Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PART OF THE
The former were local and temporary in their reference. These belong to
the distant future, and are world-wide in their interest; the
deliverance from Babylon under Cyrus, which he here foretells by
prophetic suggestion, carries him on to the greater deliverance under
Messiah, the Saviour of Jews and Gentiles in the present eclectic
Church, and the restorer of Israel and Head of the world-wide kingdom,
literal and spiritual, ultimately. As Assyria was the hostile world
power in the former part, which refers to Isaiah's own time, so Babylon
is so in the latter part, which refers to a period long subsequent. The
connecting link, however, is furnished
at the close of the former part. The latter part was written in the old
age of Isaiah, as appears from the greater mellowness of style and tone
which pervades it; it is less fiery and more tender and gentle than the
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye--twice repeated to give double assurance.
Having announced the coming captivity of the Jews in Babylon, God now
desires His servants, the prophets
to comfort them. The scene is laid in Babylon; the time, near the close
of the captivity; the ground of comfort is the speedy ending of the
captivity, the Lord Himself being their leader.
my people . . . your God--correlatives
Ho 1:9, 10).
It is God's covenant relation with His people, and His "word" of
to their forefathers, which is the ground of His interposition in their
behalf, after having for a time chastised them
2. comfortably--literally, "to the heart"; not merely to the intellect.
Jerusalem--Jerusalem though then in ruins, regarded by God as about
to be rebuilt; her people are chiefly meant, but the city is
cry--publicly and emphatically as a herald cries aloud
warfare--or, the appointed time of her misery
The ulterior and Messianic reference probably is the definite
time when the legal economy of burdensome rites is at an end
(Ga 4:3, 4).
pardoned--The Hebrew expresses that her iniquity is so expiated that God now delights in restoring her.
double for all her sins--This can only, in a very restricted
sense, hold good of Judah's restoration after the first captivity. For
how can it be said her "warfare was accomplished," when as yet the
galling yoke of Antiochus and also of Rome was before them? The "double
for her sins" must refer to the twofold captivity, the Assyrian and the
Roman; at the coming close of this latter dispersion, and then only,
can her "iniquity" be said to be "pardoned," or fully expiated
[HOUBIGANT]. It does not mean double as much as
she deserved, but ample punishment in her twofold
captivity. Messiah is the antitypical Israel (compare
with Ho 11:1).
He indeed has "received" of sufferings amply more than enough to
expiate "for our sins"
(Ro 5:15, 17).
Otherwise (cry unto her) "that she shall receive
(blessings) of the Lord's hand double to the punishment of
all her sins" (so "sin" is used,
Margin) [LOWTH]. The English
Version is simpler.
3. crieth in the wilderness--So the Septuagint and
connect the words. The Hebrew accents, however, connect them thus:
"In the wilderness prepare ye," &c., and the parallelism also requires
this, "Prepare ye in the wilderness," answering to "make straight
in the desert." Matthew was entitled, as under inspiration, to vary
the connection, so as to bring out another sense, included in the Holy
Spirit's intention; in
"John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness," answers thus to
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness." MAURER takes the participle as put for the finite verb
"A voice crieth." The clause, "in the wilderness," alludes to
Israel's passage through it from Egypt to Canaan
Jehovah being their leader; so it shall be at the coming restoration of
Israel, of which the restoration from Babylon was but a type (not the
full realization; for their way from it was not through the
"wilderness"). Where John preached (namely, in the wilderness; the type
of this earth, a moral wilderness), there were the hearers who
are ordered to prepare the way of the Lord, and there was to be
the coming of the Lord [BENGEL]. John, though he
was immediately followed by the suffering Messiah, is rather the herald
of the coming reigning Messiah, as
Mal 4:5, 6
("before the great and dreadful day of the Lord"),
implies that John is not exclusively meant; and that though in one
sense Elias has come, in another he is yet to come. John was the
figurative Elias, coming "in the spirit and power of Elias"
where John the Baptist denies that he was the actual Elias, accords
with this view.
Mal 4:5, 6
cannot have received its exhaustive fulfilment in John; the Jews always
understood it of the literal Elijah. As there is another consummating
advent of Messiah Himself, so perhaps there is to be of his forerunner
Elias, who also was present at the transfiguration.
the Lord--Hebrew, Jehovah; as this is applied to Jesus, He must be
4. Eastern monarchs send heralds before them in a journey to clear
away obstacles, make causeways over valleys, and level hills. So John's
duty was to bring back the people to obedience to the law and to remove
all self-confidence, pride in national privileges, hypocrisy, and
irreligion, so that they should be ready for His coming
5. see it--The Septuagint for "it," has "the salvation of God."
that is, Messiah); but the Evangelist probably took these words from
for--rather, "All flesh shall see that the mouth of Jehovah hath
spoken it" [BENGEL].
6. The voice--the same divine herald as in
he--one of those ministers or prophets
whose duty it was, by direction of "the voice," to "comfort the Lord's
afflicted people with the promises of brighter days."
All flesh is grass--The connection is, "All human things, however
goodly, are transitory: God's promises alone steadfast"
(Isa 40:8, 15, 17, 23, 24);
this contrast was already suggested in
"All flesh . . . the mouth of the Lord."
1Pe 1:24, 25
applies this passage distinctly to the gospel word of Messiah (compare
7. spirit of the Lord--rather, "wind of Jehovah"
The withering east wind of those countries sent by Jehovah
the people--rather, "this people" [LOWTH],
which may refer to the
but better, mankind in general, as in
"all flesh"; this whole race, that is, man.
9. Rather, "Oh, thou that bringest good things to Zion; thou that
bringest good tidings to Jerusalem." "Thou" is thus the collective
personification of the messengers who announce God's gracious
purpose to Zion (see on
confirms this [Vulgate and GESENIUS]. If
English Version be retained, the sense will be the glad message
was first to be proclaimed to Jerusalem, and then from it as the center
to all "Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth"
(Lu 24:47, 49;
[VITRINGA and HENGSTENBERG].
mountain--It was customary for those who were about to promulgate any
great thing, to ascend a hill from which they could be seen and heard by
be not afraid--to announce to the exiles that their coming return
home is attended with danger in the midst of the Babylonians. The gospel
minister must "open his mouth boldly"
Behold--especially at His second coming
(Zec 12:10; 14:5).
10. with strong hand--or, "against the strong"; rather, "as a strong
one" [MAURER]. Or, against the strong one, namely, Satan
Re 20:2, 3, 10)
(Ps 89:13; 98:1).
for him--that is, He needs not to seek help for Himself from any
external source, but by His own inherent power He gains rule for Himself
work--or, "recompense for his work"; rather, "recompense which He gives
11. feed--including all a shepherd's care--"tend"
carry--applicable to Messiah's restoration of Israel, as sheep
scattered in all lands, and unable to move of themselves
to their own land
As Israel was "carried from the womb" (that is, in its earliest days)
(Isa 63:9, 11, 12;
so it shall be in "old age" (that is, its latter days)
(Isa 46:3, 4).
gently lead--as a thoughtful shepherd does the ewes "giving suck"
(Ge 33:13, 14).
12. Lest the Jews should suppose that He who was just before described
as a "shepherd" is a mere man, He is now described as GOD.
Who--Who else but GOD could do so?
Therefore, though the redemption and restoration of His people,
foretold here, was a work beyond man's power, they should not doubt its
fulfilment since all things are possible to Him who can accurately
regulate the proportion of the waters as if He had measured them
with His hand (compare
But MAURER translates: "Who can measure," &c.,
that is, How immeasurable are the works of God? The former is a better
span--the space from the end of the thumb to the end of the middle
finger extended; God measures the vast heavens as one would measure a
small object with his span.
dust of the earth--All the earth is to Him but as a few grains of
dust contained in a small measure (literally, "the third part of
a larger measure").
hills in a balance--adjusted in their right proportions and places, as
exactly as if He had weighed them out.
13. Quoted in
The Hebrew here for "directed" is the same as in
for "meted out"; thus the sense is, "Jehovah measures out heaven with
His span"; but who can measure Him? that is, Who can search out
His Spirit (mind) wherewith He searches out and accurately
adjusts all things? MAURER rightly takes the
Hebrew in the same sense as in
Pr 16:2; 21:2),
"weigh," "ponder." "Direct," as in English Version, answers,
however, better to "taught" in the parallel clause.
14. path of judgment--His wisdom, whereby He so beautifully adjusts
the places and proportions of all created things.
15. of--rather, (hanging) from a bucket
he taketh up . . . as a very little thing--rather, "are as a mere
grain of dust which is taken up," namely, by the wind; literally, "one
taketh up," impersonally
isles--rather, "lands" in general, answering to "the nations" in
the parallel clause; perhaps lands, like Mesopotamia, enclosed by
rivers [JEROME] (so
However, English Version, "isles" answers well to "mountains"
both alike being lifted up by the power of God; in fact, "isles" are
mountains upheaved from the bed of the sea by volcanic agency; only
that he seems here to have passed from unintelligent creatures
to intelligent, as nations and lands, that is, their
16. All Lebanon's forest would not supply fuel enough to burn
sacrifices worthy of the glory of God
beasts--which abounded in Lebanon.
less than nothing--MAURER translates, as in
"of nothing" (partitively; or expressive of the nature of
a thing), a mere nothing.
18. Which of the heathen idols, then, is to be compared to this
Almighty God? This passage, if not written (as BARNES thinks) so late as
the idolatrous times of Manasseh, has at least a prospective warning
reference to them and subsequent reigns; the result of the chastisement
of Jewish idolatry in the Babylonish captivity was that thenceforth
after the restoration the Jews never fell into it. Perhaps these
prophecies here may have tended to that result
2Ki 23:26, 27).
19. graven--rather, an image in general; for it is incongruous to
say "melteth" (that is, casts out of metal) a graven image
(that is, one of carved wood); so
chains--an ornament lavishly worn by rich Orientals
(Isa 3:18, 19),
and so transferred to their idols. Egyptian relics show that idols were
suspended in houses by chains.
20. impoverished--literally, "sunk" in circumstances.
no oblation--he who cannot afford to overlay his idol with gold
tree . . . not rot--the cedar, cypress, oak, or ash
graven--of wood; not a molten one of metal.
not be moved--that shall be durable.
21. ye--who worship idols. The question emphatically implies, they
from the beginning--
(Isa 41:4, 26; 48:16).
God is the beginning
The tradition handed down from the very first, of the creation
of all things by God at the beginning, ought to convince you of His
omnipotence and of the folly of idolatry.
22. It is he--rather, connected with last verse, "Have ye not
known?"--have ye not understood Him that sitteth . . .?
circle--applicable to the globular form of the earth, above which,
and the vault of sky around it, He sits. For "upon" translate "above."
as grasshoppers--or locusts in His sight
as He looks down from on high
(Ps 33:13, 14; 113:4-6).
curtain--referring to the awning which the Orientals draw over the
open court in the center of their houses as a shelter in rain or hot
judges--that is, rulers; for these exercised judicial authority
The Hebrew, shophtee, answers to the Carthaginian chief
24. they--the "princes and judges"
who oppose God's purposes and God's people. Often compared to tall
not . . . sown--the seed, that is, race shall become extinct
stock--not even shall any shoots spring up from the stump when the
tree has been cut down: no descendants whatever
and . . . also--so the Septuagint. But MAURER translates, "They are hardly (literally,
'not yet', as in
planted (&c.) when He (God) blows upon them."
blow--The image is from the hot east wind (simoon) that "withers"
whirlwind . . . stubble--
where, "like a wheel," refers to the rotatory action of the whirlwind
on the stubble.
26. bringeth out . . . host--image from a general reviewing his army:
He is Lord of Sabaoth, the heavenly hosts
calleth . . . by names--numerous as the stars are. God knows each in
all its distinguishing characteristics--a sense which "name" often
bears in Scripture; so in
Ge 2:19, 20,
Adam, as God's vicegerent, called the beasts by name,
that is, characterized them by their several qualities, which,
indeed, He has imparted.
by the greatness . . . faileth--rather, "by reason of abundance of
(their inner essential) force and firmness of strength, not one of
them is driven astray"; referring to the sufficiency of the physical
forces with which He has endowed the heavenly bodies, to prevent all
disorder in their motions [HORSLEY]. In
English Version the sense
is, "He has endowed them with their peculiar attributes ('names') by
the greatness of His might," and the power of His strength (the
better rendering, instead of, "for that He is strong").
27. Since these things are so, thou hast no reason to think that thine
interest ("way," that is, condition,
is disregarded by God.
judgment is passed over from--rather, "My cause is neglected by my
God; He passes by my case in my bondage and distress without
my God--who especially might be expected to care for me.
28. known--by thine own observation and reading of Scripture.
heard--from tradition of the fathers.
everlasting, &c.--These attributes of Jehovah ought to inspire His
afflicted people with confidence.
no searching of his understanding--therefore thy cause cannot, as
thou sayest, escape His notice; though much in His ways is
unsearchable, He cannot err
He is never "faint" or "weary" with having the countless wants of His
people ever before Him to attend to.
29. Not only does He "not faint"
but He gives power to them who do faint.
no might . . . increaseth strength--a seeming paradox. They "have no
might" in themselves; but in Him they have strength, and He
"increases" that strength
30. young men--literally, "those selected"; men picked out on account
of their youthful vigor for an enterprise.
31. mount up--
Rather, "They shall put forth fresh feathers as eagles" are said to
renovate themselves; the parallel clause, "renew their strength,"
confirms this. The eagle was thought to moult and renew his feathers,
and with them his strength, in old age (so the Septuagint,
However, English Version is favored by the descending climax,
mount up--run--walk; in every attitude the praying, waiting
child of God is "strong in the Lord"