2 Kings 20:1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
2 Kings 20:2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,
2 Kings 20:3 “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
2 Kings 20:4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him:
2 Kings 20:5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD.
2 Kings 20:6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
2 Kings 20:7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.
2 Kings 20:8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?”
2 Kings 20:9 Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
2 Kings 20:10 “It is a simple”] matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
2 Kings 20:11 Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
‘The stairway in question was probably connected with the covered way for the sabbath, which had been built inside the palace by Ahaz at a time when the outer royal entrance was being removed (2 King 16:18). This stairway may have served as a replacement for the cause-way made by David westward at the gate of Shallecheth (1 Ch. 26:16). Whatever the case, it appears that at certain times of the day the shadow of some projecting object fell upon the staircase, and we learn from both 2 Kings and Isaiah that this shadow had already gone down the steps, while from Isaiah we learn in addition that the sun also was going down. The miracle therefore took place in the afternoon, when the sun moves on its downward course, and when all shadows are thrown in an easterly direction. We are not told what the object was that cast the shadow, but it must have stood to the west of the staircase; and the top of the staircase must have passed into the shadow first, the foot of the staircase remaining longest in the light. The royal palace is understood to have been placed SE of the temple, and it is therefore probable that it was some part of the temple buildings that had cast its shadow down the stairway in full view of the dying king, as he lay in his chamber. If the afternoon were well advanced, the sun would be moving rapidly in altitude and but little in azimuth; or, in other words, the shadow would be advancing down the steps at its quickest rate, but be moving only slowly toward the left of those who were mounting them. It may well have been thecase, therefore, that the time had come when the priests from Ophel and the officials and courtiers from the palace were going up the ascent into the house of the Lord to be present at the evening sacrifice, passing from the bright sunshine at the foot of the stairs into the shadow that had already fallen upon the upper steps. The sun would be going straight down behind the buildings and the steps already in shadow would sink into deeper shadow, not to emerge again into the light a new day’s sn had arisen. When Hezekiah was given the choice of a sign, it would have been easy for him, as he remarked to Isaiah, to choose to hasten the decline of the shadow, since a bank of cloud behind the temple would have achieved that effect readily. But no disposition of cloud could bring the shadow back from that part of the stairway that had already passed into it and restore it to the sunshine. To see the more difficult of the two choices executed before his very eyes would be the best possible guarantee that he would in fact recover and go to the house of the Lord on the third day. The shadow returned ten steps (AV “degrees”), and in fulfillment of His promise God healed Hezekiah, adding another fifteen years to his life. Various explanations of the phenomenon have been offered, but as it is impossible to know the astronomical conditions at the time of the incident, the must remain in the realm of conjecture. There can be no doubt as to the actuality of the stairway, since time-measuring devices employing such staircase were used in Egypt (cf. S. Iwry, BASOR, 147 [Oct. 1957], 30-33). Equally, it is impossible to accept the suggestion that the horologe may have had a dial-face improperly constructed so as to reverse the motion of the shadow at certain times, since such a device would have been completely useless, to say nothing of reproduccing the phenomenon of retrograde motion with disconcerting and meaningless frequency. The biblical narrative makes it clear that the occurrence was not connected with any known natural-law, since the dying king was given free choice and exercised it without restriction. Indeed, the very character of natural law precludes precludes the possibility of alternative consequences resulting from its operation. Because the movement of the shadow cannot be explained by any known astronomical law, it does not seem possible to do other than assign the phenomenon to the supernatural realm and to attempt, as far as is possible, to explain known details of the general setting.’ (R.K. Harrison, ISBE)
2 Kings 20:12 At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness.
2 Kings 20:13 Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil—his armoury and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
2 Kings 20:14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.”
2 Kings 20:15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
2 Kings 20:16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD:
2 Kings 20:17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD.
2 Kings 20:18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
2 Kings 20:19 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”
2 Kings 20:20 As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?
The pool and the tunnel – These were constructed in response to the threat by Sennacherib, 2 Kings 18:27.
The book of the annals of the kings of Judah – These annals no longer exist. However, in 1880 an inscription was found in a tunnel – almost certainly Hezekiah’s tunnel – which stretches from Gihon Spring in northeast Jerusalem to the Pool of Siloam in the southwest of the city. The inscription refers to the moment when the two teams of diggers, each working from opposite ends, met.
This project is also referred to in 2 Chron 32:30. See the note there.
2 Kings 20:21 Hezekiah rested with his fathers. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.