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Isaiah 40

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS*

(Parentheses indicate poetry)

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Greatness of God God's People Are Comforted The Prophet Is Called to Announce God's Coming Words of Hope Prediction of Deliverance
40:1-2  (1-2) 40:1-2  (1-2) 40:1-2  (1-2) 40:1-2  (1-2) 40:1-2  (1-2)
40:3-8  (3-8) 40:3-5  (3-5) 40:3-5  (3-5) 40:3-5  (3-5) 40:3-5  (3-5)
  40:6-8  (6-8) 40:6-11  (6-11) 40:6-8  (6-8) 40:6-8  (6-8)
40:9-11  (9-11) 40:9-11  (9-11)   40:9  (9) 40:9  (9)
      40:10-11  (10-11) 40:10-11  (10-11)
    Creator of the Universe Israel's Incomparable God The Majesty of God
40:12-17  (12-17) 40:12-17  (12-14) 40:12-17  (12-17) 40:12-14  (12-14) 40:12  (12)
        40:13-18  (13-18)
     (15-17)   40:15-17  (15-17)  
40:18-20  (18-20) 40:18-20  (18-20) 40:18-20  (18-20) 40:18-20  (18-20)  
        40:19-24  (19-24)
40:21-26  (21-26) 40:21-24  (21-23) 40:21-23  (21-23) 40:21-22  (21-22)  
      40:23-26  (23-26)  
   (24) 40:24  (24)    
  40:25-26  (25-26) 40:25-26  (25-26)   40:25-31  (25-31)
40:27-31  (27-31) 40:27-31  (27-31) 40:27-31  (25-31) 40:27-31  (27-31)  

 *Although not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraph divisions as they understand them. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own way. As you read the text, which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions?

 In every chapter you must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs). Then compare your understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation at the paragraph level, can one truly understand the Bible. Only the original author was inspired-readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility to apply the inspired truth to their day and lives.

 Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in Opening Articles.

READING CYCLE THREE

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3, p. xvi). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Isaiah lived in the 8th century b.c., yet Isaiah 40-66 fits into the historical setting of the return from Babylonian exile under Zerubbabel and Joshua in Ezra 1-6, following the decree of Cyrus II in 538 b.c. (6th century b.c.).

 

B. The book of Isaiah is a unity (see introduction). God revealed His future plans to his faithful messenger. I reject the theory of two or three authors. I believe that the book was edited or compiled.

 

C. God had not forgotten His covenant promises, but He had established a new covenant by means of exile (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). This new covenant is ultimately defined in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

 

D. The historical return from Babylon does not exhaust this prophecy. The ultimate focus of chapters 40-66 is the first and second comings of Messiah.

 

Chapter 40 forms an introduction to the unique Messianic passages known as "the Servant Songs" (cf. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:14-53:13).

 

E. As Isaiah 1-39 deals with Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, chapters 40-66 speak to those who are returning to Judah and Jerusalem. The geography of the audience his changed!

 

F. Verses 1-11 serve as an introduction and summary of the entire section. A new day has come!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:1-2
1"Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God.
2"Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the Lord's hand
Double for all her sins."

40:1 "Comfort, O comfort" This term (BDB 636, KB 688, Piel imperative, plural) is used in chapters 1-39 only three times, but in chapters 40-66 fourteen times (most in Piel). It could be the title for this section of Isaiah. It denotes YHWH's compassionate care and concern (cf. 12:1). The word seems to have developed from the heavy panting of horses. YHWH is grieved that He had to punish His people. The punishment is over. It is not certain if this is because

1. they repented (i.e., Ezekiel 18)

2. YHWH chose to act on their behalf even though they were incapable of true repentance (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

A new day (i.e., new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34) has dawned! It is based on YHWH's character, not His people's performance (cf. Rom. 3:21-31; Galatians 3); His ability, not theirs; His eternal redemptive plan of which they are an integral part.

Now one more point on this opening paragraph. The verbs are plural. So who is YHWH addressing as His spokesperson?

1. multiple prophets (cf. 52:8)

a. individual prophets

b. a "school" (i.e., followers) of Isaiah

2. angels of the heavenly court (i.e., the "Us" of Isaiah 6:8 and 41:22-23)

3. the LXX adds, "speak, you priests, to the heart of Jerusalem"

Notice the interplay between the singular ("a voice" of vv. 3 and 6, and the plural verbs).

There are twelve imperatives in vv. 1-11. Verses 1-11 are characterized by imperatives, while vv. 12-17 are characterized by a series of questions which expect a "no" answer.

The doubling of the imperative gives emphasis to the action. This was a common literary technique in this section of Isaiah (cf. 51:9,17; 52:1,11; 57:14; 62:10).

▣ "My people. . .your God" These are covenant terms (cf. Genesis 12, 15, etc.). The post-exilic Jews wondered if YHWH was still their covenant God.

The title for deity here is Elohim (see Special Topic at 40:3) and is usually used for God as creator, provider, and sustainer of all life on this planet. YHWH (cf. v. 2a) is the title normally associated with God as covenant maker (see Special Topic at 52:6), savior, and redeemer.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT

▣ "says" There are several verbs (i.e., several different speakers) used in this chapter related to proclaiming God's new message.

1. speak - BDB 180, Piel imperative, v. 2

2. call out - BDB 894, Qal imperative, vv. 2,6

3. calling - BDB 894, Qal active imperative, v. 3

4. lift up your voice - BDB 926, Hiphil imperative, v. 9

5. say - BDB 55, Qal imperative, v. 9

This functions as a second call of Isaiah (cf. chapter 6). The "they will not hear. . ." is now changed to "speak to them."

40:2 "kindly" This is לבב, a "love word" from the root "heart" (לב, BDB 523, KB 516, cf. Gen. 34:3; 50:21; Jdgs. 19:3; Ruth 2:13; Hos. 2:14). The Bible uses close, intimate, human relationships to describe God's love and relationship with humanity. This is a form of accommodation to human language.

NASB, NKJV"warfare"
NRSV"has served her term"
TEV"suffered long enough"
NJB"period of service"
JPSOA"term of service"
REB"term of bondage is served"

The noun (BDB 838, here feminine but usually masculine) can mean

1. war

2. warfare (Dan. 10:1)

3. service of Levites (i.e., Num. 4:3,23,30,35,39,43)

4. hard service (cf. Job 7:1; 14:14; Isa. 40:2)

Israel was to be a "kingdom of priests" (cf. Exod. 19:5-6), but their rebellion turned "service" to God into the "hard service" of enduring God's judgment (Assyrian and Babylonian exiles).

"iniquity has been removed" This means "penalty of iniquity has been accepted as paid off (BDB 953, Niphal perfect, cf. Lev. 1:4; NASB marginal note; TEV).

▣ "from the Lord's hand" YHWH gave Israel a full and complete judgment. The invasion and exile was not the power of Assyria (i.e., 8:7; 10:5) nor Babylon but from YHWH. The ancient eastern worldview was that when countries went to war, their gods fought and the most powerful one won, but this is not reality. Israel was defeated and exiled because of her sin against YHWH. He brought the judgment.

The word "hand" is a Semitic idiom for agency.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND (ILLUSTRATED FROM EZEKIEL)

▣ "double for all her sins" This is not mathematical but poetical for a full and complete amount (cf. Jer. 16:18; Rev. 18:6; for positive sense see Isa. 61:7; Zech. 9:12). Mercy came after a complete judgment (i.e., Lev. 26:40-45).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:3-8
3A voice is calling,
"Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
4Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
5Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
6A voice says, "Call out."
Then he answered, "What shall I call out?"
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

40:3 "Clear the way" This verb (BDB 815, Piel imperative) basically means "turn," but here it is used in a specialized sense of "clear the path of objects" (cf. 40:3; 42:16; 49:11; 57:14; 62:10; Mal. 3:1).

The concept of "a highway of holiness" on which God's people (returning exiles) came to Him (i.e., to His temple) is recurrent in Isaiah (cf. 11:16; 26:7; 35:8; 40:3; 42:16).

In this context it is YHWH Himself who is returning to His people. They are to prepare the way, which denotes a spiritual/physical preparation.

This verse was John the Baptist's self-designation (cf. Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6). This section is reflected in Zech. 14:10, where leveling of the physical terrain to Jerusalem is used as a metaphor for access to God (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5,6). It could be characterized as "prepare the road" (note parallel line).

▣ "the Lord" This is a reference to YHWH. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY

▣ "in the wilderness" Ezekiel saw God's glory leaving the Temple in Jerusalem and moving east (cf. Ezek. 10:18-19; 11:22-23; 43:1-3). God went with the exiles and this verse refers to His returning to Judah and Jerusalem.

40:4 This context refers to a preparation by God's people for His return to Jerusalem. He will be accompanied by the returning exiles. He will protect, provide, and care for them (cf. vv. 9-11). This is an extension and description of making a highway in the wilderness. It is metaphorical for people easily and freely coming to God. God has provided a new way (i.e., the new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34). This new way is depicted as the new exodus

1. here from physical exile

2. metaphorically for the end-time

40:5 "the glory of the Lord" The glory of the Lord is another link to Isaiah 6 (i.e., v. 3). Chapter 40 is functioning as a second call to Isaiah. See note at v. 25.

This is an allusion to "the cloud of glory" which appeared in the exodus and wilderness wanderings as a symbol of God's personal presence. The rabbis called it the Shekinah, from the Hebrew term "to dwell." The returning Jews needed the reassurance of God's continuing personal presence (cf. Exod. 13:21-22; 14:19). A new exodus has come!

For "glory" see Special Topic at 42:8.

▣ "all flesh will see it together" "Flesh" (BDB 142) means human persons (cf. v. 7). This is the universal element (i.e., 49:6; 51:4-5; 52:10) which is so characteristic of Isaiah.

▣ "the mouth of the Lord has spoken" This is the Hebrew idiom for the power of the spoken word of YHWH (cf. v. 8; Gen. 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,26 and Isa. 55:11).

40:6 "Call out" See note at 40:1.

NASB"he answered"
NKJV"he said"
NRSV, NJB"I said"
TEV"I ask"
REB, LXX,
DSS"I asked"

Notice that two voices are involved. Following DSS, LXX it seems to be an angel/spirit speaking to Isaiah.

▣ "all flesh is grass" This recurrent metaphor refers to the frailty and transitoriness of human corporal existence compared to the eternality of God (cf. Gen. 6:3; Job 10:4; 14:1-2; Ps. 78:39; 90:5-6; 103:15-18; I Pet.1:24-25).

To whom is the voice speaking?

1. all humans

2. world powers

It seems to be God's message to human governments. They may be temporarily powerful, but in time and in reality (i.e., in light of God's power) they are not!!

▣ "loveliness" This is translated from the Hebrew word hesed (cf. BDB 338, I, #4). This term is often used of God's covenant love and loyalty.

SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED)

40:7-8 All of the verbs are perfect (i.e., completed action) except the concluding statement, "the word of our God stands forever" (imperfect).

This was the truth that the returning exiles needed. It seemed that God's word of care and protection had failed! However, the problem was not God's word, but God's sinful people!

40:7 "breath" This Hebrew term ruah (BDB 924) can mean "wind," "breath," or "spirit."

SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE

40:8 "the word of our God stands forever" God's promises are sure, even amidst divine discipline (cf. Ps. 103:17-18; Isa. 55:8-11; 59:21; Jer. 29:10; Matt. 5:17-20; 24:35). This statement is the confident faith hope/assurance of every believer.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:9-11
9Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him.
11Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

40:9 "O Zion. . .O Jerusalem" Both of these terms refer to Jerusalem. The Temple was built on Mt. Moriah but the term "Zion" (another hill in the city where David built his palace) is an idiom for the whole city.

Who do these personifications refer to?

1. God's prophets

2. God's Levitical teachers

3. the herald of the new age (i.e., John the Baptist)

Does this refer to

1. return from Babylonian exile (i.e., 52:7-9; 62:10-12)

2. Maccabean victories

3. the first coming of Jesus (Isa. 62:11 quoted in Matt. 21:50)

4. the second coming of Jesus (Isa. 40:10; 62:11, alluded to in Rev. 22:12)

There is a fluidity between (1) God's promise of restoration to Israel and (2) the new age in Christ. Here is where the mega-narrative must include the NT. Jesus fulfills these hopes, but the two comings of Christ (Savior, later King) causes a twofold fulfillment. These prophecies of the eschaton are still future. They were surely not fulfilled in the return of Zerubbabel and Joshua in 539 b.c. and not in the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth.

Just one more thought, the paragraph, vv. 9-11, is the proclamation of a "watchman" to a city of an approaching group/person/army. However, notice the powerful one (i.e., God) comes, not as an invader but as a compassionate Shepherd. He comes to save, protect, and provide. The Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 23) returns to His land/people whom He abandoned in Ezekiel 8-10!

SPECIAL TOPIC: WHY ARE THE END-TIME EVENTS SO CONTROVERSIAL?

▣ "good news" This is the verb בשׁר (BDB 142, Piel participle) which means "bear glad tidings." Here it denotes the merciful message of YHWH's redemption and acceptance (cf. 40:9 [twice]; 41:27; 52:7 [twice]; Nahum 1:15). Paul quotes Isa. 52:7 in Rom. 10:15 and relates it to Christ (Rom. 10:16 quotes Isa. 53:1). The gospel of Jesus Christ is characterized as "good news" in the NT.

▣ "do not fear" This verb (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect) is jussive in meaning, referring to Jerusalem (i.e., God's people). Sin causes fear! How often God says this to His people! (cf. 41:10,13.14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8 [different words]; 51:7,12; 54:4,14).

▣ "Say to the cities of Judah" Those who hold to a later, post-exilic writer instead of Isaiah have trouble explaining this reference because all of the cities were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 b.c.

▣ "Here is your God" God is with His people! The wait is over (cf. 25:9; 26:8; 33:2; 40:31; 49:23; 51:5; 60:9)!

40:10 "the Lord God" Literally this is "Adonai YHWH," which is literally translated "Lord, Lord" cf. Ps. 110:1). "Lord" is the Hebrew word adon, which denotes master, owner, husband, lord.

▣ "With His arm ruling for Him" This is a Semitic anthropomorphic idiom (see Special Topic at 41:2) for divine action and power. From Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; and Micah 5:2-5a, we know this refers to the agency of the Messiah (cf. Psalm 110).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH

▣ "His reward is with Him

And His recompense before Him" This exact phrase is also found in Isa. 62:11 and alluded to in Rev. 22:12.

Verse 10 is speaking of the personal presence of Deity (41:10a). Emmanuel has come (cf. 7:14)!

40:11 "Like a shepherd" YHWH, the mighty (cf. v. 10), is also a Shepherd (cf. Psalm 23; 80:1; Jer. 31:10; Ezek. 34:11-16). Notice that also in Ezek. 34:23-24, YHWH appoints His Messiah to represent Himself! Jesus is the "good Shepherd" (cf. John 10). He is the "wounded" shepherd of Zechariah 11-12 and Isa. 52:13-53:12.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:12-17
12Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
13Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
14With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
15Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
16Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.

40:12-17 As verses 9-11 describe the message of YHWH's personal presence as Savior, verses 12-17 describe Him as Creator.

1. measured the waters (i.e., controller and organizer of original water of chaos), v. 12

2. designed the atmosphere of this planet, v. 12

3. ordered the dry land ("calculated the dust" and "weighed the mountains. . .hill" [Hebrew parallelism]"), v. 12

4. directed the Spirit as agent, without counsel, vv. 13-14

5. in comparison with God's creative power and intellect, humans are nothing (cf. vv. 6-8, this is similar to Job 38-41), vv. 15-17

 

40:12 "Who has measured the waters" All of the verbs of v. 12 are perfect (i.e., completed action). This is a series of questions which expect a "no" answer. It is similar to the book of Job 38-41, where God answered Job's questions by asserting His sovereignty and authority. Verse 12 is very similar to 41:26.

Notice the parallelism.

1. measured - BDB 551, KB 547]

2. marked off - BDB 1067, KB 1733

3. calculated - BDB 465, KB 463

4. weighed - BDB 1053, KB 1642

These are all metaphorical actions of the Creator. The creation account of Genesis 1 is also imagery of God's control, ordering and maintaining the universe. A new good book is John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One.

40:13-14 The "who" of these verses may link back to the plurals of vv. 1-3. If so, they relate to the heavenly council. These angelic servants can be seen in

1. the "Us" passages of Genesis 1 and 6

2. I Kings 22:19-23

3. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6,7

4. Daniel 7:10,26

 

40:13 "Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord" Verses 13 and 14 are parallel. This is not a Trinitarian passage but an OT passage, much like Genesis 1:2, which speaks of "the Spirit" as God's presence (see Special Topic at v. 7).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY

40:14 "And who taught Him in the path of justice" Notice the parallelism. "Path" is the OT background to the NT concept of "The Way," which was used of the early church in Acts. This speaks of biblical faith as lifestyle fellowship with God.

For "justice" see Special Topic below. This verse in essence is asserting monotheism.

SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGE, JUDGMENT, and JUSTICE (טפת) IN ISAIAH

This verse in essence is asserting monotheism. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM

40:15-17 "the nations are like a drop from a bucket. . .a speck of dust on the scales. . .all nations are as nothing before Him" This is an emphasis on God's power (cf. Jer. 10:10), not on His lack of care or compassion for the nations. YHWH sent Jesus for the redemption of the whole human race. However, rebellious nations will be judged (cf. 17:13; 29:5,7).

SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES

40:16 The point of this verse is that even a place (i.e., Lebanon) which is heavily forested and full of wild animals would not provide an adequate sacrifice to the greatness of Israel's covenant God. For a similar extravagant attempt at an adequate sacrifice note I Kgs. 8:63.

40:17

NASB"meaningless"
NKJV"worthless"
NRSV, NJB"emptiness"

This word, תהו (BDB 1062), is used of the formless earth in Gen. 1:2 (cf. Isa. 34:11; 45:18; Jer. 4:23). It is also used of the non-existence of idols (I Sam. 12:21; Isa. 41:29; 44:9).

Isaiah uses it in this same chapter for the nothingness of human rulers (i.e., Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and all enemies of God's people). Human organization and power are incomparable to YHWH's power and plan.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:18-20
18To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
19 As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,

A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
20 He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.

40:18-20 This section deals with the folly of idolatry similar to Isa. 44:9-20 and 46:1-7.

▣ "To whom then will you liken God" This is the expression (cf. v. 25; 46:5; Exod. 8:10; 15:11;

I Sam. 2:2; Mic. 7:18) of the Jews' major theological affirmation which we call monotheism (cf. Deut. 6:4-5). See Special Topic at v. 14.

40:19

NASB"fashions"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB"casts"
TEV"set"
REB"fits"
JPSOA"forging"

This verb (BDB 864,, KB 1057) is used twice and refers to smelting metal into a specific form (cf. 41:7; 46:6). The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 1000 prefers "forging" rather than the common translation "casting," because of the Hebrew synonymous parallelism (see Appendix One: Introduction to Hebrew Poetry).

40:20 "a tree" This word (BDB 781) is used of a type of wood out of which idols are made (cf. 44:19; 45:20; Hos. 4:12). It may have been an especially hard wood but in time it will decay!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:21-26
21Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
24Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
25To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?" says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

40:21-26 This strophe is theologically related to vv. 12-17. They both describe God as Creator, all else is small and significant in comparison. He is the only reality, the only truth, the only living One! Idols have no existence and humans have existence only by His will! But amazingly He wills to know us, forgive us, and fellowship with us! What a God, who is like Him?

40:21 "Do you not know" This series of questions, like v. 28, is meant to remind the Jews of God's previous revelations to them.

▣ "from the foundations of the earth" In context this is another allusion to creation. Interestingly, a similar phrase is repeated five times in the NT referring to YHWH's actions before creation.

1. Matt. 25:34 - "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world"

2. John 17:24 - "for You did love Me before the foundations of the world"

3. Eph. 1:4 - "He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world"

4. I Pet. 1:19-20 - He was foreknown before the foundation of the world"

5. Rev. 13:8 (possible object)

a. "everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world"

b. "the Lamb who has been slain before the foundation of the world"

God was active before, in, and after physical creation. He was active in Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Israel, and Christ for the redemption of all humans (see Special Topic at 40:15)!

40:22 "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth. . .curtain. . .tent" This is a common ancient Middle Eastern concept (cf. 42:5; Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Jer. 10:12; 51:15; Zech. 12:1). In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, heaven is described as a "skin." In the Rig Veda heaven is described as "stretched out like a hide." This is simply a metaphorical way of speaking of the vault of the heaven (i.e., the atmosphere of this planet) above the earth. It is the language of metaphor.

The term "curtain" (BDB 201) is used in this sense only here. The word means "to crush" (cf. 40:15, "fine dust"). Apparently it can also refer to something "thin" (KB 229, i.e., the dome that covers the earth). Remember interpreters look at

1. the context

2. the Semitic root

3. cognate languages

but #1 has priority!

40:25 "the Holy One" See full note at 6:3 (Isa.1-39, vol. 11A online at www.freebiblecommentary.org). This title is another purposeful connection between the first call of Isaiah, where he is told Israel will not listen until destruction (cf. 6:9-11) and this second call, where he is told to "speak kindly" to her. She will listen now!

40:26 "Lift up your eyes. . .see" These are both Qal imperatives. Notice the parallel lines of v. 26 a,b.

▣ "And see who has created these stars. . .He calls them by name. . .not one of them is missing" It is very significant in light of Babylonian astral worship that God is depicted as the only creator, sustainer, and manipulator of the heavenly bodies (cf. Gen. 1:16; Ps. 8:3; Jer. 31:35).

The term "created" in v. 26 is the Hebrew term Bara. It is used in Genesis 1 of God creating. It is never used of anything or anyone except the creation of God. It occurs 20 times in Isaiah 40-66 (cf. 40:26,28; 41:20; 42:5; 43:1,7,15; 45:7[twice],8,12,18[twice]; 48:7; 54:16[twice]; 57:19; 65:17,18[twice]).

▣ "Not one of them is missing" This is a Hebrew idiom which means "not one of them fails to report to muster." God controls the stars and planets. They are not gods.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 40:27-31
27Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"?
28Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
 30Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

40:27 "My way is hidden from the Lord,

And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God" The Jews (i.e., "O Jacob. . .O Israel") felt that YHWH had abandoned them (cf. 49:14). YHWH had hid His face from them for a period (cf. 1:15; 8:17; 54:8; Romans 9-11).

40:28 Notice the titles for God.

1. the Everlasting God - Gen. 21:33 and note Exod. 15:18; Deut. 32:40; Ps. 90:2; Jer. 10:10

2. the Lord - YHWH (see Special Topic at 40:3)

3. the Creator - (this has been the thrust of chapter 40)

4. also called "the Holy One" in v. 25

The God of promise is now again the God of presence!

▣ "Does not become weary or tired" This is a Hebrew idiom which means "He does not lose patience."

There is a word play related to "tiredness," "weariness" in vv. 28-31.

1. v. 28 - weary, BDB 419, KB 421

tired, BDB 388, KB 386

2. v. 30 - weary, BDB 419, KB 421

tired, BDB 388, KB 386

3. v. 30 - stumble, infinitive and imperfect verb (BDB 505, KB 502)

4. v. 31 - tired, BDB 388, KB 386

weary, BDB 419, KB 421

YHWH brings strength and stability to those who wait and trust! The vitality of YHWH is transferred to His people (cf. vv. 29-31). They are potent because He is potent!

NASB"inscrutable"
NKJV"no searching His understanding"
NRSV"unsearchable"
NJB"beyond fathoming"

The Hebrew word (BDB 350) basically means to search out. Here it is negated (cf. Job 5:9; 9:10; 36:26; Ps. 145:3). Paul expresses the same truth in Rom. 11:33 and quotes Isa. 40:13-14.

God is in control! His ways are sure and thought through. There are no surprises, no mistakes! He loves us, He is with us, He is for us (cf. vv. 29-31)!

40:29 "He gives strength to the weary" YHWH comforts the very ones He judged (cf. 41:10; Ps. 107:9; Jer. 31:25). This is very similar to Jesus' statement, "Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" in Matt. 11:28-30.

40:30 "vigorous young men" This refers to the young men chosen for military service.

▣ "stumble badly" This is a Qal infinitive absolute and a Niphal imperfect of the same root (BDB 505, KB 502), which intensifies the concept.

40:31 "wait" This is a Hebrew word (BDB 875, KB 1082) that speaks of active anticipation. It is used of farmers waiting for a crop (cf. Isa. 5:4,7). It is used of robbers waiting in ambush (cf. Ps. 56:6; 119:95). God's people wait for Him (cf. 8:17; 25:9; 30:18; 33:2).

▣ "Will gain new strength" This verb (BDB 322, KB 321, Hiphil imperfect) means

1. to exchange - Lev. 27:10

2. to change - Gen. 31:7,41; 35:2

3. to cause to succeed - Isa. 40:31

 

▣ "like eagles" The Jewish Study Bible (p. 864) says there was a popular belief that when eagles molted they gained new strength (cf. Ps. 103:5).

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods