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Isaiah 40:1-11 New English Translation (NET Bible)

The Lord Returns to Jerusalem

40 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your[a] God.
“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.”
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.
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.
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]
A voice says, “Cry out!”
Another asks,[l] “What should I cry out?”
The first voice responds:[m] “All people are like grass,[n]
and all their promises[o] are like the flowers in the field.
The grass dries up,
the flowers wither,
when the wind sent by the Lord[p] blows on them.
Surely humanity[q] is like grass.
The grass dries up,
the flowers wither,
but the decree of our God is forever reliable.”[r]
Go up on a high mountain, O herald Zion.
Shout out loudly, O herald Jerusalem![s]
Shout, don’t be afraid!
Say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 Look, the Sovereign Lord comes as a victorious warrior;[t]
his military power establishes his rule.[u]
Look, his reward is with him;
his prize goes before him.[v]
11 Like a shepherd he tends his flock;
he gathers up the lambs with his arm;
he carries them close to his heart;[w]
he leads the ewes along.

Footnotes:

  1. 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.
  2. Isaiah 40:2 tn Heb “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is personified as a woman.
  3. 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.
  4. Isaiah 40:2 tn Heb “that her punishment is accepted [as satisfactory].”
  5. 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).
  6. 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.).
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. Isaiah 40:5 tn Heb “flesh” (so KJV, ASV, NASB); NAB, NIV “mankind”; TEV “the whole human race.”
  10. Isaiah 40:5 tn Or “indeed.”
  11. Isaiah 40:5 tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).
  12. Isaiah 40:6 tn Heb “and he says.” Apparently a second “voice” responds to the command of the first “voice.”
  13. Isaiah 40:6 tn The words “the first voice responds” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The first voice tells the second one what to declare.
  14. Isaiah 40:6 tn Heb “all flesh is grass.” The point of the metaphor is explained in v. 7.
  15. Isaiah 40:6 tn Heb “and all his loyalty.” The antecedent of the third masculine suffix is בָּשָׂר (basar, “flesh”), which refers collectively to mankind. The LXX, apparently understanding the antecedent as “grass,” reads “glory,” but חֶסֶד (khesed) rarely, if ever, has this nuance. The normal meaning of חֶסֶד (“faithfulness, loyalty, devotion”) fits very well in the argument. Human beings and their faithfulness (verbal expressions of faithfulness are specifically in view; cf. NRSV “constancy”) are short-lived and unreliable, in stark contrast to the decrees and promises of the eternal God.
  16. Isaiah 40:7 tn The Hebrew text has רוּחַ יְהוָה (ruakh yehvah), which in this context probably does not refer to the Lord’s personal Spirit. The phrase is better translated “the breath of the Lord,” or “the wind of [i.e., sent by] the Lord.” The Lord’s sovereign control over nature, including the hot desert winds that dry up vegetation, is in view here (cf. Ps 147:18; Isa 59:19).
  17. Isaiah 40:7 tn Heb “the people” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
  18. Isaiah 40:8 tn Heb “but the word of our God stands forever.” In this context the divine “word” specifically refers to his decreed promise assuring Jerusalem that her suffering is over and his glorious return imminent (vv. 1-5).
  19. Isaiah 40:9 tn The second feminine singular imperatives are addressed to personified Zion/Jerusalem, who is here told to ascend a high hill and proclaim the good news of the Lord’s return to the other towns of Judah. Isa 41:27 and 52:7 speak of a herald sent to Zion, but the masculine singular form מְבַשֵּׂר (mevasser) is used in these verses, in contrast to the feminine singular form מְבַשֶּׂרֶת (mevasseret) employed in 40:9, where Zion is addressed as a herald.
  20. Isaiah 40:10 tn Heb “comes as a strong one”; ASV “will come as a mighty one.” The preposition בְּ (bet) here carries the nuance “in the capacity of.” It indicates that the Lord possesses the quality expressed by the noun. See GKC 379 §119.i and HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ.
  21. Isaiah 40:10 tn Heb “his arm rules for him” (so NIV, NRSV). The Lord’s “arm” symbolizes his military power (see Isa 51:9-10; 63:5).
  22. Isaiah 40:10 tn As the Lord returns to Jerusalem as a victorious warrior, he brings with him the spoils of victory, called here his “reward” and “prize.” These terms might also be translated “wages” and “recompense.” Verse 11 indicates that his rescued people, likened to a flock of sheep, are his reward.
  23. Isaiah 40:11 tn Heb “in his bosom” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV), an expression which reflects closeness and protective care.
New English Translation (NET)

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