2 Kings 20:8
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?
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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. 2 Kings 20:8Isaiah ordered a lump of figs to be laid upon the boil, and Hezekiah recovered (ויּחי: he revived again). It is of course assumed as self-evident, that Isaiah returned to the king in consequence of a divine revelation, and communicated to him the word of the Lord which he had received.

(Note: The account is still more abridged in the text of Isaiah. In 2 Kings 20:4 the precise time of the prayer is omitted; in 2 Kings 20:5 the words, "behold, I will cure thee, on the third day thou shalt go into the house of the Lord;" and in 2 Kings 20:6 the words, "for mine own sake and my servant David's sake." The four 2 Kings 20:8-11, which treat of the miraculous signs, are also very much contracted in Isaiah (Isaiah 38:7 and Isaiah 38:8); and 2 Kings 20:7 and 2 Kings 20:8 of our text are only given at the close of Hezekiah's psalm of praise in that of Isaiah (Isaiah 38:21 and Isaiah 38:22).)

תּאנים דּבלת is a mass consisting of compressed figs, which the ancients were in the habit of applying, according to many testimonies (see Celsii Hierob. ii. p. 373), in the case of plague-boils and abscesses of other kinds, because the fig διαφορεῖ σκληρίας (Dioscor.) and ulcera aperit (Plin.), and which is still used for softening ulcers. שׁחין, an abscess, is never used in connection with plague or plague-boils, but only to denote the abscesses caused by leprosy (Job 2:7-8), and other abscesses of an inflammatory kind (Exodus 9:9.). In the case of Hezekiah it is probably a carbuncle that is intended.

After the allusion to the cure and recovery of Hezekiah, we have an account in 2 Kings 20:8. of the sign by which Isaiah confirmed the promise given to the king of the prolongation of his life. In the order of time the contents of 2 Kings 20:7 follow 2 Kings 20:11, since the prophet in all probability first of all disclosed the divine promise to the king, and then gave him the sign, and after that appointed the remedy and had it applied. At the same time, it is also quite possible that he first of all directed the lump of figs to be laid upon the boil, and then made known to him the divine promise, and guaranteed it by the sign. In this case ויּחי merely anticipates the order of events. The sign which Isaiah gave to the king, at his request, consisted in the miraculous movement of the shadow backward upon the sundial of Ahaz.

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