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Isaiah 40:12-14

Context
The Lord is Incomparable

40:12 Who has measured out the waters 1  in the hollow of his hand,

or carefully 2  measured the sky, 3 

or carefully weighed 4  the soil of the earth,

or weighed the mountains in a balance,

or the hills on scales? 5 

40:13 Who comprehends 6  the mind 7  of the Lord,

or gives him instruction as his counselor? 8 

40:14 From whom does he receive directions? 9 

Who 10  teaches him the correct way to do things, 11 

or imparts knowledge to him,

or instructs him in skillful design? 12 

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

2 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).

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

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

5 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.

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

7 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.).

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

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

10 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.

11 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.”

12 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.



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