Isaiah 40:3
The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) The voice of him that crieth . . .—The laws of Hebrew parallelism require a different punctuation: A voice of one crying, In the wilderness, prepare ye . . . The passage is memorable as having been deliberately taken by the Baptist as defining his own mission (John 1:23). As here the herald is not named, so he was content to efface himself—to be a voice or nothing. The image is drawn from the march of Eastern kings, who often boast, as in the Assyrian inscriptions of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal (Records of the Past, i. 95, vii. 64), of the roads they have made in trackless deserts. The wilderness is that which lay between the Euphrates and Judah, the journey of the exiles through it reminding the prophet of the older wanderings in the wilderness of Sin (Psalm 68:7; Judges 5:4). The words are an echo of the earlier thought of Isaiah 35:8. We are left to conjecture to whom the command is addressed: tribes of the desert, angelic ministers, kings and rulers—the very vagueness giving a grand universality. So, again, we are not told whether the “way of Jehovah” is that on which He comes to meet His people, or on which He goes before and guides them. The analogy of the marches of the Exodus makes the latter view the more probable.

Isaiah 40:3-4. The voice of him that crieth — Or, as the Hebrew may be properly rendered, A voice crieth; an abrupt and imperfect speech, implying, “Methinks I hear a voice;” or, “A voice shall be heard;” in the wilderness — Which word signifies the place, either where the cry was made, or where the way was to be prepared, as it is expressed in the following clause, which seems to be added to explain this. Bishop Lowth understands it in this latter sense, and translates the words, A voice crieth, In the wilderness, prepare ye the way of Jehovah. Which he thus interprets, “He hears a crier giving orders, by solemn proclamation, to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; to remove all obstructions before Jehovah marching through the desert; through the wild, uninhabited, unpassable country. The idea is taken from the practice of the eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey, especially through desert and unpractised countries, sent harbingers before them to prepare all things for their passage, and pioneers to open the passes, to level the ways, and to remove all impediments. The officers appointed to superintend such preparations the Latins called stratores.” The bishop understands the prophet as referring to the return of the Jews from Babylon, which he has “no doubt was the first, though not the principal thing in his view.” This deliverance, he says, “is considered as parallel to the former deliverance of them from the Egyptian bondage. God was then represented as their king, leading them in person through the vast deserts which lay in their way to the promised land of Canaan. It was not merely for Jehovah himself that in both cases the way was to be prepared, and all obstructions to be removed; but for Jehovah marching in person at the head of his people.” “Babylon,” the bishop adds, “was separated from Judea by an immense tract of country, which was one continued desert; that large part of Arabia, called very properly Deserta. This was the nearest way homeward for the Jews; and whether they actually returned by this way or not, the first thing that would occur, on the proposal or thought of their return, would be the difficulty of this almost impracticable passage. Accordingly, the proclamation for the preparation of the way is the most natural idea, and most obvious circumstance, by which the prophet could have opened his subject.”

But though Bishop Lowth considers the prophet as first intending to comfort the Jews in their captivity, by predicting, in these words, that God would make the way plain for their return, yet he views him also as employing this deliverance out of Babylon, “as an image to shadow out a redemption of an infinitely higher and more important nature.” “Obvious and plain,” says he, “as I think this literal sense is, we have nevertheless the irrefragable authority of John the Baptist, and of Christ himself, as recorded by all the evangelists, for explaining this exordium of the prophecy of the opening of the gospel by the preaching of John, and of the introduction of the kingdom of Messiah, who was to effect a much greater deliverance of the people of God, Gentiles as well as Jews, from the captivity of sin, and the dominion of death. And this we shall find to be the case in many subsequent parts also of this prophecy, where passages, manifestly relating to the deliverance of the Jewish nation, effected by Cyrus, are, with good reason, and upon undoubted authority, to be understood of the redemption of mankind by Christ.” This interpretation supposes the wilderness to be the place where the way was prepared, rather than the place where the cry was made, and, in the spiritual or mystical application now mentioned, that wilderness signifies “the Jewish Church, to which John was sent to announce the coming of Messiah, and which was, at that time, in a barren and desert condition, unfit, without reformation, for the reception of her king. It was in this desert country, destitute at that time of all religious cultivation, in true piety and good works unfruitful, that John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, by preaching repentance.” It must be observed, however, that, according to the translation of this clause by the LXX., and the punctuation, as we have it in their copies, and as it is understood by all the evangelists, the voice cried in the desert. For they all read, φωνη βοωντος εν τη ερημω, Ετοιμασατε, &c. The voice of one crying in the desert, Prepare ye, &c. But, omitting the consideration of the pointing, we may allow, with some interpreters of the first authority, that “the words, in the desert, belong to both parts of the sentence. The voice of one crying in the desert, Prepare ye in the desert the way of the Lord. And the word desert may be understood both in a proper and mystical sense, for it is certain that John proclaimed this approach of the Messiah in a desert, in the wilderness of Judea; and thence took occasion to consider that people, in which the kingdom of God was to be manifested under the figure of a desert, to be levelled before the face of Jesus Christ; for the metaphorical expressions which follow refer to that great preparation of mind which is necessary for the reception of Christ: see Malachi 3:1. That raising the low, that debasing the high, that refutation of all false and erroneous doctrine, and introduction of truth and righteousness, which was the consequence of the revelation of Christ.” See Vitringa.40:1-11 All human life is a warfare; the Christian life is the most so; but the struggle will not last always. Troubles are removed in love, when sin is pardoned. In the great atonement of the death of Christ, the mercy of God is exercised to the glory of his justice. In Christ, and his sufferings, true penitents receive of the Lord's hand double for all their sins; for the satisfaction Christ made by his death was of infinite value. The prophet had some reference to the return of the Jews from Babylon. But this is a small event, compared with that pointed out by the Holy Ghost in the New Testament, when John the Baptist proclaimed the approach of Christ. When eastern princes marched through desert countries, ways were prepared for them, and hinderances removed. And may the Lord prepare our hearts by the teaching of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, that high and proud thoughts may be brought down, good desires planted, crooked and rugged tempers made straight and softened, and every hinderance removed, that we may be ready for his will on earth, and prepared for his heavenly kingdom. What are all that belongs to fallen man, or all that he does, but as the grass and the flower thereof! And what will all the titles and possessions of a dying sinner avail, when they leave him under condemnation! The word of the Lord can do that for us, which all flesh cannot. The glad tidings of the coming of Christ were to be sent forth to the ends of the earth. Satan is the strong man armed; but our Lord Jesus is stronger; and he shall proceed, and do all that he purposes. Christ is the good Shepherd; he shows tender care for young converts, weak believers, and those of a sorrowful spirit. By his word he requires no more service, and by his providence he inflicts no more trouble, than he will strengthen them for. May we know our Shepherd's voice, and follow him, proving ourselves his sheep.The voice of him that crieth - Lowth and Noyes render this, 'A voice crieth,' and annex the phrase 'in the wilderness' to the latter part of the sentence:

A voice crieth, 'In the wilderness prepare ye the way of Yahweh.'

The Hebrew (קורא קול qôl qôrē') will bear this construction, though the Vulgate and the Septuagint render it as in our common version. The sense is not essentially different, though the parallelism seems to require the translation proposed by Lowth. The design is to state the source of consolation referred to in the previous verses. The time of the exile at Babylon was about to be completed. Yahweh was about to conduct his people again to their own country through the pathless wilderness, as he had formerly conducted them from Egypt to the land of promise. The prophet, therefore, represents himself as hearing the voice of a herald, or a forerunner in the pathless waste, giving direction that a way should be made for the return of the people. The whole scene is represented as a march, or return of Yahweh at the head of his people to the land of Judea. The idea is taken from the practice of Eastern monarchs, who whenever they entered on a journey or an expedition, especially through a barren and unfrequented or inhospitable country, sent harbingers or heralds before them to prepare the way.

To do this, it was necessary for them to provide supplies, and make bridges, or find fording places over the streams; to level hills, and construct causeways over valleys, or fill them up; and to make a way through the forest which might lie in their intended line of march. This was necessary, because these contemplated expeditions often involved the necessity of marching through countries where there were no public highways that would afford facilities for the passage of an army. Thus Arrian (Hist. liv. 30) says of Alexander, 'He now proceeded to the River Indus, the army' that is, ἡ στρατιά hē stratia, a part of the army, or an army sufficient for the purpose, 'going before, which made a way for him, for otherwise there would have been no mode of passing through that region.' 'When a great prince in the East,' says Paxton, 'sets out on a journey, it is usual to send a party of men before him to clear the way.

The state of those countries in every age, where roads are almost unknown, and, from want of cultivation, in many places overgrown with brambles and other thorny plants, which renders traveling, especially with a large retinue, incommodious, requires this precaution. The Emperor of Hindoostan, in his progress through his dominions, as described in the narrative of Sir Thomas Roe's embassy to the court of Delhi, was preceded by a very great company, sent before him to cut up the trees and bushes, to level and snmoth the road, and prepare their place of encampment. We shall be able, perhaps, to form a more clear and precise idea from the account which Diodorus gives of the marches of Semiramis, the celebrated Queen of Babylon, into Media and, Persia. "In her march to Ecbatana," says the historian, "she came to the Zarcean mountain, which, extending many furlongs, and being full of craggy precipices and deep hollows, could not be passed without taking a great compass. Being therefore desirous of leaving an everlasting memorial of herself, as well as of shortening the way, she ordered the precipices to be digged down, and the hollows to be filled up; and at a great expense she made a shorter and more expeditious road; which to this day is called from her the road of Semiramis. Afterward she went into Persia, and all the other countries of Asia subjected to her dominion, and wherever she went, she ordered the mountains and precipices to be leveled, raised causeways in the plain country, and, at a great expense, made the ways passable."

The writer of the apocryphal Book of Baruch, refers to the same subject by the same images: 'For God hath appointed that every high hill, and banks of long continuance, should be cast down, and valleys filled up, to make even the ground, that Israel may go safely in the glory of God' Isaiah 5:7. It is evident that the primary reference of this passage was to the exiles in Babylon, and to their return from their long captivity, to the land of their father. The imagery, the circumstances, the design of the prophecy, all seem to demand such an interpretation. At the same time it is as clear, I apprehend, that the prophet was inspired to use language, of design, which should appropriately express a more important event, the coming of the forerunner of the Messiah, and the work which he should perform as preparatory to his advent. There was such a striking similarity in the two events, that they could be grouped together in the same part of the prophetic vision or picture the mind would naturally, by the laws of prophetic suggestion (Introduction, Section 7, III.((3), glance from one to the other, and the same language would appropriately and accurately express both. Both could be described as the coming of Yahweh to bless and save his people; both occurred after a long state of desolation and bondage - the one a bondage in Babylon, the other in sin and national declension. The pathless desert was literally to be passed through in the one instance; in the other, the condition of the Jews was that which was not unaptly likened to a desert - a condition in regard to real piety not unlike the state of a vast desert in comparison with fruitful fields. 'It was,' says Lowth, 'in this desert country, destitute at that time of all religious cultivation, in true piety and works unfruitful, that John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching repentance.

That this passage has a reference to John as the forerunner of the Messiah, is evident from Matthew 3:3, where it is applied to him, and introduced by this remark: 'For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice,' etc. (see also John 1:23) The events were so similar, in their main features, that the same language would describe both. John was nurtured in the desert, and passed his early life there, until he entered on his public work Luke 1:80. He began to preach in a mountainous country, lying east of Jerusalem, and sparsely inhabited, and which was usually spoken of as a desert or wilderness Matthew 3:1; and it was here that his voice was heard announcing the coming of the Messiah, and that he pointed him to his own followers John 1:28-29.

In the wilderness - Babylon was separated from Judea by an immense tract of country, which was one continued desert. A large part of Arabia, called Arabia Deserts, was situated in this region. To pass in a direct line, therefore, from Babylon to Jerusalem, it was necessary to go through this desolate country. It was here that the prophet speaks of hearing a voice commanding the hills to be leveled, and the valleys filled up, that there might be a convenient highway for the people to return (compare the notes at Isaiah 35:8-10).

Prepare ye the way - This was in the form of the usual proclamation of a monarch commanding the people to make a way for him to pass. Applied to the return of the exile Jews, it means that the command of God had gone forth that all obstacles should be removed. Applied to John, it means that the people were to prepare for the reception of the Messiah; that they were to remove all in their opinions and conduct which would tend to hinder his cordial reception, or which would prevent his success among them.

Of the Lord - Of Yahweh. Yahweh was the leader of his people, and was about to conduct them to their own land. The march therefore, was regarded as that of Yahweh, as a monarch or king, at the head of his people, conducting them to their own country; and to prepare the way of Yahweh was, therefore, to prepare for his march at the head of his people. Applied to the Messiah, it means that God was about to come to his people to redeem them. This language naturally and obviously implies, that he whose way was thus to be prepared was Yahweh, the true God. So it was undoubtedly in regard to him who was to be the leader of the exile Jews to their own land, since none but Yahweh could thus conduct them. And if it be admitted that the language has also a reference to the Messiah, then it demonstrates that he was appropriately called Yahweh. That John the Immerser had such a view of him, is apparent from what is said of him.

Thus, John 1:15, he says of him that, 'he was before' him which was not true unless he had an existence previous to his birth; he calls him, John 1:18, 'the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father;' and in John 1:34, he calls him 'the Son of God' (compare John 10:30, John 10:33, John 10:36). In John 3:31, he says of him, 'he that cometh from above is above all; he that cometh from heaven is above all.' Though this is not one of the most direct and certain proof texts of the divinity of the Messiah, yet it is one which may be applied to him when that divinity is demonstrated from other places. It is not one that can be used with absolute certainty in an argument on the subject, to convince those who deny that divinity - since, even on the supposition that it refers to the Messiah, it may be said plausibly, and with some force, that it may mean that Yahweh was about to manifest himself by means of the Messiah; yet it is a passage which those who are convinced of the divinity of Christ from other source, will apply without hesitation to him as descriptive of his rank, and confirmatory of his divinity.

Make straight - Make a straight or direct road; one that should conduct at once to their land. The Chaldee renders this verse, 'Prepare a way before the people of Yahweh; make in the plain ways before the congregation of our God.'

A highway - (See the note at Isaiah 35:8).

3. crieth in the wilderness—So the Septuagint and Mt 3:3 connect the words. The Hebrew accents, however, connect them thus: "In the wilderness prepare ye," &c., and the parallelism also requires this, "Prepare ye in the wilderness," answering to "make straight in the desert." Matthew was entitled, as under inspiration, to vary the connection, so as to bring out another sense, included in the Holy Spirit's intention; in Mt 3:1, "John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness," answers thus to "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." Maurer takes the participle as put for the finite verb (so in Isa 40:6), "A voice crieth." The clause, "in the wilderness," alludes to Israel's passage through it from Egypt to Canaan (Ps 68:7), Jehovah being their leader; so it shall be at the coming restoration of Israel, of which the restoration from Babylon was but a type (not the full realization; for their way from it was not through the "wilderness"). Where John preached (namely, in the wilderness; the type of this earth, a moral wilderness), there were the hearers who are ordered to prepare the way of the Lord, and there was to be the coming of the Lord [Bengel]. John, though he was immediately followed by the suffering Messiah, is rather the herald of the coming reigning Messiah, as Mal 4:5, 6 ("before the great and dreadful day of the Lord"), proves. Mt 17:11 (compare Ac 3:21) implies that John is not exclusively meant; and that though in one sense Elias has come, in another he is yet to come. John was the figurative Elias, coming "in the spirit and power of Elias" (Lu 1:17); Joh 1:21, where John the Baptist denies that he was the actual Elias, accords with this view. Mal 4:5, 6 cannot have received its exhaustive fulfilment in John; the Jews always understood it of the literal Elijah. As there is another consummating advent of Messiah Himself, so perhaps there is to be of his forerunner Elias, who also was present at the transfiguration.

the Lord—Hebrew, Jehovah; as this is applied to Jesus, He must be Jehovah (Mt 3:3).

The voice; an abrupt and imperfect speech, such as there are many in the Hebrew language. Methinks I hear a voice; or, a voice shall be heard.

Of him that crieth in the wilderness; which words declare the place either,

1. Where the cry was made; or,

2. Where the way was to be prepared, as it is expressed in the following clause, which is added to explain this. And such places being commonly pathless, and many ways incommodious to passengers, it was the more necessary to prepare a way there. But both come to one thing, for the cry was to be in that place which was to be prepared. This place seems to be understood immediately of the deliverance of the Jews out of Babylon, and of smoothing their passage from thence to Judea, which lay through a great wilderness; but ultimately and principally concerning their redemption by the Messiah, whose coming is ushered in by the cry of John the Baptist, who did both cry and prepare the way in the wilderness, as we read, Matthew 3:1, &c.; where this text is directly expounded of him. But withal the terms of wilderness and desert seem to be here chiefly used in a metaphorical sense, to express the desolate and forlorn condition of the Jewish nation, and especially of the Gentile world, when Christ came to redeem them; for so these words are frequently used in prophetical writings, as hath been noted in divers places.

Prepare ye the way; you to whom this work belongs. He alludes to the custom of princes, who send pioneers before them to prepare the way through which they intend to pass. The meaning is only this, that God shall by his Spirit so dispose men’s hearts, and by his providence so order the empires and affairs of the world, as to make way for the accomplishment of this promise.

Of the Lord; for the Lord, as it is expounded in the next clause, that the Lord may walk in it; which though it may be understood of their coming out of Babylon, when God might in some sort be said to march in the head of them, conducting and preserving them, yet it was much more evidently and eminently fulfilled when Christ, who was and is God blessed for ever, came into the world in a visible manner. Straight; either direct, in opposition to crooked, or even and level, in opposition to the mountains and valleys mentioned in the next verse. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,.... Not the voice of the Holy Ghost, as Jarchi; but of John the Baptist, as is attested by all the evangelists, Matthew 3:3 and by John himself, John 1:23, who was a "voice" not like the man's nightingale, "vox et praeterea nihil" a voice and nothing else; he had not only a sonorous, but an instructive teaching voice; he had the voice of a prophet, for he was a prophet: we read of the voices of the prophets, their doctrines and prophecies, Acts 13:27, his voice was the voice of one that crieth, that published and proclaimed aloud, openly and publicly, with great eagerness and fervency, with much freedom and liberty, what he had to say; and this was done "in the wilderness", in the wilderness of Judea, literally taken, Matthew 3:1, and when Judea was become a Roman province, and the Jews were brought into the wilderness of the people, Ezekiel 20:35 and when they were, as to their religious affairs, in a very forlorn and wilderness condition (m): what John was to say, when he came as a harbinger of Christ, and did, follows:

prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God: by whom is meant the Messiah to whose proper deity a noble testimony is here bore, being called "Jehovah" and "our God": whose way John prepared himself, by preaching the doctrine of repentance, administering the ordinance of baptism, pointing at the Messiah, and exhorting the people to believe in him; and he called upon them likewise to prepare the way, and make a plain path to meet him in, by repenting of their sins, amending their ways, and cordially embracing him when come, laying aside all those sentiments which were contrary to him, his Gospel, and kingdom. The sense of this text is sadly perverted by the Targum, and seems to be, done on purpose, thus,

"prepare the way before the people of the Lord, cast up ways before the congregation of our God;''

whereas it is before the Lord himself. The allusion is to pioneers, sent before some great personage to remove all obstructions out of his way, to cut down trees, level the way, and clear all before him, as in the following verse.

(m) Though, according to the accents, the phrase, "in the wilderness", belongs to what follows, "in the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord"; where it is placed by Junius and Tremellius, commended for it by Reinbeck, de Accent, Heb. p. 416. though the accent seems neglected in Matthew 3.3. Mark 1. 3.

The {d} voice of him that crieth in the {e} wilderness, (f) Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

(d) That is, of the prophets.

(e) That is, in Babylonia and other places, where they were kept in captivity and misery.

(f) Meaning Cyrus and Darius who would deliver God's people out of captivity and make them a ready way to Jerusalem.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. The voice of him that crieth] The word “voice” here and often has the force of an interjection; render accordingly: Hark! one crying. The voice is not that of God (on account of the following “our God”), neither is it a human voice; it comes from one of the angelic ministers of Jehovah and is addressed to beings of the same order. The words in the wilderness should be joined with prepare ye etc., in accordance with the accents (R.V.). A.V. agrees with LXX. and Vulg. and the N.T. citations (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4); but sense and parallelism alike shew that the Heb. accentuation is right.

Prepare] strictly “clear of obstacles” (see Genesis 24:31; Leviticus 14:36; Psalm 80:9; cf. ch. Isaiah 57:14, Isaiah 62:10; Malachi 3:1). The figure is taken from the well-known Eastern practice of repairing the roads for a royal journey. It may be difficult to say how far the representation is ideal. Allusions to the march through the desert are too constant a feature of the prophecy (ch. Isaiah 40:10 f., Isaiah 41:18 f., Isaiah 42:16, Isaiah 43:19 f., Isaiah 48:21, Isaiah 49:9 ff., Isaiah 55:12 f.) to be treated as merely figurative; the prophet seems to have expected the deliverance to issue in a triumphal progress of Jehovah with His people through the desert between Babylonia and Palestine, after the analogy of the exodus from Egypt. But all such passages probably look beyond the material fulfilment and include the removal of political and other hindrances to the restoration of Israel.

3–5. The prophet hears a voice calling on angelic powers to prepare the way of the Lord. It is doubtful whether Duhm is right in regarding this as a case of true prophetic “audition”; it is more naturally understood as a flight of poetic imagination.Verse 3. - The voice of him that crieth; rather, the voice of one that crieth. A voice sounds in the prophet's ear, crying to repentance. For God to come down on earth, for his glory to be revealed in any signal way, by the restoration of a nation, or the revelation of himself in Christ, or the final establishment of his kingdom, the "way" must be first "prepared" for him. The hearts of the disobedient must be turned to the wisdom of the just. In the wilderness; either, "the wilderness of this world" (Kay), or "the wilderness separating Babylonia from Palestine" (Delitzsch), in a part of which John the Baptist afterwards preached. Prepare ye the way of the Lord. The "way of the Lord" is "the way of holiness" (Isaiah 35:8). There is one only mode of "preparing" it - the mode adopted by John Baptist (Matthew 3:2-12), the mode pointed out by the angel who announced him (Luke 1:17), the mode insisted on in the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent. The voice enjoins on the prophets of the captive nation to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming manifestation of God. The consequences of this coqueting with the children of the stranger, and this vain display, are pointed out in Isaiah 39:3-8 : "Then came Isaiah the prophet to king Hizkiyahu, and said to him, What have these men said, and whence come they to thee? Hizkiyahu said, They came to me from a far country (K. omits to me), out of Babel. He said further, What have they seen in thy house? Hizkiyahu said, All that is in my house have they seen: there was nothing in my treasures that I had not shown them. Then Isaiah said to Hizkiyahu, Hear the word of Jehovah of hosts (K. omits tsebhâ'ōth); Behold, days come, that all that is in thy house, and all that thy fathers have laid up unto this day, will be carried away to Babel (בּבל, K. בּבלה): nothing will be left behind, saith Jehovah. And of thy children that proceed from thee, whom thou shalt beget, will they take (K. chethib, 'will he take'); and they will be courtiers in the palace of the king of Babel. Then said Hizkiyahu to Isaiah, Good is the word of Jehovah which thou hast spoken. And he said further, Yea (כּי, K. אם הלוא), there shall be peace and stedfastness in my days." Hezekiah's two candid answers in vv. 3 and 4 are an involuntary condemnation of his own conduct, which was sinful in two respects. This self-satisfied display of worthless earthly possessions would bring its own punishment in their loss; and this obsequious suing for admiration and favour on the part of strangers, would be followed by plundering and enslaving on the part of those very same strangers whose envy he had excited. The prophet here foretells the Babylonian captivity; but, in accordance with the occasion here given, not as the destiny of the whole nation, but as that of the house of David. Even political sharp-sightedness might have foreseen, that some such disastrous consequences would follow Hezekiah's imprudent course; but this absolute certainty, that Babylon, which was then struggling hard for independence, would really be the heiress to the Assyrian government of the world, and that it was not from Assyria, which was actually threatening Judah with destruction for its rebellion, but from Babylon, that this destruction would really come, was impossible without the spirit of prophecy. We may infer from Isaiah 39:7 (cf., Isaiah 38:19, and for the fulfilment, Daniel 1:3) that Hezekiah had no son as yet, at least none with a claim to the throne; and this is confirmed by 2 Kings 21:1. So far as the concluding words are concerned, we should quite misunderstand them, if we saw nothing in them but common egotism. כּי (for) is explanatory here, and therefore confirmatory. אם הלוא, however, does not mean "yea, if only," as Ewald supposes (324, b), but is also explanatory, though in an interrogative form, "Is it not good (i.e., still gracious and kind), if," etc.? He submits with humility to the word of Jehovah, in penitential acknowledgement of his vain, shortsighted, untheocratic conduct, and feels that he is mercifully spared by God, inasmuch as the divine blessings of peace and stability (אמת a self-attesting state of things, without any of those changes which disappoint our confident expectations) would continue. "Although he desired the prosperity of future ages, it would not have been right for him to think it nothing that God had given him a token of His clemency, by delaying His judgment" (Calvin).

Over the kingdom of Judah there was now hanging the very same fate of captivity and exile, which had put an end to the kingdom of Israel eight years before. When the author of the book of Kings prefaces the four accounts of Isaiah in 2 Kings 18:13-20, with the recapitulation in 2 Kings 18:9-12 (cf., Isaiah 17:5-6), his evident meaning is, that the end of the kingdom of Israel, and the beginning of the end of the kingdom of Judah, had their meeting-point in Hezekiah's time. As Israel fell under the power of the Assyrian empire, which foundered upon Judah, though only through a miraculous manifestation of the grace of God (see Hosea 1:7); so did Judah fall a victim to the Babylonian empire. The four accounts are so arranged, that the first two, together with the epilogue in Isaiah 37:36., which contains the account of the fulfilment, bring the Assyrian period of judgment to a close; and the last two, with the eventful sketch in Isaiah 39:6-7, open the way for the great bulk of the prophecies which now follow in chapters 40-66, relating to the Babylonian period of judgment. This Janus-headed arrangement of the contents of chapters 36-39 is a proof that this historical section formed an original part of the "vision of Isaiah." At any rate, it leads to the conclusion that, whoever arranged the four accounts in their present order, had chapters 40-66 before him at the time. We believe, however, that we may, or rather, considering the prophetico-historical style of chapters 36-39, that we must, draw the still further conclusion, that Isaiah himself, when he revised the collection of his prophecies at the end of Hezekiah's reign, or possibly not till the beginning of Manasseh's, bridged over the division between the two halves of the collection by the historical trilogy in the seventh book.

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Isaiah 40:2
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