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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Isaiah 40

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Ver. 1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.] Hitherto hath been the comminatory part of this prophecy: followeth now the consolatory. Here beginneth the gospel of the prophet Isaiah, and holds on to the end of the book. The good people of his time had been forewarned by the foregoing chapter of the Babylonian captivity, Those in later times, not only during the captivity, but under Antiochus and other tyrants, were ready to think themselves utterly cast off, because heavily afflicted. See Isaiah 40:27 of this chapter, with Lamentations 5:22. Here, therefore, command is given for their comfort, and that gospel be preached to the penitent; the word here used signifieth, first to repent, then to comfort. [1 Samuel 15:35 1 Samuel 12:24] This our prophet had been a Boanerges, a thundering preacher, all the fore part of his life. See one instance for all, [Isaiah 24:1-23] where, Pericles-like, fulgurat, intonat, totam terram permiscet, &c. Now toward his latter end, and when he had one foot in the grave, the other in heaven, he grew more mellow and melleous, as did likewise Mr Lever, Mr Perkins, Mr Whately, and some other eminent and earnest preachers that might be named, setting himself wholly in a manner to comfort the abject and feeble minded; which also he doth with singular dexterity and efficacy. This redoubled "Comfort ye," is not without its emphasis; but that which followeth [Isaiah 40:2] is a very hive of heavenly honey. (a)


Verse 2

Isaiah 40:2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

Ver. 2. Speak ye comfortably.] Speak to the heart, as Genesis 34:3, Hosea 2:14. Cheer her up, speak to her with utmost earnestness, that your words may work upon her and stick-by her; do it solidly, not frigidly.

That her warfare is accomplished.] Militiam, not malitiam, as the Vulgate hath it; the word signifieth also a set term of time. See Daniel 9:2, Galatians 4:4. God hath limited the saints’ sufferings. [Revelation 2:10] Some by warfare here understand that hard and troublesome pedagogy of Moses’ law, that yoke importable, [Acts 15:10] taken away by Christ.

That her iniquity is pardoned.] Heb., Her iniquity is accepted: perfectam esse poenam eius, so Piscator rendereth it. She might be under God’s hand, though her sins were pardoned. The palsyman heard, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee," some while before he heard, "Take up thy bed and walk."

That she hath received of the Lord’s hand double,] i.e., Abundantly and in a large measure, satis superque, so much as to her merciful Father seemeth over and above, more than enough. "She hath received double for all her sins": and yet death is the just hire of the least sin. [Romans 6:23] But this is the language of God’s compassions rolled together and kindled into repentings; Jerusalem herself was of another judgment. [Ezra 9:13] "Our God hath punished us less than our sins," and yet he reckoneth that we "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." [Colossians 1:24]


Verse 3

Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Ver. 3. The voice of him that crieth.] See Matthew 3:1-3; Joh_1:25, {See Trapp on "Matthew 3:3"} {See Trapp on "John 1:25"} but Luke citeth this text more fully than the other evangelists, applying it to the Baptist crying in the wilderness - sc., of Judea, where he first preached, or, as some sense it, in the ears of a waste and wild people. Hereby is meant the world, saith one, (a) void of God’s grace, barren in all virtue, having no pleasing abode, nor sure direction of any good way in it, being full of horror and accursed.


Verse 4

Isaiah 40:4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

Ver. 4. Every valley shall be exalted.] Terms taken from the custom of princes coming into a place - viz., to have their way cleared, and passages facilitated. See on Matthew 3:3.


Verse 5

Isaiah 40:5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see [it] together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].

Ver. 5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,] i.e., Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, [James 2:1] shall appear in the flesh. Some interpreters understand this whole sermon, ad literam, concerning Christ and redemption wrought by him, yet with an allusion to the Jews’ deliverance out of Babylon; for this was a type of that, like as Cyrus also was of Christ.


Verse 6

Isaiah 40:6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field:

Ver. 6. The voice.] Or, A voice - sc., in vision.

What shall I cry? All flesh is grass.] This is taught by every philosopher, saith Sasbout: but never is it taught effectually till cried to the heart by God’s Word and Spirit, for which reason also it is not uttered here without a preparative, by way of dialogue, to stir up to attention.

All flesh is grass.] Not only as grass, but is grass: we are all but dying men; death hath already taken hold of us, and doth every day feed upon us insensibly. To live is but to lie dying. The Jews at this day, when they return from burying a corpse, cast grass over their heads; either to signify that all flesh is grass, or else their hope of a resurrection.

And all the goodliness thereof.] Anything eximious or excellent in man must needs vanish, when the glory of the Lord is revealed. [Isaiah 40:5] The sight of God makes all else little.

As the flower of the field.] Which is more apt to be blasted, cropped, or trodden down, than the flower of the garden.

Esse, fuisse, fore, tria florida sunt sine flore:

Nam simul omne perit, quod fuit, est, et erit. ”


Verse 7

Isaiah 40:7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people [is] grass.

Ver. 7. Because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.] Or, when the breath of the Lord bloweth upon it. God can easily blow men to destruction, dissipate them as so many vile dust heaps. [Job 4:9; Job 34:14-15 Psalms 104:29 Daniel 2:34-35 Zechariah 4:6]

Surely the people is grass.] Have we not heard; have we not seen from the beginning; doth not every day’s experience seal to it, that all flesh is grass? yea, hath not God oft heard our attestations? We shake our heads, we confess it is true, &c., and yet we lay it not rightly to heart, though so deeply assevered and assured us.


Verse 8

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Ver. 8. But the word of our God shall stand for ever,] q.d., Though the elect also as well as others are grass, frail and fading creatures, yet the grace of God wrought in their hearts by the gospel is stable and lasting. See 1 Peter 1:23. {See Trapp on "1 Peter 1:23"} And so necessary is this whole doctrine here delivered, that the ministers of the gospel are commanded here not to write it only, but to speak it: nor that only, but to cry it also with all possible affection and power of enforcement.


Verse 9

Isaiah 40:9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift [it] up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Ver. 9. Oh Zion, that bringest good tidings.] That evangelist. The gospel is the sum of all the good news in the world. Christ’s incarnation (bisher, the word here used, cometh of bashar, which signifieth flesh), was "glad tidings of great joy to all people." [Luke 2:10]

Get thee up into the high mountain.] Zion was itself a high mountain, yet is bidden to ascend into a higher, for the better promulgation of the gospel.

Lift it up, be not afraid,] viz., For persecution, which is evangelii genius, the evil angel that doggeth the gospel at the heels, as Calvin wrote to the French king.

Behold your God.] Behold the Messiah, who hath been so long expected, is now exhibited.


Verse 10

Isaiah 40:10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong [hand], and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him.

Ver. 10. Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand.] Or, The Lord God will come against the mighty (a) - i.e., Christ against the devil and his agents, whom he shall vanquish, and give them their due. See 1 John 3:6, Matthew 12:29, John 12:31, Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14).

And his arm shall rule for him.] Or, His arm shall rule over him - i.e., over Satan.


Verse 11

Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry [them] in his bosom, [and] shall gently lead those that are with young.

Ver. 11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.] That good Shepherd shall, the Lord Jesus. [John 10:11] See Psalms 23:1, {See Trapp on "Psalms 23:1"}

He shall gather the lambs with his arm.] The Lord hath a great care of his little ones, like as he had of the weaker tribes. In their march through the wilderness, in their several companies or brigades, he put a strong tribe to two weak tribes; as Judah to Issachar and Zebulon, lest they should faint or fail.


Verse 12

Isaiah 40:12 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?

Ver. 12. Who hath measured the waters.] Who but God alone. Totus est in hoc libro, ut confirmet nos in fide. God made heaven, earth, and sea, in number, weight, and measure, as an architect; therefore he wanteth neither power nor wisdom to work in and for his people.

And comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure.] In a tierce, or in "three fingers"; for he spoke before of the "hollow" and "span of God’s hand."


Verse 13

Isaiah 40:13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or [being] his counsellor hath taught him?

Ver. 13. Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord?] Who was then of his council when he made the universe? None but his own essential wisdom. [Proverbs 8:30] See Romans 11:34-35. {See Trapp on "Romans 11:34"} {See Trapp on "Romans 11:34"}


Verse 14

Isaiah 40:14 With whom took he counsel, and [who] instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Ver. 14. With whom took he counsel?] See Isaiah 40:13.


Verse 15

Isaiah 40:15 Behold, the nations [are] as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

Ver. 15. Behold, the nations are as the drop of a bucket.] Quota igitur es tu istius guttae particula? What a small parcel art thou then of that small drop? saith an ancient.

As the small dust of the balance.] That weigheth nothing; yea, all men together laid in the balance with vanity itself will ascend or tilt up. (a) [Psalms 62:9]

He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.] Or, He taketh up and throweth away the isles as powder.


Verse 16

Isaiah 40:16 And Lebanon [is] not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

Ver. 16. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn.] So infinitely great is God; so absolutely insufficient is man to give God satisfaction. Let those think on this who talk of setting off with God, and of making amends, by their good deeds, for their bad.


Verse 17

Isaiah 40:17 All nations before him [are] as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

Ver. 17. All nations before him are as nothing.] Agnosce ergo virium tuarum ουδενειαν. See therefore thine own nothingness, and learn to vilify, yea, to nullify thyself before God, as Agur, [Proverbs 30:2] and as David, who was a worm and no man [Psalms 22:6] Reiectamentum hominis et nullificamen populi, (a)


Verse 18

Isaiah 40:18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

Ver. 18. To whom then will ye liken God?] A sin which the Jews were exceeding prone unto, and would be tempted to, when in captivity at Babylon; here therefore they have an antidote provided beforehand. The voice of the gospel is, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." [1 John 5:21] {See Trapp on "1 John 5:21"}


Verse 19

Isaiah 40:19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.

Ver. 19. The workman melteth a graven image.] That may be afterward graved and gilded over.

And casteth silver chains.] To fasten it to the place; or, he raileth it in. Et nisi homini Deus placuerit, Deus non erit, saith Tertullian. Numa, second king of Romans, saw this great vanity, and therefore forbade images of the gods in temples. (a) So do the Turks at this day to the shame of Papists’ idolomania.


Verse 20

Isaiah 40:20 He that [is] so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree [that] will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, [that] shall not be moved.

Ver. 20. He that is so impoverished - chooseth a tree.] Which therehence may well say, -

Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,

Cum faber incertus scamnum, faceretne Priapum,

Maluit esse Deum; Deus inde ego: ” --

He chooseth a tree that will not rot.] Which yet is hard to do; the cypress tree is most likely. But what goodly gods were those that could not keep themselves from rotting.

A cunning workman.] Somewhat better than he who made the ugly rood of Cockram, whereof when they complained to the Mayor of Doncaster, he advised them to clap a pair of horns on the head of it, and then instead of a god, it would make an excellent devil.


Verse 21

Isaiah 40:21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Ver. 21. Have ye not known? have ye not heard?] Both Jews and Gentiles went against the light; the former of the word, the latter of their own consciences, in thus "changing the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude of a corruptible creature." [Romans 1:23] Their ignorance was wilful and affected; some render this text, "Will ye not know? will ye not hear?" Idolaters are brutish and blockish; they that make them are like unto them.


Verse 22

Isaiah 40:22 [It is] he that sitteth upon 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:

Ver. 22. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.] As sovereign, and is he fit to be portrayed? In Thebes, a town of Egypt, they painted God in the likeness of a man blowing an egg out of his mouth, to signify that he made the round world by his word. (a) Others set him forth as an emperor with a globe in one hand, and a light bolt in the other. Peucer and others tell us, that if there were a path made round the circle of the earth, an able footman might easily go it in nine hundred days.


Verse 23

Isaiah 40:23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.

Ver. 23. That bringeth princes to nothing.] After their part acted here a while, they go off the stage of life, and are seen no more. Augustus Caesar said, that his life was nothing else but a kind of a comedy; and that he had acted his part, as became him, and therefore, at his death, he called for a Plaudite. applause.


Verse 24

Isaiah 40:24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.

Ver. 24. Yea, they shall not be planted.] They are like grass, that is neither planted nor well rooted; but as weeds that grow on the top of the water, vel tanquam podii folium, quod mane candidum, meridie purpureum, vespere caeruleum aspicitur. (a)

And he shall blow upon them.] Two fits of an ague shook to death great Tamerlane, in the midst of his preparations for the conquest of Turkey.


Verse 25

Isaiah 40:25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.

Ver. 25. To whom then will ye liken me?] See Isaiah 40:18-19.


Verse 26

Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these [things], that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that [he is] strong in power; not one faileth.

Ver. 26. Lift up your eyes on high.] Who is there, saith a heathen, (a) that looketh up toward heaven, and presently perceiveth not that there is a God? we may well add, and an Almighty God? Why then should the vanities of the heathen come in competition with him? or why should Jacob say, "My way is hid from the Lord," &c., {as Isaiah 40:27} as if God neglected them, or were weary of helping them. [Isaiah 40:28]

And behold who hath created these things.] Without tool or toil. [Isaiah 40:28] And shall the creature be worshipped rather than the Creator, "God blessed for ever."

That bringeth out their host by number.] As if he had them set down in his muster rolls. Astronomers take upon them to number and name the chiefest of the stars; reliquas nomenclationi Dei permittere coguntur. Abraham could not number them, [Genesis 15:5] and yet Aratus and Eudoxus vainly vaunted that they had done it.


Verse 27

Isaiah 40:27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

Ver. 27. How sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, &c., ] q.d., Fie for shame, what unbecoming language is this for such! Doth God know and order the stars, and hath he cast away the care of his people Never think it; let it be enough, and too much, for a heathen to say, -

Saepe mihi dubiam traxit sententia mentem,

Curarent super; terras, an nullus inesset

Rector, et incerto fluerent mortalia casu. ”

- Claudian.

And my judgment is passed over,] q.d., I thought I should have had a day of hearing ere this; sed comperendinor.


Verse 28

Isaiah 40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, [that] the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? [there is] no searching of his understanding.

Ver. 28. He fainteth not, nor is weary.] Or, He is neither tired nor toiled, viz., as earthly judges may be. And his own people, for thinking otherwise of him, are here taken up as tartly as those idolaters before, [Isaiah 40:21] with, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard?"

There is no searching of his understanding.] Submit to him therefore as to the only wise God. This the very heathens taught men to do, as Plutarch. (a)


Verse 29

Isaiah 40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to [them that have] no might he increaseth strength.

Ver. 29. He giveth power to the faint.] How then should he himself faint? or why should any good man’s heart fail him? The Jews among their benedictions (whereof they are bound to say a hundred every day), have this for one, Blessed be God who giveth power to the faint.


Verse 30

Isaiah 40:30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

Ver. 30. Even the youths shall faint.] All that trust to their own strength shall tire out. Like as the hare, that trusteth to the swiftness of her legs, is at length overtaken and torn in pieces; when the coney, that flieth to the holes in the rocks, doth easily avoid the dogs that pursue her.


Verse 31

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.

Ver. 31. Shall renew their strength.] Heb., Shall change, quotidie seipsis fortiores prodeuntes. By the new "supplies of the Spirit," [Philippians 1:19] they shall pass from strength to strength. [Psalms 84:7] "They shall mount as eagles." {see Psalms 103:5} R. Saadias saith, that every tenth year the eagle mounteth up to the orb of the sun, singeth her wings there, and so reneweth her age, till she be a hundred.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-40.html. 1865-1868.

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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