The Lord Returns to Jerusalem1 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your ▼
▼ 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.God.
2 “Speak kindly to ▼
▼ Heb “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is personified as a woman.Jerusalem, ▼ and tell her
that her time of warfare is over, ▼
▼ Heb “that she is filled [with] her warfare.” Some understand צָבָא (tsavah, “warfare”) as meaning “hard service” or “compulsory labor” in this context.
that her punishment is completed. ▼
▼ Heb “that her punishment is accepted [as satisfactory].”
For the Lord has made her pay double ▼
▼ 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).for all her sins.”
3 A voice cries out,
“In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord;
construct in the desert a road for our God.
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.
5 The splendor ▼ of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people ▼
▼ Heb “flesh” (so KJV, ASV, NASB); NAB, NIV “mankind”; TEV “the whole human race.”will see it at the same time.
▼ Or “indeed.”the Lord has decreed it.” ▼
▼ Heb “the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).
6 A voice says, “Cry out!”
Another asks, ▼
▼ Heb “and he says.” Apparently a second “voice” responds to the command of the first “voice.”“What should I cry out?”
The first voice responds: ▼
▼ The words “the first voice responds” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The first voice tells the second one what to declare.“All people are like grass, ▼
and all their promises ▼
▼ 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.are like the flowers in the field.
7 The grass dries up,
the flowers wither,
when the wind sent by the Lord ▼
▼ 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).blows on them.
Surely humanity ▼
▼ Heb “the people” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).is like grass.
8 The grass dries up,
the flowers wither,
but the decree of our God is forever reliable.” ▼
9 Go up on a high mountain, O herald Zion!
Shout out loudly, O herald Jerusalem! ▼
▼ 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 (mevaser) is used in these verses, in contrast to the feminine singular form מְבַשֶּׂרֶת (mevaseret) employed in 40:9, where Zion is addressed as a herald.
Shout, don’t be afraid!
Say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 Look, the sovereign Lord comes as a victorious warrior; ▼
▼ 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.
his military power establishes his rule. ▼
Look, his reward is with him;
his prize goes before him. ▼
11 Like a shepherd he tends his flock;
he gathers up the lambs with his arm;
he carries them close to his heart; ▼
▼ Heb “in his bosom” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV), an expression which reflects closeness and protective care.
he leads the ewes along.
The Lord is Incomparable12 Who has measured out the waters ▼
▼ The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has מי ים (“waters of the sea”), a reading followed by NAB.in the hollow of his hand,
or carefully ▼
▼ 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).measured the sky, ▼
▼ Or “the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.
or carefully weighed ▼
▼ Heb “or weighed by a third part [of a measure].”the soil of the earth,
or weighed the mountains in a balance,
or the hills on scales? ▼
13 Who comprehends ▼
▼ Perhaps the verb is used metonymically here in the sense of “advises” (note the following line).the mind ▼
▼ 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.).of the Lord,
or gives him instruction as his counselor? ▼
▼ Heb “or [as] the man of his counsel causes him to know?”
14 From whom does he receive directions? ▼
▼ Heb “With whom did he consult, so that he gave discernment to him?”
▼ 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.teaches him the correct way to do things, ▼
▼ 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.”
or imparts knowledge to him,
or instructs him in skillful design? ▼
▼ Heb “or the way of understanding causes him to know?”▼
15 Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales.
He lifts ▼
▼ Or “weighs” (NIV); NLT “picks up.”the coastlands ▼
▼ Or “islands” (NASB, NIV, NLT).as if they were dust.
16 Not even Lebanon could supply enough firewood for a sacrifice; ▼
▼ The words “for a sacrifice” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
its wild animals would not provide enough burnt offerings. ▼
▼ The point is that not even the Lebanon forest could supply enough wood and animals for an adequate sacrifice to the Lord.
17 All the nations are insignificant before him;
they are regarded as absolutely nothing. ▼
▼ Heb “[as derived] from nothing and unformed.”
18 To whom can you compare God?
To what image can you liken him?
19 A craftsman casts ▼
▼ Heb “pours out”; KJV “melteth.”an idol;
a metalsmith overlays it with gold
and forges silver chains for it.
20 To make a contribution one selects wood that will not rot; ▼
▼ The first two words of the verse (הַמְסֻכָּן תְּרוּמָה, hamsukan terumah) are problematic. Some take מְסֻכָּן as an otherwise unattested Pual participle from סָכַן (sakhan, “be poor”) and translate “the one who is impoverished.” תְּרוּמָה (terumah, “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.
he then seeks a skilled craftsman
to make ▼
▼ Or “set up” (ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); KJV, NASB “to prepare.”an idol that will not fall over.
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?
22 He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon; ▼
▼ Heb “the circle of the earth” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
its inhabitants are like grasshoppers before him. ▼
▼ The words “before him” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
He is the one who stretches out the sky like a thin curtain, ▼
▼ 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).
and spreads it out ▼
▼ 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.like a pitched tent. ▼
▼ Heb “like a tent [in which] to live”; NAB, NASB “like a tent to dwell (live NIV, NRSV) in.”
23 He is the one who reduces rulers to nothing;
he makes the earth’s leaders insignificant.
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.
25 “To whom can you compare me? Whom do I resemble?”
says the Holy One. ▼
26 Look up at the sky! ▼
▼ Heb “Lift on high your eyes and see.”
Who created all these heavenly lights? ▼
▼ The words “heavenly lights” are supplied in the translation for clarification. See the following lines.
He is the one who leads out their ranks; ▼
▼ 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.”)
he calls them all by name.
Because of his absolute power and awesome strength,
not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you say, Jacob,
Why do you say, Israel,
“The Lord is not aware of what is happening to me, ▼
▼ Heb “my way is hidden from the Lord” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
My God is not concerned with my vindication”? ▼
▼ Heb “and from my God my justice passes away”; NRSV “my right is disregarded by my God.”
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God,
the creator of the whole earth. ▼
▼ 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.
He does not get tired or weary;
there is no limit to his wisdom. ▼
▼ 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).
29 He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.
30 Even youths get tired and weary;
even strong young men clumsily stumble. ▼
▼ Heb “stumbling they stumble.” The verbal idea is emphasized by the infinitive absolute.
31 But those who wait for the Lord’s help ▼
▼ The words “for the Lord’s help” are supplied in the translation for clarification.find renewed strength;
they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, ▼
▼ Heb “they rise up [on] wings like eagles” (TEV similar).
they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired.
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