Isaiah 40:7
The grass wither, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD blows on it: surely the people is grass.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) The spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.—Better, the breath, or the wind of Jehovah, as we are still in the region of the parable, and the agency is destructive, and not quickening. A “wind of Jehovah” would be a mighty storm-blast, tearing up the grass and hurling it to destruction. The image of the fading flower reminds us of the well-known Homeric simile, “As are the generations of leaves, so are those of men.” (Comp. Psalm 103:15-16.)

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).

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 grass withereth - Soon withers. Its beauty is soon gone.

The flower fadeth - Soon fades; or fades when the wind of Yahweh passes over it. So is also with man. He loses his vigor, and dies at once when Yahweh takes away his strength and beauty.

Because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it - This should be rendered, undoubtedly, 'When the wind of Yahweh bloweth upon it.' The word 'spirit' here does not suit the connection, and does not express the idea of the prophet. The word רוח rûach means, properly, "breath" - a breathing, or blowing; and is often used indeed to denote spirit, soul, life. But it often means a breath of wind; a breeze; air in motion Job 41:8; Jeremiah 2:24; Jeremiah 14:6. It is applied to the cool breeze which springs up in the evening (Genesis 3:8; compare Sol 2:17; Sol 4:6). It sometimes means a strong and violent wind Genesis 8:1; Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 41:16; and also a tempest, or hurricane Job 1:19; Job 30:15; Isaiah 27:8. The 'wind of Yahweh' means that which Yahweh sends, or causes; and the expression here refers, doubtless, to the hot or poisonous east winds which blow in Oriental countries, and which wither and dry up everything before them (compare Jonah 4:8).

Surely the people is grass - Lowth reads this, 'this people;' referring to the Jewish nation. So the Syriac. Perhaps it refers to the people of Babylon (so Rosenmuller), and means that mighty people would fade away like grass. But the more probable interpretation is that which regards it as referring to all people, and of course including the Jews and the Babylonians. The sense, according to this view, is, 'all nations shall fade away. All human power shall cease. But the promise of Yahweh shall survive. It shall be unchanging amidst all revolutions; it shall survive all the fluctuations which shall take place among people. It may, therefore, be trusted with unwavering reliance.' To produce that reliance was the object of the proclamation. On this passage, descriptive of the state of man, the reader will at once be reminded of the beautiful language of Shakespeare:

This is the state of man! Today he puts forth

The tender leaves of hope: to-morrow blossoms,

And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;

The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,

And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely

His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,

And then he falls -

- Never to hope again.

Hen. VIII, Act. ii. Sc. 2.

In the following passage from Tasso, the same image is adopted:

continued...

7. spirit of the Lord—rather, "wind of Jehovah" (Ps 103:16). The withering east wind of those countries sent by Jehovah (Jon 4:8).

the people—rather, "this people" [Lowth], which may refer to the Babylonians [Rosenmuller]; but better, mankind in general, as in Isa 42:5, so Isa 40:6, "all flesh"; this whole race, that is, man.

The Spirit of the Lord; or, the breath, &c, as this word is rendered, Psalm 147:18; the wind, as it frequently signifies, which hath this effect upon grass and flowers, Psalm 103:16 Jam 1:11.

The people; the same which he called flesh, and said they were grass, Isaiah 40:6; which, that he might prove, in this verse he first declares the frail nature of grass and flowers, and then he applies this to the people. Or, this people; the Jews no less than the Gentiles; for here is an article in the Hebrew text, which is frequently emphatical and restrictive. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth,.... And so does man, and all his glory and goodliness:

because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: alluding to some impetuous and blasting wind blowing upon herbs and flowers, to the withering and fading of them; see Psalm 103:15, legal ordinances ceased upon the pouring forth of the Spirit. The external excellencies of men, or their outward advantages, perish at the breath of God, at the blast of his nostrils, when taken away by death; and at conversion the Spirit of the Lord blows a blast upon all the goodliness of man; the operations of the Spirit are compared to wind, John 3:8, which, like that, are free, and, as he pleases, are invisible and imperceptible, land powerful and efficacious, and these cause a withering in men's goodness; the Spirit of God shows that their holiness is not true holiness; that their righteousness has only the appearance of one before men; and their religion and godliness a mere form; and their good works, "splendida peccata", shining sins; that those are insufficient to justify and save, and bring to heaven; upon which they fade away and die in their esteem, who now reckon them but loss and dung, Philippians 3:6, "surely the people is grass"; the people of the Jews, with all their external advantages; yea, all people, with all the excellencies of human nature, or considered in their best estate, possessed of all that is reckoned good and great, being but mere natural men. The Targum restrains this to the ungodly, as it does the former verse, rendering it,

"as grass the wicked among the people are esteemed;''

as it does the former, thus,

"the wicked are as grass, and their strength as the stubble of the field.''

So Kimchi interprets them of the nations that come with Gog and Magog; and Jarchi of the princes of the kingdoms; but very wrongly, since it is true of all flesh, or of all mankind.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the {l} breath of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

(l) The spirit of God will discover the vanity in all that seems to have any excellency of themselves.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. the spirit of the Lord] Better as R.V. the breath of the LORD, i.e. the wind (Psalm 103:16), specially the scorching east-wind (Hosea 13:15) or Sirocco, which blows chiefly in the spring, blighting the fresh vegetation (see Smith, Hist. Geog. of Palestine, pp. 67 ff.).

surely the people is grass] “The people,” used absolutely, must apparently mean “humanity”; although there are no strict parallels to this sense. To understand it of Israel is opposed to the prophet’s general teaching and misrepresents his meaning here. It is not Israel, but the enemies of Israel, whose perishableness he is concerned to assert. The words at best are a flat repetition of Isaiah 40:6 and should probably be removed as a marginal gloss. The LXX., indeed, omits all from because in Isaiah 40:7 to fadeth in Isaiah 40:8 : but this proves nothing, as it is evidently an oversight caused by the homœoteleuton. The resumption of the leading thought is a very effective introduction to the contrasted idea in the end of Isaiah 40:8.Verse 7. - The flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it. When the hot winds, which God sends, blow in spring-time, the flowers fade; when a destroying breath from him (see Isaiah 30:33) passes over the generations of men, they perish. Surely the people is grass. Either a mere repetition of "all flesh is grass" (ver. 6) with an asseveration, or an intimation that "the people" of Israel is not exempt from the lot of mankind in general, but shares it. In this first address the prophet vindicates his call to be the preacher of the comfort of the approaching deliverance, and explains this comfort on the ground that Jehovah, who called him to this comforting proclamation, was the incomparably exalted Creator and Ruler of the world. The first part of this address (Isaiah 40:1-11) may be regarded as the prologue to the whole twenty-seven. The theme of the prophetic promise, and the irresistible certainty of its fulfilment, are here declared. Turning of the people of the captivity, whom Jehovah has neither forgotten nor rejected, the prophet commences thus in Isaiah 40:1 : "Comfort ye, comfort ye may people, saith your God." This is the divine command to the prophets. Nachămū (piel, literally, to cause to breathe again) is repeated, because of its urgency (anadiplosis, as in Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 43:11, Isaiah 43:25, etc.). The word יאמר, which does not mean "will say" here (Hofmann, Stier), but "saith" (lxx, Jerome) - as, for example, in 1 Samuel 24:14 - affirms that the command is a continuous one. The expression "saith your God" is peculiar to Isaiah, and common to both parts of the collection (Isaiah 1:11, Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 66:9). The future in all these passages is expressive of that which is taking place or still continuing. And it is the same here. The divine command has not been issued once only, or merely to one prophet, but is being continually addressed to many prophets. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," is the continual charge of the God of the exiles. who has not ceased to be their God even in the midst of wrath, to His messengers and heralds the prophets.
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