Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Consolamini, consolamini populum meum, dicit Deus rester.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her
warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath
received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
Loquimini secundum cor Ierusalem, et clamate ad eam, quod impleta
sit militia ejus, quod remissa sit iniquitas (vel, miseria)
ejus, quoniam accepit e manu Iehovae duplicia in onmibus peccatis
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way
of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Vox clamans in deserto: Parate viam Iehovae; Dirigite in solitudine
semitam Deo nostro.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be
made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough
Omnis vailis exaltabitur, et onmis mons et collis humiliabitur; et
erit praeruptum in rectitudinem, et loca confragosa in planiciem.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see
it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
revelabitur gloria Iehovae, videbitque omnis caro pariter, quod os
Iehovae loquutum sit.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is
grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the
Vox dixit (vel, dicebat): Clama. Et dixi, Quid clamabo? Omnis
caro herba, et omnis gratia ejus quasi flos eampi.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the
LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
Exaruit herba, emarcuit flos, quia spiritus Iehovae sufflavit in co.
Sane herba est populus.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God
shall stand for ever.
Arescit herba, emarcet flos. At sermo Dei nostri stabit in aeternum.
Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high
mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice
with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities
of Judah, Behold your God!
Ascende in montem excelsum, annuntiatrix Sion; attolle fortiter
vocem tuam, annuntiatrix Ierusalem. Attolle, ne timeas. Die
civitatibus Iuda: Ecce Deus rester.
Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm
shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his
work before him.
Ecce Dominus Iehova in robore veniet; et brachium ejus sibi potens.
Ecce merces ejus cure co, et opus ejus coram ipsius facie.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs
with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall
gently lead those that are with young.
Sicuti pastor gregem suam pascet, brachio suo colliget agnos, sinu
suo portabit, foetus suaviter ducet.
ye. The Prophet introduces a new
subject; for, leaving the people on whom no favorable impression was made
either by threatenings or by admonitions, on account of their desperate
wickedness, he turns to posterity, in order to declare that the people who
shall be humbled under the cross will experience no want of consolation even
amidst the severest distresses. And it is probable that he wrote this
prophecy when the time of the captivity was at hand, that he might not at
his departure from life leave the Church of God overwhelmed by very grievous
calamities, without the hope of restoration. Though he formerly mingled his
predictions with threatenings and terrors for this purpose, yet he appears
to have contemplated chiefly the benefit of those who lived at that time.
What will afterwards follow will relate to the future Church, the revival of
which was effected long after his death; for he will next lay down a
perpetual doctrine, which must not be limited to a single period, and
especially when he treats of the commencement and progress of the reign of
Christ. And this prophecy must be of so much the greater importance to us,
because it addresses us in direct terms; for, although it may be a spiritual
application of what goes before, so as to be doctrine that is common both to
the Jews and to us, yet, as he leaves the Jews of that age, and addresses
posterity down to the end of the world, it appears to belong more especially
By this exhortation, therefore, the Lord intended
to stir up the hearts of the godly, that they might not faint, amidst heavy
calamities. First, he addresses the Jews, who were soon after to be carried
into that hard captivity in which they should have neither sacrifices nor
prophets, and would have been destitute of all consolation, had not the Lord
relieved their miseries by these predictions. Next, he addresses all the
godly that should live afterwards, or that shall yet live, to encourage
their heart, even when they shall appear to be reduced very low and to be
That this discourse might have greater weight, and
might mere powerfully affect their minds, he represents God as raising up
new prophets, whom he enjoins to soothe the sorrows of the people by
friendly consolation. The general meaning is, that, when he shall have
appeared to have forsaken for a time the wretched captives, the testimony of
his grace will again burst forth from the darkness, and that, when
gladdening prophecies shall have ceased, their proper time will come round.
In order to exhibit more strongly the ground of joy, he makes use of the
plural number, Comfort ye; by which he intimates that he will send
not one or another, but a vast multitude of prophets; and this he actually
accomplished, by which we see more clearly his infinite goodness and mercy.
First, it ought to be observed that the verb is in the future tense; and
those commentators who render it in the present or past tense both change
the words and spoil the meaning. Indirectly
he points out an intermediate
period, during which the people would be heavily afflicted, as if God had
Though even at that time God
did not cease to hold out the hope of salvation by some prophets, yet,
having for a long period cast them off, when they were wretchedly distressed
and almost ruined, the consolation was less abundant, till it was pointed
out, as it were with the finger, that they were at liberty to return. On
this account the word comfort must be viewed as relating to a present
favor; and the repetition of the word not only confirms the certainty of the
prediction, but applauds its power and success, as if he had said, that in
this message there will be abundant, full, and unceasing cause of joy.
Above all, we must hold by the future tense of
this verb, because there is an implied contrast between that melancholy
silence of which I have spoken, and the doctrine of consolation which
afterwards followed. And with this prediction agrees the complaint of the
“We do not see our signs; there is no longer among
us a prophet or any one that knows how long.” (Psalm 74:9.)
We see how she laments that she has been deprived
of the best kind of comfort, because no promise is brought forward for
soothing her distresses. It is as if the Prophet had said, “The Lord will
not suffer you to be deprived of prophets, to comfort you amidst your
severest distresses. At that time he will raise up men by whom he will send
to you the message that had been long desired, and at that time also he will
show that he takes care of you.”
I consider the future tense, will say, as
relating not only to the captivity in Babylon, but to the whole period of
deliverance, which includes the reign of Christ.
“Which includes the reign of Christ till the end of the world.”
To the verb will
say, we must supply “to the prophets,” whom he will appoint for that
purpose; for in vain would they have spoken, if the Lord had not told them,
and even put into their mouth what they should make known to others. Thus
there is a mutual relation between God and the prophets,” whom he will
appoint for that purpose; for in vain would they have spoken, if the Lord
had not told them and even put into their mouth what they should make known
to others. Thus there is a mutual relation between God and the prophets. In
a word, the Lord promises that the hope of salvation will be left, although
the ingratitude of men deserves that this voice shall be perpetually
silenced and altogether extinguished.
These words, I have said, ought not to be limited
to the captivity in Babylon; for they have a very extensive meaning, and
include the doctrine of the gospel, in which chiefly lies the power of
“comforting.” To the gospel it belongs to comfort those who are distressed
and cast down, to quicken those who are slain and actually dead, to cheer
the mourners, and, in short, to bring all joy and gladness; and this is also
the reason why it is called “the Gospel,” that is, good news,
Nor did it begin at
the time when Christ appeared in the world, but long before, since the time
when God’s favor was clearly revealed, and Daniel might be said to have
first raised his banner, that believers might hold themselves in readiness
for returning. (Daniel 9:2.) Afterwards, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi,
Nehemiah, Ezra, and others, down to the coming of Christ, exhorted believers
to cherish better and better hopes. Malachi, the last of them that wrote,
knowing that there would be few prophets, sends the people to the law of
Moses, to learn from it the will of God and its threatenings and promises.
From this passage we learn what we ought chiefly to seek in the prophets,
namely, to encourage the hopes of godly persons by exhibiting the sweetness
of divine grace, that they may not faint under the weight of afflictions,
but may boldly persevere in calling on God. But since it was difficult to be
believed, he reminds them of the covenant; as if he had said that it was
impossible for God ever to forget what he formerly promised to Abraham.
(Genesis 17:7.) Although, therefore, the Jews by their sins had fallen from
grace, yet he affirms that he is their God, and that they are his
peculiar people, both of which depended on election; but, as even in that
nation there were many reprobates, the statement implies that to believers
only is this discourse strictly directed; because he silently permits
unbelievers, through constant languishment, to be utterly wasted and
destroyed. But to believers there is held out an invaluable comfort, that,
although for a time they are oppressed by grief and mourning, yet because
they hope in God, who is the Father of consolation, they shall know by
experience that the promises of grace, like a hidden treasure, are laid up
for them, to cheer their hearts at the proper time. This is also a very high
commendation of the prophetic office, that it supports believers in
adversity, that they may not faint or be discouraged; and, on the other
hand, this passage shews that it is a very terrible display of God’s
vengeance when there are no faithful teachers, from whose mouth may be heard
in the Church of God the consolation that is fitted to raise up those who
are cast down, and to strengthen the feeble.
ye according to the heart of Jerusalem.
Here God commands his servants the prophets, and
lays down the message which he wishes them to deliver publicly, when
believers shall be called to change their strain from mourning to joy. And
yet he does not exhort and encourage them to the cheerful and courageous
discharge of their office, so much as he conveys to the minds of believers
an assured hope that they may patiently endure the irksomeness of delay,
till the prophets appear with this glad and delightful message. To speak
to the heart
“according to the heart.” Our author employs both ““ and “.” — Ed.]
is nothing else
than “to speak according to the wish or sentiment of the mind;” for our
heart abhors or recoils if any sad intelligence is communicated, but eagerly
receives, or rather runs to meet, whatever is agreeable. Now, in consequence
of the people having been apparently rejected, nothing could be more
agreeable than a reconciliation
[Note: .” “The reconciliation with God.”]
which should blot out all offenses. By a
figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, Jerusalem,
as is well known, denotes the Church.
And cry to her.
The word cry means that the promise of this
grace will be open and manifest, so as to resound in the ears of all and be
understood; for if prophets only muttered or spoke indistinctly, the belief
of this consolation would be doubtful or weak, but now that they publish it
boldly and with open mouth, all doubts are removed.
That her warfare is accomplished.
This is the desirable message, that the Lord
determines to put an end to the warfare of his people. I consider
to be used for introducing an explanation. Some
(tzebaahh,) which we have translated “her warfare,” simply denotes
“time,” as if it had been said, “her time is accomplished.”
Others think that
it expresses the time of visitation, but this is incorrect; for among the
Hebrews it literally denotes a time previously appointed and set apart for
lawful work or labor. (Numbers 4:23.) But here unquestionably the metaphor
is taken from the discharge of soldiers; for it means that the end and issue
of their vexations is at hand, and that God does not wish to harass his
people continually, but to set a limit to their afflictions. He therefore
compares the time of the captivity in Babylon to a righteous warfare, at the
end of which the soldiers, having obtained an honorable discharge, will
return home to enjoy peace and quietness.
That her iniquity is pardoned.
This means that God is so gracious to them that he
is unwilling to treat them with the utmost severity. These words, therefore,
assign a reason; for, as physicians, in curing diseases, first remove the
causes from which diseases arise, so does the Lord deal with us. The
scourges by which he chastises us proceed from our sins; and therefore, that
he may cease to strike, he must first pardon us; and consequently, he says
that there will be an end of punishments, because he no longer imputes sin.
Others think that
means “her misery,” and that it denotes that her misery is ended. This
meaning also is highly appropriate, and thus the Prophet will make the same
announcement in two ways; for to finish her warfare, and to put an end to
her miseries, mean the same thing. Yet we must hold this principle, that God
ceases from inflicting punishment when he is appeased, so that pardon and
the forgiveness of sins always come first in order, as the cause. But the
demands, in my opinion, the former meaning; as if he had said, that God has
been appeased in such a manner that, having pardoned and forgiven their
sins, he is ready to enter again into a state of favor with his people.
Double for all her sins.
This passage is explained in two ways. Some say
that the people, having deserved a double punishment, have obtained a double
favor; and others, that they have received enough of punishment, because God
is unwilling to exact more. The former interpretation, though it contains an
excellent and profitable doctrine, does not agree with the text, and must
therefore be set aside; and it is evident that the Prophet means nothing
else than that God is abundantly satisfied with the miseries which have
befallen his Church. I could have wished, therefore, that they who have
attacked Jerome and other supporters of this interpretation, had been more
moderate; for the natural meaning belongs to this interpretation, and not to
the more ingenious one, that the Lord repays double favor for their sins.
The general meaning is, that God is unwilling to inflict more severe or more
lengthened punishment on his people, because, through his fatherly kindness,
he is in some sense displeased with the severity.
Here the word double denotes “large and
abundant.” It must not be imagined that the punishments were greater than
the offenses, or equal to them; for we ought to abhor the blasphemy of those
who accuse God of cruelty, as if he inflicted on men excessively severe
punishment; for what punishment could be inflicted that was sufficiently
severe even for the smallest offense? This must therefore relate to the
mercy of God, who, by setting a limit to the chastisements, testifies that
he is unwilling to punish them any more or longer, as if he were abundantly
satisfied with what had gone before, though that nation deserved far severer
chastisements. God sustains the character of a Father who, while he
compassionates his children, is led, not without reluctance, to exercise
severity, and thus willingly bends his mind to grant forgiveness.
3. A voice
crying in the wilderness. He follows
out the subject which he had begun, and declares more explicitly that he
will send to the people, though apparently ruined, ministers of consolation.
At the same time he anticipates an objection which might have been brought
forward. “You do indeed promise consolation, but where are the prophets? For
we shall be ‘in a wilderness,’ and whence shall this consolation come to
us?” He therefore testifies that “the wilderness” shall not hinder them from
enjoying that consolation.
is employed to denote metaphorically that
desolation which then existed; though I do not deny that the Prophet alludes
to the intermediate journey;
“To the road between Judea and Babylon.”]
for the roughness
of the wilderness seemed to forbid their return. He promises, therefore,
that although every road were shut up, and not a chink were open, the Lord
will easily cleave a path through the most impassable tracts for himself and
Prepare the way of Jehovah.
Some connect the words “in the wilderness” with
this clause, and explain it thus, “Prepare the way of Jehovah in the
wilderness.” But the Prophet appears rather to represent a voice which shall
gather together those who had wandered and had, as it were, been banished
from the habitable globe. “Though you behold nothing but a frightful desert,
yet this voice of consolation shall be heard from the mouth of the
prophets.” These words relate to the hard bondage which they should undergo
But to whom is that voice addressed? Is it to
believers? No, but to Cyrus, to the Persians, and to the Medes, who held
that people in captivity. Having been alienated from obedience to God, they
are constrained to deliver the people; and therefore they are enjoined to
“prepare and pave the way,” that the people of God may be brought back to
Judea; as if he had said, “Make passable what was impassable.” The power and
efficacy of this prediction is thus held up for our applause; for when God
invests his servants with authority to command men who were cruel and
addicted to plunder, and who at that time were the conquerors of Babylon, to
“prepare the way” for the return of his people, he means that nothing shall
hinder the fulfillment of his promise, because he will employ them all as
hired servants. Hence we obtain an excellent consolation, when we see that
God makes use of irreligious men for our salvation, and employs all the
creatures, when the case demands it, for that end.
A highway for our God.
When it is said that the way shall be prepared not
for the Jews, but for God himself, we have here a remarkable proof of his
love towards us; for he applies to himself what related to the salvation of
his chosen people. The Lord had nothing to do with walking, and had no need
of a road; but he shews that we are so closely united to him that what is
done on our account he reckons to be done to himself. This mode of
expression is frequently employed elsewhere, as when it is said that God
“went forth into battle with his anointed,” (Habakkuk 3:13,) and that “he
rode through the midst of Egypt,” (Exodus 11:4,) and that he lifted up his
standard and led his people through the wilderness. (Isaiah 63:13.)
This passage is quoted by the Evangelists,
(Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4,) and applied to John the Baptist, as if
these things had been foretold concerning him, and not unjustly; for he held
the highest rank among the messengers and heralds of our redemption, of
which the deliverance from Babylon was only a type. And, indeed, at the time
when the Church arose out of her wretched and miserable condition, her mean
appearance bore a stronger resemblance than the Babylonish captivity to a
“wilderness;” but God wished that they should see plainly, in the wilderness
in which John taught, the image and likeness of that miserably ruinous
condition by which the whole beauty of the Church was injured and almost
destroyed. What is here described metaphorically by the Prophet was at that
time actually fulfilled; for at an exceedingly disordered and ruinous crisis
John lifted up the banner of joy. True, indeed, the same voice had been
previously uttered by Daniel, Zechariah, and others; but the nearer the
redemption approached, the more impressively could it be proclaimed by John,
who also pointed out Christ with the finger. (John 1:29.) But because, in
the midst of a nation which was ignorant and almost sunk in stupidity, there
were few that sincerely grieved for their ruinous condition, John sought a
wilderness, that the very sight of the place might arouse careless persons
to hope and desire the promised deliverance. As to his denying that he was a
Prophet, (John 1:21,) this depends on the end of his calling and the
substance of his doctrine; for he was not sent to discharge apart any
continued office, but, as a herald, to gain an audience for Christ his
Master and Lord. What is here said about removing obstructions, he applies
skilfully to individuals, on this ground, that the depravity of our nature,
the windings of a crooked mind, and obstinacy of heart, shut up the way of
the Lord, and hinder them from preparing, by true self-denial, to yield
valley shall be exalted. He confirms
and asserts the preceding statement; for he shews that no difficulties can
prevent the Lord from delivering and restoring his Church whenever he shall
think fit. These words might with propriety be rendered in the imperative
mood, “Let every valley be exalted,”
(vehayah,) though not incompatible with this explanation, rather
favors the strict interpretation of the future, which is, of course, on
general principles to be preferred.” — Alexander.]
so as to be placed in immediate
connection with the command which God gives by his prophets to prepare and
level the way for himself; but it makes hardly any difference in the
meaning. Let us be satisfied with understanding the Prophet’s design, “that,
although many and formidable difficulties are started to hinder the
salvation of the Church, still the hand of God will be victorious and will
And every mountain and hill shall be laid low.
It ought to be observed that many
obstructions always arise whenever God makes provision for our deliverance,
or wishes to aid the afflicted; and although his glory is more fully
displayed by these obstructions, yet we suffer no loss; for we behold more
clearly his wonderful power when no strength, or efforts, or contrivances of
men can prevent him from gaining his object. He conducts his people through
“mountains” and steep places in such a manner as if the road were perfectly
level; and by the words mountains and hills, the Prophet undoubtedly
intends to denote metaphorically obstructions of every kind; for Satan
attempts in every way to hinder our salvation. When we come, therefore, to
spiritual redemption, these words undoubtedly include both internal and
external obstacles, — lusts and wicked desires, ambition, foolish
confidence, and impatience, which retard us wonderfully, but the Lord will
break them all down; for when he stretches out his hand, nothing can
restrain or drive him back.
5. And the
glory of Jehovah shall be revealed. He
means that this work of redemption will be splendid, so that the Lord will
shew that he is the Author of it, and will illustriously display his majesty
and power. This, indeed, is very openly manifested in all places and in all
events, but he promises that he will do this especially in protecting and
delivering his Church, and not without good reason; for the deliverance of
the Church, from its commencement down to the coming of Christ, might be
called a renewal of the world.
“An incredible renewal or second creation of the world.”]
And because the
power of God, which he had formerly been accustomed to display, was almost
extinguished, so that scarcely the slightest traces were discernible, as it
is said in the Psalm, “We do not see our signs,” (Psalm 74:9;) this was a
very seasonable warning, that a new and striking demonstration is promised,
by which they may perceive that God has in his power various methods of
giving relief, even when he conceals them for a time.
And all flesh shall see.
He now heightens the miracle by an additional circumstance, that it will
be known not only in Judea, but in foreign and distant countries; for by
these words “All flesh shall see,” he means that there will be no nations
that do not see clearly that the return of the people is a heavenly work,
and that God did not speak in vain by the Prophet. Thus he censures the
unbelief of men, who never rely on the promises of God, and who treat as
fables whatever is said by the prophets, till by beholding the actual fact
they are constrained to yield.
That the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken.
Here we are taught what is the true method of
correcting our unbelief; that is, to be employed in meditating on the
promises of God, and to have our faith strengthened by all the proofs of
them which he exhibits. Thus it is proper to join doctrine with experience;
for since the sight of God’s works would produce little impression on us, he
first enlightens us by the torch of his word, and next seals the truth of it
by the actual accomplishment.
voice said, Cry. He now describes a
different “voice” from that of which he formerly spoke; for hitherto he had
spoken about the “voice” of the prophets, but now he means the “voice” of
God himself commanding the prophets to cry. Although the voice of the
prophets is also the voice of God, whose instruments they are, (for they do
not speak of themselves,) (2 Peter 1:20, 21,) yet this distinction is
necessary, that we may know when the Lord commands, and when the prophets
and ministers execute his commandments. There is also a beautiful comparison
between the two “voices,” that we may receive with as much reverence what
the prophets utter as if God himself thundered from heaven; for they speak
only by his mouth, and repeat as ambassadors what he has commissioned them
to declare. Besides, this preface gives notice that the Prophet is about to
speak of something highly important; for, although he everywhere testifies
that he faithfully delivers from hand to hand what he has received from God,
yet, in order to obtain closer attention, he states that the voice of God
has expressly enjoined the mode of speaking which he shall employ. Such is
also the import of the word Cry, as if he had said that he must
proclaim this commandment in a clear and loud voice, that it may make the
And I said, What shall I cry?
The addition of this question has great weight;
for the Prophet means that he does not break forth at random, and boast of
what he appeared to have heard in a confused manner; but that he received
clear and undoubted instruction, after having waited for it with composure.
Besides, from the fact itself we may learn that there is nothing here that
is superfluous, because two chief points of heavenly doctrine were to be
briefly handled; that, although man is smoke and vanity, and all his
excellence is deceitful and fading, yet believers have the best reason for
glorying, because they seek salvation not from themselves; and that,
although they are strangers on the earth, (Hebrews 11:13,) yet they possess
heavenly happiness, because God unites himself to them by his word; for by
renouncing ourselves we are led to desire the grace of God. The Prophet
knew, indeed, what he ought to say; but by this question he intended to make
a stronger impression on their minds, in order to shew that he and all the
other servants of God are constrained by necessity to utter this sentiment,
and that they cannot begin to teach in any other manner, though they should
put a hundred questions and inquiries; as indeed they will gain nothing by
choosing to adopt any other method.
As to the word Cry, I have no objection to
view it as denoting both boldness and clearness; because prophets ought not
to mutter in an obscure manner, but to pronounce their message with a
distinct voice, and to utter boldly and with open mouth whatever they have
been commanded to declare. Let every one, therefore, who is called to this
office constantly remember and believe, that he ought to meet difficulties
of every sort with unshaken boldness, such as was always manifested both by
prophets and by apostles.
“Wo to me,” says Paul, “if I do not preach the
gospel; for necessity is laid on me.”
(1 Corinthians 9:16.)
All flesh is grass.
First, it ought to be observed, that he does not
speak merely of the frailty of human life, but extends the discourse
farther, so as to reduce to nothing all the excellence which men think that
they possess. David indeed compares this life to grass, (Psalm 103:15,)
because it is fading and transitory; but the context shews that the Prophet
does not speak only of the outward man, but includes the gifts of the mind,
of which men are exceedingly proud, such as prudence, courage, acuteness,
judgment, skill in the transactions of business, in which they think that
they excel other animals; and this is more fully expressed by that which
immediately follows —
All the grace of it.
“his glory;” others, “his kindness;” but I have preferred the word “grace,”
by which I mean everything that procures honor and esteem to men. Yet a
passive signification may also be admitted; as if the Prophet had said, that
all that is excellent and worthy of applause among men is the absolute
kindness of God. Thus David calls God “the God of his kindness,” (Psalm
59:10, 17,) because he acknowledges him to be the author of all blessings,
and ascribes it to his grace that he has obtained them so largely and
abundantly. It is indeed certain that
here denotes all that is naturally most highly valued among men, and that
the Prophet condemns it for vanity, because there is an implied contrast
between the ordinary nature of mankind and the grace of regeneration.
Some commentators refer this to the Assyrians, as
if the Prophet, by extenuating their power and wealth, and industry and
exertions, or rather by treating these as they had no existence, freed the
minds of the Jews from terror. They bring out the meaning in this manner,
“If you are terrified at the strength of men, remember that they are flesh,
which quickly gives way through its own weakness. But their error is soon
afterwards refuted by the context, in which the Prophet expressly applies it
to the Jews themselves. We ought carefully to observe that man, with his
faculties, on account of which he is accustomed to value himself so highly,
is wholly compared to a flower. All men are fully convinced of the
frailty of human life, and on this subject heathen writers have argued at
great length; but it is far more difficult to root out the confidence which
men entertain through a false opinion of their wisdom; for, if they imagine
that they have either knowledge or industry beyond others, they think that
they have a right to glory in them. But he shews that in man there is
nothing so excellent as not to fade quickly and perish.
As the flower of the field.
The Prophet seems, as if in mockery, to add a sort
of correction; for a flower is something more than grass. It
is, therefore, an acknowledgment, that, although men have some shining
qualities, like flowers in the fields, yet the beauty and lustre quickly
vanish and pass away, so that it is useless for them to flatter or applaud
themselves on account of this idle and deceitful splendor.
grass is withered. This might be
understood to relate to the beauty of the fields, which is spoiled by a
single gust of wind, as it is said, (Psalm 103:16,) “As soon as the wind
passeth over it, it is gone;” for we know that the wind is called “the
Spirit of God” in other passages. But I am more inclined to think that the
metaphor is adapted to the present subject; for otherwise the application of
it would be somewhat obscure. The Prophet therefore explains what object he
has in view, by saying that men, with all their glory, are nothing else than
grass; theft is, because the Spirit of God will quickly carry them
away by a single breath.
Because the Spirit of Jehovah hath blown upon it.
The meaning may be thus explained,
“However illustrious are the gifts with which men are endowed, yet as soon
as the Spirit of God shall blow upon them, they shall feel that they are
nothing.” For the false confidence with which they intoxicate themselves
springs from this source, that they do not appear before God, but, in order
to indulge freely in flattering themselves, creep into places of
concealment. That they may no longer deceive themselves by a foolish delight
in falsehood, the Prophet drags them into the presence of God, and admits
that apparently they flourish, when they have been withdrawn from God; but
as soon as the Lord has breathed upon them, all their strength and beauty
perish and decay.
But it may be thought that he assigns to “the
Spirit of God” an office which is greatly at variance with his nature; for
it belongs to him “to renew by his power the face of the earth.” (Psalm
104:30.) On the other hand, if the Lord withdraw his Spirit, all is reduced
to nothing. Here Isaiah asserts what is exceedingly different, and appears
to contradict David. But there is no absurdity in saying that all things are
renewed by the power of the Spirit, and again, that what formerly appeared
to be something is reduced to nothing; for we are nothing but in God, and,
in order that we may begin to be something in him, we must first be
convinced, and made thoroughly to know, that we are vanity. Therefore does
the Lord breathe upon us, that we may know that of ourselves we are nothing.
Surely the people is grass.
The Prophet added this, that all might know that
he was not speaking of foreigners, but of that people which gloried in the
name of God; for the Jews might have thought that they were more excellent,
and held a higher rank than other men, and that on this account they ought
to be exempted from the common lot. He therefore addresses theta expressly
and by name, that they may not claim anything for themselves above others;
as if he had said, that they would act wisely if, through a conviction of
their poverty, they should cast away all confidence in themselves. In a
word, the Prophet, after having mentioned consolation, shews in what way men
must be prepared to receive it; for they are not capable of it till they
have formerly been reduced to nothing. Our hardness must therefore be
softened, our haughtiness must be east down and laid low, our boasting must
be put to shame, and our hearts must be subdued and humbled, if we wish to
receive with any advantage the consolations which the prophets bring to us
by the command of God.
grass withereth. This repetition is
again added for the purpose of bringing to nought the glory of the flesh,
but at the same time contains within itself a highly valuable consolation,
that God, when he has cast down his people, immediately raises up and
restores them. The context therefore runs thus: “The grass indeed withereth
and perisheth, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” After having
learned how empty and destitute we are of all blessings, how transitory and
fading is the glory of the flesh, the only consolation left for us, that we
may be raised up by the word of the Lord, as by an outstretched hand, is,
that we are frail and fading, but that the word of the Lord is durable and
eternal, and, in a word, that the life which we need is offered to us from
But the word of our God shall stand for ever.
This passage comprehends the whole
Gospel in few words; for it consists of an acknowledgment of our misery,
poverty, and emptiness, that, being sincerely humbled, we may fly to God, by
whom alone we shall be perfectly restored. Let not men therefore faint or be
discouraged by the knowledge of their nakedness and emptiness; for the
eternal word is exhibited to them by which they may be abundantly supported
and upheld. We are likewise taught that we ought not to seek consolation
from any other source than from eternity, which ought not to be sought
anywhere else than in God; since nothing that is firm or durable will be
found on the earth. Nothing is more foolish than to rest satisfied with the
present state, which we see to be fleeting; and every man is mistaken who
hopes to be able to obtain perfect happiness till he has ascended to God,
whom the Scripture calls eternal, in order that we may know that life flows
to us from him; and indeed he adopts us to be his children on this
condition, to make us partakers of his immortality.
But this would be of no avail, if the manner of
seeking him were not pointed out; and therefore he exhibits the word,
from which we must not in any respect turn aside; for if we make the
smallest departure from it, we shall be involved in strange labyrinths, and
shall find no way of extricating ourselves. Now, the word is called eternal,
not merely in itself, but in us; and this ought to be particularly observed,
because otherwise we could obtain no consolation. And thus Peter, a faithful
expounder of this passage, applies it to us, when he says that “we are
regenerated by this incorruptible seed, that is,” says he, “by the word
which is preached.” (1 Peter 1:23, 25.) Hence we infer, what I mentioned a
little before, that life is prepared for the dead who shall come thirsting
to the fountain that is exhibited to them; for the power which is hid in God
is revealed to us by the word.
on the high mountain. He proceeds with
the same subject; for the Lord, having formerly promised that he would give
prophets who should soothe the grief and fear of the people by promises, now
commands that this consolation shall be more widely spread; because it is
his pleasure to diffuse his grace throughout the whole of Judea.
Lift up thy voice aloud, O Jerusalem.
Formerly he had given to Jerusalem, and Zion the hope of
this joyful message; now he commands that the same voice shall be spread and
shall be heard through other cities, and, for this reason, gives orders that
the loud voice shall be lifted up, and proclaimed from a lofty place.
Although by the words “Zion” and “Jerusalem” he means the same thing, yet
the repetition is emphatic; for he shews that one city excels all other
cities, for no other reason than because God hath chosen it to be his
That bringest tidings.
He gives to the city this appellation, because
there the priests and Levites were instructed according to the injunctions
of the Law, that they might be the teachers of the whole people, and by
their labors might spread the doctrine of salvation. (Malachi 2:7.) Yet we
ought carefully to observe this commendation which God bestows on his
Church, that it may not be without a clear mark of distinction; for an
assembly in which the preaching of heavenly doctrine is not heard does not
deserve to be reckoned a Church. In this sense also, Paul calls it (1
Timothy 3:15) “the pillar and foundation of the truth;” for although God
might have governed us by himself, and without the agency of men, yet he has
assigned this office to his Church, and has committed to it the invaluable
treasure of his Word. For the same reason it will be called in another
passage, “the mother of all believers.” (Isaiah 54:1; Galatians 4:26.) Hence
it follows that nothing is more absurd and wicked than for dumb idols to
boast of the name of the Church, as is done in Popery.
We are likewise taught, that the Church has not
been instructed by God, in order that she may keep her knowledge hidden
within herself, but that she may publish what she has learned. Besides, he
commands that grace shall be freely and boldly proclaimed, that prophets and
teachers may not speak with timidity, as if it were a doubtful matter, but
may shew that they are fully convinced of the certainty of those things
which they promise, because they know well that “God, who cannot lie,”
(Titus 1:2,) is the Author of them. He enjoins the witnesses of his grace to
proceed from Zion, that they may fill with joy the whole of Judea.
God! This expression includes the sum of our happiness, which
consists solely in the presence of God. It brings along with it an abundance
of all blessings; and if we are destitute of it, we must be utterly
miserable and wretched; and although blessings of every kind are richly
enjoyed by us, yet if we are estranged from God, everything must tend to our
destruction. From this circumstance it ought also to be remarked, that
nothing is more opposite to faith than to estimate by the present
appearances of things what God declares by his prophets, who at that time
must have been struck dumb, had they not raised their views above the world,
and thus, through the power of unshaken boldness and perseverance, dared to
draw others along with them, that they might cherish good hopes when matters
were at the worst. And indeed when wicked men and wickedness prevail, the
greater the terror that is spread all around, and the greater the seeming
wretchedness of the Church, the more ought we to extol the grace of God, and
to point out his presence to believers.
Behold, the Lord Jehovah. He adorns
this short sentence by many words, because some explanation was needed; and
he again uses the word Behold for the sake of certainty, in order to
impart greater confidence to the hearts of good men. Thus he shews more
clearly how great advantage they derive from the presence of God. And first,
he says, that he will come with strength, and that strength not
unemployed, but accompanied by such an effect as we shall perceive.
And his arm
shall be powerful to him
(lo), which we have translated to
him, is translated by others of himself; or, perhaps, it will be
thought preferable to translate it, “He is powerful, or reigns for
himself.” The meaning is, that God is sufficient for himself, and does
not need the assistance of any one.
Behold, his reward is with him, and his work
before his face. By the repetition of
the words “reward” and “work,” he states more clearly what has been already
expressed; for it is very customary with Hebrew writers to express the same
thing in two different ways. “Reward” does not here denote what is due to
merits, but the justice of God, by which he testifies that he is a rewarder
to all who truly and sincerely call upon him. (Hebrews 11:6.) That this is
the signification of the word
is known to all who are moderately acquainted with the Hebrew language. The
meaning may be thus summed up: “God will not come to be beheld by us as
unemployed, but to display his power, and to make us feel it;” and thus,
instead of the word “work,” the word “effect” would not be inapplicable.
Many persons attempt an ingenious exposition of these words, and enter into
childish discussion about the words “work” and “reward,” as if the “work”
were a merit on which a “reward” is bestowed. But nothing was farther from
the view of the Prophet; for he repeats the same thing, as we have already
said, and declares the result of the coming of the Lord, from which
believers will derive the highest advantage.
11. As a
shepherd. In this verse he declares
what is the nature of that work of the Lord; for since he works in various
and, indeed, in innumerable ways, the hearer might have been kept in
suspense as to the work which God intended to accomplish; and thus the
general doctrine would have been less efficacious in exciting hope. Though
he does not describe every part, yet he states in a few words that God has
determined to protect and guard his Church. On this account he compares him
to “a shepherd;” and under this designation he expresses his infinite love
towards us, when he does not refuse to stoop so low as to perform towards us
the office of “a shepherd.” In other passages, and even a little
before, (Isaiah 34:2, etc.,) he described himself as armed with terrible
power for the defense of his people, and a little after this he repeats the
same statement; but here he ascribes to him a more amiable character, that
believers may sweetly repose under his protection.
He will feed his flock.
Now, although by the word “flock” he describes an
elect people, whom he had undertaken to govern, yet we are reminded that God
will be a shepherd to none but to those who, in modesty and gentleness,
shall imitate the sheep and lambs. For this reason we ought to observe the
character of the flock; for he does not choose to feed savage beasts, but
lambs. We must therefore lay aside our fierceness, and permit ourselves to
be tamed, if we wish to be gathered into the fold of which God promises that
he will be the guardian.
He will carry them in his bosom.
These words describe God’s wonderful
condescension; for not only is he actuated by a general feeling of regard to
his whole flock, but, in proportion to the weakness of any one sheep, he
shews his carefulness in watching, his gentleness in handling, and his
patience in leading it. Here he leaves out nothing that belongs to the
office of a good shepherd; for the shepherd ought to observe every sheep, so
as to treat it according to its capacity; and especially they ought to be
supported, if they are exceedingly weak. In a word, God will be mild, kind,
gentle, and compassionate, so that he will not drive the weak harder than
they are able to bear.
[With gratitude to the
Christian Classics Ethereal Library for this text.]