Isaiah 38:18 Commentaries: "For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness.
Isaiah 38:18
For the grave cannot praise you, death can not celebrate you: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for your truth.
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(18) For the grave . . .—i.e., Sheol, or Hades. We return to the king’s thoughts of the dim shadow-world, Death and Sheol (joined together, as in Isaiah 28:15; Psalm 6:5). In that region of dimness there are no psalms of thanksgiving, no loud hallelujahs. The thought of spiritual energies developed and intensified after death is essentially one which belongs to the “illuminated” immortality (2Timothy 1:10), of Christian thought. (Comp. Psalm 6:5; Psalm 30:9; Psalm 88:11-12; Psalm 115:17; Ecclesiastes 9:4-5; Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Isaiah 38:18-20. For the grave cannot praise thee — The dead cannot be instruments of promoting thy glory among men upon earth, or of making thy goodness known to others, which I desire and determine to do. They cannot hope for thy truth — Cannot expect nor receive the accomplishment of thy promised goodness in this world. The living, &c., shall praise thee — They are especially obliged to do it, and they only have the privilege of doing it among men on earth. The father to the children, &c. — They shall not only praise thee while they live, but shall take care to propagate and perpetuate thy praise to all succeeding generations. Or, he means, “Thy wonderful mercy toward me shall be recorded for the benefit of after ages; and fathers shall mention it to their children, as an instance of thy faithfulness.” The Lord was ready to save me — Was a present help to me, ready to hear and succour me upon my praying to him in my great extremity. Therefore will we sing my songs — Both I and my people will sing those songs of praise which are due, especially from me, for God’s great mercy to me; to the stringed instruments — Or, to the harp, (as Bishop Lowth renders it,) which was according to the custom of those times. Some infer from this verse that Hezekiah composed several other sacred songs, some of which may be still extant among the Psalms. All the days of our life in the house of the Lord — Here we are taught, that the proper fruit of deliverance from evil is thanksgiving, diffusing itself through all the actions of our life. This passage exhibits to us especially a picture of our duty and state as Christians, who, redeemed as we are by the precious blood of the Son of God from everlasting destruction, ought, with all the powers of our souls and bodies, to celebrate his name and glory, so that our whole life may appear one continued thanksgiving. — Vitringa.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.All these gloomy and desponding views arose from the imperfect conception which they had of the future world. It was to them a world of dense and gloomy shades - a world of night - of conscious existence indeed - but still far away from light, and from the comforts which people enjoyed on the earth. We are to remember that the revelations then made were very few and obscure; and we should deem it a matter of inestimable favor that we have a better hope, and have far more just and clear views of the employments of the future world. Yet probably our views of that world, with all the light which we have, are much further from the reality than the views of the patriarchs were from those which we are permitted to cherish. Such as they are, however, they are fitted to elevate and cheer the soul. We shall not, indeed, live again on the earth, but we shall enter a world of light and glory, compared with which all that is glorious here shall fade away. Not far distant is that blessed world; and in our trials we may look to it not with dread, as Job did to the land of shades, but with triumph and joy.

Will not cease - Will not fail, or be missing. It will spring up and live.

Isaiah 38:18For the grave cannot praise thee - The Hebrew word here is sheol. It is put by metonymy here for those who are in the grave, that is, for the dead. The word 'praise' here refers evidently to the public and solemn celebration of the goodness of God. It is clear, I think, that Hezekiah had a belief in a future state, or that he expected to dwell with 'the inhabitants of the land of silence' Isaiah 38:11 when he died. But he did not regard that state as one adapted to the celebration of the public praises of God. It was a land of darkness; an abode of silence and stillness; a place where there was no temple, and no public praise such as he had been accustomed to. A similar sentiment is expressed by David in Psalm 6:5 :

For in death there is no remembrance of thee;

In the grave who shall give thee thanks?


18. death—that is, the dead; Hades and its inhabitants (Job 28:22; see on [776]Isa 38:11). Plainly Hezekiah believed in a world of disembodied spirits; his language does not imply what skepticism has drawn from it, but simply that he regarded the disembodied state as one incapable of declaring the praises of God before men, for it is, as regards this world, an unseen land of stillness; "the living" alone can praise God on earth, in reference to which only he is speaking; Isa 57:1, 2 shows that at this time the true view of the blessedness of the righteous dead was held, though not with the full clearness of the Gospel, which "has brought life and immortality to light" (2Ti 1:10).

hope for thy truth—(Ps 104:27). Their probation is at an end. They can no longer exercise faith and hope in regard to Thy faithfulness to Thy promises, which are limited to the present state. For "hope" ceases (even in the case of the godly) when sight begins (Ro 8:24, 25); the ungodly have "no hope" (1Th 4:13). Hope in God's truth is one of the grounds of praise to God (Ps 71:14; 119:49). Others translate, "cannot celebrate."

In this and the following verse, he declares God’s design in delivering him, that he might praise him in his church, which if he had died he could not have done.

The grave cannot praise thee; the dead are not capable of glorifying thy name among men upon earth; which I desire and determine to do. See the like expressions, Psalm 6:5 30:9 88:10, &c. The grave is put for the persons lodged in it by a metonymy.

Cannot hope for thy truth; they cannot expect nor receive the accomplishment of thy promised goodness in the land of the living. For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee,.... That is, they that are in the grave, and under the power of death, they cannot celebrate the praises of God with their bodily organs; their souls may praise him in heaven, but they in their bodies cannot till the resurrection morn, or as long as they are under the dominion of the grave; so the Targum,

"they that are in the grave cannot confess before thee, and the dead cannot praise thee;''

in like manner the Septuagint and Arabic versions: this shows the design of God in restoring him from his sickness, and the view he himself had in desiring life, which was to praise the Lord; and which end could not have been answered had he died, and been laid in the grave:

they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth: for the performance of promises, in which the truth and faithfulness of God appear; or for the Messiah, the truth of all the types of the former dispensation; those that go down to the pit of the grave, or are carried and laid there, can have no exercise of faith and hope concerning these things.

For {u} the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.

(u) For as much as God has placed man in this world to glorify him, the godly take it as a sign of his wrath, when their days were shortened, either because they seemed unworthy for their sins to live longer in his service, or for their zeal to God's glory, seeing that there are so few in earth who regard it as in Ps 6:5,115:17.

18. With the thought of this verse comp. Psalm 6:5; Psalm 30:9; Psalm 88:10-12; Psalm 115:17.

the grave] Sheol.

18, 19. The deepest motive for the saint’s gratitude is that only on earth can he know the joys of fellowship with God.Verse 18. The grave cannot praise thee (cormpare the comment on ver. 11). It is avoiding the plain force of these passages to say that Hezekiah only means that those who go to Hades in a state of condemnation cannot be expected there to praise God (Kay). He speaks broadly and generally of all: "The living, the living, shall praise thee; Sheol cannot praise thee; Death cannot celebrate thee." Manifestly, though he believes in a future state, it is one in which there is either no energy at all, or at any rate no devotional energy. He may think, with Isaiah. that "the righteous man," when he is "taken away," will "enter into peace" (Isaiah 57:1, 2); but absolute "peace" precludes energy (see Arist., 'Eth. Nit.,' 1. 10. § 2). Hezekiah shrinks from losing all his activities, including his sense of personal communion with God. He does not, perhaps, "look on the condition of the faithful departed as one of comfortless gloom;" but he views it as one of deprivation, and is unwilling to enter into it. It was by the coming of Christ and the preaching of his gospel that "life and immortality" were first truly "brought to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). Strophe 1 consists indisputably of seven lines:

"I said, In quiet of my days shall I depart into the gates of Hades:

I am mulcted of the rest of my years.

I said, I shall not see Jah, Jah, in the land of the living:

I shall behold man no more, with the inhabitants of the regions of the dead.

My home is broken up, and is carried off from me like a shepherd's tent:

I rolled up my life like a weaver; He would have cut me loose from the roll:

From day to night Thou makest an end of me."

"In quiet of my days" is equivalent to, in the midst of the quiet course of a healthy life, and is spoken without reference to the Assyrian troubles, which still continued. דּמי, from דּמה, to be quiet, lit., to be even, for the radical form דם has the primary idea of a flat covering, of something stroked smooth, of that which is level and equal, so that it could easily branch out into the different ideas of aequabilitas, equality of measure, aequitas, equanimity, aequitas, equality, and also of destruction equals complanatio, levelling. On the cohortative, in the sense of that which is to be, see Ewald, 228, a; אלכה, according to its verbal idea, has the same meaning as in Psalm 39:14 and 2 Chronicles 21:20; and the construction with בּ ( equals ואבואה אלכה) is constructio praegnans (Luzzatto). The pual פּקּדתּי does not mean, "I am made to want" (Rashi, Knobel, and others), which, as the passive of the causative, would rather be הפקשׂדתּי, like הנסהלתּי, I am made to inherit (Job 7:3); but, I am visited with punishment as to the remnant, mulcted of the remainder, deprived, as a punishment, of the rest of my years. The clause, "Jah in the land of the living," i.e., the God of salvation, who reveals Himself in the land of the living, is followed by the corresponding clause, הדל עם־יושׁבי, "I dwelling with the inhabitants of the region of the dead;" for whilst הלד signifies temporal life (from châlad, to glide imperceptibly away, Job 11:17), הלד signifies the end of this life, the negation of all conscious activity of being, the region of the dead. The body is called a dwelling (dōr, Arab. dâr), as the home of a man who possesses the capacity to distinguish himself from everything belonging to him (Psychol. p. 227). It is compared to a nomadic tent. רעי (a different word from that in Zechariah 11:17, where it is the chirek compaginis) is not a genitive ( equals רעה, Ewald, 151, b), but an adjective in i, like אוילי רעה in Zechariah 11:15. With niglâh (in connection with נסּע, as in Job 4:21), which does not mean to be laid bare (Luzz.), nor to be wrapt up (Ewald), but to be obliged to depart, compare the New Testament ἐκδημεῖν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος (2 Corinthians 5:8). The ἁπ γεγρ קפד might mean to cut off, or shorten (related to qâphach); it is safer, however, and more appropriate, to take it in the sense of rolling up, as in the name of the badger (Isaiah 14:23; Isaiah 34:11), since otherwise what Hezekiah says of himself and of God would be tautological. I rolled or wound up my life, as the weaver rolls up the finished piece of cloth: i.e., I was sure of my death, namely, because God was about to give me up to death; He was about to cut me off from the thrum (the future is here significantly interchanged with the perfect). Dallâh is the thrum, licium, the threads of the warp upon a loom, which becomes shorter and shorter the further the weft proceeds, until at length the piece is finished, and the weaver cuts through the short threads, and so sets it free (בצּע, cf., Job 6:9; Job 27:8). The strophe closes with the deep lamentation which the sufferer poured out at that time: he could not help feeling that God would put an end to him (shâlam, syn. kâlâh, tâmam, gâmar) from day to night, i.e., in the shortest time possible (compare Job 4:20).

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