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1 HOW HEZEKIAH WAS SICK, AND READY TO DIE; AND HOW GOD BESTOWED UPON HIM FIFTEEN YEARS LONGER LIFE, [AND SECURED THAT PROMISE] BY THE GOING BACK OF THE SHADOW TEN DEGREES.
2 Josephus, and all our copies, place the sickness of Hezekiah after the destruction of Sennacherib's army, because it appears to have been after his first assault, as he was going into Arabia and Egypt, where he pushed his conquests as far as they would go, and in order to despatch his story altogether; yet does no copy but this of Josephus say it was after that destruction, but only that it happened in those days, or about that time of Hezekiah's life. Nor will the fifteen years' prolongation of his life after his sickness, allow that sickness to have been later than the former part of the fifteenth year of his reign, since chronology does not allow him in all above twenty-nine years and a few months; whereas the first assault of Sennacherib was on the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, but the destruction of Sennacherib's army was not till his eighteenth year.
3 As to this regress of the shadow, either upon a sun-dial, or the steps of the royal palace built by Ahaz, whether it were physically done by the real miraculous revolution of the earth in its diurnal motion backward from east to west for a while, and its return again to its old natural revolution from west to east; or whether it were not apparent only, and performed by an aerial phosphorus, which imitated the sun's motion backward, while a cloud hid the real sun; cannot now be determined. Philosophers and astronomers will naturally incline to the latter hypothesis. However, it must be noted, that Josephus seems to have understood it otherwise than we generally do, that the shadow was accelerated as much at first forward as it was made to go backward afterward, and so the day was neither longer nor shorter than usual; which, it must be confessed agrees best of all to astronomy, whose eclipses, older than the time were observed at the same times of the day as if this miracle had never happened. After all, this wonderful signal was not, it seems, peculiar to Judea, but either seen, or at least heard of, at Babylon also, as appears by 2 Chronicles 32:31, where we learn that the Babylonian ambassadors were sent to Hezekiah, among other things, to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land.
4 This expression of Josephus, that the Medes, upon this destruction of the Assyrian army, "overthrew" the Assyrian empire, seems to be too strong; for although they immediately cast off the Assrian yoke, and set up Deioces, a king of their own, yet it was some time before the Medes and Babylonians overthrew Nineveh, and some generations ere the Medes and Persians under Cyaxares and Cyrus overthrew the Assyrian or Babylonian empire, and took Babylon.
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