Isa 40:1-31. Second Part of
the Prophecies of Isaiah.
The former were local and temporary in their
reference. These belong to the distant future, and are world-wide in
their interest; the deliverance from Babylon under Cyrus, which he here
foretells by prophetic suggestion, carries him on to the greater
deliverance under Messiah, the Saviour of Jews and Gentiles in the
present eclectic Church, and the restorer of Israel and Head of the
world-wide kingdom, literal and spiritual, ultimately. As Assyria was
the hostile world power in the former part, which refers to Isaiah's
own time, so Babylon is so in the latter part, which refers to a period
long subsequent. The connecting link, however, is furnished (Isa 39:6) at the close of the former part.
The latter part was written in the old age of Isaiah, as appears from
the greater mellowness of style and tone which pervades it; it is less
fiery and more tender and gentle than the former part.
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye—twice repeated
to give double assurance. Having announced the coming captivity of the
Jews in Babylon, God now desires His servants, the prophets (Isa 52:7), to comfort them. The scene is
laid in Babylon; the time, near the close of the captivity; the ground
of comfort is the speedy ending of the captivity, the Lord Himself
being their leader.
my people … your
God—correlatives (Jer 31:33; Ho 1:9, 10). It is God's covenant relation with His
people, and His "word" of promise (Isa 40:8) to their forefathers, which is the
ground of His interposition in their behalf, after having for a time
chastised them (Isa 54:8).
2. comfortably—literally, "to the
heart"; not merely to the intellect.
Jerusalem—Jerusalem though then in
ruins, regarded by God as about to be rebuilt; her people are
chiefly meant, but the city is personified.
cry—publicly and emphatically as a
herald cries aloud (Isa 40:3).
warfare—or, the appointed time
of her misery (Job 7:1,
Margin; Job 14:14; Da 10:1). The ulterior and Messianic reference
probably is the definite time when the legal economy of
burdensome rites is at an end (Ga 4:3, 4).
pardoned—The Hebrew expresses
that her iniquity is so expiated that God now delights in
double for all her sins—This can only,
in a very restricted sense, hold good of Judah's restoration after the
first captivity. For how can it be said her "warfare was accomplished,"
when as yet the galling yoke of Antiochus and also of Rome was before
them? The "double for her sins" must refer to the twofold captivity,
the Assyrian and the Roman; at the coming close of this latter
dispersion, and then only, can her "iniquity" be said to be "pardoned,"
or fully expiated [Houbigant]. It
does not mean double as much as she deserved, but ample
punishment in her twofold captivity. Messiah is the antitypical Israel
(compare Mt 2:15, with Ho 11:1). He indeed has "received" of sufferings
amply more than enough to expiate "for our sins" (Ro 5:15, 17). Otherwise (cry unto her) "that
she shall receive (blessings) of the Lord's hand double
to the punishment of all her sins" (so "sin" is used, Zec 14:19, Margin) [Lowth]. The English Version is simpler.
3. crieth in the wilderness—So the
Septuagint and Mt 3:3 connect
the words. The Hebrew accents, however, connect them thus: "In
the wilderness prepare ye," &c., and the parallelism also requires
this, "Prepare ye in the wilderness," answering to "make
straight in the desert." Matthew was entitled, as under
inspiration, to vary the connection, so as to bring out another sense,
included in the Holy Spirit's intention; in Mt 3:1, "John the Baptist, preaching in the
wilderness," answers thus to "The voice of one crying in the
wilderness." Maurer takes the
participle as put for the finite verb (so in Isa 40:6), "A voice crieth." The clause,
"in the wilderness," alludes to Israel's passage through it from Egypt
to Canaan (Ps 68:7),
Jehovah being their leader; so it shall be at the coming restoration of
Israel, of which the restoration from Babylon was but a type (not the
full realization; for their way from it was not through the
"wilderness"). Where John preached (namely, in the wilderness; the type
of this earth, a moral wilderness), there were the hearers who
are ordered to prepare the way of the Lord, and there was to be
the coming of the Lord [Bengel]. John,
though he was immediately followed by the suffering Messiah, is rather
the herald of the coming reigning Messiah, as Mal 4:5, 6 ("before the great and
dreadful day of the Lord"), proves. Mt 17:11 (compare Ac 3:21) implies that John is not exclusively
meant; and that though in one sense Elias has come, in another he is
yet to come. John was the figurative Elias, coming "in the
spirit and power of Elias" (Lu 1:17); Joh 1:21, where John the Baptist denies that he
was the actual Elias, accords with this view. Mal 4:5, 6 cannot have received its exhaustive
fulfilment in John; the Jews always understood it of the literal
Elijah. As there is another consummating advent of Messiah Himself, so
perhaps there is to be of his forerunner Elias, who also was present at
the Lord—Hebrew, Jehovah; as
this is applied to Jesus, He must be Jehovah (Mt 3:3).
4. Eastern monarchs send heralds before them
in a journey to clear away obstacles, make causeways over valleys, and
level hills. So John's duty was to bring back the people to obedience
to the law and to remove all self-confidence, pride in national
privileges, hypocrisy, and irreligion, so that they should be ready for
His coming (Mal 4:6; Lu 1:17).
5. see it—The Septuagint for
"it," has "the salvation of God." So Lu 3:6 (compare Lu 2:30, that is, Messiah); but the Evangelist
probably took these words from Isa 52:10.
for—rather, "All flesh shall see
that the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it" [Bengel].
6. The voice—the same divine herald as
he—one of those ministers or prophets
(see on Isa 40:1) whose duty it was, by
direction of "the voice," to "comfort the Lord's afflicted people with
the promises of brighter days."
All flesh is grass—The connection is,
"All human things, however goodly, are transitory: God's
promises alone steadfast" (Isa 40:8, 15, 17, 23, 24); this contrast was already suggested in
40:5, "All flesh …
the mouth of the Lord." 1Pe 1:24, 25 applies this passage distinctly to the
gospel word of Messiah (compare Joh 12:24; Jas 1:10).
7. spirit of the Lord—rather, "wind of
Jehovah" (Ps 103:16).
The withering east wind of those countries sent by Jehovah (Jon 4:8).
the people—rather, "this people"
[Lowth], which may refer to the
Babylonians [Rosenmuller]; but better,
mankind in general, as in Isa 42:5, so Isa 40:6, "all flesh"; this whole
race, that is, man.
9. Rather, "Oh, thou that bringest good things
to Zion; thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem." "Thou"
is thus the collective personification of the messengers who
announce God's gracious purpose to Zion (see on Isa
40:1); Isa 52:7
confirms this [Vulgate and Gesenius]. If English Version be retained,
the sense will be the glad message was first to be proclaimed to
Jerusalem, and then from it as the center to all "Judea, Samaria, and
the uttermost parts of the earth" (Lu 24:47, 49; Ac 1:8) [Vitringa and Hengstenberg].
mountain—It was customary for those
who were about to promulgate any great thing, to ascend a hill from
which they could be seen and heard by all (Jud 9:7; Mt
be not afraid—to announce to the
exiles that their coming return home is attended with danger in the
midst of the Babylonians. The gospel minister must "open his mouth
boldly" (Pr 29:25; Eph 6:19).
Behold—especially at His second coming
10. with strong hand—or, "against the
strong"; rather, "as a strong one" [Maurer]. Or, against the strong one, namely, Satan
(Mt 12:29; Re 20:2, 3, 10) [Vitringa].
arm—power (Ps 89:13;
for him—that is, He needs not to seek
help for Himself from any external source, but by His own inherent
power He gains rule for Himself (so Isa 40:14).
work—or, "recompense for his work";
rather, "recompense which He gives for work" (Isa 62:11; Re
11. feed—including all a shepherd's
care—"tend" (Eze 34:23; Ps 23:1; Heb 13:20; 1Pe
carry—applicable to Messiah's
restoration of Israel, as sheep scattered in all lands, and unable
to move of themselves to their own land (Ps 80:1; Jer
23:3). As Israel was "carried
from the womb" (that is, in its earliest days) (Isa
63:9, 11, 12; Ps 77:20), so
it shall be in "old age" (that is, its latter days) (Isa 46:3, 4).
gently lead—as a thoughtful shepherd
does the ewes "giving suck" (Margin) (Ge 33:13, 14).
12. Lest the Jews should suppose that He who
was just before described as a "shepherd" is a mere man, He is now
described as God.
Who—Who else but God could do so? Therefore, though the redemption
and restoration of His people, foretold here, was a work beyond man's
power, they should not doubt its fulfilment since all things are
possible to Him who can accurately regulate the proportion of the
waters as if He had measured them with His hand (compare Isa 40:15). But Maurer translates: "Who can measure," &c., that
is, How immeasurable are the works of God? The former is a better
explanation (Job 28:25; Pr 30:4).
span—the space from the end of the
thumb to the end of the middle finger extended; God measures the vast
heavens as one would measure a small object with his span.
dust of the earth—All the earth
is to Him but as a few grains of dust contained in a small
measure (literally, "the third part of a larger
hills in a balance—adjusted in their
right proportions and places, as exactly as if He had weighed
13. Quoted in Ro 11:34; 1Co 2:16. The Hebrew here for "directed"
is the same as in Isa 40:12
for "meted out"; thus the sense is, "Jehovah measures out heaven with
His span"; but who can measure Him? that is, Who can search out
His Spirit (mind) wherewith He searches out and accurately
adjusts all things? Maurer rightly takes
the Hebrew in the same sense as in Isa 40:12 (so Pr 16:2; 21:2), "weigh," "ponder." "Direct," as in
English Version, answers, however, better to "taught" in the
14. path of judgment—His wisdom, whereby
He so beautifully adjusts the places and proportions of all created
15. of—rather, (hanging) from a
he taketh up … as a very little
thing—rather, "are as a mere grain of dust which is taken
up," namely, by the wind; literally, "one taketh up," impersonally
isles—rather, "lands" in
general, answering to "the nations" in the parallel clause; perhaps
lands, like Mesopotamia, enclosed by rivers [Jerome] (so Isa 42:15). However, English Version,
"isles" answers well to "mountains" (Isa 40:12), both alike being lifted up by the
power of God; in fact, "isles" are mountains upheaved from the bed of
the sea by volcanic agency; only that he seems here to have passed from
unintelligent creatures (Isa 40:12)
to intelligent, as nations and lands, that is, their
16. All Lebanon's forest would not supply fuel
enough to burn sacrifices worthy of the glory of God (Isa
66:1; 1Ki 8:27; Ps 50:8-13).
beasts—which abounded in Lebanon.
17. (Ps 62:9; Da 4:35).
less than nothing—Maurer translates, as in Isa 41:24, "of nothing" (partitively; or
expressive of the nature of a thing), a mere nothing.
18. Which of the heathen idols, then, is to be
compared to this Almighty God? This passage, if not written (as Barnes thinks) so late as the idolatrous times
of Manasseh, has at least a prospective warning reference to them and
subsequent reigns; the result of the chastisement of Jewish idolatry in
the Babylonish captivity was that thenceforth after the restoration the
Jews never fell into it. Perhaps these prophecies here may have tended
to that result (see 2Ki 23:26, 27).
19. graven—rather, an image in
general; for it is incongruous to say "melteth" (that is, casts out of
metal) a graven image (that is, one of carved wood); so Jer 10:14, "molten image."
spreadeth it over—(See on Isa 30:22).
chains—an ornament lavishly worn by
rich Orientals (Isa 3:18, 19), and so transferred to their idols.
Egyptian relics show that idols were suspended in houses by chains.
20. impoverished—literally, "sunk" in
no oblation—he who cannot
afford to overlay his idol with gold and silver (Isa 40:19).
tree … not rot—the cedar,
cypress, oak, or ash (Isa 44:14).
graven—of wood; not a molten
one of metal.
not be moved—that shall be
21. ye—who worship idols. The question
emphatically implies, they had known.
from the beginning—(Isa 41:4, 26;
48:16). God is the beginning
(Re 1:8). The tradition handed down
from the very first, of the creation of all things by God at the
beginning, ought to convince you of His omnipotence and of the folly of
22. It is he—rather, connected with last
verse, "Have ye not known?"—have ye not understood Him
that sitteth …? (Isa 40:26)
circle—applicable to the globular form
of the earth, above which, and the vault of sky around it, He sits. For
"upon" translate "above."
as grasshoppers—or locusts in His
13:33), as He looks down from
on high (Ps 33:13, 14; 113:4-6).
curtain—referring to the awning which
the Orientals draw over the open court in the center of their houses as
a shelter in rain or hot weather.
23. (Ps 107:4; Da 2:21).
judges—that is, rulers; for these
exercised judicial authority (Ps 2:10). The Hebrew, shophtee, answers
to the Carthaginian chief magistrates, suffetes.
24. they—the "princes and judges" (Isa 40:23) who oppose God's purposes and
God's people. Often compared to tall trees (Ps 37:35; Da
not … sown—the seed, that is,
race shall become extinct (Na 1:14).
stock—not even shall any shoots spring
up from the stump when the tree has been cut down: no descendants
whatever (Job 14:7; see
on Isa 11:1).
and … also—so the
Septuagint. But Maurer
translates, "They are hardly (literally, 'not yet', as in 2Ki 20:4) planted (&c.) when He
(God) blows upon them."
blow—The image is from the hot east
wind (simoon) that "withers" vegetation.
whirlwind … stubble—(Ps 83:13), where, "like a wheel," refers to
the rotatory action of the whirlwind on the stubble.
25. (Compare Isa 40:18).
26. bringeth out … host—image from
a general reviewing his army: He is Lord of Sabaoth, the heavenly hosts
calleth … by names—numerous as
the stars are. God knows each in all its distinguishing
characteristics—a sense which "name" often bears in
Scripture; so in Ge 2:19, 20, Adam, as God's vicegerent,
called the beasts by name, that is, characterized them by their
several qualities, which, indeed, He has imparted.
by the greatness …
faileth—rather, "by reason of abundance of (their inner
essential) force and firmness of strength, not one of them is
driven astray"; referring to the sufficiency of the physical forces
with which He has endowed the heavenly bodies, to prevent all disorder
in their motions [Horsley]. In
English Version the sense is, "He has endowed them with their
peculiar attributes ('names') by the greatness of His might,"
and the power of His strength (the better rendering, instead of,
"for that He is strong").
27. Since these things are so, thou hast no
reason to think that thine interest ("way," that is, condition, Ps 37:5;
Jer 12:1) is disregarded by
judgment is passed over from—rather,
"My cause is neglected by my God; He passes by my case in my
bondage and distress without noticing it."
my God—who especially might be
expected to care for me.
28. known—by thine own observation and
reading of Scripture.
heard—from tradition of the
everlasting, &c.—These attributes
of Jehovah ought to inspire His afflicted people with confidence.
no searching of his
understanding—therefore thy cause cannot, as thou sayest,
escape His notice; though much in His ways is unsearchable, He
cannot err (Job 11:7-9). He is never "faint" or "weary" with
having the countless wants of His people ever before Him to attend
29. Not only does He "not faint" (Isa 40:28) but He gives power to them who do
no might … increaseth strength—a
seeming paradox. They "have no might" in themselves; but in
Him they have strength, and He "increases" that strength
30. young men—literally, "those
selected"; men picked out on account of their youthful vigor for an
31. mount up—(2Sa 1:23). Rather, "They shall put forth fresh
feathers as eagles" are said to renovate themselves; the parallel
clause, "renew their strength," confirms this. The eagle was thought to
moult and renew his feathers, and with them his strength, in old age
(so the Septuagint, Vulgate, Ps 103:5). However, English Version is
favored by the descending climax, mount up—run—walk;
in every attitude the praying, waiting child of God is "strong in the
Lord" (Ps 84:7; Mic 4:5; Heb 12:1).