In Isaiah 38:8 and in the parallel passage in 2 Kings 20:11 God tells us: "Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the DEGREES, which is gone down in the SUN DIAL of Ahaz, ten DEGREES backward".
The reading of the SUN DIAL, or dial, of Ahaz going back ten DEGREES is the reading of the Latin Vulgate 405 A.D. - "descenderat in horologio Ahaz in sole retrorsum decem lineis", Wycliffe 1395 - "bi which it yede doun in the orologie of Achas, in the sunne, to turne ayen backward bi ten lynes." Coverdale 1535, the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Douay-Rheims 1582, the Geneva Bible 1587, the King James Bible 1611, Webster's 1833, the Lesser O.T. 1853, Noyes Translation 1869, Darby 1870, the 1917 JPS (Jewish Publication Society) - "I will cause the shadow of the dial, which is gone down on the sun-dial of Ahaz, to return backward ten degrees.", the Complete Jewish Bible, the World English Bible, the ASV 1901 (the predecessor of the NASB), Lamsa's translation of the Syriac Peshitta - "on the sundial of Ahaz your father, ten degrees backward.", the Douay 1950, The New Berkeley Version in Modern English 1969, the NKJV 1982, the RSV 1952, the NRSV 1989, ESV. 2001, the Message 2002, the New Heart English Bible 2010, the Scriptures 1998, the New Living Translation 2007 - "the sundial of Ahaz!", the Knox Bible 2012, the Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011, International Standard Version 2012 and the Third Millenium Bible 1998.
Among foreign language bibles that read "the sun dial of Ahaz" are the Italian Diodati - "nell’orologio dal sole di Achaz", the French Martin 1744 - "des degrés par lesquels elle est descendue au cadran d'Achaz", the Portuguese Almeida Actualizada - "graus a sombra no relógio de Acaz" Luther's German Bible 1545 - "Sonnenzeiger des Ahas" and the 2000 German Schlachter Bible - "der Sonnenuhr des Ahas", the Danish Bible - "Solen på Akaz's Solur, ti Streger!", the Dutch Staten Vertaling Bible - "van Achaz' zonnewijzer", the Norwegian Det Norsk Bibelelskap 1930 - "solen på Akas' solskive", the Spanish Reina Valera 1569, 1909, 1960, 1995 - "en el reloj de Acaz" and the Contemporánea 2011 - "Yo haré que en el reloj de sol de Ajaz la sombra retroceda los diez grados que ya ha bajado." and the Modern Greek translation - "κατεβη εις το ηλιακον ωρολογιον του Αχαζ."
However in the NIV, Holman Standard, Green's 2000, Dan Wallace and company's NET version and the NASB the degrees become STAIRS and the sundial becomes a STAIRWAY! In them we read: "I will cause the shadow ON THE STAIRWAY, which has gone down with the sun on THE STAIRWAY of Ahaz, to go back ten STEPS." Say what?
The 1987 Amplified bible gives us this self contradictory reading that does NOT follow the Hebrew text, but in confused fashion includes BOTH interpretations saying: "Behold, I will turn the shadow [denoting the time of day] ON THE STEPS OR DEGREES, which has gone down on THE STEPS OR SUNDIAL of Ahaz, backward ten STEPS OR DEGREES. And the sunlight turned back ten steps on the steps on which it had gone down." Is God really this confused?
The Catholic versions follow their usual contradictory readings with the earlier Douay-Rheims 1610 and the 1950 reading "the SUN DIAL of Ahaz", but the more modern Catholic versions like the 1968 Jerusalem bible, the 1970 St. Joseph New American Bible and the 1983 New Jerusalem now siding with versions like the NIV, NASB, Holman and reading: "I will make the sun of the STAIRWAY to the TERRACE of Ahaz go back the ten STEPS it has advanced." (St. Joseph NAB 1970). But now once again the 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version has gone back to reading "sundial" - "on THE SUNDIAL of Ahaz, to move in reverse for ten lines.”
The King James Bible is right and the NASB, NIV, Holman and NET are wrong.
John Gill comments: "Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees…Or lines made on a dial plate, to show the progress of the sun, and what time of day it was. Some think only the shadow was brought back by the power of God, the sun keeping its course as usual; but in the next clause the sun is expressly said to return ten degrees: besides, it is not easy to conceive how the shadow of the sun should go back, unless the sun itself did; if it had been only the shadow of it on Ahaz's dial, it would not have fallen under the notice of other nations, or have been the subject of their inquiry, as it was of the Babylonians, (2 Chronicles 32:31) : which is gone down on the sundial of Ahaz, the first sundial we read of."
David Guzik's Commentary - "Behold, I will bring the shadow of the sundial ten degrees backward: God promised to do something completely miraculous for the confirming sign. And it happened just as God promised: So the sun returned ten degrees on the dial by which it had gone down. This was a wonderfully appropriate sign for Hezekiah. By bringing the shadow of the sundial move backward, it gave more time in a day - just as God gave Hezekiah more time."
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment - "sundial of Ahaz--HERODOTUS (2.109) states that the sundial and the division of the day into twelve hours, were invented by the Babylonians; from them Ahaz borrowed the invention. He was one, from his connection with Tiglath-pileser, likely to have done so (2Ki 16:7, 10). "Shadow of the degrees" means the shadow made on the degrees. JOSEPHUS thinks these degrees were steps ascending to the palace of Ahaz; the time of day was indicated by the number of steps reached by the shadow. But probably a sundial, strictly so called, is meant; it was of such a size, and so placed, that Hezekiah, when convalescent, could witness the miracle from his chamber."
Matthew Henry comments - "The sign was the going back of the shadow upon the sun-dial. The sun is a faithful measurer of time, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race; but he that set that clock a going can set it back when he pleases, and make it to return; for the Father of all lights is the director of them."
Barnes' Notes on the Bible - "The shadow had gone down on the dial by the regular course of the sun. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah; and it is evident from this, that the dial had been introduced by him, and had been used by him to measure time."
John Calvin translates it as "sundial" in his Latin translation - "quibus descendit in horologio Achaz per solem decem gradibus" - and comments: "The sign which is here given to Hezekiah is the going back of the shadow on the sundial, along with the sun, ten degrees by which it had already gone up, that is, had advanced above the horizon. And this sign bears a resemblance to the event itself, as all other signs generally do; for it is as if he had said, "As it is in my power to change the hours of the day, and to make the sun go backwards, so it is in my power to lengthen thy life." As to the shadow not going back as many degrees as there were years added to his life, that was impossible, because there were not more than twelve degrees on the sundial; for the day was divided by them into twelve hours, either longer or shorter, according to the change of the season. We need not, therefore, give ourselves any uneasiness about the number; it is enough that there is a manifest correspondence and resemblance."
The King James Bible is right, as always. All of grace, believing The Book,
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