2 Kings 20:8 Commentaries: Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?"
2 Kings 20:8
And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) What shall be the sign . . .?—Comp. 2Kings 19:29 and note; Isaiah 7:11 seq., where Isaiah requests Ahaz to choose a sign. The sign was obviously a token that the prophet’s word would come true.

2 Kings 20:8. Hezekiah said to Isaiah — Or rather, had said; for it is evident this was said before his recovery, though his recovery be mentioned before it. What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me? — He asks a sign, not because he distrusted the divine promise, but for the strengthening of his faith, which otherwise might have been shaken by the greatness of his danger, and by the contradiction between this and the prophet’s former message.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.And Hezekiah said - Previous to the actual recovery, Hezekiah, who at first may have felt himself no better, asked for a "sign" that he would indeed be restored to health.

Asking for a sign is a pious or a wicked act according to the spirit in which it is done. No blame is attached to the requests of Gideon Judges 6:17, Judges 6:37, Judges 6:39, or to this of Hezekiah, because they were real wishes of the heart expressed humbly. The "evil generation" that "sought for a sign" in our Lord's days did not really want one, but made the demand captiously, neither expecting nor wishing that it should be granted.

2Ki 20:8-20. The Sun Goes Ten Degrees Backward.

8-11. Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What will be the sign that the Lord shall heal me—His recovery in the course of nature was so unlooked for, that the king asked for some token to justify his reliance on the truth of the prophet's communication; and the sign he specified was granted to him. The shadow of the sun went back upon the dial of Ahaz the ten degrees it had gone down. Various conjectures have been formed as to this dial. The word in the original is "degrees," or "steps," and hence many commentators have supposed that it was a stair, so artfully contrived, that the shadows on the steps indicated the hours and course of the sun. But it is more probable that it was a proper instrument, and, from the Hebrews having no term to designate it, that it was one of the foreign novelties imported from Babylon by Ahaz. It seems to have been of such magnitude, and so placed in the court, that Isaiah could point to it, and the king see it, from his chamber. The retrogression of the sun's shadow on the dial was miraculously accomplished by the omnipotent power of God; but the phenomenon was temporary, local, confined to the notice, and intended for the satisfaction, only of Hezekiah and his court.

Hezekiah said; or rather, had said; for it is evident this was said before his recovery, though his recovery be mentioned before it; such transpositions being frequent in Scripture.

What shall be the sign? he asketh a sign, not because he distrusted it, but for the strengthening of his faith, which otherwise might be shaken by the greatness of his danger, and by the contradiction between this and his former message. Compare Judges 6:17,37,39 Isa 7:11. And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah,.... Or "had said", (w) before the plaster of figs was directed to, or, however, laid on, and as soon as he was told he should be healed:

what shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day? not that he disbelieved the promise of God, or doubted of a cure, but this he requested for the confirmation of his faith; which good men sometimes asked, when they doubted not, as Gideon; and Ahaz, Hezekiah's father, was bid to ask a sign for the like purpose, and it was resented in him that he did not, see Judges 6:17.

(w) "dixerat autem", V. L. Vatablus.

And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. What shall be the sign] The king would have some token at once that the promise made to him should come to pass, and though the time was out very brief to wait, yet his request is granted. In Isaiah 7:11 there was a sign offered by God to Hezekiah’s father.Verse 8. - And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me? Having regard to the weakness of human faith, God, under the old covenant, often gave, or offered, near "signs" of promised blessings that were more remote, in order to sustain and encourage the doubtful and the wavering (comp. Exodus 3:12; 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:11, 14, etc.). Hezekiah assumes that a near "sign" will now he granted to him, and simply asks what the sign is to be. And that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day? Three days would be a long and weary time to wait. It was not unnatural that Hezekiah should crave some more immediate assurance that his prayer was indeed heard. Neither God nor the prophet was angry at his request. "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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