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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 40

Verses 1-22

The hope of return is grounded by the prophet upon the fact that Jehovah is the only God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, the Disposer of the fate of nations, who guides the course of history according to His will. The tone of this section is argumentative, the respective claims of Jehovah and of the heathen gods being discussed as in a court of justice. The object of the argument is to encourage the Jews in their exile by showing that, since Jehovah is thus supreme, no obstacles will be able to interfere with the restoration to their own land which He has promised. With fine irony the prophet exhibits the infatuation of idol-makers and idol-worshippers; proving that, while the idols are senseless blocks and less than nothing (Isaiah 40:17), Jehovah is Lord of the world and controls all things. The Israelites can testify to His power, because through His prophets He has told them of things be fore they came to pass. Jehovah is, therefore, set forth as the deliverer of His people. But in the carrying out of His purposes He employs agents: (a) Cyrus, who is commissioned as His shepherd (Isaiah 44:28), His anointed (Isaiah 45:1), to perform all His pleasure in the overthrow of Babylon and deliverance of the Israelites from their exile; (b) the nation of Israel, which has its own work to do in the furthering of Jehovah’s purposes. The title ’servant of Jehovah,’ hitherto applied to individuals, is in these chapters (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 44:1-2, Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 48:20) applied to the nation in its corporate capacity: perhaps also, though less directly, to the faithful Jews within the nation (Isaiah 42:1-7, Isaiah 42:18; Isaiah 43:8, Isaiah 43:10) on whom would devolve the fulfilment of God’s will. The name implies, in the first place, the fact of the nation’s election by Jehovah (Isaiah 48:8), and further the truth that Israel has a mission in the world, viz. to bring the knowledge of true religion to the Gentiles, and be a means of universal blessing (Isaiah 42:1 f).

Verses 1-24

Israel’s Restoration from Exile in Babylon

On the authorship and date of these chapters see Intro. According to their subject matter, they fall naturally into three divisions of almost equal length (Isaiah 40-48, 49-57, , 58-66), the close of each division being marked by an intimation that the wicked shall not share in the blessings promised to God’s people.

Verses 1-31

The Proclamation of Deliverance

1, 2. The theme of the prophecies following: the period of Zion’s trouble and affliction is over.

3-26. Celestial voices give the message of restoration to God’s people, who are encouraged by the thought of His infinite power.

27-31. Trust in Jehovah is, therefore, the source of true strength.

2. Warfare] RM ’time of service,’ i.e. enforced service and hardship: cp. Job 7:1. Double] i.e. double (ample) penalty (Jeremiah 17:18), in the sufferings of the exile.

3-5. A first voice enjoins preparation for the progress of the great King, who will bring back His people from exile.

3. Crieth, etc.] RV ’crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness.’ The passage was understood by the Baptist as prophetic of his own mission (John 1:23), and is so taken by thé Evangelists (Matthew 3:3 and parallels).

4. This imagery is from the practice of Eastem monarchs, who thus made roads for the passage of their armies.

5. Shall see] shall see Jehovah’s glorious deeds for His people, and acknowledge Him.

6-8. The message of the second voice. Human things must decay: Israel’s oppressors are mortal, but Jehovah’s promiseissure.

6. He said] i.e. the prophet himself; then in the words following, in reply to his question, a message is put into his mouth. 7. Spirit] RV ’breath,’ or wind.

9-11. The third voice—the good tidings brought to Zion that Jehovah is approaching in triumph, bringing back His people.

9. Read, ’O thou that teilest good tidings to Zion.. O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem.’ ’Thou that teilest’is fem. in Heb. The prophet in spirit sees a maiden, or a company of women (Psalms 68:11) bringing the news.

10. His reward, etc.] The figure is that of a conqueror bringing the spoils of war. His work] RV ’recompense,’ his redeemed people regarded as the prize of war.

11. The v. indicates in a figure the tender care with which God will support His people on their journey home. Are with young] RV ’give suck.’

12-26. The prophet’s object is to show the power of Jehovah to deliver the people from captivity. He emphasises two thoughts: (a) the wonderful order and proportion in the universe show His infinite power and wisdom (Isaiah 40:12-17), and (b) no representation can be made of Him. How futile are the idols that men make! (Isaiah 40:18-20).

20. RV ’He that is too impoverished for such an oblation,’ etc.

24. Shall not] read the tenses as past (RV). The v. expresses the transitory character of earthly powers in the sight of Jehovah.

26. Faileth] is missing.

27. The foregoing argument is addressed to a people who had suffered so long, that they thought God had forgotten them, and were despondent.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.