2 Kings 20:7
And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
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(7, 8) In Isaiah these two verses are given at the end of the narrative; a position in which they are obviously out of place. Probably some copyist, after accidentally omitting them where they properly belonged, added them there, “with marks for insertion in their proper places, which marks were afterwards neglected by transcribers” (Lowth, cited by Cheyne), perhaps because they had become obliterated.

Take a lump of figs.—Figs pressed into a cake (1Samuel 25:18). “Many commentators suppose the figs to be mentioned as a remedy current at the time. But surely so simple and unscientific a medicine would have been thought of, without applying to the prophet by those about Hezekiah. The plaster of figs is rather a sign or symbol of the cure, like the water of the Jordan in the narrative of Naaman (2Kings 5:10)” (Cheyne). That in antiquity figs were a usual remedy for boils of various kinds appears from the testimony of Dioscorides and Pliny.

Laid it on the boil.—It is not to be supposed that Hezekiah was suffering from the plague and, in fact, the very plague which destroyed the army of Sennacherib. (See Note on 2Kings 20:1). The word “boil” (shĕhîn) denotes leprous and other similar ulcers (Exodus 9:9; Job 2:7), but not plague, which moreover, would not have attacked Hezekiah alone, and would have produced not one swelling, but many.

And he recovered.—Heb., lived. The result is mentioned here by natural anticipation.

2 Kings 20:7. Take a lump of figs — Though the deliverance was certainly promised, yet means must be used, and those suitable. The figs would help to ripen the bile, and bring it to a head, that the matter of the disease might be discharged that way. This means, however, would have been altogether insufficient of itself to effect so sudden and complete a cure, without the co-operation of the divine power, to which the king’s restoration to health is chiefly to be ascribed.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.A lump of figs - The usual remedy in the East, even at the present day, for ordinary boils. But such a remedy would not naturally cure the dangerous tumor or carbuncle from which Hezekiah suffered. Thus the means used in this miracle were means having a tendency toward the result performed by them, but insufficient of themselves to produce that result (compare 2 Kings 4:34 note). 5. Thus saith … the God of David thy father—An immediate answer was given to his prayer, containing an assurance that the Lord was mindful of His promise to David and would accomplish it in Hezekiah's experience, both by the prolongation of his life, and his deliverance from the Assyrians.

on the third day—The perfect recovery from a dangerous sickness, within so short a time, shows the miraculous character of the cure (see his thanksgiving song, Isa 38:9). The disease cannot be ascertained; but the text gives no hint that the plague was raging then in Jerusalem; and although Arab physicians apply a cataplasm of figs to plague-boils, they also do so in other cases, as figs are considered useful in ripening and soothing inflammatory ulcers.

Take a lump of figs: though the deliverance was certainly promised, yet means must be used, and those suitable; for this hath naturally a power of ripening and softening boils or sores, though that power was altogether insufficient to produce so sudden and so complete a cure. The boil seems to have been a plague-sore. And Isaiah said, take a lump of figs,.... Not moist figs, but a cake of dried figs, as the word used signifies, and so the less likely to have any effect in curing the boil:

and they took, and laid it on the boil, and he recovered; made a plaster of it, and laid it on the ulcer, and it was healed. Physicians observe (u), that as such like inflammations consist in a painful extension of the fibres by the hinderance of the circulation of the blood, through the extreme little arteries, which may be mitigated, or dissipated, or ripened, by such things as are emollient and loosening, so consequently by figs; and, in a time of pestilence, figs beaten together with butter and treacle have been applied to plague of boils with great success; yet these figs being only a cake of dry figs, and, the boil not only malignant, but deadly, and the cure so suddenly performed, show that this was done not in a natural, but in a supernatural way, though means were directed to be made use of.

(u) Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 3. p. 620. Vid. Levin. Lemnii Herb. Bibl. Explicat. c. 19. p. 60.

And Isaiah said, Take a {f} lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

(f) He declares that though God can heal without other medicines, he will not have these inferior means contemned.

7. Take a lump [R.V. cake] of figs] Except here and in Isaiah 38. ‘cake’ is the constant rendering of A.V. for this word. See 1 Samuel 25:18; 1 Samuel 30:12; 1 Chronicles 12:40. The figs were closely pressed together for better keeping when they were dried, just as we find is done at the present time.

The virtue of figs made into a plaster has long been celebrated. Gerarde in his Herball (p. 1328) says, ‘Figs stamped and made into the form of a plaister … soften and ripen impostumes … all hot and angry swellings, and tumours behind the eares’. The boil from which Hezekiah was suffering was clearly something of this character, and confined to one spot, so that it could be treated by a poultice. It was therefore most likely some sort of carbuncle, which in certain parts of the body, as the back of the neck, can prove fatal. The conjectures some of which make the disease to be pleurisy, others the plague, contracted from the Assyrians, others, elephantiasis or leprosy, are not so probable, as none of them appear likely to have been treated by a plaster.Verse 7. - And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. Figs were the usual remedy for boils. Dioscorides says of the fig, διαφορεῖ σκληρίας; Pliny, "Ulcera aperit;" while Jerome, in his-commentary on Isaiah, has the following: "Juxta artem medicorum omnis sanies siccioribus ficis atque contusis in cutis superficiem provocatur." The remedy is said to be still in use among Easterns. It can scarcely be supposed to have cured a malignant bell by its intrinsic force; but under the Divine blessing it was made effectual, and the cure followed. And they took and laid it on the boil. The royal attendants obtained a lump of figs, and applied it to the inflamed boil or carbuncle, as Isaiah had suggested. It is impossible to say what exactly was the nature of the "boil," since diseases change their characters, and every age has its own special disorders; but modern medical science knows of more than one kind of pustular swelling, which, as soon as it is detected, is regarded as fatal. And he recovered. Not suddenly, but by degrees; after the manner of natural remedies. It was three days before he was well enough to quit the palace, and offer thanks in the temple for his miraculous cure (see ver. 5). "In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death." By the expression "in those days" the illness of Hezekiah is merely assigned in a general manner to the same time as the events previously described. That it did not occur after the departure of the Assyrians, but at the commencement of the invasion of Sennacherib, i.e., in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, is evident from 2 Kings 20:6, namely, both from the fact that in answer to his prayer fifteen years more of life were promised him, and that he nevertheless reigned only twenty-nine years (2 Kings 18:2), and also from the fact that God promised to deliver him out of the hand of the Assyrians and to defend Jerusalem. The widespread notion that his sickness was an attack of plague, and was connected with the pestilence which had broken out in the Assyrian camp, is thereby deprived of its chief support, apart from the fact that the epithet (שׁחין (2 Kings 20:7), which is applied to the sickness, does not indicate pestilence. Isaiah then called upon him to set his house in order. לביתך צו: set thy house in order, lit., command or order with regard to thy house, not declare thy (last) will to thy family (Ges., Knob.), for צוּה is construed with the accus. pers. in the sense of commanding anything, whereas here ל is synonymous with אל (2 Samuel 17:23). "For thou wilt die and not live;" i.e., thy sickness is to death, namely, without the miraculous help of God. Sickness to death in the very prime of life (Hezekiah was then in the fortieth year of his age) appeared to the godly men of the Old Testament a sign of divine displeasure. Hezekiah was therefore greatly agitated by this announcement, and sought for consolation and help in prayer. He turned his face to the wall, sc. of the room, not of the temple (Chald.), i.e., away from those who were standing round, to be able to pray more collectedly.
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