A second chance – Friday, 15th Week in ordinary time – Isaiah 38:1-6,21-22, 7-8
Today’s text is the last of the readings taken from the prophet Isaiah and a text that brings us to the end the first part of a three part section that divides the book of Isaiah. The structure of the text has been rearranged for easy reading. You will notice that we read verse 1-6 and then 21-22 and then go back to verse 7-8. This is because verses 21-22 are clearly out of place. They should have logically come after v. 6, as they do in the parallel account in 2 Kgs 20. But the two accounts from Kings and Isaiah are not identical and it appears that the version in Isaiah is abbreviated from that in Kings. If that is so then Isaiah 38:21–22 was inserted by a later reader who thought the account incomplete.
In today’s narrative we hear of the illness of a good king, Hezekiah who was also a faithful king who mostly followed God’s will. Among a line of kings who were steeped in idolatry and immorality, Hezekiah stood out for his goodness. Since Hezekiah died in 686/687 B.C., his sickness may have occurred in 702 B.C., that is, fifteen years before. We know from comparing 2 Kings 18:2 with 2 Kings 20:6, that Hezekiah was 39 years old when he learned he would soon die. The narrative of today seems to have taken place sometime before the Assyrian invasion by Sennacherib in 701 BC. (Isaiah 38:6). The events of this chapter are also recorded in 2 Kings 20:1-11.
We are not told how Hezekiah became sick but God was remarkably kind to Hezekiah, telling him that his death was near. Isaiah plays a central role in the king’s dialogue with God. It begins by the prophet telling the king, who is terminally ill, that it is time for him to put his affairs in order for his approaching death. Not all people are given the time to set their house in order.
We are told that king Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall. This “wall” was not any wall but the wall of the temple, God’s dwelling house. It shows us how earnest Hezekiah was in his prayer. He directed his prayer in privacy to God, and not to any man. Hezekiah prayed that God would remember the good things he had done in the service of Yahweh during his life.