Isaiah 38:8 MEANING

Isaiah 38:8
Verse 8. - The sun-dial of Ahaz. We are informed by Herodotus that the sun-dial was an invention of the Babylonians (Herod., 2:109), from whom it would readily pass to the Assyrians. Ahaz may have obtained a knowledge of it, or an actual specimen, when he visited Tiglath-Pileser at Damascus (2 Kings 16:10), and, on his return to his capital, have caused one to be erected there. Sun-dials are of several kinds. The one here spoken of seems to have consisted of a set of steps, with a perpendicular gnomon or pole at the top, the shadow of which receded up the steps as the sun rose in the heavens, and descended down them as the sun declined. We must suppose that the sign was given in the forenoon, when the shadow was gradually creeping up the steps. Hezekiah thought that a sudden jump in the same direction would be as nothing compared with a reversal of the motion, and therefore required that the shadow should go back, which it did. How the effect was produced, whether by an eclipse as argued by Mr. Bosanquet ('Transactions of Society of Bibl. Archaeology,' vol. 3. pp. 34-40), or by refraction, or by an actual alteration of the earth's motion, we are not told; but there is reason to believe that the cause, whatever it was, was local, not general, since the King of Babylon subsequently sent ambassadors, to inquire concerning "the wonder that was done in the land" (2 Chronicles 32:31). The sun returned ten degrees. We must not press this expression as indicating a real alteration of the sun's place in the heavens. The meaning is that the shadow cast by the sun returned.

38:1-8 When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet, if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be his, we do not pray in vain. See 2Ki 20:1-11.Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees,.... Or lines made on a dial plate, to show the progress of the sun, and what time of day it was. Some think only the shadow was brought back by the power of God, the sun keeping its course as usual; but in the next clause the sun is expressly said to return ten degrees: besides, it is not easy to conceive how the shadow of the sun should go back, unless the sun itself did; if it had been only the shadow of it on Ahaz's dial, it would not have fallen under the notice of other nations, or have been the subject of their inquiry, as it was of the Babylonians, 2 Chronicles 32:31,

which is gone down on the sundial of Ahaz, the first sundial we read of; and though there might be others at this time, yet the lines or degrees might be more plain in this; and besides, this might be near the king's bedchamber, and to which he could look out at, and see the wonder himself, the shadow to return ten degrees backward; what those degrees, lines, or marks on the dial showed, is not certain. The Targum makes them to be hours, paraphrasing the words thus;

"behold, I will bring again the shadow of the stone of hours, by which the sun is gone down on the dial of Ahaz, backwards ten degrees; and the sun returned ten hours on the figure of the stone of hours, in which it went down;''

but others think they pointed out half hours; and others but quarters of hours; but, be it which it will, it matters not, the miracle was the same:

so the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down; and so this day was longer by these degrees than a common day, be they what they will, and according as we suppose the sun went back, suddenly, or as it usually moved, though in a retrograde way, and made the same progress again through these degrees. The Jews have a fable, that the day King Ahaz died was shortened ten hours, and now lengthened the same at this season, which brought time right again. According to Gussetius, these were not degrees or marks on a sundial, to know the time of day, for this was a later invention, ascribed to Anaximene's, a disciple of Anaximander (c), two hundred years after this; but were steps or stairs built by Ahaz, to go up from the ground to the roof of the house, on the outside of it, and which might consist of twenty steps or more; and on which the sun cast a shadow all hours of the day, "and this declined ten of these steps", which might be at the window of Hezekiah's bedchamber. (d).

(d) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 76. (d) Vid. Comment. Ebr. p. 859.

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