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God’s People Are Comforted

40

Comfort, O comfort my people,

says your God.

2

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that she has served her term,

that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

double for all her sins.

 

3

A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

4

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

5

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 


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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 restoring her.

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 transfiguration.

the LordHebrew, 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).

crooked—declivities.

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].




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