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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 40

 

 

Introduction

III.—THE SECOND PART

THE TOTAL SALVATION TO COME, BEGINNING WITH REDEMPTION FROM THE BABYLONIAN EXILE AND CONCLUDING WITH THE CREATION OF A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH

Isaiah 40-66

This second principal part is occupied with the redemption of Israel. And the Prophet contemplates this redemption as a total, although from its beginning, which coincides with redemption from the Babylonian exile, to its conclusion, it takes up thousands of years. For to the gaze of the Prophet, that, which in point of time, is most remote, is just as near as that which is nearest in point of time. He sees degrees, it is true; but the intervals of time that separate the degrees one from another he is unable to measure. Things of the same kind he sees along side of one another, although as to fact, the single moments of their realization take place one after another. Consequences that evolve out of their premises only after a long time he contemplates along with the latter. Thus it happens that the representations of the Prophet have often the appearance of disorder. To this is joined still another thing. Although, in general, the Prophet’s view point is in the midst of the people as already suffering punishment and awaiting their redemption out of it, thus the viewpoint of the Exile, yet at times this relative (ideal, prophetic) present merges into the absolute, i.e., actual history of his own time where both have an inherent likeness. But this inherent likeness becomes especially prominent where the punishment of sin is concerned, which is the concern of both epochs in common, that is the epoch in which the Prophet lived, and the epoch of the Exile.

These are the chief points of view, which must be held fast in order to make it possible to understand this grand cycle of prophecy.

The twenty-seven chapters that compose this cycle subdivide into three parts containing each nine chapters. (This was first noticed by Friedrich Rueckert, Be. Propheten übers. u. erläutert, 1831.)

The first Ennead (chapters40–48), has Kores[FN1] (Cyrus) for its middle point; the second (chapters49–57), the personal Servant of Jehovah; the third (chapters58–66), the new creature.

In regard to the critical questions, see the Introduction.

[In regard to the above division the following may be appropriate which Dr. J. A. Alexander says concerning the division proposed by himself, and which does not materially differ from the one above, though it makes three heads of what above is comprised in the first (40–48). “These are the subjects of the Prophet’s whole discourse, and may be described as present to his mind throughout; but the degree in which they are respectively made prominent is different in different parts. The attempts which have been made to show that they are taken up successively, and treated one by one, are unsuccessful, because inconsistent with the frequent repetition and recurrence of the same theme. The order is not that of strict succession, but of alternation. It is still true, however, that the relative prominence of these great themes is far from being constant. As a general fact, it may be said that their relative positions in this respect answer to those they hold in the enumeration above given. The character of Israel, both as a nation and a church, is chiefly prominent in the beginning, the Exile and the Advent in the middle, the contrast and change of dispensations at the end. With this general conception of the Prophecy, the reader can have very little difficulty in perceiving the unity of the discourse, and marking its transitions for himself. Abridged Ed. Vol. II. p18.].

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A.—KORES

Isaiah 40-48

The first Ennead of chaps40–46 has two characteristic elements that distinguish it from the two following Enneads: 1) The Promise of a Hero that will come from the east, that will redeem Israel out of the Babylonian captivity, and who in fact is called by his name “Kores” Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1 : 2) The affirmation that Jehovah, from the fulfilment of this fact predicted by Him, must also necessarily be acknowledged as the only true God, as also, on the other hand, from the inability of idols to prophesy and to fulfil must evidently be concluded that they are no gods. One sees from this that the Prophet wishes primarily to attain a double object by the first nine chapters of this book of consolation: First, Israel shall have the prospect presented of bodily deliverance by Cyrus; but Second, its deliverance also from the worship of idols shall be made possible by means of that promise. For the Lord intends to make it so evident that the deliverance by Cyrus is His work, and at the same time His victory over the idols that Israel can no longer resist acknowledging Him as alone divine. These two aims manifestly go hand in hand. But now a Third is added to them. Cyrus and Israel are themselves prophetic types that point to a third and higher one. Each of them represents one factor of the development of salvation. In that third both factors find their common fulfilment. Cyrus is only the initiator of the redemption. He brings to an end the seventy years’ exile, and opens up the era of salvation. But the salvation which he immediately brings is still only a faint twilight. On the other hand, in himself considered, Cyrus is a grand and glorious appearance. He beams like the sun in the heavens, that is unobscured by clouds, and that, indeed, not only in our prophecy, but also in profane history. In this respect he prefigures the element of glory that must appear in the fulfiller of redemption. In Isaiah 45:1 He is called מָשִׁיחַ (Messiah, anointed). He is therefore the messiah in a lower degree. Lowliness, reproach, suffering, nothing of this sort is found in him. On the contrary Israel is the lowly, despised, much enduring servant of Jehovah, who, however, in his lowliness is still strong, and in the hand of Jehovah a mighty instrument, partly to punish the heathen nations, and partly to save them. This particular also attains its conclusion in Him who fulfils the redemption. Therefore He is called Messiah and Servant of Jehovah in one person. He unites both in one: the glory and the lowliness, the kingly form and the servant form. Thus it happens, that in40–48 beside the promise of Cyrus (as far as it relates to the deliverance out of the Babylonian exile), and the proof of divinity (drawn from prophecy and fulfilment) which form the peculiar subjects of these chapters, we see those two other elements appear in a preparative way; the element of glory represented by Cyrus, and the form of the servant of God by the people Israel. Those first named subjects are concluded in40–48. For after48 nothing more is said either about Cyrus or about prophecy and fulfilment. But that in Cyrus and in the people (regarded as the servant of Jehovah) which is typical has its unfolding in the two following Enneads, of which the former is chiefly devoted to the servant of God, and the latter to the glory of the new creation. Thus, therefore, we may say: the first Ennead forms the basis of the two that follow, in as much as it carries out to completion the two fundamental factors of the initiation of the redemption by Cyrus, and the proof of the divinity of Jehovah drawn therefrom, but partly, too, in that it lays the foundation for the representation of Him who in the highest degree is the Servant of God and King.

Let us now observe how the Prophet carries out in detail the plan which we have just sketched in its outlines.

In chap40 after the prologue, the Prophet presents first the objective then the subjective basis of the redemption. For this chapter, after a general introduction ( Isaiah 40:1-11) referring to the whole book, and thus also to the subsequent parts of chap40, contains first a presentation of the absolute power and wisdom of God, from which follows also the impossibility of representing Him by any natural image ( Isaiah 40:12-26). If then redemption is objectively conditioned by the omnipotence and wisdom of God, so it is subjectively by that trust that Israel must repose in its God ( Isaiah 40:27-31). This chap. contains, therefore, three parts, and has wholly the character of a foundation.

To chapter 41 we give the superscription: First appearance of the redeemer from the east and of the servant of Jehovah, as also the first and second realization of the prophecy relating to this as proof of the divinity of Jehovah. For in chapter 41 the Prophet begins by bringing forward as the principal person of his prophetic drama the form of him who as beginner of the redemption has to stand in the foreground of the first Ennead. He does not yet name him, but he draws him with traits not to be mistaken, and designates him as the one called of God, and his calling a test of divinity which it is impossible for idols to give ( Isaiah 41:1-7). Immediately after the redeemer the Prophet lets the redeemed appear, viz.: the people Israel, whom he introduces as “servant of Jehovah” in contrast with the glorious potentate from the east, for in him must appear that other typical element, poverty and lowliness, which still does no detriment to his strength. The Prophet characterizes this servant of Jehovah primarily as the chosen one of God, whom God will not reject but will strengthen to victory ( Isaiah 41:8-13), then again as poor and wretched, who, notwithstanding, will be a mighty instrument of judgment and rich in salvation and knowledge ( Isaiah 41:14-20). After he has thus described the redeemer and the redeemed servant of God, he employs in conclusion precisely this prophecy of redemption a second time as the basis of an argument which has for its conclusion the sole divinity of Jehovah, and the nothingness of idols ( Isaiah 41:21-29).

In Chapter 42 the third principal person appears on the scene, viz., the personal Servant of God to whom both the chief personages before mentioned pointed; the first of them prefiguring His glory, the second His lowliness. He is represented first as meek, who at the same time will be a strong refuge of righteousness ( Isaiah 42:1-4); then as the personal representative of a new covenant, who shall mediate for all nations light and right; and at the same time this is the third prophecy which the Lord presents as pledge of His divine dignity ( Isaiah 42:5-9). These two strophes are like a ladder that leads up to the culmination. For chapter 42 is a pyramidal structure. In verses10–17 the Prophet has reached the point of the pyramid. In them the expression “Servant of God” is no longer used. And yet the discourse is concerning the same that Isaiah 40:1 was designated as the Servant of Jehovah. He appears here in His unity with Jehovah in which He Himself is El-Gibbor [God a mighty one]. As such, He issues out of Israel into the blind heathen world in order partly to Judges, partly to bring them to the light of knowledge and of salvation. From this elevation the following strophes recede again. And in Isaiah 40:18-21 the Servant of Jehovah, who appears here again under this name, is portrayed as one, who can indeed make others see and hear, but Himself, as one blind and deaf, goes to meet His destruction, yet precisely thereby secures the favor of God, and becomes the founder of a new Tora (law). Unhappily this new institution of salvation is not accepted by unbelieving Israel. For this reason the Prophet sees Israel as a people robbed, plundered, and languishing in kennels and prisons ( Isaiah 42:22-25). From his heart he wishes that Israel might take warning from this threatening in time, and the sooner the better. But, alas, the Prophet knows that Israel, spite of the Exile, in which it has already so emphatically experienced the chastening hand of its God, will not yet lay to heart this warning. With this the second discourse concludes.

Having in41–42introduced especially the chief persons of the redemption, viz.: the redeemer from the east, then the redeemed or servant (people) of God, finally the personal Servant of God, in whom the two former combine, the Prophet now portrays in 43 chiefly the redemption itself. He gives first a survey of the chief particulars of the redemption ( Isaiah 40:1-8). Having Isaiah 40:1 assigned the reason for the redemption, he depicts it, Isaiah 40:2, as one that shall come to pass spite of all difficulties; in Isaiah 40:3-4, as such that it must come to pass though even heathen nations must be sacrificed for the sake of it; in Isaiah 40:5-7 as all-comprehending, i.e., as such that it will lead back into their home out of all lands of the earth the members of the people of Israel; finally, in Isaiah 40:8, is indicated the condition that Israel must fulfill in order to partake of this salvation, viz.: that it must have open eyes and ears in a spiritual sense. To this representation of the redemption in general, the Prophet adds ( Isaiah 40:9-13) the statement, that recurs thus for the fourth time, that prophecy and fulfilment are a test of divinity, and that Israel in its capacity as servant of God is called to be witness by furnishing this test. After carrying out this thought, that recurs so like a refrain, the Prophet turns again to the chief thought of chapter43. He describes the return home of Israel especially out of the Babylonian captivity. Yet not without finding in the Lord’s manner of bringing this about a reference to the distant Messianic salvation, in respect to its exercising also a transforming influence upon nature ( Isaiah 40:14-21). In the fourth strophe of the chapter ( Isaiah 40:22-28) the Prophet treats the thought of the inward, moral redemption, viz.: the redemption also from sin. He lets it be known here that this inward redemption will by no means follow close on the feet of the outward redemption from exile. For Israel has never kept the law. The Lord has already hitherto borne Israel’s sin, and will in future blot out the guilt of it. But the Israel that contemns the grace of God in proud self-righteousness will have to be destroyed. The Lord, however, will break the power of sin by the rich effusion of the holy and holy-making Spirit upon that seed of Israel that shall be chosen to serve the Lord as His servant; and this is the thought of the fifth strophe that includes Isaiah 44:1-5.

Having portrayed in41. the first redeemer and then the redeemed, i.e., the servant (people) of God, then in 42 the antitype of both, the second Redeemer and Servant of God in a personal sense, then in 43 the redemption itself, and all this in such a way that, interspersed, He has appealed four times, in a refrain like repetition, to the ability of Jehovah to prophesy in contrast with the inability of idols, as proof of His divinity, the Prophet now Isaiah 44:6 sqq, makes a decided use of this last element for which He has made such preparation. This entire chapter is an edifice whose substructure consists of the members of just that argumentation, that whoever can prophesy is God, and the crowning point of which appears to us in naming the name “Kores” (Cyrus), the way for naming it being now well prepared, and the motive sufficient. That is to say, in Isaiah 44:6-20, for the fifth time, in a drawn-out recapitulation extending through three strophes, it is set forth that Jehovah, as the only true God, can alone prophesy, and that He is God He will now prove by a grand prophetic transaction for the salvation of Israel. Accordingly, in the first strophe ( Isaiah 44:6-11) the Prophet shows that Israel possesses the stronghold of its salvation in its living, everlasting God, who can prophesy, and has prophesied, which Israel also as a witness must testify to, whereas the senseless makers of idols must go to destruction. In the second strophe ( Isaiah 44:12-17), in order to set forth the senselessness of idol worship most convincingly, the manufacture of idols is described in a drastic way. In the third strophe ( Isaiah 44:18-20) in order on the one hand to explain the possibility of such senseless acts as making idols, the deep reason of it is pointed to, viz.: the blindness of men’s hearts and minds; on the other hand however the Prophet points to the destructive effects of this insane behaviour. In the fourth strophe ( Isaiah 44:21-28) the Prophet attains finally the culmination. He first deduces briefly the consequences from the foregoing. Before all he reminds that Israel is Jehovah’s servant, i.e, property, which the Lord has bought for Himself by graciously blotting out his guilt. This ransomed servant may return home (note the highly significant שׁוּכָה Isaiah 44:22). Then there is a second brief reminder of Jehovah’s omnipotent divinity, and, in contrast with it, of the necessary disgrace of idols and their soothsayers. In contrast with the latter it is finally declared with all emphasis: Jehovah makes true the word of His prophets. Therefore Israel will and must have a happy return home, and Cyrus shall the prince be called who shall accomplish this decree of Jehovah.

With this we have the culmination of the cycle of prophecy in chapters40–48 and in respect of space have reached the middle of it. For, if, we leave aside40, as a general laying of a foundation, and remember that the prophecy relating to Cyrus begins with41, we have here at the close of44, four discourses behind us, and still four discourses before us.

In chapter45, the prophecy remains at the elevation which it attained at the close of chapter44. We may therefore designate this discourse as the culmination of the cycle of prophecy in40–48 and its contents as “Cyrus and the effects of his appearance.” For we are informed in Isaiah 45:1-7 what shall he brought about by Cyrus, whom the Lord has chosen and designates as His anointed (מָשִׁיחַ), and what three-fold object will be secured thereby. But we learn Isaiah 45:8-13 that Cyrus is the beginner and founder of the era of salvation promised to Israel, although according to appearance this seems not to be, and the faint-heartedness of Israel requires the assurance that Cyrus is certainly called to accomplish the outward restoration of the holy people and of the holy city. The Prophet even gives the further assurance, that, beside that northern world-power directly ruled by Cyrus, even the southern, i.e., Egypt with the lands of its dominion, convinced by the salvation accruing to Israel from Cyrus, shall be converted to Jehovah and will join itself to His people ( Isaiah 45:14-17). Finally, however, in consequence of the saving effect proceeding from Cyrus, this greatest advantage shall eventuate, viz.: that Israel, when it sees the heathen north and south converted to Jehovah, shall at last and definitively abjure idols, and give itself up wholly and entirely to its God, so that from that time on humanity entire shall have become a spiritual Israel ( Isaiah 45:18-25). In the seventh discourse (chapter46), as also in the eighth (chapter47) the obverse side of this picture of the future brought about by Cyrus is shown. In46. namely, we have presented first the downfall of the Babylonian idols; but connected with this, also the gain that Israel shall derive from this, for its knowledge of God. That is to say, Israel will come to see that there is a great difference between Jehovah who carries His people, and those idols that are carried by beasts of burden into captivity ( Isaiah 46:1-4). In fact Israel will know, too, which just such a difference exists between Jehovah and the images that are meant to represent Him (of which Isaiah 40:18; Isaiah 40:25 has discoursed), for the latter also are idols that need to be carried ( Isaiah 46:5-7). Israel will actually draw the conclusion that the Lord here presses home for the sixth time, viz.: that the God who can prophesy and fulfill, who, in particular, has correctly announced beforehand the ravenous bird from the east, must be the right God ( Isaiah 46:8-11). But the Prophet foresees that not all Israelites will draw from the facts so far mentioned that advantage for their religious life that, according to Jehovah’s intention, they ought. Will not this make problematical the realization of the promised salvation? He replies to this question, “No.” For the righteousness and salvation of God must come in spite of the hard-heartedness of Israel ( Isaiah 46:12-13). The eighth discourse is occupied wholly with Babylon. It paints in drastic images the deep downfall of it, exposes the reasons (the harshness against Israel transcending the measure that God would have, and the secure arrogance Isaiah 47:1-7), and shows the uselessness of all the means employed to rescue Babylon, both those derived from the worship of demons and those which the connections with other nations seem to offer ( Isaiah 47:8-15). The ninth discourse, finally, (48) is recapitulation and conclusion. After an address to Israel that displays the motives that prompt Jehovah’s interest in the nation ( Isaiah 48:1-2) the Prophet makes prominent for the seventh time the importance of prophecy for the knowledge of God. He points Israel to the fulfilment of the old prophecies, that they had experienced and verified in order to move them to faith in the new that concern the redemption from exile ( Isaiah 48:3-11). Then the chief contents of this new prophecy is repeated: what idols cannot, Jehovah can do, for He promises and brings on a redeemer that shall accomplish the will of God on Babylon ( Isaiah 48:12-15). But Israel is summoned to go out of Babylon as out of an opened prison house, and to proclaim to all the world that the Lord by Cyrus has led His people out of Babylon and home, as He did by Moses out of Egypt ( Isaiah 48:20-21). We join these verses close on Isaiah 40:15 because the contents of both passages demand it. The verses16,17–19 are two insertions. The first, which is very obscure, appears to be a side remark of the Prophet’s, to the effect that the wonderful things discoursed in40–47 were to himself not known from the beginning, but learned only in the moment of their creation (in a prophetic sense, comp. on Isaiah 48:6), but now by the impulse of the Spirit he has made them known. Verses17–19 are of a retrospective nature. They contain the lament of the Lord that Israel did not sooner give heed to His commands; for thereby it would have partaken of the blessing given to the patriarchs without the chastening agency of the Exile. Isaiah 40:22 finally (which occurs again as to the words at the close of chap58, and in respect to sense at the close of chap66) is a refrain-like conclusion intended (in contrast with the consolatory words that begin the entire book of consolation chapters40–66 and its principal parts) to call to mind the important truth, that this consolation is not unconditionally offered to all. For the wicked can have no share in it.

This, in its essentials, is my opinion of the plan and order of chapters40–48.

Footnotes:

1][The Author uses this Hebrew form of the name throughout the following context. We substitute for it the common form.—TR.].


Verses 1-31

I.—THE FIRST DISCOURSE

The Prologue: the Objective and Subjective basis of Redemption

Isaiah 40

1. THE PROLOGUE OF THE SECOND PART AND OF THE FIRST DISCOURSE

Isaiah 40:1-11

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,

Saith your God.

2 Speak ye [FN2]comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,

That her [FN3]warfare is accomplished,

That [FN4]her iniquity is pardoned:

[FN5]For she hath received of the Lord’s hand

Double for all her sins.

3 The voice of him that crieth [FN6]in the wilderness,

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be exalted,

And every mountain and hill shall be made low:

And the crooked shall be made [FN7]straight,

And [FN8]the rough places [FN9]plain:

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.

6 [FN10]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:

7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:

Because [FN11]the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it:

Surely the people is grass.

8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:

But the word of our God shall stand forever.

9 [FN12]O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain;

[FN13]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!

10 Behold, the Lord God will come [FN14] [FN15]with strong hand,

And his arm shall rule for him:

Behold his reward is with him,

And [FN16]his work before him.

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 [FN17]that are with young.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 40:1. The rhetorical form of anadiplosis (epanalepsis, epizeuxis) occurs, indeed, principally in the second part ( Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:11; Isaiah 48:15; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 52:11; Isaiah 57:6; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 57:19; Isaiah 62:10; Isaiah 65:1). But it occurs also not unfrequently in passages of the first part that are the acknowledged productions of Isa. ( Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 28:10; Isaiah 28:13; Isaiah 29:1. Comp, beside Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 21:9; Isaiah 24:16; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 26:15; Isaiah 27:5; Isaiah 38:11; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 38:19. Agreeably to the character of this section, the Piel נִחַם occurs oftener in the second part: Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 51:19; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 66:13 (Pual Isaiah 54:11; Isaiah 66:13). Piel occurs twice in the first part: Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 22:4. The passages Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 66:13, are manifest echoes of the present passage—עם with the suffix referring to Jehovah, as it suits the contents of the second part, is found there oftener than in the first: comp. Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 10:2; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 32:13; Isaiah 32:18, with Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 47:6; Isaiah 51:4; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:5 sq.; Isaiah 28:5; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 58:1; Isaiah 65:10; Isaiah 65:19, etc.

The expression יאמַר א׳, as an introductory formula, is peculiar to Isaiah; for it is found only in Isaiah, and that in both parts: Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 66:9 (comp. Kleinert, Echtheit der jesajan, Weissag, I. p239 sqq.). The Imperfect יאמר corresponds to the aim of chapters40–66. Comp, the formula with which the Prophet introduces the prophecies he addresses to the present church (שִׁמְעוּדְבַר י׳ Isaiah 1:10; נְאֻם י׳ Isaiah 1:24; הַרָּבָר אֲשֶׁר חָזָה ונו׳ Isaiah 2:1, etc., comp. Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 7:7; Isaiah 7:10; Isaiah 8:1; Isaiah 8:5; Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 20:2, etc.). יאמר, taken exactly, is for us an untranslatable verbal form, that, according to its original sense, designates the thought neither as present nor future, nor in any way as one to be estimated by time measure, but one to be estimated by the measure of its mode of existence. That Isaiah, the Imperfect designates, not that which has objectively come into actual existence, but what is only present some way subjectively. In other words, יאמר, standing at the beginning of the second part, characterizes it as addressed to an ideal church. In itself, indeed, יאמר can mean, “he will speak.” Thus it is taken by Stier, v. Hofmann (Schriftbew. II:1. p91, Ausg. v. J. 1853), and Klostermann (Zeitschrift f. Luth. Th. u. K. 1876, I. p 24 sqq.); the last named of whom, however, errs in thinking that the following discourse Isaiah 40:3-11 gives the Imperfect the direction toward the future. For what follows, and is separated by intermediate members can never determine the specific sense of a Hebrew verbal form. יאמר can, also in itself mean frequent repetition (Delitzsch). But all these significations are too special. The subjective force of the Imperfect is capable of various signification according to the context. Here at the beginning we are much too little au fait, to assign to the word a construction as definite as those expositors would do. Here we know from the יאמר only this much, that what follows is to be regarded, not as something that has just gone forth, something to be executed at once for the present church, but as an ideal word of God according to its point of departure and aim.—We have said above that עם with a suffix referring to Jehovah occurs much oftener in the second part than in the first. The same is to be said of אלהים with the suffix referring to Israel. אֱלֹהַי occurs twice in the first part ( Isaiah 7:13; Isaiah 25:1), five times in the second ( Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 49:4-5; Isaiah 57:21; Isaiah 61:10); אלהינו six times in the first part ( Isaiah 50:10; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 26:13; Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 37:20), eight times in the second ( Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 40:8; Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 59:13; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 61:6); אֱלֹהֶיךָ in the first part properly only once in the sense here under review ( Isaiah 7:11; beside this Isaiah 37:4; Isaiah 37:10), six times in the second ( Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 51:15; Isaiah 55:5); אֱלֹהַיִךְ occurs not at all in the first part, on the other hand nine times in the second ( Isaiah 51:20; Isaiah 51:22; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 60:9; Isaiah 60:19; Isaiah 62:3; Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 66:9); אלהיכם in the first part only Isaiah 35:4, in the second Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 59:2; אלהיו in the sense meant here only Isaiah 50:10; Isaiah 58:2; אלהיה and אלהיהם occur in this sense in neither part. It is quite natural that the affectionate words of endearment should occur oftener in the book of comfort than in the book of threatening.

Isaiah 40:2. The question might be raised whether כִּי is to be construed as a causal particle. But in that case קראו must be referred to what precedes, and that, say, in the sense of קִרְאוּ מַלְאוּ ( Jeremiah 4:5) in order that it may not stand as flat and superfluous. This construction is not allowable here because קראו must be closely connected with the preceding דברו על־לב.

We must therefore refer קראו to what follows, and כִּי, in the sense of “that,” introduces the objective clause.—צָבָא only here and Daniel 8:12 is used as feminine. The reason seems to me to lie in this, that in both passages the word is conceived as collective, i. e., as designation, not of a single conflict, but of a multitude of conflicts, of a long continued period of conflict.—מלא of time (comp. Genesis 25:24; Genesis 29:21; Jeremiah 25:12) occurs again in Isaiah only Isaiah 65:20 in the Piel.—The expression בִּפְלַיִם occurs elsewhere only Job 11:6; the singular, also, כֶּפֶל, duplicatio, only Job 41:4.

Isaiah 40:3. Piel יִשַׁר, “make straight,” occurs again only Isaiah 45:2; Isaiah 45:13.—(ערבה, regio arida, apart from Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 35:6, occurs in part first only Isaiah 33:9; whereas in part second, beside the present it occurs Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 51:3.—מסלה occurs in the same sense as here Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 19:23; Isaiah 62:10; comp. Isaiah 33:8; Isaiah 49:11; Isaiah 59:7. It occurs beside Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 36:2. It is “the highway, embankment road, chaussee.”

Isaiah 40:4. שָׁפֵל a word of frequent recurrence, especially in the second introduction: Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 2:11-12; Isaiah 2:17; Isaiah 5:15; then Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 29:4; Isaiah 32:18; also the antithesis of הַר andנִבְעָה in parallelism occurs very often in part first: Isaiah 2:14; Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 30:17; Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 31:4, and somewhat oftener still in part second: Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 40:12; Isaiah 41:15; Isaiah 42:15; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 65:7.—עָקֹב in the present sense only here; comp. Jeremiah 17:9—מִישׁוֹר Isaiah 11:4 in the ethical sense; Isaiah 42:16.—רֶכֶם ἅπ. λεγ., from רָכַם alligavit Exodus 28:28; Exodus 39:21, like jugum from jungere. “the joining,” particularly the union between two mountains, “the yoke.”

Isaiah 40:5. בִּקְעָה again in Isaiah only Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 63:14.—The expression כְּבוֹד י׳ is found in Isaiah again only Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 60:1. נִנְלָה כבוד י׳ does not occur again in Isaiah. The expression seems to connect with נִרְאָה כבוד י׳ in the Pentateuch: Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:6; Numbers 14:10, etc.—כל־בשׂר found again only Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 66:16; Isaiah 66:23-24; with following יחַד again only in Job 34:15.—The clause וראו to יחדו is to be referred to what precedes, and not to what follows. For if ראו were to be taken in the sense of spiritual seeing, of knowing, still it would be a secondary thought that all flesh shall know that revelation as one that was announced beforehand. The chief thing will be that they will verify with their own eyes that revelation. And this seeing shall win them to the Lord. Moreover ראו evidently corresponds to the preceding נִנְלָה. Therefore the pronominal object must be supplied to ראו as is often the case. The causal clause כיפי י׳ ד׳ relates to all that precedes.

Isaiah 40:6. Notice the verbal form אמר with a simple Vav copulativum. It does not say וַיֹּאמַר. That would be to present this saying as a new chief member of the consecutio rerum, of the succession of facts that naturally unfold themselves. That might and perhaps would have happened were it a merely earthly transaction that is treated. To represent such in the completeness of its successive points, it must have read: וָאֶשְׁמַע קוֹל ֹאמֵר וַיֹּאמַר מָה אֶקְרָא וַיַּעַן ונו׳. But the Prophet translates us into the spirit world where time and space cease. There what with us develops one after another is side by side. For this reason the Prophet here makes use of a form of speech which otherwise serves only to fill out some trait or to mention accompanying circumstances: comp. Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 21:7; Isaiah 29:11 sq.; Isaiah 65:8.—בשׂר ְכָּל־הַבָּשָׂר is meant collectively or as designation of the genus: whereas in כל־בשׂר Isaiah 40:5 (each flesh) it has individual signification.

Isaiah 40:7. The perfects יָבֵשׁ and נָבֵל must not be compared with the aoristus gnomicus of the Greeks (nor even Isaiah 26:9; comp. my remarks in loc). For only that Hebrew verbal form that has, too, the notion of succession, therefore includes that of time, viz.: the imperf, with Vav cons., can be compared with the Greek aorist. Here, as in Isaiah 26:9, the perf, designates timeless objectivity and reality. כי is not “for,” but “when.” Were it taken in the sense of “for,” then the nature of the wind would be designated as the constant cause of the withering of vegetation. But it withers also when its time comes, without wind. But when a hot desert wind ( Isaiah 18:4; Jeremiah 4:11) blows, then it withers especially quick. נָשַׁב flavit, inflavit, occurs in Kal only here. Hiph. Genesis 15:11; Psalm 147:18.—There is much uncertainty about the origin of the particle אָבֵן. Gesen. (Thes. p668 under לָכֵן), Fuerst. (Lex. under אכן and כן) and Ewald § 205 d seem to me to be right in maintaining that אכן, on account of its derivation from כֵּן, has resident in it an argumentative meaning. Thus Fuerst. regards it primarily as “a strengthened = כֵּן therefore in a resumptive apodosis.” He refers in proof to Exodus 2:14 and to our passage. And in fact Exodus 2:14 seems to involve the drawing of a conclusion. For after Moses perceived the defiant answer of the Hebrew Prayer of Manasseh, he cries out: אָכֵז נוֹרַע חַדָּבָר. Would not this be most correctly rendered: “is the matter therefore really known?”—It is clear that the omission of Isaiah 40:7 in the Alexand. and Vatic, text of the LXX. is owing to arbitrariness, if not to oversight. Koppe, Gesenius, Hitzig, who regard the whole verse, or at least7 b as a gloss, as “a very diluted, sense-disturbing thought,” as “an ejaculation of a reader,” only prove thereby how little they have understood the sense and connection of the prophetic discourse.

Isaiah 40:8. The words יבשׁ חציר are taken verbatim from Isaiah 15:6, like נבל ציץ from Isaiah 28:1, where we find צִיץ נֹבֵל. The expression דבר יקום occurs in Isaiah 8:10, comp. Isaiah 7:7.

Isaiah 40:9. Piel בשׂר is exclusively peculiar to part second: Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 60:6; Isaiah 61:1, a fact that need occasion no surprise. For it is natural, that the word, which means εὐαγγελίζειν, should be found chiefly in the εὐαγγέλιον of the Old Testament.—הָרִים קוֹל Isaiah 13:2, Isaiah 58:1.—בַּכֹּחַ comp. בְּכֹחַ יָדַי Isaiah 10:13. With that exception כֹּחַ occurs only in the second part: ( Isaiah 37:3); Isaiah 40:26; Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 44:12; Isaiah 49:4; Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 63:1.—The expression אַל תִּירָא is very frequent not only in Isaiah but also in the whole Old Testament; Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 8:12; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 37:6; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13-14; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 54:4; Isaiah 54:14.—הנה אלהיכם strongly reminds one, and just by reason of what follows, of Isaiah 35:4. Comp. beside Isaiah 25:9. The expression is found in no other Prophet.

Isaiah 40:10. בְּ,בְּחָזָק essentiae. חזק occurs again Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 28:2.—אדני יהוה occurs ten times in the first part: Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 7:7; Isaiah 10:24, etc., and thirteen times in the second part: Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 50:4-5; Isaiah 50:9, etc.—The clause וזרע משׁלה לו is not co-ordinate with the foregoing chief clause, but subordinate to it. It is a clause expressive of situation (comp. Ewald, § 306, c; 341 a, sqq.), that more precisely explains the notion קזחב—לוֹis properly Dat. commodi, not mere Dat. ethicus as in עֲלִיּ לָךְ Isaiah 40:9, which Isaiah, moreover, to be seen from the masculine לֹו. For were it Dat. ethicus, then, corresponding to the gender of זרע, it must read לָהּ.

Isaiah 40:11. It is remarkable that the verb רָעָה is never used in part first in the sense of “to pasture,” the action of the shepherd, although רֹעִימ “shepherds” occurs Isaiah 31:4 ( Isaiah 38:12), (comp. Isaiah 5:17; Isaiah 11:7; Isaiah 14:30; Isaiah 27:10; Isaiah 30:23). In part second, also, the word means “pasture” in the active sense only once: Isaiah 61:5, three times “pasture” of beasts: Isaiah 44:20; Isaiah 49:9; Isaiah 65:25.—רֹעֶה “shepherd” in part second: Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 56:11; Isaiah 63:11.—עדר “the flock” found again Isaiah 17:2; Isaiah 32:14.—טְלָאִים=טְלָיִים, from טְלִי occurs in Isaiah only here (comp. 1 Samuel 15:4). Beside this טָלֶה Isaiah 65:25.—חֵיק occurs again only Isaiah 65:6-7.—The word עָלוֹת is joined Genesis 33:13 with צאן and בקר; is used therefore of sucking beeves and sheep, 1 Samuel 6:7; 1 Samuel 6:10 of sucking beeves alone, Psalm 78:71 as here used of both without addition. The word occurs only here in Isaiah. But comp עוּל, “the suckling” Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 65:20.—נִוִזִל, which has in Genesis 47:17 the meaning “to bring through,” sustentare, 2 Chronicles 32:22, the meaning “to protect, hedge about,” and also Isaiah 51:18 the meaning “careful guiding,” occurs in Isaiah beside here and the passage just named, only Isaiah 49:10.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. We have here before us the Prologue both of the first discourse and of the entire prophetic cycle of Isaiah 40:12 to Isaiah 66:24. For the representation of Jehovah as the comforter after protracted suffering ( Isaiah 40:1-2), as the true One, whose word abides when all that is earthly is destroyed ( Isaiah 40:6-8), and as the true shepherd that leads His people with paternal care ( Isaiah 40:11) corresponds to what follows ( Isaiah 40:12 and onwards), wherein Jehovah is portrayed as the infinite, incomparable, almighty God, and the restorer of His people, so that we find in our passage the keynote of the whole of part second of Isaiah’s prophecies. Their contents are predominantly consolatory; but our passage is like the outline of the thoughts of peace therein unfolded. The outward form of the discourse, moreover, bears the imprint of this inward correspondence. The entire second part is dominated by the fundamental number three. For it is composed of three subdivisions, of which each consists of three times three, therefore nine discourses. But our Prologue consists first of an introduction that contains twice three clauses. By three imperatives, namely (“comfort ye,” “speak ye,” “cry”) it is announced that the Lord has a comforting message for His people, and by three clauses, each of which begins with כִּי (“that,” “that,” “for”) is stated what is the contents of this joyful message ( Isaiah 40:1-2). Hahn was the first to maintain (what Delitzsch, too, finds “not without truth,” p408) that these three clauses beginning with כִּי correspond to the three calls that follow ( Isaiah 40:3-11) and to the three parts of the book, not only in respect to number but also their contents. . That there is a correspondence in respect to number can hardly be doubted. But that the contents corresponds to the three times three corresponding degrees can only be made out by great ingenuity.

After the prologue of the prologue, there follow, as remarked, three calls, each of which comprises three Masoretic verses. But by the similar beginnings of the three calls, and by their internal arrangement, it appears certain that the Masoretic division into verses corresponds in general here to that division into periods intended also by the author. Only in regard to the first הנה (behold) at the close of Isaiah 40:9 (comp. below) there may be a divergence. Each of the three calls begins with a vivid dramatic announcement. And here, in fact, occurs a remarkable gradation. The first call is introduced by the simple קול קורא (“Hark! a call”). The second call begins with the extended formula, containing a summons to call קול אמר קרא ואמר מה אקרא. The third call, finally, begins with a still more comprehensive formula of summons. It contains three members: 1) go up on a high mountain evangelist Zion; 2) raise with might thy voice evangelist Jerusalem; 3) raise it, fear not, say to the cities of Judah. Herewith it is worthy of notice that the third member itself has again three verbs (“raise, “be not afraid,” “say”). There follows then on this threefold formula of summons a threefold הנה (behold) Isaiah 40:9-10. Here, perhaps, the Masoretic division into verses may not quite correspond to the meaning of the Prophet. For if the first הנה corresponds to the two that follow, then the clause introduced by it ought rather to be referred to what follows. Verse9, accordingly, ought to end with the word Judah. The concluding verse (11) also contains three members: 1) he shall feed his flock like a shepherd; 2) he shall gather——bosom; 3) shall gently lead——with young. According to this the division into threes is not absolutely carried out in the prologue, but only just so far as it could be done without spiritless, outward mechanism, and tiresome monotony, and with such delicacy that it reveals itself only to close observation and not at all in a disagreeable way. Thereby the Prophet has proved himself to be a real artist. Moreover this tripartite division has its complete analogy in Isaiah’s style in that twofold division that we noticed in the second introduction and in chaps24–27.

In regard to the order of thought, the three calls contain a threefold specification of that general announcement of salvation contained in Isaiah 40:1-2. The first call ( Isaiah 40:3-5) expresses the thought that now is the time to get out of the way every outward and inward obstacle that may obstruct the promised revelation of glory. The second call ( Isaiah 40:6-8) declares that all earthly glory—even of the elect people—must be destroyed before and in order that Jehovah’s promise of glory may be fulfilled in its complete sense. The third call, finally, ( Isaiah 40:9-11) summons Israel, which is in exile, to rally to its Lord, who comes as Redeemer, and to commit itself to His faithful, parental guidance.

2. Comfort——all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2. With three emphatically comforting words the Prophet begins. For the twice-repeated נחמו, that stands significantly at the head, as the stamp, so to speak, of the entire second part, is not alone comforting. The object “my people,” that depends on it, is quite as much so. Although judged and exiled, Israel had not ceased to be Jehovah’s people, the elect peculiar people. It is usual to understand the prophets to be the ones addressed. But it was not possible for every Israelite to hear the voice of a prophet directly. Hence there lies also in the words a summons to carry the prophetic word further. Every one shall help to comfort. Each one shall contribute his part, so that the comforting word of God may come to all the members of the people. Not once only will the Lord assure Israel of His consolation. With emphasis in Isaiah 40:2 He summons the same ones whom He had already commanded in Isaiah 40:1 to comfort His people, to speak to the heart of Jerusalem (personification and metonymy at the same time, comp. Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27). The phrase דבר על־לב (to speak out over the heart, to charm the heart, to cover with words, to sooth, to quiet) occurs elsewhere eight times in the Old Test.: Genesis 34:3; Genesis 50:21; Judges 19:3; Ruth 2:13; 2 Samuel 19:8; 2 Chronicles 30:22; 2 Chronicles 32:6; Hosea 2:16. Whereas “speak ye to the heart” implies affecting address, קארו (call ye) involves rather the notion of loud, strong and clear speaking. By every means the conviction must be brought to the people that now the time of grace is at hand.—צָבָא, militia, “warfare” is used here figuratively as in Job 7:1; Job 10:17; Job 14:14. As in general the trials and troubles of this life can be set forth as conflicts (comp. Ephesians 6:11 sqq.; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3 sqq.; 2 Timothy 4:7), so here the whole time of Israel’s affliction and suffering and especially the exile is designated as a time of conflict.

The second clause כי נרצה עונה (“for her guilt is thoroughly tasted”), is difficult. First of all it must be noted that the Prophet has here in mind the passages Leviticus 26:34; Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43. It is said there that when the judgment of exile shall come upon the people Israel the land will be desert, and by that means shall enjoy the rest which it could not enjoy so long as the land was inhabited by a disobedient people that would not observe the prescribed Sabbath seasons (אֵת אֲשֶׁר לֹא־שָׁ‍ֽבְתָה בְּשַׁבְּתֹתֵיכֶם בְּשִׁבְתְּכֶם עָלֶיה, Leviticus 26:35). The land will then enjoy its time of rest (תִּרְצֵה אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתֶיהָ, Isaiah 40:34). רָצָה with the accusative is “to have pleasure in something, enjoy something, delectari aliquare.” The Hiph. הִרְצָת that stands parallel with תִּרְצֶה is nothing else than a direct causative Hiphil which means “delectationem agere, to pursue pleasure,” thus signifies continued, undisturbed enjoyment; as e. g. הִשְׁקִיט is not merely quietum facere but quietum agere ( Isaiah 7:4), and like expressions, such as הִלְבִּין הִשְׁמִין, etc., signify not merely “make fat, make white,” but a continued activity whose product is “to be fat, to be white.” In contrast with this thought that the land shall enjoy its period of rest stands now the other ( Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43) that the people in exile shall enjoy their guilt: “the land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them; and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity (וְהֵם יִרְצוּ אֶת־עֲוֹנָם “they shall enjoy their fault,” Isaiah 40:43). This expression “enjoy their guilt,” is manifestly ironical. Whereas the absence of the wicked people is for the land a benefit, an enjoyment, the people in exile must enjoy the fruit of their disobedience. They must at last taste how bitter and bad it is to forsake the Lord ( Jeremiah 2:19), after having been unwilling to believe that apostacy from the Lord was ruinous. If now רָצָה עָוֹן is frui culpa, delectari culpa, then נִרְצָה עָון is the passive of it, and means “the fault is enjoyed, thoroughly tasted.” Niph. נִרְצָה, it is true, occurs in many places where it is used of the favorable acceptance of sacrifices. But there it means “enjoyed,” “accepted as lovely enjoyment,” “to be pronounced welcome.” Moreover this use is found only in Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 19:7; Leviticus 22:23; Leviticus 22:25; Leviticus 22:27.

If עָוֹן ever had the meaning “guilt offering,” then the matter would be quite simple. For then עונה נרצה would mean “their guilt offering is favorably accepted.” But it never has this meaning. We can only say therefore that the Prophet construes נרצה in the sense of “is enjoyed,” so that it forms the antithesis of ירצר עונם, Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43.

That mournful time when Israel must enjoy the bitter fruits of its sin is now gone. The peculiar ironical antithesis of “the land shall enjoy her sabbaths,” and “they shall enjoy their fault,” has the effect that we are necessitated to hear now of an enjoyed, thoroughly tasted guilt-broth into which they have broken crumbs for themselves and have now eaten it up. The third clause beginning with כִּי is best construed as an objective clause parallel with the two preceding objective clauses. For if it were a causal clause, as Hahn would have it, it must be so indicated by an unmistakable causal particle opposed to the two objective particles preceding. But that the Perfect לקחה is not to be taken in a future sense (“in time to come receives,” Hahn) is plain from the parallelism with the foregoing Perfects. Nor can בִּפְלַיִם mean the double amount of salvation (Hahn, comp. Isaiah 61:7), for neither לקחה, nor בכל־הטאתיה suits that. The former does not for the reasons already given; the latter does not because it must in that case read תַּחַת. For how Hahn can say that the sins are the means by which Jerusalem comes into possession of a double amount of salvation is incomprehensible. If Jerusalem had not committed these sins, would it then have been the worse off for it? The Prophet can therefore only mean to say that Jerusalem has received double punishment, has been chastised with double rods. Then בְּ is the preposition of recompense, as the recompense may be regarded as the means in order to acquiring the thing [“comp. Genesis 29:18, בְּרָחֵל, properly by means of Rachel, as the price is the means by which one acquires the work or the wares,” From Dr. N.’s Gramm.—Tr.].

But how can it be said that Jehovah has laid on double the punishment deserved? How does this agree with His justice? One must remember first that the executors of the judgments against Israel did not merely restrict themselves to the measure of chastisement determined by Jehovah, but ex propriis intensified it, and thus brought on Israel a measure of punishment pressed down and shaken together ( Isaiah 10:7; Jeremiah 50:7; Jeremiah 50:11; Jeremiah 50:17, etc.). Yet if Jehovah permitted this, He is still accountable for it, seeing He could hinder it. And Jeremiah 16:18 : “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double” shows that this severe measure was intended by God. But was it really too severe? Delitzsch is right in saying that the expression is not to be taken in a juristic sense. It is rather to be taken rhetorically. It is an hyperbola, meant to set forth the compassionating love of God in the clearest light. For this love is at once so high and so humble that it accuses and excuses itself as if it had done too much in the way of punishment. Thereby, too, it betrays the motive for that overflowing salvation it proposes to display. For if one has given others so much pain, he will gladly make it up by so much the greater benefaction.

It is to be noticed that in Isaiah 40:1-2, first the Prophet speaks. For by means of “saith your God” he takes up the word himself in order to introduce the Lord as speaking the remaining words to עונה. In the latter half of Isaiah 40:2 the Prophet himself again speaks, as appears from “the hand of the Lord.” The Prophet therefore partly cites the verba ipsissima of Jehovah, partly states what the Lord has done. This is the usual manner of prophetic announcements. It is necessary to note this here, because in what follows there is joined in climax fashion an unusual form of announcement.

2. The voice——hath spoken it.

Isaiah 40:3-5. The Prophet hears a voice. He does not say whence or from whom the voice came. This is unusual. For if now and then in other cases the prophets hear terrestrial or super-terrestrial voices, still in every case the source of it is explained. The context makes known whence and why the voice sounds (comp. Isaiah 21:11; Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 10:9). Here one learns only that a voice sounded. This is manifestly a rhetorical embellishment. The Prophet would make prominent thereby the importance of what follows by saying that it was important to him in an especially solemn way by a special superterrestrial voice. קול קורא can in itself mean: “a voice cries” (comp. e. g. Micah 6:9). But it is more drastic and consonant with other analogies to take the words as an exclamatory phrase and as a genitive relation (comp. Isaiah 6:4; Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 52:8; Isaiah 66:6). A heavenly messenger, then, brings the command to prepare for the Lord the way through the desert ( Isaiah 40:3-4). This command has evidently a double sense. For in the first place the people shall in fact be redeemed out of exile and be brought back home. And Jehovah Himself will conduct this return, as appears beyond doubt from Isaiah 40:9-11. But the Lord will lead them in order that the journey of the people may be made easy and prosperous without obstacle or attack (comp. Isaiah 41:17 sqq.; Isaiah 43:1 sqq, 14sqq.; Isaiah 48:20 sq.; Isaiah 49:9 sqq.; Isaiah 55:12 sq.; Isaiah 57:14). Such is certainly the immediate sense of our passage. In fact, the whole context, especially In its immediate connection with the comforting prologue, proves that it contains a promise and not an exhortation to repentance. With this agrees Isaiah 40:5, which plainly declares that Isaiah 40:3-4 announce the fulfilment, evident to all the world, of a promise given long before by the Lord. But of course it cannot be doubted that the old figurative meaning given already by John the Baptist is also justified. For in the first place it comports with the universal and everywhere to be assumed principles of the divine pedagogy, that that physical desolation of the way homewards were not possible without an ethical desolation of the ways of the heart. And in the second place, since the language is such that it can mean both, this possibility of doublemeaning makes it a natural conjecture that such was actually intended. In the third place it is to be noticed that this first voice announces the chief matter, redemption and return home, in a general way. The second ( Isaiah 40:6-8) gives explanation respecting the when of its accomplishment. The third ( Isaiah 40:9-11) defines the manner of fulfilment, and contains only in this respect those two points, one after the other, which in Isaiah 40:3-5 we observe in one another. For what is that “behold your God,” Isaiah 40:9, but the announcement that the Lord by repentance and faith will come to His people? And what are Isaiah 40:10-11 but the statement that the Lord Himself as a parental guide will come home with His people?

במדבר Isaiah 40:3 is referred by the LXX, the Vulg. and the Evangelists ( Matthew 3:3 : Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4) to what precedes. This is not only contrary to the accents, but to the very sound of the words, since במדכר evidently corresponds to the following בערבה, and must be construed like the latter. John the Baptist, in the application of these words, calling himself a φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ( John 1:23), followed the LXX. He found in that sound of words familiar to his hearers, which our passage has in that translation, a fitting expression for what he would say, without meaning to give thereby an authentic interpretation of the original text (comp. Tholuck, The Old Testament in the New, 1868, p5). For when Delitzsch says: “One may, indeed ought, as it appears, to represent to himself that the caller, going out into the desert, summons men to make a road in it,” I can find no point of support for this statement in the Hebrew text. The command to make a road in the desert does not of necessity sound out of the desert itself. If the matter itself presents no necessity for this view, I see nothing else in the Hebrew text to indicate that the voice which the Prophet heard sounded out from the desert. Therefore the meaning which the Baptist, following the LXX, gives to the words קול קורא במדבר seems to me to belong to the category of those free citations that occur so often in the New Testament in reference to Old Testament passages, and which constitute one of those departments of biblical hermeneutics that still remain the most obscure. Of course from our point of view no objection arises against the meaning and application given by the Evangelists (especially Luke 4:3-6) to the words that follow במדבר.

The Piel פִנָּה, used elsewhere also of clearing out a house ( Genesis 24:31; Leviticus 14:36) occurs again in reference to ways, in the sense of “making clear, light, opening a road;” Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10; Malachi 3:1, the last of which passages is likely a reference to the present. The subject of Isaiah 57:14 and Isaiah 62:10 is also that road on which the people shall return out of exile to their home. If the customary route from Babylon to Canaan did not pass through the desert, yet the properly nearest one did. And from יַשְׂרוּ and Isaiah 40:4 it is seen that Israel was to go along, not only the most convenient, but also the directest way home. From Egypt, also, the people had to traverse the desert in order to reach Canaan. The notion “desert” plays an important part in all the pictures of the future that relate to the deliverance out of exile. How consonant to Isaiah’s style it is to represent, that on their return home also from the second exile Israel will wander through the desert, may be seen from Isaiah 11:15-16. The meaning of יִשַׁר is evidently that the way of the people shall go out straight, and thus be as short as possible. To be such, it must make no deviations either in horizontal or vertical directions. The former appears to be the meaning of Isaiah 40:3 b; the latter is made prominent Isaiah 40:4. The valleys (the form נֶּיא only here) shall raise themselves (נִשָׂא used antithetically with שָׁפֵל11, 12; comp. Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 2:13-14; Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 57:7; Isaiah 57:15), and all mountains and hills shall lower themselves [שׁפל, see Text. and Gr.] the rugged places shall become even and the connection of mountains [רכםBergjoch see Text. and Gram.] shall become valley depths. The Prophet would say, therefore, that the obstacles that would prevent the coming of the Lord into the heart of His people, and thereby hinder the coming of the people into their land, shall be rid away. And should not thereby the glory of Jehovah become manifest to the world? When the nations see how gloriously the people Israel serve their God and how gloriously He serves His people, will they not make efforts to attain the righteousness and salvation of this people and seek the Lord who is the author of both (comp. Isaiah 2:2 sq.)? The great, glorious promise, which the Prophet has just announced, must be fulfilled, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, and the mouth of the Lord does not lie. The expression occurs in Isaiah again Isaiah 1:20; Isaiah 58:14. Comp. on Isaiah 1:2.

4. The voice——stand forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8. The rhetorical dress of this second call, contains in relation to the first a climax. For there it is simply said: “voice of one crying.” But here: “voice of one saying, cry! And answer: what shall I cry?” Thus a second voice here precedes the voice of the one calling, and summons him to cry. This is indeed primarily rhetorical embellishment. Yet this embellishment has its material reason. In the first place, not only is the importance of the call set in the clearest light, but also its divine source, as we have already seen was also the aim of קול קרא Isaiah 40:3. In the second place we have this additional, that the caller must be summoned to call. The reason for this seems to me to be, that the second call expresses properly as its immediate thought something unpleasant. It is like a shadow that not only suddenly, but also almost incomprehensibly breaks in on the full light of the foregoing announcement of consolation. For is it not an oppressive thought, that not only all glory of the kingdoms of this world (that alone were indeed consolation for Israel), but also that all merely earthly glory of the elect people is subject to change? Is it not a deep humiliation that comes also on the people of God, that it is said to them, they must be divested of all their own human strength and adornment, and thus first share the fate of the totality of profane flesh, before the divine promise can be fulfilled to them? Behind the caller, therefore, there appears another that commands him to call out what, of himself, he would not have called. The first call is quite spontaneous: the second is by special command. The LXX. and Vulg. take the view, that the summons to call is directed to the Prophet, whence they translate וְאָמַר by καὶ εἶπαet dixi. But this is plainly caprice. The Prophet describes a visionary transaction: he relates only what he has seen and heard. וְאָמַר [see Text. and Gram.] must therefore signify that all that is related here took place simultaneously, and together, and not one after another. This suits capitally the pregnant brevity which the Prophet studiously observes here generally. He marks out the chief features with only a few strong touches of the brush. Hence he leaves unnoted whether we are to regard כל־הבשׂר ונו׳ as the language of the one calling or of the questioner. It could be both. The questioner could have noticed the answer without the Prophet hearing it. Or the caller could answer audibly to the Prophet. It was then unnecessary to make the questioner say again what was heard. In short, the Prophet tells us only once what from the nature of the case must have been spoken twice.

As Isaiah 40:3-4 are no exhortation to repentance, so too Isaiah 40:6-8 are not meant to be a sermon on the perishableness of all that is earthly. For what fitness were there in such a sermon here? Israel is to be comforted; the downfall of the world-power at present so flourishing, the end of their period of conflict, and a corresponding period of glory and triumph is to be held up to view. But at the same time Israel is to be warned, in reference to its entrance upon these, not to surrender itself to rash, fleshly hopes. For the promises of that time of glory will not be so quickly fulfilled. Israel thinks, perhaps, that the present generation, that the nation as at present constituted, that the present reigning Davidic dynasty, that the present Jerusalem as now existing is to behold that glory. Just that is false hope. For all these are flesh, and therefore grass and flower of the field, and as such will and must perish. Thereupon, naturally, the fleshly Israel asks: how can then the promises of the Lord be fulfilled? If Jerusalem with the temple is destroyed, and the posterity of David extinct, the nation dissolved as a state and scattered in all lands, where then does there remain room and possibility for the realization of that which God has promised? The word of the Lord standeth forever, replies the Prophet. The perishing of all that is flesh in the people of God is no obstacle to the realization of what God has promised. On the contrary! The Prophet makes us read between the lines, that the word of the Lord, precisely because of its own imperishable nature, finds in what perishes rather a hinderance than a condition of its own fulfilment. Such is in general the sense of our passage. If we have correctly apprehended it, then the Prophet means thereby to prevent erroneous representations in regard to the time and manner of fulfilling what he has before, and especially in Isaiah 40:5, held in prospect.

Grass as an image of the perishable, Psalm 37:2; Psalm 90:5 sq.; Psalm 103:15; Psalm 129:6; Job 8:12. Also flowers: Job 14:2; Psalm 103:15. The word חֶסֶד occurs only here in the sense of physical loveliness, agreeableness. Elsewhere it is always used of the ethical friendliness, favor, complacency of persons (men and God). But has not the poet a right to personify things, and to represent lovely, gracious appearance as the favor and friendliness that they show us? Whence the rendering δόξα (LXX.), gloria (Vulg). is inexact (more suitable εὐπρἐπεια, James 1:11), but to retain the meaning “piety” would be pedantry. If the loveliness of human things is like the grass and the flower of the field, then it must resemble these not only in blossoming, but also in casting its blossoms. The continuance of bloom here as well as there is short. Indeed grass and flower do not even complete the brief period of bloom appointed them by nature. They wither before their time when the Lord breathes on them with the scorching wind as with a hot breath. The wind is called רוח י׳—not only because it is Jehovah that charges it with its mission, but because, as breath, as life respiration of nature, it has a likeness to the Spirit of God. Thus in other places not only is the Spirit of God that operates like the wind ( 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16) designated רוח י׳, but also the wind that operates like the Spirit of God ( Hosea 13:15; Isaiah 59:19).

From the antithesis to the concluding words, the word of the Lord shall stand forever, we may infer that the Prophet in Isaiah 40:6-8 has in mind primarily the people Israel. For would the Prophet thus here in the prologue to his great consolatory discourse comfort the heathen? Does he not begin with the words: “comfort, comfort ye my people?” Thus we must understand by “the word that stands” primarily that word of promise given to Israel. The continuance of this is made prominent in contrast with the perishing of all flesh; thus, also, of the outward, fleshly Israel. From the general statement, “all flesh is grass,” Isaiah 40:6, the Prophet draws the conclusion, Isaiah 40:7 : therefore, verily, the people is grass, and to this is joined the further consequence that therefore the people as grass and flower must wither and fade ( Isaiah 40:8). Hence the literal repetition of “the grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” From what has been said already, it results of course that we must understand by העם, Isaiah 40:7, Israel and not human kind ( Isaiah 42:5). At the same time it is made clear that there is nothing superfluous in the text, but rather that the Prophet employs only what is needful to express his thought. He would say that, even if in the remote future all that is earthly, and even what is earthly in the holy people, will have perished, still the word of the Lord will remain and demonstrate its truth by the fulfilment of its contents.

5. O Zion——that are with young.

Isaiah 40:9-11. The third call begins also with a solemn summons to let the call sound forth, and this third formula of summons is the most copious of all, so that in this respect a gradation occurs. The Prophet so far had heard the summons to call and the contents of the call from above, so that he only cited to his readers things heard; but here it is himself that emits the summons to call, and defines the contents of what is to be called. As a man he turns to, an ideal person, it is true, yet one conceived as human, to Zion or Jerusalem personified, and commissions it to assemble all its children, that they may rally about the newly appearing, strong Saviour, and commit themselves to His faithful guidance into their home. The relation of this call therefore to the two that precede, is that it points to the gathering for the journey and the guidance and providence during the journey, after that the first call had treated of the inward and outward preparation of the way, and the second had dealt with the period of the journey. The first announcement of a call, Isaiah 40:3, contained one member; the second, which at the same time is a summons to call, Isaiah 40:6, contained two members; the last, Isaiah 40:9, that contains two summons, has three members. Thus we see the inward emotion of the Prophet grows more intense and seeks its expression in a climax. For this purpose the personification of the central point of the nation is distributed, that is to say, the function is assigned to a twofold personification, Zion and Jerusalem, although each of these two and both together represent only one subject, viz., the ideal centre of the nation that must now again become active and head the cities of Judah. This distribution of the role of representation among the two notions Zion and Jerusalem is frequent in both parts of our book: Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 4:3-4; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 31:9; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 37:22; Isaiah 37:32; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 52:1-2; Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 64:10. It is worthy of notice, that this form of expression is by no means found in all the prophets. First we find it in Joel 3:5; 4:16, 17; next in Amos 1:2; then in Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah: Micah 3:10; Micah 3:12; Micah 4:2. It is remarkable that Jeremiah uses the expression only in two places: Jeremiah 26:18, as a citation from Micah 3:12, and Jeremiah 51:35. In Lamentations the expression occurs three times: Lamentations 1:17; Lamentations 2:10; Lamentations 2:13. It is found beside Zephaniah 3:14; Zephaniah 3:16 and Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 8:3; Zechariah 9:9.

Zion must ascend a high mountain in order to be heard afar (comp. Isaiah 42:11; the expression הר נבה again Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 57:7). Zion and Jerusalem are addressed as מְבַשֶׂרֶת. This word therefore has not the genitive relation to Zion and Jerusalem=“Zion’s herald of joy.” Such it is taken to be by the LXX, Vulg, Targ, and after these by Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, Hahn, etc. It is the attribute of Zion and Jerusalem, as the following reasons show: 1) According to the view of those that assume the genitive relation, מבשׂרת is to be construed collectively, and designate the messengers of salvation as a totality, so that it stands for מְבַשְׂרִים and means the “embassy of salvation” (Heilsbotenschaft, Knobel). But even if grammatically this is allowable, still such a collective designation of messengers or of prophets is quite contrary to the usus loquendi. In this sense the sing. masc. מְבַשֵׂר is used Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 2:1. Moreover one would expect, in order to obviate indistinctness, that the verbs would be in the plural (הָרִימוּ,עֲלוּ, etc.). קֹהֶלֶת, which is quoted as analogous, means, according to Ecclesiastes 1:1, not a plurality, but a single person2) Hahn says it were “inadmissible to use Jerusalem antithetically to the cities of Judah, seeing it belongs itself to them.” But it is just the constant usus loquendi with Isaiah to distinguish Jerusalem and Judah (meaning the cities of Judah): Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 22:21; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 44:26. This finds, too, its echo in later books: Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 9:10; Jeremiah 11:12; Jeremiah 25:18; Zechariah 1:12; Psalm 69:36. Precisely this prominent part, which we thus see Jerusalem play, justifies us in maintaining that the Prophet means not to rank Jerusalem with the cities of Judah, but would summon it to exercise its primacy over them. It is even a very important point in salvation, that at once, still in the exile, the old domestic constitutional organism should have effect. Jerusalem must at once exercise her maternal right over her daughters (comp. e. g. Ezekiel 16:48; Ezekiel 16:55). She must gather them like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and require them to receive well their Lord and rally under His leadership for the return home. Involuntarily we are reminded here of the fact, that a great part of the Israelites, when they received the permission or rather summons to return home to Palestine, preferred to remain in the land of exile. These did not recognize the visitation of their God in that altered sentiment of the world-power toward the kingdom of God, in that wonderful summons to return home, as also later, when the Lord came in person to His own, His own did not receive Him ( John 1:11). [See Lange on John 1:11, which he refers to the theocratic advent in the Old Testament, and thus exactly to the present subject as included.—Tr.] By Behold your God, the Lord Isaiah, as it were, presented to His people. What the Lord, who has thus appeared in the midst of His people, would now further reveal, how especially He would show Himself toward the people, this is now described by a series of imperfects only, because these were still purely latent facts. First, it is said the Lord comes as a strong one. Not only will the Lordbe strong, but He will also show Himself strong. His arm will so rule that it shall benefit Him, not others, as is the case under a weak regent. As there lies in the for him the idea that He undertakes for Himself, so the following clause expresses that, opposed to others, He knows also how to preserve the suum cuique. He has for friend and foe the reward prepared that becomes each. One will not err in taking שָׂכָר, which is never used in malam partem, in a good sense. On the other hand, פְעֻלָּה which occurs also of retributive punishment ( Psalm 109:20; Isaiah 65:7), may be understood in a bad sense. פעלה is primarily labore partum, that which is wrought out, then, generally, what is acquired, effected, retribution ( Leviticus 19:13; Isaiah 49:4; comp. Job 7:2; Jeremiah 22:13). The words הנה שׂכרו ונו occur literally again Isaiah 62:11. זְרֹעַ occurs in the symbolical sense also Isaiah 33:2, yet much oftener in part second: Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 48:14; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5; Isaiah 63:12. The passages Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5 are especially worthy of notice, because the form of expression וַתּוֹשַׁע לוֹ זְרֹעוֹ occurs there reminding us of משׁלה לו. Verse 11 makes the impression as if thereby the prophet would obviate the dread of the hardships of the return journey, especially in reference to the delicate women and children. Hence it is said that the Lord will lead His people as a good shepherd leads his flock. The tender lambs that cannot walk, the good shepherd gathers in his strong arm and carries them in his bosom—that Isaiah, in the bosom of his garment.

Footnotes:

FN#2 - Heb. to the heart.

FN#3 - Or, appointed time.

FN#4 - her guilt has been enjoyed.

FN#5 - that.

FN#6 - prepare in the wilderness.

FN#7 - Or, a straight place.

FN#8 - the connecting ridges become valley bottoms.

FN#9 - Or, a plain place.

FN#10 - Hark! there speaks, “cry! And there replies: “what” etc.

FN#11 - the breath of Jehovah blew on it.

FN#12 - Or, O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.

FN#13 - Or, O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem.

FN#14 - Or, against the strong.

FN#15 - as a strong one.

FN#16 - Or, recompense for his work.

FN#17 - Or, that give suck.

2. JEHOVAH’S INFINITUDE AND INCOMPARABLENESS THE OBJECTIVE BASIS OF THE REDEMPTION

Isaiah 40:12-26

12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

And [FN18]meted out heaven with the span,

And [FN19]comprehended the dust of the earth in a [FN20]measure,

And weighed the mountains in scales,

And the hills in a balance?

13 Who hath adirected the Spirit of the Lord,

Or being [FN21]his counsellor hath taught him?

14 With whom took he counsel, and who [FN22]instructed him,

And taught him in the path of judgment,

And taught him knowledge,

And showed to him the way of [FN23] [FN24]understanding?

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 [FN25]a very little thing.

16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,

Nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

17 All nations before him are as nothing;

And they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

18 To whom then will ye liken God?

Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

19 The workman [FN26]melteth a graven image,

And the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold,

And casteth silver chains.

20 He that [FN27]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 [FN28]be moved.

21 [FN29]Have ye not known? have ye not heard?

Hath it not been told you from the beginning?

Have ye not understood [FN30]from the foundations of the earth?

22 [FN31] [FN32]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:

23 That bringeth the princes to nothing;

He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.

24 Yea, they [FN33]shall not be planted;

Yea, they jshall not be sown:

Yea, their stock [FN34]shall not take root in the earth:

And [FN35]he shall also blow upon them, and they [FN36]shall wither,

And the whirlwind [FN37]shall take them away as stubble.

25 To whom then will ye liken me,

Or shall I be equal?

Saith the Holy One.

26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold

Who hath created these things,[FN38]

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.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See the List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 40:12. מֹאזֲניִם–פֶּלֶס–שָׁלִישׁ–תִּכֵּן–זֶרֶת–שֹׁעַל–מָדַד. Isaiah 40:13. הוֹדִיעַ–עֵצָה. Isaiah 40:14. הֵבִין–נוֹעַץ. Isaiah 40:15. –הֵן נָטַל–דַּק–שַׁחַק–דְּלִי–מַדאִיִּיס–גוֹים. Isaiah 40:16. דֵּי. Isaiah 40:17. תּהֹוּ–אֶפֶס–נֶגֶד–אַיִן. Isaiah 40:18. דְּמוּת–עָרַךְ. Isaiah 40:19. רְתוּקָה–רָקַע–צרֵֹף–חָרָש–נָסַךְ–פֶּסֶל. Isaiah 40:20. לֹא–יִמּוֹט–רָקַב–תִּרוּמָה. Isaiah 40:21. מוֹסָדוֹת–מֵרֹאשׁ. Isaiah 40:22. מָתַח–דּק–נָטָה–חוּג. Isaiah 40:23. שׁוֹפֵט–רוֹזֵן. Isaiah 40:24. קַשׁ–סְעָרָה–נָשַׁף–בַּל–אַף. Isaiah 40:26. אוֹנִים–מֵרֹב–בָּרָא–מָרוֹם.

[Gesenius construed כָּל as “the whole” in his Lehrgebäude. But having afterwards observed that the Hebrew text has כּ‍ָ‍ֽל with a conjunctive accent, he corrected the error in his Lexicon and Commentary, and referred the word to the root כּוּל, which does not occur elsewhere in Kal, but the essential idea of which, as appears from the Chaldee and Arabic analogy, as well as from its own derivations in Hebrew, is that of measuring, or rather that of holding and containing, which agrees with the common English Version (comprehended).”—J. A. A. See Fuerst, Lex. s. v.—TR.].

Isaiah 40:13. The clause ואישׁ עצתו יודיענו is dependent on the interrogation מי תכן ו׳. The imperf. is to be construed as jussive, and the paratactic Vav. copul. is to be translated in our syntactical way with “that,” as also afterwards in the last clause of Isaiah 40:14.

Isaiah 40:14. I think that משׁפט is to be taken in the wide sense meaning the norm that governs the life of every thing, thus in a certain sense, the natural law and right of everything (comp. e. g. מִשְׁפַּט אַרְמוֹן Jeremiah 30:18; comp. Exodus 26:30 : 2 Kings 1:7; Judges 13:12).—לִמַּד stands with בְּ only here; more frequently הוֹרָה is so construed: 1 Samuel 12:23; Psalm 25:8; Psalm 25:12; Psalm 32:8, etc.—דַּעַת and תְּבוּנָה conjoined also Isaiah 44:19 (comp. Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31; Proverbs 2:6).

Isaiah 40:15. יִטּוֹל is imperf. Kal from נָטַל= “tellere, to lift up.”

Isaiah 40:18. דּמָּה Piel occurs in Isaiah, meaning “to think, combine, meditariIsaiah 10:7; Isaiah 14:24 : meaning “to make like,” it occurs reflexively Isaiah 14:14 in Hithpael; in part second Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 46:5. דמה is joined here with אֵל as is נִמְשַׁל Isaiah 14:10; elsewhere it is used with לְ: Isaiah 46:5; Lamentations 2:13; Song of Solomon 1:9.

Isaiah 40:19. הפסל (used Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8; in Isa. see List) stands first emphatically as the chief notion.—רָקַע “to pound, beat” ( Ezekiel 6:11; 2 Samuel 22:43) then “to beat flat,” with the hammer, to extend ( Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24, also Piel has this meaning Exodus 39:3; Numbers 17:4), acquires in our text the meaning “to cover with something beaten out flat,” so that רִקַּע means “to plate over.”—צֹרֵף stands last epanaleptically.—On the frequent omission of the pronominal subject by Isaiah comp. Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 24:2; Isaiah 29:8; Isaiah 32:12, etc.

[“לו may either be reflexive (for himself), as some consider it in Isaiah 40:11, and as all admit לָךְ to be in Isaiah 40:9, or it may be referred to עֵץ. Having secured the stuff, he seeks for it a skilful workman. As עֵץ is an obvious antecedent, and as the reflexive use of the pronouns is comparatively rare, this last construction seems entitled to preference.”—J. A. A.].

Isaiah 40:22-23 are without predicate. הנותן,הנטה,הישב are exclamations whose predicate must be supplied. The contents of the verses and what precedes ( Isaiah 40:19-21) show that this must be “has made the earth.”—According to Hebrew usage, the secondary forms (inf. and partic.) return to the principal forms (וימתחם verse 22 and עשׂה Isaiah 40:23). Comp. Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 32:6.

Isaiah 40:26. מרב אונים is nearer definition; אמיץ ( Isaiah 28:2) is in apposition with המוציא and with the subject of יקרא.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The exceeding comforting introduction Isaiah 40:1-11 does not at once cheer up Israel. Doubts arise. Is the Lord in earnest when He promises? And can He do it too? Shall He that did not uphold us when we stood, lift us up again when we have fallen down? To these doubts, which he utters in express words Isaiah 40:27, the Prophet replies in the present section. He amplifies here the incomparableness, the aloneness and infinite sublimity of God. This idea underlies the whole passage.

2. Who hath measured——understanding.

Isaiah 40:12-14. First a standard is given by which one may estimate God’s elevation above all human ability to comprehend Him. The hollow hand, the span, the measure, the scales are human measures. Who does not instantly see the impossibility of measuring the divine works of creation with those measures? It is not meant that God has done this, as many expositors would explain. For even if appeal is made to the suffix in שׁעלו as referring to the divine hand, and though the suffix may be supplied to זרת and thus the divine span be understood, still this cannot be done in reference to the measures that follow, which are of human devising and make. Does the Prophet mean to say that there is a divine “measure, scales, balance” of which God made use at the creation? Certainly not. But he would say: what man is able to measure the divine works with his human measures, i. e., to submit them to supplementary inspection and test their correctness? This is confirmed by Isaiah 40:13-14 where it is expressly said that no man before the creation influenced the divine creative thoughts in the way of counseling and guiding (so Gesenius, Hahn, etc.). The immeasurableness of God is expressed by Jeremiah 10:6-7 in this way, which passage especially in Isaiah 40:8 sq, unmistakably looks back to our text (see below). שָׁלִישׁ is probably the third part of an Epha, and thus like the סְאָהseah, measure” (σάτον), of which the Epha contained three, according to the Rabbis, whence the LXX. often translated אֵיפָה “ephah” by τρία μέτρα ( Exodus 16:36; Isaiah 5:10). Comp. Herz. R-Encycl. 9 p149. Dust of the earth is an expression of the Pentateuch, Genesis 13:16; Genesis 28:14; Exodus 8:12-13. Beside these comp. Job 14:19; 2 Samuel 22:43. פֶּלֶס distinguished from מאזנים, and certainly the Schnellwage [an apparatus like the steelyard], occurs Proverbs 16:11. On הרים and גבעות occurring together, see on Isaiah 40:4.

As there underlies Isaiah 40:12 the thought that no one is in a position to inspect and test the Creator’s work after its completion, so Isaiah 40:13-14 would declare that no one could inspire and direct the Creator before He worked. Thus the Prophet asks: Who comprehended the Spirit of Jehovah? The context shows that the Spirit as the Spirit of Creation ( Genesis 1:2) is meant. To comprehend the Spirit of God, according to Isaiah 40:12, means nothing else than to grasp it, so that he that grasps is greater than the Spirit of God; he spans and from all sides influences it. This passage is cited Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16. At first sight Isaiah 40:14 appears to be only an amplification of Isaiah 40:13 b. But from with whom took he counsel it appears that the Prophet makes a distinction. There are counsellors who are consulted as authority and experts, whose word is law to be followed. In this sense, which corresponds also to תכן, Isaiah 40:12 seems intended. But there are also counsellors with whom one consults on an equality, but who, still, though equals, in one or other respect, by instruction, correction, defining, influence the determination that is to be made. This seems intended by Isaiah 40:14. The Prophet would say that neither in the one nor in the other sense did the Lord have counsellors. The last clause of Isaiah 40:14. and shewed to him the way of understanding signifies the consequence of the three preceding verbs of teaching: so that He taught him to know the way of judicious conduct.

3. Behold—and vanity.

Isaiah 40:15-17. The absolute sublimity of God that has been revealed in the creation, is revealed also in history. In the former the Spirit of God showed itself to be conditioned by no one. In the latter the absolute dependence of men on God appears. Not merely single men, but whole nations count for no more before the almighty God than the small drop of a bucket that the bearer does not notice, or than the little crumb in the scale that does not influence the weight. Isaiah 40:16 must be regarded as a parenthesis. For it stands between Isaiah 40:14-15 on the one hand, and Isaiah 40:17 on the other, all which compare the greatness of God with earthly greatness, without itself presenting any comparison. Rather Isaiah 40:16 draws a conclusion from that incomparable sublimity of God: because He is so great, all the forests of Lebanon do not suffice for a worthy sacrificial fire, nor all the beasts of those forests for a worthy burnt-offering. Of course this very conclusion serves for a measure of the greatness of God, and it seems to me that the Prophet, along with “the nations” and “the isles,” the most widely extended and the furthest, (comp. Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 31:10), would apply as a measure also the earthly highest. But would He also make prominent again the weighty mass of the mountain? He would then for the fourth time have made use of the same figure. Hence, not the ponderous mass of the mountain itself, but as much of its riches in vegetation and animal life as is suitable for the service of the Lord, must serve Him for a figure. דַּי is “sufficientia, copia;” thus דֵּי עוֹלָח,דַּי בָעֵר=sufficientia, copia sufficiens, i. e, satis incendii, sacrificii. The construction is like Leviticus 5:7 “if his hand cannot reach the sufficiency of a lamb,” i. e., if he cannot bring enough to buy a lamb. Comp. Leviticus 12:8; Deuteronomy 25:8. Isaiah 40:17 with all the nations joins close with “nations” Isaiah 40:15, and recapitulates and intensifies the contents of it. Modern expositors for the most part construe מאפם ו׳ in a partitive sense, because it is nonsense to say: less than nothing, and because מאפם would properly mean “more than no thing.” But those are strange scruples. אפם is “the ceasing to be, where there is nothing more, the not being:” תֹּהוּ is “inanitas, emptiness, void.” Now one may say that absolute nihilism, the horror of an absolute emptiness, void is still more impressive than a being that by its miserable nothingness makes not even an impression. And of course מאפם ו׳=more than, viz.: in a negative sense. The Prophet, who indeed is governed here wholly by the idea of comparison, compares the nations and the nothing, and finds that the nations in respect to insignificance weigh down more than אֶפֶם and תֹּהוּ.

4. To whom then——not one faileth.

Isaiah 40:18-26. Having shown that no finite spirit may compare with God ( Isaiah 40:12-18), the Prophet shows in these verses that it is also impossible to make any image or likeness of God. Because God has not His like, therefore there is no creature form that is like Him, and under whose image one may represent Him visibly. If this thought, coming in the middle between the promise Isaiah 40:1-11, and the inquiry Isaiah 40:27, would serve, on the one hand, to assure Israel that Jehovah has the power to keep what He has promised, Song of Solomon, on the other, this painting up the manufacture of idols appears intended to represent to Israel in glaring light, the folly and wrong of such a degradation of divinity to the sphere of common creatures. It is to be noted moreover that this warning in the first Ennead of our book appears in the form of an ascending and descending climax; the Prophet beginning with the more refined form of image worship, ascends to the coarser Isaiah 44:8 sqq, and Isaiah 45:16, and closes again with the more refined Isaiah 46:5-7. Let it be noted, too, that the Exile any way brought about the great crisis that had for its result an entire breaking with idolatry on Israel’s part. Before the Exile they were Jews, and yet at the same time served idols. After the Exile, all that was called Jew renounced idolatry. Whoever still worshipped idols ceased also to be a Jew and disappeared among the heathen. Our passage, as all others of like contents in the second part of Isaiah, attacks still with vigor the coarse idolatry, such as it was in the time of Isaiah. At the close of the Exile such a polemic was no more in place. For then Israel was beyond this sin of its youth. To the overcoming of it the word of the redoubtable Prophet no doubt mightily contributed.

That in general no one is like the Lord either in heaven or in earth, either among the gods or among the rest of creatures, is the constant teaching of the Old Testament, on the ground of Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 3:24 (comp. Psalm 35:10; Psalm 71:19; Psalm 86:8; Psalm 89:9; Micah 7:18 and Caspari, Micha der Morastite, p16). But from this doctrine must be distinguished the other, of course closely connected with it, that one can and must make no visible image or likeness of God, because with that is given the more refined form of idolatry, that worships Jehovah Himself under an image (comp. on Isaiah 46:5). This is emphatically enjoined in the Decalogue ( Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8), and in Deuteronomy 4:12 sqq, the reason is given, that on Mount Sinai, Israel observed nothing corporeal of God except the voice. The Prophet here joins on to these propositions of the Law. He shows, by describing the genesis of such idols, how senseless it is to regard images of men’s make as adequate representations of the divinity. He shows how all their parts are brought together in succession, by human labor, just as any other product of industry. How disgraceful is the origin of such an idol! Men are its creators. The exterior is gold, but the interior vulgar metal. To keep it from, falling, it must be fastened to the wall with chains. When the idol is of wood, especial care must be taken against the wood rotting. And still how often it does rot! To keep the idol from falling it must be rightly proportioned and well fastened. Thus a god concerning which extreme care must be taken to keep it (inwardly) from rotting, and (outworldly) from falling down! מְסֻכָּן is “the reduced, impoverished.” For סָכַן, related to שָׁכַן, is “sedere, desidere,” מסכן, therefore, is “desidere factus,” i. e., one that from standing is made to sit, thus brought down. Also the Arabic meskin=one brought to sit still, i. e., to inactivity, powerlessness (comp. Fleischer in Delitzsch, in loc). This meaning appears in מִסְכֵּן “poor” ( Proverbs 4:13; Proverbs 9:15 sq.), and מִסְכֵנוֹת “poverty” ( Deuteronomy 8:9). תְּרוּמָה is the consecrated gift, the voluntary offering presented for the service of the sanctuary; frequent in the Pentateuch after Genesis, it occurs only here in Isaiah, הָכִין is erigere, statuere, stabilire; see List. It is incomprehensible how there can be people among the Israelites to give to idols the honor that becomes divinity. Rightly the Prophet turns to such with the inquiry; are you not in a position to know better? This question he propounds in four clauses. When a man acquires a knowledge of anything, there must first be made to him the suitable communication, and he must corporeally hear it, and spiritually understand it. Hence the Prophet asks if all this has not occurred, only he asks in a reversed order. The spiritual understanding is the decisive and chief concern; hence he puts this first, making the two conditions of hearing and communicating follow. Notice that the Imperfect is used for the subjective transaction of hearing and understanding, while for the objective transaction of communicating the Perfect is used. In these three members the Prophet has, as yet, named no object. This follows in the fourth with the foundations of the earth. Here, too, he uses the Perfect, because he no longer distinguishes the subjective and objective transactions, but would only learn whether the knowledge in question is an actual fact or not. With Gesenius, Stier, Hahn, I prefer to translate מוסדותfundatio rather than by fundamentum, for which there is adequate justification grammatically. For the word, like מַלְאָךְ,מִשְׁלוֹחַ,מוֹדַעַת,מִשְׁמַעַת, etc., can have primarily an abstract meaning (comp. Ewald § 160 b). This abstract meaning better suits the context, for it concerns, not the make up of the foundations themselves, but the way in which they originated. The Prophet manifestly refers back to Isaiah 40:12-13. How the foundations of the earth were laid, and who laid them, respecting this we have, of course, received intelligence (מֵרֹאשׁ) from the beginning. It is that which has been transmitted from Adam on down, and which we have in its purest form in the Mosaic account of the creation. The Prophet certainly means this latter information, because for him it was the authentic one, divinely attested.

[Respecting the different tenses of the verbs in the first clause of Isaiah 40:21; J. A. A, says: “The most satisfactory, because the safest and most regular construction, is the strict one given in the LXX. (οὐ λνώσεσθἐ; οὐκ ἀκούσεσθε;) revived by Lowth (will you not know? will you not hear) and approved by Ewald. The clause is then an expression of concern or indignation at their being unwilling to know. There is no inconsistency between this explanation of the first two questions and the obvious meaning of the third, because the proof of their unwillingness to hear and know was the fact of their having been informed from the beginning.” The argument, he adds, is to show that they were without excuse, like that of Paul in Romans 1:20; comp. Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24.—Tr.].

In Isaiah 40:22-23 (which are without a predicate, see Text. and Gram.), the Prophet would say: not the idols ( Isaiah 40:19-20) are the originators of the earth, but He that sits above the circle of the earth, spreads out the heavens and abandons the rulers to nothing. חָגָב “locust,” is chosen here on account of likeness in sound to חוּג; it occurs again only Leviticus 11:12; Numbers 13:33; 2 Chronicles 7:13; Ecclesiastes 12:5. דּק according to the context “a thin fabric, cloth” (comp. דַק Isaiah 40:15, “thin dust”) see List. Isaiah 40:24. In order to make still more impressive the nothingness of men of might as compared with the Almighty, a series of drastic images is used to paint the completeness and thoroughness of that bringing them to nought of which Isaiah 40:23 speaks. אַף בַּל occurs only here; but אַף אֵין occurs Isaiah 41:26. Both, in the repetition, are the negative אַף–אַף ( Isaiah 46:11). As the latter=et-et, so the former=neque-neque, or more correctly=et non—et non. For the sense is: both their planting and the scattering of their seed, and their taking root is not yet completed, when He has already blown on them, etc. Or more plainly: they are hardly planted, hardly sown, hardly rooted, but, etc. שֹׁרֵשׁ, “radices agree,” only here and Jeremiah 12:2; the passage in Jer. seems to rest on our text. Like the Simoon of the desert (comp. Isaiah 40:7) causes the young green herb to wither suddenly, so the Almighty suddenly withers the mighty ones and the wind-storm carries them off.

To the first inquiry “to whom will ye liken me” ( Isaiah 40:18) the Prophet has replied by referring to the power of God over the earth and its inhabitants ( Isaiah 40:21-24). Now he asks the question again, Isaiah 40:25, and replies by a reference to God’s power over the heavenly constellations Isaiah 40:26. The Prophet uses the verb שָׁוָה in a precisely similar connection Isaiah 46:5. He has used this word before in various significations (see List). In the sense of “like, adequate, fitting” it occurs chiefly in Job ( Job 33:27) and in Prov. ( Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 26:4). קדושׁ, poetically without article, occurs only here as abbreviation of the Isaianic קדושׁ ישׂראל, which on its part rests on Isaiah 6:3, which see. It appears to me suitable to the context to take that bringeth out their host, etc., as the answer to the question “who hath created,” etc. For it is verily a very fitting demonstratio ad occulos to say: the same who day by day calls them all by name and without one of them failing, even He made them. He that can do the one, can do the other. He that leads out “their host” (צבאם comp. Isaiah 24:21; Isaiah 34:4) according to their number by name, that is just the Lord of hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth. The expression אַמִּיץ כֹּחַ occurs Job 9:4. אישׁ לא נעדר comp. Isaiah 34:16.

Footnotes:

FN#18 - comprehended.

FN#19 - all

FN#20 - Heb. a tierce.

FN#21 - Heb. man of his counsel.

FN#22 - Heb. made him understand.

FN#23 - Heb. understandings?

FN#24 - judicious conduct.

FN#25 - fine dust.

FN#26 - has moulded.

FN#27 - Heb. is poor of oblations.

FN#28 - totter.

FN#29 - know ye not t hear ye not?

FN#30 - omit from.

FN#31 - Or, Him that sitteth, etc.

FN#32 - he that sitteth.

FN#33 - were not.

FN#34 - did not.

FN#35 - he just blew.

FN#36 - withered.

FN#37 - took.

FN#38 - ?

3. TRUST IN JEHOVAH THE SUBJECTIVE BASIS OF REDEMPTION

Isaiah 40:27-31

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?

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard,

[FN39]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.

29 He giveth power to the faint;

And to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

And the young men shall utterly fall:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall [FN40]renew their strength

They [FN41]shall mount up with wings as eagles;

They [FN42]shall run, and [FN43]not be weary;

And they shall walk, and not faint.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See the List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 40:28. תבונה–חֵקֶר–יגע–יעף–קצות הארצ. Isaiah 40:29. יָעֵף הִרְבָּה–עָצְמָה–אוֹנִים–. Isaiah 40:30. כָּשַׁל–בַּחוּרִים Isaiah 40:31.חָלַף–קוה.

Isaiah 40:27. אָמַר and דִּבֵּר in parallelism as here does not again occur; but Isaiah 29:4 affords an analogy. עָבַר with מִן in the sense of “to depart unobserved, escape,” occurs only here. Yet comp. in a physical sense עָבַר with מֵעַל Genesis 18:3.

Isaiah 40:28, On the partic. pro verbo fin. compare on verse19 (צֹרֵף).

Isaiah 40:30. The verb in the first clause put first shows, as Delitzsch well remarks, that the clause is to be construed as a sort of adversative clause, that Isaiah, as concessive: and though young men grow weary. The second clause returns from this potential construction to the simple, conformably to Hebrew usage, that demands the prompt return from all intensive discourse and verbal forms to the simple chief form.

Isaiah 40:31. The expression קוי י׳ occurs again only Psalm 37:9. In our text it Isaiah, according to the punctuation, to be spoken Koje, whereas in the Psalm it is to be spoken Kove (comp. Delitzsch on our text). חָלַף (comp. חֵלֶף, ἀντί, Numbers 18:21; חֲלִיפוֹת “the change of clothing”) is “to change,” and is used partly of changing place (transire, Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 24:5), partly of change of condition in pejus (perire, pass away, Isaiah 2:18) or in melius (hence revirescere, Isaiah 9:9; Isaiah 41:1).

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Why sayest——not faint.

Isaiah 40:27-31. One sees here plainly the purpose intended by the preceding discussion concerning the incomparableness of God. The Prophet sees that the long chastisement of the Exile would call up doubts in the spirits of the Israelites. Carried off into a heathen land, they will suppose that God’s eyes do not penetrate to them, and that the wrong they suffer escapes His notice ( Isaiah 40:27). On the parallelism of Jacob and Israel see Isaiah 9:7, and the List. This parallelism is a characteristic of Isaianic language, for it occurs in no other prophet so often. It is manifest that it is the people in exile that speak. Just because of their remoteness from the Holy land, the territory of Jehovah (comp. the prophet Jonah) they think their way, i. e., the course of their life is hidden from the Lord, and their right, i. e., the wrong done them by their oppressors, passes unnoticed by their God. This doubt of little faith the Prophet reproves by referring to the infinitude and incomparableness of God set forth in Isaiah 40:12-26. The words, Isaiah 40:28, hast thou not known, etc., are an echo of Isaiah 40:21. Jehovah is an eternal God, therefore He had no beginning as the idols had, which before the workmen made them ( Isaiah 40:19-20) were not. Jehovah also made the ends of the earth; therefore they must be known to Him, and wherever Israel may dwell in exile, it cannot say that its way is hidden from God ( Isaiah 40:27). Just as little may one say of God, who created all things, that it is too great a labor for Him, or that His power is not adequate to help banished Israel. For He does not get tired. Nor can it be said that He wants the necessary penetration, the necessary knowledge of the measures to be adopted; for His discernment is infinite, unsearchable. תבונה occurs Deuteronomy 32:28, and often in Prov. ( Proverbs 2:2-3; Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 3:13, etc.) and in Job ( Job 12:12-13; Job 26:12; Job 32:11).

Isaiah 40:29 : Jehovah is so far from exposure to inability to do more, that He is rather the one who out of His inexhaustible treasure gives strength to all that are weary. Isaiah 40:30 : Merely natural force does not hold out in the long run. Of this the youth are examples. But those that hope in the Lord receive new strength, etc. Therefore Jehovah is the dispenser of power, but only on the condition that one by trust makes it possible for Him to bestow His treasures of grace. They feather themselves afresh as eagles, Isaiah 40:31. Since the LXX. and Jerome, etc., very many expositors, influenced by “they renew their strength,” understand these words of the annual moulting of eagles; on which seems to be based the opinions of the ancients that this bird periodically renewed its youth. Comp. Psalm 103:5 and Bochart, Hieroz. II, p745 sqq, ed. Lips., who enumerates the fabulous representations of the ancients on this point. Hitzig objects to this exposition that הֶֽעֱלָה as causative of עָלָה as used Isaiah 5:6, does not occur elsewhere, and that it must read נוֹצָה instead of אֵבֶר. But הֶֽעֱלָה, though not in that sense, occurs often in another much more nearly related to our passage. For not to mention where it is used of putting on sackcloth ( Amos 8:10) and of coating over with gold ( 1 Kings 10:17), it also stands for covering the bones with flesh and skin ( Ezekiel 37:6). And this may the more be taken as analogous to covering the naked bird-body with feathers, seeing that the foliage of trees is called עָלֶה “the mounting up, growing up over” (comp. redeunt jam gramina campis, arboribusque comae). Regarding the second remark of Hitzig’s, it is true that one might rather expect נוֹצָה, since it appears undoubted from Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 17:7 that אבר is the pinion, נוצה the feathers in general. But our passage does not deal in zoological exactness. Moreover the context has more especially to do with pinions as the chief organ for flying. The second clause describes the intended effect: rapid, untiring forward effort. The first clause says what makes this effect possible: ever new power, ever new, eagle-like rejuvenescence. That the rejuvenescence of the eagle extended to the entire body Bochart, l. c, expressly shows to have been a view of the Hebrews in distinction from the Greeks. For he says in reference to Micah 1:16 : “Tam Graeci, quam Hebraei calvitium avibus tribuunt. Ita, ut hoc solo differant, quod, cum avium calvitium juxta Graccos pertineat ad solum caput, id Hebraei calvitium extendunt ad totum corpus.” Thus we may assume (that the Prophet, whether correct or not according to natural history is immaterial, referred the renewal to the pinions. Now as “they feather themselves afresh” says figuratively the same that “they shall renew their strength” says literally, we need not wonder that the second half of the verse does not carry out the figure and say: they shall run, etc., they shall fly, etc. The Prophet emphasizes the promise of unwearied power to run and walk, doubtless, because he has in mind primarily the people returning from the Exile and the toilsome journey through the desert. Thus the conclusion of the discourse corresponds quite exactly to the conclusion of the Prologue Isaiah 40:11.

Footnotes:

FN#39 - eternal divinity is Jehovah that created. He does not tire, etc.

FN#40 - Heb. change.

FN#41 - feather themselves anew.

FN#42 - omit shall.

FN#43 - do not weary.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. “Quia haec posterior pars (prophetiarum Jesajae) prophetia est de Christo et evangelio, pertinet ad nostra quoque tempora, immo est proprie nostra. Quare nobis commendatior esse debet.” Luther.

2. On Isaiah 40:1. “Est mandatum ad apostolos, quibus novum praedicationis genus mandatur. Quasi dicat: lex praedicavit hactenus terrores, vos consolamini, mutate doctrinam, praedicate gratiam, misericordiam et remissionem peccatorum.” Luther.

3. On Isaiah 40:2. “Non auribus tantum, sed cordi potius concionandum Esther, hoc nempe sibi vult Jehova, dum ait: Dicite ad cor Hierosolymae. Et huc quoque pertinet illud tritum,: nisi intus sit, qui praedicat, frustra docentis lingua laborat.” Foerster.

4. On Isaiah 40:3 sqq. “John the Baptist was the first of those messengers and heralds of our redemption of whom the redemption from Babylon was only a type. But the latter comprehends all other ministers of the word that God has sent and will send to the end of the world to conduct wretched souls out of this miserable desert, and out of the prison of the law to the heavenly city of God. The way is prepared for the Lord when we cast away the great stones and immoveable idols, viz, pride and trust in works, and acknowledge our sin. For they utterly bar the entrance of grace.” Heim and Hoffmann.

5. On Isaiah 40:3 sqq. “When we attentively observe the quiet, yet mighty movement of the Lord through the world’s history, we see how before His going the vallies elevate themselves and the mountains sink down, how steep declivities become a plane, and cliffs become flats. Let us not fear to pass through the deserts of life if God be with us! It is a walk along lovely, level paths.” Umbreit.

6. On [“Applied to the Messiah, it means that God was about to come to His people to redeem them. This language naturally and obviously implies, that He whose way was thus to be prepared was Jehovah, the true God. That John the Baptist had such a view of Him is apparent from what is said of him. John 1:34,:comp. John 1:15; John 1:18; John 3:31; John 10:30; John 10:33; John 10:36. Thought his is not one of the most direct and certain proof-texts of the divinity of the Messiah, yet it is one which may be applied to Him when that divinity is demonstrated from other places.” Barnes.]

7. On Isaiah 40:8 b. By the word of the Lord was he world made ( Genesis 1; John 1:3; Psalm 33:6), and He upholds all things by the word of His power ( Hebrews 1:3). By His word, too, heaven and earth are kept for the day of judgment ( 2 Peter 3:7). For heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word will not with that also pass away ( Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:27; Matthew 5:18; Luke 21:33). Rather the word of the Lord will not return empty to Him, but it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto He sent it ( Isaiah 55:11). And when all earthly forms, in which the word of the Lord invests itself, grow old and pass away like a garment, still the eternal truth concealed in these forms will issue forth only the more glorious from their demolished shapes, and all that have lived themselves into the word of God and have trusted in Him shall rise with Him to new life.

8. On Isaiah 40:8 b. “Verbum Dei nostri manet in aeternum. Insignis sententia, quam omnibus parietibus inscribi oportuit … Hic institue catalogum omnium operum, quae sine verbo Dei in papatu, fiunt: ordo monachorum, missa, cucullus, satisfactio, peregrenationes, indulgentiae, etc. Non sunt verbum Dei, ergo peribunt, verbum autem Domini et omnes, qui verbo credunt, manebunt in aeternum.” Luther.

9. On Isaiah 40:10-11. What a huge contrast between these two verses! In Isaiah 40:10 we see the Lord coming as the almighty Ruler and stern Judge; but Isaiah 40:11 He appears as the true Shepherd that carries the lambs in His bosom, and leads softly the sheep giving suck. Sinai and Golgotha! The tempest that rends the mountains and cleaves the rock, the earthquake and the fire, and then afterwards the quiet, gentle murmuring ( 1 Kings 19:11 sqq.)! For His deepest being is—love ( Luke 9:55 sq.; 1 John 4:8).

10. On Isaiah 40:11. “Christus oves suas redimit pretiose, pascit laute, ducit sollicite, collocat secure.” Bernhard of Clairvaux.

11. On Isaiah 40:16. “Fancy never invented a mightier sacrifice. Magnificent Lebanon the altar in the boundless temple of nature—all its glorious cedars the wood for the fire—and the beasts of its forest the sacrifice.” Umbreit.

12. On Isaiah 40:16. The reading of this place in Church, Christmas A. D 814 moved the Emperor Leo v. the Armenian to take severe measures against the friends of images. The passage moves Foerster to propose the question whether it is permitted to make pictures of God and to possess paintings representing divinity. He distinguishes in respect to this between οὐσια and ἐπιφάνεια or revelatio, and says, no one can picture God κατ̓ οὐσίαν, but κατ̓ ἐπιφάνειαν, i. e. iis in rebus, quibus se revelavit one can and may picture Him. This reply is manifestly unsatisfactory. For it is not about res, quibus Deus se revelavit that one inquires. That one may picture things by which, or in which God has revealed Himself, thus certainly created things, cannot be contested from the standpoint of Christian consciousness. But the question is: is it allowable to picture the person of God, or more exactly, the person of God the Father? For it has long been settled that it is allowable to picture Christ the man. But though there are many paintings of God the Father, still it is no wonder that not only strict Reformed, but that earnest Christians of fine feeling generally take offence at them. It seems to me to depend on whether this offence is absolute or relative. Is it not allowable to represent in colors what the prophet Daniel represented in words in that vision of the four beasts, Isaiah 7:9 sqq.? May one not paint the “Ancient of days”? And if it be God the Father that appears here under this name, which is certainly most probable, may one not paint Him in this form that He gives Himself as allowably as one may paint the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, and with that paint the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove? But who is able to do that? Who is able to worthily represent the Ancient of days? I regard that as the most difficult task of art. To him that can do it, it is allowable also. He that attempts it and cannot do it need not wonder if men take offence at his picture. So far no one has been able to do it, and hardly will any one ever be able. Hence the best thing is to let it alone.

13. On [“It is proof of man’s elevated nature that he can thus look upward and trace the evidences of the power and wisdom of God in the heavens, that he can fix his attention on the works of God in distant worlds. This thought was most beautifully expressed by one of the ancient poets:

Pronaque cum spectent animalia caetera terram;

Os homini sublime dedit; coelumque tueri,

Jussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.

Ovid Met. Lib. I:84–86.

In the Scriptures, God not unfrequently appeals to the starry heavens in proof of His existence and perfections, and as the most sublime exhibition of His greatness and power, Psalm 19:1-6. And it may be remarked that this argument is one that increases in strength, in the view of men, from age to age, just in proportion to the advances which are made in the science of astronomy. It is now far more striking than it was in the times of Isaiah.” Barnes.]

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 40:1-5. “Why is the advent of Jesus on earth to-day still a ground of comfort and joy? 1) By Him the season of bondage ends ( Isaiah 40:2); 2) the curse of sin is removed ( Isaiah 40:2-3): 3) the promised new creation is introduced ( Isaiah 40:4); 4) the mouth of the Lord has revealed the glory.” Advent sermon by E. Bauer, in Manch. G. u. Ein G. Jahrg. III. p35.

2. On Isaiah 40:1-5. “The precious commission of God to the ministers of the word: Comfort ye, comfort ye My people! We inquire: 1) To whom, according to God’s word, shall the comfort be brought? 2) What sort of comfort is it that according to God’s word should be brought?” Luger. Christus unser Leben. Götting, 1870.

3. On Isaiah 40:1-9. “What preparation does God demand of us that we may become partakers of the comfort in Christ? 1) Prepare the way of the Lord2) Learn to know your nothingness.” Haenchen. Manch. G. u. Ein G. 1868 p39. [“It is a good sign that mercy is preparing for us if we find God’s grace preparing us for it. Psalm 10:17. To prepare the way of the Lord we must be convinced1) Of the vanity of the creature2) Of the validity of the promise of God.” M. Henry.]

4. On Isaiah 40:6-8. “What shall I preach? 1) So I asked with the Prophet, and looked into the face of this motley, multi-formed time. 2) So again I asked, and looked into the depths of my own poor, weak soul. 3) So I asked once more, and looked to thee, my charge that the Lord of the Church has given me to lead.” Kliefoth. Installation sermon at Ludwigslust, printed in Zeugniss der Seele, Parchim und Ludwigslust, 1845.

5. On [“God is the Shepherd of Israel ( Psalm 80:1); Christ is the good Shepherd, John 10:11. 1) He takes care of all His flock2) He takes particular care of those that most need it: of lambs, those that cannot help themselves, young children, young converts, weak believers, sorrowful spirits. 1] He will gather them in the arms of His power. 2] He will carry them in the bosom of His love and cherish them there. 3] He will gently lead them. After M. Henry.]

6. On Isaiah 40:12-17. To what the contemplation of the sublimity of God admonishes us1) The consideration of His infinite greatness admonishes us to be humble2) The consideration of His infinite power admonishes us to trust Him3) The consideration of His infinite wisdom admonishes us to be obedient.

7. On Isaiah 40:22-24. When might takes precedence of right and the unrighteousness of the powerful gets the upper hand, then we ought1) To consider that our cause is no other than that of God; 2) that even the mightiest are before Him only like locusts, or like the trees that the wind sweeps away; 3) wait patiently till the hour comes for the Lord to show His power.

8. On Isaiah 40:25-31. “Jubilate! 1) Holy is the Lord our God in His ways ( Isaiah 40:25). 2) Almighty is the Lord our God in His works ( Isaiah 40:26-28). 3) Rich is the Lord our God in His gifts of grace ( Isaiah 40:29-31).” Scheerer. Manch. G. u. Ein G., 1868.

9. On [Reproof of dejection and despondency under afflictions. I. The ill words of despair under present calamity ( Isaiah 40:27). II. The titles God gives His people are enough to shame them out of their distrusts. O JacobO Israel. Let them consider whence they took these names, and why they bore them. III. He reminds them of that which, if duly considered, was sufficient to silence all their fears and distrusts ( Isaiah 40:28). He communicates what He is Himself to others, choosing especially the weak for the display of this heaven-imparted strength ( Isaiah 40:29). Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. V. The glorious effect: strength perfected in weakness, comp. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; and enhanced by the failures of those naturally strong ( Isaiah 40:29-31). After M. Henry.]

10. On [I. “Religion is often expressed in the Scriptures by “waiting on Jehovah,” i. e., by looking to Him for help, expecting deliverance through His aid, putting trust in Him. See Psalm 25:3; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 25:21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:7; Psalm 37:9; Psalm 37:34; Psalm 69:3; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 30:18.” II. “It does not imply inactivity or want of personal exertion.” III. “They only wait on Him in a proper manner who expect His blessing in the common modes in which He imparts it to men—in the use of those means and efforts which He has appointed, and which He is accustomed to bless.” The farmer does not wait for God to plow and sow his field; but having plowed and sown he waits for the blessing. After Barnes, in loc.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-40.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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