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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 40

Verses 1-31

Isaiah 40:1 . Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. What a sweet voice is this to the church, after all her long afflictions. The words are doubled, to designate the fulness of comfort in the pardon of sin, testified by remission of punishment.

Isaiah 40:2 . She hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The later rabbins say here, that the Babylonian captivity, and the Roman dispersion, were the double punishment of Zion’s sins. The words are variously expounded.

(1) Hyperbolically, she has been doubly punished for her sins.

(2) Of grace, she has received double, in the gifts and graces of Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3 . The voice that crieth in the wilderness. The ministry of John the baptist, preparing the way of the Lord, announcing the revelation of his glory, expostulating with the withering grass, and exhorting the people to hear his heralds on the tops of the mountains. Blessed are they that know the joyful sound.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Providence took care that this should be done by the translation of the holy scriptures into Greek, which was then the travelling language of the world; by the Roman conquests, and by the tolerant character of those conquests in adopting all gods, and honouring all temples, on which account Cicero calls the Romans the most religious of all nations; by a vast accession of gentile proselytes, and by synagogues in the great cities of the empire.

Isaiah 40:4 . Every valley shall be exalted. The reference is to the pioneers, who go before great armies, and prepare the way. Semiramis levelled the road over the Zarcean mountain to Ecbatana; the Romans also made military roads in all the countries united to their empire. The existence of those roads can still be traced in different parts of England.

Isaiah 40:5 . The glory of the Lord shall be revealed. Christ and his gospel. John 1:14. Eusebius says, the gospel was like the sun enlightening the world at once. The sound of the preachers’ voice went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. Romans 10:18. There was no nation where their voice was not heard. Psalms 19:3.

Isaiah 40:7 . The Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it. Breath, wind, and spirit, very often are of the same import. Here it may mean the droughty season, when the grass was dried into hay.

Isaiah 40:9 . Behold your God. The Messiah must not be degraded, else how should the world regard him with joy, as in the next words. Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. St. Mark begins his history thus: The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. St. John says, “In the beginning was the Word,” coëternal with the Father, whose Divinity is the fountain of the Son’s Divinity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Similar is the language of the apostle to the Romans Romans 1:3-4; and to the Hebrews, Hebrews 1:1-8.

Isaiah 40:31 . They shall mount up with wings as eagles. In the fable, when the eaglets asked their dam what they should do when exposed to danger, she replied, “my children, look right at the sun.” This is equally good advice for the christian. By looking to heaven, he leaves danger far behind. He renews his strength by conversing with unseen objects, and gets fresh supplies of grace. The eagle lives to a great age, and when she renews her plumage, she is said to renew her youth.


Isaiah having left his country under the portentous cloud of Babylonian captivity, hastens to bring the rich cup of comfort to cheer the heart of Zion amidst her tears. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. The church he makes his first care and sole delight. For her the breezes blow, the sun shines, and the rains descend. He opens at once to her view the glory of Christ, the healer of all her woes. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed to eyes of flesh, and all the empire shall see the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. He is the light of the gentiles, and the glory of Israel. He saw the Baptist open his commission in the wilderness, and preparing the way of the Lord by calling the nation to repentance, and reformation of manners.

John, clothed with the grandeur of God, and filled with his Master’s spirit, addresses the nations as withering grass, and as the fading flower: All flesh is grass; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the wind of the Lord blows upon it. What then is the best wisdom of a perishing world? It is to listen to the voice of his heralds, whose feet are beauteous upon the mountains. It is to behold their God, whose glory fadeth not away. He is the Lord and giver of life. His strong arm shall rule for him; he shall break the Assyrian power to pieces. Like David he is the shepherd of Israel; he shall take into his bosom the bleating lamb, and gently lead the weak. Eventually he shall gather the Jews and the Gentiles into one safe and secure fold.

Oh Israel, look alone at the grandeur of your God, sublime in all his works, profound in his counsel, and omnipotent in all his ways. Look solely to him, cast your idols into the fire, and fear your enemies no more. Why liken Jehovah to works of wood and stone? Why provoke him to destroy you? He is able, if you repent, to reverse the sentence of the Babylonian captivity, and prolong your lives as the life of Hezekiah. Jeremiah 36:3. But if otherwise, if the Chaldeans must come; if your young men must fall by the sword, and fill the streets in Jerusalem, then I will comfort the remnant. 2 Chronicles 36:17; 2 Chronicles 36:17. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, and inherit all the glory of the future age.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.