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Isaiah 40

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The Lord Returns to Jerusalem

40:1 “Comfort, comfort my people,”

says your 1  God.

40:2 “Speak kindly to 2  Jerusalem, 3  and tell her

that her time of warfare is over, 4 

that her punishment is completed. 5 

For the Lord has made her pay double 6  for all her sins.”

40:3 A voice cries out,

“In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord;

construct in the desert a road for our God.

40:4 Every valley must be elevated,

and every mountain and hill leveled.

The rough terrain will become a level plain,

the rugged landscape a wide valley.

40:5 The splendor 7  of the Lord will be revealed,

and all people 8  will see it at the same time.

For 9  the Lord has decreed it.” 10 

40:6 A voice says, “Cry out!”

Another asks, 11  “What should I cry out?”

The first voice responds: 12  “All people are like grass, 13 

and all their promises 14  are like the flowers in the field.

40:7 The grass dries up,

the flowers wither,

when the wind sent by the Lord 15  blows on them.

Surely humanity 16  is like grass.

40:8 The grass dries up,

the flowers wither,

but the decree of our God is forever reliable.” 17 

40:9 Go up on a high mountain, O herald Zion!

Shout out loudly, O herald Jerusalem! 18 

Shout, don’t be afraid!

Say to the towns of Judah,

“Here is your God!”

40:10 Look, the sovereign Lord comes as a victorious warrior; 19 

his military power establishes his rule. 20 

Look, his reward is with him;

his prize goes before him. 21 

40:11 Like a shepherd he tends his flock;

he gathers up the lambs with his arm;

he carries them close to his heart; 22 

he leads the ewes along.

The Lord is Incomparable

40:12 Who has measured out the waters 23  in the hollow of his hand,

or carefully 24  measured the sky, 25 

or carefully weighed 26  the soil of the earth,

or weighed the mountains in a balance,

or the hills on scales? 27 

40:13 Who comprehends 28  the mind 29  of the Lord,

or gives him instruction as his counselor? 30 

40:14 From whom does he receive directions? 31 

Who 32  teaches him the correct way to do things, 33 

or imparts knowledge to him,

or instructs him in skillful design? 34 

40:15 Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket;

they are regarded as dust on the scales.

He lifts 35  the coastlands 36  as if they were dust.

40:16 Not even Lebanon could supply enough firewood for a sacrifice; 37 

its wild animals would not provide enough burnt offerings. 38 

40:17 All the nations are insignificant before him;

they are regarded as absolutely nothing. 39 

40:18 To whom can you compare God?

To what image can you liken him?

40:19 A craftsman casts 40  an idol;

a metalsmith overlays it with gold

and forges silver chains for it.

40:20 To make a contribution one selects wood that will not rot; 41 

he then seeks a skilled craftsman

to make 42  an idol that will not fall over.

40:21 Do you not know?

Do you not hear?

Has it not been told to you since the very beginning?

Have you not understood from the time the earth’s foundations were made?

40:22 He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon; 43 

its inhabitants are like grasshoppers before him. 44 

He is the one who stretches out the sky like a thin curtain, 45 

and spreads it out 46  like a pitched tent. 47 

40:23 He is the one who reduces rulers to nothing;

he makes the earth’s leaders insignificant.

40:24 Indeed, they are barely planted;

yes, they are barely sown;

yes, they barely take root in the earth,

and then he blows on them, causing them to dry up,

and the wind carries them away like straw.

40:25 “To whom can you compare me? Whom do I resemble?”

says the Holy One. 48 

40:26 Look up at the sky! 49 

Who created all these heavenly lights? 50 

He is the one who leads out their ranks; 51 

he calls them all by name.

Because of his absolute power and awesome strength,

not one of them is missing.

40:27 Why do you say, Jacob,

Why do you say, Israel,

“The Lord is not aware of what is happening to me, 52 

My God is not concerned with my vindication”? 53 

40:28 Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is an eternal God,

the creator of the whole earth. 54 

He does not get tired or weary;

there is no limit to his wisdom. 55 

40:29 He gives strength to those who are tired;

to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.

40:30 Even youths get tired and weary;

even strong young men clumsily stumble. 56 

40:31 But those who wait for the Lord’s help 57  find renewed strength;

they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, 58 

they run without growing weary,

they walk without getting tired.

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1 tn The pronominal suffix is second masculine plural. The identity of the addressee is uncertain: (1) God’s people may be addressed, or (2) the unidentified heralds commanded to comfort Jerusalem.

2 tn Heb “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is personified as a woman.

3 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

4 tn Heb “that she is filled [with] her warfare.” Some understand צָבָא (tsavah, “warfare”) as meaning “hard service” or “compulsory labor” in this context.

5 tn Heb “that her punishment is accepted [as satisfactory].”

6 tn Heb “for she has received from the hand of the Lord double.” The principle of the double portion in punishment is also seen in Jer 16:18; 17:18 and Rev 18:6. For examples of the double portion in Israelite law, see Exod 22:4, 7, 9 (double restitution by a thief) and Deut 21:17 (double inheritance portion for the firstborn).

7 tn Or “glory.” The Lord’s “glory” is his theophanic radiance and royal splendor (see Isa 6:3; 24:23; 35:2; 60:1; 66:18-19).

8 tn Heb “flesh” (so KJV, ASV, NASB); NAB, NIV “mankind”; TEV “the whole human race.”

9 tn Or “indeed.”

10 tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).

11 tn Heb “and he says.” Apparently a second “voice” responds to the command of the first “voice.”

12 tn The words “the first voice responds” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The first voice tells the second one what to declare.

13 tn Heb “all flesh is grass.” The point of the metaphor is explained in v. 7.

14 tn Heb “and all his loyalty.” The antecedent of the third masculine suffix is בָּשָׂר (basar, “flesh”), which refers collectively to mankind. The LXX, apparently understanding the antecedent as “grass,” reads “glory,” but חֶסֶד (khesed) rarely, if ever, has this nuance. The normal meaning of חֶסֶד (“faithfulness, loyalty, devotion”) fits very well in the argument. Human beings and their faithfulness (verbal expressions of faithfulness are specifically in view; cf. NRSV “constancy”) are short-lived and unreliable, in stark contrast to the decrees and promises of the eternal God.

15 tn The Hebrew text has רוּחַ יְהוָה (ruakh yehvah), which in this context probably does not refer to the Lord’s personal Spirit. The phrase is better translated “the breath of the Lord,” or “the wind of [i.e., sent by] the Lord.” The Lord’s sovereign control over nature, including the hot desert winds that dry up vegetation, is in view here (cf. Ps 147:18; Isa 59:19).

16 tn Heb “the people” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

17 tn Heb “but the word of our God stands forever.” In this context the divine “word” specifically refers to his decreed promise assuring Jerusalem that her suffering is over and his glorious return imminent (vv. 1-5).

18 tn The second feminine singular imperatives are addressed to personified Zion/Jerusalem, who is here told to ascend a high hill and proclaim the good news of the Lord’s return to the other towns of Judah. Isa 41:27 and 52:7 speak of a herald sent to Zion, but the masculine singular form מְבַשֵּׂר (mÿvaser) is used in these verses, in contrast to the feminine singular form מְבַשֶּׂרֶת (mÿvaseret) employed in 40:9, where Zion is addressed as a herald.

19 tn Heb “comes as a strong one”; ASV “will come as a mighty one.” The preposition בְּ (bet) here carries the nuance “in the capacity of.” It indicates that the Lord possesses the quality expressed by the noun. See GKC 379 §119.i and HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ.

20 tn Heb “his arm rules for him” (so NIV, NRSV). The Lord’s “arm” symbolizes his military power (see Isa 51:9-10; 63:5).

21 tn As the Lord returns to Jerusalem as a victorious warrior, he brings with him the spoils of victory, called here his “reward” and “prize.” These terms might also be translated “wages” and “recompense.” Verse 11 indicates that his rescued people, likened to a flock of sheep, are his reward.

22 tn Heb “in his bosom” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV), an expression which reflects closeness and protective care.

23 tn The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has מי ים (“waters of the sea”), a reading followed by NAB.

24 tn Heb “with a span.” A “span” was the distance between the ends of the thumb and the little finger of the spread hand” (BDB 285 s.v. זֶרֶת).

25 tn Or “the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.

26 tn Heb “or weighed by a third part [of a measure].”

27 sn The implied answer to the rhetorical questions of v. 12 is “no one but the Lord. The Lord, and no other, created the world. Like a merchant weighing out silver or commodities on a scale, the Lord established the various components of the physical universe in precise proportions.

28 tn Perhaps the verb is used metonymically here in the sense of “advises” (note the following line).

29 tn In this context רוּחַ (ruakh) likely refers to the Lord’s “mind,” or mental faculties, rather than his personal Spirit (see BDB 925 s.v.).

30 tn Heb “or [as] the man of his counsel causes him to know?”

31 tn Heb “With whom did he consult, so that he gave discernment to him?”

32 tn Heb “and taught him.” The vav (ו) consecutive with prefixed verbal form continues the previous line. The translation employs an interrogative pronoun for stylistic reasons.

33 tn The phrase אֹרַח מִשְׁפָּט (’orakh mishpat) could be translated “path of justice” (so NASB, NRSV), but in this context, where creative ability and skill is in view, the phrase is better understood in the sense of “the way that is proper or fitting” (see BDB 1049 s.v. מִשְׁפָּט 6); cf. NIV, NCV “the right way.”

34 tn Heb “or the way of understanding causes him to know?”

sn The implied answer to the rhetorical questions in vv. 13-14 is, “No one.” In contrast to Marduk, the creator-god of Mesopotamian myths who receives help from the god of wisdom, the Lord neither needs nor receives any such advice or help. See R. Whybray, Heavenly Counsellor (SOTSMS), 64-77.

35 tn Or “weighs” (NIV); NLT “picks up.”

36 tn Or “islands” (NASB, NIV, NLT).

37 tn The words “for a sacrifice” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

38 sn The point is that not even the Lebanon forest could supply enough wood and animals for an adequate sacrifice to the Lord.

39 tn Heb “[as derived] from nothing and unformed.”

40 tn Heb “pours out”; KJV “melteth.”

41 tn The first two words of the verse (הַמְסֻכָּן תְּרוּמָה, hamsukan tÿrumah) are problematic. Some take מְסֻכָּן as an otherwise unattested Pual participle from סָכַן (sakhan, “be poor”) and translate “the one who is impoverished.” תְּרוּמָה (tÿrumah, “contribution”) can then be taken as an adverbial accusative, “with respect to a contribution,” and the entire line translated, “the one who is too impoverished for such a contribution [i.e., the metal idol of v. 19?] selects wood that will not rot.” However, מְסֻכָּן is probably the name of a tree used in idol manufacturing (cognate with Akkadian musukkanu, cf. H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena [SBLDS], 133). מְסֻכָּן may be a scribal interpretive addition attempting to specify עֵץ (’ets) or עֵץ may be a scribal attempt to categorize מְסֻכָּן. How an idol constitutes a תְּרוּמָה (“contribution”) is not entirely clear.

42 tn Or “set up” (ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); KJV, NASB “to prepare.”

43 tn Heb “the circle of the earth” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

44 tn The words “before him” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

45 tn The otherwise unattested noun דֹּק (doq), translated here “thin curtain,” is apparently derived from the verbal root דקק (“crush”) from which is derived the adjective דַּק (daq, “thin”; see HALOT 229 s.v. דקק). The nuance “curtain” is implied from the parallelism (see “tent” in the next line).

46 tn The meaning of the otherwise unattested verb מָתַח (matakh, “spread out”) is determined from the parallelism (note the corresponding verb “stretch out” in the previous line) and supported by later Hebrew and Aramaic cognates. See HALOT 654 s.v. *מתה.

47 tn Heb “like a tent [in which] to live”; NAB, NASB “like a tent to dwell (live NIV, NRSV) in.”

48 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.

49 tn Heb “Lift on high your eyes and see.”

50 tn The words “heavenly lights” are supplied in the translation for clarification. See the following lines.

51 tn Heb “the one who brings out by number their host.” The stars are here likened to a huge army that the Lord leads out. Perhaps the next line pictures God calling roll. If so, the final line may be indicating that none of them dares “go AWOL.” (“AWOL” is a military acronym for “absent without leave.”)

52 tn Heb “my way is hidden from the Lord” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

53 tn Heb “and from my God my justice passes away”; NRSV “my right is disregarded by my God.”

54 tn Heb “the ends of the earth,” but this is a merism, where the earth’s extremities stand for its entirety, i.e., the extremities and everything in between them.

55 sn Exiled Israel’s complaint (v. 27) implies that God might be limited in some way. Perhaps he, like so many of the pagan gods, has died. Or perhaps his jurisdiction is limited to Judah and does not include Babylon. Maybe he is unable to devise an adequate plan to rescue his people, or is unable to execute it. But v. 28 affirms that he is not limited temporally or spatially nor is his power and wisdom restricted in any way. He can and will deliver his people, if they respond in hopeful faith (v. 31a).

56 tn Heb “stumbling they stumble.” The verbal idea is emphasized by the infinitive absolute.

57 tn The words “for the Lord’s help” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

58 tn Heb “they rise up [on] wings like eagles” (TEV similar).



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