Bible Commentary

Isaiah 40

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Isaiah 40)

Verse 1

[1] Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Ye — Ye prophets and ministers.

Verse 2

[2] Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

Warfare — The time of her captivity, and misery.

Double — Not twice as much as her sins deserved, but abundantly enough to answer God's design in this chastisement, which was to humble and reform them, and to warn others by their example.

Verse 3

[3] The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

The voice — An abrupt speech. Methinks I hear a voice.

Wilderness — This immediately relates to the deliverance of the Jews out of Babylon, and smoothing their passage from thence to Judea, which lay through a great wilderness; but principally to their redemption by the Messiah, whose coming was ushered in by the cry of John the baptist, in the wilderness.

Prepare ye the way — You to whom this work belongs. He alludes to the custom of princes who send pioneers before them to prepare the way through which they are to pass. The meaning is, God shall by his spirit so dispose mens hearts, and by his providence so order the affairs of the world, as to make way for the accomplishment of his promise. This was eminently fulfilled, when Christ, who was, and is God, blessed for ever, came into the world in a visible manner.

Verse 6

[6] The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:

Cry — God speaks unto his ministers.

He — The prophet.

All flesh — The prophet having foretold glorious things, confirms the certainty of them, by representing the vast difference between the nature, and word, and work of men and of God. All that men are or have, yea, their highest accomplishments, are but like the grass of the field, weak and vanishing, soon nipt and brought to nothing; but God's word is like himself, immutable and irresistible: and therefore as the mouth of the Lord, and not of man, hath spoken these things, so doubt not but they shall be fulfilled.

Verse 9

[9] O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Zion — Zion or Jerusalem is the publisher, and the cities of Judah the hearers.

Get up — That thy voice may be better heard.

Afraid — Lest thou shouldest be found a false prophet.

Say — To all my people in the several places of their abode.

Behold — Take notice of this wonderful work, and glorious appearance of your God.

Verse 10

[10] Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.

His arm — He shall need no succours, for his own power shall be sufficient to govern his people, and to destroy his adversaries.

His reward — He comes furnished with recompences as well of blessings for his friends, as of vengeance for his enemies.

His work — He carries on his work effectually: for that is said in scripture to be before a man which is in his power.

Verse 12

[12] Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

Who hath — Who can do this but God? And this discourse of God's infinite power and wisdom, is added to give them the greater assurance, that God was able to do the wonderful things, he had promised.

Verse 13

[13] Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?

Who — Who did God either need or take to advise him in any of his works, either of creation or the government of the world.

Verse 15

[15] Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

Are counted — By him, and in comparison of him.

The dust — Which accidentally cleaves to the balance, but makes no alteration in the weight.

The isles — Those numerous and vast countries, to which they went from Judea by sea, which are commonly called isles.

Verse 16

[16] And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

Lebanon — If men were to offer a sacrifice agreeable to his infinite excellency, the whole forest of Lebanon could not afford either a sufficient number of beasts to be sacrificed: or, a sufficient quantity of wood to consume the sacrifice.

Verse 18

[18] To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

To whom — This is a proper inference from the foregoing discourse of God's infinite greatness; from whence he takes occasion to shew both the folly of those that make mean and visible representations of God, and the utter inability of men or idols to give any opposition to God.

Verse 19

[19] The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.

Melteth — He melts metal into a mould, which afterwards is graven or carved to make it more exact.

Verse 20

[20] He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.

He — That can hardly procure money to buy a sacrifice.

Chuseth — He is so mad upon his idols, that he will find money to procure the choicest materials, and the best artist to make his idol.

An image — Which after all this cost, cannot stir one step out of its place to give you any help.

Verse 21

[21] Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Known — God to be the only true God, the maker and governor of the world.

Verse 22

[22] It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Sitteth — Far above this round earth, even in the highest heavens; from whence he looketh down upon the earth, where men appear to him like grasshoppers. As here we have the circle of the earth, so elsewhere we read of the circle of heaven, Job 22:14, and of the circle of the deep, or sea, Proverbs 8:27, because the form of the heaven, and earth and sea is circular.

Spreadeth — For the benefit of the earth and of mankind, that all parts might partake of its comfortable influences.

Verse 24

[24] Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.

Sown — They shall take no root, for planting and sowing are in order to taking root. They shall not continue and flourish, as they have vainly imagined, but shall be rooted up and perish.

Verse 26

[26] Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Bringeth — That at first brought them out of nothing, and from day to day brings them forth, making them to rise and set in their appointed times.

Faileth — Either to appear when he calls them; or to do the work to which he sends them.

Verse 27

[27] Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

What — Why dost thou give way to such jealousies concerning thy God, of whose infinite power and wisdom, and goodness, there are such evident demonstrations.

Is hid — He takes no notice of my prayers and tears, and sufferings, but suffers mine enemies to abuse me at their pleasure. This complaint is uttered in the name of the people, being prophetically supposed to be in captivity.

Judgment — My cause. God has neglected to plead my cause, and to give judgment for me against mine enemies.

Verse 30

[30] Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

The youths — The youngest and strongest men, left to themselves.

Verse 31

[31] But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Wait — That rely upon him.

Renew — Shall grow stronger and stronger.

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