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Isaiah Chapter 40 Notes

Posted by lehunt on October 26, 2014

Isaiah Ch 40 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter Forty:

v. 1: The Oxford commentary says that God is commanding “the members of the divine [angelic?] council” to take this message to Jerusalem.  Barnes claims that God is commanding the prophets and ministers of religion living with the exiles in Babylon.

v. 2: Saying that Jerusalem has paid “double for all her sins” must be simply another way of saying that she has paid for them in full; it would be unjust to make someone pay twice what he or she owes.  Perhaps saying that she has paid double conveys how strongly God’s affection for his people was urging him to give them relief[1] (and how urgently they desired that relief).

v. 3: This voice seems likely to belong to one of those “members of the divine council (see v. 1 note).”  It seems reasonable to connect it with the voice of v. 6, and there it is distinct from the voice of Isaiah[2] and speaks with authority to the prophet.  Furthermore, I do not believe that it is the voice of God himself since it mentions God in the third person.  Therefore, I think it is probably the voice of an angel.

Barnes believed this is a reference to the fact that ancient kings often had the way literally made smooth before them whenever they disembarked with a large entourage: canyons were filled, rivers bridged, mountains leveled, etc. (55-56).  One aspect of this message that I believe would have reassured the Jews is the implication that God was with them while they were in exile.  He had not waited for them back at the temple, but rather he had waited with them in Babylon, and now his herald cries out for the way back to Jerusalem from Babylon to be prepared for the LORD and his people.

v. 6: I assume that the message the prophet should cry out is that all people are grass, etc., (vs. 6-8).

v. 7: Here is another example of irony in Isaiah.  The grass withers when “the breath [Heb. ruwach]of the LORD blows upon it.”  Compare this use of breath with its use in Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God…breathed into his nostrils thebreath [Heb. neshamah] of life; and the man became a living being.”[3] See Genesis 2:7 for my notes on the Hebrew words translated variously as “breath” and “spirit.”

v. 17: “Emptiness” [Heb. tohuw] here is the same word used in Genesis 1:2; perhaps Isaiah uses it here to allude to the creation story and to remind his audience that everything, even the most powerful of things, was created by God.  Thus, it owes its existence to God and is less than nothing without him.  Both Barnes (68) and the Oxford commentary (1032) seem inclined to believe that Isaiah intentionally references the creation story of Genesis in this chapter.  Compare vs. 21-24 with Genesis 1:1-31.

v. 18: This reminds me of Anselm’s definition of God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”

v. 27: I was confused by this at first, but saying “my way is hidden from the LORD,” is synonymous with saying “my right is disregarded by my God.”  Initially I thought “my way is hidden” might mean “The LORD does not see what evil I am doing; (therefore, I can get away with it)” but this is obviously wrong in the context of the other parallel statement.


[1] See note on 42:14.

[2] I am assuming that “I” refers to Isaiah.

[3] See notes on v. 17 for reasons to believe Isaiah had Genesis 1-3 in mind when he wrote this section.

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