Ezechias-Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the ...

There are two miracles involving the sun in the Old Testament. The better known one is when it stands still for the length of a day, so that Joshua can fight the Amorites in Gabaon (Jos. 10). The other is less well-known, which is perhaps surprising as it is mentioned four times in the Old Testament. It is the retrogression of the sun by 10 lines on the sundial of Ahaz. (4 Kings 20, 2 Par. 32, Is. 38, Eccles. 48).

The immediate occasion of this miracle might hardly seem to warrant something so stupendous. King Ezechias, son of Ahaz and one of the few good kings in Israel’s history, is mortally sick and prays. The prophet Isaiah comes to tell him that his prayer has been granted and that fifteen more years will be given him. Then Ezechias, instead of simply thanking him and waiting to recover, asks Isaiah what the sign will be that his word will come true and that he will be well enough to enter the temple; he asks for a miracle to justify him in believing in a miracle. Isaiah gives him a choice between the sun’s moving miraculously forward or miraculously backward, and the king chooses the latter.

As well as being a real miracle, it is also an allegory. Ezechiah is fallen man, created to be a king, but because of original sin, sick unto death, with his face turned away from the house of God. The descent of the sun by 10 lines is the descent of the Son of God by his incarnation and passion beneath all the choirs of angels and mankind: the sun itself represents Christ’s divinity, and the shadow His humanity. The rising again of the king and his entrance into the temple to give thanks for his recovery is our resurrection and entrance into the heavenly liturgy. He believes in the lesser, future miracle on the evidence of the former, greater one, as we believe in our coming resurrection because of the incarnation of God as man.

There is a tradition that the sundial of Ahaz on which the miracle of the sun was wrought was made from the brass altar which he had sacrilegiously caused to be moved from its proper place in the temple (4 Kings 16). It would be appropriate if true, since this was a type of the Cross on which Christ having descended offered the sacrifice of our redemption.

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