Isaiah 38:21
For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster on the boil, and he shall recover.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) For Isaiah had said . . .—The direction implies some medical training on the part of Isaiah (see Note on Isaiah 1:6, and Introduction), such as entered naturally into the education of the prophet-priests. They were to Israel, especially in the case of leprosy and other kindred diseases, what the priests of Asclepios were to Greece. The Divine promise guaranteed success to the use of natural remedies, but did not dispense with them, and they, like the spittle laid on the eyes of the blind in the Gospel miracles (Mark 7:33, John 9:6), were also a help to the faith on which the miracle depended. Both this and the following verse seem, as has been said, to have been notes to Isaiah 38:8, supplied from the narrative of 2 Kings 20, and placed at the end of the chapter instead of at the foot of the page, as in modern MSS. or print. The word for “boil” appears in connection with leprosy in Exodus 9:9, Leviticus 13:18, but is used generically for any kind of abscess, carbuncle, and the like. (Comp. Job 2:7.)

Isaiah 38:21-22. For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs — See note on 2 Kings 20:7. Hezekiah also had said — Or, for Hezekiah had said; What is the sign that I shall go up — Namely, within three days, as is more fully related 2 Kings 20:5; 2 Kings 20:8; to the house of the Lord? — For thither he designed to go first, partly that he might pay his vows and thanksgivings to God, and partly that he might engage the people to praise God with him and for him. 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.For Isaiah had said - In the parallel place in Kings the statement in these two verses is introduced before the account of the miracle on the sun-dial, and before the account of his recovery 2 Kings 20:7-8. The order in which it is introduced, however, is not material.

Let them take a lump of figs - The word used here (דבלה debēlâh) denotes "a round cake" of dried figs pressed together in a mass 1 Samuel 25:18. Figs were thus pressed together for preservation, and for convenience of conveyance.

And lay it for a plaster - The word used here (מרח mârach) denotes properly to rub, bruise, crush by rubbing; then to rub, in, to anoint, to soften. Here it means they were to take dried figs and lay them softened on the ulcer.

Upon the boil - (משׁחין mashechı̂yn). This word means a burning sore or an inflamed ulcer Exodus 9:9, Exodus 9:11; Leviticus 13:18-20. The verb in Arabic means to be hot, inflamed; to ulcerate. The noun is used to denote a species of black leprosy in Egypt, called elephantiasis, distinguished by the black scales with which the skin is covered, and by the swelling of the legs. Here it probably denotes a pestilential boil; an eruption, or inflamed ulceration produced by the plague, that threatened immediate death. Jerome says that the plaster of figs was medicinal, and adapted to reduce the inflammation and restore health. There is no improbability in the supposition; nor does anything in the narrative prohibit us from supposing that natural means might have been used to restore him. The miracle consisted in the arrest of the shade on the sun-dial, and in the announcement of Isaiah that he would recover. That figs, when dried, were used in the Materia Medica of the ancients, is asserted by both Pliny and Celsus (see Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxiii. 7; Celsus, v. 2, quoted by Lowth.)

20. was ready—not in the Hebrew; "Jehovah was for my salvation," that is, saved me (compare Isa 12:2).

we—I and my people.

in the house of the Lord—This song was designed, as many of the other Psalms, as a form to be used in public worship at stated times, perhaps on every anniversary of his recovery; hence "all the days of our life."

lump of figs—a round cake of figs pressed into a mass (1Sa 25:18). God works by means; the meanest of which He can make effectual.

boil—inflamed ulcer, produced by the plague.

This was rather a sign appointed by God, than a natural means of the cure; for if it had a natural faculty to ripen a sore, yet it could never cure such a dangerous and pestilential disease, at least in so little time. For Isaiah had said,.... Before the above writing was made, which ends in the preceding verse; for this and the following are added by Isaiah, or some other person, taken out of 2 Kings 20:7. The Septuagint version adds, "to Hezekiah"; but the speech seems rather directed to some of his servants, or those that were about him:

let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover; which was done, and he did accordingly recover. Aben Ezra, Jarchi, and. Kimchi, all of them say, that this was a miracle within a miracle, since figs are hurtful to ulcers; and so say others; though it is observed by some, that they are useful for the ripening and breaking of ulcers; however, it was not from the natural force of these figs, but by the power of God, that this cure was effected; for, without that, it was impossible so malignant an ulcer and so deadly a sickness as Hezekiah's were could have been cured, and especially so suddenly; nor were these figs used as a medicine, but as a sign of recovery, according to the Lord's promise, and as a means of assisting Hezekiah's faith in it.

For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and {z} lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover.

(z) Read 2Ki 20:7.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. lay it for a plaister] Lit. rub it. Lump should be cake, as in R.V. Many commentators suppose that the malady from which Hezekiah suffered was the plague; and Gesenius explains that the appearance of the “boil” would be a hopeful, though not a certain, symptom of recovery. He adds that the application of figs is resorted to by modern Arabian and Turkish physicians in cases of pestilence.

21, 22. Cf. 2 Kings 20:7-8. The verses are obviously out of their true places here. The pluperfects in the English Translation are ungrammatical (Driver, Tenses, pp. 84 ff.), and we must render And Isaiah said … And Hezekiah said.Verse 21. - For Isaiah had said; literally, and Isaiah said. It seems as if this verse and the next had been accidentally omitted from their proper place in the narrative, which was between vers. 6 and 7, and had then been appended by an after-thought. They reproduce nearly, but not exactly, the words of 2 Kings 19:7, 8. Let them take a lump of figs. This remedy is said to be one still employed in the East for the cure of ordinary boils; but it must have been quite insufficient for the cure of such a dangerous tumour, or carbuncle, as that from which Hezekiah was suffering. In miraculous cures, both the Old Testament prophets and our Lord himself frequently employed a means, insufficient in itself, but supernaturally rendered sufficient, to effect the intended purpose (see 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:35, 41, 5:14; John 9:6; Mark 7:33; Mark 8:23, etc.). Upon the boil. The term here translated "boil" is used in Exodus (Exodus 9:9-11) for the affliction which constituted the sixth plague, in Leviticus (Leviticus 13:18-23) for an ulcer accompanying one of the worst forms of leprosy, in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 28:27, 35) for "the botch of Egypt," and in Job (Job 2:7) for the last of the visitations from which he suffered. It is not unlikely that it was of a leprous character. In strophe 3 he now describes how Jehovah promised him help, how this promise put new life into him, and how it was fulfilled, and turned his sufferings into salvation.

"What shall I say, that He promised me, and He hath carried it out:

I should walk quietly all my years, on the trouble of my soul?!

'O Lord, by such things men revive, and the life of my spirit is always therein:

And so wilt Thou restore me, and make me to live!'

Behold, bitterness became salvation to me, bitterness;

And Thou, Thou hast delivered my soul in love out of the pit of destruction

For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back."

The question, "What shall I say?" is to be understood as in 2 Samuel 7:20, viz., What shall I say, to thank Him for having promised me, and carried out His promise? The Vav in ואמר introduces the statement of his reason (Ges. 155, 1, c). On הדּדּה ( equals התדּדּה), from דּדה ( equals דּאדא), see at Psalm 42:5. The future here, in Isaiah 38:15, gives the purpose of God concerning him. He was to walk (referring to the walk of life, not the walk to the temple) gently (without any disturbance) all his years upon the trouble of his soul, i.e., all the years that followed upon it, the years that were added to his life. This is the true explanation of על, as in Isaiah 38:5; Isaiah 32:10; Leviticus 15:25; not "in spite of" (Ewald), or "with," as in Psalm 31:24; Jeremiah 6:14, where it forms an adverb. A better rendering than this would be "for," or "on account of," i.e., in humble salutary remembrance of the way in which God by His free grace averted the danger of death. What follows in Isaiah 38:16 can only be regarded in connection with the petition in Isaiah 38:16, as Hezekiah's reply to the promise of God, which had been communicated to him by the prophet. Consequently the neuters עליהם and בּהן( dna (cf., Isaiah 64:4; Job 22:21; Ezekiel 33:18-19) refer to the gracious words and gracious acts of God. These are the true support of life (על as in Deuteronomy 8:3) for every man, and in these does the life of his spirit consist, i.e., his inmost and highest source of life, and that "on all sides" (לכל, which it would be more correct to point לכּל, as in 1 Chronicles 7:5; cf., bakkōl, in every respect, 2 Samuel 23:5). With this explanation, the conjecture of Ewald and Knobel, that the reading should be רוּחו, falls to the ground. From the general truth of which he had made a personal application, that the word of God is the source of all life, he drew this conclusion, which he here repeats with a retrospective glance, "So wilt Thou then make me whole (see the kal in Job 39:4), and keep me alive" (for ותחיני; with the hope passing over into a prayer). The praise for the fulfilment of the promise commences with the word hinnēh (behold). His severe illness had been sent in anticipation of a happy deliverance (on the radical signification of mar, which is here doubled, to give it a superlative force, see Comm. on Job, at Job 16:2-5). The Lord meant it for good; the suffering was indeed a chastisement, but it was a chastisement of love. Casting all his sins behind Him, as men do with things which they do not wish to know, or have no desire to be reminded of (compare e.g., Nehemiah 9:26), He "loved him out," i.e., drew him lovingly out, of the pit of destruction (châshaq, love as a firm inward bond; belı̄, which is generally used as a particle, stands here in its primary substantive signification, from bâlâh, to consume).

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