Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The mighty sign for King Hezekiah

Besides Joshua 10 the Bible has another story that is related to the heavenly signs, Sun, Moon and Stars, showing the passing of time.

Mechanical clocks were not known in ancient Israel but we have a very old reference to a kind of Sun dial.

I am not quite sure but I suspect this may be among the oldest literal references to time keeping we have from the Near East.

The story is told in the first Isaiah in Chapter 38 and tells about the Assyrian period when king Hezekiah ruling in Jerusalem 715 - 686 BC.

Since the famous Qumran Isaiah scroll has first, second and third Isaiah's as a single Book of Isaiah as a  manuscript that is dated to the 2nd century BC we can be confident that the story of the "Sun dial" is more than 2500 years old.

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.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, 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.

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

“‘This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.
Isaiah 38:1-8 NIV

I have a bit of a problem trying to figure out in my mind how the steps in the palace in the City of David south of the Temple were located for the shadow cast by sun to move on them and showing time.

Today there is a historic Sun dial on the steps leading to the Dome of the Rock standing in the area where the Temple of Solomon and later Temple of Herod once stood.

Isaiah 38 has a touching poem written by king Hezekiah after he recovered from the deadly sickness.

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