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Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
Second Half of the Collection - Isaiah 40-66
The first half consisted of seven parts; the second consists of three. The trilogical arrangement of this cycle of prophecies has hardly been disputed by any one, since Rckert pointed it out in his Translation of the Hebrew Prophets (1831). And it is equally certain that each part consists of 3 x 3 addresses. The division of the chapters furnishes an unintentional proof of this, though the true commencement is not always indicated. The first part embraces the following nine addresses: chapters 40; 41, Isaiah 42:1-43:13; Isaiah 43:14-44:5; Isaiah 44:6-23; Isaiah 44:24-45:25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; 48. The second part includes the following nine: chapters 49; Isaiah 50:1-11; 51; Isaiah 52:1-12; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; 54; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-8; Isaiah 56:9-57:21. The third part the following nine: Isaiah 58:1-14; 59; 60; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-6; Isaiah 63:7-64:12; 65; 66. It is only in the middle of the first part that the division is at all questionable. In the other two it is hardly possible to err. The theme of the whole is the comforting announcement of the approaching deliverance, and its attendant summons to repentance. For the deliverance itself was for the Israel, which remained true to the confession of Jehovah in the midst of affliction and while redemption was delayed, and not for the rebellious, who denied Jehovah in word and deed, and thus placed themselves on the level of the heathen. "There is no peace, saith Jehovah, for the wicked:" with these words does the first part of the twenty-seven addresses close in Isaiah 48:22. The second closes in Isaiah 57:21 in a more excited and fuller tone: "There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked." And at the close of the third part (Isaiah 66:24) the prophet drops this form of refrain, and declares the miserable end of the wicked in deeply pathetic though horrifying terms: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh;" just as, at the close of the fifth book of the Psalms, the shorter form of berâkhâh (blessing) is dropt, and an entire psalm, the Hallelujah (Ps), takes its place.
The three parts, which are thus marked off by the prophet himself, are only variations of the one theme common to them all. At the same time, each has its own leading thought, and its own special key-note, which is struck in the very first words. In each of the three parts, also, a different antithesis stands in the foreground: viz., in the first part, chapters 40-48, the contrast between Jehovah and the idols, and between Israel and the heathen; in the second part, chapters 49-57, the contrast between the present suffering of the Servant of Jehovah and His future glory; in the third part, chapters 58-66, the contrast observable in the heart of Israel itself, between the hypocrites, the depraved, the rebellious, on the one side, and the faithful, the mourning, the persecuted, on the other. The first part sets forth the deliverance from Babylon, in which the prophecy of Jehovah is fulfilled, to the shame ad overthrow of the idols and their worshippers; the second part, the way of the Servant of Jehovah through deep humiliation to exaltation and glory, which is at the same time the exaltation of Israel to the height of its world-wide calling; the third part, the indispensable conditions of participation in the future redemption and glory. There is some truth in Hahn's opinion, that the distinctive characteristics of the three separate parts are exhibited in the three clauses of Isaiah 40:2 : "that her distress is ended, that her debt is paid, that she has received (according to his explanation, 'will receive') double for all her sins." For the central point of the first part is really the termination of the Babylonian distress; that of the second, the expiation of guilt by the self-sacrifice of the Servant of Jehovah; and that of the third, the assurance that the sufferings will be followed by "a far more exceeding weight of glory." The promise rises higher and higher in the circular movements of the 3 x 9 addresses, until at length it reaches its zenith in chapters 65 and 66, and links time and eternity together.
So far as the language is concerned, there is nothing more finished or more elevated in the whole of the Old Testament than this trilogy of addresses by Isaiah. In chapters 1-39 of the collection, the prophet's language is generally more compressed, chiselled (lapidarisch), plastic, although even there his style passes through all varieties of colour. But here in chapters 40-66, where he no longer has his foot upon the soil of his own time, but is transported into the far distant future, as into his own home, even the language retains an ideal and, so to speak, ethereal character. It has grown into a broad, pellucid, shining stream, which floats us over as it were into the world beyond, upon majestic yet gentle and translucent waves. There are only two passages in which it becomes more harsh, turbid, and ponderous, viz., Isaiah 53:1-12 and Isaiah 56:9-57:11a. In the former it is the emotion of sorrow which throws its shadow upon it; in the latter, the emotion of wrath. And in every other instance in which it changes, we may detect at once the influence of the object and of the emotion. In Isaiah 63:7 the prophet strikes the note of the liturgical tephillâh; in Isaiah 63:19b-64:4 it is sadness which chokes the stream of words; in Isaiah 64:5 you year, as in Jeremiah 3:25, the key-note of the liturgical vidduy, or confessional prayer.
And when we turn to the contents of his trilogy, it is more incomparable still. It commences with a prophecy, which gave to John the Baptist the great theme of his preaching. It closes with the prediction of the creation of a new heaven and new earth, beyond which even the last page of the New Testament Apocalypse cannot go. And in the centre (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) the sufferings and exaltation of Christ are proclaimed as clearly, as if the prophet had stood beneath the cross itself, and had seen the Risen Saviour. He is transported to the very commencement of the New Testament times, and begins just like the New Testament evangelists. He afterwards describes the death and resurrection of Christ as completed events, with all the clearness of a Pauline discourse. And lastly, he clings to the heavenly world beyond, like John in the Apocalypse. Yet the Old Testament limits are not disturbed; but within those limits, evangelist, apostle, and apocalyptist are all condensed into one. Throughout the whole of these addresses we never meet with a strictly Messianic prophecy; and yet they have more christological depth than all the Messianic prophecies taken together. The bright picture of the coming King, which is met with in the earlier Messianic prophecies, undergoes a metamorphosis here, out of which it issues enriched by many essential elements, viz., those of the two status, the mors vicaria, and the munus triplex. The dark typical background of suffering, which the mournful Davidic psalms give to the figure of the Messiah, becomes here for the first time an object of direct prediction. The place of the Son of David, who is only a King, is now take by the Servant of Jehovah, who is Prophet and Priest by virtue of His self-sacrifice, and King as well; the Saviour of Israel and of the Gentiles, persecuted even to death by His own nation, but exalted by God to be both Priest and King. So rich and profound a legacy did Isaiah leave to the church of the captivity, and to the church of the future also, yea, even to the New Jerusalem upon the new earth. Hengstenberg has very properly compared these prophecies of Isaiah to the Deuteronomic "last words" of Moses in the steppes of Moab, and to the last words of the Lord Jesus, within the circle of His own disciples, as reported by John. It is a thoroughly esoteric book, left to the church for future interpretation. To none of the Old Testament prophets who followed him was the ability given perfectly to open the book. Nothing but the coming of the Servant of Jehovah in the person of Jesus Christ could break all the seven seals. But was Isaiah really the author of this book of consolation? Modern criticism visits all who dare to assert this with the double ban of want of science and want of conscience. It regards Isaiah's authorship as being quite as impossible as any miracle in the sphere of nature, of history, or of the spirit. No prophecies find any favour in its eyes, but such as can be naturally explained. It knows exactly how far a prophet can see, and where he must stand, in order to see so far. But we are not tempted at all to purchase such omniscience at the price of the supernatural. We believe in the supernatural reality of prophecy, simply because history furnishes indisputable proofs of it, and because a supernatural interposition on the part of God in both the inner and outer life of man takes place even at the present day, and can be readily put to the test. But this interposition varies greatly both in degree and kind; and even in the far-sight of the prophets there were the greatest diversities, according to the measure of their charisma. It is quite possible, therefore, that Isaiah may have foreseen the calamities of the Babylonian age and the deliverance that followed "by an excellent spirit," as the son of Sirach says (Ecclus. 48:24), and may have lived and moved in these "last things," even at a time when the Assyrian empire was still standing. But we do not regard all that is possible as being therefore real. We can examine quite impartially whether this really was the case, and without our ultimate decision being under the constraint of any unalterable foregone conclusion, like that of the critics referred to. All that we have said in praise of chapters 40-66 would retain its fullest force, even if the author of the whole should prove to be a prophet of the captivity, and not Isaiah.
We have already given a cursory glance at the general and particular grounds upon which we maintain the probability, or rather the certainty, that Isaiah was the author of chapters 40-66; and we have explained them more fully in the concluding remarks to Drechsler's Commentary (vol. iii. pp. 361-416), to which we would refer any readers who wish to obtain a complete insight into the pro and con of this critical question. All false supports of Isaiah's authorship have there been willingly given up; for the words of Job to his friends (Job 13:7-8) are quite as applicable to a biblical theologian of the present day.
We have admitted, that throughout the whole of the twenty-seven prophecies, the author of chapters 40-66 has the captivity as his fixed standpoint, or at any rate as a standpoint that is only so far a fluctuating one, as the eventual deliverance approaches nearer and nearer, and that without ever betraying the difference between the real present and this ideal one; so that as the prophetic vision of the future has its roots in every other instance in the soil of the prophet's own time, and springs out of that soil, to all appearance he is an exile himself. But notwithstanding this, the following arguments may be adduced in support of Isaiah's authorship. In the first place, the deliverance foretold in these prophecies, with all its attendant circumstances, is referred to as something beyond the reach of human foresight, and known to Jehovah alone, and as something the occurrence of which would prove Him to be the God of Gods. Jehovah, the God of the prophecy, new the name of Cyrus even before he knew it himself; and He demonstrated His Godhead to all the world, inasmuch as He caused the name and work of the deliverer of Israel to be foretold (Isaiah 45:4-7). Secondly, although these prophecies rest throughout upon the soil of the captivity, and do not start with the historical basis of Hezekiah's time, as we should expect them to do, with Isaiah as their author; yet the discrepancy between this phenomenon and the general character of prophecy elsewhere, loses its full force as an argument against Isaiah's authorship, if we do not separate chapters 40-66 from chapters 1-39 and take it as an independent work, as is generally done. The whole of the first half of the collection is a staircase, leading up to these addresses to the exiles, and bears the same relation to them, as a whole, as the Assyrian pedestal in Isaiah 14:24-27 to the Babylonian massâ in Isaiah 13-14:26. This relation between the two - namely, that Assyrian prophecies lay the foundation for Babylonian - runs through the whole of the first half. It is so arranged, that the prophecies of the Assyrian times throughout have intermediate layers, which reach beyond those times; and whilst the former constitute the groundwork, the latter form the gable. This is the relation in which chapters 24-27 stand to chapters 13-23, and chapters 34-35 to chapters 28-33. And within the cycle of prophecies against the nations, three Babylonian prophecies - viz. Isaiah 13-14:23; Isaiah 21:1-10, and 23 - form the commencement, middle, and end. The Assyrian prophecies lie within a circle, the circumference and diameter of which consist of prophecies that have a longer span. And are all these prophecies, that are inserted with such evident skill and design, to be taken away from our prophet? The oracle concerning Babel, in Isaiah 13-14:23, has all the ring of a prophecy of Isaiah's, as we have already seen; and in the epilogue, in Isaiah 14:24-27, it has Isaiah's signature. The second oracle concerning Babel, in Isaiah 21:1-10, is not only connected with three passages of Isaiah's that are acknowledged as genuine, so as to form a tetralogy; but in style and spirit it is most intimately bound up with them. The cycle of prophecies of the final catastrophe (chapters 24-27) commences so thoroughly in Isaiah's style, that nearly every word and every turn in the first three vv. bears Isaiah's stamp; and in Isaiah 27:12-13, it dies away, just like the book of Immanuel, Isaiah 11:11. And the genuineness of chapters 34 and Isaiah 35:1-10 has never yet been disputed on any valid grounds. Knobel, indeed, maintains that the historical background of this passage establishes its spuriousness; but it is impossible to detect any background of contemporaneous history. Edom in this instance represents the world, as opposed to the people of God, just as Moab does in Isaiah 25:1-12. Consider, moreover, that these disputed prophecies form a series which constitutes in every respect a prelude to chapters 40-66. Have we not in Isaiah 13:1-2, the substance of chapters 40-66, as it were, in nuce? Is not the trilogy "Babel," in chapters 46-48, like an expansion of the vision in Isaiah 21:1-10? Is not the prophecy concerning Edom in chapter 34 the side-piece to Isaiah 63:1-6? And do we not hear in Isaiah 35:1-10 the direct prelude to the melody, which is continued in chapters 40-66? And to this we may add still further the fact, that prominent marks of Isaiah are common alike to the disputed prophecies, and to those whose genuineness is acknowledged. The name of God, which is so characteristic of Isaiah, and which we meet with on every hand in acknowledged prophecies in chapters 1-39, viz., "the Holy One of Israel," runs also through chapters 40-66. And so again do the confirmatory words, "Thus saith Jehovah," and the interchange of the national names Jacob and Israel (compare, for example, Isaiah 40:27 with Isaiah 29:23).
(Note: The remark which we made at p. 77, to the effect that Isaiah prefers Israel, is therefore to be qualified, inasmuch as in ch. 40-66 Jacob takes precedence of Israel.)
The rhetorical figure called epnanaphora, which may be illustrated by an Arabic proverb -
(Note: See Mehren, Rhetorik der Araber, p. 161ff.)
"Enjoy the scent of the yellow roses of Negd;
For when the evening if gone, it is over with the yellow roses," -
is very rare apart from the book of Isaiah (Genesis 6:9; Genesis 35:12; Leviticus 25:41; Job 11:7); whereas in the book of Isaiah itself it runs like a favourite oratorical turn from beginning to end (vid., Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 6:11; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 14:25; Isaiah 15:8; Isaiah 30:20; Isaiah 34:9; Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 42:15, Isaiah 42:19; Isaiah 48:21; Isaiah 51:13; Isaiah 53:6-7; Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 58:2; Isaiah 59:8 - a collection of examples which could probably be still further increased). But there are still deeper lines of connection than these. How strikingly, for example, does Isaiah 28:5 ring in harmony with Isaiah 62:3, and Isaiah 29:23 (cf., Isaiah 5:7) with Isaiah 60:21! And does not the leading thought which is expressed in Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26 (cf., Isaiah 25:1), viz., that whatever is realized in history has had its pre-existence as an idea in God, run with a multiplied echo through chapters 40-66? And does not the second half repeat, in Isaiah 65:25, in splendidly elaborate paintings, and to some extent in the very same words (which is not unlike Isaiah), what we have already found in Isaiah 11:6., Isaiah 30:26, and other passages, concerning the future glorification of the earthly and heavenly creation? Yea, we may venture to maintain (and no one has ever attempted to refute it), that the second half of the book of Isaiah (chapters 40-66), so far as its theme, its standpoint, its style, and its ideas are concerned, is in a state of continuous formation throughout the whole of the first (chapters 1-39). On the frontier of the two halves, the prediction in Isaiah 39:5, Isaiah 39:7 stands like a sign-post, with the inscription, "To Babylon." There, viz., in Babylon, is henceforth Isaiah's spiritual home; there he preaches to the church of the captivity the way of salvation, and the consolation of redemption, but to the rebellious the terrors of judgment.
That this is the case, is confirmed by the reciprocal relation in which chapters 40-66 stand to all the other literature of the Old Testament with which we are acquainted. In chapters 40-66 we find reminiscences from the book of Job (compare Isaiah 40:23 with Job 12:24; Isaiah 44:25 with Job 12:17, Job 12:20; Isaiah 44:24 with Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:14 with Job 21:22; Isaiah 59:4 with Job 15:35 and Psalm 7:15). And the first half points back to Job in just the same manner. The poetical words גזע, התגּבּר, צאצאים, are only met with in the book of Isaiah and the book of Job. Once at least, namely Isaiah 59:7, we are reminded of mishlē (Proverbs 1:16); whilst in the first half we frequently met with imitations of the mâshâl of Solomon. The two halves stand in exactly the same relation to the book of Micah; compare Isaiah 58:1 with Micah 3:8, like Isaiah 2:2-4 with Micah 4:1-4, and Isaiah 26:21 with Micah 1:3. And the same relation to Nahum runs through the two; compare Nahum 3:4-5 with Isaiah 47:1-15, Nahum 2:1 with Isaiah 52:7, Isaiah 52:1, and Nahum 2:11 with Isaiah 24:1; Nahum 3:13 with Isaiah 19:16. We leave the question open, on which side the priority lies. But when we find in Zephaniah and Jeremiah points of contact not only with Isaiah 40-66, but also with chapter 13-14:23; Isaiah 21:1-10; Isaiah 21:34-35, which preclude the possibility of accident, it is more than improbable that these two prophets should have been imitated by the author of chapters 40-66, since it is in them above all others that we meet with the peculiar disposition to blend the words and thoughts of their predecessors with their own. Not only does Zephaniah establish points of contact with Isaiah 13 and 34 in by no means an accidental manner, but compare Isaiah 2:15 with Isaiah 47:8, Isaiah 47:10, and Isaiah 3:10 with Isaiah 66:20. The former passage betrays its derivative character by the fact that עלּיז is a word that belongs exclusively to Isaiah; whilst the latter is not only a compendium of Isaiah 66:20, but also points back to Isaiah 18:1, Isaiah 18:7, in the expression לנהרי־כוּשׁ מעבר. In Jeremiah, the indication of dependence upon Isaiah comes out most strongly in the prophecy against Babylon in Jeremiah 50-51; in fact, it is so strong, that Movers, Hitzig, and De Wette regard the anonymous author of chapters 40-66 as the interpolator of this prophecy. But it also contains echoes of Isaiah 13-14; 21, and 34, and is throughout a Mosaic or earlier prophecies. The passage in Jeremiah 10:1-16 concerning the nothingness of the gods of the nations, sounds also most strikingly like Isaiah's; compare more especially Isaiah 44:12-15; Isaiah 41:7; Isaiah 46:7, though the attempt has also been made to render this intelligible by the interpolation hypothesis. It is not only in Isaiah 40:6-8 and Isaiah 40:10, which are admitted to be Jeremiah's, that we meet with the peculiar characteristics of Jeremiah; but even in passages that are rejected we find such expressions of his as יפּה, אותם for אתּם, נבער, תּעתּעים, פּקדּה, a penal visitation, such as we never meet with in Isaiah II. And the whole of the consolatory words in Jeremiah 30:10-11, and again in Jeremiah 46:27-28, which sound so much like the deutero-Isaiah, are set down as having been inserted in the book of Jeremiah by Isaiah II. But Caspari has shown that this is impossible, because the concluding words of the promise, "I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished," would have no meaning at all if uttered at the close of the captivity; and also, because such elements as are evidently Jeremiah's, and in which it coincides with prophecies of Jeremiah that are acknowledged to be genuine, far outweigh those of the deutero-Isaiah. And yet in this passage, when Israel is addressed as "my servant," we hear the tone of the deutero-Isaiah. Jeremiah fuses in this instance, as in many other passages, the tones of Isaiah with his own. There are also many other passages which coincide with passages of the second part of Isaiah, both in substance and expression, though not so conclusively as those already quoted, and in which we have to decide between regarding Jeremiah as an imitator, or Isaiah II as an interpolator. But if we compare Jeremiah 6:15 with Isaiah 56:11, and Isaiah 48:6 with Jeremiah 33:3, where Jeremiah, according to his usual custom, gives a different turn to the original passages by a slight change in the letters, we shall find involuntary reminiscences of Isaiah in Jeremiah, in such parallels as Jeremiah 3:16; Isaiah 65:17; Jeremiah 4:13; Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 11:19; Isaiah 53:1; and shall hear the ring of Isaiah 51:17-23 in Jeremiah's qı̄nōth, and that of Isaiah 56:9-57:11a in the earlier reproachful addresses of Jeremiah, and not vice versa.
In conclusion, let us picture to ourselves the gradual development of Isaiah's view of the captivity, that penal judgment already threatened in the law. (1.) In the Uzziah-Jotham age the prophet refers to the captivity, in the most general terms that can be conceived, in Isaiah 6:12, though he mentions it casually by its own name even in Isaiah 5:13. (2.) In the time of Ahaz we already see him far advanced beyond this first sketchy reference to the captivity. In Isaiah 11:11. he predicts a second deliverance, resembling the Egyptian exodus. Asshur stands at the head of the countries of the diaspora, as the imperial power by which the judgment of captivity is carried out. (3.) In the early years of Hezekiah, Isaiah 22:18 appears to indicate the carrying away of Judah by Asshur. But when the northern kingdom had succumbed to the judgment of the Assyrian banishment, and Judah had been mercifully spared this judgment, the eyes of Isaiah were directed to Babylon as the imperial power destined to execute the same judgment upon Judah. We may see this from Isaiah 39:5-7. Micah also speaks of Babylon as the future place of punishment and deliverance (Micah 4:10). The prophecies of the overthrow of Babylon in Isaiah 13:14, Isaiah 13:21, are therefore quite in the spirit of the prophecies of Hezekiah's time. And chapters 40-66 merely develop on all sides what was already contained in germ in Isaiah 14:1-2; Isaiah 21:10. It is well known that in the time of Hezekiah Babylon attempted to break loose from Assyria; and so also the revolt of the Medes from Asshur, and the union of their villages and districts under one monarch named Deyoces, occurred in the time of Hezekiah.
(Note: Spiegel (Eran, p. 313ff.) places the revolt of the Medes in the year 714, and Deyoces in the year 708.)
It is quite characteristic of Isaiah that he never names the Persians, who were at that time still subject to the Medes. He mentions Madai in Isaiah 13:17 and Isaiah 21:2, and Kōresh (Kurus), the founder of the Persian monarchy; but not that one of the two leading Iranian tribes, which gained its liberty through him in the time of Astyages, and afterwards rose to the possession of the imperial sway.
But how is it possible that Isaiah should have mentioned Cyrus by name centuries before this time (210 years, according to Josephus, Ant. xi. 1, 2)? Windischmann answers this question in his Zoroastrische Studien, p. 137. "No one," he says, "who believes in a living, personal, omniscient God, and in the possibility of His revealing future events, will ever deny that He possesses the power to foretell the name of a future monarch." And Albrecht Weber, the Indologian, finds in this answer "an evidence of self-hardening against the scientific conscience," and pronounces such hardening nothing less than "devilish."
It is not possible to come to any understanding concerning this point, which is the real nerve of the prevailing settled conclusion as to chapters 40-66. We therefore hasten on to our exposition. And in relation to this, if we only allow that the prophet really was a prophet, it is of no essential consequence to what age he belonged. For in this one point we quite agree with the opponents of its genuineness, namely, that the standpoint of the prophet is the second half of the captivity. If the author is Isaiah, as we feel constrained to assume for reasons that we have already stated here and elsewhere, he is entirely carried away from his own times, and leads a pneumatic life among the exiles. There is, in fact, no more "Johannic" book in the whole of the Old Testament than this book of consolation. It is like the produce of an Old Testament gift of tongues. The fleshly body of speech has been changed into a glorified body; and we hear, as it were, spiritual voices from the world beyond, or world of glory.
1Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
In this first address the prophet vindicates his call to be the preacher of the comfort of the approaching deliverance, and explains this comfort on the ground that Jehovah, who called him to this comforting proclamation, was the incomparably exalted Creator and Ruler of the world. The first part of this address (Isaiah 40:1-11) may be regarded as the prologue to the whole twenty-seven. The theme of the prophetic promise, and the irresistible certainty of its fulfilment, are here declared. Turning of the people of the captivity, whom Jehovah has neither forgotten nor rejected, the prophet commences thus in Isaiah 40:1 : "Comfort ye, comfort ye may people, saith your God." This is the divine command to the prophets. Nachămū (piel, literally, to cause to breathe again) is repeated, because of its urgency (anadiplosis, as in Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 43:11, Isaiah 43:25, etc.). The word יאמר, which does not mean "will say" here (Hofmann, Stier), but "saith" (lxx, Jerome) - as, for example, in 1 Samuel 24:14 - affirms that the command is a continuous one. The expression "saith your God" is peculiar to Isaiah, and common to both parts of the collection (Isaiah 1:11, Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 66:9). The future in all these passages is expressive of that which is taking place or still continuing. And it is the same here. The divine command has not been issued once only, or merely to one prophet, but is being continually addressed to many prophets. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," is the continual charge of the God of the exiles. who has not ceased to be their God even in the midst of wrath, to His messengers and heralds the prophets.
2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
The summons is now repeated with still greater emphasis, the substance of the consoling proclamation being also given. "Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her affliction is ended, that her debt is paid, that she has received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins." The holy city is thought of here in connection with the population belonging to it. על־לב דּבּר (to speak to the heart) is an expression applied in Genesis 34:3 and Judges 19:3 to words adapted to win the heart; in Genesis 50:21, to the words used by Joseph to inspire his brethren with confidence; whilst here it is used in precisely the same sense as in Hosea 2:16, and possibly not without a reminiscence of this earlier prophecy. אל קרא (to call to a person) is applied to a prophetic announcement made to a person, as in Jeremiah 7:27; Zechariah 1:4. The announcement to be made to Jerusalem is then introduced with כּי, ὅτι, which serves as the introduction to either an indirect or a direct address (Ges. 155, 1, e). (1.) Her affliction has become full, and therefore has come to an end. צבא, military service, then feudal service, and hardship generally (Job 7:1); here it applies to the captivity or exile - that unsheltered bivouac, as it were, of the people who had bee transported into a foreign land, and were living there in bondage, restlessness, and insecurity. (2.) Her iniquity is atoned for, and the justice of God is satisfied: nirtsâh, which generally denotes a satisfactory reception, is used here in the sense of meeting with a satisfactory payment, like עון רצה in Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:43, to pay off the debt of sin by enduring the punishment of sin. (3.) The third clause repeats the substance of the previous ones with greater emphasis and in a fuller tone: Jerusalem has already suffered fully for her sins. In direct opposition to לקחה, which cannot, when connected with two actual perfects as it is here, be take as a perfect used to indicate the certainty of some future occurrence, Gesenius, Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, Stier, and Hahn suppose kiphlayim to refer to the double favour that Jerusalem was about to receive (like mishneh in Isaiah 61:7, and possibly borrowed from Isaiah in Zechariah 9:12), instead of to the double punishment which Jerusalem had endured (like mishneh in Jeremiah 16:18). It is not to be taken, however, in a judicial sense; in which case God would appear over-rigid, and therefore unjust. Jerusalem had not suffered more than its sins had deserved; but the compassion of God regarded what His justice had been obliged to inflict upon Jerusalem as superabundant. This compassion also expresses itself in the words "for all" (bekhol, c. Beth pretii): there is nothing left for further punishment. The turning-point from wrath to love has arrived. The wrath has gone forth in double measure. With what intensity, therefore, will the love break forth, which has been so long restrained!
3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
There is a sethume in the text at this point. The first two vv. form a small parashah by themselves, the prologue of the prologue. After the substance of the consolation has been given on its negative side, the question arises, What positive salvation is to be expected? This question is answered for the prophet, inasmuch as, in the ecstatic stillness of his mind as turned to God, he hears a marvellous voice. "Hark, a crier! In the wilderness prepare ye a way for Jehovah, make smooth in the desert a road for our God." This is not to be rendered "a voice cries" (Ges., Umbreit, etc.); but the two words are in the construct state, and form an interjectional clause, as in Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 52:8; Isaiah 66:6 : Voice of one crying! Who the crier is remains concealed; his person vanishes in the splendour of his calling, and falls into the background behind the substance of his cry. The cry sounds like the long-drawn trumpet-blast of a herald (cf., Isaiah 16:1). The crier is like the outrider of a king, who takes care that the way by which the king is to go shall be put into good condition. The king is Jehovah; and it is all the more necessary to prepare the way for Him in a becoming manner, that this way leads through the pathless desert. Bammidbâr is to be connected with pannū, according to the accents on account of the parallel (zakeph katan has a stronger disjunctive force here than zekpeh gadol, as in Deuteronomy 26:14; Deuteronomy 28:8; 2 Kings 1:6), though without any consequent collision with the New Testament description of the fulfilment itself. And so also the Targum and Jewish expositors take במדבר קור קול together, like the lxx, and after this the Gospels. We may, or rather apparently we must, imagine the crier as advancing into the desert, and summoning the people to come and make a road through it. But why does the way of Jehovah lie through the desert, and whither does it lead? It was through the desert that He went to redeem Israel out of Egyptian bondage, and to reveal Himself to Israel from Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2; Judges 5:4; Psalm 88:8); and in Psalm 88:4 (5.) God the Redeemer of His people is called hârōkhēbh bâ‛ărâbhōth. Just as His people looked for Him then, when they were between Egypt and Canaan; so was He to be looked for by His people again, now that they were in the "desert of the sea" (Isaiah 21:1), and separated by Arabia deserta from their fatherland. If He were coming at the head of His people, He Himself would clear the hindrances out of His way; but He was coming through the desert to Israel, and therefore Israel itself was to take care that nothing should impede the rapidity or detract from the favour of the Coming One. The description answers to the reality; but, as we shall frequently find as we go further on, the literal meaning spiritualizes itself in an allegorical way.
4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
The summons proceeds in a commanding tone. "Let every valley be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; and let the rugged be made a plain, and the ledges of rocks a valley." והיה, which takes its tone from the two jussive verbs, is also itself equivalent to ויהי. Instead of גּיא (from גּיא), the pointing in Zechariah 14:4, we have here (according to Kimchi) the vowel-pointing גּיא; at the same time, the editions of Brescia, Pesaro, Venice 1678, have גּיא (with tzere), and this is also the reading of a codex of Luzzatto without Masoretic notes. The command, according to its spiritual interpretation, points to the encouragement of those that are cast down, the humiliation of the self-righteous and self-secure, the changing of dishonesty into simplicity, and of unapproachable haughtiness into submission (for ‛âqōbh, hilly, rugged,
(Note: In this ethical sense Essex applied the word to Queen Elizabeth. See Hefele, Ximenes, p. 90 (ed. 2).)
compare Jeremiah 17:9 together with Habakkuk 2:4). In general, the meaning is that Israel is to take care, that the God who is coming to deliver it shall find it in such an inward and outwards state as befits His exaltation and His purpose.
5And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The cry of the crier proceeds thus in Isaiah 40:5 : "And the glory of Jehovah will be revealed, and all flesh seeth together: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it." The pret. cons. קנגלה is here apodosis imper. When the way is prepared for Jehovah the Coming One, the glory of the God of salvation will unveil itself (on the name Jehovah, which is applied to God, the absolute I, as living and revealing Himself in history, more especially in the history of salvation). His parousia is the revelation of His glory (1 Peter 4:13). This revelation is made for the good of Israel, but not secretly or exclusively; for all the human race, called here designedly "all flesh" (kol bâsâr), will come to see it (compare Luke 3:6, "the salvation of God"). Man, because he is flesh, cannot see God without dying (Exodus 33:20); but the future will fill up this gulf of separation. The object to the verb "see" is not what follows, as Rosenmller supposes, viz., "that the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken," for the word of promise which is here fulfilled is not one addressed to all flesh; nor does it mean, "see that Jehovah hath spoken with His own mouth," i.e., after having become man, as Stier maintains, for the verb required in this case would be מדבּר, not דּבּר. The clause, "for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it," is rather Isaiah's usual confirmation of the foregoing prophecy. Here the crier uses it to establish the certainty of what he foretells, provided that Israel will do what he summons it to perform.
6The 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:
The prophet now hears a second voice, and then a third, entering into conversation with it. "Hark, one speaking, Cry! And he answers, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. Grass is withered, flower faded: for the breath of Jehovah has blown upon it. Surely grass is the people; grass withereth, flower fadeth: yet the word of our God will stand for ever." A second voice celebrates the divine word of promise in the face of the approaching fulfilment, and appoints a preacher of its eternal duration. The verb is not ואמר (et dixi, lxx, Vulg.), but ואמר; so that the person asking the question is not the prophet himself, but an ideal person, whom he has before him in visionary objectiveness. The appointed theme of his proclamation is the perishable nature of all flesh (Isaiah 40:5 πᾶσα σάρξ, here πᾶσα ἡ σάρξ), and, on the other hand, the imperishable nature of the word of God. Men living in the flesh are universally impotent, perishing, limited; God, on the contrary (Isaiah 31:3), is the omnipotent, eternal, all-determining; and like Himself, so is His word, which, regarded as the vehicle and utterance of His willing and thinking, is not something separate from Himself, and therefore is the same as He. Chasdō is the charm or gracefulness of the outward appearance (lxx; 1 Peter 1:24, δόξα: see Schott on the passage, James 1:11, εὐπρέπεια). The comparison instituted with grass and flower recals Isaiah 37:27 and Job 8:12, and still more Psalm 90:5-6, and Job 14:2. Isaiah 40:7 describes what happens to the grass and flower. The preterites, like the Greek aoristus gnomicus (cf., Isaiah 26:10), express a fact of experience sustained by innumerable examples: exaruit gramen, emarcuit flos;
(Note: נבל has munach here and in Isaiah 40:8 attached to the penultimate in all correct texts (hence milel, on account of the monosyllable which follows), and mehteg on the tzere to sustain the lengthening.)
consequently the כּי which follows is not hypothetical (granting that), but explanatory of the reason, viz., "because rūăch Jehovah hath blown upon it," i.e., the "breath" of God the Creator, which pervades the creation, generating life, sustaining life, and destroying life, and whose most characteristic elementary manifestation is the wind. Every breath of wind is a drawing of the breath of the whole life of nature, the active indwelling principle of whose existence is the rūăch of God. A fresh v. ought to commence now with אכן. The clause העם חציר אכן is genuine, and thoroughly in Isaiah's style, notwithstanding the lxx, which Gesenius and Hitzig follow. עכן is not equivalent to a comparative כן (Ewald, 105, a), but is assuring, as in Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 49:4; Isaiah 53:4; and hâ‛âm (the people) refers to men generally, as in Isaiah 42:5. The order of thought is in the form of a triolet. The explanation of the striking simile commences with 'âkhēn (surely); and then in the repetition of the words, "grass withereth, flower fadeth," the men are intended, resemble the grass and the flower. Surely grass is the human race; such grass withereth and such flower fadeth, but the word of our God (Jehovah, the God of His people and of sacred history) yâqūm le‛ōlâm, i.e., it rises up without withering or fading, and endures for ever, fulfilling and verifying itself through all times. This general truth refers, in the preset instance, to the word of promise uttered by the voice in the desert. If the word of God generally has an eternal duration, more especially is this the case with the word of the parousia of God the Redeemer, the word in which all the words of God are yea and amen. The imperishable nature of this word, however, has for its dark foil the perishable nature of all flesh, and all the beauty thereof. The oppressors of Israel are mortal, and their chesed with which they impose and bribe is perishable; but the word of God, with which Israel can console itself, preserves the fields, and ensures it a glorious end to its history. Thus the seal, which the first crier set upon the promise of Jehovah's speedy coming, is inviolable; and the comfort which the prophets of God are to bring to His people, who have now been suffering so long, is infallibly sure.
7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
9O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
The prophet accordingly now takes, as his standpoint, the time when Jehovah will already have come. "Upon a high mountain get thee up, O evangelistess Zion; lift up they voice with strength, evangelistess Jerusalem: lift up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God." Knobel and others follow the lxx and Targum, and regard Zion and Jerusalem as accusatives of the object, viz., "preacher of salvation (i.e., a chorus of preachers) to Zion-Jerusalem;" but such parallels as Isaiah 52:7 and Isaiah 62:11 are misleading here. The words are in apposition (A. S. Th. εὐαγγελιζομένη Σιών). Zion-Jerusalem herself is called an evangelistess: the personification as a female renders this probable at the outset, and it is placed beyond all doubt by the fact, that it is the cities of Judah (the daughters of Zion-Jerusalem) that are to be evangelized. The prophet's standpoint here is in the very midst of the parousia. When Jerusalem shall have her God in the midst of her once more, after He has broken up His home there for so long a time; she is then, as the restored mother-community, to ascend a high mountain, and raising her voice with fearless strength, to bring to her daughters the joyful news of the appearance of their God. The verb bissēr signifies literally to smooth, to unfold, then to make glad, more especially with joyful news.
(Note: The verb bissēr signifies primarily to stroke, rub, shave, or scratch the surface of anything; then to stroke off or rub off the surface, or anything which covers it; then, suggested by the idea of "rubbing smooth" (glatt), "to smooth a person" (jemanden gltten; compare the English, to gladden a person), i.e., vultum ejus diducere, to make him friendly and cheerful, or "to look smoothly upon a person," i.e., to show him a friendly face; and also as an intransitive, "to be glad," to be friendly and cheerful; and lastly, in a general sense, aliquid attingere, tractare, attrectare, to grasp or handle a thing (from which comes bâsâr, the flesh, as something tangible or material). In harmony with the Hebrew bissēr (Jeremiah 20:15), they say in Arabic basarahu (or intensive, bassarahu) bi-maulûdin, he has gladdened him with the news of the birth of a son.)
It lies at the root of the New Testament εὐαγγελίζειν (evangelize), and is a favourite word of the author of chapters 40-66, that Old Testament evangelist, though it is no disproof of Isaiah's authorship (cf., Nahum 2:1). Hitherto Jerusalem has been in despair, bowed down under the weight of the punishment of her sins, and standing in need of consolation. But now that she has Jehovah with her again, she is to lift up her voice with the most joyful confidence, without further anxiety, and to become, according to her true vocation, the messenger of good tidings to all Judaea.
10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
In Isaiah 40:10 the prophet goes back from the standpoint of the fulfilment to that of the prophecy. "Behold the Lord, Jehovah, as a mighty one will He come, His arm ruling for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His retribution before Him." We must not render the first clause "with strong," i.e., with strength, as the lxx and Targum do. The Beth is Beth essentiae (cf., Isaiah 26:4; Ges. 154, 3, a). He will come in the essence, strength, and energy of a strong one; and this is still further defined by the participial, circumstantial clause, "His arm ruling for Him" (brachio suo ipsi dominante). It is His arm that rules for Him, i.e., that either brings into subjection to Him, or else overthrows whatever opposes Him. Nevertheless, Isaiah 40:10 does not present Him merely in one aspect, namely as coming to judge and punish, but in both aspects, viz., that of the law and that of the gospel, as a righteous rewarder; hence the double name of God, Adonai Jehovah (compare Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 30:15, all in the first part), which is used even in the Pentateuch, and most frequently by Amos and Ezekiel, and which forms, as it were, an anagram. פּעלּה is already met with in Leviticus 19:13 as a synonym of שׂכר, passing from the general idea of work to that of something earned and forfeited. Jehovah brings with Him the penal reward of the enemies of His people, and also the gracious reward of the faithful of His people, whom He will compensate for their previous sufferings with far exceeding joys (see Isaiah 62:11).
11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
The prophet dwells upon this, the redeeming side not the judicial, as he proceeds to place the image of the good shepherd by the side of that of the Lord Jehovah. "He will feed His flock like a shepherd, take the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are giving suck." The flock is His people, now dispersed in a foreign land. The love with which He tends this flock is shown, by way of example, in His conduct towards the טלאים ( equals טליים from טלי equals טלה), the young lambs that have not long been born, and the עלות, those giving suck, lactantes (Vulg. fetae), not those that are sucking, sugentes (from עוּל med. Vav, to nourish). Such as cannot keep pace with the flock he takes in his arms, and carries in the bosom of his dress; and the mothers he does not overdrive, but ינהל (see at Psalm 23:2), lets them go gently alone, because they require care (Genesis 33:13). With this loving picture the prologue in Isaiah 40:1-11 is brought to a close. It stands at the head of the whole, like a divine inauguration of the prophet, and like the quintessence of what he is commanded to proclaim. Nevertheless it is also an integral part of the first address. For the questions which follow cannot possibly be the commencement of the prophecy, though it is not very clear how far they form a continuation.
The connection is the following: The prophet shows both didactically and paraenetically what kind of God it is whose appearance to redeem His people has been prophetically announced in Isaiah 40:1-11. He is the incomparably exalted One. This incomparable exaltation makes the ignorance of the worshipers of idols the more apparent, but it serves to comfort Israel. And Israel needs such consolation in its present banishment, in which it is so hard for it to comprehend the ways of God.
12Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
In order to bring His people to the full consciousness of the exaltation of Jehovah, the prophet asks in Isaiah 40:12, "Who hath measured the waters with the hollow of his hand, and regulated the heavens with a span, and taken up the dust of the earth in a third measure, and weighed the mountains with a steelyard, and hills with balances?" Jehovah, and He alone, has given to all these their proper quantities, their determinate form, and their proportionate place in the universe. How very little can a man hold in the hollow of his hand (shō‛al)!
(Note: The root שׁל, Arab. sl has the primary meaning of easily moving or being easily moved; then of being loose or slack, of hanging down, or sinking-a meaning which we meet with in שׁעל and שׁאל. Accordingly, shō‛al signifies the palm (i.e., the depression made by the hand), and she'ōl not literally a hollowing or cavity, but a depression or low ground.)
how very small is the space which a man's span will cover! how little is contained in the third of an ephah (shâlı̄sh; see at Psalm 80:6)! and how trifling in either bulk or measure is the quantity you can weight in scales, whether it be a peles, i.e., a steelyard (statera), or mō'zenayim, a tradesman's balance (bilances), consisting of two scales.
(Note: According to the meaning, to level or equalize, which is one meaning of pillēs, the noun peles is applied not only to a level used to secure equilibrium, which is called mishqeleth in Isaiah 28:17, but also to a steelyard used for weighing, the beam of which consists of a lever with unequal arms, which flies up directly the weight is removed.)
But what Jehovah measures with the hollow of His hand, and with His span, is nothing less than the waters beneath and the heavens above. He carries a scoop, in which there is room for all the dust of which the earth consists, and a scale on which He has weighed the great colossal mountains.
13Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?
A second question follows in Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14. "Who regulated the Spirit of Jehovah, and (who) instructed Him as His counsellor? With whom took He counsel, and who would have explained to Him and instructed Him concerning the path of right, and taught Him knowledge, and made known to Him a prudent course?" The first question called to mind the omnipotence of Jehovah; this recalls His omniscience, which has all fulness in itself, and therefore precludes all instruction from without. "The Spirit of Jehovah" is the Spirit which moved upon the waters at the creation, and by which chaos was reduced to order. "Who," inquires this prophet - "who furnished this Spirit with the standard, according to which all this was to be done?" תּכּן as in Isaiah 40:12, to bring into conformity with rule, and so to fit for regulated working. Instead of mercha tifchah athnach, which suggests the Targum rendering, "quis direxit spiritum? Jehova" (vid., Proverbs 16:2), it would be more correct to adopt the accentuation tifchah munach athnach (cf., Exodus 21:24; Exodus 23:9), and there are certain codices in which we find this (see Dachselt). In Isaiah 40:13 we might follow the Septuagint translation, καὶ τίς αὐτοῦ σύμβουλος ἐγένετο ὃς σύμβιβᾶ (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16, συμβιβάσει) αὐτόν, but in this case we miss the verb היה. The rendering we have given above is not so harsh, and the accentuation is indifferent here, since silluk is never written without tifchahif only a single word precedes it. In Isaiah 40:14 the reciprocal נוע is connected with את equals אם. The futt. cons. retain their literal meaning: with whom did He consult, so that he supplied Him with understanding in consequence (hēbhı̄n, generally to understand, here in a causative sense). The verbs of instruction are sometimes construed with בּ of the lesson taught, sometimes with a double accusative. In reply to the questions in Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14, which are essentially one, Israel must acknowledge that its God is the possessor of absolute might, and also of absolute wisdom.
14With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
15Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
From His exaltation as Creator, the prophet now proceeds to His exaltation as Governor of the world. "Behold, nations like a little drop on a bucket, and like a grain of sand in a balance, are they esteemed; behold, islands like an atom of dust that rises in the air." Upon Jehovah, the King of the world, does the burden rest of ruling over the whole human race, which is split up into different nations; but the great masses of people over whom Jehovah rules are no more burden to Him than a drop hanging upon a bucket is a burden to the man who carries it (min is used in the same sense as in Sol 4:1; Sol 6:5), no more than the weight in a balance is perceptibly increased or diminished by a grain of sand that happens to lie upon it (shachaq, from shâchaq, to grind to powder). The islands, those fragments of firm ground in the midst of the ocean (אי equals ivy, from אוה, to betake one's self to a place, and remain there), upon which the heathen world was dispersed (Genesis 10), are to Him who carries the universe like the small particle of dust (דּק from דּקק, to crush or pulverize), which is lifted up, viz., by the slightest breath of wind (יטּול metaplastic fut. niph. of tūl equals nâtal, cf., Isaiah 63:9). The rendering of Knobel, "dust which is thrown," would require עפר (Isaiah 41:2); and neither that of Gesenius, viz., "He takes up islands like a particle of dust," nor that of Hitzig, "He carries islands," etc., is admissible, for טוּל equals נטל signifies tollere, not portare; and the former, viz., insulas tollit, furnishes no answer to the question, "How so, and to what end?"
16And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
By the side of this vanishing diminutiveness on the part of man as contrasted with Jehovah, everything by which man could express his adoration of the exalted One comes incomparably short of His exaltation. "And Lebanon is not a sufficiency of burning, nor its game a sufficiency of burnt-offerings;" i.e., there is not enough wood to sustain the fire, nor a sufficient supply of sacrificial animals to be slaughtered, and to ascend in fire. דּי (constr. דּי) signifies that which suffices (and then that which is plentiful); it differs therefore from τὸ δέον, what is requisite.
(Note: The derivation of דּי is still more obscure than that of δεῖ, which signifies, according to Benfey (Wurzelwrterbuch, ii. 205), "there needs;" according to Sonne, "it binds, scil. ἡ ἀνάγκη.")
17All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
From the obverse of the thought in Isaiah 40:15 the prophet returns to the thought itself, and dwells upon it still further. "All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are regarded by Him as belonging to nullity and emptiness." 'Ephes is the end at which a thing ceases, and in an absolute sense that at which all being ceases, hence non-existence or nullity. Tōhū (from tâhâh, related to shâ'âh; vid., Comm. on Job, at Job 37:6), a horrible desolation, like the chaos of creation, where there is nothing definite, and therefore as good as nothing at all; min is hardly comparative in the sense of "more nothing than nothing itself" (Like Job 11:17, where "brighter" is to be supplied, or Micah 7:4, where "sharper" is similarly required), but is used in the same partitive sense as in Isaiah 41:24 (cf., Isaiah 44:11 and Psalm 62:10).
18To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
The conclusion drawn from Isaiah 40:17, that Jehovah is therefore the matchless Being, shapes itself into a question, which is addressed not to idolaters, but to such of the Israelites as needed to be armed against the seductive power of idolatry, to which the majority of mankind had yielded. "And to whom can ye liken God, and what kind of image can ye place beside Him!" The ו before ואל is conclusive, as in Isaiah 28:26, and the futures are modi potent.: with what can ye bring into comparison (אל as in Isaiah 14:10) El, i.e., God, the one Being who is absolutely the Mighty? and what kind of demūth (i.e., divine, like Himself) can ye place by His side?
19The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
Least of all can an idol bear comparison with Him. "The idol, when the smith has cast it, the melter plates it with gold, and melteth silver chains for it." The object (happesel, the idol), which is here placed first as the theme in the accusative (lit. the image hewn out), denotes in this instance an idol generally. חרשׁ is as comprehensive as faber. בּזּהב רקּע signifies here to cover over with a זהב רקּע (laminâ auri), the verb being used in a denominative sense, and not in its primary meaning. As we must assume, according to Isaiah 40:20, that the prophet intends to carry us into the midst of the process of manufacturing the idol, the paratactic expression is to be pointed as above, viz., "after the (a) smith has cast it (compare Arab. nasik, a piece of cast metal), the (a) melter (goldsmith) covers it with gold plate;" and tsōrēph, which is palindromically repeated, according to Isaiah's custom, is not the third pers. poel (on the poel of strong stems, see at Job 9:15 and Psalm 109:10), but a participle, equivalent to הוּא צורף (as in Isaiah 29:8, which see; and also, according to the accents, Isaiah 33:5), "and he melteth chains of silver," viz., to fasten the image.
20He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
This is the origin of a metal idol. The wooden idol is described in Isaiah 40:20 : "The man who is impoverished in oblations, he chooseth a block of wood that will not rot; he seeketh for himself a skilful smith, to prepare an idol that will not shake." He who has fallen into such poverty that he can only offer to his God a poor oblation (terūmâh, accusative, according to Ewald, 284, c), has an idol cut for himself out of a block of wood. That sâkhan (Arab. sakana or sakuna)
(Note: Both forms occur in this sense, according to the evidence of original sources, with the common imperative yaskunu, the infinitive sukūne passed over by Freytag, the verbal substantive maskane, and the adjective miskin or meskin, primarily to be forced to inactivity through weakness, destitution, or outward influences, not to be able to move and exert one's self; or, more particularly, not to be able to defend one's self (as it were to be obliged to sit still or keep still). Hence more especially opibus et facultatibus carens, being in distress, destitute, poor.)
is an ancient word, is evident from Deuteronomy 8:9. The verb yimmōt, like yittōl in Isaiah 40:15, is a fut. niphal, to be made to shake. A wooden image, which is planed at the bottom, and made heavier below than above, to prevent its falling over with every shock, is to be a god! The thing carries its own satire, even when described with the greatest seriousness.
21Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
Having thus depicted in a few strokes the infatuation of idolatry, the prophet addresses the following question to such of the Israelites as are looking at it with longing eye, even if they have not already been deluded by it. "Do ye not know? Do ye not hear? Is it not proclaimed to you from the beginning? Have ye not obtained an insight into the foundations of the earth?" We have here four questions chiastically arranged. The absolute being of God, which is above all created things, is something which may be either inferred per ratiocinationem, or learned per traditionem. When Israel failed to acknowledge the absolute distinctness and unequalled supremacy of Jehovah its God, it hardened itself against the knowledge which it might acquire even in a natural way (cf., Psalm 19:1-14 and Romans 1:20), and shut its ears against the teaching of revelation and tradition, which had come down from the very beginning of its history. The first two questions are construed with futures, the other two with perfects; the former refer to what is possible, the latter to what is an actual fact. Have you - this is the meaning of the four questions - have you obtained no knowledge of the foundations of the earth, namely, as to the way in which they were laid?
22It 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:
The prophet now proceeds to describe the God whom both His works and word proclaim. The participles which follow are predicates of the subject, which filled the consciousness of the prophet as well as that of every believer. "He who is enthroned above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants resemble grasshoppers; who has spread out the heavens like gauze, and stretched them out like a tent-roof to dwell in." He, the manifested and yet unknown, is He who has for His throne the circle of the heavens (chūg shâmayim, Job 22:14), which arches over the earth, and to whom from His inaccessible height men appear as diminutive as grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33); He who has spread out the blue sky like a thin transparent garment (dōq, a thin fabric, like daq, fine dust, in Isaiah 40:15), and stretched it out above the earth like a tent for dwelling in ('ōhel
(Note: The noun 'ōhel is derived from the root אל, from which come Arab. 'wl, coaluit, cohaesit, to thicken within or gain consistency (hence, regarded on another side, to lose in outward extent or outward bulk, to shrink; to go back to its original or essential condition; to issue in something as the final result; or generally, to draw back or return from a distance), and Arab. 'h', to attach one's self or accustom one's self to a person or thing, equivalent to alifa and anisa; to take up one's abode in a place, or absolutely, to commence housekeeping by marrying, like the Italian accasarsi, Turkish ewlenmek (from ew, a house); or, when applied to a place itself, to be habitable, inhabited, and cultivated ( equals pass. uhila, more especially in the participle âhil, equals ‛âmir equals ma‛mūr). (Hence ahl, one who belongs to a person or place, with its numerous applications, and also אהל, a tent (primarily a dwelling generally, Engl. abode), which stands at the end of this etymological series.)
lâshebheth). The participle brings to view the actions and circumstances of all times. In the present instance, where it is continued in the historical sense, it is to be resolved into the perfect; in other cases, the preservation of the world is evidently thought of as a creatio continua (see Psychol. P. 111).
23That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
This is followed by a series of predicates of God the Ruler of the universe. "He who giveth up rulers to annihilation; maketh judges of the earth like a desolation. They are hardly planted, hardly sown, their stem has hardly taken root in the earth, and He only blows upon them, and they dry up, and the storm carries them away like stubble." There is nothing so high and inaccessible in the world, that He cannot bring it to nothing, even in the midst of its most self-confident and threatening exaltation. Rōzenı̄m are solemn persons, σεμνοί, possessors of the greatest distinction and influence; shōphelı̄m, those who combine in themselves the highest judicial and administrative power. The former He gives up to annihilation; the latter He brings into a condition resembling the negative state of the tōhū out of which the world was produced, and to which it can be reduced again. We are reminded here of such descriptions as Job 12:17, Job 12:24. The suddenness of the catastrophe is depicted in Isaiah 40:24. אף בּל (which only occurs here), when followed by וגם in the apodosis (cf., 2 Kings 20:4), signifies that even this has not yet taken place when the other also occurs: hence vixdum plantati sunt, etc. The niphal נטּע and the pual זרע denote the hopeful commencement; the poelשׁרשׁ the hopeful continuation. A layer or seed excites the hope of blossom and fruit, more especially when it has taken root; but nothing more is needed than a breath of Jehovah, and it is all over with it (the verb nâshaph is used in this verse, where plants with stems are referred to; a verb with a softer labial, nâshabh, was employed above in connection with grass and flowers). A single withering breath lays them at rest; and by the power of Jehovah there rises a stormy wind, which carries them away like light dry stubble (נשׂא); compare, on the other hand, the verb used in Isaiah 40:15, viz., tūl equals nâtal, to lift up, to keep in the air).
24Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
25To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
The thought of Isaiah 40:18 now recurs like a refrain, a conclusion being appended to the premises by means of ו, as was the case there. "And to whom will ye compare me, to whom I can be equal? saith the Holy One." Not haqqâdōsh, because a poetical or oratorical style omits the article wherever it can be dispensed with. The Holy One asks this, and can ask it, because as such He is also exalted above the whole world (Job 15:15; Job 25:5).
26Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
After the questions in Isaiah 40:18 and Isaiah 40:25, which close syllogistically, a third start is made, to demonstrate the incomparable nature of Jehovah. "Lift up your eyes on high, and see: who hath created these things? It is He who bringeth out their host by number, calleth them all by names, because of the greatness of (His) might, and as being strong in power: there is not one that is missing." Jehovah spoke in Isaiah 40:25; now the prophet speaks again. We have here the same interchange which occurs in every prophetic book from Deuteronomy downwards, and in which the divine fulness of the prophets is displayed. The answer does not begin with המּוציא, in the sense of "He who brings them out has created them;" but the participle is the predicate to the subject of which the prophet's soul is full: Jehovah, it is He who brings out the army of stars upon the plane of heaven, as a general leads out his army upon the field of battle, and that bemispâr, by number, counting the innumerable stars, those children of light in armour of light, which meet the eye as it looks up by night. The finite verb יקרא denotes that which takes place every night. He calls them all by name (comp. the derivative passage, Psalm 147:4): this He does on account of the greatness and fulness of His might ('ōnı̄m, vires, virtus), and as strong in power, i.e., because He is so. This explanation is simpler than Ewald's (293, c), viz., "because of the power (τὸ κρατερὸν) of the Strong One." The call addressed to the stars that are to rise is the call of the Almighty, and therefore not one of all the innumerable host remains behind. אישׁ individualizes; נעדּר (participle), as in Isaiah 34:16, suggests the idea of a sheep that is missed from the flock through staying behind. The second part of the address closes here, having demonstrated the folly of idolatry from the infinite superiority of God; and from this the third part deduces consolation for Israel in the midst of its despair.
27Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
Such of the Israelites are required first of all to be brought to a consciousness of the folly of idolatry are not called Israel at all, because they place themselves on a part with the gōyı̄m. But now the prophet addresses those of little faith, who nevertheless desire salvation; those who are cast down, but not in utter despair. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hidden from Jehovah, and my right is overlooked by my God?" The name Jacob stands here at the head, as in Isaiah 29:22, as being the more exquisite name, and the one which more immediately recalled their patriarchal ancestor. They fancied that Jehovah had completely turned away from them in wrath and weariness. "My way" refers to their thorny way of life; "my right" (mishpâtı̄) to their good right, in opposition to their oppressors. Of all this He appeared to take no notice at all. He seemed to have no thought of vindicating it judicially (on the double min, away from him, see Ges. 154, 3, c).
28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
The groundlessness of such despondency is set before them in a double question. "Is it not known to thee, or hast thou not heard, an eternal God is Jehovah, Creator of the ends of the earth: He fainteth not, neither becomes weary; His understanding is unsearchable." Those who are so desponding ought to know, if not from their own experience, at least from information that had been handed down, that Jehovah, who created the earth from one end to the other, so that even Babylonian was not beyond the range of His vision or the domain of His power, was an eternal God, i.e., a God eternally the same and never varying, who still possessed and manifested the power which He had displayed in the creation. Israel had already passed through a long history, and Jehovah had presided over this, and ruled within it; and He had not so lost His power in consequence, as to have now left His people to themselves. He does not grow faint, as a man would do, who neglected to take the repeated nourishment requisite to sustain the energy of his vital power; nor does He become weary, like a man who has exhausted his capacity for work by over-exertion. And if He had not redeemed His people till then, His people were to know that His course was pure tebhūnâh or understanding, which was in the possession of infallible criteria for determining the right point of time at which to interpose with His aid.
29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Jehovah is so far from becoming faint, that it is He who gives strength to the fainting. "Giving power to the faint, and to the incapable He giveth strength in abundance." אונים לאין is equivalent to אונים אין לאשׁר אין is used exactly like a privative to form a negative adjective (e.g., Psalm 88:5; Proverbs 25:3).
30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
Faith is all that is needed to ensure a participation in the strength (עצמה after the form חכמה), which He so richly bestows and so powerfully enhances. "And youths grow faint and weary, and young men suffer a fall. But they who wait for Jehovah gain fresh strength; lift up their wings like eagles; run, and are not weary; go forward, and do not faint." Even youths, even young men in the early bloom of their morning of life (bachūrı̄m, youths, from בּחר, related to בּכר, בּגר), succumb to the effects of the loss of sustenance or over-exertion (both futures are defective, the first letter being dropped), and any outward obstacle is sufficient to cause them to fall (נכשׁל with inf. abs. kal, which retains what has been stated for contemplation, according to Ges. 131, 3, Anm. 2). In Isaiah 40:30 the verb stands first, Isaiah 40:30 being like a concessive clause in relation to Isaiah 40:31. "Even though this may happen, it is different with those who wait for Jehovah," i.e., those who believe in Him; for the Old Testament applies to faith a number of synonyms denoting trust, hope, and longing, and thus describes it according to its inmost nature, as fiducia and as hope, directed to the manifestation and completion of that which is hoped for. The Vav cop. introduces the antithesis, as in Isaiah 40:8. החליף, to cause one to pursue, or new to take the place of the old (Lat. recentare). The expression וגו יעלוּ is supposed by early translators, after the Sept., Targ. Jer., and Saad., to refer to the moulting of the eagle and the growth of the new feathers, which we meet with in Psalm 103:5 (cf., Micah 1:16) as a figurative representation of the renewal of youth through grace. But Hitzig correctly observes that העלה is never met with as the causative of the kal used in Isaiah 5:6, and moreover that it would require נוצה instead of אבר. The proper rendering therefore is, "they cause their wings to rise, or lift their wings high, like the eagles" ('ēbher as in Psalm 55:7). Their course of life, which has Jehovah for its object, is as it were possessed of wings. They draw from Him strength upon strength (see Psalm 84:8); running does not tire them, nor do they become faint from going ever further and further.
The first address, consisting of three parts (Isaiah 40:1-11, Isaiah 40:12-26, Isaiah 40:27-31), is here brought to a close.
31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.