Divine grandeur (Isa 40:12-40:14)

“Who has measured the waters

In the hollow of his hand?

Who has marked off the heavens

With a span?

Who has enclosed the dust of the earth

In a measure?

Who has weighed the mountains

In scales?

Who has weighed

The hills in a balance?

Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh?

What counselor has instructed him?

Whom did he consult for his enlightenment?

Who taught him the path of justice?

Who taught him knowledge?

Who showed him the way of understanding?”

In a series of questions, Second Isaiah shows the power of God, his greatness. Yahweh is like a great superman. Who is able to measure the great waters in his hand? Who can span the heavens? Who can measure the earth or weigh the mountains and hills? Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh? Who are his counselors? Who taught him enlightenment, justice, knowledge, and understanding? The obvious answer is no one because he could do and know all this by himself, without the help of anyone, since he is the great God.

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The appearance of God (Isa 40:9-40:11)

“Get you up to a high mountain!

O Zion!

Herald of good tidings!

Lift up your voice with strength!

O Jerusalem!

Herald of good tidings!

Lift it up!

Fear not!

Say to the cities of Judah!

‘Here is your God!’

See!

Yahweh God comes with might.

His arm rules for him.

His reward is with him.

His recompense is before him.

He will feed his flock

Like a shepherd.

He will gather the lambs in his arms.

He will carry them in his bosom.

He will gently lead the mother sheep.”

Somehow, Second Isaiah was going to present the people with God. God had been unknown, but now he wants to reveal himself. Isaiah, and then Mount Zion, and finally Jerusalem were to go to a high mountain. They were to be the herald of good tidings. They were to announce in a loud voice to the cities of Judah that God was there to be seen. How they would be heard is not clear, but they were not to be afraid. Yahweh would come with his might to rule and to reward. He was going to be like a good shepherd feeding his flock, gathering and carrying the lambs, while gently leading the pregnant sheep.

The voice (Isa 40:6-40:8)

“A voice says.

‘Cry out!’

I said.

‘What shall I cry?’

All people are grass.

Their delicacy is

Like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers.

The flower fades

When the breath of Yahweh

Blows upon it.

Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers.

The flower fades.

But the word of our God

Will stand forever.”

Second Isaiah heard a voice tell him to cry out. However, he wanted to know what he should cry out about. The response was that all people were like grass and the flowers of the field. Both the grass withers and the flowers fade when the breath of Yahweh blows on them. Thus the people are grass or flowers that wither and fade. However, the word of God will stand forever and not wither or fade.

The voice in the wilderness (Isa 40:3-40:5)

“A voice cries out.

‘In the wilderness,

Prepare the way of Yahweh!

Make straight in the desert

A highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up.

Every mountain shall be made low.

Every hill shall be made low.

The uneven ground shall become level.

The rough places shall become a plain.

The glory of Yahweh shall be revealed.

All the people shall see it together.

The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.’”

Here we have the famous phrase that was used by the Christian writers of the New Testament to speak about John the Baptist. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke both use these phrases from the Greek Septuagint when citing them from Isaiah. Apparently this new path is a way out of the Exile, just as there was the path of the Exodus. In this wilderness or desert, they were to make a straight path, like a highway for God or the Holy Way that was mentioned earlier in chapter 35, to prepare a path for Yahweh. This would also be a time of upheaval. The valleys would rise as the mountains and hills would fall. Also the uneven and rough places would become level and plain. All the people would then see the glory of God revealed. In case there was any doubt, Second Isaiah said that this was spoken by the mouth of Yahweh.

Comfort for the people (Isa 40:1-40:2)

“‘Comfort!

Comfort my people!’

Says your God.

‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem!

Cry to her!

She has served her term.

Her penalty is paid

That she has received

From Yahweh’s hand,

Double for all her sins.’”

This section of Isaiah is often referred to as the Book of Consolation. Sometimes people refer to this section as Deutero-Isaiah or Second Isaiah because it is separated from the preceding chapters by style and setting. There is a more universal outlook, perhaps from a disciple of Isaiah, some few hundred years later. However, even some parts of the preceding chapters may have been from this time also. Apparently this time setting is near the end of the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE. God speaks and comforts the Israelites because they have served their punishment time. They have paid the double penalty that they received from Yahweh’s hand.

Isaiah predicts the Babylonian captivity (Isa 39:5-39:8)

“Then Isaiah said to King Hezekiah.

‘Hear the word of Yahweh of hosts.

Days are coming

When all that is in your house,

As well as that which your ancestors

Have stored up

Until this day,

Shall be carried to Babylon.

Nothing shall be left.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Some of your own sons,

Who are born to you,

Shall be taken away.

They shall be eunuchs

In the palace of the king of Babylon.’

Then King Hezekiah said to Isaiah.

‘The word of Yahweh

That you have spoken is good.’

He thought.

‘There will be peace

There will be security

In my days’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 20. The prophet Isaiah warned King Hezekiah that the day was coming when all these things would belong to the king of Babylon. Nothing will be left in Jerusalem. His sons would be eunuchs in the Babylonian palace. King Hezekiah assumed that Isaiah was talking about a time when there would be peace and security between these two countries, so that they would exchange gifts.

Isaiah confronts King Hezekiah (Isa 39:3-39:4)

“Then the prophet Isaiah

Came to King Hezekiah.

He said to him.

‘What did these men say?

From where did they come to you?’

King Hezekiah answered.

‘They have come to me

From a far country,

From Babylon.’

He said.

‘What have they seen in your house?’

King Hezekiah answered.

‘They have seen all

That is in my house.

There is nothing in my storehouses

That I did not show them.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 20. King Hezekiah had been very generous to these Babylonian envoys. He had showed them all the treasures of his realm, when they came to see him about his recovery from an illness. Isaiah wanted to know who these visitors were and where they came from. King Hezekiah explained that they were from the far country of Babylon. Then Isaiah wanted to know what they saw. King Hezekiah replied that he had showed them just about everything in his house.