These verses relate the story of Hezekiah’s deliverance from a terminal illness. While many have speculated upon the exact nature of the “boil” (v. 7), its real significance lies in Hezekiah’s response to the news of his affliction.
In some ways, this text, along with 19:14-34, serves as a frame around Yahweh’s deliverance of Jerusalem in 19:35-37. There, Hezekiah had prayed for the deliverance of the city from the Assyrian threat and the prophet Isaiah had announced that Hezekiah’s prayer had indeed been heard. Here, Hezekiah again prays and God tells Isaiah to announce the good news of Hezekiah’s recovery. Such a structuring invites comparison of the two prayers. It is customary to see Hezekiah’s second prayer as rather self-righteous with its call for Yahweh to remember Hezekiah’s faithful obedience, but this kind of prayer is quite common in the Psalms and there is no need to denigrate Hezekiah’s piety. What we see in his response of turning away from Isaiah to face the wall, his fervent prayer, and his bitter weeping is rather an example of hopeful trust in the power of God to alter the inevitable; and that prayer is answered.
Upon his recovery, Hezekiah is promised another fifteen years of life, during which time God will deliver Jerusalem and its king, not because of Hezekiah’s faithfulness as expressed in the prayer, but, as God says, “for my sake and for the sake of my servant David" (v. 6 NIV).
20In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover. 2Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: 3Remember now, O Lord, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight. Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 5Turn back, and say to Hezekiah prince of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. 6I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant Davids sake. 7Then Isaiah said, Bring a lump of figs. Let them take it and apply it to the boil, so that he may recover.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org