New English Translation
The Lord Returns to Jerusalem
40 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your[a] God.
2 “Speak kindly to[b] Jerusalem and tell her
that her time of warfare is over,[c]
that her punishment is completed.[d]
For the Lord has made her pay double[e] for all her sins.”
3 A voice cries out,
“In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord;
build a level road[f] through the rift valley[g] for our God.
4 Every valley must be elevated,
and every mountain and hill leveled.
The rough terrain will become a level plain,
the rugged landscape a wide valley.
5 The splendor[h] of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people[i] will see it at the same time.
For[j] the Lord has decreed it.”[k]
- Isaiah 40:1 tn The pronominal suffix is second masculine plural. The identity of the addressee is uncertain: (1) God’s people may be addressed, or (2) the unidentified heralds commanded to comfort Jerusalem.
- Isaiah 40:2 tn Heb “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is personified as a woman.
- Isaiah 40:2 tn Heb “that she is filled [with] her warfare.” Some understand צָבָא (tsavah, “warfare”) as meaning “hard service” or “compulsory labor” in this context.
- Isaiah 40:2 tn Heb “that her punishment is accepted [as satisfactory].”
- Isaiah 40:2 tn Heb “for she has received from the hand of the Lord double.” The principle of the double portion in punishment is also seen in Jer 16:18; 17:18 and Rev 18:6. For examples of the double portion in Israelite law, see Exod 22:4, 7, 9 (double restitution by a thief) and Deut 21:17 (double inheritance portion for the firstborn).
- Isaiah 40:3 tn Heb “make level a built road.” The verb יָשַׁר (yashar) in the Piel means “to make smooth, or straight.” The noun מְסִלָּה (mesillah) typically refers to a main road, possibly paved with stones or made level with fill (see HALOT 606 s.v. and The Concise DCH 230 s.v.).
- Isaiah 40:3 sn Most translations render this as “desert” (KJV, NASB, ESV, NRSV, NIV 2011, Holman), “wilderness” (NIV 1984), or “wasteland” (NLV). The rift valley (עֲרָבָה, ʿaravah), which extends from Galilee to the Gulf of Aqaba, is quite arid and desert-like in the areas near the Dead Sea and southward (see the note at Num 22:1). But the point here has more to do with preparation for a royal visit. To come to Jerusalem from the east requires coming through the rift valley (or Jordan Valley). Thematically, God is typically portrayed as coming to Israel from the east. Similarly in the Gospel accounts Jesus approaches Jerusalem from the east.
- Isaiah 40:5 tn Or “glory.” The Lord’s “glory” is his theophanic radiance and royal splendor (see Isa 6:3; 24:23; 35:2; 60:1; 66:18-19).
- Isaiah 40:5 tn Heb “flesh” (so KJV, ASV, NASB); NAB, NIV “mankind”; TEV “the whole human race.”
- Isaiah 40:5 tn Or “indeed.”
- Isaiah 40:5 tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).