Some historical notes on today’s reading:
The retrograde motion of the sun was noticed in Babylon, because from times past the greatest astronomers of the ancient world dwelt there. They diligently recorded all that transpired in the heavens, and something as unusual as this miracle was of course noticed by them. Hearing that the miracle was connected with Judah, the king sent his embassy to Hezekiah. Isaiah rebuked Hezekiah for showing the Babylonians all his treasure, and revealed to him that Judah’s downfall would not be at the hands of the Assyrians whom he feared, but the Babylonians whom he trusted.
Sennacherib never again brought an army to wage war in Assyria’s western tributaries, after his humiliating defeat by the angel of the LORD. Instead, he contented himself with conquests closer to home, and Babylon was again forced to pay tribute, after a brief period of independence. Merodach Baladan was king of Babylon at this juncture, as the Scriptures reveal. He was not content to remain Assyria’s vassal, and as a result he was involved in constant revolts and plots against Assyrian authority. He was captured numerous times, and Assyrian governors placed on the Babylonian throne instead, but each time he managed to escape, likely with help.
The Babylonians always welcomed their old king back on the throne with joy, for they despised their Assyrian masters, who they did away with by murder. Finally exasperated with Babylonian revolts, Sennacherib marched on the city and destroyed it, razing its walls, temples, and palaces to the ground in 689 bc. Merodach Baladan was killed in this confrontation. This was an act of barbarity in the eyes of the Babylonians and all Mesopotamians. Fresh conspiracies were formed against Sennacherib, but none succeeded until his two oldest sons killed him with the sword while he was worshiping in the temple of his god, and having escaped into Armenia, Sennacherib’s youngest son, Esarhaddon, became king of Assyria in his stead (681 bc).
So we can see that Hezekiah’s sickness happened after the destruction of the Assyrian host, but before the death of Sennacherib. Ancient writers did not always arrange every detail of their historical material chronologically, but thematically. When Esarhaddon became king of Assyria, one of his first acts was to have Babylon rebuilt with magnificence, including a grand palace, from whence he ruled part of the year. He sought to make his grip on the Babylonian throne more secure, by making amends for what were considered the sins of his father.
Concerning the terminal sickness which Hezekiah suffered:
“Go and tell Hezekiah: ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.”‘” Isa 38:5
This is our clue, that the sickness to death and the miraculous recovery by the hand of the LORD, was prophetic of the son of David, the Messiah: Hezekiah, a king who reigned in righteousness, suffered a death sentence (Isa 38:1) but was miraculously delivered from death and restored to life (Isa 38:16-17).