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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Isaiah 40

Verse 1


Our introduction to the whole prophecy is also applicable here; but due to the flood of critical comments to the effect that this division is utterly unlike Isaiah and that it comes from a different author who lived a century or more after Isaiah's times, we shall address the question again, hopeful that new light can be shed upon the alleged problem.

It is our unwavering conviction that all of the prophecy in our version which is ascribed to Isaiah was indeed written by him, the fact being that no one except Isaiah could possibly have written a line of it. Why do we believe this?

I. The inspired writers of the New Testament quoted from this last section of Isaiah no less than thirty-seven times, almost always making specific mention of the prophet Isaiah as the author of the passage quoted. Here is the real evidence on the authorship of this prophecy, as contrasted with the fembu advocated by the critics. Who were those New Testament writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul? They were the Holy Apostles of the Son of God, to whom Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them "into all truth." We believe this! Here is an analysis of their quotations from this last Division of Isaiah:


BY THE APOSTLES FROM ISA. 40-66 <MONO><SIZE=3> Isaiah 40:3-5 ........ Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23

Isaiah 40:6-8 .........1 Peter 1:24,25

Isaiah 40:13 ..........Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16

Isaiah 42:1-4 .........Matthew 12:18-21

Isaiah 42:7 ........... Mark 4:15,16

Isaiah 45:23 ..........Romans 14:11

Isaiah 49:6 ........... Acts 13:47

Isaiah 49:8 ...........2 Corinthians 6:2

Isaiah 52:5 ...........Romans 2:24

Isaiah 52:7 ...........Romans 10:15

Isaiah 52:11 ..........2 Corinthians 6:17

Isaiah 52:15 ..........Romans 15:21

Isaiah 53:1 ........... John 12:28; Romans 10:16

Isaiah 53:4 ...........Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24

Isaiah 53:7,8 .........Acts 8:32,33

Isaiah 53:9 ...........1 Peter 2:22

Isaiah 53:12 .......... Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37

Isaiah 54:1 ...........Galatians 4:27

Isaiah 54:13 .......... John 6:45

Isaiah 55:3 ........... Acts 13:34

Isaiah 56:7 ...........Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46

Isaiah 59:7,8 .........Romans 3:15-17

Isaiah 59:20,21 .......Romans 11:26,27

Isaiah 61:1,2 ......... Luke 4:18,19

Isaiah 62:11 ..........Matthew 21:5

Isaiah 65:1,2 .........Romans 10:20,21

Isaiah 66:1,2 ......... Acts 7:49,50

Isaiah 66:24 .......... Mark 9:44. MONO>

The significant thing about these quotations is that the inspired holy writers took pains to tell us whom they were quoting. Did they know? Of course. Take just one out of many examples of this from the above list, the very first quotation, from Isaiah 40:3-5, quoted by all four of the gospel writers. They each identified the person whom they were quoting, as follows:

Matthew: "This is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, etc." (Matthew 1:3).

Mark: "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, etc." (Mark 1:2).

Luke: "As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, etc." (Luke 3:4).

John: "As said by the prophet Isaiah etc." (John 1:23).

What do the critics do with such an argument as this? They ignore it, that being the only answer they have; and for one who believes the Lord and his holy promises to the apostles, that is no sufficient answer. These quotations are an all-sufficient reason for accepting every word of Isaiah as being One Book by One Author. Nevertheless, there are other reasons for doing so that are just as convincing.

II. God's "Modus Operandi". Yes, God has a modus operandi, that being the truth that he was never caught in an emergency. God anticipated every need of mankind in his plan of redemption, which was not formulated after men sinned, but "before the foundation of the world." When, in the wilderness of wanderings of Israel, God's people encountered the biter waters of Marah, God did not instruct Moses to plant a certain tree and wait a generation or two till it matured and then cast it into the waters to sweeten them. Oh no! God had planted that tree perhaps a century before it was needed! Now, in the case of the comfort and encouragement that God's people were sure to require during their captivity, may we suppose that God waited till they were twenty years deep into that punishment and that God then raised up some Johnny-come-lately of a prophet to prophecy their return and the blessings of God that would follow? Ridiculous! If God had done a thing like that, nobody in Israel would have believed such a "prophet." As Hailey accurately judged:

"Jehovah knows what is in man; and anticipating our every need, He makes provision for us. Over a hundred years before Judah went into captivity, Jehovah made provision through Isaiah the prophet for their spiritual needs ... This is the theme of this section." (Homer Hailey, p. 336.) (See Isaiah 40:12-31).

The utmost precautions were taken in order to insure that Judah would have every reason to believe what this great prophet declared. He was the one who prophesied the captivity; and from the very beginning he had repeatedly spoken of that "remnant" who would return. Furthermore, the Jewish tradition that Manasseh murdered Isaiah, is probably true. Thus Isaiah sealed his prophecies with his own blood. Yet, even with all of that, it was only a pitiful little remnant who believed Isaiah and the other true prophets and returned to Jerusalem. This undeniable fact simply will not square with the critical dictum that the wonderful prophecies found in Isaiah were written by "Some Great Unknown." The Piltdown Man hoax was no greater deception than this allegation of Bible enemies.

III. The Jewish people were incapable of producing any prophet at all during their captivity. The priesthood itself fell to such a low condition during this period that God, through Malachi, uttered a curse against them, accused them of robbing God, and gave expression to the thought that God would be pleased if someone would close the temple itself. What a preposterous proposition it is that during that terribly low estate of Judah, there arose the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, whose writings would be recognized for all ages to come as the "heart of the Old Testament," who would be the most esteemed prophet ever to appear on earth, and whose writings are undoubtedly the most eloquent prophecies ever given concerning the coming of the Messiah into our poor world.

IV. There is no textual evidence of any change in the authorships as we proceed from Isaiah 39 to Isaiah 40. In fact, Isaiah 40 is as well authenticated as belonging to Isaiah as if he had signed it two or three times. Critics complain that he did not sign it anywhere in the last twenty-seven chapters; but the critics themselves never sign their letters but once. There is no historical evidence that any "great unknown prophet" ever lived during the captivity who had the capability of writing these magnificent chapters. Who has ever explained just how such a thing could have happened? If the author of a little book such as any one of half a dozen of the minor prophets would have been so honored and respected as they were, how can it be imagined that that "great unknown nobody" wrote the most magnificent prophecies of a Millennium without anyone's finding out who he was, where he lived, or anything else concerning him? And just how did he get his marvelous writings incorporated into the book of the writings of the most distinguished royal prophet, Isaiah? And just how did it happen that those writings were certified to all subsequent generations as a bona fide portion of Isaiah?

The preposterous allegations that underlie such a complicated and elaborate complex of deceptions deserve only one appellation. They bear all the earmarks of a gargantuan falsehood, a title which we do not hesitate to assign to this favorite allegation of Biblical enemies.


Mike Glitsch, a distinguished citizen of Houston, engineer, world traveler, and Bible scholar, the dimensions of whose mind never fail to amaze this writer, has prepared some observations on these last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah which deserve the attention of every careful student of God's Word; and my wife and I are grateful that he has granted us permission to include portions of his magnificent studies in this introduction. These observations make up the final portion of this Introduction to Division VI.

In that period of time beginning when Christ went up to Jerusalem for the First Passover until he withdrew to the mountain in Galilee to choose the Twelve Apostles, Jesus Christ directly quoted from the Scriptures only six times, that is, from Isaiah 61:1,2; Isaiah 9:1,2; Hosea 6:6; Daniel 12:1,2; Numbers 28:9,10; and Isaiah 42:1-4. However, the subject matter as recorded in all four of the gospels which Jesus Christ discussed during this chronological period dealt very systematically and almost exclusively with the subject matter of Isaiah 40-66.

This means that our Lord Jesus Christ absorbed practically all of these last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah into his teachings, making them in fact the very heart of the teaching during his earthly ministry.

Why did Christ do this? (1) First of all, the prophecies of these chapters were fulfilled in Christ. The very volume of these is astounding. (2) Another reason appears in the fact that Christ did this in order to assure continuity and unanimity among the gospel writers. (3) It is, of course, speculative; but the coincidence is fascinating that Jesus Christ by this emphasis upon this particular section of Isaiah has provided, almost two millenniums before it was needed, an adequate and irrefutable answer to the allegations of those self-styled "higher critics" who, beginning in the 19th century, invented what they called "Deutero Isaiah," an allegedly "unknown prophet" of the exilic, or post-exilic era, whom they arbitrarily installed as the author of these last twenty-seven chapters.

This, along with other devices of the critics, affected all religious thought profoundly and to a degree impossible of being recounted in a few words. This laid the foundations for all modernist thought and led to the ultimate rejection of the authority of the scriptures by almost all Protestant religious groups.

Those "higher critics" confidently predicted that the expected ultimate discovery of Old Testament manuscripts would verify their textual and historical detective work; but the very reverse of this has happened. It occurred in Qumran in 1946, and in subsequent discoveries. The Book of Isaiah was the only one found totally complete in one piece! Yet, in spite of this, some forty-three years later, one will still hear allegedly "Christian" preachers and professors referring to this imaginative phantom "Deutero-Isaiah" as if he once existed, apparently in total ignorance of the truth that "Deutero-Isaiah" was never anything except a Colossal Hoax!

Here is the proof of this: There are forty-eight subjects mentioned in the New Testament during the chronological period between Jesus' going up to Jerusalem for the first Passover and his retirement into the mountain for prayer the night before he appointed the twelve.

Subject Theme:


1. Man must be born anew.

2. The Son was sent from God.

3. Man was to receive eternal life.

4. Jesus is the bridegroom.

5. The Lord gives living water.

6. The proper place of worship - Jerusalem.

7. Salvation is of the Jews.

8. God is Spirit.

9. God is all truth.

10. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.

11. Gentiles to receive promises, salvation.

12. Signs never seen before to confirm his identity.

13. Jesus is and also brings good tidings.

14. Others to be taught by those who have been taught.

15. The Son came to forgive sins. 16. New things not to be mixed with old.

17. Fasting, how, when, and for what purpose?

18. The mercy of the Lord to man.

19. The mercy of man to man.

20. Judgment was committed to the Son.

21. The resurrection of the dead.

22. A forerunner to go before Messiah (John the Baptist).

23. People accept false gods, and they love darkness.

24. Man will be self-sufficient, honoring each other.

25. Man has never seen or heard the Father.

26. The Son's works bear witness of him.

27. The Father bears witness of the Son.

28. The Son comes in the Father's name.

29. The Son knows the hearts of people.

30. The Father is the only God.

31. Moses wrote of the Son of God.

32. If ye honor the Son, ye honor the Father.

33. The Son seeks the will of the Father.

34. The Son can do nothing of himself.

35. Jesus was persecuted by his people (Jews).

36. The Son of God is the Light; he teaches.

37. People who reject the Son cannot perceive the truth.

38. The Son was to be crucified, "lifted up."

39. People must believe and obey.

40. The people who know him follow him.

41. The Sabbath, and Law; a right and a wrong way to keep it.

42. There is power in him.

43. The Lord confuses minds of those who reject him.

44. The Scriptures bear witness of the Son.

45. God loves His children.

46. The Son of God does not bear witness of himself.

47. The Son of God has zeal for the Father's house.

48. The Son of God was to be put to death.

Now the significant thing about these subjects is that every single one of them is also in these last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah! There are no New Testament passages encountered (in the chronological period under study) that are not also in these twenty-seven chapters; there are very few subjects in this last division of Isaiah that are covered by these New Testament passages.

Note: Glitsch has also produced an elaborate set of charts, backing up every statement made with a verse by verse collation the subjects, leaving no possible excuse for doubting any of the declarations made in this treatise.

Thus, some eighteen hundred years before "Deutero-Isaiah" ever born in the imaginations of Bible enemies, Jesus Christ identified the author of these chapters as Isaiah himself, and systematically made him (the real Isaiah) the basis for his total teaching during his earthly ministry, and did it so completely as to all doubt either of the inspiration or authenticity, either of his holy Apostles, or of that great Prophet Isaiah who had died (sawn asunder, we believe) seven centuries earlier.

We are reproducing herewith a photographic specimen of the Glitsch charts. Note that in the first six chapters of these last twenty-seven, every single verse of each chapter is found to be represented in the Gospel quotations, in many cases not merely one time by several times. Thus, there are fifty-one points of correspondence in Isaiah 40, sixty-five in Isaiah 41, and more than fifty each in Isaiah 42; 43; 44; and 45.

This pattern prevails throughout all twenty-seven of these last chapters of Isaiah. This is the most astounding thing that we have ever heard of in a study of Isaiah; and we consider it to be of the utmost significance. Did Jesus Christ consider these chapters valid portions of Isaiah's prophecies? He most assuredly did!


The numbers below refer to subjects the which were listed above (Subject No. 1 through Subject No. 48).

Isaiah 40:1 - Subject No. 18

Isaiah 40:2 - Subject No. 18

Isaiah 40:3 - Subject No. 22

Isaiah 40:4 - Subject No. 22

Isaiah 40:5 - Subject No. 11

Isaiah 40:6 - Subject No. 3

Isaiah 40:7 - Subject No. 3

Isaiah 40:8 - Subject No. 3

Isaiah 40:9 - Subject No. 13

Isaiah 40:10 - Subject Nos. 2,28, 15,3, 18,21

Isaiah 40:11 - Subject Nos. 18,36, 15,40

Isaiah 40:12 - Subject Nos. 30,9

Isaiah 40:13 - Subject Nos. 30,8

Isaiah 40:14 - Subject No. 30

Isaiah 40:15 - Subject No. 11

Isaiah 40:16 - Subject No. 29

Isaiah 40:17 - Subject No. 29

Isaiah 40:18 - Subject No. 25

Isaiah 40:19 - Subject No. 23

Isaiah 40:20 - Subject No. 23

Isaiah 40:21 - Subject Nos. 9,24

Isaiah 40:22 - Subject No. 9

Isaiah 40:23 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 40:24 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 40:25 - Subject Nos. 25,28, 2

Isaiah 40:26 - Subject Nos. 9,42

Isaiah 40:27 - Subject No. 24

Isaiah 40:28 - Subject Nos. 24,9

Isaiah 40:29 - Subject No. 42

Isaiah 40:30 - Subject No. 29

Isaiah 40:31 - Subject Nos. 1,18, 21,15, 40,42

Isaiah 41:1 - Subject Nos. 1,11, 39,3, 20

Isaiah 41:2 - Subject Nos. 9,20, 30,44

Isaiah 41:3 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 41:4 - Subject No. 30

Isaiah 41:5 - Subject Nos. 12,39

Isaiah 41:6 - Subject Nos. 19,24

Isaiah 41:7 - Subject No. 23

Isaiah 41:8 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 41:9 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 41:10 - Subject Nos. 7,18

Isaiah 41:11 - Subject Nos. 35,43

Isaiah 41:12 - Subject Nos. 7,43

Isaiah 41:13 - Subject Nos. 7,18, 36

Isaiah 41:14 - Subject Nos. 7,2, 15,28

Isaiah 41:15 - Subject Nos. 7,12

Isaiah 41:16 - Subject Nos. 7,12, 28

Isaiah 41:17 - Subject Nos. 5,2, 28 Isaiah 41:18 - Subject Nos. 5,11

Isaiah 41:19 - Subject No. 11

Isaiah 41:20 - Subject Nos. 11,27, 28

Isaiah 41:21 - Subject Nos. 24,23

Isaiah 41:22 - Subject Nos. 23,9, 12

Isaiah 41:23 - Subject Nos. 23,12

Isaiah 41:24 - Subject Nos. 23,43

Isaiah 41:25 - Subject Nos. 26,20, 29

Isaiah 41:26 - Subject Nos. 27,24

Isaiah 41:27 - Subject Nos. 27,44, 13

Isaiah 41:28 - Subject Nos. 24,43

Isaiah 41:29 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 42:1 - Subject Nos. 2,8, 11,20, 36

Isaiah 42:2 - Subject Nos. 9,10, 12,13, 18,26, 44

Isaiah 42:3 - Subject Nos. 18,36, 9,13, 29

Isaiah 42:4 - Subject Nos. 42,9, 13,20, 11

Isaiah 42:5 - Subject Nos. 9,30, 27,8

Isaiah 42:6 - Subject Nos. 28,40, 1,36

Isaiah 42:7 - Subject Nos. 36,13, 15,18, 21

Isaiah 42:8 - Subject No. 28

Isaiah 42:9 - Subject Nos. 16,27, 44

Isaiah 42:10 - Subject Nos. 16,11

Isaiah 42:11 - Subject No. 11

Isaiah 42:12 - Subject Nos. 39,14

Isaiah 42:13 - Subject Nos. 26,27, 47

Isaiah 42:14 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 42:15 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 42:16 - Subject Nos. 36,43

Isaiah 42:17 - Subject No. 23

Isaiah 42:18 - Subject No. 24

Isaiah 42:19 - Subject No. 24

Isaiah 42:20 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 42:21 - Subject Nos. 36,16, 31,44

Isaiah 42:22 - Subject Nos. 24,41

Isaiah 42:23 - Subject No. 29

Isaiah 42:24 - Subject Nos. 20,41

Isaiah 42:25 - Subject Nos. 20,37, 43

Isaiah 43:1 - Subject Nos. 15,9

Isaiah 43:2 - Subject Nos. 18,36

Isaiah 43:3 - Subject Nos. 30,28, 15,2, 7,10

Isaiah 43:4 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 43:5 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 43:6 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 43:7 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 43:8 - Subject Nos. 40,36

Isaiah 43:9 - Subject Nos. 23,24

Isaiah 43:10 - Subject Nos. 27,28, 30

Isaiah 43:11 - Subject Nos. 30,10

Isaiah 43:12 - Subject Nos. 27,30, 14

Isaiah 43:13 - Subject Nos. 30,41

Isaiah 43:14 - Subject Nos. 28,10, 7

Isaiah 43:15 - Subject Nos. 28,10, 9

Isaiah 43:16 - Subject No. 9

Isaiah 43:17 - Subject No. 9

Isaiah 43:18 - Subject No. 16

Isaiah 43:19 - Subject Nos. 16,5

Isaiah 43:20 - Subject No. 5

Isaiah 43:21 - Subject No. 40

Isaiah 43:22 - Subject Nos. 24,29

Isaiah 43:23 - Subject No. 41

Isaiah 43:24 - Subject Nos. 41,29

Isaiah 43:25 - Subject Nos. 15,28

Isaiah 43:26 - Subject No. 24

Isaiah 43:27 - Subject Nos. 37,41

Isaiah 43:28 - Subject Nos. 43,20

Isaiah 44:1 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 44:2 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 44:3 - Subject Nos. 5,8

Isaiah 44:4 - Subject No. 40

Isaiah 44:5 - Subject Nos. 28,29, 30,24

Isaiah 44:6 - Subject Nos. 30,28, 10

Isaiah 44:7 - Subject Nos. 30,9

Isaiah 44:8 - Subject Nos. 30,27

Isaiah 44:9 - Subject Nos. 23,43

Isaiah 44:10 - Subject No. 23

Isaiah 44:11 - Subject No. 20

Isaiah 44:12 - Subject Nos. 23,24, 5

Isaiah 44:13 - Subject Nos. 23,24

Isaiah 44:14 - Subject Nos. 23,9

Isaiah 44:15 - Subject Nos. 23,24, 43

Isaiah 44:16 - Subject Nos. 24,43

Isaiah 44:17 - Subject Nos. 23,24, 43

Isaiah 44:18 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 44:19 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 44:20 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 44:21 - Subject Nos. 7,45

Isaiah 44:22 - Subject Nos. 15,45

Isaiah 44:23 - Subject Nos. 28,15, 2

Isaiah 44:24 - Subject Nos. 28,15, 2,9

Isaiah 44:25 - Subject No. 43

Isaiah 44:26 - Subject No. 27

Isaiah 44:27 - Subject No. 27

Isaiah 44:28 - Subject No. 27

Isaiah 45:1 - Subject Nos. 27,9

Isaiah 45:2 - Subject Nos. 27,9

Isaiah 45:3 - Subject Nos. 27,9

Isaiah 45:4 - Subject Nos. 27,9

Isaiah 45:5 - Subject Nos. 27,9, 3

Isaiah 45:6 - Subject No. 30

Isaiah 45:7 - Subject No. 9

Isaiah 45:8 - Subject Nos. 5,27, 9

Isaiah 45:9 - Subject No. 24

Isaiah 45:10 - Subject No. 24

Isaiah 45:11 - Subject Nos. 12,28, 10

Isaiah 45:12 - Subject No. 9

Isaiah 45:13 - Subject Nos. 6,16, 2,10, 13,15

Isaiah 45:14 - Subject No. 7

Isaiah 45:15 - Subject Nos. 23,3, 2

Isaiah 45:16 - Subject Nos. 43,23

Isaiah 45:17 - Subject Nos. 28,3, 2

Isaiah 45:18 - Subject Nos. 9,30

Isaiah 45:19 - Subject Nos. 9,36, 18,27

Isaiah 45:20 - Subject Nos. 23,24

Isaiah 45:21 - Subject Nos. 30,9, 27,28

Isaiah 45:22 - Subject Nos. 2,28

Isaiah 45:23 - Subject Nos. 39,28, 36

Isaiah 45:24 - Subject Nos. 40,39

Isaiah 45:25 - Subject Nos. 15,28


Isaiah 40-48

These eight chapters are entitled "The Contest Between Jehovah and the Idols" by Hailey.[1] The first chapter in this section (Isaiah 41) gives us Jehovah's Confrontation with the idols.

In this section, God presented three servants who will appear prominently in his deliverance of Israel from their bondage and captivity, that entire event being also a type of the far Greater Deliverance of mankind from the captivity and bondage of sin. These three servants are the Secular Israel (the blind and deaf servant), the earthly ruler Cyrus, and the Ideal Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ our Lord. "Jehovah's victory over the nations and their heathen gods is the major theme of these chapters."[2]

Of interest is the number of the names for God which are used in this section:

[~'El] used 15 times and means "the mighty one." Sometimes used of pagan gods, it usually refers to the true God.

[~'Eloah] found once in Isaiah 41 times in Job, and is parallel with the name Rock, indicating God's permanence and ability.

[~'Elohiym] found 21 times.

[~Yahweh] (Jehovah).... is found 66 times in references to the Covenant.

Lord.......... is the KJV rendition of [~'Adonay].

The Holy One of Israel.....................This title of God was Isaiah's favorite and was used 11 times in the earlier chapters, once in the historical portion, and 13 times in Division VI, and only five other times in the Bible, three times in the Psalms and twice in Jeremiah.[3]

Creator.....Isaiah 43:15, Israel's Maker...Isaiah 45:11, Israel's Redeemer and Saviour.

This chapter begins the final division of Isaiah's prophecies. There is a very remarkable difference in this division from all that has preceded in the prophecy. No, it is not a different author, nor a different style, but a different situation and a different purpose. These differences are far more than enough to account for the changes so evident from here to the end of Isaiah.

Isaiah had just announced in stern, dramatic terms the coming captivity of Judah in Babylon. Up until this point, it appears that Isaiah might have believed that the captivity might be avoided; but the failure of Hezekiah recorded in the previous chapter was a sure indication that the royal family of Judah was a poor place to expect the kind of changes that would be required by the Lord if the total punishment of the whole nation was to be avoided.

Isaiah no longer expected any further development in Judah except the ultimate execution of God's wrath inherent in the forthcoming captivity.

What did Isaiah do? He, through the power of God, moved to comfort God's people during the frightful ordeal through which they were destined to pass. He already knew, through God's revelation, that a remnant would return; and in these chapters, Isaiah revealed the very name of the mighty ruler who would break the back of pagan Babylon and order the return of Judah to Jerusalem, Cyrus. But Isaiah's prophetic insight extended far beyond Judah's return from physical captivity to a still more glorious future event, namely, the return of all mankind from the captivity of sin to the loving fellowship with God. This great deliverance would be accomplished through the Messiah, called in these chapters "My Servant."

All of the thrilling messages of these chapters were designed to comfort and inspire God's people to trust in the Divine visitation that would restore their liberty; but, over and beyond that, there continually looms the still greater deliverance designed for "all flesh," Jew and Gentile alike, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 40:1-2

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for all her sins."

Cheyne viewed this little paragraph as the theme, not merely of this chapter but of the remaining twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah.[1] He also believed that this was a commission to "all the prophets"; but we do not agree with that. It was the commission to Isaiah, somewhat of an auxiliary commission to his original call, the great assignment here being that of comforting God's people.

"Comfort ye my people ..." (Isaiah 40:1). Yes, God still has a people, despite the sins and rebellions of Israel. Although the sinful kingdom is to undergo well-deserved punishment, there remains nevertheless a "righteous remnant," that being, particularly, the "people" whom God will comfort.

Note that this chapter has no reference whatever to Babylon, nor to anything that is supposed to have happened to Israel between Isaiah 40 and Isaiah 39. One may find all of that in the speculations of critics! It is implied, however, in Isaiah 40:2, that Judah will endure hard military service (warfare) and receive "double" penalty from God for her sins. "The double punishment refers, perhaps, to (a) the seventy years of captivity, and (b) the eternal punishment visited upon the person of Christ the sin-bearer on Calvary."[2]

"Her iniquity pardoned, her warfare accomplished ..." (Isaiah 40:2). "These are perfects of prophetic certainty,"[3] a fact proved by the truth that Jerusalem in the days of Isaiah had not actually received the forgiveness of her sins, nor had her warfare then been accomplished. As a matter of fact, it lay more than a century in the future. Isaiah, however, sees all as already accomplished in the Divine counsels, and so announces it to the people."[4]

These two verses serve ample notice upon us that the theme of Isaiah's prophecy here encompasses the far distant future, and that the ultimate comfort of God's "righteous remnant" will not be their return from physical captivity, though that will be included, but will principally consist of the forgiveness of their sins, a benefit which will depend upon and derive absolutely from the achievement of Messiah and the establishment of his kingdom.

Some have complained that the repetition of "Comfort ye, comfort ye" is unlike Isaiah; on the other hand it is a hallmark of his writings. See Isaiah 24:16, and Isaiah 29:1 for similar instances of this type of repetition.

Verse 3

"The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the uneven shall be made level, and the rough place a plain: and the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it."

The first impression here may be that God will precede the captives on the way back home from Babylon, and that these words are a call to prepare the Lord's way through the desert. However, as Archer noted:

"From Matthew's application of this verse to the ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3), it is apparent that these geographical features symbolize the arid lifelessness of the unconverted soul. The hills represent the carnal pride of the sinner, the valleys his moods of carnal hopelessness and self-pity."[5]

In short, the meaning is that Judah should prepare their hearts for the coming manifestation of God in their deliverance.

The figure of leveling and preparing literal roads is taken from the practice of some ancient rulers who actually required such preparation when they traveled to distant places. An ancient example of this, given by Lowth, is seen in the march of Semaramis' marches into Media and Persia, "She ordered the precipices to be digged clown and the hollows to be filled up; and, at great expense, she made a shorter and more expeditious road."[6]

Despite the obvious primary application of this passage to the return of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, "At the same time it is clear that the prophet was inspired to use language of a special design that should also appropriately express an even more important event, the coming of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, and the work that he would perform as preparatory to the first advent of Messiah."[7]

As Adam Clarke noted, "We have the irrefragable authority of John the Baptist and of our blessed Saviour himself, as reported by the gospels, that these verses apply to the introduction of the Gospel and the kingdom of Christ, who was to effect a much greater deliverance of God's people, Jews and Gentiles alike, from the captivity of sin and the dominion of death."[8]

Verse 6

"The voice of one saying, Cry. And one said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the breath of Jehovah bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever."

The big point in this paragraph is the last clause. It points to the only dependable and certain anchor that men have, namely, the word of the Lord.

Both Peter and James quoted from this passage (1 Peter 1:24,25; James 1:10,11), bringing to six the New Testament authors who quoted from this chapter, four of them ascribing the passage to Isaiah. No Christian should dare to ascribe it to anyone else!

Verse 9

"O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up on a high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold, your God! Behold, the Lord Jehovah will come as a mighty one, and his arm will rule for him: Behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead them that have their young."

The repetition of the same thought in successive clauses, as in Isaiah 40:9, "is quite in the manner of Isaiah."[9] Some scholars seem to be troubled here by the use of a feminine pronoun in "Thou that tellest good tidings to Zion." But the solution proposed by Archer appears to us as correct. "Jerusalem, the Holy City (The New Jerusalem that cometh down out of heaven as a bride, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ), she is to announce Jehovah's coming."[10] Archer also pointed out that "thou that preachest the Gospel" is a better rendition than appears in the American Standard Version.

Note that "the Lord's arm and the Lord's hand" in Isaiah 40:10, as Rawlinson pointed out is a favorite expression of Isaiah, occurring in "Isaiah 5:25; 9:12; 10:4; 11:11; 31:3; 51:9; 53:1; and 62:3."[11] This is a good place to notice that other verses in this same chapter exhibit expressions and usages peculiar to Isaiah. In Isaiah 40:5, we have the words "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Isaiah used this expression here, and in Isaiah 1:20, and in Isaiah 58:14. "No other writer uses this expression."[12] Also, in Isaiah 40:25, we have an abbreviated form of Isaiah's special designation of God as, "The Holy One of Israel," an expression used dozens of times in Isaiah, and only once or twice by any other Old Testament writer.

Isaiah 40:27 has this: "O Jacob ... O Israel." "This pleonastic combination, so characteristic of Isaiah, is also found in Isaiah 9:8; 10:21,22; 14:1; 27:6; 29:23 in the earlier chapters, and in Isaiah 41:8; 42:24; 43:1,22,28; 44:1,5,23; 45:4; 46:3, and 49:5,6, etc. in the last twenty-seven chapters!"[13]

The significance of this, along with other things cited here, is that it earmarks this chapter as having been written by Isaiah just as clearly as if he had signed it a half dozen times.

Isaiah 40:11 is an expression of the tenderness of God toward his people under the metaphor of a loving shepherd; and Jesus Christ our Lord called attention to the application of this metaphor to Himself when he declared that, "I am the Good Shepherd" (John 10:14ff).

Verse 12

"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of Jehovah, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel? and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are accounted as small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering. All the nations are as nothing before him as less than nothing, and vanity."

Isaiah here offered no argument for the existence of God, because he was addressing a people who had long been accustomed to the acceptance of such a fact. Here, Isaiah was commenting upon the greatness of God. As Hailey noted, "No more appropriate title for these verses could be imagined than the one found in the ASV, as follows: `The Incomparable Greatness of God.'"[14]

There is a series of rhetorical questions here, every one of which requires the answer: "No one." Kelley commented that the use of such questions, "was a favorite literary device of this prophet."[15]

The apostle Paul quoted from Isaiah 40:13 in Romans 11:34. One of the unusual metaphors here is in Isaiah 40:16 where it is declared that the whole forest of Lebanon for the fire and all of the beasts thereof for the burnt-offering would not be sufficient to provide a single sacrifice for such a great God as Jehovah!

"The nations ..." (Isaiah 40:17). This means all of the nations on earth taken together.

Verse 18

"To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The image, a workman hath cast it, and the goldsmith overlayeth it with gold, and casteth for it silver chains. He that is too impoverished for such an oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a skillful workman to set up a graven image, that shall not be moved. Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundation of the earth? It is he that sitteth above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth princes to nothing; that maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they have not been planted; yea, they have not been sown; yea, their stock hath not taken root in the earth: yea, he bloweth upon them, and they wither, and the whirlwind taketh them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken me, that I should be equal to him? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these, that bringeth out their host by number; he calleth them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and for that he is strong in power, not one is lacking."

The first few verses here speak of the utter foolishness of idolatry. Idols simply cannot be compared to God. An idol is not a person, it cannot see, it cannot think, it cannot hear, it cannot move, it cannot feel, it cannot "know" anything, it cannot move, it cannot "do" anything! How, then could it even remind anyone of God? Isaiah here emphasizes all of this by speaking of the manner in which idols are manufactured. As objects of worship, idols are "nothing," indeed "less than nothing." This writer once visited a pagan temple in Japan. It was the great temple of the Diabutso; and there were dozens of niches around the outer part of the great enclosure where many lesser gods were honored with statues; but on the day when this writer visited, there were large signs in black and red letters declaring that, "These gods are out for repair"!

"Have ye not known, have ye not heard, hath it not been told you, etc ..." (Isaiah 40:21). This refers to the basic knowledge that has been handed down to successive generations of the human race concerning God's creation of the world and related truth.

Isaiah 40:22-23 speak of God in terms stressing his incomparable greatness and power.

"Be sitteth above the circle of the earth ..." (Isaiah 40:22). We are somewhat annoyed by some writers who hasten to explain to us that this has no reference to the earth's being a sphere, because Isaiah, of course, could not have known that. Do such writers not know that it was not Isaiah who declared this, but God gave the words through Isaiah? Certainly the passage is compatible with the fact of the earth's being round.

"That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in ..." (Isaiah 40:22). Here is another scientific fact, utterly unknown to Isaiah, but apparent nevertheless in the words which God delivered through Isaiah to mankind. Are the atmospheric heavens indeed a curtain and a tent? Assuredly! Take a look at detailed photographs of the moon, where there is no atmosphere (heavens) like that which protects the earth, and it will be at once apparent what God's "curtain, or tent" has done for our earth. That curtain, composed of earth's atmosphere, traps and destroys millions of meteorites which otherwise would long ago have destroyed our world without God's "heavens" spread out like a curtain or a tent to dwell in!

Such an omnipotent, ubiquitous, omniscient God could indeed behold the inhabitants of the earth as "grasshoppers." The mention here of princes that "have not been planted" suggests that great men do not even have the stability and permanence of a tree. All men, even the great ones, are "here today and gone tomorrow"!

How can such a great God be compared, or "likened" to anything on earth? Even the starry hosts of heaven are deployed and commanded by God's authority. He made them; and he has a definite plan for every single one of them; and he even calls every one of the billions of trillions of stars by their names! Feeble, mortal, men do not have the slightest idea of how many stars there actually may be.

Verse 27

"Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest thou, O Israel, My way is hid from Jehovah, and the justice due to me is passed away from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Kelley and others suppose that these words of reproach coming here in Isaiah 40:27 from the Jews and directed against Jehovah were due to the terrible anguish the people were suffering in their captivity. However, there is not even a hint of such things in the text. This attitude on the part of the chosen people was characteristic of nearly any period in their long history of distrust and rebellion against God and by no means was confined to the captivity.[16] As a matter of truth, the Jews fared very well in Babylon; and the vast majority of them found it so good there that they even refused to go back to Jerusalem when the opportunity finally came. Remember, it was only a "remnant," and a very pitifully small one, that returned.

Of course, Isaiah designed these words to be of special comfort to Israel during the captivity who had prophesied in the preceding chapter; and the big admonition here is that Israel should stabilize and comfort herself by leaning "Upon God, (1) the everlasting; (2) the Creator; (3) the unwearied; and (4) the unsearchable."[17]

The word "wait" (Isaiah 40:31) is of unusual interest. Kelley informs us that:

"The basic word from which `wait' is derived means `to wind' or `to twist,' the word `rope' being a noun that comes from this term. The meaning here is that the believer should let the Lord be his lifeline, his cord of escape."[18]

Some are tempted to view the last clauses of Isaiah 40:31 as an anticlimax, that is, in the words flying, running, and walking; but as Kelley noted:

"The man of faith may sometimes soar on eagles' wings, or run without wearing; but most of the time he will merely walk. And the real test of his faith comes, not when he flies or runs, but when he must plod along. It is in the monotony of everyday life that the man of faith reveals his true character."[19]

As Hailey noted, "`They that wait for Jehovah' is another favorite expression of Isaiah."[20] As we have already observed, the vocabulary, style, and favorite expressions of this great prophet are so abundantly used in this chapter that they are as valuable in the identification of Isaiah as the author of it, as would be a half dozen signatures!

It is curious that Lowth rendered a portion of Isaiah 40:31 thus, "They shall put forth fresh feathers." His comment on this tells of a common and popular opinion, "that the eagle lives and retains his vigor to a great age; and that beyond the common lot of other birds, he moults in his old age, and renews his feathers, and with them his youth. Psalms 103:5 has this: `Thou shalt renew thy youth like the eagle.'"[21]

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.