1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Vol II Introduction 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 Alexander's Works
A glorious change awaits the church, consisting in a new and gracious manifestation of Jehovah's presence, for which his people are exhorted to prepare, vs. 1-5. Though one generation perish after another, this promise shall eventually be fulfilled, because it rests not upon human but divine authority, vs. 6-8. Zion may even now see him approaching as the conqueror of his enemies, and at the same time as the shepherd of his people, vs, 9-11. The fulfilment of these pledges is insured by his infinite wisdom, his almighty power, and his independence both of individuals and nations, vs. 12-17. How much more is he superior to material images, by which men represent him or supply his place, vs. 18-25. The same power which sustains the heavens is pledged for the support of Israel, vs. 26-31.
The specific application of this chapter to the return from Babylon is without the least foundation in the text itself. The promise is a general one of consolation, protection, and change for the better, to be wrought by the power and wisdom of Jehovah, which are contrasted, first, with those of men, of nations, and of rulers, then with the utter impotence of idols. That the ultimate fulfilment of the promise was still distant, is implied in the exhortation to faith and patience. The reference to idolatry proves nothing with respect to the date of the prediction, although more appropriate in the writings of Isaiah than of a prophet in the Babylonish exile. It is evidently meant, however, to condemn idolatry in general, and more particularly all the idolatrous defections of the Israelites under the old economy.
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. This command is not addressed specifically to the priests or prophets, much less to the messengers from Babylon announcing the restoration of the Jews, but to any who might be supposed to hear the order, as in ch. 13:2, or to the people themselves, who are then required to encourage one another, as in ch. 35:3, 4. The imperative form of the expression is poetical. Instead of declaring his own purpose, God summons men to execute it. Instead of saying, I will comfort, he says, comfort ye. The same idea might have been expressed by saying, in the third person, let them comfort her, or in the passive voice, let her be comforted. The possessive pronouns are emphatic, and suggest that, notwithstanding what they suffered, they were still Jehovah's people, he was still their God. There is also meaning in the repetition of the verb at the beginning. Such repetitions are not unfrequent in the earlier prophecies. (See ch. 24:16. 26:3. 29:1. 38:11, 17, 19.) The prefatory exhortation in this verse affords a key to the whole prophecy, as being consolatory in its tone and purpose. There is evident allusion to the threatening in ch. 39:7. Having there predicted the captivity in Babylon, as one of the successive strokes, by which the fall of Israel as a nation and the total loss of its peculiar privileges should be brought about, the Prophet is now sent to assure the spiritual Israel, the true people of Jehovah, that although the Jewish nation should soon cease to be externally identified with the church, the church itself should not only continue to exist, but in a far more glorious state than ever. This is the "people" here meant, and this the "comfort" wherewith they were to be comforted.
2. Speak to (or according to) the heart of Jerusalem, and cry to her, her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins. By speaking to the heart, we are to understand speaking so as to affect the heart or feelings, and also in accordance with the heart or wishes, i.e. what the person addressed desires or needs to hear. Jerusalem is here put for the church or chosen people, whose metropolis it was, and for whose sake the place itself was precious in the sight of God. Warfare includes the two ideas of appointed time and hard service, in which sense the verb and noun are both applied to the routine of sacerdotal functions (Num. 4:23. 8:24, 25), but here still more expressively to the old dispensation, as a period of restriction and constraint. The continuance of the ceremonial system and the hardships of the old dispensation are here and elsewhere represented as chastisements due to the defections of the chosen people, notwithstanding which they should continue to exist, and in a far more glorious character, not as a national church, but as a spiritual church, set free from ritual and local fetters.
3. A voice crying--in the wilderness--clear the way of Jehovah--make straight (or level) in the desert a highway for our God. The Septuagint version, retained in the New Testament, is φωνὴ βοῶντος (the voice of one crying) which amounts to the same thing. Both in the Hebrew and the Greek, the words in the wilderness may be connected either with what follows or with what precedes; but the usual division is more natural, and the other has been insisted upon chiefly for the purpose of rendering the verse inapplicable to John the Baptist, who came preaching in wilderness, and to whom the words are applied expressly in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, as the herald of the new dispensation. Those who deny the inspiration of the Prophet are compelled to reject this as a mere accommodation, and apply the verse exclusively to the return from Babylon, of which there is no mention in the text or context. It is said indeed that God is here represented as marching at the head of his returning people. But in all the cases which Lowth cites as parallel, there is express allusion to the exodus from Egypt. Here, on the contrary, the only image presented is that of God returning to Jerusalem, revisiting his people, as he did in every signal manifestation of his presence, but above all at the advent of Messiah and the opening of the new dispensation. The verb rendered prepare denotes a particular kind of preparation, viz. the removal of obstructions, as appears from Gen. 24:31, Lev. 14:36, and may therefore be expressed by clear in English. The parallel verb means rectify or make straight, either in reference to obliquity of course or to unevenness of surface, most probably the latter, in which case it may be expressed by level. To a general term meaning way or path is added a specific one denoting an artificial causeway raised above the surface of the earth. There is no need of supposing that the Prophet here alludes to any particular usage of the oriental sovereigns, or that the order of the first and second verses is continued (let there be a voice crying). The Prophet is describing what he actually hears--a voice crying!--or, hark, one cries!
4. Every valley shall be raised and every mountain and hill brought low, and the uneven shall become level and the ridges a plain. This may be considered as an explanation of the manner in which the way of the Lord was to be prepared. The common version (exalted) seems to imply that the valleys and mountains were to exchange places; but this would not facilitate the passage, which requires that both should be reduced to a common level. The whole impression here intended to be made is that of a way opened through a wilderness by levelling the ground and the removal of obstructions, as a natural image for the removal of the hinderances to God's revisiting his people.
5. And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see (it), for the mouth of Jehovah speaks (or hath spoken). The idea seems to be that as soon as the way is opened, the Lord will show himself. To see God's glory, is a common expression for recognizing his presence and agency in any event. (See Exod. 16:7. Is. 35:2. 66:18.) The specific reference of this verse to the restoration of the Jews from exile is not only gratuitous but inconsistent with the strength and comprehensiveness of its expressions. The simple meaning is, that when the way should be prepared, the glory of God would be universally displayed; a promise too extensive to be fully verified in that event or period of history.
6. A voice saying, Cry! And he said (or says), What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all its favour like a flower of the field! The force and beauty of the verse are much impaired by any version which does not represent the writer as actually hearing what he thus describes. There is a pleasing mystery in the dialogue of those anonymous voices, which is dispelled by undertaking to determine too precisely who the speakers are. All that the words necessarily convey is, that one voice speaks and another voice answers. Interpreters are universally agreed that the last clause contains the words which the second speaker is required to utter. It is possible, however, to connect these words immediately with what precedes, and understand them as presenting an objection to the required proclamation. What shall (or can) I cry, (since) all flesh is grass etc. The advantages of this construction are, that it assumes no change of speaker where none is intimated in the text, and that it does away with an alleged tautology, as will be seen below. According to the usual construction we are to supply before the last clause, and the first voice said again (or answered), Cry as follows: All flesh etc. This last phrase is here used, not in its widest sense, as comprehending the whole animal world, but in its more restricted application to mankind, of which some examples may be found in the New Testament (John 17:2. Rom. 3:20). The comparison of human frailty to grass is common in the Scriptures. The contrast is between the shortlived and precarious favour of man and the infallible promise of God. The quotation in 1 Pet. 1:24, 25, confirms the supposition, here suggested by the context, that the words have reference to the preaching of the gospel or the introduction of the new dispensation.
7. Dried is the grass, faded the flower; for the breath of Jehovah has blown upon it. Surely the people is grass. The present form usually given to the verbs conveys the sense correctly as a general proposition, but not in its original shape as a description of what has actually happened, and may be expected to occur again.
8. Dried is the grass, faded the flower, and the word of our God shall stand forever. The comparatively rare use of adversative particles in Hebrew is exemplifed in this verse, in which the relation of the clauses can be fully expressed in English only by means of the word but. By word he means neither promise, nor prophecy, nor gospel merely, but every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3. Matt. 4:4). There is a tacit antithesis between the word of God and man; what man says is uncertain and precarious, what God says cannot fail. Thus understood it includes prediction, precept, promise, and the offer of salvation, and although the latter is not meant exclusively, the Apostle makes a perfectly correct and most important application of the verse when, after quoting it, he adds, and this is the word which is preached (εὐαγγελισθὲν) unto you, that is to say, this prophetic declaration is emphatically true of the gospel of Christ. To stand forever is a common Hebrew phrase for perpetuity, security, and sure fulfilment.
The expression our God contains, as usual, a reference to the covenant relation between God and his people. It is possible to avoid the appearance of tautology and give the passage a dramatic form, by making the last clause of v. 6 and the whole of v. 7 a continuation of the words of the second voice, and then regarding v. 8 as a rejoinder by the first voice. The whole may then be paraphrased as follows. A voice says, Cry! And (another voice) says, What shall I cry (i.e. to what purpose can I cry, or utter promises like those recorded in vs. 1-5), since all flesh is grass etc.; the grass withereth etc.; surely the people is grass (and cannot be expected to witness the fulfilment of these promises). But the first voice says again: The grass does wither, and the flower does fade; but these events depend not on the life of man, but on the word of God, and the word of God shall stand forever.
9. Upon a high mountain get thee up, bringer of good news, Zion! Raise with strength thy voice, bringer of good news, Jerusalem! Raise (it), fear not, say to the towns of Judah, Lo your God! The reflective form, get thee up, though not a literal translation, is an idiomatic equivalent to the Hebrew phrase (ascend for thee or for thyself). Some suppose an allusion to the practice of addressing large assemblies from the summit or acclivity of hills. (See Judges 9:7. Deut. 27:12. Matt. 5:1.) But the essential idea is that of local elevation as extending the diffusion of the sound. Zion or Jerusalem herself is represented as the bearer of good tidings to the towns of Judah. This construction is recommended by the beautiful personification, which it introduces, of the Holy City as the seat of the true religion and the centre of the church. The office here ascribed to it is the same that is recognized in ch. 2:3: the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Not only in the restoration from captivity, or in the personal advent of the Saviour, but in every instance of the Lord's return to his forsaken people, it is the duty of the church to communicate as well as to receive the joyful tidings.
10. Lo, the Lord Jehovah will come (or is coming) in (the person of) a strong one, and his arm ruling for him. Lo, his hire is with him and his wages before him. The double lo represents the object as already appearing or in sight. What God is said to do himself in one case, he is represented in the other as accomplishing by means of a powerful instrument or agent, which, however, is defined no further. The essential meaning is that Jehovah was about to make a signal exhibition of his power. The participle ruling, in the next clause, is expressive of continuous action. The clause is a poetical description of the arm as acting independently of its possessor, and as it were in his behalf. The two verses may be readily connected, without any change of figure, by supposing that the lost sheep which he has recovered are the recompense referred to in the verse before us. Thus understood, the passage may have furnished the occasion and the basis of our Saviour's beautiful description of himself as the true shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, as well as the figure drawn from the recovery of a lost sheep to illustrate the rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner. It is probable, not only that Jehovah is here represented as receiving a reward, but that there is special reference to the recompense of the Messiah's sufferings and obedience by the redemption of his people. According to the view which has been taken of the nexus between these two verses, before him may possibly contain an allusion to the shepherd's following his flock; but it admits of a more obvious and simple explanation, as denoting that his recompense is not only sure but actually realized, being already in his sight or presence, and with him, i.e. in immediate possession.
11. Like a shepherd his flock will he feed, with his arm will he gather the lambs, and in his bosom carry (them); the nursing (ewes) he will (gently) lead. Although the meaning of this verse is plain, it is not easily translated, on account of the peculiar fitness and significancy of the terms employed. The word correctly rendered feed denotes the whole care of a shepherd for his flock, and has therefore no exact equivalent in English. To gather with the arm coincides very nearly, although not precisely, with our phrase to take up in the arms. A very similar idea is expressed by bearing in the bosom. The passage is descriptive of the whole relation which Jehovah sustains to his people, as their shepherd, and of which inferior but real exhibitions were afforded long before the advent of the Saviour; for example, in the restoration of the Jews from exile, which is no more to be excluded from the scope of this prophetic picture, than to be regarded as its only subject.
12. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended in a measure the dust of the earth, and weighed in a balance the mountains, and the hills in scales? There are two directly opposite opinions as to the general idea here expressed. Some understand the question as an indirect negation of the possibility of doing what is here described. The implied answer, upon this hypothesis, is, No one, and the verse is equivalent to the exclamation, How immense are the works of God! The other and more usual interpretation understands the question thus: Who (but God) has measured or can measure etc.? Thus understood, the verse, so far from affirming the immensity of God's works, represents them as little in comparison with him, who measures and distributes them with perfect ease. The first explanation derives some countenance from the analogy of the next verse, where the question certainly involves an absolute negation, and is tantamount to saying, that no one does or can do what is there described. But this consideration is not sufficient to outweigh the argument in favour of the other explanation, arising from its greater simplicity and obviousness in this connection. In order to convey the idea of immensity, the largest measures, not the smallest, would have been employed. An object might be too large to be weighed in scales, or held in the hollow of a man's hand, and yet very far from being immense or even vast in its dimensions. On the other hand, the smallness of the measure is entirely appropriate as showing the immensity of God himself, who can deal with the whole universe as man deals with the most minute and trivial objects. A handful is here put for the receptacle or measure of that quantity. The span is mentioned as a natural and universal measure of length. The terms used in the English Bible, scales and balance, are retained above but transposed, in order to adhere more closely to the form of the original, in which the first word is a singular while the other is a dual, strictly denoting a pair of scales. The dust of the earth seems to be here put poetically for the earth itself. The literal comprehension of the earth in this specific measure is impossible, and all that the words were intended to suggest is a comparison between the customary measurement of common things by man, and the analogous control which is exercised by God over all his works.
13. Who hath measured the spirit of Jehovah, and (who, as) the man of his counsel, will teach him (or cause him to know)? The natural connection seems to be, that he who weighs the hills etc. must himself be independent, boundless, and unsearchable. The last clause is not an answer to the first, but a continuation of the question. Both tenses seem to have been used, as in many other cases, for the purpose of making the implied negation more exclusive. Who has, and who will or can?
14. Whom did he consult (or with whom took he counsel) and he made him understand, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and the way of understanding (who) will make him know? The consecution of the tenses is the same as in the foregoing verse. By judgment we must either understand discretion, in which case the whole phrase will be synonymous with way of understanding in the parallel clause; or rectitude, in which case the whole phrase will mean the right way, not in a moral sense, but in that of a way conducting to the end desired, the right way to attain that end. As these are only different expressions of the same essential idea, the question is of little exegetical importance. The first clause of this verse is quoted in Rom. 11:34, with the following words added, or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? It is probable that the words were introduced into the Septuagint from the text in Romans, where they are really no part of the quotation from Isaiah, but the apostle's own paraphrase of it or addition to it, the form of which may have been suggested by the first clause of Job 41:11. Such allusive imitations occur elsewhere in Paul's writings. (See vol. I. p. 379.) In the present case, the addition agrees fully with the spirit of the passage quoted; since the aid in question, if it had been afforded, would be fairly entitled to a recompense.
15. Lo, nations as a drop from a bucket, and as dust on scales are reckoned; lo, islands as an atom he will take up. He is independent, not only of nature and of individual men, but of nations, Both members of the clause are to be construed with the verb at the end. Dust of the scales or balance, i.e. dust resting on it, but without affecting its equilibrium.
16. And Lebanon is not enough for burning, and its beasts are not enough for a sacrifice. The supremacy and majesty of God are now presented in a more religious aspect, by expressions borrowed from the Mosaic ritual. He is not only independent of the power but also of the good-will of his creatures. This general allusion to oblation, as an act of homage or of friendship, suits the connection better than a specific reference to expiation. The insufficiency of these sufferings is set forth, not in a formal proposition, but by means of a striking individualization. For general terms he substitutes one striking instance, and asserts of that what might be asserted of the rest. If Lebanon could not suffice, what could? (Compare with this verse ch. 66:1. 1 Kings 8:27. 2 Chr. 6:18. Ps. 50:8-13.)
17. All the nations as nothing before him, less than nothing and vanity are counted to him. The proposition of v. 15 is repeated, but in still more absolute and universal terms. Instead of nations, he says all the nations; instead of likening them to grains of sand or drops of water, he denies their very being. Before him does not simply mean in his view or estimation, but in comparison with him. So too the parallel expression does not mean by him, but with respect to him, or simply to him in the same sense as when we say that one thing or person is nothing to another, i. e. not to be compared with it. The same use of to, even without a negative, is clear from such expressions as "Hyperion to a Satyr." That God is the arbiter who thus decides between himself and his creatures, is still implied in both the phrases, although not the sole or even prominent idea meant to be expressed by either. The verse contains the strongest possible expression of insignificance and even non-existence, as predicable even of whole nations, in comparison with God, and in his presence.
18. And (now) to whom will ye liken God, and what likeness will ye compare to him? The inevitable logical conclusion from the previous considerations is that God is One and that there is no other. From this, the Prophet now proceeds to argue, that it is folly to compare God even with the most exalted creature, how much more with lifeless matter. The logical relation of this verse to what precedes, although not indicated in the text, may be rendered clearer by the introduction of an illative particle (then, therefore, etc.), or more simply by inserting now, which is often used in such connections. The last clause admits of two constructions, both amounting to the same thing in the end. What likeness or resemblance (i.e. what similar object) will ye compare to him? Or, what comparison will ye institute respecting him? The last agrees best with the usage of the verb, as meaning to arrange, prepare, or set in order (to compare, only indirectly and by implication); while at the same time it avoids the unusual combination of comparing a likeness to a thing or person, instead of comparing the two objects for the purpose of discovering their likeness. The use of the divine name (אֵ֑ל) expressive of omnipotence is here emphatic and significant, as a preparation for the subsequent exposure of the impotence of idols.
19. The image a carver has wrought, and a gilder with gold shall overlay it, and chains of silver (he is) casting. The ambiguous construction of the first clause is the same in the original, where we may either supply a relative, or make it a distinct proposition. In favour of the first, which is a frequent ellipsis both in Hebrew and English, is the fact, that the verse then contains a direct answer to the question in the one before it. What have you to set over against such a God? The image which an ordinary workman manufactures. It enables us also to account for the position of the image at the beginning of the sentence, and for its having the deifinite article, while the following nouns have none, both which forms of expression seem to be significant, the image which a workman (i.e. any workman) can produce. The consecution of the tenses seems to show, that the writer takes his stand between the commencement and the end of the process, and describes it as actually going on. The carver has already wrought the image, and the gilder is about to overlay it. The word gilder, although not an exact translation, has been used above, as more appropriate in this connection than the common version, goldsmith. The silver chains may be considered either simply ornamental, or as intended to suspend the image and prevent its falling.
20. (As for) the (man) impoverished (by) offering, a tree (that) will not rot he chooses, a wise carver he seeks for it, to set up an image (that) shall not be moved. While the rich waste their gold and silver upon idols, the poor are equally extravagant in wood. To say that the poor man uses wood instead of gold and silver, is coherent and appropriate, but far less significant and striking than to say, that the man who has already reduced himself to want by lavish gifts to his idol, still continues his devotions, and as he no longer can afford an image of the precious metals, is resolved at least to have a durable wooden one. Thus understood, the verse adds to the general description a particular trait highly expressive of the folly of idolaters. Wise is here used in what appears to be its primary meaning of artistically skilful. See note on ch. 3:3.
21. Will you not know? will you not hear? has it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood the foundations (or from the foundations) of the earth? The tenses of the verbs in the first clause have been variously and arbitrarily explained by different interpreters. The English Version and some others exchange both the futures for preterites (have ye not known? have ye not heard?) without any satisfactory reason or authority. But the most satisfactory, because the safest and most regular construction, is the strict one given in the Septuagint (οὐ γνώσεσθε; οὐκ ἀκούσεσθε;) and revived by Lowth (will ye not know? will ye not hear?) The clause is then not a mere expression of surprise at their not knowing, but of concern or indignation at their being unwilling to know. There is no inconsistency between this explanation of the first two questions and the obvious meaning of the third; because the proof of their unwillingness to hear and know was the fact of their having been informed from the beginning. The words seem to refer simply to the testimony of external nature, and to mean that they who question the existence or supremacy of one God are without excuse, as Paul says, because the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, to wit, his eternal power and Godhead. (Rom. 1:20. Compare Acts 14:17. 17:24.) The foundations of the earth are put by a natural and common figure for its being founded, i.e. its creation.
22. The (one) sitting on (or over) the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants (are) as grasshoppers (or locusts); the one spreading like a veil (or awning) the heavens, and he stretches them out like the tent to dwell in. The circle of the earth may either mean the earth itself or the heavens by which it is surmounted and encompassed. The same comparison occurs in Num. 18:33. It has been disputed whether the last words of the verse mean for himself to dwell in, or for man to dwell in. But they really form part, not of the direct description, but of the comparison, like a tent pitched for dwelling in. With this verse compare ch. 42:5. 44:24. Job 9:8. Ps. 104:2.
23. The (one) bringing (literally giving or putting) princes to nothing, the judges (or rulers) J the earth like emptiness (or desolation) he has made. Not only nature but man, not only individuals but nations, not only nations but their rulers, are completely subject to the power of God.
24. Not even sown were they, not even planted, not even rooted in the ground their stock, and he just breathed (or blew) upon them, and they withered, and a whirlwind like the chaff shall take them up (or away). The transition to the future in the last clause is analogous to that in v. 19, and has the same effect of showing that the point of observation is an intermediate one between the beginning and the end of the destroying process. The essential meaning of the whole verse is, that God can extirpate them, not only in the end, but in a moment; not only in the height of their prosperity, but long before they have attained it. It is possible, that the words may have reference to the national existence of Israel as a nation, the end of which, with the continued and more glorious existence of the church independent of all national restrictions, may be said to constitute the great theme of these prophecies.
25. And (now) to whom will ye liken me, and (to whom) shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. He winds up his argument by coming back to the triumphant challenge of v. 18.
26. Lift up on high your eyes and see--who hath created all these? (and who is) the (one) bringing out by number their host! --to all of them by name will he call--from abundance of might and (because) strong in power--not one faileth (literally, a man is not missed or found wanting). The same exhortation to lift up the eyes occurs elsewhere in Isaiah (ch. 37:23. 49:18. 60:4). The construction is not, see (him) who created these, or, see who created these, but, as the accents indicate, see, behold, the heavens and the heavenly bodies, and then a distinct interrogation, who created these? To bring out is a military term, as appears from ch. 43:17 and 2 Sam. 5:2. It is applied as here to the host of heaven in Job 38:32. The sense is that the stars are like an army which its leader brings out and enumerates, the particular points of the resemblance being left to the imagination.
27. Why wilt thou say oh Jacob, and why (thus) speak oh Israel! Hidden is my way from Jehovah, and from my God my cause will pass (or is about to pass) away. The precise question asked by the Prophet is not why hast thou said, why dost thou say, or why shouldest thou say, but why wilt thou still go on to say, implying that it had been said, was still said, and would be said again. The two names of the patriarch are here combined, as in many other cases, to describe his offspring. Hidden may either mean unknown, or neglected, or forgotten, in which last sense it is used below in ch. 65:16. The same verb is applied in Gen. 31:49 to persons who are absent from each other and of course out of sight. Way is a common figure for the course of life, experience, or what the world calls fortune, destiny, or fate. The figure in the last clause is forensic, the idea that of a cause or suit dismissed, lost sight of or neglected by the judge. The expression is analogous to that in ch. 1:23, where it is said of the unjust judges, that the cause of the widow does not come unto them or before them. The state of mind described is a skeptical despondency as to the fulfilment of God's promises. This form of unbelief is more or less familiar to the personal experience of believers in all ages, and the terms of the expostulation here are not restricted to any single period in the history of Israel.
28. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? The God of eternity (or everlasting God), Jehavah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, will not faint, and will not tire; there is no search (with respect) to his understanding. That he will not faint or tire, implies sufficiently in this case that he neither does nor can, while it expresses his unwillingness to do so. The ends of the earth is a common Hebrew phrase for its limits and all that they include. This verse contains an answer to the unbelieving fears expressed in that before it, which ascribed to God an imerfection or infirmity with which he is not chargeable. The last clause may either be a general assertion that he cannot leave his people unprotected through a want of understanding and of knowledge, or, a suggestion that his methods of proceeding, though inscrutable, are infinitely wise, and that the seeming inconsistency between his words and deeds, far from arguing unfaithfulness or weakness upon his part, does but prove our incapacity to understand or fathom his profound designs. Even supposing that the former is the strict sense of the words, the latter is implicitly contained in them.
29. Giving to the faint (or weary) strength, and to the powerless might will he increase. He is not only strong in himself, but the giver of strength to others, or, to state it as an argument a fortiori, he who is the only source of strength to others must be strong himself and able to fulfil his promises. The construction is similar to that in vs. 22, 23, not excepting the transition from the participle to the finite verb.
30. And (yet) weary shall youths be and faint, and chosen (youths) shall be weakened, be weakened. There is here an obvious allusion to the terms of v. 28. What is there denied of God, is here affirmed, not only of men in general, but of the stoutest and most vigorous, aptly represented by the young men chosen for military service. That the prominent idea here conveyed is that of manly strength and vigour, is not questioned. The intensive repetition of the verb may either be expressed by the addition of an adverb, as in the English Version (utterly fall), or retained in the translation as above.
31. And (on the other hand) those waiting for Jehovah shall gain new strength; they shall raise the pinion like the eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. The marked antithesis between this verse and that before it, justifies the use of but in English, although not in the original. To wait for or expect implies faith and patience. This is also the old English meaning of the phrase to wait upon, as applied to servants who await their master's orders; but in modern usage the idea of personal service or attendance has become predominant, so that the English phrase no longer represents the Hebrew one. The class of persons meant to be described are those who show their confidence in God's ability and willingness to execute his promises, by patiently awaiting their fulfilment. The restriction of these words to the exiles in Babylon is entirely gratuitous. Although applicable, as a general proposition, to that ease among others, they admit of a more direct and striking application to the case of those who under the old dispensation kept its end in view, and still "waited for the consolation of Israel," and "looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (Luke 2: 25, 38.) The phrase translated they shall gain new strength properly means they shall exchange strength; but the usage of the verb determines its specific meaning to be that of changing for the better or improving. The sense is therefore correctly given in the English Version (they shall renew their strength). Of the next phrase there are three distinct interpretations. 1. They shall mount up with wings. 2. They shall put forth fresh feathers like the moulting eagle. The reference is then to the ancient belief of the eagle's great longevity and of its frequently renewing its youth. (Psalm 103: 5.) The rabbinical tradition is that the eagle, at the end of every tenth year, soars so near the sun as to be scorched and cast into the sea, from which it then emerges with fresh plumage, till at the end of the tenth decade or a century complete, it sinks to rise no more. 3. A third construction, simpler than the first and more agreeable to usage than the second, gives the verb its ordinary sense of causing to ascend or raising and the noun its proper sense of pinion, and connects the two directly as a transitive verb and its object, they shall raise the pinion (or the wing) like the eagles. In the last clause the verbs are introduced together for the third time in a beautiful antithesis. In v. 28 they are applied to Jehovah, in v. 30 to the strongest and most vigorous of men, as they are in themselves, and here to the waiters for Jehovah, the believers in his promises, who glory in infirmity that his strength may be perfect in their weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9.)