3 A voice cries out, “In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord; build a level road[a] through the rift valley[b] for our God.
Isaiah 40:3tnHeb “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 40:3sn 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.
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