English Standard Version
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
King James Bible
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Darby Bible Translation
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heavens with his span, and grasped the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in scales?
World English Bible
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and marked off the sky with his span, and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Young's Literal Translation
Who hath measured in the hollow of his hand the waters? And the heavens by a span hath meted out, And comprehended in a measure the dust of the earth, And hath weighed in scales the mountains, And the hills in a balance?
Isaiah 40:12 Parallel
CommentaryKeil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
In order to bring His people to the full consciousness of the exaltation of Jehovah, the prophet asks in Isaiah 40:12, "Who hath measured the waters with the hollow of his hand, and regulated the heavens with a span, and taken up the dust of the earth in a third measure, and weighed the mountains with a steelyard, and hills with balances?" Jehovah, and He alone, has given to all these their proper quantities, their determinate form, and their proportionate place in the universe. How very little can a man hold in the hollow of his hand (shō‛al)!
(Note: The root שׁל, Arab. sl has the primary meaning of easily moving or being easily moved; then of being loose or slack, of hanging down, or sinking-a meaning which we meet with in שׁעל and שׁאל. Accordingly, shō‛al signifies the palm (i.e., the depression made by the hand), and she'ōl not literally a hollowing or cavity, but a depression or low ground.)
how very small is the space which a man's span will cover! how little is contained in the third of an ephah (shâlı̄sh; see at Psalm 80:6)! and how trifling in either bulk or measure is the quantity you can weight in scales, whether it be a peles, i.e., a steelyard (statera), or mō'zenayim, a tradesman's balance (bilances), consisting of two scales.
(Note: According to the meaning, to level or equalize, which is one meaning of pillēs, the noun peles is applied not only to a level used to secure equilibrium, which is called mishqeleth in Isaiah 28:17, but also to a steelyard used for weighing, the beam of which consists of a lever with unequal arms, which flies up directly the weight is removed.)
But what Jehovah measures with the hollow of His hand, and with His span, is nothing less than the waters beneath and the heavens above. He carries a scoop, in which there is room for all the dust of which the earth consists, and a scale on which He has weighed the great colossal mountains.
Library'Have Ye Not? Hast Thou Not?'
'Have ye not known, have ye not heard? hath it not been told yon from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?... Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard?'--ISAIAH xl. 21 and 28. The recurrence of the same form of interrogation in these two verses is remarkable. In the first case the plural is used, in the second the singular, and we may reasonably conclude that as Israel is addressed in the latter, the nations outside the sphere illumined by Revelation are appealed …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Shepherd and the Fold
Hillis -- God the Unwearied Guide
Of Loving Jesus Above all Things
And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
Who determined its measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
"Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb,
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.
Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD."
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