Isaiah 40:1-11

Isaiah 40:1-11
Narrative Lectionary


Comfort,A O comfort my people,B
    says your God.C

Notes on verse 1

A “comfort” = nacham. Properly, this is a strong breath or a sigh. This can be to be sorry, to pity, console. Comfort, or repent. But, one can also comfort oneself with less righteous thoughts, so this can also mean to avenge oneself. Here, a masculine plural imperative (i.e. “you all comfort my people”).
B “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
C “God” = Elohim.

SpeakD tenderlyE to Jerusalem,F
    and cryG to her

Notes on verse 2a

D “speak” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
E “tenderly” = al + leb. Literally “upon the heart.” Leb may be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
F “Jerusalem” = Yerushalaim. From yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach) + shalem (to make amends, to be complete or sound). This is Jerusalem, dwelling of peace.
G “cry” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.

that she has servedH her term,I
    that her penaltyJ is paid,K

Notes on verse 2b

H “served” = male. This is fill, satisfy, replenish, accomplish, fulfill, confirm, or consecrate. It is fill in a literal or figurative sense.
I “term” = tsaba. From tsaba (to wage war, serve, assemble, fight, perform, muster, wait on). This is a large group of persons (used figuratively for a group of things). It implies a campaign literally as with army, war, warfare, battle, company, soldiers. Can also be used figuratively for hardship or for worship.
J “penalty” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
K “paid” = ratsah. This is to be pleased with, delight, take pleasure in, or accept with favor. It can mean to approve or consent regarding something. It can also be used specifically of satisfying debts or being pardoned.

that she has received from the Lord’sL handM
    doubleN for all her sins.O

Notes on verse 2c

L “Lord’s” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
M “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
N “double” = kephel. 3x in NT. From kaphal (to double, fold, repeat). This is double, copy, two sides.
O “sins” = chatta’ah. From chata’ (to miss or go wrong and so to sin, bear the blame; it can also include the sense of forfeiting or lacking). This is sin itself as well as punishment for sin. It is sometimes used specifically to refer to sin that is habitual.

A voiceP cries out:
“In the wildernessQ prepareR the wayS of the Lord,

Notes on verse 3a

P “voice” = qol. This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
Q “wilderness” = midbar. Related to “speak” in v2. From dabar (see note D above). This is mouth or speech. It can also be desert or wilderness. Additionally, it can be used for a pasture to which one drives cattle.
R “prepare” = panah. This is to turn, regard, appear, look, prepare.
S “way” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.

    make straightT in the desertU a highwayV for our God.

Notes on verse 3b

T “make straight” = yashar. This is to be straight, right, even, smooth, or agreeable. Figuratively, it can be to make something pleasant or prosperous.
U “desert” = arabah. From the same as arab (desert plateau, Arabia) OR from arab (to become evening); {from ereb (evening) or from arab (to exchange, give or take on pledge, braid, intermix)}. This is a desert valley or plain, wilderness. Also, the name of a place Arabah.
V “highway” = mesillah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is highway, path, step. It could be a course in a figurative sense or specifically a viaduct or staircase.

Every valleyW shall be lifted up,X
    and every mountain and hill be made low;Y

Notes on verse 4a

W “valley” = gay. Perhaps from the same as gevah (pride, confidence); from gevah (the back or body); from gey (the back, among); from ga’ah (to grow up, rise, triumph, be majestic). This is valley or gorge that has high walls. It is, perhaps, a narrow valley, but not a winter-torrent.
X “lifted up” = nasa. This to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
Y “made low” = shaphel. This is to be low, sink, be cast down, put down, humble, or humiliate.

the uneven groundZ shall become level,AA
    and the rough placesBB a plain.CC

Notes on verse 4b

Z “uneven ground” = aqob. 3x in NT. From aqab (to assail, supplant, overreach, follow or grab someone’s heel, to trip someone up); from aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is crooked, steep, hilly. It is a place that can only be crossed by foot because it is so uneven. Figuratively, it can be fraudulent, insidious, or polluted.
AA “level” = mishor. Related to “make straight” in v3. From yashar (see note T above). This is a level place like a plain. It can also be the proper name of a level place. Figuratively, it can refer to straightness in the sense of justice, equity, fairness, righteousness, or uprightness. It can also refer to a concord.
BB “rough places” = rekes. 1x in NT. From rakas (to tie, bind). This is bound i.e. impeded. So, it can refer to rough terrain or a mountain chain.
CC “plain” = biqah. From baqa (to divide, split open, tear, breach, break open, dash to pieces). This is a valley or plain. Properly, it refers to a place where the mountains have split – a wide, flat valley between them.

Then the gloryDD of the Lord shall be revealed,EE
    and all peopleFF shall seeGG it together,
    for the mouthHH of the Lord has spoken.”

Notes on verse 5

DD “glory” = kabod. From kabad (to be heavy, weighty, burdensome). This is weighty. Figuratively, glorious, abundant, riches, honor, splendor – a reference to one’s reputation or character. This word is often used to describe God and God’s presence.
EE “revealed” = galah. This is to remove, bring, carry, lead, appear, advertise. It can mean to strip someone or something bare in a negative sense. Captives were typically stripped before they were sent into exile. Used figuratively, in a positive sense, this word means reveal, disclose, discover.
FF “people” = basar. From basar (being a messenger, publish, carry preach; properly, this is being fresh, rosy or cheerful as one bearing news). This is flesh, the body, fat, skin, self, nakedness, humankind, or kin. It can also refer to private parts.
GG “see” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
HH “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,II
    their constancyJJ is like the flowerKK of the field.LL

Notes on verse 6

II “grass” = chatsir. Perhaps from the same as chatsir (village, settlement); from chatser (enclosure or court – a yard that is fenced in. It could also be a village or hamlet that is walled in); from chatsar (to blow a trumpet, trumpeter, to surround); from chatsotsrah (trumpet). This is grass, plant, hay.
JJ “constancy” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
KK “flower” = tsiyts. 15x in NT. From tsuts (to twinkle, shine, blossom; figuratively to flourish). This is a blossom or flower. In the sense of glistening, it could also be a polished plate or the wing of a bird.
LL “field” = sadeh. This is literally field, ground, soil, or land. It is used to mean wild like a wild animal.

The grass withers,MM the flower fades,NN
    when the breathOO of the Lord blowsPP upon it;
    surely the peopleQQ are grass.

Notes on verse 7

MM “withers” = yabesh. This is to be dry, withered, confused, or ashamed. It can also be to fail.
NN “fades” = nabel. This is to fall away, faint, wither, languish, sink. Figuratively, it can mean being senseless, foolish, or wicked. Further, it can be to despise, disgrace, or fall to nothing, to be seen with contempt.
OO “breath” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.
PP “blows” = nashab. 3x in NT. This is to blow or disperse.
QQ “people” = am. Same as “people” in v1. See note B above.

The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the wordRR of our God will standSS forever.TT

Notes on verse 8

RR “word” = dabar. Related to “speak” in v2 & “wilderness in v3. From dabar (see note D above). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
SS “stand” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
TT “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

Get you up to a highUU mountain,
    O Zion,VV herald of good tidings;WW

Notes on verse 9a

UU “high” = gaboah. From gabah (to be tall, high, exalted, proud, haughty). This is high, tall, long, proud, or arrogant. It could also be a high ranking official, someone exalted, or something lofty. 
VV “Zion” = tsiyyon. The word is related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.
WW “herald of good tidings” = basar. Related to “people” in v5. See note FF above.

lift upXX your voice with strength,YY
    O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
    lift it up, do not fear;ZZ

Notes on verse 9b

XX “lift up” = rum. This is to rise or raise, to be high literally or figuratively. So it can also mean to exalt or extol.
YY “strength” = koach. Root may mean to be firm. This is power, strength, force. It can be literal or figurative, positive or negative. It can also mean capacity or means – what something produces. Additionally, it could refer to some kind of small reptile.
ZZ “fear” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.

say to the citiesAAA of Judah,BBB
    “HereCCC is your God!”

Notes on verse 9c

AAA “cities” = iyr. From uwr (to awaken or wake oneself up). This can mean excitement in the sense of wakefulness or city. Properly, this is a place that is guarded. Guards kept schedules according to watches. This sense of the word would include cities as well as encampments or posts that were guarded.
BBB “Judah” = yehudah. Probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Judah, meaning “praised.”
CCC “here” = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!

10 See,DDD the LordEEE GodFFF comes with might,GGG
    and his armHHH rulesIII for him;

Notes on verse 10a

DDD “see” = hinneh. Same as “here” in v9. See note CCC above.
EEE “Lord” = Adonai. From adon (lord, master, owner); root means to rule or be sovereign. This is the actual Hebrew word for Lord used (in a different form) of humans and (in the present form) of God. It means someone who is in control.
FFF “God” = YHVH. Related to “Lord’s” in v2. See note L above.
GGG “might” = chazaq. From chazaq (to strengthen, seize, be courageous, repair, bind, heal, conquer, harden). This is strong, hard, powerful, loud, bold, violent, impudent. It is usually strong in a negative sense.
HHH “arm” = zeroa. Perhaps from zara (to sow, scatter seed, conceive). This is the arm, shoulder, or foreleg of an animal. It is figuratively used for power, force, might, or help.
III “rules” = mashal. This is to rule, reign, govern, have authority, wield.

JJJhis rewardKKK is with him,
    and his recompenseLLL beforeMMM him.

Notes on verse 10b

JJJ {untranslated} = hinneh. Same as “here” in v9. See note CCC above.
KKK “reward” = sakar. From sakar (to hire, reward, earn). This is wages, payment, service, salary, worth, reward, or benefit.
LLL “recompense” = peullah. 14x in NT. From paal (to do, make, work, or accomplish; generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – to practice). This is work, deed, reward, or wages.
MMM “before” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

11 He will feedNNN his flockOOO like a shepherd;PPP
    he will gatherQQQ the lambsRRR in his arms,

Notes on verse 11a

NNN “feed” = ra’ah. Same as “shepherd” in v11. See note PPP below.
OOO “flock” = eder. From adar (fail, missing) OR from adar (to dig, help, keep rank; properly, to muster troops as for battle; to miss or lack since you can see who is missing following muster; to arrange like a vineyard and so to hoe). This is arrangement – of animals, a flock or herd.
PPP “shepherd” = ra’ah. This is to tend a flock, pasture, or graze. It can mean to rule or to associate with someone. Figuratively, it can be ruler or teacher.
QQQ “gather” = qabats. This is to collect, assemble, heap, grasp, or gather.
RRR “lambs” = tela. 1x in OT. From the same as taleh (lamb); from tla (lamb); perhaps from tala (to be spotted, have different colors). This is a lamb.

and carrySSS them in his bosom,TTT
    and gently leadUUU the mother sheep.VVV

Notes on verse 11b

SSS “carry” = nasa. Same as “lifted up” in v4. See note X above.
TTT “bosom” = cheq. Root may mean to enclose. This is bosom in a literal or figurative sense. So, this could be arms, lap, or midst. It can also be care or cherish.
UUU “gently lead” = nahal. 10x in NT. This is leading or guiding – specifically to a resting place or somewhere where there is water. So, it can mean to refresh or feed, protect or sustain. The word itself carries a sense of flowing, sparkling water. This is the word used in Psalm 23 “he leads me beside still waters.”
VVV “mother sheep” = ul. 5x in NT. This is to nurse or suckle. It can also be used of a suckling lamb.

Image credit: “Assaf Sheep in Hebron” by Badarin.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply