Isaiah 38:18
For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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?

continued...

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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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). Isaiah 38:18In strophe 4 he rejoices in the preservation of his life as the highest good, and promises to praise God for it as long as he lives.

"For Hades does not praise Thee; death does not sing praises to Thee:

They that sink into the grave do not hope for Thy truth.

The living, the living, he praises Thee, as I do today;

The father to the children makes known Thy truth.

Jehovah is ready to give me salvation;

Therefore will we play my stringed instruments all the days of my life

In the house of Jehovah."

We have here that comfortless idea of the future state, which is so common in the Psalms (vid., Psalm 6:6; Psalm 30:10; Psalm 88:12-13, cf., Psalm 115:17), and also in the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5, Ecclesiastes 9:10). The foundation of this idea, notwithstanding the mythological dress, is an actual truth (vid., Psychol. p. 409), which the personal faith of the hero of Job endeavours to surmount (Comment. pp. 150-153, and elsewhere), but the decisive removal of which was only to be effected by the progressive history of salvation. The v. is introduced with "for" (kı̄), inasmuch as the gracious act of God is accounted for on the ground that He wished to be still further glorified by His servant whom He delivered. לא, in Isaiah 38:18, is written only once instead of twice, as in Isaiah 23:4. They "sink into the grave," i.e., are not thought of as dying, but as already dead. "Truth" ('ĕmeth) is the sincerity of God, with which He keeps His promises. Isaiah 38:19 reminds us that Manasseh, who was twelve years old when he succeeded his father, was not yet born (cf., Isaiah 39:7). The להושׁיעני יהוה, μέλλει σώζειν με, is the same as in Isaiah 37:26. The change in the number in Isaiah 38:20 may be explained from the fact that the writer thought of himself as the choral leader of his family; ay is a suffix, not a substantive termination (Ewald, 164, p. 427). The impression follows us to the end, that we have cultivated rather than original poetry here. Hezekiah's love to the older sacred literature is well known. He restored the liturgical psalmody (2 Chronicles 29:30). He caused a further collection of proverbs to be made, as a supplement to the older book of Proverbs (Proverbs 25:1). The "men of Hezekiah" resembled the Pisistratian Society, of which Onomacritos was the head.

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