon this; I shall no more see the Lord. A good man wishes not to live for any other end than that he may serve God, and have communion with him. Our present residence is like that of a shepherd in his hut, a poor, mean, and cold lodging, and with a trust committed to our charge, as the shepherd has. Our days are compared to the weaver's shuttle, Job 7:6, passing and repassing very swiftly, every throw leaving a thread behind it; and when finished, the piece is cut off, taken out of the loom, and showed to our Master to be judged of. A good man, when his life is cut off, his cares and fatigues are cut off with it, and he rests from his labours. But our times are in God's hand; he has appointed what shall be the length of the piece. When sick, we are very apt to calculate our time, but are still at uncertainty. It should be more our care how we shall get safe to another world. And the more we taste of the loving-kindness of God, the more will our hearts love him, and live to him. It was in love to our poor perishing souls that Christ delivered them. The pardon does not make the sin not to have been sin, but not to be punished as it deserves. It is pleasant to think of our recoveries from sickness, when we see them flowing from the pardon of sin. Hezekiah's opportunity to glorify God in this world, he made the business, and pleasure, and end of life. Being recovered, he resolves to abound in praising and serving God. God's promises are not to do away, but to quicken and encourage the use of means. Life and health are given that we may glorify God and do good.What shall I say? - This language seems to denote surprise and gratitude at unexpected deliverance. It is the language of a heart that is overflowing, and that wants words to express its deep emotions. In the previous verse he had described his pain, anguish, and despair. In this he records the sudden and surprising deliverance which God had granted; which was so great that no words could express his sense of it. Nothing could be more natural than this language; nothing would more appropriately express the feelings of a man who had been suddenly restored to health from dangerous sickness, and brought from the borders of the grave.

He hath both spoken unto me - That is, he has promised. So the word is often used Deuteronomy 26:17; Jeremiah 3:19. He had made the promise by the instrumentality of Isaiah Isa 38:5-6. The promise related to his recovery, to the length of his days, and to his entire deliverance from the hands of the Assyrians.

And himself hath done it - He himself has restored me according to his promise, when no one else could have done it.

I shall go softly - Lowth renders this, in accordance with the Vulgate, 'Will I reflect.' But the Hebrew will not bear this construction. The word used here (דדה dâdâh) occurs in but one other place in the Bible Psalm 42:4 : 'I went with them to the house of God;' that is, I went with them in a sacred procession to the house of God; I went with a solemn, calm, slow pace. The idea here is, 'I will go humbly, submissively, all my life; I will walk in a serious manner, remembering that I am traveling to the grave; I will avoid pride, pomp, and display; I will suffer the remembrance of my sickness, and of God's mercy to produce a calm, serious, thoughtful demeanour all my life.' This is the proper effect of sickness on a pious mind, and it is its usual effect. And probably, one design of God was to keep Hezekiah from the ostentatious parade usually attendant on his lofty station; from being elated with his deliverance from the Assyrian; from improper celebrations of that deliverance by revelry and pomp; and to keep him in remembrance, that though he was a monarch, yet he was a mortal man, and that he held his life at the disposal of God.

In the bitterness of my soul - I will remember the deep distress, the bitter sorrows of my sickness, and my surprising recovery; and will allow the remembrance of that to diffuse seriousness and gratitude over all my life.

15-20. The second part of the song passes from prayer to thanksgiving at the prayer being heard.

What shall I say?—the language of one at a loss for words to express his sense of the unexpected deliverance.

both spoken … and … done it—(Nu 23:19). Both promised and performed (1Th 5:24; Heb 10:23).

himself—No one else could have done it (Ps 98:1).

go softly … in the bitterness—rather, "on account of the bitterness"; I will behave myself humbly in remembrance of my past sorrow and sickness from which I have been delivered by God's mercy (see 1Ki 21:27, 29). In Ps 42:4, the same Hebrew verb expresses the slow and solemn gait of one going up to the house of God; it is found nowhere else, hence Rosenmuller explains it, "I will reverently attend the sacred festivals in the temple"; but this ellipsis would be harsh; rather metaphorically the word is transferred to a calm, solemn, and submissive walk of life.

What shall I say I want words sufficient to express my deep sense of God’s dealings with me.

He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it; he did foretell it by his word, and effect it by his hand. This clause and verse is either,

1. A continuance of his complaint hitherto described: God hath passed this sentence upon me, and hath also put it in execution, and to him I must submit myself. Or,

2. A transition or entrance into the thanksgiving, which is undoubtedly contained in the following verses. So the sense is, God hath sent a gracious message to me by his prophet, concerning the prolongation of my life; and he, I doubt not, will make good his word therein. And this sense seems the more probable,

1. Because here is mention of his years to come, whereas in his sickness he expected not to live to the end of a day.

2. Because the Chaldee paraphrast, and the LXX., and Syriac, and Arabic interpreters expound it so in their versions.

3. Because this suits best with the context and coherence of this verse, both with the former and with the following verse. For as he endeth the foregoing verse with a prayer to God for longer life, so in this verse he relates God’s gracious answer to his prayer. And if this verse be thus understood, the next verse hath a very convenient connexion with this; whereas it seems to be very abrupt and incoherent, if the thanksgiving begin there.

I shall go softly; I shall walk in the course of my life, either,

1. Humbly, with all humble thankfulness to God for conferring so great a favour upon so unworthy a person; or,

2. Easily and peaceably, with leisure, not like one affrighted, or running away from his enemy; or,

3. By slow and gentle paces, as men commonly spin out their days by degrees unto a just length, which is not unfitly opposed to his former state and time of sickness, wherein his days were swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and than a post, as Job complained upon the same occasion, Job 7:6 9:25, and were cut off like a weaver’s web, as he complained, Isaiah 38:12.

In the bitterness of my soul; arising from the remembrance of that desperate condition from which God had delivered me; for great dangers, though past, are ofttimes very terrible to those that reflect upon them. But the words may be rendered, upon or after (as this particle is rendered, Isaiah 18:4) the bitterness of my soul; after the deliverance from this bitter and dangerous disease; which may be compared with Isaiah 38:17, where he saith, for or after peace I had great bitterness, as here he presageth and assureth himself of the contrary, that he should have peace after his great bitterness. The Chaldee paraphrast renders the words, because of my deliverance from bitterness of soul; bitterness being put for deliverance from bitterness, as five is put for lack of five, as we render it, Genesis 18:28, and fat for want of fat, Psalm 109:24, and fruits for want of fruits, Lamentations 4:9. And other such-like defects there are in the Hebrew, which is a very concise language. What shall I say?.... In a way of praise and thankfulness, for the mercies promised and received; I know not what to say; I want words to express the gratitude of my heart for the kindness bestowed. What shall I render to God for all his benefits? So the Targum,

"what praise shall I utter, and I will say it before him?''

for here begins the account of his recovery, and his thanksgiving for it:

he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it; the Lord had sent him a message by the prophet, and assured him that he should recover, and on the third day go up to the temple; and now he had performed what he had promised, he was restored, and was come to the house of God with his thank offering; whatever the Lord says, he does; what he promises, he brings to pass:

I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul; before he did not reckon of a day to live, now he speaks of his years, having fifteen added to his days, during which time he should "go softly", in a thoughtful "meditating" frame of mind (r); frequently calling to remembrance, and revolving in his mind, his bitter affliction, and recovery out of it, acknowledging the goodness and kindness of God unto him: or leisurely,

step by step, without fear of any enemies, dangers, or death, having a promise of such a length of time to live: or go pleasantly and

cheerfully, after the bitterness of my soul (s), as it may be rendered; that is, after it is over, or because of deliverance from it. So the Targum,

"with what shall I serve him, and render to him for all the years he hath added to my life, and hath delivered me from the bitterness of my soul?''

(r) "motitando meditabor", Tigurine version; "leniter, vel pedetentim incedam" Vatablus; "alacriter incedam", Piscator, Vitringa. (s) "post amaritudinem", Piscator.

What shall I say? {o} he hath both spoken to me, and himself hath done it: I shall go {p} softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.

(o) God has declared by his prophet that I will die and therefore I will yield to him.

(p) I will have no release, but continual sorrows while I live.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15, 16. Two extremely difficult verses. As commonly explained, Isaiah 38:15 introduces the second half of the song with an exclamation of amazement at the wonderful deliverance experienced. Literally it reads:

“What shall I say? And He said to me—and He (emphatic) did it;

I shall walk with leisurely pace all my years—because of the bitterness of my soul.”

The words he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it would refer to the promise of recovery through the prophet, and the fulfilment of it. This whole conception of the verse is vigorously criticised by Duhm, who renders thus:—

“What shall I speak and say to Him—since He has done it?

I toss to and fro all my sleeping time—because of the bitterness of my soul.”

The Hebr. word rendered “toss to and fro” is found again only in Psalm 42:4, where it means “to walk in festal procession.” Duhm in this passage is disposed to connect it with a noun found in Job 7:4 (“tossings to and fro”).Verse 15. - What shall I say? The strain is suddenly changed. Hezekiah's prayer has been answered, and he has received the answer (vers. 5-8). He is "at a loss to express his wonder and his gratitude" (Cheyne); comp. 2 Samuel 7:20. God has both spoken unto him - i.e., given him a promise of recovery - and also himself hath done it; i.e. has performed his promise. Already he feels in himself the beginnings of amendment - he is conscious that the worst is past, and that the malady has taken a turn for the better. I shall go softly all my years. Delitzsch renders, "I shall walk quietly;" Mr. Cheyne, "I shall walk at ease;" both apparently understanding the expression of a quiet, easy life, made the more pleasant by contrast with past pain. But it seems better to understand the "soft going," with Dr. Kay, of a hushed and subdued spirit, consequent upon the crisis past, and thenceforth continuing - the king walking, as it were, perpetually in God's presence. In the bitterness; rather, after the bitterness (Delitzsch), when it has departed; and "because of it" (Nagelsbach), through its remembrance. As a documentary proof of this third account, a psalm of Hezekiah is added in the text of Isaiah, in which he celebrates his miraculous rescue from the brink of death. The author of the book of Kings has omitted it; but the genuineness is undoubted. The heading runs thus in Isaiah 38:9 : "Writing of Hizkiyahu king of Judah, when he was sick, and recovered from his sickness." The song which follows might be headed Mikhtam, since it has the characteristics of this description of psalm (see at Psalm 16:1). We cannot infer from bachălōthō (when he was sick) that it was composed by Hezekiah during his illness (see at Psalm 51:1); vayyechi (and he recovered) stamps it as a song of thanksgiving, composed by him after his recovery. In common with the two Ezrahitish psalms, Psalm 88 and 89, it has not only a considerable number of echoes of the book of Job, but also a lofty sweep, which is rather forced than lyrically direct, and appears to aim at copying the best models.
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