In these chapters the scene shifts to Babylon where the foreboding prediction of the preceding chapter has become a reality. The history has been both so recent and painful that it is assumed rather than stated. As Isaiah warned, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C., leveled the temple, and took its treasure and most of its people back to Babylon as exiles. This section is addressed to them.
Here is some of the world's loftiest poetry, made even more famous by George Frideric Handel's Messiah. As indicated in the opening phrase, these are words of comfort: Judah's sins have been forgiven; words of hope: they will soon return to their homeland; words of courage: despite appearances, God will act in their behalf; words of chastisement: they must not be deceived by their captors and place their faith in the false gods of Babylon.
Some of the grandest theology in the Bible appears here. The sovereignty of God is portrayed in an exquisite and powerful way in 40:12-31; the notion of redemptive suffering has never been conveyed more movingly than in ch. 53 and the other servant songs.
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