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Go to Bible: Isaiah 40
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” The word “comfort” is repeated twice for emphasis. Note that God does not say, “I will comfort my people,” but instead gives the command for someone to comfort His people. The command is no doubt to Isaiah, but would include other prophets and also likely leaders that are charged with the responsibility of taking care of God’s people.(top)
“paid for.” In certain contexts, the Hebrew verb ratsah (#07521 רָצָה) means to “make up for,” “pay for,” “expiate,” and this is one of those cases. This same word occurs in Leviticus 26:34, 41, and 26:43. Keil and Delitzsch write that Israel’s “iniquity is atoned for, and the justice of God is satisfied: [The Hebrew word ratsah] which generally denotes a satisfactory reception, is used here in the sense of meeting with a satisfactory payment, like [ratsah avon] in Lev. 26:41, 43, to pay off the debt of sin by enduring the punishment of sin” (Commentary on the Old Testament).
The sin of Israel has been “paid off,” and thus pardoned, because she received from Yahweh “double” for all her sins. God had said that sometimes sin would be repaid double (cp. Jer. 16:18; 17:18) and in Leviticus 26, God had clearly said that if people behaved like Israel had behaved, they would receive “sevenfold” punishment for their sin (Lev. 26:18, 24, 28). In any case, at this point, Israel had paid for her sin. This verse in Isaiah shows that sin was sometimes thought of in terms of being a debt that needed to be paid, something that was much more fully developed during and after the Babylonian Captivity and during New Testament times. [For a more complete understanding of sin, see commentary on 1 John 1:7, “sin.” For a more complete understanding of the land incurring a debt when the Sabbath years were not honored, see Lev. 26 and the commentary on Lev. 26:34].(top)
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“the glory of Yahweh will be revealed.” In this context “the glory of Yahweh” is almost certainly the glorious light that surrounded Yahweh. In the Millennial Kingdom, Yahweh will dwell in His Temple, and people will see His glory. The “glory” here does not seem to be God’s power and praiseworthiness. Even in our fallen world, the power and praiseworthiness of Yahweh is constantly being revealed even if people fail to pay attention to it (Rom. 1:18-20), so this is an elevated way that everyone sees the glory of Yahweh. [For more on the glory of Yahweh, see commentary on Ezekiel 1:28].(top)
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“span.” A span was the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger is the hand was spread out and the fingers extended.(top)
“the spirit of Yahweh.” In this context, the “spirit” of Yahweh refers to His mind, which is why it could be “directed” or “instructed.” The word “directed” is takan (#08505 תָּכַן), and it has been translated a number of different ways (“directed,” HCSB, KJV, NASB, NAB, NRSV, REV; “measured,” CJB, ESV; “meted out,” JPS, YLT; “understood,” NIV84; “can fathom,” NIV2011; “able to advise,” NLT. In the context, “directed” seems to be a good translation.
The “spirit of God” sometimes refers to the deep inner things of God, such as His mind, something which the Bible itself clarifies. Isaiah 40:13 is quoted two times in the New Testament: Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16. In both of those passages, the word “spirit” in Isaiah is translated as “mind.” For example, Romans 11:34 says, “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor,” and 1 Corinthians 2:16 also has “the mind of the Lord.” That Isaiah uses the word “spirit” but the New Testament uses the word “mind” shows us that “the spirit of Yahweh” in Isaiah is not a reference to a separate “Person” in the Trinity, but is a way of speaking about God or His inner parts, in this case, His mind.
The Septuagint also reads “mind” instead of “spirit,” showing that the ancient Jews understood the “spirit” of God to refer to the workings of His mind. That would not be unusual since many times the Hebrew word “spirit” was used of the working of the mind or the emotions (cp. The Hebrew word for “spirit,” ruach, is also used of people’s thoughts, attitudes, and emotions (cp. Gen. 26:35; 45:27; Exod. 6:9; Deut. 2:30; Josh. 2:11; 5:1; Judg. 8:3; 1 Sam. 1:15; 1 Kings 10:5; 21:5; Job 7:11; 17:1; 21:4; Ps. 34:18; 51:17; 143:4; Prov. 16:18, 19, 32; 29:11; Ecc. 1:14; Isa. 54:6; Ezek. 11:5; and Haggai 1:14). [For more on the usages of “spirit” in the Bible, see Appendix 6, “Usages of Spirit”].
“counselor.” The Hebrew is literally, “a man of his counsel,” that is a “man” who gives him counsel. The Hebrew word “man,” ish (#0376אִישׁ ), while it could refer to a human, in this context more likely generically refers to “someone,” human or spirit being, who is a counselor, thus the translation, “counselor.”
Isaiah 40:13-14 have been used to try to show that God does not work with a divine council, but works alone and without the advice or support of others. However, that is not what the verse is saying. There is ample evidence that God works in concert with His creation and enlists them in helping Him administer the universe. 1 Kings 22:19-20 shows God asking his spirit beings how Ahab can be defeated in battle. Isaiah 6:8 shows God asking who He can send to Israel.
Beyond those scriptures, and there are more like them, God enlisted the aid of Adam and Eve to administer the earth (Gen. 1:28), the aid of judges to help Him rule mankind (Deut. 16:18), the aid of ministers in the Church to help His Son administer the Church (Eph. 4:10-12), and in the future He will enlist the aid of judges and rulers to help His Son rule the Messianic Kingdom on earth (Isa. 1:26; Jer. 23:4). Given that God has worked with His creation to help administer it in all those different ways, why would he not work with His creation to administer the spirit world? Furthermore, the word “archangel” means “leading, chief, or ruling” angel, so there are ruling spirits in the spirit world.
The point of this section of Isaiah is not to make the point that God works alone without the help of other spirit or human beings, but to show that He does not need their help—God is the Great Power in the universe, the everlasting God. He does not need anyone to counsel or teach Him. He is enthroned above the earth (Isa. 40:22), and none can be compared to Him or be His equal (Isa. 40:25). God enlists the help of His creation to rule the various aspects of the universe, but not because He could not do it Himself, it is an act of love and desire to interact with His creation. [For more on God’s divine council, see commentary on Genesis 1:26. For more on the future Millennial Kingdom on earth, see commentary on Matt. 5:5].(top)
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“a speck of dust on a balance.” The “balance” is what merchants used to buy and sell. The dust would never even affect a biblical balance—they were too crude. See commentary on Proverbs 11:1.(top)
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