Isaiah 38:9-20 – Hezekiah’s Prayer


Isaiah 38:9-20


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


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.