(1) Comfort ye . . .—I start with the assumption that the great prophetic poem that follows is the work of Isaiah himself, referring to the Introduction for the discussion of all questions connected with its authorship and arrangement. It has a link, as has been noticed, with the earlier collection of his writings in Isaiah 35:9-10. The prophet’s mind is obviously projected at the outset into the future, which it had been given him to see, when the time of punishment and discipline was to be succeeded, having done its work, by blessedness and peace. The key-note is struck in the opening words. The phrase “my people” is a distinct echo of Hos. ii. 1. Lo Ammi (i.e. “not my people,”) has been brought back to his true position as Ammi (i.e. “my people”).
Saith your God.—Noticeable as a formula which is at once peculiar to Isaiah and common to both his volumes (Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 66:9).
That her warfare is accomplished.—The time of war, with all its suffering, becomes the symbol of sufferings apart from actual war. The exile was one long campaign with enemies who were worse than the Babylonian conquerors. In Job 7:1; Job 14:14, the word is applied (rendered by “appointed time”) to the battle of life from its beginning to its end. This, too, may be noted as one of the many parallelisms between Isaiah and Job.
That her iniquity is pardoned.—Strictly, as in Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43, is paid off, or accepted. The word implies not exemption from punishment, but the fact that the punishment had been accepted, and had done its work.
She hath received of the Lord’s hand . . .—Primarily, the thought is that Jerusalem has suffered a more than sufficient penalty. (Comp. Exodus 22:9; Revelation 18:6.) This seems more in harmony with the context than the view which takes the meaning that Jerusalem shall receive a double measure of grace and favour. In the long run, however, the one meaning does not exclude the other. It is the mercy of Jehovah which reckons the punishment sufficient, because it has been “accepted” (Leviticus 26:41), and has done its work. (Comp. Jeremiah 16:18.)
All flesh.—The revelation is not for Israel only, but for mankind. So in Luke 3:6, the words are quoted from the LXX., “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The phrase meets us here for the first time, and occurs again in Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 66:16; Isaiah 66:23-24, marking, so to speak, the growing catholicity of the prophet’s thoughts. (See Note on Isaiah 38:11.)
The word of our God . . .—Primarily the prophetic word revealing the will of God, but including all manifestations of His being (Psalm 119:41; Psalm 119:65; Psalm 119:89; John 1:1).
The high mountain.—There is no article in the Hebrew, but the word is probably connected with the ideal exaltation of the holy city, as in Isaiah 2:1.
Behold your God!—The words have, in one sense, only an ideal fulfilment; but the prophet contemplates the return of the exiles and the restoration of the Temple worship, as involving the renewed presence of Jehovah in the sanctuary which He had apparently abandoned. He would come back with His people, and abide with them.
With strong hand.—Literally, with, or in strength of hand, as the essence of His being. The “arm” of the Lord is a favourite phrase of Isaiah (Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:10) for His power.
His reward is with him . . .—The noun “work” has also the sense of recompense for the faithful worker (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:15, and is rightly taken in that sense here and in Isaiah 62:11).
A drop of a bucket.—Better, on a bucket. Such a drop adds nothing to the weight which the bearer feels; as little do the nations and the isles to the burden which Jehovah bears. The “small dust in the balance” presents another illustration of the same idea.
Vanity.—Once more the tohu, or chaos, of Genesis 1:2—one of Isaiah’s favourite phrases (Isaiah 24:10, Isa_29:21, Isa_34:11).
Spreadeth it over with gold.—The image of lead was covered over, as in the well-known story of Phidias’s “Zeus,” with plates of gold. The “silver chains” fastened it to the wall.
As grasshoppers.—The word indicates some insect of the locust tribe. The comparison may have been suggested by Numbers 13:33.
That stretcheth out the heavens.—A favourite phrase of 2 Isaiah (Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 44:24, et al.), taken probably from Psalm 104:2.
As a curtain . . . as a tent.—The words indicate a clearer perception of space than the older Hebrew word for the “firmament” of Genesis 1:7. The visible heavens are thought of as a thin, filmy veil of gauze, the curtains of the tent of God.
That bringeth out their host . . .—The words expand the idea implied in Jehovah-Sabaoth (comp. Psalm 147:4). He marshals all that innumerable host of stars, as a supreme general who knows by sight and name every soldier in a vast army, or as a shepherd who knows his flock (John 10:3).
The Creator of the ends of the earth.—The word emphasises the thought that the whole earth, from the Euphrates to the “islands” of the sea, is subject to the power of the Eternal.
Fainteth not, neither is weary? . . .—Had Isaiah learnt to feel that even his own phrase as to men “wearying God” (Isaiah 7:13) was too boldly anthropomorphic, and might, therefore, be misleading?
No searching of his understanding.—The words come, like so many others like it, from Job (Isaiah 5:9; Isaiah 9:10), and must have been in St. Paul’s mind as he wrote Romans 11:33.
Shall mount up with wings.—Better, shall lift up their wings, or, shall put forth wings’ feathers, the last, like Psalm 103:5, implying the belief that the eagle renewed its plumage in extreme old age. For the faithful there is no failure, and faith knows no weariness.