Isaiah 40:1-31

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40:1. Masoretic Text: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Septuagint: Comfort, comfort my people, God says.


The prospect of a future Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem would have raised a question about whether there would be any positive developments. Those who would experience this time of calamity would come to have a need for comfort, an assurance that the distressing circumstances would end. The opening words of this chapter of Isaiah address that aspect.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the prophets are the ones directed to prophesy consolations or comfort. This would fit from a grammatical standpoint. In the Hebrew text and in the Septuagint, the verbs are second person plural. As YHWH conveyed his messages to the prophets, they were in a position to give true comfort.

In the next verse, the Septuagint focuses on the priests as those directed to provide comfort. This would not preclude understanding the ones designated to give comfort to be the prophets, for there were times when priests functioned in that capacity. (Compare Jeremiah 1:1; 2 Chronicles 24:19, 20.) Although the people in the kingdom of Judah had strayed from the right course and, therefore, would experience the devastation of their land and exile, YHWH granted them an opportunity to repent and to gain his forgiveness. He did not reject them without any possibility of their return to him, but he commanded that the comfort be addressed to them as “my people.” The repetition of “comfort” makes the imperative emphatic, something not to be neglected.

40:2. Masoretic Text: Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry out to her that her servitude has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from YHWH’s hand double for all her sins.

Septuagint: O priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her. For [the measure of] her humiliation has been filled up. Her sin has been remitted. For she has received from the hand of the Lord double for her sins.

See the comment on verse 1 about the Septuagint reference to priests.


To speak to the “heart of Jerusalem” would signify to speak to the deep inner selves of the people with words of comfort. Jerusalem, as the capital of the kingdom of Judah, may be understood to include all the people in the realm, not just the inhabitants of the city.

The message to be announced was that the time of servitude had come to its end. As exiles in a foreign land, the Israelites would not have been free but would have been in the service of the native people. Accordingly, for the Israelites, the end of servitude would mean their being able to leave the place of exile and to return to their own land. Their repentance, returning to YHWH from whom they had strayed when disregarding his commands and engaging in the worship of other deities, would result in having their iniquity forgiven. The punishment for unfaithfulness that YHWH would permit them to experience from the Babylonians appears to be referred to as being greater than the sins merited. It would be double because the Babylonians would carry out their cruel warfare and exile according to their own will.

The Septuagint rendering includes the thought that Jerusalem had experienced the fullness of humiliation, as if the measure thereof had been completely filled up.

40:3. Masoretic Text: A voice cries in the wilderness, Prepare the way of YHWH. In the desert, make straight a highway for our God.

Septuagint: A voice cries in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight the paths of our God.

According to the Masoretic accentuation, the translation of the Hebrew text should be punctuated differently than it is here (in agreement with the Septuagint). “A voice cries, In the wilderness prepare the way of YHWH.” This is the usual punctuation found in modern translations.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) includes the conjunction “and” after YHWH.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the preparation of the way in the wilderness is represented as being “before the people of YHWH” and the leveling of the paths in the desert as being “before the congregation of our God.”


Seemingly, YHWH is here being represented as leading his people back to their land from the place of exile. As he is in the lead, the voice that cries out directs that the way be prepared or made level and that the highway be straightened to facilitate passage. It is called the “highway of our God,” as he is the one who made it possible for the people to return as on a prepared road.

In the first century CE, John the Baptist functioned as a voice, serving to prepare a people who would accept Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ. (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23)

40:4. Masoretic Text: Every valley will be raised, and every mountain and hill made low,and the uneven [place] will become a level place and the rough places a plain.

Septuagint: Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled, and all the crooked [paths] will be straight, and the uneven [place] [will be transformed] into plains.


These words continue the description of what is involved in preparing the way. Valleys or ravines are raised and this would be accomplished, as the Septuagint says, by filling them. Mountains and hills would be lowered, uneven places would be made level, and rough places smoothed out to be like a plain. Thus everything would be done to remove every obstacle that would hinder the repentant people from being able to return to their land under YHWH’s guidance.

40:5. Masoretic Text: And the glory of YHWH will be revealed, and all flesh together will see [it], for the mouth of YHWH has spoken.

Septuagint: And the glory of the Lord will be perceived, and all flesh will see the salvation of God, for the Lord has spoken.


With the release of the repentant Israelites from Babylonian exile and their return to their own land, YHWH’s glory or majesty would become manifest. He would be revealed as the fulfiller of the word he had spoken through his prophets, proving undeniably that he is the living God whose declared purpose can never fail to be carried out.

In this context, “all flesh” would be all the people who would come to know about the return of the Israelites to their own land. The Hebrew text does not specify what “all flesh” would see, but the object may be understood to be the “glory of YHWH.” According to the Septuagint rendering, however, they would see the “salvation” or the deliverance that God had effected for his people. The words “for the mouth of YHWH has spoken” provide the assurance that this development would definitely occur.

40:6. Masoretic Text: A voice says, “Cry out.” And he said, “What shall I cry out?” “All flesh [is] grass, and all its beauty [is] like a blossom of the field.”

Septuagint: A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry out?” “All flesh [is] grass, and all the glory of man [is] like a blossom of grass.”

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the crying out to be prophesying, with the one responding to the imperative asking, “What shall I prophesy?” This is followed by a message concerning the wicked. They are like grass and their strength is like the blossom of the field.

For the quotation of verses 6 and 8 of this chapter in 1 Peter 1:24, 25, see the concluding portion of the comments for 1 Peter 1:1-25.


The crying out may be understood as a command to proclaim a message or, as expressed in the Targum of Isaiah, to prophesy. The verb is second person singular and so, from a grammatical standpoint, is directed to Isaiah. In the Septuagint, Isaiah is the one who responds (“I said”), and this agrees with the reading of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. The first person singular also best fits the question, “What shall I cry out?”

The message highlights the transitoriness of “all flesh.” Humans are mere mortals. They are like grass that withers and dies.

The Hebrew word here rendered “beauty” is chésed. Usually, chésed signifies graciousness, enduring loyalty, steadfast love, and mercy. It is a compassionate care and loving concern that expresses itself in action. In the Septuagint, chésed is often translated éleos, meaning “mercy,” “pity,” or “compassion.”

For this verse, the Septuagint translator chose “glory” (dóxa), which would appropriately describe the magnificence or beauty of a blossom or flower. In its application to a blossom, the Hebrew word chésed would seemingly describe that which is as beautiful or as delightful in appearance as is graciousness, steadfast love, or compassion. Especially in the freshness of youth, “flesh” (the human body of flesh) has an attractive appearance that fades with the passing of years. At death, the once attractive “flesh” and all that made the mortal appear delightful to the senses comes to be like a dried up flower. Nothing of the former beauty remains.

40:7. Masoretic Text: “Grass withers; the blossom fades; for the spirit of YHWH blows upon it. Indeed, the people [is] grass.”

Septuagint: “The grass has withered, and the blossom has dropped.”

The original text of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah agrees with the shorter text of the Septuagint rendering. For both verses 7 and 8, the shorter text may be rendered, “Grass withers; the blossom fades, and [the] word of our God endures for limitless time.” Under the Hebrew letters for the words here rendered “and [the] word” another copyist inserted dots, indicating a correction. Then above the line of the main text, after the main text, and vertically along the left margin of the main text, this copyist basically inserted the additional words that are found in the Masoretic Text. The copyist, however, misspelled the word for “grass,” did not write the divine name (YHWH), but represented it with four dots, and repeated “and [the] word of our God” (which words were already in the main text).

The Targum of Isaiah continues with an application to the wicked, concluding with the words, “the wicked among the people are counted as grass.”


The “spirit of YHWH” is here represented as a searing wind that dries up vegetation. According to the Masoretic Text, the people, by reason of their being mortals, are like grass that withers and dies.

40:8. “Grass withers; the blossom fades, and the word of our God endures for limitless time.”

Septuagint: “But the word of our God remains forever [literally, ‘into the age’]”.

See verse 7, regarding the reading of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the enduring nature of the word of God is contrasted with what happens to the wicked one. He dies and his plans perish.


Whereas grass dries up and blossoms lose their beauty, the word or message that has God as its source is sure to be fulfilled. It never becomes a dead word but remains a dependable promise regardless of when the fulfillment might come.

40:9. Masoretic Text: Go up to a high mountain, tidings bearer to Zion. Lift up your voice with strength, tidings bearer to Jerusalem. Lift [it] up; fear not. Say to the cities of Judah, “Look! Your God.”

Septuagint: Go up on a high mountain, declarer of good news to Zion. Lift up your voice with strength, declarer of good news to Jerusalem. Lift [it] up; fear not. Say to the cities of Judah, “Look! Your God.”

In case of the imperatives “lift [it] up; fear not,” the verbs are plural in the Septuagint, but the other verbs are singular.


The expression “tidings bearer” is a rendering of the Hebrew participle that is a form of the verb basár, which has been defined as meaning “bring good news,” “proclaim glad tidings,” “tell,” and “announce.” This Hebrew participle has a feminine suffix, and so could be understood to apply to a female proclaimer of good news. The allusion could be to the role of women when welcoming returning victorious warriors, doing so with song and accompanying music. These women, therefore, could be considered as being declarers of good news. The corresponding participle in the Septuagint, however, is masculine gender. The Greek verb itself (evangelízo) incorporates the thought of declaring “glad tidings” or “good news.”

For a messenger to ascend a high mountain would be for the purpose of heralding the news over a wide area, and the message was to be conveyed with a powerful voice so that the people would be able to hear it. The announcement needed to be made in a forceful manner, with no hint of timidity. The imperative to “lift up” the voice is therefore followed by the directive not to be afraid.

The Hebrew text allows for three different meanings. The good news is for Zion or Jerusalem. “Climb to a mountaintop, you that bring good news to Zion; raise your voice and shout aloud, you that carry good news to Jerusalem.” (REB) Another possible significance is that Zion or Jerusalem is to function as the declarer of glad tidings. “Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tiding; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!” (NAB) A third possibility is to regard the bearer of good news to be a messenger of Zion or Jerusalem. “Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion, shout as loud as you can, messenger of Jerusalem!” (NJB)

As a restoration prophecy, it would appear that the message is for Zion or Jerusalem, especially since the city had become a desolated site. In case of the Septuagint rendering, the masculine participle for the verb evangelízo would not make it possible for Zion or Jerusalem to be the proclaimer of the good news. According to the Targum of Isaiah, the prophets are the ones who bring the good news to Zion or Jerusalem.

At the time Zion or Jerusalem and the land of Judah were being desolated, YHWH had abandoned the city and the land, not providing any protection from the Babylonian armies. Seemingly, then, the announcement (“Look! Your God”) would indicate that YHWH had returned. He did so upon giving Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah his favorable attention, bringing back the Israelites from exile to repopulate the desolated sites. In the Targum of Isaiah, the announcement is represented as a revealing of the kingdom of God.

40:10. Masoretic Text: Look! The Lord YHWH is coming with strength, and his arm is ruling for him. Look! His reward [is] with him, and his work [is] before his face.

Septuagint: Look! The Lord is coming with strength, and the arm with power. Look! His reward [is] with him, and the work [is] before him.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the reward is for those who perform his command, “for all their works are revealed before him.”


YHWH’s coming with strength probably means his coming to manifest his might by effecting the liberation of his people from exile and leading them back to their land. The “arm” is representative of strength or power. Described as exercising dominion, the arm would be displaying authority and power. In this context, this would also relate to freeing the people from exile and restoring them to their land.

The “reward” may be all that YHWH would do for his repentant people. It may be that the “work” that is “before his face” or before him is the act of freeing his people, leading them back to their land, and then blessing them. This work could be considered their recompense.

40:11. Masoretic Text: Like a shepherd, he will shepherd his flock. In his arm, he will gather the lambs, and in his bosom he will carry [them]. Those giving suck, he will lead.

Septuagint: Like a shepherd, he will shepherd his flock; and in his arm, he will gather lambs. And he will comfort pregnant sheep [literally, “those having in the belly”].


YHWH is portrayed as tenderly looking after his repentant people as does a shepherd the sheep in his care. A shepherd feeds the sheep when leading them to good pastures. Lambs that may still be weak, he may choose to carry. After picking up a lamb, he would place it in his bosom or at his breast and support it with his arm. With due consideration to nursing ewes, he would not drive them but lead them at a pace that is appropriate for their circumstances. According to the Septuagint rendering, he would comfort pregnant ewes. Such comfort would consist of taking into consideration the limitations pregnancy imposed on them. In this way, the repentant Israelites were assured that YHWH would be compassionate and caring when restoring them to their land.

40:12. Masoretic Text: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and assessed the heavens with a span, and contained the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Septuagint: Who has measured the water with the hand and the heaven with a span and all the earth with a handful? Who has established [the weight of] the mountains with a scale and the glens with a balance.

The Hebrew word here translated “measure” (shalíth) literally means “third.” It is not known in relation to what larger amount this measure is a third part.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “his span.”


The rhetorical questions that start in this verse serve to emphasize that nothing will stop the fulfillment of YHWH’s word. These questions focus on the incomprehensible greatness of YHWH.

The “waters” may be understood to mean all the water in the seas. In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the spacing between the letters indicates that the reference is to the “waters of the sea.” YHWH is represented as determining the quantity of all this water as if it were a mere handful to him. For a person, a span is about 9 inches (c. 23 centimeters). It would be impossible to use such a span to assess or calculate the vast distance of the heavens, or of the apparent celestial dome that extends from horizon to horizon. As the question implies, such measuring is not a challenge for YHWH, the one who can determine the dimensions with his span. Apparently for the purpose of weighing all the dust of the earth, YHWH is portrayed as confining it in a measure or a container. The Septuagint rendering suggests that the “earth,” or all the ground or soil, is but a handful to YHWH and thus can easily be measured. No scale of human construction could be used to determine the weight of all the mountains and hills, but the question implies that YHWH can do so with his scales and balance. Besides mountains and hills, the Septuagint mentions “glens” or wooded valleys as being weighed.

YHWH is regarded as the Creator who uses his “hands” to produce the completed work. The vast scale of his creative activity is here depicted as involving measuring. Therefore, what is being portrayed does not reflect reality but conveys a message about the greatness of YHWH through tangible terms drawn from the human sphere.

40:13. Masoretic Text: Who has assessed the spirit of YHWH and [what] man as his counselor has instructed him?

Septuagint: Who has known the mind of the Lord, and who has become his counselor that will instruct him?

The Targum of Isaiah represents God as the one who directs the holy spirit in the mouth of all the prophets and the one who makes known his words to the righteous.


The “spirit” is the powerful agent that YHWH uses to accomplish his purpose or to carry out his will. According to the Septuagint, the reference is to the Lord’s mind. Whether a purpose or a thought originates in God’s mind, or the spirit is the agent for carrying out that purpose or thought, the final outcome is the same. Humans, however, cannot assess, quantify, direct, or in any way alter the determination of the operation of his spirit nor can they know his mind respecting what he may do or permit.

YHWH does not need counsel or advice from anyone. As the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom, he is not the recipient of instruction from any counselor.

40:14. Masoretic Text: From whom did he seek counsel and receive his understanding? And who taught him the path of judgment and taught him knowledge and made him know the way of understanding?

Septuagint: Or with whom did he take counsel and [that one] instructed him? Or who showed him judgment, or who showed him the way of insight?

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the writing style after the word for “judgment” changes and then the same style of writing as the previous text does not resume until the start of verse 17. This indicates that the original scribe left the space blank, making it possible for another scribe to write the words that are virtually the same as those in the Masoretic Text.

The Targum of Isaiah represents YHWH as making those understand wisdom who were seeking it from him and as being the One who “taught them the way of judgment,” gave the law to their sons, “and made known to their sons’ sons the way of understanding.”


YHWH possesses the fullness of understanding and is the ultimate standard of judgment or justice. He neither consulted anyone for counsel nor did anyone impart to him any understanding. He knows the path of judgment or the course to be taken for rendering just decisions. He did not learn from anyone nor did anyone show him anything that contributed to his understanding.

40:15. Masoretic Text: Look! The nations [are] like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted like dust on the scales. Look! The islands he lifts up like dust [literally, something “fine,” “thin,” or “small”].

Septuagint: If all the nations have been accounted like a drop from a bucket and like a [light] weight of a balance, also like spittle will they be accounted.

Regarding the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, see verse 14.


Regardless of how strong the nations may appear, particularly from the standpoint of their military might, they are no match for YHWH. They are weak when it comes to any efforts to prevent his purpose from being accomplished. They are like a single drop that remains on a bucket, a drop that is too insignificant to accomplish anything. A film of dust on the scales amounts to nothing, not registering any measurable weight. For YHWH, the islands or coastlands are just like minute particles and so never pose any obstacle for him. According to the Septuagint rendering, all the nations amount to nothing more than “spittle” and so are powerless when faced with any action originating from YHWH.

40:16. Masoretic Text: And Lebanon [is] not enough to burn, and its beasts [are] not enough for a holocaust.

Septuagint: But Lebanon [is] not enough for burning, and all the quadrupeds [are] not enough for a holocaust.

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that “Lebanon” more specifically means the “trees of Lebanon.”

Regarding the reading of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, see verse 14.


These words serve to show that no arrangement for sacrifice could possibly be commensurate with the greatness of YHWH. All the wood from the then-existing extensive forests of Lebanon would be insufficient for the altar fire, and the many animals in the region would be too few for the holocaust or burnt offering.

40:17. Masoretic Text: All the nations [are] as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as nonexistent and emptiness.

Septuagint: And all the nations are as nothing, and they have been accounted as nothing.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” follows “before him.”

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the “works” of the nations as nothing.


From YHWH’s standpoint, all the nations with their combined military might do not amount to anything. They are less than nothing, as if they did not even exist nor occupied any space.

40:18. Masoretic Text: And to whom will you liken God, and [to] what likeness will you compare him?

Septuagint: To whom have you likened the Lord, and to what likeness have you likened him?

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the rhetorical question is raised in the first person singular (“To whom will you liken me — God, and [to] what likeness will you compare me?”).

The Targum of Isaiah expresses a different thought. “How to you think to contend before God, and what is the likeness that you set before him?”


The answer to the rhetorical question is that YHWH, unlike the deities the nations revered, cannot be represented by any form. He simply cannot be placed in parallel with any likeness.

40:19. Masoretic Text: The artisan cast the image, and the goldsmith overlaid it with gold and did refining of silver chains.

Septuagint: Has an artisan made an image, or has a goldsmith, having poured out gold, overlaid it, fashioned it for a likeness?

Instead of a word for “cast,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has a word for “made.”


YHWH is the living God, the Maker and Former of everything. He cannot be represented by an image of any kind, for idols are the handiwork of humans and products of their imagination. A craftsman may cast the form the idol is to be, and a goldsmith then overlays the cast representation with gold. The final step perhaps relates to the refined silver that is formed into chains used for the adornment of the image.

40:20. Masoretic Text: He chooses the mesukkan for a contribution, a wood [that] will not decay, and he searches for a skilled artisan to set up an image that will not wobble.

Septuagint: For a craftsman chooses decay-resistant wood and wisely considers how to set up his image and [in a way] so that it may not wobble.

According to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the individual chooses the artisan “and seeks” to set up an image. This reading is more like the rendering of the Septuagint.


The Hebrew word here transliterated mesukkan is often considered to designate a kind of wood. When, however, linked to sakhán, the meaning is “the one who is poor.” Modern translations reflect these very different meanings in their renderings. “As a gift one chooses mulberry wood — a wood that will not rot.” (NRSV) “As a gift, he chooses the mulberry — a wood that does not rot.” (Tanakh) “A man too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot.” (NIV) “Someone too poor to afford a sacrifice chooses a piece of wood that will not rot.” (NJB)

When mesukkan is understood to denote some type of wood, the reference would be to making an image out of wood. The implied thought would be that no image of wood, the handiwork of a human, could represent YHWH, the living God and Creator of everything. If the Hebrew expression relates to a poor person, the significance could be that the individual could not afford to have a gold-plated image made and so chose to have an image carved from decay-resistant wood. A number of translations make this interpretation explicit in their renderings. “Anyone who cannot afford silver or gold chooses wood that will not rot. He finds a skillful worker to make an image that won’t fall down.” (GNT) “A poor person cannot buy those expensive statues, so he finds a tree that will not rot. Then he finds a skilled craftsman to make it into an idol that will not fall over.” (NCV)

The image had to be set up in such a way that it would be stable, not subject to wobbling and falling. So, whereas idols need to be firmly secured in a stationary position, YHWH is the living God who sustains all creation.

40:21. Masoretic Text: Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been announced to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Septuagint: Will you not know? Will you not hear? Has it not been announced to you from the beginning? Did you not know the foundations of the earth?


It appears that the rhetorical questions relate to the fact that YHWH is the Creator. Apparently the Israelites are being addressed. They certainly should have known that YHWH is the Creator. They had definitely heard it, for it was expressed in their holy writings and by their prophets. From the time they came to be a distinct people, the Israelites both knew and heard this. So it had been announced to them from the very beginning.

The reference to the “foundations of the earth” is somewhat obscure, and this has given rise to a variety of interpretive renderings. “Have you not discerned how the earth was founded?” (Tanakh) “Have you not understood how the earth was set on its foundations?” (NJB) “Isn’t it clear that God created the world?” (CEV) “Surely you understand how the earth was created.” (NCV) “Have you not heard how the world began?” (GNT) “Have you not perceived ever since the world was founded, that God sits enthroned on the vaulted roof of the world?” (REB)

It appears preferable to regard the “foundations of the earth” to relate to YHWH’s creative activity. This is the application found in the Targum of Isaiah. “Will you not understand so as to fear before him who created the foundations of the earth?” The question in the Septuagint could be interpreted to mean whether the people did not know the source of the foundations of the earth.

40:22. Masoretic Text: [He is] the One sitting above the circle of the earth (and its inhabitants [are] like locusts), stretching out the heavens like a curtain, and he spreads them out like a tent to dwell in,

Septuagint: [He is] the One controlling the circle of the earth (and the inhabitants in it [are] like locusts), the One setting up heaven like a vault and stretching [it] out like a tent to dwell in,

The Targum of Isaiah does not link the celestial dome to YHWH’s place of dwelling but refers to it as the “glorious tent for the house of his Shekinah.”


To a person standing in an extensive low-lying area and having a clear view of the horizon from every direction, the land looks like a circle beneath a large dome. In the biblical text, the words serve to express what appears to the eyes and do not function as a description of the earth nor its place in the vast universe. The focus is on the Creator. He is represented as being like a seated Sovereign above the “earth.” When he looks down on the human inhabitants from the height, they are small, like locusts. The cloudless sky, or the celestial dome, resembles a fine blue fabric that has been tightly stretched so that not even a slight wrinkle is visible. The stretching out of the celestial dome or setting it up, according to the Septuagint rendering, is attributed to YHWH. As a vault, it resembles a tent and, therefore, is spoken of as YHWH’s place of dwelling. He is thus portrayed as actively involved with and in full control of what takes place among humans on earth.

40:23. Masoretic Text: the One giving [over] dignitaries to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth like emptiness.

Septuagint: the One giving [over] rulers for nothing to rule, but he made the earth like nothing.


Regardless of the lofty position individuals may come to occupy among humans, their place is not secure. Dignitaries or rulers and judges are subject to YHWH’s will and purpose. He may allow them to be reduced to nothingness or sheer emptiness, with no semblance of any of their former dignity.

According to the Septuagint rendering, rulers would come to have no one over whom to exercise dominion and so would cease to be rulers. The reference to the earth being made like nothing may be understood to apply to the desolating of the land.

40:24. Masoretic Text: Hardly are they planted, hardly sown, hardly has their shoot taken root in the earth. And he blows on them and they wither, and the blast takes them away like stubble.

Septuagint: For by no means will they sow nor will they plant, nor will their root be rooted in the earth. He blew upon them, and they withered, and a blast will take them away like twigs.

The rendering “by no means” serves to preserve the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

The Targum of Isaiah is specific in making an application to people. Although they may increase in number and their children may grow up, YHWH would send his anger against them, resulting in scattering them in the way that a whirlwind scatters chaff.


Based on verse 23, the reference here is to prominent ones — dignitaries or rulers and judges. They are much like plants that have barely been planted or the seed sown, and the tender shoots have not had enough time to take root. A searing wind dries up what may have sprouted, and a gust of wind blows away the withered shoots like stubble or little “twigs” (LXX). Likewise, the prominent ones quickly cease to occupy their former position, for YHWH allows them to be overthrown.

The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that the prominent ones would not succeed in attaining their objectives, not being able to plant or sow nor having anything take root. They themselves would have YHWH’s unfavorable judgment expressed against them as if they were being blown away by him like twigs.

40:25. Masoretic Text: “And to whom will you liken me and I should be like him?” says the Holy One.

Septuagint: “Now, then, to whom did you liken me and I shall be exalted?” said the Holy One.


The answer to the rhetorical question directed to the Israelites is that they had no basis for likening YHWH to anyone or to anything. He is the true God without equal. Any material representation of him or a comparison of him with any of the deities of the nations would have been an utter distortion, a falsehood. It would have been an affront to him as the “Holy One,” the ultimate standard of truth and purity.

40:26. Masoretic Text: Lift up your eyes on high and see. Who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling all of them by name. By the greatness of his might and [because of his being] strong in power, not one is missing.

Septuagint: Look up into the height with your eyes and see. Who displayed all these? [He is] the One bringing forth his world by number. He will call all by name. On account of [your] abundant glory and in the strength of [your] might, [there is] nothing [of which] you [are] unaware.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads, “his power, and not one is missing.”

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that the people should look up to the height so that they might “fear before him who created these” (the stars and other heavenly bodies).


The Israelites are asked to look up skyward to behold the heavenly bodies. At night, they would have seen the moon and a multitude of stars. In answer to the rhetorical question about who created these or, according to the Septuagint, who “displayed these” or made them to appear, the people would have known that it was YHWH. After sunset, the stars become visible as if the great host has been brought out by number, one by one. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean the world that the people would see when looking upward, with God bringing forth by number this world consisting of many heavenly bodies and calling all of them by name.

To indicate that YHWH is in full control, he is represented as calling by name all the individual heavenly bodies. Among their great number, not a single one is missing, but they regularly make their appearance in the night sky. This is attributed to God’s great power, suggestive of his being the sustainer of everything. The Septuagint rendering indicates that he is aware of everything, for he is in possession of unparalleled glory, splendor, or majesty, and might. As the exalted Sovereign without equal, nothing escapes his attention.

40:27. Masoretic Text: Why, O Jacob, do you say and, O Israel, do you speak, “My way is hidden from YHWH, and my judgment is passed over by my God”?

Septuagint: For, O Jacob, do not say, and why did you speak, O Israel, “My way was hidden from God, and my God has removed my judgment and has departed”?


“Jacob” and “Israel” are parallel expressions and refer to the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Apparently because of their distressing circumstances, the Israelites expressed themselves to the effect that YHWH did not see what was happening to them. They felt that their “way” was concealed from him so that he did not take note of their plight and come to their aid. In their view, he had “passed over” or ignored their “judgment” or cause, doing nothing to have justice rendered for them. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, God had taken away their right for judgment and abandoned them. They, however, had seriously erred in their thinking.

40:28. Masoretic Text: Have you not known? Have you not heard? The eternal God YHWH, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not become faint or grow weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

Septuagint: And now did you not know if you have not heard? The eternal God, the God who prepared the ends of the earth, will not hunger and will not grow weary, and [there] is no searching out of his understanding.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about “his understanding.”


If the Israelites had not heard, they would not have known God as the Creator and, therefore, as the One who was fully aware of their actions and circumstances. He is the “eternal” One who has always been and is the ultimate source of everything that exists. His being the Creator of the “ends of the earth” may denote that he created everything on the earth, from one end to the other end.

The Israelites had wrongly concluded that YHWH did not see what was happening to them because he did not come to their aid. In this way, they improperly looked upon him as if he were like a human with personal limitations and who had to attend to personal needs. It is impossible for humans to function at the same level of strength at every hour of the day and night. To renew their energy, they must have drink, food, and sleep. Additionally, they do not always know what is best in a given situation, for their knowledge is limited.

Nothing, however, prevents YHWH from observing or taking action at any time that he may choose. He never becomes exhausted or tired. He does not need to take out time for eating and sleeping. His knowledge or understanding is unlimited and beyond human comprehension. So he is always in full possession of might and the needed wisdom to act in the way that will achieve the desired results.

40:29. Masoretic Text: He gives power to the one [who is] faint, and to the one without might he increases strength.

Septuagint: [He is the One] giving strength to those hungering, and sorrow to those not grieving.

The Targum of Isaiah interprets those who are faint as being the “righteous” who are “faint for the words of [God’s] law.” It says that God would give them wisdom, and to those without strength he would increase “riches.”


As the possessor of matchless power, YHWH is also able to impart power to those who are faint or exhausted. He can strengthen those whose energies have been depleted. According to the Septuagint rendering, those lacking in strength are those in need of food. God can strengthen such hungering ones, but he can also change the circumstances of those who may not be grieving but may be rejoicing. By what he permits to happen to them, he changes their joy to sorrow.

The corrective lesson for the Israelites was that YHWH is never limited in his ability to act and is the inexhaustible source of strength for those to whom he chooses to impart it.

40:30. Masoretic Text: And youths will faint and become weary, and young men will stagger.

Septuagint: For young men will hunger, and youths will grow weary, and the chosen will be without strength.

In the Targum of Isaiah, this is interpreted to be more specific. Guilty youths will be faint and weary, and ungodly young men will stumble.


Youth is commonly associated with a high degree of energy, whereas old age is marked by declining strength. Still, those who are young and strong will experience exhaustion and need rest. In a weakened state, young men will stagger and fall. The Septuagint rendering refers to the “chosen,” which would apply to specially selected men known for being strong. Even they can come to be powerless. Without the strength that God supplies, even the strength of youth fails.

40:31. Masoretic Text: And those waiting for YHWH will alter [their] strength. They will ascend with wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. They will walk and not faint.

Septuagint: But those waiting for God will alter [their] strength. They will acquire wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. They will advance and not hunger.

After the word for “strength,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has the conjunction “and.”

The Targum of Isaiah applies this to the Israelites among the exiles who would wait for YHWH’s deliverance and would come to have increased strength.


Those waiting on YHWH or resting their hope on him would not be like the Israelites who thought that their “way” or what they were experiencing was hidden from him and that he had passed by their judgment, not acting to execute justice for them. Because they trustfully waited for him to act, they would not be weakened by feelings of despair and hopelessness. Their patiently waiting with confidence in him would strengthen them. Accordingly, they would alter or change their condition of limited strength to one of much greater strength.

The expression about ascending “with wings like eagles” may allude to the fact that, after molting and coming to have new feathers, eagles appear to be renewed in strength. Thus those who wait on YHWH seem to be represented as invigorated, as if they were able to take wing like eagles with new feathers. Apparently in view of what YHWH does for them because they are willing to look to him for aid and strength, they are depicted as able to run without becoming weary and to walk (for a great distance or for a long time) without becoming faint or exhausted. The Septuagint rendering refers to them as advancing or walking without hungering, and this can refer to their not experiencing diminishing strength on account of hunger.