This happened at a time prior to the Lord delivering Judah from the Assyrian invasion. We can also see these events recorded in 2 Kings 20:1-11. “Interpreters agree that the events described in chapters 38 and 39 preceded the invasion of 701 B.C. Many dates these events in 703 B.C., but the evidence more strongly suggests a date of about 712 B.C.” (Wolf)
We do not know what the sickness of King Hezekiah was at this time. God was kind in telling Hezekiah that his time of death was near. This allowed him to get his affairs in order. By comparing 2 Kings 18:2 and 2 Kings 20:6 that Hezekiah was 39 years old when Isaiah told him that he would soon die.
By Hezekiah turning his face to the wall he shows that his prayer was in earnest and was to be shared between him and his God. It may seem to us that Hezekiah’s prayer was a little self-centered. Asking God to remember how good he had been as if to say that God was not being fair to him. In the Old Testament times, blessing and cursing were sent from God based on one’s obedience. We see this principle in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. This was the principle that David wrote in Psalm 15. “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.” (Psalm 15:1-2) In the New Testament, we are blessed through our faith in Jesus. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”– in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14) “We come across similar pleas again and again in the prayers of God’s children of old. The Psalms abound with them. But we do not find them in the New Testament. The Church bases its pleas on Christ’s righteousness.” (Bultema)
We may wonder why Hezekiah was so worried by the prospect of death. In the Old Testament times, there was not a great confidence of glory in the life beyond. Through Jesus life and immortality came to light by the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:10) Hezekiah may have felt that God was displeased with him and his heart was filled with fear.
God answers the prayer of Hezekiah because of his earnestness. In God’s answer, He added fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah. Did this prove false the words of God “you shall die and not live?” No, as we all have Hezekiah did die just not as soon as God had said. Also when God announces judgment there is always an invitation to repent and receive His mercy.
The prayer of Hezekiah was important. If he had not prayed to the Lord his life would not have been extended. Prayer to the Lord always matters. There are two gifts that the Lord God gave to King Hezekiah. One was an extended life and the other is he knew that he had only fifteen years. This would give Hezekiah the motivation to walk right with the Lord and get his house in order.
This promise from the Lord dates this chapter as being before God destroyed the Assyrian army in Isaiah 37:36-37. This promise also confirms the other promise of an extended fifteen years of life. This must have been great words of comfort that after his sickness God would deliver him from the Assyrians.
In the mercy of God, he gave Hezekiah a sign to confirm His word. This is a gift from God as He need not give signs of His word. God does not need to prove Himself. If God says it then we should believe His word on faith. God shows the same mercy to us in that it is enough for Him to say that He loves us but He also does much to demonstrate His love to us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God gave Hezekiah a miraculous sign and it happened just as God said it would. The sun returned ten degrees on the dial by which it had gone down. By God moving the sun back by ten degrees it gave more time to the day just as God had given Hezekiah more time in his life.
Sheol, Hebrew for the place of the dead, Hezekiah laments that soon he shall be there. Hezekiah fears that in his death he will no longer see the Lord. Hezekiah’s thinking is based on the misunderstanding of his time of the world beyond life. Hezekiah did not know that through Jesus Christ immortality would be brought to life. (2 Timothy 1:10) There were in the Old Testament glimpses of hope for life after death. (Job 19:25-27) But there were was no clear understanding of life after death. (Psalm 88:3-5; Psalm 88:11) Death was an exchange for the certainty of this world for the uncertainty of the next.
Hezekiah living without the knowledge of Jesus and His work on the cross lived under the bondage of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15) For the believer in Jesus Christ, it is different as death has no victory or sting. (1 Corinthians 15:53-55) “The varied cries of Palestine’s birds express the varied nature of Hezekiah’s many cries to God, now quiet, now shrill, and now mournful.” (Grogan)
Today we can have a clearer understanding of the world beyond than King Hezekiah. Scripture uses three words to describe the place people go when they die. Sheol is as said before a Hebrew word that meant the place of the dead. The word Sheol does not refer to either torment or eternal happiness. Sheol could have the meaning of the grave. Hades is a Greek word used to describe the world beyond and generally has the same idea as Sheol.
In Revelation 9:1 it speaks of the bottomless pit which is a prison for certain demons. (Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6) Hades is the realm of the dead as we see in the book of Romans. (Romans 10:7) Gianna is a Greek word that has been borrowed from the Hebrew. It was used by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark 9:43-44. Here in Jesus’ usage, it translates into the word Hell. Hell is a translation of the Greek word for the Valley of the Hinnom. A place that is outside of the walls of Jerusalem and a place of human sacrifice. (2 Chronicles 28:1-3; Jeremiah 32:35) The Valley of the Hinnom was also a place for the burning of rubbish. There the smoldering fires and the festering worms made a graphic place for the damned. This place is also called the lake of fire, (Revelation 20:13-15) and was prepared for Satan and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
The Lord God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and he knew that it was the Lord’s work. Hezekiah knew it both in word, (spoken to me) and in deed, (done it). Therefore Hezekiah was speechless, (What shall I say).
Hezekiah made a good promise to the Lord, one that is often on the lips of the person that the Lord has spared. The promise that Hezekiah made would only be as good as his word. So what did Hezekiah do with these added years to his life? One thing is he fathered a son that would succeed him to the throne of Judah. His son Manasseh was twelve years old when he took the throne of Judah. (2 Kings 21:1) Manasseh was not a good king as he did evil in the sight of the Lord. (2 Kings 21:2) Judah was targeted for judgment from the Lord because of the terrible sins of Manasseh. (2 Kings 21:10-15)
It is admirable the honesty of Hezekiah that he admits that it was not for God’s glory that he was troubled over his impending death. It was for his own peace that he wanted his life spared. Hezekiah knew that he could praise God while he walked on this earth but he was not sure if he could in the world beyond this one. But Hezekiah shows the right response to God’s deliverance his praise.
God uses a medical treatment as a sign to bring Hezekiah’s healing. God can and often does healing this way. Medical treatments should never be rejected for the cause of faith. “The patient must pray, but withal make use of means; trust God, but not tempt him.” (Trapp)
Hezekiah wanted a sign but a sign that would allow him to go to the House of the Lord. Hezekiah was too ill to go to the Lord’s House and he wanted to go. So the sign that he would be able was connected. When healed he would be able to go to the House of the Lord.