Is Isaiah 38:1 a false prophecy about King Hezekiah?
It is common for some individuals to claim that prophesies of the Bible are false. Some individuals do not believe there are any true prophecies in the Bible. This often occurs because of unbelief. The prophecy of Isaiah 38:1 is one such prophecy that some may claim is a false prophecy. But a careful study of the passage reveals that Isaiah 38:1 does not record a false prophecy about King Hezekiah. What follows is an explanation of the text and why it is not a false prophecy.
Isaiah 38:1 — Prophecy About King Hezekiah
Isaiah 38:1 records a prophecy given by the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah.
In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” Isaiah 38:1 (NASB)
The prophet told the king that he needed to get ready because he was going to die and not continue to live. 2 Kings 20:1 and 2 Chronicles 32:24 report that Hezekiah was informed his illness was terminal. He was mortally ill. So God sent Isaiah to warn him that he would soon die. It is important to notice that we are not told when Hezekiah would die. The king was not given a date for his death.
Until Isaiah made that statement, the king did not know he would not recover from his illness. Once the king understood that his illness was terminal, he responded by praying to God. His prayer is recorded in verses 2-3.
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “ Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Isaiah 38:2-3 (NASB)
2 Kings 20:2-3 reports the same event. In summary, the king told God that he was completely devoted to Him and was weeping. He did not want to die.
Isaiah 38:5 — God Changed His Plan
2 Kings 20:5-6 and Isaiah 38:4-5 tell us that God heard the king’s prayer and lengthened the years of his life. Here is Isaiah 38:4-5.
Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.'” Isaiah 38:4-5 (NASB)
2 Kings 20:5 adds that God would heal the king. Both 2 Kings 20:6 and Isaiah 38:5 say that God granted the king another fifteen years of life. Also, 2 Chronicles 29:1 tells us that Hezekiah became king at the age of twenty-five and reigned for twenty-nine years. That means he was ill at the age of 39. But since God extended his life fifteen years, he died at the age of fifty four.
Therefore, “Is Isaiah 38:1 a false prophecy about King Hezekiah?” Is 2 Kings 20:1 also a false prophecy? A clear understanding of the answer is hindered by the limited information provided to us in Scripture. Surely, there was more conversation between the king and the prophet than we are given. It is highly doubtful that the prophet entered the king’s throne room, or where ever they met, without an exchange of greetings and a brief conversation. It also unlikely that there was no conversation after Isaiah gave the king the warning. Surely, they said something like, “Goodbye!” What is clear is that both 2 Kings 20:1 and Isaiah 38:1 summarized God’s statement. That is all that we know. Then all that we are told in both 2 Kings 20:1-6 and Isaiah 38:1-6 is that God sent the prophet back to the king to tell him that he would live another fifteen years. The point is, we are undoubtedly missing part of the conversations.
Consequently, we cannot conclude that the prophecy in verse 1 was a false prophecy because our information is limited. In addition, since God did extend King Hezekiah’s life fifteen years, it is an error to conclude that Isaiah’s warning to the king was a dogmatic prophecy as opposed to a warning.. We must also realize that it is clear from the book of Isaiah that the man called Isaiah was a true prophet. That was proven in the preceding thirty-seven chapters of Isaiah since God states in Deuteronomy 18:19-22 that we can know a man is a prophet if his prophecy becomes true.
Therefore, we must understand that 2 Kings 20:1 and Isaiah 38:1 were not prophesies but warnings. An important biblical principle that helps us understand what happened is given in Jeremiah 18:7-10.
“At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.” Jeremiah 18:7-10 (NASB)
The principle is clear. God will “speak concerning a nation,” or we could say, “speaking concerning a person.” That is, God will warn a nation. God also warned king Hezekiah, and he repented. Because he repented, God changed His plan and allowed him to live longer. Why did God give him the terminal illness? 2 Chronicles 32:25 tells us he was a proud man, and verse 26 says that as a result of his illness he humbled his proud heart before the Lord. So, God planned to end Hezekiah’s life, but extended the king’s life because repented. That is God’s divine operating principle.
So, is Isaiah 38:1 a false prophecy about King Hezekiah? The answer is no! 2 Kings 20:1 and Isaiah 38:1 record the same warning given to King Hezekiah. He repented and God followed His divine principle in Jeremiah 18:7-10 and Romans 2:4-5.
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