Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 40

Verses 1-11

Isaiah 40:1-11 . Prologue Announcing the End of the Exile. If. The prophet sees in the triumphs of Cyrus the coming fall of Babylon’ s empire, and a revolution in the fortunes of the exiles. These are God’ s voice bidding the prophet and all who hear it encourage His people. Let them speak tenderly to Jerusalem ( i.e. the nation, not the city). Her forced service is completed, her punishment has been more than adequate to her offence.

Isaiah 40:3-5 . Rapt from earth, the prophet hears a heavenly being in Yahweh’ s court bidding other spiritual beings prepare in the wilderness a straight path for Yahweh, who shall march with His people back to their city. Let all hills and depressions be levelled.

Isaiah 40:3 . Render, “ Hark! One is calling, Prepare” ; so too in Isaiah 40:6.

Isaiah 40:5 . A gloss added after Isaiah 40:9-11 had been cut off from Isaiah 40:4 by the insertion of Isaiah 40:6-8, which originally stood after Isaiah 40:11 (see below).

Isaiah 40:9-11 . Zion’ s heralds of good news (render, “ O ye that tell” ), those who have received the commission of Isaiah 40:1, are bidden ascend the hills to watch for Yahweh’ s coming, and proclaim it as they see Him approach along the wondrous way through the desert. “ Look,” cries the prophet, “ He comes in might; His arm, long inactive, has displayed His power. Before Him goes the booty His arm has won, His delivered people. Gently He cares for them on the journey as a shepherd for his sheep.”

Isaiah 40:11 . Read, “ like a shepherd, and gather them with his arm; the lambs he shall carry in his bosom and the ewes shall he lead.”

Isaiah 40:6-8 . The Message which the Prophet is to Deliver.

Isaiah 40:6-8 breaks its present context and differs metrically from it. It forms an excellent introduction to, and should be inserted before, Isaiah 40:12-31. Another heavenly voice floats to the prophet’ s ear, bidding him proclaim. He asks (read, “ I said,” mg.) what shall be his proclamation, and the answer comes, “ Man and his power are but transitory, whereas the word, the proclaimed purpose, of God endures for ever.” The thought is not so much that men are creatures of a day as that the great kingdoms are doomed when Yahweh intervenes.

Isaiah 40:6 . goodliness: read, “ glory” (LXX), or “ splendour.”

Verses 12-31

Isaiah 40:12-31 . An Expansion of the Text Suggested in Isaiah 40:6-8 .

Isaiah 40:12-17 . The Majesty of God, in Whose Eyes the World is Insignificant.— God is the Creator, disposing of earth and heaven as very small things. No adviser instructed Him. The nations in His sight are like the drop hanging from the bucket, or the dust on the scale, too small to count in the bulk. The forests of Lebanon and the many wild beasts that range them would not provide fuel and victims for a worthy sacrifice.

Isaiah 40:14 . path of judgement: rather, “ the correct way.”— way of understanding: “ how to do it.”

Isaiah 40:15. isles: properly “ coastlands,” but used as a synonym for “ (distant) lands.”

Isaiah 40:17-20 . What Material Image Can Represent so Mighty a God?

Isaiah 41:6 f. should be inserted to fill the obvious gap between Isaiah 40:19 and Isaiah 40:20. In their present context they are a disturbing element. Addressing mankind the prophet asks, “ If God is so exalted, what can represent Him? A molten image? Why the founder makes a core, which the goldsmith plates with gold, the workmen heartening each other as they work! A wooden idol? Carved from a tree and propped securely lest it fall! How absurdly inadequate!”

Isaiah 40:19 . graven image: the original sense of the word; here simply “ image” ; a molten image is in question. In Isaiah 40:20 it is used of a carven image.— and casteth . . . chains: LXX omits; delete as a guess at unintelligible and corrupt Heb.— Isaiah 41:6 . Render, “ Each helps the other, and says to his comrade, Be strong.”

Isaiah 40:7 . carpenter: render, “ artificer.”— that smiteth the anvil: what has the blacksmith to do here? The last delicate modelling?— fastened it: “ it” may be the gold plating: the next clause is a gloss from Isaiah 40:20.

Isaiah 40:20 . He . . . oblation: improbable translation of unintelligible text. Possibly emend, “ He who cuts out an image (of wood).”

Isaiah 40:21-26 . God’ s Absolute Power over the Universe and its Inhabitants.— The appeal is again to mankind. The universe from the beginning has shown its Maker’ s might. Enthroned high above the disc-like earth, He spreads the heavens over it, easily as if they were but a tent ( cf. mg.) . History shows that no earthly power, however august, can for a moment survive His attack. What image can represent such an one? Even the stars (regarded here as in some sense personalities; Genesis 2:1 *, Job 38:7 *) are His handiwork, and He summons them forth each night to take their appointed stations; so great is His might that none of them dare play truant.

Isaiah 40:24 . Their reign seems to end before it has begun ( mg.) .

Isaiah 40:26 . Read, “ For fear of him who is great in might and strong in power not one fails.”

Isaiah 40:27-31 . Yahweh, the Eternal God. shall Strengthen All who Trust in Him.— Israel complains that God has forgotten her just claims. Does she not see that God takes long views beyond her absorption in the moment? Let her not fear that He has become decrepit. On the contrary, His overflowing strength shall fill those who trust in Him so that they, when even strong men despair, shall rise above all feebleness.

Isaiah 40:27 . way: render, “ fate.”— Judgement: render “ right.”— passed away from: i.e., is forgotten by.

Isaiah 40:31 . mount . . . eagles: read, “ Put forth wings like (those of) eagles.” The following words are an addition and an anticlimax.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.