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Isaiah 38:9-20 – Hezekiah's Prayer

Summary

Hezekiah prays to God for deliverance from a deathly illness and gives thanks for his recovery.

Analysis

This prayer is an addition to the historical appendix (chapters 36-39) that is not found in its source (2 Kings 18:13-20:19). Hezekiah had fallen ill, and death seemed certain (Isaiah 38:1), but God hears his prayer and sends Isaiah to announce the king's recovery (38:4-6). The deliverance is both personal and communal, since the king's new hold on life serves as a sign of the redemption of Jerusalem (38:6).

The prayer is a typical song of thanksgiving that could easily be found in the Psalter. In more detail than most similar psalms, it rehearses the pray-er's lament in the time of illness (vv. 10-16) and then gives thanks for the recovery (vv. 17-20).

Like Hezekiah's prayer, other psalms cry out that Sheol and death cannot praise God (v. 18; see Psalms 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12). Death is understood to be the end of personal existence by the people of the Old Testament. But God is the God of the living (v. 19), and this recognition of God's total commitment to life will be one impetus pushing in the direction of a theology that comes to understand the possibility of resurrection.

Isaiah 38:9-20

9 A writing of King Hezekiah of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:
10 I said: In the noontide of my days
   I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
   for the rest of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the Lord
   in the land of the living;
I shall look upon mortals no more
   among the inhabitants of the world.
12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
   like a shepherd’s tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
   he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;*
13   I cry for help* until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
   from day to night you bring me to an end.*


14 Like a swallow or a crane* I clamour,
   I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upwards.
   O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security!
15 But what can I say? For he has spoken to me,
   and he himself has done it.
All my sleep has fled*
   because of the bitterness of my soul.


16 O Lord, by these things people live,
   and in all these is the life of my spirit.*
   O restore me to health and make me live!
17 Surely it was for my welfare
   that I had great bitterness;
but you have held back* my life
   from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
   behind your back.
18 For Sheol cannot thank you,
   death cannot praise you;
those who go down to the Pit cannot hope
   for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, they thank you,
   as I do this day;
fathers make known to children
   your faithfulness.


20 The Lord will save me,
   and we will sing to stringed instruments*
all the days of our lives,
   at the house of the Lord.

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10 February 2011

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